Killing Tracey Titmass by Estelle Maher

It is a delight to be part of the tour for the humorous fiction novel Killing Tracey Titmass by Estelle Maher  @EstelleMaher @LornaMcCannPR run by @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours. You can follow the tour  this week.

The Blurb

Killing Tracey Titmass by Estelle Maher

Jo Kearns has breast cancer.

While juggling her job, her boyfriend and the cancer, she discovers that her home has been invaded by Tracey, her tumour in insidious human form.

Jo’s diary tells the story of her battle to evict the malignant Tracey from her house and the disease from her body.

Based on Estelle Maher’s own cancer journey, this book is at times hilarious, at times poignant, but always unflinchingly honest and inspiring.

The Extract

Thursday, 3rd January 2019

Being in work today was a drag. There was hardly anyone in, and I wondered if it was worth it. We don’t print a newspaper for two weeks over the Christmas period. No one wants to work, no one wants to advertise, and no one wants to deliver the things. Any other time of year, we have a list of kids who are eager to take on the job of delivering the free weekly newspaper. But that list is quickly devoured when they realise what the sheer weight of a hundred papers is and that not every Wednesday—delivery day—is dry and sunny. By December, the list is exhausted, and we are relying on retired members of the community or children from strict parents, and the last time I saw one of those kids they were riding a BMX bike with their mullet blowing in the wind.

Most of the chat today was about Mia’s wedding. Some were a little put out that they didn’t get an invite. Apparently, working with someone for over five years qualifies you for an invitation, even though they never interact outside of the office, take lunch together or know where each other even live. You don’t have to know my life story to be my friend, but some of the basics you should know are as follows:

1. The area I live in. You don’t have to know my address—a point in the general direction is enough for me.

2. My attitude to marriage and children. That’s a no to both.

3. My propensity for a drink. I like to drink. I make no apologies for my consumption.

4. My attitude towards salad. It’s not a meal.

5. My attitude to Frankie Boyle. He’s not funny.

6. My attitude towards hot tubs. It’s simply having a bath with your mates. People think the fact that you have a bottle of fizz and do it in the hotel car park makes it acceptable. It’s not.

If you know most of the above about me, then you’re likely to be my mate, and if I ever get married, then you’re in with a high chance of a wedding invitation.

The Author

Estelle Maher was born in the heart of Liverpool, England. After spending her teens in rural Dorset, she returned to the North of England and now resides in Wirral with her husband, 2 children and 3 dogs.

Her career has been varied. But in her spare time, she’s quite at home with a paintbrush upcycling furniture. She also writes a blog in her spare time, The Secret Diary of a Middle-Aged Woman, a humorous snapshot of random thoughts.

Estelle has been writing on and off for a number of years and writing the blog was her first step in writing for an audience that was wider than her and her husband.

Her debut novel, Grace & The Ghost, won a Best Spiritual Fiction Award 2018 and her spin-off Angel’s Rebellion also became an Amazon bestseller.  Her third novel, The Killing of Tracey Titmass, is based on her own cancer journey. Told in diary form, it offers an alternative way of accepting cancer.

Estelle is now in recovery and still smiles every day.

Buy Link

The Fire Children by Abigail van Kraay

Welcome to the tour for the fabulous children’s novel, The Fire Children by Abigail van Kraay @abi_van_kraay published by @Mdpublishing and run by @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours.

The Blurb

The thought of living in a black-and-white world forever, made Benji Brook and Flo Knightly feel as hollow as the trunk of their favourite tree. It seemed to them, that since the colour had gone, the joy had left the people of Kingswick.But like Grandpa Jo had always said, ‘There’s more to life than what meets the eye.’With their so-called arch enemy, Ozzy Stone, they are thrust into a world between worlds, as they go on the wildest of adventures and come face to face with the shadow beasts of Battlelands. Could it be that this unlikely trio could not only save the stolen children, but restore colour to their black and white world?

The Excerpt


Something very unusual had happened in the town of Kingswick. All the colour had gone. It had been fading slowly over days and days. It wasn’t noticeable at first, but one morning, around Christmastime, young Benji Brook looked out of his bedroom window and smiled to see a robin perched on an evergreen and snow-laden tree. As he leaned closer to the window, his heart grew heavy when he realized that the robin had no red breast. The little bird, dainty and delightful as it was, looked sad as it nipped a dull berry from a leaf whose deep green was disappearing fast. When the colour had been drained from the foliage, the robin with the ashen chest flew away.

It turned out that it wasn’t just Kingswick that had lost its colour.

Benji learned that the same thing was happening across the entire world. He heard rumours that certain shades remained in remote parts of the Amazon rainforest, but not many people believed it.

Colours were becoming just a memory. Benji couldn’t even look at a photograph to remind himself; all the pictures had turned black and white too.

The Author

Abigail van Kraay is an author, full-time mum and former high school teacher of English with a Masters in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University. Abigail is a storyteller, poet, blogger and she loves a good movie. Her passion is to write and be inspired by her travels around the world and exploring the great outdoors with her children. Abigail lives in Wesham, England with her husband Theo and her two sons Noah and Joseph.

Buy Link 



The Dark Chorus by Ashley Meggitt

Horror novels are not my natural ‘go to’ genre – but I do like a well written book. I had heard so many good things about The Dark Chorus by Ashley Meggitt that curiosity got the better of me and I decided to read it, to form my own opinion. I was not disappointed.

The Blurb

Oblivio salvationem Angelis opperitur

Oblivion awaits the Angel’s salvation

The Boy can see lost souls. 

He has never questioned the fact that he can see them. He thinks of them as the Dark Chorus. When he sets out to restore the soul of his dead mother it becomes clear that his ability comes from within him. It is a force that he cannot ignore – the last shard of the shattered soul of an angel. 

To be restored to the kingdom of light, the shard must be cleansed of the evil that infects it – but this requires the corrupt souls of the living! 

With the help from Makka, a psychotically violent young man full of hate, and Vee, an abused young woman full of pain, the Boy begins to kill. 

Psychiatrist Dr Eve Rhodes is seconded to assist the police investigation into the Boy’s apparently random ritualistic killings. As the investigation gathers pace, a pattern emerges. When Eve pulls at the thread from an article in an old psychology journal, what might otherwise have seemed to her a terrible psychotic delusion now feels all too real…

Will the Boy succeed in restoring the angel’s soul to the light? Can Eve stop him, or will she be lost to realm of the Dark Chorus?

The Review

The style and sophistication of Meggitt’s style of writing is a delight. The story is original and gripping. I am so glad I read this book.

The Dark Chorus tells of a boy, able to release trapped souls and the author, through his depiction of the boy in first person, managed an incredible achievement. The boy is innocent and experienced, curious and centred.

The story tells of his misery that he could not let his dying mother ‘go’. He blames himself for the fact that her soul did not become free upon her death, but joined the ranks of the dark chorus which is made up of other rapped souls. He can hear their chaotic calls and they haunt him. As a result of this, the boy collects them and works towards setting them free. The premise of the story is complicated because dark souls must be collected to cleanse the shards of the soul of a fallen angel therefore the more corrupt the soul, the better. The author requires his readers to concentrate from the very beginning, and it is worth doing so. As soon as I discovered what the Dark Chorus was, I was hooked. The writing is glorious: the story fascinating: the characters beautifully drawn. Also, this author is clever, for example he teases his readers by contrasting dark descriptions of action in the novel with the boy’s love of tea and fruit.

It is the strength of the boy and his determination that drives the plot by introducing other themes. These include paedophilia, domestic violence, inequality and old age. This is a dark tale (as reflected by the title) that is not for the faint hearted, but it is also a moving book that left me with a feeling unresolved melancholy. This is because of the boy’s yearning for the mother he lost and his need to hold on to her.

I would be careful to whom I recommended this novel because it would not suit the faint of heart. Having said that, I have already recommended it to two friends, both of whom were gripped by it. I thoroughly enjoyed The Dark Chorus by Ashley Meggitt and this is an easy 5* review.

The Author

Ashley Meggitt lives near Cambridge, UK, with his wife Jane. He left school to join a psychedelic rock band when he realised that sex, drugs, and rock and roll was a thing. Subsequently he went back to education and became head of IT for a Cambridge University College. In recent years Ashley has retrained in psychology and is now an associate lecturer in sports psychology. He is studying for his PhD. He also holds an MA in Creative Writing. The Dark Chorus is his debut novel. 

Val Penny

Evanthia’s Gift (The Gift Saga Book 1) by Effie Kammenou

It is a joy to be included in the tour for Evanthia’s Gift (The Gift Saga Book 1) by Effie Kammenou @EffieKammenou. This is the first book in a trilogy and the author has generously shared an exclusive extract with me. The tour is run by the amazing team at @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours and you can follow it this week.

The Blurb

Sophia Giannakos will settle for nothing less than the rare love her parents share. At a tender and impressionable age, she has found her soul mate in Dean, the boy she has known her whole life — until secrets and deceptions pull them apart. No stranger to heartache, Anastacia, Sophia’s mother, attempts to comfort her, without revealing ugly family truths that could haunt her daughter’s future.

In the year 1956, Anastacia, a former NYU student, finds herself in the challenging role of a single parent. Left with emotional wounds from a bad marriage, she is reluctant to trust and resists her growing feelings for Alexandros, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets — ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family.

The story continues in the 1970s, as their daughter attempts to negotiate between two cultures. Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean, have shared a special connection since childhood. Although their desire for one another is undeniable, Dean resists her, rebelling against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage. When he can no longer fight his feelings, Dean asks Sophia to conceal their love. She hesitantly complies, until it becomes too much for her. Like her mother, Sophia loves with every fibre of her soul, leaving her shattered when Dean pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, leaving her no choice but to find a life different than the one she’d hoped for.

Evanthia’s Gift is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and across two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.

The Extract

My three-book series, The Gift Saga, showcases many locales throughout the story. Evanthia’s Gift: Book One, is the most personal of the three books. It begins with Anastacia, an Athenian young woman, attending NYU in the 1950s.

By no coincidence, my own mother left Athens to attend the very same university. She spoke nostalgically of her days at the school, meeting new people and walking through the streets of New York City during what she expressed as a magical period in her life. It was after she passed away that I created Anastacia in order to honor her beautiful spirit and her graceful manner.

The story later moves to a town on Long Island, the very same one where I grew up. When the story changes its focus from Anastacia to her daughter, Sophia, many areas on Long Island are described during the 1970s through the 1990s.

But it’s the locations in Greece that capture the attention most of all. From the major cities of Athens and Thessaloniki to the enchanting islands of Chios, Santorini, Aegina and Kefalonia, each setting becomes a character in of itself. The reader will get a glimpse of the past in War torn Thessaloniki during the German Occupation and Kefalonia in the 1920s, as well as present day Greece.

Aegina is a short ferry ride away from Athens. There are many natives that commute daily to the mainland. It’s that close. It was for that reason I chose this beautiful and historical island for the family to own a vacation home.

In Chasing Petalouthes, I explore two new locations for this series, Kefalonia and the Champagne region of France. Kefalonia is the birthplace of my grandfather. He left as a young man to pursue a life in Athens where he met my grandmother. It’s a beautiful island, in many ways different from the others, and I describe it in detail.

It had always been my dream to visit Paris and other locations in France. When the character of Evvie found herself in Paris, she wanted to explore the Champagne region. Evvie is a winemaker with a desire to make a sparkling wine as close to an authentic champagne as possible. I had done an extensive amount of research on the champagne making process and that region in France. However, I felt I would be doing a great disservice by not experiencing the land, people and the energy of Épernay for myself.

When I approached my husband, and told him we ‘need’ to go to France for ‘research,’ he thought I was joking, mainly because I only gave him two months notice. It turned out to be exactly what I needed and a trip my husband hasn’t stopped talking about. I was able to tour a small, family owned champagne house, just like the one I wrote in the storyline. It validated all my research and enhanced my ability to describe the vineyards and the region in greater detail.

All in all, the locations in the story are places I’m familiar with, many of which hold a piece of my heart for one reason or another.

The Author

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog,, you can find her cooking for her family and friends. Her debut novel, EVANTHIA’S GIFT, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her recent interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine. As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the book. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University. For updates on the release of Book Two of The Gift Saga follow twitter @EffieKammenou, and



Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters by Nancy Pelosi

My daughter gave me Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters as part of my Christmas present and I am delighted to have read it. Nancy Pelosi is one of the most powerful women in the world and to hear her story is inspirational.

The Blurb

“Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal. For our daughters and our granddaughters today we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and our granddaughters now the sky is the limit.” –Nancy Pelosi, after being sworn in as Speaker of the House

When Nancy Pelosi became the first woman Speaker of the House, she made history. Now she continues to inspire women everywhere in this thought-provoking collection of wise words-her own and those of the important people who played pivotal roles in her journey. In this compelling book, she encourages mothers and grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters to never lose faith, to speak out and make their voices heard, to focus on what matters most and to follow their dreams wherever they may lead.

The Review

Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters was written in 2008 and a lot has happened since then, so the book is somewhat dated in its emphasis and interest. Also , some of the names of those mentioned in the book, while no doubt important in their time to the democratic party, hold little interest to those reading the book today. I could not help but feel some of the names had been included as a thank you for past services rendered. I also felt that I did not need to know as much as I was told about her own family and children, although some of that detail was necessary to understand the author and her drive to serve the her community and the nation.

Despite the fact Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters is dated and not terribly well written, it is an important book as it encourages females to consider a career in politics at any level, explains to them that they can do it as well as having a family life. It is also an important book because it empathises to women that they should not accept artificial limits to their ambition.

I was very excited to receive this book and really looked forward to reading it. While I am glad that I have read Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters by Nancy Pelosi, I was disappointed by how poorly written it was and by how dated it is. A new edition including all that has happened in the last twelve years would be welcome and because of those limitations, I would be very careful if and to whom I recommended this book. I enjoyed it far less than I thought I would and that was disappointing.

The Author

Nancy Patricia Pelosi is an American politician serving as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives since 2019, and previously from 2007 to 2011. She was the first female Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Pelosi has also served as a U.S. representative from California since 1987.

Val Penny

The Mirror Souls by Julia Scott

I am thrilled to be involved in the book tour for The Mirror Souls by Julia Scott run by Love Book Tours. It is a fast-paced young adult novel that blends sci-fi (without being too heavy), near future dystopia (without being too stark and depressing) and soulmate romance. Catch up with the tour now.

The Blurb

The truth doesn’t always set you free…

Like the rest of the Gaian race, Alana’s life is ruled by the Avalon, the superior race who once created Earth and returned to reclaim it after humanity brought it to the brink of destruction. Because of the Avalon, every Gaian faces the risk of being moved from Region to Region, over and over, with no warning. Alana has no place to call home.

Fearing that she may be resigned to this life of control forever, the opportunity to explore the world outside of her Region is literally dropped into Alana’s pocket in the form of a small silver device.

Taking a leap of faith and teleporting to the unknown, Alana must discover who is pulling the strings in her life and why. But in her quest for answers and freedom, she’s thrown headfirst into a hidden battle for humanity alongside a boy whose life was destined to be entwined with hers from the start.

With the secret of who she really is starting to unravel and abilities she didn’t know she had rising to the surface, she becomes a commodity to whatever faction can keep her in one place.

But others around her are carrying secrets, too, and Alana must decide who to trust before she can change the fate of all the races.

The Excerpt

My mind wandered from the movie playing on the classroom’s screen wall in front of me, and I stared out the round window at the sky. This was the twenty-seventh time I’d had to watch the ‘Avalon Reclaim’ movie in my seventeen Gaia-cycles. Twice a cycle since I turned four and started my education. Always on this day, the day before Shift Day, and it didn’t get any more thrilling than the previous twenty-six times I’d been forced to watch it.

“We are the Avalon, the custodians and creators of Gaia, the planet you once called ‘Earth.’ For millions of cycles, Gaians—humans—have been responsible for this planet, much to her detriment. In the Gaia-cycle 2084, your species pushed her to the brink and thus, the Cataclysm occurred, destroying billions of people, scarring the land, and disrupting the seas. Because of this, Gaia survived.”

I rolled my eyes as the movie’s narrator droned on. They’ve never even updated the damn thing. You’d think they would have since it had been well over a hundred cycles since our planet fell apart, and something like eighty cycles since they took it back. The Avalon wanted us to remember why they were here. We’d gotten the point by now; I doubted any of us could forget it. Mom called it ‘never-ending propaganda.’

I looked around the room at the twelve other students in the edu-dome. I wondered what the rest of them thought about the Reclaim. Did they have a thousand questions like I did? Questions that were never answered. Somehow, I doubted it. Most people didn’t dare to talk about it, especially if they were new to the Region. The others were sitting upright in their seats, attentive and keen, almost as though they wanted to be here. When I realized I was the only one slumped forward with my elbows on the desk and my head resting on my hands, I straightened myself up.

“War and famine raged, consuming the planet and destroying your cities. Twenty-one cycles later, the Council of the Seven Races, who oversee all, made the decision that the Avalon should step in and take back Gaia. It was our duty to restore her.

To let Gaia recover from the damage done to her, the remaining population has been adapted to be nomadic. The Avalon will be here to guide you…”

I rolled my eyes. Adapted wasn’t what I’d call forced relocation every Shift Day. The lucky few didn’t have to worry about Shift Day at all. The Avalon, most of the Midorians and a select few Gaians known as the ‘Originators’ got to stay in one place. They were often allowed to choose which Region to belong to. Most people seemed to be okay with potential relocation every half-cycle to one of the 750,000 Regions on Gaia. It wasn’t a problem for other people to never have a place to call home. But it was a problem for me. This was not my home. 

I glanced across the room at Genevieve. She sat as attentive as the rest, but she questioned the Reclaim just as much as I did. We’d spent so many hours talking about it. She was just lucky that she got to leave here sooner than I did, or at least she got the choice to leave. Things were different for Gen since she was half Avalon.

At least neither of us had to be students much longer. As soon as we both turned eighteen, our Professions would be assigned, and we would take them with us wherever we ended up. She would turn eighteen a few months before I did, so they’d assign hers before mine. I still didn’t know if she planned to stay or leave, and a familiar wave of envy washed over me.

There was a lot to envy about Gen. She didn’t have to worry about days like today, days when the rest of us found out if our family had been chosen to leave this Region and be transported to a new one. Gen had the opportunity to decide when and where she went.

I shoved the bitterness down. She’d been my longest friend, which wasn’t difficult considering you couldn’t make a friend around here without the Avalon moving them or you somewhere else in a short time. Being jealous of her wouldn’t change anything.

I’d been staring at my hands for too long, not listening to what Ms. Haims had been saying. I looked up. Most of the other students had left the dome and were heading down the hill outside. Ms. Haims gave me a familiar disapproving glare, and I followed the rest of the students outside. 

Gen often waited for me on the stone steps outside the dome where we would walk down the hill together and go our separate ways at the bottom. Today, I had to look for her among the people leaving the edu-dome. She was easy to spot, being so much taller than most people and with her long blonde hair flowing in the breeze like a Greek goddess. She was already halfway down the hill, and I ran to catch up to her.

“Hey!” As I called out, she stopped and looked back at me in surprise as though I’d broken her out of a trance. 

“Oh, sorry. I’d gone off into my own little world.” She flashed me a half-hearted smile and carried on walking. I had to jog to keep up with her.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m fine. It’s just today, well… tomorrow.” She shrugged. “You know?” 

I knew. Everyone knew. It certainly wasn’t fun waiting to see if you’d have to move on Shift Day. Except Gen was guaranteed that it wouldn’t be her, so she had nothing to worry about except losing some friends.

“Meet me at my place tonight?” she asked. “I’ve got something I need to talk to you about.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” I said, and her next smile was a genuine one.

As we reached the bottom of the hill, she turned east to cross the river towards the Village, and I went north towards the Hub.

“Alana!” I turned as she shouted. “Don’t get caught this time!”

As I slowly trudged home, I tried my best to stay positive. Rowhill was a nice enough place, probably the nicest Region we’d been in so far. We’d lived in Region 82-1056, the official Avalon name for Rowhill, for three and a half cycles, a record for this Region. I guess since Dad died, they had given us a free pass. I’d even put pictures up on my bedroom walls, as though it were ‘home.’ Our home to keep. But we all knew it wasn’t. Gen and I had been friends since just before I turned fourteen. We had talked about how my time might be up and that we might have to say goodbye. I tensed at the thought. When you were chosen to leave, you pretty much left straight away, with little time for goodbyes. If it was my family’s time to go, there weren’t many people I needed to say goodbye to. But Gen had lived here as long as I had, longer in fact. Maybe she’d be able to find a way to see me before I left.

My stomach turned as I wondered if ‘goodbye’ was what she wanted to talk about tonight.

The Author

I think the idea of soulmates is one that many of us romantic types are drawn to. Because why not? It’s a beautiful idea to think that there’s one person out there who you are destined to be with. However, I also think it can be a negative concept when it is something you strongly believe but when you feel like you may never find that person. Or even when you *think* you’ve found that person but for whatever reason, it cannot come to anything.

My personal beliefs lean towards soul families rather than soulmates. I think there are souls who we are drawn to because they are part of our spiritual family, and we are put with them time and time again through different lives, in order to learn lessons from each other. This can be a romantic relationship, but also comes across in family relationships and friendships. And of course they’re not always positive experiences! But many of them are beautiful, and you should hold on tightly to the love that you find in this world.

Recon by Devon C Ford

I am thrilled to take part in the book tour for Recon – The Expansion 1 by the exciting fiction author Devon C. Ford. The tour is being run by Love Book Tours and I highly recommend it to you. Today, enjoy an intriguing excerpt from this gripping new book.

The Blurb

The universe is expanding, and so is humanity’s reach.

Years after clean energy ended the world’s reliance on fossil fuels, a lull of peace encompasses all of humanity. Some think we should travel to the distant corners of the galaxy, others oppose the idea, thinking that the harnessed singularity reactors are unnatural.

When a terrorist group attacks the Lunar colony, members of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force are affected in different ways.

Years later, Lieutenant Commander Kyle Torres comes face to face with old friends, as he’s thrown into an assignment that could change everything: a reconnaissance mission with huge implications for humanity and science.

Start the epic journey as Earth begins its venture into deep space, where not everything is as it seems. From Devon C Ford, the best-selling author of the hit Post-Apocalyptic series, After It Happened.

The Excerpt

Lunar Arrivals Port

“What was that?” Jake Santana asked, his ears pricking up and his brow knitted.

“What was what?” Jamie Paterson answered. His head was half-buried in a shipping container full of machine parts.

“I heard it too,” the young ensign, Kyle Torres said ominously. “It sounded like it came from the arrivals area. Come on.”

The three of them walked out of the freight hangar, where the pilot and crew of the detained ship were waving their arms and shouting about their rights being infringed. Jake and the others ignored them, hearing more sounds that made their spines tingle.

“Something ain’t right,” Jake said. His left hand dropped to the service pistol holstered on his thigh and hovered there. The standing orders not to draw a weapon unless fired upon echoed around his skull. He didn’t draw it, but he kept that hand on the grip, which made him swing the other arm awkwardly as he ran. They rounded a corner, hearing shouts of alarm interspersed with gunfire, then put their heads down and ran the two-hundred-meter length of the tunnel separating them from the main part of the lunar space port.

“Alpha one from alpha one three,” Torres squeaked into his radio mic, the panic making his voice sound younger and more vulnerable than he already was.

Jamie looked to him, and received a shake of the head when no answer came. Jamie tried his own radio, shouting the hail louder and more firmly than Torres had done. He repeated the call, but heard nothing back.

As they neared the end of the tunnel, all three breathing heavily from the run, Jake decided to complete the trifecta and try his own radio.

“Alpha one fr—”

A scream tore the air, a person bellowing in guttural pain or anger, followed by the high-pitched, chattering thrum of automatic gunfire.

Their radios erupted as one and the gravelly sound of their commanding officer’s voice filled their minds.

“All hands, this is Commander Dassiova. Lunar Port is under attack. I say again, we are under attack. All hands: battle stations. All hands: battle stations.”

The warning sobered everyone who heard it. Jake, Torres and Jamie all drew their sidearms and stacked up against the wall at the corner before Jake nodded and stepped out with his gun raised. Another metallic chatter of rapid-fire rounds answered his movement, shattering the tiles of the wall and punching holes through the cover where his head had been only moments before.

“One shooter,” he said, gasping for breath among the dust. “Automatic weapon. Thirty meters.”

“Draw fire,” Torres said, his voice rising in the panic.

“No,” Jake snapped. “Keep your head down.”

“We need to move, Seaman,” Ensign Torres said, a hint of sudden fire in his words.

“The wheel’s right,” Jamie said as he mocked the young officer. “We’re pinned down here, and that rifle will puncture the dome if we don’t take him out soon.”

Jake thought about it, his mouth set into a thin line as he considered what he had to do. He didn’t like it one bit.

“You two break for cover over there,” he said as he pointed across the wide tunnel intersection. “I’ll take the shot.”

They took off, running low and fast and holding their breath for the few seconds it took for the shooter to dial in their location. The gun sounded again, plumes of debris erupting behind the two runners and growing dangerously close to their heels as they darted across the space. Jake took a breath and stepped out. His gun was up, sighting along the barrel held steady in both hands to where the shooter had been. He squeezed off five fast rounds.

The chattering gunfire stopped abruptly as the shooter fell to the ground. Jake took two long breaths, staring at the body of the first person he had killed up close. After a beat, he started toward him.

When he was ten paces away the body blossomed in slow-motion, expanding outward in flame as the explosives strapped to his chest detonated. It was only a small charge, but it was enough to blow the body apart and fling the twisted remains of the automatic rifle past Jake’s head. The velocity would have killed him if he had been just a pace to his left. The other two caught up with him. Jamie said nothing, but Ensign Torres looked ashen. Jake steeled himself and took off at a dead run toward the sound of more gunfire and screams.

The Author

Devon C. Ford spent a career in public services undertaking many roles until he took up writing and editing full time in 2016.

After It Happened throws a different spin on the collapse of society being set in the UK. Sequels to this series were announced for 2018.

Other works include a futuristic dystopian setting in the Defiance series, WW3 post-apocalyptic in The Fall, 1980’s genre Zombie apocalypse in Toy Soldiers and New Earth: ARC; a sci-fi/post apoc story. Late 2018 saw the launch of a military sci-fi series, Expansion. 2020 saw the launch of collaborative projects including the hit alien invasion/post-apocalyptic crossover series, Rise.

We Know/You Know by Erin Kelly

Erin Kelly is not only one of my favourite authors but she is most generous with her time and expertise. I met her first at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School a few years ago and have always appreciated the time she took to explain the strengths and weaknesses of the opening of the early draft of my debut novel, Hunter’s Chase. She has been unswervingly supportive of my own writing career ever since. Therefore it was with some excitement that I began her most recent novel, We Know/You Know.

The Blurb

A lifetime ago, a patient escaped Nazareth mental asylum. They covered their tracks carefully. Or so they thought.
Thirty years ago, Marianne Smy committed a crime then fled from her home to leave the past behind. Or so she thought.

Now, Marianne has been forced to return. Nazareth asylum has been converted to luxury flats, but its terrible hold on her is still strong. A successful academic, a loving mother and a loyal wife, she fears her secret being revealed and her world shattering.

She is right to be scared.

The Review

This novel was previously published as Stone Mothers in hardback, but We Know/You Know is a far better title. There is no doubt that Kelly is one of the best writers in the psychological thriller genre and this new novel is particularly captivating and cleverly constructed story where the lives of three very different people are inextricably interlinked with a local mental asylum which has closed leaving them with a combination of memories, guilt and ghosts.

I found We Know You Know gripping and as it carries the reader back through time, Kelly revealed twists I did not see coming. The author delivers shocks and suspense throughout the story and the book concludes with a satisfying ending from a master of thriller writing. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it to those who enjoy thrillers, mysteries and psychological novels. We Know/You Know is another fabulous novel from a master author.

The Author

I’m best known for He Said/She Said, about a young couple who witness a rape and, after the trial, begin to wonder if they believed the right person. My first novel, The Poison Tree, was a Richard and Judy bestseller and a major ITV drama starring Myanna Buring, Ophelia Lovibond and Matthew Goode. I’ve written four more original psychological thrillers – The Sick Rose, The Burning Air, The Ties That Bind.

I had read scores of psychological thrillers before I heard the term: the books that inspired me to write my own included Endless Night by Agatha Christie, The Secret History by Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine. My books are atmospheric thrillers, always about people trying to atone for, escape, or uncover a past crime. I’m more interested in what happens before the police arrive – if arrive they ever do – than how murder is solved.

Val Penny

Facade by Helen Matthews

Every now and again, I read a book of which I have no expectations. The title is ambiguous, the author is new to me and I am just curious to read a novel from my ‘To Be Read’ pile. Facade by Helen Mattews fell exactly into this category.

The Blurb

A drowned child. Estranged sisters. A once-perfect home.

Silence echoes louder than truth.

When seventeen-year-old Rachel’s baby brother drowns and her older sister, Imogen, escapes to live abroad with Simon, her musician boyfriend, Rachel must face the family’s grief and disintegration alone.

Twenty years later, Rachel is a successful businesswoman, with a daughter of her own, supporting her parents and their elegant Georgian home, The Old Rectory, that shackles them to the past.

Simon’s sudden death in Ibiza brings Imogen back, impoverished and resentful. Her family owes her, and she will stop at nothing to reclaim what she believes is rightly hers.

The rift between the sisters seems permanent. While Imogen has lived a nomadic life, filled with intrigue, in Spain and Tunisia, Rachel’s has appeared stable and successful but, behind the veneer, cracks are appearing. Now, she is vulnerable.

As the wall of silence and secrecy crumbles, danger stalks Rachel’s family. She must re-examine her baby brother’s death, find out what happened in Tunisia, and fight to hold onto everything she’s achieved –or risk losing it all.

Façade is a gripping tale of loss, guilt and danger.

The Review

Facade is a novel where the story builds slowly. Each chapter adds an extra layer, an extra question, an extra red herring. It is a gripping novel that you will not want to put down because the story of the family is intense and fascinating. The author reels you in with a skill and expertise that belies the fact that this is only her third novel.

The novel tells the story of the Steatham family where assumptions, tragedy and lies weave a tight web of resentment, jealousy and fear. Rachel’s business is successful, but the secrets she keeps from her family cause friction. Imogen seems to lead the good life but happiness eludes her. Their mother holds more family secrets than anybody knows and their father is losing his grip on reality altogether.

This toxic combination is teased out by the author to produce one of the best books I have read all year. I would recommend Facade for book groups, and for those who enjoy novels by Erin Kelly, Sophie Hannah and Katharine Johnson. It is an excellent book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Author

I’m delighted to announce my new psychological suspense novel Facade was published on 17 September 2020 by darkstroke, an imprint of Crooked Cat Books. It’s available now in ebook and paperback. Find it on Amazon.

‘Lies Behind the Ruin’ published in 2019 is a family story combining suspense and domestic noir set in France. It’s available from Amazon and all good bookshops.

My debut suspense thriller ‘After Leaving the Village’ was published on 12th October by Hashtag Press. It won first prize in the opening pages of a novel category at Winchester Writers’ Festival.

I’m originally from Cardiff, studied English at Liverpool University and hold an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes. I’ve won prizes for flash fiction and short stories and been published in ‘Artificium’, Reflex Fiction, 1k story, ElipsisZine, Love Sunday, Scribble and in an eBook ‘Garage 54 and other stories’.

Long ago in a galaxy far away (before I focused on fiction) I had some articles published in the Guardian, on the BBC and in lifestyle magazines. I love travelling and you can read about some quirky encounters and places on my blog. I’m an ambassador for the charity, Unseen, that fights to end modern slavery.

Val Penny

Dancing with Thieves by Cally Magalhães

It is a real pleasure to take part in the blog tour for Dancing with Thieves, the book by Cally Magalhães @malcolmdown and run by Love Books Group @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours.

The Blurb 

Cally Magalhães’ memoir is a gripping page-turner of an autobiography. With a novelist’s eye for descriptive detail, Cally invites us to accompany her on her astonishing journey from England to India and Estonia, and finally to São Paulo, Brazil.

We join her as she follows a trail of signs and blessings to bring relief, hope and healing to people who need help, wherever they may be — in the streets, the favelas, the prisons or hidden under bridges.

She describes in moving detail the transformational work of The Eagle Project, using psychodrama and Restorative Justice in Brazilian prisons.

To read this book is to be inspired by the positive change one person can bring to so many individual lives – changing the world one person at a time.

Cally has much to teach us about being fully present for all of life’s events and challenges.

With hard-won wisdom and deep reflection, she describes a life based on faith and gratitude, encapsulated in her ringing sentence, ‘When you help people who have nothing, then you realise you have everything.’

Her memoir has lessons for us all about what it means to walk the Earth with grace and love.

Dancing With Thieves by Magalhães, Cally was published by Sarah Grace Publishing in October 2020 

The Excerpt

From Chapter 1 The Frist Day

Life is cheap in Brazil. Tens of thousands of adults, teenagers and children are murdered every year. I became aware of this sad truth on my first visit to São Paulo in 1998. 

I arrived at the airport and was taken straight to the favela (the Portuguese name for slum). I had been told this would be my home for the next month, but I soon discovered the plans had changed. The director of the project greeted me, Brazilian-style, with a warm, friendly hug. 

‘Welcome, Cally,’ she said. ‘We’re so glad you’ve arrived. However, I’m so sorry to tell you, but you can’t stay here after all. Something terrible happened here last night. It’s just too dangerous.’ 

Maribel had a kind face, and a gentle voice. Her eyes were red, and it was obvious that she’d been crying. I could tell she was shaken and upset, and I didn’t know what to say. 

I looked around me. Everything seemed ‘normal’. There was a low building on one side of the courtyard with classrooms and a kitchen. The church building was on the other side, and a large space in- between where about fifty children were playing. 

Two boys raced past me, nearly knocking me over in their haste. Their eyes were fixed on the battered old kite they were desperately trying to keep in the air. One held the string, and the other ran behind, laughing and trying to grab the kite for himself. The kite dipped, and then soared again just as they passed by me, the boys shrieking with delight. 

A group of children of all ages kicked an old, half-inflated football around the courtyard. The game seemed highly competitive as they scampered barefoot in the dust and dirt. Teenage girls in skimpy shorts and low-cut T-shirts huddled in groups. They giggled at the teenage boys playing dominoes at an old wooden table nearby. 

I wondered what could have happened the night before. Something so terrible it wasn’t safe to stay there anymore? The sun was hot in the bright blue sky, and my arms and neck were beginning to burn. 

I inhaled slowly, and the smell of freshly baked bread wafted across the courtyard from the project kitchen. At the same time, I felt quite sick from the stench of rotting rubbish outside the courtyard wall. Sweat dripped down my face, and my mouth was dry with thirst. 

I looked at Diana, the young Brazilian woman who had picked me up at the airport. She was crying, and wiping her eyes with a hanky. I felt desperate to know what had happened, and then she explained. 

‘Just behind that wall,’ she whispered, pointing to the wall behind me that divided the favela from the project courtyard, ‘five teenagers were murdered last night. They owed money to the drug traffickers, and when they couldn’t pay, they killed them.’ 

I stood there in shock, not knowing what to do or say. 

The Author

Cally Magalhaes is the co-founder and director of The Eagle Project, Sao Paulo, Brazil, working with youth offenders and adult prisoners. Born in Harpenden, England, she trained as a dancer and then became a professional actress, and drama teacher. She moved to Sao Paulo in 1999, to work with street children, and has developed pioneering work using psychodrama, and the theories of Restorative Justice. 

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