#BlogTour Surviving Me by Jo Johnson

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Surviving Me by Jo Johnson.

Enter the Giveaway to Win two signed copies of Surviving Me & five Surviving Me fridge magnets  (Open INT) – 1st Prize – 2 winners each winning a signed copy of Surviving Me, 5 Runners Up – each winning a Surviving Me Fridge Magnet.About the Author

I’m very excited that my debut novel ‘Surviving Me’ is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.

I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when I left to write and explore new projects.

I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.

Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”.

In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout.

Follow Shrinking the Smirch on Facebook,  Jo Johnson on AmazonBuy Surviving Me

About the book

Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.

Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.

All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water. If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.

This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

Review

In a way it was refreshing to follow the mental and physical struggles of a man, as opposed to a woman. Perhaps more so because it wasn’t just on a shallow level and really went into the nitty-gritty of both. And forgive me for the sigh of relief because it also wasn’t the normal – man sinks into deviant or salacious behaviour when life throws him a few hard balls.

Instead I can imagine readers really feeling for Tom, especially when he has flashbacks to his troubled formative years, which have made him a little less secure when it comes to believing in himself and given his self-esteem a knock.

The pressure put on Tom by his wife and his job gets to the point where he hides instead of facing his issues, a coping mechanism he has retained since childhood. What you don’t admit to never happened, right? The humiliations at work have led to a deceptive life and the race to create a baby has more or less unmanned him. It’s not a pretty picture.

It’s a contemporary read about self-worth, mental health, but ultimately one about family. Johnson gives a delicate and accurate picture, without the unnecessary dressing and gratuitous details of a man on the edge of despair and a family about to crumble with the weight of the secrets they are hiding.

I have focused more on one character and their story in my review, because his story loomed over the rest and I found myself more drawn to his emotional turmoil. Or perhaps his story was enough.

Buy Surviving Me at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound Digital; pub date 14 Nov. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Enter the Giveaway to Win two signed copies of Surviving Me &  five Surviving Me fridge magnets  (Open INT) – 1st Prize – 2 winners each winning a signed copy of Surviving Me, 5 Runners Up – each winning a Surviving Me Fridge Magnet

Click here to Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize

#BlogTour In Truth, Madness by Imran Khan

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour In Truth, Madness by Imran Khan. It’s a contemporary read with elements of a dystopian story wrapped in the powerful pull of history.About the Author

Having kickstarted his career in the heady world of 1990s independent magazine publishing with work on Dazed and Confused, and launching seminal style title 2nd Generation, Imran Khan jumped into the mainstream with BBC London – hosting radio shows on popular culture, arts and news as the millennium approached. Despite having a face for radio, in 2001 he produced a series of short documentaries for BBC Newsnight, Britain’s leading current affairs programme. His work was noticed in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks and Channel 4 commissioned the award winning film “The Hidden Jihad”, which he wrote and presented. Imran subsequently moved full-time into TV news, working as a BBC producer and correspondent reporting from Lebanon, London and Qatar, with freelance stints in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He became a correspondent for Al Jazeera English in 2005 and is known for his extensive reporting from Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Libya, as well covering the Arab Spring and the conflict in Syria. He continues to work as a correspondent for Al Jazeera English, dividing his time between the Middle East, South Asia and London.

Follow @ajimran on Twitter, on GoodreadsBuy In Truth, Madness

About the book

Meet Malek Khalil. In his mid-40s, Malek is a brilliant reporter with decades of experience in the field. If there has been a war, natural disaster or political crisis, Malek has been there and will be there.

But the years of conflict reporting have taken their toll and Malek is slowly unravelling. His colleagues, Neeka and Justin, have noticed a change in him. Neeka should know, she has been his producer for decades and knows him better than he knows himself. Justin the cameraman has shot his material for just as long. Together they make a formidable team. But they are only as strong as each other – and Malek is fast going down the rabbit hole.

Born a Muslim but an atheist to his core, Malek undertakes a voyage that takes him around the world  and back in time to ancient Babylon as he finds himself arguing with a God in whom he doesn’t believe.

The novel takes place throughout Middle East, South Asia and London where the backdrop of war, religion, political skullduggery and love play out to take the reader on a journey through some of the most dangerous parts of modern culture and the ancient world.Review

I think what I enjoyed most about this read were the factual elements both the historical and more current ones. The political and religious opinions, and the deep well of emotions he sometimes draws from. Moments like the guilt Malek feels as a journalist, because he is able to come and go as he pleases in the war-torn countries, ergo not being allowed to claim the burden of PTSD.

I think in this case it’s perhaps easier to let each reader enter the world Malek inhabits and decide what journey he is taking his readers on themselves. I found it an intriguing journey of self, which battles with the pain and destruction humanity causes, and ultimately a conversation with self about faith or lack of it. An sardonic panel of arbitrators who determine which path we take, do we determine it or have our cards fallen long before we are aware of it.

At times I felt as if there was an inner struggle going on, a tug-of-war of the stories within the story. The stories the author wants to tell, but melds them together with ambitious eagerness. The fantasy come historical fiction tale of the character and the connection to Babylon, the man who braves the war-torn countries, and then the political and religious complexities of the Middle East. All of them worthy of a read in their own right, together they get less attention and give the story a slightly disjointed feel.

There is no doubt Khan has plenty to tell his readers, and he does so with compassion, intellect and a very strong voice. I can imagine conversations with him would be quite interesting, because despite some controversial opinions, depending on your views, there is an attempt to keep a balance throughout.

It’s a contemporary read with elements of a dystopian story wrapped in the powerful pull of history.

Buy In Truth, Madness at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound Digital; pub date 22 August 2018. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Unbound.

#BlogTour Razia by Abda Khan

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Razia by Abda Khan. It’s a contemporary read with a modern crime, a heartfelt attempt to raise awareness.About the Author

Abda Khan is an author and lawyer who works with victims of domestic violence. She was born in Bradford in 1969 to Pakistani parents, and she now lives and works in the West Midlands. He first novel Stained, was published in 2016, and described by Booklist as ‘a contemporary Tess of the d’ Urbervilles’. She was Highly Commend as a finalist at the 2017 NatWest Asian Woman of Achievement Awards, in the Arts and Culture category.

Follow @abdakhan5 on Twitter, on Goodreads, Visit abdakhan.com, Buy Razia

About the book

Farah is a young lawyer living and working in London. She’s just ended a long relationship, and her parents are looking for a husband – whether Farah wants one or not. So far, so normal. But at a work dinner, hosted by a dangerously powerful man, she comes across a young woman called Razia, who Farah soon realises is being kept as a domestic slave.

We follow Farah’s daring investigations from the law courts of London to the brick kilns of Lahore, as she begins to uncover the traps that keep generation after generation enslaved.Everywhere she turns there is deep-rooted oppression and corruption, and when the authorities finally intervene, their actions have dire consequences.

Farah teams up with a human rights lawyer, Alia and the two become close… but can she trust him: can they hep Razia and others like her: and will they ever discover the explosive secret behind these events.

Review

It’s such a bizarre and difficult thing for women of certain cultures, both religious and from an race and ethnicity perspective, to have to walk a tightrope between a modern life and cultural traditions.

Farah appears to walk through modern life with confidence, and yet as soon as she hears the beating of the biological clock she scarpers back to the haven of cultural traditions. It seems like such a contradiction, especially given the fact she isn’t exactly a shy wallflower. In her work and when she feels she has to step up to the mark, she does so with gusto and passion.

So the contradiction and clear imbalance is a woman who asks her parents to fix an arranged marriage for her and in the same breath she fights for the rights of a modern slave. Can she even see the hypocrisy of bowing down to an oppressive and patriarchal society, and trying to help the victim of the same society at the same time?

Aside from the modern slave angle, Khan also ventures into plenty of areas of oppression, maltreatment and sub-human treatment of women. She lays the cultural differences, and of course the religious ones, on a plate to be taken on board and observed.

Unfortunately modern-day slavery has become quite common in our era. Cheap labour forces who are coerced into working for nothing or ridiculous compensation, it isn’t a new type of crime, but it is a very lucrative one. Personally I think it’s the same as trafficking and should receive high punishments. It’s also not a crime bound by gender or age.

It’s a contemporary read with a modern crime, a heartfelt attempt to raise awareness.

Buy Razia by Abda Khan at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound; pub date 11 July 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Disappeared by Amy Lord

Today it’s my tun on the BlogTour The Disappeared by Amy Lord. It’s dystopian fiction influenced by history and politics.About the Author

Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer from north-east England. She won a Northern Writer’s Award in 2015 for The Disappeared and was also longlisted in the inaugural Bath Novel Award. An earlier manuscript saw her shortlisted for Route Publishing’s Next Great Novelist Award. Amy is currently working on a new novel, which was developed as part of year-long mentoring scheme with Writers Block NE.

Follow @tenpennydreams on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Amazon, Visit tenpennydreams.com, Buy The Disappeared 

About the book

What if reading the wrong book could get you arrested?

In a decaying city controlled by the First General and his army, expressing the wrong opinion can have terrible consequences. Clara Winter knows this better than anyone. When she was a child, her father was taken by the Authorisation Bureau for the crime of teaching banned books to his students. She is still haunted by his disappearance.

Now Clara teaches at the same university, determined to rebel against the regime that cost her family so much – and her weapons are the banned books her father left behind. But she has started something dangerous, something that brings her to the attention of the Authorisation Bureau and its most feared interrogator, Major Jackson. The same man who arrested Clara’s father.

With her rights stripped away, in a country where democracy has been replaced by something more sinister, will she be the next one to disappear?

Review

This has shades of The Man in the High Castle and takes moments from history to define the plot. The result is a read that isn’t far-fetched in a sense that it is dystopian but based on scenarios that have already taken place, so in a way it is history repeating itself.

It draws parallels to Nazi Germany for instance, and the way they got rid of everyone who didn’t tow the line, aside from all the others on their target list. Also why the general population didn’t speak out, help victims and try and fight the system.

Clara’s entire life is defined by fear and hesitation since the night her father was taken by the regime. An oppressive regime that controls all actions, words and they even try to control thoughts. They teach their own version of the truth and in doing so have changed the narrative of history.

Her father falls victim to those in control, because he dares to break the rules. He becomes one of the many disappeared. The invisible numbers of people who fall foul of the sadistic monsters in charge of enforcing the rules. You know, the rules that are supposed to keep everyone safe.

Clara slowly learns to deal with the fear and the reader gets to experience the awakening of the inner rebel. When the people she loves fall into the hands of the brutal sadists she finally understands that it is time to stand up and be counted.

I would have liked to have seen Lord focus more on the banned books and banned words aspect of the story, because it was fascinating and hey I’m invested – I’m a bookworm.

It’s dystopian fiction influenced by history and politics. The kind of oppressive regime many countries already adhere to and the western world is moving towards. The author paints a frightening picture of a world I certainly don’t want to live in.

Buy The Disappeared at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound Digital; pub date 2 May 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour You Are What You Read by Jodie Jackson

Today it’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour You Are What You Read by Jodie Jackson. This is an engaging and thought-provoking piece of non-fiction.

About the Author

Jodie Jackson is an author, researcher and campaigner.

She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of East London (UK) where she investigated the psychological impact of the news.

As she discovered evidence of the beneficial effects of solutions focused news on our wellbeing, she grew convinced of the need to spread consumer awareness. She is a regular speaker at media conferences and universities.

Jodie is also a qualified yoga teacher and life coach.

Follow @JacksonJodie21 on Twitter, Visit jodiejackson.com

Buy You are What You Read

About the book

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and powerless after watching the news? Does it make you feel sad about the world, without much hope for its future? Take a breath – the world is not as bad as the headlines would have you believe.

In You Are What You Read, campaigner and researcher Jodie Jackson helps us understand how our current twenty-four-hour news cycle is produced, who decides what stories are selected, why the news is mostly negative and what effect this has on us as individuals and as a society.

Combining the latest research from psychology, sociology and the media, she builds a powerful case for including solutions into our news narrative as an antidote to the negativity bias.

You Are What You Read is not just a book, it is a manifesto for a movement: it is not a call for us to ignore the negative but rather a call to not ignore the positive. It asks us to change the way we consume the news and shows us how, through our choices, we have the power to improve our media diet, our mental health and just possibly the world.

Review

I absolutely understand why some people, including the author choose to step away from the negativity that drives the media. It has become almost like a shark feeding frenzy with the audience baying for blood. The more traumatic, brutal and soul-destroying the news is the better.

The news of today isn’t the news of yesterday. We used to have media outlets with journalists who strived to give the world, their audience, the facts and the truth, albeit as they perceived it through their frame of reference. Nowadays you get opinion based journalism, sensationalist tabloid pieces and a slowly declining number of outlets and individuals who report the facts.

On top of that our media outlets are controlled by conglomerates and moguls who have bought up the majority of them, so it has become a kind of monopoly. There is a good reason the peasants rose up to demand Rupert Murdoch not be allowed to buy yet another media outlet that reaches millions of people.

Monopolies change the way we receive information and more importantly they control the information we are being fed. They decide what to feed the masses, which means they can sway opinions and votes. Not exactly unimportant in our day and age when tempers are frayed and the extreme right is on the rise.

I think the saddest aspect of all of the above, aside from journalists not being journalists anymore, is that the majority of people don’t realise they are being manipulated to think, vote and perceive information a certain way. That’s not the same as being ignorant or uninformed. If you have no clue that someone is trying to dictate or influence your opinions, then you will be none the wiser.

It’s a fact that the Russians have influenced political outcomes in multiple countries, and still are. They have buildings filled with people who plant false information and stories to influence the public – troll farms. Fact. It’s also a fact that big media outlets no longer produce non-biased news.

We live in a world where the public is hungry for every detail of someone’s life. Reality shows and Z-celebrities make money the more extreme, aggressive and dramatic they are. The other side of that coin is the fact that the public wants it to be delivered to them.

Jackson advocates for the audience to adapt a more balanced media diet. I concur with the general idea, however I do believe it is quite hard to do so. It’s not easy for everyone to discern between fact and opinion, and whilst I agree that more positivity is needed to balance the negativity, I think it’s becoming harder to find sources to deliver that.

Although the theoretical idea is one I believe will allow many to have a more productive life and be less stressed, I also believe it’s important not to retreat into a false bubble of hope. I do believe it’s important to educate people and to fight this war of negativity head on. You can’t change something if you don’t know it’s already swallowed you whole and influenced you, which means helping others to understand what is happening is even more important.

This is an engaging and thought-provoking piece of non-fiction. In fact perhaps the world would be a better place if we had more voices like Jackson, who are trying to be heard through the cacophony of falsities. It is indeed a movement.

Buy You Are What You Read at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound; pub date 4 April 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Take Me to the Edge by Katya Boirand

Today it is my turn on the BlogTour Take Me to the Edge by Katya Boirand. Photographs by Eli Sverlander. It’s poetry with a visual element with the added variable of chaos. I love the idea of someone else being inspired by the words of another person. A limited number of words – five words to be exact.

If you would like a poem of your own written, please don’t hesitate in submitting your five words via Instagram to @poetrybymeinspiredbyyou and you may be featured in the next book.’ – Katya Boirand 2018

About the Author

Katya Boirand is an actress, dancer, writer and poet. She has travelled the world but now has roots in London. Take Me to the Edge is her first poetry collection.

About the book

That is what Katya Boirand discovered the first time she asked a friend for five words and then turned them into a poem, using the words and the subject as her inspiration. This spark started a movement, and soon Katya was asking friends and strangers alike for their five words of choice. Take Me to the Edge is a selection of these poems, sitting alongside a portrait of each subject, in this stunning and joyous celebration of language, connection and art.

Review

I love the idea of someone else being inspired by the words of another person. A limited number of words – five words to be exact. Then those five words are absorbed into the creativity of the poet to become something more.

I wonder if Boirand tries to channel what those words mean to the person who said them in the first place. Does the inspiration take on concrete form as she interacts with them, looks straight into their eyes and hears them. Or is the inspiration taken purely from the power of the words.

It made me wonder which words I would pick. Would I choose random ones that fall from mind to tongue or would I dig deep for words that have meaning to myself. I am genuinely interested in the creative process and end result.

I highly recommend buying a physical hardback copy of this book. It is incredibly beautiful, a work of art. The combination of words by Boirand and pictures by Sverlander equals oral, written and visual art working hand in hand to create singular pieces of stimulating artistry.

As I was reading this book and taking in the entirety of it, I wished the author had added the five words each person had chosen. What did she start with and how the author went from five to more. Luckily Boirand has done exactly that. The subjects, their words and a little bit about themselves is included in the last few pages. It’s a really lovely way to bring the book full circle.

I loved this expressive, bold and unpredictable expression of art. It’s poetry with a visual element and the added variable of chaos.

Buy Take Me to the Edge at Amazon UkPublisher: Unbound; pub date 16 May 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery

Today it’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Green Gold: The Epic True Story of Victorian Plant Hunter John Jeffrey by Gabriel Hemery. It’s a biographical story and it’s also historical fiction, a story with blank spaces which Hemery has filled with the fictional emotions and experiences of a man who has earned his mention in the history books of botanical exploration and achievements.

About the Author

Gabriel Hemery is an author, tree photographer and forest scientist.

Books by Gabriel Hemery:

Green Gold: The Epic True Story of Victorian Plant Hunter John Jeffrey, is a fictional biography, combining meticulous research with the fictional narrative of Jeffrey’s lost journals. Publishing with Unbound in spring 2019.

The New Sylvia: A Discourse of Forest & Orchard Trees for the Twenty First Century, was published to wide acclaim by Bloomsbury in 2014. Its 400 pages feature more than 100 tree species, accompanied by 200 specially commissioned pen and ink drawings made by Sarah Simblet. Its publication coincided with the 350th anniversary of John Evelyn’s Sylva (1664).

Don’t Look Back featured as a short story in the woodland anthology, Arboreal, published by Little Toller Books in 2016.

Gabriel Hemery co-founded Sylva Foundation, an environmental charity, and writes a popular tree and forestry blog. He lives near Oxford in England.

Buy Green GoldAbout the book

In 1850, young Scottish plant hunter John Jeffrey was despatched by an elite group of Victorian subscribers to seek highly prized exotic trees in North America. An early letter home told of a 1,200-mile transcontinental journey by small boat and on foot.  Later, tantalising collections of seeds and plants arrived from British Columbia, Oregon and California, yet early promise soon withered. Four years after setting out, John Jeffrey, and his journals, disappeared without a trace.  Was he lost to love, violence or the Gold Rush? Green Gold combines meticulous research with the fictional narrative of Jeffrey’s lost journals, revealing an extraordinary adventure.

Review

The golden-age of plant hunting – I kind of like that way of describing what our Victorian plant hunter does. I can imagine what plant hunters did seems quite uninteresting to the younger generations, perhaps even plenty of the older ones, but fact is without people like John Jeffrey we wouldn’t know half the things we do about the flora in regions other than our own native ones.

Travelling all over the world, in this case predominantly North America, to discover new species of plant life. Walking, climbing, documenting and taking samples. It was also common practice to draw or sketch pictures to document each new plant or animal species. In fact I would suggest looking at some of those sketches, a lot of which are in the public domain, to see how detailed they are and how much work the artists put into them.

John Jeffrey was tasked with discovering and procuring the seeds of useful trees, shrubs and flowers to enhance or suited to the climate of the Britain. Advancing the arboriculture and horticulture was seen by many private benefactors as a way to enhance the beauty of their landscapes, gardens or surroundings in general. Of course this aspect of scientific exploration opened up the doorway to examining the potential for more profitable endeavours, such as finding multi-purpose plants.

Indeed, we now consume genetically adapted food groups, which are manipulated to acclimatise and grow to withstand conditions their original DNA wouldn’t have survived or thrived in. Centuries ago the research was fuelled by the curious nature of rich patrons wanting to see exotic trees and plants in their gardens. Now research is about combating world hunger and feeding an over-populated planet.

I must say I have a new appreciation for this kind of read since reading At the Edge of the Orchard by Chevalier. I learnt so much about arboriculture, pomology and the breeding and pollination in climates foreign to certain species or seedlings.

It becomes clear that what is planned in theory by affluent men behind the closed doors of renowned societies is not the same as the practical application and reality of said plans. Given that Jeffrey was a botanist, a naturalist, a gardener sent out into the unknown frontier on the basis of often undecided terms dictated by a less than stellar communication flow of aforementioned affluent men, perhaps it isn’t a surprise that the arrangement didn’t work out as expected. The money men never felt as if he sent enough samples, his journals were never sent home as agreed or found at all, and Jeffrey was probably in way over his head. He simply disappeared whilst travelling. John Jeffrey was last seen in 1854 in San Fransisco and was thought to be heading to New Mexico.

Hemery has used old archives, letters, communication and articles on John Jeffrey and his expedition, and then filled in the blanks with a fictional narrative and story. I enjoyed the contradiction of the two sides of the coin, because it’s a realistic representation of formal business communication and personal journals. John Jeffrey is deserving of high praise and I think his fellow colleagues and employers did and have done him a great disservice. It’s easy to be critical from the confines of a plushy office or stately home, whilst someone else is braving the harsh weather, brutal and murderous climate of the gold rush, and the dangers of the wilderness.

It’s a biographical story and it’s also historical fiction, a story with blank spaces which Hemery has filled with the fictional emotions and experiences of a man who has earned his mention in the history books of botanical exploration and achievements. A man who collected at least 400 plant specimens and the seeds of 199 species, including 35 conifer tree species. How can anyone say that he did not fulfil his designated role, because he certainly left his mark on our landscapes with his botanical achievements.

Buy Green Gold at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound Digital; pub date 18 April 2019. Buy at Amazon com.