Making Pearls From Grit by Isla Aitken (@IslaAitken) #GuestPost #breastcancerawarenessmonth #breastcancerawareness #breastcancer #MakingPearlsFromGrit

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is a cause that is very close to my heart, as it is only two years since my very oldest friend was taken from us at the age of only 48 as a result of a long and painful battle with the disease, leaving behind devastated family and friends, and two children the same age as my own.

In order to help raise awareness and funds to help in the battle against this disease, I am delighted to be hosting a guest post on the blog today from Isla Aitken, author, and herself a breast cancer survivor. She is going to tell us about her experiences and her book, Making Pearls From Grit. Over to you, Isla.

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Diagnosed with breast cancer while on holiday in Japan, former journalist, environmental activist and one-time politician Isla distracts herself with tourist adventures — including snorkelling in the South China Sea, learning about slipper etiquette and negotiating the three Japanese alphabets.

Back in the less exotic UK, in between chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy, Isla considers those other scenes from life – such as depression and farting during sex – and realises how people can be fully constructed by life’s obstacles.

When the family cat dies of lung cancer just as Isla is being cured, her anger at the illness’s victory is undermined by her new discovery of the Japanese philosophy of “ikigai”: reason for being.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer while on what was supposed to be an 11-week trip with my husband and two young children to the Far East. I had already had my suspicions that something might be amiss, but with the trip all booked and organised, I decided to go ahead and, prompted by my GP, see a doctor in Tokyo.

Obviously the Japanese healthcare system had not been on our tourist itinerary but, as it happens, it was… well – not enjoyable, which I was about to say and is clearly the wrong word – reassuring. Reliable. 

It took only one ultrasound and one mammogram in one appointment in the Tokyo hospital for the doctor to confirm that yes, I had breast cancer. What did I do? I went and met husband and children in an amusement park and took daughter on the log flume, while husband, according to son, screamed like a child on the rollercoaster.

What else could I do?

With a couple of weeks until the recommended biopsy, and then another couple of weeks until the biopsy result, we had plenty of time to explore Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as planned. And, cancer diagnosis notwithstanding, that was one of the best, most exciting periods of my life!  

We enjoyed tranquil national parks, and the renowned cherry blossom, bullet trains, earthquakes (!), home schooling, temples and shrines, tempura and other unrecognisable food stuffs, snorkelling in a warm and crystal-clear sea… 

The day after my biopsy result – delivered with detailed care and support by two Japanese doctors – we returned to Edinburgh, and my nine months of intensive treatment began. It took 16 chemotherapy sessions, three surgeries and 19 radiotherapy sessions but I was declared clear of cancer in time for Christmas.

I learned a lot in this period. I learned a lot about my own strength and resilience, and I learned even more about the importance of support networks, of being able to communicate with doctors, of having questions answered, of understanding what is going on. Most importantly, I learned so much about the kindness of people – not just friends, but mere acquaintances. There is such a depth of understanding and sympathy in most people, which leads to them wanting to help in whatever way they can – with childcare, or providing cooked meals, or donating money to cancer charities for research and cures.

That – the good will and benevolence of my community – was invaluable.

While I was being treated, I wrote a blog, to keep friends and family in the loop with regard to how I was getting on (and probably to help me process the experience). The blog was brutally honest. It was often wry, always immodest, and occasionally farcical.  And friends started suggesting I write a book, based on the blog.

Which is what I did.

But obviously I couldn’t just regurgitate the blog, as that was freely available online… So, prompted by the recognition of my own strength – realised during my illness – I started thinking about all those other obstacles, scenes and issues I, and many other women, encounter in life, and which we overcome and assimilate into our very beings.

So the book, Making Pearls From Grit, has ended up being, not just a cancer memoir but also an uplifting story of survival, fortitude, courage and kindness. I hope it can let cancer patients know that they are not alone, and that there are so many of us here willing them on; and it will allow friends and family of those with cancer to understand exactly what they’re going through, without having to ask them personal questions.

My own journey is far from over – while I am cured, the emotional impact of the illness has fairly long-term repercussions. But with the support of my friends, my amazing husband and my brave children, I know how and why to enjoy every single day. 

And we will be returning to Japan, to finish our interrupted trip.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I will be donating money from sales of Making Pearls From Grit to Macmillan Cancer Support, Maggie’s Centres, Cancer Research UK and Breast Cancer Care throughout the month. To find out more and help support the fundraising, please sign up to my newsletter via www.isla.org.uk or like and follow my Facebook page @IAitkenwriter.”

What an amazing story and an amazing initiative. if you would like to buy a copy of Isla’s book and help support breast cancer charities, you can get a copy here. Or make a donation to one of the many charities working to beat this disease such as https://www.cancerresearchuk.org and https://www.wearitpink.org/

About the Author

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Isla Aitken is a former sub editor and PR consultant, who has given up her career to write full time. She is co-founder of a local cancer support group, and has been an active environmental campaigner for many years. Having published two short stories to Amazon, Making Pearls From Grit, a memoir of her experience as a breast cancer patient, is her first full-length book.

Connect with Isla:

Website: http://www.isla.org.uk

Facebook: I Aitken Writer

Twitter: @IslaAitken

Instagram: @readwriteandrave

Kult by Stefan Malmstrom #BookReview #BlogTour (@kpstefan) @silvertailbooks @BOTBSPublicity #Kult

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THE PAST WILL NEVER LET YOU GO…

When a four-year-old girl and her father are found dead in the Swedish city of Karlskrona, the police quickly conclude it was a murder-suicide, a tragedy requiring no further investigation.

But Luke Bergmann, a reformed criminal still haunted by his violent past, believes they are wrong. The dead man, Viktor, was his best friend, and Luke knows he would never commit such a horrific crime.

When more bodies turn up, Luke is certain the same killer has struck again. Alone, he embarks on an investigation which reaches back through decades to his friend’s involvement with a sinister cult and dark secrets are exposed as Luke struggles to keep his own long-buried demons hidden away.

And when Luke finds himself in a killer’s sights, his search for the truth becomes the fight of his life.

Can Luke get justice for Viktor and his daughter and prove his best friend was not a murderer, or will the shadows of the past overwhelm him?

Happily taking my turn on the blog tour today for Kult by Stefan Malmstrom. My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books On The Bright Side Publicity for inviting me to take part and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a really fascinating, if very dark, read that stood out because it was partially based on the author’s own experiences as a young man with Scientology, which leant the story an extra level of authenticity.

I don’t think I am alone in finding cults a compelling subject. The idea that people can be influenced into believing the most extraordinary things that seem totally bizarre to the rest of us, to the extent that they are prepared to distance themselves from their family and friends, devote their lives and money to the cause and enact the most extreme forms of behaviour, including murder, is a topic I find riveting. I have read quite a lot of non-fiction on the subject of cults, and also enjoy fiction books that have this as a central subject matter. The Girls by Emma Cline was a recent novel based around a cult that was very popular, but the attraction of reading a book about possibly the world’s most famous cult, Scientology, by someone who was actually a member was too good an opportunity to miss and this book did not disappoint in any way.

The book is cleverly constructed with three story threads running through it that start off seemingly separate but are gradually drawn together as we go throughout the book until it forms a complete picture at the denouement. One of the threads follows the story of a group of young people as they are enticed into the world of Scientology in a small town in Sweden in the early 1990s. The main protagonist of the book is, Luke, a not quite whiter-than-white American now living in Sweden, who discovers the apparent murder-suicide of his best friend and his friend’s young daughter. However, Luke refuses to believe that Viktor was capable of any such thing and, despite warnings from the police investigating the matter, is determined to discover the truth for himself. The third thread…well you need to read the book for yourself to find out how that weaves in.

This book is gripping, to say the least. I read it in a day and could not put it down. The construct of the book was extremely effective in keeping the reader turning the pages and trying to work out how the pieces fitted together. The characters were cleverly portrayed to make you either love them or loathe them, as appropriate, and they felt realistic and well-rounded. I thought Luke was a great character to carry the story and would be very keen to read further books featuring him. I have to warn readers that some aspects of this book involved extremely disturbing subject matter that some readers may find distressing, but this was not done in a gratuitous manner and was relevant to the story. I found the insight into Scientology the most fascinating part of the book, though. To gain such a glimpse into the secretive world of Scientology from someone who has been there, and hear first hand the kind of damage it can do, was riveting. The author gives us a note at the end regarding how much of the book is fact and how much is fiction and it was eye-opening to say the least.

This is a dark, gripping and tense thriller with a fascinating back story and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bleak but enthralling read.

Kult is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out the other reviews posted by my marvellous fellow bloggers on the tour:

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About the Author

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Stefan Malmström is a former news journalist who has worked for Sveriges Radio and Swedish TV4. Today he works as a consultant, lecturer and author. At a young age, Stefan was manipulated into the Church of Scientology in Hässleholm, a small town in southern Sweden. KULT, his first book, is based on his experiences in the cult. Stefan lives in Karlskrona in Sweden with his family.

Connect with Stefan:
Facebook: Hjarntvattad
Twitter: @kpstefan
Instagram: @hjarntvattad.se

 

The Hive by Jane Holland #BookReview #BlogTour (@janeholland1) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #RachelsRandomResources #TheHive

The Hive

Delighted to be one of the blogs opening up the blog tour today for The Hive by Jane Holland. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you check out the giveaway detailed below the review.

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Scarred by fire from infancy, with a persistent stammer, Charlotte has always been in the shadow of her glamorous theatrical parents. So it’s a shock when her mother commits suicide.

Left to care for her sick father in the dark maze of her childhood home, Charlotte begins to unravel. First, there’s the mysterious arrival of a box of dead bees. Then buzzing noises in the attic. People are watching her. Listening to her.

Everyone thinks she’s losing her mind. But an old photo suggests another, more sinister possibility …

This is the first thriller I have read by Jane Holland but it definitely won’t be the last because this one was a gripping, chilling menace of a book that I simply could not put down.

Right from the opening pages, this book has a dark, oppressive feel that creeps insidiously off the page to wind itself around the mind of the reader and pull them in to the dark world that Charlotte inhabits. She arrives home from a trip to Moscow to find a scene of devastation at the home she shares with her aloof mother and a father who is increasingly lost in a world of his own, unable to help her. Scarred by an accident when young, living in isolation with her parents in an old rambling house, taking walks in the fascinating but morbid confines of Highgate Cemetery, her only light and support comes from her Russian boyfriend, Alex. But Charlotte can’t quite bring herself to believe than even the handsome Alexei is truly there for her, as he seems to have a dark past of his own.

The author does a fantastic job of making Charlotte a sympathetic character to carry us through this story. I really felt her isolation and desperation throughout the book, her insecurity and self-doubt, and her growing fear as events throughout the story get more and more strange and terrifying. The plot is very devious and twisted and I felt myself with an unexpected sense of desperation to find out what was going and and how it was going to end. I read the book almost in one sitting and felt unfeasibly annoyed when I had to put it down to carry out the mundane but necessary tasks of the day.

This is a book which walks an interesting tightrope between thriller and horror, and not something I would particularly pick up myself as a normal read. However, I was totally gripped from beginning to end, and found this a very rewarding reading experience which I would be very happy to repeat in the near future.

The Hive is out now and you can get a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, check out the stops as detailed on the poster below:

The Hive Full Tour Banner

Giveaway

To be in with a chance of winning a paperback copy of The Hive, click on the Rafflecopter link below (UK entries only):

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*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  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.

About the Author

The Hive - jane+hat+photo

Jane Holland is a Gregory Award-winning poet and novelist. Her thriller GIRL NUMBER ONE hit #1 in the UK Kindle store in 2015, and again in 2018, catapulting her into a life of crime. She’s published dozens of novels with major publishing houses under various pseudonyms, including: Beth Good, Victoria Lamb, Elizabeth Moss, Hannah Coates, and JJ Holland, and also self-publishes.

Connect with Jane:

Facebook: Jane Holland Author

Twitter: @janeholland1