Spotlight: Paramedic Chris by Tim Parsons

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I don’t often feature children’s books on the blog, but I am doing so today for a good reason. Britain’s emergency services are in the news frequently these days as we all come to appreciate how much they do for us and how they are putting themselves on the frontline in these worrying times. So it seems like a good time to talk about this fantastic series of books by Tim Parsons, designed to educate children on the work of paramedics and the Ambulance Service.

I think it is easy for children to understand what doctors and nurses do, they are the ones we see often on the news on in TV shows, but children are less likely to understand what paramedics are, although they may be the first people sick and injured individuals see if an ambulance has to be called. The author of these books, Tim Parsons worked as a chaplain to the Ambulance Service, and the books are based on genuine cases, making them informative and realistic.

With the Paramedic Chris books, Parsons hopes to spread the message for children to learn the correct ways to call an ambulance and not abuse the system, as well as how to love and care for one another. “I am hoping readers will be made aware of how hard my colleagues work within the ambulance service and can share respect to one another as a result,” he says.

There are currently three books in the series, Paramedic Chris, A Helping Hand and A Sorry Bully, each aimed at 4 to 10-year-old children. You can find out more about the books and where to buy them at Tim’s website – https://timparsons.co.uk

 

Have Sunday Brunch with me! @jaffareadstoo #sundaybrunch #sundaybrunchwithjaffareadstoo #recommendations #bookblogging

Today I am delighted to be the guest of Jo from Jaffa Reads Too on her Sunday Brunch feature. If you’d like to know more about my taste in breakfast beverages, who my literary heroes are & why I started blogging, please pop over & check out the feature. And why not have a look around the rest of Jo’s fabulous blog while you are there?

Here’s the link:

http://jaffareadstoo.blogspot.com/2020/03/sunday-brunch-with-jaffareadstoo-julie.html?m=1

Songbird by Karen Heenan #BlogTour #GuestPost (@karen_heenan) @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #Songbird

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I’m happy to be taking part in the blog tour today for Songbird by Karen Heenan. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to read and review this book for you, but instead I have a fantastic guest post from the author. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author for providing the guest post for me to share with you.

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Bess has the voice of an angel, or so Henry VIII declares when he buys her from her father.

As a member of the Music, the royal company of minstrels, Bess grows up with in the decadent Tudor court, navigating the ever-changing tide of royals and courtiers.

Friends come and go as cracked voices, politics, heartbreak, and death loom over even the lowliest of musicians. Tom, her first and dearest friend is her only constant but as Bess becomes too comfortable at court, she may find that constancy has its limits.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Now, Let me share with you Karen’s experiences and advice on the publishing process.

‘Get out of your own way’ by Karen Heenan

I’ve been a writer for most of my life. I learned to read young, because I had mother who, if interrupted when she had her nose in a book, would say, “Unless you’re bleeding, it can wait until I finish this chapter.”

It made me desperate to know what was inside those covers. Not long after I learned to read, I realized someone wrote those books, and unlike my aspirations to ballet, which required toe shoes and lessons and talent, I could learn to be a writer. It still took talent, but more than that, it took hard work, and lots and lots of reading, which was no hardship.

For a long time, writing was something I did in secret, for me, that got me through my early teens and then kept me going during years of office work that drained the light from my soul. I don’t know who I would be if I hadn’t had the outlet of writing during those times, but I don’t think I’d be happy.

The idea of writing for publication was scary. It was unnecessary; I wrote for myself. Letting other people—strangers—read my writing seemed like being naked in public. I didn’t need the exposure. I did it for myself. That was enough.

Until one day, it wasn’t. I decided to submit my book (an earlier version of Songbird) to see if I could get an agent. In 2015, after a period of rejection—I didn’t keep count of how many times I heard the word “no”, but it was a lot—I got an offer. The agent suggested changes to improve the book, and I made them, all the while thinking, “How dare you!”  because obviously, in my eyes, my book was perfect.

It wasn’t. After a year, the agent and I parted ways, Songbird returned to my hard drive, and I spent a few years licking my wounds. In the fall of 2018, I rewrote the entire book, realizing—surprise!—that the agent’s comments were not only valid, but she’d gone nowhere near far enough in her suggestions. I cut 15,000 words without losing a character or a scene, and even added an epilogue.

One more try, and I then would give up. 

While I was working on the dreaded query letter, I saw something interesting on Twitter: there were a lot of book pitches in my feed. It was a pitch contest. Pitch your book in 280 characters or less. Agents and publishers like your tweet to express interest.

Hmm, I thought. Interesting, but I’m not ready. I don’t even have a query letter. I’ll try again next time.

I went upstairs to clean the bathroom, then came right back down, typed a quick pitch into my phone, and closed my eyes. What was the worst thing that could happen? I did it twice more before the end of the day, resolutely not looking at responses until it was over.

And there were responses. Only three, but still. Two were agents, and one was a small publisher. I responded to each, sending a query letter (which I quickly finished), and the requested samples. One agent still hasn’t responded, another wanted rewrites I wasn’t comfortable with (changes that would have altered my style and voice too much), and the publisher was interested in the book as it was, with only standard, non-painful copy edits and tweaks. 

I signed a contract in February, 2019, and my book came out in November.

The moral of the story: get out of your own way. What’s the worst thing that can happen?

Thank you for sharing that, Karen, good advice for those fledgling writers amongst us!

If you would like to read Songbird for yourself, it is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for more great content and reviews:

Songbird Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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Karen Heenan was born and raised in Philadelphia. She fell in love with books and stories before she learned to read, and has wanted to write for nearly as long. After far too many years in a cubicle, she set herself free to follow her dreams – which include gardening, sewing, traveling and, of course, lots of writing.

She lives in Lansdowne, PA, not far from Philadelphia, with two cats and a very patient husband.

Connect with Karen:

Website: http://www.karenheenan.com

Facebook: Karen Heenan Writer

Twitter: @karen_heenan

Instagram: @karen.heenan

Desert Island Books: The Edge by Dick Francis @felix_francis #BookReview #racingcrime #thriller #crime #bookbloggers #bookblog #desertislandbooks #readinggoals @VIA_Rail @ExploreCanada #TheCanadian #CanadaByTrain #VIARail #ExploreCanada #bucketlist

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Tor Kelsey, an undercover agent for the Jockey Club’s security service is involved in the attempt to rid racing of one of its most notorious villains, Julius Apollo Filmer. The court however, does not go along with their beliefs, but Tor knows that to let Julius even suspect the service are still on his tail would mean certain death for a number of witnesses.

Meanwhile, several racehorse owners have planned a luxurious train trip across Canada, with race meetings fixed for every major city. Julius Apollo Filmer and Tor are on the passenger list. The beautiful journey through the Rockies gets uglier by the minute and Tor finds himself pushed to dangerous limits to defeat Filmer’s wily scheming.

I can’t remember exactly when I read my very first Dick Francis novel, but I know it was some time early in my horse-mad, teenage years. I know that it was lent to me by my friend, Mary, and that the first one I read was one of his books featuring racing detective, Sid Halley. I also know I was hooked from that very first book and quickly raced through his back catalogue. I then waited eagerly each September for his latest book to come out and bought every new one in hardback. He wrote 44 thrillers before his death in 2010, the later ones with his son, Felix, as co-author. Since his death, Felix has continued to write racing thrillers under the Francis name, and I have continued to buy them.

I have huge nostalgic affection for these books, as Dick Francis was one of the first authors I discovered for myself, without the books being parentally approved, and he was an author that was just my own. No one else in my family was particularly a fan, I didn’t have to share the books with my sisters (who never took care of my books properly- remember the Freya North book you left in Australia, Catherine? Remember the book you dropped in the bath, Rebecca?), these were just mine.

Do you want to see my Dick Francis shelf? Of course you do, here it is:-

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Anyway, of all of these excellent books, The Edge is my standout favourite. I must have read it at least a dozen times over the years. In fact I could probably recite it off by heart by now, but I never get bored of it and it was a no brainer as one of my Desert Island Books.

The blurb of this book singularly fails to do the plot justice, so I will try and explain to you what exactly is so marvellous about it, even to people who are not remotely interested in horses or racing.

Although Dick Francis is dubbed the king of the racing thriller, his books are about so much more than horse racing. His plots have involved stories centring around reporters, photography, gold mines, movie-making, wine experts, air taxis, art fraud, diamond dealers, authors, medical experiments, hurricane-chasing and toy making, amongst many other subjects, all of them meticulously researched. To say that he writes racing thrillers does not do his imagination justice, and The Edge is one of the best examples of this diversity in his writing.

The book follows Jockey Club investigator, Tor Kelsey, a man who works undercover investigating racing crimes. When the Jockey Club believes the biggest villain in racing might be plotting a major sting, Tor is sent on the trip of a lifetime across Canada to try and discover and foil his plans.

So far, so ordinary. However, there are things about the book that make it a cut above the average thriller. Firstly, it has the topsy-turvy plot device of the reader knowing who the villain is from the off, but both the investigator, and the reader, not knowing what crime he is planning and having to find this out together. Secondly, the action is set mostly on a glamorous train travelling coast-to-coast across Canada with the elite of the racing world, plus their horses, aboard. There is also a murder mystery being acted out on board for the entertainment of the passengers, so there is fun in trying to work out which parts are the real mystery and which are part of the entertainment. There is also a love interest sub-plot for added spice. A huge cast of great characters, descriptions of a great train journey visiting some of the amazing sights of Canada, and a gripping mystery plot which delivers continual twists and turns and highs and lows – what’s not to love?

This book has a special place in my heart. It has also inspired one of my top Bucket List destinations which I blogged about here (picture below might give you a clue!). Having read it again, I am also struck by how well the book has stood the test of time, despite it being 30 years old and not featuring cell phones, the internet or other modern equipment. There are not many crime books that I can read over and over and still enjoy, despite knowing whodunnit, but all of Dick Francis’s books fall into this category and this is the best of the crop IMHO. Definitely a keeper.

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The Edge might be difficult to get your mitts on new now, but try your local library or you should be able to track down a copy in some format here. Sorry, there is no way I am lending out my copy, no matter how much you beg!

About the Author

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Richard Stanley Francis (31 October 1920 – 14 February 2010) was a British crime writer, and former steeplechase jockey, whose novels centre on horse racing.

After wartime service in the RAF, Francis became a full-time jump-jockey, winning over 350 races and becoming champion jockey of the British National Hunt. He came to further prominence in 1956 as jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother riding her horse Devon Loch, which fell when close to winning the Grand National. Francis retired from the turf and became a journalist and novelist.

Dick Francis was widely acclaimed as one of the world’s finest thriller writers. His awards include the Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger for his outstanding contribution to the crime genre, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tufts University of Boston. In 1996, Dick Francis was made a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master for a lifetime’s achievement and in 2000 he received a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Tempted by…The Bookwormery: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow @lelbudge @AlixEHarrow @orbitbooks #TenThousandDoorsofJanuary #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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EVERY STORY OPENS A DOOR

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place.

But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page reveals more impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Today’s Tempted by… comes courtesy of Lesley over at The Bookwormery with this review of The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow.

There was one word from this review that made me buy this book, and I didn’t need any more than that to convince me to pick it up. ‘Mesmerising.’ Any book that Lesley describes as mesmerising is one that I want to read.

Aside from that, this is a book about books, about how books open the door to other worlds, or certainly that is how Lesley describes it in her review, and as a reader who understands tis completely, how could one not want to read it? There isn’t much more to the review than this, but it just goes to show that massively wordy reviews (much like the ones I tend to write!) are unnecessary and succinct reviews, if the words are chosen carefully and wisely, are just as effective, if not more so because people are less likely to get bored and switch off!

If you haven’t come across Lesley’s wonderful blog before now, you must go over and have a look. Lesley is a prolific blogger (and that is coming from someone who reads a lot), some days I can hardly keep up with her reviews but I always make sure I read them because I value her opinion and I don’t want to miss out on anything great. She is one of the reasons my TBR is so huge! If you want to take a look for yourself, you can find her blog here.

And if you would like to pick up a copy of The Ten Thousand Doors of January yourself after reading Lesley’s review, you can buy a copy here.

Tempted by…The Tattooed Book Geek: In The Absence Of Miracles by Michael J Malone @SarcasticEnigma @michaelJmalone1 @OrendaBooks #InTheAbsenceOfMiracles #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.
For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

This week’s Tempted by … is a book I bought on the recommendation of Drew over at The Tattooed Book GeekThe book is In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone and it was this review that encouraged me to pick up a copy.

The review attracted me to the book because it is obvious that Drew was completely captivated by both the story and the story-telling, which are two very different but equally important things in any novel. The premise of the book itself would have grabbed me, but Drew’s detailed dissection of exactly what it was that pulled him in to the story and held him fast in his grasp really brought the book alive and persuaded me that I absolutely needed to read it. The review was also quite lyrical in its prose, a joy to read. I know some people don’t like reading long reviews but I love to find out exactly what aspects of a book readers loved and which were less successful.

Drew always writes very passionate and heartfelt reviews, fully imbued with his own personality. I’ve never met him, but I honestly feel like I know him through his blog posts, and they are always entertaining and persuasive. if you don’t follow Drew’s blog already, you should remedy that oversight immediately. You can find him at The Tattooed Book Geek.

And, if after reading Drew waxing lyrical about the book, you would like to read In The Absence of Miracles for yourself, you can buy a copy here.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan Narrated by Jane Collingwood and Sandra Duncan #BookReview #audiobook (@ruthmariehogan) @TwoRoadsBooks @JaneCollingwoo1 @audibleuk #freereading #KeeperOfLostThings

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Meet the Keeper of Lost Things….

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters….

At the risk of being accused of hyperbole, I am going to tell you that this may be the most perfect book I have read in a long while. It has absolutely everything I love in a good work of fiction, novelty of plot, sympathetic characters, romance, comedy, pathos, a hint of the supernatural and a fabulous ending. I adored every single minute I spent listening to it and I did not want it to end.

What a fantastic premise for a book, somebody picking up random items that have been lost in public and trying to get them reunited with their missing owners. I loved all the little stories that were attached to the missing items, the snippets of insight into everyday lives they gave -many of which took the most unexpected turn.

The characters in this book were just a delight, every single one of them, even the dreadful Portia who produced some of my favourite parts of the book – but more about that later. Anyone who reads this book could not help but fall in love with Rose, and wish her to get her happy ending, the marvellous and insightful Sunshine, gentle and generous Anthony and his heartbreaking story, Bomber and Eunice and their dogs… Everyone of them a beautiful and lovingly drawn portrait of a person that is essential to the story and will tug on the heartstrings of the reader, making them care very much about what happens to them, and the odd assortment of detritus that becomes so essential to their happiness. The way the characters and their stories and the objects were intertwined is so beautifully and cleverly done, reading it was just a joy.

This book made me feel everything. It was hilariously funny in places. I found myself actually laughing out loud at the parts where the plots of Portia’s novels were read out, proper big belly laughs. There were parts of the book that had my eyes pricking with tears – particularly the story of Eunice and Bomber, which was so gorgeous and real and sensitively drawn, they are characters and a story that will stay with me a good long while. And the ending, oh the ending had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, and I mean that literally. I know it has taken me a long while to get to this book after its initial publication and the excitement surrounding that, but maybe this book was just waiting for the right time for me to find it. Maybe it was just what I needed right now and I would not have loved it as much if I had read it at another time. Whatever, all I know is that it has moved me and made me profoundly happy now that I have discovered it.

I think you can tell, I absolutely love this book. It definitely has a place on my forever shelf and I know I will come back to it again and again. The audio version is wonderful, the performances captured the characters beautifully but I look forward to reading it again soon in the physical version to see if I have a different reaction, if there are nuances to be found that I’ve missed. In any event, one of my favourite books of recent years, a definite keeper.

The Keeper of Lost Things is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford. My sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me.

As a child, I loved the Brownies but hated the Guides, was obsessed with ponies and read everything I could lay my hands on.  Luckily, my mum worked in a bookshop.  My favourite reads were The Moomintrolls, A Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets, and gravestones.

I passed enough O and A levels to get a place at Goldsmiths College, University of Londonto study English and Drama.  It was brilliant and I loved it.

And then I got a proper job.

I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (Human Resources – Recruitment, Diversity and Training). I was a square peg in round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage.

In my early thirties I had a car accident which left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously.  I got a part-time job as an osteopath’s receptionist and spent all my spare time writing.  It was all going well, but then in 2012 I got Cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing, and the eventual result was THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS.

I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering husband.  I spend all my free time writing or thinking about it and have notebooks in every room so that I can write down any ideas before I forget them.  I am a magpie; always collecting treasures (or ‘junk’ depending on your point of view) and a huge John Betjeman fan.  My favourite word is antimacassar and I still like reading gravestones.

Connect with Ruth:

Website: http://ruthhogan.co.uk

Facebook: Ruth Hogan

Twitter: @ruthmariehogan

Instagram: @ruthmariehogan