Blog tour: All Rivers Run Free by Natasha Carthew.

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for All Rivers Run Free by Natasha Carthew!

'A lyrical novel in the vein of Sara Baume and Eimear McBride, about marginalisation, mental illness and the power of nature and motherhood in restoring hope.
A woman on the edge of the sea finds a girl on the edge of life. 

Brittle but not yet broken, Ia Pendilly ekes out a fierce life in a caravan on the coast of Cornwall - ravaged by floods, cut off from Europe and descended to military rule. In years of living with Bran - her embattled, battering cousin and common law husband - she's never had her own baby. So Ia rescues the girl. And the girl, in turn, will rescue something in Ia - bringing back a memory she's lost, giving her the strength to escape, and leading her on a journey downriver, in search of family. In hope of freedom.

Natasha Carthew tells a tale of marginalisation and motherhood in lyrical prose that crashes like waves on the sand; gritty, beautiful and utterly original.'

Natasha has kindly written a beautiful piece for today's blog post about the setting of All Rivers Run Free...


All Rivers Run Free is set in Cornwall and follows one woman’s journey downriver from the north coast to the south.
The Cornwall I write about is the second main character to Ia in All Rivers Run Free and is both friend and enemy, at times it trips her up, tells her lies and is not to be trusted and at other times it throws clues and sustenance her way.
It was important for me to create a hostile setting that Ia would have to navigate through, the country as we know it is unravelling around her. Through an almost unrecognisable Cornwall ravaged by floods and political unrest, Ia embarks on a journey that will finally bring her love and help her find the self she lost thirteen years ago.
It was central to the story that the setting I created was dystopian; through neglect, weathering and floods, I wanted the towns and countryside to be unrecognisable to the picture postcard image people think of when they think of Cornwall.
The places Ia comes across in All Rivers Run Free are real places on the tourist trail that sit near or alongside the River Tamar. Towns like Launceston and visitor centres like Tamar lakes and Morwelham Quay all play a part in the story. I visited these places in winter, off season, so it wasn’t hard to take the people away from them and imagine them abandoned, messed up, dirty. There is a stately home called Cothele that Ia takes refuge in on her journey on the banks of the river and this is where a lot of crucial things happen in her story, I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the book, but writing those scenes on that particular riverbank and in the ornate garden was vital in getting the atmosphere right.

Nature also paid a big part in creating a setting that reflected Ia’s emotional turmoil. She is a part of nature and that affinity is reflected in instinct and the way she trusts her environment to help her make the right decision. She is part wild animal, so is at home in the wild weather and the wild setting. The landscape and environmental issues raised in All Rivers Run Free weave their way into Ia’s story and her story in turn becomes a part of the environment; they are interconnected, whilst the river symbolises her passage to salvation.  

The beautiful, poetical and totally original All Rivers Run Free is out now (available here)
Watch out for my full review coming next week!

[Huge thanks to Ana at Quercus books.]

Indie brand: Old English Company.

Old English Company are a stationery and homeware store based in Stamford. Their products feature beautiful hand lettered designs. When they contacted me to ask if I would like to review some of their products I couldn't say yes quick enough! 

Their store is full of brilliant and quirky designs and they sell everything from mugs and tea towels to enamel pins, cards, prints and notebooks.

The first thing that caught my eye straight away were the banner flags. There are lots of different slogans but I loved the 'You've got this' one. I already have it hanging up on the wall. The quality of this is beautiful- the lettering is printed onto cotton canvas and it's nice and thick. It looks really lovely hung up.

As a pin collector of course I had to get some of their pins. They've got some really fun designs but the three that I especially loved were the Pizza Lover (pizza is life), She Believed She Could So She Did (they do this design in other products too!) and the Coffee For Life pin.

Again the quality of these are amazing. They are really sturdy, and well made. The design is clear without imperfection- they are also only £7 each. These have already gone on my jacket! 

The final thing I picked was this mug. For some reason I've always wanted an enamel mug- I love the look of them and they are also a lot harder to break (if you are clumsy like me...) I love the phrase on this and the silver rim finishes it off nicely. Because of the light weight this is perfect for carrying round/ travel/ taking to work or (if you are weird like me and have to have your own cup) taking on holiday with you!

If you'd like to check out Old English Company go here:

[Huge thanks to Old English Company for sending me these items in exchange for an honest review]

Tips for when you have a depressive episode.

I volunteer at a local mental health charity where I run a bipolar support group and in one of our recent sessions we put together a list of tips for when we are in a depressive episode. When you are in that mind frame it is near impossible to think positive so I thought having this list could be pretty helpful to refer to. Here's the ideas we came up with...

Things to try when you are feeling low…

  • ·         Go for a walk, get some fresh air
  • ·         Get some rest, make sure you get some sleep. Have a set sleep routine
  • ·         Push yourself to attend a group
  • ·         Talk to a friend or family member that understands- don’t shut yourself away
  • ·         Have a routine, keep busy
  • ·         Don’t forget to eat. Try and eat a healthy snack, or drink a smoothie
  • ·         Use the internet/TV/ music to take your mind of it for a while. Watch your favourite film
  • ·         Treat yourself to something
  • ·         Try to practice some mindfulness (meditation, a relaxing bath, massage, aromatherapy)
  • ·         Do something creative (some drawing, cooking, colouring, make something)
  • ·         Don’t forget to take your meds (if you are prescribed them)
  • ·         Spend some time with your pet or offer to walk a friend’s dog
  • ·         Remind yourself that it is temporary and will pass
  • ·         Do some yoga/ attend a fitness group
  • ·         Be kind to yourself
  • ·         If you are really struggling talk to a trusted Doctor, group member or friend. If you aren't already ask to be referred to a therapist or counsellor

Recent comic pulls.

These pictures are pretty old now (I'm so behind!) but thought I'd post it anyway. 

Some series that I regularly buy in single issues are Motor Crush and Bombshells United- and I highly recommend both. I also got a bunch of first issues to try some new series. It ended up being a success for both Regression and Misfit City which I loved and have since bought and read the first volumes to. Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica was a 6 issue crossover series that was a fun read- I think it's out in trade now if you want to give it a read. I bought Doom Patrol purely for that beautiful Babs Tarr variant cover. 

Zodiac Starforce is back! I LOVED the first run so was very excited to see it return. I've had real trouble trying to track down all the issues though- so have ended up just pre-ordering the trade. Also check out those 2 beautiful variants of Bombshells United and A-Force.

Finally, the now infamous Batman #24 where he asks Selina to marry him. I only managed to get the second printing of this, but I love that they made changed to each printing cover. The first print didn't have the speech bubble, and the third print was in black and white.

So that's my not so recent comic pulls!

On my shelf: short story collections.

In which I delve into the books on my 'to be read' shelves. Today: Short story collections...

In her provocative debut Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado demolishes the borders between magical realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. Startling narratives map the realities of women's lives and the violence visited on their bodies, both in myth and in practice.

Nowhere is Patricia Highsmith more edgy than in these mordantly hilarious sketches that make up Little Tales of Misogyny.Here you'll meet seemingly familiar women with the power to destroy both themselves and the men around them. In these stories Highsmith is at her most scathing as she draws out the mystery and menace of her once ordinary subject.

Sour Heart is centred on a community of immigrants who have traded their endangered lives as artists in China and Taiwan for the constant struggle of life at the poverty line in 1990s New York City, Zhang’s collection examines the many ways that family and history can weigh us down and also lift us up.

Though perhaps most famous as a novelist, Philip K. Dick wrote more than one hundred short stories over the course of his career, each as mind-bending and genre-defining as his longer works. Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams collects ten of the best.

Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and how our ever-growing dependence on new technologies has changed the shape of our society. Alexander Weinstein is a visionary new voice in speculative fiction for all of us who are fascinated by and terrified of what we might find on the horizon.

In How Much the Heart Can Hold, seven award-winning authors explore seven concepts of love: from Philautia, self-love, to Agape, love for humanity; and from Storge, a natural affection for family, to Mania, a frenzied, obsessive love.

Sensual, yearning, and filled with the tricks of memory and grief, Record of a Night Too Brief is an atmospheric trio of unforgettable tales.In these three haunting and lyrical stories, three young women experience unsettling loss and romance.

The Book of Tokyo collects ten stories by some of Japan's most exciting and revered contemporary short story writers. Together, the stories form a kind of literary map of this vast and ever-changing city's districts - an imaginative tour of the city for short story fans and travellers alike.

Small pleasures 2.

Sometimes it's good to celebrate the little things, so here are some of my small pleasures over the last couple of weeks or so...

1. The relief of finishing and submitting the worst uni assignment ever!
2. Pancake day
3. Having an early Spring clean
4. Catching up with some comic reading
5. Getting some nice earrings in Primark
6. A Sunday lie in and no work
7. Escape the Room games
8. Playing 'prop game' in Call of Duty
9. Having a walk in the forest
10. Attempting yoga on my new purple yoga matt.

Lots of highlighters to get me through uni work!
Comics and coffee
Finding a 1990 My Little Pony Annual!
My earrings from Primark.

This past week hasn't been too great so it's important more than ever to focus on the positives however small. Right now my mental health is taking a dip so I am attempting to try  and stay strong and make a few changes. 
Sending love and support to anyone else struggling right now.

Blog tour: The Binding Song by Elodie Harper

Dr Janet Palmer is the new lead psychologist at HMP Halvergate in a remote, bleak area of Norfolk. At first, she was excited by the promotion. Then she starts to see how many secrets are hiding behind the high walls.

A string of inmates have committed suicide, leaving no reasons why, and her predecessor has disappeared - along with his notes. The staff are hostile, the threat of violence is ever-present, and there are rumours of an eyeless woman stalking the corridors, punishing the inmates for their sins.

Janet is determined to find out what is really going on. But the longer she stays and the deeper she digs, the more uncertain she feels.

Halvergate is haunted by something. But it may be a terror worse than ghosts...

My thoughts...

As soon as I saw the protagonist was a psychologist I was interested! The bleak atmosphere is well set as Janet starts her new job and finds everyone unwelcoming- I could really empathise with her. 

It didn't take too long for me to work out where the book was going and there was really one main twist. Although there was a tense build up it was also kind of slow- personally I enjoyed reading about Janet's job as prison psychologist but in terms of it being a thriller it did take it's time to build up to something. I also enjoyed the occasional switch to the voice of Steven the prison chaplain. 

There were a few niggles in this book for me. The first being that the story relied on a lot on coincidences... I mean pretty much the whole story hung on them. Also there was a part where it was revealed a character had been murdered by someone diagnosed with schizophrenia. I always get annoyed when mental illness is used as the cause/plot point for being a violent murderer, and feel it perpetuates negative stigma (here's some info about schizophrenia and violence). I also found Janet's behaviour a little puzzling at times, particularly for an intelligent, experienced doctor of her field. 

One thing I did enjoy was the gothic feel of the writing, and the descriptions of Norfolk in Winter time. Overall this book never totally grabbed me, but it was well written, and definitely and intriguing idea. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads. 

Below Elodie has kindly written a piece about the settings in The Binding Song...

Imagining Norfolk (Written by author Elodie Harper) 

Norfolk, where THE BINDING SONG is set, is a character in its own right.  Alien, flat and with its own quiet menace, the landscape is seen almost entirely through the eyes of the book’s protagonist, Dr Janet Palmer.
         Janet’s reaction to Norfolk is not mine, and the Norfolk she lives in is not always the one you can visit by driving to the end of the A11.  Some of it used to exist, but no longer does: the Gallery on St Giles Street which Steven Finch lives above (as I once did) is no longer there, and the eerie drive through the Elveden estate has since been diverted to a more convenient but less atmospheric dual carriageway.  Other locations I invented entirely:  the village of Halverton, HMP Halvergate itself, or Great Yarmouth General Hospital.  But some of the places are real – and very close to my heart.  Here are five of them...

The Acle Strait.  The road which cuts through Halvergate marshes to Great Yarmouth is one of the most evocative drives in the county.  It’s somewhat off the tourist trail, and often snarled up with traffic, but on a clear drive when the early morning mist rises from the marshes and ancient church spires fade to blue against the endless flat horizon, you feel like you are driving through a painting by an Old Dutch Master.

Franks Bar, Norwich.  Steven Finch ends up on a date here.  If you visit, you’ll find there are still tee lights in teapots, books propped everywhere and a fairground horse halfway up one wall.  Quirky and relaxed, I’ve always loved it.

Winterton-on-Sea.  Janet visits the village and hates it.  This is how she sees it in the snow: “Janet slammed the door, her parked car rocking gently behind her.  It was bitingly cold and the wind cut at her ears like a razor.  There was an ugliness about the freezing grey water, the way it churned a path up the snowy shore and left behind a dark slop of sand and stones.  A few hardy souls were out walking, but even from the relative shelter of the dunes, she was finding the wind unbearable.”
         All I can say is, don’t believe Janet.  This is one of my favourite spots on the Norfolk coast, much less visited (and busy) than its more famous neighbours.  If you go, you will find an extraordinarily vast stretch of beach and a lunar landscape of dunes.  Janet’s not lying about the wind in winter, though.

Great Yarmouth.  Steven visits the town off season purely for the chips.  As have I.  There are several market stalls devoted purely to frying chips and nothing else: they’re amazing.  A cameraman colleague told me once as we sat scoffing a bag-full in his car, that the vinegar cuts through the grease meaning you can’t get fat.  Must be true.

St Giles Street, Norwich.  When I first worked at ITV Anglia I walked to work every morning from a rented studio flat on this street (it didn’t look anything like Steven’s place inside – although it did also face the old YMCA).  I love this part of the city.  The Waffle House, the independent jewellery stores, the church – you will find them all there waiting for you just as the book describes.

Also coming in July is the second book from Elodie Harper: The Death Knock! 
The gripping story of a journalist on the hunt for a serial killer...

[Huge thanks to Rosie at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.]