Random Things Blog Tours

#BlogTour | Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten #Tsarina #Review #RandomThingsTours @EAlpsten_Author @annecarter

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Hello, Sunshines, I hope you are all well? I have the massive pleasure to be today’s stop on this amazing blog tour for; Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten, I am super excited to be sharing my review of this amazing book with you all. As always grab that cuppa, take a seat and enjoy!

Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Format: ebook/paperback/audio

Spring 1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta has survived the brutal Russian winter in her remote Baltic village. Sold by her family into household labour at the age of fifteen, Marta survives by committing a crime that will force her to go on the run.

A world away, Russia’s young ruler, Tsar Peter I, passionate and iron-willed, has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire. Countless lives will be lost in the process.

Falling prey to the Great Northern War, Marta cheats death at every turn, finding work as a washerwoman at a battle camp. One night at a celebration, she encounters Peter the Great. Relying on her wits and her formidable courage, and fuelled by ambition, desire and the sheer will to live, Marta will become Catherine I of Russia. But her rise to the top is ridden with peril; how long will she survive the machinations of Peter’s court, and more importantly, Peter himself?




‘This is the ultimate Cinderella story of an illiterate peasant girl who becomes the empress of Russia. It makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme’ Daisy Goodwin

‘Ellen Apsten’s Tsarina brings to life the dramatic life of Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great, and afterwards Empress of Russia in her own right. She recounts this remarkable woman’s colourful life and times in the form of a novel, drawing however throughout on documentary evidence – this proves a highly effective approach’ Nikolai Tolstoy

‘ Tsarina should come with a health warning- once you start reading, it’s impossible to stop’ Hannah Rothschild, author of The Improbability of Love


OMG, this is so bloody amazing!!

I am blown away by the quality of this book, this is never a debut, surely someone is lying to me?? This book has pure intoxicating, indulgent class written all over it. It’s a fascinating, dark tale of a woman so few of heard of – I do count myself in that category. It’s a captivating mix of compelling history, sex, violence and the wonderful story of a woman who was an essential part of history, a woman who fought to gain her place and the respect she deserved.

I am astounded that I had never heard of Catherine I of Russia before now, which strikes me as not just amazing that this brilliantly intelligent and ruthless woman appears to have disappeared from history but also that those might women who came after her; such as the legendary Catherine the great have a lot to thank Catherine I for. She was an extraordinarily cunning, intelligent and determined woman who will do everything she can to keep her place. I really admire Catherine – whose birth name was Marta – she came from humble origins, illegitimate and tough she is sold off by her family and she then was passed from pillar to post; used, violated, humiliated and abused until finally catching the eye of Tsar Peter. Which is not surprising as Marta was an incredible young woman, she was a born survivor, beautiful and alluring with a keen wit. They share a long marriage of ups and downs and lots and lots of sex, he isn’t the perfect husband anything but he is prone to quite shocking behaviour but she keeps her head high and fights to keep her place right up to and after his death she is a strong woman and I do hugely admire her.

As well as being a dramatic and brilliantly vivid tale of danger and hardship this really shows just how debauched the Russian aristocratic court was… My goodness, it’s hot and steamy and quite shocking, there a lot of romping around the bed-chamber – Ouh la la, who knew that the Russian court could be so hot and lustful? It actually reminds me of a mixture of the tv series’ Versailles, The Tudors and The Devil’s Whore, if you’ve watched any you will have an inkling what I mean by sex-mad aristocrats.

It isn’t the easiest of reads, at times it can be uncomfortable and there are some truly harrowing and shocking moments, which are all the more disturbing and uncomfortable to read because this is based on a true story and the abuses, the violence the manipulations all most like did happen which again is shocking.

An advisory note, even if you love your historical fiction do be prepared for some scenes that are uncomfortable but essential to the entirety of the story. If you are of a more sensitive disposition then this may not be the best book, personally, I think it’s utterly amazing, easily one of the best of the years but I have always preferred my historical’s to have a darker feel to them. All I am saying is just take heed because I can guarantee that once you do start reading you won’t be able to stop, it consumes you, it pulls you into the dark, vodka-soaked and turbulent world of the Russian court.

This is thought-provoking, richly textured and enthralling tale of the strength and lengths a woman will go to survive, I cannot recommend this enough.

This was a complimentary copy which I voluntarily reviewed as a part of this blog tour.


About the Author

Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, before attending L’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. Whilst studying for her Msc in PPE she won the Grande École short story competition with her novella Meeting Mr. Gandhi and was encouraged to continue writing. Upon graduating, she worked as a producer and presenter for Bloomberg TV in London. She contributes to international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint and Conde Nast Traveller. Tsarina is her first novel. She lives in London with her husband and three children.


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#BlogTour | Escape To The French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas #EscapeToTheFrenchFarmHouse #Review #RandomThingsTours @jo_thomas01 @annecarter

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Hello, Sunshines, I hope you are all safe and well?! I have the huge pleasure to be today’s stop on this wonderful blog tour for; The French Farm House by Jo Thomas. I can’t wait to share my review of this utterly charming book with you all, so settle back, grab a cuppa and enjoy!

The French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Contemporary

Publisher: Transworld Books

Format: Ebook/audio/paperback

Can she find her recipe for happiness?

Del and her husband Ollie moved to a beautiful village in Provence for a fresh start after years of infertility struggles. But six weeks after they arrive, they’re packing the removal van once more. As Del watches the van leave for England, she suddenly realises exactly what will make her happier…a new life in France – without Ollie.

Now alone, all Del has is a crumbling farmhouse, a mortgage to pay and a few lavender plants. What on earth is she going to do? Discovering an old recipe book at the market run by the rather attractive Fabian, Del starts to bake. But can her new-found passion really help her let go of the past and lead to true happiness?

A heart-warming tale about reclaiming your life, set amongst the lavender fields of Provence. Perfect escapism from the author of Late Summer in the Vineyard and The Honey Farm on the Hill.


Praise for Jo Thomas

‘Rich, warm and sunny. A story that stays with you long after the last page is turned’ Milly Johnson

‘The characters went straight to my heart’ Katie Fforde

‘A sparkling, heartwarming hug of a story’ Miranda Dickinson

‘Like the best kind of holiday’ Lucy Diamond



This is the first I have read by Jo Thomas and I have certainly been missing out on something with this hugely talented author. Yet again it is another case of me walking around in a bubble – I really must get out of that much-loved bubble 😉 I love her easy escapist, up-lifting and heart-warming writing. The story is like an unmarked chocolate box, inside is full of delicious surprises.

Doesn’t everyone have the dream of leaving your city life behind and moving to the beautiful French countryside? Well, Del and Ollie do just that, after years of heartbreak with infertility issues they decide that now is the time for a fresh start, now is the time to maybe get their relationship back on track and find their love for each other again. They find themselves in the beautifully rustic and charming little village in Provence, the perfect setting for a whole new start, right? Well, not quite! After six weeks Ollie decides that that’s it for him, he packs up the van and basically buggers off, this is where Del must make the choice that will change her life.

  1. Does she follow her husband, and return to the life that they had left behind?
  2. Does she say goodbye and farewell to the man who has driven out of her life and embrace her knew happier one?

She knows that Ollie and she weren’t happy, so she is left alone with a heap load of trouble; a crumbling farmhouse massive debt, a few Lavender plants and an old recipe book and she has never felt happier or more liberated. This is the start of the new Del. With that she starts to make her way through her new life, as she bakes, laughs and she lives…does that also mean new love?

I won’t tell you too much, you may be able to guess some of the stories but no spoilers will escape through my lips, you really need to grab a copy settle into your favourite reading chair and fall in love. I can tell you now you will fall in love, the rustic French life will get under the skin and you will dream of Lavender fields.

You know, I think this may be the first review I have done in ages where I didn’t go on a long-winded waffle about the hero.. hmm?! Interesting, but I found Del and her journey far more satisfying than any handsome Frenchman – this time at least 😉

I really liked Del, she has great vision, once she finds the thing that makes her happy she is determined to make her new life work and she works hard to achieve it. She hasn’t had the best of luck, but she is such a lovely woman you want everything to go right for her.

This is essentially a romance, yet I saw it as a book of self-discovery or finding your feet in what is an uncertain world, that if you have a dream no matter how small then you can achieve anything with perseverance, determination and good friends. It’s a simple story at heart one of second chances and love, one that we may know, but I loved just how well crafted this is, how it is full of sunshine and smiles, in other words reading this will make you happy, it will fill your heart with positivity and hope which I think we all need that in these uncertain days.

Escape to the French Farmhouse is a magical, captivating and heart-warming story, full of rustic charm and wonderful characters who you will instantly warm to, it will leave you feeling comforted and full of happiness.

This was a complimentary copy via Netgalley which I reviewed as apart of this blog tour, thank you, Anne.


About The Author

Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children


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#BlogTour | The Lark Ascending by Sally Zigmond #TheLarkAscending #Review #RandomThingsTours @SallyZigmond @annecarter

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Hello Sunshines! I have the huge pleasure to be today’s stop on this amazing blog tour for; The Lark Ascending by Sally Zigmond. I am very excited to be sharing my review of the gorgeous book, so settle in grab a cuppa and enjoy!

The Lark Ascending by Sally Zigmond

Format: Kindle Edition
Publisher: The Conrad Press (18 Dec. 2019)
Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 304 pages
Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
Language: English

Leeds 1919.

The war is over but young Alice Fields, who hates her job in an old-fashioned shop, isn’t celebrating. However, her life is about to change when a rich customer leaves behind an expensive fur stole and Alice makes great efforts to return it.

Dark secrets bring not only money but misery, too.

During the contrasting worlds of the roaring twenties and the General Strike, love and deep friendships bloom like poppies on the devastated battlefields over which the lark rises again.



The moment I was offered a place on this blog tour, I jumped at the chance there was something about this book that drew me to it just from the blurb and made me want to read it and I am so pleased that I got the chance to, this is a beautifully poignant and atmospheric book which is full of difficult and painful storylines, heart-break and raw realism which instantly grabbed my attention from the onset. I am a huge fan of this era, pre- and post WW1 is my Achilles heal in historical fiction, especially when it is set in my home county plus features miners and the working class. Yes, I may be a wee biased, as I do come from mining stock but that only compelled me even more to read this book, but in all honestly despite my own preferences, this is easily one of the best I have read from this era in a long time.

The story opens in 1919, when shop worker; Alice is tired of the depressing job she has found herself in, she dreams of more, but in the world, as it is, her dream of better then she has, may just be that; a dream. When into the shop walks a mysterious and filthy rich lady, after leaving behind an expensive item of clothing, Alice being honest to a fault goes and returns the item to its rightful owner, whether that owner deserves it back or not. A simple kind act that changes Alice for life, and sets a course that can never be changed.

The story covers seven years from 1919 and then goes through the ’20s, to coincide with the miner’s strike of 1926, and we see the treatment of conscientious objectors how now the war is over how like the men returning from the from are suffering. Through these years Alice has been married, divorced, outcast and learning to live again, there are lies, mysteries, secrets that swirl around like a hazy fog which we readers must wade through to find the truth.

I love that the author has written the characters exactly how we speak, she hasn’t described their speech she has just written them ‘thee and thy-ing’ which I did love, that first chapter especially, it could have been myself or my grandmother speaking that dialogue with those strong Yorkshire accents.

The author really engages the reader, she grasps your attention with her illustrious and richly detailed writing, thee story unfold slowly which in any other book may have been a little too slow for me, as I do like the faster-paced books, yet this one really drew me right into the story I was gripped as the whole plot unfolded, questions were answered and I was left sitting in wonder of how brutally raw and yet strikingly beautiful this book is.

This was a complimentary copy via Random Things Tours, which I voluntarily reviewed as apart of this tour. Thank you, Anne.


About the Author

Sally Zigmond was born in Leicester in 1951, has lived in Lincoln, Market Harborough and North London where she attended Queen Mary Collge, University of London. Having studied English Literature, she was a civilian Executive Officer in various departments in The Metropolitan Police (including the London bureau of Interpol).

When she married, she moved with her husband to Harrogate, North Yorkshire where they lived for over 30 years, bringing up two sons. With its stunning countryside and fascinating history, she was inspired to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) and write first, articles and short stories, both commercial and literary. The impetus of being published and winning competitions and awards for her fiction, Sally wrote historical novels, set in Yorkshire. (Hope Against Hope and The Lark Ascending) and a novella, a fictional interpretation of the life of Henriette d’Angeville, a French aristocrat, who was the first woman to willingly climbed to the summit of Mont Blanc in 1838.

After 10 years living in Rosedale Abbey in the middle of the North York Moors, she and her husband now live in Middlesbrough, the vibrant history of which has given her more ideas for future historical novels.

Website / Twitter 


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#BlogTour | Killing Beauties by Pete Langman #KillingBeauties #Review #RandomThingsTours @elegantfowl @annecarter @Unbound_Digital

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Hello Sunshines! I have the pleasure to be today’s stop on this wonderful blog tour for; Killing Beauties by Pete Langman. I can’t wait to share my review with you all, so grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy.

England, 1655. Following the brutal civil wars the country swelters under a cloud of paranoia, suspicion and the burgeoning threat of rebellion. With the fragile peace being won by Cromwell’s ever-efficient Secretary of State John Thurloe, the exiled king Charles Stuart sends two spies on a dangerous mission to wrest back the initiative. These spies are different, however: they are women. Their task? To turn Parliament’s spymaster into their unwitting accomplice.

Killing Beauties is a dark tale of subterfuge, jealousy and betrayal.

It is sometimes said that women are written out of history, but often they are not yet written in. Killing Beauties is based on the true stories of two female spies from the 1650s and gives them the voice that only fiction can.


I know the old saying says; ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ and usually I don’t jump onto a blog tour or take on a review by the cover alone, but I did instantly love it it’s so darkly gothic I was fascinated. Add an intriguing blurb, a historical tale all about unknown women from history then you have me hooked.

Set in 1655 during the English Civil War where the country is full of spies, danger, back-stabbing, death, and rebellion ready to tear the country apart even more then it is already. Exiled King Charles II wants more than anything to wrestle his country back and for eventual peace, something that looks set to be very difficult with Cromwell’s spy-master; Thurloe lurking bout in the shadows. So Charles sends his own spies into infiltrating Thurloe, but these aren’t just any ordinary spies they are women. Something which not only surprised me as I didn’t know that there were female spies in the period even existed, and now has made me want to learn more.

Anyone who follows me knows that I love reading about seemingly unknown historic women, I had never heard about Susan Hyde or Diana Jennings, in fact, I hadn’t known that King Charles had a league of female spies – a fact that I will definitely be reading more about. Killing Beauties isn’t a hugely taxing book to read and it is very enjoyable getting to know the author’s impersonation of these two fascinating women, there are times when the story sort of feels a little flat or vague at times but I looked past that and enjoyed the journey that the author was taking us on.

I really enjoyed this, it’s dark and gothic, Killing Beauties is based on the true life’s of Susan and Diana, their characters are well defined, they all work well with one another throughout and make the reader instantly like them and wanting them to succeed in their mission, even though this is predominately a work of fiction there is a strong sense of in-depth research that has gone into the story, which only makes the reader discover more about this fascinatingly complex era and the women who staying within the shadows to do a man’s job.

The overall story could have done with a bit of fattening up, there are gaps and moments which did keep me hanging on and wondering only for the story to move past and on to the next part of the story, something which is a real shame, but I liked Langman’s writing and the story did capture my attention.

Overall this is an interesting historical, not the strongest which I have read as it does have its weak moments but certainly, one to read for anyone who loves their women’s history, as there is promise for more.




About The Author

Pete Langman is a writer, academic, cricketer and sometime rock and roll guitarist who holds a PhD on Francis Bacon (the other one) and was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease at 40. His non-fiction encompasses Cricket, Parkinson’s Disease, Music, History of Science, literature and culture, and has appeared in publications ranging from The Guardian to Guitar and Bass Magazine. He lives between Leiden and Brighton with his partner Dr. Nadine Akkerman, award-winning author of Invisible Agents, who supplies him with historical expertise and who keeps asking if they can have a cat now, please.

Website / Twitter / Goodreads 


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