Tuesday, 21 August 2018

See You In September by Charity Norman @CharityNorman1 @ngaiomarshaward #yeahnoir #2018Ngaios

Cassy smiled, blew them a kiss.
'See you in September,' she said.
It was a throwaway line. Just words uttered casually by a young woman in a hurry. And then she'd gone.

It was supposed to be a short trip - a break in New Zealand before her best friend's wedding. But when Cassy waved goodbye to her parents, they never dreamed that it would be years before they'd see her again.
Having broken up with her boyfriend, Cassy accepts an invitation to stay in an idyllic farming collective. Overcome by the peace and beauty of the valley and swept up in the charisma of Justin, the community's leader, Cassy becomes convinced that she has to stay.
As Cassy becomes more and more entrenched in the group's rituals and beliefs, her frantic parents fight to bring her home - before Justin's prophesied Last Day can come to pass.
A powerful story of family, faith and finding yourself, See You in September is an unputdownable new novel from this hugely compelling author.

I'm delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for the Ngaio Marsh Awards 2018 with my review of See You In September by Charity Norman, published in the UK by Allen & Unwin in May 2017.

The Ngaio Marsh Awards are New Zealand's book prizes for literary excellence in crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing. They were established in 2010, and are named after Dame Ngaio Marsh, a New Zealand author and theatre director who was one of the four Queens of Crime of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. 
The winners of this year's awards will be announced at a special event at the WORD Christchurch Festival on 1 September, with visiting crime writers Denise Mina and AJ Finn presenting this year's prizes.

See You in September by Charity Norman - my review

I've been a fan of Charity Norman's writing for a long time. Her writing is powerful, she tackles difficult and often controversial subjects, but does it so very well. 

I've always had a fascination for cults, and really enjoy fiction that looks at how cults are formed, and how people become part of them. In See You In September, this extremely talented author has taken apart the whole process of how an ordinary young girl from London could wave goodbye to her family at Heathrow as she sets off on an exciting adventure holiday in New Zealand, intending to see them again in September, just a few months away, yet doesn't return for another four years. 

Cassy is an average twenty-one year old, she's studying law at University, has a boyfriend, an annoying younger sister and a stable family life. Her father can be annoying at times, he wants the best for her; he wants her to be a top lawyer, earning lots of money.
Cassy and her boyfriend Hamish are taking a trip to New Zealand, they'll be back in September to finish their degrees, but intend to have an exciting time away from the stresses of work.

However, things don't go according to plan and Cassy accepts a lift from a friendly group of people in a white van, leaving Hamish standing by the side of the road.

The group are from Gethsemane; a self-contained village in the wilds of the New Zealand countryside. When Cassy arrives, she finds it all a little bit hippyish and intends to stay for just a couple of nights and then continue her travels. Little does she know.

Charity Norman expertly details just how easy it can be for a determined cult leader, and his followers to persuade an intelligent, well-educated young woman to give up everything; including her money, her passport and her name and join their ranks.

Whilst the reader is aware that Gethsemane. whilst beautiful and serene, is the base of a cult, lead by Justin; a British guy who is revered by his followers. Cassy is unaware of this, but she falls in love with the place, and with the residents and with the whole feeling of belonging and love.

The author cleverly weaves the story of Cassy's family at home in with the story, and we as readers are aware of the total desperation felt by her parents and the anger of her sister. It can be a difficult read at times as Charity Norman wonderfully portrays the absolute heartbreak suffered by her mother especially.

I really liked the extracts from The Cult Leader's Manual - Eight Steps to Mind Control. This is a very clever addition to the story, allowing the reader to assimilate what is happening to Cassy with the tactics used by the leader of a cult.

See You In September is totally gripping, my paperback edition is over 400 pages long but I really couldn't put it aside and read it over one weekend. Charity Norman proves, once again, that's she's an incredibly talented, brave and adventurous author. I loved this and would recommend it highly.

Ngaio Marsh Awards 2018 

  • Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)
  • See You in September by Charity Norman (Allen & Unwin)
  • Tess by Kirsten McDougall (VUP)
  • The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
  • A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
  • The Hidden Room by Stella Duffy (Virago)

  • The Floating Basin by Carolyn Hawes
  • Broken Silence by Helen Vivienne Fletcher (HVF Publishing)
  • All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira Books)
  • The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
  • Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley (Oak House Press)

Monday, 20 August 2018

Death In Provence by Serena Kent @SerenaKentBooks #BlogTour @orionbooks @AlainnaGeorgiou #DeathInProvence #MyLifeInBooks

When Penelope Kite swaps her humdrum life in Surrey for a picturesque farmhouse in the south of France, she imagines a simple life of long lunches and chilled rosé . . . What she doesn't imagine is the dead body floating in her swimming pool.
Convinced that the victim suffered more than a drunken accident, Penelope plunges headlong into local intrigue and long-simmering resentments to uncover the truth.
But with a meddling estate agent, an unfriendly Chief of Police, a suspiciously charming Mayor, and the endless temptation of that second pain au chocolat, life in the delightful village of St Merlot is certainly never simple. . .
Curl up and escape to the sunshine of Provence with this deliciously entertaining mystery!

Death In Provence by Serena Kent is published by Orion on 23 August 2018 in paperback. My thanks to the publisher who invited me to take part in the Blog Tour.  I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today. Serena Kent is the pen name for Deborah Lawrenson who is one half of the husband and wife author team RD Lawes and they are talking about the books that are special to them in My Life In Books, they've chosen four books each.

My Life In Books - Serena Kent


The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
I first read this when I was thirteen and was mesmerised by the prose and the atmosphere of hopeless nostalgia. Perhaps Gatsby’s yearning for what he never quite had was easy to identify with; it certainly spoke to me at the time. The way Fitzgerald used words was equally romantic: the lush evocations of dust and stars, and the diamante glints of failure. It was a siren call to all kinds of possibilities, in books and in life.

Mary Swann by Carol Shields
Carol Shields was such an intelligent and engaging writer, often of quiet subject matter. I like all her novels but Mary Swann is my favourite, the story of a Canadian housewife who wrote poetry but is murdered by her husband before she is ever published. I’ve always enjoyed detective stories, and this combines a literary quest with the impulse to unravel the secrets of her writing life. Perfect!

Prospero’s Cell by Lawrence Durrell
For many years I thought Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals was the funniest and most endearing book I’d ever read. How I laughed with him at pompous older brother Larry and his literary pretentions. Out of curiosity, I picked up Prospero’s Cell, which recounts the same Corfu idyll from a very different perspective. Lawrence’s prose is lyrical and utterly entrancing. Alongside Gerald’s versions, it opens the door to all kinds of intriguing literary questions about biography and autobiography.

Imogen by Jilly Cooper
I love reading for pure pleasure and over the years Jilly Cooper’s novels have provided much glorious escapism. This was the first one I read - on a lounger in the garden, just before I went to university, in a break from the reading list of Sartre and Balzac - and I still remember my surprise and delight at the sheer fun and sparkiness of this tale of an innocent Yorkshire lass transformed by a trip to the South of France with a racy crowd of socialites. Jilly Cooper’s great gift is in writing sympathetic characters with bags of charm and mischievousness.


Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier
An electrifying rite of passage novel from a French author who would undoubtedly have been better known, were it not for his tragic death in World War 1. A boy narrates the story of his hero, Augustin Meaulnes, whose searches for lost moments change his and his friends’ lives. There is a dreamy quality to the writing and its subject, the transition from youth to maturity and it made an indelible impression upon me when I first read it, aged about 15. I have not returned to it, preferring to retain the memory unsullied by the cynicism of age. I suspect now that I would find it less entrancing.

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
As a teenager I loved the melancholy of Russian novels, and this succinct work typifies that very Slavic trait. It has wonderful characters, particularly the cynical Bazarov, whom would be unlikeable save for the brilliance with which Turgenev insinuates him into our hearts. It is tragic and immensely fulfilling at the same time. It explores the gradual shifting of view between generations and meanders occasionally into the philosophical, which I always like in a book.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
Everyone has read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe but my favourite of the Narnia books will always be The Silver Chair. It has the terrific character of Puddleglum, the most mournful children’s character since Eeyore, and the adventures of Jill and Eustace in the Northern wilds of Narnia are exciting and at some points really quite frightening. It also has a moment, the entry into Narnia, which has stuck with me all my life since I first read it.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I have always loved reading mythology, and it was only a short step from Andrew Lang’s compendia of Greek and Norse tales to Tolkien’s epic. Suffice to say it blew my mind on first reading, and was then reopened around twenty times in quite close order over the next few years. I became quite geeky in my knowledge of the world of Middle Earth, and the extraordinary breadth of his vision, historic, linguistic and geographical. It never fails to stir me with its nobility and power. A modern day Iliad.

Serena Kent - August 2018 

Serena Kent is the pen name for Deborah Lawrenson who is one half of the husband and wife author team RD Lawes. 
Deborah has previously published eight novels including The Art of Falling, The Lantern, The Sea Garden and 300 Days of Sun.

For more information, visit : www.serena-kent.com
Author page on Facebook

Friday, 17 August 2018

Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley @sarah_tyley #BlogTour #SpaghettiHead #RandomThingsTours #MyLifeInBooks

In a peaceful world with a massively reduced population, the planet’s all-female governing System need Nell Greene to have a child, and fast. But there’s a problem: she’s still single and her manipulative inner voice wants her to remain that way. Nell meets a man she has liked for years and believes he could be ‘the one’ - but can she quiet her inner voice, overcome her debilitating fear of commitment, pressure from her family, and the consequences of the punishment she will face if she doesn’t fall in love with him and reproduce: or will the System win? `Spaghetti Head is a fun, quirky, and sweet read. I jumped into Spaghetti Head expecting the typical post-apocolyptic novel - but what I got was so much better. While the story is set against a backdrop of a world governed by computers, still recovering from a major natural disaster, and on the verge of a human revolution, the real heart of the book is Nell's journey of learning to love and trust. Nell struggles throughout the story to overcome SID, her inner voice that is a constant cause of pain and distrust. With the help of a few unique and special characters, Nell works to make peace with SID. There were so many moments in the book when Nell had a moment of enlightenment or a moment of insecurity, and I identified with her so much that it took me by surprise. Spaghetti Head is truly a special story.' Amazon reader. Spaghetti Head is Sarah Tyley's debut novel that addresses issues of modern womanhood, environmental devastation and the impact of technological advances on our freedom, relationships and mental health

Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley was published on 4 May 2018. As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I'm delighted to welcome the author here today. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books.

My Life in Books - Sarah Tyley

The first book I loved as a child was the Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. I didn’t understand the horrors of bullfighting at the time, but I did love Ferdinand because he would rather smell flowers than fight. He was different. And we’ve all loved him for it.

Then I started reading poetry and I couldn’t imagine my life without a Spike Milligan poem in it:

My sister Laura’s bigger than me
And lifts me up quite easily.
I can’t lift her, I’ve tried and tried;
She must have something heavy inside.

Need I say more? A Children’s Treasury of Milligan is one of my absolute favourites, and I would say that Spike has influenced my writing more than anyone else. I wrote a lot of poetry whilst travelling in my late teens and early twenties and many of them were daft. The world needs daft.

In my early twenties I read The Chariots of the Gods by Erich Von Daniken and believed many of Von Daniken’s theories of extra-terrestrial influences on early human culture were plausible. From this book onwards, I set out on a journey of looking at and feeling differently about the world around me.

A few years later a friend passed me a copy of The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, and although sometimes a little long-winded, this book explores psychological and spiritual ideas, many that have their roots in ancient Eastern traditions. The mix of Celestine with Chariots really strengthened my quest for a greater meaning to life and have both impacted on what I like to write about.

Another I read shortly after I’d well and truly tucked into reading self-help was What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter. I bought this in a tiny and very dusty treasure-chest of a book-shop in Islamabad and devoured its contents in days. Again, it was all about changing energies – this time on an internal basis. I have read it and re-read it over the years and it played a direct role in Spaghetti Head evolving into the story that it did.

I had many self-help books open at this point in my life and I went to a spiritual church one evening where I received a message from the medium that it was time to shut all my books – I had all the information I needed: it was now time to start writing.

And so I closed my non-fiction books, started writing Spaghetti Head and returned to reading fiction: Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was a good one. I had travelled on every continent throughout my twenties and been questing for a higher purpose throughout my thirties and Eat Pray Love brought all of these aspects together in a funny, brilliant novel. Chapter 42 with Gilbert’s portrayal of an attempt at meditation is a classic to any of us who have ever tried it.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is another book that I loved. I read it as I was starting out as a professional gardener and it is a great tale of self-development, loss, love and hope. I found the way it uses flowers as the main thread throughout the story really inspiring and genius and I learnt an awful lot about gardening in the process!

After some years away from reading self-help/spiritual books, I stumbled upon Butterflies Are Free to Fly by Stephen Davis – It is an easily readable look at quantum physics and how recent scientific experiments can change our understanding of life, our reality, and our spirituality. I love the author’s style, the fact that it is a free eBook and the way he challenges us to ‘step out of the movie theatre’.

Trying to maintain a balance of fiction/non-fiction these days, We Were Liars by E Lockhart is the best and most moving novel that I have recently read - I just could not put it down. We are used to stories giving us a happy ending, which this one most certainly doesn’t. After I’d finished reading it I thought about it constantly, and even now, three years later it still bothers me – isn’t that the sign of a brilliant read?

And as far as my writing life is going, I don’t think I’d have managed to finish my debut novel, Spaghetti Head without having read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Written as a novel I love the writer’s style and the fact that it is packed with great writing advice. It is witty, easy to read and as I consult my daily ‘to do’ lists I always attempt to tackle them ‘Bird by Bird’.

Sarah Tyley - August 2018 

I grew up on a dairy farm in Somerset and had a lovely childhood running around outside, spending alot of time surrounded by cows. I would have to be biased towards Friesians, but really any cow will do - I love them all.

I have written a diary since I was twelve, and some years ago I thought to myself ‘hey, that must mean I’m a writer’ – and so I embarked on short stories. I never quite got the hang of those so moved on to trying a novel.

I currently live in France splitting my time between my gardening business, writing, and playing tennis. I love Roger Federer almost as much as I love cows

Author Page on Facebook
Twitter  @sarah_tyley

Thursday, 16 August 2018

One Little Lie by Sam Carrington @sam_carrington1 #BlogTour @AvonBooksUK #OneLittleLie @Sabah_K

‘I’m Alice. And my son is a murderer.’

Deborah’s son was killed four years ago.
Alice’s son is in prison for committing that crime.

Deborah would give anything to have her boy back, and Alice would do anything to right her son’s wrongs.

Driven by guilt and the need for redemption, Alice has started a support group for parents with troubled children. But as the network begins to grow, she soon finds out just how easy it is for one little lie to spiral out of control…

They call it mother’s intuition, but can you ever really know your own child?

A twisty and unnerving thriller about the price of motherhood and the unthinkable things we do to protect our children. Perfect for fans of B A Paris and Clare Mackintosh.

One Little Lie by Sam Carrington was published as an ebook on 23 July 2018 by Avon Books, the paperback is released on 6 September. My thanks to the author and the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.

One Little Lie is a character-led story, driven by incredibly well crafted and intriguing female characters.

Sam Carrington bravely tells the story in the voices of multiple characters, and whilst, at first, until the reader has become settled into the narrative, and in tune with each voice, it can be a little confusing. Each chapter does have the character name as a heading though, which is an excellent way to keep the reader on track.

This is a twisty, psychologically challenging story. The central crime has been committed and the murderer is in prison serving his sentence. This is the story of the after-math, of the consequences for those left behind, and how one mother deals with the murder of her son, and another copes with the fact that the child that she gave birth to and nurtured has committed the most terrible crime imaginable.

Interwoven with the narrative of each mother, we are re-introduced to psychologist Connie Summers and police officer Lindsey Wade; who both appeared in Sam Carrington's previous novel. There's also a dark and sinister voice that appears every now and again; that of Tom, a gamer, and a guy who holds the answers to so many of the questions that these women ask.

One Little Lie is complex and multi-layered. The author's experience of working with the justice system is apparent throughout, her descriptions of the prison, the security staff and the inmate being interviewed is excellently done, and I was especially impressed by the moral conflicts explored in Connie's part of the story.

There's a reveal within the story that tips the whole thing on its head, and as a reader, I really liked this. Any pre-conceptions and conclusions that I'd drawn were quickly altered as this very clever author added yet another layer to her very clever plot.

A cleverly crafted and intelligent story that kept me guessing throughout. Sam Carrington's novel are alway a little different. Her characters, especially the females are well rounded, with flaws but real and human. A book to make the reader think, and recommended by me.

Sam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband and three children. 
She worked for the NHS for fifteen years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. 
Following the completion of a psychology degree she went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. 
Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. 
She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist. SAVING SOPHIE, her debut psychological thriller, published in September 2016. 
It became a Kindle eBook bestseller, with the paperback hitting The Bookseller Heatseeker chart at #8. Sam was named an Amazon Rising Star of 2016. 
Her second psychological thriller, BAD SISTER, published in October 2017 in ebook and December in paperback. ONE LITTLE LIE followed in July 2018.

Deceive and Defend by Marilyn Cohen de Villiers @MarilynCohendeV #BlogTour #MyLifeInBooks #SilvermanSaga

Like a pebble dropped in a pond, the effects of two deaths—one in the Johannesburg home of the wealthy Silverman family; the second, hundreds of kilometres away on a Free State farm—ripple across South Africa and the world, irrevocably changing the lives of four people: 

Tracy Jacobs who desperately wants journalism’s highest laurels… and also yearns for love. Now she must choose between saving her career or defending her chance of happiness;

Aviva Silverman who wants nothing more than to live happily ever after with her adored new family. Now she must place it all at risk to defend the family she left behind;

Carol Aronowitz, dedicated social worker who prides herself on her professionalism . Now she must find a way to defend herself against clear evidence of incompetence that has had disasterous consequences; and 

Yair Silverman, Aviva's twin brother, who stands to lose everything as he takes a drastic decision to deceive everyone.

Set against the backdrop of South Africa’s post-Mandela decline, Deceive and Defend is as current and thought provoking as today’s headlines.

Deceive and Defend by Marilyn Cohen de Villiers was published in May 2018 and is book three in the Silverman Saga.
As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books

My Life in Books - Marilyn Cohen de Villiers

Little Women – Louise May Alcott
This was the book that made me fall in love with reading. I won an illustrated abridged copy (for handwriting) in Grade 1. The beautiful pictures intrigued me, so I learned to read quickly in order to find out what it was all about. I have since read, and reread, the full, unabridged series; seen the movies, watched the TV series … and still cry when Beth dies.

Exodus – Leon Uris
I was in high school when I read Exodus for the first time. It was essentially my introduction to my Jewish heritage. I learned about the pogroms in Russia, the holocaust and the birth of the State of Israel. I had heard about all this before, I imagine, but this book brought it to life for me. I went on to read every one of Uris’ books and loved most of them (especially Battle Cry, Mila 18 and QB Vll), but Exodus remains my favourite.

We the Living – Ayn Rand
I was still in high school when I discovered Ayn Rand. While I enjoyed the Fountainhead, I found Howard Roark a little too esoteric for my teenage sensibilities. However, We the Living’s Kira Argounova became my idol – she was so strong, so brave and so, so tragic. I’m not sure how much Ayn Rand’s political philosophy shaped my own political thinking – quite a lot, I imagine.

Eagle in the Sky – Wilbur Smith
How can you live in South Africa and not read Wilbur Smith – especially when you are still in high school and his first novel, When the Lion Feeds, is banned (too much sex)? Much as I enjoyed all his (early) novels, I adored Eagle in the Sky, sniffing and snivelling though it numerous times. The hero, David Morgan, was probably my first serious literary crush.

Bleak House - Charles Dickens
I adore Dickens. I love the way he weaves social commentary into really good stories, without preaching and pontificating. Of all his novels – and I have read most of them – Bleak House remains my favourite. I read the entire book in one 18-hour marathon while at university (I had a class tutorial on it the next day) and enjoyed every minute of it.

The Source – James Mitchener
I loved the sweep of this historical saga, particularly as I came to know this area of Israel quite well during my six months working on a kibbutz there. Our orchards were across the road from the Megiddo Tel – the source of Mitchener’s plot. The story itself may or may not be accurate (when I read The Covenant, which was about South Africa, I found many historical inaccuracies), but the overall scope of The Source was hugely impressive, informative and enthralling.

Roots – Alex Haley
I have no idea how much (or how little) of this book is factual – and I don’t care. It provided gripping insight into a history I knew very little about.

The Millennium Trilogy – Stieg Larsson
Unputdownable. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Girl who Played with Fire; The Girl who kicked the Hornets’ Nest. This, to me, was gripping thriller writing at its best. I devoured all three books.

Kerry Kilcannon series – Richard North Patterson
I really enjoyed the way the author imbued “Protect and Defend” and “Balance of Power” with insights into the convoluted American political system via two extremely important issues: gun control and abortion. After reading these books, I read The Race, which is about the American presidential election process. If you want to understand the Trump phenomenon – and these books were written long before Trump’s political ambitions came to the fore – read these.

Still Alice – Lisa Genova
This novel about a woman (of about my age) who develops early onset Altzheimer’s haunts me. The movie was good, but the book is brilliant. A frightening, beautifully crafted insight into one of the most terrifying diseases of our time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: (from www.marilyncohendevilliers.com) 
I was born and raised in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, the youngest daughter of an extraordinarily ordinary, happy, stable, traditional (rather than observant) Jewish family. After matriculating at Northview High School, I went to Rhodes University in Grahamstown where I served on the SRC, competed (badly) in synchronised swimming and completed a B. Journalism degree. This was followed by a “totally useless” – according to my parents – English Honours (first class), also at Rhodes.
With the dawning of the turbulent 1980s, I started my career as a reporter on a daily newspaper, working first in the news and later, the finance departments. During this period, I interviewed, among others, Frank Sinatra, Jeffrey Archer, Eugene Terre’blanche and Desmond Tutu. I caught crocodiles; avoided rocks and tear smoke canisters in various South African townships; stayed awake through interminable city council meetings and criminal and civil court cases – and learned to interpret balance sheets.
I also married my news editor, Poen de Villiers and, despite all the odds against us coming as we did from totally different backgrounds, we remained happily married for 32 years and three days. Poen passed away as a result of diabetes complications on 15 March, 2015.
After the birth of our two daughters, I ‘crossed over’ into Public Relations with its regular hours and predictability.  My writing – articles, media releases, opinion and thought leadership pieces and so on – was published regularly in newspapers and other media, usually under someone else’s by-line. But after more than 20 years, I decided the time had come to go it alone. I now work as a freelance wordsmith which (theoretically) gives me more time to focus on what I love best – writing fiction.
So why, after a lifetime of writing non-fiction, did I decide to try my hand at fiction? The catalyst was the unexpected death of a childhood friend and colleague in 2012. This spurred me to take stock of my life, to think about what I had achieved.  A few months later, I decided to try and write a novel. This turned out to be A Beautiful Family which was published in July 2014.  The fiction bug had bitten, and my second novel, When Time Fails, was launched in September 2015. Now, the third and final novel in the Silverman Saga Trilogy, Deceive and Defend, is launching in June 2018… and novel number 4 is percolating in my head.