Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah

The story you have asked me to tell begins not with the ignominious ugliness of Lloyd's death but on a long-ago day in April when the sun seared my blistered face and I was nine years old and my father and mother sold me to a strange man. I say my father and my mother, but really it was just my mother.
Memory, the narrator of The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. 
As part of her appeal her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. 
The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? 
Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?
Moving between the townships of the poor and the suburbs of the rich, and between the past and the present, Memory weaves a compelling tale of love, obsession, the relentlessness of fate and the treachery of memory.

The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah is published by Faber & Faber in hardback and ebook on 3 September 2015.

There are some advantages in a rainy Bank Holiday Monday, and one of them for me was that I was able to sit down and read The Book of Memory in almost one sitting. This is a debut novel that is both stunning and original. It is a book that will transport the reader to places unimagined, yet it is also a very challenging story, one that at times is difficult to follow. Despite this, The Book of Memory is so beautifully told and captures the heart. Memory's voice is strong, she is mysterious and at times unfathomable, yet she is a character whose voice lingers long after the last page is turned.

Memory is recounting her story in the hope that her death sentence will be overturned. She has been found guilty of the murder of her adopted father Lloyd Hendricks and her solicitor has asked her to recount what happened in the lead up to Lloyd's death.

Memory does not just tell the facts of the events leading to the killing. She looks back at her early life with her family, before she was nine years old, before her parents sold her to Lloyd. Memory has always been unusual. She's an albino, she's also the first woman for many years who has been sentenced to death. Memory has tried to hide for most of her life, and yet now, she is the centre of attention, both inside the prison and outside too.

Memory's story is not always easy to follow, her narrative skips back and forth as she remembers various things. Her recollections of her siblings, of her overpowering mother and her loving father are mixed up with the story of  her transition to Lloyd's home; a sharp contrast to the poverty she has known before.

Petina Gappah's vivid and imaginative writing brings Zimbabwe to life. Even though I struggled with the names of both the inhabitants and the places, this country becomes a character within its own right. The contrast between rich and poor, the tastes, the smells, the sights, the colour, and the memories. For Memory is not just the name of the lead character, it is also the theme of this novel. Memories easily recounted, and those that are hidden, through fear and because they are painful.

The character Memory can be difficult to fathom, she appears to have no remorse that Lloyd is dead, despite the fact that through him, she was introduced to books and to music, and to riches. She traveled, she was educated at the best university and although she keenly observes those around her, she doesn't seem to want to look deeper into her own mind.

The Book of Memory is not a long novel at just under 300 pages, but it is a satisfying read with a complex lead character. Petina Gappah is a natural storyteller, her book is evocative and poignant and deserves much success.

My thanks to Sophie from Faber & Faber who sent my copy for review.

Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University and the University of Zimbabwe. 

Her debut story collection, An Elegy for Easterly, won the Guardian First Book Prize in 2009.


Monday, 31 August 2015

After The Crash by Michel Bussi

On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 
168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. 
The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. 
Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. 
Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?
Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Crédule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl's hands. 
But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything - then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone . . .

After The Crash by Michel Bussi was published by Weidenfeld in paperback on 27 August 2015, and is tagged 'the psychological thriller that became a word-of-mouth bestseller.' It was translated from the French by Sam Taylor.

Michel Bussi is either a genius, or he is completely mad. After The Crash is a whirlwind of a read that had me frantically turning the pages and wondering just where the author was going to lead me to next.

This is a complex, and yes at times, complicated story based upon an intriguing premise. A plane crashes en route from Turkey and the only survivor is a three-month-old baby. Two couples claim that the baby is their granddaughter, and because this is 1980, and DNA has not yet been discovered as a way of confirming identity, it is up to a judge to decide who the little girl is.

Private detective Credule Grand-Duc is hired by one of the grandmothers, he is put on an eighteen year retainer, and tasked with discovering the truth. After The Crash is Grand-Duc's story, told through his journal and read by Marc Vitral, who may, or may not be, the brother of the little girl.

Do suspend disbelief at times whilst reading, because there are a few glaring holes to this plot, but these are more than made up for in the thrill of the chase. Bussi has a very creative imagination, hurling more clues and more red herring along the way, there were times when I was convinced that I knew just what was happening, only to be thrown another curveball in the next chapter.

One of the highlights for me was the whole 'French' feeling of this story, not only the language but the incredible sense of place. The Paris streets, the newly created Disney town, all of them are incredibly atmospheric and I enjoyed the journey very much.

After The Crash is a book that has left quite an impact on me. At times it's quite outrageous, but it is very clever and very enjoyable.

My thanks to Rebecca from Weidenfeld who sent my copy for review.

Michel Bussi is the author of eight bestselling thrillers. 

In 2013 alone, his books sold half a million copies in his native France. 

He has won fifteen literary awards, making him one of France's most prestigious crime authors. 

When not writing fiction, he is a Professor of Geography at the University of Rouen and a political commentator. 

AFTER THE CRASH is his first book to be published in the UK.


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Untouchable Things by Tara Guha

For the third time this week he is watching her scream. 
Watching, not listening. 
Rebecca Laurence is centre stage and shining in her role as Ophelia. She pivots, rotating like a ballerina impaled in a musical box, red hair cascading down her back. Amidst the thundering applause, one man is watching. 
Rebecca meets the charismatic Seth Gardner, and as attraction grows between them, he invites her to join his Friday Folly, a group of artistic friends. But as Rebecca is drawn into the web of tangled relationships all is not as it appears. The scene is set for the night that will rip the group apart. 
Consumed by loss and surrounded by secrets, Rebecca must escape the grip of the Folly to have any chance of saving herself. Meanwhile, one man continues to watch.

Untouchable Things by Tara Guha is published by Legend Press on 1 September 2015 in paperback and ebook, and is the author's debut novel.

Untouchable Things is a novel filled with mystery, suspense and thrills, and is structured in an unusual and very imaginative way.

Rebecca is an actress, she is currently playing Ophelia and is enjoying huge success. When she is invited by Seth to join his Friday Folly she jumps at the chance. Rebecca soon becomes entralled by Seth, he's enigmatic and thrilling and she's prepared to do anything to please him. She's not the only one. The other members of the group all appear to be under Seth's spell, the entire group is a complicated and intricate web of relationships.

Tara Guhu tells her story through many voices, each one of the Friday Folly group is heard, and the differing characters, and perspectives bring depth and colour to this quite tense novel. One revelation, on one night then explodes throughout the group, leaving them shattered and reeling. Rebecca then has to save herself and to escape the clutches of the Folly.

Untouchable Things deals with the complexities of groups, and how relationships can be formed, and controlled and then shattered. There is a darkness to the writing and to the characters that is quite chilling in places, focussing as it does, on the human psyche and the ease in which Seth reaches almost cult-like status.

Psychologically challenging, this is a story that pulls the reader into a world that is obsessive and intriguing. The author has cleverly structured the story and created characters who burst from the pages. Untouchable Things is an excellent debut from an exciting new author, I enjoyed it very much, especially that wonderful twist!

My thanks to Jessica at Legend Press who sent my copy for review.

Tara Guha is the winner of the 2014 Luke Bitmead Bursary and Untouchable Things is her debut novel. 
Born to an Indian father and English mother Tara spent her childhood in the Ribble Valley, passing many a wet day writing poetry and music. 
After studying English at Cambridge University she embarked on a career in PR, promoting artists including Placido Domingo, Paul McCartney and Dudley Moore. 
Over the years she has also worked as a freelance journalist, counsellor and charity worker and is also a keen amateur pianist, singer and song-writer. 
Tara lives in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire with her partner and two daughters.

Follow her on Twitter @TaraGuha


Friday, 28 August 2015

Higher Ed by Tessa McWatt *** BLOG TOUR ***

London. Now. And here come the new Londoners. 
Francine would prefer to be thinner, but is happy enough to suffer her boss' manhandling of her ample hips if it helps her survive the next cull in Quality Assurance. She just wishes she could get the dead biker's crushed face out of her mind's eye. 
Robin is having a baby with the wrong woman, wishes he were with the perfect Polish waitress instead, leans hard on Deleuze for understanding, and wonders if his work in film will continue to be valued by the university management. 
Olivia is angry - angry with her layabout mother, with her too-casual BFF, and with her own timidity and anxiety. Perhaps the wisest of her lecturers will help? Knowledge is power, right? And she's beautiful when she's angry. 
Ed wishes he'd never gone back to Guyana to help his rass brother as it lost him his mini-Marilyn wife and the possibility of watching his only child grow up - until someone surprising crops up at the crematorium. 
Katrin is starting not to miss Gdansk or Mamunia so much, and starting to understand London living. But if she works and hopes harder, maybe she'll secure a full British future for herself and her mother with the Good Englishman. 
The five of them cross paths and cross swords to bring London living unforgettably to life. Real London lives.

Welcome to my spot on the Blog Tour for Higher Ed by Tessa McWatt, published in paperback by Scribe UK on 27 August 2015.

For a chance to win a copy of the book, follow #highered on the Scribe Twitter account @ScribeUKbooks

I love London. I love the fact that it is, along with New York, the city that everyone in the world is familiar with, the city that  people flock to visit. London is a city that never fails to amaze me, no matter how many times I visit, there is always something new to see and to do. Along with the historical sights, the amazing shops, the street art, the theatre and the fashion, there are the people. Millions of people, all living together in what is really quite a small space. Tessa McWatt has created a handful of people who all live in London, but are all very different.

Higher Ed is set in a London university and each character is a true individual, although their lives are linked. Some of the links are fleeting, but others are stronger and more attached. The author is really skilled in creating characters, each one of them is solid and credible, with their own original voice and foibles.

Whilst I enjoyed reading about all of these characters, and their lives, my favourite was Katrin. She's highly educated yet can make a better life for herself working in a London coffee shop than she ever could back home in Poland.

The characters in Higher Ed are all looking for the same thing. They each deal with their issues in their own way, but their aim in life is what connects them. That, and London of course.

Higher Ed is almost like sitting on a bus or train, or indeed, in Katrin's coffee shop and people-watching. It's a quick read, but a really fulfilling one. Tessa McWatt's writing is colourful, funny and vivid. Her setting is perfect and her characters are wonderful.

TESSA McWATT was born in Guyana, grew up in Canada, and has been living and working in London for nearly two decades. 

She is the author of five earlier novels; her second, Dragons Cry, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the City of Toronto Book Awards. 

Her most recent novel, Vital Signs, was nominated for the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. 

She developed and leads the MA in Writing: Imaginative Practice at the University of East London


Thursday, 27 August 2015

Black Wood by SJI Holliday **** #BookConnectors / Trip Fiction Blog Tour ***

Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. 
But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo's story. 
Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. 
But what is the connection between Jo's visitor and the masked man? 
To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. 
But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?

I am delighted to welcome you to the #BookConnectors All Around The World Blog Tour, our first stop on the tour is Scotland, and I'm thrilled to team up with author Susi Holliday to talk about her thriller Black Wood which is set in the fictional small town of Banktoun, based on Susi's hometown of Haddington in East Lothian.

Black Wood was published by Black & White Publishing in March 2015, and is the author's debut novel.

The Around The World Blog Tour is a partnership between TripFiction and #BookConnectors ~ bloggers and authors, travelling the world, through fiction.
TripFiction was created to make it easy to match a location with a book and help you select good literature that is most pertinent and relevant to your trip. A resource for armchair and actual travellers, it is a unique way of exploring a place through the eyes of an author. We blog, and chat books and travel across Social Media, and love to meet authors and bloggers as we take our literary journey.
Book Connectors  was created as a place on Facebook for Bloggers, Authors and small Publishers to share their news. We encourage book promotions; information about competitions and giveaways; news of events, including launch events, signings, talks or courses. Talk about new signings, about film deals .... anything really.Book Connectors is  a friendly group, there are no rules or guidelines - just be polite and respectful to each other. 

My thoughts about Black Wood:  Black Wood is a clever, intriguing and intelligent thriller. Crime fiction fans who like the more formulaic murder investigation stories may struggle with this one as it has a depth to the story that can be challenging at times. For me, it was the perfect blend of mystery, thrills and shocks combined with an exploration of the human brain and how the mind can be damaged by the actions of others.
Twenty three years ago, in Black Wood, on the outskirts of the small Scottish town of Banktoun something happened to two young girls. Those girls have been left scarred by their encounter with two boys on the river bank. Claire's scars are visible, there for all to see, a constant reminder to everyone. Jo, on the other hand, carries her scars deep within her, the only outwardly signs are seen in her behaviours. Her failed relationships, her history of suicide attempts, her general air of hopelessness.
Local people have always doubted Jo's version of the events of that day, and Claire has no memory of what happened. When, one day, a man walks into the bookstore that Jo works in, everything comes rushing back to her. Is Gareth Maloney really one of the two boys who ruined her life?
Jo is determined to uncover his true identity and prove to the doubters that she is not liar. However, what she really does is begin to uncover long covered secrets and horrors that will affect not just herself and Claire, but those around her too.
Black Wood has a large cast of characters, and for a short while it can be a little difficult to keep track of them all. However, Susi Holliday has personalised each of them so very well that they soon become familiar, each with their own unique identity and behaviour. For me, Sargeant Davie Gray is the star of the novel. He's a local man, born and bred in Banktoun and whilst he is the local copper, he's also a trusted friend to many of the residents. His involvement in the case, both now and twenty-three years ago brings the whole story together so well, he's not just the person who keeps Banktoun on the straight and narrow, he's the character who helps to keep the reader on track too.
Black Wood is a well-grounded, fascinating and powerful story that kept me gripped from the opening paragraph. Reviews have criticised it as being too 'Scottish' - whatever that means? I'm not a fan of local dialect in novels, and to be honest, if it wasn't for a couple of reminders within the dialogue every now and again, I would have forgotten that the setting is Scotland, so I'm really not sure what 'too Scottish' means?? Other reviews have been critical of the many threads to this story but for me, this is what makes it really work, and what sets the author's writing apart from many other crime thrillers on the market today. I'm a fan of the unusual, I like to make my brain work when I'm reading a thriller, I really don't want to work everything out by halfway through the story, and I didn't, and that makes Black Wood a winner for me.
Black Wood has atmosphere and tension. The writing is assured and confident and I really enjoyed it.
I bought my copy of Black Wood.

I am thrilled that the author Susi Holliday is joining me today on Random Things to answer a few of my questions. Susi has been really busy with editing her next novel, so I'm really grateful that she has taken the time to answer these so well.  Thanks Susi, and I'm really looking forward to the next book!

Do you read reviews of your novels? Do you take them seriously?  
I try not to anymore! When Black Wood first came out, I read all the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads as they came in. Of course there are lots of nice ones, but there are lots of awful ones too – and as a first timer, they can really hurt! I don’t think the ‘keyboard warriors’ actually realise that the author is a human being who might get upset!

I do read all blog reviews. I’m a blogger myself, and I know how much work it can be to read and review a lot. There are some fantastic bloggers out there, with great insight into what they’re reading. I think that on the whole, they are very professional and very balanced in their views. Those are the ones I take seriously.

Ultimately, though – everyone reads a book differently. I certainly don’t like every single book I pick up, but I do appreciate the work that goes into writing a novel, and I would never publicly slate anyone. If I don’t like a book, I stop reading. Life is too short, and there are so many books out there – why waste your time on ones you don’t like?

How long does it take you to write a novel?    
Well I’ve just finished my second, and I thought I was doing it differently from the first – but it turns out that my method was pretty similar for both books. I start with an idea and a title, a rough theme. I email myself with the subject line ‘Idea: [title]’ then I write notes. Every time I think about something for that book, I reply to the email – so I have all the notes together. I do this when any new idea crops up, as they inevitably do when writing something else – it means I can store the notes and go back to them when I’m ready.

The notes part, might take about a month. Then I start to write. I don’t have a set amount of words that I write every day, I just keep going, writing where and when I can. For the recent one, I wrote in notebooks on planes, trains and on the underground, as well as typing straight in to my word document. I write 20k quite quickly, maybe over a month. Then I get stuck! The next step is to take a break, then go back, re-read and attempt to plot out and finish the rest. My first drafts come in at about 70k, and for the latest, I wrote the final 50k in a month. It’s do-able, but it’s exhausting. I couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t outlined it chapter by chapter after that initial 20k.

So, in short – it takes me about 6 months if you include the gaps where I’m ‘percolating’. Then there’s the agent edits and the publisher edits, of course. I’m not there yet for the second book, but for the first that was probably another 3 months of work.

Do you have any writing rituals?
 Nope. “Just get on with it” is my mantra! Write wherever you can, write as many words as you can. It’s not a ritual, as such, but I do drink a lot of tea when I’m writing. It’s even better when my husband is around so that he can keep me topped up.

What was your favourite childhood book? 
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. I felt sorry for Stanley when he was tragically flattened, but he made the most of his predicament. I particularly like the idea of being posted around the world. It would make travel so much more convenient.

Name one book that made you laugh? Name one book that made you cry?
 Laugh: The Wrong Boy, by Willy Russell. The main character’s woeful life is just hilarious and it’s such a unique premise. Seek it out, if you haven’t already. Especially if you like Morrissey. Or even if you don’t.

Cry: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I cried from the first page. It was such a difficult read, but a beautifully written book. I had to know if justice would be served. I thought the film adaptation was brilliantly done, too. Which is not always the case.

Which fictional character would you like to meet? 
Hannibal Lecter would be a fascinating dinner companion. He’s witty and intelligent – he’s travelled the world and met so many different people. He does have a tendency to eat people though, which is a drawback in any friendship. I’d have to make sure he was caged. I’d also be closely checking what he’d put in the casserole.

Which book would you give to your best friend as a present? 
 I’d give them Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. The voice of Holden Caulfield is completely captivating. I’d urge anyone to read it.

Are you inspired by any particular author or book? 
 I love Mo Hayder. The Jack Caffrey books are my favourite crime series ever. She does a great line in character quirks, and a nice horror/crime crossover. My favourite book is Tokyo (now called “The Devil of Nanking”) – it’s brilliantly odd, quite terrifying, and full of very interesting history. It led me to seek out more information on the Nanking Massacre, which is harrowing but fascinating stuff.

What is your guilty pleasure read?    
 Nothing currently, as I mainly read crime and horror these days, but in my younger days I read a lot of Jackie Collins. Essential reading for teenage girls (and boys too, I expect!)

Who are your favourite authors? 
 Too many to list, and I will think of ten others as soon as I finish writing this, but I love discovering debuts, and have recently enjoyed books by Jenny Blackhurst, Ava Marsh, James Law, Clare Mackintosh and Helen Cadbury. Some of the crime stalwarts that I rush to read as soon as they come out are Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, Steve Mosby, Elizabeth Haynes and Mark Billingham. I love Stephen King. He’s definitely one of my inspirations. I read all of his old stuff when I was a teen. That and Jackie Collins. Bit of an odd mix!

What book have you re-read? 
 Not many recently. I don’t have time! I remember re-reading To Kill AMockingbird about ten times when I was at school, so the whole re-reading thing doesn’t really appeal. I have little time to read now. One of the downsides of becoming an author!

What book have you given up on?
Too many to mention. Some I give up and pick up again later. Sometimes I put things down because I’m not in the right frame of mind, but I know I’ll enjoy it later. Some things I put down as they just don’t grab me, and I know they never will. I often have several books on the go so I can flit between them. I hate this though – I think it’s a consequence of my writer’s mind. Before I started writing, I read one book at a time and never gave up.
I might go back to the one book at a time thing, but I won’t go back to ploughing on with something that doesn’t grab me. When someone says “keep going, it gets better” I think, well no – that’s not the way it’s meant to work. If we can’t grab the reader in the first few pages, we’re not doing our job properly!

SJI Holliday grew up in East Lothian. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham competition. She is married and lives in London.

You can find out more at
Find her author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @SJIHolliday


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Dark River Melody by M D Murphy ** Guest Review **

Tom Gobey is a pamphleteer who has been in prison in Botany Bay for the past seven years. 
In 1799, he returns to London in search of his sweetheart, Eileen Dineen. It seems that Eileen has abandoned her old political ways and is now living with a powerful aristocrat, Saffronetti. 
As soon as this wealthy man, a vicious castrato with an opium addiction, hears of Tom's return he orders his sadistic henchman, Mr Sticks, to kill his rival. 
So begins a romp of a novel which vividly brings the sights and sounds of London to life.

Dark River Melody by M D Murphy was published by Cutting Edge Press on 7 May 2015.

I'm so happy to welcome Josie from the fabulous blog JaffaReadsToo today. Josie is a huge fan of historical fiction and when I received a review copy of Dark River Melody, I just know that she was the perfect person to do a guest review for me.

Here's Josie's thoughts about the novel:

Transported to the penal colony in Botany Bay for the printing of seditious pamphlets, Tom Gobey returns to London, in 1799, after an absence of seven years. 
Seven long years, during which he dreamt longingly of his sweetheart, Eileen Dineen, and of the city of London, the place he called home. But his return to the city of his birth is fraught with danger and his search for Eileen takes him into a very dark and dirty underworld, where life is cheap and danger lurks on every street corner. 
The dark and dismal alleyways of eighteenth century London come alive in the hands of this talented writer, who with clever imagery conjures a world of corruption, wickedness and exploitation on a grand scale.
The pace of the novel is fast and furious, and in his quest to find Eileen, Tom faces all sorts of terrible hardships, all of which constantly challenge his safety. And his safety is most surely threatened by the very aptly named Mr Sticks, a debt collector,  who pursues Tom with a vengeance, and whose very name strikes dread into the heart of all those who come into his vile presence. 
Throughout the story I had a real sense of being transported back in time. The very essence of the novel crinkles with a brooding menace, and the author has done a really good job of maintaining this dark and gloomy atmosphere throughout the whole of the novel. 
The sights, sounds and smells of Georgian London are frighteningly realistic, so much so, I had to keep looking up from the story to remind myself that I lived in a much brighter and, hopefully, safer world than the one Tom and Eileen inhabited. 
I thought that the conclusion of the novel was nicely achieved and would, if the author so desired, lend itself really nicely into a continuation of the story. I know that should the writer ever decide to publish a sequel to Dark River Melody, I would be very glad to read it.
 My thanks to Anne for inviting me to guest review this book for her excellent blog and to the author and Cutting Edge Press for sharing Dark River Melody with me.

Thanks so much for another wonderful review Josie, my thanks too to Cutting Edge Press who sent the copy for review.

M. D. Murphy comes from the London-Irish community. 

He has a PhD in English Literature from Lancaster University, and an MA in Indian Religion and Philosophy from the University of London. 

His academic essays have been published in The Coleridge Bulletin andRomanticism. 

His poetry has appeared in many publications, including Staple and Poetry Ireland Review. 

He works as a freelance editor helping experienced and aspiring writers to develop their work. 

His services are available at

Dark River Melody is his first novel.


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella

I've been reviewing books online, on various sites since 2007. Random Thing Through My Letterbox has only been alive since March 2011, so there are around four years worth of reviews out there that I haven't featured on the blog.  Many of those are for books that I have loved.  I thought that I'd post them here. My review style has improved over the years I think ...

From the internationally bestselling author of The Wedding Officer comes a novel whose stunning blend of exotic adventure and erotic passion will intoxicate every reader who tastes of its remarkable delights. 

When a woman gives a man coffee, it is a way of showing her desire.—Abyssinian proverb 

It was a cup of coffee that changed Robert Wallis’s life—and a cup of very bad coffee at that. The impoverished poet is sitting in a London coffeehouse contemplating an uncertain future when he meets Samuel Pinker. The owner of Castle Coffee offers Wallace the very last thing a struggling young artiste in fin de siècle England could possibly want: a job.

But the job Wallis accepts—employing his palate and talent for words to compose a “vocabulary of coffee” based on its many subtle and elusive flavors—is only the beginning of an extraordinary adventure in which Wallis will experience the dizzying heights of desire and the excruciating pain of loss. As Wallis finds himself falling hopelessly in love with his coworker, Pinker’s spirited suffragette daughter Emily, both will discover that you cannot awaken one set of senses without affecting all the others.

Their love is tested when Wallis is dispatched on a journey to North Africa in search of the legendary Arab mocca. As he travels to coffee’s fabled birthplace—and learns the fiercely guarded secrets of the trade—Wallis meets Fikre, the defiant, seductive slave of a powerful coffee merchant, who serves him in the traditional Abyssinian coffee ceremony. And when Fikre dares to slip Wallis a single coffee bean, the mysteries of coffee and forbidden passion intermingle…and combine to change history and fate.

The Various Flavours of Coffee was published by Bantam in August 2008.

Well, what a romp of a read! And so very different to The Food Of Love or The Wedding Officer. If you fell in love with Bruno from The Food Of Love and expect another luscious hero then think again. Our hero in 'Coffee' is Robert Wallis - and although he comes through by the end, it takes a long time to warm to his character. This one moves away from Capella's usual romantic comedy and although it is still playful and sensual there is less farce.

The story follows twenty years of Robert's life. From his days as a bit of a waster, hanging around brothels and clubs in London with his rich play-boy friends, through his discovery of the Pinker sisters, his five years overseas and back home to London.

There are some wonderful quotes in this book, some that made me gasp and some that had me giggling. Amongst my favourites; Robert has just landed at Alexandria and quickly found his way to the local bar/whorehouse, where he takes the opportunity to sample the girls on offer. When relaying this episode to a friend at home in a letter, he writes: ".... my first dark-skinned girl. Completely shaven, incidentally. She was pleasantly flexible, I thought, in comparison to London girls, though a little dry."

So that is the sort of guy Robert starts out like. Through the years he mellows, he has many experiences. He lives amongst a native tribe and falls in love with a native girl - head over heels in love - the consequences of this love affair, change Robert completely and this is when he becomes more human and the reader starts to really care about him. The story also centres around the sufragette movement, and of course the coffee industry in the early twentieth century.

Anthony Capella is a talented author who has shown with this novel that he can turn his hand to more than the romantic comedy he is known for.

Anthony Capella was born in Uganda, Africa in 1962. He was educated at St Peter’s College, Oxford, where he graduated with a First in English Literature. 

The Food of Love, his first novel, was a Richard and Judy Summer Read in the UK. It has been translated into nineteen languages. 

His second novel, The Wedding Officer, was another international bestseller. Both books have been optioned for the screen. 

His third novel, The Various Flavours of Coffee, was a WH Smith Read of the Week in the UK and a Target Breakout Selection in America. 

The Empress of Ice Cream came out in 2010 and Love and Other Dangerous Chemicals in 2012.