Friday, 24 February 2017

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan @JenniferiRyan #BlogTour #SingForChilbury @BoroughPress

Kent, 1940.
In the idyllic village of Chilbury change is afoot. Hearts are breaking as sons and husbands leave to fight, and when the Vicar decides to close the choir until the men return, all seems lost.
But coming together in song is just what the women of Chilbury need in these dark hours, and they are ready to sing. With a little fighting spirit and the arrival of a new musical resident, the charismatic Miss Primrose Trent, the choir is reborn.
Some see the choir as a chance to forget their troubles, others the chance to shine. Though for one villager, the choir is the perfect cover to destroy Chilbury’s new-found harmony.
Uplifting and profoundly moving, THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR explores how a village can endure the onslaught of war, how monumental history affects small lives and how survival is as much about friendship as it is about courage.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan is published by The Borough Press in hardback on 23 February 2017.  I'm thrilled to be hosting the BLOG TOUR today.

This novel totally captured my imagination, I was swept up and transported to life in a small village at the beginning of the second world war.

Jennifer Ryan cleverly structures her tale of life in Chilbury; using journal entries, letters and diary posts from the narrating characters. This kept the story fresh and well rounded, and the reader is able to see the plot unfold through different points of view.

When the vicar of Chilbury announces that the village choir will disband as all the male members
have gone off to fight in the war, the women of the village are outraged. Ably led by Mrs Tilling, the local district nurse, the women decide that they will continue to sing. So that is what they do, and this book follow their story, and how their little village is affected by the fighting that is raging across Europe.

This story could have been sweet and twee, almost like a Sunday afternoon TV drama, except that the author does not shy away from including some themes that are darker and harsher, and she does it so very well. Her characters are a mixed bunch, with some strong women, some downright evil women and an incredibly ferocious Major whose temper is often uncontrollable. Young girls who suddenly experience freedom to discover the world, and the dangers that can befall them, men who are no more than children going off to fight the enemy, The worry and grief of the families left behind, the devastation wrought by German bombs, and the feelings of suspicion about everyone and everything. Chilbury may appear to be a sleepy Kent village, but scandal and intrigue lurks behind almost every front door!

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir really is a joy to read. It's funny, it's full of heart and characters that the reader will cheer for, and hiss at.

Seamlessly told, heartfelt and believable. This is a real treat.

I'm delighted to welcome the author, Jennifer Ryan here to Random Things, with a guest post all about Nella Last, and her real second world war diary:

A Real Second World War Diary  by Jennifer Ryan

One momentous day, as I scanned the bookshop shelves for my beloved evacuee and other stories from the Second World War, I came across something as delectable as it was extraordinary, almost impossible to imagine. It was the Mass-Observation project. 
In August 1939, as war became less of an option and more of a reality, a group of sociologists and artists invited members of the British public to keep journals of their day-to-day experience of the war, and to send them in to a central repository. 485 people took it up at first, although the number grew to a few thousand as the war progressed, providing an unexpected wealth of personal experience when it happened, as it happened. 
Probably the best known and the most treasured of these is a diary by 49-year-old housewife, Nella Last. Her writing is exquisite, but it is the depth and raw power of her feelings about the war and what it going on around her that makes her diary a powerful indictment of how women prevailed during the war years. As the war begins, Nella is getting over a breakdown, and has health problems that force her to rest every afternoon and take aspirin continually for headaches. But as she becomes involved with the Women’s Voluntary Service, heading up a canteen for the troops, making dollies for the hospital, knitting, sewing, keeping chickens, and helping women cope with the bombs and the grief, she regains her spirits and her health, giving up the afternoon rest and her aspirins. 
One can also sense how the war has shifted her relationship with her husband, with her beginning to make her own decisions, getting away from her narrow household existence to carry out enterprising and social help for the war effort. More and more often she doesn’t make it home in the middle of the day to make him lunch, unheard of at the beginning of the war. 
By the end of the war, she acknowledges that her breakdowns and illnesses were the result of her husband’s way of never socializing or allowing her to socialize, and insisting that the only company they needed was each other. Keeping him happy and preventing a fight, she had gone along with it. But she had come, through the war, to realize that she didn’t need to do this anymore. In her own words, she became determined that “No one would ever give me [a nervous breakdown] again.” 
Cliff, her younger son who goes to war, is the main source of her love, her thoughts, and her worries. It’s heartrending when he is supposed to be coming home for Christmas but becomes sick and day by day she is half expecting him, coming through the door with his smile, only to be disappointed. 
It isn’t surprising that the first scene of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir that I wrote was that of a widow, Mrs. Tilling, watching her only son leave for war, struggling to accept the sad end of his childhood and the abrupt beginning of an overwhelming fear that he would be killed. 
I was so moved by Nella’s diaries that I wanted to write a novel that in some way fictionalized her experience, making it more accessible for a larger audience. It captures how it might feel to be a woman alive during this incredible time. How we might have experienced marriage, and how the war might have changed the way we think ourselves and the institution of marriage. And it is this that I hoped to bring to life in The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.

Jennifer Ryan grew up in Kent. She was inspired to write The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, her first novel, by the extraordinary and often scandalous stories about life during the war told by her jovial grandmother, a prodigious storyteller and lover of that wartime favourite, the Pink Gin.
Many of the characters' stories in the book are based on real life, discovered through Jennifer's extensive research and her grandmother's experiences.

Jennifer now lives in Washington, DC with her husband and two children, where she previously worked as a non-fiction book editor.

Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @JenniferiRyan


Thursday, 23 February 2017

Crime Fiction Fix Magazine #CrimeFiction @CrimeFictionFix

Launched in August 2015, Crime Fiction Fix is a digital subscription-only magazine for writers and readers of crime fiction, with author interviews plus a range of skills-based articles each month providing advice on the art and craft of writing.  The magazine was founded, and is edited, by Sarah Williams, publisher and author of How to Write Crime Fiction (Little, Brown 2015).

Crime Fiction Fix: February Fix  
The two power women who are AD Garrett Ÿ 
“One of the greatest gifts you can bestow on a fellow writer is the truth – your honest reaction to what they’ve written”

In this month’s issue of Crime Fiction Fix, the digital best friend to every aspiring crime fiction
writer, there is a crowd of exclusive content from superb writers and tips on how to write your own crime fiction masterpiece.

The masterminds behind the bestselling books of AD Garrett, Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper, are in the Feature Speaker seat discussing the Fennimore and Simms series.

The New Kid on the Block is Jane Harper, her debut The Dry is published by Little, Brown and the film rights have already been bought by Reese Witherspoon’s production company.

We are also introduced to new YA crime writer Sara Shephard, best known for her YA series Pretty Little Liars, in the brand new Fresh Blood slot.

There is also a heavy injection of criminological advice. Firstly, in the form of an article on the curious psychological phenomenon known as the Cinderella Effect which concerns the alleged higher incidence of mistreatment and different forms of child-abuse by stepparents than by the biological parents. In the Technical Question slot, we explore how to describe a character’s experience of being a victim of ransomware.

Finally, there is a great article on how you can become both critic and writer; John DeDakis writes about how to help your own writing and that of other writers. And -  new this month – Sam Eades, Commissioning Editor at Orion, talks about the upcoming trends in crime fiction and the motif of sisters in the Be On The Look Out For slot.   

Check out the taster issue here 

To subscribe visit the website at

Annual subscriptions are £35 and single issues are £3.50 each.    @CrimeFictionFix


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The 50 Things: Lessons for When You Feel Lost, Love Dad by Peter Dunne @peterdunne @TrapezeBooks

As his 50th birthday dawned, Peter Dunne had a life-changing conversation with a friend and realised that, while he may not have invented the internet or found a cure for cancer, he had nonetheless fathered three remarkable and beautiful children.
Inspired by that fact, he set out to leave a trail of metaphorical breadcrumbs for them, so that if they ever needed to know what their father might have had to say on a particular subject, it would be set down for them.
The result is a book of letters from a father to his children, and though the stories are firmly set in a place and time, the themes and the tone are universal and timeless. From Compromise to Compassion, from Democracy to Sacrifice, THE 50 THINGS explores the social mores and morality of our time and tries to answer the eternal questions that line the path to peace of mind.

The 50 Things: Lessons for When You Feel Lost, Love Dad by Peter Dunne is published in hardback on 9 March 2017 by Trapeze Books.

In his introduction to 50 Things, Peter Dunne explains how the book came about. It was 2013 and he had just turned fifty years of age. He didn't have a 'mid-life crisis', but he did begin to measure his life, and look at what he had done, and more importantly to him, what he had not done.

He started to feel a little disappointed about life, but soon realised that being a father to three amazing children was a major achievement and when his good friend Steve urged him to 'write something great for your children'.  He did, and this book is the result.

Each of Peter's fifty things has its own chapter, with a famous quote at the beginning. There is 'Tolerance' with "Bigots will not be tolerated." (Anon, graffiti), and 'Confidence@ with "If you're presenting yourself with a confidence, you can pull off pretty much anything." (Katy Perry), and possibly my favourite; 'Career' with "I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same things as 'making a life'," (Maya Angelou).

Fifty subjects, with fifty accompanying letters, some longer than others, some very short, but all to the point and an absolute joy to read. Peter Dunne's voice is warm, wise and witty. He peppers his stories with news items, from politics to philanthropy, making them relevant, and not at all sweet and sickly.

The 50 Things is a the perfect book to keep on the shelf, to pick up every now and again and read. To remind yourself when life is a bit rough, or everything seems to be going wrong, of a different way of thinking and dealing with things.

Thoughtful and helpful, a look at how we could and really should deal with the things that are thrown at us.

Peter Dunne is a Film producer and Author of  to be published by  in March 2017. 

He lives in rural Herefordshire.

Follow him on Twitter @peterdunne


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith #BlogTour @michael_f_smith @noexitpress

For eleven years the clock has been ticking for Russell Gaines as he sat in Parchman penitentiary in the Mississippi Delta. His time now up, and believing his debt paid, he returns home only to discover that revenge lives and breathes all around.

On the day of his release, a woman named Maben and her young daughter trudge along the side of the interstate under the punishing summer sun. Desperate and exhausted, the pair spend their last dollar on a motel room for the night, a night that ends with Maben running through the darkness holding a pistol, and a dead deputy sprawled across the road in the glow of his own headlights.

With dawn, destinies collide, and Russell is forced to decide whose life he will save his own or that of the woman and child?

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith is published by No Exit Press on 23 February 2017

Russell Gaines is going home to McComb, a dry, dusty Mississippi town. He's been away for eleven very long years and hasn't a clue what awaits him. His welcome home party is brutal, and leaves him battered and bruised. His father is more welcoming, although Russell is surprised to meet his Dad's companion Consuela, so very different to his late mother.

Maben and her daughter Annalee are running away, trying to escape hardship and violence and ruthless men, only to find themselves in even deeper trouble.

Michael Farris Smith has created a small-town novel with an impressive cast of characters, but it is McComb, the town itself that is the largest of them all, a place that functions entirely so that Russell and Maben can play out their story. The author takes the reader on a slow and sometimes meandering journey, allowing us to know the characters, and creating a sense of familiarity that teases the reader into a false sense of security, for by the time we realise that these characters are actually quite flawed, we've fallen for them.

It is a clever and articulate author who can create characters who do so much wrong, yet are still heroes. Weaving themes of judgement, forgiveness, revenge and redemption Desperation Road is powerful and tense. Atmospheric and quietly beautiful, it is at times, a difficult read.
The story, the characters and the writing captured me from page one and kept me hostage until the very end.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Michael Farris Smith is the award-winning author of Rivers and The Hands of Strangers
Rivers was named in numerous Best Books of the Year lists, and garnered the 2014 Mississippi Author Award for Fiction. 
His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essays have appeared in The New York Times, Catfish Alley, Writer’s Bone, and more. 
He lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife and two daughters

Find out more at
Follow him on Twitter @michael_f_smith

No Exit Press is an imprint of Oldcastle Books. No Exit Press, introduced in 1987, is primarily a crime fiction imprint.


Monday, 20 February 2017

My Life In Books ~ talking to Orenda Books publisher Karen Sullivan @OrendaBooks #MyLifeInBooks

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've asked authors and people in publishing to share with us a list of the books that are important to them and have made a lasting impression on their life

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Karen Sullivan to Random Things today, she's my first non-author participant in My Life In Books, and it is an honour to feature her here today.  Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a huge fan of Orenda Books. 

I call Karen a 'Book Magician', she puts her heart and soul into her books and her authors, publishing beautifully written and unique stories consistently.

My Life In Books ~ Karen Sullivan

I have always been a massive reader and narrowing it down to a handful of books was more difficult than I thought! I read every series going when I was younger, including all of Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, and when I found a new author, I would read everything they have ever written. I loved Susan Howatch, and reread Cashelmara and Penmarric about 20 times when I was about twelve! I read every single blockbuster, and also all the literary stuff at the top of the bestseller lists. I absolutely loved American authors like Hemingway, Steinbeck, Melville, Hawthorn, Edith Wharton, Salinger, Willa Cather … and I was always very into Canadian fiction, from Margaret Laurence and Alice Munro to Michael Ondaatje, Lucy Maud Montgomery and Mordecai Richler.

The first book I remember was Wynken, Blynken and Nod, a poem written by Eugene
Field. We had a beautifully illustrated book and my mum used to read it to me when I was very small. There was a mobile or a picture from the book above my cot when I was a baby and that is my very first memory.

The Secret of the Old Clock, a Nancy Drew mystery by Carolyn Keene. My Aunt Jan came down to stay with us in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when I was about three or four, and she read it to me and my sister, Kathy, one chapter at a time. Kathy squirmed and didn’t listen; I was rapt and ended up teaching myself to read because I couldn’t bear to wait for the next instalment. I drove my mother crazy, following her around saying ‘What’s this word…’, but my love of crime fiction was born.

I was a voracious reader in my pre-teens, as my dad was transferred a lot and it wasn’t always easy to make new friends. I escaped to the world of books, and a highlight during this period had to be Anne of Green Gables (in fact, the whole series), and I read it first when I lived in the Maritimes in Canada. 

My favourite quote in the world remains, to this day, ‘Marila, isn’t it nice to know that tomorrow is a day without any mistakes in it?’

When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by the Flowers in the Attic series, and books like The Shining and The Amityville Horror. My family has a summer home on a lake north of Toronto, and I liked nothing better than curling up in the back cabin and scaring myself to death! Around this time, I started writing very melancholic, disturbing short stories, and the influences are obvious!

When I was at university, supposedly revising for exams, I stumbled across The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, and was transfixed. At one point, a girl slips down the side and then under a bed at a party, just because it seemed like a good idea at the time, then realises that she’s never going to be able to come out without looking like a complete idiot. For some reason I identified with that! It was a book that spoke to me in a way that no other book had previously, and I ended up reading her entire oeuvre instead of studying. I still remain a massive fan.

More recently, I read Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda, a book that quite literally blew me away. It’s harrowing, dark, moving and authentic, set in Canada when the first settlers arrived, and recounts their interactions with the First Nations people. What a book! I would struggle to find anything quite so magnificent. Its name? Yes, it was one of the inspirations for the name of Orenda Books.

I could go on and on and on. I underline passages of books that I love, and sometimes when I flip through them later, or reread, I can remember that act, and whole parts of my life are recalled. Books are powerful things and even trying to pinpoint the ones that have had the most impact on my life has been an emotive experience. Which makes me that much happier that I do what I do for a living.

Karen Sullivan ~ February 2017 

Karen Sullivan is owner and publisher of Orenda Books, a new independent publishing company that specialises in literary fiction, with a heavy emphasis on crime thrillers, and about half in translation. Orenda was shortlisted for the IPG Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award and Karen was a Bookseller Rising Star for 2016. 
Authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Michael J.Malone, Kati Hiekkapelto, Gunnar Staalesen, Amanda Jennings and Agnes Ravatn.


Sunday, 19 February 2017

Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland #CoverReveal @under_blue_sky @bonnierzaffre

I've been a fan of Stephanie Butland's writing for a while and have read and reviewed two of her previous novels here on Random Things: Surrounded By Water (April 2014), and The Other Half of My Heart  (November 2015).

I'm delighted to host a special cover reveal for her next book; Lost For Words which will be published by Bonnier Zaffre on 6 April 2017.

Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland
Bonnier Zaffre - 6 April 2017 

You can trust a book to keep your secret . . .

Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look closely, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are things she'll never show you.

Fifteen years ago Loveday lost all she knew and loved in one unspeakable night. Now, she finds refuge in the unique little York bookshop where she works.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past. Someone is trying to send her a message. And she can't hide any longer.

Lost for Words is a compelling, irresistible and heart-rending novel, with the emotional intensity of The Shock of the Fall and all the charm of The Little Paris Bookshop and 84 Charing Cross Road.

 Praise for Lost for Words:

'Loveday is a compelling character, you love her in the way you love a cat who always scratches but you love it anyway . . . this book is quirky, clever and unputdownable. I really enjoyed it.' 
Katie Fforde

'Loveday is a marvellous character and she captured my heart from the very first page . . . and her bookshop is the bookshop of readers' dreams.'
Julie Cohen, bestselling author of Dear Thing

'Loveday is so spiky and likeable. I so loved Archie, Nathan and the book shop and the unfolding mystery' 
Carys Bray, author of A Song For Issy Bradley and The Museum of You

'Burns fiercely with love and hurt. A quirky, rare and beautiful novel, one you'd be delighted to unearth in any bookshop. And Loveday Cardew is a character who leaps from the pages into our hearts.' 
Linda Greenbestselling author of While My Eyes Were Closed

'It is such a beautiful read and Loveday's voice is so compelling . . . an exquisite story that I couldn't put down.'
Liz Fenwick

'Beautifully written and atmospheric. Loveday is an endearing heroine, full of attitude and fragility. The haunting story of her past is brilliantly revealed.'
Tracy ReesSunday Times top ten bestselling author of Amy Snow

'What an absolute stunner of a book. I LOVED it and cried like a motherf***er. If you care about books (or humans) read it!'
Shelley Harris, author of Jubilee 

'This book will warm and break your heart in equal measure! Loveday Cardew is funny and sassy, angry and loving, and she is running scared; she wears her scars deep within her and on the outside too. In Butland's consummate hands, the story of Loveday's past and her present is bravely told and is transformative. This is a must-read novel.' 
Claire Dyer, award-winning poet and author of The Perfect Affair 

'A beautifultouchingmoving, sweet treat of a book. Sad, intriguing, cleverly plotted, sometimes shockingcompelling read. I was with Loveday all the way. I absolutely loved it' 
Jane Wenham-Jones, author of Prime Time

'Loveday is an incredible character.
Oh, the writing . . .
Vibrant, vivid, sometimes visceral;
Engaging, funny, searing.
Dares to mix prose and poetry seamlessly.
Archie had me head-over-heels in love.
You can't help but hurt when it's over'
Helena Sheffield, author of The Art of Wearing Hats

'I just finished. I can totally see why you fell in love with it. What a unique, beautiful novel that cleverly builds to a heart-stopping climax. Any book lovers out there would be mad not to adore the quirkily drawn character of Loveday who pulls you in right from the get go with her distinctive voice!' 
Tracy Buchanan, number one bestselling author of My Sister' s SecretThe Atlas Of Us and No Turning Back

'Wonderful. So many beautiful one-liners too!'
Ayisha Malik, author of Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

'OH poor, brilliant Loveday. Gorgeousgorgeous bookshop book . . . So, so lovely!'
Sarah Franklin, author and Costa Book Awards judge

'I loved it! Spent all day today engrossed in Loveday . . . a superbly drawn character.'
Alex Gray, bestselling author of The Darkest Goodbye

Stephanie Butland lives in Northumberland, close to the place where she grew up. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and loves being close to the sea. She's thriving after cancer.
Twitter: @under_blue_sky 


Saturday, 18 February 2017

New York Actually by Sarah Morgan @SarahMorgan_ #GuestReview from @bookalicious65 @HQstories

Meet Molly
New York’s most famous agony aunt, she considers herself an expert at relationships…as long as they’re other people’s. The only love of her life is her Dalmatian, Valentine.
Meet Daniel
A cynical divorce lawyer, he’s hardwired to think relationships are a bad idea. If you don’t get involved, no-one can get hurt. But then he finds himself borrowing a dog to meet the gorgeous woman he sees running in Central Park every morning…
Molly and Daniel think they know everything there is to know about relationships…until they meet each other that is…

New York Actually by Sarah Morgan was published in paperback and ebook by HQ Stories on 26 January 2017.

I'm delighted to welcome Lisa from Bookalicious Travel Addict blog to Random Things today.  I've known Lisa online for around ten years now although we have still not actually met in real life! Lisa's two main loves are books and travel and she incorporates these two passions on her blog, with reviews of the books that she's been reading along with features about exciting places to visit.

Lisa is the perfect person to review New York Actually - a book with a strong travel theme and I'm thrilled to publish her thoughts about the story.
Do pop over to visit Lisa at Bookalicious in a few weeks, she'll be giving away her copy of the book to one reader.
You can follow Lisa on Twitter at @bookalicious65

New York Actually by Sarah Morgan - a review by Lisa from Bookalicious

Have you ever not wanted a book to end? That’s how I felt about this one.

The main two characters are Molly, a relationship expert and Daniel, a Divorce Lawyer.  Neither have ever been in love, apart from Molly, who loves her dog Valentine. Daniel and Molly form a friendship through their dogs but agree never to fall in love.

The depth that the author gave the main characters, and the background to their lives. It was well plotted out and quite plausible. Rather than being just a “light and fluffy” romance novel, this was a great story with dysfunctional and broken families; broken down relationships and dissolved friendships.

The Author had made Molly and Daniel really likeable, and the way the storyline blended their lives, made it a really good read.

It was a book I hated to put down and didn’t want it to end. I’ll certainly be adding more Sarah Morgan books to my list.

USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes contemporary romance and her trademark humour and sensuality have gained her fans across the globe. 

Described as 'a magician with words' by RT Book Reviews, she has been nominated four years in succession for the prestigious RITA© Award from the Romance Writers of America and won the award twice; in 2012 for her book 'Doukakis's Apprentice' and 2013 for 'A Night of No Return'. She also won the RT Reviewers' Choice Award in 2012 and has made numerous appearances in their 'Top Pick' slot.

Sarah lives near London with her husband and children, and when she isn't reading or writing she loves being outdoors, preferably on vacation so she can forget the house needs tidying. 

You can visit Sarah online at 
Find her on Facebook at 
Follow her on Twitter @SarahMorgan_