Tuesday, 16 October 2018

The Janus Run by Douglas Skelton @DouglasSkelton1 @SarabandBooks #TheJanusRun

When Coleman Lang finds his girlfriend Gina dead in his New York City apartment, he thinks nothing could be worse... until he becomes the prime suspect.
Desperate to uncover the truth and clear his name, Coleman hits the streets. But there's a deranged Italian hitman, an intuitive cop, two US Marshals, and his ex-wife all on his tail. And trying to piece together Gina's murky past without dredging up his own seems impossible. Worse, the closer he gets to Gina's killer, the harder it is to evade the clutches of the mysterious organisation known only as Janus – from which he'd long since believed himself free.
Packed with plot twists, suspense and an explosive climax, The Janus Run is an edge-of-the-seat, breathtaking thriller – NYC noir at its finest.

The Janus Run by Douglas Skelton was published by Saraband / Contraband on 20 September 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Wow! If ever there was a book that was crying out to be made into a film, it's this one.
Douglas Skelton takes his readers across the Atlantic to New York city in his latest thriller, far away from his usual Scottish setting, but so very well done indeed. I'd swear, if I didn't know better, that the author was American and writing about his homeland. It's incredibly authentic.

Coleman Lang and his girlfriend Gina have finally spent the night together at his apartment. Now his divorce is finalised, there's no fear of his ex-wife finding out about Gina and making things even more difficult for him.
Things never turn out quite as planned and Coleman can't wake Gina in the morning. She's dead, in his bed and before long Coleman finds he's the prime suspect for her murder.

It soon becomes clear that there's far more to Coleman than initially meets the eye. This cool, handsome, obsessively tidy Advertising executive has a past that has been hidden for many years. With special cell phones, and mysterious voices on the end of the line, and missing military records; the tension and suspense increases by the page.

Coleman goes on the run, along with another very unusual suspect, and what a pair they make. It seems that Coleman is not the only one with a secret past and he learns more about Gina in the next few days than he ever found out whilst she was alive.

Added to the mix are some Italian Mafia heavies, a couple of US Marshalls and the local police force. These additional characters all bring their own take on the story, and Skelton weaves a clever and frantic story as Coleman and his partner do their best to evade capture. There's car chases, and shoot outs, torture and more than a little bit of humour along the way to an explosive and very satisfactory ending.

The Janus Run is brilliantly executed, packed with colourful and vibrant characters. It's pacy, with smart dialogue and a fabulous sense of place. This is thriller writing of the highest quality. I loved it.

Douglas Skelton, shortlisted for Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2016, is a writer who specialises in the darker side of things: he’s a former journalist who has published eleven true crime books. In 2011 he made the leap to writing crime fiction, beginning with the hugely successful series of Davie McCall thrillers and continuing with the Dominic Queste series: The Dead Don’t Boogie and Tag – You’re Dead. His latest thriller, The Janus Run, is NYC noir at its finest. 

Find out more at www.douglasskelton.com
Twitter @DouglasSkelton1

Monday, 15 October 2018

The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper @ItsEmmacooper @headlinepg @Phoebe_Swinburn #TheSongsOfUs

If Melody hadn't run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn't be left with a condition that makes her sing when she's nervous. And she definitely wouldn't have belted out the Arctic Monkeys' 'I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor' in assembly at her son's school.
If Dev hadn't taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn't have happened. He wouldn't have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life's heart.
But if they hadn't seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be 'Us'.

The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper was published in paperback by Headline on 20 September 2018, my thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I read The Songs of Us during my holiday in Rhodes at the end of September. I rarely cry. I never cry in public.  I cried as I was reading The Songs of Us, I cried in public, sitting by the pool. There were big fat tears, some snot and a few strange looks from fellow holiday makers. This is a beautifully written, heartbreaking yet uplifting story. I fell in love with the characters immediately, and they continue to haunt me.

Melody lives with her two children Flynn and Rose. Melody is a single parent, the kids Dad; Dev, left years ago, after a terrible accident that tore the family apart. Dev didn't just leave. He disappeared one ordinary day, with no warning. Melody is a fun-loving, compassionate mother, she's also a little unusual in that after slipping and banging her head, she now bursts into song at the most inappropriate moments.

Flynn and Rose have their own personal issues to deal with. Flynn's scars from the accident make him the target for stares and bullying, and he often fights back. Rose spends most of her time trying her best to track down her missing father, whilst hiding her own coping mechanisms from those that love her.

This little family unit are as strong as possible. The relationship between Melody and her children is wonderfully portrayed, these two young people have suffered so much yet their dedication to Melody and the way that they deal with her spontaneous singing is just so heart warming.

Emma Cooper writes with such flair and compassion. Her ability to create characters that the reader cannot fail to fall in love with is just superb.

There's so much hope within this fabulous book and as a reader, I was desperately hoping that their dreams would come true. However, this extremely talented author does not spare the reader and we are subjected to some absolutely heart-wrenching scenes ... cue the snot-ridden tears. Yet, even through the devastation, Emma Cooper's sparkling wit shines through and she turns what could be an almost impossible to bear situation into one of hope, filled with love and joy.

Thoughtful, sensitive and a complete tear-jerker. The Songs of Us is a truly beautiful book. I adored the characters, the story and the impeccable writing.  Highly recommended from me.

Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire, with her partner and four children. Her spare time consists of writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day.

Emma has always wanted to be a writer – ever since her childhood, she’s been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend ‘Boot’) and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations.

The Songs of Us was inspired by Emma’s love of music and her ability to almost always embarrass herself, and her children, in the most mundane of situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two, that she began to write Melody’s story. Working full-time with a large family meant that Emma had to steal snippets of ‘spare’ time from her already chaotic and disorganised life; the majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office. She never expected to fall so deeply in love with the King family and is overwhelmed that others feel the same. 

She has three loves in life: reading, writing and her family…oh, and music, cheese, pizza, films – Maths is not one of her talents.

Emma keeps in touch with her readers and loves to hear from them on twitter @ItsEmmacooper and on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EmmacooperAuthor/

Sunday, 14 October 2018

A Remedy For All Things by Jan Fortune @JanFortuneWrite #MyLifeInBooks @BultiauwBooks

What if you began to dream someone else’s life?
And what if this stranger was dreaming yours? 
Belief is Catherine's gift, or it was once. Now, in her thirties, Catherine knows what she has lost and what she has survived When she arrives in Budapest in winter 1993 to begin researching a novel on the poet, Attila József, she starts dreaming the life of a woman imprisoned after the 1956 Uprising. More disconcertingly, this woma is dreaming her life in turn. Obsessed with uncovering the facts, Catherine discovers that Selene lived through the persecution of Jews in Hungary during WW2, and that Selene believed Attila József to be the father of her daughter, despite the fact that József committed suicide eighteen years before the child was born. How do these three lives fit together?

A Remedy For All Things by Jan Fortune was published by Liquorice Fish Books on 5 October 2018

History and magical realism collide in Jan Fortune’s latest novel.
Liquorice Fish Books is publishing Jan Fortune’s A Remedy for All Things, a disquieting and compelling exploration of what we mean by identity and of how the personal and the political collide.
"Last night I dreamed the novel. Even though I'd finished it I was still immersed in it."- Diane Woodrow

Praise for Jan Fortune 
• 'I found it absorbing. I loved the way the author portrays the intense, almost disturbing friendship between Cassie and Miriam.' Pamela Scott, The Booklovers Boudoir 
• 'A thoroughly absorbing and intelligent read. It is a book of light and shade which evokes the world of two teenage girls in the 1970's perfectly.' Stephanie Percival 
• 'WOW, what a story! It is powerful and delivered in the most taut and well crafted prose possible, a reminder or Fortune's background as a poet.’ Beck Chadfield

I'm delighted to welcome author Jan Fortune 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 - Jan Fortune

Choosing 12 books that span my life, books that evoke memories or that have influenced on my writing, is aagony. Only 12? Well here goes:

I was a voracious reader from the age of 4, taken weekly to Middlesbrough Central Library by my grandfather, a Trade Union organiser and believer in education. I read this book when I was 11, given to me by the most important friend of those formative years from 11-18. Elizabeth Borton de Trevino's novel is set in Moorish Spain. 

It's a grand romantic tale in a tiny novel, charting the partly historical, partly mythologised life of the Berber daughter of the Taifa of Toledo in the 11th century. What we do know is that this Muslim princess became a Christian saint. Trevino adds a sister based on another larger than life princess and an unrequited lover, Ben Haddaj of Zaragoza, who has disappeared from history.
It's a fabulous story of magic, faith, romance and cultural interchange. The book was the touchstone of a friendship that defined my growing up, the fictionalised version of which runs through my own Casilda Trilogy.

In my teens I acquired the habit of reading everything that aauthor had written from Daphne du Maurier to Tolstoy with many stops between. Of course, aa Yorkshire girl, the Brontës featured in this panoply. I wanted to be Emily, but was always more Charlotte and Jane Eyre was the book I carried around with me.

What stays with me is not only the language and the scope of the book, but the fiery sense of justice that burns at its core. I also think it's one of the greatest examples of beautiful story architecture; it's full of foreshadowing and echoes resonate between themes. And Jane, who seems plain and put upon, has an extraordinary strength.

I wasn't a great fan of sci-fi in my teens, but I joined a youth club nominally attached to a church but with a more political bent. In the late 70s and with a good component of philosophy students, there was aalternative vibe. And Le Guin's utopian vision in The Dispossessedwas our signature book.

In it a physicist flees the anarchist utopia of his own planet to find more academic freedom elsewhere, but finds instead an unstable dystopia. It's a brilliant exploration of anthropology, philosophy and economics, and of how individuals navigate institutions and societies. It's a theme I return to in my own writing, though not in a sci-fi setting. And, remarkably, utopian fiction is what my oldest son did his PhD thesis in so this book has stayed with me.

I've loved poetry forever and a friend introduced me to Cummings in my first weeks studying theology at Cambridge.  I love his linguistic inventiveness, his pressure on forand the rapid movements from poignancy to wit. I love that he is acomplete maverick with a wholly distinctive voice; it's something I aspire to aa writer and for my characters.

At Cambridge I read lots of Modernist writers and also discovered feminism. Woolf's A Room of One's Own essay had agreat impact but I devoured her novels and particularly Orlando

It's a huge novel in which the protagonist lives through centuries and changes gender. I remain in awe of its scope, its linguistic and sensory richness and its ambition. It's strange and genre-defying, yet also empathic. In addition to using stream of consciousness, Woolf challenges notions of reality and perception. This is something vital to me in A Remedyfor All Thingsand the novel that precedes it, This is the End of the Story. 

In my early twenties I read everything by de Beauvoir and Sartre, novels, philosophy, feminist theory and memoirs... The Prime of Life charts de Beauvoir’s years in Paris from the late Twenties to mid Forties. It's full of names and places and witnesses to an exciting intellectual life that I still find inspiring.

I started my family in my twenties and with four children, all educated at home, children's literature became a huge part of my life. From picture books to young adult novels we read amazing works, but it's The Little Prince that I return to. It is fierce and funny in its defence of imagination and integrity. It is an exquisitely sustained metaphor about love and relationships and it challenges how we perceive things:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

I seem to have a penchant for Canadian writers (and interestingly, now have a Canadian daughter-in-law). I've been reading Margaret Atwood since my early twenties and never been disappointed in a story, essay or novel, but this is the one that resonates most.

It's an early novel that deals with searching for a lost father in a remote place. The protagonist dives into an interior world of memory and emotion that takes her to the brink of sanity. Issues of feminism, identity and belonging run through it, together with pressure on language and questions of perception. They are themes I continue to explore and a line from the last chapter has always stayed with me.
This above all, to refuse to be a victim. Unless I can do that I can do nothing.

Staying with Canadian authors, Ondaatje is another I find inspiring. At the heart of every novel is a central image and aquestion that arises from it – in this he follows writers like Joyce and Faulkner; a whole novel emerging from a single seed. I love this and I also love his rich description, attention to all the senses and precise, layered characterisations.

In the Skin of a Lion is the prequel to The English Patient and focusses on Patrick, mentioned in the better-known novel and step father to Hanna, who nurses the patient. Patrick is one of the most intriguing, empathic characters I've ever met in the pages of a book.

An extraordinary poet who died too early, Wright is politically engaged, witty, humane and visual. Her work has exceptional range, from open forand experimental to narrative; from verse drama to filmic, lyrical gems. 

Her poem ‘More Blues and the Abstract Truth’ is my stand-out favourite amongst many brilliant pieces.

What makes one person support, or even live out the fantasy life of another? This is a question that fascinates me and which I explore at length in This is the End of the Story,the book before A Remedy for All ThingsIt also runs through Don Quixote. Quixote is a man on a mission of justice whatever the personal costs and irrespective of success or failure. Sancho, on the other hand, fails to steer Quixote away from trouble, but continues to believe in him. 

Perhaps the first modern novel, the fool at its heart is a figure who recurs in many novels and who challenges our perception of the world:
When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!

I met Adam on a writing course I was teaching at Ty Newydd in Wales. A couple of months later he came on a course I was teaching at Ty’n y Coed near Conwy. Vitus Dreams was beginning and it hooked me; a brave, poignant, witty novel dealing with big themes of grief, loss, language and love. It uses stream of consciousness, lyrical passages, graphic elements, and is highly self-reflexive.

An explorer dreams of a sea and a land beyond that appears on no map.
A naval officer becomes lost inside maps of his own making, his wife lost inside her pleas that someone should search forher husband.
And, aa singer struggles to make sense of the ordinary things around her, a hitman is trapped in an endless bid to escape.
Meanwhile, two complete strangers plod through their day-to-day lives as they pour their hearts into writing a novel — but which one is the fictional character and which the author?
An ever-shifting kaleidoscope, by turns moving and funny, intense and tender, Vitus Dreams shatters assumptions about the real and the concrete, leaving us to rely on instinct and the people around us, if they exist.

Oh, and did I mention? -- Adam and I got married two years ago.

Jan Fortune - October 2018 

Poet and novelist Jan Fortune is the founder of Cinnamon Press. 
Following her poetry collections, Stale Bread and Miracles, Slate Voices: Cwmorthin and Turn/Return, her fifth novel This Is The End Of The Story was released in 2017. 
A respected editor and passionate writing mentor, Jan lives in the wild wet foothills of the Moelwyns in North Wales, beneath the abandoned slate village of Cwmorthin. 

Find Jan online: https://medium.com/@janfortune 

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen @wordsofhelen @MichaelJBooks #LostLettersOfWilliamWoolf @GabyYoung

Lost letters have only one hope for survival . . .
Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries. Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names - they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.
When William discovers letters addressed simply to 'My Great Love' his work takes on new meaning.
Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn't met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn't know were possible. Soon he begins to wonder: Could William be her great love?
William must follow the clues in Winter's letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen was published by Michael Joseph on 12 July 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. A version of this review was published in the Daily Express.

William Woolf is a letter detective, he works in the Dead Letters Depot in London. He and his colleagues spend every day trying to find the original intended recipients of the letters that end up in the Depot.
Letters and packages that have lost their address labels, or are damaged and smudged. Letters and packages of all shapes and sizes that have been undelivered; William and his colleagues do their very best to solve these mysteries and to reunite lovers,  to deliver news or a gift that has gone astray.
William and his wife Clare fell deeply in love many years ago, but William can feel Clare slipping away from him. She’s distant and so involved with her work. She’s inpatient with him and he feels as though he is a disappointment to you. William originally took the job as a letter detective as a temporary position, something to tide him over whilst he wrote his book. All these years later, he’s still there, and the book is still unfinished.
When William discovers a letter signed by a woman called Winter and addressed to ‘My Great Love’, he is intrigued. The letter is beautifully written and passionate, and as more letters from Winter arrive, he becomes convinced that maybe he is that ‘great love’ that Winter is writing to.
The reader follows William as he makes every attempt to track Winter down. Running alongside William’s journey we hear from his wife Clare, and learn so much about their relationship.
The Lost Letters of William Woolf is a lyrical and warm story that is written with wit and wisdom. William and Clare are recognisable by their relationship dilemma but their strategies for fixing this are unexpected and  imaginative.
An enchanting story of lost love, new love and recapturing love, combined with the magic of writing and receiving letters.

Helen Cullen is an Irish writer living in London. She worked at RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) for seven years before moving to London in 2010. In the UK, Helen established a career as an events and engagement specialist before joining the Google UK marketing team in 2015.

The first draft of her debut novel THE LOST LETTERS OF WILLIAM WOOLF was written while completing the Guardian/UEA novel writing programme under the mentorship of Michèle Roberts. Helen holds an M.A. Theatre Studies from UCD and is currently completing an M.A. English Literature at Brunel University.

‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ will be published this year, 2018 in UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Italy and Israel.

Helen is now writing full-time and working on her second novel.
Find out more at : www.helencullen.ie
Twitter: @wordsofhelen