Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes #BlogTour

He's back.  He's watching.  And he'll wait.
Sarah Carpenter lives with her two dogs in a farmhouse, high on the North Yorkshire moors.   
She isn't exactly lonely, though when an old friend, Aiden Beck, needs a place to stay she welcomes him into her home. 
But Aiden has secrets, and as the weather closes in, and snowfall blocks the roads, Sarah realises that there are far worse things than being alone ....... 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Elizabeth Haynes' latest novel Never Alone, published in ebook by Myriad on 28 July, the paperback will be released on 6 October 2016.

Way back in September 2011 I read Into The Darkest Corner; Elizabeth Haynes' first novel. It's a long time ago, but I remember it so very well. For me, it is probably the best psychological thriller that I've ever read. I've read the author's later books, including her police procedural series featuring DI Louisa Smith and enjoyed them all, but Into The Darkest Corner has always stood out for me.

I had a tingly feeling about her latest novel, Never Alone, when I read the synopsis, I kind of thought that maybe, just maybe, this was going to be the one that sat alongside Into The Darkest Corner ... I was right!  It is an absolute page-turner, it's one of those books that fries your brain with its complexities, yet you cannot stop reading ..... just one more page, and one more, and one more.

I finished Never Alone whilst travelling to the Theakston's Crime Festival in Harrogate this weekend and spent most of the two days that I was there telling EVERYONE that they HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK.

Never Alone is ingeniously clever.  I spent most of the first half of the story wondering what the bloody hell was going on.  The story is narrated alternatively by Sarah who lives with her two dogs in an isolated farmhouse on the Yorkshire Moors.  The second voice is Aiden Beck, a friend from Sarah's past who has turned up unexpectedly and needs a place to stay.  Nestled in between their narratives, every now and again, the reader hears from an anonymous voice, and these short snippets are terrifying, adding to the incredible tension that builds up and up, never slowing down, just inducing yet more heart-stopping episodes as the author twists the reader's mind.

Elizabeth Haynes presents three types of character, there's the lead players; Sarah, Aiden, Will and Sophie. The location; the wild desolation of the vast Yorkshire Moors and the creaking, menacing old house that Sarah calls home and finally the weather.  Strange as it may sound, the howling winds and the icy cold really are a central 'character' and  add such a depth to this story, increasing the chills down the spine and overall feeling of creeping fear.

I'm not going to go into the plot details, after all, you WILL be buying your own copy of Never Alone .... won't you?  I must mention the incredible insight into the human mind that the author has, her seemingly, on the face of it, ordinary characters are finely tuned and dare I say it, will be recognisable to many of us.

Never Alone explores themes of regret and recrimination. There's rejection and despair and more than a touch of madness. There's some steamy eroticism, that is perfectly done and the author explores a side of the sex industry that is rarely talked about, and uses non-stereotypical characters cleverly.

Chilling, claustrophobic, enticing and heart-pounding.  Never Alone is a story that is so clever, and so frighteningly real.  I raced through it to the astonishing ending in complete awe.

And, I really do think that Never Alone may just have overtaken Into The Darkest Corner to become my favourite Elizabeth Haynes novel.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour.

Elizabeth Haynes is a former police intelligence analyst who lives in Norfolk with her husband and son.  Her first novel, Into The Darkest Corner, was Amazon's Best Book of the Year 2011 and is a New York Times bestseller.  It has been published in thirty-seven countries.

Her second novel, Revenge of the Tide, was published by Myriad in 2012 and her third, Human Remains, was published in 2013. 

She is also the author of two police procedural crime novels, Under a Silent Moon and Behind Closed Doors (Sphere).

For more information about Elizabeth Haynes visit
Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @Elizjhaynes


Monday, 25 July 2016

The #SummerSix with @deadgoodbooks #SummerSix

I'm thrilled to be part of the #SummerSix campaign with @deadgoodbooks and Penguin, Random House.

The #SummerSix are six recent books from six fabulous authors and all of them are fabulous page turners and really worthy of taking up space in your summer holiday suitcase.

Or, take advantage of our unusually summery weather and plonk yourself in the garden, or in the park and get lost in a great story.

So here's the line up, which one will you choose?  Here's a hint from me ..... read all six!

Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent: Published in paperback on 14 July

Lydia Fitzsimons lives in a perfect house with her adoring husband and loving son. There is just one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete, though the last thing she expects is that pursuing it will lead to murder.  However, needs must - because nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants ...

I read and reviewed Lying in Wait on Random Things earlier this month: here's a snippet from my review:  "Tightly plotted and excellently paced, Lying in Wait is absolutely gripping. The writing is excellent, the surprises never stop. It is unnerving and irresistible, dark with a devastating twist."

My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry: Published in ebook on 26 May 2016, and paperback on 25 August

When lawyer Lily marries Ed, she's determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind.  But when she takes on her first criminal case, she starts to find herself strangely drawn to her client. A man who is accused of murder. A man she will soon be willing to risk everything for.
But is he really innocent?
And who is she to judge?

My review of My Husband's Wife was on Random Things at the beginning of May.  My review included:  "My Husband's Wife is an 'onion' novel. Peel away one layer and you'll find more and more, and each layer is essential to the story. Sometimes complicated and touching on some serious issues, this is a very fine debut novel."

Disclaimer by Renee Knight: Published in hardback on 9 April 2015 and paperback on 31 December

When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine's bedside table, she curls up and begins to read. 
But as she turns the pages she is horrified to realise she is a key character, a main player.
The story will reveal her darkest secret.
A secret she thought no one else knew. 

Little Boy Blue by M J Arlidge: published in paperback on 2 June 2016

DI Helen Grace is back and it's her most personal case yet. She investigates the shocking murder of a close friend found cocooned in plastic. The investigation soon threatens to expose Helen's private life and she has to make some tough personal choices along the way, as she hunts for a twisted killer. These murders are part of a calculated attempt to bring Helen down ....

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben: published in paperback on 30 June 2016

If your husband was murdered.
And you were a witness
How do you explain it when he appears on your nanny cam?
You thought you trusted him
Now you can't even trust yourself.

In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware: published in paperback on 31 December 2015

Nora hasn't seen Clare for ten years.  Not since the day Nora walked out of her old life and never looked back/
Until, out of blue, an invitation to Clare's hen party arrives. A weekend in a remote cottage - the perfect opportunity for Nora to reconnect with her best friend, to put the past behind her.
But something goes wrong.
Very wrong.
And as secrets and lies unravel, out in the dark, dark wood the past will finally catch up with Nora.

In A Dark Dark Wood was featured on Random Things in July last year.  Here's what I said about it:
"In A Dark Dark Wood is chilling and sinister and sent shivers down my spine on more than one occasion. It's not just a psychological thriller, although it is a very very good one, it's also a look at friendships, and hurts and let downs. It's a study of how a jealous mind can work, it's a lesson in misunderstanding and regret."

So, there are your choices. Each one of the books will be discussed in detail over at the Dead Good website

You can Tweet @deadgoodbooks and tell them which of the books you'd recommend to a friend, using #SummerSix or snap a written version of your recommendation on Instagram (@deadgoodbooks) with the hashtag and you'll automatically be entered into a draw to win a set of all six books and an additional set to give to a friend.

DeadGood are also giving away a Kindle Paperwhite - just in case you are running out of suitcase space - enter on their website

Good Luck, and Happy Summer Reading!!



Saturday, 23 July 2016

Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell #BlogTour #MyLifeInBooks

Meet Liz Lyon: respected TV producer, stressed-out executive, guilty single mother ...
StoryWorld is the nation's favourite morning show, and producer Liz Lyon wants to keep it that way. Her job is to turn real-life stories into thrilling TV - and keep a lid on the scandals and backbiting that happen off-stage.
But then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a game of one-upmanship where she doesn't know the rules. As the power struggle intensifies, can Liz keep her cool and keep her job? Does she even want to?
In this gripping novel of power, rivalry and betrayal, Jane Lythell draws on her own experiences of working in the glamorous, pressurised world of live TV. 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell, published on 14 July in hardback and ebook by Head of Zeus.  This is Jane Lythell's third novel. Her first, The Lie of You was published in 2014 and  After The Storm, which I reviewed on Random Things, was published in January 2015.

The author's previous books were psychological thriller stories, Woman of the Hour moves away from that genre and looks at the life of a woman working as a TV producer, dealing with the stresses that go with it.

The story is structured very well, and allows the reader to have an insight into both of Liz Lyon's worlds. Narrated by Liz from two locations; the StoryWorld studios on London Bridge and then from her flat in Chalk Farm which she shares with her teenage daughter Flo.

Jane Lythell expertly creates the busy TV studio with the larger-than-life characters and their
enormous egos and the frantic pace of putting together a live TV show whilst ensuring that the celebrities, the presenters and the studio top executives are all kept happy. It's clear that the author has used her years of experience in a similar workplace, and this lends a great sense of authenticity to the plot .... it can also make the reader reel in horror, wondering how anyone can spend their days massaging the egos of these pampered people.

The stark contrast in Lyn's life, from TV producer to worried single-mum is done very well, and the scenes at home, between Liz and her daughter Flo explore issues including guilt, financial pressures and the needs and wants of a teenage girl.

Woman of the Hour is character-led, and there are some amazing, vibrant characters - some you'll love, and some you'll want to hate, but all of them are human and the author cleverly includes details that can explain some behaviours.

I believe that Woman of the Hour is the first in a new series and it has certainly whetted my appetite to find out more about Liz and her StoryWorld colleagues, and of course, about Flo.  As an added bonus at the end of the book, the author has included some Comfort Recipes, for the Stressed Out. Perfect!

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour.

I'm delighted to welcome Jane Lythell to Random Things today, she's talking about 'My Life In Books'

I've been a passionate reader all my life and as a child would read my favourite books again and again. Knowing the plot did not spoil the pleasure at all. Here are two favourite books from childhood.

The Borrowers by Mary Norton  This stimulated my imagination so much. I loved the idea of little people borrowing, not stealing, the things they need. They had their own code of honour and were never wasteful. Their names: Arrietty, Homily and Pod Clock are inspired because they are just that bit different and non-human. It's a wistful book too because I seem to remember that the Borrowers had once been taller but got smaller and smaller because of their fear. Now that is a powerful idea.

Anne of Green Gables series by L M Montgomery  I read the entire series of Anne books. She is such a spirited character. I loved how she sparred with Gilbert Blythe. This was the first love story I encountered in fiction and it followed the familiar pattern of initial antagonism blossoming into love. I remember so well the scene in the classroom where Gilbert picks up one of Anne's plaits and declares:
"Carrots ....."
"You mean, hateful boy!" she exclaimed passionately.  "How dare you!"
And then - thwack! Anne had brought her slate down on Gilbert's head and cracked it - slate not head - clear across.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell  I read this when I was 14 and was consumed by all one thousand pages of it.  I had borrowed it from Sheringham library and read it at every available opportunity. I remember vividly lying on my bed on my stomach as I read the last pages and Rhett Butler leaves Scarlett O'Hara. I was devastated. I must have lain sobbing on my bed for an age until my mum came in and said: "Oh well having a cry does you good."

Charles Dickens  I had to include Charles Dickens in My Life in Books because he has given me so much pleasure and so much to think about my entire life. I try to read a Dickens novel once a year, sometimes it is a re-reading, and he continues to amaze and enthral me.  My all-time favourite is Great Expectations though I also adore Bleak House and David Copperfield.  Dickens is the great storyteller and the great populariser.  Who can ever forget Miss Havisham, Abel Magwitch, Lady Dedlock, the Artful Dodger, Ebenezer Scrooge, Uriah Heep and his hundres of flawed and funny and poignant characters?

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge   I studied English Literature at University College London and was introduced to the poetry of Coleridge.  He remains one of my favourite poets and I must mention Frost at Midnight and The Pains of Sleep.  However it is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to which I return to again and again for its powerful imagery and its moral message.

The Stand by Stephen King  This book terrified me and I had to keep the light on all night while reading it!  I think Stephen King should get far more praise for the master storyteller he is.  I think he's something of a modern day Dickens in the way he creates strong memorable characters and compelling storylines.

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx  This is my favourite contemporary novel and my respect for Annie Proulx as a writer is huge. The Shipping News has everything I love in a book: a despised and hapless hero; a wonderful sense of place in the depiction of Newfoundland, the land of Quoyle's forefathers and a journey of redemption for Quoyle.  I do not like hopeless books. I like there to be some light at the end.

I'd like to end My Life in Books with two recent reads that have wowed me.  As a writer you go on learning all the time and the best way to learn about writing is to read long and deep.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre  I came late to John le Carre and am spending the summer reading his novels.  I have enjoyed the four others I have read so far but Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the one that blew me away. George Smiley is a wonderfully achieved character.
'Small, podgy and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance, on of London's meek who do not inherit the earth.'
But George Smiley has a brilliant mind and he sets out to unearth the mole at the heart of the UK's secret services. The book kept me entranced.

This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson  This is a majestic doorstep of a book that vividly brings to life Robert FitzRoy the Captain of the Beagle and his five year voyage with Charles Darwin to Tierra del Fuego, the Galapagos and beyond. The two men became close during the voyage but differences in their beliefs later started as a crack and widened to a chasm. There are some marvellous discussions between the two men on whether the Biblical Flood ever happened and whether species can transmute.  The book has two descriptions of sea storms that left me in awe of Thompson's writing.

I have just noticed that there is a strong sea and sailing theme with my selection: The Ancient Mariner, The Shipping News and This Thing of Darkness and of course I wrote my own sailing book set on a beach in the Caribbean Sea: After the Storm.

Jane Lythell ~ July 2016 

Jane Lythell worked as a television producer and commissioning editor for fifteen years.
She has been Deputy Director of the BFI and Chief Executive of BAFTA.
Woman of the Hour is her third novel, and the first title in the StoryWorld series.

Follow her on Twitter @janelythell


Friday, 22 July 2016

My Life in Books ~ talking to author Sarah Vaughan

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

Please join me in giving a very warm welcome Sarah Vaughan today.  Sarah is the author of two novels, I've read and reviewed both of them here on Random Things.  
The Art of Baking Blind was published by Hodder in August 2015, her latest book The Farm at the Edge of the World was published, again by Hodder on 30 June this year.

I loved both of these books and recommend them highly, if you've not come across Sarah's books yet, you really must buy these, I promise you that you are in for a treat.

My Life in Books ~ Sarah Vaughan

I found compiling this list quite difficult. I've a tendency to be indecisive so how do I possibly limit the books that have influenced me to five or six?  I was a voracious reader as a child and then read English at university so I've copied Cathy Rentzenbrink and limited my choices to those I read up to the age of 20 - my formative reading years - then added a tiny list of those I've recently loved. Hope that isn't cheating!

Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl  Roald Dahl was to my generation what David Walliams is to my children's. And this is my favourite of his novels (with Fantastic Mr Fox - or 'My Dear Foxy' as he's known to Badger - coming second.)  It still has Dahl's grotesques but it's the intensity of the father/son relationship that really makes this - and, for a child, the thrill of Danny's autonomy: the fact that this nine-year-old gets to drive a car in the middle of the night to resuce his Dad from a moonlit wood.  I recently read this to my children and they could barely cope with the tension, or the excitement as father and son come up with a plan to hoodwink Mr Victor Hazell - a plan at which you want them to succeed though you know it's illegal. "What a child wants - what a child deserves - this is a parent who is sparky", Dahl advises at the end. So: no pressure. But it's the sort of novel that makes you want to be that sort of anarchic individual.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder  While my father read me Roald Dahl, the Little House on the Prairie series are the first novels I can remember reading myself. I've a very clear memory of devouring them under the duvet with a torch at nine o'clock at night, aged seven or eight. I'm not sure how well they've endured over time but I loved them because they opened up an entirely different, discrete world - one as distinct from my own as that of the Narnia books, which I also devoured. The sense that an entire family could live out of a wagon and be virtually self-sufficient fascinated me. Brown-haired and brown-eyed, with a blue-eyed, blonde-haired sister - ironically called Laura - I also identified with the protagonist.

Ordinary Jack / Absolute Zero (The Bagthorpe Saga) by Helen Cresswell  Jack Bagthorpe is the only ordinary child in a family of geniuses - all of whom have several "strings t their bow" - and is determined to do something about it.  These comic novels are satiric and prescient - Absolute Zero features the family being filmed in a 1980s nod to reality TV - but what I loved most about them apart from their outlandish characters was that they didn't patronize their readers: I've recently tried reading them to my eight-year-old an have been surprised by how advanced the vocabulary is; and how slyly allusive they are to parents.  As a child who was bullied, I identified with Jack and his sense of being an outsider and also with his socially awkward, if brilliant, siblings.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte  My mother was nine when she first read Jane Eyre and so, at nine, she suggested I should too.  I'd never read anything so terrifying or with such creative power.  It coincided with our moving from a 1960s house to a detached Victorian one where I was given a room alone on the top floor next to two box rooms.  A paper sun - casting a reddish glow - burned outside my door and I was convinced that Bertha Rochester lived in the room next door and was waiting to set me on fire each night.  Yes, Jane was a fascinating character but at nine I was more preoccupied by the mad woman in the attic.  Later I read Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, which tells Bertha - or Antoinette's - side of the story; later still Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-century Literary Imagination. I think you're either a Wuthering Heights or a Jane Eyre fan.  The sheer terror Charlotte  invoked in me, as well as the strength of her heroine, ensured I had to be in her camp.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen  When I was ten I won a creative writing competition - Devon Young Writers of the Year - coincidentally judged by Helen Creswell. The prize included £50 in book vouchers: a fair amount in 1983.  I wanted to buy as many Judy Blume's as possible - Are You There, God? It's Me Margaret was a bit of an obsession - but my mum insisted I buy some leather-bound classics.  I groaned - and then, at eleven or twelve I opened the Jane Austen's.  I had never come across anything like it: her wit, her bitchiness, what I would later come to identify as free indirect speech but which at the time I saw as an economical way of conveying character and having a sly dig; the sense that these were bright, sparky women even if they wore bonnets and spent their time waiting to be married.  Emma would be my favourite for Austen's sheer audacity in creating a protagonist who is snobbish and sometimes downright unpleasant and yet still redeeming - but who can resist Lizzie Bennett and her dysfunctional family?

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier  I went through an Agatha Christie stage and then a du Maurier one. The rather hammy Jamaica Inn was a GCSE set text but it's Rebecca which is her Gothic masterpiece.  I recently reread it as an adult and was surprised by how disturbing I found not just the terrifying Mrs Danvers but the morally problematic Maxim de Winter.  I've always loved novels wiht a strong sense of place - The Go-Between and Atonement are others - and a killer first line.  This evokes the lushness of south Cornwall so well and I'm sure has influenced my own Cornish novel, The Farm at the Edge of the World.

Tess of the D'Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy   Another obvious classic.  I could equally have chosen EM Forster's Howard's End; both are strikingly modern in their depiction of sexual double standards and class; both have a profound sense of place; both are infused with - and hurtle towards - tragedy. But I think Tess has the edge.  If you think of the era in which Hardy was writing, you realise quite how subversive Tess and Jude the Obscure, in particular, are. Plus I love his powerful evocation of place, which also influenced my new book (I'm sensing a theme here). I can't look at a Hardy, Forster, DH Lawrence or George Eliot without being reminded of my late teens and my luck at being able to study - and just immerse myself in - the nineteenth-century novel.

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding  OK, I admit that I haven't read this for years; not since I studied eighteenth-century literature. But I loved this comic novel for its satire, its rollicking good humour, its sense of a very fallible hero succumbing to the temptations as he embarked on a quest.  I remember being surprised at how fresh and anarchic it felt for something written in 1749.  It's probably time I had another read.

More recently .....

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin  Utterly immersive. I felt as if I was Eilis - and I railed at the ending.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes  An unreliable narrator and an ambiguous ending that infuriated me for weeks.

Atonement by Ian McEwan  A strong sense of place, thwarted love across the class divide; a terrible accusation; tragedy; war; the desire for atonement; the desperate hope that all will be well and then the tear-jerking realisation that this will be thwarted.  Near perfection.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel  I loved Wolf Hall, as well, but found this even more compelling.  I was Cromwell: then half fell in love with him; then out of love as the extent of his ruthlessness became apparent. We all know what's going to happen to Anne Boleyn and yet the suspense is ratcheted right up.  And the writing's stunning. I think Hilary Mantell is a genius.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson  Utterly immersive as well as audaciously ambitious.  The Blitz scenes - like the bombing scenes in A God in Ruins - are quite brilliant and taught me a great deal about how to lightly carry historical research.  And both novels made me cry.  Her Brodie literary detective novels are pretty good, too, but this is a step up.

Sarah Vaughan ~ July 2016

Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After two years at the Press Association, she spent eleven years at the Guardian as a news reporter, health correspondent and political correspondent, and then started freelancing.
Sarah lives near Cambridge with her husband and two young children.

Find out more about Sarah at
Follow her on Twitter @SVaughanAuthor


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Learning to Speak American by Colette Dartford #BlogTour #MyLifeInBooks

Having suffered in silence since the tragic death of their young daughter, Lola and Duncan Drummond's last chance to rediscover their love for one another lies in an anniversary holiday to the gorgeous Napa Valley.
Unable to talk about what happened, Duncan reaches out to his wife the only way he knows how - he buys her a derelict house, the restoration of which might just restore their relationship.
As Lola works on the house she begins to realise the liberating powers of letting go. But just as she begins to open up, Duncan's life begins to fall apart.
After all the heartbreak, can Lola and Duncan learn to love again? 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Learning to Speak American by Colette Dartford, published on 14 July 2016 by Twenty7 Books, with my review and a special My Life In Books piece put together by the author.

Learning to Speak American is Colette Dartford's debut novel, it is a tender and powerful novel that deals with some heartrending issues.

Lola and Duncan Drummond have had a charmed life, wealthy and successful with the trappings that go with it. Their seemingly perfect life came crashing down around them three years ago, when their cherished and much loved eight-year-old daughter was killed.

The Drummonds have dealt with their painful loss in their own personal ways, but have never discussed what happened on that awful day. In fact, they don't mention Clarissa's name at all. Duncan makes one last ditch attempt to try to heal Lola and books a surprise trip to the Napa Valley in California. Whilst there, they find themselves outside The Treehouse, an almost derelict house that Lola falls instantly in love with. When Duncan buys it for her, he hopes against hope that by restoring the Treehouse, they can restore their love, and their relationship.

I was totally swept away by this story, and the abundance of well-rounded, expertly crafted characters. It's an easy read, but surprises the reader by dealing with some emotional and sensitive issues, compassionately and with care.

I loved Lola, her pain is raw and so well described, she's frail and vulnerable, yet has an inner strength and force that is exposed many times. Poor Duncan .... I didn't like him, despite the horror that he too has had to endure, I found his way of coping with his pain so very sad - for himself and for those around him.

The contrasting landscapes of the Californian Napa Valley and their home in Somerset are written with convincing detail, and the contrast in lifestyles and character is engaging.

Learning to Speak American is a study of a breaking relationship, concentrating on how deep-rooted fears and secrets can alter a life for ever. Colette Dartford is a talented author, I look forward to reading more from her.

My thanks to the publisher for my review copy, and for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour.

I'm delighted to welcome Colette Dartford to Random Things today. 

She's sharing with us a list of the books that are special to her and have made a lasting impression on her life. 

My Life in Books ~ Colette Dartford

The Ship That Flew by Hilda Lewis  I have a vivid memory of going to the local library with my brother when I was seven years old. We were allowed to choose one book each, and I chose The Ship That Flew by Hilda Lewis. I can still remember the wonder of reading about Peter and his incredible adventures in the magic ship. The story inspired a lifelong love of reading and made me realise that a book can captivate the imagination in a way nothing else can.

An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan  This is a painfully haunting account of Keenan's four-and-a-half years as a prisoner of Shi'ite militiamen in Beirut. Much of this time he had no contact with anyone other than his jailers, but then he was joined by another hostage, the journalist John McCarthy. Keenan and McCarthy formed a deep and enduring friendship that sustained them during the brutal horrors of their ordeal. An extraordinary book that I will never forget.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt  Donna Tartt's debut novel richly deserves its status as a modern classic. Tartt's most accomplished work, in my opinion, The Secret History is about a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college, who overstep the bounds of morality. I'm re-reading it at the moment, simply to bask in Tartt's masterful use of language.

Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott  Another book I dip in and out of from time to time. Its full title is 'Some Instructions on Writing and Life', as it serves as both a writer's manual and a collection of insights into life in general. Lamott's views are derived from her strong Christian beliefs, but it's a light, humorous and comforting read, that always makes me smile. The chapter on Publication is particularly prescient for me right now. Writers often perceive publication as the holy grail, a myth roundly dispelled by Lamott. And she's right - it is the beginning of a whole new set of anxieties and insecurities - but that doesn't detract from the sense of achievement it brings.

Solar by Ian McEwan  As far as I'm concerned, Ian McEwan can do no wrong, so it was difficult to select one book among his many masterpieces. I chose Solar because it's his only foray into comic fiction, and he does it brilliantly. It's a darkly satirical and wickedly funny account of a brilliant man's conceit in both his personal and professional life. I would advise against reading it on public transport though, unless you want to be seen crying tears of laughter. You have been warned.

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh  A wonderfully written novel that closely examines the complex relationships of the wealthy Massachusetts McKotch family; philandering scientist father, prim, blue-blooded mother, one successful son, one unsuccessful son and a daughter with Turner's syndrome. Again, it's the quality of the writing that makes this book stand out for me, A very satisfying read.

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh  The subtitle is Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery - not an obvious choice but a thought provoking, accomplished and superbly written book. The author, a neurosurgeon, offers a unique account of the fragility not just of the brain, but of life itself. Countless times I had to put this book down simply to absorb the significance of what I had just read. It is a truly astonishing achievement that has rightly been showered with accolades and awards.

Colette Dartford ~ July 2016

A Londoner by birth, Colette Dartford went to university in Bath and made it her home. A scholarship to undertake a doctorate led to a career in health and social research, before she moved to California's Napa Valley.  Here she studied Viticulture and Enology and wrote her debut novel.

Find out more about the author at
Follow her on Twitter @ColetteDartford