Thursday, 31 August 2017

#HullNoir ~ Crime Fiction Festival @HullNoir 17 - 19 November 2017

As part of “Tell the World”, season four of the UK City of Culture programme, Hull Noir (17th-19th November) celebrates the best of British and international crime fiction, the festival playing host to the prestigious Iceland Noir on their bi-annual travels from the festival’s home city of Reykjavik.

I was delighted to be asked to be one of the official bloggers for Hull Noir. Along with Susan from The Book Trail, who is also an official Hull Noir Blogger, I will be Tweeting, photographing, doing on-the-spot interviews and generally shouting very loudly from Hull that weekend!

Highlighting Hull’s crime fiction heritage from Get Carter author,Ted Lewis, through to the current crop of writers working in the city, the festival also brings crime fiction royalty to the city in the form of Martina Cole, Mark Billingham and John Connolly, rising stars such as Eva Dolan and Abir Mukherjee and much talked about fresh blood from the likes of Joseph Knox and Emma Flint.

Leading up to the festival, writers and crime fans can engage with workshops and reading groups in venues across the city.

From 13 November, Hull Independent Cinema are presenting a short season of exceptional crime films, focusing on Ted Lewis. Get Carter(1971) will be screened in a mini-series with the influential classic Point Blank and Shane Meadows’ gritty revenge thriller, Dead Man’s Shoes.

Check out the Crime Writing Workshops being held in partnership with Hull Libraries, an opportunity to take a close look at the must-have elements of story, plot, character and structure.
Working with a published crime author, these hands-on sessions are suitable for beginners and more experienced writers.


Find out more, including the full author list, details about every event and how to book tickets and accommodation at:

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Last Stop Tokyo by James Buckler @DoubledayUK @TransworldBooks #BlogTour

The funny thing with suffering is just when you think you’ve suffered enough, you realize it’s only the beginning.

Alex thought running away would make everything better. Six thousand miles from the mistakes he’s made and the people he’s hurt, Tokyo seems like the perfect escape. A new life, a new Alex.

The bright lights and dark corners of this alien and fascinating city intoxicate him, and he finds himself transfixed by this country, which feels like a puzzle that no one can quite explain. And when Alex meets the enigmatic and alluring Naoko, the peace he sought slips ever further from his grasp.

After all, trust is just betrayal waiting to happen and Alex is about to find out that there’s no such thing as rock bottom. There’s always the chance it’ll get worse . . .

Last Stop Tokyo by James Buckler was published by Doubleday on 24 August 2017 and is the author's debut novel.

I read Last Stop Tokyo over one weekend, and was well and truly hooked from the start. I'll admit that at first glance, I wasn't sure if this was going to be my kind of book, but I've learnt never to judge a book by its cover (that cover didn't entice me, I will admit), and by the end of the five page prologue I was gasping for more; desperate to know what led Alex to this scene.

Alex Malloy is an English guy living and working in Tokyo. He's teaching English, just like lots of other Brits out there and this is a far cry from his previous career as a lawyer in London. Alex came to Tokyo to try to forget his past, and to start again in a place where nobody knows his history. However, there is one person in the city who does know. Hiro, his friend from University knows who Alex used to be, but he also thinks he knows why he's no longer that person.

Alex begins a relationship with Naoko; an attractive Japanese girl who works in an art gallery, they meet through Hiro, and like Alex, Naoko has a history that she wants to forget.

Neither Alex or Naoko are particularly likeable characters. Alex is gullible and easily led, whilst Naoko is determined and at times, hard hearted. Their relationship is difficult and full of tension which comes to a head one evening at the art gallery.

This is a story full of dark, seedy characters and exposes the darkest underbelly of Tokyo. The reader becomes familiar with the deadliest of deals, with corruption and crime and travels from the dirtiest of jail cells to the white beaches of Thailand.

Last Stop Tokyo is intriguing and paced very well. It twists and turns through the plot throwing up surprises that I certainly didn't anticipate. I enjoyed every page and highly recommend it.

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

James Buckler grew up in the south-west of England and currently lives in London, though he has lived in America and Japan, where he worked as an English teacher.

He studied Film at the University of Westminster and worked in film and TV for many years, most notably as a post-production specialist for MTV and BBC Films.

Last Stop Tokyo is his debut novel.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Glass Houses by Louise Penny #BlogTour @LittleBrownUK #Extract

One cold November day, a mysterious figure appears on the village green in Three Pines, causing unease, alarm and confusion among everyone who sees it. Chief Superintendent, Armand Gamache knows something is seriously wrong, but all he can do is watch and wait, hoping his worst fears are not realised. But when the figure disappears and a dead body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to investigate.
In the early days of the murder inquiry, and months later, as the trial for the accused begins, Gamache must face the consequences of his decisions, and his actions, from which there is no going back . . .
Gripping, surprising and powerful, Glass Houses is the new ingenious and illuminating novel from number one bestseller, Louise Penny, which will leave you spellbound until the final page.

I'm really pleased to welcome you to the Blog Tour for Glass Houses by Louise Penny, published on 29th August 2017 in hardback by Little Brown UK.

Glass Houses is book 13 in the Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Series. Here's a little taster of the story, an extract taken from Chapter One;

“State your name, please.”

“Armand Gamache.”

“And you are the head of the Sûreté du Québec?”

“The Chief Superintendent, oui.”

Gamache sat upright on the wooden chair. It was hot. Sweltering, really, on this July morning. He could taste perspiration from his upper lip and it was only just ten o’clock. It was only just starting.

The witness box was not his favourite place in the world. And far from his favourite thing to do. To testify against another human being. There were only a few times in his career when he’d gotten satisfaction, even pleasure, from that and this wasn’t one of them.

Sitting uncomfortably on the hard chair, under oath, Armand Gamache admitted to himself that while he believed in the law, had spent his career working within the justice system, what he really had to answer to was his conscience.

And that was proving to be a pretty harsh judge.

“I believe you were also the arresting officer.”

“I was.”

“Is that unusual, for the Chief Superintendent to actually be making arrests?”

“I’ve only been in the position a little while, as you know. Everything is unusual to me. But this particular case was hard to miss.”

The Chief Crown Prosecutor smiled. His back to the rest of the court and the jury, no one else saw. Except perhaps the judge, who missed little. And what Judge Corriveau saw was a not particularly pleasant smile.

More a sneer, really. Which surprised her, given the Chief Crown and the Chief Superintendent were apparently on the same side.

Though that didn’t mean, she knew, that they had to like or respect each other. She had some colleagues she didn’t respect, though she doubted she’d ever looked at them with exactly that expression.

While she was assessing them, Gamache had been assessing her. Trying to get a read.
Which judge was drawn for any trial was vital. It could affect the outcome. And it had never been more critical than in this case. It wasn’t simply about the interpretation of the law, but the atmosphere in a courtroom. How strict would they be? How much leeway would be allowed?
Was the judge alert? Semi-retired? Biding her time until the cocktail hour? Or, occasionally, not so much biding as imbibing.

But not this one.

Maureen Corriveau was new to the bench. Her first homicide case, Gamache knew. He felt sympathy for her. She could have absolutely no idea that she’d drawn the short straw. That a whole lot of unpleasantness was about to come her way.

She was middle-aged, with hair she was allowing to go gray. As a sign, perhaps, of authority, or maturity. Or because she didn’t have to impress anymore. She’d been a powerful litigator, a partner in her Montréal law firm. She’d been blond. Before she’d ascended. Taken silk, as they said in Britain.

Interestingly, it was not unlike how parachutists described jumping out of a plane.

Judge Corriveau looked back at him. Her eyes were sharp. Intelligent. But Gamache wondered how much she was actually seeing. And how much she was actually missing.

Judge Corriveau looked at ease. But that meant nothing. He probably looked at ease too.
He glanced out at the crowded courtroom in the Palais de Justice in Old Montréal. Most of the people who might have been there had decided to stay home. Some, like Myrna and Clara and Reine-Marie, would be called as witnesses and didn’t want to come in until they absolutely had to.

Other villagers— Olivier, Gabri, Ruth—simply didn’t want to leave Three Pines to come all the way into the stifling city to relive this tragedy.

But Gamache’s second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, was there, as was Chief Inspector Isabelle Lacoste. The head of homicide.

It would be their turn to testify, soon enough. Or perhaps, he thought, it would never come to that.

He shifted his eyes back to the Crown, Barry Zalmanowitz. But on its way there, his gaze had brushed by Judge Corriveau. To his chagrin, she tilted her head, very slightly. And her eyes narrowed, very slightly.

What had she seen, in his eyes? Had the rookie judge caught the very Thing he was trying to conceal? Was desperate to conceal?

But if she did see it, he knew she would misinterpret it. She’d Assume he was troubled about the defendant’s guilt.

But Armand Gamache had no doubt about that. He knew perfectly well who the murderer was. He was just a little afraid that something would go wrong. And a particularly cunning killer would go free.

He watched the Crown Prosecutor walk deliberately to his desk, put on his glasses and carefully, one might even say dramatically, read a piece of paper.

It was probably blank, Gamache thought. Or a shopping list. Almost certainly a prop. A wisp of smoke. A shard of mirror.

Trials, like Masses, were theatrics. He could almost smell the incense and hear a tinny, tiny bell.
The jury, not yet wilted from the heat, followed the skilled Crown’s every move. As they were meant to. But he was not the lead in this drama. That role was taken by someone offstage, who would almost certainly never utter a word.

The Chief Crown took off his glasses and Gamache heard the slight rustle of the judge’s silk robes as she reacted with impatience barely concealed. The jury might be taken in, but this judge was not. And the jury wouldn’t be taken in for long. They were too smart for that.

“I understand the defendant actually confessed, is that right?” the prosecutor asked, looking over his glasses in a professorial manner wasted on the head of the Sûreté.

“There was a confession, yes.”

“Under questioning, Chief Superintendent?”

Gamache noticed that he repeated his rank, as though someone so lofty could not possibly make a mistake.

“No. The defendant came to my home and confessed. Willingly.”

“Objection.” The defense attorney leapt to his feet, a little late, Gamache thought. “Irrelevant. The defendant never confessed to the murder.”

“True. The confession I’m talking about wasn’t to the murder,” said the Crown. “But it led directly to the charge, is that right, Chief Superintendent?”

Gamache looked at Judge Corriveau. Waiting for her to rule on the objection.
She hesitated.

“Denied,” she said. “You may answer.”

“The defendant came willingly,” said Gamache. “And yes, the confession was the key to laying the charges at that moment.” “Did it surprise you that the defendant came to your home?”
“Your Honor,” said the defense, getting to his feet again.


Subjective and irrelevant. How could it possibly matter if Monsieur Gamache was surprised?”
“Sustained.” Judge Corriveau turned to Gamache. “Don’t answer that.”

Gamache had no intention of answering the question. The judge was right to sustain. It was subjective. But he didn’t think it was altogether irrelevant.

Had he been surprised?

Certainly when he’d seen who was standing on the porch of his home in the small Québec village, he’d been surprised. It had been hard to tell at first exactly who was in the heavy coat, with the hood up over the head. Man, woman? Young, old? Gamache could still hear the ice pellets striking his home, as the bitter November rain had changed over to sleet.

Just thinking about it now, in the July heat, he felt a chill.

Yes. It had been a surprise. He hadn’t expected the visit.

As for what happened next, surprise didn’t begin to cover it.

“I don’t want my first homicide case to end up in the appeals court,” Judge Corriveau said quietly, so that only Gamache could hear.

“I think it’s too late for that, Your Honor. This case began in a higher court, and it’s going to end there.”

Judge Corriveau shifted in her chair. Trying to get comfortable again. But something had changed. In that odd and private exchange.

She was used to words, cryptic or otherwise. It was the look in his eyes that threw her. And she wondered if he knew it was there.

Though Judge Corriveau couldn’t really say what it was, she did know the Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté should not look like that. While sitting in the witness box. At a murder trial.
Maureen Corriveau did not know Armand Gamache well at all. Only by reputation. They’d passed each other in the halls of the Palais de Justice many times over the years.

She’d been prepared to dislike the man. A hunter of other humans. A man who owed his living to death. Not actually meting it out, but profiting from it.

No murder, no Gamache.

She remembered one chance meeting, when he was still head of homicide for the Sûreté, and she was still a defense attorney. They’d passed in the hall, and again she’d caught his eyes. Sharp, alert, thoughtful. But again, she’d caught something else there.

And then he was gone, bending his head slightly to listen to his companion. A younger man she knew was his second-in-command. A man in the courtroom now.

A very slight scent of sandalwood and rose had lingered. Barely there.

Maureen Corriveau had gone home and told her wife about it.

“I followed him and sat in on the trial for a few minutes this afternoon, to listen to his testimony.”


“I was curious. I’ve never been up against him, but I thought if I was I should do some homework. And I had some time to kill.”

“So? What was he like? Wait, let me guess.” Joan shoved the tip of her nose to one side and said, “Yeah, da punk offed da guy. Why’re we wastin’ time wid a trial, ya yella-bellied, flea-infested cowards. Hang him!”

“That’s uncanny,” said Maureen. “Were you there? Yes, he turned into Edward G. Robinson.”
Joan laughed. “Still, Jimmy Stewart and Gregory Peck never got to be head of homicide.”
“Good point. He paraphrased Sister Prejean.”

Joan put down her book. “In a trial?”

“In his testimony.”

Gamache had sat in the witness box, composed, relaxed but not casual. He was distinguished looking, though not perhaps, at first glance, handsome. A large man in a well-tailored suit. He sat upright, alert. Respectful.

His hair, mostly gray, was trimmed. His face clean-shaven. Even from the gallery, Maureen Corriveau could see the deep scar by his temple.

And then he’d said it.

“No man is as bad as the worst thing he’s done.”

“Why would he quote a death-row nun?” asked Joan. “And those words especially?”

“I think it was a subtle plea for leniency.”

“Huh,” said Joan, and thought for a moment. “Of course the opposite is also true. No one is as good as the best thing.”

And now Judge Corriveau sat on the bench, in her robes, in judgment. And tried to figure out what Chief Superintendent Gamache was up to.

This was closer than she’d ever been to him, and for a more sustained length of time. The deep scar at his temple was still there, and always would be, of course. As though his job had branded him. Close up, she could see the lines radiating from his mouth. And eyes. Life lines. Laugh lines, she knew. She had them too.

A man at the height of his career. At ease. At peace with what he’d done and must now do.

But in those eyes?

The look she’d caught a long time ago, in the halls, had been so unexpected that Maureen Corriveau had followed him, and listened to his testimony.

It was kindness.        

The Blog Tour continues ... check out the next stops ...

Louise Penny is the Number One New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Gamache series, including Still Life, which won the CWA John Creasy Dagger in 2006.
Recipient of virtually every existing award for crime fiction, Louise was also granted the Order of Canada in 2014 and received an honorary doctorate of literature from Carleton University and the Ordre Nationale du Quebec in 2017.
She lives in a small village south of Montreal

For more information visit her website
Find her Author page on Facebook

Friday, 25 August 2017

Killer Women ~ Killer Weekend 2017 @killerwomenorg #KillerWeekend

Killer Women is a group of London based Crime Writers
Killer Women are hosting a #KillerWeekend ~ come along if you want to learn more about how to write Crime Fiction

10am-6pm, 28 & 29 October 2017

Browns Courtrooms, Covent Garden, London WC2

Will you write the next crime bestseller?

Learn the art & craft of crime fiction from bestselling authors incl: Rachel Abbott, Mark Billingham, Erin Kelly, Mick Herron, Stuart MacBride, Sarah Pinborough, Cally Taylor

Pitch your idea to senior commissioning editors and agents incl: HarperCollins, Orion, Penguin Random House, Headline

·         Masterclasses on thrillers, procedurals, author as brand, self publishing and more

·         Insider tips from top writers, editors and agents

·         Craft workshops on suspense, character, plotting and more

·         One-to-one research sessions with experts

For more information, check out the full programme here

Get in early
Book your weekend ticket at the special earlybird price of £260* by joining the Killer Women Club (for free) here

(You will receive, via email an exclusive secret link to the earlybird ticketing page.)

*Tickets go on general release 1 September. Weekend tickets will be £275

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis @tinaseskis @PenguinUKBooks #Givaway #Win

There's trouble in paradise . . .
For as long as she can remember, Jemma has been planning the perfect honeymoon. A fortnight's retreat to a five-star resort in the Maldives, complete with luxury villas, personal butlers and absolute privacy.
It should be paradise. But it's turned into a nightmare.
Because the man Jemma married a week ago has just disappeared from the island without a trace. And now her perfect new life is vanishing just as quickly before her eyes.
After everything they've been through together, how can this be happening? Is there anyone on the island who Jemma can trust? And above all - where has her husband gone?

The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis was published by Penguin, in paperback on 1 June 2017 and is the author's third novel.

I have a paperback copy of The Honeymoon to give away, find out how to win at the end of this review.

Way back in April 2013, I reviewed a book called One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis. The author had personally contacted me to tell me about this book. It was self-published, with a stunning cover and an intriguing premise. I loved it, and my review is on Random Things. Lots of people loved that book and Tina got a publishing deal with Penguin who re-published the book (and kept the cover image).
This was followed by A Serpentine Affair (re-published by Penguin as When We Were Friends), which I reviewed on the blog in August 2013.

It's been a long time to wait for The Honeymoon, but it's really worth it. I spent my weekend with my nose firmly planted in it, my list of things to do over the weekend remained 'to-do', it's one of those books that you just can't help but keep reading .... just one more chapter, and another, and another.

Tina Seskis is such a clever author, she's created a story that is both intriguing and compelling, populated with realistic characters; some of whom I despised. Lead character Jemma is the focus of the story which is told in her voice in the present, with flashbacks beginning seven years ago, up to the present time, told in the third person, and detailing how Jemma and her husband came to be enjoying a luxury honeymoon in the Maldives.

Jemma .... oh, Jemma. She's such an unsavoury character; selfish, neurotic, whingey and quite unbearable. Jemma's new husband has disappeared without a trace. There's no sign of him anywhere on the tiny island - no sign at all. Jemma veers between rage and despair and complete self-absorbed misery. The author cleverly drops subtle hints about their relationship, and the first surprise adds even more doubt about Jemma's reliability.

There's a claustrophobic air about The Honeymoon that is stifling at times and adds so much to the tension of the story. This very small island, populated by rich holiday makers and always-smiling resort staff seems like another world, and the events that gradually unfold add to the suspense.

Whilst readers may work out the earlier surprise in the plot, I defy anyone to guess what happens at the the end of the story. That ending! I was totally and utterly unprepared for it, yet thinking back about the story, I can see that the author includes the tiniest of clues throughout the plot, but they are subtle and clever and it's certainly a shocker of a conclusion. Did I like the ending? I'm not sure. I've thought about it for a long time, I have my own ending that I'd like to have seen, but on reflection, my ending really wouldn't have worked .... the author knows her characters better than I do, I guess!

I could ramble on for a long time about The Honeymoon; there are so many issues to talk about. It's a study in relationships, and how the past can shape the present, and the future. The reader becomes privy to the lifestyle of the wealthy, and how that old adage 'money doesn't buy happiness' can come true; from the surgically enhanced, to the chemically aided glamour, to the trying-too-hard-to-be-happy older couples, to the oddly identical young couples; this author draws them finely, and intimately and to be honest, this is not the best advertisement for five star tropical island spa resorts!

Utterly compelling. The Honeymoon is a book that lingers in the head. Highly recommended for those who like a roller coaster, breathtaking read

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

I have one paperback copy of The Honeymoon to give away. 
Entry is simple; just comment on this blog post, telling me where your ideal Honeymoon location is.
The competition will run for one week.  Good luck! 

Tina Seskis grew up in Hampshire, and after graduating from the University of Bath spent over 20 years working in marketing and advertising. 

She is the author of three novels, One Step Too Far, A Serpentine Affair and The Honeymoon.

Tina lives in North London with her husband and son.

Find out more at
Follow Tina on Twitter @tinaseskis

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Don't Be A Dick, Pete by Stuart Heritage @stuheritage @vintagebooks

Stuart Heritage got where he is today by being decent, thoughtful, hardworking and kind. He is, in short, a model citizen. The favourite son.

His younger brother Pete is quick-tempered, peevish and aggressively pig-headed and, for a while, known to his friends as 'Shagger'.

But now, Stu has returned to his hometown to discover that Pete has taken his place. Practical and resourceful where Stu is not, Pete has become a shoulder to lean on. He is now undoubtedly the better son. And all at once Pete and Stu have to reevaluate their fraternal dynamic. It should be easy, but it isn't. Because, well ... Pete's a dick.

Don’t Be A Dick, Pete is Stuart Heritage’s unconventional and laugh-out-loud biography of his brother. It is a hilarious examination of home and family; sons, fathers, fatherhood, sibling relationships and how hard it is to move on in a system that’s loaded with several decades of preconceived ideas about you.

Don't Be A Dick, Pete by Stuart Heritage was published in paperback by Vintage Books on 4 May 2017.

Stuart Heritage writes about film, TV and music for The Guardian and if you've ever read any of his reviews, you'll have some idea of what to expect from this story of him and his brother Pete. Oh, and check out his thoughts on the 'Brexit' movie that's rumoured to be happening;  it's gold!

Nigel Farage: the biopic. A disaster movie no one is waiting for

Stuart has written about Pete before, he's featured in his Guardian columns so it really wasn't much of a surprise to find that he'd been able to write almost 300 pages about their relationship. That's 300 very funny pages. Yes, it's full of dry wit and funny stories, but it's also, at the heart of it, a really moving and quite tender look at grown-up sibling relationships.

I can imagine why Stuart thinks that Pete is a dick, but I can also imagine that Pete has a similar view of Stuart. They are brothers, but they are very different. Stuart is convinced that he's the favourite son and Pete is convinced that being a man means that you should compete in Ironman competitions, never take the bus and swing your very small nephew around by the ankles.

Despite their differences, and their many (sometimes pretty traumatic) rows, it is clear that Stuart and Pete have a strong relationship. Through family illnesses, marriages, fatherhood, childhood homes burning down and wine-tasting tours, they continue to bicker and argue and see everything from a different point of view. Yet they are still close, they still visit each other, support each other and take the piss out of each other. Anyone who has a sibling will get this; there's that bond that seems to be almost indestructible, even after the fiercest rows and the most hurtful of slanging matches, and even a few punches.

Warm, touching and absolutely hilarious. I loved this book. I actually think I love Pete .. and Stuart. Fabulous stuff, highly recommended.

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

Stuart Heritage has written for the Guardian since 2009.
His weekly column about his young son 'Man with a Pram' ran in the paper's Family section between 2015-16
He founded a celebrity news site called Hecklerspray (Metro's Best British Blog in 2007 and the Observer's Top 50 Most Powerful Blogs in the World in 2008) and has written for Vanity Fair, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Red, Marie Clare, NME, ShortList, Time Out and the Radio Times.

He lives in Ashford, Kent

Follow him on Twitter @stuheritage

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Ideal Love by Alice Burnett #BlogTour @BurnettBooks @Legend_Press

After an argument with her husband Gilles, Venus Rees is left devastated by his sudden death. But when she discovers that he died of a treatable genetic condition she knew nothing about, she is haunted by the thought that he didn’t love her enough to save himself. As time passes, Venus looks set to be trapped between grief and distrust forever. Until she meets the shy, good-looking and seemingly ideal Alex.
Intertwining Venus’s compelling attraction to Alex in the present with Gilles’ enraptured pursuit of her in the past, Ideal Love is an intimate and life-affirming novel about love, from its incandescent beginnings to its final breath and back again.

Ideal Love by Alice Burnett was published in paperback by Legend Press on 14 August 2017 and is the author's debut novel.

I'm delighted to host the Blog Tour for Ideal Love here on Random Things today and happy to welcome author Alice Burnett. She's talking about the books that are special to her and have left a lasting impression, in My Life in Books.

My Life in Books ~ Alice Burnett

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
A stroke left Bauby paralysed, speechless but completely mentally alert. Written by blinking his eyelid, this book is unrivalled both as an act of courage and a hymn to life. Live while you can, relish life’s pleasures, remember what the human spirit can achieve against all odds. When you’re trapped and alone, fantasy will keep you going, but reality in its ‘small gusts of happiness’ is what we’re here for.

The Diary of Anne Frank 
Another incomparable book written by someone cut off from life, not by accident but by the inhumanity of fascism. Honest, romantic, engrossing, here is a person to speak for the numbers we can’t process, a person who is funny and yearns for someone to love. It could have happened to you or me – to anyone.

From First Love by Ivan Turgenev, to The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden to Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver, these intimate, sensual, beautifully written books bring you closer to yourself. You can never have enough of them so here are some more: A Room With A View by E M Forster, Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier, The Go-Between by L P Hartley – often told from a child’s point of view, sometimes wistful, always idealistic and romantic.

I’m addicted to books that are open about sex. I couldn’t get enough of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend, experimented with D H Lawrence and had a serious boarding school habit for anything by Françoise Sagan or Mary Wesley. Highs since include the insanely observed Vox by Nicholson Baker and the mesmerising Fire Child by Sally Emerson, as elegant a writer as Somerset Maugham.

Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer should be impossible – a compelling book about trying to write a book about D H Lawrence. Appalling himself by reading lifeless academic theorists ‘pulling each other off’ about Lawrence, Dyer tries to tear one treatise physically apart. ‘In the end it took a whole box of matches… before I succeeded in deconstructing it.’ Properly funny and a brilliant tribute to a hero. Another fresh, thoughtful book-about-books is How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton. And a wonderful book about writing: Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott.

One unexpected literary pleasure is reading to your children – laughing with them, wondering what will happen next with them, trying to hide your tears from them. Tolkien has never made me cry, but C S Lewis has. Roald Dahl is not as safe as you’d think – Matilda for instance. Any well-written story about intrepid but sensitive girls is risky. Eva Ibbotson is a goddess of a writer, who by the sounds of it wouldn’t have tried to hide her tears from anyone. Journey To The River Sea is a perfect book, densely plotted but full of soul, conveying both a satisfying sense of order and a liberating sense of fun, nature-worshipping, culture-worshipping and free of sexist cliché.

So many other great novels, short stories, poems, essays, so many books I want to read, and too many I have no idea about. I shied away from Harry Potter for a while. I didn’t know what I was missing. The genius for concepts – horcruxes, patronuses, dementors, thestrals, the pensieve – the triumph over evil, the superb characters, stories, laughs and timeless, tireless invention.

Alice Burnett ~ August 2017 

Alice Burnett grew up on a farm in Devon, England. She studied maths at Cambridge University followed by a degree in philosophy, a subject she is still passionate about. She qualified as a lawyer in the City and worked in London and Paris before leaving law to write full-time.
Alice lives in London with her husband and three sons. Ideal Love is her first novel.
Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @BurnettBooks