Monday, 19 April 2021

*** COVER REVEAL *** Dandelion by Mark Lowes #Dandelion @StrugglingMJ #CoverReveal *** COVER REVEAL ***

 


I am so THRILLED to share this cover reveal with you today! 


DANDELION by Mark Lowes

Published on the 25th June 2021

Ebook will be available to pre-order now!

Follow @StrugglingMJ



He is on a journey of change, pushing himself to feel... something.

When he meets Violet, an innocent, life-affirming young woman, he's tempted into being something tame. Something he's not.

Then he discovers George, a sociopathic serial killer.

Both are now in a tug-of-war for his loyalty.

Who will he choose?

Can a criminal psychopath really change?

Dr Raveed Makesh is delving deep into the mind of one of Cardiff's most deadly killers, revolutionising therapy for criminal psychopaths.

Is Makesh successful? Or just another victim of his games?

If you love American Psycho, Hannibal or Catcher in the Rye, Dandelion is the book for you. A dark, literary thriller that will have you second-guessing yourself and, in the end, agreeing with a criminal psychopath.





Mark Lowes is a former teacher, current early childhood educator, and future dad. He
lives in Cardiff, Wales, UK, and is sometimes found lamenting over how awful his football team is. While he's not working with deaf children and their families, he's writing dark and twisty fiction.

His writing, so he's told, is a mix between Chuck Palahniuk Josh Malerman and Ernest Hemingway (although Mark retains, all this praise is too much too high). He loves edge-of-your-seat fiction, novels that make you think deeper about the world but will also terrify you and live the world through the protagonist, experiencing every detail. He’s a fan of description, somewhat a lost art nowadays, and has a soft spot for a dark, unreliable narrator.

You can find him on Twitter @MJLAuthor where he would be excited to hear your views.

Mark is the winner of Litopia's Pop-Up Submissions and of a pitch contest at the Cardiff Book Festival.

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Friday, 16 April 2021

#Giveaway - A Theatre For Dreamers @PollySamson The Long Long Afternoon @wekesperos #Win #Competition #Prizes

 


giveaway!

Happy Friday!  It is time for another giveaway on Random Things.

Today I have two fabulous books to send to one lucky winner

A Theatre For Dreamers by Polly Samson, published by Bloomsbury

The Long Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper, published by Manilla Press




1960. The world is dancing on the edge of revolution, and nowhere more so than on the
Greek island of Hydra, where a circle of poets, painters and musicians live tangled lives, ruled by the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, troubled king and queen of bohemia. Forming within this circle is a triangle: its points the magnetic, destructive writer Axel Jensen, his dazzling wife Marianne Ihlen, and a young Canadian poet named Leonard Cohen.


Into their midst arrives teenage Erica, with little more than a bundle of blank notebooks and her grief for her mother. Settling on the periphery of this circle, she watches, entranced and disquieted, as a paradise unravels.

Burning with the heat and light of Greece, A Theatre for Dreamers is a spellbinding novel about utopian dreams and innocence lost - and the wars waged between men and women on the battlegrounds of genius.


Read my review of A Theatre For Dreamers here 



It's the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun.


At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.



While the Haney's neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family's 'help', who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes' starched curtains than anyone, and it isn't long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole 'perfect' world to set alight . . .







Entry is simple. Just fill out the competition widget below.
The competition will stay open for 10 days.
UK entries only

GOOD LUCK! 



Win 2 Books : A Theatre For Dreamers by Polly Samson / The Long Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper



Polly Samson is the author of two short story collections and two previous novels. 


Her work has been shortlisted for prizes, translated into several languages and has been dramatized on BBC Radio 4. 


She has written lyrics to four number one albums and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

pollysamson.com @PollySamson 








Inga Vesper is a journalist and editor. 


She moved to the UK from Germany to work as a carer, before the urge to write and explore brought her to journalism. 
As a reporter, she covered the coroner's court and was able to observe how family, neighbours and police react to a suspicious death. 
Inga has worked and lived in Syria and Tanzania, but always returned to London, because there's no better place to find a good story than the top deck of a bus.

Twitter @wekesperos







Wednesday, 14 April 2021

The Imposter by Anna Wharton BLOG TOUR @whartonswords #TheImposter @RandomTTours @MantleBooks @panmacmillan @RKbookpublicist #BookReview

 


Chloe lives a quiet life. Working as a newspaper archivist in the day and taking care of her nan in the evening, she's happy simply to read about the lives of others as she files the news clippings from the safety of her desk.

But there's one story that she can't stop thinking about. The case of Angie Kyle  a girl, Chloe's age, who went missing as a child. A girl whose parents never gave up hope.

When Chloe's nan is moved into care, leaving Chloe on the brink of homelessness, she takes a desperate step: answering an ad to be a lodger in the missing girl's family home. It could be the perfect opportunity to get closer to the story she's read so much about. But it's not long until she realizes this couple isn't all they seem. In a house where everyone has something to hide, is it possible to get too close?

The Imposter by Anna Wharton was published on 1 April 2021 by Mantle / Pan Macmillan. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour 



The Imposter is Anna Wharton's debut novel and I really think that she will be an author to watch in the future. In this novel, she evoked so many feelings in me. It's a long, and at times, quite detailed novel with a central character who is very difficult to relate to. However, there's something really chilling about the story, and about Chloe who leads the plot. Something that urged me on and on. It's certainly a compelling premise and Chloe is most definitely a character who takes some getting used to. 

We meet Chloe as she arrives home from work. She's been an archivist at the local newspaper since she left school. Now twenty-nine, she lives with her elderly Nan who has dementia. Chloe's life is clearly very insular. Although she's worked at the newspaper for years, she doesn't appear to have any close friends there. She's obsessed with clipping the newspaper reports, and keeping them safe for future generations. However, it's clear that soon, the archive will disappear, with the advance in technology and Chloe feels as though she is no longer needed.

Being needed is a theme throughout this novel. Chloe finds a cause and grabs it, she doesn't let go, she's like a dog with a meaty bone. She's currently concentrating on the disappearance of Angie Kyle; a four year old who went to the play park with her father twenty-five years ago and has never been seen again.

Chloe studies the clippings from the case. Making notes and observations. Her obsession will cost her dearly. Whilst Chloe is obsessing about Angie, her Nan is failing fast and before long, she's resident in a nearby Care Home. This only adds to Chloe's obsessions and worries, and she makes the decision to track down Mr and Mrs Kyle; Angie's parents. 

There's a lot of building the story in this novel. Maybe a tad too much for me, as I found myself just wanting to get to the heart of the story. However, on reflection, having finished the book, I see why the author did include so much. There are tiny hints and little clues dotted around, cleverly concealed but oh so important once the reader reaches the end. 

It's dark and often disturbing. Chloe is a strange character, it's clear that she's an unreliable narrator, but it is never quite clear, until the end, just how much of her life is reality and how much is desired. 

Loneliness and obsession can lead to dangerous situations and Chloe finds herself in the middle of a tense household. However, much of the tension has been created by her, and it's difficult to see how she will get out of it. Will she ever change?  I doubt it very much.

Accomplished and smart, this is a great debut from a talented author and I'd recommend it. 



Anna Wharton has been a print and broadcast journalist for more than twenty years, writing for
newspapers including The Times, Guardian, Sunday Times Magazine, Grazia and Red. 
She was formally an executive editor at The Daily Mail. 
Anna has ghostwritten four memoirs including the Sunday Times Bestseller Somebody I Used To Know and Orwell Prize longlisted CUT: One Woman’s Fight Against FGM in Britain Today. 

The Imposter is her first novel.










Tuesday, 13 April 2021

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell @4thEstateBooks @audibleuk #MyDarkVanessa #KateElizabethRussell #BookReview


Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn't abuse. It was love. She's sure of that.

Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues of our age. 


My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell was published in hardback by Fourth Estate on 31 March 2020. The paperback was released in January 2021. I listed to the audio version of this book, purchased via Audible and narrated by Grace Gummer.

I don't listen to many audio books, not because I don't enjoy the experience, but because I find my mind drifts off too easily. It has taken me many weeks to listen to My Dark Vanessa, but to be honest, I think the gaps between my bouts of listening did me good. It's dark, and upsetting and not easy to listen to at times. However, I thought it was brilliantly done, the narration was perfect. Vanessa's voice was executed brilliantly by Grace Gummer; with a coldness at times that exactly matched Vanessa's mood.

When Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old, she had sex with her English teacher. Jacob Strane was then in his thirties; a well respected teacher from a well known, high performing school. Vanessa was a virgin. She was in love.

When a girl is fifteen years old, she thinks she knows everything, about everything. When a handsome, older man who is intelligent and well-read takes notice of that girl, and pays her compliments, and takes an interest in her. That girl will believe it is love. Especially if the man tells her so.

We know that it isn't love. We know that this is abuse, and despite how much Vanessa tells herself that it's OK, it really really isn't. Strane groomed Vanessa and as she tells her story, in the now, aged thirty-two, and also in the past, when she was a schoolgirl, the listener realises just how Strane groomed her, and continued to control her throughout her adult years.

As Vanessa tries to deal with the fall out from recent revelations from more of Stranes ex pupils, she continues to make excuses for him. It becomes clear that Vanessa was not the only girl that he abused, but still she feels special, because she had an 'affair' with him. She wasn't just touched inappropriately, she was 'loved'.

Vanessa is such a damaged woman. Her continued behaviour, including dangerous sex, and addictions stem from her feelings about what happened to her. She was let down by every adult who could have protected her; Strane, her parents, other teachers. Each and every one of them felt able to blame Vanessa and brush things under the carpet, and forget that they happened. 

This is a story that burns itself onto your brain. Vanessa's voice is desperate to be heard, yet at the same time, she wants to stay quiet. My feelings went from sadness, to pity to pure anger at times. 

My Dark Vanessa is a story that I will not forget. Sadly, it is the story of many women and girls, and a sad sad reflection on our times.  Powerful and chilling. So dark. 





Kate Elizabeth Russell is originally from eastern Maine. 


She holds a PhD in creative writing from the University of Kansas and an MFA from Indiana University. 

My Dark Vanessa is her first novel.


photo by Elena Seibert













Monday, 12 April 2021

Facets of Death by Michael Stanley BLOG TOUR #FacetsOfDeath @detectivekubu @OrendaBooks #DetectiveKubu

 


When a Botswana mine is robbed of 100,000 carats of diamonds and the thieves are murdered execution-style, Botswana’s Detective Kubu begins a terrifying international investigation in the prequel to the award-winning Detective Kubu series.

Recruited straight from university to Botswana’s CID, David ‘Kubu’ Bengu has raised his colleagues’ suspicions with his meteoric rise within the department, and he has a lot to prove…

When the richest diamond mine in the world is robbed of 100,000 carats worth of gems, and then the thieves are killed, execution-style, Kubu leaps at the chance to prove himself. But where are the diamonds? And what role does a witch doctor and his son play? Does this young detective have the skill – and integrity – to engineer an international trap? Or could it cost him everything, including his life…?

A riveting, chilling prequel to the award-winning Detective Kubu series, Facets of Death introduces the beloved Kubu and his richly described native Botswana, in a dark, sophisticated thriller that will leave you breathless.


Facets of Death by Michael Stanley is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 29 April 2021. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour. 




Facets of Death is the prequel story to the existing novels in the Detective Kubu series. It's a wonderful. introduction to this magnificent character and allows the reader to get a real feel for him, his background and his introduction to the world of police work.

David Bengu is know to all as Kubu - the Setswana word for hippopotamus. Kubu is a hefty guy and whilst he could be offended by his nickname, he embraces it and treats it as a form of affection. This is Kubu all over; his sunny personality, his ability to smile even when faced with complex puzzles and his wholesome belief in others defines his whole personality.

We join Kubu on his first day as a Detective with the Botswana police force. His colleagues are not that welcoming as he's leapfrogged straight into the role of Detective. He hasn't served time as a Constable. However, Kubu takes this into his stride and despite annoying people sometimes, he soon wins them around, always pleasant and always appreciative. It is very hard for anyone to be cross with Kubu for long. 

Two complicated and intricate cases are presented to Kubu. One, the mysterious case of some missing suitcases. Seemingly stolen en route to London and Paris.  The second case is far more serious, involving the theft of diamonds, murder and witch craft. 

It is Kubu's enquiring mind and ability to think outside of the box that speeds the investigation along. Sometimes he is a little impatient and puts himself at risk, but the end result always outweighs the dangers. Luckily for Kubu!

The authors have woven a good dose of witch craft and local folk lore into this story. It's fascinating to read just how much power a witch doctor can hold in this part of the world. Even the most high ranking, and powerful characters have second thoughts when they are faced with skeletons of dead animals, associated with the witch doctors in the area. 

The diamond robbery is a complex and intriguing case and these authors have presented this so well. It's an entertaining and compelling story that takes unusual and unexpected routes some times. I stayed up well into the night to finish this one, I was desperate to see if Kubu was right and delighted by his methodical approach and his enquiring brain. 

Facets of Death is an atmospheric and captivating crime story, with a brilliantly created lead character that nobody could help but love. It's a smart thriller, with a difference. Devilishly clever and utterly compelling. Highly recommended by me. 



Follow Michael Stanley at https://www.facebook.com/MichaelStanleyBooks/


Michael Stanley is the writing name of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. 
Both natives of Africa, we have traveled regularly together to Botswana and Zimbabwe over the past twenty years to experience the country with its wide diversity and interesting peoples. 
Our books reflect the authentic Africa of the 21st century: not merely the politically unstable, desperately poor Africa of the nightly news, but also the emotional conflicts of people with one foot in traditional culture and the other in Western-instigated globalism. 
The new Africa is not a safari jungle, but a collection of diverse groups and nations struggling to find their way in a rapidly changing context.






Sunday, 11 April 2021

The Source by Sarah Sultoon BLOG TOUR @SultoonSarah @OrendaBooks #TheSource #Win #Giveaway #Competition

 


1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak...

2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier...

As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth ... and justice.

A riveting, searing and devastatingly dark thriller, The Source is also a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience ... an immense, tense and thought-provoking debut that you will never, ever forget.


The Source by Sarah Sultoon is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 11 April 2021

I read and adored this book a few months ago. Read my review of The Source here.

As part of this Blog Tour, I'm delighted to have one print copy of The Source to giveaway. Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget on this post. The giveaway will be open for 10 days.
UK entries only please.

GOOD LUCK! 





PRAISE FOR THE SOURCE ...


'A stunning debut ... a powerhouse writer' 
Jo Spain

'So authentic and exhilarating ... breathtaking pace and relentless ingenuity' Nick Paton Walsh, CNN

'A powerful, compelling read that doesn't shy away from some upsetting truths ... written with such energy' Fanny Blake

'Unflinching and sharply observed. A hard-hitting, deftly woven debut' Ruth Field

'A hard-hitting, myth-busting rollercoaster of a debut' Eve Smith

'A dazzling debut' The Reading Closet

'Harrowing, powerful, perfectly executed' Literary Elf

'Gripping, emotional, eye-opening and so brilliantly written ... a stunning debut by a very talented author' Anne Cater

'Thought provoking, emotional and sometimes brutal ... both thrilling and heart-wrenching' Live & Deadly

What readers are saying:

'I could picture and feel each scene, all the fear, tension and hope'

'Her writing drew me in, dragged me under, and so did her characters. Somehow Sarah Sultoon makes everything feel fresh and new'

'Super addictive, it crackles with tension, and the further I got, the faster I was turning the pages because I just had to know EVERYTHING'

'A fast-paced, intelligent and compelling look at a very difficult subject ... almost horrifically authentic'

'A hard hitting and grim story, but told in such a way its impossible to put down'

'A remarkable debut'



One paperback copy of The Source by Sarah Sultoon




Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer whose work as an international newsexecutive at CNN has

taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. 
She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs.
As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. 
When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if…







Friday, 9 April 2021

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry @flynnberry_ #NorthernSpy @wnbooks @WillOMullane #BookReview

 


A producer at the Belfast bureau of the BBC, Tessa is at work one day when the news of another raid comes on the air: the IRA may have gone underground after the Good Friday agreement, but they never really went away. As the anchor requests the public's help in locating those responsible for this latest attack - a robbery at a gas station - Tessa's sister Marian appears on the screen, pulling a black mask over her face.

The police believe Marian has joined the IRA, but Tessa knows this is impossible. They were raised to oppose Republicanism, and the violence enacted in its name. They've attended peace vigils together. And besides, Marian is vacationing by the sea. Tessa just spoke to her yesterday.

But when the truth of what has happened to Marian reveals itself, Tessa will be forced to choose: between her ideals and her family. Walking an increasingly perilous road, she fears nothing more than endangering the one person she loves more fiercely than her sister: her infant son, Finn.


Northern Spy by Flynn Berry was published on 8 April 2021 by W&N. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I practically inhaled this story, reading it in two large chunks over one day. Whilst it's not a long novel at under 300 pages, it really is a strong and powerful story that examines the strength of family bond within a pressurised and dangerous environment.

Tessa and Marian are sisters, they are very close, turning to each other in times of troubles and also to create happy memories. Tessa is single mother to six month old Finn whilst Marian is a paramedic. They both live around the area in which they were born and brought up in; the republican area of Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

Despite the Good Friday agreement, the tensions of the 'the troubles' have never really left the province. Things seem to be moving up a gear, and there's a sense of impending danger all around, with helicopters flying overhead, threats of bombings and increased security checks. 

Tessa works as a BBC broadcaster on a political programme and it is whilst she is preparing a show that she glances up at the news screen. The police are appealing for witnesses to an armed raid at a petrol station, and one of the raiders has shown their face on camera.  As Tessa continues to watch, she is horrified to see that face belongs to her sister Marian.  Both of them have always been anti terrorism, they've attended peace vigils together, Marian has attended to victims of the IRA in her job. They have never been IRA supporters.

Convinced that Marian has been abducted from the holiday cottage she had been staying in, Tessa goes to the police. It soon becomes clear that the security forces think that Marian is a member of the IRA, she was there by choice, and they begin to question Tessa's own loyalties too.

What follows is a compulsive and compelling story filled with danger and deceit. Tessa's main concern is the safety of Finn, as a mother, she will do anything to ensure his safety, but as a sister, she is totally devastated. She questions her whole relationship with Marian as she realises that nothing is quite what it seems. 

Berry is excellent at ramping up the tension as the pages are turned. Tessa is faced with huge decisions, some that can and will change the course of her whole life. This is a delicate setting to base a novel on, especially as most people think the troubles are over, and peace reigns in the North, although anyone watching the news this week will realise that feelings are still strong and violence is always simmering. 

Exquisitely tense, Northern Spy is so much more than just a psychological thriller. It is a study in family relationships, in communities and takes a long hard look at just how far a person will go in order to protect those that they love. 


FLYNN BERRY is a graduate of the Michener Center and has been awarded a Yaddo residency. 

She graduated from Brown University. 


Her first novel, UNDER THE HARROW, was awarded the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and was called ‘a triumph’ (Sunday Times) and ‘thrilling’ (New York Times). 
Her follow-up, A DOUBLE LIFE, was praised by Paula Hawkins and Clare Mackintosh among others and was called ‘blistering’ (New York Times) and ‘shocking’ (Guardian). 
Her third novel, NORTHERN SPY, is set in Northern Ireland. 

She lives in California.

Twitter @flynnberry_