Sunday 29 June 2014

A Visit to Lincoln ~ Visit Lincoln ~ The White Hart Hotel

I live in Lincolnshire ..... I love Lincolnshire .... it's a vast and beautiful county, and I never tire of exploring here. I work for Community Lincs ~ the Rural Council for Lincolnshire and I work hard to help to make Lincolnshire a great place, with great people.   I was delighted to receive a phone call from Visit Lincoln to tell me that I'd won their competition and my prize was a night's stay at The White Hart hotel in Lincoln. The White Hart is a beautiful old building, right in the heart of the Bail in Lincoln - one of my favourite parts of the city. Martin and I packed our bag and set off for our Lincoln adventure on Friday.

Despite the awful weather, we were determined to enjoy every minute and we certainly did! We arrived on Friday tea time and were thrilled to be told that we had Room 400 - right on the top floor of the hotel, in fact Room 400 is the only room on that floor. It's a suite, with it's own sitting room, access to a roof garden and the most fabulous views of both the Cathedral and the Castle. It is stunning and we felt like a pair of celebrities as we unpacked.

It was teatime and I was famished, so off we went to Bunty's Tea Room on Steep Hill. Bunty's is one of our very favourite places to eat in Lincoln. It's vintage themed, with so many interesting knick-knacks dotted about, and the food is delicious. Home-made cakes to die for including my favourite; Dandelion and Burdock flavour. We were warmly welcomed and soon our bacon, brie and cranberry sauce sandwiches were placed before us - and demolished within minutes. I had to say no to a slice of cake - although so very tempting, I knew that I had to leave space for my meal at the Grille restaurant back at The White Hart later.

It was still raining but I knew where I wanted to go next.  A new independent book shop opened at Easter; Lindum Books is just across the way from The White Hart and I'd not had a chance to take a look around yet. I'd been tweeting the owner earlier and wanted to pick up a ticket for a book event that she is hosting in July. Oh what a beautiful shop - it really is a book lover's dream. New titles, with handwritten notes to tell the customer about the book - it's scrumptious and I really hope that it does so well. There are so few indie bookshops left these days, and there is nothing quite like that smell of new books to lift the spirits. Of course, I had to make a purchase or two - it would be rude not too!

Back to The White Hart and a couple of drinks in the bar before going back up to Room 400 to freshen up before dinner.  The Grille Restaurant is open to both residents and non-residents and we were seated in the window - looking out over the Bail. How lovely when the waitress brought over two complimentary glasses of Prosecco with fresh strawberries - the perfect way to start the meal.  I opted for the Pan Fried Scallops - served with fennel puree, grilled asparagus and lemon and prawn butter. Martin went for the Roast Lincolnshire Pork Belly, served with bubble & squeak, caramelised apples and shallot & port sauce. We shared a couple of side orders of hand-cut chips and french beans. The food was absolutely delicious, the service was wonderful.  The dessert menu was very tempting and it didn't take me long to choose the Banana, Kirsch Cream & Crisp Shortbread Tower whilst Martin opted for the Salted Caramel Macaroons - both were perfect. I managed to drink another half bottle of Prosecco and Martin drank lager. We were so full afterwards, but in a very nice way.

We decided to go out for a stroll after dinner, and walked up to the Cathedral where we came across a very friendly ginger cat!  Lincoln during the evening is special, especially in the Bail area.

After a nightcap in the hotel, we went back to our suite and spent a little time on the roof garden, looking out over the lights of the city and the awesome Cathedral, beautifully illuminated by floodlights.

We both slept soundly, there was very little noise from outside as the room is so high up and I even slept through the chimes of the Cathedral.  We went down to the dining room for breakfast on Saturday morning and were amazed by the choice. Cereals, fruit juice, fresh fruit, yoghurt, Danish pastries and a vast hot food selection. I had a plate of fresh fruit and decided to go for the full Lincolnshire breakfast which was freshly cooked to order and very delicious. Bacon, Lincolnshire sausage, fresh tomato, mushrooms, black pudding and possibly the best scrambled egg that I've ever tasted.  Freshly toasted bread with an assortment of jams and marmalades and a couple of cups of filter coffee and we were set up for the day.

We checked out at around 11am and went off to visit my Mum and Dad. We had the very best of times; the hotel staff were warm and welcoming, very friendly and they treated us like royalty. The White Hart is a special place, and Room 400 is extraordinary - it was the perfect break - we will be back!

Thanks so much to Visit Lincoln and the management of The White Hart who made our prize trip very special.

Visit Lincoln    Twitter @visitlincoln   Facebook Visit Lincoln 
The White Hart Hotel, Lincoln   Twitter @WhiteHartLN1   Facebook White Hart Hotel, Room Bar, Lincoln
Bunty's Tea Room    Twitter @BuntysLincoln     Facebook Bunty's Tea Room 
Lindum Books    Twitter @LindumBooks    Facebook Lindum Books

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Saturday 28 June 2014

Launch Party ~ Who Are You? by Elizabeth Forbes ~ Cutting Edge Press

Those of you who have been following Random Things for a while will know how much I love Cutting Edge Press.  I've been fortunate to read and review most of their published books over the past couple of years. Cutting Edge Press are independent, they are bold and they are quite right to be proud of that. They are a small, but perfectly formed team who encourage new and exciting authors and I'm honoured to be a very small part of what they do.

For a little taste of what they do so well, do take a peek at some of my previous reviews; The Cult of Nostalgia by Bruce Bruschi; My Beautiful England by Michelle Flatley; The Blackheath Seance Parlour by Alan Williams; The Tattooist by Louise Black; The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings; Twin Truths by Shelan Rodger, and of course, the very first book that I reviewed for Cutting Edge; Nearest Thing To Crazy by Elizabeth Forbes.

Elizabeth Forbes' latest novel Who Are You? was published this week, I was thrilled to be asked to read a pre-proof copy of the novel .... I adored it. It's clever and ground breaking and very brave, you can read my full review of Who Are You? here.

The launch party for Who Are You was held this week and I was very excited to received an invitation to attend the party, to be held at the Cavalry & Guards Club in Piccadilly - the panic about the dress code began within two minutes of opening the envelope - how posh!

The dress bought, the train ticket booked, I made my way down to the big city.  I met up with friends at 5th View in Waterstone's Piccadilly for a drop of courage first and before we knew it, we were climbing the steps into the grandest club that I've ever stepped into!

After downing a glass or two of wine pretty quickly, I began to spot some familiar faces, and was so delighted to meet Lizzie Forbes at long last. Huge hugs were exchanged, and my copy of her book was signed. I admit that I had a little tear in my eye when I saw a quote from my review on the back cover of the finished book ..... with my name alongside it ..... I am so thrilled, and keep peeping at it ... can't quite believe that it's true!

We had a wonderful evening.  I met up with Alan Williams and Amanada Jennings again and the fabulous team from Cutting Edge; Paul and Hatty and Saffeya who has now left them, but keeps returning for all the parties.

A fabulous evening - full of friends, old and new, hugs, laughter, red wine stains and visits to the balcony.

Thanks Cutting Edge Press - you rock, you really really do!

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*** Cover Reveal *** The Poppy Factory by Liz Trenow

I'm delighted to be taking part of this very special cover reveal today.  Liz Trenow's latest novel The Poppy Factory will be published on 28 August 2014 by Avon Books.

Take a look - it's really very beautiful:

Published 28th August 2014

Inspired by the upcoming anniversary of the First World War, historical fiction author Liz Trenow has penned a captivating story of two young women, bound together by the tragedy of two very different wars.

Interviews with soldiers who have recently served in Afghanistan, along with an NHS paramedic and extensive research into the origins of the incredibly inspirational Poppy Factory which to this day helps returning soldiers to find work helped Liz to create remarkable characters inspired by real events.

With the end of the First World War, Rose is looking forward to welcoming home her beloved husband Alfie from the battlefields. But his return is not what Rose had expected. Traumatised by what he has seen, the Alfie who comes home is a different man to the one Rose married. As he struggles to cope with life in peace time, Rose wrestles with temptation as the man she fell in love with seems lost forever.

Many years later, Jess returns from her final tour of Afghanistan. Haunted by nightmares from her time at the front, her longed-for homecoming is a disaster and she wonders if her life will ever be the same again. Can comfort come through her great-grandmother Rose’s diaries?

For Jess and Rose, the realities of war have terrible consequences. Can the Poppy Factory, set up to help injured soldiers, rescue them both from the heartache of war?

About The Author

Liz Trenow is a former journalist who spent fifteen years on regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio
and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. The Forgotten Seamstress is her second novel. She lives in East Anglia with her artist husband, and they have two grown up daughters.

Find out more at

Follow her on Twitter @LizTrenow

Follow Avon Books @AvonBooksUK

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Sunday 22 June 2014

My Baby Shot Me Down: an anthology by women writers

Ten new women writers showcase an exceptional collection of poetry and prose in My Baby Shot Me Down. 
An incendiary blend of cerebral and visceral, this anthology presents a broadened view of the personal, political and social spectra. 
The unsettling beauty of the language is rendered sharp and transgressive, shot through with high-calibre comedy. 
Expect full-bodied and full-blooded. 
Grey areas of the gender-jungle and identity are explored alongside matters of love, family, relationships and sex, making for stark writing that is vital, refreshing and life-affirming.

Published on 28 April 2014 by Blinding Books.

My Baby Shot Me Down is a collection of poetry and prose by ten unknown women authors. Not unknown amongst their own circle of writing websites and competitions, but unknown to the majority of readers.

I came across this book as I know one of the authors; Alison Wassell.  I don't know her ever so well, we met online via a book forum and have met in the flesh on a couple of occasions. Even though we've met and talked, and are Facebook friends, I don't really know who Alison is as a person. She's quiet and appears quite shy, she's not a loud gob-shite like me, she prefers to fade into the background. Having read Alison's stories in My Baby Shot Me Down, I now feel as though I know her a little better. Her writing is innovative and sharp and I have to dispute her own description of it. No, Alison, this is not 'light and fluffy', it really isn't.

Amongst the short stories in this collection, there is some poetry. I'm really not qualified to comment on whether the poetry is good, or bad. I hold up my hands now - I don't really 'get' poetry. I never have done. Sorry, but that's me being honest. All I can say however, is that the stories in this book are bloody good, so I'm sure poetry lovers will be pleased by what they find here too.

I really like these stories, I like all of them. It's obvious that these authors concentrate on short stories, their expertise and passion shines through in each and every one of them. I must admit that I usually choose short stories by authors that I am familiar with, those whose novels I enjoy, and I'm very often let down by them.

Some of these stories are pretty sad, dark and dare I say it; just a little bit depressing. There are some really strong emotions displayed here, and at times I felt as though I was intruding into the author's most secret thoughts. I'm not sure that any of the women who wrote these stories are aware of just how good they are, I get the feeling that some of them have a lot of self-doubt, and they express this in their writing.

There are some spots of humour, but it's pretty black humour. This is a collection of stories that really do touch a nerve at times. Intelligent and charming, witty and poignant - a collection to savour.

For more information about the collection, and the authors visit
Blinding Books can be found on Facebook

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Friday 20 June 2014

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell

In the idyllic seaside town of St Carys, Sophie is putting the past firmly behind her. 
When Josh arrives in St Carys to run the family hotel, he can't understand why Sophie has zero interest in letting any man into her life. He also can't understand how he's been duped into employing Sophie's impulsive friend Tula, whose crush on him is decidedly unrequited. 
St Carys has more than its fair share of characters, including the charming but utterly feckless surfer Riley Bryant, who has a massive crush on Tula. Riley's aunt is superstar author Marguerite Marshall. And Marguerite has designs on Josh's grandfather...who in turn still adores his glamorous ex-wife, Dot... 
Just how many secrets can one seaside town keep?

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love was published by Headline in paperback/ebook on 5 June 2014. Jill Mansell's first novel; Fast Friends was published in 1991, this latest novel is her twenty-fifth book!

I have been a fan of Jill Mansell for many years now. I reviewed her last novel; Don't Want To Miss A Thing here on Random Things back in February 2013. I enjoyed it very much and said that I thought it was her best book to date - well, her writing gets better and better and this latest novel is even better than the last.

Set in a small seaside town; St Carys, in Cornwall, and featuring Sophie and Josh, amongst others, this really is the perfect summer read. Within a couple of chapters, I felt as though I'd been whisked away to this charming town full of warm and friendly characters who kept me entertained throughout the story.

Sophie is a photographer who quite literally hides herself behind her camera. Her wonderful pictures expose the heart of her subjects, she has a real talent and her skills are in demand. But Sophie never exposes her own true feelings, she is determined that she will never love, or be loved again. She's been hurt and she has hurt others.

Josh has had money and fame and lived the celebrity life in LA. Returning to this small sleepy town to help his Grandmother run the family hotel is so far away from the life that he was used to. Josh is happy in St Carys, except for one thing - Sophie. Josh is not used to being turned down, he really wants to know her better, he really likes her.

Sophie and Josh are the lead characters in The Unpredictable Consequences of Love but their supporting cast are wonderful too.  Riley is a surfer bum with no real job, he fancies Sophie's best friend Tula who in turn is more interested in Josh.  Then there are the older generation characters, including Dot and Lawrence who really should be together and Marguerite, the author who has set her eye on Lawrence.

This all sounds like a bit of fun, and yes it is in parts, but there are also some quite deep and sometimes very sad stories entwined amongst all of the sunshine and cheer. Jill Mansell explores themes including depression and terminal illness, she looks at how spur-of-the-moment decisions can impact the rest of a life and how love can strike when it is least expected and sometimes when it is really not wanted.

This is a story that is led and driven by some wonderfully created characters, both young and old. The setting is superb and the plot moves quickly despite the many threads that are interwoven into it.

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love is another great story from Jill Mansell - I enjoyed it very much, it's a real treat for both established fans and new readers of this author.

My thanks to Headline who sent my copy for review via

Jill Mansell lives with her family in Bristol. She used to work in the field of Clinical Neurophysiology but now writes full time.

Follow her on Twitter @JillMansell   

Check out her website

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Tuesday 17 June 2014

The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon

Kate Fullerton, talented tea designer and now co-owner of The Tea Chest, could never have imagined that she'd be flying from Brisbane to London, risking her young family's future, to save the business she loves from the woman who wants to shut it down.

Meanwhile, Leila Morton has just lost her job; and if Elizabeth Clancy had known today was the day she would appear on the nightly news, she might at least have put on some clothes. Both need to start again.

When the three women's paths unexpectedly cross, they throw themselves into realising Kate's magical vision for London's branch of The Tea Chest. But every time success is within their grasp, increasing tensions damage their trust in each other.

With the very real possibility that The Tea Chest will fail, Kate, Leila and Elizabeth must decide what's important to each of them. Are they willing to walk away or can they learn to believe in themselves?

An enchanting, witty novel about the unexpected situations life throws at us, and how love and friendship help us through. Written with heart and infused with the seductive scents of bergamot, Indian spices, lemon, rose and caramel, it's a world you won't want to leave.

The Tea Chest is published in paperback in the UK by Allen & Unwin on 3 July 2014, and is Josephine Moon's first novel.

I picked up my copy of The Tea Chest after just finishing a very violent and dark crime thriller and found the perfect antidote, it lifted me from a world full of tense and often gruesome events to the sunshine and cheer of a tea shop in a busy Australian city.

Kate Fullerton loves her job as a tea designer for The Tea Chest, she spends her days dreaming up all sorts of delectable tea treats for her discerning customers in the beautiful surroundings created by her boss Simone. Combined with her husband's successful career and their small family, life seems good.

After Simone's tragic and unexpected death, Kate finds herself the owner of a half-share in The Tea Chest and is determined to realise Simone's dream of opening a branch in London - the other side of the world. Enter Judy - the other part-owner of the business.  Judy has very different plans for the future of the shops, she'd like to sell up and get out. Kate is no business woman, she's creative, a designer - but she also shares Simone's vision and makes the huge decision to fly across the world to make the dream a reality.

Kate meets the other two main characters in this story; Leila and Elizabeth, and between them they face the challenge of converting what can only be described as a dump of a shop into a welcoming tea shop - that makes a profit. Along the way they deal with arrogant contractors, neighbours who would rather not have any competition, dodgy labour and frightening financiers, as well as dealing with their own individual problems.

Josephine Moon blends her story as well as Kate blends her tea. There is humour, and there are tears. Each woman has their own individual voice that adds layers to the story, increasing the depth of the plot. The reader is also let into the back story of Judy and Simone, which explains just why Judy takes the stand that she does. To be honest, I felt as though that part was sometimes a little distracting, but it did help to understand Judy's personality somewhat.

A good debut from Josephine Moon; the tea-room setting and the detailed description of tea blending is a refreshing change from the high-flying office block settings of many novels of this genre.

My thanks to Allen & Unwin who sent my copy for review, along with a gorgeous cotton tea-towel printed with the cover image - I love it!

Josephine Moon took the long route to fulfilling her dream of being a writer, writing ten manuscripts in twelve years and stopping off in more jobs than she can count before people start to wonder about her stability; however, she likes to think she was just gathering research for the many characters she would later write about.
Her longest careers have been as a teacher (three years) and an editor (four years). She also founded and ran a horse rescue charity in SE Qld for three years, working nearly full time for no pay, but a lot of personal reward and a paddock full of retired horses that now eat their way through her spending money. She loves animals and includes in her life’s highlights swimming with humpback whales in Tonga.
She has witnessed a (small) tsunami, been ‘tickled’ by lightening (not funny in the slightest, but she didn’t die so let’s call it a jovial jolt), was a contestant on the children’s television show Now You See It (back in the 80s, can you believe) twice but didn’t make it past the second round either time (something she may still harbour resentment about), and once accidentally ate breakfast out of the bowl her cat had just licked clean of tuna.
She lives with her husband, son and animals on acreage on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, very much enjoying the splendours of sushi, beaches, cafes, fresh food markets and festivals. Sometimes she prepares great, organic superpower foods and other times she eats toast.
Josephine likes to write about food and thinks of her books as nourishment for the soul. And if she’d known she could claim a high tea as a legitimate research tax deduction, she would have written about food much sooner.

For more information check out her website
Follow her on Twitter @josephine_moon  and her Facebook page

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Sunday 15 June 2014

Carnal Acts by Sam Alexander #WhoIsSamAlexander

A stunning crime fiction novel featuring a pair of detectives in the northern English borderlands. 
DI Joni Pax, a London homicide detective wounded in a disastrous raid, has been transferred to the newly formed Police Force of North East England. 
Her boss, DCI Hector Heck Rutherford, is recently back at work after cancer treatment. Between them they are responsible for major crime in rural Northumberland and County Durham. 
Joni, the daughter of a black American and a white hippy, is a loner struggling to regain her self confidence. Heck is happily married, but his illness has left him fearful. 
Based in Corham, a town with Roman, medieval and industrial heritage, Paz and Rutherford investigate a murder at a brothel run by the Albanian mafia. 
In a series of breathtaking plot twists, the author demonstrates the corruption that underpins the beautiful northern English countryside as well as hinting at a mysterious world beyond the horizon. 
Carnal Acts explores abuse of many kinds sexual, psychological, economic taking the police procedural to places it has never been before.

Carnal Acts is published in paperback by Arcadia Books on 15 June 2014.  The world of Twitter has been ablaze with tweets about Carnal Acts. Arcadia Books have created one of the biggest mysteries I've ever seen on the net around this book.  You see, Sam Alexander is not a debut author, a new name, a first-timer. No, Sam Alexander is in fact a well-known, succesful British Crime Author - writing under another name, and so far, nobody has guessed who he/she is. I've tried, believe me, I've tried, and I have been wrong so many times. Hopefully, eventually, someone will guess correctly - I'm desperate to know who it is.

Back to Carnal Acts - the story.  Set in Northumberland, this is a tightly woven crime story - I guess it would be best described as 'crime noir' -it's certainly very dark, there are some twisted characters, some gruesome crimes and a forbidding air about this story.   Whoever the author is, they have had me on the edge of my seat for the past few days - throwing in enough red herrings to stock the best fishmonger in the business.

Lead character DI Joni Pax is new to the the North Eastern town of Corham, she's transferred up from the Met after a nasty episode with a bad guy and a big knife.  She answers to DCI Hector Rutherford, known affectionately as Heck, he's had his troubles too lately - recovering from a cancer operation and feeling as though he's stared death in the face.

The Albanians are in town. Controlling the call-girls, the drugs rings. Violent and vicious, they don't give a damn and when Pax and Heck find themselves investigating a murder at a brothel in town, they soon realise that this is more than your average run of the mill fall out in a dodgy back-street doss-house.

The story is brutal, full-on and fast moving. There is a point towards the middle of the story when I became just a little overwhelmed by the complexity of the the plot and the amount of characters that seemed to be involved, but this passed.  I found my way again and sure enough, the tension is cranked up by at least three gears as the reader is hurtled towards the stunning climax of the story.

I don't know if 'Sam Alexander' intends to write more about Pax and Heck - I hope so.  Carnal Acts could be the start of something huge in British Crime Fiction. A female lead character who is a mystery herself and a supporting cast of characters who could be developed so well. Joni Pax is an enigma. With a white mother and black father, she finds it difficult to define herself and her new colleagues certainly have trouble sussing her out - I'd love to think that readers will be able to discover more and more with a whole series devoted to her.

Carnal Acts is a thrilling, compelling, well written crime story. Complex, intelligent and exciting.  Read it, you won't be disappointed.

Check out #WhoIsSamAlexander on Twitter to see the buzz around this novel - and to see if we ever find out just who the hell is Sam Alexander.

Huge Cheers to Arcardia Books who sent my copy for review.

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Thursday 12 June 2014

World War I Love Stories by Gill Paul

Real-life romances from the war that shook the world.
Published to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of war, World War I Love Stories tells the unforgettable stories of lovers brought together or torn apart by the Great War. These are tales of romance and sometimes, great tragedy, but most of all they are tales of enduring love at a time when the world was full of horror.
For the soldiers who fought in it, the First World War was truly 'the war to end all wars' but the febrile atmosphere it generated, as couples fell in love across previously impassable boundaries of distance or class, caused many lovers to declares themselves long before convention would have allowed earlier.
The love stories range widely, from the tale of Captain Robert Digby, on the run in in Occupied France, who fell in love with Claire Dessenne - a beauty whose neighbours were ultimately to betray their trust - the the sad account of the girl Ernest Hemingway fell in love with as he recuperated in a Milan hospital, and who was to inspire his great novel, A Farewell to Arms.
These 14 moving and engaging accounts are accompanied by a wealth of letters, journals and photographs that bring the past to vividly to life. 

World War I Love Stories by Gill Paul was published on 7 April 2014 by Ivy Press, and has an introduction by Adrian Gilbert.

Gill Paul is an accomplished author, she specialises in history and has written over thirty books. World War I Love Stories is a beautifully presented collection of intimate stories, accompanied by photographs, snippets of actual letters and diary entries recovered and preserved by those left behind.

Although some of the couples are more well-known, such as Ernest Hemingway and the nurse that he fell for whilst in hospital; each one of these couples have their own moving and remarkable story to be told. From all walks of life and from different parts of the world, and indeed from opposing sides in the War - these couples are all very human and Gill Paul expertly retells their love stories. Not just the facts, but also their characters, their emotions and their often horrific experiences during what was supposed to be the war to end all wars.

For me, the thing that makes this book very special are the accompanying photographs and the opportunity to read the actual words written by the couples during these times. Gill Paul's research has been meticulously done; tracking down ancestors of the couples and being able to personalise each of the stories with an intimate glimpse into their personalities.

My thanks to the author and Emily from Ivy Press who sent my copy for review.

Gill Paul is author of the popular Love Stories series, which includes Titanic Love Stories (2011), Civil War Love Stories (2013), and World War II Love Stories (2014). Among her other published works are the historical novels Women and Children First (2012) and The Affair (2013).

She also writes on health, healthy eating, and a variety of other subjects ranging from cowboys of the American South and extreme weather events to ghost-hunting and relationships.
Gill runs her own company based in London that produces books for publishers. She has edited Griff Rhys Jones, John Suchet, John Julius Norwich, Ray Mears and Eartha Kitt, among others, and ghostwritten for many more. She has written film treatments, newspaper features about relationships and history, and TV tie-ins. 

For more information visit her website

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Tuesday 10 June 2014

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Even monsters need peace. Even monsters need a person who truly wants to listen - to hear - so that someday we might find the words that are more than boxes. Then maybe we can stop men like me from happening... 
A prisoner sits on death row in a maximum security prison. His only escape from his harsh existence is through the words he dreams about, the world he conjures around him using the power of language. For the reality of his world is brutal and stark. He is not named, nor do we know his crime. 
But he listens. He listens to the story of York, the prisoner in the cell next to him whose execution date has been set. He hears the lady, an investigator who is piecing together York's past. He watches as the lady falls in love with the priest and wonders if love is still possible here. 
He sees the corruption and the danger as tensions in 'this enchanted place' build. And he waits. 
For even monsters have a story . . .

The Enchanted is Rene Denfeld's first novel and was published in the UK by Wiedenfeld & Nicolson on 13 March 2014.

A short but perfectly polished novel; The Enchanted is a striking story that is unlike anything that I've read before.  How can a dark, desolate, run down prison be enchanted?  For that is the setting of this story - a place where men wait to die. Men who have committed crimes that are not spoken of, but are clearly horrific. Whilst they wait, kept locked up in the bowels of the prison, rarely glimpsing daylight, our narrator contemplates his fellow prisoners and the people who work in the prison.

The person who enchants him the most is 'the lady'.  She works to try to prevent these men from the ultimate punishment - death. She visits them, she tracks down their families. She visits trailer parks and speaks with people who have little hope and bad memories.

Violence and corruption is rife in this enchanted place. Damaged men guarding more damaged men, with just a couple who try to keep things clean.  A defrocked priest, a young white-haired man, a Warden who mourns his wife - these are the characters that blended together, make up this enchanted place.

Rene Denfeld is an incredibly talented writer. This story is sophisticated and subtle - it is moving and eloquently written.

The Enchanted really is quite captivating ..... in fact, it will enchant you.

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

Rene Denfeld is a death penalty investigator and the author of three non-fiction books, including the international bestseller The New Victorians.
She has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times magazine.
She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her three children, all adopted from foster care.  In addition to working with death row clients, Denfeld volunteers with at-risk youth and in foster adoption advocacy.
For more information about the author, visit her website
Follow her author page on Facebook      Follow her on Twitter @ReneDenfeld

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Monday 9 June 2014

Gossip by Beth Gutcheon

Loviah “Lovie” French owns a small, high-end dress shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Renowned for her taste, charm, and discretion, Lovie is the one to whom certain women turn when they need “just the thing” for key life events: baptisms and balls, weddings and funerals. 
Among those who depend on Lovie’s sage advice are her two best friends since boarding school days: Dinah Wainwright – a columnist chronicling the public and private lives of New York’s wealthiest – and Avis Metcalf – a prominent figure in the art world. Despite the love they share for their mutual friend, there has always been a chilly gulf between Dinah and Avis, the result of a perceived slight from decades ago that has unimaginably tragic echoes many years later. 
When a marriage means that Dinah and Avis must set aside their differences, Loviah must manage her two friends’ secrets as wisely as she can. Which is not wisely enough as things turn out …

Gossip by Beth Gutcheon was published in paperback by Atlantic on 5 June 2014 and was first published by Atlantic Books back in February 2013, when it received great reviews;
'Gutcheon writes poignantly, but with a sharp comic edge, about female friendship, the bleakness of fate and the disappointments of love; and her grasp of the profound connection between clothes and emotion recalls Nancy Mitford at her most seriously frivolous.' Sunday Telegraph 
'A graceful and elegant novel…Gossip builds to a stunning and devastating finish' New York Times 
'An intense, glamorous novel' Red 
'this guilty-pleasure novel's packed with secrets and scandal' Easy Living

Loviah French, or 'Lovie' as she is known, is piggy-in-the-middle.  She met and made friends with both Dinah and Avis when they all attended the same boarding school back in 1960.  Dinah and Avis are worlds apart, and can't stand each other, yet both of them are great friends to Lovie.

The story is set in New York and is told in the voice of a now middle-aged Lovie.  Lovie is looking back on her friendship with the other two women and Gutcheon's tells the story of how they all grew to be the women they are today ... except for one thing .... the reason that Lovie is telling their story, and something that is not revealed to the reader until the very end of the story.

Beth Gutcheon is not a thrilling author, she doesn't shock or dismay, but she has a beautiful style that is both gentle and funny.  Her insight into the often complicated world of female friendships is so precise and can be both satisfyingly familiar to the reader and also a little reminder of how friends can often cause the deepest of wounds.

Three women, all so very different, yet all with their own compelling voice. I am really not surprised that Beth Gutcheon has had such success in her native America if her novels are all as well written as Gossip - I really hope that she has as much success here in the UK.

My thanks to Alison Davies from Atlantic Books who sent my copy for review.

BETH gUTCHEON grew up in western Pennsylvania and was educated at Harvard. She has spent most of her adult life in New York City, except for sojourns in San Francisco and on the coast of Maine. In 1978, she wrote the narration for a feature-length documentary on the Kirov ballet school, The Children of Theatre Street, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and she has made her living fulltime as a storyteller (novelist and sometime screenwriter) since then. Her novels have been translated into fourteen languages. Still Missing was made into a feature film called Without a Trace. Several of her novels have been US bestsellers.

For more information visit her website
Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @BethGutcheon

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Saturday 7 June 2014

Who Are You by Elizabeth Forbes

I have been so desperate to post my review of Lizzie Forbes' second novel!   I was so lucky to be able to read it before it was even in book form - it was still a Word document and even though I don't usually read ebooks, I sat there, in front of my laptop and devoured it.  

I promised that I'd hold off with my review until I returned from my Greek holiday - well, I'm home, and here it is .......................

Alex, a career officer in an elite regiment, returns from Afghanistan a changed man. He has left the army behind and is attempting to forge a civilian career as a security advisor. 
His wife Juliet is delighted. She, Alex and their son, Ben, now live in a well-appointed house in a leafy London suburb. 
But all is not well. Juliet's research on the internet suggests that Alex is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but pride means that he will not seek professional help. 
Finding solace in web forums, Juliet is offered the use of a cottage and is urged to remove Ben to a place of safety. 
After a lot of secretive planning and the financial support of Alex's mother who had suffered at the hands of her husband, Juliet and Ben escape the tyranny of their home with the hope of starting afresh. 

Who Are You? by Elizabeth Forbes is published in June by Cutting Edge Press, and is her second novel. I reviewed her first; Nearest Thing to Crazy on Random Things in June 2013.

Who are you?  That is the ultimate question. Who are you and what did you do with my husband? For Juliet, that is the question that keeps repeating itself, over and over in her head.

Juliet and Alex are two people who really should never have met and married. Troubled, scarred by life, and broken inside, theirs is a match that can range from the delights of heaven to the absolute terror that is hell on earth.

Alex was a serving soldier, Juliet is his wife; a stay-at-home Mum, a creator of a beautiful home, the mother of his son Ben.

Alex is cruel to Juliet. He is a sadistic bastard who appears to take pleasure in inflicting as much pain as he can, both physically and emotionally. Alex is a gentleman, a great host, a good neighbour. Alex is two men and Juliet is never quite sure which Alex she will wake up beside.

Juliet herself is damaged, broken, a little bit twisted. Juliet knows just how to make Alex suffer too. A toy gun for their son, a war film on DVD, these are triggers that will reduce Alex to a vulnerable, shaking wreck and Juliet has been hurt enough by Alex to get pleasure from his pain.

Readers of Elizabeth Forbes' previous novel; the incredible Nearest Thing to Crazy, may be expecting another psychological thriller.  Who Are You is very different, it's in a league of its own and yet again Elizabeth Forbes has created a cleverly woven story that grips the reader right by the throat.

Who Are You is dark, incredibly dark. It is uncomfortable, it made my heart race so much that I broke out into a sweat. It is a study of the human brain and of how the horrors of past experiences can burn themselves into the back of the eyeballs, and onto the brain and never, ever go away.

I am in awe of Elizabeth Forbes. Her writing is chillingly unsettling; tense and so cleverly paced. Prepare yourself to be consumed by this story, to be terrified and at the same time to empathise with the hidden victims of other people's actions.

A triumph!

My thanks, as always to the fabulous Cutting Edge Press team who sent my review copy.

Elizabeth Forbes studied for a BA in Literature with the Open University, and graduated in 2010 with First Class Honours.  She also holds an Open University Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. Her first novel was the extremely popular Nearest Thing To Crazy.

She lives near Hereford.

Follow her on Twitter @lizzieforbes

Formed in 2010, Cutting Edge Press is the home of quality fiction and non-fiction titles which aim to address contemporary issues in an accessible way.
Never failing to be bold and innovative, they remain fiercely independent and proud to bring new authors' works to the attention of a discerning audience. 
For more information, visit   Find them on Facebook and Twitter @CuttingEdgeBks

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