Wednesday 27 May 2015

LifeBlood by Gill Fyffe

Poisoned. Ruined. Silenced. A family story. 
In 1988 Gill Fyffe undergoes a traumatic birth, requiring a blood transfusion. Over the following years, Gill struggles to raise her family as she experiences constant and extreme fatigue, at one point falling asleep at the wheel, crashing her car. 
When her daughter is seven she receives word from the authorities her transfusion was contaminated. 
She has Hepatitis C, a virus that destroys the liver. Gill is treated with Alpha Interferon. The treatment fails because it is too late. Because of the crippling side-effects, including memory loss, photosensitivity with skin that cannot tolerate sunlight, she has to resign from her job teaching in a top private school. She cannot sue, because it is too late. 
Financially ruined, Gill uncovers years of unheeded warnings about the safety of blood donations and a shameless official cover-up.  
LifeBlood is the extraordinary, heart-breaking story of how a woman s life has been affected by one the UK's biggest medical scandals. It is also a remarkable portrait of a family under stress, and how it comes to value what really matters. As a major inquiry is due to report after many years of delays, Gill's story is a timely and explosive reminder of the human cost of placing profit before ethics and the establishment's unwillingness to compensate for its mistakes.

LifeBlood by Gill Fyffe was published in paperback and ebook by Freight Books on 23 March 2015.

Despite the horror of the situation that Gill Fyffe has found herself in the middle of, despite the injustice and the downright lies that she has suffered from, I found myself captivated by this book.

Yes, I wanted to shout and scream on her behalf. I dearly wanted her to be able to expose the terrible cover-ups that went on at Government level, I wanted her and her family to be compensated for the years of hardship they had endured. I wanted her to be angry and fierce, and she is. She's very very angry, and determined and absolutely fearless about dealing with the establishment.

I remember the 80s, when stories of AIDS and HIV dominated the media. The rumours, the misinformation, the total nonsense that we believed. Gill Fyffe gave birth to her daughter in 1988, slap bang in the middle of all of this. The birth was not easy, Gill lost a great deal of blood and needed a transfusion. Despite her protests, her worries about infection, her belief in the AIDS story, she was persuaded by the medics that it was safe.

That day was not only the first day of her daughter's life, it was also the day that would change Gill and her husband for ever. Gill never really felt well again after her daughter was born, and it was seven years later that she learnt that yes, she was infected, but she was not HIV positive. Gill had Hepatitis C and it was going to destroy her liver, it was incurable.

LifeBlood is Gill's story of her battle that has raged for years and years. Her battle to expose the official cover-up about infected blood. Gill battled them all. She lost her job, the medication that was supposed to help her only made things worse, she and her husband had no money, they sold everything, they left their home, they fought on and on.

Gill tells her story in a forthright and honest manner. She doesn't ask for sympathy, she is blunt. She despairs, she asks 'why me?', she rages at the unfairness and through it all she brings up her children and creates a loving family unit.

Gill is often very funny. I don't think we are supposed to find a woman who cannot tolerate any light, who has to smother her face in thick emollient cream and cover her head funny at all, but Gill's writing does evoke laughter.

Gill is not the only person to have been treated in this way. Thousands of people were involved, many died.

LifeBlood is a fascinating insight into how difficult it can be to fight against the establishment. How the ordinary person can be reduced to just a number. It is also a story of humanity and bravery and hope and determination. Written straight from the heart, with passion.

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

Gill Fyffe read English at the University of St Andrews and was awarded an MLitt with distinction for a verse biography of Rose de Beauharnais, the empress Josephine. 

Gill's life has been affected by the consequences of a contaminated blood transfusion. 

She taught at the University of St Andrews and Fettes College, Edinburgh, before side-effects forced her to resign. 

She is immensely proud of her son and daughter who, educated at Fettes College, went on to study at Imperial and RADA, Oxford and LARA. 

Gill now lives in Soho.

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Tuesday 26 May 2015

The Followers by Rebecca Wait

Judith has been visiting her mother Stephanie in prison once a month for the last eight years. Hundreds of failed conversations, hundreds of topics avoided. She still can't bring herself to talk about what brought them here - or about Nathaniel, the charismatic outsider whose close-knit religious cult high on the moors destroyed their relationship.
Judith's only salvations lies in the loyalty of Moses, a boy who had never known life outside the cult until the horrifying act of violence that changed everything. But who can she truly believe in now?
Powerful, gripping and impossible to forget, The Followers is a novel about love, hope and identity that asks timely questions. Are we still responsible for our actions if we remake ourselves in someone else's image?
And is there any way back? 

The Followers was published by Picador on 21 May 2015 and is Rebecca Wait's second novel. I read the author's first novel; The View on the Way Down back in November 2012 (it was published by Picador in April 2013), and I was totally blown away by her writing. I have thrust so many copies of The View on the Way Down into people's hands and insisted that they read it, I will continue to recommend it to anyone that will listen to me! I was just a little apprehensive about the publication of The Followers, a little worried that the author wouldn't be able to match her first book. I can happily say that Rebecca Wait has done it again, and I'll even go as far as saying that The Followers is even better than her first book, and for me, that's huge huge praise!

The story opens 'After'. After the events that unfurl throughout this incredibly perceptive novel. Judith is visiting her mother in prison. The visit is strained, their relationship is obviously difficult, their conversation is superficial, they never discuss what happened, or why. Judith will return again next month, as she has for the past eight years.

The author then takes us back to 'Before', where the reader meets Judith and her mother as they were. Before the violent and life changing episode that has created the 'After'.

I'm not going to tell the story of The Followers, I'll just say that it is an extremely compelling look at how the most vulnerable can be brainwashed and indoctrinated into believing what another, stronger and totally plausible person leads them to believe.

Rebecca Wait has created a community high up on the Yorkshire Moors that is solitary and lonely, yet secure and rigid. The Ark is the place that Nathaniel has conceived to house his loyal and believing followers. Nathaniel is alluring and charismatic, his followers don't question his ideals, and if they do show the smallest sign of doubt, they will be punished. Punished by Nathaniel, but also by God.

Judith does not trust Nathaniel and rebels from day one. However, her mother, Stephanie, soon falls under his spell. The Ark is so much better than her old life as a struggling single mother, working in a cafe with nothing to look forward to. The community in The Ark will love her and care for her, she feels needed and part of a family, she feels important and special, she is sure that Judith will get used to it.

The Followers is an excellent read. I was totally captivated by it from the very first page. Rebecca Wait writes cleverly and with great authenticity, she gets to the heart of Nathaniel and his followers so well. She describes the control and the manipulation that can only lead to destruction in the end, Whilst the reader can clearly see what is happening, the characters are so cleverly controlled by Nathaniel that they appear blind to his faults.

The wild Yorkshire Moors is almost a character within itself. The author's sense of place is outstanding, she creates the perfect setting for The Followers, living as they do in almost splendid isolation. The winds, the rain, the mist, all complement this story so very well, adding to the tension and the apprehension of what may be to come.

The Followers is written simply, it is incredibly easy to read which only makes it more extraordinary in how brilliant it is. It is gripping, clever, and so brilliantly told. Another triumph for this incredibly talented young author.

My thanks to Francesca at Picador (Pan MacMillan) who sent my copy for review.

Rebecca Wait has been writing for as long as she can remember and has won numerous prizes for short stories and plays. 
She wrote The View on the Way Down in the evenings whilst working as a teaching assistant. 
The Followers is her second novel. 
Rebecca lives in London.

Visit her website
Follow her on Twitter @RebeccaWait

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Monday 25 May 2015

We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman *** BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY ***

Do not miss me, because I will always be with you…I am the air, the moon, the stars. For we are all made of stars, my beloved... Wherever you look, I will be there.
Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to a soldier who has returned from Afghanistan injured in body and mind, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the secrets he brought home from the war.
During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones - some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain – and promises to post these messages after their deaths.
Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…

I was thrilled to be asked to host the Blog Tour for We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman, and especially delighted that the Blog Tour starts right here.  I reviewed We Are All Made of Stars  here on Random Things last month, the novel was published in hardback by Ebury on 21 May 2015.

The publishers have kindly offered a prize copy to one of my blog followers - to enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this article.

I'm so pleased to welcome Rowan to Random Things today. Rowan is going to tell us how she feels about hand-written letters and is also sharing a very special letter with us.

I mourn the passing of the hand written letter. There is something about a letter that is special, indelible. A letter can be tied in ribbon, or folded away into a wallet, between the pages of a book, in a way that a text or tweet never can. The paper, the envelope, the handwriting all means something unique. It puts a person, and their thoughts into one moment in time, and it keeps them there. It captures thoughts, and emotions in the same way that a photograph captures an expression. And that’s why I started to write letters again, and why letters became a very important part of my latest novel, ‘We Are All Made of Stars.’

 This letter is addressed to my Great Uncle.  Like many others, Aubrey enlisted too young, at the age of 16, and was killed two years later very close to his eighteenth birthday. I never really knew anything about him, until, by total coincidence, we decided to call our youngest son Aubrey, and my Mum told us everything she knew about it. It’s been wonderful to find out more, and to know that his name and his memory go on with us, and our children. 
Rowan's Great Uncle Aubrey 

I'm sure that you'll all agree that Rowan's letter to her Great Uncle is beautiful and heart-felt.

I hope that you will follow the Blog Tour this week, Rowan will be sharing more of her letters on each of the blogs that host the tour.  The tour will visit Rea's Book Reviews on Tuesday 26th May, One More Page on Wednesday 27th May, Chicklit Chloe on Thursday 28th May and finishes off at Miss Bookworm on Friday 29th May.

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband, and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in the opposite directions. When she gets the chance, Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake.Rowan would like to live every day as if she were starring in a musical, although her daughter no longer allows her to sing...

For more information, visit her website
Follow her on Twitter @rowancoleman

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Sunday 24 May 2015

Flight by Isabel Ashdown

When Wren Irving's numbers come up in the first ever national lottery draw, she doesn't tell her husband, Rob. 
Instead she quietly packs her bags, kisses her six-month-old daughter Phoebe goodbye, and leaves. 
Two decades later, Rob has moved on and found happiness with their oldest friend, Laura. 
Phoebe, now a young woman, has never known any other life. But when Rob receives a mysterious letter, the past comes back to haunt them all. 
With their cosy world thrown into turmoil, Laura sets out to track Wren down and discover the truth about why she left all those years ago.

Flight by Isabel Ashdown was published in paperback on 21 May 2015 by Myriad Editions. Flight is Isabel Ashdown's fourth novel. I reviewed her last book, Summer of '76 here on Random Things in July 2013.

I really enjoy Isabel Ashdown's writing. Flight is an extremely thought-provoking story that explores the darkest corners of motherhood and friendship.

Told in the separate voices of the main characters, and narrated over many years, this is a book that hooked me in from page one and had me frantically turning the pages as the story unfolded with unexpected twists and discoveries that shocked me to the core.

Rob, Wren and Laura; three friends who love each other dearly. Laura is free-thinking and passionate, Wren is quieter and deeper and Rob is the man who they both adore. Despite Laura's life-long love for Rob, she is delighted when her two best friends become a couple. Laura is never excluded from their life, she seems to be the glue that keeps them all together. When Rob and Wren's daughter Phoebe is born, Laura is the obvious choice as Godmother and relishes her job.

Wren is slowly fading away. She feels empty inside, she feels that Phoebe should have been Laura's daughter. Wren feels trapped. Is this all there is?

When Wren strikes lucky on the Lottery, she leaves everything. Rob, Laura and Phoebe don't hear from her, or see her for twenty years.

Isabel Ashdown has created a complex web of relationships featuring these three characters. Rob, Laura and Wren don't need anyone else in their lives, everything they do is centred around them and their friendship. Parents, fellow students and colleagues are not needed.

When Wren leaves, their whole life explodes. Laura and Rob deal with their abandonment in their own personal ways and Wren creates a solitary, punishing existence for herself. When, twenty years later they meet again, the secrets that have been kept are laid bare, along with the pain and sorrow caused by Wren's disappearance.

Wren is a difficult character to empathise with throughout the story and when all the facts are revealed at the end of the book, it becomes even more difficult to find anything to like about her. Laura, on the other hand, is strong and selfless. She sacrificed such a lot so that her friends could be happy yet is still forgiving and loyal. Rob is a weak man who allowed the women to guide him, yet his vulnerability and sensitivity endears him to the reader.

Flight is exquisitely written, Isabel Ashdown is a very accomplished author and has created a complex, yet beautifully woven story of love and relationships that is both heart-breaking and though-provoking. Her characters are imperfect, somewhat flawed but oh so human. The story flows perfectly, and the ending is unexpected yet quite perfect.

My thanks to the publisher Myriad Editions, and the author who sent my copy for review.

Isabel Ashdown was born in London and grew up on the south coast of England. She is the author of four novels and winner of the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition. Her debut, Glasshopper, was named as one of the best books of 2009 by both the Observer and the London Evening Standard. In 2014 Isabel was Writer in Residence at the University of Brighton, where she now continues to teach on their Creative Writing MA. 

Isabel is represented by Kate Shaw of the Viney Literary Agency, London. Her fourth novel, Flight, was released in May 2015 (Myriad Editions).

You can find out more at or follow her on Twitter @IsabelAshdown  or Facebook.

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Thursday 21 May 2015

Yellow Room by Shelan Rodger

Haunted by a tragic accident from when she was young, Chala's whole life has been moulded by guilt and secrets. 
After the death of her stepfather, who took his own secrets to the grave, Chala re-evaluates her life and volunteers at a Kenyan orphanage. 
There, she gets caught in the turmoil of the country and takes action to help those suffering. 
Chala must eventually return home where she is forced to reveal a truth that may ruin her future, making her realise that maybe some words should be left unsaid ...

Yellow Room is published in paperback by Cutting Edge Press on 18 June 2015 and is Shelan Rodger's second novel.  I reviewed her first book; Twin Truths, on Random Things in May last year

The opening chapter of Yellow Room left me breathless. It is shocking and unexpected and underpins the whole of Shelan Rodger's immaculately written story of dark family secrets and how they can shape a future.

Chala's whole life has been overshadowed by the tragic incident of the first chapter of this story. What happened in the yellow room has haunted her dreams for years and years, she had never been able to escape it, even since she met and married Paul.

When Philip, Chala's beloved stepfather suddenly dies, she feels compelled to visit Kenya. To go back to the lake where she spent happy times with Philip, the lake that she was named after, and the lake that her long-dead mother loved.

Chala becomes embroiled in the problems of the Kenyan people, concentrating more on them than on her own failing relationship with her husband Paul. Volunteering in an orphanage exposes her to more secrets. Secrets kept hidden by the young boys who live there, but whose lives, like Chala's will be affected by what happens to them as children.

Shelan Rodger's writing has a haunting quality, her words flow effortlessly, her story is formed perfectly. Her characters are true to life, they are flawed, at times they are quite horrible, and it is that that makes them human, and real.

Chala struggles with her inner feelings about herself and about those who are closest to her. As the story evolves she discovers that things that she has believed for all of her life and that she has allowed to mould her may not have been what they seemed. She discovers that the people she loved and respected may not have deserved that commitment. She feels shattered, she feels as though she must do something and going to Kenya changes her whole perception of herself, and of others.

The author's depiction of life in Kenya during the turbulent times after the election of 2007 are shockingly realistic; the tensions and horror of what happened are stunningly portrayed.

The real beauty of Shelan Rodger's writing is her ability to connect with the reader so well, Yellow Room is gloriously detailed, beautifully written and extremely memorable.

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

Shelan's life is a patchwork of different cultures. 

Born in Nigeria, she grew up among the Tiwi, an aboriginal community in Australia, and moved to England at the age of eleven.

After graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, she travelled to Argentina, where she spent nine years teaching and setting up a language school. 

Another chapter in England was followed by six years in Kenya, where she got involved in learning and development, with an emphasis on anti-discrimination. 

She now lives in Spain, working in international education - and writing.

For more information about Shelan Rodger, visit her website

Follow her on Twitter @ShelanRodger     Find her on Facebook

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Monday 18 May 2015

Panther by David Owen *** BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY ***

Life isn't going terribly well for Derrick; he's become severely overweight, his only friend has turned on him, he's hopelessly in love with a girl way out of his league, and it's all because of his sister. 
Her depression, and its grip on his family, is tearing his life apart. When rumours start to circulate that a panther is roaming wild in his south London suburb, Derrick resolves to turn capture it. 
Surely if he can find a way to tame this beast, he'll be able to stop everything at home from spiraling towards disaster?
Panther is a bold and emotionally powerful novel that deals candidly with the effects of depression on those who suffer from it, and those who suffer alongside them.

Welcome to the BLOG TOUR for Panther by David Owen, I'm delighted to be the host here on Random Things today.

Panther was published by Corsair (Constable & Robinson) on 7 May 2015 in paperback and is David Owen's first novel.  Corsair have kindly offered a paperback copy to one reader, if you'd like to win a copy of Panther, fill out the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post.

Many of my blog followers don't read Young Adult novels. If you are one of those people, please, please, please put aside any preconceptions and read Panther. Although it probably is intended for a Young Adult audience, this is a perfect example of 'crossover' - anyone can and should sit down and read it. I loved it, it moved me, it made my heart hurt. It is beautiful, and real and quite wonderful.

David Owen is clever. His story is clever and his use of the Panther is very very clever.

There have been sighting in residential London streets of a Panther, and Derrick is determined that he will track it down and catch it. As far as Derrick is concerned, his family troubles began when the Panther was spotted. If he can get rid of it, he can make his family happy again.

Derrick also knows that when he has caught the Panther he won't feel the need to gorge himself on junk food any more. He won't have to make secret trips to the supermarket, or rummage around in dustbins to find his fix. He won't have to buy size XXXL t shirts from the charity shop and he will be able to find a pair of jeans that fit him.

When the Panther has been caught, Derrick's sister will stop crying. There won't be any more 'incidents'. The scars on her arms will fade and his Mum will be able to put the kitchen knives back into the drawers instead of hiding them in her bedroom.

Maybe, just maybe, when the Panther has been caught, Derrick's Mum and Dad will start getting on again, and maybe Dad will move back in.

There are scenes in this novel that so emotionally difficult, the words vividly show the anguish and despair of this teenage boy whose family has imploded. Using the Panther as a metaphor for the depressive illness that has torn the family apart is genius; the snarling, the ripping apart, the devastation and the fear caused by something that nobody can see, but everyone knows is there.

I haven't told you what the story is, I don't intend to. What I hope to have done is to make sure that you are so curious that you go out and buy a copy of this book immediately. I promise you that you won't be disappointed. You may feel a little emotionally battered by it it, but you will feel a sense of awe. It really is that good.

I am certain that Panther is going to be a huge success for David Owen. He is a very exciting new talent, certainly a name to watch out for.

My thanks to Grace from Constable & Robinson who arranged the Blog Tour and invited me to take part.

David Owen achieved a first class honours in BA Creative Writing and an MA Writing for Children at the University of Winchester, where he went on to teach on the BA Creative Writing course for three years. 

He is also an awards-shortlisted games journalist, with a particular interest in the applications for video games outside of entertainment, and he has written about games being used to treat depression, dyslexia and autism. 

David has been published as a poet in journals including Agenda and Seam. Panther is his first novel.

Find out more about David at
Follow him on Twitter @davidowenauthor

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Tuesday 12 May 2015

Hunted by Paul Finch **** BLOG TOUR ****

Get hooked on Heck: the maverick detective who knows no boundaries. A grisly whodunit you won’t be able to put down, perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride and TV series ‘Luther’.
Heck needs to watch his back. Because someone’s watching him…I
Across the south of England, a series of bizarre but fatal accidents are taking place. So when a local businessman survives a near-drowning but is found burnt alive in his car just weeks later, DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is brought in to investigate.
Soon it appears that other recent deaths might be linked: two thieves that were bitten to death by poisonous spiders, and a driver impaled through the chest with scaffolding.
Accidents do happen but as the body count rises it’s clear that something far more sinister is at play, and it’s coming for Heck too…

Welcome to the BLOG TOUR for Hunted by Paul Finch which   published by Avon in paperback on 7 May 2015.

I really wanted to be able to include my own review of Hunted in this post, but sadly, I became a victim of crime myself over the weekend. I was a bridesmaid for our friends. The wedding was beautiful and everything went as planned until bedtime when we went back to our hotel room to find that we had been burgled. So, things went a little 'off plan', and I've not had chance to finish Hunted yet.

Hunted is book five in Paul Finch's DS Mark 'Heck' Heckenburg series, and has many fans already. Do check out the other stops on the Blog Tour to read some reviews and thoughts from my fellow bloggers.

Keith at Books and Writers has an interview with the author.

Sonya at A Lover of Books is running a competition, she's giving away three copies of Hunted.

Shaun at Book Addict Shaun has a great interview with Paul Finch.

The PR for Hunted was fabulous, once again LightBrigade PR team excelled themselves. The first surprise parcel contained a couple of bizarre masks, the second was a gift of two spiders!  Very clever and very enticing - well done to them!

Paul Finch is a former cop and journalist, now turned full-time writer. He cut his literary teeth penning episodes of the British crime drama, The Bill. He is also well known for his work in the thriller and horror fields and is a two-times winner of the British Fantasy Award, and a one-time winner of the International Horror Guild Award.

Paul lives in Lancashire, with his wife Catherine and his children, Eleanor and Harry. 

His website can be found at:

Follow him on Twitter @paulfinchauthor

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Friday 8 May 2015

A Killing Moon by Steven Dunne

For the young woman kidnapped on her way home from the pub, the nightmare is about to begin....
Weeks after Caitlin Kinnear goes missing, the police are unable to break her case. Worse they are not even certain harm has come to her. But determined to pursue all leads, DI Damen Brook and his team begin to trawl through the murky world of cheap migrant labour. Convinced that the answers lie hidden within its depths, Brook soon begins to realise Caitlin is in terrible danger.
When the body of another young girl turns up it becomes clear that Caitlin's abduction might not be an isolated incident and the race is on to save her. But with time running out, can Brook put the pieces together and find Caitlin before it's too late?

A Killing Moon was published in hardback by Headline on 7 May and is the fifth in the DI Damon Brook series by Steven Dunne.  I'd like to say that I'm Brook's number one fan, but I know there are others out there who would claim that they are too!  I reviewed the last two in this series; The Unquiet Grave and Deity here on Random Things previously.

Brook hasn't really got  a choice; he can get involved in the latest initiative from Chief Super Charlton, and head up the scrap metal merchant project, or he can act on the suspicions of his colleague John Noble and use his skills as a cold-case investigator. Despite Charlton's initial objections, Brook gets his way, not realising that Noble really is onto something. Something that is going to turn into one of the most complex, difficult, violent and potentially lethal cases that Brook will get involved with.

Steven Dunne does not allow his readers to gently edge themselves into this story. Don't expect to gradually get to know the characters, oh no. Prepare to be shocked by the opening chapter, your mouth may hang open for the rest of the book too.

A Killing Moon touches on many issues and enters the underworld created by Polish immigrants in the seedy back streets of Derby. Also running through this story are themes of extremism and people who are so convinced by their die-hard beliefs that their actions become shocking and murderous. There are stomach-churning scenes of inhumanity and cruelty, the tension is high and the action moves quickly.

Brook and his police colleagues are believable and incredibly well created, from the almost stereotypical Chief Super, to the Constables. Brook has, over this series, begun to leave some of his past behind, and his colleagues are often surprised during A Killing Moon when he shows a more human side. Brook has always struggled to fit into the team, he has suffered a breakdown in the past, and also been off sick after being injured on duty. However, despite his more human side beginning to show, he still has a sharp tongue and does not tolerate idiots or 'Americanisms', his sarcasm can be cutting, but he is loyal to his colleagues ... and Steven Dunne elicits a form of loyalty from his readers towards Brook too.

Steven Dunne's writing is refined and sophisticated. He writes intelligent thrillers that challenge the reader. He teases the reader throughout, allowing them to have glimpses of what may be to come, but never giving away the full story. This only adds to the intensity of feelings evoked by the story and the anticipation of what is to come is spine-tingling.

A Killing Moon is, in my opinion, the best in the Damon Brook series so far, and that is high praise from me as this character is my favourite copper in literature today.

My thanks to Headline and Bookbridgr who sent my copy for review.

Steven Dunne was born in Bradford, Yorkshire but moved to London after attending Kent University and St Mary's College in Twickenham.

He became a freelance journalist writing for The Times and the Independent and, after co-writing a comedy pilot, wrote the book for The Latchmere Theatre's award-winning pantomime Hansel and Gretel.

Since moving to Derby he has written five highly acclaimed thrillers, including The Unquiet Grave and Deity, all featuring DI Damen Brook of Derby CID

Follow him on Twitter @ReaperSteven

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Thursday 7 May 2015

No Place For A Lady by Gill Paul *** COVER REVEAL ***

No Place For A Lady by Gill Paul will be published in paperback by Avon Books on 2 July 2015.

To celebrate the anniversary of the Lusitania today, the publishers are revealing the beautiful cover of the book, and I'm delighted to share this with you.

No Place For a Lady will hook anyone who’s loving Poldark, weeps at Suite Fran├žaise, devours writers such as Victoria Hislop, and can’t believe their luck when they find Gone With the Wind is on the TV. 
Set against a backdrop of the Crimean War, packed with gripping drama, vivid historical detail and with a love story that will squeeze your heart tight – this is the perfect all-consuming summer read.

All’s fair in love and war …
1854. England is in the grip of a gruesome war.
Lucy Harvington, ill-educated beyond how to be a wife, has travelled to the Crimea with her handsome and impetuous officer husband Charlie.
As the day of battle dawns she can only pray her husband survives. If he doesn’t, what will become of her?
Dorothea Gray, volunteer nurse at the Westminster Hospital, is determined to follow her little sister Lucy to the front and to serve her country alongside her heroine Florence Nightingale and the pioneering nurses already risking their lives.
But neither sister could possibly have known the horrors they are about to witness – the courage, the cowardice, the danger – and the excitement – nor could they have guessed the risks they must take, the passion they will taste, and the simple fact that they may never see one another again …

Gill Paul's short story E-book We Sink Or Swim Together is out today.
The Weepy One: Part of the Love…Maybe ebook short story collection.

Gerda Nielsen is on her way from Brooklyn to Liverpool aboard the ill-fated Lusitania in 1915.
Jack Walsh is returning to England, ready to take up a post developing new types of portable field telephones to help the war effort. Unmarried, he’s keen to settle and as he and Gerda spend more and more time onboard together they realise that each has found someone very special.
But it’s the afternoon before they dock in Liverpool, and tragedy strikes. As the torpedoed ship lists to one side Jack and Gerda must make frightening decisions that become a matter of life or death …
A beautiful, romantic and moving tale based on a true story.

***This is a short story, which you can also buy as part of the Love…Maybe Eshort Collection***

Gill Paul is a writer of meticulously researched historical fiction. 
Her five novels include Women and Children First (set on the Titanic and published in 2012 for the centenary of the sinking) and The Affair (set in Rome in the early 1960s, and published in May 2013, on the 50th anniversary of the release of the Burton-Taylor Cleopatra movie). 
Gill has written several non-fiction books, including Royal Love Stories and World War I Love Stories.
For more information, visit her website
Follow her on Twitter @GillPaulAUTHOR

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Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye *** Paperback Publication, Author Post & BIG NEWS ***

In the small town of Heron Key, where the relationships are as tangled as the mangrove roots in the swamp, everyone is preparing for the 4th of July barbecue, unaware that their world is about to change for ever. Missy, maid to the Kincaid family, feels she has wasted her life pining for Henry, who went to fight on the battlefields of France. Now he has returned with a group of other desperate, destitute veterans, unsure of his future, ashamed of his past.
When a white woman is found beaten nearly to death, suspicion falls on Henry. As the tensions rise, the barometer starts to plummet. But nothing can prepare them for what is coming. For far out over the Atlantic, the greatest storm ever to strike North America is heading their way...

Back in December of last year I read and reviewed .... no, I raved about ... Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye which was published in hardback by Orion on 15 January 2015.

The paperback edition of Summertime is published today, 7 May 2015 by Orion.

I am so excited and thrilled that Summertime has been picked as a Richard & Judy Book Club
Summer read for 2015. This is a fabulous achievement for Vanessa Lafaye, and can only mean that more and more people will read this amazing book.

Congratulations Vanessa and Orion Books!

Summertime has also been nominated for the Newcomer of 2015 promotion – so please do vote via the Reading Agency website.

My full review of Summertime is here on Random Things, here's just a snippet of what I had to say;

"This is an incredibly powerful story, with deep and very detailed characters. The terrifying and powerful storm is described so well, with details that are both violent and heartbreaking.

A novel of small town America, of racial divide, of the strength of nature and ultimately a love story. Summertime is an exquisite piece of writing; rich, satisfying and beautiful."

I was not the only person to fall in love with Summertime. It went on to get rave reviews in the media and from other authors;

A storming debut novel [that] captures the racial and social tensions in southern America after the First World War. Part social history and part love story, this features the hurricane as a forceful, malevolent character in its own right, whipping through the pages. (THE BOOKSELLER)

'Powerful, beautifully written and simply unputdownable. If you can read this book and not be moved, you have a heart of stone.' (Cathy Kelly)

'I absolutely loved SUMMERTIME; it's rare to read something with such emotional intensity and such exciting pace. It is every bit as good as THE HELP, in my opinion.' (Elizabeth Noble)

1935. An Independence day BBQ simmers with racial tension and resentments. By morning, a terrible crime has been committed. Off the Florida coast, a hurricane is heading their way. So tense, I raced through it. (Fanny Blake WOMAN & HOME)

part love-story, part eye-opening insight into a tumultuous time in American history - the years after the First World War, when veterans tried to rebuild their lives and racial tensions ran high (GOOD HOUSEKEEPING)

A small community is rocked by an attack on a white woman and suspicion falls on war veteran Henry in a story set against the backdrop of a catastrophic hurricane. Vanessa Lafaye's Summertime is being compared to The Help and To Kill A Mockingbird. (Charlotte Heathcote SUNDAY EXPRESS)

I am delighted to welcome Vanessa Lafaye to Random Things today.  Vanessa has written a wonderful piece about inspiration.  I hope you enjoy it:

The Breath of Creativity

Vanessa Lafaye

Inspire verb
1. To fill someone with the urge to do something, especially something creative
2. To breathe in

It seems very appropriate that the word ‘inspire’ carries both the definitions above. Inspiration is not only the fuel that drives creative people: it is necessary to our continued existence, no less than breathing. Yet it is fickle, unpredictable, and unreliable. It abandons us when we need it most, and pays a visit at the least convenient times (e.g. on the toilet or during sex).

Without it, the gears of the imagination seize up, and the writer’s confidence turns to dust. It feels like every word must be excavated from the brain with a rusty spoon. The characters throw us quizzical, expectant looks, stuck mid-scene, waiting to be told what to do next. We flounder. Self-doubt rushes in to fill the vacuum. Cue panicked calls to agents and publishers for reassurance, and ill-advised chocolate/alcohol/shopping/baking binges. Writing is the worst job in the world!

When inspiration strikes, it does actually feel like a blow to the head, by a hammer made of angel feathers. Everything becomes clear in an instant: character motivations, plot turns, setting details. Energy and confidence flood back in and writing becomes easy, joyous, exhilarating. The words fly from brain to page and arrange themselves into meaningful patterns. The characters behave naturally, the setting glows. The only thing that matters is to keep doing it while the vision is still clear, while the ideas keep dancing together to music that only I can hear. It takes over every bodily need, including food. I’ve never experienced a Class A drug high, but I imagine that it feels like this. And I’m not at all surprised that artists of all kinds throughout history have sought inspiration there. Writing is the best job in the world! Until the next time…

So where does it come from, this essential yet elusive spark? I’ve been asked to write about what inspires me, so this is a personal answer, but of one thing I am sure: if it were sold as a potion, every creative type that I know would sell a kidney to get some of it.

I have a very visual imagination. I tend to write what I see in my head, so images in particular can be inspiring. This is how ‘Summertime’ came about. On a visit to Florida, I opened the morning paper to find an extremely striking, disturbing photo taken in 1935 after a ‘spectacle lynching’ in a small town in the state. A black man stands looking up at the corpse in the tree, whose legs dangle into the shot. The man’s face is blank of emotion. I started to wonder who he was, why he was there, what he was thinking. That man became my character Henry, even before I had a story. That lynching turned into a scene in the book when Henry goes on the run. As I write this, I have in front of me an historical image which gave me the idea for book 2.

Because I’m writing historical fiction, films set in the period are very inspiring. They help to immerse me in the speech, culture, and daily life of the past. It’s like watching a newsreel that my characters could have seen, and makes me feel part of their lives. I am also very inspired by the stories of the real people who lived through the events—their struggles, their sacrifices, their disappointments. I never forget the responsibility that comes from writing about stuff that actually happened to real people, not just to my fictional characters.

Sometimes a small detail can lead to much bigger inspiration. An early reader comment made me decide to develop the character Selma more than I had intended, and I began to research Haitian voodoo. This proved so fascinating that it turned into one of the most important themes in the book.

Everyone knows of the writer’s magpie tendency to pluck bits of real life for use in fiction. This can happen anywhere, any time. I met Poncho the macaw this way, on another visit to Florida. He was perched on a man’s shoulder (name forgotten) as he stopped to talk to interested people, astride his old bicycle. Poncho was magnificent. He waited patiently while his human talked all about macaw habits and biology. The man became the model for my character Zeke but Poncho entered the book unaltered. More recently, on a long plane flight, I was struggling to bring into focus the heroine for book 2 when I glanced at the woman across the aisle and saw her. The woman’s colouring was just what I needed to see, and I had to sneak several more surreptitious looks to imprint it on my mind.

Reading is, of course, another activity rich in inspirational sources. Reading ‘The Help’ inspired me but also made me decide to avoid heavy dialect in my book. I get inspiration from the clever ways that other authors structure their books. Although it may sound strange, I find reading book reviews very inspiring as well as educational and even motivational. Every Sunday while writing ‘Summertime’, I read the ‘Times’ book reviews. I learned a lot, about what reviewers like and don’t like. I picked up new items for my TBR list. Reading the reviews inspired me to keep going, in the hope that one day my book might be published, and someone, somewhere might review it. Never in my craziest, cake-fuelled delusions did I ever think that it would actually appear in the Sunday Times review pages, but it did. That was an anxious and incredibly surreal moment…and inspirational in its own way.

Vanessa Lafaye was born in Tallahassee and raised in Tampa, Florida, where there were hurricanes most years. 
She first came to the UK in 1987 looking for adventure, and found it. After spells of living in Paris and Oxford, she now lives in Marlborough, Wiltshire, with her husband and three furry children. 
Vanessa leads the local community choir, and music and writing are big parts of her life.

For more information about the author, visit her website
Visit her Facebook page         Follow her on Twitter @VanessaLafaye

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