Friday 27 November 2015

Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard and Beyond by Phil Collen and Chris Epting

Meet Phil Collen. You may know him as the lead guitarist in Def Leppard, whose signature song Pour Some Sugar on Me is still as widely enjoyed as when it debuted in 1988. Maybe you’ve heard of him as the rock star who gave up alcohol and meat more than 25 years ago. Most likely you’ve seen him shirtless - in photos or in real life - flaunting his impeccably toned body to appreciative female fans.

But it wasn’t always like this. Collen worked his way up from nothing, teaching himself guitar from scratch as a teenager by imitating his heroes. He slogged it out in London-based pub bands for years, long before Def Leppard formed and transformed from unknowns to icons (all thanks to a little album called Pyromania), from playing openers in near-empty arenas to headlining in those same stadiums and selling them out every night. But as Collen discovered, true overnight success is a myth. Like the other band members, he had to struggle and fight his way to the top; in the end, he says, 'our work ethic saved us'. Just as it still does.

This is Collen’s story, starting with his first real taste of success and wild rock and roll excess as a member of the seminal glam rock outfit Girl. But once he joins Def Leppard, it’s also an amazing underdog tale featuring a bunch of ordinary working-class lads who rose to mega-stardom, overcoming incredible obstacles - such as the drummer, Rick Allen, who lost an arm in a car crash, and the tragic death of guitarist Steve Clark, Phil’s musical soul mate, who lost his fight with alcoholism. Featuring personal, never-before-seen photos of Collen and his band mates on stage and off,Adrenalized is a fascinating account of the failures, triumphs, challenges, and rock-hard dedication it takes to make dreams come true.

Adrenalized was published in hardback by Bantam Press in October 2015, and is Phil Collen's story.

There is a saying; something about never meeting your heroes. Well, in this case, for me, it should be never read a biography of your hero. I've been a Def Leppard fan since the 80s. I bought their albums (in vinyl, before the days of CD, let alone downloads), I went to their gigs. I saw them in Leeds in the late 80s, I saw them play their massive 'hometown', never to be forgotten gig at Don Valley Stadium in the mid 90s.

Great, I thought. Phil Collen has written (or co-written) his story, I'll read that, it will be fabulous to relive the memories. Pah!

Adrenalized is certainly Phil Collen's story, but for a Northern British fan it's a huge disappointment. It is clearly aimed at the American market, I know that the band were huge in the States, they struck gold over there way before they made an impression here in the UK, but why speak directly to the American fans only? Phil Collen was born and brought up in London, yet he talks about putting gas in his car and turning on the faucet. He talks about meeting the Queen of England instead of just 'The Queen' and compares well-known shows such as The Old Grey Whistle Test to American shows. It's very annoying, it's very off putting and the more I read, the more I went off the bloke. That is a shame.

The writing is fine, I guess that Chris Eptling did most of it. It's the whole feel of it and how Collen comes across as a person, that I didn't like. For those of us, at home in the UK who supported them when Rick Allen lost his arm in a car accident, and cheered when he returned on his custom-made drums, for those of us who grieved along side the band when Steve Clark died and for those of us who went to their massive hometown gig on a very hot day at Sheffield Don Valley arena, this feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth.  That Don Valley gig was huge. The hugest thing that the band had done for years; the first band to play the Stadium, a Sheffield band, a full day. We loved it, they sounded fabulous, it was one of the best days ever. Phil Collen doesn't mention it once. He talks about loads of shows in the UK, he talks about many more in the US, but he doesn't give Sheffield Don Valley Stadium one teeny tiny mention. Kick. In. The. Teeth.

If you can keep up with his love life, take a bow. This is not a long book but there are so many relationships mentioned, they all seem to blur into one another. At one stage, towards the end, he's moved in with a woman and her child, at the same time he's having a baby with his on/off wife, and then another baby, and at the same time he's starting a relationship with another woman .... it's all confusing and told in a very flippant way.

I'm not even going to go into a discussion about the last chapter; the philosophical mutterings, the deep thoughts. By the time I'd got to this part I was just fed up to the back teeth.

I don't usually feature books on the blog if I've not enjoyed them, after all, we all have different tastes, and what I don't enjoy, someone else may love. However, this is not fiction, this is a memoir and it's a bloke that I've been a fan of for years, and it's really annoyed me, so I decided to say so!

Phil Collen is the lead guitarist of the legendary rock band Def Leppard. He has been a vegetarian for 31 years, alcohol-free for 28 years, and vegan for over four years, busting the myth of the classic rock star stereotype.

Chris Epting is the author of many books, including: Led Zeppelin Crashed Here, All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Kiss and Hello, It's Me - Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie.


Thursday 26 November 2015

The Complete Peter Pan (Alma Classics) Paperback – Illustrated by J M Barrie & GIVEAWAY

The boy who wouldn't grow up, Peter Pan has the power of flight and lives on a magical island. But he is fascinated by Mary Darling's bedtime stories for her children and makes covert night-time visits to their Bloomsbury home. One evening he loses his shadow, and after Mary's daughter Wendy helps him reattach it, he invites her to fly away with him on an extraordinary adventure.
In addition to the famous 1911 novel Peter and Wendy, which tells the familiar adventures of Peter Pan in Neverland and popularized the characters of Tinkerbell and Captain Hook, this volume contains the celebrated stage version on which Peter and Wendy is based, as well as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, in which Peter Pan is a seven-day-old infant who consorts with birds and fairies and travels down the Serpentine in a thrush's nest.

This new illustrated The Complete Peter Pan by J M Barrie and illustrated by Joel Stewart was published by Alma Classics on 15 October 2015.

I have a paperback copy of The Complete Peter Pan to give away.  To enter; complete the Widget at the bottom of this post.  UK entries only.  Good luck!

 I expect that most of us are familiar with the story of Peter Pan, I know that I discovered the Disney version way before I actually read the book!  I'm not a huge classics reader, but I do love some of the children's classics and Peter Pan is a favourite.  This newly published edition is just beautiful and has the added bonus of stories that I'd not come across before. We find the tiny baby Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, it's really lovely to read and sets the background for the more famous story in Neverland.

This lovely book would make a fabulous Christmas present and also has extra information for young readers, as well as the stage version.

About the illustrator:  Prize-winning illustrator Joel Stewart is known internationally for his Dexley Bexley picture books. He has also illustrated the words of Julia Donaldson, Carol Ann Duffy and Michael Rosen among others. He is the creator/director of the hit children's animation series The Adventures of Abney and Teal as well as being a musician, collecting and playing increasingly odd instruments.
Visit his blog

J M Barrie (1860 - 1937) was a prolific Scottish playwright and novelist who is now best remembered for his play Peter Pan and its spin-off novel Peter and Wendy

About Alma Classics


Alma Classics is an imprint of Alma Books. Alma Books was set up in October 2005 by Alessandro Gallenzi and Elisabetta Minervini, the founders of Hesperus Press. Following its takeover of the Oneworld Classics list in February 2012, it now publishes around seventy new titles a year, mainly in the field of contemporary literary fiction and classics. Alma takes around forty per cent of its titles from English-language originals, while the rest are translations from French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese and other languages. Alma also publishes around five non-fiction titles each year. Alma Books includes the following imprints: Alma Books, Alma Classics, Overture (music imprint), Calder Publications (founded 1949) and Herla (Poetry). The backlist comprises over 300 titles. Alma counts half a dozen Nobel-Prize winners in its list and many more British and international award-winning authors and translators.
As well as publishing internationally renowned authors, Alma takes pride in discovering and fostering new talents that go on to win prizes and become established writers across the world.
Alma – which is Spanish for “soul” – is a publisher that regards a book as an aesthetic artefact rather than as a mass-produced commodity. The company’s whole emphasis lies on quality over quantity, all the way from choosing projects for publication to creating the physical look and feel of each volume. Alma works intimately with authors and translators to develop the best possible finished scripts, and displays a passionate commitment to the kind of professional editing, copy-editing and proofreading that is dying out elsewhere. 
Alma was named Independent Publisher of the Year at the Bookseller Industry Awards in May 2013. The following month, Alma was awarded the Premio Nazionale per la Traduzione by the Italian Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali for its contribution to the promotion of Italian culture abroad. It was the first time, since the award’s inauguration in 1989, that a British publisher won this prestigious prize.

One Paperback copy of The Complete Peter Pan


Wednesday 25 November 2015

Follow Me by Angela Clarke

The 'Hashtag Murderer' posts chilling cryptic clues online, pointing to their next target. Taunting the police. Entralling the press. Capturing the public's imagination.
But this is no virtual threat.
As the number of his followers rises, so does the body count.
Eight years ago two young girls did something unforgivable. Now, ambitious police officer Nasreen and investigative journalist Freddie are thrown together again in a desperate struggle to catch this cunning, fame-crazed killer. But can they stay one step ahead of him? And can they escape their own past?
Time's running out. Everyone is following the #Murderer. But what if he is following you?

Follow Me by Angela Clarke is published by Avon. The ebook is out on 3 December 2015, followed by the paperback on 31 December 2015.

Social Media; Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram .... the home of arguments, feuds, debate. A platform to connect with people just like you, or to haunt those that are the opposite. A place to make friends, or enemies. Social Media: the biggest change in how we live our lives, how we talk to each other, how we learn things. Online ..... where no one can hear you scream.

Follow Me is a story that could haunt any Twitter user, it will make you think about who you are online, and who can see you. It could change your habits.

Freddie is an investigative journalist. No, actually, Freddie would like to be an investigative journalist. Whilst she's waiting for her big break she's working in a coffee bar and writing a column for an online news site. Freddie's life revolves around her phone. She wakes up everyday and checks her screen; what's happening on Twitter, who has sent her a WhatsApp. Freddie's life is a bit of a disaster; she hates her boss, she sleeps on a ratty sofa, she lives with a gang of people who she doesn't really know, she has casual sex with random guys that she meets online. Freddie needs a story that will show the world that she IS somebody, she needs a scoop, something that nobody has got.

When Freddie bumps into her old friend Nasreen, her memories catapult her back to better days. She remembers her childhood, how strong their friendship was. They shared secrets, they were solid. But something happened to change that, and now Nasreen is a police officer and Freddie is on the scrap heap.

And then, bang. The action starts. There's a murder, and it's being played out on Twitter. The Hashtag Murderer is taunting the police. The number of people following the murderer increases by the hour, and the body count rises too. If there is anyone who can help the police, it's Freddie, and she soon finds herself smack bang in the middle of the investigation as the police Social Media Advisor .... and the chase is on.

Angela Clarke's writing is taunt, dark and bang on the mark. She has managed to get deep into the world of Social Media and delivered a story that is up to date, compelling and absolutely fascinating. Freddie is an unconventional character, so far away from the usual lead character in crime novels, but so well developed.

Alongside the hunt for the #Hashtag Murderer, the reader is transfixed by the relationship between Freddie and Nasreen. The mystery of their childhood friendship an its abrupt ending permeates this story and exposes Freddie's more vulnerable and softer side. I have no idea whether a police force would really take on an unknown to become such an integral part of a high profile murder case, and I'm not really bothered, because for me, Follow Me is a refreshing, new look at police procedure, and crime fiction on the whole.

There are moments when my heart beat so fast that I actually felt quite sick, the author hooks you and reels you in and it is almost impossible to get this story out of your head.

Twists and turns a plenty. This is a totally gripping and engrossing story. I'd recommend it highly.

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

Angela Clarke is an author, columnist and playwright. Her debut crime novel Follow Me (Avon) is out December 2015. Follow Me is the first in the Social Media Murders Series.

Her memoir Confessions of a Fashionista (Ebury) is an Amazon Fashion Chart bestseller. Her debut play The Legacy received rave reviews after it's first run at The Hope Theatre in June 2015. Angela's journalist contributions include: The Guardian, The Independent Magazine, The Daily Mail, and Cosmopolitan. Now magazine described her as a 'glitzy outsider'. Angela read English and European Literature at Essex University, and Advances in Scriptwriting at RADA. In 2015 Angela was awarded the Young Stationers' Prize for achievement and promise in writing and publishing.

She is almost always late or lost, or both. 

Find out more at:

Find her author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @TheAngelaClarke

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Meet Me in Manhattan by Claudia Carroll **** BLOG TOUR *****

In a New York minute, everything can change …
You don’t mess with aspiring journalist Holly Johnson! The man she fell for is not all that he seems – because sometimes dating online doesn’t quite go to plan. She’s decided to fly to the Big Apple to surprise him and to get some answers. And if her plan works she’ll also get the scoop of her career …
But as she steps out of her yellow taxi and the first snowflakes start to fall, it’s Holly who has the surprise of her life.
What should be a dream come true is looking a little like a nightmare. But Holly is determined to get her New York happy ending!

I'm happy to welcome you to the Blog Tour for Meet Me in Manhattan by Claudia Carroll, published in paperback by Avon on 3 December 2015.

I have a real fondness for Claudia Carroll's writing. She writes stories that cheer, that make you smile and that are so easy to disappear into. I read a lot of different genres, I enjoy many authors. Some of them are serious and tense, some are heavy and issue-led. Claudia Carroll is none of these things, she's a romantic comedy author, and proud of it, and she's also one of the best.

Meet Me in Manhattan bring the age-old girl meets boy story bang up to date. Our heroine Holly has entered the world of online dating, she's jumped in feet first and totally embraced the instant messaging, the 'swipe right', she's on it.

When Holly met Andy online, she thought all of her Christmases and Birthdays had arrived together. He's an airline pilot in America, he's a widow, has a small child and is incredibly attentive. Well as attentive as anyone can be when you are separated by thousands of miles. The day of their first face-
to-face meeting arrives and this is when Claudia Carroll's writing really touches the heart. The scene in the restaurant as Holly sits waiting for Andy to arrive is heartbreaking. Holly's confusion and disappointment, and her determination to think the best of Andy is palpable.

Andy doesn't arrive and it is Holly's best friend Joy who is there to help her through. Joy knows Holly, she knows her vulnerabilities, her history. She's protective of her friend. Holly is determined to travel to America and to find out just what Andy's game is. So off she goes, risking her job, and her heart, to Manhattan.

 Manhattan becomes a character it is own right in this book. Claudia Carroll's wonderful descriptions of this magical Christmassy place are amazing. I've never been to New York, but after reading this book, I'd be on the first plane there in an instance if I got the chance.

There are lots and lots of unexpected surprises in this story which kept me happily reading right up until the end. Holly is a character who evokes sympathy from the reader, she's kind and compassionate and she'd make a great best friend.

If you want a book to curl up with on a dreary December afternoon, a book that will keep you entertained and show you the sights and sounds of Manhattan, then this is the one to choose.

Claudia Carroll is a number one bestselling author in Ireland and a top ten bestseller in the UK, selling over 300,000 copies of her paperbacks alone. 

She was born in Dublin where she still lives and where she has worked extensively both as a theatre and stage actress. 

She now writes full-time. 

Her 2013 novel ME AND YOU was shortlisted for the Bord Gais Popular Choice Irish Book Award.

More information about Claudia Carroll and her books can be found at her website
Follow her on Twitter @carrollclaudia


Monday 23 November 2015

Dead Babies and Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly **** BLOG TOUR ****

The world of dead babies is a silent and shuttered place. You do not know it exists until you find yourself there.

When Alice Jolly's second child was stillborn and all subsequent attempts to have another baby failed, she began to consider every possible option, no matter how unorthodox. 

Dead Babies and Seaside Towns is a savagely personal account of the search for an alternative way to create a family. As she battles through miscarriage, IVF and failed adoption attempts, Alice's only solace from the pain is the faded charm of Britain's crumbling seaside towns. Finally, this search leads her and her husband to a small town in Minnesota, and two remarkable women who offer to make the impossible possible. 

In this beautiful book, shot through with humour and full of hope, Alice Jolly describes with a novelist's skill events that woman live through every day – even if many feel compelled to keep them hidden. Her decision not to hide but to share them, without a trace of sentiment or self-pity, turns Dead Babies and Seaside Towns into a universal story: one that begins in tragedy but ends in joy.

Welcome to my spot on the Blog Tour for Dead Babies and Seaside Towns by Alice Jolly, published by Unbound in hardback on July 2 2015.

It's an odd title for a book. I could put people off. However this is a book about dead babies, whichever way you look at it. I've often heard people say that they were shocked by a book's content, that they had no idea ..... Alice Jolly has made it clear with her title, the clue is there.  Yes, it's a distressing subject, and yes, if you really can't handle it, then don't read it .... but, and it's a HUGE

but, you really should. There's no 'angels with wings in heaven' in this book, it's not mawkish or sentimental.  It's honest, harrowing, painful but very very important.

Alice Jolly has opened her heart and exposed her innermost feelings; her sorrows and her joys within the words of Dead Babies and Seaside Towns. You do not have to be a parent to appreciate this book, you do not have to have wanted to be a parent either. Although this is the story of a dead baby, and the long and tortuous journey that Alice and her husband embarked upon to try to complete their family, you only have to be human to understand and to connect with these words.

One could reasonably expect this book to be almost unbearably bleak and grave, and whilst there is no getting away from the sorrow contained within it, it is also filled with hope and ultimately, with joy.

The author skilfully incorporates medical procedure and legal process into her own personal story, giving the reader an insight into how loss is dealt with and perceived by the professionals, and also how the quest to become a parent by other means can be arduous and painful. She includes views from those closest to her as well as her own thoughts and feelings, making this a well-balanced and rounded story that deals with both the negative and the positives.

Alice Jolly considers many issues within her pages, her story is about grief, loss, parenthood, friendship, trust and a love affair with the seaside towns are unique to Britain.

Alice Jolly is a novelist and playwright. 
She has published two novels with Simon and Schuster and has been commissioned four times by the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. 
She has also written for Paines Plough and her work has been performed at The Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden and The Space, East London. 
Her memoir ‘Dead Babies and Seaside Towns’ was published by Unbound in July 2015. 
In 2014 one of her short stories won The Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize. 
She teaches creative writing on the Mst at Oxford University.

More information can be found on her website
Follow her on Twitter @JollyAlice


Sunday 22 November 2015

Bloodstream by Luca Veste

Social media stars Chloe Morrison and Joe Hooper seem to have it all - until their bodies are found following an anonymous phone call to their high-profile agent. Tied and bound to chairs facing each other, their violent deaths cause a media scrum to descend on Liverpool, with DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi assigned to the case. 

Murphy is dismissive, but the media pressure intensifies when another couple is found in the same manner as the first. Only this time the killer has left a message. A link to a private video on the internet, and the words 'Nothing stays secret'. It quickly becomes clear that more people will die; that the killer believes secrets and lies within relationships should have deadly consequences...

Bloodstream by Luca Veste was published in paperback by Simon & Schuster on 22 October 2015. It is the author's third novel and once again, features detectives Murphy and Rossi of the Liverpool police. The first in this series: Dead Gone was published in January 2014, and the second, The Dying Place was released in December 2014.

Well kept secrets, the glare of the media, a lack of evidence and the incessant buzz of social media theorists are no help to Murphy and Rossi as they work to solve this case. Two celebrities are found dead in a derelict house and there are no clues. Well, no clues that are easily found.  The killing continues, there are more deaths. The case becomes more and more complex.

Once again, Luca Veste has written a crime story that grips from page one. He allows the reader a little insight into what has happened, far more than poor Murphy and Rossi have, whilst keeping up the mystery and suspense.   The relationship between these two detectives is amazing, they work well together and their own vulnerabilities and emotions are not hidden, they are real and lifelike.

The Liverpool setting is so well-done, there's a darkness to the place that is echoed in the references to the grim and often deadly side of Social Media. This is a story that is up to date, relevant and at times, very disturbing.

Luca Veste's awareness of the psychology of the killers, the victims and the police adds a depth to this novel that makes it fresh and contemporary.  His writing is accessible and exciting.

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

Luca Veste is a writer of Italian and Scouse heritage, married with two young daughters, and one of nine children. He is the author of the Murphy and Rossi novels.

He was the editor of the Spinetingler Award nominated charity anthology 'Off The Record', and co-editor of 'True Brit Grit', also an anthology of short stories for charity.

He is a former civil servant, actor, singer and guitarist (although he still picks it up now and again). In his acting days, he appeared as a "background artist" - read: extra - on a number of Brookside and Hollyoaks episodes and also once spent three nights in a black leather mini-skirt and high-heels, in front of an ever dwindling audience in a Liverpool theatre!

For more information about Luca Veste and his writing, visit his website
Find him on Facebook
Follow him on Twitter @LucaVeste


Saturday 21 November 2015

Marco Polo Travel Guides ~ London and Corfu

As well as being an avid reader of both novels and non-fiction books, I also have an addiction to magazines and travel guides.

I can spend hours looking through travel brochures and online travel agents, planning a trip to all sorts of places.  When Gina from Marco Polo Travel Publishing contacted me and asked if I would be interested in seeing some of their travel guides, I jumped at the chance. I picked out guides for places that I already know and love, I wanted to see if there were places that I'd missed, not heard about, that I could put on my 'must do and see' list, and I  also wanted to judge how good they actually are.

So, I asked if I could see their guides for London and Corfu and Gina kindly sent copies of The Travel Handbook for London, the Spiral Guide Perfect Days in London and their Corfu Pocket Guide.

I've spent the past few weeks browsing through them all, and they really are excellent. I've read lots of travel guides and these are perfectly laid out, with colourful pictures, pull out maps and insider tips for each location.

The Perfect Days in London, Spiral Guide is the perfect size to pop into your bag or even your pocket. The cover is shiny and has a map on the front inside, and the back inside has an Underground map with another pull-out map in a clear plastic case.

The spiral binding is especially good as you can find the section that you need and keep it open easily.

The contents are divided up really well; starting out with 'The Magazine' which incorporates; In The Flow of Life - on the Thames; Pub Life; Festive Spirits; City of Change; Urban Green; The Mark of Fame; Football Crazy, London's Best for Free and Live Sounds.  Each of these sections are useful and informative.

The next section is a general overview of the whole of London, called 'Finding Your Feet' and includes; First Two Hours; Getting Around; Accommodation; Food and Drink; Shopping and Entertainment.  There are some really handy tips within this section and I'd consider it a must-read.

The Spiral Guide then goes on to cover different areas of the city; St James, Mayfair & Piccadilly; The City; Westminster and South Bank; Knightsbridge, Kensington & Chelsea; Covent Garden, Bloomsbury & Soho, one by one. Each district has:
  • Getting Your Bearings
  • The Perfect Day
  • Top 10
  • Don't Miss
  • At Your Leisure
  • Where to ....  Eat and Drink, Shop, Go Out
The final section of the guide covers excursions to Kew and Windsor and Walks and Tours in the city.
This really is a very comprehensive guide that seems to cover just about everything and would suit all ages, all tastes and all nationalities.

And so to the Corfu Travel Guide.  We've been visiting Corfu for many years now, usually staying in the North West of the island, but we've also been to the South. It's a beautiful island, with many hidden delights and I was interested to see if this guide covered it well.

It's a small, slim book, again with a glossy cover.  The front cover folds out to reveal 'The Best Marco Polo Highlights'; fifteen places that the publishers consider to be essential. The back cover folds out and has a map of Corfu Town and there is a pull out map of the island enclosed in a plastic wallet.

The guide begins with fifteen of the best insider tips, I found these very interesting and have noted down a couple to try when we return in 2016.  Before the actual guide part of the book there are some really interesting features; Great Places for Free; Only in Corfu, Unique Experiences; If It Rains, Activities to Brighten Your Day; Relax and Chill Out.  Then comes a really comprehensive and fascinating introduction charting the history of the island.  There are sections about life on the island, the food, shopping and the perfect route.

The guide then covers the main areas of the island, region by region.  Starting with Corfu Town and through the north, the south and the central area of the island.  The information is precise, the illustrations are great.  This is a fascinating and tempting guide and certainly enables you to plan a visit that will incorporate all of the best things to do on the island. 

The book finishes off with sections such as; Trips and Tours; Sports and Activities; Travel With Kids; Festivals and Events; Links, Blogs, Apps & More; Travel Tips and Useful Phrases.  

Finally, I have a copy of the London Travel Handbook.  This one is more than your average guide, it's fatter and a little bit heavier, although still small enough to carry about easily.  The cover is more rigid and folds to reveal Marco Polo insights at the front and a very good Underground map at the back.  Like the others, there is a pull out map in a plastic folder within the back cover.

The beginning of the book has a couple of pages of 'Do You Feel Like ...', that covers views of the city from above, drinking in historic pubs, seeing London from the water, exploring interesting cemeteries and graves or doing something really traditional.  This is a great touch and allows you to find relevant places of interest to you.  All of the sightseeing highlights are featured too, including the British Museum, St Paul's Cathedral and Windsor Castle.

The book then moves on to various chapters, starting with the Background of London; interesting facts from history and the modern  day, a way of setting the scene for your visit. The Enjoy London section looks at; Accommodation; Children in London; Entertainment; Festivals, Holidays and Events; Food and Drink; Museums and Exhibitions; Shopping and Tours and Guides.

There's a great section on Tours in the city, with a really eclectic mix of things to do and see, a little different to the usual sightseeing tours. Things such as: Soho: Creative People, Drinker and Intellectuals and Spitalfields - An Immigrant Corner for 100 Years.  The handbook then goes on to cover all of the sights, listed in A-Z, and again there are some unusual, out of the ordinary places included in this section, along with added infographics such as the Changing of the Guard and Monarchs of the Ocean.

Finally, there's a really useful section on practical information for the visitor, especially useful for overseas visitors and includes such things as Health, Money and Prices.

This is a comprehensive, very well put together handbook and would be great for young people and children as a learning aid, as well as it's intended use as a guide book.  There are some brilliant photographs and images and lots of lots of information to be found. 

Marco Polo have produced three fabulous guide books, I'd really recommend them.  

To find out more about Marco Polo and the other guides that they produce, check out their blog    

Huge thanks to Gina who sent these guides to me for review.


Friday 20 November 2015

Author David Mark ~ Access to Mental Health Services

David Mark is the author of the critically acclaimed DS McAvoy series. He's from Hull but now lives in rural Lincolnshire.

I met David at an event that he did at Lindum Books in Lincoln during the summer. He's a great talent, a fabulous author and a funny and entertaining speaker.

David is manic depressive, he's been told that he will be able to access the mental health services he needs within a mere three years of going to see his GP.  He talks about living with the condition.

Depression's quite funny. When you think about it. There you are, bumbling merrily along like a daddy-long-legs on a skirting board and then 'wham' - the fleece-lined slipper of utter despair turns you into an ink-blot.
Too much? Too colouful an analogy? Sorry, I do that. I have a very visual imagination. In my teens the psychologist called them hallucinations, but that's not the right term anymore. 'Projections' was de rigeur, last time I checked. I see things that aren't there as clearly as the things that are. I picture things with such precision that I sometimes find myself remembering other people's memories and shielding my head as fictional bats swirl around me.  I've got a few loose wires. My circuit boards were put in by an electrician who was only in the factory on a day-release scheme from prison. I'm a bit, y'know, wrong.
Does it hold me back? Not a chance. My oddities are my fuel. I've turned what's wrong with me into a career. I write books for a living and spend most of my time living in my head and talking to characters, which is a better way to utilise one's mental illness than laying in bed eating Jaffa Cakes and weeping (not an easy multi-task), which is always the temptation when spells of colossal dejection occur.
I had one such spell in December last year. Things were going well, career-wise. I'd recently moved from a mid-sized publisher to a big one and my new team seemed to think I was a good egg and were using words like 'awesome' to describe the novel I had spent the last few months scraping out of my subconscious with a spoon. My kids were refraining from smashing up bus shelters and both had proven themselves thoroughly reasonable additions to society. Even my partner, who puts up with a lot, had indicated that despite all the evidence to the contrary, I wasn't a total arsehole and she remained very fond of me.
Then came the slipper. Wham. One minute, fine - the next I was bobbing about in an inkwell, trying not to be sucked down into the blackness. Suddenly, everything was pointless. My dreams were unattainable, my reality was a fraud, my successes were written in water. I knew, with utter certainty, that something terrible was going to happen to one of the kids. I knew it would be my fault. I knew myself to be the source of everything wrong in my own life and that the contagion was airborne. I was a poison. I was infecting all that was good in the world. I saw plants dying and roads cracking with each lumbering step. Ah, this was feeling so familiar .....
 I'd been there before, of course. I'm 37 now and have been fighting my depression since I was 16. So I knew what was happening to me. This was an attack. An episode. It would go if I didn't give in to it. I doubled on my anti-depressant pills and started taking them with a medicinal half pint of whiskey. But the blackness kept pulling me down. So I did the sensible thing and went to see my GP.
 "I'm beyond miserable," said I. "I feel like I'm drowning in it. I feel like there are black fingers of pure tar reaching into my throat and suffocating my every whisper of hope and possibility."
The reply was unexpectedly glib. "You're the writer aren't you?"
After a further chat in which I suggested that perhaps it would be better if I didn't throw myself off anything high, I was told that I was being referred to the local mental health partnership for assessment. A month later, I got an appointment through. Determined to approach the process in the right manner, I told the shrink everything. I was honest, open and despite having spent years building up defences, I even blinked out a few tears.
"You need cognitive analytic therapy," he said. "We can help you. But I'm sorry. there's a wait ....."
A month after that I received a phone call from a mental health nurse. Would I mind answering a questionnaire? Ever eager to help, I said I would be delighted. Question one ... how many times a week do you think about suicide?  Is it a) some of the time b) all of the time or c) none of the time. 
Where to start? What kind of week? What's just happened? How do you classify a thought? When you need cognitive analytic therapy, chances are you have a tendency to over-analyse. And forgive me for being ungrateful, but it can be a rather difficult process telling a total stranger your innermost feelings and hearing them say "I just need to tick 'b' or 'c'."
So, a mere ten months went by. Then a letter arrived. Did I still need the services of the mental health team?
Well, the depression had lifted months before, but given how long I'd waited for some attention it seemed churlish not to at least stay within the system. So I finally got an appointment. I met a new psychologist at a health centre a mere 30 miles from my house. I was almost looking forward to it - getting started, making progress, rehabilitating my sprained psyche. Turns out I shouldn't have got my hopes up. 
This wasn't actual therapy, she said. Just an assessment. So we went through what I'd told the first bloke a year earlier. I explained my history, my fears, my desperate desire to think differently. And she was quite clear - I needed cognitive analytic therapy.That was the good news. Bad news, the current waiting time was two years. It would be less if I agreed to group therapy, but there wasn't one within the area which was suitable.
 So, the waiting goes on. Inside the next two years I'll be up and I'll be down; I'll be miserable and hyper; overjoyed and hateful. But I'll deal with it on my own. As one mental health professional told me recently, there's nothing anyone can do until you're standing on the Humber Bridge and looking at the water. Then, they start to take you seriously. 

David spent more than fifteen years as a journalist , including seven years as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post - walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels.

His writing is heavily influenced by the court cases he covered: the defeatist and jaded police officers; the incompetent investigators; the inertia of the justice system and the sheer raw grief of those touched by savagery and tragedy.

He lives in Lincolnshire and is now a full-time novelist.

Find out more at his website 
Twitter @davidmarkwriter


Thursday 19 November 2015

The Secret By The Lake by Louise Douglas **** BLOG TOUR ****

Amy’s always felt like something’s been missing in her life. When a tragedy forces the family she works for as a nanny to retreat to a small lakeside cottage, she realises she cannot leave them now.

But Amy finds something unsettling about the cottage by the lake. This is where the children’s mother spent her childhood – and the place where her sister disappeared mysteriously at just seventeen. 

Soon Amy becomes tangled in the missing sister’s story as dark truths begin rising to the surface. But can Amy unlock the secrets of the past before they repeat themselves?

I'm really pleased to welcome you to the BLOG TOUR for The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas which was published by Black Swan/Transworld on 19 November.   I was honoured to receive a very early copy of The Secret by the Lake and reviewed it here on Random Things back in October.  This is what I said;

The prologue of The Secret by the Lake takes place by Blackwater lake in 1931; a young unnamed housemaid sits and gazes at a beautiful heart-shaped pendant, her thoughts are interrupted by the sound of someone approaching. The girl manages to avoid being seen by the unnamed man. This short prologue forms the basis of a story told thirty years later, and perfectly sets the scene for what is an entrancing and beautifully told story of betrayal and loss.
Moving forward, it's 1961 in Deusables, France. Amy is Nanny to Viviane Laurent. She is more than a Nanny, she is part of the family. Her own family is disjointed, her mother left when she was a small child and her father seems to care more for his pigeons than he does for her. Amy is devastated when she has to leave the Laurents and return to Sheffield to care for her ailing father.
When tragedy strikes, Amy rushes to Viviane and her mother Julia who are now living in Julia's childhood home in Somerset, at the side of Blackwater lake. The glitter and sparkle of Paris life has gone, along with their wealth and beautiful things. Life in the dark gloomy cottage is difficult, and it soon becomes clear that there are deep and sinister secrets hidden within the walls. The community is tight-knit and closed-lipped. Amy struggles to keep Julia's spirits up and Viviane has regressed back, conversing with her imaginary friend .... but is Caroline purely a product of her imagination.
The cottage and the lake are characters in themselves. Louise Douglas' writing sends chills down the spine as she describes the bleak and dreary cottage with it's closed rooms and unidentified noises. The lake consumes the story and the characters, it is central to village life and central to the plot. The vastness of the deep dark waters, the history of tragedy and pain is so well defined and gives a sinister air to the whole story. 
The Secret by the Lake is multi-layered and complex. There are sudden twists and unexpected happenings throughout the story. There are moments in the book that will make the reader's heart pound in anticipation, the author expertly builds tension and fear.
Interwoven with the mystery and suspense is Amy's own gentle love story, so different, yet so closely connected to the story of lost love that emerges and is linked back to the mystery housemaid of the prologue. Louise Douglas is gentle and tender with Amy and her love interest, building their relationship gradually and masterfully. 
The secrets that emerge in this book are age-old and shameful, I had many theories whilst reading the story, but the final reveal is shocking and explosive, and quite perfectly done.
Once again, Louise Douglas has produced a captivating, intelligent and beautifully written story. I became totally lost in the plot, adored the characters and feared the cottage and the lake. An absolutely superb read.


I'm delighted to welcome Louise Douglas to Random Things today.  Louise has written a wonderful guest post, she talks about how the idea for The Secret by the Lake came to her.

Over to Louise ...

The starting point for The Secret by the Lake was something that happened when I was about nine years old.  My family had moved into a brand new housing estate.  The estate was full of young families, there were plenty of children to play with and my friends and I spent our free time riding our bikes up and down the cul-de-sac. At the edge of the estate, where the new houses ran into the gardens of the established ones, was an abandoned old house. We used to pile our bikes outside, break in through the fence, struggle through the overgrown garden and climb int through a broken window. We thrilled and terrified ourselves hiding from one another in the house's many lonely rooms.
Something happened in the old house that summer, something dreadful that was never talked about on the new estate although everybody knew and it’s not the crime so much, but the silence that surrounded it that has haunted me ever since.
I’ve tried and tried to understand why the secret was kept by the community. Were they trying to protect the children, or one another from an unpleasant truth? Were they pretending it had never happened, that such a thing would not, could not happen so close to their lovely new homes? Was it easier to forget if it became a secret - the stuff of nightmares rather than something real?
Recently, it occurred to me that perhaps it was much simpler than that. Maybe the reason the nice young families on the estate never spoke of what happened in the old house was because they did not know how to; nothing in their lives had given them the vocabulary to describe how they felt, there was no precedent, there were no words. They were silenced by their inability to articulate.
Virginia Woolf said that “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life” finds its way into his (or her) books and I can’t speak for everyone, but in my case it’s true.  The Secret by the Lake is fiction but it’s my attempt to pick apart the psychology of a real community that does not know how to talk and slowly becomes corrupted by the things it can not say.


Louise was born in Sheffield, but has lived in Somerset since she was 18. She has three grown up sons and lives with her husband Kevin. The Secret By The Lake is Louise’s sixth novel and she currently writes around her full time job.

In her spare time, Louise loves walking with her two dogs in the Mendip Hills, meeting up with her friends and she’s also an avid reader.



Monday 16 November 2015

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.
And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon will be published in hardback by Borough Press on 28 January 2016 and is the author's debut novel.

Every now and again a debut novel comes along that creates such a buzz that it is almost impossible to ignore. Debut buzz can be created for many reasons, and by many people, and can sometimes be as much as a hindrance as a help. Some readers become determined that they are not going to go along with the hype, or that they don't want to shout about a book that seems to be on everyone's lips. Personally, I think that's all a load of tripe, for goodness sake, choose a book because you want to read it, by all means, but don't do yourself out of what could be the book of the year for you, just because you'd rather be a goat than a sheep.

Those of us that have been aware of Joanna Cannon's writing for a while have been incredibly excited by the thought of this book. Her blog is full of her words, words that ignite something within the reader, words that resonate, that remain.

England 1976. A town somewhere in the East Midlands. An avenue within that town. The hottest summer that anyone can remember. An ordinary street, in an ordinary town, populated by ordinary people.

Mrs Creasy has disappeared. Her husband wanders the street, waiting for her to return, he is convinced that she will be home in time for their Wedding Anniversary. Grace and Tilly are ten-years-old and are determined that they will find Mrs Creasy, but first they will have to find God, because God is everywhere and God knows everything. God will know what has happened to Mrs Creasy.

The adults on The Avenue are concerned about Mrs Creasy's disappearance too. They know that she visited most houses on the street. Some of them know what they had told her. They all worry about how much she knows, and what she is going to do with her knowledge.

The reader settles quickly and comfortably amongst the residents of  The Avenue. Amongst the belongs and those who 'unbelong'. The huge secret that the residents keep slowly comes to light as Grace, accompanied by strange little Tilly ask more questions and discover more and more that the things that ring loudest in their ears are the things that are left unsaid.

I wouldn't dream of telling any more about the story within The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, that's Joanna Cannon's story, not mine. However, I can say that this is one of the most intuitive, poignant and unforgettable novels that I have read in a very very long time. Although it will appeal to all, for me, it was so incredibly familiar. Like Grace and Tilly, I was ten years old in 1976 and I lived in the East Midlands. Whilst my rural village home was not on an avenue in a town, my village had its fair share of goats and sheep. Back then, I didn't recognise them, but now, looking back I see them and hear them quite clearly.

The feeling of familiarity continues with Joanna Cannon's fine detail within her writing, the neat and skilful way that she incorporates the 1970s detail; Whimsies, Kay's Catalogue, Angel Delight and turning the TV on to 'warm up'. Her writing is honest, precise and quite irresistible. The suffocating and scorching unbearable heat of the summer adds intensity and depth to the story as the characters slowly realise that their darkest secrets, kept for many years may be exposed. Their despair screams from the pages, getting louder towards the end as they realise that those who they assumed were sheep, may actually be goats.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is quite extraordinary. It is a very special novel that should be savoured. There are passages, sometimes just a line, that will make the reader stop and re-read, purely to delight in the way that the words are put together. This is an ambitious story, but also a beautiful story.

A triumph, a joy, a gift to the reader.

Huge thanks to the team at Borough Press and Joanna Cannon who put my name on the 'waiting list' and ensured that I received an advance copy for review. My finished copy is on pre-order, and I am in no doubt that I will be buying multiple copies, to thrust upon my friends and family.

From Joanna Cannon - the story behind The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
Working in psychiatry, I meet a lot of people who 'unbelong'. Those who live on the periphery of life, pushed by society to the very edge of the dancefloor, where they try to copy what everyone else is doing, but never quite get it right. There is a silent herd of unbelongers out there, not just on mental health wards, but stitched through the landscape of everyone's day, walking around supermarkets and standing in bus queues. These are the 'goats'. The people who just don't fit in, who 'aren't quite like us'. It's only when something goes wrong, and society needs someone to blame, that the sheep turn to the goats and say, we they were strange all along, and of course they must be guilty, because they just look the type, don't they?
I decided to write Goats and Sheep, because I believe there is a little unbelonging in all of us - it's just that some people are better at hiding it than others. In the story, everyone on The Avenue has something to conceal, a reason for not fitting in. It's only in the thick, suffocating heat of the summer, that the ability to hide these differences becomes impossible, and along with the fractured lawns and the melting tarmac, the lives of all the neighbours begin to deconstruct. Through the eyes of Grace, our ten-year-old narrator, we discover that if we scratch the surface of most sheep, we might very well find ourselves with a goat. And the biggest problem of all, is trying to work out the difference.
I wrote Goats and Sheep at four o'clock in the morning before I went to work, in a wide variety of NHS car parks during my lunch break, and occasionally on a night shift (on the very - very - rare occasion when all my patients were asleep at the same time). It was always a battle between hours and words, but the story was so important to me. I wrote it because I hope it will remind us that we should always ask questions of ourselves. I thought it might help us to be a little kinder to those who stand at the edge of the dancefloor, and perhaps if we spend time looking through Grace's eyes for a little while, it might just help us to realise that unbelonging is actually a belonging all of its own.

Borough Press discovered Joanna Cannon through the WoMentoring Project - a programme set up in 2014 by author Kerry Hudson to match mentors from the publishing industry with talented up and coming female writers.

Joanna Cannon is a psychiatric doctor, and her interest in people on the fringes of society and the borders of sanity has inspired her writing.

She lives in the Peak District and The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is her first novel.

For more information about Joanna Cannon, and her writing, visit her website and blog 
Follow her on Twitter @JoannaCannon   #GoatsAndSheep