Monday 29 August 2016

Miss You by Kate Eberlen @KateEberlen

Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven't met properly yet. And perhaps they never will . . .
Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can't get it out of her head, even though she's in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever - but not in the way she expects.
Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be.
For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England.
Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and fate, there's no way the two of them are ever going to meet each other properly . . . or is there?

Miss You by Kate Eberlen was published by Mantle / Pan Macmillan in hardback on 11 August 2016 and is the author's debut novel.

Oh my goodness! Kate Eberlen swept me up, introduced me to Tess and Gus, involved me in every aspect of their lives, made me love them, had me crying with them and left me bereft as I closed the book and left them behind.

It's been a long time since I fell so in love with two lead characters. Quite often I'll be fond of one character whilst feeling a little bit meh about the other, but Tess and Gus are both divine. I adore them.

We meet Tess and Gus in Florence in 1997, they are there, separately, on holiday. Tess is interrailing with her best friend whilst Gus is, not very enthusiastically, accompanying his parents. The reader meets them and they briefly meet each other.
Tess has achieved the grades that she needs to go to university and Gus is about to begin his medical training, both of them are apprehensive, but determined for their future. Gus desperately wants to break away from parents that are grief stricken whilst Tess is determined to leave behind the small town that does nothing to inspire her and to live the dream in London.

Tess has spent years gazing at a colourful plate hanging in the kitchen at home; a cheap souvenir from Tenerife, it has the words "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" written across it ... and that day in Florence, really is the first day of lives that neither of them expected.

The reader then accompanies Tess and Gus as they live out the next sixteen years of their lives. The chapters are narrated alternately and this could almost be two books in one, except for the very subtle and gentle overlapping that is almost, just almost missed, but essentially binds both parts together to create what I am sure is going to be one of my top books of the year.

Kate Eberlen deals with serious issues, her characters face some of the most challenging things that life can throw at them. She does it so well, she's created not just our two leads but a cast of fully-formed supporting characters who each play an integral part in the story. From Tess's mother, to Gus's brother, from Dolly to Nash .... and the youngsters: Hope and Flora and Bella. Every single one of them are vibrant, not just bit-players but characters who are as much loved as Tess and Gus.

Miss You is a truly wonderful story, an absolute joy to read. It's so cleverly structured and whilst it deals with themes that include terminal illness, mental health, grief and loss, it is also full of sparkling wit and evocative locations. London city stars and Italy takes equal billing, both brought to life; the hustle, the bustle, the culture, the people.

I have already bought copies of Miss You for friends, I will buy more. I have already told every person that I've met since I finished reading it that they really MUST READ IT. I will continue to do so.

I adored Miss You.  Adored. Every. Single. Page

Huge thanks to the publisher who sent my copy of Miss You for review.

Kate Eberlen grew up in a small town thirty miles from London and spent her childhood reading books and longing to escape. After studying Classics at Oxford University, she had lots of different jobs before training to teach English as a Foreign Language with a view to spending more time in Italy, a country she loves. Kate is married and has one son.

Visit her website at

Follow her on Twitter @KateEberlen


Friday 26 August 2016

The Irritatingly Erotic Adventures Of Charles McBride: A Novella by Alan Williams

Charles McBride is fat. He's been through hell, hates everyone and he’s had enough. Now he's going on holiday - alone. But something is about to happen on the train through Italy, that will change his life forever. 
Women might want him but they are not going to have him. Men might want him and they certainly aren't going to have him! Charles is in a temper about everything. He’s going to the seaside fashion capital of Tuscany and he’s stopped holding his stomach in, he’s lost his favourite underwear and he's dressed to kill - or at least cut off his blood supply. 
The author of The Blackheath Seance Parlour brings you a new character that might just prove more popular than the formidable alcoholics that tore apart Victorian London. 
Why not join Charles now as he sips a drink in a little Italian bar and lets out one of those holiday sighs that relinquishes all the stresses and concerns of life back home. His holiday is about to begin. 

The Irritatingly Erotic Adventures of Charles McBride by Alan Williams was published as an ebook at the beginning of August 2016.  I don't own an e-reader, I don't usually read ebooks. However, ever since I read Alan Williams' novel The Blackheath Seance Parlour in October 2013, I've been desperate to read more of his work. This novella is just a short read at around 40 pages, I read it on my phone and snorted and chuckled the whole way through it.

I'm not going to re-tell the story, why would I when this author has already done it so very well? What I'd like to happen is that people will go to Amazon and download it, it's just £2.31 at the time of writing - less than a decent cup of artisan coffee for goodness sake. I assure you, you will not be disappointed ..... well, you won't if you like totally off-the-wall, absolutely bonkers story-telling that features characters who will amaze you and tickle all of your fancies whilst entertaining you and making you smile.

It's rude, it's damn funny, it's perfectly put together. Join Charles as he returns to a favourite holiday spot. He's sure that he knows just what's in store for him ............... are you?

I giggled and snorted my way through Charles' story. I loved it, it's totally bonkers, but I loved it!

My thanks to the author who let me see a pre-publication copy of The Irritatingly Erotic Adventures of Charles McBride.

About Alan Williams by Alan Williams ...
I was born in Wales with the Brecon Beacons as my garden, that will be incorporated into my upcoming book The Lanes of Wales (working title) though they might not be thrilled with it - it's pretty horrific - the book, not Wales.

I love travel, the more off the beaten track the better, the Peruvian Amazon, Venezuela's Mount Roraima (see Conan Doyle's Lost World) and the smaller town of Japan's Islands being my favourites - so far. 

My heart runs to a small seaside town in West Wales whenever I need escape. I've turned that into my next novel The Adequate Swimmer.

I live in Blackheath, South East London, home of the Blackheath Seance Parlour and I work in film and television. 

Basically, reading this back, I appear to be turning all the places I love into horrendous places in my books. I seem to be systematically destroying my life! Still, it's Bingo tonight.

Follow him on Twitter @Alan_L_Williams


Wednesday 24 August 2016

The Muse by Jessie Burton @jesskatbee

A picture hides a thousand words . . .
On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn't know she had, she remains a mystery - no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.
The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .
Seductive, exhilarating and suspenseful, The Muse is an unforgettable novel about aspiration and identity, love and obsession, authenticity and deception - a masterpiece from Jessie Burton, the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist.

The Muse by Jessie Burton was published in hardback by Picador on 30 June 2016 and is the author's second novel. I read and reviewed her first, The Miniaturist here on Random Things in July 2014.

The Muse is a book that could have been written just for me, it's a dual-time story and is set in 1930s Spain and 1960s London, the latter being one of my all time favourite eras for fiction. It's a vast, complex story that spans the decades and the continent and at its heart it has some wonderfully created female characters. It is a total joy to read, snaring the reader from page one as we meet Odelle; a young girl from Trinidad, who arrived in London a few years previously and works as a shop assistant in Dolcis Shoes. London in 1967 is not the easiest place for Odelle to exist in. Looked at with distaste and often overlooked altogether, she is astounded when she is offered a job as a typist at the Skelton Gallery.

Meanwhile in 1936, Spain is on the verge of war and revolution and Olive Schloss; daughter of Harold and Sarah, and aspiring artist is entranced by the mysterious and enigmatic brother and sister; Isaac and Teresa Robles.

The author expertly and quite beautifully weaves the two stories together, seemingly only connected by a work of art, as the novel progresses, the two stories are knitted tighter and tighter together until each and every character has their own place in both parts.

Jessie Burton's portrayal of the fierce divisions in Spain that led up to the Civil War is so clearly and cleverly done, her characters are vibrant yet complicated. Sometimes flawed, often misled, but always intriguing. London in 1967 is a colourful place, a mix of cultures trying to exist together and all this is centred around the world of art, and the discovery of a painting previously unknown and the cause of much excitement .. and also the knife that unpicks long-held secrets.

I really enjoyed Jessie Burton's first novel, The Miniaturist, but I absolutely adored The Muse. It is a gripping, evocative and beautiful book, with characters who come alive and a plot that is unpredictable and surprising and wonderfully crafted. Absolutely wonderful, a book that I will be recommending to everyone I meet.

Jessie Burton was born in 1982. 
She studied at Oxford University and the Central School of Speech and Drama, and has worked as an actress and a PA in the City. 

She now lives in south-east London, not far from where she grew up.

For more information about Jessie Burton and The Miniaturist, visit her website
Follow her Pinterest page, and on Twitter @jesskatbee


Tuesday 23 August 2016

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica & My Life in Books @MaryKubica

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she's the person Quinn thought she knew.
Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbour town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where 18 year old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister.
As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under the stranger's spell, Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted rollercoaster ride that builds to a stunning conclusion.

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica was published by Harlequin MIRA (Harper Collins) in hardback on 19 May 2016, the paperback edition is published on 25 August.

A missing girl and the appearance of a mysterious girl in a town just an hour away; this is the plot of Don't You Cry, and most people, me included, would read that blurb and assume that they know what will happen. Do Not Assume!  Don't assume anything because this author is skilled at throwing a curve ball or two and nothing is ever quite what is assumed.

Told from two viewpoints. Quinn is the roommate of Esther, the girl who has gone missing, and Alex is a young man who lives a pretty isolated life, works as a dishwasher and befriends an agorophobic neighbour. It's difficult to work out just how Quinn and Alex's stories are connected, but the author has a knack of drawing in her reader and there are snippets along the way that are clues to what is to come .... or what you may assume is to come ....

That's the main thing with Don't You Cry, it is full of the unexpected and lots of twists and turns and surprises and it kept me hooked.

Surprisingly, for a story that really is a psychological thriller, Don't You Cry is fairly slow moving, especially at the beginning, but the development of the characters are done very well and the action and pace cranks up quickly as the end of the story approaches.  And, what an ending! It certainly took me by surprise and was expertly done.

Great writing, well developed and interesting characters that contrast really well and a plot that delivers lots of surprises.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy of Don't You Cry for review.

I'm thrilled to welcome Mary Kubica to Random Things today, she's talking about 'My Life In Books'.

My Life In Books ~ Mary Kubica

Reading has always been an important part of my life.  I still remember the excitement as a child of gathering heaping loads of books from my local library and bringing them home to read.  There are a few books that have had a lasting impact on me, both as an author and as an individual.

The Babysitters Club by Ann M Martin  – I give credit for my earliest obsessions of reading to Ann M. Martin’s popular series, The Babysitters Club.   I was eight-years-old when the first book – Kristy’s Great Idea – released and by and large wanted to be one of the members of the club.  It’s no secret that I idolized Kristy, Claudia and the others, and even fashioned my own babysitters club with friends, created fliers and passed them out around my suburban Chicago neighborhood.  But more so, these books ignited a love of reading in me as I tore through them at warp speed and stayed up long past my bedtime to devour them all.      

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt – There are books that stay with you for nearly forever, and this is one of them.  I read it with my mother when I was a child – there was nothing I loved more as a little girl than snuggling up in bed and listening to my mom read to me aloud.  I adored the Tuck family and for a young girl, this book was the first that raised thought-provoking questions for me about love and life and death.    

The Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt – This Natalie Babbitt novel I read as a child, and still have entire chapters of it committed to memory.  With The Eyes of the Amaryllis, I fell in love with mystery novels, and was truly swept off my feet by the notion of ghosts and the unknown.  I’d like to think this novel had an impact on the kind of writer I would one day be. 

A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway – While most of my teenage years were spent devouring V.C. Andrews’s gothic novels, in college I fell in love with the classics – Dickens, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald.  Of the many I read during that time, Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms is the one that resonated most deeply.  His rendering of World War I kindled in me a love of history, while the relationship between Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Barkley completely broke my heart.

The Things They Carried by  Tim O'Brien – If A Farewell To Arms kindled a love of history for me, then Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War memoir The Things They Carried firmly cemented it.  I read this book when I was studying to be a history teacher and now easily credit it as being my favorite book of all time.  Though it’s rare I read books more than once, this is one I pluck from my bookshelf every few years to read, like a visit with an old friend.

The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve – I’m a fan of all things Anita Shreve, but The Last Time They Met has one of those bombshell endings that makes readers question everything they believe – and left me feeling as though the wind had been knocked from my lungs.  It’s a sensation that has stuck with me for the ten or more years since I’ve read the book, and one I hope to emulate in my own readers.  It had a huge impact on my writing style, and though isn’t a psychological suspense itself per se, the finally left me truly aghast in the very best way.

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson – As a writer of psych suspense, I’d be
remiss not to include in My Life in Books what I believe to be one of the most brilliant of its kind, S.J. Watson’s masterpiece, Before I Go To Sleep.  Smart and unique, Watson sets the bar high for authors in his genre.

Mary Kubica ~ August 2016 

Mary Kubica is the New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL and PRETTY BABY. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children and enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter. Her third novel, DON'T YOU CRY, was released in May of 2016.

Visit Mary at
Follow her on Twitter @MaryKubica


Monday 22 August 2016

Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus @michaelgrothaus

A man with a consuming addiction. A woman who talks to God. 
And the secret connection that could destroy them both ...
Jerry has a traumatic past that leaves him subject to psychotic hallucinations and depressive episodes. When he stands accused of stealing a priceless Van Gogh painting, he goes underground, where he develops an unwilling relationship with a woman who believes that the voices she hears are from God. Involuntarily entangled in the illicit world of sex-trafficking amongst the Hollywood elite, and on a mission to find redemption for a haunting series of events from the past, Jerry is thrust into a genuinely shocking and outrageously funny quest to uncover the truth and atone for historical sins.

Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 30 June 2016 and is the author's debut novel.

Michael Grothaus is a daring author. Epiphany Jones is a dark, disturbing story that dances with the most sordid and sleazy of subjects and people, yet it is also quite beautiful and compassionate and incredibly funny.

The reader meets Jerry in quite alarming circumstances, some people will be shocked, but many, like me, will be intrigued, and Jerry certainly is an intriguing and complex character. Perfectly created, with layers of contradictions and a depth that is quite intense.

Jerry's life has been full of drama and trauma. He spends his time watching porn on the TV in a darkened room. His world explodes when he becomes the main suspect in a murder and robbery, and this is also where Epiphany Jones enters the story. She's another wonderful character, she's damaged, but she's assured ... because God speaks to her, and he will make sure she's OK.

The reader, along with Jerry is thrust into the world of sex trafficking, drug dealing, porn, abuse and the hedonistic lifestyles of the Hollywood celebrities. It's absolutely full-on, it's uncomfortable and it's vividly imagined, but it's so compelling, so well put together and the black humour is absolute genius.

I was left with a feeling of sadness, and horror and a lot of anger about the world that Michael Grothaus so cleverly portrays within this story. There is no doubt in my mind that the things that happen within these pages really do happen in the real world, and the fact that people continue to allow this to happen, to actually make it happen is a very sobering thought.

Epiphany Jones is a book that certainly took me away from any comfort zone that I have, and there are scenes that are shocking. It isn't often that I struggle with words to describe a story, but Epiphany Jones is a book that is very difficult to review. .I enjoyed every page of it. It's witty and dark and quite extraordinary.

Michael Grothaus is a novelist and journalist who spent years researching sex trafficking, using his experiences as a springboard for his debut novel Epiphany Jones. Born in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1977, he spent his twenties in Chicago where he earned his degree in filmmaking and worked for institutions including The Art Institute of Chicago, Twentieth Century Fox, and Apple. As a journalist he regularly writes about creativity, tech, subcultures, sex and pornography, the effects of mass media on our psyches, and just plain mysterious stuff for publications including Fast Company, VICE, The Guardian, Engadget, and more. He’s also done immersion journalism at geopolitical events including the Hong Kong protests against Beijing in 2014. His writing is read by millions of people each month. Michael lives in London.

You can contact Michael via Twitter @michaelgrothaus 

or through his website


Friday 19 August 2016

The Family Man by Tim Lebbon #BlogTour @timlebbon

You take one risk. 
Now, those you love must pay ....
Emma Turner thought she could trust her husband, Dom. She thought he would always look after her and their daughter Daisy.
Then one reckless act ends in two innocent deaths - and Dom's family becomes the target of a terrifying enemy.
There's nowhere to hide. They're on the run for their lives. And if Dom makes one more wrong move, he won't have a family left to protect .... 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Family Man by TJ Lebbon, published in paperback by Avon on 11 August 2016.

Damn I was exhausted by the time I got to the end of The Family Man. It's a non-stop, roller-coaster of a read. There are villians, and car chases, and extreme acts of violence. It's like a cross between The Fast and the Furious and James Bond ..... total entertainment. Paced like a sprinter on speed and populated by a cast of characters that range from the gullible to the downright evil, this is a book that surprised and shocked me, but I found it difficult to put down.

Chapter One draws the reader in, it's not clear where we are, or who we are looking at, but it's very clear that there's something terrible happening and this is the perfect scene setter for the rest of the story.

The reader then meets Dom, an ordinary, average type of guy. Self-employed electrician. married to Emma and father to eleven-year-old Daisy. He's hardworking and straight as a die.  Dom and his mate Andy regularly cycle out into the countryside. Andy's a different kettle of fish altogether - single, toned abs, attractive, a bit of an adrenaline junkie - they are as different as chalk and cheese, but they're mates and they get on well. It's on one of these cycle rides that Andy plants the seed into Dom's head .... and this is where Dom's downfall begins.

It's a mixture of bravado, a desire to provide for his family and a longing to be like Andy that makes Dom agree to do one of the most daring and quite frankly, downright dangerous and stupid things imaginable, and the two men, and Dom's family suddenly become the targets of some not very nice people at all. Luckily Andy knows a woman who can get them out of trouble .... or so he hopes.

What follows is an intense and thrilling sequence of events that at times, will make the reader squirm. There's a whole lot of violence and a whole lot of fear. And, interwoven into it is the emerging story of Andy, his past and how he came to know Rose; the woman who may be able to save them.

The Family Man is action-packed, full of thrills, a little over the top, and very entertaining. Slick and polished writing. I enjoyed it.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and invited me to take part in the Blog Tour.

Tim J Lebbon is a New York Times bestselling writer with over thirty novels published to date, as well as dozens of novellas and hundreds of short stories.
He has won four British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award and a Scribe Award, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson awards.
A movie of his story Pay The Ghost, starring Nicolas Cage, will be released soon, and several other projects are in development.
He lives in the Monmouthshire countryside with his wife Tracey, children Ellie and Dan, and his dog Blu.
He enjoys running and biking in the hills, and sometimes he imagines he's being chased.

Find out more at
Follow him on Twitter @timlebbon


Wednesday 17 August 2016

The Empathy Problem by Gavin Extence #BlogTour @GavinExtence

Driven by money, power and success, Gabriel has worked ruthlessly to get to the very top of the banking game. He's not going to let the inconvenience of a terminal brain tumour get in his way.
But the tumour has other ideas.  As it grows, it appears to be doing strange things to Gabriel's personality. Whether he likes it or not, he seems to be becoming less selfish, less mercenary, less unlikeable.
Once he could dismiss the rest of humanity as irrelevant. Now he's not so sure. Women, in particular, are becoming worryingly three-dimensional. And none more so than Caitlin, the 'unremarkable' girl he sees busking on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral. When she plays her violin, Gabriel could almost believe that he has a soul
But as each day that passes brings him closer to his last, has time run out for second chances? 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Empathy Problem by Gavin Extence, published by Hodder & Stoughton in hardback on 11 August 2016.

I have a hardback copy of The Empathy Problem to give away to one blog reader. Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget at the end of this post.   UK entries only please. Good luck.

The Empathy Problem is Gavin Extence's third novel. His debut, The Universe Versus Alex Woods was published in January 2013, followed by The Mirror World of Melody Black in 2015.
Gavin Extence is an international bestselling author sold in twenty-two territories and the winner of the Writer's Guild Best Book of 2013 for The Universe Versus Alex Woods which was also listed as a Top Ten Amazon Best Book in the same year. It was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize, picked for a Richard & Judy Summer Book Club Read and selected for Simon Mayo BBC Radio 2 Book Club. The Mirror World of Melody Black was also featured on the Radio 2 Book Club two years later.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up The Empathy Problem, the blurb intrigued me and the cover is stunning, I started to read with an open mind.

A couple of hours later I looked up, I was hooked, well and truly. This writing is so compelling, and Gabriel Vaughan is a lead character that I should hate, but who has snuck into my heart and stayed there.

Thirty-two year old Gabriel is at the top of his game. He earns over three million pounds a year, his suits cost £30,000. His chauffeur drives him to work in the city every day in a Mercedes, they don't speak ... ever. His personal car is a yellow Ferrari, his apartment is minimal, stocked with the best of everything and kept as neat as a pin by a cleaner .... who he has never seen. Money is his goal, it buys everything, even his sex life.

Gabriel is at his desk every morning by 6.20am and leaves the officer at 7.30 .... 6.45 on a Friday. He manages his hedge fund with skill, making his company millions and earning the respect of those he works with ... apart from the admin staff, and the doormen .... he doesn't speak to them.

The one thing that money cannot ensure is good health, and when Gabriel bursts into unexplained tears whilst travelling on the Tube ... which in itself is unusual, let alone the tears  ... he consults a doctor straight away. The news is bad ... terminal. There's a tumour on Gabriel's brain, and it's going to kill him. He has six months.

The unexplained tears are not the only symptom of this brain invader. Gabriel begins to notice strange feelings. He actually appears to start to care about things. He spends hours gazing out of his high-rise office window at the Occupy London camp that has set up on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral, and when he hears a young girl busker playing classical music on her violin one day, his life takes an unexpected curve.

Gavin Extence is an absolute genius character builder. I should hate Gabriel and all that he stands for, but there were times when I just loved him and his total disregard for those around him which gave him a certain air of vulnerability, and made him quite gullible. The supporting cast of characters range from the downright frightful (his boss Mason), to the absolutely delicious (Caitlin the busker). And the insights into the world of finance were intriguing and told with a straightforward charm that even a complete financial novice such as myself could enjoy.

There's a message within The Empathy Problem, yet it is so sensitively done and so touching that it never feels patronising or preachy. The story raises the question of whether it is ever too late to change, and whether love and empathy go hand in hand.

I really cared about Gabriel. I hoped that it wasn't just the tumour that changed him, I hoped that discovering real love helped him along the way, I hoped that he discovered real happiness alongside the empathy.

Witty, insightful and tender, The Empathy Problem is a triumph. I loved it.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy of The Empathy Problem for review.

#Win a copy of The Empathy Problem by Gavin Extence #Giveaway

Gavin Extence lives in Sheffield with his wife, children and cat. He is the author of two previous novels. His debut novel, The Universe Versus Alex Woods, was one of the most-loved, word-of-mouth breakout novels of 2013.
In the year it published it won the Writer's Guild Best Book, the Waverton Good Read Award, was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize, was a BBC Radio 2 Bookclub Read, and Amazon Best Book and had rights sold in over twenty-one countries.
The Empathy Problem is his third novel.

For more information about the author and his writing check out his Author page on Facebook

Follow him on Twitter @GavinExtence


Monday 15 August 2016

My Life In Books ~ talking to author Jamie Ford @JamieFord

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've asked authors to share with us a list of the books that are special to them and have left a lasting impression on their life

I can't tell you how delighted I am that Jamie Ford has joined me today on Random Things.  His first novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was one of my first reviews on Random Things, back in June 2011. At the time I called it a 'beautiful masterpiece', and I still feel that way about it - it's one of my ALL TIME favourite books.  His second novel, Songs of Willow Frost was published in 2013 and once again, I adored it, and in my Random Things review I say that it is extraordinary. It is, he's a fabulous author who I admire so very much. 
I heartily recommend his books and I'm so looking forward to reading his new book when it is released. If you've not read these, they are both published her in the UK by Allison & Busby

My Life in Books ~ Jamie Ford

The White Mountains by John Christopher  Before the current trend of dystopian, post-apocalyptic books for young adults, there were The Tripods. I read this series in the 5th grade and the poignant, sacrificial ending has haunted me ever since.

The Great Santini by Pat Conroy  Pat once said, "The greatest gift a writer can ever receive is an unhappy childhood."  If you've ever read The Great Santini, My Losing Season or The Prince of Tides, you'll know that for Pat, growing up was Christmas every day. I discovered Santini as a teenager and it was salve for the scars my own father left on my psyche.

Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison  This book was banned from my high school library, which made me immediately want to find it and consume it. This was the first time that I realised books had the power to scare people ------ specifically parents. These were the same parents who had us kicked out of the library for playing Dungeons & Dragons after school. They said we were worshipping the devil. Because that's where you do it, you know, at the library.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami  In looking at this list I'm betraying the sense of brokeness I felt as a young man. What can I say? Even as an adult I still love a beautiful, steaming cup of melancholy. This book shattered my heart and put the pieces back together again in better working condition.

An Edge in My Voice by Harlan Ellison  Look ----- another book by Uncle Harlan! This hard-to-find collection of essays was my go-to book as an aspiring writer in my 30s. It's a master class on writing with an authentic voice ---- painful, angry and evocative, with equal parts arrogance and vulnerability. I used to haunt a local bookstore, late at night, reading this book when my world was on fire.

Blankets by Craig Thompson  These days I'm in a guys' book club called Books & Brews and each year we try to add at least one graphic novel to our middle-aged reading repertoire. This is my favourite and one I'm always pushing ---- a poignant graphic memoir about first love, and loss.

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin  Another self-revelatory read, this is one of those profound novels that changes the way we remember those closest to us --- the way we loved them, or the way we took them hopelessly for granted. You have to be a certain age to fully appreciate this book. (And you get extra credit for having lost a parent).

The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu  The most memorable thing I read all of last year was this (massively award-winning) short story by Ken Liu (who is a once-in-a-generation talent). The Paper Menagerie beautifully encapsulates the hopeful, sacrificial dynamic between a parent and child.

Cue the music from The Lion King.   That's my life in books, I'm outta here

Jamie Ford ~ August 2016

Jamie Ford is the great grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung who emigrated from China to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the western name 'Ford', thus confusing countless generations.

His debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a New York Times bestseller, and has been awarded the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. It has been translated into twenty-nine languages.

Having grown up near Seattle's Chinatown, he now lives in Montana with his wife and children.

More information about Jamie Ford and his writing can be found on his website
Follow him on Twitter @JamieFord