Tuesday 28 February 2017

The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin @SophiaTobin1 @simonschusterpr @jaffareadstoo

On top of the Yorkshire Moors, in an isolated spot carved out of a barren landscape, lies White Windows, a house of shadows and secrets. Here lives Marcus Twentyman, a hard-drinking but sensitive man, and his sister, the brisk widow, Hester.

When runaway Annaleigh first meets the Twentymans, their offer of employment and lodgings seems a blessing. Only later does she discover the truth. But by then she is already in the middle of a web of darkness and intrigue, where murder seems the only possible means of escape…

The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin was published in hardback by Simon & Schuster on 12 January 2017, and is the author's third novel.

I'm delighted to welcome Jo from Jaffareadstoo blog here to Random Things today. Jo is a huge fan of historical fiction, and I was thrilled when she agreed to review The Vanishing as a guest reviewer here on my blog.
Jo blogs, along with her delightful orange cat Jaffa at  Jaffareadstoo, please do go and check them out, you can also follow her on Twitter @jaffareadstoo

The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin ~ a guest review by Jo from Jaffareadstoo
Nineteen-year-old Annaleigh Calvert is persuaded to leave her home in London to take up employment as the housekeeper at White Windows, a remote house situated on the Yorkshire Moors, which is owned by the mysterious brother and sister, Marcus and Harriet Twentyman. From the start of the novel, it is obvious that all is not as it seems, and White Windows, far from being the haven that Annaleigh seeks, soon becomes a place of secrets, lies and deadly misfortune.

From the start of the novel there is a palpable air of tension at White Windows and this is particularly noticeable within the boundaries of Annaleigh’s association with Marcus and Harriet. It is obvious from the start that the reason for Annaleigh’s employment lies within the total control of this couple but the full horror of their manipulation only becomes evident as the story progresses.

The author writes well and creates a genuine feeling of authenticity without ever needing to resort to over exaggerated melodrama. The story is shocking and cruel in equal measure and could be straight from the pages of Wuthering Heights, and whilst Annaleigh bears some similarities with that other ill-fated heroine, Jane Eyre, there is no doubt that Annaleigh's dramatic story is quite unique and singularly told.

Those who are familiar with the wild and windswept beauty of the Yorkshire Moors will find much to identify with in this beautifully written gothic tragedy which looks at, not just the way that heritage shapes people and places, but also of the hateful way that women were, so often, badly manipulated by despicable men. Beautifully written from start to finish, there is no doubt that the author has written a compelling story which fires the imagination from the very first page and which doesn’t let up until Annaleigh’s sad and sorry story is completed.

Sophia Tobin is the Library Secretary for the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. She previously worked for a Bond Street antique dealer for six years, specialising in silver and jewellery.
Inspired by research she made into a real life eighteenth-century silversmith, Tobin began to write her first novel, The Silversmith's Wife, which was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize, judged by Sophie Hannah.

She lives in London with her husband.
The Vanishing is her third novel.

Find out more at www.sophiatobin.wordpress.com
Follow her on Twitter @SophiaTobin1


Monday 27 February 2017

Cursed by Thomas Enger @EngerThomas #BlogTour @OrendaBooks My Life In Books

When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests.
Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to deal with, as well as threats to his own life and to that of his ex-wife, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.

Cursed by Thomas Enger was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 15 February 2017.

I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today, as part of the Blog Tour. He's talking to us about the books that are special to him and have made a lasting impression on his life.

My Life In Books ~ Thomas Enger

My interest for books, for real, started when I was somewhere in my teens. I can't pinpoint the exact moment or the exact book, but I remember distinctively how my father always wanted me to read the classics, but I spent months and years going through the motions, almost as if reading was a chore I had to do. So the classics really weren't for me. At least not when I was young.

At an early stage the novels starring the Hardy Boys were a natural choice, because they were suspenseful and, most importantly, short, which meant that I could easily plough my way through them without losing motivation as I went along. I remember reading a few Nancy Drew novels as well, but it somehow felt wrong to read about a young lady protagonist (I know, I was an idiot), so I stuck with the Hardy boys there for a while. Eventually I got around to novels by Agatha Christie and other well-known crime novelists that had been translated into Norwegian, and it was obvious to me that crime fiction was MY genre. Instead of spending three months reading a novel, I could go through a good crime novel in three days. Which made the genre choice really easy for me when the need and desire to write something for myself came along, but that's another story.

I read a lot of Alistair Maclean as well when I was young. Don't recall a single title, though, but I remember having a lot of fun reading them.

I don't remember specific novels that I particularly loved, either, at least not when I was young (I know, I'm 120 years old), but the novels and the writers that have shaped me as a writer, are more contemporary ones. To begin with it was novels from Scandinavia, I read Anne Holt and Karin Fossum, for instance, and I thought very highly of them, and then my focus shifted towards Sweden and HenningMankell. From him it changed back to Norway and Jo Nesbo, but after a while I wanted to explore more of the reading world, so I read a lot of JamesPatterson. I loved his action-packed short chapter novels, and the latter is a technique I've used to good effect myself, as it increases the reading pace.

I remember reading Michael Crichton as well with great intensity. Novels like Disclosure and the Jurassic Park books, which are completely different from each other, made me stay up late at night. He did have a way with storytelling that really made you want to read on and on and on.

The very first crime fiction novel that made me realise just how good crime novels can be, was One Step Behind by Henning Mankell. I remember reading that opening chapter with the young people out in the woods, celebrating or acting or whatever it was they were doing, and then all of a sudden they were just slaughtered and buried into the ground. It was a spectacular way of starting a novel, and I just wanted to read more. I bought this novel before a trip to Mexico, and I remember how I didn't want the plane to land, as I wasn't finished reading the book. It was just that good. So when I got back from Mexico, I bought and read everything else I could get my hands on from the great Swede.

So Henning Mankell was a big influence on me when I first started writing for myself. I mentioned Jo Nesbo briefly as well. I have read his Harry Hole series a few times, as he certainly raised the bar as far as Scandinavian crime fiction was concerned. The Snowman is my favourite. I have probably read that one four or five times, even as an adult. I love all of them, really.

Like I mentioned I tried to widen my horizon a bit during my late teens and early 20's, and as my ambitions to become a writer myself grew, I read everything I could find, and I tried to look at what the great ones did, to see if I could implement some of their methodology into my own. Harlan Coben became a great influence to me. Of everything I've read since my passion for crime fiction started, Coben has been my number one inspiration. I just love his super tight plots in combination with his humour. The books are both funny and frightening at the same time, and if you have read my first Henning Juul novel Burned, you will see that Henning tries to deal with his life, in part, by using humour. This I would never have done without having read Mr. Coben.

In later years I have become a huge fan of John Hart, who I'm actually going to meet in person in Oslo in March. I can't wait for that. I read Down River first, and I absolutely loved it. I tried to get hold of every other books he had written after that, and there's just no one better, in my opinion, when it comes to crime fiction prose. He just writes so beautifully. Which I'm going to tell him in March, hopefully without dying from starstruckness.

Thomas Enger ~ February 2017 

Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndod) in 2009, which became aninternational sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo's underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

Find out more at www.thomasenger.net

Follow him on Twitter @EngerThomas

Check out the rest of the stops on the #Cursed Blog Tour 


Saturday 25 February 2017

Dead Simple (Quick Reads 2017) edited by Harry Bingham @harryonthebrink @Quick_Reads

A woman reports a crime to the police, with unexpected results
The grieving widow who finds that she's about to lose more than just her husband
When a man attempts the perfect murder, it's not quite as easy as he thinks
Two men in prison play a deadly game of Scrabble
A young woman tries to trick an old man and gets more than she bargained for
Sometimes crimes are solved in ways you can't explain
A murderer about to be hanged finds that's not the worst thing that can happen
You never know who's going to turn up at your door
Original stories from Mark Billingham, Clare Mackintosh, James Oswald, Jane Casey, Angela Marsons, Harry Bingham, Antonia Hodgson and CL Taylor - specially written for Quick Reads.

Dead Simple is edited by Harry Bingham and is a collection of eight very short stories from eight bestselling crime authors.

I always imagine that it must be much more difficult for an author to write a great short story, than to write a full length novel. Being able to grip the reader with a great plot and realistic characters in just a few pages is such a skill, and I have been disappointed in the past by some short stories.

The eight authors who have contributed their stories to Dead Simple are obviously very talented. Each of these are perfectly formed and gripping, and whilst the style varies from author to author, they are all, without exception, fabulous reads.

The authors:

Mark Billingham is one of the UK's most popular crime writers. He is a former actor, television writer and stand-up comedian. His series of novels featuring D.I. Tom Thorne have twice won him the Crime Novel of the Year Award as well as the Sherlock Award for Best British Detective. Each of his crime novels has been a Sunday Times top ten bestseller.

Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time in the CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant, and now writes full time. Clare's debut novel, I Let You Go, was a Sunday Times bestseller and was the fastest-selling title by a crime writer in 2015. It was selected for both the Richard and Judy Book Club and ITV's Loose Women's 'Loose Books', and has been translated into 31 languages. In July 2016 Clare received the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. Clare's second book I See You was published in July 2016 and is a Sunday Times number one bestseller.

James Oswald is the author of the Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries. The first two of
these, Natural Causes and The Book of Souls, were both short-listed for the CWA Debut Dagger Award. He currently lives in a large caravan inside a Dutch barn in Fife, with three dogs and two cats. He farms Highland cows and Romney sheep by day, and writes disturbing fiction by night.

Jane Casey is the bestselling author of The Missing and the Maeve Kerrigan series: The Burning, The Reckoning, The Last Girl, The Stranger You Knew, The Kill, After the Fire and Let the Dead Speak. She has also written three crime novels for teenagers in the Jess Tennant series. She has won several major awards for her novels, which have been translated into many different languages. She is married to a criminal barrister and lives in London.

Angela Marsons is the author of Amazon number one bestseller
Silent Scream. After years of writing relationship stories, Angela turned to crime, fictionally speaking of course. In Kim Stone she created a character who refused to go away. She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their bouncy Labrador and a swearing parrot.

Harry Bingham is the author of the Fiona Griffiths series of crime novels, set in Cardiff. His heroine was described by the Sunday Times as 'the most startling .... in modern crime fiction ... brutal, freakish and totally original.'  Harry - slightly less freakish than his creation - lives in Oxford with his wife and young family.

Antonia Hodgson was born and raised in Derby. She studied
English at the University of Leeds. She is the author of the bestselling Thomas Hawkins crime series. Her first novel, The Devil in the Marshalsea, won the CWA Historical Dagger Award in 2014. Antonia lives in London.

C L Taylor's first psychological thriller The Accident was one of the top ten bestselling first novels of 2014. Her second and third novels, The Lie and The Missing, were both Sunday Times best sellers and Amazon Kindle number bestsellers. She is currently writing her fourth psychological thriller which will be published in April 2017. She lives in Bristol with her partner and young son.

Quick Reads are brilliant short new books written by bestselling writers. They are perfect for regular readers wanting a fast and satisfying read, but they are also ideal for adults who are discovering reading for pleasure for the first time. Since Quick Reads was founded in 2006, over 4.5 million copies of more than a hundred titles have been sold or distributed. Quick Reads are available in paperback, in ebook and from your local library,
 To find out more about Quick Reads titles, visit www.readingagency.org.uk/quickreads 
Find Quick Reads on Twitter @Quick_Reads 


Friday 24 February 2017

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan @JenniferiRyan #BlogTour #SingForChilbury @BoroughPress

Kent, 1940.
In the idyllic village of Chilbury change is afoot. Hearts are breaking as sons and husbands leave to fight, and when the Vicar decides to close the choir until the men return, all seems lost.
But coming together in song is just what the women of Chilbury need in these dark hours, and they are ready to sing. With a little fighting spirit and the arrival of a new musical resident, the charismatic Miss Primrose Trent, the choir is reborn.
Some see the choir as a chance to forget their troubles, others the chance to shine. Though for one villager, the choir is the perfect cover to destroy Chilbury’s new-found harmony.
Uplifting and profoundly moving, THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR explores how a village can endure the onslaught of war, how monumental history affects small lives and how survival is as much about friendship as it is about courage.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan is published by The Borough Press in hardback on 23 February 2017.  I'm thrilled to be hosting the BLOG TOUR today.

This novel totally captured my imagination, I was swept up and transported to life in a small village at the beginning of the second world war.

Jennifer Ryan cleverly structures her tale of life in Chilbury; using journal entries, letters and diary posts from the narrating characters. This kept the story fresh and well rounded, and the reader is able to see the plot unfold through different points of view.

When the vicar of Chilbury announces that the village choir will disband as all the male members
have gone off to fight in the war, the women of the village are outraged. Ably led by Mrs Tilling, the local district nurse, the women decide that they will continue to sing. So that is what they do, and this book follow their story, and how their little village is affected by the fighting that is raging across Europe.

This story could have been sweet and twee, almost like a Sunday afternoon TV drama, except that the author does not shy away from including some themes that are darker and harsher, and she does it so very well. Her characters are a mixed bunch, with some strong women, some downright evil women and an incredibly ferocious Major whose temper is often uncontrollable. Young girls who suddenly experience freedom to discover the world, and the dangers that can befall them, men who are no more than children going off to fight the enemy, The worry and grief of the families left behind, the devastation wrought by German bombs, and the feelings of suspicion about everyone and everything. Chilbury may appear to be a sleepy Kent village, but scandal and intrigue lurks behind almost every front door!

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir really is a joy to read. It's funny, it's full of heart and characters that the reader will cheer for, and hiss at.

Seamlessly told, heartfelt and believable. This is a real treat.

I'm delighted to welcome the author, Jennifer Ryan here to Random Things, with a guest post all about Nella Last, and her real second world war diary:

A Real Second World War Diary  by Jennifer Ryan

One momentous day, as I scanned the bookshop shelves for my beloved evacuee and other stories from the Second World War, I came across something as delectable as it was extraordinary, almost impossible to imagine. It was the Mass-Observation project. 
In August 1939, as war became less of an option and more of a reality, a group of sociologists and artists invited members of the British public to keep journals of their day-to-day experience of the war, and to send them in to a central repository. 485 people took it up at first, although the number grew to a few thousand as the war progressed, providing an unexpected wealth of personal experience when it happened, as it happened. 
Probably the best known and the most treasured of these is a diary by 49-year-old housewife, Nella Last. Her writing is exquisite, but it is the depth and raw power of her feelings about the war and what it going on around her that makes her diary a powerful indictment of how women prevailed during the war years. As the war begins, Nella is getting over a breakdown, and has health problems that force her to rest every afternoon and take aspirin continually for headaches. But as she becomes involved with the Women’s Voluntary Service, heading up a canteen for the troops, making dollies for the hospital, knitting, sewing, keeping chickens, and helping women cope with the bombs and the grief, she regains her spirits and her health, giving up the afternoon rest and her aspirins. 
One can also sense how the war has shifted her relationship with her husband, with her beginning to make her own decisions, getting away from her narrow household existence to carry out enterprising and social help for the war effort. More and more often she doesn’t make it home in the middle of the day to make him lunch, unheard of at the beginning of the war. 
By the end of the war, she acknowledges that her breakdowns and illnesses were the result of her husband’s way of never socializing or allowing her to socialize, and insisting that the only company they needed was each other. Keeping him happy and preventing a fight, she had gone along with it. But she had come, through the war, to realize that she didn’t need to do this anymore. In her own words, she became determined that “No one would ever give me [a nervous breakdown] again.” 
Cliff, her younger son who goes to war, is the main source of her love, her thoughts, and her worries. It’s heartrending when he is supposed to be coming home for Christmas but becomes sick and day by day she is half expecting him, coming through the door with his smile, only to be disappointed. 
It isn’t surprising that the first scene of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir that I wrote was that of a widow, Mrs. Tilling, watching her only son leave for war, struggling to accept the sad end of his childhood and the abrupt beginning of an overwhelming fear that he would be killed. 
I was so moved by Nella’s diaries that I wanted to write a novel that in some way fictionalized her experience, making it more accessible for a larger audience. It captures how it might feel to be a woman alive during this incredible time. How we might have experienced marriage, and how the war might have changed the way we think ourselves and the institution of marriage. And it is this that I hoped to bring to life in The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.

Jennifer Ryan grew up in Kent. She was inspired to write The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, her first novel, by the extraordinary and often scandalous stories about life during the war told by her jovial grandmother, a prodigious storyteller and lover of that wartime favourite, the Pink Gin.
Many of the characters' stories in the book are based on real life, discovered through Jennifer's extensive research and her grandmother's experiences.

Jennifer now lives in Washington, DC with her husband and two children, where she previously worked as a non-fiction book editor.

Find out more at www.jenniferryanbooks.com
Follow her on Twitter @JenniferiRyan


Thursday 23 February 2017

Crime Fiction Fix Magazine #CrimeFiction @CrimeFictionFix

Launched in August 2015, Crime Fiction Fix is a digital subscription-only magazine for writers and readers of crime fiction, with author interviews plus a range of skills-based articles each month providing advice on the art and craft of writing.  The magazine was founded, and is edited, by Sarah Williams, publisher and author of How to Write Crime Fiction (Little, Brown 2015).

Crime Fiction Fix: February Fix  
The two power women who are AD Garrett Ÿ 
“One of the greatest gifts you can bestow on a fellow writer is the truth – your honest reaction to what they’ve written”

In this month’s issue of Crime Fiction Fix, the digital best friend to every aspiring crime fiction
writer, there is a crowd of exclusive content from superb writers and tips on how to write your own crime fiction masterpiece.

The masterminds behind the bestselling books of AD Garrett, Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper, are in the Feature Speaker seat discussing the Fennimore and Simms series.

The New Kid on the Block is Jane Harper, her debut The Dry is published by Little, Brown and the film rights have already been bought by Reese Witherspoon’s production company.

We are also introduced to new YA crime writer Sara Shephard, best known for her YA series Pretty Little Liars, in the brand new Fresh Blood slot.

There is also a heavy injection of criminological advice. Firstly, in the form of an article on the curious psychological phenomenon known as the Cinderella Effect which concerns the alleged higher incidence of mistreatment and different forms of child-abuse by stepparents than by the biological parents. In the Technical Question slot, we explore how to describe a character’s experience of being a victim of ransomware.

Finally, there is a great article on how you can become both critic and writer; John DeDakis writes about how to help your own writing and that of other writers. And -  new this month – Sam Eades, Commissioning Editor at Orion, talks about the upcoming trends in crime fiction and the motif of sisters in the Be On The Look Out For slot.   

Check out the taster issue here 

To subscribe visit the website at


Annual subscriptions are £35 and single issues are £3.50 each.


www.crime-fiction-fix.com    @CrimeFictionFix


Wednesday 22 February 2017

The 50 Things: Lessons for When You Feel Lost, Love Dad by Peter Dunne @peterdunne @TrapezeBooks

As his 50th birthday dawned, Peter Dunne had a life-changing conversation with a friend and realised that, while he may not have invented the internet or found a cure for cancer, he had nonetheless fathered three remarkable and beautiful children.
Inspired by that fact, he set out to leave a trail of metaphorical breadcrumbs for them, so that if they ever needed to know what their father might have had to say on a particular subject, it would be set down for them.
The result is a book of letters from a father to his children, and though the stories are firmly set in a place and time, the themes and the tone are universal and timeless. From Compromise to Compassion, from Democracy to Sacrifice, THE 50 THINGS explores the social mores and morality of our time and tries to answer the eternal questions that line the path to peace of mind.

The 50 Things: Lessons for When You Feel Lost, Love Dad by Peter Dunne is published in hardback on 9 March 2017 by Trapeze Books.

In his introduction to 50 Things, Peter Dunne explains how the book came about. It was 2013 and he had just turned fifty years of age. He didn't have a 'mid-life crisis', but he did begin to measure his life, and look at what he had done, and more importantly to him, what he had not done.

He started to feel a little disappointed about life, but soon realised that being a father to three amazing children was a major achievement and when his good friend Steve urged him to 'write something great for your children'.  He did, and this book is the result.

Each of Peter's fifty things has its own chapter, with a famous quote at the beginning. There is 'Tolerance' with "Bigots will not be tolerated." (Anon, graffiti), and 'Confidence@ with "If you're presenting yourself with a confidence, you can pull off pretty much anything." (Katy Perry), and possibly my favourite; 'Career' with "I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same things as 'making a life'," (Maya Angelou).

Fifty subjects, with fifty accompanying letters, some longer than others, some very short, but all to the point and an absolute joy to read. Peter Dunne's voice is warm, wise and witty. He peppers his stories with news items, from politics to philanthropy, making them relevant, and not at all sweet and sickly.

The 50 Things is a the perfect book to keep on the shelf, to pick up every now and again and read. To remind yourself when life is a bit rough, or everything seems to be going wrong, of a different way of thinking and dealing with things.

Thoughtful and helpful, a look at how we could and really should deal with the things that are thrown at us.

Peter Dunne is a Film producer and Author of  to be published by  in March 2017. 

He lives in rural Herefordshire.

Follow him on Twitter @peterdunne


Tuesday 21 February 2017

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith #BlogTour @michael_f_smith @noexitpress

For eleven years the clock has been ticking for Russell Gaines as he sat in Parchman penitentiary in the Mississippi Delta. His time now up, and believing his debt paid, he returns home only to discover that revenge lives and breathes all around.

On the day of his release, a woman named Maben and her young daughter trudge along the side of the interstate under the punishing summer sun. Desperate and exhausted, the pair spend their last dollar on a motel room for the night, a night that ends with Maben running through the darkness holding a pistol, and a dead deputy sprawled across the road in the glow of his own headlights.

With dawn, destinies collide, and Russell is forced to decide whose life he will save his own or that of the woman and child?

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith is published by No Exit Press on 23 February 2017

Russell Gaines is going home to McComb, a dry, dusty Mississippi town. He's been away for eleven very long years and hasn't a clue what awaits him. His welcome home party is brutal, and leaves him battered and bruised. His father is more welcoming, although Russell is surprised to meet his Dad's companion Consuela, so very different to his late mother.

Maben and her daughter Annalee are running away, trying to escape hardship and violence and ruthless men, only to find themselves in even deeper trouble.

Michael Farris Smith has created a small-town novel with an impressive cast of characters, but it is McComb, the town itself that is the largest of them all, a place that functions entirely so that Russell and Maben can play out their story. The author takes the reader on a slow and sometimes meandering journey, allowing us to know the characters, and creating a sense of familiarity that teases the reader into a false sense of security, for by the time we realise that these characters are actually quite flawed, we've fallen for them.

It is a clever and articulate author who can create characters who do so much wrong, yet are still heroes. Weaving themes of judgement, forgiveness, revenge and redemption Desperation Road is powerful and tense. Atmospheric and quietly beautiful, it is at times, a difficult read.
The story, the characters and the writing captured me from page one and kept me hostage until the very end.

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

Michael Farris Smith is the award-winning author of Rivers and The Hands of Strangers
Rivers was named in numerous Best Books of the Year lists, and garnered the 2014 Mississippi Author Award for Fiction. 
His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essays have appeared in The New York Times, Catfish Alley, Writer’s Bone, and more. 
He lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife and two daughters

Find out more at www.michaelfarrissmith.com
Follow him on Twitter @michael_f_smith

No Exit Press is an imprint of Oldcastle Books. No Exit Press, introduced in 1987, is primarily a crime fiction imprint.



Monday 20 February 2017

My Life In Books ~ talking to Orenda Books publisher Karen Sullivan @OrendaBooks #MyLifeInBooks

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

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Karen Sullivan to Random Things today, she's my first non-author participant in My Life In Books, and it is an honour to feature her here today.  Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a huge fan of Orenda Books. 

I call Karen a 'Book Magician', she puts her heart and soul into her books and her authors, publishing beautifully written and unique stories consistently.

My Life In Books ~ Karen Sullivan

I have always been a massive reader and narrowing it down to a handful of books was more difficult than I thought! I read every series going when I was younger, including all of Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, and when I found a new author, I would read everything they have ever written. I loved Susan Howatch, and reread Cashelmara and Penmarric about 20 times when I was about twelve! I read every single blockbuster, and also all the literary stuff at the top of the bestseller lists. I absolutely loved American authors like Hemingway, Steinbeck, Melville, Hawthorn, Edith Wharton, Salinger, Willa Cather … and I was always very into Canadian fiction, from Margaret Laurence and Alice Munro to Michael Ondaatje, Lucy Maud Montgomery and Mordecai Richler.

The first book I remember was Wynken, Blynken and Nod, a poem written by Eugene
Field. We had a beautifully illustrated book and my mum used to read it to me when I was very small. There was a mobile or a picture from the book above my cot when I was a baby and that is my very first memory.

The Secret of the Old Clock, a Nancy Drew mystery by Carolyn Keene. My Aunt Jan came down to stay with us in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when I was about three or four, and she read it to me and my sister, Kathy, one chapter at a time. Kathy squirmed and didn’t listen; I was rapt and ended up teaching myself to read because I couldn’t bear to wait for the next instalment. I drove my mother crazy, following her around saying ‘What’s this word…’, but my love of crime fiction was born.

I was a voracious reader in my pre-teens, as my dad was transferred a lot and it wasn’t always easy to make new friends. I escaped to the world of books, and a highlight during this period had to be Anne of Green Gables (in fact, the whole series), and I read it first when I lived in the Maritimes in Canada. 

My favourite quote in the world remains, to this day, ‘Marila, isn’t it nice to know that tomorrow is a day without any mistakes in it?’

When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by the Flowers in the Attic series, and books like The Shining and The Amityville Horror. My family has a summer home on a lake north of Toronto, and I liked nothing better than curling up in the back cabin and scaring myself to death! Around this time, I started writing very melancholic, disturbing short stories, and the influences are obvious!

When I was at university, supposedly revising for exams, I stumbled across The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, and was transfixed. At one point, a girl slips down the side and then under a bed at a party, just because it seemed like a good idea at the time, then realises that she’s never going to be able to come out without looking like a complete idiot. For some reason I identified with that! It was a book that spoke to me in a way that no other book had previously, and I ended up reading her entire oeuvre instead of studying. I still remain a massive fan.

More recently, I read Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda, a book that quite literally blew me away. It’s harrowing, dark, moving and authentic, set in Canada when the first settlers arrived, and recounts their interactions with the First Nations people. What a book! I would struggle to find anything quite so magnificent. Its name? Yes, it was one of the inspirations for the name of Orenda Books.

I could go on and on and on. I underline passages of books that I love, and sometimes when I flip through them later, or reread, I can remember that act, and whole parts of my life are recalled. Books are powerful things and even trying to pinpoint the ones that have had the most impact on my life has been an emotive experience. Which makes me that much happier that I do what I do for a living.

Karen Sullivan ~ February 2017 

Karen Sullivan is owner and publisher of Orenda Books, a new independent publishing company that specialises in literary fiction, with a heavy emphasis on crime thrillers, and about half in translation. Orenda was shortlisted for the IPG Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award and Karen was a Bookseller Rising Star for 2016. 
Authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Michael J.Malone, Kati Hiekkapelto, Gunnar Staalesen, Amanda Jennings and Agnes Ravatn.