Sunday 30 April 2017

Child Taken by Darren Young #BlogTour @darrenyoungbook @RedDoorBooks

How could such a thing happen?
But it did happen.
I wasn't one of the others, observing.
It happened to me.
One hot summer's day, two-year-old Jessica Preston disappears from the beach. The police are convinced she drowned, but Sandra Preston won't give up hope that her daughter is still alive.
How can she?
Twenty years later, another child goes missing, and Sandra is approached by a young journalist who raises questions about what really happened to Jessica Preston all those years ago. But when the journalist discovers someone with an explosive secret, it threatens not only to reveal what's been covered up for so long, but puts both their lives in danger.

Child Taken by Darren Young is published in paperback by Red Door Publishing on 18 May 2017 and is the author's debut novel.

I'm really happy to kick off the Blog Tour for Child Taken here on Random Things today.

Child Taken is a meticulously plotted thriller that I raced through in just a few days, despite the length of the book.
This is story of two missing girls, twenty years separate them. One girl is found quickly, the other has been missing for two decades.

Jessica Preston went missing from a beach, she was there, and then she was gone. Despite a massive search party, she was never found. When her sunhat was found, everyone assumed that she had drowned. Except for her mother Sandra, who is convinced that Jessica is alive. Sandra's world has fallen apart since Jessica disappeared; she spends her time in a secure unit, gazing out at the beach. Her losses overwhelm her.

Laura is an young journalist on a local paper. She stumbles upon Jessica's case and is intrigued. Something about the story pulls her in, and she risks her job and her family relationships in her quest to discover more. This investigation leads her to Danni, a young girl who has started to wonder about her own background.

Darren Young has created an intriguing and complex thriller in Child Taken, there are twists and turns a plenty and his different narrative voices add a depth and dimension to the story that is quite enticing. However, this is a long story, and at times it does suffer a little from too much 'tell' and not even 'show'; there are some long and quite rambling parts that contain detail that is not needed and don't really add to the story. Despite this, I enjoyed the story very much, there are some hair-raising scenes, really edge of the seat stuff and some interesting surprising twists that I certainly did not see coming.

An accomplished debut. I will be really interested to read what this author produces next. My thanks to the the publisher who sent my copy for review and invited me to take part in the Blog Tour.

Darren Young lives in Nottingham with his wife, Luisa and their two children, Alessio and Emilia.
Away from writing, he has a background in financial services and an MBA from the University of Wolverhampton and helps organisations to improve their customer service, whilst also being involved in producing papers and a weekly blog on the subject. He wanted to write something different; a story he’d like to read, one about ordinary people thrown into extraordinary positions and had the ideas but wasn’t sure that there was enough time, or coffee, to fit it into his already busy life. However, he started working on Child Taken in 2014 and found that there was. He’s currently working on a new version of the book he wrote for ‘practice’ before embarking on Child Taken and after two years writing about child abduction, he wanted to explore something a little lighter; heart transplants.
Follow Darren on Twitter @darrenyoungbook

Friday 28 April 2017

Night Market by Daniel Pembrey @DPemb #BlogTour @noexitpress

When Henk van der Pol is asked by the Justice Minister to infiltrate a team investigating an online child exploitation network, he can hardly say no - he's at the mercy of prominent government figures in The Hague. But he soon realises the case is far more complex than he was led to believe... Picking up from where The Harbour Master ended, this new investigation sees Detective Van der Pol once again put his life on the line as he wades the murky waters between right and wrong in his search for justice. 

Sometimes, to catch the bad guys, you have to think like one...

Night Market by Daniel Pembrey was published by No Exit Press in paperback on 27 April 2017, and is the next instalment in the Detective van der Pol series. I read and reviewed the first, Harbour Master here on Random Things in October last year.  I'm delighted to be hosting the Night Market Blog Tour today.

It's a warm welcome back to Henk van der Pol from me, I really enjoyed my first outing with him in Harbour Master and have been looking forward to getting to know more about him.

Whilst Night Market could easily be read as a stand alone story, readers will gain so much more if they start at the beginning with the previously published Harbour Master. A little bit of prior knowledge really enhances the reading of Night Market, in my view.

Although Henk is nearing the end of his career as a Detective, and has dealt with most types of crime over the past years, he has always avoided cases that involve the exploitation and abuse of children. However, that will soon change as he is asked to investigate a team of investigators. An unusual request and one that soon leads him into danger.

As well as the difficulties of this new case, he's also experiencing personal issues within his family relationships. His long-term marriage to Petra, and his daughter's romantic entanglements are proving difficult to deal with.

Once again, this talented author excels in bringing to life the locations of the novel. Holland, Norway, London; all are vibrantly imagined, with their contrasts and their similarities adding such depth to what is a complex and cleverly drawn story.

Daniel Pembrey incorporates the political agenda, along with the organised crime. His characters are fluent and rounded, his plot lines are tense and quite thrilling. There are reminders of the past, and new horrors combined, and there is always Henk; solid, sometimes impulsive, but always the hero.

A superb crime thriller from an impressive author. I'm looking forward to meeting Henk again very soon.

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

Daniel Pembrey grew up in Nottinghamshire beside Sherwood Forest. He studied history at Edinburgh University and received an MBA from INSEAD business school.
Daniel then spent over a decade working in America and more recently Luxembourg, coming to rest in Amsterdam and London - dividing his time now between these two great maritime cities.

He is the author of the Henk van der Pol detective series and several short thriller stories, and he contributes articles to publications including The Financial Times, The Times and The Field.

In order to write The Harbour Master, he spent several months living in the docklands area of East Amsterdam, counting De Druif bar as his local.

For more information visit
Follow him on Twitter @DPemb
Find his Author page on Facebook

Thursday 27 April 2017

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve #BlogTour @AnitaShreve1 @LittleBrownUK

Hot breath on Grace's face. Claire is screaming, and Grace is on her feet. As she lifts her daughter, a wall of fire fills the window. Perhaps a quarter of a mile back, if even that. Where's Gene? Didn't he come home?
1947. Fires are racing along the coast of Maine after a summer-long drought, ravaging thousands of acres, causing unprecedented confusion and fear.
Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her difficult and unpredictable husband Gene joins the volunteers fighting to bring the fire under control. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's two young children, the women watch in horror as their houses go up in flames, then walk into the ocean as a last resort. They spend the night frantically trying to save their children. When dawn comes, they have miraculously survived, but their lives are forever changed: homeless, penniless, and left to face an uncertain future.
As Grace awaits news of her husband's fate, she is thrust into a new world in which she must make a life on her own, beginning with absolutely nothing; she must find work, a home, a way to provide for her children. In the midst of devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms - joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain - and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens, and Grace's bravery is tested as never before.

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve is published in hardback by Little Brown in the UK on 2 May 2017 and is the author's seventeenth novel.

Like many people, I have been reading and enjoying Anita Shreve's books for many years, and was delighted to be offered the opportunity to read and review The Stars Are Fire for the Blog Tour.

In The Stars Are Fire, Anita Shreve returns to the historical settings of her classic novels such as Fortune's Rocks and The Pilot's Wife. This story is set just after the second world war, in Maine, USA, and features the terrible wildfire that devastated the county in 1947.

This author does not write huge books but she creates huge stories with her perfectly crafted, sharp and taut prose. The Stars Are Fire grips from the very first page and does not let go.

Grace Holland and her husband Gene live with their two small children in Maine. On the surface, their life appears happy and content as Grace keeps the house, whilst Gene earns the money. Rub a little gloss from the surface though, and the real truth of their marriage is easily exposed. Grace leads a narrow, oppressed life, coping with Gene's unpredictable outbursts and juggling motherhood and housework. When she discovers that she is pregnant with their third child, it seems like the end of the world.

Desperately unhappy; the only person who casts an ounce of joy into her life is Rosie, her next door neighbour and great friend. She's outspoken and bubbly and is a rock to Grace. As the summer heat intensifies, and the women and their children struggle to catch a breath, a deadly and ferocious fire begins and soon everything that they own is gone.

The fire marks the beginning of a new life for Grace in many ways. Gene is gone, presumed dead and she is penniless and homeless. Gathering up the last of her strength after tragedy strikes, she begins to forge a new life for herself.

What follows is a remarkable story, full of wonderfully created characters in a setting that is beautifully described. Anita Shreve's description of the horror of the fire, and the devastation it causes to both land and to human is startling and raw. Grace suffers loss after loss, followed by joys, followed by crushing blows, but his is not a sentimental novel at all. It is intricate, and rich and perfectly paced.

The Stars Are Fire is an absolute triumph of a story, the perfect read. I loved it and would recommend it highly.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and invited me to take part in this blog tour.

Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), the eldest of three daughters. Early literary influences include having read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton when she was a junior in high school (a short novel she still claims as one of her favorites) and everything Eugene O’Neill ever wrote while she was a senior (to which she attributes a somewhat dark streak in her own work). After graduating from Tufts University, she taught high school for a number of years in and around Boston. In the middle of her last year, she quit (something that, as a parent, she finds appalling now) to start writing. “I had this panicky sensation that it was now or never.”
Joking that she could wallpaper her bathroom with rejections from magazines for her short stories (“I really could have,” she says), she published her early work in literary journals. One of these stories, “Past the Island, Drifting,” won an O. Henry prize. Despite this accolade, she quickly learned that one couldn’t make a living writing short fiction. Switching to journalism, Shreve traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, where she lived for three years, working as a journalist for an African magazine. One of her novels, The Last Time They Met, contains bits and pieces from her time in Africa.
Returning to the United States, Shreve was a writer and editor for a number of magazines in New York. Later, when she began her family, she turned to freelancing, publishing in the New York Times Magazine, New York magazine and dozens of others. In 1989, she published her first novel, Eden Close. Since then she has written 17 other novels, among them The Weight of Water, The Pilot’s Wife, The Last Time They Met, A Wedding in December, and Body Surfing.
In 1998, Shreve received the PEN/L. L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction. In 1999, she received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey, and The Pilot’s Wife became the 25th selection of Oprah’s Book Club and an international bestseller. In April 2002, CBS aired the film version of The Pilot’s Wife, starring Christine Lahti, and in fall 2002, The Weight of Water, starring Elizabeth Hurley and Sean Penn, was released in movie theaters.
Still in love with the novel form, Shreve writes only in that genre. “The best analogy I can give to describe writing for me is daydreaming,” she says. “A certain amount of craft is brought to bear, but the experience feels very dreamlike.”

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell @Sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks #Exquisite #Teaser #Review

A chilling, exquisitely written and evocative thriller set in the Lake District, centring on the obsessive relationship that develops between two writers...
Bo Luxton has it all - a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.
Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.
When they meet at a writers' retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops... Or does it?
Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell is published by Orenda Books in paperback on 15 June 2017.

Where to start? Where on earth?  Exquisite by Sarah Stovell is a book that took me by surprise, I was absolutely consumed by the story whilst reading it. The plot and the characters still lurk in my head. The voices of both Alice and Bo regularly pop into my mind, I ask myself questions about them, about their story. It’s a book that burrows its way into your soul, and clings on.

Two women, who at first introduction seem so very far apart. Bo, aged forty, is a successful novelist. She lives peacefully by the Lakes in Cumbria with her husband and her two small daughters. She’s confident, successful, intelligent and talented.

Alice, mid-twenties and drifting seems to be the complete opposite. Her boyfriend Jake is slovenly, lazy, keen on daytime parties and drink and drugs. She works, cash-in-hand at a language school. Her life seems to have no direction.

The common theme in Bo and Alice’s lives is writing, and whilst Bo has already carved out a great writing career, Alice can only dream of doing the same. Things may change when Alice is awarded a bursary to attend a Creative Writing course led by Bo.

Bo and Alice meet and immediately, the tension is ratcheted up by this very very talented writer and it soon becomes clear that these two women have another thing in common. They are both very damaged people, with pasts that haunt them and shape them and impact on their present.

What follows is a highly addictive, sophisticated and very twisted psychological thriller. The reader is exposed to the workings of the darkest of minds, and each page presents a question to the reader, although the answers are not always apparent.  The development of the intense and at times, very disturbing relationship that grows between Bo and Alice is so finely done, with some spectacular characterisation and surprising twists. The Lake District setting is beautifully portrayed and the contrast between that and Alice’s home town of Brighton is vividly done.

Throughout the story, the reader knows that something serious will happen, that is clear from the address of one of the narratives, however, it is not until almost the very end that we can be sure of the reliability of the narrators ...... or can we?

Exquisite deserves to be huge in 2017, it is quite extraordinary. At times uncomfortable, often shocking, but always compelling.  Sarah Stovell is hugely talented, Exquisite is an absolute triumph.

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart.

She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. 

Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

How To Be A Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan @NotRollergirl @headlinepg

For fans of Bryony Gordon and Caitlin Moran, a comforting, witty, supportive book for real twenty-something women who want to discover how they can reach the end of the 'fun' decade knowing exactly who they are.
Have you ever felt lost, anxious, panicky about adulthood?
Have you ever spent a hungover Sunday crying into a bowl of cereal?
Have you ever scrolled through Instagram and felt nothing but green-eyed jealousy and evil thoughts?
Award-winning journalist, Grazia agony aunt and real-life big sister to five smart, stylish, stunning twenty-something young women, Daisy Buchanan has been there, done that and got the vajazzle.
In How to be a Grown-Up, she dispenses all the emotional and practical advice you need to negotiate a difficult decade. Covering everything from how to become more successful and confident at work, how to feel pride in yourself without needing validation from others, how to turn rivals into mentors, and how to *really* enjoy spending time on your own, this is a warm, kind, funny voice in the dark saying "Honestly don't worry, you're doing your best and you're amazing!"

How To Be A Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan was published by Headline in paperback on 6 April 2017.

So, I'm fifty years old and I've just read a book called How To Be A Grown Up. Why? Well, the number one reason is because it's written by Daisy Buchanan, and I love her. The daily email from The Pool is one of my joys in life, and when there's a piece written by Daisy in it I know that I will either laugh, sigh or ponder it for most of the day. She's one of those women who I really want to be like (despite the twenty year age gap). She's funny, and bright and oh so honest.

This book should be handed out to every girl as they leave school and enter the world of the 'grown up'. Most of us don't have an older sister who is wise enough, or has the time to tell us where we might go wrong. To let us know that it is OK to make mistakes. To explain about blokes, money, jobs and other women. Daisy does it for us, with wit and down-to-earth honesty.

I cried with laughter and I gulped back a couple of sobs, because it is clear that although Daisy is full of wisdom today, she learned the hard way. She exposes her vulnerabilities, she relates her mistakes, she acknowledges that she's not and has never been, perfect.

Tips, advice, guidance - call it what you like. This book is amazing. Pure Daisy, Wonderful.

Daisy is Grazia UK's resident agony aunt, starting her column Dear Daisy in October 2015 and sharing her wisdom with Grazia's 120,000 readers. She has been writing about twenty-something TV favourite Made in Chelsea for four years, with loyal readers following her from Sabotage Times to the Mirror to Bauer's big 2014 launch The Debrief, racking up over a million page views along the way. Daisy is a frequent fixture in the Guardian's 'most-read' section, covering everything from trying out masturbation apps to hiring a tutor. She's a Telegraph Women columnist, and writes regularly for titles including The Daily MailEsquireGlamourLookMarie ClaireStylistThe Pool and The Sunday Times.
Daisy was named in MHCP's 30 To Watch list in 2015, she won the title Dating Writer of the Year at the 2015 Dating Awards and won the Lifestyle category at the first Words by Women awards. Her internet dating book Meeting Your Match was published in January 2015, and her first book, The Wickedly Unofficial Guide to Made in Chelsea was published as an eBook in Autumn 2013. She's a regular broadcast contributor, appearing on The Today Show, Woman's Hour, Last Word, BBC London, 5 Live Breakfast, London Live and This Morning.
Follow her on Twitter @NotRollergirl

Monday 24 April 2017

George Clarke's More Amazing Spaces #Giveaway #Competition #Prize @Truedor @MrGeorgeClarke

Published in October to coincide with the launch of the fourth Amazing Spaces series, this second tie-in book showcases more of George Clarke's extraordinary small builds from all over the country. He shows how amazingly unexpected small spaces can be adapted into really workable living areas.
Combining the eccentric and the inspirational with practical information directly from the projects' creators, the book will appeal not only to those dreaming of a get-away & for example in a deceptively cosy tin tent & but to everyone who wants to make the most of the space at home or in the garden, such as converting a basement into a casino. With stunning photography showcasing projects from Series 2 and 3 and highlighting their most intriguing features as well as advice and style tips, the book features more than 20 previously unpublished home, garden, holiday and work spaces.

I'm not going to lie. I have a very large, very soft spot for George Clarke - I love his Channel 4 programme and always watch in amazement and fascination. He discovers the most extraordinary people who make the most incredible places to live in and to work in, and to have fun in.

I'm delighted to be working with Trudor today; George Clarke is their ambassador, to offer one reader of Random Things to opportunity to win a signed copy of George Clarke's latest book; More Amazing Spaces.

It's a beautifully presented hardback book, full of fabulous colour photographs.
The spaces range from a mobile cinema in the back of a Bedford bus to a basement casino.

Also up for grabs is a £20 Amazon Gift Voucher.

Entry is simple, just leave a comment at the bottom of this post and tell me where your favourite space is. UK ENTRIES ONLY PLEASE

George Clarke is an architect, writer, lecturer and TV presenter. He is Creative Director of George Clarke + Partners, which has established a reputation for designing and building high-quality, award-winning projects throughout the UK and abroad. He is passionate about the way architecture can transform our everyday lives, and his aim is to make architecture and design popular and accessible to everyone.
George's TV programmes include Property Dreams, Build a New Life in the Country, Restoration Man and George Clarke's Amazing Spaces. His previous books are Build a New Life, George Clarke's Home Bible and George Clarke's Amazing Spaces.

Friday 21 April 2017

Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl #BlogTour @OrendaBooks #NordicNoir #MyLifeInBooks #OsloDetectives

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back... and this time, it's personal... 

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her... and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he begins to look deeper into the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich's colleague Gunnarstranda finds another body, and things take a more sinister turn. With a cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway casting a shadow, and an unsettling number of coincidences clouding the plot, Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers - and the killer - before he strikes again. 

Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl, published in paperback by Orenda Books on 15 April 2017.

I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today, he's sharing with us the books that have inspired him and made a difference to his life in My Life In Books.

When I was a boy our family moved around a lot, because my father was a journalist, working for various papers around the country. Most of my friends didn’t like books, but when I started school, one of my best friends did share my literary interests. He introduced me to The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, which was one of the best reading experiences of my childhood. I think this was not only because of the musketeers’ adventures, but also because it gave me a peek into an exotic period of French history. In return, I introduced my friend to another great read – Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I loved Huck’s attitudes and the warm friendship with Jim. I’ve had a weakness for stories about travelling ever since.

My father loved literature, and I started reading our family collection of books from a young age. I think I have inherited my taste for pulp and crime fiction from my father, but one of the more ‘decent’ authors represented on our shelves was Knut Hamsun, a Norwegian writer still discussed in Norway because of his membership of the Norwegian Nazi party and his actions during World War Two. Despite his political attitudes, he is a wonderful writer. As a teenager I loved his novels about the north of Norway, the way he writes about the life and intrigues of small villages: their social structure; the conflicts between the poor and the bourgeoisie; the various stock characters; and the landscapes – all of it portrayed with love and a great sense of humour. I don’t know which of these novels are translated into English, but I think some of his outstanding novels, such as Hunger and Mysteries, can easily be found in the UK.

As I’ve already mentioned, there was a lot of pulp fiction on my father’s bookshelves. It was there I met Chandler and Hammett for the first time (and of course Mickey Spillane, Peter Cheyney and others). In my teens I discovered how some crime fiction attempts to mirror the complexity of modern society. My favourites in this line were The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, Farewell My Lovely and The Long Goodbye.

In my twenties I read every book I could find written by Honoré de Balzac. At that time there was only one of his novels translated into Norwegian: Father Goriot. So I read up about him: about his Comédie humaine and how he wrote series about various characters in Paris. I started to buy Swedish and English editions of his books. There are so many to chose from, but I some of my favourties include Lost Illusions and Splendeurset miseres des courtisanes (I think the English title is ‘The Harlot High and Low’.) Both novels are about the anti-hero Lucien de Rubempré, a dandy who could easily be transfered into the society of today. These novels are about art, literature, journalism, illusions, ideals being lost and found, fraud, finance and crime. Both novels would pass as crime fiction, I suppose.

Crime fiction has always been prominent in my reading. In my thirties I enjoyed the books of Elmore Leonard. I loved the pace and rhythm of his writing and his inner monologue technique. I also read James Crumley’s novels (such as The Last Good Kiss) with great pleasure. In his books, Crumley comes close to Chandler, in my opinion, taking the American Noir genre one step further. I was also fascinated by James Ellroy’s writing, how he uses his affection for the fifties and Noir in books such as White Jazz and American Tabloid.
I like to read contemporary Norwegian fiction, especially debuts. There are a huge number of good books in Norwegian, but sadly most of them are not translated.

Some of the best reading experiences I have had lately are the novels by the Chilean, Roberto Bolaño, especially The Savage Detectives. In my opinion, this book has it all: poetic language and wonderful characters in an almost anarchistic but organised story. I’m already looking forward to reading it again. 

Kjell Ola Dahl ~ April 2017 

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland @under_blue_sky @BonnierZaffre #Loveday #MyLifeInBooks

This bookshop keeps many secrets  
Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never show you.

Into her refuge - the York book emporium where she works - come a poet, a lover, a friend, and three mysterious deliveries, each of which stirs unsettling memories.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past and she can't hide any longer. She must decide who around her she can trust. Can she find the courage to right a heartbreaking wrong? And will she ever find the words to tell her own story?

It's time to turn the pages of her past . . .

Lost for Words is a compelling, irresistible and heart-rending novel, perfect for fans of The Little Paris Bookshop and 84 Charing Cross Road.

Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland is published today; 20 April 2017, in paperback by Bonnier Zaffre. I'm a big fan of Stephanie Butland's writing. I have read and reviewed her two previous books here on Random Things: Surrounded By Water (also published as Letters To My Husband) in April 2014 and The Other Half of my Heart in November 2015.

Once again, as with her two previous novels, this very talented author has created a cast of extraordinary characters, headed by Loveday Cardew; possibly one of the most infuriating, yet lovable fictional females that I've met in many years.

On first meeting, the reader would be forgiven for feeling envy towards Loveday. She cycles the narrow cobbled York streets to her job in a second-hand bookshop. Her boss, Archie is wonderful, both caring and a bit eccentric, but also so easy going that she really is her own boss. Who couldn't want to be Loveday? Surrounded by boxes of books, day in, day out. Living in one of our most beautiful cities, life really should be a dream.

The cracks in Loveday's armour soon become apparent though, and her vulnerabilities begin to show. Her difficulty with trust, her natural defensiveness and how closed she can be. She often appears cold and uncaring, yet desperate to be understood. As each new character is introduced to the story, they are the vehicles that drive it. Each one of them are perfectly formed and fit beautifully into Loveday's story.

The story is told in three timescales; Loveday's childhood, spent in Whitby with her parents is entitled History, whilst the present day is called Poetry and her more recent past is Crime. Each section of this story slots together seamlessly and as the reader learns parts from History, so Poetry and Crime begin to make sense.

I could gush for hours about Lost For Words; the setting, the characters, the quite dark and disturbing themes, but that's not my job. I'd just like everyone to go out and buy a copy and savour it and love it as much as I did. I expect most people will shed a tear or two, and I know that there will be laughs and gasps along the way too. This really is a poignant and beautiful story, told by an author who can captivate an audience so easily. Wonderful. Highly recommended from me.

I'm thrilled to welcome Lost For Words author Stephanie Butland here to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her and have left a lasting impression on her life, in My Life In Books.

My Life In Books ~ Stephanie Butland

I lived for these. I read them over and over. There was one I hadn’t read which my Mum bought for me but said I had to save until we went on holiday. It was my first time on a plane, but as soon as we got on I asked for the book and, well, plane schmane.

As a child, I was absolutely transported by these. I took them out of the library and really didn’t want to give them back. As an adult, I re-read them and loved them just as much.

This still has it all, for me. Jane has feistiness and weakness, acceptance and fight. She has self-reliance, makes some terrible decisions, learns a little and loses a little. Very possibly a perfect novel. I read it first when I was about 13, and although many books that I’ve re-read in adulthood don’t have the same charm, this one gets better and better.

Apart from being fantastic books, these were read by me, my parents and my brother. we read the books, we listened to the radio programmes, we watched the TV series. They are part of our family history.

My favourite Austen. (Though that’s like saying salted caramel is my favourite ice-cream. It is, but I will happily substitute raspberry ripple, lemon sorbet, or anything good and chocolatey.) Tightly plotted, heartbreaking, witty, and human.
Updike’s first novel. Probably not his best, but I’ve chosen it because it was the first that I read, and it began a lifelong love of Updike’s books. He’s a craftsman of the first order: precise, insightful, and moving.

Oh, how well I know this book! I read it over and over when my children were small and never tired of it. Plus: THE ENDING. I love that it doesn’t underestimate children, or pander to them.

I read them as an adult, but they made me feel (in the best possible way) like a child, and I cried like a baby at the end.

Heyer’s Regency romances got me through chemotherapy. (Agatha Christie helped a bit, too.)

Stephanie Butland ~ April 2017 

Stephanie Butland lives in Northumberland, close to the place where she grew up. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and loves being close to the sea. She’s thriving after cancer.
Find her on Twitter: @under_blue_sky
At her website: