Thursday 31 May 2018

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen @EmerTheScreamer @SarahJayBee #OMGWACA

Ever been a small town girl trying to make a life in the big city?
Meet twenty-something Aisling - that's pronounced Ashling - she can barely boil an egg let alone figure out what night bus to catch home.
But she's got a job in the big city, a flat and a boyfriend. She has an umbrella for rainy days, an electric blanket for cold nights and keeps her kitten heels firmly on the ground.
Until the day she accidentally ditches her only slightly useless boyfriend John. And finds herself in a spot of bother at work.
Is it time to pack up and go back to the sticks?
Or can Aisling fix the mess she's made?
What's a Complete Aisling to do?

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen was published in the UK in hardback by Michael Joseph Books on 3 May 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, and who invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.

I have been desperate to read this book for ages. I follow the authors on Twitter and via the Aisling Facebook group, and their humour and their outlook really appeals to me. Whilst it's a great book for anyone to read, I do think that you are at an advantage if you have an Irish heritage. I spent every summer in the wilds of Donegal as a child, and reading Aisling was sometimes like going back 'home' and listening to my family. It's an absolute delight. I chuckled, and yes, I cried whilst reading it.

If you are a fan of Marian Keyes, you will love this. In fact there's an endorsement from Marian on the front cover, and I watched her vlog where she raved about it.

Aisling is a young, sometimes innocent, often vulnerable, and always funny Irish girl. She's been with her boyfriend John for years and the novel opens as she and John are attending yet another wedding. By the end of the night though, Aisling's life has taken a turn that she didn't expect. It's clear that whilst John adores her, and is happy with their life; marriage is not on the cards.

What follows is a hilarious, but poignant look at where a twenty-something Aisling goes next. The reader is treated to every aspect of her life, and that of her family and friends. It is an utter joy to read and I really could hardly bear to put it down.

These two authors show such an incredible insight into the human brain, they've created in Aisling, a character that readers will love, will identify with, will become exasperated with, but will always back. We follow her through the highs and the lowest of lows, and believe me, Aisling has some tragic times. I had a lump in my throat on more than one occasion.

I felt for every character. This really is an unmissable book. Delightful, charming and just quite perfect.

Authors Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen are Aislings. 
Maybe not complete Aislings but about 42%. 
The Aisling character was conceived in their sitting room in 2008, when they began to observe the many traits, characteristics and quirks of a very particular type of Irish girl; one they identified around them and one they identified with. 
The Aisling character started as an in-joke between two best friends on a Facebook group which now boasts over 50,000 followers and counting.
Follow them on Twitter: @EmerTheScreamer and @SarahJayBee

Monday 28 May 2018

Breaking The Foals by Maximilian Hawker @MaxHawker #BlogTour #BreakingTheFoals @unbounders Guest Review @dtcrafts

The Troy of myth was a real city and it was called Wilusa. This is its story... Hektor's life of privilege is forever changed when a man, allegedly possessed by the sun god, inspires revolution among the oppressed people of Wilusa. For Hektor, son of the city's despotic ruler, social equality contradicts every principle he has been taught. And his obsession with duty is alienating him from his own young son, Hapi, with whom he has a fractured relationship. But when Hapi's life is threatened, Hektor is compelled to question his every belief as he rebuilds his relationship with his child through the breaking of a foal. As Wilusa collapses into political violence and the commoners rise up, Hektor must finally decide whether to defend the people and lose his identity, or remain loyal to his irrational, dangerous father.

Breaking The Foals by Maximilian Hawker was published by Unbound in paperback on 26 April 2018.

I'm really pleased to host Day One of the Random Things Tours Blog Tour today and delighted to share a review, written by guest reviewer Debbie Tomkies

Debbie Tomkies is a Classics graduate, textile artist and designer. She enjoys reading, gardening and all manner of crafts. She is the proprietor of DT Craft & Design, a writer for Knit Now magazine and author of three books. She also teaches and enjoys research into textiles, in particular, historical dye practices. 
Her work can be found at    Twitter @dtcrafts

Guest Review by Debbie Tomkies
Hawker’s novel is an interesting tale of a father caught between duty and parenthood. As heir to the throne of Troy, Hektor lives in a world of privilege, yet he comes to realise that privilege comes at a price. His duty to the gods, the people of Wilusa and the Wilusian code of honour, find him torn between salvaging his relationship with his son, Hapi and fulfilling the expectations of him that come with his status. 
The book gets off to a steady start, carefully setting the scene and giving the reader an insight into the main characters and the roles they will play. The writing style is a little unconventional, switching between first person present tense, narration and including Hektor’s thoughts, differentiated in italics rather like literary ‘speech bubbles’. For those who like a more narrative style this may take a little getting used to. 
As the story picks up pace, we appreciate the careful grounding we have been given in the early chapters (‘tablets’) as it enables us to focus on the relationships, the politics and the nature of the society our characters inhabit. We understand better the internal conflict faced by Hektor as he tries to keep happy the parents whom he repeatedly disappoints by failing to embrace fully his destiny but still be a father to his sickly son who, being a bastard, is barely tolerated by the king and his wife. 
The horse motif is consistent throughout and leads us along, offering parallels to Hektor and Hapi’s relationship and Hapi’s coming of age without becoming a heavy-handed or over-used metaphor. 
When Hektor achieves his ‘enlightenment’ the tale quickly gathers momentum and we see how he becomes a man who finally works out how to balance both duty and parenthood. Through a simple act of humanity he is able to orchestrate a sea change in attitudes between the wealthy (the ‘deserving’ or ‘shinies’) and the commoners of the lower town, uniting the two groups against a common foe, the neighbouring people of Sethan. 
As the book reaches its dramatic conclusion we are left with a feeling of positivity, of a world that has been changed forever by Hektor’s willingness to learn and change. 
With the use of rich description, careful development of a society complete with a unique mythology and language Hawker has worked hard to create a believable world in which to place his characters. The story is engaging and, whilst a little slow initially, once it gets up to speed, the plot quickly unfolds and reaches a very satisfying conclusion.

Maximilian Hawker is a 30-year-old writer who lives in Croydon, South London, with his wife and two daughters. 
He is author of the novel Breaking the Foals. 
An alumnus of Kingston University, he has a postgraduate degree in English Literature and has worked in education, editorial and design. 
Currently, he works in frontline children's social care for Croydon Council, providing a service for care leavers and also runs a YouTube channel for looked after children and care leavers called formeR Relevant, which he aims to eventually promote at a national level. 
He has had poetry and short stories - occasionally nominated for awards - appear in publications run by Dog Horn Publishing, Kingston University Press, Arachne Press and Rebel Poetry, among others. 
He also aims to see the word 'asparagi' added to the English Dictionary, as its absence troubles him

Twitter @MaxHawker
Facebook Author Page

It Was Her by Mark Hill @markhillwriter #BlogTour @LittleBrownUK @millieseaward #ItWasHer #DIRayDrake

Twenty years ago, Tatia was adopted into a well-off home where she seemed happy, settled. Then the youngest boy in the family dies in an accident, and she gets the blame.
Did she do it?
Tatia is cast out, away from her remaining adopted siblings Joel and Poppy. Now she yearns for a home to call her own. So when she see families going on holiday, leaving their beautiful homes empty, there seems no harm in living their lives while they are gone. But somehow, people keep ending up dead.
Did she kill them?
As bodies start to appear in supposedly safe neighbourhoods, DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley race to find the thinnest of links between the victims. But Drake's secret past is threatening to destroy everything.

It Was Her by Mark Hill was published as a paperback originial by Sphere / Little Brown on 17 May 2018, Ebook and Audio are also available.

I read and reviewed Mark Hill's debut novel here on Random Things back in October 2016, originally called The Two O Clock Boy, it is now published as His First Lie.

I was delighted when I heard that there was to be a Blog Tour for It Was Her, my thanks to Millie Seaward from Little Brown, and the author, for making sure that I could take part.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave...when first we practice to deceive.”
I'm sure all of you recognise that quote from Walter Scott's Marmion ... it's just exactly what I was thinking as I raced through this incredibly well plotted, brilliantly written novel.

It Was Her reintroduces the reader to the character of DI Ray Drake and his colleague DS Flick Crowley. Anyone who has read the first book will know that Drake is something of an enigma, and even if you've not read His First Lie, the author very cleverly incorporates the back story within the plot and it's very easy to follow.

OK, so let's get to it. First; Mark Hill has an imagination that scares the hell out of me. It Was Her is devilishly dark, with twists and unexpected turns throwing the reader off the trail and down countless paths constantly. His characters are so well imagined. Ray Drake is unlike any police character that I've come across before; there's an air of mystery to him that adds such depth and the reader is never quite sure if Drake is our hero, or the enemy. Don't get me wrong, Ray Drake is an excellent copper and he cares about the victims, and protects his team, it's just that there's this otherwordliness about him that digs away at the brain whilst reading.

The plot is intelligent, complex and fast-paced. There are murders, brutal and violent murders, with no apparent motive. The victims are killed in their own homes, left battered and bloody in what should be their safest place. DI Drake and DS Crowley are desperate to find the link between the cases.

The reader already knows that the link is a woman called Tatia, or Sarah, depending on who is talking to her. We know that she was adopted into a wealthy family twenty years ago, we also know that when the youngest child in that family died, Tatia was sent away again. Ever since then, Tatia has wanted a home; a place with nice things, where she can be comfortable. She finds the empty houses, she pretends that she's at home, but sometimes the householder comes home early, and that's when the killing begins.

This is so much more than just a murder case to be solved by a police team. Mark Hill incorporates Drakes own history into the storyline, and does it so very well. Flick Crowley knows more about Drake's past than either of them are comfortable with, and this causes immense strain on their relationship, both professionally and personally. Add to that, Tatia's own dsyfunctional family, and yes, we get to know them very well too, and you have a gripping, addictive thriller that is really very difficult to put down.

It Was Her is supremely well-crafted, from that irresistible premise, right through to the heart-thumping finale. Absolutely first-class writing, I loved this book, and can't wait for the next one.

Mark Hill is a London-based full-time writer of novels and scripts. 
Formerly he was a journalist and a producer at BBC Radio 2 across a range of major daytime shows and projects.
He was won two Sony Gold Awards.
You can find Mark at

On Twitter @markhillwriter
Facebook /MarkHillAuthor 

Dirty Laundry by Deborah Alma @emergencypoet @NineArchesPress #MyLifeInBooks

Deborah Alma's debut poetry collection Dirty Laundry is raucous, daring and honest, drawing contemporary women’s lives and those of our foremothers into the spotlight. It voices bold, feminist songs of praise: of persistence, survival, adventures of sexual rediscovery, each reclaiming the space to speak its mind and be heard and seen. A perfect remedy for the heartsick and weary, Alma’s intimate and particular poems are resolute enchantments, a form of robust magic.

The collection brims with poems which are unafraid of airing secrets, desires and untold stories. From growing up mixed-race and learning to survive as a woman in the world, to tales of the countryside and themes of escape and finding joy, this book of poems is as vivid as it is frank and fearless. There’ll be no need for any tears, it’ll all come out in the wash…

Dirty Laundry by Deborah Alma was published by Nine Arches Press on 24 May 2018 in paperback and has already had so much praise.

"These poems stand firmly on the page in torn silk stockings; they are voluptuous, defiant and hedge-witch earthy. Dirty Laundry glimmers with sequins; a speck of blood on a canine tooth; with bright new love after a season of showers." – Helen Ivory

“Here is a debut collection that will sweep you away in its generous, welcoming arms: poetry that bears witness to the twin faces of pain and pleasure. Dirty Laundry is a boldly poetic treatise that examines with a stern, clear eye the ravages of male repression and violence but refuses to break faith with the human capacity for healing, growth and love. Electric with metaphor, glorying in friendship, everyday joys and the sensual delights of sex and the natural world, this collection will ambush you with sudden and surprising epiphanies gleaned from a life well lived: immersive, thrilling and redemptive.” – Jacqueline Saphra

“This is a collection which glitters with keen observation: ruby slippers, bangles, sunlit, tender moments. The characters in Deborah Alma’s poems are uncompromising and unapologetic: a therapy client tramples over the eggshells of an analyst’s metaphors in Doc Marten boots. These are poems that invite you in and – when you’ve finished reading – invite you to walk a little taller through the world.” – Helen Mort

“Haunted by violence, yet refusing to be silent, rooted in the body as a way of experiencing the world and unafraid in their sensuality, these are poems that examine women’s lives in all their complexity, woven through with imagery that lingers in the mind and the heart long after you finish reading.” – Kim Moore

I'm delighted to welcome the author, Deborah Alma, here to Random Things today, she's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life in Books

My Life in Books - Deborah Alma

Comet in Moominland, Tove Jansson I wanted to be Snufkin, a wise wandering carefree character, who loves people but needs to just take off on his own every now and then. Now I realise that I’m actually a cross between Moominmamma and Little My! I love this magical mysterious book so much!
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte When I was about 15 I read this for the first time and thought I was Cathy and was deeply in love with Heathcliff. I took myself way too seriously and started going on yearly pilgrimages to Haworth.
The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius I used to read this on the bus going to school and figured that it made me look intellectual, while actually it’s sordid and salacious and bloody! Brilliant stuff! Women In Love , DH Lawrence I do love Lawrence for all his faults and his struggle to explore the slim subtle spaces in intimate relationships. A very beautiful book and I have ever after worn colourful stockings.

The Echoing Grove, Rosamond Lehmann For her spare, controlled, beautiful and very English writing style. And such a good plot, a woman has a love affair with her sister’s husband! Oooh! It’s on my list too because of my long love affair with Virago Books, who I later worked for.
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Anne Tyler Open this book at any page and marvel at just how brilliant a writer she is! Understated, nothing showy. All her craft is invisible.
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson I have included this beautiful book, which really is a lovely lyrical poem, because it reminds me of reading to my boys when they were little. We can all recite it verbatim even now!

Staying Alive, edited by Neil Astley If I have a living literary hero, it is Neil Astley for the masterful editing of this book and the other anthologies which have followed it. It is an outstanding collection of poetry and my desert island book choice and it brought me back to poetry.
The Abandoned Settlements, James Sheard I will admit my bias at the start; Jim is my partner. I include this TS Eliot shortlisted collection because it is such an important book in my life; because it is disturbingly beautiful writing, because there is the title poem which should be one of those poems that is read over and over for years to come and be in all the anthologies and because there are some love poems just for me...

Deborah Alma - May 2018

Deborah Alma was born in North London, has lived on the Welsh/ Shropshire borders for the last 25 years where she brought up her 2 sons and she lives with the poet James Sheard. 
She teaches creative writing, works with people with dementia and at the end of their lives and is the Emergency Poet in her 1970’s ambulance. 
She edited The Emergency Poet-an anti-stress poetry anthology and The Everyday Poet-Poems to Live By (Michael O’Mara Books) and was the editor of the landmark #MeToo poetry anthology, published by Fair Acre Press. 
Her first poetry pamphlet True Tales of the Countryside was published by The Emma Press.
She is currently Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University.

Find out more at