Saturday 30 June 2018

Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale @PNovelistGale @TinderPress @PublicityBooks #TakeNothingWithYou

1970s Weston-Super-Mare and ten-year-old oddball Eustace, an only child, has life transformed by his mother's quixotic decision to sign him up for cello lessons. Music-making brings release for a boy who is discovering he is an emotional volcano. He laps up lessons from his young teacher, not noticing how her brand of glamour is casting a damaging spell over his frustrated and controlling mother.
When he is enrolled in holiday courses in the Scottish borders, lessons in love, rejection and humility are added to daily practice.
Drawing in part on his own boyhood, Patrick Gale's new novel explores a collision between childish hero worship and extremely messy adult love lives.

Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale is published by Tinder Press in hardback on 21 August 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

When my signed, special edition, hardback proof of Take Nothing With You dropped through my letterbox, I admit that I did a little dance of joy. When Headline publicity director, Georgina Moore Tweeted about the book ages ago, I knew that I'd probably do anything to get hold of a copy.

I am a huge fan of Patrick Gale's writing. He's very hard to generalise and this week I've described as a bit like a male Maggie O'Farrell or Sarah Waters. His last book; A Place Called Winter was one of my favourite books of 2015, he creates magic with words.

Take Nothing With You is Eustace's story and begins as he contemplates the fact that he's fallen in love, for the third time and also has cancer. Eustace is in his fifties and is wealthy and successful, he's not yet actually met Theo, the man he's fallen for. Their relationship has been played out over the internet as Theo is serving in the military. Eustace hasn't told Theo about his diagnosis. Only his best friend Naomi is aware of everything.

Eustace begins his radiotherapy treatment, in a lead-lined room, with nothing except a paperback book, a TV screen and an MP3 player full of music put together by Naomi. It is this cello music that evokes memories in Eustace and takes him, and the reader back to his childhood in Weston Super Mare.

Eustace, as a child, is unlike the adult man. He's awkward, living in a large gothic house filled with elderly people (his parents run a residential home), and isn't really sure of what or who he is. When his mother suggests that he take up music lessons and he begins to play the clarinet, he's still not sure if it's the right thing for him. When he abandons the clarinet due to his teacher's arrest for 'child fiddling', and he discovers the cello instead that he realises the beauty and power of music, and falls in love for the first time.

The novel follows Eustace as he totally dedicates his life to his cello lessons. Things at home are difficult, his parents' relationship is fraught and becomes more difficult as time goes on. Eustace is also discovering his sexuality, and his struggle with that is beautifully and sensitively portrayed.

Whilst Eustace is the lead character here, Patrick Gale's supporting characters are so beautifully created that at times, they almost steal the show from Eustace. His cello teacher, and her friends; the boys at school; his mother and Naomi; the girl who becomes his best friend and stays by his side until adulthood.

This is Eustace's story of survival in a world that seems to have so many barriers for him. There are some incredibly sad and emotional parts, but there's a wonderful wit and humour within the writing that keeps the story from becoming too dark and too anguished.

I can't say any more. I don't really have the words to express just how much I loved this book. It's not fast-paced or action filled, with twists and turns. It is however, so tender, so insightful and full of love. The power of love; the power of music and the power of kind and influential adults upon a young boy.

Intelligent, warm, cleverly structured. A novel to cherish and to shout about. Fabulous, just fabulous.

Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight in 1962. 
He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester. 
He now lives on a farm near Land's End. 
He's a passionate gardener, cook, and cellist and chairs the North Cornwall Book Festival each October. 
His sixteen novels include the Costa-shortlisted A Place Called Winter, A Perfectly Good Man and Notes From an Exhibition - both of which were Richard and Judy Bookclub selections - The Whole Day Through and Rough Music. 
His latest, Take Nothing With You is a tale of teenage obsession, sexuality, betrayal and music-making. 
You can find out more on his website
Instagram @trevilley
Facebook Author Page
Twitter @PNovelistGale

Friday 29 June 2018

Too Close To Breathe by Olivia Kiernan @LivKiernan @riverrunbooks #TooCloseToBreathe

Polished. Professional. Perfect. Dead. Respected scientist Dr Eleanor Costello is found hanged in her immaculate home: the scene the very picture of a suicide.
DCS Frankie Sheehan is handed the case, and almost immediately spots foul play. Sheehan, a trained profiler, is seeking a murderer with a talent for death.
As Frankie strives to paint a picture of the killer, and their victim, she starts to sense they are part of a larger, darker canvas, on which the lines between the two blur.
Olivia Kiernan's debut is a bold, brilliant thriller that will keep you guessing and leave you breathless.

Too Close To Breathe by Olivia Kiernan was published by riverrun on 5 April and is the first in a new series featuring Frankie Sheehan. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

It's a very brave debut author who introduces a very flawed lead character to her readers. This book reads like the second in the series as we discover that Frankie Sheehan has just returned to work as a Detective after being injured in a previous incident. The author doesn't tell us what happened previously, but the case hangs over Sheehan's head, with the Court case looming and her occasional flashbacks; it's very clever. Sometimes a little confusing, but the premise is intriguing, and if there was ever a hook to keep a reader engaged with a series, this is it.

So, back to the plot of Too Close To Breathe; when respected microbiologist Dr Eleanor Costello is found hanged, it appears to be a cut and dried, whilst tragic, case of suicide. However Sheehan is not so sure; there's something not quite right about this and sure enough, her profiling skills prove her right and this becomes a murder case.

Olivia Kiernan doesn't hold back. Her readers are thrust into the darkest, seediest side of life throughout this intense and quite complex investigation. The Dark Web and BDSM playing a major part in the plot, and exposing to the reader, and to Sheehan and her team, people and events that could scar a person for life.

Too Close To Breathe is not an easy read at all, however it is a gripping and compulsive book, and I was lucky enough to read this whilst on holiday, so it rarely left my side until I turned the final page.

There's evidence of extensive research within the story, and the characters are carefully crafted. I think that Sheehan will have to grow on me, I need to know more about her, and I'm really looking forward to book two in the series.

Olivia Kiernan is an Irish writer living in the UK and author of crime thriller, TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE. 

She was born and raised in County Meath, near the famed heritage town of Kells and holds an MA in Creative Writing awarded by the University of Sussex.

Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @LivKiernan
Find her Author page on Facebook

Thursday 28 June 2018

The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson @DorothyKoomson @PenguinUKBooks @ed_pr #TheBrightonMermaid

Brighton Beach, 1993

Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell is forced to quit her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.

But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…

Fast-paced and thrilling, The Brighton Mermaid explores the deadly secrets of those closest to you.

A version of this reviewed was previously published in The Daily Express.

The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson was published by Century/Penguin Books on 17th May 2018.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

The story begins twenty-five years ago; it’s 1993 in Brighton Beach and Nell and Jude are teenagers. They’ve sneaked out without their parents knowledge to go to a party thrown by a local boy. They are making their way home in the early hours when they discover a body laying on the sand.

The identity of this young woman is never discovered and she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell and Jude’s lives change overnight and whilst Nell struggles to understand why the police are convinced that she and her family have something to do with the body, Jude disappears.

Moving forward to the present day and Nell is still obsessed with the Brighton Mermaid, and with Jude’s disappearance. She spends every minute that she can spare, online; frantically trying to find people; anyone who may hold a clue to the identity of the mermaid and to Jude’s disappearance. When she gives up her job to carry on this work, she begins to uncover things that certain people really don’t want anyone to know about.

The Brighton Mermaid is a mystery story, a crime thriller and a detailed and fascinating exploration of relationships, and how one event can affect so many lives for such a long time. This author has created characters who are perfectly formed, yet incredibly flawed at the same time. Her insight in the human psyche and the way in which judgements can be altered so quickly is excellently done.

The book simmers with tension throughout, the depth of character and the intricately woven and ever changing relationship add a darkness to what is an excellent story.

Dorothy Koomson is the award-winning author of 14 novels and has been making up stories since she was 13 when she used to share her stories with her convent school friends. Her published titles include: The Friend, When I Was Invisible, That Girl From Nowhere, The Flavours of Love, The Woman He Loved Before, Goodnight, Beautiful and The Chocolate Run. 

Dorothy’s first novel, The Cupid Effect, was published in 2003 (when she was quite a bit older than 13). Her third book, My Best Friend’s Girl, was selected for the Richard & Judy Summer Reads of 2006 and went on to sell over 500,000 copies. While her fourth novel, Marshmallows For Breakfast, has sold in excess of 250,000 copies. Dorothy’s books, The Ice Cream Girls and The Rose Petal Beach were both shortlisted for the popular fiction category of the British Book Awards in 2010 and 2013, respectively. 

Dorothy’s novels have been translated into over 30 languages, and a TV adaptation loosely based on The Ice Cream Girls was shown on ITV1 in 2013. After briefly living in Australia, Dorothy now lives in Brighton. 

For more information on Dorothy Koomson visit
Follow her on Twitter @DorothyKoomson
Find her on Instagram @dorothykoomson_author

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Butterfly Ranch by RK Salters @Descend_Orpheus #ButterflyRanch @matadorbooks #MyLifeInBooks

The Britisher lay on his belly, arms cradling his head. He was wearing dirty shorts and there
were beads of caked mud in the hairs of his calves. A washed-out black tee shirt had slid up his torso
and bunched around his shoulders, baring the base of his powerful spine... 

Tristan Griffin is a household name and the author of a universally popular detective series. For the past few years he has lived in self-exile in a remote jungle lodge nestled in the Mayan hills of Southern Belize, with his partner Hedda. Butterfly Ranch begins as he attempts suicide and Hedda disappears. Altamont Stanbury, an old Kriol police constable posted to the local backwater of San Antonio, rushes to the scene with his daughter Philomena, the village nurse.

Philomena saves Tristan but he remains unconscious. Altamont, a bumbler and long-time reader of crime novels, launches a half-hearted search for Hedda by radio but decides to remain at the lodge. In truth his reverence for Tristan the writer consumes all else, and he becomes obsessed with the Griffin books he finds at the lodge.

When Tristan comes to, he is distraught and at times delirious, haunted by flashbacks of his uncompromising, cursed love for Hedda and the dark secret behind her disappearance. His anger and increasingly erratic behaviour only find respite in the presence of Altamont s innocent daughter. But he feels nothing but spite for Altamont himself, and the relationship between the two threatens to have fatal consequences for one or both.

Butterfly Ranch is a story of obsessive love, self-destruction and unexpected redemption.

Butterfly Ranch by RK Salters was published by Matador Publishing in December last year. As part of the Blog Tour, I'm delighted to welcome the author to Random Things today. He's talking about the books that are special to him in My Life In Books.

My Life in Books - RK Salters

To bring some order into decades of voracious reading, I'm focusing here on books that have influenced me as an author...

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë .   "It is wild, confused, disjointed, and improbable; and the people who make up the drama, which is tragic enough in its consequences, are savages ruder than those who lived before the days of Homer." This is a review of the time, and in its own misguided way it is quite accurate. Wuthering Heights is the ultimate story of cursed, haunted, violent, vengeful love. I got to it late, already an adult, but it blew me away. As the title suggests, the Yorkshire Moors are a character in their own right. That is something I tried to follow in Butterfly Ranch, casting the Maya Mountains as a key protagonist.

The Third Man by Graham Greene .   I read it one rainy Saturday as a teenager after seeing the 1949 film with Orson Welles. This is one of very few instances where you can say that both a book and its screen version are great. That’s no wonder, since Greene actually wrote the novella as an exercise to help draft the screenplay. It‘s a book that keeps you hooked and surprised, but it does so without conforming to formula, which is important to me. It’s about a lot more than cracking a crime, weaving in issues of ethics, friendship and betrayal.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad .  Conrad was miles ahead of his time in the way he constructed suspense and in the moral complexity of his characters. I could choose many of his books but I‘m going for Heart of Darkness, because it challenged me to explore uncharted waters - the thin veneer of modern civilisation, unchecked power, descent into madness. Added bonus: transposed from 19th century Congo to 1960s Cambodia, this book inspired the film Apocalypse Now. Another example of both book and screen version being outstanding - maybe not so rare after all.

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris .   There aren’t too many books that give me an all-out fit of laughter, this one did. It‘s also the only book that I know of where the main character is a collective “we”. “We” are the employees of a large advertising company fighting for survival. Along its inevitable descent to bankruptcy, “we” are drawn into hilarious office intrigues and conspiracy theories, and snapshots of individual lives made little by work. Strangely, while mainly using humour, Ferris manages to write a tragic book about corporate alienation. A real lesson in nuances.

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers .  “I am so immersed in my characters that their motives are my own. When I write about a thief, I become one,” said McCullers about this book. I have always been astounded by her ability to get deep into the subconscious motivations and desires of characters. The opening line announces that there will be a murder. Along the path leading to the crime, McCullers reveals undercurrents of despair, desire and repressed sexuality among the main characters. I read it in one sitting, because there’s such a strong sense of foreboding, spurring you on to piece together the different characters’ perspectives to get a complete picture.

Hunger by Knut Hamsun .  “Knut Hamsun taught me how to write,” said Ernest Hemingway. That was reason enough for me to check him out. This is the book with which Hamsun burst onto the literary scene, in 1890, and it pioneered the use of inner dialogue, something we now take for granted, i.e. when the reader gets to read the flow of the character’s mind directly, without intrusions like “he/she thought”. It tells the story of an impoverished, starving intellectual roaming the streets of Oslo and coming to terms with his failure to make it in the city. It’s full of humour, depression, empathy and the strange turns that the human mind takes in private. Genius.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett . For my birthday a few years ago, my wife went straight to the point and gave me money to spend in a bookshop. I discovered Bel Canto during that birthday browse. A private concert by a world-famous soprano held at a villa in South America is cut short by guerrillas who keep the diva, musicians and audience hostage for several months. Superficially you could say Bel Canto is a comedy about Stockholm Syndrome, but above all else it’s an unexpected celebration of love and friendship. What really touched me is the purity of the emerging relationships.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer .   I know, this isn‘t fiction. Into Thin Air is the definitive account of the ill-fated commercial expeditions to conquer Everest in 1996. Jon Krakauer was a client on one of the expeditions and lucky to return alive. His attempt to piece together and understand the events is probably the most gripping thriller I’ve ever read, fiction or non-fiction. One more reason to include it here: I read it together with my wife while travelling in Belize (the setting for Butterfly Ranch). The day we got to the chapters describing the deadly summit attempt, there was a tropical storm. We found a cafe with a covered porch and free coffee refills, and read, read, read while the rain drummed all around. As a reading experience, hard to top.

RK Salters grew up in Paris in the 1970s to an Irish émigré father and French mother. He is himself an exile of sorts, having left the roost to study abroad and subsequently lived in a number of countries. His approach to writing is eclectic, drawing influences from classic and contemporary, genre and literary fiction alike, across both sides of the Atlantic.
He is now settled in Lithuania (Baltics), where he earlier met his future wife while exploring the collapsing Soviet Union. He is a passionate traveller and an expedition in Belizean jungles provided the setting for Butterfly Ranch, his first novel.