Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver @will_carver @OrendaBooks #TeamOrenda #NothingImportantHappenedToday

Nine suicides
One Cult
No leader
Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.
That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of The People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.
Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe: a decapitation in Germany, a public shooting at a university in Bordeaux; in Illinois, a sports team stands around the centre circle of the football pitch and pulls the trigger of the gun pressed to the temple of the person on their right. It becomes a movement.

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver is published by Orenda Books: ebook on 14 September, followed by paperback on 14 November 2019.

My head is broken!  My words have disappeared. I honestly cannot stop thinking about this dark, twisted, powerfully told story, but I am struggling to explain why.
I've read a lot of books over the years and whilst reading this one I couldn't help but think of the only other author who made me feel this way. The story screams Kafka to me; there's that fusion of realism and fantasy, with the isolation of the nameless characters who form a cult, yet are totally separate from one another.

Yes! That's it - Nothing Important Happened Today is 'Kafkaesque' .... with vivid imagery and flickers of humour incorporated throughout.

The outline of the story is all in the blurb. Nine seemingly unrelated people travel to Chelsea Bridge one night. They each have a bag that contains a rope. They don't speak to each other. They don't have to. They know exactly what to do and when to do it. They all jump from the bridge.
There are thirty-two witnesses on the train that is passing by ... two of those witnesses will join the other nine. And there will be more, and more.  This is a cult, or so it seems, but nobody knows who is the leader.  Those nine people are just the beginning; more follow as the effects of the initial deaths spread worldwide.

Every person who dies by suicide in this book has a number, and apart from two people, the reader never learns their actual names. They are the people who serve you in the supermarket, who fix your drains, who wash your car. They are the People of Choice ..... their paths will have crossed at some time in their lives, but it is the one plain envelope that they all receive that joins them.

Despite their anonymity, this clever author makes every character real and genuine; each one has their own particular qualities, and whilst they may be just another cult member to the onlookers and the people reading about them in the news; as a reader we begin to know them intimately.

Of course this is a mystery story; a crime story; a thriller. Of course the police are desperately looking for the leader; the person who has so much influence that ordinary people will take their lives, even though they don't want to die.  They don't want to die, we know that, yet they do, at their own hand.

This is not an easy read. It's very dark, often uncomfortable and at times, I found it quite distressing.

Carver leads his readers a merry dance, and I was convinced that I knew who, if not why. What a fool I am! The author is sharp and shrewd, with an imagination that I could never foretell. The ending is cunning genius and even though I am still a tiny bit baffled by it all, it's a satisfying conclusion that makes the intriguing prologue make sense.

This is stylish and extraordinary writing. It's puzzling and perplexing but so damn good. There is something quite mesmerising about this story that defies genre and quite frankly, logic.
Stunning ...  this will linger in my mind forever.

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. 
He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. 
He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. 
He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. 
Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.

Twitter @will_carver
Author Page on Facebook

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Happiness For Beginners by Carole Matthews @carolematthews @BooksSphere #GuestReview #JamieLeeGrenfell #HappinessForBeginners

Molly Baker is living her best life.

Thirty-eight years old, she lives on the twenty-five-acre Hope Farm in Buckinghamshire, surrounded by (mostly) four-legged friends and rolling hills. There's Anthony the anti-social sheep, Tina Turner the alpaca with attitude, and the definitely-not-miniature pig, Teacup.
Molly runs the farm as an alternative school for kids who haven't thrived in mainstream education. It's full on, but she wouldn't have it any other way. So when the well-groomed Shelby Dacre turns up at Hope Farm asking to enrol his son Lucas, Molly isn't fazed.
But Lucas is distant and soon Molly realises he might be more of a handful than she anticipated. And then there's the added problem that his dad is distractingly handsome. Molly has her beloved farm to think of - could letting Lucas and Shelby in be a terrible mistake, or the start of something wonderful?
An absolute must-read from the queen of romance Carole Matthews, Molly's story will make your heart sing.

Happiness For Beginners by Carole Matthews was published by Sphere in paperback on 30 May 2019

I'm delighted to welcome Jamie Lee Grenfell to Random Things today
Jamie-Lee has kindly agreed to read and review books for Random Things, and Happiness for Beginners is the first of those reviews.

Hello!  I'm Jamie-Lee
I am a 34 years young. 
I live in Devon with my husband, two children aged 9 and 4 and lots of furry animals! 
I love reading and always have since I can remember. 

My favourite genres are thriller and romance but I am trying out new genres to hopefully widen my range as I am most probably missing out on some really good books

Jamie-Lee's review of Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews

This is Carole Matthews thirty first book published. It centres on Molly Baker a thirty eight year old socially awkward woman. 
Molly takes over Hope farm and the few animals living there when her Aunt Hetty passes away. The farm is an under-funded sanctuary where animals and children with no other hope can go and feel loved and accepted. 
Molly has always lived by a strict routine with minimal contact with the outside world, this is until Lucas arrives. Lucas is a troubled young boy expelled from school for starting fires, he is sulky and rude but Molly instantly takes a liking to him. He is angry with the world and most importantly his dad, the famous actor Shelby Darce. 
The chemistry starts to build between Molly and Shelby, and with all good rom-com novels it has you thinking will they, wont they. 
Things start to change quickly on the Farm and Molly has to step far away from her comfort zone to help save her home and the sanctuary she loves more than anything. 
Happiness for beginners is a really enjoyable read, there is happiness, sadness and funny moments that make you want to keep reading. 
I did find some of the storyline predictable but this did not put me off reading more, and enjoying it. Molly is a very likable and well written character; you instantly feel drawn to her and want her to step up and save the farm. All the characters from her lifelong confident friend Bev to the silent and mysterious Alan play a part in the story. 
This is a must for people who enjoy a cosy, easy read with romance and some drama thrown in. 
This is the first book I have read by Carole Matthews, I really enjoyed her style of writing and will be keeping a look out for more of her books.

Carole Matthews is the Sunday Times bestselling author of thirty-two novels, including the Top Ten bestsellers Let's Meet on Platform 8, A Whiff of Scandal, For Better, For Worse, A Minor Indiscretion, With or Without You, The Cake Shop in the Garden, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses, A Cottage by the Sea, The Chocolate Lovers' Club, The Chocolate Lovers' Christmas, The Chocolate Lovers' Wedding, Million Love Songs and  Christmas Cakes & Mistletoe Nights. 

Carole has also been awarded the RNA Outstanding Achievement Award. Her novels dazzle and delight readers all over the world. 

For all the latest news from Carole, visit, follow Carole on Twitter (@carolematthews) and Instagram (matthews.carole) or join the thousands of readers who have become Carole's friend on Facebook (carolematthewsbooks)

Monday, 19 August 2019

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell @lisajewelluk @arrowpublishing #TheFamilyUpstairs

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.

In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note. 

They’ve been dead for several days.

Who has been looking after the baby? 

And where did they go?

Two entangled families.
A house with the darkest of secrets.
A compulsive new thriller from Lisa Jewell.

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell was published by Century / Penguin Random House in hardback on 8 August 2019. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Give me a story about a neglected mansion house, full of secrets, with tragedies hidden away in its depths. Give me a story narrated by characters who may not be trusted. Give me a story told from differing points of view, and that spans across the years. Add in an extremely dysfunctional family, with a hint of obsession and cultish behaviour . Give that to me and I'm one very happy reader.

The Family Upstairs perfectly fits my 'give to me' list.

The story opens with a couple of paragraphs, narrated by a character who is, at first, unknown to the reader. These few lines set the scene and the tone for what is to come.

The three main voices are that of Libby; a young woman who finds that she's inherited a house in well-to-do Chelsea. Lucy; a mother of two, living in France; destitute and hungry, and then the voice from the opening page; we later learn that this is Henry who once lived in that very house in Chelsea.

At first it it difficult to imagine how these three characters are linked, but this clever author weaves together the three narratives so very well, creating a story that is so very dark, yet incredibly compelling.

Libby finds out so much more than she could ever imagined when she inherits the house. Adopted as a small child, she discovers that her family history is so very different to what she'd always been told. She discovers that her parents died in the house, along with another, unknown man and that she was discovered upstairs, in a cot. Well fed and clutching a rabbit's foot. As Libby delves deeper into a her background, she comes across a story that becomes all-consuming and Lucy and Henry's part in it become all the more clearer.

This is a creepy and engrossing read, it's complex and multi layered and hooks the reader from page one. Lisa Jewell has created a story of menace and suspense, perfectly done with characters who become totally spell binding as the plot unfolds.

Dark, unsettling and brilliant. Highly recommended by me.

Lisa Jewell was born in London. Her first novel, Ralph’s Party, was published in 1999. It was the best-selling debut novel of the year. Since then she has published another sixteen novels, most recently a number of dark psychological thrillers, including The Girls and Then She Was Gone (both of which were Richard & Judy Book Club picks). 
Lisa is a top ten New York Times and number one Sunday Times author who has been published worldwide in over twenty-five languages. 
She lives in north London with her husband, two daughters, two cats, two guinea pigs and the best dog in the world.

Website :
Twitter : @lisajewelluk
Author Page on Facebook
Instagram : @lisajewelluk 

Sunday, 18 August 2019

The Wild Book by Juan Villoro @JuanVilloro56 BLOG TOUR @hoperoadpublish #TheWildBook #Giveaway #Win

From one of Mexico’s foremost authors comes an adventure story of a boy who goes to live with his kooky, book-obsessed uncle in a library where books have a supernatural power all their own. 

Juan is looking forward to spending the summer having adventures with his best friend when he gets terrible news: not only are his parents separating, but he has to go live with his strange uncle Tito, who lives in a rambling home with three cats and about one million books. Shy and wary, Juan starts to explore Tito’s library, which is unlike any Juan has ever seen: the books are arranged in strange sections like "Motors That Make No Noise,” "Cheeses That Stink But Taste Delicious,” and "How to Govern Without Being President," and some of them seem to change location each time you look for them. In fact, Tito tells him that a book finds a reader when it’s needed, and not the other way around.

Soon, Tito lets his nephew in on a secret: Juan is a Princeps Reader, to whom books respond in a very special way, and Tito needs his help finding a special volume called The Wild Book, which has never allowed itself to be read. Juan is joined in the quest by his little sister and the pretty girl who works at the pharmacy across the street, and together they battle the nefarious Pirate Book, which steals words out of existing stories. Over the summer, with the help of his new friends, Juan learns all sorts of secrets about world classics from Alice in Wonderland to The Metamorphosis, and overcomes his fear of change and the unfamiliar.

The Wild Book by Juan Villoro, translated by Lawrence Schimel is published by Hope Road in September.
As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I have one copy to give away today. Entry is simple. Just fill out the competition widget at the end of this post.
UK entries only.


Praise for The Wild Book

"Books are portals to other worlds. In The Wild Book, a young boy learns about the power of stories when he explores his uncle's enchanted library of shape-shifting books. This is a beautifully written ode to the inherent magic of books and reading. ... Translated by award-winning Lawrence Schimel, Juan Villoro's prose is lovely and clear. Villoro, "Mexico's Updike," is his nation's most prolific, prize-winning writer. The Wild Book is no exception within his canon. Each of the twenty-one chapters is accompanied by Eko's stunning woodcut-style illustrations, depicting books with teeth and pages flying. Deserving a place beside classics like The Phantom Tollbooth and Half-MagicThe Wild Book is a timeless celebration of reading."
--Claire Foster, Foreword Reviews (Five-Heart Review)

"Brings to mind the same ecstatic thrill I felt reading The Phantom Tollbooth as a child, Fahrenheit 451 as a teen, and Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore as an adult. I'm absolutely envious of the young readers who are about to discover the magic of Juan Villoro's The Wild Book."
--David Gonzalez, Skylight Books (Los Angeles, CA)

"It's so much fun. If you like books, if you like books about books, it's great for anyone at any age... It's like Shadow of the Wind or Mr. Penumbra "The Early Years"--it's really fun!"
--Liberty Hardy, Book Riot's All the Books Podcas

"Yonder makes good on its promise of diverse offerings with its first titles, beginning this October with the release of The Wild Book, written by Mexican author Juan Villoro and translated by Lawrence Schimel. The middle grade novel is about a boy who goes to stay with his eccentric, book-collecting uncle, who takes him on a quest to find the infamous wild book that has never allowed itself to be read; it is illustrated by Mexican artist Eko."
--Publishers Weekly

"For me, when it comes to good writing, texts are alive and living among us, no matter the genre. Juan Villoro's The Wild Book -- a story in which books themselves are characters -- is an especially good example.... In Uncle Tito's library, the books choose their readers. So Villoro's novel chose me.... Equal parts ecology and magical realism, Villoro explores the nature of literature and reading. The best stories are wild, after all.... Villoro entrusts young readers to care for and sustain the magic -- and in doing so, takes them seriously. But the novel is also generous with its adults ... Uncle Tito, changes and grows just like Juan, the teenage protagonist.... Villoro's novel illuminates why YA literature has such a large adult readership. Even as we age, or perhaps especially then, our purpose is not to tame our life stories -- but rather to allow them their wild lives."
--Kristin Van Tassel, Los Angeles Review of Books

"This quirky tale - originally published in Mexico - is a delight, giving books a life of their own. Before long, you'll see your reading list in a whole new way.... The Wild Book has a classic, magical feel, but it's also grounded in reality, as we see Juan coming to terms with his parents' separation and his feelings for Catalina, the girl who works in the local pharmacy. And Tito is a wonderfully rich character, from his constant need to urinate to his obsession with creating literary recipes. A must-read for book-lovers everywhere."
--Booktrust, Five-Star Review

"A rewarding and bewitching story which goes to the heart of why books are so powerful and incredible. From exploring how the person reading a story changes the very fabric of the story being read, so that one book can mean quite different things to different people, to how stories help us navigate our lives, often providing opportunities to practise scenarios before we encounter them in real life, thereby giving us skills, confidence and resilience, The Wild Book is a paean to the potential of books. If you consider yourself a bibliophile, this, quite simply, is a must-read.
In some ways a Library of The Shadow of the Wind for younger readers, The Wild Book luxuriously riffs on how books can be mirrors and windows.... Delicate, fine and surprising turns of phrase pack this novel, originally published in Mexico, mixing moments of humour with splashes of original beauty. The smooth and seamless translation is a delight, as are the glimpses into another culture, with lots of references to exploring the Amazon, and some nods towards literature from South America.... Apart from the glorious celebration of stories, I also loved how The Wild Book movingly and sensitively navigates a teenage boy's changing relationship with some of the adults in his life, and in particular with his father and uncle. Coming of age novels explore how a protagonist grows up and their relationship to themselves changes, but Villoro's novel also touches on how Juan's feelings towards his father and uncle change, with a growing realisation that how you perceive the adults in your life as a young person may not be the be-all and end-all of what those adults are really like.
The emotional sensitivity of Villoro's novel is nuanced and subtle. It's glorification of food, however, is a divine and triumphant indulgence.... I could have a lot of fun writing a cookery book companion to go with The Wild Book! Perfect for intrepid book explorers who relish getting lost inside the pages of a book, The Wild Book is a dazzling adventure you'll not want to miss."
--Zoe Toft, Playing by the Book

"Rich on multiple levels, a cast of colorful characters, plots and twists galore, and plenty of humor, author Juan Villoro weaves his words with a style that will delight older kids, start to finish, making The Wild Book a wild ride, indeed."
--Kendal A. Rautzhan, The Port Huron Times Herald

"This book is awesome. It is very interesting; there are just so many books, and it strikes on so many topics. It is also a great adventure story, one that is even believable because the author's name is also Juan, so that is really funny. I like how the Wild Book acts - the books are characters in this story, too, and some of them become good friends with Juan and help him. This is a great story for anyone who loves books like I do!"
--Raifl - Age 9, Kids' Book Buzz, Five-Star Review
One copy of The Wild Book by Juan Villoro

Juan Villoro is Mexico's most prolific, prize-winning author, playwright, journalist, and screenwriter. His books have been translated into multiple languages. Several of his books have appeared in English, including his celebrated 2016 essay collection on soccer brought out by Restless Books, God is Round. Villoro lives in Mexico City and is a visiting lecturer at Yale and Princeton universities.
Lawrence Schimel (New York, 1971) is a full-time author, writing in both Spanish and English, who has published over one hundred books in a wide range of genres. He is also a prolific literary translator. His picture books have been selected for the White Ravens from the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany and have twice been chosen for IBBY's Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities, among many other awards, honors, and Distinctions. His work has been published in Basque, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Turkish, and Ukrainian translations. He started the Spain chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and illustrators and served as its Regional Advisor for five years. He also coordinated the International SCBWI Conference in Madrid and the first two SCBWI-Bologna Book Fair conferences. He lives in Madrid, Spain and New York City.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Devotion by Madeline Stevens @Madeli63 BLOG TOUR @FaberBooks #Devotion

Ella is flat broke: wasting away on bodega coffee, barely making rent, seducing the occasional strange man who might buy her dinner. Unexpectedly, an Upper East Side couple named Lonnie and James rescue her from her empty bank account, offering her a job as a nanny and ushering her into their moneyed world. Ella's days are now spent tending to the baby in their elegant brownstone or on extravagant excursions with the family. Both women are just 26--but unlike Ella, Lonnie has a doting husband and son, unmistakable artistic talent, and old family money.
Ella is mesmerized by Lonnie's girlish affection and disregard for the normal boundaries of friendship and marriage. Convinced there must be a secret behind Lonnie's seemingly effortless life, Ella begins sifting through her belongings, meticulously cataloguing lipstick tubes and baby teeth and scraps of writing. All the while, Ella's resentment grows, but so does an inexplicable and dizzying attraction. Soon Ella will be immersed so deeply in her cravings--for Lonnie's lifestyle, her attention, her lovers--that she may never come up for air.
Riveting, propulsive, and startling, Devotion is a masterful debut novel where mismatched power collides with blinding desire, incinerating our perceptions of femininity, lust, and privilege.

Devotion by Madeline Stevens was published by Faber on 15 August 2019. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.

I have a weakness for an unlikeable character and Devotion gives the reader not one, but two of them. I'm not sure that we are supposed to dislike them, but I did. However, I loved this book. I loved how the author creates tension and darkness, and how those characters linger in the head, long after closing the final page.

Ella and Lonnie are the same age and live in the same city. That's where their likeness ends. Ella is desperate; she has no money, she's hungry, her flat is a dump and she has no regular partner. Her love life consists of pulling men who look like they may be able to afford to buy her dinner.

Ella's luck changes when, very surprisingly, she's hired by a wealthy couple to look after their small son so that Lonnie, the mother, can write.

This really is a clash of backgrounds, beliefs and circumstances and as Ella spends more time with Lonnie, she becomes more and more engrossed with her life, with her belongings, with everything about her. This obsessive attraction is carefully and cleverly created by the author, and makes for an eerie and unsettling read.

Don't expect fast-paced thrills, or twists and turns; this is far more subtle than that and it's a cleverly created, slow burn yet addictive story that totally gripped me.

The subject of the female friends relationship has always fascinated me and Madeline Stevens has created a story that feels quite dangerous. There's no padding, nothing spare, just an impeccably told story.  Highly recommended by me.

Madeline Stevens is a writer from Boring, Oregon currently based in Los Angeles. 
Her first novel Devotion is forthcoming in the US and Canada from Ecco Press August 13, 2019. 
Devotion will also be published by Faber & Faber in the UK and translated into six languages. Madeline holds an MFA from Columbia University and her work has been published in a variety of literary magazines
She teaches creative writing to adults and children through Catapult and Writopia Lab.

Twitter @Madeli63