Tuesday 31 December 2019

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald @Christinamac79 @HQstories #TheNightOliviaFell #BookReview

It is the most gripping suspense mystery you'll read this year. They said it was an accident.
Her mother knows they're lying. But the truth comes with a price... IT'S EVERY PARENT'S WORST NIGHTMARE. Abi Knight is startled awake in the middle of the night to a ringing phone and devastating news - her teenage daughter, Olivia, has been in a terrible accident. Abi is told that Olivia slipped and fell from a bridge into the icy water below, and now she lies silent, dependent on life support. But then Abi sees the angry bruises around Olivia's wrists and learns that her sensible daughter is in fact three months pregnant . . . WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT IF THEY TOLD YOU IT WAS AN ACCIDENT?

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald was published in paperback by HQ in March this year. My thanks to the author and publisher who sent my copy for review.

The story begins with a middle of the night phone call. Just the thought of the phone ringing, late at night is enough to scare the wits out of most of us.

For Abi, it's the beginning of her nightmare. The worst night of her life and the most terrible news to listen to. She's told that her daughter Olivia has had an accident and is in hospital. Abi is a single mother who has loved, adored and protected Olivia for her entire life. Olivia is bright and sporty and whilst she often grumbles about her mother's over protectiveness, she knows that she is loved.

Abi's devastation continues when she learns that Olivia is officially brain dead; there is nothing that the medics can do for her. However, according to state law, they are required to keep her alive via machines as Olivia is pregnant. Abi is shocked beyond belief, she really thought she knew everything about her daughter.
As far as the police are concerned this was a tragic accident and Olivia fell from a bridge. Abi doesn't believe them, especially when she spots a ring of bruises

This clever author has structured her novel so very well. The reader is introduced to Abi and then to Olivia as we hear her story in her own words and this certainly gives two sides to the story. It's an interesting concept and is skilfully done, allowing the reader to get a real insight into Olivia's character, and her actions right up until that fateful moment on the bridge.

The Night Olivia Fell packs a massive emotional punch at times, this is not just a psychological thriller, or a mystery. It is also an in-depth and probing look at the mother/daughter relationship. Abi's pain is beautifully and sometimes painfully portrayed, especially as she realises that the birth of a grandchild will mean that Olivia will truly be gone forever.

Clever and gripping. This is a fine debut from a talented author and I will look forward to her next book with great anticipation.

Christina McDonald is the USA Today bestselling author of The Night Olivia Fell, which has been optioned for television by a major Hollywood studio. 
Her writing has been featured in The Sunday Times, Dublin, USAToday.com, and Expedia. Originally from Seattle, WA, she has an MA in Journalism from the National University of Ireland Galway, and now lives in London, England with her husband, two sons, and their dog, Tango.

Twitter @Christinamac79
Author Page on Facebook
Instagram @christinamac79

Sunday 29 December 2019

I Dare You by Sam Carrington @sam_carrington1 BLOG TOUR @AvonBooksUK #IDareYou #BookReview

Mapledon, 1989
Two little girls were out playing a game of dares. Only one returned home.
The ten-year-old told police what she saw: village loner Bill ‘Creepy’ Cawley dragged her friend into his truck and disappeared.
No body was found, but her testimony sent Cawley to prison for murder. An open and shut case, the right man behind bars.
The village could sleep safe once again.
Anna thought she had left Mapledon and her nightmares behind but a distraught phone call brings her back to face her past.
30 years ago, someone lied. 30 years ago, the man convicted wasn’t the only guilty party.
Now he’s out of prison and looking for revenge. The question is, who will he start with?

I Dare You by Sam Carrington was published in paperback by Avon on 12 December 2019. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part on this Blog Tour

I have been a fan of Sam Carrington's books ever since she published her debut; Saving Sophie, in August 2016. I've read every one of her books and reviewed them all here on Random Things. I've always enjoyed her intelligent writing and her perfectly created characters. 

I can safely say that I Dare You is her very best book yet. It's a story that grabs the reader and drags them into the story with a very tense prologue set in 1989. 
Chapter One introduces us to Anna, in 2019 and the novel continues in this vein. Short, snappy and electrifying chapters, alternating between 1989 and 2019, and narrated in the main, by Anna and Lizzie; two complex yet compelling female characters who you never quite trust to tell the truth. 

Thirty years ago, when the prologue is set, the children of Mapledon village found their greatest excitement by playing Knock Knock Ginger; knocking on doors and then running away. Their main target was 'Creepy' Billy Cawley; a young widower, father of a small girl himself, and an outsider. The only reason that he's the target of those kids is because they've listened to the adults around them. Mapledon is one of those small, insular villages, where anyone who cannot trace their village heritage for hundreds of years is treated with suspicion.

When Jonie; ten-years-old and one of the keenest players of Knock Knock Ginger disappears, it is her friend's witness statement that sees Billy Cawley imprisoned. Jonie's body was never found.

Billy Cawley has served his sentence and is now a free man. There are many people in Mapledon who would prefer that he was never talked of, and will do their very best to keep long-held secrets.

Anna and Lizzie have their own parts to play out. Both of them left Mapledon many years ago, but both of them are drawn back to their childhood homes, but for very different reasons.

The author excels in character building, and in I Dare You, the village of Mapledon is a character too. Her depiction of this small, tight-knit village, populated by generations of the same families, with the same secrets, nursing the same fears is brilliantly done. It's certainly not a place that I'd like to visit; with a village shop full of gossip and scandal, and an assortment of, mainly female characters who wouldn't be out of place in the most sordid of soap opera scenes.

I really enjoyed the short chapters, nipping back and forth, slowly drip feeding the reader with clues, and it has to be said; a few red herrings along the way too. It's extremely cleverly constructed and throws up question after surprise after reveal, all the way through.

This is an intense, clever and engrossing psychological thriller that kept me turning the pages frantically throughout.  Atmospheric with flawed characters that really do chill.

Sam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband, two border terriers and a cat. 
She has three adult children and a new grandson! 
She worked for the NHS for fifteen years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. 
Following the completion of a psychology degree she went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. 
Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. 
She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist. SAVING SOPHIE, her debut psychological thriller, published in September 2016. It became a Kindle eBook bestseller, with the paperback hitting The Bookseller Heatseeker chart at #8. 
Sam was named an Amazon Rising Star of 2016. 
Her second psychological thriller, BAD SISTER, published in 2017 followed by ONE LITTLE LIE in July 2018. THE MISSING WIFE was published in June 2019 and I DARE YOU  on 12th December 2019.

Author page on Facebook

Monday 23 December 2019

Expectation by Anna Hope @Anna_Hope @DoubledayUK #ExpectationBook @TransworldBooks #BookReview

Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.

Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?

The most razor-sharp and heartbreaking novel of the year, EXPECTATION 
is a novel about finding your way: as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a rebel.

Expectation by Anna Hope was published on 11 July 2019 by Doubleday/Transworld. The paperback will be released in April 2020. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I absolutely adored both of Anna Hope's previous novels; Wake (2015) and The Ballroom (2016). Both of those are historical fiction and I was intrigued to find out how she would deal with a more contemporary setting in Expectation.

She deals with it very well. Expectation is the proof that Hope is one of our finest and most adaptable novelists at the moment. Her ability to create characters who worm their way into the reader's brain and are difficult to shake off is incredible.

 “Good God, we got out there and we changed the world for you. For our daughters. And what have you done with it?”

These words were spoken to Lissa, one of the novel's main characters, by her mother, and it's a theme and question that runs right through this story.
The title 'Expectation' is perfect for the story of three friends; Lissa, Hannah and Cate and the reader accompanies them through the thirty or so years of that friendship. Beginning as they prepare to graduate from University, as they lead a carefree life, living together in a London house and continuing throughout their lives; incorporating careers, relationships, children and always expectation.

Anna Hope pinpoints the exact things that concern women in the twenty-first century. Her characters are flawed and often make disappointing decisions, but they are so recognisable. Their hopes, their dreams, and their expectations never quite leave them, despite the disappointments and trauma that each of them have to bear throughout the story.

The author deals with the expectation of becoming a mother, and deals with it with honesty and in vivid detail. The reader sees how this expectation and the results of that can shape lives, and alter friendships. As Cate struggles with sleep deprivation and an interfering mother-in-law and the changing relationship between her and partner, she also knows that by becoming a new mother, her friendship with Hannah has altered. Hannah, despite her successful career and beautiful home wants nothing more than to be a mother. Endless rounds of IVF and the constant despair of this have fractured her relationship with Cate and seems to be destroying her own marriage too. Those expectations again, and the hopeless reality that blur them are intelligently described.

Finally, we learn of Lissa's expectations and how they've shaped what she's become, and how the expectation of her own mother, as in the line at the top of this review has left a searing scar upon her.

Most women will see something of themselves, their friends and possibly their mothers in these characters. It is an exploration of hope, a tender but often brutal depiction of friendship and most of all, a beautifully written novel.

There can be nothing more devastating than the failure of a friendship, but there is also nothing quite like that feeling of having your 'tribe'; those friends who become our therapists, who share our secrets and our joys, and most of all, help us to manage our own expectations.

This is a stunning novel, written with empathy and honesty. I adore it.

Anna’s powerful first novel, Wake, sold to Transworld Publishers in a seven-way auction. 
Set over the course of five days in 1920, Wake weaves the stories of three women around the journey of the Unknown Soldier, from its excavation in Northern France to Armistice Day at Westminster Abbey. 
US rights were pre-empted by Random House. 
The book was published in Doubleday hardback on 16th January 2014. 
Wake has now been sold in 17 foreign territories. 
Anna’s second novel, The Ballroom, was published in January 2016 and was selected for Richard and Judy’s Autumn promotion. 
Her third novel Expectation, also with Doubleday, was published in July 2019.

Website www.annahope.uk
Twitter @Anna_Hope

Friday 20 December 2019

Amazing Grace by Kim Nash @KimTheBookworm @HeraBooks #AmazingGrace #BookReview

Grace thought she had it all. Living in the beautiful village of Little Ollington, along with head teacher husband Mark and gorgeous son, Archie, she devoted herself to being the perfect mum and the perfect wife, her little family giving her everything she ever wanted.

Until that fateful day when she walked in on Mark kissing his secretary - and her perfect life fell apart.

Now she's a single mum to Archie, trying to find her way in life and keep things together for his sake. Saturday nights consist of a Chinese takeaway eaten in front of the TV clad in greying pyjamas, and she can’t remember the last time she had a kiss from anyone aside from her dog, Becks

Grace’s life needs a shake up – fast. So when gorgeous gardener Vinnie turns up on her doorstep, his twinkling eyes suggesting that he might be interested in more than just her conifers, she might just have found the answer to her prayers. But as Grace falls deeper for Vinnie, ten-year-old Archie fears that his mum finding love means she’ll never reconcile with the dad he loves.

So when ex-husband Mark begs her for another chance, telling her he’s changed from the man that broke her heart, Grace finds herself with an impossible dilemma. Should she take back Mark and reunite the family that Archie loves? Or risk it all for a new chance of happiness?

A funny, feel good romance about finding your own path and changing your life for the better – readers of Cathy Bramley, Jill Mansell and Josie Silver will love this uplifting read.

Amazing Grace by Kim Nash was published digitally by Hera Books in April 2019. Now, I don't usually read digitally; I don't own an e-reader.  However, I really wanted to read this debut by fellow blogger Kim Nash, so downloaded the Kindle app to my phone and bought it.

It has taken me a while, and that is nothing at all to do with the book, but purely down to my inability to read quickly on that damn app! Maybe it's time to buy a Kindle ...... shrieks with horror!!

Anyway, back to the book.   Oh my days! I am so so glad that I read this. I loved it and the writing is so accomplished. It's perfectly structured, with a good dash of laugh-out-loud humour, combined with deeper and more emotional issues; the reader moves from tears of laughter, to tears of sadness throughout the book.

Lead character Grace is awesome. I'd so love to have her in my life. She's a good, kind woman who is devoted to her young son Archie. She's had it rough though, since the day that she caught her husband Mark smooching with his secretary. All her dreams and all her beliefs about their perfectly happy and contented life crashed down around her.
She's got through though and her and Archie are a great team. Does she need a new love interest? Well, her friend Monica certainly thinks so and her input creates some hilarious scenes of on-line dating exploits. I snorted with laughter.

Enter Vinnie. Oh, Vinnie .... I think I'm in love with him myself. He's everything that is perfect for Grace and he's pretty interested in her too. Archie however, is not so sure. He wants nothing more than for his Mum and Dad to get back together, and when Mark coming begging to Grace, and asks her to take him back; she's faced with a big, big decision. What to do?

These characters enter your heart and stay there. They are created so wonderfully; from odious Mark to delicious Vinnie. Archie is an absolute treat; his little boy ways combined with his utter devotion and loyalty to Grace is beautifully and realistically presented.

The author made me cry when she incorporates Grace's mother into the story. The feelings of loss and grief are palpable and I know for a fact that these scenes were written from the heart. Just beautiful.

Amazing Grace is a wonderful read. Kim Nash is a talented author and a welcome newbie to this genre, her writing reminds me of Jill Mansell's ... and she's one of my favourites.

Highly recommended.

Kim Nash is an author of feel-good, heart-warming, romantic comedies.

She lives in Staffordshire with son Ollie and English Setter Roni, is PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture and is a book blogger at www.kimthebookworm.co.uk.

Kim won the Romantic Novelists Association's Media Star of the Year in 2016, which she still can't quite believe. She is now quite delighted to be a member of the RNA.

When she's not working or writing, Kim can be found walking her dog, reading, standing on the sidelines of a football pitch cheering on Ollie and binge watching box sets on the TV. She's also quite partial to a spa day and a gin and tonic (not at the same time!) Kim also runs a book club in Cannock, Staffs.

Amazing Grace was her debut novel with Hera Books and came out in April 2019.

Escape to Giddywell Grange is Kim's second novel and was published on September 18th 2019.

You can read Kim's Blog here: www.kimthebookworm.co.uk

Sign up to be the first to hear about new releases.

Connect with Kim on Social Media here:
Twitter: (@KimTheBookworm
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimTheBookWorm/
Instagram: @Kim_the_bookworm

Another Planet by Tracey Thorn @tracey_thorn @canongatebooks @EmmaFinnigan #AnotherPlanet #BookReview

In a 1970s commuter town, Tracey Thorn's teenage life was forged from what failed to happen. Her diaries were packed with entries about not buying things, not going to the disco, the school coach not arriving.
Before she became an acclaimed musician and writer, Tracey Thorn was a typical teenager: bored and cynical, despairing of her aspirational parents. Her only comfort came from house parties, Meaningful Conversations and the female pop icons who hinted at a new kind of living.
Returning more than three decades later to Brookmans Park, scene of her childhood, Thorn takes us beyond the bus shelters and pub car parks, the utopian cul-de-sacs, the train to Potters Bar and the weekly discos, to the parents who wanted so much for their children, the children who wanted none of it. With endearing wit and great insight, Thorn reconsiders the Green Belt post-war dream so many artists have mocked, and yet so many artists have come from.

Another Planet by Tracey Thorn was published by Canongate Books in hardback in February this year. The paperback will be released in February 2020.

My thanks to Emma Finnigan, PR, who sent my copy for review.

I've been a fan of Tracey Thorn for many years, we are a similar age, I love her music, and I adore her writing. I was introduced to her at the Costa Book Awards earlier this year, and admit to coming over all fan-girl, and just shaking her hand and mumbling incoherently!
A few years ago I read and reviewed her book Naked At The Albert Hall, I really enjoyed it. I knew that Another Planet was going to be a treat, and it is, a huge huge treat. I loved it.

I step off the train
I'm walking down your street again
And past your door, but you don't live there anymore
It's years since you've been there
Now you've disappeared somewhere, like outer space
You've found some better place

These are the lyrics from the opening verse of 'Missing' by Everything But The Girl; probably Tracey Thorn's biggest and most recognisable hit single. 
I wonder if Another Planet was inspired by this song?  I wonder if she was thinking about writing this memoir before she wrote the song? It doesn't matter though, because both the song, and the book are incredible.

Tracey Thorn grew up in the 1970s in rural Hertfordshire; a place called Brookman's Park; a place where nothing happened, every single day. I too grew up in a quiet village, albeit in Nottinghamshire, but nothing happened there either. Like Tracey, the highlight of our week was to take the bus to the nearby town and see what we could buy. 
We were often disappointed. As was Tracey.

Another Planet is so familiar to anyone who spent their formative years in a village that offered little excitement. As I was reading, I nodded in agreement at every page. As she talks about the television shows and recounts entries from her diary, it really could have been me, and my friends.

As Tracey Thorn re-visits the streets of her youth, she includes snatches from the diary that she religiously filled in during those years. These entries are both funny and poignant, and tell of a girl who wanted so much more, but wasn't quite sure what it was that would fulfil her. 

There is such a lot of details of things that didn't happen for Tracey. The things she didn't buy, the nights out that she didn't attend; fairly typical of a teenage girl; we all wanted so much more. 

This is a warm and witty, and very honest account of teenage angst and boredom. I loved every word, she's an incredibly talented author, but we knew that didn't we? Those song lyrics!
Touching, thoughtful and so familiar. Made me love her even more

The youngest of three children,Thorn was born in Brookmans ParkHatfield, Hertfordshire. She grew up in Hatfield and studied English at the University of Hull, where she graduated in 1984 with First Class Honours. She later took an MA degree at Birkbeck College, University of London.
After 27 years as a couple, Thorn and the other half of Everything But The Girl, Ben Watt, married in 2008 at Chelsea Register Office. They live in Hampstead, North London. The couple have twin girls, Jean and Alfie, born in 1998, and a son, Blake, born in 2001.

Twitter : @tracey_thorn
Facebook Page

Thursday 19 December 2019

After The End by Clare Mackintosh @claremackint0sh @BooksSphere #AfterTheEnd #BookReview

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They're best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can't agree. They each want a different future for their son.

What if they could have both?

A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find. With the emotional power of Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper, Mackintosh helps us to see that sometimes the end is just another beginning.

After The End by Clare Mackintosh was published by Sphere in hardback on 25 June 2019, the paperback will be released on 14 May 2020.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I read After The End whilst on holiday in Corfu back in September. It's an absolutely beautiful book, it's unlike her previous books which were all psychological thriller; this is a story of love, family and hope.

After The End is a book of two halves. The prologue takes place in a courtroom; just a few paragraphs that set the scene for what was one of the most difficult and heart wrenching stories I've read for a long time.
The reader gets to know Max and Pip who are head over heels in love; a strong and determined couple who are the proud parents of young Dylan.
However, tragedy comes calling and Dylan is diagnosed with cancer. During an operation he suffers brain damage. It's serious; possibly life limiting and will leave him unable to do anything for himself.
However, there are options. There are medics in the States who promise that they can treat Dylan; it's risky and pioneering and there's little evidence to back up their claims, but for these traumatised parents it certainly is an option.

After The End has an unusual structure; part two leads the reader down two very separate paths and poses that question; what would I do? The author has quite obviously invested a lot of emotion into  this story and it's not a secret that she has been through a similar situation in real life. It is her experience that adds so much depth to this book; the reader really believes, although it's so hard to judge either of the parents.

Max, Pip and Doctor Leila are the lead characters in the novel, and each one has a strong, believable voice. The supporting cast of characters, especially the other parents in the hospital are especially well created too, and the fraught, yet strong friendships that are established are perfect.

This is a difficult review to write as I don't want to give too much away, about either the plot, or the ending. I can say that is so very tender, yet  deals with one of the most heart-breaking issues that any parent can ever experience.

A story that is both life-affirming and hopeful yet will pull on every one of your heartstrings.
Passionately written with an empathy and understanding that is heartbreaking in its reality.


With over 2 million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015.
 It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016. 
Both Clare's second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers. 
All three of her books were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and together have been translated into over thirty-five languages.

Clare is patron of the Silver Star Society, a charity based at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which supports parents experiencing high-risk or difficult pregnancies. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

* * *

For more information visit Clare's website www.claremackintosh.com or find her at www.facebook.com/ClareMackWrites or on Twitter @ClareMackint0sh #ILetYouGo #ISeeYou #LetMeLie #AftertheEnd

Wednesday 18 December 2019

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey @Iona_Grey @simonschusteruk @TeamBATC #TheGlitteringHour #BookReview

1925. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them. 

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself.  When their worlds collide one summer night, neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of a love affair that they know cannot possibly last.

But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules.  By the end of that summer everything has changed.

A decade later, nine year old Alice is staying at Blackwood Hall with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present, and hope for the future. 

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey was published by Simon & Schuster in hardback on 30 May 2019. The paperback was published on 17 October.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review

This review was originally published in the Daily Express in November 2019 

This wonderfully written, evocative novel sweeps the reader back to the 1920s; the time of the Bright Young Things. The young, rich and reckless who devote their lives to pleasure.

Selina Lennox is one of the brightest of them. She comes from a well-known, wealthy family who disapprove of her antics. The regular columns in the newspapers; the photographs of her and her friends attending glittering parties and causing scandal along the way.

Lawrence Weston come from the other side of the tracks. He’s a struggling artist from a poor family, but finds himself on the fringes of the London social scene. When he and Selina meet unexpectedly one evening, this is the start of a long and tragic love affair that is doomed from the beginning.

Ten years later, young Alice has been sent to stay at Blackwood Manor; the family home of Selina’s family. She’s scared and neglected by her distant grandparents, and it’s only the intermittent letters that she receives from her mother that give her any joy in life.

This is an epic story of love and loss set amongst the glamour and glitz of 1920s London. The author’s ability to bring to life her characters is truly outstanding. Whilst on the surface, the life of the Bright Young Things appears to one of fun and privilege, the author cleverly incorporates the darker elements and the long-term effects of the Great War, giving the story great depth and emotion.

A beautiful love story; tender and captivating. A real treat for the reader.

Iona Grey has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. 

She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters.

Twitter @Iona_Grey
Instagram @ionagrey

Tuesday 17 December 2019

The Book Collector by Alice Thompson @saltpublishing #TheBookCollector #IndiePublisher #BookReview

In Edwardian England, Violet has a fairy tale existence: loving husband, beautiful baby son and luxurious home. She wants for nothing. But soon after the birth of her baby the idyll begins to disintegrate. Violet becomes obsessed by a book of fairy tales her husband has locked away in a safe. Paranoid hallucinations begin to haunt her and she starts to question her sanity. Meanwhile, vulnerable young women are starting to disappear from the nearby asylum. Soon Violet herself is interned in the asylum for treatment only to discover, on coming out, that her husband has hired a nanny while she has been away, the beautiful, enigmatic Clara. The brutality of the asylum is nothing compared to the horrors that now lie in wait.

The Book Collector by Alice Thompson was published in paperback by Salt on 5 November 2015.

A few months ago, I decided that I would buy at least one book per month from an Independent Publisher. The Book Collector was my first purchase.

This is a slim novel at just under 180 pages. However, I didn't find it a 'quick' read at all; it's a story to savour with characters who the reader would like to know more about and a twisty plot that conjures up a great dose of gothic horror.

It's not a horror story, but it is filled with horror after horror. The story is seen through the eyes of Violet, and it's never quite clear how much of her tale is real, or imagined. Violet is one of the most unusual and compelling  narrators that I've read for a long time, I questioned her and her actions throughout the story, but also backed her and wanted her to rise ceremoniously over her strange husband and their peculiar Nanny, Clara.

Violet was young and quite innocent when she met and married Lord Archie Murray. He's older and his first wife Rose and their young child died, it's clear to the reader that Archie sees Violet as his wife's replacement, as he mutters, on their first meeting; 'Rose, Rose. By any other name.'

We meet Violet properly as she waits at home for Archie to return. They now have a small son, Felix and Violet feels happy, but is not content. She is curious about the deceased Rose and discovers a book of fairy-tales in Archie's safe, that is dedicated to the dead woman.

This seems to be a turning point for Violet and she quickly descends into what appears to be madness and Archie is quick to have her committed to the nearby lunatic asylum for treatment. Meanwhile female patients from the asylum are disappearing, with bodies of some discovered nearby.

This is a creepy story, with more than a hint of darkness and suspicion. The author cleverly leaves most of Violet and Archie's back stories blank, giving them both an air of mystery that pervades the story. There's also Nanny Clara; a wonderfully drawn character who again we know little about but whose presence on the pages is perfectly done.

A chillingly haunting story from a talented author. I will certainly be reading more from Alice Thompson in the future.

Alice Thompson was born and brought up in Edinburgh. 
She was the former keyboard player with post-punk eighties band, The Woodentops and joint winner with Graham Swift of The James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction for her first novel, Justine
Her second novel, Pandora’s Box, was shortlisted for The Stakis Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year. 
Her other novels are PharosThe Falconer and most recently Burnt Island. 
Alice is a past winner of a Creative Scotland Award. 
She is now lecturer in Creative Writing at Edinburgh University.

Monday 16 December 2019

Half A World Away by Mike Gayle @mikegayle @HodderBooks #HalfAWorldAway #BookReview

Strangers living worlds apart.
Strangers with nothing in common.

But it wasn't always that way...
Kerry Hayes is a single mum, living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never hope to afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot ever forget her past.

Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a child, Noah always looks forward, never back.
When Kerry reaches out to the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will have life-changing consequences for them both.

By turns funny and moving, Half a World Away is a story that will stay with you long after you read its powerfully emotional, heartbreaking final page.

Half A World Away by Mike Gayle was published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton on 13 June 2019, the paperback will be published on 20 February 2020.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This review was originally published in the Daily Express, Books on Friday feature in the summer

Kerry Hayes is a cleaner, lives on a tough London housing estate, is a single mum to ten year old Kian who is her whole world, and was brought up in care from the age of ten.
Noah Martineau is a barrister, lives in Primrose Hill with his wife and daughter, and was adopted by a wealthy white couple when he was age two.

Kerry will never forget her past, whilst Noah chooses never to remember.

Every year, Kerry has written a letter to the younger brother who she adored; who she was separated from when they were removed from their mother Mary.
Kerry has never received a response to her letters, but this year she intends to find her brother, and when they do finally meet, their lives will change forever.

This is, at times, a very emotionally challenging read. Mike Gayle has an incredible talent for creating huge and totally realistic characters who the reader will totally invest in.
Narrated alternately by Kerry and Noah, the author seamlessly weaves all of the detail of their lives, both past and present with such flair.

The author writes with wit and humour; some scenes are laugh out loud funny, but he also deals with some serious and heart wrenching issues that will make the reader reach for the tissues.

The story touches on race, social class, the care system and terminal illness and is accomplished sensitive and powerful.

A truly beautiful story about the power of love, and family. Mike Gayle’s best book to date.

Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology Mike moved to London with ambitions of becoming a music journalist. This didn't happen however and following a slight detour in his five-year plan he ended up as an agony uncle for teenage girls' magazine Bliss before becoming Features Editor on the now much missed Just Seventeen. Since those early days Mike has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Cosmopolitan.
Mike became a full time novelist in 1997 following the publication of his Sunday Times top ten bestseller My Legendary Girlfriend, which was hailed by The Independent as 'Full of belly laughs and painfully acute observations,' and by The Times as 'A funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic.'
To date Mike is the author of twelve novels including Mr Commitment, Turning Thirty and Wish You Were Here. His books have been translated into over thirty languages.
After stints in Manchester and London Mike now lives in Birmingham with his wife, kids, two sheds and a rabbit.
Twitter @mikegayle
Author Page on Facebook

Saturday 14 December 2019

Poetry For Christmas by Orna Ross @OrnaRoss BLOG TOUR #RandomThingsTours #PoetryForChristmas

Whether you’re marking the Christian Christmas, the Chinese Dongzhi, the Jewish Hannukah, the Hindi Makaraa Sankrānti, the Irish Meán Geimhridh, or any other mid-winter festival, the hibernal solstice is a celebration of rebirth and renewal. 

The ever-present potential for beginning anew, as signified by the return of light, is the theme of this chapbook. In it, you'll find a poem for each of the twelve days of this season when the days start to get longer again, that will encourage you to rejoice, reflect and recharge.  

Dark nights, lamp or candlelight, and fireside flames in a quiet room provide the perfect conditions for deep and transformative reading. 

Reconnect with the wonder of the world-- and of those with whom you share it—through the powerful pleasure of inspirational poetry.

Poetry For Christmas and Other Beginnings by Orna Ross is a collection of twelve inspirational poems for deep mid-winter.

I'm delighted to share one of the poems with you today, as part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour

Christmas Rain
In the year’s dying days,
rainfall once again is falling,
failing to freeze, to become snow. 
No white Christmas again this year,
just the falling, failing rain
as silent, I overheard you say, 
as a Christmas suicide.
What a chilling line. 
I know it hurts your soul, 
this ceaseless raining on the town
and on the fields of forest trees 
raised for the season, 
spruce and cedar, pine and fir, 
grown to be cut down. 

No sooner born than dying, 
you said, and reminded us again, 
lest we forget, about the ill, 
the afraid and the alone. 
Well yes, we must do what we can
but the trees die, it also must be said,
in the cause of life: 
faith and hope 
and charity
friends and fun 
and family 
hymns and prayers 
and superfluity 
of food and drink and gifts. 

And now, whatever we might think,
it’s time to loop bright pearls of light 
and tinsel round the waiting bough, 
to decorate its needle-leaves, 
hang bauble globes of colour 
from its stalky branches, 
and top off the confection
with a sharply-pointed star. 
Then to step outside 
into the sodden air
and join the heaving crowds
to add our input 
to the manic ring 
of goods and money 
changing hands.

I am not blind to what that brings, 
but, my dear, is it not also true 
that in the spangled homes, 
the valiant trees are letting loose 
their scent of pine and fir?
And the weary world is waking
to the light returning
for another year? 
And look, 
can it be the rain is slowing, 
growing plump and white? 

Oh, let’s indulge the throb of hope. 
Let’s inhale, while we still can, 
the joy within 
the sparkly season’s 
Let’s taste the love
that is contained 
in the illuminating rain

    ORNA ROSS is an award-winning writer, an advocate for independent authors and other creative entrepreneurs, and “one of the 100 most influential people in publishing” [The Bookseller]. She writes novels, poems and nonfiction guides for creatives, and is Founder-Director of two popular online communities, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and The Creativist Club. She lives in London and writes, publishes and teaches around the globe. When not writing, you'll probably find her reading.

Twitter : @ornaross
Author Page on Facebook
Instagram @ornaross