Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Beast by Matt Wesolowski BLOG TOUR @ConcreteKraken @OrendaBooks - guest review from @eksorsist #TheBloke #DeadFamous #SixStories

Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the legendary local ‘vampire tower’, in another explosive episode of Six Stories…

In the wake of the 'Beast from the East' cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old Vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as 'The Vampire Tower', where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged 'cult', were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a 'prank gone wrong'
However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton's death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, the tragic and chilling legend of the ‘Ergarth Vampire…

Both a compulsive, taut and terrifying thriller, and a bleak and distressing look at modern society's desperation for attention, Beast will unveil a darkness from which you may never return…

Beast by Matt Wesolowski was published in paperback on 6 February 2020. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

#TheBloke - Martin - @esksorsist

Also, a huge thanks to my guest reviewer on Random Things today.

Welcoming back #TheBloke, otherwise known as Martin, my husband - he's a huge fan of Matt's writing and the Six Stories series.

I'm delighted to share his review here today.

So, here we are, just over a year on from my first - where has that time gone..??

Once again I will attempt to review the latest episode of ‘six stories’ by Matt Wesolowski - BEAST.
This is the fourth novel in the excellent and unique six stories series. Scott King, the elusive online journalist, once again peers beneath the surface of another bizarre case, where things are not necessarily all they appear. By interviewing six witnesses connected with the victim and killers, through six podcasts, we learn answers to questions raised regarding the grisly death of Elizabeth Barton, a successful vlogger on the rise to internet notoriety.

I’m sure most people can recount a story from their locale, of some old derelict building, or an eerie forest, that has some myth and folklore surrounding it - be it a haunting, sightings, strange noises etc. Look for it, and almost all towns & cities will have a ghost walk for visitors.

In Beast we have the Tankerville Tower, a crumbling scar on the landscape of the Northumbrian coast, close to the small town of Ergarth. Referred to locally as the ‘vampire tower’, it is synonymous with the legend of the ‘Ergarth vampire - Vladlena’ the beast from the East, dating back to the 1800’s. It was difficult for me not to visualise Whitby abbey, particularly with the whole vampire angle.

During our very own ‘beast from the east’ cold spell that crippled much of England during early 2018, the body of Lizzie B, aka Elizabeth Barton is found seemingly barricaded in the tower, frozen to death......

Three local youths are subsequently convicted of her gruesome murder, siting ‘a prank gone wrong’ as their only defence.

A year on, graffiti scrawled over the Barton family house peaks the interest of Scott King to dig a little deeper into the case, interviewing people associated with the victim & alleged killers. Over the course of these six interviews, he uncovers new and disturbing insights into the case, ultimately leading to an equally disturbing conclusion. In a society where popularity, validation and attention through numerous forms of social media, now seems the be all & end all for many, Beast gives a powerful insight to the possible consequences.

Matt has created another stunning addition to this very engaging series, again tackling some very thought provoking subjects on human behaviours and the long term impact they can have. Interweave some mystery and a touch of the occult / horror and it leads to another captivating read.

Want to know ‘who locked Lizzie in the tower?’...... buy, read and enjoy!

I have been Martin Cater, and this has been our second

Until next time....

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller. Changeling, book three in the series, was published in 2019 and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and shortlisted for Capital Crime’s Amazon Publishing Reader Awards in two categories: Best Thriller and Best Independent Voice.
Follow Matt on Twitter @ConcreteKraken

Orenda Books is a British-based publishing house that publishes literary and crime fiction. The London-based publisher was established in 2014 and publishes debut and existing authors

My Life in Books with Author Caroline England / Caro Land @CazEngland #Convictions #MyLifeInBooks

An occasional feature on Random Things
Talking to people from the book world about 'My Life in Books'

I am delighted to welcome author Caroline England, also know as Caro Land to Random Things today.

She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life in Books .

Convictions by Caro Land was published in January 2020

There are two sides to every crime…
Returning home to care for her ill mother, and approaching her fortieth birthday, Natalie Bach is devastated when she’s dumped without explanation by her long-term boyfriend. 
Struggling to pick herself up, she’s offered her old job at Goldman Law. Jack Goldman’s estranged son Julian has been arrested for attempted murder and he wants Natalie to find out why. 
With the help of fellow solicitor Gavin Savage, Natalie sets out to investigate, but with a series of red herrings ahead, will she ever discover the truth? 
And can Natalie avoid her personal problems interfering with the case? 
Convictions is the first book in a gripping new legal, crime suspense series written by bestselling author Caroline England, writing as Caro Land. It will appeal to fans of authors like Diane Jeffrey, Samantha Hayes and K.L. Slater.

My Life in Books - Caroline England / Caro Land

The Stud by Jackie Collins.  This might seem a surprising choice but it did have an impact at school. I lent my copy to a friend who had it confiscated when she was skiving the dreaded freezing swimming lesson. Reading about sex was akin to possessing Class A drugs. A SWAT team descended and lockers throughout the whole school were searched for similar shameful reading matter. Because I loved books so much, I always capitalised my name on the first page. Little did I know it would be officially printed one day! In this instance, however, it was a bad move. To ingratiate myself with the English teacher, Mrs Onac, I made more of an effort in the classroom and I discovered ‘the more one puts in, the more one gets out’ was actually very true. In addition to that, who doesn’t like a bit of romantic scandal? Though classed as ‘crime’, all my books have some, especially MY HUSBAND’S LIES…

Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl. See above. My copy was confiscated at the same time as The Stud. Oh no; sex again! But these dark tales with their delicious spiteful twists were just perfect, and they have undoubtedly influenced my writing, particularly my own short story collections WATCHING HORSEPATS FEED THE ROSES and HANGED BY THE NECK

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. This is the book we were studying when I tried to become teacher’s pet. I still find it astonishing that a book published in 1874 had such a feminist heroine. Bathsheba is ambitious, independent, headstrong, determined, and free-spirited. From the very beginning, she makes it known that she could never become any man’s property. I know things go somewhat awry, but go Bathsheba! My latest novel, CONVICTIONS, written under my pen name Caro Land, has feisty feminist but vulnerable solicitor protagonist too.

The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes. One of my favourite poets, not lessened by the fact that I saw him perform ‘live’ when I was at school. I can clearly remembering him explaining the background to The Thought-Fox and then reading it in that deep, yet soft timbre. I was mesmerised and he was my first Yorkshireman crush. I don’t think I would have written short stories, then novels, had I not begun by writing poetry. As it happens, another handsome Yorkshireman is the love interest in BETRAY HER!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I studied this for A Level, as did my three daughters. My teacher, John Billington, was just brilliant. Not only was he a great tutor, he was a buddhist with charismatic mystique. We all wanted to listen to his peals of wisdom and learn. I was so honoured that he read my debut BENEATH THE SKIN and wrote: “I admired the sheer confidence of your style and the assurance of your dialogue -- very impressive -- as well as the dexterity of your complex
plotting. And your insight into character is both astute and alarming! It is decades since I heard my mother say to my father "I can read you like a book!" when she discovered some minor hidden and innocuous secret (smuggling in a second-hand book usually), and I remember how as a child the possibility that women might have some X-ray capacity to read the minds of mere two-dimensional males haunted me. What on earth was Caroline thinking as she sat in my A level class! Dread to think.”

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I found the novel both enthralling and terrifying on so many levels. My latest psychological thriller BETRAY HER is partially set in a boarding school. Whilst my protagonist Jo didn’t have to go through even a fraction of what Offred suffered, there are most definitely some parallels between a totalitarian state and the boarding school I went to. Not to mention the real life Aunt Lydias!

The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley. I love the fact Mary Wesley wasn’t published until she was seventy. This makes me feel very young after all! I devoured all these books when they were published. I loved the quirky characters and surprisingly risqué storylines and though my novels are classed as crime, I hope some of her influences have rubbed off in my CONVICTIONS cast.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. It’s wonderful that a lauded literary writer like Kate Atkinson was happy to turn to crime! I aspire to her blend of contemporary literary and crime fiction in these Jackson Brodie novels. One of the reviews of Case Histories said it was a ‘wonderfully tricky book’. I like that! The television adaptations were great and the casting of Jason Isaacs as the world weary but attractive Jackson was inspired.

Wolf Comes to Town by Denis Manton. This children’s picture book is about a wolf who dresses in human clothing to hoodwink his gullible victims. He steals guitars, saucepans, lamb chops, ice-cream and valuable art. Pet cats began to disappear, then dogs and ducks and finally an obnoxious little boy called Bernard. I must have read this book a million times to my daughters. They were thrilled that the wolf got away! I think it appeals to my dark humour which is always threatening to escape. You’ll definitely find some of it in my new legal drama CONVICTIONS…

Caroline England / Caro Land - February 2020 

Born in Sheffield, Caroline studied Law at the University of Manchester and stayed over the border. Caroline was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer. She turned to writing when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters. Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a variety of literary publications and anthologies. 

Caroline writes domestic psychological thrillers. Her debut novel, BENEATH THE SKIN, known also as THE WIFE'S SECRET in eBook, was published by Avon HarperCollins in October 2017. Her second novel, MY HUSBAND'S LIES, followed in May 2018 and became a Kindle top ten bestseller. Her latest novel, BETRAY HER, published by Piatkus of Little, Brown Book Group, is now available as an eBook, audiobook and trade size paperback. The standard UK paperback will be published on the 9th July 2020.

Caroline has two dark, twisty short story collections available on Amazon, both in eBook and paperback, WATCHING HORSEPATS FEED THE ROSES and HANGED BY THE NECK.

Caroline also writes under the pen name Caro Land. Her first Natalie Bach legal suspense, CONVICTIONS, was published by Bloodhound Books in January 2020. The follow up, CONFESSIONS, will publish in June 2020

Twitter @CazEngland

Monday, 17 February 2020

The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd BLOG TOUR @samlloydwrites @TransworldBooks #Giveaway #RandomThingsTours #Competition #TheMemoryWood

Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It’s the only home he’s ever known.
Elissa has only just arrived. And she’ll do everything she can to escape.
When Elijah stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa, in the woods where her abductor is hiding her, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn’t want Elissa to leave.
Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn’t the first girl he’s found inside the Memory Wood.
As her abductor’s behaviour grows more erratic, Elissa realises that outwitting strange, lonely Elijah is her only hope of survival. Their cat-and-mouse game of deception and betrayal will determine both their fates, and whether either of them will ever leave the Memory Wood . . .

The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd is published in hardback by Bantam Press / Transworld on 20 February 2020.

I am delighted to kick off the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour for the Memory Wood today and have one hardback copy to giveaway.
Entry is really simple; just fill out the competition widget at the end of this post. UK entries only.



‘Beautifully told, with two superbly drawn young protagonists, Lloyd is a rare new thriller talent’ Daily Mail
'An intense, atmospheric, and truly original thriller' Shari Lapena, author of The Couple Next Door
Brilliant writing, a terrifying story, and characters so real it feels like you know them. If you enjoy dark, twisty thrillers that stay with you, read this book’ Samantha Downing, author of My Lovely Wife
'Remarkable. Stunning prose and compulsive reading. It's undoubtedly the best thriller I've read in a long, long time' Lesley Kara, author of The Rumour
'I haven't read anything quite this exciting since Room. You think all the stories have been told, then something like this comes along' Emma Curtis, author of The Night You Left
'I was captivated by The Memory Wood – a beautifully told, dark and chilling tale’ Renee Knight, author of Disclaimer
'The Memory Wood is impossible to put down. It's so wonderfully written, creepily atmospheric and chilling' Karen Hamilton, author of The Perfect Girlfriend

One Hardback Copy of The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd

Note from the Author

I already had my crime scene. Pretty soon, I had my protagonist: thirteen-year-old chess prodigy Elissa Mirzoyan, a quietly precocious girl who wakes underground after being snatched on the most important day of her life. Her determination to survive the coming ordeal wouldn’t be driven by mere instinct. It would come from a flat-out refusal to leave her mum alone in the world, and would be tempered by a ferocious hunger for vengeance. Plotting a novel, for me, always feels more like
a process of investigation than invention – the slow reveal of a dirt-covered mosaic. And as I teased out more of this story’s individual tiles, I learned something even more compelling about Elissa’s plight. While engaging her abductor in increasingly dangerous mind games, she’ll face a separate threat even harder to navigate. It’ll come in the form of a frail young boy, Elijah North, who discovers her subterranean prison while playing in his local woods. Steadily, Elissa will gain Elijah’s trust. But when she persuades him to raise the alarm, he’ll return with a tale too outlandish to be credible. More of the mosaic revealed itself, at which point I learned something about the story that knocked me flat. And then I had to write the book, just to find out how it ended... 

Sam Lloyd grew up in Hampshire, making up stories and building secret hideaways in his local woods. 
These days he lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and a dog that likes to howl. He enjoys craft beer, strong coffee and (rarely) a little silence. 
The Memory Wood is his debut thriller.

Twitter @samlloydwrites

Friday, 14 February 2020

It Started With A Secret by Jill Mansell @JillMansell @headlinepg #ItStartedWithASecret #BookReview

The trouble with secrets is that you can't guess what the consequences will be . . .
Lainey has lost everything. Luckily one little fib (OK, quite a big fib) helps nail her dream job. Soon she's living in a stunning house by the sea, fending off obsessed fans for a retired - if far-from-retiring - actor and organising his charming but chaotic family. It's definitely worth the challenge of keeping her secret.
At least Lainey isn't looking for love. It's time for a break from all that. And yet . . . Seth, the actor's grandson, really is rather attractive. There's growing chemistry and a definite connection between them. But how would he react if he knew she hadn't been honest with him?
Lainey's not the only one with a secret, though. Seth has one of his own. And everything's about to start unravelling . . .

It Started With A Secret by Jill Mansell was published by Headline in hardback on 23 January 2020. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Lainy and Kit have lost their jobs at Chateau Le Rafael in France. It's not their fault, they all tried very hard to make it work, but the old building and it's multitude of faults and repairs needed proved too much for the owners.
They return to England and scour the vacancies for something else. When Lainy spots an advert for a live-in couple to work for a family in Cornwall she knows that it would be perfect for them. They could surely keep the fact that they are not really a couple, and that Kit is gay, a secret, can't they?

Menhendrick House, the home of well-known retired actor Sir Richard Myles and his extended family is perfect. Most of the family; Richard, his daughter in law Majella; the wife of his late son, her children, and even the dogs are won over by this couple. The only doubter is Majella's step-son Seth, but his vote is overruled and Lainy and Kit begin work.

Whilst Lainy is not looking for love, especially after being dumped by her last boyfriend, she does find herself attracted to Seth. The feeling is mutual, but of course, Seth believes that she and Kit are a couple.

When Seth spots Kit getting friendly with a very handsome barman in the village, his suspicions are aroused, he's also angry. Lainy and Kit's secret is soon revealed, but they've become essential to the family, almost part of them, so they are able to stay on, and keep their jobs.

It's clear that there are other, well-hidden secrets within the family members though and there are a few surprises along the way too. Who knew that ruthless businessman Seth had such a soft interior? When Lainy learns how he personally helps one of his customers, her feelings for him are strengthened.

Lainy and Kit become instrumental in changing the lives of the Myles family. Sir Richard finds a missing piece of his life, whilst Majella begins to realise that there can be life after being widowed. The characters begin to assess themselves, and to be honest with each other as the story unfolds.

Jill Mansell's writing is both heart warming and uplifting. She creates stories and characters that the reader can truly invest in. The complex and interwoven family issues are cleverly woven into what is a wonderful story of love and friendship too.
Wonderfully written,  this is a warm and witty story of friendship, family and hope.

Jill Mansell started writing fiction while working in the NHS, after she read a magazine article that inspired her to join a local creative writing class. 
She has since written over twenty Sunday Times bestsellers, including It Started With A Secret, Maybe This Time, This Could Change Everything, The One You Really Want and You And Me, Always, and her books have sold over 11 million copies around the world. 
Jill’s hobbies include buying stationery, particularly magical new colours of ink for the fountain pen she uses to write all her books. 
She lives in Bristol with her family. 

Jill keeps in touch with her readers on Twitter – @JillMansell – and Facebook – /OfficialJillMansell.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd @GuinGlasfurd BLOG TOUR Guest Review by @jaustenrulesok #BookReivew

1815, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia
Mount Tambora explodes in a cataclysmic eruption, killing thousands. Sent to investigate, ship surgeon Henry Hogg can barely believe his eyes. Once a paradise, the island is now solid ash, the surrounding sea turned to stone. But worse is yet to come: as the ash cloud rises and covers the sun, the seasons will fail.
In Switzerland, Mary Shelley finds dark inspiration. Confined inside by the unseasonable weather, thousands of famine refugees stream past her door. In Vermont, preacher Charles Whitlock begs his followers to keep faith as drought dries their wells and their livestock starve.
In Suffolk, the ambitious and lovesick painter John Constable struggles to reconcile the idyllic England he paints with the misery that surrounds him. In the Fens, farm labourer Sarah Hobbs has had enough of going hungry while the farmers flaunt their wealth. And Hope Peter, returned from the Napoleonic wars, finds his family home demolished and a fence gone up in its place. He flees to London, where he falls in with a group of revolutionaries who speak of a better life, whatever the cost. As desperation sets in, Britain becomes beset by riots - rebellion is in the air.
The Year Without Summer is the story of the books written, the art made; of the journeys taken, of the love longed for and the lives lost during that fateful year. Six separate lives, connected only by an event many thousands of miles away. Few had heard of Tambora - but none could escape its effects.

The Year Without Summer by Guinvere Glasfurd was published on 6 February by Two Roads Books.

As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I'm delighted welcome Louise Wykes to my blog today with her review of the book.

You can find Louise on Twitter @jaustenrulesok

Louise's Review of The Year Without Summer 

The Year Without Summer was published in hardback and e-book on 6th February 2020 ny Two Roads. I would like to thank the publisher for sending me a copy of the book to review and Anne Cater for agreeing to host my review.

The Year Without Summer is a fast paced and emotionally involving piece of historical fiction. The book takes the reader back to 1815 and the eruption of the Mount Tambora in Indonesia and then moves the action forward to 1816 with scenes from England, Europe and Vermont and how these different places have all ultimately been affected by the events following the volcano eruption the previous year. There are six points of view contained in the book and I think the amount of narrators helps keep the pace of the story moving well as you keep turning the pages to find out what happens next, even if you ultimately realise that there are not many happy endings to be had.

I really enjoyed the fact that the author uses a mixture of real historical figures e.g. author Mary Shelley and artist John Constable and so called “ordinary people” although I think one of the characters is actually based upon a real person with facts that have been altered for dramatic effect. I did find that some of the stories I wasn’t as involved with as a reader (which is what I usually find in a book if there are multiple viewpoints used- there is usually one or more characters you are invested in one or more of the character’s viewpoints)

Like the best of historical fiction, I found that this book has piqued my interest in a period of history I didn’t know much about including the eruption of the volcano in 1815 and its after effects and the long reaching consequences of the Napoleonic war and the Enclosure Acts which enclosed open fields and common land in the country, creating legal property rights to land that was previously considered common. It has made me want to pursue further reading into the history and I’ve even requested a biography about Mary Shelley from the library to discover more about her fascinating, if tragic life! I also admired how the author showed the interconnectedness in life across all classes. No one was immune, all areas of society suffered albeit in differing ways.

I am so glad to have discovered an author whose work I wish to devour and if you are looking for an enlightening and emotion packed read I can suggest no better than this wonderful book.

Louise Wykes @jaustenrulesok - February 2020 

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson @SandersonJane @TransworldBooks #MixTape #BookReview

Daniel was the first boy to make Alison a mix tape.
But that was years ago and Ali hasn’t thought about him in a very long time. Even if she had, she might not have called him ‘the one that got away’; after all, she’d been the one to run.

Then Dan’s name pops up on her phone, with a link to a song from their shared past.

For two blissful minutes, Alison is no longer an adult in Adelaide with temperamental daughters; she is sixteen in Sheffield, dancing in her skin-tight jeans. She cannot help but respond in kind.

And so begins a new mix tape.

Ali and Dan exchange songs – some new, some old – across oceans and time zones, across a lifetime of different experiences, until one of them breaks the rules and sends a message that will change everything…

Because what if ‘what could have been’ is yet to come?

Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson was published on 23 January 2020 by Bantam Press/Transworld Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Daniel and Alison met as teenagers in Sheffield, in the late 1970s. Daniel was the first boy to make Alison a mix tape. Their relationship revolved around their mutual love of music. The indie bands, the post-punk groups; the club scene. Listening to music, playing music, going to gigs and talking about tracks; they were so compatible.

However Alison's home life was chaotic. She spent as much time enclosed in the warm, loving heart of Daniel's family as possible. She was especially fond of his Dad Bill, and really cared about him and his homing pigeons. Dan's sister Claire painted her nails and treated her like a sister. Only his Mother Marion had slight concerns, but that's mothers and sons.
One day Alison just disappeared. Despite frantically searching for her, Dan never sees or hears from her again. The emotional damage has scarred him, and it's clear that Alison has also suffered over the years.

In 2012, Daniel and Alison live on opposite sides of the world. Dan is now a music journalist, living in Edinburgh with his partner Katelin, their son Alex is at University. Alison, now Ali is married to Michael, a doctor. They live in Michael's childhood mansion in Australia and have two teenage daughters. Neither Daniel or Alison have thought about those long ago Sheffield days.

Ali is a novelist and her most recent book has been a massive seller. She's famous across the world, her name is out there and when Dan discovers her on Social Media, he sends a link to a music track. No message, no words, just the song.
Seeing Dan's name and hearing the song evokes so many memories for Ali and it's not long before they are sending their own special mix tape virtually. Back and forth, they send links to tracks that mean so much to them.

Whilst on the surface, both Dan and Ali have appeared to be happy with their lives. These songs and their memories cause a stir for both of them. They both become consumed by what could have been. Dan is still desperate to know why Ali left whilst she has spent her entire adult life trying to forget her past. She's never spoken a word about her childhood experiences to her new family.

It is inevitable that Dan and Ali will meet again, despite the thousands of miles that separate them, and this meeting is another beginning for them both.
This clever and perceptive authors tells her story over two timelines; 1970s Sheffield and present day Scotland, Australia, and back to Sheffield.

The story is slowly unravelled and there are scenes of real heartbreak as we, and Dan learn about Ali's alcoholic mother, her violent and abusive stepfather and her tragic but wonderfully loving brother Peter.
Mix Tape is a nostalgic story that will evoke memories for readers of a certain age; those of us who also made up mix tapes of the songs that were special to us. The author deals with serious and often disturbing issues, including rape, homophobia, alcoholism and mental health with a deft and sensitive hand.

Beautifully written and thought provoking with truthful, often flawed characters. A joy to read.

Author photo © Charlie Hopkinson
Jane Sanderson was born in South Yorkshire in 1962. She studied English at Leicester University, then after graduating she became a journalist. After a series of jobs with local newspapers she joined the BBC where she worked as a producer for Radio 4, first on the World at One, and then on Woman’s Hour.
Jane’s first novel, Netherwood, following the fortunes of a mining community and its ‘big house’ in the early twentieth century, was published by Sphere in 2011. Two further books in the series followed: Ravenscliffe and Eden Falls, followed by a contemporary novel, This Much is True, published by Orion.
Her latest novel, Mix Tape, was published in early 2020 by Transworld. 
Jane lives with her husband, the journalist and author Brian Viner, in rural Herefordshire.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

The Ruins by Mat Osman @matosman @RepeaterBooks #TheRuins #BookReview

When Adam Kussgarten's twin brother is found gunned down just yards from his flat, Adam is drawn out of his solitary, dream-like life into a neon-lit world of forgery, deceit and violence. The Ruins is the story of twin brothers - Adam and Brandon - who haven't spoken for decades, When Brandon is found gunned down just streets from Adam's flat, Brandon's girlfriend enlists Adam to find out what he was doing there and who killed him. Shy, stuttering Adam finds himself caught up in his brother's world of deception, violence and forgery. As things turn increasingly dark and his entanglements with his brother's family grow, he's faced with a choice of whether to dive deeper into Brandon's world and risk losing himself, or turning his back on his future.

The Ruins by Mat Osman is published today (11 February 2020) by Repeater Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

The Ruins is one of those books that left me scratching my head at times. The writing is excellent, the premise is ingenious and the characters are perfectly crafted. It is a unique and incredibly imaginative story; at times I was a little lost, but for most of the time I was totally immersed.

There's one theme that runs throughout the story, and that is of identity. The author makes us question lots of issues around how we present ourselves; how we hide our inner self and how we can persuade others to accept what we want to be, instead of who we really are.

Adam Kussgarten is something of a recluse. He lives, alone in a flat, surrounded by his model of Umbrage. Umbrage is his life work, he's been working on it for over thirty years. It has taken over his flat and is precision built; it may not be a real world, but it's Adam's world.
Adam is an identical twin. He hasn't had contact with his brother Brandon for years. When his phone rings, and he finally answers it, he finds he's talking to Brandon's long-term girlfriend Rae, also the mother of Brandon's ten-year-old son Robin.
Brandon is dead. He was assassinated, in cold blood on a street not far away from Adam's flat.

Rae has no idea why Brandon was even in London; they live in the US, although from what she says, Brandon often disappeared for days on end. It's clear that Brandon wasn't the best of partners, or fathers. Adam and Rae hit it off; exchanging stories about Brandon. It's clear that he hasn't really changed from the boy that Adam knew; always reinventing himself, always wanting to be known. Always presenting an identity in public that didn't mirror his real self.

Adam goes to identify Brandon's body and collect his belongings, which includes his journal. He and Rae read through it, via Skype.

The author includes those parts of the journal as part of the narrative, and the reader becomes more aware of Brandon's life. It's a complex, and multi layered existence and there's deception at the root of it. Unlikely hero Adam becomes entrenched in Brandon's world, posing as him and getting involved in some schemes that are quite hair-raising.  Umbrage is not forgotten though, and there are readings from Adam's Book of Umbrage interwoven throughout the story.

The author makes good use of the latest ways of communicating via the Internet, with episodes of trolling from Brandon along with SoundCloud and texts. I have to admit that a lot of this was quite alien to me and at times I felt that the story became a little too heavy.

There is no doubt that Mat Osman has a incredibly creative imagination, and his writing is so well crafted. I'd probably have liked the story to be shorter, as I became easily distracted in places.
However, it's extremely cleverly done and his use of description is vivid.
An unusual story, unlike any that I've read before from an author with talent.

Mat Osman is a founding member of the iconic British rock band Suede.
The Ruins is his first novel

Twitter @matosman 

Monday, 10 February 2020

I Am Dust by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter #IAmDust @OrendaBooks #BookReview #Hull

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?
Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.
And Chloe has been watching…

I Am Dust by Louise Beech is published as an ebook by Orenda Books on 16 February 2020, the paperback is released on 16 April.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

'I'm still here; I am dust,
I'm those fragments in the air,
the gold light dancing there,
that breeze from nowhere.'

I read I Am Dust over two days, cocooned on the sofa, under a fleecy throw, as Storm Ciara did its worst outside. This story is the perfect storm companion. I became so consumed by the characters and the haunting lyrical writing; I was transported to the shabby back rooms of a theatre that once knew glitter and glamour and now only knows dust. 

Dust was the biggest musical of its time. Twenty years ago the Dean Wilson Theatre premiered the most exciting new production of the time. Lauded by critics and sold out every night, Dust has become something of a cult.
However, it's best known for the tragedy that happened during its run. Lead actress Morgan Miller was murdered in her dressing room during the interval.  Dust was closed down. The writer became a recluse and it's rumoured that Morgan haunts the theatre.

Chloe Dee has been an usher at the Dean Wilson for six years. As a teenager, she dreamt of becoming an actress. She was part of the Youth Theatre, and she and her friend Jess were obsessed with the lyrics and legend of Dust.
Chloe hasn't heard from Jess, or their other friend Ryan for years. She barely remembers them. She's changed, she has the scars to prove it. She's a troubled woman who cycles to the theatre, picks up the glitter and then goes home.

It's twenty years since Morgan Miller died and Dust is returning. The theatre seems to take on a new life when it's announced that the show will return. The whole town is buzzing with anticipation. Who will take on Morgan's iconic role as Esme Black?

Louise Beech tells her story over two timelines. The present day, as the theatre starts to transform in anticipation of new customers, and back to 2005 when Chloe, Jess and Ryan create dust of their own. The gentle and clever interweaving of both stories is beautifully done, allowing the reader to find out more about the past and how it impacts the present.

It's hard to put I Am Dust into a specific genre. The mystery of Morgan's murder is begging to be solved, yet this is not just a crime thriller. This is also a ghost story, combined with a magical theme that sits perfectly in the drab, worn out setting of this once glorious theatre. 
There are hints of Du Maurier and slivers of Susan Hill throughout this story; it's a contemporary story, littered with modern-day issues including broken families, mistrust, betrayal and thwarted love, yet the setting transports the reader back to the heyday of theatre; the greasepaint, the glamour, the splendour.

I Am Dust is such an apt title for this spine-chilling, yet emotionally charged story. The dust caused by  repressed memories, hidden away in the corner of the mind; the dust from broken relationships; the dust created by broken promises and betrayal. There's also the dust that shines brightly when the stage lights are upon it; and none of the characters shine quite so brightly as Chloe. She's perfectly created; with flaws and difficulties that have been caused by the dust left by her past.

There's a tenderness to this author's writing that brings a lump to the throat, and the final scenes are heart-stopping in their beauty.

Louise Beech, I really don't think you will be picking up the glitter for much longer. This is perfect.

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was  Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. 
The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. 
Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. 
The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. 
Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. 

Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Twitter @LouiseWriter
Instagram @louisebeech13

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