Tuesday 30 March 2021

The Girls From Alexandria by Carol Cooper BLOG TOUR @DrCarolCooper #GirlsFromAlex @AgoraBooksLDN #BookReview #TheGirlsFromAlexandria

 


Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.

Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.

Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.

Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.


Set against the lush and glamorous backdrop of 20th century Alexandria, Carol Cooper’s third novel is equal parts contemporary mystery and historical fiction: a re-coming of age story about family, identity, and homeland.



The Girls from Alexandria by Carol Cooper is published by Agora Books; in ebook on 1 April 2021, followed by the paperback on 29 April 2021.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour .


I don't think I've ever read a novel set in Egypt before, I'm not sure how that happened! I've also not read anything by Carol Cooper before, although I'm aware of her from Social Media.

What an absolute treat this novel is! I'm a huge fan of a dual time-line and the author manages this structure quite perfectly throughout the story. 

The story opens in the 'now' as we meet elderly Nadia as she lies in her hospital bed. Nadia is concerned about the pain in her head. She believes that she's had a brain biopsy, but is finding it very difficult to get any answers from the clinical staff. The nurses are busy, seemingly uncaring and not interested, the doctors are aloof, and talk over her. Only nurse Deidre seems to have an ounce of compassion for Nadia's plight, and only Deirdre believes her when she speaks about her sister Simone. Nadia hasn't seen Simone for over fifty years but is determined to find her.

We are then taken back to Alexandria, Egypt in 1953. Nadia is just a young girl, living with her parents and older sister Simone. They are surrounded by various relatives; aunts, uncles, a particularly irritating cousin and an assortment of other adults with vague and quite dubious connections to the family. 

It's a wonderful way to structure this epic story of family, relationships and the devastating consequences of ineffective leadership on one small country. As Nadia ages, she discovers that not every adult can be trusted, and when her beloved older sister leaves the country, she is distraught and that feeling never leaves her as Simone doesn't return. 

Elderly Nadia, on the hospital ward, surrounded by women who seem alien to her, is comforted by the box of postcards she has kept for decades. Postcards sent by Simone, from all over the world with cryptic messages. Nadia' befuddled brain tells her that Simone was probably trying to tell her something through these words and she becomes more and more determined to discover the mystery of her disappearance.

Nadia is an interesting character. She's very flawed and makes decisions during the early days of her marriage that only bring heartache and pain. However, she is loving and determined. She's aware that she doesn't seem to have a role in life, except to be a dutiful wife, but regardless, she adores her husband. Their relationship is very traditional, and male dominated, yet Nadia has a spirt that gets her through the most troubled of times.

Elderly Nadia is a joy. One is never quite sure how reliable she is, knowing that she's been feeling out of sorts, with seizures and muddled thoughts just lately. However, as she takes on the daunting task of tracking down her sister, even learning the delights of an iPad and Google, her strength shines through. 

To be honest, I could probably write for hours about this beautifully crafted story. There are so many themes incorporated, yet it never feels like overload. The detail is precise.  It is often unsettling and tinged with sadness, yet there's a wry humour in there too. The characters are colourful and carefully crafted. This is a story to savour. I will remember Nadia for a long time.





Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and author. Born in London, she was only a few months old
when her cosmopolitan family took her to live in Egypt. She returned to the UK at eighteen and went to Cambridge University where she studied medicine and her fellow students. On her path to a career in general practice, she worked at supermarket checkouts, typed manuscripts in Russian, and spent years as a hospital doctor.


Following a string of popular health books as well as an award-winning medical textbook, Carol turned to writing fiction. Her first two novels are contemporary tales set in London. Ever a believer in writing what you know, she mined the rich material of her childhood for The Girls from Alexandria.

Carol lives with her husband in Cambridge and Hampstead. She has three grownup sons and three stepchildren.

Follow Carol Cooper @DrCarolCooper

Find out more at www.agorabooks.co  and www.drcarolcooper.com





Monday 29 March 2021

#Competiton #TheWomanInCabin10 @RuthWareWriter #AllMyLiesAreTrue @DorothyKoomson #LittleDisasters @SVaughanAuthor #Win #Prize #Giveaway

 


As part of my on-going  #HappyBirthdayRandomThings  celebrations during the month of March, I'm delighted to offer three paperback books today to one lucky winner.


Read my review OF THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 by Ruth Ware

Read my review of ALL MY LIES ARE TRUE by Dorothy Koomson

Read my review of LITTLE DISASTERS by Sarah Vaughan


Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget in this blog. The competition will stay open for two weeks. GOOD LUCK! 





This was meant to be the perfect trip. The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.

A chance for travel journalist Lo Blacklock to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse.

Except things don't go as planned.

Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.

Exhausted and emotional, Lo has to face the fact that she may have made a mistake – either that, or she is now trapped on a boat with a murderer...




Verity is telling lies...
And that's why she's about to be arrested for attempted murder.

Serena has been lying for years. . .
And that may have driven her daughter, Verity, to do something unthinkable...

Poppy's lies have come back to haunt her . . .
So will her quest for the truth hurt everyone she loves?

Everyone lies.
But whose lies are going to end in tragedy?






You think you know her…
But look a little closer
 
She is a stay-at-home mother of three with boundless reserves of patience, energy and love. After being friends for a decade, this is how Liz sees Jess. 
 
Then one moment changes everything. 
  
Dark thoughts and carefully guarded secrets surface – and Liz is left questioning everything she thought she knew about her friend, and about herself.









3 Paperback Books : Ruth Ware, Dorothy Koomson, Sarah Vaughan




Friday 26 March 2021

Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz BLOG TOUR #HotelCartagena @ohneKlippo T. Rachel Ward @FWDTranslations @OrendaBooks #HotelCartegena #ChastityRiley

 


Twenty floors above the shimmering lights of the Hamburg docks, Public Prosecutor Chastity Riley is celebrating a birthday with friends in a hotel bar when twelve heavily armed men pull out guns, and take everyone hostage. Among the hostages is Konrad Hoogsmart, the hotel owner, who is being targeted by a young man whose life and family have been destroyed by Hoogsmart's actions.

With the police looking on from outside their colleagues' lives at stake and Chastity on the inside, increasingly ill from an unexpected case of sepsis, the stage is set for a dramatic confrontation and a devastating outcome for the team all live streamed in a terrifying bid for revenge.

Crackling with energy and populated by a cast of unforgettable characters, Hotel Cartagena is a searing, relevant thriller that will leave you breathless.


Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz is the latest in the Chastity Riley series and was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 4 March 2021.
Hotel Cartagena was translated from the German by Rachel Ward. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour.



It is a whole year since we last met Chastity Riley, when Hamburg was on fire in the last novel, Mexico Street. It is always great to meet up with Riley again, Simone Buchholz has created one of my all-time favourite female characters. We see so many sides to this feisty, brave, outspoken woman. This series is an utter joy to read.

The author takes her readers on a different journey in Hotel Cartagena, whilst the plotting is clever and wonderfully structured, this is more of a look at Chastity's inner thoughts. With very little dialogue for the main part, we are treated to her observations, of what is happening and of those involved.

Chastity and her police colleagues are celebrating a birthday in the bar of Hotel Cartagena. Twenty stories up, this is a bar where the beautiful people usually congregate as they socialise whilst looking out onto the Hamburg harbour. What begins as a regular celebration, albeit somewhat awkward for Chastity, as she has quite intimate knowledge of more than one of her companions, soon turns into a night of terror. Twelve armed, masked men burst into the bar, and suddenly there's a hostage situation. 

Buchholz cleverly interweaves the back story of the hostage takers, with flash backs to the life of a man who has experienced nothing but pain and trouble in his relatively short life. As the reader learns more about the motives for the situation, our loyalties begin to shift. Same for Chastity, she cannot help but be a little attracted to the number one hostage taker, and her contempt for their main target is quite obvious. 

This is a relatively short novel that packs a massive punch. Along with the tension of the hostage situation, there's some dry and quite fabulous humour, and as Chastity's own discomfort rises, so does that of the reader. It's really really clever stuff this. It is utterly compelling throughout. 

Once again Simone Buchholz, ably assisted by the excellent translation from Rachel Ward puts on quite a performance. This is a top-notch, supremely plotted thriller with characters who leap from the page. This starts with a steady pace, with some long and descriptive musings from Chastity and then becomes faster and faster until the prose is staccato, and so sharp that my heart was pounding. 

Addictive, extremely hard to put down. Another fabulous chapter in what has become a favourite series of mine. Highly recommended. 


Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. 

At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. 
In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as runner-up in the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. 
She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.


Twitter @ohneKlippo




BOOK YOUR TICKET FOR THE ONLINE BOOK LAUNCH!





Thursday 25 March 2021

The Tainted by Cauvery Madhavan #HappyBirthdayRandomThings #Giveaway @CauveryMadhavan #Competition @hoperoadpublish #Win #Prize


It's spring 1920 in the small military town of Nandagiri in southeast India. Colonel Aylmer, commander of the Royal Irish Kildare Rangers, is in charge. A distance away, decently hidden from view, lies the native part of Nandagiri with its heaving bazaar, reeking streets, and brothels. Everyone in Nandagiri knows their place and the part they were born to play-with one exception. The local Anglo-Indians, tainted by their mixed blood, belong nowhere. When news of the Black and Tans' atrocities back in Ireland reaches the troops, even their priest cannot cool the men's hot-headed rage. Politics vie with passion as Private Michael Flaherty pays court to Rose, Mrs. Aylmer's Anglo-Indian maid, but mutiny brings heroism and heartbreak in equal measure. Only the arrival of Colonel Aylmer's grandson Richard, some 60 years later, will set off the reckoning, when those who were parted will be reunited, and those who were lost will be found again.



As part of my on-going  #HappyBirthdayRandomThings  celebrations during the month of March, I'm delighted to offer three SIGNED paperback copies of THE TAINTED by CAUVERY MADHAVAN, published by Hope Road Publishing today to three lucky winners.


Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget in this blog. The competition will stay open for two weeks. GOOD LUCK! 



Three SIGNED paperback copies of The Tainted by Cauvery Madhavan



Cauvery Madhavan was born and educated in India. 
She worked as a copywriter in her hometown of Chennai (formerly Madras). 
Cauvery moved to Ireland thirty-three years ago and has been in love with the country ever since. Her other books are: Paddy Indian and The Uncoupling. 
She lives with her husband and three children in beautiful County Kildare 



Tuesday 23 March 2021

In The Palace Of Flowers by Victoria Princewell @vpofrances #PalaceOfFlowers @CassavaRepublic @Brownlee_Donald #MyLifeInBooks

 


Set in Iran at the end of the 19th Century ―in the Persian royal court of the Qajars―, In The Palace of Flowers is an atmospheric historical novel about Jamila, an Abyssinian slave who stands at the funeral of a Persian nobleman, watching the rites with empty eyes. In that very moment, she realises that her life will never be acknowledged or mourned with the same significance. The fear of being forgotten, of being irrelevant, sets her and Abimelech, a fellow Abyssinian slave and a eunuch, on a path to find meaning, navigating the dangerous and deadly politics of the royal court, both in the government and the harem, before leading her to the radicals that lie beyond its walls. Love, friendship and the bitter politics within the harem, the court and the Shah’s sons and advisors will set the fate of these two slaves. Highly accomplished, richly textured and elegantly written, In The Palace of Flowers is a magnificent novel about the fear of being forgotten.


In The Palace Of Flowers by Victoria Princewell was published on 25 February 2021 by Cassava Republic Press.

I'm delighted to welcome the author to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books.


My Life in Books - Victoria Princewell

Whilst 12 is a generous number, any lifelong reader will struggle to distil the books that remain special to them into an exhaustive list. There may always be some they have forgotten. With that caveat in mind, I turn perhaps, lazily, to the books that have captured my attention, stunned me as I read and lingered for a long time after, in recent times. In no particular order, here we go. 

First is On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. This is one of the rare moments that, even prior to reading it, simply reading about it and the author himself, I knew I would be enthralled by the contents, and Vuong did not, could not, disappoint. On Earth is a quietly devastating piece of writing; each line rings with sincerity. What struck me most is a portrait that many children of immigrant parents will know but rarely see captured in fiction. His acute portrayal of a loving mother, whose nervous, uncertain parenting, in an unfamiliar country, will lack nuance but manifest bluntly, in narrow rules, in a dearth of reason, in intermittent moments of violence. This will be distinct from child abuse which may also take the shape of narrow rules, a dearth of reason and intermittent acts of violence. The distinction speaks only to intent; the former is just as capable of leaving traumatic scars. But the capacity to distinguish between the two is a testament to Vuong’s writing and the rare complicated visibility his work offers.

The next two are works that I relied on as research, but I return to again as a consumer of history, literature and art. Of these, Qajar African Nannies: African Slaves and Aristocratic Babies, by Pedram Khosronejad, remains a book I might never have come across but for writing In the Palace of Flowers. Khosronejad is a visual anthropologist and it’s his photography, much of which is documented in this book that set me on the path of exploring the lives behind this untold story, of enslaved Abyssinians living in the royal court of Qajar Iran. In these photos, whilst the enslaved nannies are dressed so opulently, in clothes that mirror those of the aristocrats they hold, their eyes are haunted and the loss and longing within echoes across the pages.

The second of these two books, I used as research, for In the Palace of Flowers, is the autobiography of Nasir al-Din Shah’s daughter, Taj al-Saltana. Crowning Anguish: Memoirs of a Persian Princess from the Harem to Modernity, 1884-1914 is uncommon for its time. An Iranian Princess and a feminist, a divorcee, a saloniere and an activist, she was a vocal critic of her father’s, and her brother’s, reign(s) as Shah, and a lone voice demanding women’s rights, arguing in favour of the constitutional revolution and challenging the incompetency of the orthodoxies of the time. Reading her memoir was one of those rare moments where the facts seemed stranger than fiction, could have dared to dream, and the book was littered with moments too surreal to include in my historical novel. At the same time it was dotted with carelessly astute insights into the layout of the Qajar court and the lives of the harem wives, so often excised from Qajar court narratives. 


I began 2021 reading The Disappearance of Rituals, a slim text, teeming with challenging and compelling interrogations of how we understand the purpose of symbols and the practice of rituals in contemporary society. One could consider it an inadvertent heir to David Foster Wallace’s critique of postmodernism. Whilst it’s too early to determine with authority that metamodernism is the age we’re living in, insofar as what has followed has been a pendulum swing between the irony of the postmodern and the wholesome goals of modernism, Byung-Chul Han’s examples help solidify said take. Skewering our current use of notions like “authenticity” which roll uneasily between the ironic and the sincere he highlights how capitalism has muscled in our a need for the meaningful, producing a world where Sincerity Inc is something we must collectively affirm and buy (into). The short book contains much much more and leaves you wondering with what and how we might carve out lives and practices that are more enduring and self-sustaining than what our digital culture currently offers.




Middlemarch is the fifth on this list and whilst I could wax lyrical about it forever, could I add to what has been said in over a century of admiration? One of my favourite books and easily one of the best of its era, George Eliot eschews the easier (to execute, spot and admire) tendency of writers from that period to depict and mock their characters simultaneously, offering subtle critiques of contemporary life. For Eliot, the literary goal is much loftier -- in this late 19th century account of provincial English life, she holds space for the complexity of the human condition, and avoids the lazy juxtapositions we now expect, where selfishness by one character, in one sequence, is offset by their grace in another. Humans are rarely so simple, their nuances rarely so neat. Eliot’s writing lets the fullness of the characters take centre stage and presents this whilst reserving judgement. It’s masterful to read, to watch and to recognise. I return to her writing, always a touch humbled.

Tamim Ansary’s Destiny Disrupted, A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes is the book I never knew I needed to read. Creative nonfiction and historical fiction strike me as two sides of the same coin and whilst my work and interests locate me strictly in the latter, the former is arguably as necessary as it is entertaining, as a vehicle for communicating knowledge and connecting a reader to it. I came across Destiny Disrupted when I realised that my grasp of Islam, being raised in the UK, and having never studied the religion, at school, was particularly poor. I was looking to understand not simply Islam but the history of the religion, particularly from a non-western lens. My book, In the Palace of Flowers, is situated in Iran, with leads from East Africa, and whilst its characters’ interest in Europe vary along a spectrum, it certainly did not centre any of their lives. The Middle East or WANA (or as Ansary calls it, the Middle World), however certainly did. Thus I needed to have a grasp of how they perceived their own history, uncoupled from what I had absorbed growing up in the UK. To assist in that understanding Ansary’s book did not disappoint. Furthermore, it was quite the rollicking read. Running through the story of Islam from the birth of its premier Prophet Mohammed, it’s a witty, sharp and rigorous piece, teaming with facts it carries lightly whilst maintaining a steady yet swift pace. It is perhaps the only book I have read where, upon concluding, I returned to the first page, ready to immediately begin again.

Snow Country is a book I evangelise about and send as a gift, unasked, to friends who display an interest in reading. Set in snowy Japan and written by Nobel Laureate, Yasunari Kawabata, perhaps more widely known in the west as the mentor of Yukio Mishima (another brilliant writer), I consider this text his magnum opus. A missive on loneliness, on yearning, Kawabata’s elegantly elegiac book is as startling for what it says as for what it leaves out. One is left with the sense that they are inferring more than he is implying and yet, in a defiant rejection of Barthes’ Death of the Author, it seems nigh impossible for the reader’s conclusions to differ even remotely from Kawabata’s own. I think of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and whilst the latter was written 20 years before Snow Country was published, I wonder, whilst these are two very different novels, if Fitzgerald, with his deliberate excising of Jay Gatsby’s candour in later drafts, wasn’t seeking the capacity to shape and control inference that Kawabata’s Snow Country so effortlessly embodied. 
 



Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score is one of the few non-fiction books about science and the body that I’ve read and found both rigorous and accessible to those without any kind of STEM background. (I am currently pursuing a third degree in Neuroscience but at the time of reading van der Kolk’s book, I had only two degrees in Literature and in Philosophy and little experience of studying science). The Body Keeps the Score is revolutionary in its insights about how our bodies handle trauma, clear and concise, whilst also remaining rather gentle in its execution. As though mindful that its audience may include those struggling with mental health stresses, it is empathetic without pandering. Strictly nonfiction it balances the emotional nuance and storytelling ethos of a novelist with the forensic insights of a scientist. And it really could transform your life.

The late great Eileen Chang whose fascinating life is filled with well-documented and harrowing traumas could well have benefited from the transformative possibilities of Bessel van der Kolk’s work. Her own writing, often portraying the thoughtful and the forlorn (hers is the short story that spawned Ang Lee’s film, Lust, Caution), is never more vivid and profound than in Half of a Lifelong Romance. The title (not unlike that of Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love) reflects the poverty of the English language far more than it accurately depicts the story within. Set in 1930s Shanghai, Half of a Lifelong Romance is a quiet tale of love and cruelty, bitterness and empathy -- the worst and greatest of our human capacities coalesced into power struggles explored through intimacy. One does not read it as much as they simply fall into half of a lifelong romance and stay within the sphere, even when the book is finished.

Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of my Name is a book that, along with Ocean Vuong’s, has led me to conclude (albeit with scanty evidence) that poets will always make superior novelists to non-poets. Allow me to state for the record that I am of the “novelist and non-poet” contingent that I dismiss(!) Audre Lorde calls Zami a work of biomythography, a term she crafted to hold space for myth, biography and history. Like Vuong’s it’s a vivid and almost sensual tale that puts forthright imagery ahead of purple prose. Starting in 1930s & 40s Harlem, and first published in 1982, when black queer women had little visibility, its relevance today in a comparatively richer landscape remains undimmed. The unhappiness is acute. Her isolation too. The ecosystem in which unspeakable acts of harm can unfold with no consequence so painfully mirrors our own. It contains a simple urgency that remains hard to articulate. And there’s something to be said for biographical writing that embodies the “coming of age” framing… and then continues. 




I first heard of Woman at Point Zero at Africa Writes, a biannual literary festival in London. Sulaiman Addonia (author of The Consequences of Love) mentioned Woman at... by Nawal El Saadawi as part of a discussion on female rage. Telling the story of Firdaus, a woman awaiting execution by the state in Cairo, the novel is a fictional take on an encounter Saadawi had with a murderer at Qanatir prison. Daring and unrepentant, it centres the perspective of this extraordinary woman whose life was both exploited, and ordinary, until she took it into her own hands. Even the weight of rage it carries, rather than being a gloomy tale of defiance, the determined voice of Firdaus cannot help but liberate.
 
The only thing better than reading the bell hooks’ rich insights in a book of her own, is seeing them unfold in the company of others. To that end, Uncut Funk, a dialogue between bell hooks & Stuart Hall, does not disappoint. It is both light and full, as these two titans of intellectual thought, black philosophers from two different sides of the transatlantic, probingly address a breadth of topics from black masculinity to home and homecoming, to feminism, family and much more besides.

Fragile Monsters is a novel I’ve only just finished, but it’s a definitive one for the ages. The author, Catherine Menon, is someone I know. We were in a writing group together, just over half a decade ago and are releasing our first books now in the same year. I was keen to read this, as she was a prize-winning short story writer when we first met and thus any novel she produced would meet that standard of excellence at least. Fragile Monsters, her debut novel, is a transgenerational story that starts in 1940s Malaysia about complex and often unpleasant women, bitter betrayals and unsatisfying loves. Migration, return, death and its secrets, serve as a vivid backdrop for the tense reunion of woman and grandmother, unmarried mathematician and frustrated widow -- and much more besides. It’s an intimate story, not an epic; the imagery is spellbinding yet subtle. A book to read carefully and keep close.


My Life in Books - Victoria Princewell - March 2021 




Victoria Princewill (Manchester, 1990) is a British-born management consultant-turned-writer.

Educated at Oxford and UCL, with a BA in English and MA in Philosophy, her work on race and contemporary culture has been published by the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent, the London Review of Books and n+1 magazine. 

She co-founded a TEDx series whilst a student, and in her spare time she attends philosophy salons.


Twitter @vpofrances










Monday 22 March 2021

Nighthawking by Russ Thomas BLOG TOUR @thevoiceofruss @simonandschusterUK @RandomTTours #Nighthawking #DSAdamTyler #BookReview

 


Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens – an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. And then, one morning, a body is found in the Gardens. A young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone just sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up.
 
Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body?
 
In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable . . . and willing to kill to keep what they find.


Nighthawking by Russ Thomas is published in hardback on 29 April 2021 by Simon and Schuster and is the follow up to his debut novel, Firewatching. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour.


I read and reviewed Russ Thomas' first novel, Firewatching, in January of last year. Set in Sheffield, one my favourite cities and a place that we visit at least once per month. Little did I know then that the next time I would visit the Steel City would be via the pages of the next book in the series. I can hardly believe that it's over a year since I walked those streets ... what a year!

I do recommend that anyone who hasn't yet read Firewatching should do so before they embark on this latest story. You will most certainly benefit from seeing the author's clever character building that went on before. You could begin with this one, but really, if you don't already own a copy, just pop out and buy them both, you have a treat in store!

Once again DS Adam Tyler is the central character in this story, however, do watch out for newly promoted DC Amina Rabbini who is now on Tyler's team. She may not be officially in charge, but she bears the brunt of most of the work in this story whilst her male superiors deal with their own raging internal battles. 

person who uses a metal detectorusually at night, to look for valuable objects in areas where they do not have permission to search

I really had no idea what a nighthawker was before I started to read, and the inclusion of this practice and the people who carry it out adds a chill to the story that creates real depth.

A nighthawker, looking for something in Sheffield's Botanical Gardens, uncovers an arm. Not stopping to investigate further, he slips away into the night and it is the unfortunate volunteer who opens the gardens the following morning who discovers the grisly sight. A human arm, partly skeletal, reaching out from the soil ..... the arm is attached to a body ... 
This is the beginning of a story that is complex, yet so cleverly created. Whilst Tyler is supposed to be in charge, he takes little interest in the case at first, leaving Rabbini to try to solve the mystery of this body whilst he deals with personal issues that completely overshadow everything else around him. Tyler is a complicated man, not always easy to warm to, or to understand and as the plot slowly unravels, the reader gains more insight into the huge weight that he bears on his shoulders. 
There are so many strands to this novel; the body in the Gardens, the case of a dead boy on a railway track, the reappearance of Tyler's older brother, and the emerging truth around the death of their father. It's a clever author who can balance so many on-going plot lines, but Thomas does this so very well. As a reader, I was invested in every part of this novel, desperate to get to the bottom of each mystery.
Nighthawking is a complex, cleverly woven crime story, interwoven with some dark domestic noir. There are uncomfortable truths exposed and things don't always go the way that the reader may desire, prepare for some shocks before you get to the end of this one! 
A sharp, tension filled plot with a cracking cast of characters. Looking forward to book three already! 


Russ Thomas was born in Essex, raised in Berkshire and now lives in Sheffield. 
After a few 'proper' jobs (among them: pot-washer, optician's receptionist, supermarket warehouse operative, call-centre telephonist, and storage salesman) he discovered the joys of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day. 
His highly-acclaimed debut novel, Firewatching, is the first in the DS Adam Tyler series and published in February 2020. 
Nighthawking, the second book in the series, will publish in April 2021.
Instagram @thevoiceofruss




Sunday 21 March 2021

Song by Michelle Jana Chan BLOG TOUR @michellejchan @RandomTTours @unbounders #Giveaway #Competition #Win #Prize

 


Song is just a boy when he sets out from Lishui village in China. Brimming with courage and ambition, he leaves behind his impoverished broken family, hoping he’ll make his fortune and return home. Chasing tales of sugarcane, rubber and gold, Song embarks upon a perilous voyage across the oceans to the British colony of Guiana, but once there he discovers riches are not so easy to come by and he is forced into labouring as an indentured plantation worker.

This is only the beginning of Song’s remarkable life, but as he finds himself between places and between peoples, and increasingly aware that the circumstances of birth carry more weight than accomplishments or good deeds, Song fears he may live as an outsider forever.

This beautifully written and evocative story spans nearly half a century and half the globe, and though it is set in another century, Song’s story of emigration and the quest for an opportunity to improve his life is timeless.



Song by Michelle Jana Chan was published on Unbound on 18 March 2021. I'm delighted to feature the book today as part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour and have one paperback copy to give away.






'A wonderfully lush and atmospheric odyssey of survival against all odds’- Bernardine Evaristo

'Precise, heartfelt, breathtaking . . . Song will touch you with its remarkable odyssey and make you believe in dreams again’- Elif Shafak


'A beautifully told tale with fascinating historical insight’- Vanity Fair


A strong picaresque element powers this saga.’- The Daily Mail


‘…one of the Caribbean’s little-known stories.’- The Times Literary Supplement


‘Michelle Jana Chan brings a world of equal peril and possibility to life with her rich, radiant prose.'- Tatler


Song offers a rare and compelling fictional exploration of the pioneering Chinese presence in British Guyana, in the 18th century. A totally convincing coming-of-age novel, which chronicles the growth not only of a young boy who left China with no idea of the world he was heading into, but also a powerful testimony to frontier life in Guyana's gold-mining interior.’- Jacob Ross, winner of the Jhalak Prize 2017


‘A dazzling novel, brimming with psychological acuity. Chan conjures the sweet smells of Guyana, the shadow of an oil lamp and a filigree of leaves leaning over a river in swirling mist. An unforgettable portrait of a man and a little-known land.’- Sara Wheeler, author





As part of my on-going  #HappyBirthdayRandomThings  celebrations during the month of March, I'm delighted to offer a paperback  copy of SONG  by MICHELLE JANA CHAN, published by Unbound today to one lucky winner.



Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget in this blog. The competition will stay open for two weeks. GOOD LUCK! 



One paperback copy of Song by Michelle Jana Chan




An award-winning journalist and travel editor of Vanity Fair, Michelle is also
contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveller, presenter of the BBC's 'Global Guide' and a writer for The Daily Telegraph, The Wall Street Journal and Travel & Leisure. 
She has been named the Travel Media Awards' Travel Writer of the Year.