Thursday 29 September 2022

Life, Slightly by Nigel Jay Cooper BLOG TOUR #LifeSlightly @nijay @RandomTTours #BookExtract

 


When Gavin meets Jackie on a bench in the local park, he thinks she's a stranger. 

She knows better. 

She’s connected to him in ways he can’t yet imagine. 

She swore she wouldn’t do this again but it's real this time. 

So real, she might do something reckless and tell him everything. 

He’ll understand. It wasn’t her fault, not really. 

Perhaps he’ll forgive her, even if she can never forgive herself.




Life, Slightly by Nigel Jay Cooper is published on 30 September 2022 by Roundfire Books. As part of this #RandomThingsTours blog tour, I am delighted to share an extract with you today.


Extract from Life, Slightly by Nigel Jay Cooper 


She finds them on benches. The broken ones, the lonely ones, the ones who don’t know they’re broken. She tries to mend them and although she isn’t always successful, sometimes she is and that’s enough. Most of the time.

She leans back against her wooden bench and surveys the park. The sun is low in the sky for this time of year, casting a yellow-orange light that makes everything seem slightly displaced and unreal around her. Overgrown bamboo rustles lightly in the breeze as birds play on the stone waterfall that rises from the back of a small, ornate pond. They splash themselves, bathing or drinking or doing whatever it is birds do when they find themselves ankle deep in water.

She’s been sitting here for over an hour now, singing to herself quietly as families drift in and out, children on scooters, mothers showing infant babies the pond, searching for fish. They aren’t her type, not today at least. This one has to be special and while she can’t put her finger on exactly who she’s looking for, she trusts the process. Someone right will come along, they always do. It’s still early, she has all day. No rush. Perhaps she’ll nip to the café to get a take-away coffee while she waits.

No.

Her heart pulses, again, again, again.

There he is.

Late thirties, early forties, maybe? Wearing jeans and white trainers. A blue T-shirt with the words ‘I see you’ written in small white letters to the left of his chest.

Gavin.

Her song dies in her throat, dried by recognition and excitement. He leans on the low railings by the pond with his back to her, about a metre in front of the bench she’s sitting on.

‘Nina Simone,’ the man says, jolting her back to reality. His voice is low, gravelly but reassuring, the type of voice she immediately wants to hear more of. It’s him, she’s sure of it. ‘What?’ Jackie replies, chalk dust in her throat. Nobody speaks to her first, that’s not how this works. She always does the introductions.

‘The song you were singing. It was Nina Simone,’ he says, turning around to look at her, breeze ruffling his dark hair. ‘Oh,’ she replies. He can’t know her, at most he might have seen her in Louise’s café but even then—



Author, writer, father, runner. Not always in that order. Born in London, England, Nigel lives in
Brighton with his partner, their two children and greying ginger dog.

His first novel, Beat The Rain, was published in July 2016 and became his publishers bestselling title. It was also nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards 2016 for Best Debut Author. 

His second novel, The Pursuit of Ordinary, was published in 2018.

Nigel was co-founder of global advocate marketing platform Qubist (Qube Media) and previously worked as a writer and editor for Channel 4 Television and as a newspaper sub editor.

He's a sometime marathon runner and occasional actor and singer. Sometimes his brain switches off and lets him sleep, but not that often.

Twitter @nijay







Wednesday 28 September 2022

The Hike by Susi Holliday BLOG TOUR @SJIHolliday #TheHike @AmazonPub @RandomTTours #BookReview

 


Four hikers enter the mountains. Only two return. But is it tragedy? Or treachery?

When sisters Cat and Ginny travel with their husbands to the idyllic Swiss Alps for a hiking holiday, it’s not just a chance to take in the stunning scenery. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with each other after years of drifting apart―and patch up marriages that are straining at the seams.

As they head into the mountains, morale is high, but as the terrain turns treacherous, cracks in the relationships start to show. With worrying signs that someone might be following them, the sun begins to set and exhaustion kicks in. Suddenly, lost high on a terrifying ridge, tensions spill over―with disastrous consequences.

When only two of the four hikers make it down from the mountain, the police press them for their story―but soon become suspicious when their accounts just don’t add up.

What really happened up on that ridge? Who are the survivors? And what secrets are they trying to hide?



The Hike by Susi Holliday is published on 1 October 2022 by Thomas & Mercer. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour. 



Anyone who has followed my reviews for a while will know that I'm a huge fan of Susi Holliday. I began reading her back in 2015 when she wrote the Banktoun trilogy, I read everything she published with Orenda and am still with her for her Thomas & Mercer published novels. I love her style, her quirky telling, her exotic locations and her narrative. 

The Hike finds us in the Swiss Alps, the story begins when two hikers, one male, one female appear at the door of a small local police station. Battered and bloody and obviously in shock, they are there to report that the remaining two of their party are missing in the mountains. 

The reader is taken back a day or so, as the four hikers; sisters Cat and Ginny and their respective husbands, Paul and Tristan plan to do a five hour hike in the mountains before returning to their hotel for cocktails and a hot tub. The trip, and the hike, has been meticulously planned by Cat and Tristan, which Ginny and Paul do find a little strange, as they've never really got on before. 

In fact, none of them really get on with each other. There's a real spark of hate and distrust that flashes throughout the group, often covered by fake smiles and a little compassion, but more often than not, revealing itself in pointed remarks and insults, especially between the two sisters. Not one of these people are likeable, but they are all very well drawn. I'm fond of the obnoxious character and often think that they are far more interesting than the nice guys out there .... well, in fiction anyway! 

It becomes clear that Cat has a 'plan', and things quickly begin to get quite shocking, with arguments and violence and nasty 'accidents', until there are just two left. But which two is it? Which man and woman made it back to the police station and how are they going to explain exactly what's happened?

Interwoven throughout the tale is short spurts of narrative from an unknown person, this adds a great deal of suspense and tension to the story. Who is following them? Why are they being followed? What does this mystery person know, or want?

Susi Holliday takes her readers on an exhausting hike, there are twists that I anticipated, but didn't happen and things that I never imagined that just seemed to come from nowhere. Trust me, don't ever think you've worked this one out, because if you do, I'll be very very surprised. 

The mountain setting was vividly described; the isolation, the treachery of the mountainside paths, the obstacles, the forests, the snapping twigs, all add depth and tension to this fast moving and surprising story.

A great read,  both my husband and myself enjoyed this one. Looking forward to the next book Ms Holliday! 




Susi (S.J.I.) Holliday is the bestselling Scottish author of 10 novels, a novella and many short
stories. 

By day she works in pharmaceuticals. 

She lives in London (except when she's in Edinburgh) and she loves to travel the world.

The Woman In The Library by Sulari Gentill BLOG TOUR @SulariGentill #TheWomanInTheLibrary @ultimopress @RandomTTours #BookExtract

 


Hannah Tigone, bestselling Australian crime author, is crafting a new novel that begins in the Boston Public Library: four strangers; Winifred, Cain, Marigold and Whit are sitting at the same table when a bloodcurdling scream breaks the silence. A woman has been murdered. They are all suspects, and, as it turns out, each character has their own secrets and motivations – and one of them is a murderer.

While crafting this new thriller, Hannah shares each chapter with her biggest fan and aspirational novelist, Leo. But Leo seems to know a lot about violence, motive, and how exactly to kill someone. Perhaps he is not all that he seems...

The Woman in the Library is an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship – and shows that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.



The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill was published on 15 September 2022 by Ultimo Press. I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you here today as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour.


Extract from The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill


Writing in the Boston Public Library had been a mistake. It was too magnificent. One could spend hours just staring at the ceiling in the Reading Room. Very few books have been written with the writer’s eyes cast upwards. It judged you, that ceiling, looked down on you in every way. Mocked you with an architectural perfection that couldn’t be achieved by simply placing one word after another until a structure took shape. It made you want to start with grand arcs, to build a magnificent framework into which the artistic detail would be written—a thing of vision and symmetry and cohesion. But that, sadly, isn’t the way I write.

I am a bricklayer without drawings, laying words into sentences, sen- tences into paragraphs, allowing my walls to twist and turn on whim. There is no framework, just bricks interlocked to support each other into a story. I have no idea what I’m actually building, or if it will stand.

Perhaps I should be working on a bus. That would be more consistent with my process such as it is. I’m not totally without direction...there is a route of some sort, but who hops on and who gets off is determined by a balance of habit and timing and random chance. There’s always the possibility that the route will be altered at the last minute for weather or accident, some parade or marathon. There’s no symmetry, no plan, just the chaotic, unplotted bustle of human life.

Still, ceilings have a wonderful lofty perspective that buses do not. These have gazed down on writers before. Do they see one now? Or just a woman in the library with a blank page before her?

Maybe I should stop looking at the ceiling and write something.

I force my gaze from its elevated angle. Green-shaded lamps cast soft ellipses of light that define boundaries of territory at the communal reading tables. Spread out, by all means, but stay within the light of your own lamp. I sit at the end of one of dozens of tables placed in precise rows within the room. My table is close enough to the centre of the hall that I can see green lamps and heads bent over books in all directions. The young woman next to me has divested her jacket to reveal full-sleeve tattoos on both arms. I’ve never been inked myself, but I’m fascinated. The story of her life etched on her skin... She’s like a walking book. Patterns and portraits and words. Mantras of love and power. I wonder how much of it is fiction. What story would I tell if I had to wear it on my body? The woman is reading Freud. It occurs to me that a psychology student would make an excellent protagonist for a thriller. A student, not an expert. Experts are less relatable, removed from the reader by virtue of their status. I write “psychology student” onto the blank page of my notebook and surround it with a box. And so I hop onto the bus. God knows where it’s going—I just grabbed the first one that came along.

Beneath the box I make some notes about her tattoos, being careful not to make it obvious that I am reading her ink.

Across from me sits a young man in a Harvard Law sweatshirt. He cuts a classic figure—broad shoulders, strong jaw, and a cleft chin—like he was drawn as the hero of an old cartoon. He’s been staring at the same page of the tome propped before him for at least ten minutes. Perhaps he’s committing it to memory...or perhaps he’s just trying to keep his eyes down and away from the young woman on my left. I wonder what they are to each other: lovers now estranged, or could it be that he is lovelorn and she indifferent? Or perhaps the other way round—is she stalking him? Watching him over the top of Freud? Might she suspect him of something? He certainly looks tormented... Guilt? He drops his eyes to check his watch—a Rolex, or per-haps a rip-off of the same.

To the left of Heroic Chin is another man, still young but no longer boyish. He wears a sport coat over a collared shirt and jumper. I am more careful about looking at him than I am the others because he is so ludicrously handsome. Dark hair and eyes, strong upswept brows. If he catches my gaze he will assume that is the reason. And it isn’t...well, maybe a little. But mostly I am wondering what he might bring to a story.

He’s working on a laptop, stopping every now and then to stare at the screen, and then he’s off again, typing at speed. 

Good Lord, could he be a writer? 





Photo Credit : Edmund Blenkinsop
After setting out to study astrophysics, graduating in law and then abandoning her legal career to
write books, Sulari now grows French black truffles on her farm in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of NSW. 

Sulari is the author of The Rowland Sinclair Mysteries, historical crime fiction novels (ten in total) set in the 1930s. 

Sulari’s work has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Best First Book), the Davitt Award, the Ned Kelly Award and the ABIA. 

She won the Davitt Award for the A Decline in Prophets, and the Ned Kelly Award for her most recent standalone novel, Crossing the Lines. 



Instagram @sularigentill





Tuesday 27 September 2022

The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson BLOG TOUR @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks #FrenchNoir t. @givemeawave #BookReview

 


Three women

Three eras

One extraordinary mystery…

 1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.

1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.

2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.

Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love…



The Bleeding by Johanna Gustawsson, translated by David Warriner was published in hardback on 15 September 2022 by Orenda Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour. 



Johana Gustawsson is best known in the UK for her Roy and Castells series, also published by Orenda. I was really excited when I heard that The Bleeding was to be published in English; translated by David Warriner, and have been looking forward to this for months.

I have to begin by saying that in my view, this is her best book to date, I was totally caught up with the characters, the intricate and clever plot and the fascinating way that the author weaves three totally different eras together so seamlessly. I stayed up very late one night to finish this, and then couldn't sleep for ages as I just couldn't stop thinking about it. 

Three women, separated by many years, are the heart and soul of this bewitching tale. Belle Epoque, Paris in 1899 where we meet Lucienne. She is traumatised as she watched her house burn to the ground and her two small daughters are missing. With little support from her husband or mother-in-law, and a newcomer to the city, in which she often feels out of placed and judged, she turns to her cousin Mary, and to strangers for help. Entering the dark and creepy world of mediums and spiritualists, Lucienne becomes drawn towards this bizarre, often unsettling community. 

Lina is a teenager in 1949 Quebec. Her father died fighting for the Resistance and her mother is overworked and tired, as well as grieving in her own way. Lina is being bullied by a girl in school and her mother cannot deal with this at all. Her answer is to insist that Lina joins her at her workplace; an ex-asylum, now care home, every day after school. Whilst Lina is not keen at first, the care home soon becomes a haven as is befriended by an elderly resident who passes on her knowledge. Lina now has a way to stop the bullying, but it is dangerous and risky. However, for Lina it is the way out and she soon becomes obsessed, and that obsession will last for the rest of her life. 

In 2002, Detective Maxine Grant returns to work after maternity leave. Her first case is to investigate the brutal murder of a local university professor. His wife is the accused, she is also a woman who taught Maxine at school and ask for her by name. These are the only words that she will say for a long time and as Maxine and her team begin their investigations, it soon becomes clear that there is far more to this case than originally thought. 

Gusawsson writes short snappy chapters, alternating between each era and this works incredibly well. The reader's attention is drawn and the anticipation of what is to come next is really thrilling. At first, I had no idea how Lucienne, Lina and Maxine could possibly be connected, but the revelations that are dotted along the way made me gasp with wonder and with admiration for this extremely clever and skilled author. She doesn't put a foot wrong, nothing is out of place, the tension increases, the realisation suddenly hits home and the pure brilliance of the plotting is just outstanding. 

The author delves into the darkest of places within the story, detailing some atrocious cover ups, and some cleverly and well hidden truths that are not apparent at all until she decides to reveal them. With a wonderfully gothic feel, full of characters who are colourful, yet incredibly flawed this is an absolute joy to read. 

Spellbinding, vivid and fascinating and beautifully translated by David Warriner. One of my favourite books of the year. 



Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television.

Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, including Block 46, Keeper and Blood Song, has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte,Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in 28 countries.

A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production.

The Bleeding – number one bestseller in France and the first in a new series – is published in 2022.

 Johana lives on the west coast of Sweden with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

www.johanagustawsson.com

Twitter @JoGustawsson

Instagram @johanagustawsson







Friday 23 September 2022

The Family Game by Catherine Steadman BLOG TOUR @CatSteadman #TheFamilyGame @simonschusterUK @simonschusterPR @RandomTTours #BookReview

 


THE RULES

    1. Listen carefully

    2. Do your research

    3. Trust no one

    4. Run for your life 

Harriet Reed is newly engaged to Edward Holbeck, the heir to an extremely powerful American family.

When Edward’s father hands her a tape of a book he’s been working on, she is desperate to listen.

But as she presses play, it’s clear that this isn’t a novel. It’s a confession to murder.

Feeling isolated and confused, Harriet must work out if this is all part of a plan to test her loyalty. Or something far darker.

Because this might be a game to the Holbeck family - but games can still be deadly.

 READY OR NOT, HERE THEY COME . . .




The Family Game by Catherine Steadman is published on 29 September 2022 by Simon and Schuster. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour.




The Family Game is a complex, multi layered novel that keeps the reader firmly on their toes. 

Harriet Reed is an English author, her debut novel was a runaway success and she's currently working on book two. Harriet met and fell in love with wealthy American Edward Holbeck and is now living with him in New York. Edward comes from a very rich and very powerful family. The Holbeck name is well known, yet Harriet has yet to meet them. 

When she accepts the invitation to the Holbeck Transgiving Dinner, she really doesn't know what she's letting herself in for, and when she meets Edward's father Robert, there's an instant spark. Is it a strange attraction, or is a meeting of minds? When Robert hands over a cassette containing a story that he has dictated, Harriet is intrigued. When she listens to it, she becomes very scared.  It is clear that Robert knows everything about Harriet, even the secret that she's kept since she was a child, the one that nobody else in the world knows about. 

The Holbeck family have many traditions, there are frightening games, almost tests. There's the Christmas festivities to get through and the almost impossible to solve treasure hunt, and there's an intricate maze in the grounds. Nothing is quite what it seems, can Harriet trust any of them?

This author cleverly builds up the tension within her story, leading the reader down their own maze of secrets and lies, often coming to a dead end and having to begin again. Opinions will change throughout the story, as revelations are made and family members start to feel threatened. 

Filled with suspense as Harriet slowly unpicks the multiple layers of this family and with shocks a plenty, this is a roller coaster ride with dips and swoops that I didn't anticipate and certainly didn't see coming. 

Well plotted with carefully created characters who will shock as much as the clever plot does. I enjoyed this and would recommend. 





Catherine Steadman is an actress and author based in London. 


She has appeared in leading roles on British and American television as well as on stage in the West End where she has been nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award. 

Catherine’s first novel, Something in the Water, was a number one New York Times bestseller with rights sold in over thirty territories. It was also a Richard & Judy Book Club Pick. 

Her second novel, Mr Nobody, was published in 2020 and her third novel, The Disappearing Act, published in 2021.

Twitter @CatSteadman

Instagram @catsteadman








Wednesday 21 September 2022

Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone BLOG TOUR #BlackHearts @doug_johnstone #TheSkelfs @OrendaBooks #BookReview

 


Death is just the beginning…

The Skelf women live in the shadow of death every day, running the family funeral directors and private investigator business in Edinburgh. But now their own grief interwines with that of their clients, as they are left reeling by shocking past events.

A fist-fight by an open grave leads Dorothy to investigate the possibility of a faked death, while a young woman’s obsession with Hannah threatens her relationship with Indy and puts them both in mortal danger. An elderly man claims he’s being abused by the ghost of his late wife, while ghosts of another kind come back to haunt Jenny from the grave … pushing her to breaking point.

As the Skelfs struggle with increasingly unnerving cases and chilling danger lurks close to home, it becomes clear that grief, in all its forms, can be deadly…




Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone is the fourth book in The Skelfs series and is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 29 September 2022. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour.



For the past four years I've taken a short trip to Edinburgh. I've spent that time with the women of the Skelf family. I've visited burial grounds and police stations, mortuaries and walked the streets of the city. I've met wild animals, and even wilder humans .... and all from the comfort of my own sofa.

Black Hearts is number four in the Skelf series and once again, I've spent a thrilling, often chilling and always emotional time with these three women and their family and colleagues. Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah are three generation of the same family, they are undertakers and they are also private investigators. 

I've never actually been to Edinburgh in real life, but oh my goodness, I do feel as though I know the place very well. The city is a character in itself as the women travel to every area; death and crime do not distinguish between rich and poor, so the reader travels to the most deprived areas, along with the very genteel. 

The Skelfs have a messy and troubled history, and whilst the author is extremely skilled and the back stories are filled in cleverly, I would advise anyone to go back and read the first three books of the series. Not only will you learn more about the women, but you will have hours of reading enjoyment too. 

Dorothy is presiding over the funeral of a middle-aged women when a scuffle breaks out at the graveside. It's a shocking scene that captures the strength of the rest of the book and made me gasp out loud. This author does not hold back, it's a little bit brutal. That fight leads to another job for Dorothy, when the son of the deceased asks her to find his father who disappeared some months ago. 

Meanwhile, Jenny - Dorothy's daughter, is declining into a drunken, sometimes psychotic mess. Events from her recent past have come back to haunt her and she's really having trouble dealing with it, seeking solace in both the bottle, and risky sex. Sometimes it can be difficult to like Jenny at times, the author doesn't give her any slack, but underneath, she's just a woman whose had some pretty crap experiences and needs to work through them. Her choices are questionable at times, but she's a Skelf and made of tough stuff. 

Young Hannah also has issues. She's gained a stalker who is pretty scary, but seems harmless ... at first. 

At its heart, this is a story about grief and how different people deal with their own mourning. The book felt very personal to me, having dealt with the deaths of two of the most important people in my life recently. The wide and varying emotions felt by the characters within this story really helped me to understand my own personal feelings. Over the past few months, I had been questioning myself about my own grieving processes; almost feeling guilty at times that I had so many conflicting feelings. This book, these characters and this author really helped me. 

Doug Johnstone packs a lot into his books. He touches on issues that many authors shy away from, whilst incorporating quite unusual themes too. His cultural references, not just to Scotland, but overseas too are a fine touch, and I especially liked the addition of some Japanese traditions within the story. 

It's always a delight to meet up with the Skelfs once more, they are so relevant and have to deal with so many issues that are often only experienced by females, making life that little bit harder and more difficult than if they were male. 

Whilst Black Hearts is, without doubt, crime fiction at its best, it is also touching and poignant. A story of family strengths, love and community. There's some black humour, a lot of physics and some jaw dropping moments that I didn't see coming at all. Welcome back Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah, I cannot wait to visit you again soon. 




Doug Johnstone is the author of twelve novels, most recently The Great Silence, described as ‘A novel [that] underlines just how accomplished Johnstone has become’ by the Daily Mail.

He has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year three times, and the Capital Crime Best Independent Voice

The Big Chill was longlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions, and has been an arts journalist for twenty years.

Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers.

He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club.

He lives in Edinburgh.

www.dougjohnstone.com

Twitter @doug_johnstone

Instagram @writerdougj





Friday 16 September 2022

When Things Are Alive They Hum by Hannah Bent BLOG TOUR #WhenThingsAreAliveTheyHum #HannahBent @ultimopress @RandomTTours #BookReview

 


When Things Are Alive They Hum poses profound questions about the nature of love and existence, the ways grief changes us, and how we confront the hand fate has dealt us.

Marlowe and Harper share a bond deeper than most sisters, shaped by the loss of their mother in childhood. For Harper, living with what she calls the Up syndrome and gifted with an endless capacity for wonder, Marlowe and she are connected by an invisible thread, like the hum that connects all things. For Marlowe, they are bound by her fierce determination to keep Harper, born with a congenital heart disorder, alive.

Now 25, Marlowe is finally living her own life abroad, pursuing her studies of a rare species of butterfly secure in the knowledge Harper’s happiness is complete, having found love with boyfriend, Louis. But then she receives the devastating call that Harper’s heart is failing. She needs a heart transplant but is denied one by the medical establishment because she is living with a disability. Marlowe rushes to her childhood home in Hong Kong to be by Harper’s side and soon has to answer the question – what lengths would you go to save your sister?

Intensely moving, exquisitely written and literally humming with wonder, it is a novel that celebrates life in all its guises, and what comes after.





When Things Are Alive They Hum by Hannah Bent is published by Ultimo Press on 15 September 2022. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, a part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour. 





Marlowe and Harper are sisters and are particularly close. Their mother died when they were younger and Marlowe has always been protective of Harper. 

Harper has Down Syndrome, although she prefers to call it Up Syndrome. 

Marlowe is currently in the UK, studying for her PHD, whilst Harper remains at home in Hong Kong, living with her father and 'stepmonster', and her grandmother. She's loved very much, her boyfriend Louis adores her and Marlowe has a very positive outlook on life. However, she's been in hospital recently because her heart is 'broken'. She has a congenital heart defect and previously, the doctors have always been able to fix her, this time is different, they don't seem to want to help.


Harper writes to Marlowe, and asks her to come home, to make it all better, because that's what Marlowe does. 

Harper's letter to Marlowe is incredibly tender and really quite frightening. Marlowe returns home, determined to help and finds that the doctors are refusing a heart transplant, and that's entirely because Harper is Downs. No other reason. 


This is a well written novel, although can tend toward the overly sweet at times, but does deal with so many issues faced by the most vulnerable in society. Marlowe is an intelligent woman, but her heart has certainly ruled her head here and she makes decisions that are often difficult to bear, yet the reader knows exactly why she does this. 

I enjoyed the way that the author structured her story, giving the point of view of both Marlowe and Harper, enabling us to see how their minds work, and showing the differences between them so well. I also appreciated the cultural references throughout the book, learning things about Hong Kong and Shanghai that were interesting and added depth to the story. 

A debut novel from an author to watch, that covers many themes and concentrates on the loyalty and love of siblings. 




Born and raised in Hong Kong, Hannah Bent completed her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art and Film from Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London. 

She undertook further study in both directing and screenwriting at the Australian Film and Television and Radio School and has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney. 

She was the 2013 recipient of the Ray Koppe Young Writers Award for her novel as a work in progress.

Instagram: @hannahbent_author