Friday, 25 May 2018

Ask Me To Dance by Sylvia Colley #BlogTour @SylviaColley @MuswellPress #AskMeToDance




Rose Gregory has suffered a devastating blow, a double bereavement from which months later she is still reeling. Sanctuary and rest are prescribed by her doctor. But when she arrives at her refuge, a dank and decaying Monastery, she finds it is not the haven promised. 
Despite the veneer of calm contemplation, the Monastery turns out to be a hotbed of intrigue and disharmony. Rose witnesses bullying and cruelty and ultimately in defence of the vulnerable turns to violence herself. Sylvia Colley s extraordinary understanding of a woman s struggle to deal with grief, the denial, the anger, the loneliness, is described without sentimentality. A beautifully written and moving story








Ask Me To Dance by Sylvia Colley was published on 3 May 2018, in paperback by Muswell Press. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.


This is a beautifully constructed novel that draws the reader in from the very first page. The opening paragraphs are intriguing, and set the tone for the story ahead.

Ask Me To Dance is not fast paced, nor does it contain twists and surprises. It is a deft and subtle character-led novel that explores one women's journey through grief and bereavement.

Rose Gregory has suffered the most terrible of tragedies and is taking refuge at a Monastery; arranged by her doctor. She hopes to find some peace; a place of sanctuary, where she can begin to heal. What she finds when she arrives is far from what she expected. The Monastery is dark and gloomy and in the process of being closed. The remaining Monks are a mixed bunch, all with their own problems, and their own personalities.

Instead of harmony and silence, Rose soon finds herself caught up in the inner battles played out between the Monks and becomes increasingly involved, and enraged by the things that she sees and hears.

It's not until half way through the novel that the reader learns exactly what happened in Rose's life that has caused so much distress and pain, and Sylvia Colley excels in the gentle reveal. Her insight into the emotional consequences that Rose has to bear is incredibly realistic, and there are times when the story becomes a little dark, and very difficult. Despite this, there is also a humour that runs throughout the story, this brings a little light relief and adds another layer to the novel.

I was very impressed by Ask Me To Dance; it's perfectly structured and so moving. Highly recommended by me.






Sylvia Colley was born in Romsey, Hampshire. She became a teacher and spent many years as Head of English at the Purcell School in North London.
She has published a book of poetry, It’s Not What I Wanted Though, and a novel, Lights on Dark Water. Her work has been read on BBC Radio 4. She lives in Pinner, Middlesex.

 
Twitter: @SylviaColley




Muswell Press is a proudly independent publisher of great books, both fiction and non-fiction. Sarah and Kate Beal bought Muswell Press in 2016. With over 50 years publishing experience between them, at Bloomsbury, Faber, Walker Books, HarperCollins amongst others, they bring a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to the list.





Thursday, 24 May 2018

Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone #BlogTour @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks #MyLifeInBooks #FaultLines




A brilliantly constructed piece of speculative crime fiction, Fault Lines is also a psychological thriller and a classic whodunit, in which every cast member is a suspect, and the next blow can come from any direction.

In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, in which a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery. On a clandestine trip to The Inch - the new volcanic island - to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body, and makes the fatal decision to keep their affair, and her discovery of his corpse secret. Desperate to know how he died, but also terrified she ll be exposed, Surtsey s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact - someone who claims to know what she s done...





Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone was published by Orenda Books on 22 May 2018. As part of the Blog Tour, I'm delighted to welcome the author to Random Things today. He's talking about the books that are special to him in My Life In Books.




My Life In Books - Doug Johnstone 

Asterix and Charlie Brown   These were the first books I remember being properly into, and that I read on my own for pleasure. Looking back, I don’t think there could’ve any been better introductions to storytelling, as they’re both exemplary collections of characters and the books are filled with immense heart. The Asterix books were also full of stupid slapstick humour which I loved of course, and a lot of rewritten history, which is how I learned most of my history at school. Of all the books, Asterix in Britain is a stonewall classic, casting an acerbic Gallic eye on the foibles of the English (and the token Scot). The Charlie Brown books are full of melancholy and existential angst, I think, but also dumb jokes too. My kids have both picked up my old tattered paperbacks and are loving just like I did, which is great to see.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams    I was totally into science as a kid, especially physics and astronomy, and this instilled in me a lifelong love of science fiction too. The central premise, that the earth is totally insignificant in the universe, is something that has coloured my worldview throughout my life. Plus it’s also mind-bendingly funny and utterly quotable. None of the radio, television or film adaptations have quite done it justice, I don’t think.



Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver     I didn’t get on with my English teacher at high school as we never read anything that was written in the last hundred years. My dad handed me this book at just the right time and I devoured it. It’s amazing the emotional depth Carver can squeeze in between the lines of his prose, with seemingly no effort. It’s a kind of magic trick. These are simple stories of working class Americans often on their knees, but there’s a searing beauty to them all the same.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks    This was the first book I read where I recognised the people and places and speech in it as similar to my own upbringing. Before that, I had presumed literature was for Oxbridge graduates having dinner parties in London, or written by dead people. This was about a fucked up family living in Fife, and it’s an absolutely terrifying horror story to boot, I mean, what’s not to like?



Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh     This blew my mind when I read it. I was living in Edinburgh and a student, and while I thankfully wasn’t addicted to heroin, I completely recognised that life and those people. This completely validated the idea that my story and the stories of those around me were absolutely worth telling. This book more than any probably set me on the road to being a writer.

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain     I wasn’t a crime writer initially, in fact I’m not sure what kind of writer I was. But enough people compared me to crime writers that I thought I’d better take a crash course, and started reading all the American noir classics. This book is my favourite, a pitch-black story of murder and seduction, where the two central characters are utterly unsympathetic, and yet you’re totally rooting for them. This opened my eyes to the
possibility of writing about people doing bad things for morally questionable reasons, but keeping the reader on side with them.

Come Closer by Sara Gran    All Gran’s books are amazing but this is my favourite, a horror novella that is part demon possession, part psychological breakdown and part existential quest. I love Gran because she seems to write without giving a single shit what the reader thinks, and there’s immense freedom in that. Her characters are spectacularly uncompromising, but all the more compelling because of that. This is the current benchmark for everything I write in terms of plotting, voice and character, and I’ve never got close.

Doug Johnstone - May 2018





Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His seventh novel, The Jump, was published by Faber & Faber in August 2015. Gone Again (2013) was an Amazon bestseller and Hit & Run (2012) and was an Amazon #1 as well as being selected as a prestigious Fiction Uncovered winner. Smokeheads (2011) was nominated for the Crimefest Last Laugh Award. Before that Doug published two novels with Penguin, Tombstoning (2006) and The Ossians (2008). His work has received praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin, William McIlvanney, Megan Abbott and Christopher Brookmyre.

In September 2014 Doug took up the position of Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. Doug was writer in residence at the University of Strathclyde 2010-2012 and before that worked as a lecturer in creative writing there. He’s had short stories appear in various publications and anthologies, and since 1999 he has worked as a freelance arts journalist, primarily covering music and literature. Doug is currently also working on a number of screenplays for film and television. He is also a mentor and manuscript assessor for The Literary Consultancy.

Doug is one of the co-founders of the Scotland Writers Football Club, for whom he also puts in a shift in midfield. He is also a singer, musician and songwriter in several bands, including Northern Alliance, who have released four albums to critical acclaim, as well as recording an album as a fictional band called The Ossians. Doug has also released two solo EPs, Keep it Afloat and I Did It Deliberately.

Doug has a degree in physics, a PhD in nuclear physics and a diploma in journalism, and worked for four years designing radars.

He grew up in Arbroath and lives in Portobello, Edinburgh with his wife and two children.

For more info: 
dougjohnstone.wordpress.com
dougjohnstone.bandcamp.com




Tuesday, 22 May 2018

May 2018 My Chronicle Book Box @MyChronicleBB #BookBox #CrimeFiction #MyChronicleBookBox *SP






I was so thrilled when Louise from My Chronicle Book Box said that she wanted to send me her May 2018 collection.

These book boxes are so well put together, of the highest quality and so exciting to unpack

So, let's have a look at what delights were inside the box this month.

Of course, the most important things are the books! Three amazing crime novels were nestled inside the box; The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson; as Louise says, it's a fabulous example of Scandi noir (although technically of course it's Icelandic noir!); The Lost by Mari Hannah, the first in a new series for this great writer of police procedurals; and Class Murder by Leigh Russell. Class Murder is the 10th in the Geraldine Steel series but stands alone quite easily. 

Each of the books is accompanied by a book plate signed by the author, exclusive interviews with Leigh and Mari, plus a lovely letter from Mari.


But it's not only books that are in this box of treasures. Oh no. There's some really gorgeous extras too. I was delighted to find such a selection of delights for a book lover;




A very useful pen pot which will be a great addition to my (rather untidy) desk. The pot was designed and made by Bespoke Verse, an independent maker of all things literary who you may have seen on Dragon's Den. 










A lovely Iceland themed bookmark made from vintage maps by Laura at MadeWithMaps on Etsy.
This bookmark is unique to me as every single bookmark is different as it was made with a different map!




A great fun Harry Potter charm. These are designed and made here in the UK by independent jeweller The Carat Shop on licence from Warner Brothers.








And finally, a wonderful print inspired by Sherlock Holmes designed by the very talented Maria at ArtsAndTravelPrints on Etsy








My Chronicle Book Boxes made a wonderful gift, for someone special or as a treat for yourself.

My Chronicle Book Box is a unique reading box curated for you every three months containing the latest literary releases and a selection of beautifully crafted associated items, exclusive to My Chronicle whenever possible.

Boxes will be shipped 4 times a year during the first week of:
  • February,
  • May,
  • August and
  • November
Follow ther News Updates and Book Reviews. You can find them on social media - FacebookInstagram and Twitter. You can also sing up to their Newsletter for a monthly round up of updates, and other bookish features.






Friday, 18 May 2018

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings #Giveaway @MandaJJennings #TheCliffHouse #Competition







Some friendships are made to be broken
Cornwall, summer of 1986.
The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.
If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.
If only her life was as perfect as theirs.
If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.
If only she lived at The Cliff House…

Amanda Jennings weaves a haunting tale of obsession, loss and longing, set against the brooding North Cornish coastline, destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

















HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY for yesterday to Amanda Jennings! The Cliff House is published in hardback by HQ, and I'm delighted to offer one SIGNED HARDBACK copy to one lucky reader of Random Things today

Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget at the end of this blog post. The competition will stay open for seven days and is UK ENTRIES ONLY.

GOOD LUCK!




I read and reviewed The Cliff House back in April, here's what I thought:

"Once more, Amanda Jennings has set her story in Cornwall, and whilst her characters are perfectly formed, it is the house itself that steals the limelight. The Cliff House is a dark, alluring magnet to lead character Tamsyn. It's the place that she went to with her beloved Dad, just before he died.
Tamsyn is drawn back to the house, time and again. It's not only the building that entrances her, it's the occupants too; the Davenport family, up from London and exuding glamour and wealth; a million miles away from Tamsyn's quiet and lonely life in the small Cornish town that she's never left.

Although The Cliff House is set in the 1980s, it has a distinct feel of the 50s, despite the modern references; there's an air about this story, and the setting that feels beautifully nostalgic, almost as though the real world has crept on and left the occupants of The Cliff House behind.

Tamsyn yearns to be part of the Davenport's life. She doesn't see the danger, or the darkness and unhappiness that is evident to the reader; she sees champagne, and steak, and glittery parties. There's an innocent vulnerability to Tamsyn that is exploited, in different ways, by each member of the Davenport family. Young Edie Davenport is a victim, although she appears confident and brash on the outside. Her heart is heavy with sadness and feelings of abandonment and betrayal.

With a dangerous obsession at its heart, The Cliff House is a coming-of-age story with a haunting and dark difference. This author excels at creating atmosphere, and mystery and the reader is always just one step behind her clever plotting. There are shocks and unexpected twists galore, but this is not a fast-paced drama, it's a gentle untangling of lives and secrets. 

The reader becomes totally immersed in this story, it's an impressive and captivating tale, oozing with beautiful words. A fabulous read, I loved it."




One Signed Hardback copy of The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings





Amanda Jennings lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, three daughters, and a menagerie of animals. She studied History of Art at Cambridge and before writing her first book, was a researcher at the BBC. With a deep fascination on the far-reaching effects of trauma, her books focus on the different ways people find to cope with loss, as well as the moral struggles her protagonists face. When she isn't writing she can usually be found walking the dog. Her favourite place to be is up a mountain or beside the sea.

Find out more at www.amandajennings.co.uk
Follow her on Twitter @MandaJJennings



Thursday, 17 May 2018

A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry @veronica_henry #BlogTour @orionbooks @Lauren_BooksPR #AFamilyRecipe




What's the secret ingredient to your happiness?
Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent - a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga - seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.
But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother's recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura's jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.
Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . . .



A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry is published today (17 May 2018) by Orion. I think it's safe to say that I am a huge huge fan of Veronica Henry's writing, and this is one of her best. My review will be published in the media during May, and I'll be featuring my thoughts about the book here on my blog too.

As part of the Blog Tour today, I'm delighted to share with you a very special recipe for Soda Bread and a guest post from Veronica. I do hope that you enjoy it, I certainly did and it reminded me of my own Irish grandmother, and sitting down to warm slices of soda bread with salty butter, in front of the range in her cottage in Donegal.






SODA BREAD

On my kitchen shelf is a tiny metal box full of index cards, stuffed with recipes from my grandmothers, my parents and me, that I now have in my care. I’ve used many of them throughout my life, as well as adding to the collection. Many of the recipes are reminiscent of important family occasions.

And that was where the idea for A FAMILY RECIPE came from: a little box that holds recipes that relate to the life-changing events of the residents of 11 Lark Hill in Bath, from the war to the present day. Laura finds the box at a difficult time in her life, and uses it to help her move forward.

For this blog tour I am sharing some of my favourite recipes from my own box.

MY GRANDMOTHER’S SODA BREAD

The parcel arrives from Killorglin, the weight of a family bible, damp and cold. I place it on the kitchen table and tear away the wrapping.

There’s no fancy packaging or logos here, just plain grey cardboard with prosaic black capitals: WILD IRISH SMOKED SALMON. It’s the ‘wild’ that pleases me most. You don’t want your salmon biddable.

I can already picture the water it came from: the swollen river charging with abandon through the purple hills, the fish tumbling in their haste to get away from the fisherman’s net.

I tear back the plastic. It’s much paler than I expected – a dainty rose, and I worry it won’t taste of anything. I stick in my fork to lift off a slice. It peels away somewhat reluctantly and hangs from the tines, plump and heavy.

I lift the fork to my mouth. The salmon lies oily and meaty on my tongue. It tastes of Ireland. The drift of peat from a tiny white cottage; the damp rain coming in from the Atlantic; the plume from an aged aunt’s cup of Lapsang Souchong.

It’s a ballerina with balls: delicate but powerful. I lay it on a white plate. 
There is no need for fancy presentation: no fiddling with prissy rosettes, just slice upon slice of coral on porcelain. 
A plate of memories, of childhood, of a long-forgotten summer. 
It is the perfect present for my father’s birthday. 
His 80th, although at the time I was not to know it was his last.
All it needs to go with it is a slice of cakey soda bread, some good butter, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of black pepper. 
My Irish grandmother used to make this every day, and it is always best fresh, though it’s wonderful toasted as well. It is especially good with home-made raspberry jam.


SODA BREAD

4 teacups whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ teacup buttermilk
salt

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl making sure it gets plenty of air. 
Pour in the buttermilk gradually, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until you can draw it all together in a lump – don’t manhandle it too much. 
Coax it into a round and put a cross in the top. 
Or you can put it in a loaf tin if you prefer a more structured shape.
Bake in the oven at 220 C for about 45 mins or until it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom – but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t catch.







Veronica Henry has worked as a scriptwriter for THE ARCHERS, HEARTBEAT and HOLBY CITY amongst many others, before turning to fiction. She won the 2014 RNA NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD for A NIGHT ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Veronica lives with her family in a village in north Devon.
Find out more at www.veronicahenry.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @veronica_henry