Monday, 19 March 2018

A Glimmer of Hope by Steve McHugh #BlogTour @StevejMcHugh #GlimmerOfHope

From Steve McHugh, the bestselling author of The Hellequin Chronicles, comes a new urban fantasy series packed with mystery, action, and, above all, magic.
Layla Cassidy has always wanted a normal life, and the chance to put her father's brutal legacy behind her. And in her final year of university she's finally found it. Or so she thinks.
But when Layla accidentally activates an ancient scroll, she is bestowed with an incredible, inhuman power. She plunges into a dangerous new world, full of mythical creatures and menace--all while a group of fanatics will stop at nothing to turn her abilities to their cause.
To protect those she loves most, Layla must take control of her new powers...before they destroy her. All is not yet lost--there is a light shining, but Layla must survive long enough to see it.

A Glimmer of Hope by Steve McHugh is published on 1 April 2018 and is the first of a new urban fantasy series from the author of The Hellequin Chronicles.

I'm delighted to kick off the Blog Tour today for A Glimmer Of Hope. Please do follow the tour, with lots of review and guest features from the author with some of the best book bloggers out there.

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

My Life in Books - Steve McHugh

Every author has a collection of books that mean something to them. This can be because they inspired them to become an author, or for a host of other, more personal, reasons. Here are 11 books that are important to me, and a little bit about why.

I could lump all three of these together because each of them opened me to a new genre, a new type of writing, and characters that endure even after all these years, but the actual reason they’re on the list is a bit more personal.
When I was 13, my teacher told me to go to the school library and find a few books to read for my English assessment. I picked Legend and Men at Arms. That night I went to the library and picked up It. Those three books were at least part of what made me want to be an author.

Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld were one of the first urban fantasy books I read back in the early 2000s. And it was just a series that I loved reading. On a more personal note, I joined Kelley’s online writing group in 2004 and that was when I started to get serious about becoming an author. It was a group that I credit with helping me get to where I am today.

One of my favourite stories ever, and probably the greatest anime ever. The manga is a phenomenal read too, but either way, it’s a story that has so many parts that stick with you for a long time. Also, the Elric brothers are two of my favourite characters in anything, ever.

Greg got me reading Batman. It’s that simple. I never thought that someone would take Batman and essentially turn it into an almost noir crime story. It’s my favourite run on the character.

I’ve read a lot of historical fiction over the years, but Azincourt is the one that made me want to write about the time period (and I did in Crimes Against Magic). It’s a phenomenal book.

I could populate this list with pretty much just Terry books to be honest. Good Omens is just a book that I read as a teenager and just loved it to bits. It’s one of my favourite books ever, and still makes me smile and laugh even after having read it so many times.

I love a good post-apocalyptic story, and this is one of the best. Mostly though it’s just the characters that stay with you. And it’s so hopeful, that you come away feeling good about the end of the world.

Jack Reacher is one of my favourite characters in Literature. And the Killing Floor was where the series started. I’ve gotten so much fun out of reading these books.

I know this is a bit of a cheat, but I couldn’t pick. Gail is one of my favourite comic book writers, and has been for years. Secret Six is one of the funniest series I’ve ever read, with wonderful characters I adore reading about, but Birds of Prey is phenomenal. Oracle is one of the greatest characters ever in the DC universe, and Gail writes her wonderfully. They’re series I never missed an issue of, and I remember them with a lot of fondness.

So, that’s it. 12 books from a wide variety of styles, genres, and even medium, and I could have picked 12 more without any problems, but then I’d have been here all week and this would be hundreds of pages long.

Every writer here is worth your time to read, and if you’ve never heard of any of them, or you think it might not be for you, give them a chance, they might surprise you.

Steve McHugh - March 2018 

Steve's been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up 'One boy and his frog' was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A.

It wasn't for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel, the result of which is Crimes Against Magic.

He was born in a small village called Mexborough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton.

Twitter @StevejMchugh

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Burnout by Claire MacLeary @ClaireMacLeary #BlogTour @SarabandBooks #Burnout

My husband is trying to kill me : a new client gets straight to the point. This is a whole new ball game for Maggie Laird, who is trying to rebuild her late husband s detective agency and clear his name. Her partner, Big Wilma, sees the case as a non-starter, but Maggie is drawn in. With her client s life on the line, Maggie must get to the ugly truth that lies behind Aberdeen s closed doors. But who knows what really goes on between husbands and wives? And will the agency s reputation and Maggie and Wilma s friendship remain intact?

Burnout by Claire MacLeary was published by Contraband, an imprint of Saraband Books on 15 March 2018.  I'm delighted to be hosting the Blog Tour for Burnout here on Random Things today, and my thanks to Gordon from Grab This Book who invited me to take part on the Tour.

Claire MacLeary joins us today to talk about the books that are special to her, in My Life in Books

My Life in Books - Claire MacLeary

So many books have influenced my writing, this is a real challenge!

Having been schooled in the classics, it was a revelation, during my late teens, to discover that great literature existed outside the British Isles.

The first American novel to impact on me was The Assistant by Bernard Malamud. Set in a working-class neighbourhood of Brooklyn, it explores first and second-generation Americans in the early 1950s from the point of view of struggling grocery store owner, Russo-Jewish immigrant, Morris Bober, and the stranger, Frank Alpine, who becomes his assistant.

In complete contrast to this bleak, but uplifting tale of life on the margins, Scott Fitzgerald's novels encapsulate the Jazz Age, offering glamour and romance. The Great Gatsby is his most well-known, but my favourite is Tender is the Night. Set on the French Riviera, it tells the story of wealthy couple Dick and Nicole Diver, whose lives crash and burn in a mirror of the author's own.

Back in contemporary Britain, I admire William Boyd for the breadth of his vocabulary and compassion. His early novels derive from his African childhood, his recurring theme - that life can turn in an instant - narrated with sensitivity and humour. Any Human Heart follows Logan Mountstuart's life from the beginning to end of the twentieth century and takes him to Paris, London and New York in a testament to human resilience.

Perceptive and droll, novelist and playwright Alan Bennett creates magic from the most banal situations. In 'Writing Home' he draws on his Northern roots to provide an acutely observed commentary on the nuances of social class. Now an establishment figure, but still deliciously subversive, his wry observations on the minutiae of everyday life are a delight

Women writers feature large among my favourite reads.

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields made a lasting impression. Following Daisy Goodwill, from her birth in a kitchen in Manitoba, Canada, to her death in a Florida nursing home nearly ninety years later, this poignant novel encapsulates, for me, the story of womanhood.

In Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf breaks with the traditional form of the novel. The action is contained within a single day, on which Clarissa Dalloway is to hold an important party, the narrative largely confined to her stream-of-consciousness impressions and memories. A slim volume, but a masterpiece of creativity.

Jayne Anne Phillips I was introduced to by Professor Kirsty Gunn during my MLitt studies. Phillips' powerful novel Motherkind deals with questions of love and death, as Kate's care for her terminally ill mother coincides with the birth of her first child. Narrated with honesty and compassion, this is a deeply moving novel that will resonate with women readers everywhere.

Anthologies of short stories are a delight to dip into and a marvel of composition and tautness.
Chekhov, of course. Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth Bowen, Katherine Anne Porter, Mavis Gallant, James Salter, Wallace Stegner. Lorrie Moore I love. Edith Pearlman is a current read. But my favourite by far is the incomparable Alice Munro. A master of close observation, she writes with wonderful clarity, perception and humour. Too Much Happiness, winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize, features manipulative men and the women who outwit them. What could chime better with the current climate?

My writing has been described as 'spare, cutaway prose' and Raymond Carver, known in some circles as the 'godfather of minimalism', continues to inspire. In The Stories of Raymond Carver, tales of fortune and chance set in a post-industrial world of low-rent survivors are narrated in his laconic, pared-down style. Although there has been controversy over the editing of his stories, Carver creates an atmosphere of intrigue and possibility in a few words.

Where the crime genre is concerned, the writing that made the most striking impression was William McIlvanney's Laidlaw trilogy. Considered the founding father of 'Tartan Noir', McIlvanney wrote with the same self-deprecating wry humour that characterised the man himself. His troubled detective was the benchmark for scores of works that followed, his social commentary as relevant today as when the books were first written.

The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark is another book that defies convention, in that there is a plot-spoiler at the start. A metaphysical thriller, the novella deals with isolation, alienation and loss of spiritual values encapsulated in Lisa, a deranged woman who goes on holiday to Italy. An uncomfortable read, but a learning curve for the aspiring crime writer.

I couldn't list influences on my writing without giving Stephen King's 'On Writing' a mention. Of all the 'how to' books on the market I have found it most useful.

Claire MacLeary - March 2018 

Claire MacLeary has lived in Aberdeen and Fife, but describes herself as “a feisty Glaswegian with a full life to draw on”. Following a career in business, she gained an MLitt with Distinction from the University of Dundee and her short stories have appeared in various publications. Burnout is the sequel to her hit debut, Cross Purpose.

Follow her on Twitter @ClaireMacLeary

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel #BlogTour @Scribbler4Bread @alice_geary1 @midaspr #TheOceanLiner

In September 1939, cousins Masha and Rachel Morgenstern board the SS Manhattan bound for New York, leaving behind everything – and everyone – they know in war-torn Europe. America offers a safe haven, but to reach it they must survive an Atlantic crossing fraught with the danger of German U-boats and their lethal torpedoes.
Their only distraction from peril is the drama of life on board. Among their fellow passengers are the composer Igor Stravinsky, making a new start after a decade of personal tragedy; and Rose Kennedy, wife of the US ambassador to London, determined to keep her four young children from harm. And then there’s Thomas, a young Nazi with a secret ...
All 1,500 passengers on board are hoping to find a bright future at the end of their perilous journey. But as they discover, fate is not smiling upon them all.
Thoroughly researched, The Ocean Liner is a fictionalised portrayal of some of the true stories from The Golden Age of the Ocean Liner, and sensitively pays tribute to some of true tragedies of the period. From the destruction of the SS Athenia, the heroics of Commodore Albert ‘Rescue’ Randall, to the events that changed Rose Kennedy’s life forever, Gabriel brings to life a cast of refugees escaping WW2.

The Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel is published by Lake Union Publishing, in paperback on 20 March 2018. My thanks to the publisher and Alice from Midas PR who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part on this Blog Tour.

I've been a fan of Marius Gabriel's writing for a while now and I'm absolutely delighted to welcome him here to Random Things today as part of the Blog Tour for The Ocean Liner. He's talking to us about the books that are special to him, in My Life In Books.

My Life In Books - Marius Gabriel

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens. For me, this will always be THE book. My mother read it to me when I was 6 or 7 years old. It gripped my imagination so powerfully that I could hardly sleep after each chapter ended, and would lie awake, my mind still in the graveyard with Magwitch, or visiting Miss Havisham's house with the exquisite Estella, or in bustling London with all of Pip's new friends.
This was also the book which most shaped me as a writer. From it I learned the importance of binding a reader to a sympathetic narrator, the effectiveness of a stunning revelation, and above all, to let my imagination run free.

Victory, Joseph Conrad. Not Conrad's most perfect book, but his great love-story. This book has haunted my imagination all my life, with its exotic locations and its tragic heroine. Because of its imperfections, it's also the book in which we most clearly see Conrad's mind at work, and that is fascinating for any writer.

Typhoon, Joseph Conrad. This hurricane of a novel is one of the most perfect pieces of writing in the language. Any author wanting to learn the art of descriptive writing should start here. It contains the best of Conrad: a gruff captain, a lively young first mate, a great ordeal to pass through. A book to be read again and again.

Under The Skin, Michel Faber. Faber's vivid imagination has impelled him into science fiction in a number of his novels; yet he is always (as in the best science fiction) writing about the world we inhabit. This grim, fascinating tale of carnivorous aliens is a searing allegory of the contortions a woman must make to fit into modern society. Also highly recommended, and a book I admire greatly, is his The Book of Strange New Things.

A Pale View of Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro. A delicate, mysterious work of art, as cryptic and yet engaging as a Japanese woodblock print. Often criticised as too puzzling, this is a book I absolutely love, and return to again and again. Ishiguro's most accessible novels are the melancholy masterpiece, The Remains of The Day and the sci-fi tour-de-force, Never Let Me Go. As a writer, he has continued to mature and to  grow more and more difficult; but he is the most rewarding of living British writers, and his recent Nobel was long overdue.

Joy in the Morning, P.G. Wodehouse. The quintessential Bertie and Jeeves novel was written while Wodehouse was interned by the Nazis during World War II. More than escapist fantasy, it is a divine dream of a world far nicer than our own. The last, great Art Deco masterpiece, and an object lesson in humorous writing. Wodehouse was my consolation during the unhappiest years of my life, as I imagine he is for many readers.

Ulysses, James Joyce. Promethean and endlessly entertaining, this is a book I have read a dozen times over the course of my life. By turns funny, pathetic and baffling, it stretches the boundaries of fiction to breaking-point. You can almost feel your mind expanding as Joyce leads you on a merry dance through Edwardian Dublin, conjuring up a mesmerizing array of assorted characters, each with their own ferocious life. To my mind, the single greatest novel of the 20th Century.

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert. Flaubert was prosecuted for this book, which still has the power to shock modern readers with its frankness. An unforgettable novel which will always have a special place in my heart. The tale of an unrepentant adulteress, it presents us with the first great female protagonist of the 19th Century.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. One of the world's best-loved books, this is also one of the most quietly transformative. Jane Austen's mature style is a miraculous combination of liveliness, acid wit, grace and elegance. A glittering treasure of a book that revolutionised the gentle art of novel-writing. 

Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban. I was disappointed that Hoban was never nominated for a Nobel Prize before his death. This astonishing novel explodes history, language and culture, scattering the fragments as tantalizing clues to a story about the end of civilization. A novel full of beauty and violence; a real triumph of the imagination and of language.

Marius Gabriel began his life as a writer penning over 30 romance novels under a female pseudonym to fund his way through university. 

Later turning to historical novels, Marius is inspired by his life of travels from South Africa to Spain, Italy to Egypt, and the eclectic mix of people he has encountered along the way.

Follow him on Twitter @Scribbler4Bread

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

You Have Me To Love by Jaap Robben @JaapRobben @WorldEdBooks #Boekenweek

Mikael lives with his parents on an island somewhere between Scotland and Norway. One day Mikael’s father, Birk, saves him from drowning in the ocean, but is himself thrown against the rocks by a wave and disappears under water. When Birk fails to return to the surface, Mikael is in shock and blocks out the memory of what took place. Unable to tell his mother what happened, together they spend days searching for Birk. When Mikael’s mother realizes that her husband has drowned, the relationship between her and Mikael transforms: she becomes psychotic, forcing Mikael to replace his father in every possible way.

You Have Me To Love by Jaap Robben is published in the UK by World Editions

Every spring the Dutch celebrate Boekenweek (10 – 18 March 2018) – a celebration of books and literary culture. There are dozens of events all over the country and every year a top author is commissioned to write a special festival novella which is given away free from bookshops and libraries.

International fiction publishers World Editions would like to invite you to celebrate Boekenweek in the UK with Jaap Robben, an acclaimed Dutch YA author whose prize-winning first adult novel, You Have Me To Love, is set on an island between Scotland and Norway. Praised widely on publication, the novel tells how, after the mysterious death of his father, a young boy has to navigate the complex relationship with his mother.

'Jaap Robben handles delicate, dangerous material with subtlety and sympathy, but also with a visionary sense of truth that is masterly and unforgettable.’ — Colm Tóibín

Voted Best Book of 2014 in the Netherlands and awarded the prestigious Dutch Bookseller Award 2015.
Shortlisted for the Dioraphte Literature Prize and for the ANV Debut Novel Prize 2015.

  • ‘This is a bold, tender and ambivalent narrative, raw and disturbing, with moments of painful beauty.’—Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
  • ‘From the very first sentence it is clear how well début novelist Jaap Robben writes. His childishly simple yet highly suggestive sentences make You Have Me to Love as stark and foreboding as the island on which it is set.’ —NRC NEXT
  •  ‘a gripping novel that steadily tightens its hold’ —De Volkskrant
  • ‘beautiful, just beautiful’ —Gerbrand Bakker
  •  ‘Robben lifts you from your life and sweeps you away, with no chance of escaping.’— De Morgen
  • ‘Robben's clear sentences and empathic use of language read like poetry: rhythmic, probing, and sonorous.’ —Dagblad van het Noorden
  • ‘Robben is faultless in his description of a child’s inner world.’—Het Parool

Exclusive Extract

My tongue felt like it was crawling with ants. My feet were heavy. I was standing at the back door in my swimming trunks, towel around my neck. Mum had come into the kitchen, but she hadn’t looked at me yet. ‘There you are,’ she said without raising her head as she lifted the lid off the pot. She ladled my bowl full of soup, then hers.
She dipped a finger into my soup and stirred. ‘Just right. Tuck in.’ I sat down on my chair and stared at the steam rising sluggishly from my bowl. ‘Don’t leave too much for Dad. If he’d wanted a decent helping, he should’ve been back on time.’ Spooning soup into her mouth, she returned to her sewing machine in the living room. ‘Just finishing this off. Won’t be long.’
My hands lay motionless on the table. Inside they were shaking. I could hear the scraping of gulls sharpening their beaks on the gutter above the window. I knew I should be eating my soup, but it was all I could do to take hold of the spoon.
I took a gulp of water from my glass. It felt like I was choking. I gagged and a little of what I sicked up disappeared into my soup. I wiped away what had landed next to the bowl with a furtive sweep of my hand. Mum hadn’t noticed. She was leaning forward in her chair, staring intently at the rattling needle of her sewing machine, only letting up to see if she was still going in a straight line.
After a few minutes, Mum came back into the kitchen to fetch the Worcester sauce from the spice rack. She rested her hips against the sink and leaned toward the window.
‘Taking his own sweet time again.’ My heart wanted to leap out of my chest. I stuck the empty spoon in my mouth. ‘Don’t take after your father,’ she smiled. ‘You can never count on a man like that.’ Before I could answer, the sewing machine had started rattling again.
The harder I bit down on my tongue, the more the ants prickled. Dusk made a mirror of the window. I knew it held my reflection, but I couldn’t bring myself to look. Mum went over to the bin, trod on the pedal, and let a few scraps of material fall from her hand.
‘Aren’t you going to eat anything?’
I gave a jerky shrug.
‘Nothing to say for yourself?’
‘I’ve had enough,’ I said.
‘Well, that wasn’t much.’
‘Don’t come crying like a baby that you want something else later.’
She tipped my soup back into the pot, placed my bowl next to hers by the sink, and left the pot and one bowl on the table for Dad. She caught me looking at them. ‘That father of yours can heat up his own soup.’
When she called him ‘that father of yours’, it meant he’d done something he needed to make up for. She rubbed dark-brown stripes across the table with a damp cloth.
‘He swam away.’ The words stumbled out of my mouth.
‘Dad swam away.’
‘“ Swam away”?’
‘How do you mean?’
She looked at me, puzzled. ‘Where to?’
I shrugged.
‘Didn’t he tell you?’
Again, I shrugged.
‘But you must know if he said something.’
‘I don’t think he said anything.’
She cupped her hands around her eyes and put her face to the window.
‘Did you two have a row?’
She tossed her head as if to shake loose a couple of strange thoughts.
‘That waster does whatever he likes.’
She turned the tap on full, put the plug in the sink, and squirted in some washing-up liquid. I heard the muffled clunk of plates and mugs, the scrape of knives, forks, and spoons. The boiler hummed away in the cupboard below.
At the slightest sound, Mum looked up and turned her head toward the front door, though they were only the noises the house makes. When she was finished, she draped a tea towel over the clean dishes on the draining board.
‘He was underwater.’
‘All of a sudden.’
‘What was all of a sudden?’
I shrugged.
‘Stop shrugging your shoulders every time I ask you a question.’
‘He wanted to climb out of the water after me.’
‘Did you two go swimming?’
‘You knew that wasn’t allowed.’
I shook my head.
‘What happened? Tell me.’
‘I looked round and all of a sudden Dad was swimming underwater.’
‘Underwater? Just like that?’
I tried my best not to shrug, but I couldn’t help myself.
‘He must have said something?’
‘Well, where did he go?’
‘I don’t know that, either.’
‘Dunno, dunno, dunno… Where was he heading?’
‘I couldn’t see.’
‘But you just said he climbed out of the water after you.’
‘What do you mean, “didn’t”?’
‘I didn’t go for a swim.’
Her hand shot out and felt at my swimming trunks. ‘Are you telling me lies?’
My head wouldn’t stop shaking.
‘Where were you?’
‘On the sand.’
‘And that’s where he went swimming?’
I shook my head. ‘Over by the rocks.’
She looked deep into my eyes. Then she rushed into the hall, yanked open the dresser drawer, and took out a torch. She flashed it on and off three times and went outside. By the time the light on the outside wall flickered on, she had disappeared round the side of the house. Quick as I could, I pulled one of Dad’s jumpers from the drying rack and put it on. It was way too big for me. I wormed my feet into my boots and had to run to keep up with her.

Jaap Robben (1984) is a popular Dutch poet, playwright, actor, and children’s author. You Have Me to Love is his first novel.

You Have Me to Love sold over 40,000 copies in the Netherlands. Film rights sold.