Monday, 19 February 2018

Love After Love by Alex Hourston @alex_hourston @FaberBooks #LoveAfterLove #Win #Giveaway







Nancy Jansen is the beating heart of her family.
She is the centre around whom many lives turn.
Mother
Therapist
Daughter
Sister
Wife

But Nancy has a new role:
Lover
Everybody can be happy, Nancy believes, so long as they can be kept apart.
But when these lives start to overlap, collision becomes inevitable, with consequences for all...















Love After Love by Alex Hourston is published by Faber in hardback on 1st March 2018 and is the author's second novel. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Love After Love is not a long book, it's under 350 pages, and each one is made up of the most beautifully created prose; sharp and to the point. Screaming with sophistication, this is a book that gripped me from page one and whose characters linger in my head, long after I closed the book for the last time.

Nancy Jansen is an intriguing, complicated character. At times she is difficult to like, she's often difficult to understand, but she's the pivot of this story. Nancy's family revolve around her, her colleagues revolve around her, as do her clients. She has an incredible draw, she's able to understand and to try to heal, yet it is her own life that gradually begins to uncurl - slowly, but surely, Nancy's grip on life gets looser and looser.

Alex Hourston uses words so sparingly, there is no padding, no flowery description. Each startling sentence is immaculately placed. Her observations on life, and people are skilfully drawn, unpredictable, unsettling and so very powerful.

Love After Love is a story of just that; the love that can be found despite the love that one already has. Nancy's choices have far reaching consequences, not least for herself. Whilst the reader may find Nancy difficult to empathise with, her final decisions show that she knows that security does not always mean happiness. I was surprised by the conclusion of Love After Love, but the more I think about it, the more satisfying I find it.




I have one hardback copy of Love After Love by Alex Hourston to give away. Entry is simple; just fill out the competition widget below. The competition will stay open for 7 days. UK ENTRIES ONLY.





Love After Love Giveaway







After fifteen years writing strategy for advertising agencies, Alex took a break to go back to university and her first love, books. She completed a Masters in English and started a PhD, but put it aside when the idea for this novel surfaced.

Alex lives outside Brighton with her family.
          
Follow her on Twitter @alex_hourston      



















Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Betrayal by Anne Allen @AnneAllen21 #BlogTour @rararesources #TheGuernseyNovels



Treachery and theft lead to death – and love

1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…
1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return. 
1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.
2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona, buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth…
Searching for the rightful owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother's ghost to rest?
Who betrayed Leo? 
Who knew about the stolen Renoir?
And are they prepared to kill – again?



The Betrayal by Anne Allen is the sixth in her Guernsey Novels series and was published last year. My thanks to Rachel from Rachel's Random Resources who invited me to take part in this Blog Tour and supplied me with a copy of the book for review.




I've read and enjoyed Anne Allen's novels in the past and was looking forward to returning to her wonderfully descriptive Guernsey setting once more. The Betrayal is an intriguing and well imagined novel set both in the present day and during World War II

Whilst there are a few characters in The Betrayal who are familiar from the other novels in the series, The Betrayal is a stand-alone story.

Central to the plot is a previously unknown Renoir painting, discovered in a dark cellar underneath an antiques shop that Fiona and her twin brother Nigel have recently bought. Becoming shop owners is a complete change in direction for both of them, but recent life events have meant that they've returned to their home island of Guernsey and decided to risk a new venture.

Sadly, for Nigel, things don't turn out well, and Fiona is devastated when Nigel dies suddenly. She's also convinced that, despite what the police say, he didn't take his own life. Only Fiona knows about the Renoir that they discovered hidden away, and as time goes on she becomes more and more convinced that the painting led to Nigel's death.

Meanwhile, back in 1940s Guernsey, Leo has sent his wife and young son to England to safety. He is convinced that the Germans will invade the island very soon and he wants to ensure that his family are safe. However, he refuses to leave the island, and his antiques shop.

Anne Allen writes with flair and great imagination. Her characters are well rounded and totally realistic and her setting is wonderful. Both modern-day and war time Guernsey are brought to life and the added mystery of 'the betrayal' is particularly engaging. 

The Betrayal is a great addition to the Guernsey novel series, I enjoyed it very much.



A Triple Celebration and a Price Reduction!

For this week only, until 18th February, the price of books 2-6 of The Guernsey Novels is only £1.99/$2.99, with book 1, 'Dangerous Waters, remaining at 99p/99c

This is in celebration of Anne Allen's birthday, the 6th anniversary of the publication of 'Dangerous Waters' and the recent publication of book 6, 'The Betrayal'.




Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. 
She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby. 
Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. 
The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. 
She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.
By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. 
Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, six having been published and the seventh, The Inheritance, is due out in 2018. 

Website: www.anneallen.co.uk 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Anne-Allen-Author-176883759173475/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnneAllen21







Saturday, 17 February 2018

A Dangerous Score by Michael Bearcroft @mikebearcroft1 #BlogTour @rararesources




Football hero Jason Clooney is riding high....until a date with a
beautiful woman lands him in trouble with the media, and into
battle with the criminal underworld.

Now against a backdrop of an uncertain professional future,
Jason has to confront disturbing revelations surrounding his
new girlfriend’s family.

From football action on the pitch to behind the scenes plotting. 
To battles with a criminal gang and constant media attention, all
adding to the toughest challenges he has ever faced in life, love,
as a player and as a man.





A Dangerous Score by Michael Bearcroft was published in September 2016. My thanks to Rachel from Rachel's Random Resources who invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.
I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today, he's talking to us about the books that are special to him in My Life In Books.



My Life in Books - Michael Bearcroft

My father was an avid reader and took me to the public library in Sheffield at an early age.

Although I loved Western films I rarely, if ever, read books about the West.


My first memory of books was those of Dennis Wheatley. I enjoyed the Black Magic books and the historical series featuring Rodger Brookes as the hero . Though I disliked the author’s right wing politics, I enjoyed his stories.


Historical fiction was may preferred reading and I particularly liked the novels of an aptly named, so I thought, American doctor called Frank G Slaughter. Also, the Nicholas Pym historical spy novels by John Sanders, set in the 17th century. His hero was a ‘James Bond style’ Spy for the King and the villains had strange secret weapons.




As I grew up I started to read books about football (soccer), thrillers that my father liked, by Alastair Maclean and Desmond Bagley, whilst trying other genres such as the novels by Nevil Shute, DH Lawrence, Anthony Horowitz, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen King and Harold Robbins.

The Flashman books by George Macdonald Fraser amused me and hopefully with age I began to gain some wisdom, my taste in books becoming more diverse.


The politics of Anthony Wedgewood Benn, Wind in the Willows to Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, the Wilbur Smith novels to Bill Bryson. My tastes are more varied now yet I still manage to consume around 12-20 books every year!




Now my reading changes from Mark Gimenez to CJ Sansom, Harlen Coben to Andrew Pepper, Gregg Isles to politics, history, football and life. I am a bibliophile. I cannot imagine life without books and I hope to continue reading for many more years to come.




With my own attempt at writing I have tried to encapsulate my interests, beliefs, ideas, purpose and enjoyment of life. Whether it works....who am I to say?

Michael Bearcroft - February 2018





Born Sheffield. Goalkeeper for Sheffield United Juniors. 
Career in Sales and Marketing
Chief Executive NPS Health Care
Chairman BHCA Services. 
Professional Actor. Director; created Back To Broadway Stage Show and Schools, Murderous Liasions murder mystery company and have been Chairman of Corby Town FC.
Director of The British Red Cross.
Chairman of Kettering Radio Station and work extensively now as a Professional Public Speaker. My novel Dangerous Score is a thriller but hopefully shows how football could and should be. 
I support the Cornish Charity Penhaligons Friends and love living in Cornwall the county that has everything.

Twitter @mikebearcroft1





Friday, 16 February 2018

The Last Day by Claire Dyer @ClaireDyer1 #BlogTour @DomePress #MyLifeInBooks #TheLastDay




They say three's a crowd but when Boyd moves back into the family home with his now amicably estranged wife, Vita, accompanied by his impossibly beautiful twenty-seven-year-old girlfriend, Honey, it seems the perfect solution: Boyd can get his finances back on track while he deals with his difficult, ailing mother; Honey can keep herself safe from her secret, troubled past; and Vita can carry on painting portraits of the pets she dislikes and telling herself she no longer minds her marriage is over.

But the house in Albert Terrace is small and full of memories, and living together is unsettling.

For Vita, Boyd and Honey love proves to be a surprising, dangerous thing and, one year on, their lives are changed forever.






The Last Day by Claire Dyer was published by The Dome Press on 15 February 2018. My thanks to the publisher who invited me to take part on this Blog Tour.

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

My Life In Books - Claire Dyer

Bracken Had A Secret – Ann Castleton
My copy of this book has stayed with me since childhood; it has been through a number of relationships and survived many house moves. It’s the story of a young girl taken in by Romany gypsies. She leads a charmed childhood with them but eventually they send her to a boarding school where she meets the Matron, who turns out to be her mother. It is special to me because, having lost my mother at a young age, I wanted to believe that lost children and lost mothers could, in stories anyway, be reunited.


Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
Again, my illustrated copy of this book has been part of my life since I was a girl. Although terrified of real horses, I loved reading about them and this book seemed infinitely romantic. When I did my MA in Victorian Literature, however, I learned more about the subtext of the book and referenced it in my dissertation on the economic and socio-political role of the horse in nineteenth-century literature. Despite looking at it through academic eyes, nothing can take away from me the magic of Black Beauty’s voice in my ears.





Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
I first read this when I was sixteen and, like for many others I’m sure, it has become part of the fabric of my life, mainly because Elizabeth was the first heroine whose story I’d read who was flawed yet perfect, patient yet impatient, honest yet self-delusional. On my first reading I was more interested in her than in Darcy – Colin Firth’s wet shirt scene in the BBC1 adaptation may have influenced me since though!


To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
I could have renamed this blog, ‘My Life in One Book’ because it is this novel which has become the cornerstone of my life. Like with Pride and Prejudice, I first read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was sixteen and I have re-read it every ten years since. And, over the decades it has become to mean something different to me each time. On first reading, my main wish was for a romantic happy ever after; I understood so little of its cultural background. On second and subsequent readings, I’ve seen it through the eyes of a child whose mother has also died, through the eyes of a mother when I became one myself, through a writer’s eyes, and lately through those of a parent whose son shared traits with Boo Radley for a while. I read it now knowing so much more about its political and social
setting and marvel at how Harper Lee teaches us these things through a child’s voice. I have read Go Set a Watchman, but to me the two books are totally different things. Suffice to say I won’t be re-reading the latter every ten years!


Bleak House – Charles Dickens
This was a set text on my MA course and I approached it with some trepidation. It’s massive, it had tiny print, the first paragraph lasts for pages and yet it has become one of my all-time favourites. For a book of so many moving parts, not one word is wasted. For me this is Dickens at the height of his story-telling powers. A real page-turner.




The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
For me, this book is a 21st Century George Eliot. Like with Bleak House, I approached Middlemarch with caution and, like with the Dickens, soon I was hooked. What Sarah Perry does in this novel, I believe, is translate the fears and superstitions of Victorian times and make them understandable to a contemporary audience. She has also crafted a heroine who, like Elizabeth Bennet, is flawed, nonconformist and outspoken and whilst she takes a risk with her ending, I believe it totally works.


The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan
To bring me bang up to date, this was my favourite book of 2017. I loved its structure: how the beginning and end tie up so wonderfully; I love the prose and the beauty of its language but, most of all, I like the fact it’s about nice people doing nice things for one another!


Claire Dyer - February 2018 





Claire Dyer’s novels, The Moment and The Perfect Affair and her short story, Falling For Gatsby are published by Quercus. 
Her poetry collections, Interference Effects and Eleven Rooms, are published by Two Rivers Press. 
She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and teaches creative writing for Bracknell & Wokingham College. 
She also runs Fresh Eyes, an editorial and critiquing service. 

In 2016, Claire penned and performed a poem for National Poetry Day, called The Oracle, for BBC Radio Berkshire. 
Claire’s new book, The Last Day, will be published by The Dome Press in February 2018

Find out more at www.clairedyer.com
Follow her on Twitter @ClaireDyer1



Thursday, 15 February 2018

Hotel On Shadow Lake by Daniela Tully #BlogTour @Legend_Press #HotelOnShadowLake





When Maya was a girl, her grandmother was everything to her: teller of magical fairy tales, surrogate mother, best friend. Then her grandmother disappeared without a trace, leaving Maya with only questions to fill the void. Twenty-seven years later, her grandmother’s body is found in a place she had no connection to. 

Desperate for answers, Maya begins to unravel secrets that go back decades, from 1910s New York to 1930s Germany and beyond. But when she begins to find herself spinning her own lies in order to uncover what happened, she must decide whether her life, and a chance at love, are worth risking for the truth.









Hotel On Shadow Lake by Daniela Tully was published by Legend Press on 1 February 2018, my thanks to the publisher who invited me to take part on this Blog Tour.

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


My Life in Books - Daniela Tully

At school I was a slightly overweight nerd who wrote into every Poesiealbum (what we Germans call friendship books), that one day I wanted to become a Bibliothekarin, German for librarian, which at that age (around 7/8) was a long and difficult word to spell. And still, each time I went through the trouble of writing it into those books. I obviously had a very wrong idea of what a librarian really does. 
Back in those days, I thought you could sit in that historic Tudor style building where our library was located and read books all day long (Wouldn’t that be beautiful?). 

The first series of books I remember were Astrid Lindgrens books – oh, how much I loved them. Pippi Longstocking, this girl deeply fascinated me. I wanted to be her! I often felt like an outsider, and so was she, but she carried it so well, her happiness and carelessness were contagious. And I wanted to be her best friend. 
I also devoured Emil aus Lönneberga, Pippi’s naughty male version. Then of course there was Michael Ende’s The Never Ending Story, which changed the way I looked at books – forever, and irreversibly.

I also have fond memories of Enid Blyton’s Hanni und Nanni, and about the twin’s everyday life in a boarding school. Only they could make a boarding school sound intriguing. My father sometimes threatened me with sending me to boarding school when I had done something wrong (he regrets it now, he has always been a wonderful father), so I quickly conjured up the image of Hanni and Nanni and thought that it might not be so bad after all.





And after that I don’t remember a book for a longer time.


I think I banned those books from my memory that we were forced to read in school. The only two books I remembered from school were Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies, the latter gave me nightmares, of me running away from the mob ad being grilled in the end. (What a whuss I was!). 




At university it was somewhat different, I didn’t feel forced to read all the novels we had (some I did hate), but it felt more like a privilege that I was asked to read them and spend time with them. Two titles I would point out here: E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime and last but not least, Life is a Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. A world that was so skillfully mirrored in one of my all time favorites movies, Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others.








And as I read through my list of my chosen books one more time, I realized that I’ve always delighted in great stories about outsiders, people who feel out of place, characters who don’t fit in, so it doesn’t surprise me that my protagonists in Hotel on Shadow Lake are also outsiders.


I did this totally subconsciously. Thank you, randomthingsthroughmyletterbox for making me aware of it!


Daniela Tully - February 2018 






Daniela was born in Germany, and has lived all over the world, including Mexico, New York and Dubai. As a film-maker she has been involved in projects such as the critically-acclaimed Fair Game, box-office hits Contagion and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as well as the Oscar-winning The Help.
Hotel On Shadow Lake is her first novel.



Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Reunion by Samantha Hayes @samhayes #BlogTour @bookouture #TheReunion





They were all there the day your sister went missing... Who is lying? Who is next?
THEN – In charge of her little sister at the beach, Claire allowed Eleanor to walk to the shop alone to buy an ice cream. Placing a coin into her hand, Claire told her to be quick, knowing how much she wanted the freedom.
Eleanor never came back.
NOW – The time has finally come to sell the family farm and Claire is organising a reunion of her dearest friends, the same friends who were present the day her sister went missing.
When another girl disappears, long-buried secrets begin to surface. One of the group hides the darkest secret of them all…







The Reunion by Samantha Hayes was published by Bookouture on 6 February 2018, my thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.

It's been a while since I read a book by Samantha Hayes and I was really looking forward to diving into The Reunion. It hasn't disappointed, I was gripped from page one and it's been a fast and furious journey through a story that is very well-written, with an intriguing plot and lots of twists and turns to keep the reader gripped.

Years ago, Claire allowed her younger sister Eleanor to go to the shop to buy an ice cream. Eleanor was thirteen-years-old, maybe not so young to pop to the shop by herself, but she was a little bit different. Eleanor had a trusting, gullible nature. She saw the good in everyone, had no sense of danger and their parents were overly protective of her. Claire regrets her actions. Eleanor went off, clutching her coins and was never seen again.

Eleanor's disappearance affected Claire and her family in many, tragic ways. Claire didn't take her place at University, her parents became sad and lost, her brother descended into a dark and dangerous place.

Claire's father is ill and it has been decided that it is finally time to sell their large house. Despite her sorrow about the loss of her childhood home, and yet another milestone for their broken family, Claire decides that it would be a good idea to host a reunion of all of the people that were involved on the day that Eleanor disappeared. Maybe it will help her father? Maybe it will help all of them.


Samantha Hayes has incorporated so many issues into The Reunion. It is packed with characters who are damaged and damaging. With themes of loss, guilt and darker issues that are quite unexpected, this is a story that keeps the reader on their toes. Despite the many storylines and the multiple characters, The Reunion is easy to follow and paced quite perfectly. Each new chapter brings another surprise and there are so many red herrings and misplaced clues along the way, I defy anyone to work out the ending before they turn the final pages.

I was totally hooked, very intrigued and most impressed by the writing style, the character creation and the wonderful sense of place. Great psychological thriller and recommended by me.








Samantha Hayes grew up in a creative family where her love of writing began as a child. 
Samantha has written eight thrillers in total, including the bestselling Until You’re Mine. The Independent said “fantastically written and very tense” while Good Housekeeping said “Her believable psychological thrillers are completely gripping.” Samantha’s books are published in 22 languages at the last count.

When not writing, Samantha loves to cook, go to the gym, see friends and drink nice wine. She is also studying for a degree in psychotherapy. She has three grown-up children and lives in Warwickshire. 

Find out more at www.samanthahayes.co.uk
Follow her on Twitter @samhayes





Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford @elisabeth04liz @CorvusBooks @AtlanticBooks



 'You do not leave a sick child alone to face the dark and you do not leave a child at a time like this.'
Deeply in love and about to marry, students Misha and Sophia flee a Warsaw under Nazi occupation for a chance at freedom. Forced to return to the Warsaw ghetto, they help Misha's mentor, Dr Korczak, care for the two hundred children in his orphanage. As Korczak struggles to uphold the rights of even the smallest child in the face of unimaginable conditions, he becomes a beacon of hope for the thousands who live behind the walls.As the noose tightens around the ghetto Misha and Sophia are torn from one another, forcing them to face their worst fears alone. They can only hope to find each other again one day...Meanwhile, refusing to leave the children unprotected, Korczak must confront a terrible darkness. Half a million people lived in the Warsaw ghetto. Less than one percent survived to tell their story. 




The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford was published in trade paperback by Corvus Books on 1 February 2018.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I have read and reviewed both of Elisabeth Gifford's previous novels here on Random Things: Secrets of the Sea House (July 2013) and Return To Fourwinds (October 2014).  Whilst I enjoyed both of those books very much, there is something very special about The Good Doctor of Warsaw.  It is clear that this author has a strong emotional tie to the subject matter, and indeed, when you read the Author's Notes at the back of the novel it is clear that the story of Dr Janusz Korczak has occupied her thoughts for many years.

Based on true accounts of the lead characters, Misha and Sophie and on the life of one of Poland's greatest men, Dr Janusz Korczak, this book evoked so many emotions in me. I was humbled, enraged, broken hearted and truly caught up in this fascinating and compelling tale.

All of us know about the terrible events that happened in Poland during the Second World War, yet I had never heard of Janusz Korczak and I knew little about the ghetto of Warsaw. Elisabeth Gifford brings the past to life, with incredible writing and superb character creation and the sense of place created will transport the reader right into the heart of the battered city of Warsaw amongst the poverty and fear of the inhabitants of the ghetto.

At it's heart, The Good Doctor of Warsaw is a love story. It details the extraordinary relationship between Misha and Sophie, from their humble beginnings before the war, working with Dr Korczak, caring for the orphaned children of Warsaw. Through their terrifying and heartbreaking experiences during the war years, and how their love endured throughout some of the most horrific and terrible events known to man.

It is not for me to re-tell the story of The Good Doctor of Warsaw as this very accomplished and talented author has done it perfectly. All I can do is urge people to read this book, and learn how 900,000 people perished at Treblinka in just fourteen months. How only one per cent of the population of the ghetto survived to the end of the war, and how the courage and dedication Dr Korczak and his colleagues have made such a lasting impression.

The Good Doctor of Warsaw is an absolute triumph. It is so powerful, so distressing, yet humbling and really quite beautifully written. Highly recommended.


Elisabeth Gifford studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. 
She worked as a dyslexia specialist for several years while raising a family. 
After studying for a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and a Masters degree in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway College she was asked to write The House of Hope, a biography of Dr Joyce Hill who opened a rescue centre for abandoned babies in China, published by Monarch Press. 
She was taken on by literary agent Jenny Hewson and three historical novels followed,  published by Corvus. Secrets of the Sea House is set in the Hebrides and is a dark mystery that explores at the very real events behind the frequent mermaid sightings reported in Scotland  a century ago. Return to Fourwinds is a sweeping family saga set between England and Spain between the wars. 
The Good Doctor of Warsaw is the shocking and ultimately inspiring true story of some of the rare survivors of the Warsaw ghetto during WW2, and features the inspiring story of Dr Janusz Korczak who defied the Nazi brutality by creating an oasis of kindness and happiness for children. A sort of Polish-Jewish Dr Barnardo, Dr Korczak helped draft the first international children's bill of rights and his teaching on how to raise children with love and respect  is still widely followed today, and where it is, it makes children's lives happier.

For more information visit www.elisabethgifford.com
Follow her on Twitter @elisabeth04liz