Friday, 21 April 2017

Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl #BlogTour @OrendaBooks #NordicNoir #MyLifeInBooks #OsloDetectives

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back... and this time, it's personal... 

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her... and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he begins to look deeper into the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich's colleague Gunnarstranda finds another body, and things take a more sinister turn. With a cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway casting a shadow, and an unsettling number of coincidences clouding the plot, Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers - and the killer - before he strikes again. 

Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl, published in paperback by Orenda Books on 15 April 2017.

I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today, he's sharing with us the books that have inspired him and made a difference to his life in My Life In Books.

When I was a boy our family moved around a lot, because my father was a journalist, working for various papers around the country. Most of my friends didn’t like books, but when I started school, one of my best friends did share my literary interests. He introduced me to The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, which was one of the best reading experiences of my childhood. I think this was not only because of the musketeers’ adventures, but also because it gave me a peek into an exotic period of French history. In return, I introduced my friend to another great read – Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I loved Huck’s attitudes and the warm friendship with Jim. I’ve had a weakness for stories about travelling ever since.

My father loved literature, and I started reading our family collection of books from a young age. I think I have inherited my taste for pulp and crime fiction from my father, but one of the more ‘decent’ authors represented on our shelves was Knut Hamsun, a Norwegian writer still discussed in Norway because of his membership of the Norwegian Nazi party and his actions during World War Two. Despite his political attitudes, he is a wonderful writer. As a teenager I loved his novels about the north of Norway, the way he writes about the life and intrigues of small villages: their social structure; the conflicts between the poor and the bourgeoisie; the various stock characters; and the landscapes – all of it portrayed with love and a great sense of humour. I don’t know which of these novels are translated into English, but I think some of his outstanding novels, such as Hunger and Mysteries, can easily be found in the UK.

As I’ve already mentioned, there was a lot of pulp fiction on my father’s bookshelves. It was there I met Chandler and Hammett for the first time (and of course Mickey Spillane, Peter Cheyney and others). In my teens I discovered how some crime fiction attempts to mirror the complexity of modern society. My favourites in this line were The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, Farewell My Lovely and The Long Goodbye.

In my twenties I read every book I could find written by Honoré de Balzac. At that time there was only one of his novels translated into Norwegian: Father Goriot. So I read up about him: about his Comédie humaine and how he wrote series about various characters in Paris. I started to buy Swedish and English editions of his books. There are so many to chose from, but I some of my favourties include Lost Illusions and Splendeurset miseres des courtisanes (I think the English title is ‘The Harlot High and Low’.) Both novels are about the anti-hero Lucien de Rubempré, a dandy who could easily be transfered into the society of today. These novels are about art, literature, journalism, illusions, ideals being lost and found, fraud, finance and crime. Both novels would pass as crime fiction, I suppose.

Crime fiction has always been prominent in my reading. In my thirties I enjoyed the books of Elmore Leonard. I loved the pace and rhythm of his writing and his inner monologue technique. I also read James Crumley’s novels (such as The Last Good Kiss) with great pleasure. In his books, Crumley comes close to Chandler, in my opinion, taking the American Noir genre one step further. I was also fascinated by James Ellroy’s writing, how he uses his affection for the fifties and Noir in books such as White Jazz and American Tabloid.
I like to read contemporary Norwegian fiction, especially debuts. There are a huge number of good books in Norwegian, but sadly most of them are not translated.

Some of the best reading experiences I have had lately are the novels by the Chilean, Roberto Bolaño, especially The Savage Detectives. In my opinion, this book has it all: poetic language and wonderful characters in an almost anarchistic but organised story. I’m already looking forward to reading it again. 

Kjell Ola Dahl ~ April 2017 

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland @under_blue_sky @BonnierZaffre #Loveday #MyLifeInBooks

This bookshop keeps many secrets  
Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never show you.

Into her refuge - the York book emporium where she works - come a poet, a lover, a friend, and three mysterious deliveries, each of which stirs unsettling memories.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past and she can't hide any longer. She must decide who around her she can trust. Can she find the courage to right a heartbreaking wrong? And will she ever find the words to tell her own story?

It's time to turn the pages of her past . . .

Lost for Words is a compelling, irresistible and heart-rending novel, perfect for fans of The Little Paris Bookshop and 84 Charing Cross Road.

Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland is published today; 20 April 2017, in paperback by Bonnier Zaffre. I'm a big fan of Stephanie Butland's writing. I have read and reviewed her two previous books here on Random Things: Surrounded By Water (also published as Letters To My Husband) in April 2014 and The Other Half of my Heart in November 2015.

Once again, as with her two previous novels, this very talented author has created a cast of extraordinary characters, headed by Loveday Cardew; possibly one of the most infuriating, yet lovable fictional females that I've met in many years.

On first meeting, the reader would be forgiven for feeling envy towards Loveday. She cycles the narrow cobbled York streets to her job in a second-hand bookshop. Her boss, Archie is wonderful, both caring and a bit eccentric, but also so easy going that she really is her own boss. Who couldn't want to be Loveday? Surrounded by boxes of books, day in, day out. Living in one of our most beautiful cities, life really should be a dream.

The cracks in Loveday's armour soon become apparent though, and her vulnerabilities begin to show. Her difficulty with trust, her natural defensiveness and how closed she can be. She often appears cold and uncaring, yet desperate to be understood. As each new character is introduced to the story, they are the vehicles that drive it. Each one of them are perfectly formed and fit beautifully into Loveday's story.

The story is told in three timescales; Loveday's childhood, spent in Whitby with her parents is entitled History, whilst the present day is called Poetry and her more recent past is Crime. Each section of this story slots together seamlessly and as the reader learns parts from History, so Poetry and Crime begin to make sense.

I could gush for hours about Lost For Words; the setting, the characters, the quite dark and disturbing themes, but that's not my job. I'd just like everyone to go out and buy a copy and savour it and love it as much as I did. I expect most people will shed a tear or two, and I know that there will be laughs and gasps along the way too. This really is a poignant and beautiful story, told by an author who can captivate an audience so easily. Wonderful. Highly recommended from me.

I'm thrilled to welcome Lost For Words author Stephanie Butland here to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her and have left a lasting impression on her life, in My Life In Books.

My Life In Books ~ Stephanie Butland

I lived for these. I read them over and over. There was one I hadn’t read which my Mum bought for me but said I had to save until we went on holiday. It was my first time on a plane, but as soon as we got on I asked for the book and, well, plane schmane.

As a child, I was absolutely transported by these. I took them out of the library and really didn’t want to give them back. As an adult, I re-read them and loved them just as much.

This still has it all, for me. Jane has feistiness and weakness, acceptance and fight. She has self-reliance, makes some terrible decisions, learns a little and loses a little. Very possibly a perfect novel. I read it first when I was about 13, and although many books that I’ve re-read in adulthood don’t have the same charm, this one gets better and better.

Apart from being fantastic books, these were read by me, my parents and my brother. we read the books, we listened to the radio programmes, we watched the TV series. They are part of our family history.

My favourite Austen. (Though that’s like saying salted caramel is my favourite ice-cream. It is, but I will happily substitute raspberry ripple, lemon sorbet, or anything good and chocolatey.) Tightly plotted, heartbreaking, witty, and human.
Updike’s first novel. Probably not his best, but I’ve chosen it because it was the first that I read, and it began a lifelong love of Updike’s books. He’s a craftsman of the first order: precise, insightful, and moving.

Oh, how well I know this book! I read it over and over when my children were small and never tired of it. Plus: THE ENDING. I love that it doesn’t underestimate children, or pander to them.

I read them as an adult, but they made me feel (in the best possible way) like a child, and I cried like a baby at the end.

Heyer’s Regency romances got me through chemotherapy. (Agatha Christie helped a bit, too.)

Stephanie Butland ~ April 2017 

Stephanie Butland lives in Northumberland, close to the place where she grew up. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and loves being close to the sea. She’s thriving after cancer.
Find her on Twitter: @under_blue_sky
At her website:

The Man Who Loved Islands by David F Ross #BlogTour @dfr10 @OrendaBooks #DiscoDays #MyLifeInBooks

The Disco Boys and THE Band are BACK ... 

In the early '80s, Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller were inseparable; childhood friends and fledgling business associates. Now, both are depressed and lonely, and they haven't spoken to each other in more than ten years. A bizarre opportunity to honour the memory of someone close to both of them presents itself, if only they can forgive ... and forget.
Absurdly funny, deeply moving and utterly human, The Man Who Loved Islands is an unforgettable finale to the Disco Days trilogy.

Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Man Who Loved Islands by David F Ross, published in paperback by Orenda Books today (20 April 2017). This is the third in the Disco Days trilogy, following The Last Days of Disco (March 2015) and  The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas (March 2016).

I have to admit that I do often struggle with dialect in writing, and David F Ross's writing is wholly and completely Scottish. However, once I get into the swing of things, I find it easier and easier and I soon found myself chortling away as I was captured by the antics of Bobby and Joey.

The Man Who Loved Islands finds Bobby and Joey reunited after years of no contact at all. Ten years ago they were thick as thieves, solid friends, but the years have changed both of them. They are older, but not really wiser. They are filled with regrets and reminiscence, and are determined to pay a belated homage to Gary; Bobby's brother who didn't get the memorial that they know he deserved.

David F Ross paints an incredibly authentic picture of the 1980s, which I remember so well. The inclusion of music references delighted me, bringing back my own memories of those times. There's a poignancy about this story that touches the heart, there's a sadness that runs through the story and through the characters, yet there is humour that is sharp and so relevant.

The Man Who Loved Islands is brutally honest, the language is stark, and often blue, but this adds to the absolute realism and authentic feel. This is Glasgow after all, it's the music business, it's middle-aged guys with regrets. Lets not try to gloss over this life. This is humanity at its toughest. This is excellent.

I'm thrilled to welcome the author; David F Ross to Random Things today, he's talking about My Life In Books:

I didn't actually read a lot as a child and, to a certain extent, I still don't. Ideas for my own writing – and the things that inspire me creatively – usually come from other sources. I get bored easily and I'm also very impatient. Books that lack immediacy or any discernible pace probably won't last the distance with me. I have too many half-read novels - and half-written ones, come to that - lying around the house already. Commitment issues, as I believe its commonly referred to.
I was around 16 or 17 when I started to become more interested in books. Unsurprisingly, that interest was inspired by the musicians I was obsessed with at the time. Paul Weller, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello etc were songwriters who regularly referenced authors like George Orwell, whose books I had rather reluctantly read while at school. But it was really Morrissey who opened up a whole spectrum of literature to me from 1983 onwards. His lyrics were laced with arch references to Shelagh Delaney’s writing, or Oscar Wilde, or even the American beat poets.

The book is a typically 60s ‘grim-up-northern’ story of a young footballer, Lennie Hawk, whom many believed to be something of a reincarnation of another flawed genius from his club’s past. The book is very descriptive and the characters are realistically flawed. I could easily visualise the grime of the red brick back courts of Northern England and the small terraced house that Lennie and his mum lived in with its living room opening onto the street at the front and sharing the same tiny cramped space as the kitchen at the back. I loved this book and it led me to the better-known A Kestrel for A Knave by the same author, and then to…

It painted a monochromatic picture of a country still struggling to come to terms with the end of Empirical power in the wake of two devastating wars. Everyone in Billy Fisher’s world is trapped by these circumstances, apart from Liz, the beatnik girl played by Julie Christie in the film version. She represents freedom; an escape from a life of pram-pushing drudgery or factory conditioning. Billy Liar’s influence on The Last Days of Disco is perhaps inevitable given how much of an impact it had on me.

Other influences on my writing are probably fairly easy to identify. Irvine Welsh and John Niven continue to be important reference points, especially in characterisation. I think Irvine Welsh – and Trainspotting especially - has changed the way the Scottish literary voice is appreciated around the world. John Niven is also from an Ayrshire background and his books - specifically The Amateurs - demonstrated that small-town everyday life could be brutally funny. Roddy Doyle is an absolute master of this kind of writing and the believability of the characters and the way they speak to - and interact with - each other is just genius. Jonathan Coe also creates fantastic characters and directly relates their multiple storylines to the cultural and political events of the time. The subtext of all of my books merely reflect my attempts to write something approaching the social commentary backbone of The Rotters Club.

There are a few books that have stayed with me for the way they take the vastness of America and try and condense that into something personal and often reflecting a painfully human scale or truth. These are three of the very best. Auster is a master of serendipitous stories where the believability of the often-absurd coincidences is never questioned as a result of his brilliance.
The Sellout is just the best, most relevant, most scathingly funny and brutally realistic depiction of modern day America. The first hundred pages or so are perhaps the best fiction I’ve ever read, and reinforce a truism for me that writing critically acclaimed biting satire is the hardest literary skill to master.
Dylan is our Shakespeare, in my opinion. Anyone who can write…

‘Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands, with all memory fate,
Driven deep beneath the waves. Let me forget about today until tomorrow.’

…frankly deserves a fucking Nobel Prize for Literature for that verse alone! His autobiography has his signature imprint of playing with the confines and elasticity of time, every bit as much as his peerless lyrics.

And on the subs bench:

David F Ross ~ April 2017

David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over 30 years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. His most prized possession is a signed Joe Strummer LP. Since the publication of his debut novel The Last Days of Disco, he's become something of a media celebrity in Scotland, with a signed copy of his book going for £500 at auction, and the German edition has not left the bestseller list since it was published.

Find out more at
Follow him on Twitter @dfr10

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

My Life In Books ~ talking to author B A Paris @BAParisAuthor @HQStories #MyLifeInBooks

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've asked authors and people in publishing to share with us a list of the books that are important to them and have made a lasting impression on their life.

I'm so pleased to welcome author B A Paris to Random Things today. She's the author of two my favourite books of the last few years. 

I've read and reviewed both of them here on the blog: Behind Closed Doors (February 2016), and The Breakdown (February 2017). Both are published in the UK in paperback by HQ Stories.

B A Paris is the internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, her debut novel. She was brought up in England and moved to France where she spent some years working in Finance before re-training as a teacher and setting up a language school with her husband. They still live in France and have five daughters. Her second novel, The Breakdown is out February 9th, 2017.

Follow B A on Twitter @BAParisAuthor

My Life in Books ~ B A Paris

There are so many great books I could have included in this list but I’ve narrowed it down to those that not only I loved, but which also made a huge impression on me, for one reason or another. 

This was the first book I ever owned, and the first book I read by myself, apart from the Janet and John books I learnt to read with. I was six years old and in bed with German measles when my mum went down to the corner shop to buy me a bottle of Lucozade. She came back with The Mountain of Adventure and I remember how thrilled I was. I finished it in a few hours and my mum was so impressed she went straight back and bought me The Circus of Adventure. From that point on I didn’t stop reading – over the next year or so I probably read every book that Enid Blyton had ever written.

I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor of our travelling library reading this book and being transported to a different world. When my brother came to fetch me, because I hadn’t turned up for dinner, it took me a moment to adjust to being back in the real world. It was so magical I felt as if I’d had an out-of-body experience.

I read all of Leon Uris’ novels back to back when I about sixteen and I particularly loved Trinity. I was babysitting when I read the final chapter and when the parents came home, they found me crying my eyes out. They thought I’d had an argument with my boyfriend and when I explained the reason I was crying, they asked me to leave them the book for them to read. I still think Leon Uris is one of the best storytellers ever.

I studied this at school but didn’t fully appreciate it until I read it again a couple of years later. I then read all of her other novels but Pride and Prejudice remained my favourite. It wasn’t so much Elisabeth and Mr Darcy that fascinated me as Elisabeth and her sisters. I couldn’t stop thinking how wonderful it must be to have a huge family of girls and later, I became slightly obsessed with a family I knew, where there were five daughters – they seemed like the perfect family to me and I envied each and every one of them their four sisters. I couldn’t believe it when I ended up with five daughters of my own.

This book is one of those rare things, a chilling story exquisitely told. I love the way the quiet, measured tone is able nonetheless to create a huge sense of foreboding. It’s the only book I’ve read twice and I’ll probably read it several more times, just to remind myself of how beautiful the English language can sound.
I’m just going to sneak a last one in here, The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr because it has given me so much pleasure since it was first published nearly fifty years ago, first from reading it to my younger brothers and sisters, and then later, to my daughters. It’s one of those classics that will still be around in another fifty years – and there’s not many books you can say that about!     

B A Paris ~ April 2017 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The American Girl by Rachael English @EnglishRachael @HachetteIre

From a storyteller who combines the warmth of Maeve Binchy with the elegance of Maggie O'Farrell comes an unforgettable new novel . . .
Boston 1968. Rose Moroney is seventeen, smart, spirited - and pregnant. She wants to marry her boyfriend. Her ambitious parents have other plans. She is sent to Ireland, their birthplace, to deliver her daughter in a Mother and Baby home - and part with her against her will.
Dublin 2013. Martha Sheeran's life has come undone. Her marriage is over, and her husband has moved on with unsettling speed. Under pressure from her teenage daughter, she starts looking for the woman who gave her up for adoption more than forty years before.
As her search leads her to the heart of long-buried family secrets, old flame Paudie Carmody - now a well-known broadcaster - re-enters the frame.
From Boston to rural Ireland; from Dublin back to Boston, The American Girl is a heart-warming and enthralling story of mothers and daughters, love and cruelty and, ultimately, the embrace of new horizons.

The American Girl by Rachael English was published in paperback by Hachette Ireland on 13 April 2017 and is the author's third novel.  I really enjoy this author's writing, and have read and reviewed her earlier books here on Random Things : Going Back (Orion, May 2014) and Each And Every One (Orion, September 2014).

Rachael English's writing gets better and better with each book that she writes. The American Girl is a beautifully constructed story that will pull at the heart-strings, but is also an astute and detailed observation of Ireland's social history that is both shocking and overwhelmingly sad. When I was sent the details about The American Girl it struck a chord with me. It covers a subject that is very personal to me and to my family as I was born in 1966 to an unmarried Irish Catholic woman, and my birth name was Brennan. This is a story that begins fifty years ago, but has far-reaching consequences. There are so many families that this subject has touched, and the emerging discoveries and on-going investigations currently going on in Ireland are revealing more and more of the harsh and sordid truth that has been hidden away for so many years.

The American Girl of the title is Rose Moroney, a seventeen-year-old living in 1960s Boston, USA. Her family are Irish-American, upwardly mobile and living the American dream, far from the rural backwater town in the West of Ireland that they originate from. Rose is clever, pretty ... and pregnant. Her parents are horrified. Rose's boyfriend, Joe Brennan is not the type of guy that they imagined for their daughter; he's from a rough family, they see no prospects for him. Despite their Catholic origins, religion doesn't play a large part in their decision to send Rose to her Aunt in Ireland to have the baby. They are more concerned about their social standing, about what their associates will say, and how Rose will never manage to snag a decent husband if she has an illegitimate child in tow.

Rose's Aunt Agnes is a nun, in charge of a mother and baby home on the outskirts of a small town in rural West Ireland. This is not a caring, compassionate place. The nuns are determined that the girls in the home will realise the error of their ways. These young women are desperate, vulnerable, isolated, alone and terrified, yet they are put to work; in the kitchens, scrubbing floors. Dressed in drab clothes and punished for the smallest of crimes. This is their punishment, and the most traumatic and cruel thing of all is that at the end of their confinement, their child will be taken away and given to another family. They must sign papers to say that they will never try to contact their child. Ever.

For Rose, this period in her life will colour the rest of her years. Here is the place that the demons inside are unleashed, and they will continue to haunt her. Despite the fact that she returns to the US and marries, and has more children, she will always keep secrets, deep in her heart.

Forty five years later, in Dublin, Martha Sheeran finally takes the plunge and decides to try to track down her birth mother. Martha's life is in turmoil; her marriage is in tatters, she feels unloved and unfulfilled and it is her teenage daughter Evonne's constant nagging about her birth family that persuades her to take the tentative first steps.

What follows is a detailed and excellently written story of the journey that both Martha and Rose take. Rachael English has clearly researched her subject so very well and her writing is so beautifully tender, there are scenes that took my breath away. The horror of Rose's treatment, and the difficulties that Martha encountered during her search are brilliantly portrayed.

This author has created such an eclectic cast of characters who are incredibly lifelike, there are times when both Rose and Martha are infuriating, both of them keep their emotions very close to their chests, yet the reader can totally understand why both of them do this. Young Evonne is startling mature, possibly more so than either of her parents, she's the glue that holds the story together.

The American Girl is subtle and delicate, it is a passionate and intense family drama that deals with hidden secrets and the effects that they have. The web of mystery is tantalisingly revealed, the characterisation is wonderful. Filled with sorrow, joy and tenderness and highly recommended by me.

My thanks to the author and publisher who sent my copy for review.

Rachael English is the author of three novels: Going Back which was shortlisted for the most-promising newcomer award at the 2013 Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards
Each and Every One which like Going Back was a top five bestseller in Ireland, and,
The American Girl.
Like many authors, she also has a day job. She's a presenter on Ireland's most popular radio programme, Morning Ireland. 
Follow her on Twitter: @EnglishRachael 

or on Facebook: