Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A House of Many Rooms by Marius Gabriel

The Florio family, a rich society couple with two beautiful adopted daughters, is hiding dark secrets beneath a facade of love and care. 
But the fabric of the family is slowly unraveling under the weight of Barbara Florio's chronic drinking and drug abuse as well as the youngest daughter's penchant for arson. 

A House of Many Rooms by Marius Gabriel was originally published in 1999, and was recently re-issued by Thistle Publishing on 14 January 2014.

This is a genre-busting novel that incorporates the action of a thriller with a smouldering romance and is fast-paced enough to keep the reader hooked throughout.

The Florio family are rich but extremely dysfunctional. Parents Michael and Barbara are separated and their two adopted daughters are troubled and confused. As Barbara becomes more dependent upon drugs and alcohol, her two daughters are left to do exactly as they please, which ends in tragedy for Barbara, and is the beginning of a discovery for the two girls.

On the other side of the world, Dr Rebecca Carey is recovering from a climbing accident when she spots an article about the Florio family and instantly recognises ghosts from her past. It is clear that youngest daughter Therese is the main suspect in the hunt for a murderer and Rebecca is determined that she must go to the aid of this young girl.  To explain why Rebecca feels the need to travel so many miles to help a stranger would be to spoil the plot for other readers, but it is an integral part of the story and not quite as random as it seems.

What follows is a fast-paced story populated by well drawn characters, although I believe that Marius Gabriel creates evil far better than he creates good! I was drawn to the bad guy, and to be honest, found Rebecca a tiny bit irritating at times.

However, the story is well constructed with some fabulously realistic characters and that hint of dangerous liaison running most of the way through.

I'd certainly read more by Marius Gabriel, and would like to thank the author for sending my copy for review.

Marius Gabriel was born in South Africa in 1954.
His first full-length novel, The Original Sin, was published in 1993. That was followed by The Mask of Time (1994), A House Of Many Rooms (1999) and The Seventh Moon(2001).
He has also written two historical novels, The Testament Of Marcellus (2009) andGabon (2011).
He is currently working on a trilogy, following the lives of three sisters during World War II. The first volume, Weep No More, was completed in February 2014.
Marius Gabriel currently lives in London. He has three grown-up children.

Find out more at    Twitter  @Scribbler4Bread

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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Nightingales On Call by Donna Douglas

From the author of The Nightingale Girls, The Nightingale Sisters and The Nightingale Nurses - perfect for fans of Call the Midwife 
1937 sees new challenges for the trainee nurses 
Dora and her old enemy Lucy are paired up on the children's ward for the final three months of their training. The two nurses couldn't seem more different, but they may have more in common than they think, as each hides a secret heartache. 
. and new faces at the Nightingale 
Jess is the feisty eldest daughter of a notorious East End family and determined to prove herself as a ward maid. 
And new trainee nurse Effie can't wait to escape her small Irish village, and make her way as a nurse in London. But Effie's sister Katie soon begins to worry that Effie's behaviour is out of control. 
Nightingales on call and in crisis: have they got what it takes?

Nightingales On Call is the fourth book in the Nightingale series by Donna Douglas and was published by Arrow (Random House) on 24 April 2014.  I reviewed the earlier books in the series here on Random Things; The Nightingale Girls (August 2012),  The Nightingale Sisters (April 2013) and The Nightingale Nurses (October 2013).

As with the other books in this series, Nightingales On Call can be read as a stand-alone novel, but having been a fan of these stories from the very first one, I'd urge readers to get hold of the other books too. Donna Douglas gives enough background information within Nightingales On Call to enable new readers to enjoy it just as much as old fans, but doesn't get too bogged down by things that happened earlier in the series.

This story concentrates mainly on Dora and Lucy who are almost at the end of their three year training,and will soon become Staff Nurses. These two girls have always had a tense relationship; Dora comes from the East End whilst Lucy's family are rich and she's been very spoilt by her parents. Their relationship changes dramatically throughout the course of the story as each of them deals with their own hidden secrets and shame. They find that they do have more in common than anyone could have guessed.

New characters are introduced, including ward maid Jess and trainee nurse Effie.  Both of these bring a breath of fresh air to the nursing school in their own special way.

Once again, Donna Douglas effortlessly takes the reader into the world of student nursing before the NHS. The attention to detail is excellent and life on the wards for these young women is portrayed so well, from the back-aching scrubbing of the floors to the constant reminders that they should not grow close to their patients. Most of the nursing is playing out on the children's wards and I found this particularly fascinating. Imagine your beloved child is sick and in hospital and you can only visit him once per month?  Imagine being able to pay for your child to have a private room on the ward, and being able to visit whenever you want to, but not bothering, and sending your housekeeper instead? These things happened and are played out in the story.

I'll admit that the Nightingale series is not my usual genre but I really do have a soft spot for these stories. Donna Douglas has created a cast of characters who have grown and matured throughout the series. Her research and historical detail is so well done.  I enjoyed Nightingales On Call just as much as the others in the series, and really hope that there is more to come from the Nightingale Girls.

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

Donna Douglas lives in York with her husband and daughter.  Besides writing novels, she is also a very well-respected freelance journalist under her real name, Donna Hay.  

For more information about Donna; 
please visit her blog; or follow her on Twitter @donnahay1
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Monday, 28 April 2014

How To Be A Heroine (or, what I've learned from reading too much) by Samantha Ellis

Cathy Earnshaw or Jane Eyre? 
Petrova or Posy? 
Scarlett or Melanie? 
Lace or Valley of the Dolls? 
On a pilgrimage to Wuthering Heights, Samantha Ellis found herself arguing with her best friend about which heroine was best: Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw. She was all for wild, passionate Cathy; but her friend found Cathy silly, a snob, while courageous Jane makes her own way.
And that's when Samantha realised that all her life she'd been trying to be Cathy when she should have been trying to be Jane. 
So she decided to look again at her heroines - the girls, women, books that had shaped her ideas of the world and how to live. Some of them stood up to the scrutiny (she will always love Lizzy Bennet); some of them most decidedly did not (turns out Katy Carr from What Katy Did isn't a carefree rebel, she's a drip). There were revelations (the real heroine of Gone with the Wind? It's Melanie), joyous reunions (Anne of Green Gables), poignant memories (Sylvia Plath) and tearful goodbyes (Lucy Honeychurch). And then there was Jilly Cooper... 
How To Be A Heroine is Samantha's funny, touching, inspiring exploration of the role of heroines, and our favourite books, in all our lives - and how they change over time, for better or worse, just as we do.

How To Be A Heroine (Or, what I've learned from reading too much) by Samantha Ellis was published by Chatto & Windus on 2 January 2014.

Samantha Ellis grew up in London, she's the daughter of Iraqi-Jewish refugees and for her, the 80s and 90s consisted of listening to her parents wistful memories of their homeland, being made aware that she would have to find a husband who was acceptable ..... and reading books.  Ellis had many literary heroines; from Anne of Green Gables to Sylvia Plath, through to Cathy Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights.

These heroines remained with her into adulthood, each one of them having a special meaning and evoking memories of the time in her life when she read about them.  When she and her best friend visit Haworth, the birthplace of the Bronte sisters, they find themselves arguing about who was the best heroine; Jane Eyre or Cathy?  Feeling disheartened by the fact that she had spent her life trying to be like Cathy, Samantha Ellis went back to her heroines.  She read their stories again, with older, more experienced eyes and How To Be A Heroine is the result of her re-reading.

This is a witty, warm and very reflective read. Most of us will have some childhood literary heroines, those characters who have accompanied through life and never changed. Going back and revisiting those heroines was a brave thing to do, nobody wants to find that they were wrong, and our icons are actually just as flawed, if not more, than we are ourselves.

Samantha Ellis tells her own story throughout this book, and how her reading influenced some of her decisions and some of her dreams. Her family are interesting, her own life is quite eventful and her warm and wry style of writing holds the attention throughout.

It's interesting to read about how Ellis' attitudes towards her heroines changed over time and how they influenced her at the time of reading.  I love the way that she gets so annoyed with authors at times, not holding back from criticising Louisa May Alcott, Dickens and even Shakespeare at times. Berating Shakespeare for killing Juliet and getting so angry about Jo's fate in Little Women.

A totally entertaining and insightful book that will make the reader want to dash to the shelf of much loved books and read them all over again.

Thanks to the publisher Chatto & Windus (Random House) who sent my copy for review.


grew up in the Iraqi Jewish community in London, and I'm a writer. 
My book, How To Be A Heroine, is out now, published by Chatto & Windus. 
My play, Anatomical Venus, will be produced by Goat and Monkey Theatre in October.
Previous plays include Cling To Me Like Ivy, Patching Havoc, and Sugar and Snow—and short plays for The Miniaturists and for Agent 160. 
I've been a MacDowell Colony Fellow, in residence at Metal, and on attachment at Soho, the Birmingham Rep, Hampstead and at the Unicorn. I also script-edit for Heyday Films.
I'm part of the Dog House writers' group with Robin Booth, Nick Harrop, Matthew Morrison and Ben Musgrave.

Twitter @SamanthaEllis27

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Sunday, 27 April 2014

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Rosemary's young, just at college, and she's decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we're not going to tell you too much either: you'll have to find out for yourselves what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. 
Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone - vanished from her life. 
There's something unique about Rosemary's sister, Fern. So now she's telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice. 
It's funny, clever, intimate, honest, analytical and swirling with ideas that will come back to bite you. We hope you enjoy it, and if, when you're telling a friend about it, you do decide to spill the beans about Fern, don't feel bad. It's pretty hard to resist.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler was published by Serpent's Tail in hardback on 6 March 2014.

There is no doubt that Karen Joy Fowler is an accomplished author, with some very clever ideas for her plots.  However, I had real difficulty engaging with both the character of Rosemary who narrates We Are All Completely BesideOurselves, and at times struggled to sustain an interest in her story.

The Cooke family are strange, quirky, more than a little eccentric.  Rosemary was brought up with her sister Fern and her brother Lowell; neither of whom are still around.  Her relationship with her scientist parents is stained to say the least, and Rosemary relates the story of the family’s disintegration to the reader.

This is not a straightforward story of arguments and disconnection, and it is not told in a straightforward way.  There is a shocking reveal that will startle the reader and completely change the way that the family is viewed. I struggled with Rosemary’s style of remembrance; starting in the middle, shooting back and forth; it’s both unsettling and difficult to follow.

The story raises questions for the reader. How could scientists involve their children so much in their experiments and not think about the long-term consequences?

The themes of grief and loss are strong throughout this novel, and are expressed very well, but for me, the story was too disjointed and at times a little stiff for me to fully immerse myself into.

My review copy came via the Lovereading Reviewer Panel - to find out more about Lovereading, visit their website

Karen Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and three short story collections. The Jane Austen Book Club spent thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list and was a New York Times Notable Book. Fowler’s previous novel, Sister Noon, was a finalist for the 2001 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. Her debut novel, Sarah Canary, was a New York Times Notable Book, as was her second novel, The Sweetheart Season. In addition, Sarah Canary won the Commonwealth medal for best first novel by a Californian, and was listed for the Irish Times International Fiction Prize as well as the Bay Area Book Reviewers Prize. Fowler’s short story collection Black Glass won the World Fantasy Award in 1999, and her collection What I Didn’t See won the World Fantasy Award in 2011. Fowler and her husband, who have two grown children and five grandchildren, live in Santa Cruz, California.

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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Carry You by Beth Thomas

“For you mum. This is all for you” 
For anyone who has loved, lost or found it hard to let go, CARRY YOU will make you laugh, cry and celebrate your best friends. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Jo Jo Moyes. 
Daisy has lost her mum to breast cancer. She’s at rock bottom and doesn’t think she’ll ever get back up again. Her best friend Abi has other ideas – she tells it like it is and she’s determined to make Daisy remember the person she used to be. 
What Daisy doesn’t know is that, thanks to Abi, her life is about to take an unexpected turn, when she signs them up to do a charity walk. Added to which, someone is about to burst into Daisy’s world in a riot of colour reminding her that life can be full of surprises.

Carry You is the debut novel from Beth Thomas, published by Avon Books on 24 April 2014.

Daisy spends her days curled up on the sofa, eating Jaffa Cakes and watching re-runs of Hugh Grant movies. Her house is a filthy mess, she's getting fatter, she doesn't answer the phone. Her only connection with the outside world are her constant Facebook updates; and those are flippant and don't tell the whole truth.

Daisy didn't used to be like this but after losing her beloved mother to breast cancer and becoming estranged from the rest of her family, she really can't see any reason in getting washed, dressed ... any reason for anything really.

Abby is Daisy's best friend. Abby is determined that Daisy will pull herself back from the brink of despair and decides that both of them will do the Moonwalk. A fundraising walk of 26 miles through London in the evening, and so begins Abby's quest to get Daisy back into the land of the living.

Carry You is told entirely in Daisy's voice, and at times she is in turns incredibly irritating, selfish, self indulgent and a bit of a pain in the arse. She's also quick witted, funny and underneath the doom and gloom, quite likeable.  She has not only lost her Mother, but she feels cast adrift from the rest of her extended family. Abby is her saviour, and although Daisy tries her very best to get out of training for the walk, and wants to immerse herself in her sorrow and grief, Abby never gives up.

Beth Thomas has cleverly interwoven many themes into Carry You, but overall has managed to keep the story upbeat and positive. Grief and loss are issues that affect all of us during our lives, and each one of us will deal with them in our own different ways. Introducing Daisy to Felix; her 'walking buddy' shows another way of coping with bereavement. Neither of these ways are right or wrong, but both of them are ways that humans deal with loss.

Carry You is written from the heart, that is clear from the depth of feeling portrayed by the main characters, and if Beth Thomas is lucky enough to have a friend like Abby, then I envy her. Abby is the triumph of the story, even though she is not the main character. She lifts Daisy up and continues to support her with determination and love that is indeed the actions of a true friend, and for me, the theme of friendship is the one that shines most brightly through this story.

For me, the novel is just a tad too long, there were a couple of times during Daisy's training for the walk that my mind wandered, but on the whole this is a good debut. I look forward to reading Beth Thomas' next novel.

My thanks to Sabah from LightBrigade PR who sent my copy on behalf of the publisher Avon Books.

About The Author

When a friend suggested that Beth challenge herself to do the Moonwalk, it changed her life. The experience was not just the training and the event itself; it became a pivotal moment in her life that has inspired her to achieve more. It gave her renewed belief in herself, and Carry You was actually partly written during the midst of training, and partly a year after the event.
She now sets herself a new challenge every year – last year having already faced her paralysing fear of heights and climbing mount Snowdon. Alongside this challenge, Beth also has two grown up children aged 18 and 20, and is currently working as a Chief Immigration Officer. 

Follow Beth on Twitter @BethThomas68

Follow Avon Books on Twitter @AvonBooksUK

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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings

Scars. We all carry them. Some are mere scratches. Others run deeper. 

At a school rife with bullying, Will and his best friend Luke are involved in a horrific incident that results in Luke leaving. 

Twenty-five years later their paths cross again and memories of Will's painful childhood come flooding back to haunt him. His wife, Harmony, who is struggling after a miscarriage that has hit her hard, wishes Will would open up about his experiences. But while Will withdraws further, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic stranger from her husband s past, and soon all three are caught in a tangled web of guilt, desire, betrayal.

The Judas Scar is Amanda Jennings' second novel and is published by Cutting Edge Press on 1 May 2014.

Things are never quite as they seem on the outside. That's certainly true of Will and Harmony's marriage. They appear to be rock solid. Married for twenty years and so in love, both have careers that they enjoy, they love their quirky flat, they have many friends. But this is a story about scars and their marriage bears a huge scar. Harmony lost their unborn child a few months ago, and she is hurting. Will has always been clear that he doesn't want to be a father, and when Harmony decides that she'd like to try for another baby, the old wounds beneath Will's scars open up and he discloses a secret that could potentially rip their world apart.

As Harmony deals with Will's disclosure she finds herself drawn towards Luke; an old friend from Will's schooldays. Will and Luke have matching, visible scars - across the palm of their hands and created when they decided that they were blood brothers and would never let each other down. It is clear though, as the story progresses, that Luke has invisible scars too. He and Will are not comfortable in each other's company, there are secrets in their past that have never been discussed, and Luke intends to make someone pay for the way that his life turned out.

Amanda Jennings's writing is broody and dark, there is an underlying tension throughout this novel that is just waiting to explode. Will and Harmony are well-formed characters, they both have issues; Will can't bear to talk about his schooldays or his late Father, Harmony struggles to cope with the loss of those that she has loved; her Father, her Mother and her unborn child.

Luke is obsessive. He sets his sights on Harmony and is not prepared to give up until he has got what he wants. Obsessions, tormentors, bullying and scars; both hidden and visible - these are the themes that run through The Judas Scar, and as the story twists and turns to the shocking conclusion, the reader is swept along by the wonderfully descriptive writing.

The Judas Scar is one of those novels that you need to keep reading ..... just one more page ..... because the instant that you put it down, you'll be thinking of it, and when you finish it, you'll be wondering about it for quite a while.

Tense, tightly plotted with characters that are by no means perfect, and in some cases just twisted. I was totally transfixed by the story - an excellent read from a talented author.

My thanks to the team at Cutting Edge Press who sent my copy for review.

Amanda is mother to three daughters and lives in chaotic contentment just outside Henley-on-Thames with a houseful of pets and a husband. 

For more information about the author and her books visit her website

Twitter @MandaJJennings

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Monday, 21 April 2014

The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

Arthur Winthrop is a middle-aged headmaster at an elite prep school in Vermont. When he is arrested for an act that is incredibly out of character, the strait-laced, married headmaster confesses to a much more serious crime. 
Arthur reveals that he has had a passionate affair with a scholarship student called Betsy Pappas. But Betsy is a fickle and precocious teenager. When she switches her attentions to a classmate, Arthur's passion for Betsy turns, by degrees, into something far darker. Now Arthur must tell the truth about what happened to Betsy. But can Arthur's version of events be trusted - or is the reality much more complex and unnerving? 
The Headmaster's Wife is a dark, sinuous and compelling novel about marriage and obsessive love.

The Headmaster's Wife is published in the UK by Corvus (Atlantic Books) on 1 May 2014, and is Thomas Christopher Greene's fourth novel.

The reader meets Arthur Winthrop as he arrives at Central Park West very early on a winter's morning. Arthur is the esteemed Headmaster of Lancaster College, Vermont. Arthur's father, and his father before him were also Headmasters at Lancaster.  Arthur strips naked and walks through the snowy park, he is arrested and taken away to be interviewed by the police. During this interview Arthur confesses to a deed far more serious than walking naked in public.

Arthur's story is sad but also a little menacing. He speaks of a student called Betsy Pappas; bright and beautiful and out of bounds to a married teacher who holds a position of power and trust. Yet Arthur is totally obsessed by Betsy, risking his reputation and his marriage to catch a glimpse of her, to steal a night away with her, to try to make her love him. Betsy has become a drug, he is addicted and will let nothing and nobody stand in his way. He is determined that she will be his and his only.

Thomas Christopher Greene tells the story of The Headmaster's Wife in three parts; Acrimony, Expectations and After. Arthur's narrative makes up the first half of the story, with the second part and the ending relayed by different character's points of view. Arthur does not appear to be a terribly reliable narrator, nor does he evoke a great deal of empathy from the reader. However, just a few pages into the alternative narratives will tell the reader so much more about Arthur, and opinion and viewpoint changes dramatically.

This is a very complex story, it is also a little confusing in parts and I found it extremely difficult at times to feel anything at all for any of the characters, with the exception of Russell.

There is no doubt however that Greene is a gifted author. His words are haunting and depict the unravelling of Arthur's mind so well.  The Headmaster's Wife is a story of how grief can make life unpredictable.

Thomas Christopher Greene was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. Tom has worked in a staple factory; as an oyster shucker; as a speechwriter and spokesperson for a presidential campaign; as the director of public affairs for two colleges; and as a professor of writing and literature.  In 2006, Tom founded the Vermont College of Fine Arts, a top New England arts college, making him the youngest college president in America at that time.

More information about the author and his work can be found at

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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Fan by Danny Rhodes

In 1989, eighteen-year-old John Finch spends his Saturdays following Nottingham Forest up and down the country and the rest of the week trudging the streets of his hometown as a postal worker. 
2004 sees Finch spending his days teaching in a southern secondary school, delaying the inevitable onslaught of parenthood. 
Leading inexorably towards the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough, the worst sporting disaster in British history, Fan glides between 1989 and 2004 when the true impact of this tragic day becomes evident. 
A book of personal and collective tragedy; it s about growing up and not growing up, about manhood and about what makes a man, and above all about football s role in reflecting a society that is never more than a stone s throw away from shattering point.

Fan by Danny Rhodes was published on 15 April 2014 by Arcadia Books.  15 April 2014 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

I was brought up in a small North Nottinghamshire village, situated right at the very tip of Nottinghamshire and bordering both Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire.  Nottingham, Sheffield, Doncaster, Lincoln - these were my stomping grounds, the places I knew, the places that were familiar to me.
Although I don't come from a family of football fans, we were proud of  Nottingham Forest - this team who had probably the best known manager in the country, the team that had risen and seemed to be winning it all.
In 1989 I was 22 and due to be married on April 22.  A week before that, two of our wedding guests went to Hillsborough to watch their team. They were Liverpool supporters and they were deaf. With no internet and no mobile phones, the waiting and worrying for friends and family, as we began to hear what had happened that day was almost unbearable. Karen and Robert were lucky, they came home.  So many fans didn't go home, so many families ruined - an event that is etched on the heart of so many, an event that should never have happened and an event that still, twenty-five years later is foremost in the nation's mind.

FAN is told in the then and the now by John Finch, or Finchy as he's known as.  'Then' was the late 80s, Finchy was a rookie postman, starting early, delivering the council tax bills and the giros and spending what he had on following Forest. Up and down the country, crap grounds, being pissed on by rival fans, battlefields both on and off the pitch. Losing, drawing - uninspiring. Then Cloughie and the boys turn things around, Forest are winning, they are on their way to Wembley.

'Now' is 2004, beginning the day that Brian Clough died - the end of an era. Finchy lives down South, far away from the bleak Midlands town that he started out in. He's a teacher, he lives with his girlfriend Kelly, but Finchy is troubled, he's unhappy. Cloughie is dead, and then he hears that one of the 'boys' is dead too. Fellow Forest fan Stimmo - hanged himself.  Finchy is going back.

I can't go into detail. Everyone knows what happened at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989, and Finchy was there. He and the boys saw it happening, slowly in front of their eyes. They saw people die and those images were imprinted onto their brains for ever afterwards, they would never go away.  Finchy and the boys never spoke about Hillsborough, or what they saw. They went home and carried on living.

John Finch left town though. Not straight away, but not that long after Hillsborough. He came home and he fucked up royally. He didn't tell anyone what was going on in his head, he treated people like crap and then he left.

Danny Rhodes has written a novel that is sharp and raw and convincing. FAN is a story about men, and about how they dealt with the aftermath of this event that changed their lives and the lives of all British football fans for ever.  There is something incredibly unsettling about the words of this story, probably because the reader knows that Danny Rhodes is fully authorised to write them, and that underlying suspicion that actually most of this story is more fact than fiction. There is a compelling need to continue reading despite an overwhelming feeling that one is invading the privacy of the author.

In turns I was chilled to the bone by the stark description of the events of that fateful day, and moved to tears of frustration for the men who went home and tried to carry on 'like blokes do'. No counselling, or talking it over with friends as a group of women would surely do.

I have no doubt that some people won't be able to read FAN. It is a harrowing account that pulls no punches, and for those of us that remember the pictures in the newspapers over the following days, it will evoke memories that have never quite faded away.

Writing FAN was a brave act from Danny Rhodes, this shines through in his writing. The emotion and feeling screams out from the pages.  FAN is an important book, it is a story about humans; the fragility of both bones and of minds.  FAN is a powerful story.

My thanks to the Arcadia Books team who sent my copy for review and constantly feed my appetite with their fabulous books.

Danny Rhodes grew up in Grantham, Lincolnshire before moving to Kent in 1994 to attend university in Canterbury.  He has lived in the cathedral city ever since. After a number of his short stories appeared in magazines on both sides of the Atlantic his debut novel, Asboville, was published in October 2006. Well received by critics, it was selected as a Waterstone's Paperback of the Year and it has been adapted for BBC Films by the dramatist Nick Leather. Rhodes' second novel Soldier Boy was published in February 2009. FAN is Danny's third novel, and he continues to write short stories in a variety of genres.

Danny Rhodes was at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989   #The96

For more information, visit the website  
Twitter @danrhodesuk

A percentage of profits from the sale of FAN will go to the Anfield Sports & Community Centre (ASCC), on behalf and in memory of the Hillsborough 96.

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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Surrounded By Water ~ Stephanie Butland ** BLOG TOUR ~ Review & Giveaway **

Elizabeth's world is turned upside down when her husband dies in a tragic drowning accident. 
How typical of her kind, generous husband - a respected police officer - to sacrifice his own life saving a complete stranger's.
Or so she thinks. 
What exactly was her husband doing at the lake that night? And what if his death isn't the most difficult thing she will have to deal with? 
Elizabeth must face the consequences of her husband's actions. As she does so, it seems that the end of Mike's life is only the beginning of his wife truly getting to know him.

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Surrounded By Water, the debut novel from Stephanie Butland ~ published in hardback by Bantam Press (Transworld) on 10 April 2014.

Elizabeth and Mike have lived a love story of fairy tales, although they have had their disappointments along the way, their love never faded. They were strong; best friends, lovers, running partners. Mike was generous and brave, a police officer who was dutiful and loyal.  Now Mike is dead.  Mike drowned in a nearby lake, doing what Mike did best - putting others before himself. Typical Mike ...... or was it?

Elizabeth's heartbreak and despair is palpable, she is broken, she cannot imagine life without Mike. She does not want to imagine it. She writes letters to her dead husband that are raw with grief, that express her love and her shattered heart. Mike was her one true love, she travelled across the world from her home in Australia to make a home with him in the small village where he grew up. Now she feels alone, despite being supported by Mike's two best friends and her sister Mel who has rushed across the world to be by her side, she cannot imagine how she will continue without him.  Mike's mother Patricia is also heartbroken by his death, but finds herself unable to comfort Elizabeth, everything she says seems to sound hurtful, everything she does is wrong.

Elizabeth wants to know why Mike died, what happened in those moments before he jumped into the lake to save nineteen-year-old Kate Micklethwaite?  Kate claims that she can't remember anything, she has no answers.

Told in the form of Elizabeth's letters to Mike, interspersed with scenes from 'Then', 'Between' and 'Now', this is an intensely moving and beautifully written story. Elizabeth's grief is raw, her pain seeps through the words that she writes to Mike and become more desperate and tragic with each letter.

The reader is always just one step ahead of Elizabeth and it is this that adds to the sorrow that I felt for Elizabeth, the anticipation of her reaction when she eventually finds out the truth is almost unbearable as she pours out her love to her beloved husband.

With powerful messages of hope, of disappointment, of secrets and of consequences, Surrounded By Water is a novel that draws the reader in from the first page. It is a journey of discovery; for Elizabeth, for Mike's friends and family and also for a young girl whose life will be changed for ever by secrets and lies.

A story to savour and to talk about. Stephanie Butland is a skilled author, it's very difficult to believe that this is her debut.

Stephanie Butland is a professional trainer specialising in creativity and thinking skills. She also uses her unique skills and first-hand experience to support people with cancer. She helps to raise awareness and funds for many charities and has written two books about her life with the illness.

She lives in Northumberland with her husband and two children.

For more information visit her website
Twitter @under_blue_sky 

My thanks to Patsy Irwin from Transworld who kindly invited me to be part of this Blog Tour and is providing a signed hardback copy of Surrounded By Water as a prize in this giveaway. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter widget below - UK entries only please.   Good luck

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Saturday, 12 April 2014

The In-Between by Barbara Stewart

Ellie Moss is moving away from her ex-best friend, away from Jackson High School and away from The Worst Year of Her Life. It will be a New Beginning, so she can become New Ellie – the Ellie who is pretty, smart and popular. 
But then, a terrible car accident changes her life forever. Reeling from the shock of losing one of her parents, Ellie starts her new high school and meets a new friend. 
Madeline is everything that Ellie wants to be: beautiful, bold and brave. But as Madeline’s influence over Ellie grows, and her life begins to spiral out of control, Ellie starts to question if she can trust her – and, more to the point, can Ellie even trust herself? 
Because Ellie knows what happens when your best friend becomes your worst enemy. But what happens when your worst enemy is yourself?

The In-Between is Barbara Stewart's debut novel, aimed at a Young Adult market and was published in the UK in paperback by Pan Macmillan on 27 March 2014.

Sometimes I'm really envious of young people today, they have such a wide range of fiction to choose from, far more than was available when I was in my teens. I seemed to make the transition from children's books to adult fiction in one huge leap. One day I was reading The Famous Five and Nancy Drew and then all of a sudden my bookshelves were filled with Judith Krantz and Shirley Conran. Thinking back, that is quite a leap!

Barbara Stewart's debut novel The In-Between is not the easiest story to read. With dark and difficult themes, it is a story that will made the reader question the lead character Ellie thoughout.

Ellie and her family are moving away. They are going to make a new start and Ellie has promised to become New Ellie.  Old Ellie was overweight, she was drab and she tried to take her own life. New Ellie will lose weight, be bright and funny. She will wear colourful clothes and she will do well at school.

Whilst on this journey to the New Beginning, the new, brighter future is snatched away in moments. A car accident leaves Ellie with just one parent - they are certainly going to start anew, but not as planned.

When Ellie meets Madeline, she can't quite believe that such a pretty and clever girl could want to be friends with her. It's at this point that the reader begins to wonder just what is happening. It's clear that Madeline is not just the girl next door - is this all some sort of supernatural episode, or is Ellie suffering from some sort of psychosis?

There is a sense of disorder about The In-Between, but this just emphasises Ellie's state of mind, and for me, the questioning and the uncertainty were what made the story all the more enjoyable. I'm sure though that many readers will hate this, and I'm positive that this novel is going to be a 'love it' or 'hate it' type of book.

The beauty of this novel is that it will be a very different story for each reader, depending on what the reader chooses to believe. I'm not a huge fan of paranormal fiction, and I want to believe that Ellie was suffering episodes of psychosis brought on by a mental illness. There are certain descriptions that ring so true for me, having worked with young adults with mental illness I recognise many of the things that Ellie claims, and some of her behaviours. Other readers will disagree, and see ghosts and spirits.  And that's fine, and that's what is so clever about The In-Between.

Dark, uncomfortable yet oddly compelling at the same time. The In-Between is very well written, absorbing story that will certainly create a lot of debate.

My thanks to Emma from Pan Macmillan who sent my copy for review.

Barbara Stewart earned an M.F.A in creative writing from Wichita State University.
The In-Between is her first novel.
She lives with her husband in the Catskill Mountains of New York

For more information visit her website
Check out her Facebook page     Follow her on Twitter @BarbStewartYA Follow on Bloglovin

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Man Who Couldn't Stop by David Adam

Have you ever had a strange urge to jump from a tall building, or steer your car into oncoming traffic? 
You are not alone. In this captivating fusion of science, history and personal memoir, writer David Adam explores the weird thoughts that exist within every mind, and how they drive millions of us towards obsessions and compulsions. 
David has suffered from OCD for twenty years, and The Man Who Couldn’t Stop is his unflinchingly honest attempt to understand the condition and his experiences. 
What might lead an Ethiopian schoolgirl to eat a wall of her house, piece by piece; or a pair of brothers to die beneath an avalanche of household junk that they had compulsively hoarded? 
At what point does a harmless idea, a snowflake in a clear summer sky, become a blinding blizzard of unwanted thoughts? 
Drawing on the latest research on the brain, as well as historical accounts of patients and their treatments, this is a book that will challenge the way you think about what is normal, and what is mental illness. 
Told with fierce clarity, humour and urgent lyricism, this extraordinary book is both the haunting story of a personal nightmare, and a fascinating doorway into the darkest corners of our minds.

The Man Who Couldn't Stop : OCD, and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought by David Adam was published by Picador (Pan Macmillan) on 10 April 2014.

How many times have you said 'Oh, I'm a little bit OCD about that'?  Maybe, like me, you like to hang out the washing using certain coloured pegs for certain garments, or maybe you have to have all your Coca Cola cans facing the same way in the fridge (just like David Beckham). Most of us have a few little rituals that we carry out, but most of us don't let the thoughts about our rituals, or what would happen if we didn't do them, take over our lives. Most of us don't have OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, we just have a couple of little quirks.

David Adam is a science journalist, he has suffered from OCD for twenty years.  He is tortured by his thoughts, he is convinced that he will catch AIDS.  He is also a very intelligent man who realises that his thoughts and actions are intrusive and are affecting his daily life far too much.

The Man Who Couldn't Stop is a mix of personal story from David Adam, the results of research from all over the world, and stories of actual patients and how they have reacted to treatment.  The author perfectly blends the scientific, the medical and the real life cases together to produce an easy to read, informative, at times sad, and often humorous  look at this peculiar illness that affects so many people.

Cases of OCD have been reported for centuries, some were dismissed, some were treated - often with surgical interventions which are recounted here in much detail, and will shock. Like all mental illnesses, debates and discussions will rage for many years to come. It is interesting to read the evidence for the scientific causes, the medical causes and the possible genetic causes of this illness, which, putting aside the quirky and the funny, really can be life-changing and so debilitating for sufferers.

Accessible, well-written and fascinating, The Man Who Couldn't Stop is an honest account of living with OCD combined with research and historical fact.

My thanks to Camilla from Pan Macmillan who sent my copy for review.

Dr David Adam is a writer and editor at Nature, the world’s top scientific journal. Before that he was a specialist correspondent on the Guardian for seven years, writing on science, medicine and the environment. During this time he was named feature writer of the year by the Association of British Science Writers, and reported from Antarctica, the Arctic, China and the depths of the Amazon jungle.

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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Precious Thing by Colette McBeth

Remember the person you sat next to on your first day at school? 
Still your best friend? 
Or disappeared from your life for good? 
Some friendships fizzle out. 
Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last for ever. 
They met when Rachel was the new girl in class and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Now in their late twenties Rachel has everything while Clara's life is spiralling further out of control. Then Clara vanishes. 
Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you've shared together. 
The truth is always there. But only if you choose to see it.

Precious Thing by Colette McBeth is published in paperback today April 10 2014 by Headline Review.

It's really difficult to talk about the plot of Precious Thing without giving anything away, and to give away some of the most important parts of the story would be to spoil it completely for other readers - I can't do that, so I won't.

Lets say this is a story about two women; Clara and Rachel met at school and their friendship continued through the years. Clara has disappeared, and Rachel is worried.  Her worry changes over the course of the story, as she begins to learn more and more things about her friend. Things that surprise her, that shock her, that disappoint her - things that will change her life.

Other the years, Clara and Rachel have changed. At school, Clara was the girl that everyone wanted to be friends with, Rachel was the new girl - overweight with ginger hair and usually shunned by most people. As adults their roles are reversed. Rachel is a sucessful TV news presenter whilst Clara's life spiralled out of control some years ago.

Precious Thing is written in the form of a letter from Rachel to Clara, and it is clear that Rachel is speaking after the events, this is not a running commentary relayed as things happen. I must admit that at times I found Rachel's 'voice' quite difficult, and the style can be a little confusing at times. However, this does not detract from the fact that Precious Thing is a chilling read and despite my initial struggle with the writing style, I was soon drawn into what becomes a tense and intriguing story.

Most women will have suffered at some time at the hands of their friends, most women will have made their friends suffer - it seems to be what women do. We make friends, we share our innermost thoughts and our dreams with a person, we become close, and then sometimes that closeness becomes a weapon. Precious Thing is a portrayal of a friendship that was based upon jealousy. The author expertly dissects the personalities of Rachel and Clara, but despite this, the reader still questions the reliability of Rachel as the narrator.

Precious Thing is a clever story, and although there were times when I wanted to move Rachel along, away from her almost melodramatic thoughts, the sense of danger and  possible manipulation of the reader outweighs those feelings.

My thanks to Sam Eades at Headline who sent my copy for review through BookBridgr

Colette McBeth was a reporter for ten years working for One O'clock, Six O'clock and Ten O'clock news - covering cases such as the Suffolk Strangler and the murder of Billie-Jo Margaret Jenkins.  
Colette featured on the 2013 The Red List Hot 100, released by the The Red Pages - a list which sets out to predict up and coming names in the world of fashion, music, TV, film, politics, sport and society. She is also a graduate of the hitmaking Faber Academy. She studied the How To Write A Novel course under the tutorage of Richard Skinner.

Her new novel THE LIFE I LEFT BEHIND is published in hardback in August.

More information can be found at
On Facebook and Twitter @colettemcbeth

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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Daughter of Catalonia by Jane MacKenzie

1935. Luis, a charismatic Spaniard, elopes with Elise and they move to a small village in Catalonia. 
But little do they know that war will soon rip them apart. 
Some twenty years later, stifled by her life in England, their daughter Madeleine sets off to learn the truth about her father's death in the French Resistance - returning to the village she once called home. 
Under the heat of the Catalan sun, she soon finds herself confronting her past, facing the shocking secrets of war, and opening her heart to her own love story.

Published by Allison & Busby on 17 April 2014, Daughter of Catalonia is Jane MacKenzie's debut novel.

Opening in November 1942 as Madeleine and her family make their way across the mountains, escaping from Nazi occupied France.  Madeleine, her brother Robert and their Mother Elise intend to return to Elise's English home whilst their father Luis will stay in Catalonia, fighting the cause for freedom.

The story moves forward twenty years.  Elise is dying, having never recovered from the death of her beloved Luis - the man she eloped with, the father of her children, the husband she never saw again after leaving him on that mountain pass in 1942.  After Elise's death, Madeleine is determined that she will escape from the stifling life she leads in her Grandparents house. Her aloof Grandmother and her cold Grandfather were bitterly disappointed by their daughter's choice of husband, and both Madeleine and Robert have suffered ever since.

Almost on a whim, Madeleine travels to France, to Catalonia, to the village of her early childhood. She is determined to find out more about her Father. How did he die? Why did her Mother never speak about him?

In France Madeleine discovers much more than she bargained for, uncovering secrets and lies that are both shocking and life-changing, but also discovering a love that could heal the pain that she inherited from her mother.

Daughter of Catalonia transports the reader to the small close-knit communities in the Catalan region of France, communities who are still scarred by the events of the War. Communities that hold their secrets close, but have long memories.

Jane MacKenzie is a skilled author who magically brings the region to life.  There are some novels that make the reader want to visit the setting immediately, and this one of them. The small towns and villages, the searing heat, the dusty shop fronts, the winding streets.  The village squares with their cafes and shops, populated by characters who are lifelike, colourful and so well created.   The author has captured the feeling of a small community devastated by the events of the war, split by the actions of some, and connected by the loyalty of others.

The plot moves quickly and Madeleine is an interesting and complex character. Sometimes childlike and innocent, but also world-weary and downtrodden, she is complemented by the cast of French characters, each of whom have a large voice and presence in the story.

The small French town setting and the wholesome and incredibly realistic characters that live there make this novel special.  The story is compelling and meticulously researched.  An evocative multi-layered story, I enjoyed it very much.

My thanks to Lesley from Allison & Busby who sent my copy for review.

Jane MacKenzie has lived and worked in many far flung corners of the world, including the Gambia and Switzerland. Having built her own business and enjoyed a spell working at CERN in Geneva, Jane realised her dream of writing. She splits her time between the Scottish Highlands and Roussillon in the South of France, the region which inspired Daughter of Catalonia.

For more information about the author visit her website
Find her on Facebook  and on Twitter @JaneFMackenzie