Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Cafe in Fir Tree Park by Katey Lovell #BlogTour @Katey5678 @harperimpulse #MyLifeInBooks




Maggie’s café is at the very heart of Fir Tree Park. Business is booming, her lemon drizzle is the stuff of legend, her children are happy and life is good. But she hasn’t had it easy. 
When her husband Clint was sent to prison, she had to raise Josh and Kelly alone. But Clint can’t hurt them now, and there’s no denying that Paolo, the Italian football coach she spies every weekend out on the green, is more than easy on the eye.
It may be summer outside, but a new arrival in Fir Tree Park sends an icy chill through the café…









The Cafe in Fir Tree Park by Katey Lovell is published by Harper Impulse on 26 May 2017 and is the author's second novel. I read and reviewed her first, The Singalong Society for Singletons here on Random Things   in December last year.

As part of the Blog Tour, I'm really delighted to welcome Katey here today. She's talking to us about the books that are special to her and make up her own 'My Life In Books'.


My Life In Books ~ Katey Lovell

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an avid reader.  I can’t begin to estimate how many books I’ve read in all – thousands upon thousands, and that’s not including re-reads.  With that in mind, when Anne invited me to share the books that have most impacted my life, an impending panic took over.  How on earth would I choose? In the end I managed to whittle over thirty years of reading into four books that have changed me, my life and my outlook.  Here’s my selection…

As a child and a teen, I was a big fan of series reads.  Firstly it was Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven, then I moved onto Sweet Valley Twins.  Eventually I progressed to Sweet Valley High and so started a love affair with YA that endures to this day. 
Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield’s American life was so very different to my own in semi-rural Wales, and I now realise the escapism was a huge attraction to me.  The plots always centred around friendships, relationships and the insular nature of community living, yet the continual dramas and melodramas had me hooked despite the formulaic style.
I sadly gave my copies to charity shops when I left home, but have started collecting the series again over recent years.

I first read this book when I was in my first year at university, around the same time I read Bridget Jones’s Diary and William Sutcliffe’s Are You Experienced?  Commercial fiction was taking off and I was lapping it up. 
Looking back, it was this book that started me dreaming about writing a novel myself, because I wanted to create likeable, fun characters like Jack and Amy.  The dual narrative also really appealed to me and is something I’m exploring in my Christmas novel, Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown. 
I was fortunate enough to meet Josie Lloyd after winning a writing competition, and told her how much this book influenced me.  In fact, I think I’m due a re-read…





A non-fiction book about an independent midwife in America, this was recommended to me by the student midwife who looked after me during the later stages of my pregnancy and postnatally.  Throughout my pregnancy I’d found it difficult to focus on reading, but once Zachary arrived my mojo returned and this was the first book I read as a new mum. 
At a time when I was already battling my emotions, this book brought me to tears on more than one occasion with its heartfelt honesty.  It’s a powerful memoir which I’d highly recommend.


This book had to be included, because it got me a job!  Back in 2004 I applied for a role promoting reading to under 5s.  It was a dream position for me, working with Rotherham Libraries and two local Sure Start centres to promote beautiful books. 
Part of the interview process required me to choose a book I’d use with a group of pre-schoolers and develop activities I could run that linked into its themes.  This was an obvious choice – there’s growth and development, and healthy eating, and having worked in education I was confident it was age appropriate, visually appealing and a timeless classic.
I love Eric Carle, and although this isn’t my favourite of his books (Brown Bear is!), this one served me well and had to be included!

Katey Lovell ~ May 2017 







Katey Lovell is fanatical about words. An avid reader, writer and poet, she once auditioned for Countdown and still tapes the show every night. Getting the conundrum before the contestants is her ultimate thrill.

She loves love and strives to write feel-good romance that'll make you laugh and cry in equal measure. 

Originally from South Wales, Katey now lives in Yorkshire with her husband and son.


Follow Katey's blog: Books With Bunny
Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @Katey5678






Monday, 29 May 2017

The Last Cut by Danielle Ramsay #BlogTour @DanielleRamsay2 @HodderPublicity




The first in a brand new series, a gritty thriller for fans of Paul Finch and Tania Carver.'I absolutely loved THE PUPPET MAKER...totally fabulous' Martina Cole

Obsessions can kill. First, he selects them. Strips them of their identity. Then he kills them. All for her...DS Harri Jacobs transferred to Newcastle from the Met in the hope of leaving her past behind: the moment where her stalker turned violent. He left her alive, saying that one day he would be back. And she ran. But a year later, she realises he has followed her from home. He'll prove his devotion. With blood...









The Last Cut by Danielle Ramsay is published on 1 June 2017 by Mulholland and is the first in a new series by this author.

As part of the Blog Tour, I am really pleased to welcome Danielle Ramsay here to Random Things. She's talking about the books that are important to her, in My Life In Books.




My Life In Books ~ Danielle Ramsay

 The question for me was where to start? So, I decided to simply list a few of the books that I could never imagine being without. However, there are so many more that I could have included.
The first three books I am listing are simply because they are a great read. The final two challenged me on many levels, but in particular, regarding my own identity growing up white-skinned in Dundee with a black-skinned mother of Algerian descent.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Eco’s debut novel is a murder mystery masterpiece set in the year 1327. The detective is the Franciscan Friar, William of Baskerville whose arrival at a Benedictine monastery with a Benedictine novice, Adso Melk coincides with a suicide which is later followed by several murders. The quote from the book, ‘books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told,’ exemplifies for me why I relish this novel. It is not just a detective story, it refers to the postmodern idea that all texts refer to other texts and as such, reminded me of my favourite short story, “Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) by Edgar Allan Poe who has been credited with creating the first detective, C. Auguste Dupin; an eccentric and a recluse whose nameless English side-kick is the narrator. Postmodernism and other academic theorising aside, The Name of the Rose is a really good whodunit!

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Simply, instead of being a whodunit, it is a whydunit which made for a fascinating read. Also, it is set in New England at an elite Vermont college and centres around a close knit group of six classics students. I had spent a year in New England before returning to the UK to attend University, so the setting of the novel already had me ensnared. Add in that at the outset, a secret is revealed to the reader – that one of the six has been murdered within the group. It personally felt as if I had been taken in confidence and that secret had only been shared with me – and me alone, and not millions of other readers.

Ulysses by James Joyce. Despite being 265,000 words in length it stands as one of my all-time favourite books which is paradoxical given the fact that I wrote a polemical feminist rant for my Masters on the last 30 pages dedicated to Molly Bloom in a form of a soliloquy, or her stream of consciousness. My own preconception was that it would be a difficult and excruciatingly boring book, but in reality it is a playful and intoxicating novel that makes for a fascinating and riveting read –the antithesis of his later novel, Finnegan’s Wake. 








Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Published in 1966, it is a postcolonial novel. As a feminist, I was really drawn to this book as it explores the inequality in power between men and women and also the notion of race and displacement. It is also, crucially a whydunnit. It is a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847) and gives a backstory to Mr Rochester’s wife – the madwoman in the attic. I had grown up reading Jane Eyre and had rejoiced in the exploration of sexuality, social class and religion and had even romanticised the Byronic Mr Rochester.   However, I could not ignore the disturbing denouement; Rochester’s wife – the madwoman in the attic – jumps to her death against the spectacular backdrop of the house burning to the ground. Why? Let’s say that Wide Sargasso Sea, and Antoinette Cosway, Rhys’ version of Bronte’s “madwoman in the attic”, answered my questions, and much more.

Beloved by Toni Morrison. Published in 1987 its themes of black/white relations founded on such an inequitable past as slavery, are still very current. Morrison forewarns the reader that her work will be challenging to say the least when she dedicates it to the “Six Million and more” Africans and their descendants who died during the transatlantic slave trade. Morrison pulls no punches as she asks the reader to suspend disbelief as she takes them into a world of two narratives, one set during slavery and the other after the end of the Civil War. The narrative is powerfully alluring and lyrical and at the same time, harrowing as it exposes the unspeakable insidious ills of slavery. This is the radical retelling of an old story told by an earlier female writer (amongst others), Harriet Beecher Stowe. However, Morrison, unlike her predecessor has not limited her exposure of the horrors of slavery; instead, she tells it as it was – regardless of how unpalatable.  

Danielle Ramsay ~ May 2017






Danielle Ramsay is a proud Scot living in a small seaside town in the North-East of England. Always a storyteller, it was only after initially following an academic career lecturing in literature that she found her place in life and began to write creatively full-time. After much hard graft her work was short-listed for the CWA Debut Dagger in 2009. Always on the go, always passionate in what she is doing, Danielle fills her days with horse-riding, running and murder by proxy.

Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRamsay2




Sunday, 28 May 2017

At First Light by Vanessa Lafaye @VanessaLafaye @orionbooks @ElaineEgan_ #AtFirstLight




1993, Key West, Florida. When a Ku Klux Klan official is shot in broad daylight, all eyes turn to the person holding the gun: a 96-year-old Cuban woman who will say nothing except to admit her guilt.
1919. Mixed-race Alicia Cortez arrives in Key West exiled in disgrace from her family in Havana. At the same time, damaged war hero John Morales returns home on the last US troop ship from Europe. As love draws them closer in this time of racial segregation, people are watching, including Dwayne Campbell, poised on the brink of manhood and struggling to do what's right. And then the Ku Klux Klan comes to town...
Inspired by real events, At First Light weaves together a decades-old grievance and the consequences of a promise made as the sun rose on a dark day in American history.





At First Light by Vanessa Lafaye is published in hardback by Orion Books on 1 June 2017 and is the author's second novel.  I am a huge fan of Vanessa Lafaye's writing, I included her first novel Summertime in my Top Reads of the Year post and reviewed it here on Random Things in December 2014.

Whilst At First Light is a companion story to the author’s debut novel, Summertime, they are both wonderful stories on their own, and con most certainly be read alone.

Summertime was one of my favourite books of 2016 and I have been eagerly awaiting this second novel for a long time. I was lucky enough to meet the author some time ago and when she told me about the story behind her new novel, I was so excited. I have not been disappointed, as much as I adore Summertime, I have to say that At First Light is even better. 

When I closed the book I felt bereft at the thought that I would no longer be spending time with these extraordinary characters.

Inspired by and based on real events, At First Light begins in 1993, in Key West. It begins with the murder of an old man; a frail and elderly man, in a wheelchair. Shot at point-blank range, with a vintage Colt pistol. That pistol is shot be Alicia Cortez; ninety-six years old, mixed-race and previously of good character. It is a shocking crime, and Alicia owns up immediately.

Chief Roy Campbell is nearing the end of his career, he’s new to Key West, and when Alicia’s name is revealed as the killer, he is the only officer not to gasp in shock. Everyone else knows exactly who Alicia is ~ ‘La Rosita Negra’.

The story then goes back to 1919, as Alicia arrives in Key West as a young woman, exiled from her home in Cuba. With a failed, violent relationship behind her, and threats of death following her. At the same time, John Morales is returning from war in Europe. Battle worn, angry, bitter and haunted by what he saw, he’s a tough, no-nonsense sort of guy.

What follows is their story. The story of their unlikely relationship, accompanied by Minister’s son Dwayne Campbell and scarred giant Thomas, and how their determination to live and love without hatred and bigotry causes pain and sorrow, and tragedy for them and those closest to them.

Vanessa Lafaye creates beautiful imagery with her carefully chosen words. Her descriptions of Key West as it grows are vivid and colourful, the reader can almost smell the cow dung and the smoky bars. The sights and sounds are so realistic, with characters who are so powerfully created that they become almost human, part of the reader’s life.

The author exposes the evil that permeated the US, with the Ku Klux Klan taking a central role, and whilst this is a glimpse into the history books, it is quite frightening to realise the similarities to modern-day politics and world happenings that are going on all around us now.

At First Light is absolutely wonderfully written, it is seductive, heart-breaking and compassionate. At times is it almost unbearably moving, but it is always compelling.


A true love story, that is also an enlightening slice of social history. Vanessa Lafaye is hugely talented. I adore this book.

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





Vanessa Lafaye was born in Tallahassee and raised in Tampa, Florida, where there were hurricanes most years. 
She first came to the UK in 1987 looking for adventure, and found it. After spells of living in Paris and Oxford, she now lives in Marlborough, Wiltshire, with her husband and three furry children. 
Vanessa leads the local community choir, and music and writing are big parts of her life.

For more information about the author, visit her websitewww.vanessalafaye.wordpress.com
Visit her Facebook page         Follow her on Twitter @VanessaLafaye








Saturday, 27 May 2017

All The Good Things by Clare Fisher #BlogTour @claresitafisher @VikingBooksUK




Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn't deserve ever to feel good again.
But her counsellor, Erika, won't give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby's head.
But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.
What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone - even a 100% bad person - deserve a chance to be good?
All the Good Things is a story about redemption and hope for fans of Nathan Filer, Stephen Kelman and Emma Healey





All The Good Things by Clare Fisher is published in hardback on 1 June 2017 by Viking Books, and is the author's first novel. Welcome to my spot on the Blog Tour.


'Write down the good things about life?'
'Exactly.'
'But what it .... I can't think of any?'
If you've never seen a sad smile, you should've seen hers just then, 'You will.'


All The Good Things is short novel at just under 230 pages, but each page is carefully composed and incredibly compelling. It's sometimes a difficult read, there are issues dealt with that are emotionally wearing, yet the author's compassion and insight shines clearly through her writing.

Beth is in prison, serving her sentence after committing a terrible crime. She knows what she did is unforgivable and is prepared for a lifetime of being hated, and hating herself. Her counsellor Erika, has asked her write down all of the good things in her life. For Beth, this seems an almost impossible task, but she begins to remember, and the novel is made up of Beth's memories.

Clare Fisher has very cleverly structured her novel. Each short chapter relates to one of Beth's experiences, and as Beth remembers, the reader begins to understand her. 


All The Good Things is not just emotionally moving and compassionate, it is also littered with humour and with joy. Beth's life experiences have been shocking, and have certainly contributed to her current situation. Her voice is honest and realistic.

Does having done a bad thing always make one a bad person? Clare Fisher takes this question and carefully and patiently gives the reader many things to consider.

An accomplished debut novel, which I'd recommend.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.




Clare Fisher was born in Tooting, south London, in 1987. After accidentally getting obsessed with writing fiction when she should have been studying for a BA in History at the University of Oxford, Clare completed an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and now works as a bookseller in Leeds.

An avid observer of the diverse area of south London in which she grew up, Clare's writing is inspired by her long-standing interest in social exclusion and the particular ways in which it affects vulnerable women and girls.

All the Good Things is her first novel.

Find out more at www.clarefisherwriter.com
Follow her on Twitter @claresitafisher









Thursday, 25 May 2017

Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell #BlogTour @LeighRussell @noexitpress #DeadlyAlibi




The ninth novel in the DI Geraldine Steel series 
A hand gripped her upper arm so suddenly it made her yelp. Biting her lower lip, she spun round, lashing out in terror. As she yanked her arm out of his grasp, her elbow hit the side of his chest. Struggling to cling on to her, he lost his footing. She staggered back and reached out, leaning one hand on the cold wall of the tunnel. Before she had recovered her balance he fell, arms flailing, eyes glaring wildly as he disappeared over the edge of the platform onto the rails below. . .
Two murder victims and a suspect whose alibi appears open to doubt... Geraldine Steel is plunged into a double murder investigation which threatens not only her career, but her life.
When her previously unknown twin Helena turns up, her problems threaten to make Geraldine's life turn toxic in more ways than one.



Welcome to the Blog Tour for Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell, the ninth novel in the DI Geraldine Steel series and published by No Exit Press in paperback on 25 May 2017.

I'm really pleased to welcome the author here to Random Things today, she's talking about the books that are important to her, and have inspired her, in My Life In Books



My Life In Books ~ Leigh Russell


As far back as I can remember, my life has revolved around books. As a shy child, I was always lost in fictional worlds, and after spending four years studying literature at university I went on to teach literature for decades. Then, in my fifties, for no particular reason, I began writing fiction. So to select half a dozen books that have influenced my life is a tough call. There are so many to choose from!


The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C S Lewis is one of the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. I loved the whole series which whisks the reader away into a land of talking animals. Of course C.S. Lewis is really writing about the magical worlds created by our imagination as we read.


This leads on to my next book. Is it cheating to choose the complete works of Shakespeare in this list? In his prologue to Henry V Shakespeare wonders how a few actors on a small stage can represent the 'vasty fields of France', (the vast battlefields where Henry fought), ships sailing across the ocean, and armies on horseback engaged in battle. So he invites his audience to 'suppose' - in other words, to imagine. 'Think when we talk of horses that you see them,' he says, summing up how fiction works its magic.


To Kill a Mockingbird made a lasting impression on me, as the first book I read that dealt with adult themes. It was only later that I appreciated the skilful layering of the narrative, with the reader understanding more than the child who is telling us the story. It remains one of my favourite books.

Wuthering Heights was a huge influence on me when I was young. Rereading the book now, I am surprised by the romantic appeal of Heathcliff who is, in fact, a sadist who torments and kills his dog and beats his wife. But to my young imagination his wild passion seemed heroic and wonderful. I still love the power of this novel, even though my viewpoint has shifted.

As a crime writer, Conan Doyle is one of my icons. Apart from the complex appeal of Sherlock Holmes, the plots in Conan Doyle's stories are ingenious and yet plausible at the same time.



Skipping through my reading history, and coming right up to date, my final book is an evocation of life in America seen through the eyes of a teenager growing up in a culture from which he feels alienated. Dodgers by Bill Beverly is a real tour de force, a crime novel that is also a road trip and coming of age narrative, and an exploration of the complexities of modern day American society. 

Leigh Russell - May 2017











Leigh Russell has sold over a million crime fiction novels, and writes full time. Published in Englishand in translation throughout Europe, her Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson titles have appeared on many bestseller lists, and reached #1 on kindle. Leigh's work has been nominated for several major awards, including the CWA New Blood Dagger and CWA Dagger in the Library, and her Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson series are in development for television with major television production company Avalon Television.

Leigh writes the Lucy Hall mystery series published by Thomas and Mercer.


Find out more about Leigh at http://www.leighrussell.co.uk where news, reviews and interviews are posted, with a schedule of Leigh's appearances.

Twitter https://twitter.com/LeighRussell
















Wednesday, 24 May 2017

My Life In Books ~ talking to author Barbara Copperthwaite @BCopperthwait @Bookoutre #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 Barbara Copperthwaite to Random Things today. I recently read and reviewed her latest novel, The Darkest Lies, here's a snippet from my review:

"One of the first things that attracted me to this story was the setting. The wild and sometimes quite desolate Lincolnshire Fens. I live in Lincolnshire and I like nothing better to be able to really see a setting when I read a book. Barbara Copperthwaite has based the village of Fenmere on Friskney, and her great knowledge of the place adds so much to the telling of the story. That damp, silent, mysterious fenland takes centre stage in this book, beautifully and authentically described."


 Barbara is the author of psychological thrillers INVISIBLE and FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD. Both have been Amazon best sellers. Her latest book, THE DARKEST LIES, is out on 12 May.

Much of her success is thanks to her twenty-odd years' experience as a national newspaper and magazine journalist. She's interviewed the real victims of crime - and also those who have carried those crimes out. Thanks to people sharing their stories with her, she knows a lot about the emotional impact of violence and wrong-doing. That's why her novels are dark, realistic and tackle not just the crime but its repercussions.

When not writing feverishly, she is often found hiding behind a camera, taking wildlife photographs. 
To find out more about Barbara's novels, go towww.facebook.com/AuthorBarbaraCopperthwaite or follow @BCopperthwait on Twitter. To find out more about Barbara go to www.barbaracopperthwaite.com 







My Life in Books ~ Barbara Copperthwaite



This is the book that made me enjoy reading. I’ve no idea how old I was when I read this, but I do know that prior to this I wasn’t fussed. The children’s adventures ignited not just a lifelong love of reading, but also of nature.


The first moment I really realised I had fallen in love with words, as well as reading. I read out the description of Wiggins to my mum and we laughed at it. I had to share it with someone because it was so wonderfully descriptive of not just his appearance but also his personality. Wonderful!


My first ‘proper’ book, marking the change from children’s books to something heavier and more adult. It’s iconic, unique, and a rite of passage in the world of reading.



When I was 12 I was bought my first Terry Pratchett Discworld novel. I became officially hooked. He looked at the world sideways on, and cleverly manipulated everything, truly holding a mirror up to the world so that the reflection was back to front. It made me see things differently, too; as well as making me laugh out loud.

I was supposed to study this for my GCSE English Literature exam, but spent two years avoiding it because it ‘sounded dull’. I’m really not sure how I managed to pass the exam, but by a miracle I did – and with a good grade! I took English Lit at A-level, and was gutted to discover that, by a strange quirk of exam board curriculum, I was going to spend ANOTHER two years avoiding Great Expectations. I caved, and read it. Suddenly I understood what all the fuss was about. The immense character arc of Pip is stunning; from childhood to snobbish adulthood, to finally coming to his senses through the most tragic of circumstances. It’s a book I often re-read. Which is ironic, really, given how much I avoided it…

I didn’t used to read detective novels until I came across Detective Sergeant Logan McRae, Stuart MacBride’s creation. The crimes he investigates are gritty and gory, but the banter between him and his colleagues is so deliciously dark and realistic that it always makes me laugh. Thanks to him, I started to read other detective series and crime authors, then psychological thrillers…and look at me now, writing my own! So DS Logan McRae will always have a special place in my heart.

I’d had the idea for my first novel, Invisible, for a long time, but after reading Engelby something seemed to click, and suddenly I knew I was going to try to write it. It inspired me because it was a first person story that was so utterly different from anything else I’d read. The character Sebastian Faulks creates is totally absorbing, and never once did I think ‘he wouldn’t do that.’ I lost myself in Engleby’s weird world.

Some writing is so beautiful that I am gripped with an urge to read sections out loud, just so that I can hear the jewel-like words as well as see them, somehow maximizing the pleasure and sharing the joy with others. This is one such book. Vividly described, and wonderfully written, Meadowland gives a unique and intimate account of an English meadow’s life from January to December. This is a book to fall in love with and read again and again and again.

An urbane sociopath who ‘only’ kills when he has to. Patricia Highsmith was an author way ahead of her time, and this was never more obvious than when she created Tom Ripley. Patricia Highsmith managed to create a killer who somehow became a sort of anti-hero that readers loved so much that she wrote five books featuring him. She was an author way ahead of her time.

The story itself is simple that, if it were told in a straightforward manner, this book may not have been the huge hit that it was. But it’s not only beautifully-written, but cunningly structured, with bits of the tale told as if they are random memories drifting through the unconscious mind of the main character, Alice, who is in a coma. Piecing the narrative together is addictive. This novel is stunning, and a total heartbreaker.



The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Twisted, brilliantly-plotted, and a must-read; this book is one I still recommend to anyone who’ll listen, two years after reading it.




Barbara Copperthwaite ~ May 2017