Saturday, 30 December 2017

My Top Books of 2017 . #AmReading #BookBlogger #TopBooks2017

Here we are again! The end of the year and another list. It doesn't seem like five minutes ago that I was compiling my list for last year. Once again, it's been an incredibly tough list to put together.

I've read around 160 books this year, and enjoyed almost all of them.  I don't tend to finish books that I'm not enjoying, and only feature books on Random Things if I've enjoyed them and would recommend them.  This makes things so much tougher for me when it comes to choosing my top books of the year though, but here goes.

I'm splitting my post into three. I'm going to start with some of the 2017 books that I read in 2016, I mentioned them last year and predicted that they would be huge, I think I was right.

The second part of my post is my list of Top Books of 2017; I tried so hard to get this down to twenty books, but failed, so there's a few more on there, but honestly, they are all great. I recommend each and every one of them.  For the first time ever, I've actually placed a Number One Book, something I usually don't do, but this book just captured my heart and as much as I loved the others on the this, this one is very special.

Finally, I'll give a mention to some 2018 publications that I've read early. All I can say is that if these are anything to go by, 2018 is going to be an awesome book year!

Thanks for continuing to support Random Things over the past twelve months, I hope you enjoy my choices and I look forward to bringing lots more recommendations over the next year.

2017 Books that I predicted would be huge ...

At the end of last year, I'd read these 2017 books pre-publication, and predicted that they would do well. I'm still recommending them, twelve months later.  (click on the title for my full review)

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land: Published by Penguin in hardback on 12 January 2017, and in paperback on 12 August 2017

Rattle by Fiona Cummins: Published by Pan Macmillan in hardback on 26 January 2017, and in paperback on 24 August 2017

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan: Published by Two Roads in hardback on 26 January 2017, and in paperback on 10 August 2017

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller: Published by Fig Tree in hardback on 26 January 2017, and in paperback on 9 January 2018

The Damselfly by SJI Holliday: Published by Black & White Publishing on 2 February 2017

The Two O Clock Boy by Mark Hill: Published by Sphere on 6 April 2017

My Top Reads of 2017

My Top Reads of the year are listed in order of reading. The list contains some favourite authors who pop up year after year, and also some debuts. I think it's a great list, with something for everyone. I heartily recommend all of these books.  (click on the title for my full review)

Quieter Than Killing by Sarah Hilary:  Published by Headline in hardback on 9 March 2017 and in paperback on 5 October.  Sarah Hilary's DI Marnie Rome series is one of my all-time favourite series and makes a welcome return to my Top Reads list."A complex story, with layers of reason and intertwined stories, yet it is absolutely compulsive. Once you start, you will find it very difficult to put down.
Sharp, ingenious, astonishingly good, crime fiction really doesn't get better than this."

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins: Published by Doubleday / Transworld in hardback on 2 May 2017 and in paperback on 3 May 2018. 
"So so dark, yet stylish and slick. Into The Water gripped me, twisted me and totally consumed me. Absorbing, moody and atmospheric. I loved it."

Watch Me and Trust Me by Angela Clarke: Both published by Avon Books; Watch Me on 12 January 2017 and Trust Me on 15 June 2017
"Angela Clarke is an absolutely cracking author, her writing grips, her plot lines are ingenious and her characters are fabulous."

What She Lost by Susan Elliot Wright: Published in paperback by Simon & Schuster on 9 March 2017.
"The human emotion is conveyed so precisely, this really is a wonderfully observed story. I loved it and would recommend it highly."

The American Girl by Rachael English: Published by Hachette Ireland in April 2017 and to be published in paperback on 4 January 2018
"The web of mystery is tantalisingly revealed, the characterisation is wonderful. Filled with sorrow, joy and tenderness and highly recommended by me."

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell: Published by Orenda Books on 15 June 2017 in paperback
"At times uncomfortable, often shocking, but always compelling.  Sarah Stovell is hugely talented, Exquisite is an absolute triumph."

You Don't Know Me by Imran Mahmood: Published by Michael Joseph in hardback on 4 May 2017, and in paperback on 19 April 2018
"You Don't Know Me is thrilling, daring and mesmeric. It is frightening, the author does not sugar-coat anything. The reader learns about the sordid and the cruel, alongside the dangers. It is a study in how young men can be influenced by those amongst them, about how easy it can be go from ordinary boy on the street to a man accused of murder."

Little Gold by Allie Rogers: Published by Legend Press in paperback on 2 May 2017
"I cannot recommend Little Gold highly enough. It really is a stunning first novel, full of love and beauty that masks darkness and pain. Incredibly accomplished. A truly fabulous story."

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo:Published by HQ in hardback on 18 May 2017, and in paperback on 27 March 2018 
"I have no doubt that The Light We Lost is going to be among my top reads of this year. It is a story that lingers in the mind, long after the final page is turned. It truly is quite beautiful."

Snow Sisters by Carol Lovekin: Published by Honno Welsh Women's Press in paperback on 21 September 2017
"Snow Sisters is complex and nuanced. There is tragedy yet there is so much love. This is a book to wallow in and linger over.  Highly highly recommended."

At First Light by Vanessa Lafaye: Published by Orion in hardback on 1 June 2017, and in paperback on 16 November 2017
"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."

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman: Published by Ebury in hardback on 29 June 2017, and in paperback on 3 May 2018
"The Summer of Impossible Things is magical and captivating. The characters are superbly drawn and the 1970s New York setting is beguiling and entrancing. The essence of love seeps from the pages, it truly is a wonderful story."

Tin Man by Sarah Winman: Published by Tinder Press in hardback on 27 July 2017, and in paperback on 22 March 2018
"Tin Man is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and as Ellis reveals his tragedy and then Michael relates his story, the sheer brilliance of this author's writing hits the reader. The skill and care taken in the creation of both the characters, and their story is outstanding, perceptive and quite frankly, stunning."

They All Fall Down by Tammy Cohen: Published by Black Swan / Transworld in paperback on 13 July 2017 
"I was both absorbed and at times disturbed, but always always completely consumed. This is another amazing story from one of my favourite authors."

Give Me The Child by Mel McGrath: Published by HQ on 27 July 2017, and in paperback on 25 January 2018
"This is not just a dark and delicious thriller, it is a book that raises serious questions. It is a story that will make the reader think about that question: 'Do we get the children we deserve?'"

Maria In The Moon by Louise Beech: Published by Orenda Books on 30 September 2017
"This is superb writing; a story that will stay with me for a long time and is extraordinarily written and presented. There are moments of unexpected beauty from richly complicated characters. It really is quite spellbinding."

Together by Julie Cohen: Published by Orion in hardback on 13 July 2017, and in paperback on 5 April 2018
"Beautifully, cleverly written, this is an epic love story that is magnificently crafted. The emotion is raw and tender, the characters are tremendous and the sense of place in both Maine and England is perfectly done.
Compulsive and unmissable. Heart breaking and heart warming and very highly recommended from me."

The Winter's Child by Cassandra Parkin: Published in paperback by Legend Press on 15 September 2017
"With surprises and twists along the way, The Winter's Child is a book that will stay with me for a long time.  This is the author's best book to date, I adored it."

Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister: Published by Penguin as an ebook on 19 October 2017, and in paperback on 25 January 2018
"Anything You Do Say is bold and original, the writing is razor sharp and the plotting is tight. Incredibly clever, I loved it."

The Foster Child by Jenny Blackhurst: Published by Headline in paperback on 16 November 2017.
"The Foster Child is deftly plotted and entirely believeable, it is meticulously crafted with a gradual unfolding leading to a jaw-dropping ending that delivers more than one shocking reveal."

Another Woman's Husband by Gill Paul: Published by Headline in paperback on 2 November 2017 
"Another Woman's Husband is so powerful, a story to lose yourself in and one that I will remember for a long time. What a triumph!"

The Boy Made of Snow by Chloe Mayer: Published by W&N in hardback on 2 November 2017, and in paperback on 4 October 2018
"The Boy Made of Snow is an ambitious debut novel from an author who is obviously so very talented. I have no more words; it's brilliant and I recommended it highly. It's a marvel."

Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir: Published by Orenda Books in paperback on 1 October 2017
"Snare is incredible. I loved every single page; the setting, the characters and the intricately woven plot. I am delighted that Lilja Sigurdardottir has two more books to come in this fabulous new series.
Has to be in the running for my Top Books of 2017 list. Outstanding. I loved it."

The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness by Laura Kemp: Published by Orion as an ebook on 1 December 2017 and in paperback on 22 February 2018
"This is a book of secrets and reveals, of community and kindness. There's love, and betrayal, and discovery, it's a parcel of wonder that will delight the most cold-hearted of reader. It's warm, funny and shows the importance of finding a place that you belong in, and people that will love you."

And so, I come to my final choice; my favourite book of last year. This is the first time that I've ever singled out a single book in my favourites list.
There is just something about this book; the writing, the characters, the plot. It has stayed with me ever since I turned the last page. I've shouted about it, recommended it, bought copies for others. I love it and I really hope you will too

A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall: Published by Bloomsbury in hardback on 15 June 2017 and in paperback on 28 June 2018

"A Thousand Paper Birds is so so intricate, so very perfectly balanced. There's a touch of magical realism that fits so smoothly into the story and the author handles the delicate subjects of death and grief so very well. Whilst some of the characters may be ethereal, their stories and feelings are human and authentic.

Tor Udall takes the process of grieving and handles it with delicacy and ease. These relationships are rich and crafted so very well.

A beautiful beautiful novel that should be savoured and treasured, and will be remembered for a long time. Stunning, Just stunning."

Books to look out for in 2018 ....

I've already made a start on the 2018 books, and if the ones that I've read already are anything to go by, we are in for another outstanding book year.
Here are a few tips; books that I think will be huge next year. (click on the title to read my full review)

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan: Published by Simon & Schuster on 11 January 2018

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor: Published by Michael Joseph on 11 January 2018

The Confession by Jo Spain: Published by Quercus on 25 January 2018

Need To Know by Karen Cleveland: Published by Bantam / Transworld on 25 January 2018

Lullaby by Leila Slimani: Published by Faber on 18 January 2018

Right! That's me done!  I've also read a few other 2018 titles, but they've not appeared here on Random Things yet, so there's plenty to look forward to - reviews are coming soon!

Thanks for continuing to visit Random Things, and read and support, it's much appreciated.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year, with lots of books and smiles.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Lullaby by Leila Slimani @FaberBooks @portassoph #Lullaby

The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family's chic apartment in Paris's upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.
The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul's idyllic tableau is shattered...

Lullaby by Leila Slimani is translated by Sam Taylor, and published in the UK by Faber on 18 January 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Lullaby by Leila Slimani is not a cheerful, or seasonal book. It is not an easy read and the subject is dark and will raise questions and debate. However, it is a beautifully observed and intricately written story of parenthood, and murder and how a family can be torn apart by those closest to it.

The reader is spared nothing; from the shocking opening pages that deliver two dead children, right through to the intimate details of each of the relationships within the novel. This author uses her words carefully and sparingly, and they pack such a punch. It's a story that will leave the reader breathless, yet fascinated. It feels voyeuristic, yet compelling.

Myriam and her husband are delighted with their nanny Louise. Despite initial reservations, Myriam's return to work has been made easy by this wonderful woman. Not only do the children adore her, but she cleans the Paris apartment, she cooks the most delightful meals, she is silent, yet becomes essential in their lives. Louise is someone that they can brag about to their friends, feeling smug that they've managed their life so well.

Yet the reader is aware that Louise has murdered the children and whilst the author goes back to describe the blossoming relationship between her and her employers, there's that knowledge; always there, always niggling, always making you wonder.

Lullaby is a dark and brooding novel. It's incredibly difficult to empathise with any of the characters; they dwell in their own heads, putting themselves first. In fact, it is only the innocent children who elicit any warmth or sympathy from the reader. For me, this just adds to the brilliance of the writing; the fact that this author can create such insular characters whilst building such a tense and disturbing around them, is quite brilliant.

Lullaby is disturbing and addictive. Sparse yet elegantly powerful.  Highly recommended.

Leila Slimani
Leila Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to with France's most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt.
Her first novel, The Ogre's Garden - forthcoming from Faber in 2019 - won the Prix La Mamounia.
Slimani is a journalist and frequent commentator on women's and human rights.
She lives in Paris with her husband and two young children.

Sam Taylor is a translator of HHHhH by Laurent Binet and You Will Not Have My Hatred by Antoine Leiris.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Need To Know by Karen Cleveland @BeckyShort1 @TransworldBooks #NeedToKnowBook

Vivian Miller is a CIA analyst assigned to uncover Russian sleeper cells in the USA. After accessing the computer of a potential Russian spy, she stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents living in her own country. Five seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

A few clicks later, everything that matters to Vivian is threatened - her job, her husband, even her four children . . .

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she's facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

Will her next move be the right one?

Need To Know by Karen Cleveland is published by Bantam / Transworld in hardback on 25 January 2018 and is the author's debut novel.

When Becky Short, the publicist at Transworld Books rushed up to me at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival in July this year and thrust a brown box at me, I was taken by surprise to say the least. When I opened up the box and found a pre-publication copy of Need To Know inside, I was intrigued; as where the bunch of book bloggers surrounding me, I could tell from the gasps and sighs!

I heard the author talk about Need To Know at the Transworld event earlier this year. She was fascinating and made her book sound so compelling. Finally, I've read it, and what a whirlwind of a read it is. Utterly compelling, I was frantically turning the pages to see what would happen next. Put aside a whole day for this one, you just won't be able to put it down.

Vivan Miller is a CIA agent, working on 'Russia'. Her job involves long hours staring at a computer screen, creating programmes that allow her and her colleagues to hack into the computers of the Russians. It's demanding, but essential work, and Vivian is good at it.
Vivian's home life is stressful and chaotic. With four small children, she and her husband Matt are constantly juggling time and resources, she is often exhausted by the demands of her job and her family.

Vivian has accessed the computer of a Russian spy and what she finds in his files is both shocking and devastating. Her discovery changes her whole world, turning everything that she worked for on its head. The only stable and steady things in her life; her marriage and her family have suddenly turned into the most dangerous and potentially damaging. Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined this.

Karen Cleveland draws on her experience as a CIA analyst, and has created a story that is so fast-paced, so full of twists and reveals and unexpected events, that it can be quite an exhausting read. Every short chapter ends on a cliff hanging hook, ensuring that the reader continues to read and read and read.

However, this is not just a spy thriller, this is also a very insightful and detailed glimpse into a modern marriage that is built on lies. The strength of relationships are tested to the limits and the levels of deceit and betrayals are brilliantly gripping.

Need To Know is a complex, tense and utterly compelling story that throbs with tension. Fabulous writing and a very clever plot. I'd recommend this one highly and really look forward to seeing what this talented author comes up with next.

Karen Cleveland spent eight years as a CIA analyst, the last six in counterterrorism. 
She has master’s degrees from Trinity College Dublin, where she studied as a Fulbright Scholar, and from Harvard University. 

She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two young kids.

Find out more at
Find her Author page on Facebook

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

The Confession by Jo Spain @SpainJoanne @QuercusBooks #TheConfession @Hannah_Robbo

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.
Just an hour later the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn't know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering, was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry's many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?
This gripping psychological thriller will have you questioning, who - of Harry, Julie and JP - is really the guilty one? And is Carney's surrender driven by a guilty conscience or is his confession a calculated move in a deadly game?

The Confession by Jo Spain is published by Quercus in hardback on 25 January 2018.

I'm not sure why I've not read anything by Jo Spain before, she's the author of the Tom Reynolds Mystery books, and having just researched them online, I am determined that I am going to read them.

The Confession is this author's first psychological thriller, and my word, it's brilliant. I was snared by the explosive prologue and felt as though I'd hardly taken a breath throughout the whole story. This is incredible writing, and fans of this genre are in for such a treat.

Set in Ireland in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger; The Confession is a crime story, a murder mystery, and above all, a deep and thoughtful look at how the sudden excess of wealth, and the even quicker demise of financial industry affected certain people in the country. Populated with characters that are both fascinating and hateful in equal measures, The Confession has a depth and substance that raises it far above many other novels from the same genre.

The reader knows just who carried out the horrific attack on Harry McNamara whilst his wife Julie looked on, doing and saying nothing to try to stop the attack. Cleverly, the author relates the now and the then in three distinct voices; Julie, the wife; Alice Moody, the investigating police officer and JP Carney; the attacker. These are three loud voices, each of them have their own thoughts about events, and each one is perfectly narrated.

The author takes her reader back as Julie remembers how she and Harry met, and this enables her to give a detailed insight into Harry's character. He's not a nice bloke, not at all. It's difficult to understand how Julie stayed married to him at times, but their unbreakable bond is explored in detail, leading to a final reveal that is both unexpected and shocking. JP Carney is a multi-layered character who cleverly hides behind a wall of silence, yet has the most detailed and fascinating back story. The creation of these characters is wonderfully done; there is not a great deal to like about any of them, but oh, they are so well drawn; quite brilliant.

The Confession is a totally absorbing and compelling read. It is dark and twisted and horribly believable. I was gripped throughout. Highly recommended.

Jo Spain's first novel, top ten bestseller With our Blessing, was one of seven finalists in the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition 2015. It was named as an Irish Times crime fiction book of the year by Declan Burke. Beneath the Surface (2016) and Sleeping Beauties (2017), the second and third in the DI Tom Reynolds series followed, to further critical acclaim. Her standalone thriller, The Confession, will be released January 2018. 

Jo is currently writing for TV.

A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and their four young children. Jo previously worked as a policy advisor in the Irish parliament and as vice-chair of the business body InterTrade Ireland.

Jo’s debut novel is set against a background of the infamous Irish Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby homes. The author’s own father was born in one such home in Dublin and the novel’s backdrop was constructed based on the in-depth research she undertook while attempting to trace her family roots.

Her favourite writers include Pierre LeMaitre, Fred Vargas, Louise Penny, Jo Nesbo, Ann Cleeves, B.A. Paris, Elizabeth Haynes and Agatha Christie.

Follow her on Twitter @SpainJoanne
Find her Author page on Facebook  

Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) by Marie Gameson @MarieGameson #MrGadd #BlogTour

The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) explores the painful themes of having to grieve for someone who is not yet dead, and trying to find one’s identity through an absent father.
Winifred Rigby follows a Zen‑like path of serenity and detachment, whilst leaving havoc in her wake. When Fred, a stranger haunted by poltergeist activity, contacts Winnie, he insists that stories she wrote as a teenager hold the key to his supernatural problems, and she is forced to renew acquaintance with her younger self.
Where will it all lead?

The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (Deceased) by Marie Gameson was published by Salt Publishing in July 2017.
I'm delighted to welcome the author, Marie Gameson here to Random Things today as part of the Blog Tour. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books

My Life In Books - Marie Gameson

Almost any Enid Blyton book: Mystery / Adventure / Five do heaven-knows-what

My childhood was largely lived in Enid Blyton books, and fortunately they have equipped me with all the knowledge I need to get through my remaining life-span. I know how to treat a horse with colic, and how to get out of a locked room. I know not to freak out if I pick up a slow-worm and its tail falls off. I still don’t know what a dock leaf looks like, but if a fellow walker falls into nettles and starts whingeing, I find that rubbing them down with a large leaf from any old nearby plant seems to shut them up. My favourite Blyton books concerned children living on islands, though as practical guides to island-survival they were pretty hopeless as the children never seemed to have much problem finding food, and never had go to the loo. That aside, I owe Blyton a lot for setting my young imagination on fire.

The Dark Is Rising – Susan Cooper

I loved all five books that make up The Dark Is Rising sequence. I don’t like the Fantasy genre, but Susan Cooper’s mix of Arthurian legend, pagan fable and children living in a relatively modern Britain sat well with my teenage mindset. And of course there is always the charm of being a ‘chosen one’ – predestined to fight the rising dark forces. My ambition was to write similar books for adults, but having written one with a Green Man theme – and spent almost a year re-writing it with a wonderful editor and fellow Cooper-fan, the publishing company went out of business. One day I’ll get back to it.

Engleby – Sebastian Faulks

Something about the cover of the paperback (above) was enough to give me an idea of what to expect. The character of Mike Engleby was definitely an influence on The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased), in terms of having a narrator who is detached from the people around them, has developed some extreme coping mechanisms, but who – freed from mundane conventions - is also ruthlessly insightful.
There are some wonderful digs at pompous academia, which presumably came direct from Faulks’s experience at Cambridge university: the description of the professor who announces that he has become a Maoist, and the complete inability of the dons to articulate what English students should actually be doing.
Whatever evil deed Engleby has done (and he can’t quite remember), knowledge of his appalling childhood makes it impossible not to feel sorry for him. In the end, this book offers the most powerful appeal for intervention to stop bullying. Although the story is a fascinating journey in the head of a cold, unemotional narrator, the reader still feels like screaming “we could have stopped this from happening”. It should be mandatory reading for any adult who comes out with some ‘bullies are victims too’ old tosh to justify not intervening.

Erasure – Percival Everett

This is a full-on, cringey journey through the minefield of racial stereotypes in America, with a wonderfully grumpy narrator (Thelonious Ellison). People are sometimes at their most ridiculous (and their most prejudiced) when they look for authenticity in groups they don’t belong to, and this phenomenon is taken to its extreme in Erasure, when a book called ‘We's Lives in Da Ghetto’ (written by a black middle-class woman) is feted as the authentic voice of black American experience. No-one can understand why Ellison (a black professor of English literature) is hugely offended by this, and his complaints that the book has no literary merit are met with surprise that he isn’t happy that ‘one of his own’ is having such success.
Ellison’s latest book is rejected for not being ‘black enough’ (to be fair, his writing is so erudite as to be completely unintelligible), so he goes to the other extreme, dashing off a novel that incorporates every modern black stereotype he can throw in. To his horror, the book is instantly successful, and there is nothing he can do to rein in the monster he’s created. Brutally satirical, ‘Erasure’ somehow manages to be simultaneously very sad and very funny.

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters

One of the reasons we have so much fascination with stories about aristocratic families, set in the Edwardian and post-Edwardian eras is we know that the house is just a temporary bulwark against the social upheaval happening outside in British society; we know that things are about to change, and maintaining the great house will become more difficult with the ascendancy of ‘Downstairs’ and the threatened fortunes of the ‘Upstairs’.
In ‘The Little Stranger’ the problems of maintaining the house are taken to the absolute extreme: what’s left of the aristocratic family have to take refuge in an ever decreasing number of habitable rooms whilst the mansion rots around them. The ‘Downstairs’ is not just represented by the diminished staff but also by the narrator – a doctor who is obsessed with the once great home and takes every opportunity to be there. It is hard not to feel some schadenfreude when the family and their friends make it plain that the doctor’s social rank is inferior and come to grief themselves, but it is also hard to feel sympathy for him.
The best feature of the book is the ever growing menace of the house, as it seems to feed off human anxieties and to consume its inhabitants. I’m surprised to see this described as a ghost story, as one of the reasons I like it is that the supernatural elements seem just within the boundaries of possibility, to me, anyway. Maybe I have a high ‘boggle threshold’. I had a very brief experience of poltergeist experience as a teenager, and had no problem accepting this story, which culminates in the reader catching sight of the true culprit in the final paragraphs.

Please do pop along and visit the other Bloggers that are taking part in the Blog Tour over the next few days

Marie Gameson is half of the mother and daughter writing team who published The Turtle Run as 'Marie Evelyn'. 

Her latest book, The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) was published by Salt this summer and is available on Amazon. 

You can find out more about her and her books at her website,
Follow her on Twitter @MarieGameson

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor @cjtudor @MichaelJBooks @GabyYoung #Chalkman

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
     In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he's put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.
     That's when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.
Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader

The Chalk Man by C J Tudor is published on 11 January 2018 in hardback by Michael Joseph Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Oh my goodness! The Chalk Man, the bloody chalk man.  This has to be one of the creepiest, cleverest debuts that I've read for many a year. I was completely and utterly gripped by this ingenious story, packed with characters that leap from the page, involved in a plot that is utterly compelling.

The Chalk Man is narrated by Eddie and begins with a chilling prologue that sets the pace for the rest of the story. In 1986, Eddie and his group of mates were aged between eleven and thirteen; four boys and a girl. Pretty average kids who liked to tease, to ride their bikes and to go to the fair. The fairground becomes the focal point of Eddie's story; that one day when the girl he christens 'waltzer girl' bursts into his life, and thirty years later she is still the subject of his dreams.

CJ Tudor nips back and forth from the 80s to the present day with ease and the reader is witness to Eddie's coming of age. We know what happened to make him the man he becomes; we learn about his friends, his enemies and his family, and we learn about the Chalk Man.

Whilst The Chalk Man clearly focuses on murder and violence, it is not the epicentre of this incredibly told story. No, this author develops friendships and relationship that are intricately created, with such style and such authority - is this really a debut? Woven gently into the horrors and the trauma; the breakdowns, the deaths and the betrayals is a dark humour that adds another depth to the novel and makes her characters more lovable, more believable and just actually, more brilliant!

Absolutely packed with reveals and suspense and surprises, I am positive that The Chalk Man is going to be a huge hit for this talented author. I am very excited about this book and can't wait to see what CJ Tudor comes up with for her next novel. An utter bloody triumph!

CJ Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.
Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.
Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, waitress, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and now author.
The Chalk Man is her first novel.

Find her Author page on Facebook 
Follow her on Twitter @cjtudor

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Anatomy Of A Scandal by Sarah Vaughan @SVaughanAuthor @simonschusterUK #AnatomyOfAScandal

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it. 

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan is published by Simon & Schuster on 11 January 2018 in hardcover and is the author's third novel. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.  I'm a big fan of Sarah Vaughan's writing, I've read and reviewed both of her previous novels here on Random Things;  The Art of Baking Blind in August 2015 and The Farm At The Edge of the World  in June 2016. When I heard that her next novel, with her new publisher Simon & Schuster was to be a political thriller, I was surprised and a little excited, and oh my goodness, I haven't been disappointed!

Whilst I adored this author's previous books, there is no doubt at all that this genre and these subjects are where she's most at home. There were times whilst reading about this sex scandal trial that I really did believe that this was true-crime reporting, there's such an incredible air of authenticity about this which will resonate more starkly after the murky revelations made this year about men in power and their treatment of women.

I'm not going to go over the plot of Anatomy of a Scandal, for that is not my job. I'll just say that the story is based around the prosecution and trial of a member of Parliament. This is a high-profile and much reported story; the whole country is transfixed by the idea of handsome, successful, family man James Whitehouse being accused of rape by a woman he works with.  His accuser is also a woman that he admits he's had an affair with. Yes, he says, we had sex in the Houses of Parliament; I took her away for nights and bought her expensive gifts. He also claims that even though he'd ended their relationship, the rough sex they had in a lift was consensual. That's it, in a nutshell. A woman's word against a man's ..... as it so often is.

Sarah Vaughan writes with a beautiful clarity that is both stunning and at times, shocking. She exposes the darkest corners of the brightest minds in the country. She doesn't hold back with the shocking behaviours and the total sense of entitlement that accompanies wealth and good name. Her detailed look at the lives of those who make up the Libertines; a group of Oxford students who use their money as a powerful tool to barge their way through life is sordid and tawdry, yet eye-opening and excellently portrayed.

Anatomy of a Scandal is told in three voices; James; his wife Sophie and Kate, the prosecuting barrister. Each one of these characters is intimately and cleverly constructed; the reader will love them, and hate them. The reader will agree, will object and will cheer as the story unfolds. There's also an air of mystery running through this novel, and the author creates more tension, suspense and unease with her clever flashbacks that totally gel with the present-day story.

Anatomy of a Scandal is utterly compulsive, I hated having to set it down for even a few minutes. The plot, the characters and the brilliant reveals are so finely executed. This is a stand-out legal thriller. An absolute triumph and I urge everyone to read this.

Sarah Vaughan was born and brought up in Exeter. In 1991 she went to Brasenose College, Oxford, to read English and whilst there became features editor at the university paper. Her first job was as a news trainee with The Press Association, a two year position which included six months as a parliamentary correspondent and stints as a court reporter, covering stories such as the Stephen Lawrence inquest.
She joined the Guardian news room in 1997 and covered high profile cases such as the disappearance of Sarah Payne, the Soham murders and interviewed Ian Huntley before his arrest. 
In 2002 she returned to the Houses of Parliament as political correspondent to cover the Iraq debate.
She travelled to Istanbul with Tony Blair, interviewed Boris Johnson over affair allegations and discovered that politicians may be willing to be economical with the truth if they believe it is in their best interests.
Sarah returned to the newsroom and a job as a health correspondent after the birth of her first baby in 2005, and took voluntary redundancy after her second in 2008.
On her 40th birthday she committed to writing her novel and secured a two-book deal with Hodder for The Art of Baking Blind and The Farm at the Edge of the World.
Anatomy of a Scandal draws on Sarah's experience as a news reporter and political correspondent, and her time spent reading English at a historic Oxford college in the mid-Nineties. 
Married to an NHS surgeon, she has two children and lives just outside Cambridge.

Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @SVaughanAuthor