Friday, 24 November 2017

The Place We Met by Isabelle Broom @Isabelle_Broom @PenguinUKBooks @SarahHarwood_

Lake Como, Italy, New Year's Eve. The perfect place to fall in love? Or the perfect place for everything to fall apart?
Lucy may have suffered her fair share of bad men, but now she has Pete. Finally, a man worth sharing her favourite place with, Lake Como. That's if she can put mysterious phone calls and glamorous ex-girlfriends out of her mind.
Taggie is rushed off her feet, but distraction is exactly what she needs to forget why she fled England and the sadness she left behind. She certainly doesn't have time for infuriating stranger Marco. A man is the last thing she needs right now.
Lucy and Taggie might not know it, but their lives are about to collide. The New Year might begin with fireworks - but how will it end?

The Place We Met by Isabelle Broom is published in paperback by Penguin on 30 November 2017 and is the author's fourth novel. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Although a relatively new author, Isabelle Broom can place her feet firmly under the table and be assured that she's found the winning formula. Her books are magical, the reader is transported to her wonderfully described locations, accompanied by her vivid and colourful characters, and taken on a journey that is just quite perfect.

The Place We Met is based in Lake Como, Italy, around Christmas and New Year and is the perfect read for this time of year. Banish those dark dreary evenings and damp foggy days and delight in this delicious tale of romance, hidden secrets, unravelling pasts and plenty of crisp snow and mouth watering food.

Taggie and Lucy are both British and both in Lake Como. They are there for very different reasons. Taggie is working, and trying to forget, whilst Lucy is showing new boyfriend Pete, the place where she spent many happy childhood holidays.
Two very different women, with nothing in common; or so it would seem. When their paths cross, their lives collide and it soon becomes clear that there's quite a tangle to unweave.

Isabelle Broom writes like a dream. Within a couple of pages I was totally hooked; a little in love with the characters and planning a trip to Lake Como!

The Place We Met is such a warm and wonderful story, it's poignant, tugs at the heartstrings and I had to gulp back a few tears. Heartfelt and heartwarming; the perfect seasonal read. I loved it

Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge, nine days before the 1980s began.
She travelled through Europe during her gap year, before living on a Greek island for six months, after completing her degree in Media Arts.
Since then, Isabelle has continued to travel the world -  from Sri Lanka to New York to Sicily.
When she's not writing novels set in far-flung locations, Isabelle spends her time being the Book Reviews Editor for Heat magazine and walking her dog, Max, around north London parks.
The Place We Met is her fourth novel, following My Map of You, A Year and a Day and Then. Now. Always.

You can find her on Twitter @Isabelle_Broom or at 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva @samanthaswriter @AllisonandBusby

Charles Dickens should be looking forward to Christmas. But when his latest book, Martin Chuzzlewit, is a flop, his publishers give him an ultimatum. 
Either he writes a Christmas book in a month or they will call in his debts and he could lose everything. 
Dickens has no choice but to grudgingly accept...

Mr Dickens And His Carol by Samantha Silva was published by Allison and Busby on 31 October 2017. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Another Christmas book! I rarely read seasonal books but this year there have been a few that have taken my fancy and Mr Dickens and his Carol was one of them.
Who can resist Dickens's A Christmas Carol? I'm really not a huge Dickens fan, I remember struggling through Bleak House when I was at school, desperately wanting to get back to the Judith Krantz, Danielle Steel and Shirley Conran novels that were my true loves.

I've stayed away from classics ever since, but I do have a beautiful copy of A Christmas Carol, and I do take it from the shelf every year and have a read. I'm also a fan of novels that feature real characters in fictionalised situations. I think it's quite a brave thing for an author to do; to take a well known person and create a story around them, especially a story about one of their most famous achievements.

So, back to the book. It's Christmas and Charles Dickens has a flop on his hands. His latest novel has not done well and he has a family to feed, a house to keep and appearances to keep up. When his publisher suggest that he write a Christmas novel, and write it pretty quickly, he's horrified. However, if he doesn't, he will be bankrupt, with no home, so he has no choice but to get to work.

Samantha Silva has created an atmospheric and hugely entertaining story. She cleverly incorporates events and sayings from A Christmas Carol into her story, as Dickens fights a bad case of writer's block, treading the streets of London to get inspiration.

This an evocative and at times, quite funny story that sweeps the reader right into the heart of Dickens'  London. Brilliantly described, the streets come alive on every page and Dickens himself is a multi-layered character; expertly brought to life.

The perfect seasonal read, wonderfully imagined and carefully told.

Samantha Silva is a writer and screenwriter based in Idaho.
Mr Dickens and His Carol is her debut novel.

For more information visit
Follow her on Twitter @samanthaswriter 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Christmas Stocking & Other Stories by Katie Fforde @KatieFforde @Francesca_PR @PenguinUKBooks

A brand-new book by the Number One Bestselling author Katie Fforde containing NEVER-BEFORE-PUBLISHED Christmas short stories.   Perfect for anyone who loves romance, humour and happy-ever-after endings.  
It's Christmas morning. The tree is decorated, the presents are wrapped and the turkey's in the oven. Outside the first flakes of snow are beginning to fall. AND HERE IT IS! A personal present from Katie Fforde: six NEW perfectly themed seasonal short stories, guaranteed to make this your happiest Christmas ever! 'A lovely, warm read to sink your teeth into' Heat 'Delicious - gorgeous humour and the lightest of touches' Sunday Times 'A perfect match for an afternoon curled up on the sofa!' Sun

The Christmas Stocking and Other Stories by Katie Fforde was published in hardback by Century / Penguin on 2 November 2017.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I must admit that I rarely read Christmas books, and especially not before December. However, it feels like a long time since I read anything by Katie Fforde and I dipped into The Christmas Stocking and really enjoyed my little foray, away from crime and psychological thrillers, into warm and cosy, Christmas cheer!

The collection contains six stories, and all are around 50-60 pages long, so certainly enough to get your teeth into and the length enables the reader to get to know the characters well. I think Christmas in Disguise is my favourite of them all; it's a quirky and funny tale about trying to fool a selfish employer whilst producing the perfect Christmas lunch and of course, there's more than a touch of romance in there too.

Readers are also treated to an exclusive sneak peak of Katie Fforde's brand new novel; A Country Escape, which will be published in February 2018

Katie Fforde creates a little bit of magic in her stories; her heroines are sparky and gutsy; whether they are earning money by being the Christmas Fairy, or setting up home alone. Her male leads are dashing and handsome, and this is all quite perfectly injects some seasonal cheer into what could be long, dark, wintry evenings for the reader.

Katie Fforde's short stories burst with warmth and good cheer. I felt my heart begin to thaw a little each time I picked this book up. Pure enjoyment, and indulgent pleasure!

Katie Fforde lives in the beautiful Cotswold countryside with her family, and is a true country girl at heart. Each of her books explores a different profession or background and her research has helped her bring these to life. She's been a porter in an auction house, tried her hand at pottery, refurbished furniture, delved behind the scenes of a dating website, and she's even been on a Ray Mears survival course. She loves being a writer; to her there isn't a more satisfying and pleasing thing to do. She particularly enjoys writing love stories. She believes falling in love is the best thing in the world, and she wants all her characters to experience it, and her readers to share their stories.
To find out more about Katie Fforde step into her world at, visit her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @KatieFforde.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Nemo's Almanac : A Quiz for Book Lovers : Edited by Ian Patterson @paftersnu @ProfileBooks

You might recognise:
'It was a bright day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.'
But what about:
'Time, like an ever-rolling stream'
Or even:
'I am soft sift / In an hour-glass-at the wall / Fast, but mined with a motion, a drift, / And it crowds and it combs to the fall.'
Can you match each to their author? What about their book or poem? Welcome to Nemo's Almanac, the ultimate quiz for bibliophiles.
Wonderful, maddening, enlightening, Nemo's Almanac has been the well-guarded secret of the literary world for over one hundred years, beloved by authors and booksellers alike. Now in book form for the first time, with an account of its quirky history from Alan Hollinghurst, you can experience its fiendishly addictive qualities for yourself.
With tantalising quotes on themes from breakfast to bonfires, winter to sunshine, and including authors from Aldous Huxley to Zadie Smith, each chapter will put your knowledge and literary instinct to the test as you search for the origins to each quote. And if that tip-of-your-tongue feeling doesn't transform into the names of authors and works, you can always check the back of the book for answers that will send you on fresh journeys of literary discovery.
So curl up by a fire with your wits about you, stuff the book in your pocket for a trip to the library, or quiz the whole family after dinner.
Answers: George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four; Isaac Watts, 'O God, Our Help'; Gerard Manley Hopkins, 'The Wreck of the Deutschland'

Nemo's Almanac : A Quiz for Book Lovers, edited by Ian Patterson was published in hardback on 2 November by Profile Books.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

 I do love a good quiz. Martin and I used to be part of a pub quiz team which was taken very seriously, until the pub got wi-fi and the teams who were quickest on Google were the winners!

This edition of Nemo's Almanac really is beautifully presented; it's a small hardback with a vibrant, colourful dust jacket and will make the most perfect Christmas gift for book lovers and quiz freaks.

This edition includes a short history of the quiz from former Nemo's Almanac editor Alan Hollinghurst. There's also a useful couple of pages on how to use the book, in case, like me, you've not come across Nemo's before.

Nemo’s Almanac began life as an annual literary challenge available by post in booklet form, containing unattributed literary quotations arranged by theme. Entrants had to identify the extracts as fully as possible.
The challenge? To identify the source and author of each one. No internet allowed. This is back to basics: libraries, printed materials and well-read friends can all be mined for help.
Now, after being a well-guarded secret of the literary world for 125 years, Nemo’s Almanac has been expanded into a book. Guaranteed to perplex and puzzle even the most knowledgeable of readers, it is  introduced by Alan Hollinghurst, a former editor of the booklet, who sheds a light on its curious history.

Take the Nemo’s Almanac Challenge

Can you identify the literary quotations?
All 36 of these quotations appear in Nemo’s Almanac the book, but the answers do not. All you need to do is give us the literary work and the author (smart Alecs will be awarded extra points for fuller answers — verse number, chapter etc.) Use of the internet is not allowed!
The entry with the highest score will win a personal Waterstones shopping consultation to choose books worth £250, with an hour’s help from a bookseller. You’ll also win afternoon tea afterwards for you and a friend to celebrate.
To find the quotations, and find out how to enter; visit

Current editor of Nemo’s Almanac, Ian Patterson is a poet, writer and a Fellow at Queens’ College, Cambridge. His writing has appeared in the London Review of Books and the Observer among other publications. He is author of Guernica and Total War (Profile, 2007), and translator of Proust’s Finding Time Again (Penguin, 2003).
If you’d like to receive a Nemo’s Almanac booklet for next year, please send an SAE and £3.00 to Dr Ian Patterson, Department of English, Queens College, Silver Street, Cambridge CB3 9ET.
You can follow Ian on Twitter here.

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Deaths of December by Susi Holliday #BlogTour @SJIHolliday @MulhollandUK @HodderBooks #DeathsOfDecember

The hunt is on for a serial killer in this thrilling festive crime novel

It looks like a regular advent calendar.
Until DC Becky Greene starts opening doors...and discovers a crime scene behind almost every one.
The police hope it's a prank. Because if it isn't, a murderer has just surfaced - someone who's been killing for twenty years.
But why now? And why has he sent it to this police station?
As the country relaxes into festive cheer, Greene and DS Eddie Carmine must race against time to catch the killer. Because there are four doors left, and four murders will fill them...
It's shaping up to be a deadly little Christmas.

The Deaths of December by Susi Holliday was published in paperback by Mulholland Books / Hodder on 16 November 2017 and is the author's fourth novel.

Susi Holliday writes the Banktoun series as SJI Holliday and I am a huge fan of those books. When I heard that she was writing a Christmas themed crime novel, as a standalone, I was intrigued. I was delighted to receive a review copy from the publisher and to be invited to take part in this Blog Tour.

When I was a child we had the same advent calendar every year, it was old and tatty and there was no chocolate! Behind each door was a Christmas scene, ending with a nativity picture on 24 December. There are no festive pictures or Christmas babies in the advent calendar that arrives on DC Becky Greene's desk.  This is not a seasonal gift of goodwill or cheer. No, this advent calendar is home-made and behind each door is a negative from a photograph. Each photograph depicts the scene of a murder. A real murder. And there are four empty dates.

DS Eddie Carmine recognises one of the photos instantly, and then he recognises more. These are crimes that he's worked on, they are unsolved. What's the connection between him and the serial killer? It's clear that this is a serial killer, but the police have only just realised.

Becky and Eddie must work together to try to solve this, and to prevent four more murders from taking place.

The reader is also treated to a narrative from 'the photographer', which means that we are privy to far more information than Carmine and Greene (see what she did there? - the Christmas coloured theme - clever eh?)

The Deaths of December is not as dark as this author's previous work, there's a dry humour running through it, despite the theme. However, it is a complex and well woven story that keeps the reader on their toes. Susi Holliday excels in creating characters that the reader can relate to, they are multi layered and often surprising and work incredibly well.

The author takes her reader on a twisty ride, with unexpected bumps and swerving corners - seat belts are certainly needed and a crash helmet would be a good idea at times too!

The Deaths of December is an ingenious, originally told story that will make you look just a little closer to see what's behind the door on your advent calendar!

Susi (S.J.I) Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize. She has written three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, which are a mix of police procedural and psychological thriller. They are: "Black Wood", "Willow Walk" and "The Damselfly" - all featuring the much loved character, Sergeant Davie Gray. 

Her festive serial killer thriller "The Deaths of December", featuring Detective Sergeant Eddie Carmine and Detective Constable Becky Greene was published in November 2017.

You can find out more at her website: and on Facebook and Twitter @SJIHolliday. Sign-up for updates and giveaways here:

Sunday, 19 November 2017

A Rock 'n' Roll Lovestyle by Kiltie Jackson #BlogBlitz @KiltieJackson @rararesources

So who exactly is Sukie McClaren? 
A Christmas-loving Cat lover? A Sound of Music Fanatic? A Fiercely Independent Woman?
She is all of the above.
And when she is sent to Salzburg for a business trip a few weeks before Christmas, she thinks all her dreams have come true.
As she packs her suitcase, the only things on her mind are Christmas markets, lots of snow and finally seeing the Doh-Ray-Me steps.
Becoming the new best friend of the world’s hottest rock star doesn’t even get a look in. 

Pete Wallace is a reclusive, reluctant, rock-star and the world’s Number One, best-selling, male solo artist. It’s been three years since his last tour and he’s now preparing to go back on the road again. 

A week in Salzburg, schmoozing with the music press, is one of his worst nightmares. He can’t wait for it to be over. 
When Pete and Sukie meet, it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Lonely for too long, he begins to remember how it feels to be happy and, for the first time in six years, Christmas feels special again. 
Eduardo di Santo however, whose kid sister suffered life-changing injuries at a Pete Wallace concert, is all set on getting revenge. 
When Pete’s new tour is announced, he begins to make his plans. 
Plans that will culminate in Pete's demise. 
Will Pete and Sukie’s new friendship die before it has a chance to flourish? 
A Christmas tale full of love, laughter, friendship and revenge.

Welcome to the Blog Blitz for A Rock n Roll Lovestyle by Kiltie Jackson, published by WickedKilt Publishing in September this year. Thanks to Rachel from Rachel's Random Resources who invited me to take part today.

I'm really happy to welcome the author, Kiltie Jackson to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her and have inspired her; in My Life In Books.

My Life In Books - Kiltie Jackson

I began reading at a very early age. No-one actually knows when I learnt to read, they only knew that I could when one day, aged three (I suspect nearer to four than two) I was sitting ‘reading the newspaper’.
My Nana thought I was simply looking at the pictures but decided to humour me by asking what programmes were on the television that night. To say she was utterly gobsmacked, when I turned to the TV listings page and began to tell her, would be an understatement. From then on, my mother informs me, I rarely ever had my nose out of a book and, wherever there were words, I would be reading them.

The very first book I can recall reading was ‘Mr Galliano’s Circus’ by Enid Blyton. I was fascinated by the prospect of a dog called Lucky who could count. We had a dog called Lucky and she was useless at counting. I wanted to swap her for the dog in the book. I was also very taken by Carlotta who was fiery and quite independent.

Enid Blyton featured very heavily in my pre-teen years and I read most of the Famous Five along with all of the St Clare’s and Mallory Towers series. 

She didn’t, however, have the monopoly as ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by L.M. Montgomery was another, much read classic. Once again, I revered this girl who spoke her mind, was independent in her thinking and stood up for herself. I loved the television adaption, and the book, equally. I still have my childhood copy with Kim Braden on the front and it still gets read every few years.

After that, I seemed to take a massive jump from children’s books to adult books and pretty much missed out the stuff in the middle. I was at boarding school for a time and mixed with older girls so I ended up reading books far more adult than my age merited. I seemed to spend most of my teens reading Catherine Cookson. One that resonated more than the others was ‘The Black Velvet Gown’ because the daughter in that one spends quite a bit of time arguing and disobeying her mother. Just as I did!

Most of my twenties I spent reading Jackie Collins, Judith Krantz, Jilly Cooper etc, until a new breed of female authors began to come along. Jane Green led the way, in my opinion, for contemporary romance. Finally we began to have women who were real and whom we could actually relate to. They were ordinary, worked in offices / shops / factories, had flat-mates and fell in love with ordinary people. Jemima J’ still ranks as one of her best and has been read more than once.

As I got older, I found my tastes changing and developed a liking for books with slightly alternative storylines. A particular one that sticks in my mind is ‘Making History’ by Stephen Fry. The very concept of being able to go back in time, change events and see the outcome of those changes – be they good or bad – was really interesting and it’s a prospect I still often wonder upon. How would the prevention of the Second World War impact on society today? How different would life be?

On another level, if I want to read something, or someone, who is guaranteed to raise my spirits and make me smile, I will always reach for a Deric Longden. He has a very light-hearted way of describing life and finding the funny in almost all day-to-day occurrences. The first book of his I ever read was The Cat Who Came In From The Cold. It was absolutely not the last. If I could only recommend one author to people, it would be Deric Longden.

Finally, my current day author, whose books I still purchase in hard copy and upon immediate release, is Susanna Gregory. She has two historical thriller series running concurrently but my favourite is the Thomas Chaloner series which is set in Restoration London. The whole period of the Civil War and the Restoration is one I have little knowledge on due to it not being covered in Scottish history. So my favourite book of hers would be the very first one I read ‘A Conspiracy of Violence’ as this introduced me to a whole new period of history.

Kiltie grew up in Scotland, Glasgow to be precise. A very unique city with a very unique way of looking at life. When she was old enough to do so, she moved to London and then, after several years of obtaining interesting experiences -which are finding their way into her writing - she moved up to the Midlands.
She currently lives in Staffordshire with five cats and one husband. The cats kindly allow her and her husband to share their house on the condition they keeps paying the mortgage!
Her little home is known as Moggy Towers, even though despite having plenty of moggies, there are no towers!
She loves reading, watching movies, and visiting old castles. She really dislikes going to the gym!
Her biggest desire is that one day she can give up the day job and write her stories for a living.

Follow her on Twitter @KiltieJackson
Find out more at

Friday, 17 November 2017

Sweet William by Iain Maitland @iainmaitland @SarabandBooks @RKbookpublicist #BlogTour

Life and death played out over 48 hours. 
A father desperate to be with his young son escapes from a secure psychiatric hospital, knowing he has just one chance for the two of them to start a new life together.
His goal is to snatch the three-year-old - a diabetic who needs insulin to stay alive - and run away to France ... but first he must find the boy, evade his foster family and stay well clear of the police, already in pursuit.
A real page-turner cut through with dark humour, Sweet William zeroes in on a potent mix: mental illness, a foster family under pressure, and an aggrieved father separated from his precious child.
The result is an incisive and deeply affecting literary thriller.

Sweet William by Iain Maitland was published in hardback by Contraband, Saraband Books' crime fiction imprint on 16 November 2017.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Sweet William terrified me. This is not a horror story, it is classed as a crime thriller, yet the horrors of the human brain are all very real within this troubling tale. It's a book that has lingered in my mind, a book that has astounded me and although the subject matter is dark and savage, it is a book that satisfied my reading needs.

The story begins as Raymond Orrey escapes from a secure psychiatric unit, somewhere in Nottinghamshire. Told in Raymond's own voice, it is clear that he is a clever, if very dangerous character and the reader is not quite sure if his narrative is reliable.

Raymond's aim is to snatch his small son William; the love of his life, his legacy, his boy. William is living with Raymond's dead wife's sister and her partner. Although it is hinted at, the reader isn't sure what happened to the wife, or why Raymond has been locked up when the story starts, although the grisly truth becomes clear as the story unfolds.

William is diabetic and requires regular injections of insulin to stay alive. The chapters of the story alternate between Raymond's voice and the thoughts of young William. The child struggles to understand why his Mama and Papa continue to hold him down and hurt him with needles; why they won't let him have the sweets that he craves. The world is a strange place through William's eyes.

It is Raymond however, whose voice is loudest. This author has expertly captured the thought processes, the lack of understanding and empathy and the destructive nature of the psychopath. Raymond's thoughts and his actions are chilling. His justification for the things that he does in order to be with is son are cold, calculating and very frightening.

Sweet William is a tense story, it's the sort of book that makes you hold your breath as you turn each page, as you wonder just what will happen next, and will Raymond ever reach his goal.

It is clear that Iain Maitland knows his settings very well. The sense of place is astounding, be it the dark lanes and swirling Trent of Nottinghamshire or the seaside resort of Aldeburgh.

Sweet William is dark and chilling. Raymond Orrey is a menacing character, with no redeeming features, yet he is intense and intricate and shockingly realistic. Having worked in a secure psychiatric setting for ten years, I certainly recognised his traits

Gripping and immersive; Sweet William is an intelligently written thriller that deals with the intricacies of the human brain, mixed up with the emotional ties of the family.

Iain Maitland is the acclaimed author of Dear Michael, Love Dad ('intriguing ... heartbreaking' Susie Mesure, Telegraph) a moving book of letters written to his son, who suffered from depression and anorexia.

Iain is an ambassador for Stem4, the teenage mental health charity, and has discussed mental health issues on The One Show.

He lives in Felixstowe

Find out more at
Follow him on Twitter @iainmaitland 

Sweet William is published by Contraband, Saraband's crime fiction imprint, the publishers of Man Booker-shortlisted Graeme Macrea Burnet's His Bloody Project and Falling Fast by Neil Broadfoot and DM for Murder by Matt Bendoris, both shortlisted for Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year

Find out more at
Follow Saraband on Twitter @SarabandBooks 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

My Life In Books - talking to author Caroline England @CazEngland

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 delighted to welcome author Caroline England to Random Things today. Caroline's debut thriller, Beneath The Skin was published by Avon Books on 5 October 2017.

Three women. Three secrets.
Antonia is beautiful and happily married. Her life is perfect. So why does she hurt herself when nobody’s watching?
Sophie is witty, smart and married to the best-looking man in town. She likes a drink, but who doesn’t?
Olivia is pretending to be a happy wife and mother. But her secret could tear her family apart.
Their lies start small, they always do. But if they don’t watch out, the consequences will be deadly.

My Life In Books - Caroline England

The Rattle Bag edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. My copy is pretty battered from dipping in and out over the years. Just opening it now randomly, I’m on page 416. Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc is squashed between a Chinese poet and Emily Dickinson. Coincidentally I had to learn Tarantella for choral verse speaking at school. I’m still almost word perfect! My only complaint about this wonderful poetry collection is the absence of poems by the editors. They both happen to be my favourite poets!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I always intended to read this, but I didn’t get around to it until I watched the recent TV adaptation. I found the novel both enthralling and terrifying on so many levels. But as a person who was sent away to boarding school at eight, what struck me most is the empathy I felt for Offred.

The Camomile Lawn et al by Mary Wesley. I love the fact Mary Wesley wasn’t published until she was seventy. This makes me feel very young after all! I devoured all these books when they were published. I loved the quirky characters and surprisingly risqué storylines.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Do children still read it? They should! It was such a thrilling and romantic story when I was ten or eleven. Oh, the handsome and brooding Mr Rochester and his enduring love for plain Jane!

Case Histories et al By Kate Atkinson. It’s wonderful that a lauded literary writer like Kate Atkinson was happy to turn to crime! I aspire to her blend of contemporary literary and crime fiction in these Jackson Brodie novels. One of the reviews of Case Histories said it was a ‘wonderfully tricky book’. I like that! The television adaptations were great and the casting of Jason Isaacs as the world weary but attractive Jackson was inspired!

Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl. My copy was confiscated at school. There’s no doubt these dark twisty short stories have influenced my own.

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. The one on my bookcase is the annotated copy I studied for my English Lit O Level. I’ve never read it again, but whenever it catches my eye, it evokes such fond memories of my Upper VA classroom and the banter I had with my friends. Most of us had already seen the original film, so there was much discussion of whether one was in the Gabriel Oak or Sergeant Troy camp (or possibly Joseph Poorgrass - what a fabulous name!). A tough choice with such handsome actors, but Alan Bates had the edge. I recently watched the 2015 version. I was prepared to hate the usurper Gabriel, but he wasn’t too bad either!

The Rats et al by James Herbert. I devoured these horror stories as a teenager! They were creepy, very disturbing and stopped me from sleeping, but still I adored them!

Wolf Comes to Town by Denis Manton. This children’s picture book is about a wolf who dresses in human clothing to hoodwink his gullible victims. He steals guitars, saucepans, lamb chops, ice-cream and valuable art. Pet cats began to disappear, then dogs and ducks and finally an obnoxious little boy called Bernard. I must have read this book a million times to my daughters. They were thrilled that the wolf got away!

Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes. Such raw, tender, visual and intriguing poems. Not only do they give insight to the Hughes-Plath relationship, each poem also stands on its own.

Born Yorkshire lass, Caroline studied Law at the University of Manchester and stayed over the border. Caroline was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer and instigated her jottings when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters. In addition to the publication of her short story collection, Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses by ACHUKAbooks, Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a variety of literary publications and anthologies. She was shortlisted for the Impress Prize 2015, in the Pulp Idol 2016 finals and long listed for the UK Novel Writing Competition 2017.Her debut novel, Beneath the Skin, was published by Avon HarperCollins on 5 October 2017. Her second novel My Husband's Lies will be published by Avon HarperCollins on 3 May 2018.

Follow her on Twitter @CazEngland 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson @vintagebooks #TheRedParts @PenguinUKBooks

In 1969, Jane Mixer, a first-year law student at the University of Michigan, posted a note on a student noticeboard to share a lift back to her hometown of Muskegon for spring break. She never made it: she was brutally murdered, her body found a few miles from campus the following day.

The Red Parts is Maggie Nelson’s singular account of her aunt Jane’s death, and the trial that took place some 35 years afterward. Officially unsolved for decades, the case was reopened in 2004 after a DNA match identified a new suspect, who would soon be arrested and tried. In 2005, Nelson found herself attending the trial, and reflecting with fresh urgency on our relentless obsession with violence, particularly against women.

Resurrecting her interior world during the trial – in all its horror, grief, obsession, recklessness, scepticism and downright confusion – Maggie Nelson has produced a work of profound integrity and, in its subtle indeterminacy, deadly moral precision.

The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson was published by Vintage / Penguin UK in paperback on 1 June 2017.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

The Red Parts is a short book at just over 200 pages, but it's a book that has a huge impact. I read it whilst on holiday in Croatia, and whilst it's not a typical 'holiday read', I found the luxury of having time to sit down and read it in almost one sitting really added to the reading experience. It left me feeling quite haunted.

The Red Parts is a true story; a memoir; an autobiography of a trail. A murder trail. In 1969 Jane Mixer, the author's aunt was murdered. Thirty five years later Gary Earl Leiterman was convicted of her murder.  Maggie Nelson had been working on a book about her aunt at exactly the same time that the family learnt that there had been arrest, and in The Red Parts she details both her feelings and the details of the trial.

This is an incredibly intimate book, it feels, at times as though the reader is invading; almost reading a private diary. The author looks at how she and her family dealt with their grief and their anger, and how their emotions were changed and curved as they learnt more about the case. None of them had ever thought that Jane's murderer would be brought to justice and they had believed, along with many others that she was a victim of the serial killer known for committing the "Michigan Murders'.

The Red Parts is a deeply unsettling book. Maggie Nelson writes vividly, and her descriptive prose is fitting and especially relevant to this violent and horrendous crime.  She writes with frightening honesty about an incredibly raw and emotional subject.

Maggie Nelson is a poet, critic and the author of five books of non-fiction. 
Her books include The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial, The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (a New York Times Editor’s Choice) and The Argonauts (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award), as well as four collections of poetry. 

In 2016 she was awarded the MacArthur Genius fellowship. 

She currently lives in Los Angeles.