Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell @Sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks #Exquisite #Teaser #Review

A chilling, exquisitely written and evocative thriller set in the Lake District, centring on the obsessive relationship that develops between two writers...
Bo Luxton has it all - a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.
Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.
When they meet at a writers' retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops... Or does it?
Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell is published by Orenda Books in paperback on 15 June 2017.

Where to start? Where on earth?  Exquisite by Sarah Stovell is a book that took me by surprise, I was absolutely consumed by the story whilst reading it. The plot and the characters still lurk in my head. The voices of both Alice and Bo regularly pop into my mind, I ask myself questions about them, about their story. It’s a book that burrows its way into your soul, and clings on.

Two women, who at first introduction seem so very far apart. Bo, aged forty, is a successful novelist. She lives peacefully by the Lakes in Cumbria with her husband and her two small daughters. She’s confident, successful, intelligent and talented.

Alice, mid-twenties and drifting seems to be the complete opposite. Her boyfriend Jake is slovenly, lazy, keen on daytime parties and drink and drugs. She works, cash-in-hand at a language school. Her life seems to have no direction.

The common theme in Bo and Alice’s lives is writing, and whilst Bo has already carved out a great writing career, Alice can only dream of doing the same. Things may change when Alice is awarded a bursary to attend a Creative Writing course led by Bo.

Bo and Alice meet and immediately, the tension is ratcheted up by this very very talented writer and it soon becomes clear that these two women have another thing in common. They are both very damaged people, with pasts that haunt them and shape them and impact on their present.

What follows is a highly addictive, sophisticated and very twisted psychological thriller. The reader is exposed to the workings of the darkest of minds, and each page presents a question to the reader, although the answers are not always apparent.  The development of the intense and at times, very disturbing relationship that grows between Bo and Alice is so finely done, with some spectacular characterisation and surprising twists. The Lake District setting is beautifully portrayed and the contrast between that and Alice’s home town of Brighton is vividly done.

Throughout the story, the reader knows that something serious will happen, that is clear from the address of one of the narratives, however, it is not until almost the very end that we can be sure of the reliability of the narrators ...... or can we?

Exquisite deserves to be huge in 2017, it is quite extraordinary. At times uncomfortable, often shocking, but always compelling.  Sarah Stovell is hugely talented, Exquisite is an absolute triumph.

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart.

She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. 

Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

How To Be A Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan @NotRollergirl @headlinepg

For fans of Bryony Gordon and Caitlin Moran, a comforting, witty, supportive book for real twenty-something women who want to discover how they can reach the end of the 'fun' decade knowing exactly who they are.
Have you ever felt lost, anxious, panicky about adulthood?
Have you ever spent a hungover Sunday crying into a bowl of cereal?
Have you ever scrolled through Instagram and felt nothing but green-eyed jealousy and evil thoughts?
Award-winning journalist, Grazia agony aunt and real-life big sister to five smart, stylish, stunning twenty-something young women, Daisy Buchanan has been there, done that and got the vajazzle.
In How to be a Grown-Up, she dispenses all the emotional and practical advice you need to negotiate a difficult decade. Covering everything from how to become more successful and confident at work, how to feel pride in yourself without needing validation from others, how to turn rivals into mentors, and how to *really* enjoy spending time on your own, this is a warm, kind, funny voice in the dark saying "Honestly don't worry, you're doing your best and you're amazing!"

How To Be A Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan was published by Headline in paperback on 6 April 2017.

So, I'm fifty years old and I've just read a book called How To Be A Grown Up. Why? Well, the number one reason is because it's written by Daisy Buchanan, and I love her. The daily email from The Pool is one of my joys in life, and when there's a piece written by Daisy in it I know that I will either laugh, sigh or ponder it for most of the day. She's one of those women who I really want to be like (despite the twenty year age gap). She's funny, and bright and oh so honest.

This book should be handed out to every girl as they leave school and enter the world of the 'grown up'. Most of us don't have an older sister who is wise enough, or has the time to tell us where we might go wrong. To let us know that it is OK to make mistakes. To explain about blokes, money, jobs and other women. Daisy does it for us, with wit and down-to-earth honesty.

I cried with laughter and I gulped back a couple of sobs, because it is clear that although Daisy is full of wisdom today, she learned the hard way. She exposes her vulnerabilities, she relates her mistakes, she acknowledges that she's not and has never been, perfect.

Tips, advice, guidance - call it what you like. This book is amazing. Pure Daisy, Wonderful.

Daisy is Grazia UK's resident agony aunt, starting her column Dear Daisy in October 2015 and sharing her wisdom with Grazia's 120,000 readers. She has been writing about twenty-something TV favourite Made in Chelsea for four years, with loyal readers following her from Sabotage Times to the Mirror to Bauer's big 2014 launch The Debrief, racking up over a million page views along the way. Daisy is a frequent fixture in the Guardian's 'most-read' section, covering everything from trying out masturbation apps to hiring a tutor. She's a Telegraph Women columnist, and writes regularly for titles including The Daily MailEsquireGlamourLookMarie ClaireStylistThe Pool and The Sunday Times.
Daisy was named in MHCP's 30 To Watch list in 2015, she won the title Dating Writer of the Year at the 2015 Dating Awards and won the Lifestyle category at the first Words by Women awards. Her internet dating book Meeting Your Match was published in January 2015, and her first book, The Wickedly Unofficial Guide to Made in Chelsea was published as an eBook in Autumn 2013. She's a regular broadcast contributor, appearing on The Today Show, Woman's Hour, Last Word, BBC London, 5 Live Breakfast, London Live and This Morning.
Follow her on Twitter @NotRollergirl

Monday, 24 April 2017

George Clarke's More Amazing Spaces #Giveaway #Competition #Prize @Truedor @MrGeorgeClarke

Published in October to coincide with the launch of the fourth Amazing Spaces series, this second tie-in book showcases more of George Clarke's extraordinary small builds from all over the country. He shows how amazingly unexpected small spaces can be adapted into really workable living areas.
Combining the eccentric and the inspirational with practical information directly from the projects' creators, the book will appeal not only to those dreaming of a get-away & for example in a deceptively cosy tin tent & but to everyone who wants to make the most of the space at home or in the garden, such as converting a basement into a casino. With stunning photography showcasing projects from Series 2 and 3 and highlighting their most intriguing features as well as advice and style tips, the book features more than 20 previously unpublished home, garden, holiday and work spaces.

I'm not going to lie. I have a very large, very soft spot for George Clarke - I love his Channel 4 programme and always watch in amazement and fascination. He discovers the most extraordinary people who make the most incredible places to live in and to work in, and to have fun in.

I'm delighted to be working with Trudor today; George Clarke is their ambassador, to offer one reader of Random Things to opportunity to win a signed copy of George Clarke's latest book; More Amazing Spaces.

It's a beautifully presented hardback book, full of fabulous colour photographs.
The spaces range from a mobile cinema in the back of a Bedford bus to a basement casino.

Also up for grabs is a £20 Amazon Gift Voucher.

Entry is simple, just leave a comment at the bottom of this post and tell me where your favourite space is. UK ENTRIES ONLY PLEASE

George Clarke is an architect, writer, lecturer and TV presenter. He is Creative Director of George Clarke + Partners, which has established a reputation for designing and building high-quality, award-winning projects throughout the UK and abroad. He is passionate about the way architecture can transform our everyday lives, and his aim is to make architecture and design popular and accessible to everyone.
George's TV programmes include Property Dreams, Build a New Life in the Country, Restoration Man and George Clarke's Amazing Spaces. His previous books are Build a New Life, George Clarke's Home Bible and George Clarke's Amazing Spaces.

Friday, 21 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kjell Ola Dahl ~ April 2017 

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

Thursday, 20 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Life In Books ~ Stephanie Butland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephanie Butland ~ April 2017 

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

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

The Disco Boys and THE Band are BACK ... 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And on the subs bench:

David F Ross ~ April 2017

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

Find out more at
Follow him on Twitter @dfr10