Thursday, 22 March 2018

The Fear by CL Taylor @callytaylor #BlogTour @Sabah_K @AvonBooksUK #TheFear

Sometimes your first love won’t let you go…

Lou Wandsworth is used to being headline news as, aged fourteen, she ran away to France with her 31-year-old teacher, Mike Hughes.

Now 32, Lou’s life is in tatters – and she resolves to return home to confront Mike for the damage he has caused. But she soon finds that Mike is unchanged, and is focussing his attention on 13-year-old Chloe Meadows.

Determined to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself, Lou decides to take matters into her own hands. But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as she tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that Lou could once again become his prey…

The Fear by CL Taylor is published by Avon Books in paperback on 22 March 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part on the Blog Tour today.

There are a handful of authors writing at the moment whose books always excite me. CL Taylor is one of them. With her trademark black cover and compelling blurb, there's a definite air of excitement in this house when her latest novel drops through the letterbox.

Although I have really enjoyed all of this author's books, I do think that her writing improves with each and every book, and The Fear is, in my opinion, most certainly her best yet.

The Fear deals with one of the most disturbing themes imaginable; the male authoritative figure who takes advantage of young girls that he is trusted to care for. We know that it happens, but it's rare that this is the subject of a fictional novel, and CL Taylor has dealt with it so cleverly. She pulls no punches when she describes, via Lou's teenage diaries, just how Mike groomed her. The desperate need to be loved and cherished that screams through Lou's diary entries are heartbreaking at times.

Lou is now 32 years old and her experiences as a teen have shaped the rest of her life. She's unable to maintain a relationship and is still looking for that elusive feeling of being loved. She's returned to her childhood home after the death of her father; another man who let her down as a youngster, and despite his attempts to make up for the hurt that he caused, never really redeemed himself in Lou's eyes.

When Lou discovers that Mike, the guy who groomed and abused her all those years ago, is out of prison and up to his old tricks, she is determined to stop him, and to make him pay.
The reader then becomes a witness to Lou's deteriorating state of mind, as she desperately tries to get Chloe; Mike's newest victim and the police to believe her.
Lou has managed to create a life that on the surface appears quite stable and normal but as her fears grow and she realises that Mike is outwitting her at every step, she begins to crumble. Rash decisions and dangerous mistakes time and time again, which the reader witnesses ... and it's often a difficult and disturbing reading experience.

Lou is a brilliantly created character, but she's not the only one. Mike himself is sleezy, dangerous and completely bad, he will make your skin crawl, I can assure you. Nestled between Lou's story is the voice of Wendy; a character who begins as something of a mystery but turns out to be so integral to the plot. CL Taylors's teenage voices are incredibly well done too; both Lou's younger self and Chloe are desperately vulnerable, damaged and flawed.

The explosive scenes towards the end of the story are fast-paced and frantic as these three female characters are brought together to conclude the book with an unexpected but stunning finale.

Once again, CL Taylor has proved that she's up there with the very best of current psychological thriller authors. The Fear is without doubt, her best book yet.

C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and son. She started writing fiction in 2005 and her short stories have won several awards and have been published by a variety of literary and women’s magazines.

In 2014, The Bookseller named C.L. Taylor as one of the year’s Bestselling Adult Fiction Debut Authors for The Accident. The Lie and The Missing were Sunday Times top 10 bestsellers in paperback, and both books hit the #1 spot on the Kindle bestseller list. She has sold 1 million books to date.
Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @callytaylor

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Almost Love by Louise O'Neill @oneilllo @riverrunbooks @QuercusBooks #AlmostLove

When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.
So it doesn't matter that he's twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she's sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.
Sarah's friends are worried. Her father can't understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she's on the verge of losing her job.
But Sarah can't help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.
And love is supposed to hurt.
Isn't it?

Almost Love by Louise O'Neill was published by Riverrun Books / Quercus Books on 1 March 2018.

I admire Louise O'Neill so much, her previous novels, aimed at the young adult market were raw and bleak, but captivating. Her latest novel, Almost Love is aimed at the adult market. Yet again, the theme is dark and chilling and centres around the phrase 'if it doesn't hurt, it's not love.' There can't be many adult women who don't recognise the truth in that sentence and Louise O'Neill's story is full of hurt and longing, and yes, almost love.

Lead character Sarah is a woman who is difficult to like, or to find any empathy for. She's selfish, self-absorbed, obsessed with her own happiness and totally disregarding of anyone else's feelings - no matter who they are. To be close to Sarah would certainly be painful for anyone, and she's not someone who I'd want to be friends with.

However, dig deeper and it becomes clear that Sarah craves happiness, but she doesn't know how to find it, or what it really is.  Not being able to like Sarah as a character does not stop me from adoring her creation, for she really appears real, and the flaws and multitude of mistakes only add to her complexity and depth.

At it's heart, Almost Love is the story of Sarah's affair with Matthew. Their relationship was one-sided, becoming obsessive on Sarah's part, and changing the way that she saw the rest of her life. Her disdain for her hometown and the friends that still lived there and the way that she allowed Matthew to dictate the hows and the whens of the relationship show the level of her ability to self-harm. Whilst the harm may not have been visible to others, like marks on her skin, the damage to her own self-esteem and self-belief is immense.

Almost Love is cleverly structured. Louise O'Neill tells Sarah's story in the 'Now' and the 'Then', allowing her readers to see how the events of 'Then' have impacted on the Sarah of 'Now'. The damage is deep and consuming and stops Sarah from allowing goodness and happiness into her life.

Highly recommended from me. Almost Love is not the easiest of reads. It's unsettling and disturbing in parts, but the insight shown in the wonderful writing is brilliant.

Louise O’Neill was born in west Cork in 1985. She studied English at Trinity College Dublin and has worked for the senior style director of American Elle magazine. While in New York, she also worked as an assistant stylist on a number of high-profile campaigns. Louise has written two award-winning books, Only Ever Yours and her most recent, Asking For It, which won Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. She is currently working as a freelance journalist for a variety of Irish national newspapers and magazines, covering feminist issues, fashion and pop culture. She lives in Clonakilty, west Cork. 

The Fighter by Michael Farris Smith BLOG TOUR @michael_f_smith @noexitpress #TheFighter #RandomThingsTours

From the author of Desperation Road, longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award 2017
The acres and acres of fertile soil, the two-hundred year old antebellum house, all gone. And so is the woman who gave it to him. The foster mother who saved Jack Boucher from a childhood of abandonmnet now rests in a hospice. Her mind mind eroded by dementia, the family legacy she entrusted to Jack is now owned by banks and strangers. And Jack's mind has begun to fail, too, as concussion after concussion forces him to carry around a notebook of names that separate friend from foe.
But in a single twisted night Jack is derailed. Losing the money that will clear his debt with the queen of Delta vice, and forcing Jack into the fighting pit one last time the stakes nothing less than life or death.

The Fighter by Michael Farris Smith is published by No Exit Press on 29 March 2018

As part of the Blog Tour, I'm delighted to share the prologue from The Fighter, I do hope that it tempts you!

When he was two years old the boy was dropped off at the donation
door at the Salvation Army secondhand store in Tunica wearing nothing
but a sagging diaper. A Planet of the Apes backpack stuffed with more
diapers and some shirts and mismatched socks and little green army
men was dropped on the ground next to him. Then a hungover woman
banged a scabbed fist on the metal door and a hungover man blew
the car horn and she ran around and got in as the child watched with a
docile expression. Out of the car window the man called out some sort
of farewell to the child that was lost in the offbeat chug of the engine
and then the foulrunning Cadillac rattled out of the gravel parking lot,
leaving the child in the dustcloud of abandonment.
The door opened and two women in matching red Salvation Army
t-shirts stared down at the boy. Then they looked into the parking lot
at the still lingering cloud. Out into a gray morning sky. They glanced
at each other. And then one said I guess we’re gonna have to hang a
sign next to the one that says no mattresses that says no younguns.
The other woman lifted the boy and held him up beneath his arms as
if to make certain he was made of actual flesh and bone. When she
was satisfied she hugged the child close and rubbed her hand across
the back of his head and she said I pity those who have to live behind
me in this weary and heartless world.
The police were called and while they waited the women washed
the boy in the bathroom sink with paper towels and hand soap. Filthy
feet and filthy hands and the diaper was two changes past due. After
they had wiped him clean and filled the trash can with dirty paper
towels the boy stood naked and fresh on the smooth concrete floor
of the bathroom and they admired his innocence and beauty. He was
then dressed in a new diaper and a Spider-Man shirt taken from a rack
in the kids section. The boy did not cry and did not talk but instead sat
satisfied between the women on a tweed sofa marked fifteen dollars
as if he had already decided that this was his new home and he was
better off.
He was better off but this was the beginning of a childhood spent
in the company of strangers. The next ten years saw him move from
one Delta town to the next. Four foster homes and two group homes.
Five different schools. A handful of caseworkers. Teachers whose
names he could not remember and then stopped trying to remember
because he knew he would not be in their classrooms for long. The
steady and certain build of restlessness and anxiety in this child who
was certain neither where he had come from nor where he was going.
When he was twelve years old the assistant director of the group
home told him to gather his things. Again. He sat on the bench seat
of a white van with the home logo on the side and he watched the
fields of soybeans and cornstalks with sullen eyes as he was driven
from the sleepy, bricked street town of Greenwood to his fifth foster
home. Moving northwest and closer to the great river, to the fringes
of Clarksdale, the once bustling Delta hub of trade and commerce
that now wore the familiar faded expression of days gone by. His eyes
changed when the van pulled into the dirt driveway that led to a twostory
home. A white antebellum with a porch stretching across the
front on the bottom and top floors. Flaking paint on the sun side and
vines hanging in baskets along the porch with their twisted and green
trails swaying in the wind. A woman sat in a rocker and she rose to
meet them. She wore work gloves and she pulled them off and tossed
them on the ground as she approached the van as if readying herself
for whatever might be climbing out.
She took him to his upstairs room and opened the dresser drawers
to show him where he could put his things and he told her there was
no use.
‘I won’t be here long enough to mess up the covers on the bed.’
‘Sure you will,’ she answered.
‘No I won’t,’ he said. A twelve-year old certain of the workings of
the world.
‘Are you gonna run away?’
‘I don’t know. Are you?’
‘Because unless you run away this is where you live now.’
‘So you think.’
‘So I know,’ she said.
‘You don’t know nothing,’ he said and he walked out of the
bedroom and down the stairs and out into the backyard. She stood at
the window and watched him between the slit in the curtains. He did
not stop in the backyard but crossed it and walked out onto the dirt
road that ran on and on between the rows of cotton. The sun high
and a short shadow followed him. She did not chase. She stood in the
window and watched until he was nearly out of sight and she was one
step toward the door to run after him when he stopped. A tiny figure
in the distance.
He stopped and stayed in the same spot for several more minutes
and she could not know that he was talking to himself. Telling
himself I don’t wanna do this no more. I don’t know why I can’t have
somebody. With the space between them she could not have noticed
that he looked back at the big house and said that place right there
don’t want me neither and that woman can’t catch me. I’m gonna
take off running and she won’t never catch me. Won’t nobody. I
don’t wanna do this shit no more. She could not have heard him or
seen him with any detail but she waited. Only could see that he had
stopped. She whispered a prayer without moving her lips as if even the
slightest flutter would spook the boy and send him fleeing on furious
and reckless feet. He stood still talking to himself and she stood still
whispering a quiet and motionless prayer. And then from the distant
sky a hawk flew toward the boy. It flew low and its wings were spread
wide and when it reached the vicinity of the boy it swooped and
seemed to hold there out in front of him. Begging the boy to admire
its eloquence. Begging the boy to notice something other than himself
and his troubles. Begging the boy to think of something other than
running from that woman. The hawk rose and fell again and the boy
saw it and his eyes followed the hawk as it turned long and graceful
curves in the bluewhite sky. From the window Maryann spied the
hawk and she shifted her eyes from sky to land, waiting to see what
the boy would do. The breath she had been holding was let go when
the hawk turned toward the house. And the boy followed.

Please do follow the Blog Tour and check out the reviews and features with the other Bloggers on the Tour:

MICHAEL FARRIS SMITH is a native Mississippian who has spent time living abroad in France and Switzerland. He is the recipient of the 2014 Mississippi Author Award and has been awarded the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship, the Transatlantic Review Award for Fiction, and the Alabama Arts Council Fellowship Award for Literature. 
His short fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his essays have appeared with The New York Times, Catfish Alley, Deep South Magazine, and more. 
He lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife and two daughters. 

Follow him on Twitter @michael_f_smith

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Twin Truths by Shelan Rodger BLOG TOUR @ShelanRodger @DomePress #TwinTruths

What is the truth? And how do you recognise it when you hear it? Jenny and Pippa are twins. Like many twins they often know what the other is thinking. They complete each other. When Pippa disappears Jenny is left to face the world alone, as she tries to find out what happened to her 'other half.' But the truth, for Jenny, can be a slippery thing.

Twin Truths by Shelan Rodger was published by Dome Press on 15 March 2018. I'm really pleased to host the Blog Tour for this fabulous book on Random Things today.

It's almost four years ago since I originally read Twin Truths and it's a story that has stayed with me; here's what I said about it then:

Truths. What is the truth? How do you know if the story you are being told is the truth? Maybe the person who is telling the story thinks it is the truth. Maybe they know that it isn't.

The reader meets Jenny, one of a pair of identical twins, in Argentina where she teaches English. Jenny tells many variations of the truth, depending on who she is talking to, and how much she wants to shock them. Jenny is in therapy, we are not sure why at first, and we certainly don't know if she is telling the truth. She soon ensures that her therapist becomes part of her life in a way that he never intended, but like most people around Jenny, he seems to fall for her stories.

Something bad happened to Jenny, something bad that involved her twin Pippa and when we meet Pippa, we hear her truth. Identical twins, but identical truths? Wait and see!

That's all I can say about the characters and the plot, any more and I'd tell too much.  Twin Truths is a complex, challenging and at times, difficult read. It is a story that examines relationships, devastation, loss and connections, it explores the bond between siblings and most importantly, between twins. That seemingly unbreakable connection that threads itself through everything that these women do.

Shelan Rodger is an author who conjures up evocative pictures with very few words, but each word is carefully chosen to form passages that are quite beautiful.
Twin Truths is a novel that will divide readers. It's difficult, yet satisfying.  A novel that sort of wraps itself around you and doesn't let go until the very last word. 


I'm delighted to welcome the author, Shelan Rodger here to Random Things today, she's written a fabulous piece about 'The Library in Us All';

The library in us all

Every one of us is a library. A library of memories: books that have been read and partially forgotten, books we stumble upon at unexpected moments and remember as we look back through the shelves of time.  If you turned the phases of your life into a library of books, what would the titles be?  

Here are a few of mine, at random, as they occur to me:  
· Petrol-sniffing, Pukamani poles and rain dancing
· Don’t cry for me Argentina
· Love in Egypt
· Stuck 
· Turquoise wedding
· Black cotton and elephants
· Meltdown
· Olive-oiled  

I could go on! Quite a fun exercise actually, and of course, although you would need to know me very well or ask me questions to get under the skin of the titles, for me they are just emotional shorthand – the joy of being one’s own librarian!  

But there are endless other books inside our library that are more secret, the potential selves that lie onion-layered within us. Don’t you have the feeling sometimes that you could have lived another life, or a whole host of other lives? That you could have been (or could still be) a zoologist studying gorillas, or a dramatherapist changing lives in prison, or a blues singer, or a mother, or a Buddhist, or, or, or… And those are just the labels. The core of what lies beyond the labels takes you into a realm of myriad identities and this is one of the things that fascinates me most about the human mind.   

We love to think – are encouraged to think – that there is an essence inside us that defines us: our personal identity … as if there were only one. And yet there is lots of philosophical debate about what identity really is, not to mention research that indicates it’s just an illusion. Which is where I love the metaphor of each of us as a library. Full of books, brimming with books that may or may never be read, every book a possibility in the untapped universe of ‘me’. We are dealt a set of cards and yet what we do with those cards can take us down very different paths. And those paths connect and intersect with all sorts of other paths and forks in the road - each one another possible book. 

It is this fascination with personal identity that fuels the drama of Twin Truths. Jenny, striving to make sense of who she is when the goal posts change, on the slippery search for truth. Twin Truths – two truths: the truth the protagonist has lived and the retrospective truth that is discovered. In the end, which one is more real?  In the end, they are just two of the books in her library.

Shelan’s life is a patchwork of different cultures and landscapes; she was born in northern Nigeria, growing up among the Tiwi - an aboriginal community on an island north of Darwin, and moved to England at the age of eleven. She then travelled to Buenos Aires after graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, and stayed for nine years. Then another chapter in England, followed by six years in Kenya on flower farms by Lake Naivasha and the lower slopes of Mount Kenya.

Now, Shelan lives in Andalucia, Spain. She has learnt in and outside many classrooms around the world, teaching in some of them too. Her professional career has revolved around international education, learning and development, with an emphasis during her time in Kenya on anti-discrimination.

Shelan’s first book, Twin Truths, was published by Cutting Edge Press in 2014, followed by Yellow Room, also in 2015.

As of 2017, The Dome Press acquired the rights to these two titles and Yellow Room was released in October 2017, with Twin Truths following in March 2018.

Monday, 19 March 2018

A Glimmer of Hope by Steve McHugh #BlogTour @StevejMcHugh #GlimmerOfHope

From Steve McHugh, the bestselling author of The Hellequin Chronicles, comes a new urban fantasy series packed with mystery, action, and, above all, magic.
Layla Cassidy has always wanted a normal life, and the chance to put her father's brutal legacy behind her. And in her final year of university she's finally found it. Or so she thinks.
But when Layla accidentally activates an ancient scroll, she is bestowed with an incredible, inhuman power. She plunges into a dangerous new world, full of mythical creatures and menace--all while a group of fanatics will stop at nothing to turn her abilities to their cause.
To protect those she loves most, Layla must take control of her new powers...before they destroy her. All is not yet lost--there is a light shining, but Layla must survive long enough to see it.

A Glimmer of Hope by Steve McHugh is published on 1 April 2018 and is the first of a new urban fantasy series from the author of The Hellequin Chronicles.

I'm delighted to kick off the Blog Tour today for A Glimmer Of Hope. Please do follow the tour, with lots of review and guest features from the author with some of the best book bloggers out there.

I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today, he's talking about the books that are special to him in My Life In Books.

My Life in Books - Steve McHugh

Every author has a collection of books that mean something to them. This can be because they inspired them to become an author, or for a host of other, more personal, reasons. Here are 11 books that are important to me, and a little bit about why.

I could lump all three of these together because each of them opened me to a new genre, a new type of writing, and characters that endure even after all these years, but the actual reason they’re on the list is a bit more personal.
When I was 13, my teacher told me to go to the school library and find a few books to read for my English assessment. I picked Legend and Men at Arms. That night I went to the library and picked up It. Those three books were at least part of what made me want to be an author.

Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld were one of the first urban fantasy books I read back in the early 2000s. And it was just a series that I loved reading. On a more personal note, I joined Kelley’s online writing group in 2004 and that was when I started to get serious about becoming an author. It was a group that I credit with helping me get to where I am today.

One of my favourite stories ever, and probably the greatest anime ever. The manga is a phenomenal read too, but either way, it’s a story that has so many parts that stick with you for a long time. Also, the Elric brothers are two of my favourite characters in anything, ever.

Greg got me reading Batman. It’s that simple. I never thought that someone would take Batman and essentially turn it into an almost noir crime story. It’s my favourite run on the character.

I’ve read a lot of historical fiction over the years, but Azincourt is the one that made me want to write about the time period (and I did in Crimes Against Magic). It’s a phenomenal book.

I could populate this list with pretty much just Terry books to be honest. Good Omens is just a book that I read as a teenager and just loved it to bits. It’s one of my favourite books ever, and still makes me smile and laugh even after having read it so many times.

I love a good post-apocalyptic story, and this is one of the best. Mostly though it’s just the characters that stay with you. And it’s so hopeful, that you come away feeling good about the end of the world.

Jack Reacher is one of my favourite characters in Literature. And the Killing Floor was where the series started. I’ve gotten so much fun out of reading these books.

I know this is a bit of a cheat, but I couldn’t pick. Gail is one of my favourite comic book writers, and has been for years. Secret Six is one of the funniest series I’ve ever read, with wonderful characters I adore reading about, but Birds of Prey is phenomenal. Oracle is one of the greatest characters ever in the DC universe, and Gail writes her wonderfully. They’re series I never missed an issue of, and I remember them with a lot of fondness.

So, that’s it. 12 books from a wide variety of styles, genres, and even medium, and I could have picked 12 more without any problems, but then I’d have been here all week and this would be hundreds of pages long.

Every writer here is worth your time to read, and if you’ve never heard of any of them, or you think it might not be for you, give them a chance, they might surprise you.

Steve McHugh - March 2018 

Steve's been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up 'One boy and his frog' was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A.

It wasn't for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel, the result of which is Crimes Against Magic.

He was born in a small village called Mexborough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton.

Twitter @StevejMchugh