Monday, 11 December 2017

Blackmail, Sex and Lies by Kathryn McMaster @TrueCrimeNovels #BlogTour @rararesources



Blackmail, Sex and Lies is a story of deception, scandal, and fractured traditional Victorian social values. It is the tale of a naïve, young woman caught up in a whirlwind romance with a much older man. However, both have personality flaws that result in poor choices, and ultimately lead to a tragic end.
For 160 years, people have believed Madeleine Smith to have been guilty of murder. But was she? Could she have been innocent after all?
This Victorian murder mystery, based on a true story, takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, 1857. It explores the disastrous romance between the vivacious socialite, Madeleine Hamilton Smith, and her working class lover, Pierre Emile L’Angelier.
After a two-year torrid, and forbidden relationship with L’Angelier, that takes place against her parents' wishes, the situation changes dramatically when William Minnoch enters the scene. This new man in Madeleine’s life is handsome, rich, and of her social class. He is also a man of whom her family approve.
Sadly, insane jealous rages, and threats of blackmail, are suddenly silenced by an untimely death.


Blackmail, Sex and Lies by Kathryn McMaster was published earlier this year and is available to buy from Amazon UK and also Amazon US - my thanks to the author who sent my copy for review, and to Rachel from Rachel's Random Resources who invited me to take part in this tour.

Recently, I've read quite a few novels based on real events, and Blackmail, Sex and Lies by Kathryn McMaster is another fictionalised story based on true facts that I've enjoyed very much. I was actually surprised by how much I liked this book, as historical fiction is rarely my first choice.

Set in the nineteenth century in Glasgow the story details the love affair and murder trail featuring Madeleine Hamilton Smith and Pierre Emile L'Angelier. Theirs was an affair that was doomed from the very start. Madeleine; a rich girl from a high-class family and working-class Pierre could never have been accepted in society as a couple.

Using real letters, Kathryn McMaster has cleverly created the story of this scandal. Young Madeleine; stubborn and determined to have what she wants, and Pierre; desperate to climb the social ladder with seduction and flattery as his tools.



When, finally, Madeleine realises that their affair is doomed, she breaks it off. She also has a new beau. However, Pierre remains determined to gain back her affections and continues to harass and pester her.  It is a known fact that Pierre regularly takes arsenic, for medicinal reasons and the reader finds out that Madeleine has purchased the poison on many occasions. When Pierre is found dead, it is Madeleine who is the main suspect.

The use of the real letters allows the reader a fascinating insight into the minds of the main characters. And what incredibly colourful characters they are!

Blackmail, Sex and Lies is very well written, the characters are lively and very well created and the plot is tense and intriguing.

A very enjoyable and thought provoking story. Fans of both historical fiction and true crime will enjoy this.




Kathryn McMaster is a writer, entrepreneur, wife, mother, and champion of good indie authors. She co-owns the book promotion company One Stop Fiction (www.onestopfiction.com), where readers can sign up to receive news of free and discounted 4 and 5 star reviewed books. 
She is also a bestselling author of historical murder mysteries set in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. 
Her debut novel, "Who Killed Little Johnny Gill?" was well received. 
All her novels are based on true stories, and she melds fact with fiction, writing in the creative nonfiction style. 
She lives on her 30 acre farm in the beautiful Casentino Valley, Italy for 6 months of the year, and during the other half of the year, on the small island of Gozo, Malta.


Find out more at www.kathrynmcmaster.com 
Follow her on Twitter @TrueCrimeNovels
Find her Author page on Facebook 




Thursday, 7 December 2017

Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir - translated by Quentin Bates @lilja1972 @graskeggur @OrendaBooks #Snare



A stunning thriller the first in the Reykjavik Noir series - by bestselling Icelandic crime writer, with an unforgettable lesbian protagonist. 

After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonya is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonya embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavik still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.



Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 1 October 2017 and was translated from Icelandic by Quentin Bates.

A snare is a trap from which it is difficult to escape. This book certainly lives up to its name. I was caught in Lilja Sigurdardottoir's trap from the very first paragraph and she kept me captive until I turned the final page. This is one hell of a story, a mind blowing read.

Lead character Sonja is ensnared, she's caught up in a seedy, dangerous underworld. Smuggling cocaine into Iceland in order to save enough money to get her beloved son back from his father; her estranged husband.
This author describes the snare vividly, not just dealing with operational aspects of the smuggling process but dealing with Sonja's desperation and determination too. Sonja's life is tangled and complicated. Her son Tomas is living with Adam, her ex husband, who is doing everything he can to make sure that Sonja and Tomas' relationship is not easy.

Also on the scene is Agla; the disgraced banker who is facing prosecution for her part in the downfall of the Icelandic financial sector. She's also the reason that Sonja and Adam are no longer married.

Whilst Snare is just a short book at around 220 pages, I felt as though I had travelled to Iceland many times, I experienced the tension of the customs checks at the airport and the huge relief as Sonja escaped detection, time and time again. It is the fact that as a reader I was backing Sonja all of the way, despite the fact that she was mixed up in highly illegal activities, that proves how well this author can write. She's created a character in Sonja that defies my logic; she's a warm, loving mother who cares for those closest to her, and helps her neighbour, yet she doesn't think twice about allowing an innocent person to take the blame, and a possible jail sentence so that she can escape.

The reader is also treated to the wonderful Bragi. Nearing retirement age, Bragi is a customs officer. He is a beautifully crafted character, with a deep deep sadness that makes him so incredibly realistic. As he sits alongside his wife of over 50 years, who no longer knows him, due to her dementia; and brushes her hair and feeds her porridge, my heart almost broke. Yet he too, has a steely determination that runs through him, and he may have met his match in Sonja.

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






Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. 

An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. 

Lilja has a background in education and has worked in evaluation and quality control for preschools in recent years. 

She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

For more information visit www.liljawriter.com
Follow her on Twitter @lilja1972









Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Talking to #Author Gill Paul about Working From Home @GillPaulAUTHOR



I'm delighted to welcome author Gill Paul to Random Things today. Gill is an old friend of Random Things. I've read and reviewed a few of her books on the blog.
Her latest book is Another Woman's Husband, published by Headline on 2 November 2017, I read and reviewed it here on Random Things last month

How to Work from Home and Stay Sane
I’ve been working from home for over twenty years and it suits me to a tee. I concentrate better without folk chattering by the KitKat machine, and I love the freedom from commuting and clocking in. Early on I decided to be very disciplined about getting to the desk at nine every morning, wearing actual clothes (I can’t get into work mode while in a dressing gown), and not skiving off to munch ginger nuts while watching Loose Women or Countdown. As bosses go, I’m pretty strict. 
The isolation can have its downsides, though, and a major one is coping with bad news on your own. If you work in an office and a customer rings to complain, you can roll your eyes and make faces to colleagues then have a bitch after you hang up. If they share their own stories of imbecilic customers you soon you feel a whole lot better. But if there’s negative feedback when you work from home, it’s easy to brood and decide you’re a failure. That’s why you need a little network of home-working pals in the same industry whom you can email for advice and TLC. Not all day, every day, but when the need arises. 
It’s not just the negatives: how do you know if you’re doing well? More often than not, you don’t hear if customers are happy so no news is good news. But us sensitive home workers are more needy than most, especially if we’re in creative professions. When praise is not forthcoming, or not fulsome enough for our fragile egos, we start analysing the nuances in emails. Is there a hint of criticism? Why does this one end with a ‘Yours’ rather than ‘Best wishes’ or even ‘Love’? Time to take a deep breath, tell yourself you’re fabulous, and carry on. 
In an office you have co-workers to compare yourself with, but at home all you can do is trawl online. For authors this can lead to the slippery slope of comparing your Amazon ranking and number of reviews with those of other authors. If you’re an eBay or Etsy seller, it means checking your competitors’ satisfaction rating. Take it from one who knows: that way madness lies. I set rules about how often I’m allowed to check my rankings or read reviews, and it’s never more than once a day. If a Tweet or Facebook post pops up about another author’s success, I congratulate them straight away, which helps to mitigate the envy. 
Social media is clearly a huge danger for home workers, who might otherwise go hours without any human contact. When I reach a sticking point in my writing, it’s tempting to check what’s trending on Twitter. Hands up, I don’t always resist, but wandering through to make a cup of tea is a better option because I can stay immersed in the novel while waiting for the kettle to boil. My self-imposed rule is to restrict social media to first thing in the morning, lunchtime and the end of the day. But clearly I can’t possibly stick to that if something exciting is going on, like royal couples getting engaged or an irresistible discussion on Book Connectors. 
Another danger of home working is that you don’t get any fresh air and sunlight, especially in winter. I combat this by swimming daily, year-round, in an outdoor pond; but with a water temperature that’s currently 5C, it’s not everyone’s drug of choice. It works for me because I can think about writing while in the water and while walking there and back, and I get a little social interaction with the other swimmers (eccentric souls to a one). 
Finally, home-workers should try to be disciplined about clocking off from work and having an actual life. Without a line manager to oversee your workload, it’s easy to take on too much and run yourself ragged. Know your limits and just say no if a customer suddenly quadruples their order or moves the deadline forward unrealistically. It’s tempting to check emails at bedtime, or nip in to reread a chapter you’ve just written, or fire out a few last Tweets. But it means you go to bed brooding about work, which could well be at the root of my appalling sleep patterns. I’m prone to working seven-day weeks, which is bad for the soul and makes you a tedious dinner-party guest.
So these are my tips on working from home and staying sane – I’ll let others be the judge of whether I’m managing.
Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in relatively recent history. Her new novel, Another Woman’s Husband, is about links you may not have been aware of between Wallis Simpson, later Duchess of Windsor, and Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Secret Wife, published in 2016, tells the story of the romance between cavalry officer Dmitri Malama and Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second daughter of Russia’s last tsar, who met in 1914. Gill’s other novels include Women and Children First, about a young steward who works on the TitanicThe Affair, set in Rome in 1961–62 as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fall in love while making Cleopatra; and No Place for a Lady, about two Victorian sisters who travel out to the Crimean War of 1854–56 and face challenges beyond anything they could have imagined.
Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A History of Medicine in 50 Objects and series of Love Stories, each containing fourteen tales of real-life couples: how they met, why they fell for each other, and what happened in the end. Published around the world, this series includes Royal Love Stories, World War I Love Stories and Titanic Love Stories.
Gill was born in Glasgow and grew up there, apart from an eventful year at school in the US when she was ten. She studied Medicine at Glasgow University, then English Literature and History (she was a student for a long time), before moving to London to work in publishing. She started her own company producing books for publishers, along the way editing such luminaries as Griff Rhys Jones, John Suchet, John Julius Norwich, Ray Mears and Eartha Kitt. She also writes on health, nutrition and relationships.
Gill swims year-round in an open-air pond – “It’s good for you so long as it doesn’t kill you”– and is a devotee of Pilates. She also particularly enjoys travelling on what she calls “research trips” and attempting to match-make for friends.
For more information visit www.gillpaul.com
Follow her on Twitter @GillPaulAUTHOR



The Saturday Letters by Jill Treseder . @Jill_Treseder @BrookCottagebks #BlogBlitz





When Henrietta finds herself excluded from seeing her grandchildren, she decides to write to them to explain their Afro-Caribbean origins in slavery.
She tells the story of her childhood in Bermuda, of marrying a British soldier, bringing up six children in Gibraltar and moving to England on her husband’s retirement from the army. Writing the letters reveals unexpected and challenging truths about herself and her family, which give her food for reflection.
Do her grandchildren ever receive the letters? And if so, how true a picture of their grandmother and family do they paint?











The Saturday Letters by Jill Treseder is published by sBooks on 21 November 2017.

As part of the Blog Blitz, organised by Brook Cottage Books, I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her, in My Life In Books.




My Life In Books - Jill Treseder 

Little Women by Louisa M Alcott
A childhood favourite set at the time of the American Civil War. The March girls became the sisters I didn’t have. I wanted to be feisty Jo, especially because she was a writer. I totally identified with the family, cried when Jo cut off her hair, was inconsolable when Beth died, fancied Laurie and wanted boys (like Jo in Jo’s Boys) which I eventually did have, as well as becoming a writer.

The Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat
Another tale set at a time of civil war – this time in England with the Roundheads and Cavaliers. We lived near the New Forest so I could imagine the setting. It was a great crossover story from childhood adventuring to adult love with a good dose of history thrown in. I was captivated by life in the forest, by the characters of Patience and Pablo, the gypsy boy, and by the relationship between Patience and Edward – my first glimpse of romance maybe!

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
A ground-breaking study which came out in the early sixties when I was a student. The white author changes his skin colour in order to experience life as a black American. I found it profoundly shocking at a time when I not only knew nothing about discrimination and segregation, but had no inkling that my great-great-grandmother was a Barbadian slave. My mother wouldn’t discuss the book with me – small wonder as she was intent on keeping these origins a secret. It certainly influenced me forty-five years later – when I discovered this heritage – to write the novel The Hatmaker’s Secret and the novella The Saturday Letters, both of which are based on my family history.



Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
I read this as a ‘new housewife’ and it taught me the lesson “I can” in a practical way. When the vacuum cleaner went wrong, I remembered Pirsig showing his son how to mend his motorbike with a sardine can (or similar). Instead of calling for a maintenance man, I took the hoover apart and worked out how to fix it. It’s a lesson I still call to mind.

Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White
This novel took me into another kind of world. Not just Australia, but into an altered state of consciousness. Extraordinary and complex characters are powerfully drawn against a backdrop of sensuous descriptions which conjure a vivid sense of place. They come from diverse backgrounds, all outsiders in their different ways, but converge and share a spiritual vision and great compassion.

The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
A book of loss and pain, love and tenderness in a surreal world. Three orphaned children, one of them coming of age, a woman silenced by her abusive husband, incestuous love. I can still feel the cold harshness of Aunt Margaret’s jewelled silver collar which prevents her eating the feast she has prepared. My memory is of a dark tale with no happy ever after, but where love and beauty survive and triumph over cruelty.



Small Island by Andrea Levy
I wanted everyone to read this in order to understand the plight of West Indians who came to this country after the war (and indeed since). Wonderful characters – I was mesmerised by the writer’s skill in creating their very individual voices – great humour and skilful evocation of the clash of cultures and expectations both generally and within marriage. Hortense, Queenie and Gilbert are with me still.

Saturday by Ian McEwan
My novels tend to span decades or centuries and I was impressed that a novel could be so neatly and effectively contained within twenty-four hours and yet cover global issues, convincing relationships, moral dilemmas and the meaning of life.

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin
Again a learning experience for my own writing. I was always afraid the reader would be bored if there wasn’t enough external action. But this novel is concerned with the process of grief and takes place almost entirely in the inner world of the bereaved Nora in the context of her immediate family. And it works. But then that’s Colm Toibin!



And I really want to give these at least a mention

Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole; 
The World According to Garp by John Irving
Tess of the d’Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
Middlemarch by George Eliot; 
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf; 
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver; 
On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry; 
The Road Home and The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain




Jill Treseder was born in Hampshire and lived all her childhood in sight of the sea on the Solent and in Devon, Cornwall and West Wales. 

She now lives with her husband in Devon overlooking the River Dart.

After graduating from Bristol with a degree in German, Jill followed careers in social work, management development and social research, obtaining a PhD from the School of Management at the University of Bath along the way.

Since 2006 she has focused on writing fiction. 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jill.treseder 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jill_Treseder 
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7919007.Jill_Treseder
Blog: http://www.jilltresederwriter.com 
Author: http://www.jilltresederwriter.com 
Publisher: http://sbooks.co.uk





Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Child by Fiona Barton @figbarton @TransworldBooks . #TheChild #Review




When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.

For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

The Child’s story will be told.












The Child by Fiona Barton is published in paperback by Transworld on 14 December 2017, my thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Back in January 2016, I reviewed Fiona Barton's first novel, The Widow, here on Random Things. I enjoyed it very much, especially the insightful way that the author delves into the world of newspaper reporting.

Kate Waters, the reporter from The Widow is back in this second story. She's investigating the mystery surrounding the discovery of a child's skeleton, buried in the garden of a terraced house, and uncovered by contractors who are developing the site.

This shocking discovery sets many wheels in motion and it is not only bones that are uncovered. Narrated by the women most affected by the finding, The Child is a complex and cleverly told story that kept me guessing right up to the last chapter.

The voices of Angela, Emma, Margaret, and of course, Kate are realistic and expertly done. As each women voices her fears and thoughts about the child's remains, their stories become cleverly woven together.

This author's experience as a journalist shines through in her writing and it is refreshing to see a newspaper reporter portrayed as someone with empathy and heart, instead of the stereotypical heartless hacks that are so often involved in a crime fiction. Kate is multi-layered and whilst she is ambitious and determined to keep her job, she is also caring and considerate to those who are involved in this tragic tale.

Whilst I really enjoyed The Widow, I absolutely loved The Child. Fiona Barton's writing seems more polished, her plot is secure and her characterisation is wonderfully done.  This is a sharp, cleverly crafted, complex story that delivers shocks and twists along the way. Entirely compelling, delivered in short, sharp chapter bursts with a reveal that is quite haunting.

Highly recommended, I look forward to Fiona Barton's next book.






Fiona Barton's debut, The Widow, was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and has been published in thirty-five countries and optioned for television. Her second novel, The Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller. Born in Cambridge, Fiona currently lives in south-west France.

Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at the Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards.

While working as a journalist, Fiona reported on many high-profile criminal cases and she developed a fascination with watching those involved, their body language and verbal tics. Fiona interviewed people at the heart of these crimes, from the guilty to their families, as well as those on the periphery, and found it was those just outside the spotlight who interested her most . . .


Find out more at www.fionabartonauthor.com
Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @figbarton








Monday, 4 December 2017

Water & Glass by Abi Curtis @AbiCurtisWriter @midaspr #BlogTour @CLBPressUK




In the lower depths of a massive submarine, ship's zoologist Nerissa Crane takes an ultrasound of a heavily pregnant Asian elephant.  The elephant conceived off-ship but, it transpires, was forced on board - along with Nerissa and a hastily assembled collection of humans and animals - by an apocalyptic environmental disaster that has flooded the earth. Nerissa is calm and solitary in her work and in navigating the trauma of her husband's presumed death in the floods; but when one of her animal charges escapes, she is reluctantly forced to enter the ship's thrown-together communal world where she uncovers a shocking conspiracy that causes her to question who and what she is.    Water & Glass is a thrilling dystopian tale about human nature - and the animal world - under great pressure and in enclosed spaces.





Water And Glass by Abi Curtis was published on 30 November by Cloud Lodge Books. I'm delighted to share an extract from the book as part of the Blog Tour arranged by Midas PR.

The Baleen

Nerissa watches the monitor. 
A wraith hangs there in the grey-green static, mournful face closed, giving up no secrets. She looks at the feet, noting their development. The heartbeatpips steadily, turned down low. This life is just beginning. Nerissa doesn’t know how it will fare here, aboard the Baleen, below decks in the dark blue light.   
Reva shuffles as the transducer rolls over the rough, grey skin of her abdomen. Her legs move like classical columns slowly shifting against the wooden boards. 
Shhh,” Nerissa soothes, running a hand down Reva’s trunk. Reva plants her wet mouth against her arm. Seven months to go. Reva has been carrying this baby for fifteen months already, twelve months before they boarded the Baleen. So patient. Nerissa wonders if she knows instinctively what is forming inside her. She eyes the sonogram a little longer, the short trunk, the ghostly, hollow eyes. She tries not to dwell on the day when Reva will finally give birth, hoping it will not be here on the wooden deck, the other creatures curious and afraid around her, listening to her deep moans. They had only managed to bring two
elephants with them, both female, one African, one Asian. The African died a month ago. 
Nerissa could not determine the cause, partly because she did not have all of the equipment she needed for an autopsy. She wondered if the elephant knew she shouldn’t be here, below the ocean, that she recognised the plains of her homeland were submerged and felt herself to be drowning. They had to heave the silver body into the ocean. She thinks of it resting on the sea-bed now, like a beautiful fallen oak. The largest creature aboard the Baleen now gone. 
Perhaps one day, they could do something with the DNA sample Nerissa keeps safely labelled in the freezer. Perhaps not; such science no longer exists, and many backward steps have already been taken. She pats Reva, who gives a low rumble and settles back into her pen. 

Nerissa hoists herself up the creaking steps, and back into her workroom. The place is something between a veterinary surgery and a makeshift laboratory, entered through a low, oval door. The floors are rough wooden boards, hastily pushed together and varnished. Along one wall is a white, polished countertop, with two steel sinks set into it, and Formica cupboards underneath. A steel table is in the centre, with leather straps for restraining larger animals, or keeping them steady if the waves are rough. Nerissa has a variety of monitors, some salvaged from hospitals, others from an old consulting room. There are two computers, one for admin work, another larger one for displaying x-rays, sonograms, cardiographs. She’s grateful for the taps that filter the seawater, and the hot tap that works intermittently. 
Nerissa connects her portable transducer to the large screen, watches the images load. She notes each measurement, thinking about what to name the calf. "Shem” for a boy, “Ruth” for a girl? 

Nerissa works mostly alone, her clients the animals themselves, shifting on the deck beneath. Her past life is only a few months behind her, but it feels like a decade ago. It seems an age since the bungles and triumphs of her training: poring over textbooks with images of organs and veins, blue and red and labelled in an unfamiliar language. She remembers the first animal she worked on, with its tiny beating heart, how it died in a quiver on the table; the
first that came back to life, stitched up and wagging. She gained experience whilst she studied by volunteering at a clinic not far from the college. She cycled to work each day with the sea breeze salting her face, never knowing quite what the hours might bring: a deer snagged on a fence, panicky and beautiful; a parakeet, stubbornly flapping in the corner of the consulting room; a thin, knowing stray, submitting to her touch. She had never got used to
putting an animal down, to the owner burying their hands and face into its furry neck and weeping their goodbye. But she had loved bringing the rag-tag queue passing through the surgery back to health, back to being with their owners who more often than not loved them as they would love a child. 
She found herself drawn more and more to stranger animals: sly salamanders, rolled up hedgehogs, leverets with their long, alien limbs. Whilst many of her clients thought of their pets as human, she fell in love with creatures for their difference from humans. The way an owl sees the edges of the world, and lives for the darkness, or the way a dog can smell the invisible guilt on a person. The opportunities came for exploration, volunteering. 
Her work took her to Asia where she encountered canny orang-utans in the forests of Borneo. Then she had met Greg and learned to dive. Greg with his clever eyes, with his way of touching her lightly on the back on the neck, to ease her fears before she dove in. It was Greg who had introduced her to the hump-backed whales. They were ancient, like slow-moving cities from past centuries. She had to overcome her phobia of water to dive with them, her legs trembling
in the grey-blue shadows. One had passed close by, a dark eye swivelling; she felt the suck of the current as it went. She saw barnacles freckling its skin. She felt great joy in its total dismissal of her, as if for a moment she were without body or soul and did not have to fear again. 
That was before her time at the Institute, and before the floods had truly come. Before she had made her choice.






Abi Curtis is Professor of Creative Writing at York St. John University and is an award-winning poet. 
In 2004, she received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. Her first poetry collection Unexpected Weather was published after winning the Crashaw Poetry Prize in 2008, and in 2013 Curtis received a Somerset Maugham Award for her second poetry collection The Glass Delusion. 
Water & Glass is her first novel.

Find out more at www.abicurtis.com
Follow her on Twitter @AbiCurtisWriter 








Sunday, 3 December 2017

One Pound Meals : Delicious Food For Less by Miguel Barclay @onepoundmeals @headlinepg @KatieVEBrown @Phoebe_Swinburn



Over 80 super-simple and tasty recipes that will save you both time and money. Here is delicious food for less.
So much more than cheap dinner ideas - here are meals that cost under a pound but look and taste a million dollars! Recipes for the whole family without breaking the bank.
Instagram chef sensation Miguel Barclay is taking the world by storm with his delicious meals that cost less than £1 per person.
'I've always loved cooking but I'm not a fan of needlessly over-complicated recipes that waste time and money.
So I've created my own style of cooking: simple ingredients, straightforward recipes and mouthwatering meals, all on a budget.
Now you can eat the food you love - from meatball marinara to chicken katsu curry, lamb moussaka to aubergine dal - all for under £1 per person.'
Miguel's easy-to-follow, ready-in-minutes recipes are for a single serving, and can all be cooked for under £1 per person - just multiply them up for more servings.




One Pound Meals by Miguel Barclay was published in paperback by Headline earlier this year.

I've been following Miguel Barclay on Instagram for over a year now; he produces gourmet recipes for less than £1 per person, and they are amazing.
In a few months, Miguel had amassed over 135,000 Instagram followers, with each video seen by 25,000 viewers in less than an hour, and he has appeared on national television to demo his recipes. In his book, One Pound Meals, Miguel has created a collection of beautiful recipes, the majority of which are brand new to the book, all for £1 or less.

OK, so I've tried lots of these recipes and it was my intention to take photographs to share on this blog post.  There are no photographs, for two reasons. The first is that I just don't 'do' presentation very well and the second is that we just ate the food, we devoured it!

The Chicken Katsu Curry is delicious and tasty and it's ready in minutes - honestly, it's minutes, not hours!  My Prawn Wanton Soup was so tasty, but sadly it looked nothing like Miguel's!



Miguel was initially fascinated with stripping back dishes to their core ingredients, interested only i maximising flavour while minimising the components. During the process, he noticed how the prices of his dishes were decreasing, cooking times were reduced, and recipes simplified as he discarded unnecessary ingredients.
Thus One Pound Meals was created. Quick, simple and full of flavour, there are recipes for every one and every occasion from an aubergine dal to fish cakes, beef lasagne and chicken and mushroom pie.

With savvy supermarket shopping swaps and time-saving tips, One Pound Meals makes cooking quicker, easier and tastier, and with less waste.
One Pound Meals includes:
* Lasagne
* Crab mac & cheese
* Chicken katsu curry
* Pork chop in a mustard & leek sauce
* Spaghetti carbonara
* Mushroom risotto
* Quiche lorraine
* Aubergine dal & chapati
* Scotch Egg
* Ultimate £1 burger
* Ham & mushroom pizza
* Pancake stack


Another great Christmas gift idea - foodies and those who are on a tight budget, and pushed for time will love this book.






Instagram chef Miguel Barclay loves thinking about recipes. 
After spending years working in restaurant kitchens, he took the professional skills he learned there to deconstruct recipes, obsessively testing and experimenting to work out the core ingredients of classic dishes.
Miguel has appeared on BBC News, ITV News and This Morning demonstrating his recipes, and he is enormously interested in reducing food waste - both for economic and environmental reasons.
One Pound Meals is his first cookery book

Follow him on Twitter @onepoundmeals
Find him on Instagram @onepoundmeals



Friday, 1 December 2017

The Party by Robyn Harding @simonschusterUK @harriett_col #TheParty



Sweet sixteen. It's a coming of age, a milestone, a rite of passage. Of course Jeff and Kim Sanders will throw a party for their daughter, Hannah. She's a good kid with good grades and nice friends. And it isn't going to be a big, indulgent affair. Just four girls coming over for pizza and cake, movies and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?

But things do go wrong, horrifically wrong. After a tragic accident, Jeff and Kim's flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb begins to unravel. The injured girl's mother, Lisa, files a lawsuit that turns friends into enemies, reveals dark secrets in the Sanders' marriage, and exposes the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah. Lisa's determination to make the Sanders pay stems from a fierce love for her only child and Lisa's own dark and damaged past.

In The Party, Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap meets Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies, taking us behind the façade of the perfect family, exploring the secrets, betrayals, and moral lapses the neighbors don't see.



The Party by Robyn Harding was published in paperback by Simon & Schuster on 5th October 2017, my thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.


The Party opens with a bang when sixteen-year-old Hannah Sanders stands at the end of her parents' bed, covered in blood and crying. It's her birthday.

The novel continues at a hectic pace and is narrated in turn by Hannah, her parents Jeff and Kim and Lisa; the mother of one of Hannah's friends. I'm a fan of the multiple narrative and this worked especially well in The Party, enabling the reader to get some insight into the minds of the characters.
Oh what characters they are! Not a likeable one amongst them; selfish and self-centred, dismissive of others and defensive of their flaws; this certainly is a nasty crowd.

The incident at Hannah's Sweet Sixteen party doesn't just affect the injured party, it blows open a whole lorry load of worms. It's clear that Kim and Jeff's marriage, whilst glossy and perfect on the surface, is fractured and on the verge of disaster. Hannah is a girl who is prepared to do anything to be accepted by the in-crowd and her friendships are superficial and shaky.

The Party is not a crime thriller or a mystery, it's a completely riveting reveal into a family who lie to each other, and to themselves. It's a tense and intense look at relationships and beliefs and whilst there were times that I got a little fed up with the legal aspect of the aftermath of the party, there's enough of a story to keep the reader turning the pages.

The Party is a reminder to parents that their children often learn from the things that are hidden, and sometimes know much more than they tell you.
A well written story, with characters to loathe!






Robyn Harding is the author of several books and has written and executive produced an independent film.


She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband and two children.

Find out more at www.robynharding.com
Find her Author page on Facebook











Thursday, 30 November 2017

Hull Noir - Crime Fiction Festival @HullNoir #CrimeFiction






The weekend of 17 -19th November saw Martin and I pack our bags and take the M180 to Hull, for the first ever Hull Noir Crime Fiction Festival.

Along the way, we stopped at Humberside Airport to collect author Nic Parker who had flown in from Germany especially for the event.  We arrived at the Royal Hotel in the centre of Hull to find a hotel buzzing with authors, bloggers and publisher, along with lots of members of the public. The atmosphere was great, the weather was cold but bright ...  it was the start of a fabulous weekend.

Organised by authors Nick Quantrill and Nick Triplow, along with Nicky East; the Hull Noir Festival celebrated the best of British and international crime fiction. As part of  Tell The World, the fourth season of this year's UK City of Culture celebrations, Hull was proud to play host to Iceland Noir on their bi-annual travels from the festival's home, Hull's twin city of Reykjavik.





Nick was in conversation with novelist Cathi Unsworth, talking about Lewis, his life and work, and continued influence on crime writing.

Friday night was spent in the bar, no surprises there!  It was fabulous to catch up with Karen Sullivan and her authors, and also to spend time with fellow bloggers including the awesome, Queen of Crime Bloggers Noelle Holten from CrimeBookJunkie, Rachel Emms from Chillers, Killers & Thrillers, Jen from Jen Med Books Reviews and of course, my partner Blogger in Residence, Susan Heads from The Book Trail.

Saturday was a packed day of panels, and the anticipation for the first one was great. The room was buzzing as we settled down for Panel One: Sleeping With The Fishes : Hull v Iceland.

David Mark, Lilja Sigurdardottir and Quentin Bates, chaired by Nick Quantrill. The panel looked at the style, influence and distinctions and conflicts of Hull and Iceland as locations and inspirations for crime writing.


I had to miss the second panel as Noelle and I were interviewing Martina Cole!  Yes, THE Martina Cole - Queen of Crime, who is celebrating twenty five years as a best selling author. She was amazing and my write up of the interview is coming very soon.

After the excitement and laughter of spending time with Martina Cole, we were back in the conference room for Panel Three; Into The Darkness - the new noir.
As eras come and go and each generation defines itself by the writing that came before, Jake Arnott, Emma Flint, Joseph Knox and Cathi Unsworth looked at the challenge of writing contemporary noir fiction and the power of historical setting.

The final panel of the evening, and taking star billing was the incredible Martina Cole. The audience were all a buzz as they waited for her to step onto the stage.
The most borrowed author in prison libraries; the most shoplifted from British bookshops; best-selling Queen of British crime fiction, Martina Cole celebrates the 25th anniversary of the publication of her first novel, Dangerous Lady, in the company of critic, author and crime fiction aficionado, Barry Forshaw.
What an amazing woman she is; down to earth, so funny and she has so many stories to tell that span her career.  A fabulous way to end the first day of this fantastic festival.


Saturday night was another late one, there was a riotous dinner with Team Orenda, Tammy Cohen, David Young, Nic Parker and Jacky Collins, followed by drinks and plots to kidnap the hotel Christmas tree by certain crime authors that shouldn't be named ... they know just who they are though!

Sunday brought another packed day of panels, and we started with Getting Away With Murder; golden age vs digital age.  From wire messages, telegrams and Hansom cabs to new tech, dark web and the emergence of new formats, Abir Mukherjee, Rachel Rhys and Matt Wesolowski discussed the influence of technologies on crime writing and publishing with Ayo Onatade. There was much hilarity during this panel, a great way to start Sunday morning!

Next we found ourselves Behind Bars : freedom, oppression and control.  With a background of Hull's historical links to the slave trade abolitionist William Wilberforce and traditions of resistance, Eva Dolan, Kati Hiekkapelto, Stav Sherez and William Ryan explored ways in which crime fiction deals with characters living under oppression or imprisoned by circumstance.




After a quick lunch; well a doughnut and yet more coffee, we gathered back at the Hotel for Panel Three : Off The Beaten Track : exploring roads less takenDaniel Pembrey, Antti Tuomainen, Sarah Ward and David Young discussed the unfashionable and hitherto undiscovered landscapes, languages and settings for crime writing with Jacky Collins, and cast fresh light on where new territories for writing might be found.



The penultimate panel of the day, and in fact, of the whole Festival was next. Brawlers And Bastards: the rise of the unlikeable hero.  From Bill Sykes through Jack Carter and beyond, Steph Broadribb, Mick Herron, Harry Brett and Craig Robertson looked at ways in which crime authors redeem them irredeemable and create antiheroes from the most unlikeable protagonists. There were some fabulous anti-heroes here, and guess which of the authors was last involved in a punch up? (Clue, she's female!)

And so, the Festival drew to a close on Sunday afternoon. The final panel was another much anticipated one from the audience; A Year in the Crime Writing Life: Mark Billingham and John Connolly with Jake Kerridge.
Bringing the Festival to a close, Mark Billingham and John Connolly took a look at their writing years with Daily Telegraph crime fiction critic, Jake Kerridge. The best, the worst; a year to remember, one to forget; the tears, tantrums and triumphs of a crime writing life.



The official Festival Read was Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir, published by Orenda Books. Snare is Lilja's first novel to be translated into English.

Festival partners, Hull Independent Cinema joined with Hull Noir to present a short series of Ted Lewis related crime films including gangster classic Get Carter (1971). E52 Theatre Company premiered a script-in-hand reading of a new production baed on David Mark's debut novel, Dark Winter.

Hull Noir was a resounding, fabulous, crime-filled SUCCESS!  Everyone that I spoke to; readers, authors, bloggers, publishers and presenters enjoyed it so much. Praise and hurrahs to the three Nicks who organised it so well, and brought some of the best and biggest names to Hull.




Amazing stuff guys, when can we do it all over again??

Twitter @HullNoir
Hull Noir website www.hullnoir.com