Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel #BlogTour @Scribbler4Bread @alice_geary1 @midaspr #TheOceanLiner

In September 1939, cousins Masha and Rachel Morgenstern board the SS Manhattan bound for New York, leaving behind everything – and everyone – they know in war-torn Europe. America offers a safe haven, but to reach it they must survive an Atlantic crossing fraught with the danger of German U-boats and their lethal torpedoes.
Their only distraction from peril is the drama of life on board. Among their fellow passengers are the composer Igor Stravinsky, making a new start after a decade of personal tragedy; and Rose Kennedy, wife of the US ambassador to London, determined to keep her four young children from harm. And then there’s Thomas, a young Nazi with a secret ...
All 1,500 passengers on board are hoping to find a bright future at the end of their perilous journey. But as they discover, fate is not smiling upon them all.
Thoroughly researched, The Ocean Liner is a fictionalised portrayal of some of the true stories from The Golden Age of the Ocean Liner, and sensitively pays tribute to some of true tragedies of the period. From the destruction of the SS Athenia, the heroics of Commodore Albert ‘Rescue’ Randall, to the events that changed Rose Kennedy’s life forever, Gabriel brings to life a cast of refugees escaping WW2.

The Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel is published by Lake Union Publishing, in paperback on 20 March 2018. My thanks to the publisher and Alice from Midas PR who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part on this Blog Tour.

I've been a fan of Marius Gabriel's writing for a while now and I'm absolutely delighted to welcome him here to Random Things today as part of the Blog Tour for The Ocean Liner. He's talking to us about the books that are special to him, in My Life In Books.

My Life In Books - Marius Gabriel

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens. For me, this will always be THE book. My mother read it to me when I was 6 or 7 years old. It gripped my imagination so powerfully that I could hardly sleep after each chapter ended, and would lie awake, my mind still in the graveyard with Magwitch, or visiting Miss Havisham's house with the exquisite Estella, or in bustling London with all of Pip's new friends.
This was also the book which most shaped me as a writer. From it I learned the importance of binding a reader to a sympathetic narrator, the effectiveness of a stunning revelation, and above all, to let my imagination run free.

Victory, Joseph Conrad. Not Conrad's most perfect book, but his great love-story. This book has haunted my imagination all my life, with its exotic locations and its tragic heroine. Because of its imperfections, it's also the book in which we most clearly see Conrad's mind at work, and that is fascinating for any writer.

Typhoon, Joseph Conrad. This hurricane of a novel is one of the most perfect pieces of writing in the language. Any author wanting to learn the art of descriptive writing should start here. It contains the best of Conrad: a gruff captain, a lively young first mate, a great ordeal to pass through. A book to be read again and again.

Under The Skin, Michel Faber. Faber's vivid imagination has impelled him into science fiction in a number of his novels; yet he is always (as in the best science fiction) writing about the world we inhabit. This grim, fascinating tale of carnivorous aliens is a searing allegory of the contortions a woman must make to fit into modern society. Also highly recommended, and a book I admire greatly, is his The Book of Strange New Things.

A Pale View of Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro. A delicate, mysterious work of art, as cryptic and yet engaging as a Japanese woodblock print. Often criticised as too puzzling, this is a book I absolutely love, and return to again and again. Ishiguro's most accessible novels are the melancholy masterpiece, The Remains of The Day and the sci-fi tour-de-force, Never Let Me Go. As a writer, he has continued to mature and to  grow more and more difficult; but he is the most rewarding of living British writers, and his recent Nobel was long overdue.

Joy in the Morning, P.G. Wodehouse. The quintessential Bertie and Jeeves novel was written while Wodehouse was interned by the Nazis during World War II. More than escapist fantasy, it is a divine dream of a world far nicer than our own. The last, great Art Deco masterpiece, and an object lesson in humorous writing. Wodehouse was my consolation during the unhappiest years of my life, as I imagine he is for many readers.

Ulysses, James Joyce. Promethean and endlessly entertaining, this is a book I have read a dozen times over the course of my life. By turns funny, pathetic and baffling, it stretches the boundaries of fiction to breaking-point. You can almost feel your mind expanding as Joyce leads you on a merry dance through Edwardian Dublin, conjuring up a mesmerizing array of assorted characters, each with their own ferocious life. To my mind, the single greatest novel of the 20th Century.

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert. Flaubert was prosecuted for this book, which still has the power to shock modern readers with its frankness. An unforgettable novel which will always have a special place in my heart. The tale of an unrepentant adulteress, it presents us with the first great female protagonist of the 19th Century.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. One of the world's best-loved books, this is also one of the most quietly transformative. Jane Austen's mature style is a miraculous combination of liveliness, acid wit, grace and elegance. A glittering treasure of a book that revolutionised the gentle art of novel-writing. 

Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban. I was disappointed that Hoban was never nominated for a Nobel Prize before his death. This astonishing novel explodes history, language and culture, scattering the fragments as tantalizing clues to a story about the end of civilization. A novel full of beauty and violence; a real triumph of the imagination and of language.

Marius Gabriel began his life as a writer penning over 30 romance novels under a female pseudonym to fund his way through university. 

Later turning to historical novels, Marius is inspired by his life of travels from South Africa to Spain, Italy to Egypt, and the eclectic mix of people he has encountered along the way.

Follow him on Twitter @Scribbler4Bread

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

You Have Me To Love by Jaap Robben @JaapRobben @WorldEdBooks #Boekenweek

Mikael lives with his parents on an island somewhere between Scotland and Norway. One day Mikael’s father, Birk, saves him from drowning in the ocean, but is himself thrown against the rocks by a wave and disappears under water. When Birk fails to return to the surface, Mikael is in shock and blocks out the memory of what took place. Unable to tell his mother what happened, together they spend days searching for Birk. When Mikael’s mother realizes that her husband has drowned, the relationship between her and Mikael transforms: she becomes psychotic, forcing Mikael to replace his father in every possible way.

You Have Me To Love by Jaap Robben is published in the UK by World Editions

Every spring the Dutch celebrate Boekenweek (10 – 18 March 2018) – a celebration of books and literary culture. There are dozens of events all over the country and every year a top author is commissioned to write a special festival novella which is given away free from bookshops and libraries.

International fiction publishers World Editions would like to invite you to celebrate Boekenweek in the UK with Jaap Robben, an acclaimed Dutch YA author whose prize-winning first adult novel, You Have Me To Love, is set on an island between Scotland and Norway. Praised widely on publication, the novel tells how, after the mysterious death of his father, a young boy has to navigate the complex relationship with his mother.

'Jaap Robben handles delicate, dangerous material with subtlety and sympathy, but also with a visionary sense of truth that is masterly and unforgettable.’ — Colm Tóibín

Voted Best Book of 2014 in the Netherlands and awarded the prestigious Dutch Bookseller Award 2015.
Shortlisted for the Dioraphte Literature Prize and for the ANV Debut Novel Prize 2015.

  • ‘This is a bold, tender and ambivalent narrative, raw and disturbing, with moments of painful beauty.’—Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
  • ‘From the very first sentence it is clear how well début novelist Jaap Robben writes. His childishly simple yet highly suggestive sentences make You Have Me to Love as stark and foreboding as the island on which it is set.’ —NRC NEXT
  •  ‘a gripping novel that steadily tightens its hold’ —De Volkskrant
  • ‘beautiful, just beautiful’ —Gerbrand Bakker
  •  ‘Robben lifts you from your life and sweeps you away, with no chance of escaping.’— De Morgen
  • ‘Robben's clear sentences and empathic use of language read like poetry: rhythmic, probing, and sonorous.’ —Dagblad van het Noorden
  • ‘Robben is faultless in his description of a child’s inner world.’—Het Parool

Exclusive Extract

My tongue felt like it was crawling with ants. My feet were heavy. I was standing at the back door in my swimming trunks, towel around my neck. Mum had come into the kitchen, but she hadn’t looked at me yet. ‘There you are,’ she said without raising her head as she lifted the lid off the pot. She ladled my bowl full of soup, then hers.
She dipped a finger into my soup and stirred. ‘Just right. Tuck in.’ I sat down on my chair and stared at the steam rising sluggishly from my bowl. ‘Don’t leave too much for Dad. If he’d wanted a decent helping, he should’ve been back on time.’ Spooning soup into her mouth, she returned to her sewing machine in the living room. ‘Just finishing this off. Won’t be long.’
My hands lay motionless on the table. Inside they were shaking. I could hear the scraping of gulls sharpening their beaks on the gutter above the window. I knew I should be eating my soup, but it was all I could do to take hold of the spoon.
I took a gulp of water from my glass. It felt like I was choking. I gagged and a little of what I sicked up disappeared into my soup. I wiped away what had landed next to the bowl with a furtive sweep of my hand. Mum hadn’t noticed. She was leaning forward in her chair, staring intently at the rattling needle of her sewing machine, only letting up to see if she was still going in a straight line.
After a few minutes, Mum came back into the kitchen to fetch the Worcester sauce from the spice rack. She rested her hips against the sink and leaned toward the window.
‘Taking his own sweet time again.’ My heart wanted to leap out of my chest. I stuck the empty spoon in my mouth. ‘Don’t take after your father,’ she smiled. ‘You can never count on a man like that.’ Before I could answer, the sewing machine had started rattling again.
The harder I bit down on my tongue, the more the ants prickled. Dusk made a mirror of the window. I knew it held my reflection, but I couldn’t bring myself to look. Mum went over to the bin, trod on the pedal, and let a few scraps of material fall from her hand.
‘Aren’t you going to eat anything?’
I gave a jerky shrug.
‘Nothing to say for yourself?’
‘I’ve had enough,’ I said.
‘Well, that wasn’t much.’
‘Don’t come crying like a baby that you want something else later.’
She tipped my soup back into the pot, placed my bowl next to hers by the sink, and left the pot and one bowl on the table for Dad. She caught me looking at them. ‘That father of yours can heat up his own soup.’
When she called him ‘that father of yours’, it meant he’d done something he needed to make up for. She rubbed dark-brown stripes across the table with a damp cloth.
‘He swam away.’ The words stumbled out of my mouth.
‘Dad swam away.’
‘“ Swam away”?’
‘How do you mean?’
She looked at me, puzzled. ‘Where to?’
I shrugged.
‘Didn’t he tell you?’
Again, I shrugged.
‘But you must know if he said something.’
‘I don’t think he said anything.’
She cupped her hands around her eyes and put her face to the window.
‘Did you two have a row?’
She tossed her head as if to shake loose a couple of strange thoughts.
‘That waster does whatever he likes.’
She turned the tap on full, put the plug in the sink, and squirted in some washing-up liquid. I heard the muffled clunk of plates and mugs, the scrape of knives, forks, and spoons. The boiler hummed away in the cupboard below.
At the slightest sound, Mum looked up and turned her head toward the front door, though they were only the noises the house makes. When she was finished, she draped a tea towel over the clean dishes on the draining board.
‘He was underwater.’
‘All of a sudden.’
‘What was all of a sudden?’
I shrugged.
‘Stop shrugging your shoulders every time I ask you a question.’
‘He wanted to climb out of the water after me.’
‘Did you two go swimming?’
‘You knew that wasn’t allowed.’
I shook my head.
‘What happened? Tell me.’
‘I looked round and all of a sudden Dad was swimming underwater.’
‘Underwater? Just like that?’
I tried my best not to shrug, but I couldn’t help myself.
‘He must have said something?’
‘Well, where did he go?’
‘I don’t know that, either.’
‘Dunno, dunno, dunno… Where was he heading?’
‘I couldn’t see.’
‘But you just said he climbed out of the water after you.’
‘What do you mean, “didn’t”?’
‘I didn’t go for a swim.’
Her hand shot out and felt at my swimming trunks. ‘Are you telling me lies?’
My head wouldn’t stop shaking.
‘Where were you?’
‘On the sand.’
‘And that’s where he went swimming?’
I shook my head. ‘Over by the rocks.’
She looked deep into my eyes. Then she rushed into the hall, yanked open the dresser drawer, and took out a torch. She flashed it on and off three times and went outside. By the time the light on the outside wall flickered on, she had disappeared round the side of the house. Quick as I could, I pulled one of Dad’s jumpers from the drying rack and put it on. It was way too big for me. I wormed my feet into my boots and had to run to keep up with her.

Jaap Robben (1984) is a popular Dutch poet, playwright, actor, and children’s author. You Have Me to Love is his first novel.

You Have Me to Love sold over 40,000 copies in the Netherlands. Film rights sold.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Coming Home by Fern Britton @Fern_Britton @fictionpubteam @LizDawsonPR #ComingHome

Three women.
A lifetime of secrets.
The only place to be is home.
Ella comes back to the beautiful Cornish coast to heal her heart after the death of her beloved grandmother, Adela. There she finds her home again and discovers a new life, but she also opens a treasure trove of secrets.
Twenty years ago Ella’s mother Sennen ran away from Cornwall. Sennen had been a young single mum and, unable to cope, had left their children with her mother Adela…and a part of her with them. She’s spent the years since hiding from her past, hiding from herself.
Now it’s time to come back to Cornwall. To face her mistakes. To pray for forgiveness. And to hope for a future with her long-lost daughter and son. Will she be welcomed back with open hearts?
They say home is where the heart is. It’s time to come home…
Pendruggan: A Cornish village with secrets at its heart

Coming Home by Fern Britton was published in hardback by Harper Collins on 22 February 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Coming Home is Fern Britton's seventh novel, and the first of her books that I've read. I'm not sure what I expected from this one, maybe I had preconceptions about it? Well, all I can say is that I now have to go and buy her previous novels, because I have thoroughly enjoyed every page of this warm and heartfelt story.

Set in Cornwall, this is a beautifully woven tale of families, and love and community. The author's knowledge of Cornwall shines through and the village of Pendruggan is a character it its own right.

It's a sad time for Ella. She's returned to her childhood home after the death of her beloved grandmother Adela. Ella and her brother Henry didn't have a conventional upbringing and whilst they were loved unconditionally by their grandparents, the disappearance of their mother has always hung over the family like a black cloud.

Ella is a loving, forgiving woman, whilst her brother Henry is bitter and angry. Their mother Sennen left them when they were just babies and Ella has no memory of her at all. Sennen was young, just seventeen, when she ran away, and already the mother of two children.

Fern Britton cleverly mixes the modern-day story with that of the disappearance of Sennen all those years ago, she also tells how Adela and her husband Bill met and fell in love. This is seamlessly done and I particularly enjoyed Adela and Bill's story; a true and endearing story that really captured my imagination.

I do love a book that spans the generations, and that enables the reader to see why and how characters develop and make the decisions that they do.

Coming Home is really quite glorious; it's warm and intelligently written, dealing with sadness and regrets with a dollop of romance.

Fern Britton is the highly acclaimed author of six Sunday Times bestselling novels. Her books are cherished for their warmth, wit and wisdome, and have won her legions of loyal readers.
Fern is a judge for the Costa Book Awards and this year has supported the Reading Agency by writing a short novel to encourage less confident adult readers.
A hugely popular household name through iconic shows such as This Morning and Ready Steady Cook, Fern is a much sought-after presenter, most recently presenting, The Big Allotment Challenge (BBC2), For What It's Worth (BBC1), Culinary Genius with Gordon Ramsey (ITV) and her advent series Fern Britton Meets (BBC1).
Fern has now also turned her talents to acting, with her new role in the stage musical Calendar Girls, which is directed by Gary Barlow.

Fern lives with her husband, Phil Vickery, and her four children in Buckinghamshire and Cornwall.
To find out more, connect with her on Twitter @Fern_Britton
Find her Official page on Facebook

Sunday, 11 March 2018

The Teacher's Secret by Suzanne Leal @suzanne_leal #BlogTour @Legend_Press

A small town can be a refuge, but while its secrets are held, it's hard to know who to trust and what to believe. 
Terry Pritchard, assistant principal at Brindle Public School, watches his career collapse. Nina Foreman, a new teacher, struggles with the breakdown of her marriage and a new classroom. Rebecca Chuma is also new to Brindle: the locals are curious - what's she doing there and why can't she return home. By contrast, Joan Mather has lived in Brindle all her life. Since the death of her elderly mother, however, she's been finding it hard to leave the house.

The Teacher's Secret by Suzanne Leal was published in paperback by Legend Press on 1 March 2018, my thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.

I've been a huge fan of Legend Press for many years, their books are beautifully presented and I'm rarely disappointed by their authors. The Teacher's Secret is another gem from Legend; a story that quietly creeps into the head of the reader.

Set in Brindle Public School, a primary school in Australia and spanning four terms in the year, Suzanne Leal slowly builds her story. Chapters are not numbered, they are headed with character names and each one is told from the viewpoint of that character.

I'll admit that there were times that I found it fairly difficult to remember just who was who, and did get a little frustrated as one character's story ended, and another began in the next chapter. On reflection though, this is a clever way to structure the story as it keeps the reader's interest, and I soon became immersed in the new character's point of view.

Terry Pritchard is the lead character and he is the glue that sticks the story together. Terry is a much-loved teacher at Brindle Public School. Admired by his colleagues, loved by his pupils; he knows the school like the back of his hand. He has taught hundreds of children over the years, and he's now teaching the offspring of his former pupils. He's content and enjoys his job. The story begins on the first day of a new term, Terry is eager to get back to work, to find out what his pupils have done over the holidays and to return to what he loves doing.

Brindle Public School has a relief Principal this term and this is where Terry's problems begin. It becomes clear that Laurie, the caretake Principal has her own ideas about how the school should be run, and they are very different to Terry's.

Suzanne Leal's legal expertise in child protection and refugee law shines through in her writing. Her characters and the situations that are described are incredibly believable. There are some serious issues dealt with in The Teacher's Secret, and whilst I was a huge fan of Terry, there were times when I could understand Laurie did some of the things that she did.

This is not just Terry and Laurie's story though. There are supporting characters whose own stories are relayed throughout the book, interweaving with the main plot and adding layers to the story.

I enjoyed The Teacher's Secret despite what really is quite a slow start. The multitude of characters do feel a little overwhelming at the beginning but this author's skilful writing soon allows the reader to settle nicely into her story.

Suzanne Leal is a lawyer experienced in child protection, criminal law and refugee law. The Teacher's Secret is her first novel published in the UK following her well-received debut in Australia, Border Street. Suzanne lives in Sydney with her husband, David, and her four children, Alex, Dominic, Xavier and Miranda. 

Follow Suzanne on Twitter @suzanne_leal
For more information, visit her website
Find her Author page on Facebook

Friday, 9 March 2018

Ninja School Mum by Lizzie Chantree @Lizzie_Chantree #BlogTour @BrookCottageBks @crookedcatbooks #Giveaway

Obsessive-compulsive school mum, Skye, is a lonely elite spy, who is running from her past whilst trying to protect the future of her child. She tries hard to fit in with the other parents at her son’s new school, but the only person who accepts her unconventional way of life is new mother, Thea. Thea is feeling harassed by her sister and bored with her life, but she suspects that there is something strange about the new school mum, Skye. Thea has secrets of her own and, although the two become unlikely friends, she hesitates to tell Skye about the father of her own child. Zack’s new business is growing faster than he could have dreamed but, suddenly, he finds himself the owner of a crumbling estate on the edge of a pretty village, and a single parent to a very demanding child. Could he make a go of things and give his daughter the life she deserved? When three lives collide, it appears that only one of them is who they seem to be, and you never know who the person next to you in the school playground really is

Ninja School Mum by Lizzie Chantree was published by Crooked Cat Books on 30 January 2018. I'm really pleased to be part of this Blog Tour arranged by Brook Cottage Books.
I have an extract from the book for you to enjoy and there's also a chance to win a signed copy for yourself. Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget below - the giveaway is open internationally.

Skye tapped her feet impatiently as she looked at the ominous grey clouds hovering above the playground and tried to rein in the anger she could feel blazing in her chest. She had learned the skill of outwardly controlling her emotions and appearing like she hadn’t a care in the world long ago, but if her son came out of school crying because a more boisterous kid had poured water on his head, or scribbled all over his carefully written work again, then she would struggle not to pick the culprit up by his leg and throw him into the neatly manicured flowerbeds that surrounded the glossy green windowsills of the school building.

She noticed the quiet red-haired woman who was sitting on a nearby bench, glancing longingly at the same group of school mums again. They were all huddled together like a rugby scrum, chatting busily about their day. Skye wondered why the redhead didn’t get up and join them if she wanted to be part of the group so badly, but she could tell from the woman’s body language that it was never going to happen. She obviously lacked the confidence or courage to break into such a tight-knit group of friends.

A movement to Skye’s left caught her eye and she noticed the woman with the mop of curly hair and inquisitive eyes watching her again. She was frowning in concentration before realising that she had been spotted and seamlessly blended back into the throng of people waiting for their children to appear.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Award-winning inventor and author, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. 
She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now runs networking hours on social media, where creative businesses, writers, photographers and designers can offer advice and support to each other. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex. 

Visit her website at  
Follow her on Twitter @Lizzie_Chantree

Goodreads Author Page: 

Thursday, 8 March 2018

#MeToo - A Woman's Poetry Anthology edited by Deborah Alma @emergencypoet @fairacrepress #InternationalWomensDay

This book came straight out of a long thread on Deborah Alma's Facebook page in October 2017. Something was released and given a space within social media.  Many women felt emboldened by this to share more difficult stories, more details. As a poet, and an editor, it felt natural to Deborah to collect these stories somehow and it was obvious to collect them as poems. 

This collection contains mainly previously unpublished work from 80 of our finest poets:Jill Abram, Vasiliki Albedo, Deborah Alma, Jean Atkin, Roberta Beary, Victoria Bennett, Kaddy Benyon, Ama Bolton, Jhilmil Breckenridge, Rachel Buchanan, Jane Burn, Rachel Burns, Cath Campbell, Louisa Campbell, Zelda Chappel, Rachael Clyne, Jane Commane, Meg Cox, Sarah Doyle, Pat Edwards, Alicia Fernández, Rona Fitzgerald, Kate Garrett, Kathy Gee, Georgi Gill, Roz Goddard, Linda Goulden, Vicky Hampton, Sue Hardy-Dawson, Deborah Harvey, Ramona Herdman, AM Hill, Clare Hill, Angi Holden, Rhiannon Hooson, Helen Ivory, Sheila Jacob, Sally Jenkinson, Jemima Laing, Gill Lambert, Dorianne Laux, Claire Leavey, Emma Lee, Liz Lefroy, Pippa Little, Mandy Macdonald, Maggie Mackay, Holly Magill, Sabrina Mahfouz, Sarah Miles, Sarah Mnatzaganian, Kim Moore, Abegail Morley, Helen Mort, Katrina Naomi, Lisa Oliver, Michelle Penn, Pascale Petit, Bethany W Pope, clare e potter, Wendy Pratt, Lesley Quayle, Kathleen M. Quinlan, Amy Rainbow, Natalie Rees, Jess Richards, Victoria Richards, Bethany Rivers, Rosie Sandler, Jacqueline Saphra, Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, Emily Sernaker, Emma Simon, Beth Somerford, Ruth Stacey, Judi Sutherland, Angela Topping, Cathy Whittaker, Natalie Whittaker, Stella Wulf.

#MeToo - A Women's Poetry Anthology is edited by Deborah Alma and published by Fair Acre Press today, 8 March 2018; International Women's Day. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

So first, I have to raise my hands and say that I am no poetry expert. I often struggle to understand what is being said through poems. However, I was determined to read this anthology, not least as it contains a contribution from a friend of mine; Angi Holden, but also because the aim of this collection is to rally against sexual assault and harassment.

I feel as though I owe it to the authors of these poems, to read them, to ponder and to make what I can of them. And I did, and I have, and I've been incredibly moved by the words that I've read. I've also been angered and at times I felt hopeful.

#MeToo is made up of a poems in varying styles, and lengths, but each one has a strong and striking message, and the anthology is split into seven parts:

  • Part One : 'silly lasses'
  • Part Two: 'my ordinary walk home'
  • Part Three: 'I see myself lie quiet as snow on rail tracks'
  • Part Four: 'Domestic'
  • Part Five: 'They can't help it'
  • Part Six: ''I said I was the proof'
  • Part Seven: 'make for the light'
Each of these chapter headings tell a story of their own, and the phrases littered throughout the collection such as: "It's just a game";  "What d'you expect, silly lasses ...";  "She never told anyone." are a reinforcement of the stories related by thousands of women over the last few months.

This is an important book, a proper call to arms, and should be an essential read, in schools, by both girls and boys. It's a slice of history, a true representation of what is happening in our world today. 

I am not a writer, and certainly not a poet, but I am a woman. A woman who is constantly outraged and alarmed by the things that have been exposed, and are continuing to be shared every single day. My words do not do this book any justice, but I hope that they are enough to make people go out and discover it for themselves.

Deborah Alma has an MA in Creative Writing, is Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University and is the Emergency Poet in her vintage ambulance.
She is editor of Emergency Poet - an anti-stress poetry anthology and The Everyday Poet - Poems to live by (both published by Michael O'Mara). Her True Tales of the Countryside is published by The Emma Press (2016). Her first full collection Dirty Laundry (May 2018) is published by Nine Arches Press.

She has worked using poetry with people in hospice care and in care homes, with vulnerable women's groups, and with children and taught Writing Poetry at Worcester University.
She lives with the poet James Sheard on a hillside in Montgomeryshire

Twitter @emergencypoet

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall **New Edition** @RuthDugdall @Legend_Press #BlogTour #Giveaway

They came for me, just like I knew they would. Luke had been dead for just three days.  

Rose Wilks' life is shattered when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to intensive care. Emma Hatcher has all that Rose lacks. Beauty. A loving husband. A healthy son. Until tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect. 

Now, having spent nearly five years behind bars, Rose is just weeks away from freedom. Her probation officer Cate must decide whether Rose is remorseful for Luke's death, or whether she remains a threat to society. As Cate is drawn in, she begins to doubt her own judgement.  

Where is the line between love and obsession, can justice be served and, if so... by what means? 

New Edition includes exclusive material.

This year, Legend Press are reissuing three of their most-popular titles from previous years, to give them the chance to reach a whole new audience.

On 1st March, it’s time for The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall. I am a huge fan of Ruth Dugdall's writing and have a special fondness for her stories about Cate Austen. I read and reviewed The Woman Before Me some years ago, and am happy re-publish that review today to celebrate this new edition as part of the Blog Tour.

The book was the winner of the second ever Luke Bitmead Bursary and was also the winner of the much coveted and admire CWA Debut Dagger prize.

I also have one copy to give away to one reader of Random Things. Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget at the end of this post. The competition will stay open for seven day and this is a UK ONLY give away.  GOOD LUCK!

The Woman Before Me is a psychological thriller that is hauntingly dark and bleak, there is absolutely nothing pleasant contained within this story, yet it is a compelling and at times, very addictive.  It kept me reading until the late hours.
Rose Wilks is serving a prison sentence for the manslaughter of a young baby.  The victim, Luke, is the child of a woman that Rose befriended whilst she was in hospital herself, when she gave birth to her own son Joel. Rose had a difficult labour and Joel was very sick when he was born.  He didn't survive.
Cate Austen is the mother of a young daughter.  She's also Rose's probation officer, and it is her job to determine whether Rose should be released from prison.
As Cate and Rose edge around each other, trying to work each other out, the reader is privy to Rose's 'black book'; her secret diary that explains everything about both the crime, and about how Rose became the woman that she is today.
Manipulation and unreliability could be Rose's middle names, her story appears credible, but always, in the background, there is that nag of doubt about Rose and her story.  Whilst I admit that I'd just about worked out the truth behind the story, the double-whammy shock of the truth exposed at the end of the novel was both unexpected and very cleverly done.  The belief that the reader has developed over the course of the story is shattered completely.
Ruth Dugdall has drawn on her personal experiences as a probation officer when writing this novel, and this shows.  The culture of prison life is starkly told, the institutional sexism, the bullying, the difficulties of being a staff member who cares; all depicted very well, and all adding to the overall tension of the novel.
This is a chilling story, of betrayal, of lies and of obsession.  At times uncomfortable due to the nature of the crime, but it's compulsive.   

The Woman Before Me

Author of 'The Woman Before Me' (2010) 'The Sacrificial Man' (2011) 'The James Version' (2012) 'Humber Boy B' (2015) and 'Nowhere Girl' (2015)
Ruth studied a BA (Hons) degree in English and Theatre Studies at Warwick University, and then an MA is Social Work at UEA. She worked as a Probation Officer for almost a decade, working in prisons with numerous high-risk criminals. Ruth's debut novel The Woman Before Me (Legend Press, 2010) was informed by her experiences. Ruth's professional background gives her writing authenticity and credibility. Ruth's second novel The Sacrificial Man was published in 2011.

Ruth is the winner of the CWA Debut Dagger and the Luke Bitmead Bursary and has been longlisted for the New Angle Book Prize and People's Book Prize.