Good Samaritans by Will Carver Book Review #RandomThingsTours #ZeroFilterBooks

So, I should have posted this several days ago on 29th November, but, somewhat ironically and rather regretfully, I’m posted this late due to my own shitty mental health. (I am alright, life is just currently pelting me with lots of tomatoes and the occasional bowling ball)

The plot, in a nutshell

Hadley calls Samaritans, hoping to speak to someone friendly and compassionate, a volunteer like Ant. She does get through to someone friendly, except it’s lonely Seth, who had simultaneously dialect her number, and is definitely not a Samaritans volunteer. Their paths soon become a tangled, messy mess.

My thoughts

Yes, it’s deliciously fucked up.

Yes, it talks about mental health, loneliness, suicide and vulnerability and the grim things rarely spoken about.

Yes, there is a massive dollop of humour spread right throughout the novel.

Yes, it twists and turns, and you rarely ‘see it coming’.

Yes, it is fast paced and punchy.

Yes, Detective Sergeant Pace would think that this book is disturbing, even if his IQ seems lower than Mr Bean’s.

Yes, it addresses the ridiculousness of people’s priorities and what they really care about.

Yes, this is the most original, refreshing crime slash mystery slash thriller since Sidney Sheldon (my first love)

But. You just don’t piss around with the image and values of something as valuable and fundamentally necessary to our individual and collective wellbeing as Samaritans is. What I found more disturbing than the warped characters and the graphic descriptions is the impression that this book could leave on potentially emotionally vulnerable people who need to reach out to an organisation such as Samaritans, but think that they will be judged and treated in the same way as certain people in the novel. I’m not being especially sensitive about this, indeed I loved many aspects of this book for its outrageousness and daring nature, but it just left me with so many questions, like how much research did the author do about Samaritans? Were they or any other mental health organisations consulted about the way that the people and topics in this book are presented?

Good Samaritans was published on 15th November by Orenda Books . Thank you to Orenda Books for the ARC and to Anne Cater for the invitation and great organisation of this Blog Tour.

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans.

But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home… And someone is watching…

Dark, sexy, dangerous and wildly readable, Good Samaritans marks the scorching return of one of crime fiction’s most exceptional voices.

THE AUTHOR

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series (Arrow). He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age 11, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company.

He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, while working on his next thriller. He lives in Reading with his two children.

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#SexDrive by #StephanieTheobald Review #RandomThingsTours #SexDriveTheBook

What it’s all about: Stephanie leaves a relationship after finding herself unfulfilled and out of touch with her sexuality and, after a trip to New York where a friend offers to put her in contact with ‘a bunch of sex-positive feminists from the 1970s’, she decides to go and explore. We are treated to the wonderful account of what she got up to on her road trip, as well as all that she learnt from the amazing array of characters that she met along the way.

The author: Stephanie Theobald, journalist and author of several books (that are going on my TBR stack)

You should read this if….you don’t know the difference between a vagina and a vulva.

You shouldn’t read this if…you think that weekly croissants in bed (not a euphemism, sadly, which is kind of the problem) is good for a relationship

The good stuff: I loved the honesty. Stephanie is prepared to go where others are too afraid or ashamed to go to, both literally and figuratively. I love a good ‘journey of self development’ tale, and although not particularly described as such, I think this book is a refreshing take on just that – bonus points for literally going on a journey and even sleeping in her car. I loved Stephanie’s story of her experiences but also it is an exploration of sex, pleasure and sexuality and there’s a lot that is educational without being preachy. Yet neither is anything that Stephanie talks about and the way she tells it smutty or slutty, despite not holding back. She celebrates sexuality, acknowledges that we are sexual beings and discusses how we came to view sex and pleasure with such shame. There is much to be found here that is relatable, and I think that it would make for a reassuring read for many people who feel very much alone in their struggles or feeling they have to fight their desires rather than indulge them. With the book being focused primarily on masturbation, she also explores how attitudes towards it have changed over time, and I really genuinely feel like this book is rather beautiful in the sense that it writes a new narrative surrounding these subjects, one that comes from a place of celebration as opposed to shame and seediness and dirtiness. For starters, there are very graphic descriptions of her various experiences on her trip. For the main and dessert, why don’t you pick the book up and treat yourself to the mouthwatering delights of this brilliant book?

Oh, and about breakups…what is it about them that kickstarts journeys of self discovery, particularly in books? Although no animals are being killed on this journey, unlike in my recently review of Killing It by Camas Davis which readers of my blog will no one read. Can we not have a healthy relationship with ourselves if we are in a relationship with someone else? Right, sorry, back to Sex Drive…I am of the generation that grew up watching Sex And The City, with Carrie Bradshaw being the only sex writer I could think of for a long time. I reckon us ladies would have a much healthier view of their bodies and their sexuality if (real) women like Stephanie were given as big a platform…

Bad stuff: As a fellow curly girl, I have major hair envy – see author pic (not actually book related or even sex related, by it’s still a thing, okay!)

Let’s talk epic name dropping…because if this were made into a movie, and really it should because it is all at once inspirational and educational, the list of cameos would be dazzling!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, yes, oh yes, yesssssssssssssss!

Rating 5⭐️

Sex Drive is published on 18th October 2018 by Unbound. Thank you to Unbound for the ARC and to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for organising another great tour.

Arriving in New York with a failing relationship and a body she felt out of touch with, Stephanie Theobald set off on a 3,497 mile trip across America to re-build her orgasm from the ground up. What started as a quest for the ultimate auto-erotic experience became a fantastic voyage into her own body. This is her account of that journey. She takes us from `body sex classes with the legendary feminist Betty Dodson to an interview with the former US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, who was fired for suggesting that masturbation should be talked about in schools. Along the way, we are immersed in a weird, countercultural America of marijuana farms and `ecosexual sexologists . Sex Drive is a memoir about desire and pleasure, merging sexuality and spirituality, eighteenthcentury porn and enlightenment philosophy. A new sexual revolution has begun and this time round, it s all about the women.

About Stephanie

#TheBlackPrince by #AdamRoberts #RandomThingsTours

 

The plot: Follows Edward, son of Edward III, the Prince of Wales also known as The Black Prince, during the campaign to invade and conquer France during the 14th century, with a modern tabloidy narrative style and lots of descriptions of bowel movements and other glorious things that the body does that people like me love (I wanted to put a quote in here, but quite frankly I couldn’t decide which was my favourite)

The author: Adam Roberts, academic, critic and author of several science fiction novels and parodies under the name of A.R.R.Roberts (one of which being The Sellamillion which I picked up for a bargain price in a charity shop around the same time I said yes to an ARC of The Black Prince completely without making the connection)

So, here’s the thing: The Black Prince is based on an unfinished screenplay written by Anthony Burgess, in keeping with his style of writing. That’s the aim, anyway. I’d love to comment on this but truth be told I’ve not read any Anthony Burgess novels and am severely uneducated when it comes to him. I did start researching Burgess when I got the ARC so I could at least attempt to make some intellectual comments, but alas, decided to come clean and admit I’ve nothing profound to say on this except that if like me you know nothing of Burgess’ writing, you will still be able to appreciate the writing in this novel, even if lots will unknowingly go over your head (as most things do when I read, but hey, passages about poo will ALWAYS be appreciated by me, so swings and roundabouts really, whatever)

Best new entry to my vocab thanks to this novel: tremblearse.

The good stuff…this novel adopts a stance on history that most historical fiction shines away from: that it is full of utterly brutal stuff, that our knowledge is very fragmented, that wars are fought by ordinary people and not just kings and lords, and that the devastation extends far beyond battlefields. It’s as vivid as can be and very ‘real’, doesn’t concern itself with all the frilly shit and society bollocks that historical fiction often focuses on. The narrative style is original, bringing an element of satire with its modern day sensationalist news reports, and the fragmented prose, with a point of view that zooms in and out and pans around, makes you feel like you are jumping straight into the grisly medieval action. Oh, and the writing is delectable.

The not so good stuff…it’s frequently witty and littered laugh-out-loud passages. Now, that IS a wonderful thing in my book. But I’m putting this under the not so good stuff because I can’t tell if this is intentional on the author’s part, or whether, given the subject matter, I am simply just warped in the head. Mr Roberts, am I warped in the head?

The wisest, if somewhat obscure, advice: ‘If you are shot with a medieval arrow, for God’s sake do not try to yank it out. For God’s sake, leave it alone, until you can cut the flesh with a knife and remove the whole lot. Are you listening to me, for God’s sake? Are you even listening?’

Rating 5⭐️

Blurb here when the WiFi sorts itself out

The Black Prince was published by Unbound on 4th October 2018. Thank you to Anne Cater for organising another great Random Things Blog Tour, and to Unbound for the ARC. 

Astroturf by Matthew Sperling: a brisk, comic tale about steroid culture and the seedy dark web

 

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The plot: Ned is 30, living in a basement bedsit, freshly dumped and miserable in his job. Ned is invigorated when he begins using testosterone to augment his physique and give him a boost, then develops an idea to exploit the online steroid community that he joins. Criminality and morality are strong themes, played out with a generous helping of comedy as Ned treads a dangerous path on his quest to improve himself and his life.

My thoughts: Sequel please. 

Worth a read? If you want a brisk, comic tale about steroid culture and the seedy dark web, with a huge dose and irony and an insight into the rabbit hole that many so easily fall down in the pursuit of a ‘better’ body, this is a fantastic read.

Rating 5⭐️

Astroturf was published on 23rd August 2018 by riverrun. Thank you to Matthew Sperling, riverrun and NetGalley for the ARC

I love hearing from other people who have read the same books as I have, or have picked books up after reading my reviews. Do say hi if either of these are you!

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Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton: an ambitious and brave tale of two fierce women 74,000 years apart #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour

Hello and welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for Stephanie Bretherton’s debut novel Bone Lines. It’s been great reading the other bloggers’ reviews on this wonderful novel. Bone Lines was on my TBR list for a while after I came across Stephanie’s twitter and saw the striking image of DNA representing the novel, but I was too nervous to ask about reviewing it. Imagine my delight when Stephanie got in contact, thank you so much! I have to admit I was slightly nervous about reading something I had been sent in case I didn’t like it, however luckily I didn’t have to deal with that situation, as you will be able to tell from my following review, I bloody loved this book and am looking forward to Stephanie’s future novels. A big thank you also to Anne Cater for organising another great tour!


The plot: A woman is making a journey, precarious but driven by visions, through the wild landscape, and alone except for her young child and endless dangers. Simultaneously, 74000 years later, geneticist Eloise is trying to work out who that woman was from her partial skeleton, whilst contemplating life’s big questions, writing letters to Charles Darwin, being a bit rubbish with men, and spending time with her cat, perfectly named Newton.

Type of book: ‘Ambitious and brave yet effortlessly pulled off’

The author: Stephanie Bretherton, debut novelist who has written Bone Lines as a stand-alone novel but also is planned as part of a series ‘The Children of Sarah’ – which is very nearly a most wonderful name.

What appealed to me…I love natural history and the author described Bone Lines as ‘genre fluid’ (and it really is, or perhaps she has managed to create a new genre?)

It’s a bit like…the essence of Sapiens (a little known book by Yuval Noah Harari), seen through the eyes of two fierce and admirable women.

You’ll want to read this if…you like your stories with a bit of mystery (Who was the person whose skeleton is found? What is the meaning of life? Why doesn’t Eloise tell Darius to piss off?)

You shouldn’t read it if…you don’t really like thinking much

The wonderful stuff…Eloise is fierce and compassionate, and demonstrates that a woman need not be a mother or a partner to do and enjoy wonderful things in life. She has a way of looking at things objectively in a biological sense that is so refreshingly rational, and seeks answers through scientific reasoning to things such as childlessness and suicide, even tears and sexual desire but also considers alternative arguments to theories that underpin her work, the novel being a brief overview of the conflicts between science and religion. Whilst Eloise is thinking big, the dual narrative of her life in London and that of hunter gatherer Sarah is rather poignant, and, whether intentional or not, as a reader I found myself thinking about human progress and who out of the two women has the ‘better’ life. For all that Eloise comes to discover about Sarah, there is a sense that the things that really mattered in Sarah’s life are things that Eloise can never, will never, know. Yet, it’s awesome that a novel delves into biology and all the interesting questions it raises that can be addressed, and I’ve not come across many novels that are so unashamedly sciencey, yet doesn’t alter life beyond recognition that sci fi, long being the only option for geeks, often does. Hurrah, my A Level in Biology finally came in handy.

The not as good stuff…Eloise contemplates pretty much every one of the big questions in life, but neglects a troubling one: jam first or cream first on scones? (Perhaps Eloise will consider this in the second novel, for there is only so much a woman can muse over in one book) Eloise does get a bit too contemplative at times and I was sometimes a bit lost, the kind of lost where you don’t know where you are but still think the scenery is pretty. Also, thank God – oops, don’t tell Eloise – I was reading on a Kindle, as I’ve never needed the built in dictionary so much as with this novel (says more about my reading age than the author’s writing style though, to be fair)

‘Social Housing, she mused…How much fun, how much freedom could any creature (human or canine) have here?’...As a child in the 90s who grew up in social housing, I can confirm that much fun was had and the freedom of safety greatly enjoyed – I don’t think the same could be said of canines however. Or felines. Or equines.

The best way to enjoy this book…with a coffee and a brownie in the Natural History Museum’s cafe, hopefully after you’ve bought the novel in their shop and hopefully without a woman in a red beret watching you.

Most surprising nugget of wisdom from Bone Lines: ‘In the unexpected encounter between a camera case and a shin bone, the shin will come off considerably worse.’

Rating 5⭐️

Basically: Bone Lines is a novel that can be appreciated in so many different ways and on numerous levels. It appeals to the geek in me, it had me rooting for these two incredible women, and kept me curious right through to the more than satisfying end with it’s subtle plot. I’ve highlighted enough scientific terms to keep me Googling for a week, keen to spend longer exploring Eloise’s trails of thought. Opening up new worlds is what powerful fiction does best, and with courageous women at its heart, it’s a brilliant read.

Bone Lines is published on 19th September by Unbound. Thank you to Stephanie Bretherton for the ARC (Thank you also for your kind words of support and for putting me in touch with Anne Cater)

BLURB:

A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life.  A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bones Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of who we are as a species. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Alternating between ancient and modern timelines, the story unfolds through the experiences of two unique characters:  One is a shaman, the sole surviving adult of her tribe who is braving a hazardous journey of migration, the other a dedicated scientist living a comfortable if troubled existence in London, who is on her own mission of discovery. 

The two are connected not only by a set of archaic remains but by a sense of destiny – and their desire to shape it. Both are pioneers, women of passion, grit and determination, although their day to day lives could not be more different. One lives moment by moment, drawing on every scrap of courage and ingenuity to keep herself and her infant daughter alive, while the other is absorbed by work, imagination and regret. Each is isolated and facing her own mortal dangers and heart-rending decisions, but each is inspired by the power of the life force and driven by love. 

Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

Website: http://www.stephaniebretherton.com/

Twitter : @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

Give People Money by Annie Lowrey: a not so simple idea to solve inequality

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The premise: The book introduces the concept of Universal Basic Incoqme, by which everyone receives an amount of cash regularly (obviously there’s more to it than that, but that’s the essentials right there). We are given an insight into the challenges that face us, including robots taking our jobs and companies being greedy, and presented with a solution. Guess what it is? Yeah you’re right, it’s a UBI. 

The author: Annie Lowrey, journalist and author

The good stuff: We should realise that here in the UK, despite not having an equal society, we still have it pretty good as there are case studies from around the world that show more unequal societies and worse welfare services. When I say that this is ‘the good stuff’, I don’t mean that I’m happy about this. However, in order to solve inequality we need to know what people face, for example how black people are discriminated against by the US welfare system. Only by understanding can things change. Also, I was shocked to find out that people in the US only get six months of unemployment support…

The bad stuff…it’s not so simple after all…

Best line(s) of the book: “In the village, the idea of waste—as well as the idea of not trusting people with cash—seemed absurd. It was not just that the villagers seemed uninterested in wasting the money, or stopping working, or spending it on frivolous things. It was that their ingenuity with and excitement for the capital far outstripped anything I imagined. They were not charity cases. They were businesses waiting to start, individuals striving to prosper, families searching for a better life. The main thing they lacked was cash.”

An eye opening example: “At times charity aid can even be counterproductive, hurting those it means to help. Take Toms, the popular shoes. Buy a pair and a person living in poverty gets a pair too, a feel-good practice the company calls “buy one, give one.” But a glut of Toms shoes disrupts the businesses of local shoe manufacturers and shoe retailers, much as donated clothing from the United States has damaged the local retail trade in many African markets. Toms are also not appropriate in many situations and climates, but Toms shoes are what Toms gives out. And as I saw in Kenya, they tend to make their way into the hands of people who already have shoes, but might not have, say, electricity or clean water.”

Rating 4⭐️

Final thoughts, and should you read it? ‘The simple idea to solve inequality and revolutionise our lives’…the book on the one hand thinks that a UBI – universal basic income – is a brilliant idea but on the other hand presents many reasons why a UBI isn’t such a simple idea, as there are so many differing opinions on what it should look like and how it would be administered. The book doesn’t present a perfect solution to inequality. Why? Because that doesn’t exist. But it does argue the case for something to help tackle inequality and why it should be cash, and the reasons are an interesting read. But it also argues cash, as part of capitalism, exacerbates inequality. There are examples of projects taking place on a smallish scale to trial different ideas though, which is promising. If you want to read all about the simple idea that the cover suggests might be found inside this then you will be disappointed, but if you want to read an interesting book about inequality, give it a go. 

Give People Money was published on 12th July 2018 by WH Allen. Thank you to Annie Lowrey, WH Allen and NetGalley for the ARC

Ramsey Campbell’s Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach #RandomThingsTours

Today it is day 2 of the Blog Tour for Ramsey Campbell’s Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach, and my first ever Blog Tour post! Welcome! Thank you to Anne Cater for organising, Flame Tree Press for the ARC, and for Stephanie Bretherton for putting me in touch with Anne in the first place❤️

It’s Ray’s and Sandra’s first family holiday in Greece, on the island of Vasilema. The skies are cloudier than anywhere else in Greece, and they’re intrigued by local eccentricities―the lack of mirrors, the outsize beach umbrellas, the saint’s day celebrated with an odd nocturnal ritual. Why are there islanders who seem to follow the family wherever they go? Why do Sandra and the teenage grandchildren have strangely similar dreams? Has Sandra been granted a wish she didn’t know she made? Before their holiday is over, some of the family may learn too much about the secret that keeps the island alive.

The plot: Ray and Sandra go on holiday with their children and grandchildren to a Greek island. Mysterious things happen, which Ray is determined to make sense of. When not preoccupied by this, Ray likes to think about how badly his wife is ageing.

The author: Ramsey Campbell, who has been writing for half a century (!!!), and whose favourite word is quite possibly ‘rebuke’

What appealed to me before reading was…the novel’s setting is one of my biggest fears, of which I thought would add to the horror. A holiday resort.

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way: In terms of scariness, it is a huge tease as there is a lot of mystery and intrigue, yet didn’t have any classic ‘fill your pants’ moments that it often feels like it will lead to. The formal writing style makes for a slow burner. That’s alright though if you like what I have to say next…

The good stuff: I don’t know whether it was intentional by the author, but the novel seems to point out some of the true horrors in life – when the well-being of a loved one is compromised by the cruelty of illness, and having in-laws that do everyone’s head in. Whether accidental or otherwise, I thought this was so, so clever. Also, I’m not too sure whether any part of the novel is supposed to be funny, but there are some cracking lines…

Reason to make sure I do my facial waxing if I ever get the chance to meet Ramsey Campbell: “As Ray took three plastic bottles to the desk the moustached old woman in black stared past him.” (Not his wife, for the record)

The first time I’ve questioned the age old ‘show, don’t tell’ mantra: “When the water clamped his hips he felt his penis shrivel, and his gasp echoed through the cave.”

No prizes for guessing what Mr Campbell thinks of self-published novels: “The book had been published some years ago in Kefalonia — self-published, to judge by the prose.”

Who said romance is dead? “‘We’re still a team,’ he said and saw his shadow fall across her face as he kissed her lined forehead.”

Rating 4⭐️

Would I recommend?: This isn’t one for fans of poo-your-pants horror. In fact I’d call it less horror, more mystery. If like me, however, you like scratching your head and finding the sentimental even in the horror genre, then you should try it. And for everyone, this book is a handy lesson in how not to do a holiday with your entire family.

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER: FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ramsey Campbell is a British writer considered by a number of critics to be one of the great masters of horror fiction. T. E. D. Klein has written that “Campbell reigns supreme in the field today,” while S. T. Joshi has said that “future generations will regard him as the leading horror writer of our generation, every bit the equal of Lovecraft or Blackwood.” 

http://www.ramseycampbell.com/

@ramseycampbell11