Wednesday, 21 August 2019

The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen

For me the story is about all of us being connected at some level, regardless of where we are in the world. Six degrees of separation. It's also about fate and small pieces of a large puzzle fitting together to create a bigger picture. One could say it's coincidence, one could also say there is no such thing as coincidence.

Augusta  and Julia are twins, but they couldn't be more different. Julia is everything her parents expect her to be and more, and Augusta dances to her very own music. She loves words. Words are life, discovery, mystery and knowledge. Words lead to people, things and places. They are doors to other worlds.

Simultaneously the reader is introduced to Parfait on the other side of the world. His life is a complete contrast to that of Augusta, and there is no connection between the two, barring a wish and a dream of places far away.

The juxtaposition of the two lives of these two young people is relevant to our day and age, especially that of Parfait. His fate as a refugee and that of his brother is tragic. Glen wants us to see the way we live our day-to-day lives, whilst men, women and children risk their lives to reach a safer country in an attempt to escape their war-torn countries and the violence.

In a way Julia becomes the guilty conscience the author hopes our society will develop. We need to stop acting as if we see nothing, hear nothing and then speak nothing. A visceral connection needs to be strung from us to them.

Both Parfait and Augusta experience and have to deal with incredible grief and guilt. It is one of the bridges that connects and leads them to each other. In fact they become the hypothetical bridge of connection.

It's a profound and emotional piece of literary fiction. The main character has shades of Eleanor Oliphant, and the story is introspective with politics and family dynamics woven into this beautiful contemporary read.

Buy The Other Half of Augusta Hope at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: The Borough Press; pub date 13 Jun. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @JoannaGlenBooks on Twitter

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

#BlogTour The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada by Neil Randall


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada.

Enter the Giveaway below to Win 3 Copies of The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada (UK Only)
About the Author
Neil Randall is the author of seven published novels and a collection of short stories. His work has been published in the UK, US, Australia and Canada.

Follow @NARandall1 on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Amazon, on Goodreads, Visit narandall.blogspot.co.uk
Buy The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada

About the book
Nine stories
One artist
The whole world against him

The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada is the story of an outsider, a lonely, misunderstood young artist who chronicles all the unpleasant things that happen to him in life. Abandoned by his parents, brought up be a tyrannical aunt, bullied at school, ostracized by the local community, nearly everyone Jacob comes into contact with takes an instant, (often) violent dislike towards him.

Like Job from the bible, he is beaten and abused, manipulated and taken advantage of. Life, people, fate, circumstance force him deeper into his shell, deeper into the cocoon of his fledgling artistic work, where he records every significant event in sketches, paintings and short-form verse, documenting his own unique, eminently miserable human experience. At heart, he longs for companionship, intimacy, love, but is dealt so many blows he is too scared to reach out to anybody. On the fringes of society, he devotes himself solely to his art.
Review
It's a series of stories, represented by chapters, a summary of a life in short episodes. Life defining moments and experiences that Jacob holds on to as more important than other moments. In a way it is a very Kodak moment, flashback or memories in a noirish and almost satirical style.

It gives the story a specific style. On screen one would perhaps present a fading out into blackness after every episode, a short interval and then another that starts off in an entirely different time and place.

It's uncomfortable at times and bends the frame of reality a wee bit in places, as fiction is wont to do. I think the author wants show the extreme in an attempt to showcase the damage inflicted upon Jacob and victims in general. Sometimes reality is far worse than any fictional scenario.

Whilst I understand the whole idea that the bullies and abuse make Jacob the shell of the man he becomes, I am also inclined to disagree with that element of the book. Jacob the child, the teen, the young and older man all show a propensity towards violence and inflicting pain. Whether that is a self-fulfilling prophecy caused by abuse and neglect, a protective stance or something more innate, is worth a discussion. Also debatable is how much we control our own outcomes, regardless of the input of others,be it negative or positive input.

What isn't debatable of course is that a lifetime of neglect, abuse and bullying can define the life of the victim. However not every victim becomes violent or remains the underdog going forward.
Randall makes a good point about perception. Jacob is already predisposed to think the worst of people, ergo doesn't know how to react or recognise when there is no ill intent aimed his way. Towards the end there is an interesting conversation between Jacob and one of the boys from the incident he perceives to be the catalyst of everything. Jacob is surprised by the fact there could have been an alternative scenario for that day and perhaps his life.

It's difficult to fit this into a genre per se. It's a contemporary read with the feel of a noirish fictional memoir.

Buy The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: J.New Books; pub date 20 Aug. 2019. Buy at Amazon comBuy at J.New Books.

Enter the Giveaway below to Win 3 Copies of The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada (UK Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway *Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.*

#BlogTour A Place to Lie by Rebecca Griffiths


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour A Place to Lie by Rebecca Griffiths. It's a dark psychological thriller with a strong emotional core.
About the Author
Rebecca Griffiths grew up in rural mid-Wales and went on to gain a first class honours degree in English Literature. After a successful business career in London, Dublin and Scotland, she returned to mid-Wales where she now lives with her husband, a prolific artist, their three vampiric cats as black as night, and pet sheep the size of sofas.

Follow @rebeccagriffit7 on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Amazon,
About the book
In a dark, dark wood

In Summer 1990, Caroline and Joanna are sent to stay with their great aunt, Dora, to spend their holidays in a sunlit village near the Forest of Dean. The countryside is a welcome change from the trauma they know back home in the city; a chance to make the world a joyful playground again. But in the shadowy woods at the edge of the forest hide secrets that will bring their innocence to a distressing end and make this a summer they will never forget.

There was a dark, dark house

Years later, a shocking act of violence sends Joanna back to Witchwood. In her great aunt's lonely and dilapidated cottage, she will attempt to unearth the secrets of that terrifying summer and come to terms with the haunting effects it has left on her life. But in her quest to find answers, who can she trust? And will she be able to survive the impending danger from those trying to bury the truth?

Review

Caroline and Joanna used to be as close as sisters can be until dark secrets create an insurmountable wall between them. The kind of wall that makes the two of them into complete strangers. It's no surprise that Joanna hasn't got an explanation for the bizarre behaviour Caroline exhibits just before her death.

There appears to be no reason for her erratic and violent actions that ultimately led to her sudden death. Unanswered questions leads Joanna on a search for the answers and the truth, even if that means discovering uncomfortable truths.

The truth seems to be connected to events going back to their childhood when the two of them were sent to stay with their aunt Dora. Carefree play with friends in the forest suddenly becomes sinister and dangerous when something terrible happens that changes their lives forever, but it doesn't leave the same impression on both of them.

It's a dark psychological thriller with a strong emotional core. Griffiths plays on the fact that we all experience events in a completely different way and our reactions are also individual and very personal. This thriller and the crime is viewed and projected through that kaleidoscope vision, which in turn shows the vulnerabilities and loopholes in relationships, even ones that are supposed to be really close.

I found the ending quite interesting, perhaps because Griffiths doesn't pander to what readers may be expecting or think they need. You'll have to read it to find out.

Buy A Place to Lie at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Sphere | Paperback | £7.99 | 22nd August 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Friday, 16 August 2019

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

I love this story. It is what every child holds deep in their imagination. What every inner child sat inside an adult screams for. Imagine doors, just random doors in the middle of nowhere, somewhere and even here. Doors that lead to other places, countries and people. Doors driven by the invisible magic in the world, but only visible to a few.

There's a moment in the story when Harrow balances the readers on the precipice of whether what January is experiencing is real or fiction. A fictional narrative drummed up by the trauma of grief and the pain of neglect. A young girl who has had episodes of delusions over the years or is that what Locke would have us believe.

It all seems too far-fetched to be true. Doors in the middle of fields that lead to other places.  A book that tells the story of a young girl who happens upon the opening of a door at the right time and then spends years trying to reestablish a connection made within moments. Moments that haunt her and set her on an incredible path to discover the truth.

This book has incredible depth and beauty. It's the kind of story that inspires both the young and old, and creates readers. It allows readers to step further than they believed - one page at a time. Magic of old and blood magic of new.

It's YA fantasy, but I would recommend it for younger readers too. Fantasy melded with historical fiction with an essence of literary fiction.

Buy The Ten Thousand Doors of January at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Orbit; pub date ecopy 10 Sept. 2019, Hardcover pub date 12 Sept. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @AlixEHarrow on Twitter, on Goodreads, Visit alixeharrow.wixsite.com/author

#BlogTour Take it Back by Kia Abdullah


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour Take it Back by Kia Abdullah. It's a legal thriller with the precision of a crime, the darkness of a psychological thriller and has the power of women's empowerment at its best.
About the Author
Kia Abdullah is an author, journalist and travel writer. She has contributed to The Guardian, BBC, and Channel 4 News, and most recently the New York Times commenting on a variety of issues affecting the Muslim community. Kia currently travels the world as one half of the travel blog atlasandboots.com, which receives over 200,000 views per month.

Follow @KiaAbdullah on Twitter, Visit kiaabdullah.com
Buy Take it Back
About the book
Zara Kaleel, one of London's brightest young legal minds, shattered the expectations placed on he by her family and forged a glittering career at the Bar. All before hanging up her barrister's wig to help the victims who needed her most. Victims like Jodie Wolfe.

Jodie's own best friend doesn't even believe her claims that their classmates carried out such a crime. But Zara does. And Zara is determined to fight for her.

Jodie and Zara becomes the centre of the most explosive criminal trial of the year, in which ugly divisions within British society are exposed. As everything around Zara begins to unravel she becomes even more determined to get Jodie the justice she's looking for. But t what price?

Review
This is definitely going on my list of favourite reads of this year. It is an extremely powerful story. The author doesn't pull any punches and when she does take a shot those punches are delivered with such an intensity, power and honesty that it leaves a mark.

It's controversial and the subject matter is more so, but perhaps the controversy lies in the realism. The author speaks from the heart, the mind and from her own personal experiences as a Muslim and as a woman and merges all those elements into her main character, Zara.

Zara has broken free of many restraints of her culture and religion, however it has come at a price. There is a moment in the book when her father says something terrible to her. A sentence that changes the way she defines herself in her family, as a person and as a professional, which haunts her going forward. It's simply indefensible and it can't be justified in any way shape or form.

When a young white girl with terrible facial deformities comes to Zara for support after being sexually assaulted by four Muslim boys, she is determined to get Jodie the justice she deserves. She isn't prepared for the backlash against all of them. The racial Molotov cocktail it becomes and the target it paints on her back is lit by the fury of the sanctimonious and thrown by hypocrites.

The author makes some really poignant points about rape. The why and the imbalance when it comes to the treatment of victim and perpetrator, and what role the choice of victim plays in the rape. In this case the shadow of doubt that hovers over the case just because Jodie is deemed ugly, ergo not worthy of raping.

What Abdullah portrays with a frightening accuracy is the patriarchal society we live in, and the role the parochial attitudes play within the male dominated structures. The subordination of women is expected and any deviance is met with harsh repercussions for said women and girls.

Regardless of empty words about women being revered in certain cultures, and especially in specific religious groups, the reality is completely different. Honour killings, kidnappings, forced 'arranged' marriages and the domination of female gender by males of all ages. The author makes a really important point about the role of other women in this systemic domination and oppression. The majority of them take part in the oppression, because it is easier and safer to do so, but also because they have somehow convinced themselves that winning smaller battles is a victory in itself, even if it is at the expense of their daughters, sisters and fellow women in general.

It's a legal thriller with the precision of a crime, the darkness of a psychological thriller and has the power of women's empowerment at its best. This is an explosive must read as far as I am concerned.

Buy Take it Back at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ; pub date 8 Aug. 2019. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Waterstones.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Patchett is truly a writer who knows and has fine-tuned her craft, which is especially evident within the pages of this powerful tale of family, abandonment, perspectives and above all the individuality of relationships. Not one is the same.

Each relationship we create, foster or even tear asunder is identifiable to ourselves by our own frame of reference, experiences and memories. It is never quite the same for someone else, which is why a group of us can all know a person well and yet experience relationships with that person on a completely different level and way to every other person in said group.

I think that is one of the most poignant parts of the story. It is certainly the aspect that defines the role of the absentee mother. What Danny feels and has experienced isn't what Maeve experienced in regards to their mother, which in turn also applies to Cyril and the rest of the women from the Dutch house.

The house itself, which is integral to the plot, and the emotions which are tethered to said house become singular relationships in their own right. Once again, it takes on a different level of importance for each one of the characters.

Danny and Maeve struggle with the fact their mother just upped and left them, which is compounded tenfold when their father brings home a new stepmother and two stepsisters. A stepmother who is fascinated by the house and wealth her marriage brings with it. A woman who feels as if Danny and Maeve are the enemies.

The siblings have a strong bond necessitated by the indifference and neglect they experience. Neither of them understands the intricacies of their relationship until others intrude upon it. Towards the end Danny finally understands the measure and depth of their relationship and wherein his peace and happiness really lies.

I loved the way Patchett wove and spun this story. It's beautiful and yet simultaneously also incredibly sad at times. It's literary fiction, a beautiful contemporary read about altruistic relationships and family dynamics.

Buy/Pre-order The Dutch House at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing; pub date 24 September 2019. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Bloomsbury.

Visit annpatchett.com

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

#BlogTour In Truth, Madness by Imran Khan


Today it's my turn on the BlogTour In Truth, Madness by Imran Khan. It's a contemporary read with elements of a dystopian story wrapped in the powerful pull of history.
About the Author
Having kickstarted his career in the heady world of 1990s independent magazine publishing with work on Dazed and Confused, and launching seminal style title 2nd Generation, Imran Khan jumped into the mainstream with BBC London - hosting radio shows on popular culture, arts and news as the millennium approached. Despite having a face for radio, in 2001 he produced a series of short documentaries for BBC Newsnight, Britain’s leading current affairs programme. His work was noticed in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks and Channel 4 commissioned the award winning film "The Hidden Jihad", which he wrote and presented. Imran subsequently moved full-time into TV news, working as a BBC producer and correspondent reporting from Lebanon, London and Qatar, with freelance stints in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He became a correspondent for Al Jazeera English in 2005 and is known for his extensive reporting from Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Libya, as well covering the Arab Spring and the conflict in Syria. He continues to work as a correspondent for Al Jazeera English, dividing his time between the Middle East, South Asia and London.

Follow @ajimran on Twitter, on GoodreadsBuy In Truth, Madness
About the book
Meet Malek Khalil. In his mid-40s, Malek is a brilliant reporter with decades of experience in the field. If there has been a war, natural disaster or political crisis, Malek has been there and will be there.

But the years of conflict reporting have taken their toll and Malek is slowly unravelling. His colleagues, Neeka and Justin, have noticed a change in him. Neeka should know, she has been his producer for decades and knows him better than he knows himself. Justin the cameraman has shot his material for just as long. Together they make a formidable team. But they are only as strong as each other - and Malek is fast going down the rabbit hole.

Born a Muslim but an atheist to his core, Malek undertakes a voyage that takes him around the world  and back in time to ancient Babylon as he finds himself arguing with a God in whom he doesn't believe.

The novel takes place throughout Middle East, South Asia and London where the backdrop of war, religion, political skullduggery and love play out to take the reader on a journey through some of the most dangerous parts of modern culture and the ancient world.

Review
I think what I enjoyed most about this read were the factual elements both the historical and more current ones. The political and religious opinions, and the deep well of emotions he sometimes draws from. Moments like the guilt Malek feels as a journalist, because he is able to come and go as he pleases in the war-torn countries, ergo not being allowed to claim the burden of PTSD.

I think in this case it's perhaps easier to let each reader enter the world Malek inhabits and decide what journey he is taking his readers on themselves. I found it an intriguing journey of self, which battles with the pain and destruction humanity causes, and ultimately a conversation with self about faith or lack of it. An sadonic panel of arbitrators who determine which path we take, do we determine it or have our cards fallen long before we are aware of it.

At times I felt as if there was an inner struggle going on, a tug-of-war of the stories within the story. The stories the author wants to tell, but melds them together with ambitious eagerness. The fantasy come historical fiction tale of the character and the connection to Babylon, the man who braves the war-torn countries, and then the political and religious complexities of the Middle East. All of them worthy of a read in their own right, together they get less attention and give the story a slightly disjointed feel.

There is no doubt Khan has plenty to tell his readers, and he does so with compassion, intellect and a very strong voice. I can imagine conversations with him would be quite interesting, because despite some controversial opinions, depending on your views, there is an attempt to keep a balance throughout.

It's a contemporary read with elements of a dystopian story wrapped in the powerful pull of history.

Buy In Truth, Madness at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound Digital; pub date 22 August 2018. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Unbound.