Saturday, 12 June 2021

#BlogTour Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

 It's my turn on the BlogTour Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau.

About the Author

Jessica Anya Blau is the author of US bestselling novel The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and three other critically acclaimed novels, most recently The Trouble With Lexie. Her novels have been recommended and featured on CNN, NPR, The Today Show and in Vanity Fair, Cosmo, O Magazine, and many other US magazines and newspapers. 

Follow @JessicaAnyaBlau on Twitter, Visit jessicaanyablau.com

About the book

Set in 1975 suburban Baltimore, Blau’s breakout novel introduces Mary Jane, a sheltered teenage girl whose world opens up when she lands a summer job as the nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house. 

The Cone house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeaway for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job—helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife—Jimmy and Sheba— move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.

A nostalgic trip into the 1970’s, Mary Jane is a timeless coming of age story about finding yourself, all wrapped up with lots of humour, a dash of teenage rebellion and plenty of rock and roll. 

Review

When confronted with a completely different lifestyle Mary Jane is in a position to both directly compare her parents and her employer's parenting skills. The result is two-fold, she realises she wants something akin to what she knows, but slightly different, and just how much she is a product of her upbringing.

Taking care of a young child, who at best seems a little lost and at worst neglected, helps her to mature emotionally. Seeing the world through the eyes of people who live life without rules and with a sense of abandonment creates doubt and worry. It awakens senses, emotions and desires. It awakens the Mary Jane her parents fear.

It reminded me of the nostalgia and atmospheric read of Emma Cline's Girls, and the empowering chaos of discovery and evolution of Daisy Jones. By setting it in the mid 70s the author also captures the growing differences in society. The recognition of a society seeped in racism and white supremacy, the complete explosion of freedom of the 60s becoming a more decisive movement, and a generation starting to break out of those molds.

It's important to note, especially when it comes to the young child, that certain parenting techniques or attitudes to child rearing would set off alarm bells for social workers in our era. Life didn't evolve around the child, the child slotted into the life the parents led. Leaving them unsupervised, alone and having them present during during moments when children shouldn't be observing and taking everything on board - the norm for the 70s. 

Mary-Jane and her parents represent the old and new generations, the three on one path heading towards a crossroads in life. It also shows the clear divide between what is deemed respectable and appropriate for a girl. That exploring fashion, feelings of desire, sexuality and coming-of-age in general does not equate to a girl or woman being slutty.

Blau writes with a keen understanding of the emotional turmoil and mind-set of a teenage girl. She does so without presenting the usual tropes of the Lolita or demonising the parents. It's a compelling read with a foot in one timeline and the rest of the body surging through to another. Excellent read.

Buy Mary Jane at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Custom House, an imprint of HarperCollins pub date 27th May - Hardback, £20* - also available in ebook and digital audio (with original song). Buy at Amazon com. At Waterstones.

#BlogTour The Cookbook of Common Prayer by Francesca Haig

It's my turn on the BlogTour The Cookbook of Common Prayer by Francesca Haig.

About the Author

Francesca Haig grew up in Tasmania and is an academic and writer, whose poetry and YA/crossover fantasy have been widely published. She lives in London with her husband and son. This is her first novel for adults. Follow @FrancescaHaig on Twitter, Visit francescahaig.com

About the book

A heart-rending tale of a family in turmoil after the death of a child is kept secret from one of his siblings.

When Gill and Gabe's eldest son drowns overseas, they decide they must hide the truth from their desperately unwell teenaged daughter. But as Gill begins to send letters from her dead son to his sister, the increasingly elaborate lie threatens to prove more dangerous than the truth.

Told through alternating perspectives, and moving between Tasmania and London, this is a novel about family, food, grief and hope.

For readers of Celeste Ng, Delia Owens, and Anne Tyler, this dramatic, poetic novel explores the many ways that a family can break down - and the unexpected ways that it can be put back together.

Review

I will be counting this as one of my top reads for 2021. It's an evocative story about a family dealing with the death of their loved one by concealing his death from one of his siblings in an attempt to save another of their children.

With this first venture out of the YA sub-genre, the author shows incredible depth and maturity in her storytelling and character development. The element of grief is viewed from the perspective of each character, all of whom react differently to the tragedy that threatens to make their world implode. 

There is no statistically proven adhering to stages of grief in order to cope, because the truth is grief doesn't read the same books or listen to the same experts we do. It has it's own agenda and can be very different for each person, especially when it comes the position in the family hierarchy or dynamics - and this very important nuance is exactly what Haig captures.

As if the above wasn't enough to capture the attention of the reader and hold it with an equal measure of sympathy and empathy, indeed there were moments that tugged at the heart and opened the doors for silent weeping. It's beautiful. I loved it. It's the kind of book I would (and will) buy for others and just say - read this.

Buy The Cookbook of Common Prayer at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Allen and Unwin - Hardback & eBook | 3 June 2021 | £14.99. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Waterstones.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

#BlogTour Embers by Josephine Greenland

 It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Embers by Josephine Greenland.

About the Author

Josephine Greenland is a Swedish–English writer from Eskilstuna, Sweden. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham and a BA in English from the University of Exeter. She is the winner of the 2019 Bumble Bee Flash Fiction Competition by Pulp Literature, the 2017 Fantastic Female Fables Competition by Fantastic Books Publishing, and also the runner-up in the 2018 Summer Solstice Competition by Wild Words. 

Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Dream Catcher, Literary Yard, Soft Cartel Mag, Plum Tree Tavern, Porridge Magazine, Litro and AHF Magazine. She has also been highly commended in competitions by TSS Publishing and Cinnamon Press. In 2017, she was awarded the Young Writer’s Bursary by Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival.

In August 2019, Josephine began a PGDE course at the University of Edinburgh to become a Secondary English teacher. When not writing or teaching, she enjoys playing the violin, running and hiking. Embers is her first novel and was written during her MA course. It is based on her own travels in northern Sweden two years ago with her brother. 

Follow @greenland_jm on Twitter, Visit linktr.ee/josephinegreenland

About the book

Two siblings, one crime. One long-buried secret.17-year-old Ellen never wanted a holiday. What is there to do in a mining town in the northernmost corner of the country, with no one but her brother Simon – a boy with Asperger’s and obsessed with detective stories – for company?

Nothing, until they stumble upon a horrifying crime scene that brings them into a generations-long conflict between the townspeople and the native Sami.

When the police dismiss Simon’s findings, he decides to track down the perpetrator himself. Ellen reluctantly helps, drawn in by a link between the crime and the siblings’ own past. What started off as a tedious holiday soon escalates into a dangerous journey through hatred, lies and self-discovery that makes Ellen question not only the relationship to her parents, but also her own identity

Review

Ellen is reluctant to take a holiday and even more reluctant to take her brother Simon with her. The trip becomes a journey into the past and a forest of lies. It also becomes a journey to solve a grotesque crime, a crime which is connected to their own heritage - they just don't know it yet. The attempts to cover up a crime and pervert the course of justice are a something Simon can't and won't accept.

I find it interesting how both the existence and treatment of the Sámi people remain something akin to a dirty secret. The Scandinavian societies are generally perceived as forward thinking and modern in certain areas, and also often held up as examples for the rest of Europe.

The truth is that they have their fair share of problems that are kept nice and quiet, including the history of the mistreatment of their indigenous people. Unfortunately the systemic racism, irrational hatred and attempt to ignore their historical importance is still prevalent. Instead of gaining insight into the past, heritage and the mystical link they have with their surroundings - Scandinavians (not all) choose to treat the Sámi people with contempt. 

I truly hope Greenland revisits this riveting sleuthing duo and writes another book featuring the siblings. The combination of the reluctant older sister, the younger brother with a lack of impulse control and their crime solving seen through the lens of a someone with Asperger's, really makes for a great read.

Buy Embers at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Unbound Digital pub date 18 Mar. 2021. Buy at Amazon com

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

#BlogTour Into the Mouth of the Lion by A.B. Kyazze

 

It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Into the Mouth of the Lion by A.B. Kyazze.

About the Author

A.B. Kyazze is a British-American writer and photographer. She spent more than 18 years writing and taking photographs in humanitarian crises across the globe in Africa, Asia and the Balkans. Into the Mouth of the Lion is her debut novel. She recently published short stories in The Great Lakes Review, Byte the Book and The National Anthology of Flash Fiction 2019 (UK). She also writes book reviews and articles, and teaches creative writing classes for children. Follow @abkwriting on Twitter

About the book

Angola, 2002. In the last days of a vicious civil war, it is a dangerous landscape rife with rebel soldiers, land mines, corruption and deception. A suspicious explosion kills a beloved nurse, while another humanitarian worker goes missing.

Lena Rodrigues, a young photographer, flies out to Angola's highlands to piece together the reasons behind her sister's disappearance. But will she have the strength to bear witness to the truth, before she gets entangled in the country's conflict for minerals and power?

Review

Lena, in all of her privileged naiveté, doesn't really have any idea what she has let herself in for by flying halfway across the globe to look for her sister in Angola. To the team on the ground, DJ's team, she is a liability for exactly that reason. 

DJ is more of a fleeting image or a mirage in the book. Now and again the reader gets a short chapter or paragraph of her emotional state of mind and where she is headed, but no idea when that happened and if she is still safe. The death of her friend has caused a breakdown in communication - her grief has made her an uncontrollable variable.

Kyazze creates this fictional story around the factual events of the brutal Angolan Civil war or the tail-end of the unrest. The more personal fractious relationship between two sisters is indicative of the many stories that go unheard in war zones, especially ones driven with such brutality and frenzy of opposing forces.

Kudos to the author for the way she approached the character of DJ and the way she takes part in the story. The dipping in, the almost lyrical moments that are anonymous in a sense that the reader knows but there is a lack of direct reference to whom the scenes refer. It creates this beauty and fragile moments in the midst of the reality of what is taking place with Lena and the team.

Definitely a book I would recommend, certainly an author I would like to read more by.

Buy Into the Mouth of the Lion at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎ Unbound Digital pub date 6 May 2021. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour She Never Told Me About the Ocean by Elisabeth Sharp McKetta


It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour She Never Told Me About the Ocean by Elisabeth Sharp McKetta.

About the Author

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta grew up in Austin, Texas. She holds literature degrees from Harvard, Georgetown, and the University of Texas at Austin and teaches writing for the Harvard Extension School and the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. 

She is the author of eight books: We Live in Boise, Energy: The Life of John J. McKetta Jr., Fear of the Deep, Fear of the Beast, Poetry for Strangers Vols. I and II, The Creative Year: 52 Workshops for Writers, and The Fairy Tales Mammals Tell. She Never Told Me About the Ocean is her first novel. Follow @ESMcKetta on Twitter, Visit elisabethsharpmcketta.com

About the book

Told by four women whose stories nest together, She Never Told Me About the Ocean is an epic about a rite of passage that all humans undergo and none remember: birth.

Eighteen-year-old Sage has been mothering her mother for as long as she can remember, and as she arrives on the shores of adulthood, she learns a secret: before she was born, she had an older brother who drowned. In her search to discover who he was and why nobody told her,

Sage moves to tiny Dragon Island where her mother grew up. There, she embarks on a quest to learn the superstitions of the island, especially its myths involving her mother. Gathering stories from Ilya, a legendary midwife who hires Sage as her apprentice; Marella, Sage’s grieving mother who was named for the ocean yet has always been afraid of it; and Charon, the Underworld ferrywoman who delivers souls to the land of the dead, Sage learns to stop rescuing her mother and simply let go. But when her skill as Ilya’s apprentice enables her to rescue her mother one final time, in a way that means life or death, Sage must shed her inherited fears and become her own woman.

Review

Since Sage can remember she has always been the adult in the mother daughter relationship. Her mother is fragile and unstable. She refuses to engage with the world or get close to her child. Sage has never really questioned the why of her behaviour until her grandmother says something peculiar before she dies.

The return to Dragon Island forces Marella to confront the past, which includes the island's midwife and her ability to speak truth to the future. It's a story filled with the power of sisterhood, the complex relationship between reality and figures of folklore. It's also a story of breaking free from the shackles of dysfunctional relationships and being able to finally embrace a restricted maternal love, but love nevertheless.

It's one of those books where you go - where did that come from, which well of inspiration spoke and filled your head with such rivers of inspiration? It's a spectacular venture into myth, folklore and magical realism. Simultaneously it's also an intricately woven web of women's relationships. Mother to daughter, daughter to mother, death to living and the somewhere that exists in between.

McKetta is an excellent writer and storyteller. She captures the fragility of life and death, the extreme weight and consequences of unresolved grief, and the fractured nature of relationships strained by mistakes of the past.

Buy She Never Told Me About the Ocean at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Paul Dry Books pub date 2 Mar. 2021. Buy at Amazon com

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

#BlogTour The Murderess by Ivan Jenson

 It's my turn on the BlogTour The Murderess by Ivan Jenson.

About the Author

Artist/writer/poet Ivan Jenson was born in Los Angeles, California, and raised in a family steeped in the arts. A child prodigy, he earned acclaim when, at age nine, he produced his first sculpture that was ultimately featured in the poster for the National Museum of Costa Rica.

Ivan is now also a published novelist and a widely published poet who is enjoying burgeoning critical, commercial, and literary success. His debut novel, Dead Artist, which "delves into the world of New York City and explores issues of art and soul," is published by Hen House Press New York as an eBook for the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook and as a paperback on Amazon. 

His second novel, Seeing Soriah, “a riveting story of thrills, revenge, obsession, and redemption” is a psychological thriller that is a fast-paced, "thoughtful novel about art, artists, and the world they occupy." Ivan Jenson's new book of poems, "Media Child and Other Poems" will be published by Hen House Press, New York in 2014. Ivan Jenson: pop artist icon, published novelist, prolific and widely published poet and screenwriter. Follow @IvanJensonAuthor on Twitter, Visit ivanjenson.com

About the book

30% of murders in the US go unsolved. Becca Garner hopes her lover's is one of them. Because she found him. He bequeathed her a million dollars. She's married. And so is he.

Review

Becca has a husband and children. She loves them - she loves them not. She also thinks nothing of seeking gratification elsewhere, behind her husband's back. Everything is hidden well until one day she wakes up after a session with her elderly and wealthy beau, and finds herself in a bit of a pickle.

For me the story was about perception, stereotypes and preconceived notions of how women should behave. About their role in patriarchal society and what happens when they deviate from that dictated path. And the judgement that comes along with the deviation, depending on the actions and behaviour of said woman. 

Is Becca a narcissist, a woman having a mid-life crisis, someone who is feeling unfulfilled and lonely or is she someone who was never allowed to work through her pain and trauma? That's at the core of this quick read. Do you judge someone solely on their actions or give them the benefit of the doubt and try to figure out the why?

Jenson takes all that and creates a murder mystery around it. I do think the pivotal moment in the past came and went like a tide without leaving much of an impression. Let me be clear, I do not mean details because the scenes weren't in any way gratuitous. I am talking about the emotional fallout from all of it, which is what led to her behaviour patterns and lack of self-worth.

I think it gives some food for thought in a sense that we never know what is behind closed doors or what kind of trauma someone might be carrying around with them. It's a fast-paced domestic crime thriller, short but pithy.

Buy The Murderess at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : Dark Edge Press pub date 1 Jun. 2021. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Innocently Guilty by Ashling Bourke


It's my turn on the BlogTour Innocently Guilty Ashling Bourke.


About the Author
Ashling Bourke spent most of her childhood growing up in Malawi which is a central source of inspiration for her debut novel ‘Innocently Guilty’. 

She now lives in Scotland and is studying at university whilst developing her debut novel into a series.

Follow ashlingbourkebooks.com at Twitter or abourkebooks on Instagram

About the book
‘Innocently Guilty’ is a highly engaging and extremely entertaining first novel full of intriguing characters, international adventure, love and passion, secrets and a chilling mystery at its core. Lottie and Emily are best friends, who want more than anything to have the perfect boyfriend but when a boy is found dead and all eyes are on Lottie, an African adventure awaits that unexpectedly reveals the answers she seeks. This was so not part of the plan.

Review
It's party time for three best friends, but for one of them the opposite gender is more important than the friendship, which is the beginning of a nightmare for one of them.

Lottie has a crush on Robbie and is looking forward to spending time with him, unbeknownst to her someone has plans to make her evening one to remember. Meanwhile her friends feel a little forgotten, even to the point of wanting to make sure Lottie remembers who they are.

First person narrative generally works a little better when the 'I' remains the same person consistently, as opposed to changing who the I is referring to every chapter. At the very least a chapter heading alluding to who I is referring to would be easier. As it stands the reader needs to read at least a paragraph each chapter to figure which one of the three girls the I is referring to each time. It's confusing and disrupts the flow.

It's a YA story, a tale of petty jealousy and irresponsible actions, of the shallowness of teenage friendship. How one decision made in the heat of the moment can change lives forever, but it's also about a young girl reflecting on her actions. Being forced to confront her own privilege, stereotyping and bad attitude.

It needs more depth and more attention to detail when it comes to style and voice.

Buy Innocently Guilty at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : The Conrad Press pub date 15 Feb. 2021. Buy at Amazon com.