#Review Problems by Jade Sharma @jadersharma @TrampPress

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Problems by Jade Sharma  Tramp Press  May 10th 2018

Addiction is so boring. Look at that dumb person doing the same thing over and over all the time and not doing much of anything else. That’s addiction. Repeating the same thing, the same cycle, the exact same thoughts.

 Maya is funny, observant, smart and self-destructive. Maya has problems: a sweet, handsome heavy-drinking husband she is no longer sure she loves. A detached older lover who will not take her frantic calls. Her overdue thesis and dead-end retail job. Her dying mother. Herself, most of all, and her escalating drug habit.

Problems is a novel of the body that happens in the head. It is direct, full-frontal, graphic, but tender and melancholic too. ­Maya’s narration is explicit, upsetting and often shamelessly sexy. Through the unraveling of her marriage, the comedic awfulness of her visit to her in-laws, her obsession with her weight, and the constant intense physical ebb and flow of her drug use, Problems takes the reader on a compelling, uncomfortable and thrilling ride.

My Review

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of Problems by Tramp Press and after hearing lots of good things I was looking forward to reading.

Narrated by Maya, it portrays a woman at odds with herself, a woman who has little confidence and an inner self destruct button. Married to Peter their marriage is ruled by her addiction to heroin and his drinking. You could sense both wanted out but couldn’t quite work out how to do it or who should make the first move, it was if they were safe as long as they stayed as they were.

This status quo did not make me like Maya, in fact her attitude towards Peter and her own introspection I found selfish and frustrating. It made the first part of the novel quite difficult to read as I found her quite annoying and did wonder if I should persist. I am so pleased that I carried on, as Maya’s spiral into addiction became pretty compulsive reading.

Combined with her obsession with her older lover, Ogden, you just knew that Maya was heading for disaster, that not even the intervention of her family would solve. The writing became more graphic, her sexual encounters more frequent as she sold herself for money to pay for her drug habit.

Having never experienced addiction Sharma’s descriptions of spiraling addiction were brilliant. I did wonder if the novel was semi auto-biographical so intense and graphic was the narrative, putting you, the reader, right there in Maya’s mindset, in her utter desperation as she tired to claw her way out.

It became very evident that the secret or success of Maya beating her addiction, was her will to want to do it, to do it for the right reasons, and it made for pretty tense reading as Maya swayed one way and then another in her decision making.

I won’t give away the ending, you will need to read the novel and discover if for yourself!

Problems is a novel that may not be liked by all. The sexual content is pretty graphic, as are the descriptions of drug addiction, but it wouldn’t be the novel it is if Sharma hadn’t gone in this direction. The graphic content is never misplaced, but relevant to Maya and her story, to show the extremes of human behaviour.

It is a novel that is intense, compelling and brilliantly written and Jade Sharma is a very talented author.

Thank you to Tramp Press for a copy of the novel to read and review.

About the author

Jade Sharma grew up as a US Army brat, spending most of her childhood in Germany and her teenage years in Japan. She began writing aged 14, after dropping out of school, as a means of coping with her depression. Her mother’s favorite piece of writing was a story Sharma wrote as a kid in which a married couple try to kill each other on the same day. When she quit high school, Sharma worked at a bookstore and mini-mart on a Navy Base. Later she performed spoken word at the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York and won enough slams that she was invited to join the team to represent NYC in the nationals in Seattle. She studied literature at Hunter College, and it was while she was getting her MFA in New York that she began the novel that would become Problems. She is in treatment for bipolar disorder. Living on New York’s Lower East Side, she is not-so-hard at work on her second novel entitled OKAY.

#Blogtour Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen #GunnarStaalesen @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen  Orenda Books  June 20th 2018

Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn’t leave an address. She doesn’t answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously.

Veum’s investigation uncovers a series of carefully covered-up crimes and pent-up hatreds, and the trail leads to a gang of extreme bikers on the hunt for a group of people whose dark deeds are hidden by the anonymity of the Internet. And then things get personal…

My Review

This is one of those novels where you feel you have arrived late to a party and you hope you haven’t missed all the best bits. Why oh why have I not read Gunnar Staalesen before?

Big Sister is the latest in the series featuring PI Varg Veum, who is now apparently in his sixties and I can imagine a lot has happened to him in the previous novels that I would be unaware of. However Big Sister is the perfect standalone novel and no prior knowledge was required.

Veum himself, seemed a quiet, understated kind of guy, a detective who preferred methods that didn’t necessarily involve violence and brutish behaviour. I admired his methodical, tenacious and people centered approach to investigating and solving the mystery.

It wasn’t just his investigative skills that I liked but also his character. Veum was definitely not your average one dimensional type, but instead consisted of multiple layers, Staalesen slowly revealed. The case was deeply personal to him, involving family members that he knew nothing or very little about and his personal discovery of who he was and where he came from weaved seamlessly into the storyline. It was a balance between the personal and professional aspects of his character that I admired so much, Staalesen’s narrative capturing it in writing that was both skilful and evocative.

Not only was Staalesen’s characterisation brilliant, his sense of place and the settings were just as good. He gave me wonderful images of the towns he visited, the landscape and the sprawling city of Bergen, both the good and the bad side.

But this is a crime novel thriller, you yell, what about that side of the story? If your looking for fast paced then Big Sister is definitely not fast, instead it is slow burning and intricate. Just as you think you had worked it all out, another character crawls out of the woodwork, another discovery emerges and spins you in another direction. There is very little of what you would call action and violence, Staalesen makes you think, very much in the vain of older crime and thriller novels. There are one or two violent episodes and a graphic scene, but nothing that makes you recoil in horror as some crime novels. One thing that it does have in common with other crime novels is a fantastic twist towards the end, and I didn’t guess it!

Big Sister is a quiet thriller of vivid descriptions of the towns and landscapes, it is a novel of characters and their traits, both good and bad. It is a novel with a contemporary feel that exudes from the pages and I loved it.

I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy to read and review and to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to take part in the blogtour.

About The Author

Gunnar Staalesen

Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947.  He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series.  He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), lives in Bergen with his wife. When Prince Charles visited Bergen, Staalesen was appointed his official tour guide. There is a life-sized statue of Varg Veum in the centre of Bergen, and a host of Varg Veum memorabilia for sale. Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award.

Discover hat other blogger thought about Big Sister by following the blogtour.

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#Blogtour The Cathy Connolly Series by Sam Blake @samblakebooks @BonnierZaffre @imosebba

In Deep Water completes the Cathy Connolly Trilogy and, to celebrate Bonnier Zaffre have put together this fabulous blogtour of which I must thank Imogen Sebba for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate.

Here’s a little bit about In Deep Water

Cat Connolly is back at work after the explosion that left her on life support. Struggling to adjust to the physical and mental scars, her workload once again becomes personal when her best friend Sarah Jane Hansen, daughter of a Pulitzer-winning American war correspondent, goes missing.

Sarah Jane is a journalism student who was allegedly working on a story that even her father thought was too dangerous.

With Sarah Jane’s father uncontactable, Cat struggles to find a connection between Sarah Jane’s work and her disappearance. But Sarah Jane is not the only one in deep water when Cat comes face to face with a professional killer . . .

In the world of missing persons every second counts, but with the clock ticking, can Cathy find Sarah Jane before it’s too late?

It is my pleasure to share a guest post by the author, Sam Blake, and her fascinating look into the dark world of the internet.

Deep and Very Dark: Researching the Dark Web

Recently there’s been an explosion in the debate around how much data companies hold on you, and how that all connects online. By aggregating data, companies can learn more about you than your nearest and dearest know, and you can then be targeted for all sorts of reasons – whether it’s to influence your vote or to persuade you to buy chocolate. It’s fascinating and frightening and the perfect background for a crime novel – there are so many aspects to it that you could write a whole series (now there’s an idea). My daughter is 18 and very techie, she’s a font of fascinating information about what’s happening on the web – her friends joke that she should wear a tin hat – she’d very conscious of her online footprint. She first told me about websites that aggregate hacked webcam footage – she’d read about it on Reddit. She wants to do aerospace engineering so the parts of Reddit she hangs out on tend to be populated by engineers, programmers and rocket scientists, and she finds the most interesting stories.

I started thinking about the consequences of a stranger breaking into your world and what damage they could do. I read a brilliant book by Jamie Bartlett called The Dark Net which was all about the start of the internet and how the deep web and the dark web came to be. I found articles about the Silk Road website and Dread Pirate Roberts, as its founder Ross Ulbricht was known. Ulbricht set up the site in 2011 initially to sell magic mushrooms but it literally mushroomed and it became a shop front for suppliers of everything from hard drugs to AK47s.  Ulbricht was arrested in 2013 and convicted of money launderingcomputer hacking, conspiracy to traffic fraudulent identity documents, and conspiracy to traffic narcotics in February 2015. He is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

But there are many more individuals keen to fill his place – Silk Road made millions of dollars.

The web is obviously a brilliant source for research on itself, but chatting to professional in an area is absolutely invaluable. In the course of a conversation they can say something that sparks a whole new idea. I’m blessed with a fabulous friend Alex Caan who is also a writer (Cut to the Bone/ First to Die  – watch the video for Cut to the Bone here, it’s awesome, but I might be biased as my daughter made it)

Alex is in information systems security for a number of government organisations, and is currently specialising in Terrorism Studies. There is little he doesn’t know! Having a trusted source who you can ask stupid questions is incredibly useful, and one who writes as well? I can’t thank him enough for his help – all while he was doing a PhD and writing his incredible second book First to Die.

Researching worms and viruses online I discovered even more terrifying and interesting things, including the background to the Stuxnet worm that was barely reported when it happened – a cyber-attack on Iran’s nuclear power plants it showed just how powerful cyber weapons could be. At the same time that I was reading about this, the WannaCry virus was attacking the NHS in the UK. It was all becoming very real.

Often with research you can get sucked into an internet rabbit hole of incredibly interesting stuff, but you will only ever use about 15% of what you’ve discovered. Once I had the core idea of what I wanted to write about, I got stuck in and did the rest of my research, checking necessary facts, towards the end. Needless to say I made some mistakes, but my daughter read over the draft and found them all (I hope!). There’s still so much more in this world I’d like to explore. Even with the recent investigations into Facebook etc., I think we have very little idea of what is actually happening with our data and the true power of information.

About the author

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Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the hugely popular national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout and has assisted many award winning and bestselling authors to publication. Vanessa has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks and she had an idea for a book.

The blogtour continues. Make sure you follow to discover the thoughts of my fellow bloggers.

THE CATHY CONNOLLY TRILOGY

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#Blogtour #Guestpost The Man Who Lived Twice @matadorbooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

The Man Who Lived Twice Final Cover

Welcome to my spot on the blogtour for The Man Who Lived Twice. I am delighted to be sharing a guest post by the author, entitled, Strange Encounters, but first here is a little bit about David’s novel.

The Man Who Lived Twice by David Taylor  Matador October 31st 2017

The Man Who Lived Twice tells the remarkable story of a nineteenth century British anti-hero. Colonel George St Leger Grenfell was the black sheep in one of Cornwall s most illustrious families. His wild speculations in Paris bankrupted his father and drove his brothers and sisters out of their home. Wanted for fraud in France and mosque desecration in Morocco, Grenfell became a soldier of fortune, a mercenary who fought in innumerable campaigns all over the world, always with conspicuous gallantry. He charged with the Light Brigade at Balaclava, defended the bullet-strewn barricades in the Indian Mutiny, hacked his way through the Chinese Opium War and helped Garibaldi to liberate Italy. Sailing to America to fight in their Civil War, Ole St Lege became a legend to the gullible hillbillies under his command.

As massive armies collided and one hair-raising cavalry charge followed another, this complex man fell in love with a beautiful spy and came to realise that he could no longer run away from his past. In what was to become a spiritual odyssey, Grenfell met the men and women who made, marred and mythologised the American century: the business tycoons and social reformers as well as the Lincoln conspirators and back-shooting gunslingers. Although seemingly indestructible – in one military skirmish he was shot eleven times without serious injury – Grenfell had to endure long years in prison before his luck finally changed. The Man Who Lived Twice describes a personal search for redemption set against the emergence of the United States as a world power.

GUEST POST: STRANGE ENCOUNTERS

 Life is full of strange encounters. The year is 1846 and a French hunting party has arrived in Morocco in search of adventure. Their principal target is the Barbary lion that roams through the deserts and mountains of northern Africa and is greatly admired for its size and dark mane. The same cannot be said for the appearance of the Frenchmen. They are attired in forage caps, starched shirts, long jackets, goatskin trousers and carry knapsacks and shotguns. They are led by a portly, affable gentleman with a wild head of hair who cannot stop talking, mainly about himself. Alexandre Dumas sees no reason to be modest. His novels are selling all over the world and he is making a great deal of money out of them.

Showing due respect for his literary eminence, the British Consul has promised Dumas the services of an experienced big game hunter to take charge of the expedition. Waiting for him in the stifling heat of the Grand Socco, Tangier’s principal market-place, Dumas begins to perspire and becomes agitated. What is keeping the fellow? Mon Dieu! This cannot be him! Sauntering towards the French party is a tanned, bearded man wearing a loose shirt, a pair of calf-length drawers and a curious kind of overshoe. He is hatless in the hot African sun and his legs are bare.

‘Hello,’ says this bizarre apparition. ‘I’m your guide. The name is George St Leger Grenfell, acting vice-consul.’

But do you know anything about lion hunting?’ Dumas asks.

‘My dear chap, of course I do. Bagged a few big cats in my time.’

‘Well, you don’t look the part,’ Dumas persists.

‘Neither do you, if you don’t mind me saying.’

France’s greatest living novelist is not prepared to yield to an English eccentric. ‘At least we French know better than to go out in the midday sun without some kind of head covering. Why are you dressed like that?’

‘I’m doing what the natives do,’ Grenfell replies. ‘In this country Arabs go barelegged and Negroes bareheaded. It’s much more comfortable this way.’

‘I can’t see any Arabs following your example in this souk. Now why would that be?’

‘Because they are not philosophers. I am a disciple of Diogenes.’

For once, a sweating Dumas is silenced as his guide talks enthusiastically about the Greek cynic who, having discarded all his possessions apart from a wooden drinking bowl, threw it away when he saw a peasant boy gulping water from the hollow of his hands. ‘The bowl was superfluous, you see. He who travels lightly, travels well.’

Dumas mobs his brow and begins to laugh. ‘If you hunt like you talk we will get on well together, my friend. Let us share a bottle of wine.’

This is all that history records of their first meeting but they obviously hit it off together. Dumas later called Grenfell one of the most agreeable men he’d ever met and a splendid hunting companion who ‘knew the country to a marvel and in all its details.’ As a memento of their time together, he gave Grenfell a copy of his latest book, The Count of Monte Cristo.

To learn the significance of this encounter we need to fast-forward twenty years to another hot and arid place in the Gulf of Mexico, a military parade ground in Fort Jefferson where a prisoner is trying to grow vegetables in the island’s thin coral sand. The gardener is dressed in a worn grey uniform with a conically pointed straw hat perched on his head, a look you might think of a down-at-heel Southern planter or a scarecrow. He is Colonel George St Leger Grenfell, late of Morgan’s Raiders and Jeb Stuart’s Cavalry Division, serving a life sentence for trying to release Confederate soldiers from a prisoner-of-war camp in Chicago. A man of infinite resource but no fixed purpose who had fought in wars all over the world with the wounds to prove it, along with the mental scars derived from being a wanted criminal disowned by his family.

In a prison letter, Grenfell claimed to have turned his sword into a shovel and rake and to have made himself lord of the gardening tools. But he didn’t seem happy about it, venting his anger on his garden by roasting the seed he’d been given to plant and sprinkling sea water on his growing vegetables. Grenfell did a lot of digging but, according to eye witnesses, the garden was never productive. Which makes one wonder what he was up to?

Questions were also asked two years later when Grenfell escaped from his island prison in a small boat. The official report stated he possessed a ‘considerable sum of money’ and had used it to bribe a sentinel into helping him. But where had the money come from? Prisoners were kept without cash. The report also concluded that Grenfell had drowned at sea and, in 1869, he was officially declared dead, although there were later unconfirmed sightings of him in Cuba and on the American mainland.

History seldom tells a complete story. There are frequent gaps and silences. Gaps that a historical novelist is entitled to fill by using his imagination. We know Grenfell was given a copy of the Count of Monte Cristo which tells the classic story of Edmond Dantés, a wrongly imprisoned merchant sailor, who acquires a fortune and uses it to take revenge on those who had betrayed him. What if fact imitated fiction and Grenfell became a gardener in order to dig for buried treasure in the prison compound? That might account for the money he’d come by to bribe his way off the island. But how had the treasure got there in the first place? Isn’t this too far-fetched? No, not really, but you will have to read my novel The Man Who Lived Twice to find out why.

I would like to thank Matador and Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

David Taylor

I came to write novels in a roundabout kind of way. After a career in print, radio and television journalism which took in writing for the Guardian, reporting for Panorama, presenting World in Action and running BBC Features, I set up an independent company to make current affairs and adventure programming. By then, I had written my first book, ‘Web of Corruption’, a factual account of the Poulson scandal. Now, at last, I had time to pursue one of my hobbies, sixteenth century cryptography and one day in Lambeth Palace Library I came across a complex number code that had never been deciphered. It appeared in a report written by a master spy called Anthony Standen. Well, I managed to crack Standen’s code and was rewarded with juicy details of Queen Elizabeth’s love affair with the Earl of Essex. Better yet, the cipher created a trail that led all the way to William Shakespeare. Initial thoughts of a factual publication were shattered by the thought that anything linking Shakespeare to cipher would be laughed out of court and so I turned to fiction writing. I had never written a novel and found it hard going. It required a different skill set to journalism. You have to construct a novel rather like an engineering project while thinking in terms of crisis, climax and resolution. But in the process of learning this strange art, I was bitten by the writing bug.
Hence, ‘The Man Who Lived Twice’ in which the central character is a courageous but deeply flawed nineteenth century Cornish mercenary who fought in wars on four different continents. George St Leger Grenfell helped the Moors bombard the French in Tangier, engaged in a private war against the Riff pirates on the Barbary Coast, joined the Turkish Army but still managed to charge with the Light Brigade in the Crimea, defended the bullet-strewn barricades in the Indian Mutiny, hacked his way through the Opium War in China and joined Garibaldi in liberating Italy, before voyaging to America to enlist in the Confederate Army where he became the highest ranked British officer in their Civil War. And all this from a man who had been disowned by his family after bankrupting his father and committing fraud in France and mosque desecration in Morocco.
You might imagine that I found this perfect anti-hero in Penzance, where his family of tin smelters and bankers had an estate, but that wasn’t the case. I discovered Grenfell four thousand miles away while snorkelling with my wife in the Gulf of Mexico. Our search for tropical fish and sponges took us to a coral atoll called Garden Key which consisted almost entirely of a huge brick fortress. Fort Jefferson had never served a military purpose but it did become a prison at the end of the American Civil War. So we found ourselves in a damp cell being lectured on the Lincoln conspirators who had been incarcerated there. We heard all about Dr Samuel Mudd, the country doctor who had had the misfortune of setting John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg hours after he’d assassinated President Lincoln. Mudd, it transpired, had been something of a hero in Fort Jefferson, nursing the garrison through a yellow fever epidemic after their surgeon died. He had been helped in this charitable work, we were told, by a cellmate, an English spy called Grenfell. Now that captured my attention, particularly when I discovered that he came from my own county of Cornwall. The writing duly followed.

Discover what my fellow bloggers thought about The Man Who Lived Twice by following the blogtour.

Man Who Live Twice Blog Tour Poster FINAL

#Blogotur A Child Called Happiness by Stephen Collishaw @scollishaw @Legend_Press

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A Called Happiness by Stephen Collishaw  Legend Press  May 17th 2018

Three days after arriving in Zimbabwe, Natalie discovers an abandoned newborn baby on a hill near her uncle’s farm. 115 years earlier, the hill was home to the Mazowe village
where Chief Tafara governed at a time of great unrest. Faced with taxation, abductions and loss of their land at the hands of the white settlers, Tafara joined forces with the neighbouring villages in what becomes the first of many uprisings. A Child Called Happiness is a story of hope, resilience and reclamation, proving that the choices made by our ancestors echo for many generations to come.

My review

Colonialism is not always a good thing, resentments grow, and factions of the misplaced rise up against the invaders, Zimbabwe is one such country in Africa that has seen more than its fair share of troubles and that is where we find Natalia.

You knew immediately that Natalie had arrived on her Uncle’s farm to get away from from a major life event in England, an event that the author merely hints at, dropping little clues here and there until slowly the truth is revealed.

Natalie’s and her Uncles’ discovery of an abandoned baby stirs up huge inner emotions in Natalie, whilst bringing her into contact with the local villagers and a poignant and moving relationship with a young girl, Memories. Agreeing to be their new teacher you cannot but help revel in Natalie’s sheer joy as she relishes in teaching children who want to learn, but you also knew that happy times would not last for long.

And indeed they don’t and Natalie is soon embroiled in the politics of white against black, of the rights of the native Zimbabweans to take back land that is rightfully theirs. This is where the real story began and in alternating chapter Collishaw immersed me in the history of this once beautiful country.

I read with horror the story of Tafara, as he tried and failed to rise up against the whites as they took their land, restricted them to reservations, farmed the rich soil and mined the gold from their country. You could clearly feel the mounting anger and resentment of Tafara’s sons and grandsons as Collishaw slowly intertwined the two timelines, and you began to make connections between past and present characters. What impressed me about the narrative, were the conflicting emotions Collishaw stirred up. Yes, I felt huge sympathy for Tafara and his family, yes the land was rightfully theirs, but the way in which they went about attempting to reclaim what was rightfully theirs was clearly wrong. On the flip side the invocation of white rule and their methods was also wrong, yet how would you solve such a dilemma? I liked that Collishaw never bogged the story down in politics but merely hinted of Mugabwe’s dictatorial rule, letting the characters tell the story and me the reader come to my own conclusions.

What struck me more than anything was the vivid imagery of the landscape, the heat and dust of Africa, the monsoonal torrential rains, and how perfectly it fitted the mounting tensions of the story. Indeed, the story simmered slowly before building to a drama filled ending that did not disappoint.

It is a novel that I found to be thought provoking and enthralling, it’s narrative and characters vivid and evocative.

I would like to thank Imogen Harris and Legend Press for the opportunity to read and review A Child Called Happiness and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Stephan Collishaw

Stephan Collishaw was brought up on a Nottingham council estate and failed all of his O-levels. His first novel The Last Girl (2003) was chosen by the Independent on Sunday as one of its Novels of the Year. His brother is the renowned artist, Mat Collishaw. Stephan now works as a teacher in Nottingham, having also lived and worked abroad in Lithuania and Mallorca.
Follow Stephan on Twitter at @scollishaw

The blogtour continues. Follow my fellow bloggers and find out what they thought about A Child Called Happiness

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#Blogtour That Summer In Puglia by Valeria Vescina @ValeriaVescina @EyewearBooks @Bookollective

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That Summer in Puglia by Valeria Vescina   Eyewear Publishing  March 1st 2018

Tommaso has escaped discovery for thirty years but a young private investigator, Will, has tracked him down. Tommaso asks him to pretend never to have found him. To persuade Will, Tommaso recounts the story of his life and his great love. In the process, he comes to recognise his true role in the events which unfolded, and the legacy of unresolved grief. Now he’s being presented with a second chance – but is he ready to pay the price it exacts? That Summer In Puglia is a tale of love, loss, the perils of self-deception and the power of compassion. Puglia offers an ideal setting: its layers of history are integral to the story, itself an excavation of a man’s past; Tommaso’s increasingly vivid memories of its sensuous colours, aromas and tastes, and of how it felt to love and be loved, eventually transform the discomforting tone with which he at first tries to keep Will and painful truths at a distance. 

My Review

I knew I wanted to read this novel as soon as I saw the cover. The simple black and white image of a couple holding hands, promised much, would the pages inside match the wonderful cover?

We meet our wonderful narrator Tommaso as he meets a private investigator in a London coffee shop, a PI who informs Tommaso that his mother has died leaving him a considerable inheritance. It is an inheritance Tommaso does not want, nor did he wish to be found. Why I asked myself, why did he not want the money, why did he wish to remain in anonymity?

What followed was a story of teenage love in the hot summer sun of Puglia.  Tommaso from a wealthy family, a dearly beloved Father now dead and a mother with little time for him. Anna from a family with little money, and little education. Yet Anna is intelligent, with a desire to learn all she can, to attend university and escape the backstreets of Puglia.

Both are wonderful characters but it was Tommaso, that stole my heart, Vescina’s portrayal just wonderful. She somehow manged to get to the very heart of Tommaso, from the young boy who loses his father and the bottomless grief he feels, to a man full of  guilt and the emotions of love. Vescina’s writing is brimming full of emotion and tenderness and I could not help but feel Tommaso’s utter despair that pervaded many parts of the novel. It is Tommaso’s differing relationships with his parents that I found the most interesting. The bond between himself and his father was so wonderfully endearing, and hugely emotive to read, compared to the harshness of the relationship he had with his mother, based on his utter sense of betrayal and the lack of love he felt she showed him.

Anna I felt was a character with an inner strength, that was somehow lacking in Tommaso. I think her background gave her a far more realistic outlook on life, and the situations that she found herself in were hard but I felt that she somehow coped better, striving for a life that fulfilled her potential.

Their love for one another leapt from the pages as I read, matched by the simmering heat of a hot Italian summer. And how well Vescina described the town of Puglia. The vibrancy of the town square, the winding backstreets, and the beautiful images of Tommaso’s villa and its gardens, conjured up such vivid and vibrant images. I could almost smell  the flowers in the beautiful gardens and my mouth watered at the descriptions of the amazing food cooked by Concetta. The whole setting was beautifully atmospheric and so befitting of this amazing love story.

As you can probably guess from my gushing review, i loved this novel. It had everything you want in a love story. It had passion, betrayal, grief, and loss but most of all it was about the capacity we have in all of us to forgive, to make amends and make the best of what life has to offer.

If you want a sumptuous, evocative and totally enthralling novel to take on holiday this year then it has to be That Summer In Puglia, it is just beautiful.

I would like to thank Eyewear Publishing for providing a proof to read and review and to Bookollective for inviting My bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

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Valeria Vescina is from Puglia, was educated in Switzerland and the UK, and has lived for years in London with her family. After a successful career in management, she gained an MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths (University of London). That Summer In Puglia is her debut novel. Her activity as a critic includes reviews for Seen And Heard International, Talking Humanities and the European Literature Network. She has taught creative writing workshops on the narrative potential of various art forms. Valeria also holds a degree in International Studies (University of Birmingham) and a Sloan Msc. in Management (London Business School).

#Blogtour Oh My God What A Complete Aisling @EmerTheScreamer @SarahJayBee @JennyPlatt90 @MichaelJBooks #OMGWACA

Oh My God What A Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen  Michael Joseph May 3rd 2018

Twenty-something Aisling – that’s pronounced Ashling – is the sensible sort.

She wears kitten heels for the sake of her arches.

And a great night out is knowing the immersion heater at home is securely switched off.

In other words, country girl Aisling likes to play it safe in the big city.

But that hasn’t helped get her man John to hurry up and pop the question.

Throwing caution to the wind an impatient Aisling tries to encourage him, only for her whole life to come crashing down.

Now no umbrella, electric blanket, nor sensibly sized heel can save her.

What’s a complete Aisling to do?
My review

I had heard a lot about this book in the media and although it might not normally be my first choice of book I was looking forward to a bit of light relief after being immersed in the darker side of the book world for the last few weeks.

Apparently the concept of the novel emerged from a Facebook group run by the two authors so I was even more intrigued.

Aisling it turned out is twenty eight and had been in a relationship with John for seven years. As all their contemporaries began to walk down the aisle Aisiling was left wondering when it would be her turn and it is her decision to ditch John that forces her to look at herself and her life and decide what it is that she does want.

I could not help but love Aisiling. She was funny, sweet, naive, and practical, and seemed somehow out of place in the big bright lights of Dublin. I loved the contrast between her life at home with Mum and Dad and the simpler country life and the complicated nuances of Dublin city life. I could almost feel her frantically swimming trying to find where she fitted into the grand scheme of things, wether her new friends and their lifestyle was one that she wanted. Her thoughts on their antics were very funny and at times tinged with a little sadness as I wondered at first, if they really liked her or just found her an oddball and good for a laugh.

Her antics were often very amusing and some of the descriptions conjured up the most wonderful imagery that had me laughing out loud, the first few pages in particular were hilarious.

OMGWAA could very easily be classed as pure chicklit yet it had a depth to it that took me by surprise and there were definite moments of poignancy as Aisiling had to struggle with the darker side of life

What I loved above else about OMGWAA was the idea that everything Aisiling experienced was based on reality, that each and everyone of us could and have been through the same up and downs of life. Yes, much of it is lighthearted but the writing is wonderfully engaging, the characters diverse and realistic, and it was an absolute joy to read.

I would like to thank Jenny Platt and Michael Joseph for a copy to read of the book to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate on the blogtour

About the authors

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Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen conceived the character of Aisling in their sitting room in 2008, when they began to observe the many traits, characteristics and quirks of a very particular type of Irish girl; one they identified around them and one they identified with.

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling was an instant sensation in their native Ireland and the Number One bestselling adult fiction title of 2017.

Emer McLysaght is the former editor of The Daily Edge and has worked extensively in journalism and radio.

Sarah Breen is a journalist whose work has appeared in StellarImageU, the Irish Independent and The Gloss.

Follow my fellow bloggers as the blogtour for Oh My God What A Complete Aisling continues.

#Blogtour The Louisiana Republic by Maxim Jakubowski #MaximJakubowski @caffeinenights @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Louisiana Republic Cover

The Louisiana Republic by Maxim Jakubowski  Caffeine Nights Publishing May 10th 2018

New York, and the world, have been transformed by an unexplained global catastrophe now known as ‘the Dark’ Once a modest researcher, (don’t recall if I gave character an
actual name; if so, please insert) has now become an involuntary detective. When he is recruited by her elder sister to find the missing daughter of a local gangster in a city in chaos where anarchy and violence are just a step away, he soon discovers the case is
anything but straightforward and compellingly close to home. Compromising photographs and the ambiguous assistance of a young woman with ties to the criminal gangs lead him to New Orleans, which has seceded from the rest of America in the
wake of the Dark. A perilous journey down the Mississippi river, murderous hit
women and sidekicks, and the magic and dangerous glamour of the French Quarter become a perilous road to nowhere and to madness in his quest for the amoral daughter, his own lost love and his sanity.
Will he find the missing women or lose himself?

My Review

Life after the Dark is a world with no social media, no internet, it is a world ruled by gangs, gangs who are not afraid to exercise their muscle and to kill in order to maintain control. Milling about in this dystopian world is our unnamed protagonist, a private eye, skilled in locating the missing. His world is turned upside down when the beautiful Alexandra Helmsmark pays him to find her sister, Tiffany Cherise. It is a search that plunges him into the world of strip joints, erotic photographs and a criminal world, that would rather Tiffany Cherise stayed missing.

This novel is dark, very dark. I could feel the dense darkness ooze from the pages, lightness failing to emerge at every turn. The characters themselves are dark, full of menace and danger, the women somehow fiercer, more brutal than their male counterparts, which I found altogether quite refreshing. It is a novel that has quite a lot of graphic sexual or should I call it erotic content, yet it serves a purpose, is timely and relevant, never seeming out of context in the story. In some ways it helped shape the characters of the novel, never dehumanising the women, showing them to be the ones in control, using it as a powerful tool, highlighting their hold over the men they come into contact with.

It become not just a story of our protagonist looking for a missing person, but also looking for the woman he loved resulting in a road trip to the impregnable city of New Orleans. Jakuboski’s narrative imagery went into overdrive, describing the arduous, dangerous journey down the river, the steaming heat and the vibrancy of a city little changed since the Dark. I noticed a shift in the pace of the novel as the tension mounted and our protagonist face untold obstacles in his quest to find Cherise and his girlfriend.

Just as I thought I knew what was going to happen the novel took a twist that caught me off guard, surprising me, sending the novel into a totally different direction. It was an ending I did not expect, but one that was totally in keeping with this sometimes strange and unique novel. I think that was why I liked it so much, it took me out of my comfort zone, it made me think, and challenged me.

When I came to write this review I had to think really hard about what genre category The Louisiana Republic falls into. It is not simply crime, thriller, dystopian or noir, in fact it doesn’t really fit into any of those genres, instead its stands out on its own having a uniqueness that will surprise and engage all that read it.

Thank you to Caffeine Nights Publishing for a review copy yo read and review and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Maxim J Author Picture

MAXIM JAKUBOWSKI worked for many years in book publishing as an editor (including on titles by William Golding, Peter Ackroyd, Oliver Stone, Michael Moorcock, Peter Ustinov, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Paul Ableman, Sophie Grigson, Nico Ladenis, Peter Yorke, Cornell Woolrich, etc…) and launched the Murder One Bookshop, which he owned and ran for over 20 years. He now writes, edits and translates full-time in London. He was born in London and educated in France, and his books have been translated into many languages. From an early age, he was always fascinated by popular culture and his writing and editing has criss-crossed all areas, from science fiction & fantasy to thrillers and, inevitably, erotica.
He has been a columnist for TIME OUT and the GUARDIAN, and contributed to most major newspapers and magazines, and is a regular arts commentator on British and French TV and radio. He also ran London’s annual crime film and literary festival CRIME SCENE for 12 years and is a consultant for several overseas film festivals. He has won the Anthony and Karel awards for his contributions to, respectively, crime fiction and SF & fantasy, and in 2009 was named Best Erotic Author of the Year. He now writes a monthly book review column for lovereading.co.uk. He was selected by TIME OUT as one of the prominent 50 London writers.

The blogtour continues, follow and my fellow blogger and discover their thoughts on the Louisiana Republic

Louisiana Republic Blog Tour Poster (1)

#Blogtour The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings @MandaJJennings @HQstories

 The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings   HQ May 17th 2018

Cornwall, summer of 1986.

The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.

If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.

If only her life was as perfect as theirs.

If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.

If only she lived at The Cliff House…

My review

Th first thing I admired about this novel is the cover, it is absolutely stunning. I loved the simplicity of  it, and the subsequent images it evoked. So often a stunning cover does not necessarily mean the content is of a similar nature, but The Cliff House delivered on both fronts.

I have to say that it was a novel that surprised me with  content that I wasn’t quite expecting. I was expecting a tense psychological thriller very much in the same vane as In Her Wake. Yes The Cliff House is thrilling, yes it is tense and the psychological aspects are brilliant but it is so much more than that. It is a novel of teenage angst, of grief and loss and a house, The Cliff House, a house that means different things for the characters that enter through its doors.

For sixteen year old Tamsyn it is the last link and the place where she feels closest to her dead Father, still grief stricken six years after his death. I had mixed feelings about Tamsyn. On the one level I felt incredibly sorry for her, this young woman, who could not move on, stuck in a time warp, extremely naive and quite childish in her outlook. On another level I found her childish naivety frustrating, and at times wanted her to shake her, tell her to wake up and realise that the perfection she saw in the Davenports was all an illusion, the house nothing but bricks and mortar. If this is the way in which Jennings wanted me to feel she certainly succeeded.

Edie is Tamsyn’s opposite, strong, willful, streetwise, confident, out to prove a point and to rebel. In some ways I actually felt more empathy for Edie and found her more likeable, she may have a hard exterior but underneath was a girl who just wanted normal parents and above all a mum to share things with.

The relationship between Tamsyn and Edie was interesting. Edie the leader, pulling Tamsyn along, Tamsyn the willing follower, dazzled by what she perceives as the perfect life, the perfect family, desperate to be in the Cliff House no matter the cost, both using each other for differing outcomes.

The outcomes may not have been what they both wanted but the events leading up to the end results were brilliantly tense and unnerving. I could sense that a huge explosion of emotion and drama would erupt, that maybe not all would end well. The latter pages had me sitting on the edge of my seat and were evocative, chilling and just slightly surprising.

What sets this apart from the many novels in this genre is the setting. Jennings descriptions and imagery had me right there in Cornwall, on the cliff paths and inside the Cliff House. The Cliff House itself, dominated the narrative, with its white exterior, its myriad of windows and the stillness of the swimming pool, exerting its magnetic pull on the characters.

The Cliff House pulled me in and held me, enthralled in its clutches until it let me go, leaving me filled with admiration at such a wonderfully powerful novel.

Thank you to HQ for a copy of the Cliff House to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

 Amanda Jennings, author

Amanda is mother to three daughters and lives in chaotic contentment just outside Henley-on-Thames with a houseful of pets and a husband. She is the author of three books, Sworn Secret, The Judas Scar and In Her Wake. The Cliff House is her fourth novel.

CliffHouse_BlogTour

#Blogtour Faultlines by Doug Johnstone @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandonThingsTours

Faultlines final Cover aw_preview (1)

Faultlines by Doug Johnstone  Orenda Books  May 22nd 2018

In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, where a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery.

On a clandestine trip to new volcanic island The Inch, to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body, and makes the fatal decision to keep their affair, and her discovery, a secret. Desperate to know how he died, but also terrified she’ll be exposed, Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done.

My review

Having never read any of Johnstone’s previous novels, I was most intrigued by the premise of Faultlines.

Edinburgh, as I remember is a beautiful city but an Edinburgh now on a major faultline is something I could never quite imagine. Add in a volcanic island know as The Inch and the author had me hooked straightaway.

What I loved more than anything were the vivid descriptions of the island itself, the black sand of the beach, the rocky outcrops and the simmering and increasingly violent earth tremors of the islands volcanoes. It was not hard to picture myself right in the thick of it, feeling the heat and tasting the sulphur as the tension and drama of the novel increased. What particularly impressed me was the synergy between the increasingly violent earthquakes and the intensity of the novel.

If that wasn’t enough, we had a cast of characters that I wasn’t sure I particularly warmed to at times. Take the main protagonist Surtsey. A PHD student who lies about the discovery of her married boyfriend Tom on The Inch and then proceeds to drink vast amounts of alcohol and smoke grass, and having seemingly little respect or time for those around her. This may have been due to her being the prime suspect in her boyfriends murder, yet her attitude towards the police did not necessarily help her. I did have enormous empathy towards her dedication to her dying mother and Johnstone was brilliant in his depictions which were both emotive and tender.

Faultlines had many twists and turns, taking me first one way and then another, and just when I thought I had worked out who the murderer was, Johnstone threw in another curve ball and I had to think again. I did guess the culprit but that didn’t matter, it was the way in which Johnstone’s writing led me there that impressed me, as I furiously turned the pages to discover just how it would all end. The ending when it arrived was dramatic and extremely suspenseful, full of high drama, it will certainly have you sitting on the edge of your reading chair!!

So if you like me you love hugely addictive, intense crime novels with a twist, and a host of fantastic characters then Faultlines is for you. I loved it and cannot wait to dive into another Doug Johnstone novel.

I would like to thank Orenda Books for a proof copy to read and review and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to take part in the blogtour.

About the author

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Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His eighth novel, Crash Land, was published by Faber & Faber in November 2016. His previous book, The Jump, was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Novel. Gone Again(2013) was an Amazon bestseller and Hit & Run (2012) and was an Amazon #1 as well as being selected as a prestigious Fiction Uncovered winner. Smokeheads (2011) was nominated for the Crimefest Last Laugh Award. Before that Doug published two novels with Penguin, Tombstoning (2006) and The Ossians (2008). His work has received praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, William McIlvanney, Megan Abbott and Christopher Brookmyre.

Doug was recently Writer in Residence with William Purves Funeral Directors. He is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow, and was RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh 2014-2016. Doug was also Writer in Residence at the University of Strathclyde 2010-2012 and before that worked as a lecturer in creative writing there. He’s had short stories appear in various publications and anthologies, and since 1999 he has worked as a freelance arts journalist, primarily covering music and literature. He is also a mentor and manuscript assessor for The Literary Consultancy and Emergents in the Scottish Highlands.

Doug is one of the co-founders of the Scotland Writers Football Club, for whom he also puts in a shift in midfield as player-manager. He is also a singer, musician and songwriter in several bands, including Northern Alliance, who have released four albums to critical acclaim, as well as recording an album as a fictional band called The Ossians. Doug has also released two solo EPs, Keep it Afloat and I Did It Deliberately. He currently plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a crime writing supergroup featuring Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste.

Doug has a degree in physics, a PhD in nuclear physics and a diploma in journalism, and worked for four years designing radars. He grew up in Arbroath and lives in Portobello, Edinburgh with his wife and two children.

Discover what my fellow bloggers have to say about Faultlines by following the blogtour.

Fault Lines blog poster 2018

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