#Review A Burning by Megha Majumdar @MeghaMaj @ScribnerUK #ABurning

Burning
A Burning by Magha Majumdar Scribner January 21st 2021

The Blurb

A girl walks through the slums of Kolkata holding an armful of books. She returns home smelling of smoke, and checks her most prized possession: a brand-new smartphone, purchased in instalments. On Facebook, there is only one conversation.

#KolabaganTrainAttack

On the small, glowing screen, she types a dangerous thing…

If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean that the government is also a terrorist?’

Set in contemporary India, A Burning is the story of three unforgettable characters, all dreaming of a better future, whose lives are changed for ever when they become caught up in the devastating aftermath of a terrorist attack.  

Jivan – a poor, young, Muslim girl, who dreams of going to college – faces a possible death sentence after being accused of collaborating with the terrorists.
Lovely – an exuberant hijra who longs to be a Bollywood star – holds the alibi that can set Jivan free, but telling the truth will cost her everything she holds dear.
PT Sir – an opportunistic gym teacher who once taught Jivan – becomes involved with Hindu nationalist politics and his own ascent is soon inextricably linked to Jivan’s fall.

Taut, propulsive and electrifying, from its opening lines to its astonishing finale, A Burning confronts issues of class, fate, prejudice and corruption with a Dickensian sense of injustice, and asks us to consider what it means to nurture big ambitions in a country hurtling towards political extremism.

A Burning is a novel for our times and for all time.

My Review

One day, one terrorist attack and 3 lives changed forever. A Burning was an astonishing and thought provoking read that missed out all the usual stereotypes and didn’t play the, ‘everything has to turn out all right card’ but instead left you slightly uneasy in a good kind of way.

A Burning centered around Jivan, a young woman who witnessed a terrorist attack on a packed commuter train, at home later, she makes a comment on Facebook that quite literally turned her whole life upside down. Arrested and charged with consorting and plotting with the terrorists she is thrown into jail and a long hard fight to prove her innocence ensued.

But it wasn’t just about Jivan’s struggle, it also examined the impact on those connected with, her, in particular, Lovely and PT Sir. Lovely, a hiraj, or in our world, Transgender, a would be actor, desperate for fame and fortune, Jivan’s English student and friend. PT Sir, Jivan’s PT teacher, the only male in a girl’s school who chanced upon a political rally that would transform his view and again, his own life.

As their connection to Jivan became public knowledge so the opportunities slowly began to open up for them. Were they exploiting their connection for their own benefit or was it those that sought them out, for the notoriety, for the attention that they would no doubt attract to their film, their cause that they sought to exploit and manipulate?

For Lovely it was a way out of the slums, of the daily grind to make a living, the overriding ache to succeed in acting, to be revered and fated just like her idols.

For PT Sir, it was recognition, and respect, it was the power of his words and his actions that took over, his morals left behind.

But what about Jivan? JIvan stuck in prison as she awaited trial, her need to get her version of events out there took over, her naivety plain for all to see as she became the scapegoat, the object of public hatred and vitriol. The ending was shocking, but in a way not unexpected

I loved that the author chose to tell the story in the voices of the three main characters, a brilliant way to convey their thought and motives but also to provoke anger and a sense of injustice in this reader. The portrayal of a country divided, marked with wide divisions between poor and rich were fascinating. The poor desperate for a way out, vulnerable, ripe for a cause that promised a better life. The rich with the power and wealth to influence, to coerce, to bend others to their will, to further their own cause and need for power. The modern world of social media played its own devastating part, context and innocent remarks thrown out, twisted and skewed for the benefit of others.

It all produced a perfect storm, a storm that made A Burning simply brilliant and I am sure it will garner a few prizes

I would like to thank Scribner UK for a copy of A Burning to read and review.

About the author

Megha Majumdar

MEGHA MAJUMDAR was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She moved to the United States to attend college at Harvard University, followed by graduate school in social anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She works as an editor at Catapult, and lives in New York City. A Burning is her first book.

Follow her on Twitter @MeghaMaj and Instagram @megha.maj

#Blogtour The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse @sarahpearseauthor @BantamPress @annecater #RandomThingsBlogtours #TheSanatorium

The Sanatorium By Sarah Pearse Bantam Press February 18th 2021

The Blurb

You won’t want to leave…until you can’t.

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in…

My Review

Wow, wow, wow. The Sanatorium was one of the best crime novels I have read in a very long time and Sarah Pearse has arrived with an almighty bang.

A luxury hotel in the heights of the Swiss mountains as a snow storm threatened total isolation, and a dead body turned up in the bottom of the spa pool. Well I arrived along with Elin and boyfriend Will, and I must admit the prospect of luxury was tempting, but then just like Elin and Will I am not sure I wanted to stay as the snow storm ramped up several notches, the dead body became bodies and the stakes for Elin, in particular went off the scale.

Elin, was wonderful, fragile, anxious, grief stricken, a head full of a dead brother Sam, a need to discover the truth from brother Issac, and a career as a detective on hold. Yet Pearse gave her inner resolve and strength, guts and determination that pushed her boundaries, that made her confront her demons and her own personal truths. I think this is what I liked, that dual narrative, the personal that clashed with the investigation, the circumstances and events that pushed Elin out of her comfort zone, out of her often maudlin and frustrating mental torpor.

And what of the murder, of the events that unfolded? Lets put it this way, it was the stuff of nightmares. Pearse’s imagery definitely made me uncomfortable as the killer carried out their dreadful acts. Like, Elin you wanted to know what drove them, what grudge or revenge they wrought, what connected them to the hotel. And this is where for me it got interesting, the connection with the past, the hotels’ previous role as a sanatorium, the often macabre artifacts that littered the hotel. Like Elin, you tried to make the connections, only for Pearse to switch tack, to lay a few red herrings that led to multiple suspects, before the truth wormed its way out. It was a truth you could never have guessed so grotesque, so truly awful you would have been forgiven for believing it was mere fiction until reading Pearse’s afterword and the research she carried out and poured into her novel.

Pearses’s skill lay in her ability to make you live every moment with her characters, the spine chilling imagery, the heart stopping moments of such high intense tension and drama that meant you couldn’t read fast enough so intent were you on discovering what would happen next.

Elin may have been Pearse’s main character but the star had to be the hotel, its surroundings and the weather. The stark, impersonal feel she gave to the hotel, its strong severe decoration with its sharp lines gave it that less cosy feel, you couldn’t relax, felt on edge just waiting for something, never sure what that something would be. Its isolation only added to that edginess, and as the snow fell and the storm closed in, you had the sense of an eerie stillness, of a quiet calm interspersed with moments of drama as the the world closed in on Elin before exploding into that dreadful truth.

I am not sure what else I can say about The Sanatorium without giving any spoilers, only to say, that ending, and at that my lips are well and truly sealed.

Please please get in touch with your local independent bookshop and buy The Sanatorium you will not regret it. One more thing, any Netflix, TV, film production crews reading this, please buy the rights and get it onscreen, in the right hands it would make for amazing viewing.

I would like to thank Bantam Press for a copy of The Sanatorium to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains and still has a home in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel. Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.

You can find Sarah on Twitter @SarahVPearse and Instagram @sarahpearseauthor

#Blogtour The Snow And The Works On The Northern Line by Ruth Thomas @RuthieSThomas @sandstonepress @cerisanne

The Snow And The Works On The Northern Line by Ruth Thomas Sandstone Press January 7th 2021

The Blurb

Hidden within the confines of the Royal Institute of Prehistorical Studies, Sybil is happy enough with her work – and her love life. Then to her dismay, her old adversary, assertive and glamorous Helen Hansen, is appointed Head of Trustees. To add insult, Helen promptly seduces Sybil’s boyfriend. Betrayed and broken-hearted, Sybil becomes obsessed with exposing Helen as a fraud, no matter the cost.

My Review

Having read the blurb, you would have thought Sybil and indeed the contents of the novel to be quite nasty, as Sybil thought up ways to exact her revenge, I can report that actually it wasn’t. Instead The Snow and The Works On The Northern Line was a quiet contemplative novel, the story of a young women who didn’t quite know how to deal with what life had dealt her.

Sybil herself, seemed older than what she actually was, no night clubs or crazy friends, a quieter life with her then boyfriend Simon and a job steeped in academia at the Royal Institute of Prehistoric Studies. A chance meeting with a past university tutor, Helen, lit the flame for change, a break up and the prospect of Helen’s shadow hovering over her every move at work. I loved how Thomas made us instantly dislike Helen, not merely for stealing Sybil’s boyfriend but her complete lack of empathy, her selfish pursuit of academic fame. Thomas gave us that overriding feeling that her prominent discovery concerning the Beaker People wasn’t quite right, a feeling we shared with Sybil. I liked the quiet way Sybil thought of ways to discredit Helen, never knowing quite what to do, confusion reigning in her mind, perhaps reflective of her mental state. It was a mental state that lived in the doldrums, that saw no joy in the world around her. Thomas made her more and more insular, as she internalised her feelings, her thoughts, withdrew from friends and in some respects her colleagues.

As time progressed small events gradually snowballed within Sybil’s mind, her ability to process and reason, to see clearly slowly overtook before one last tumultuous interaction with Helen. It was an ending that you perhaps didn’t expect but made sense, answered questions and gave Sybil some much needed clarity.

It was the understated, calm manner of the narrative that so impressed, Thomas’s ability to engage and hold your interest, to have no need for sharp, shouty interactions but to let the actions of the characters speak for themselves.

It was a brilliant examination of a young woman’s mental state, of a need to make sense and discover the direction her life needed to take, a novel I enjoyed immensely.

I would like to thank Sandstone Press for a copy of the Snow and the Works on The Northern Line to read and review and to Ceris for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to partcipate in the blogtour.

About the author

Ruth Thomas is the author of three short story collections and two novels, as well as many short stories which have been anthologised and broadcast on the BBC. The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line is her third novel. Her writing has won and been shortlisted for various prizes, including the John Llewellyn Rhys Award, the Saltire First Book Award and the VS Pritchett Prize, and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She lives in Edinburgh and is currently an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund.

BBC Radio 4

We’re delighted that The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line is being read on BBC Radio 4 throughout the blog tour! Follow the link below for the episode guide and to listen.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000r360/episodes/guide

#Blogtour The Island by C. L Taylor @callytaylor @HQYoungAdult #TheIsland

The Island by C. L Taylor HQ Young Adult January 21st 2021

The Blurb

Welcome to The Island.

Where your worst fears are about to come true…

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.

But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime turns into a nightmare.

Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re becoming a reality.

Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.

Who will make it off the island alive?

My Review

A disparate group of teenagers, an island off Thailand and a week of survival training, what could possibly go wrong? What started as great adventure soon became a clash of personalities, and a battle just to survive. Even before they set off Taylor made no bones about the unsettling undercurrent that simmered between all six of them. Jessie and Danny were our voices, our eyes and ears as they observed interactions between the six, that instigated and indeed watched as the tumultous events unfolded.

Taylor gave Jessie an edge, almost without emotion as she blocked her brothers death, who refused to feel anything for fear of opening up to more hurt and disappointment. It was an edge that you wanted to rub smooth, yet it gave her the strength to deal with their predicament, to make decisions that often rubbed against the others.

Danny was the confident brash one, his love for Honor all consuming, and as the novel progressed, Taylor gave us glimpses of a lost teenager, one who blocked out past events, whose mind seemed to stray and wander to places that could lead to ultimate disaster.

I loved the power play that existed between Danny and Jeffers, Danny’s unwillingness to heed Jeffer’s survivalist skills, to go his own way, his misleading need to protect what he held most dear.

Each of the six teenagers all had their woes, their crutches, that Taylor explored to great effect. She magnified their fears, created division and unrest that left us feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, the outcomes unpredictable as we turned the pages ever more furioulsy to find out what would happen next.

The Island itself was a veritable paradise, the soft sand, the blue water, the humidity of the jungle and its many sounds. I admired how Taylor turned each aspect into danger, a phobia, a hurdle they had to breach to survive. She knew how to turn the screws, to up the tensions and build to that willed for dramatic ending, our fears acknowledged, yet also filled with empathy and emotion.

Taylor may have written a thrilling story, but she also balanced that with human emotion, with mental illness and hang ups that affect most teenagers to some extent in todays society. She exaggerated it in all the right places, treated her characters with respect, the balance just right.

Now, she may have written a young adult novel, but for someone who doesn’t read a whole lot of this genre I absolutely loved The Island.

I would like to thank HQ Young Adult for a copy of The Island to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

C.L. Taylor

C.L. Taylor is a Sunday Times bestselling author. Her psychological thrillers have sold over a million copies in the UK alone, been translated into over twenty languages, and optioned for television. Her 2019 novel, Sleep, was a Richard and Judy pick. C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and son.

#Review The Push by Ashley Audrain @audrain @michaelJbooks #ThePush

The Push
The Push by Ashley Audrain Michael J Books January 7th 2021

Book Synopsis

What if your experience of motherhood was nothing like what you hoped for – but everything you always feared?

‘The women in this family, we’re different . . .’

The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life.

A fresh start.

But as soon as I held her in my arms, I knew something wasn’t right.

I have always known that the women in my family weren’t meant to be mothers.

My husband Fox says I’m imagining it, but she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong.

Is it her? Or is it me?

Is she the monster? Or am I?

The Push is a heart-pounding exploration of motherhood, obsession and the terrible price of unconditional love.
_________

My Review

Wow! I consumed this book in two heartrending sittings, it was that good. Where or where did Audrain send her mind and thoughts when she wrote The Push? It felt so personal, so deep, so affecting that when I closed the final page, I had to take a deep breath, close my eyes and think about what I had just read.

That’s when Audrain took us back to the beginning to Blythe’s life as a young girl, as a student, a girlfriend, a wife and finally a mother, the source of what we were about to read full of torment, anguish and love.

What followed was an outpouring of consciousness, of asking where it all went wrong, of internal conversations as to the rights and wrongs of motherly instinct and feelings. I found it utterly fascinating and mesmerising to the point I couldn’t stop reading.

Audrain seemed to think of everything from Blythe’s upbringing, a largely absent mother, who was at times cruel, heartless, loveless, distant and unreachable. Then we had her own experience of motherhood, the perceived feelings of overwhelming love that she should have had as her daughter was placed on her chest. Where was it, where were those feelings, was history to repeat herself, was she replicating herself own mother and upbringing?

The disconnect was absolute, the reactions of her daughter, Violet distressing, the questioning remarks from her husband Fox to try harder, seemed insensitive, dismissive.

Audain made me feel empathy with Blythe, I wanted people to believe her when she saw that glint of hate, of cruelty in Violet. And that was the most terrifying and indeed distressing aspect, that a little girl could seemingly wield so much power, manipulate, bend others to her will.

You watched as Blythe tried so hard, questioned her lack of feeling, that maybe she wasn’t cut out to be a mother until a son arrives and that motherly love rushed at her and consumed her.

You read as the dynamics of the family changed, a status quo achieved until bang, tragedy and the world fell apart.

It was hard to read the fallout, I felt frustrated and anger at those that surrounded Blythe, sometimes at Blythe herself as I wanted her to fight back, to prevail and find happiness.

The true impact of this novel lay in the final sentence, one that was hard to forget, that will linger long after you set the book down. You needed time to reflect, digest and marvel in the authors skill and wonder just where her next novel would take you.

About the author

Ashley Audrain Bio author of The Push novel

ASHLEY AUDRAIN previously worked as the publicity director of Penguin Books Canada. Prior to Penguin, she worked in public relations. She lives in Toronto, where she and her partner are raising their two young children. The Push is her first novel.

#Blogtour There’s Only One Danny Garvey by David F. Ross @dfr10 @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheresOnlyOneDannyGarvey

There’s Only One Danny Garvey by David F. Ross. Orenda January 21st 2021

The Blurb

Danny Garvey was a sixteen-year old footballing prodigy. Professional clubs clamoured to sign him, and a glittering future beckoned. And yet, his early promise remained unfulfilled, and Danny is back home in the tiny village of Barshaw to manage the struggling junior team he once played for. What’s more, he’s hiding a secret about a tragic night, thirteen years earlier, that changed the course of several lives. There’s only one Danny Garvey, they once chanted … and that’s the problem.
A story of irrational hopes and fevered dreams – of unstoppable passion and unflinching commitment in the face of defeat – There’s Only One Danny Garvey is, above all, an unforgettable tale about finding hope and redemption in the most unexpected of places.

My Review

There is definitely only one Danny Garvey and Ross’s portrayal was of a man who seemed to have the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. I was shocked to realise that he was approaching thirty, my assumption had been of a man so much older and I think this is what made Ross’s characterisation so brilliant.

Garvey, the footballer forced to retire in his prime, on his way back to his hometown of Barshaw to pull their football club out of the doldrums and maybe to confront and sleigh some demons. Ross certainly gave him some demons, an alcoholic mother, now dying, brother Raymond in jail and a missing girl.

It all conspired to unhinge an already vulnerable and fragile Garvey, Even though Ross used football as his outlet, his way to forget, it still wasn’t enough and like a man edging across an iced pond you knew at anytime the cracks would appear and Garvey would be in danger of being swallowed. And indeed that is exactly what started to happen as the quiet contemplative Garvey, suddenly became angry, confrontational, trapped between the past and the present.

His brother, Raymond’s release and his mother’s death led Ross to push Garvey further towards his limits, to finally stand up to his brother, and to confront his obsession with the missing girl. The pace of the narrative picked up pace and I felt like I was in a maelstrom of emotion, of action and it took me a while to digest and work out what had happened. I liked that Ross didn’t spell it out, make it clear but instead left the reader to make assumptions, to read between the lines, made us really think hard about what we were reading.

Now if you have the impression that the novel was largely dark, then yes you would be right, but Ross injected some lighter moments, moments that were full of hope. In particular I loved the relationship between Garvey and Raymond’s son Damo, his need to research his behaviour, his willingness to treat him with care and indeed love. Football was, of course an integral part, the joys of lower league part time clubs brilliantly portrayed, its importance to a small town never underestimated. The infighting, the on pitch disagreements were brilliantly done, and gave such a great sense of the passion felt by the player and managers.

There’s Only One Danny Garvey was, for me, Ross’s finest novel to date, Danny Garvey his finest creation. The mixture of football and human strife so brilliantly balanced and intertwined, the ending unexpected but somehow right.

Bravo Mr Ross

I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of There’s Only One Danny Garvey to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over 30 years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. His debut novel The Last Days of Discowas shortlisted for the Authors Club Best First Novel Award, and received exceptional critical acclaim, as did the other two books in the Disco Days Trilogy: The Rise & Fall of the Miraculous Vespas and The Man WhoLoved Islands. David lives in Ayrshire.

#Blogtour Victoria Park by Gemma Reeves @g_c_reeves @allenaandunwinUK @annecater #RandomThingsTours #VictoriaPark

Victoria Park by Gemma Reeves Allen and Unwin January 7th 2021

The Blurb

Mona and Wolfie have lived on Victoria Park for over fifty years. Now, on the eve of their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, they must decide how to navigate Mona’s declining health. Bookended by the touching exploration of their love, Victoria Park follows the disparate lives of twelve people over the course of a single year.

Told from their multiple perspectives in episodes which capture feelings of alienation and connection, the lingering memory of an acid attack in the park sends ripples of unease through the community. By the end of the novel, their carefully interwoven tales create a rich tapestry of resilience, love and loss.

With sharply observed insight into contemporary urban life, and characters we take to our hearts, Gemma Reeves has written a moving, uplifting debut which reflects those universal experiences that connect us all.

My Review

Do we really know what happens behind the closed doors on our street? Are the faces we see every day really happy and cheerful or are they hiding anguish despair, or maybe even a secret?

Gemma Reeves took one street and its occupants and unlocked its doors, let its occupants spill out their thoughts and demons on our doorstep.

What I enjoyed was the broad spectrum of individuals Reeves brought to us, from the older couple struggling to live with dementia, to the young teenager grabbling with his gender identity. Indeed it was older couple Wolfie and Mona, that captured my heart, Wolfie’s love for a wife so clearly struggling with dementia, yet determined to hang on, to retain normality until the last possible moment. I found it deeply touching and full of sorrow as Mona’s mind took her back to the war and her memories of life as one of the children sent away on the Kinder transport. I loved Wolfie for his cooking skills, and the joy he found in food and being able to share with family and friends, his escape from the realities of the everyday.

At the other end of the spectrum was Freddie, son of Luca, sixteen and struggling to find where he fit into the modern world. Again it was handled with great skill by Reeves as she gave us glimpses into his thoughts, his friendship with Ana, that allowed him to explore and become more of just who he wanted to be.

The middle of the age spectrum was littered with the lesbian couple, their desire for a baby, the couple whose marriage neared an end and the single Mum who devotedly visited her comatose son hanging on to the possibility of a a miracle. Indeed it was her sons acid attack that Reeves used, along with her characters to bring the social layers of a community to the fore, a community that could be repeated many times over in the towns and cities all over the UK.

It could easily have been a mismash, an outpouring of narrative that sought to get in every single societal theme, but it wasn’t, the breakdown into the months of the year gave the book a neat, organised structure. Reeves gave us that sense of time passing, of the speed of change, moments and events that pushed her characters to pastures new, to new life and in one case death.

Victoria Park was a modern take on our world, told with care and emotion, and Gemma Reeves is an author to watch in the coming months.

I would like to thank Allen and Unwin for a copy of Victoria Park to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Gemma Reeves is a writer and teacher who lives and works in London.

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