#Blogtour The Couple by Helly Acton @hellyacton @ZaffreBooks @Tr3cyF4nt0n #Compulsivereaders #TheCouple

The Couple by Helly Acton Zaffre Books May 27th 2021

The Blurb

Millie is a perfectionist. She’s happy, she’s successful and, with a great support network of friends and family (and a very grumpy cat), she’s never lonely. She loves working at a big tech firm and is on track be promoted to her dream role. The last thing she needs is romance messing up her perfectly organised world.

Besides, normal people just don’t have romantic relationships. Everyone knows that being in a couple is a bit . . . well, odd. You know, like having a pet snake or referring to yourself in the third person. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up? No, Millie is more than happy with her conventional single life.

So, when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that prevents you falling in love, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. That is, until she starts working with Ben. He’s charming and funny, and Millie feels an instant connection to him.

Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?

My Review

After a couple of deep intense novels The Couple was the perfect antidote, it had lightness to it but some serious thought provoking ideas that definitely set my head reeling.

We met Millie, successful, intelligent and happy living the single life with just a cat, all be it an antisocial cat for company. She had friends June and Ruth, her wonderful partners in crime and perhaps that was where the hint of change began to appear as Acton placed Ruth in a relationship and anomaly in society.

An anomaly you might say? What was wrong with that? In Acton’s world relationships were very much against the expected norm. Couples were derided, charged more living expenses and positively discouraged. Instead you were supposed to use the App Slide to have that fleeting connection, to serve a base need. It seemed to be a world Millie embraced, totally believed in, as Acton gave her the certainty that every day would follow a familiar routine, get up, walk to work, grab the same coffee from the same place, eat the requisite lunch on a particular day. Then Acton threw in a curve ball, a new employee Ben, a new product that promised to cure the heartbroken, to ensure the single life was forever, never to be breached.

Was it something we would have wanted, was the life Millie strived to achieve really attainable, sustainable or indeed what was wanted?

Ben was the light of the novel, the catalyst that Acton cleverly used to open up a new Millie, a Millie that glimpsed a different life but railed against it. You could sense Millie’s fear of being swamped by another person, of losing her identity, her individuality, of what friends would think, the attitude of her work colleagues and the promise of the longed for promotion disappeared.

It was fun and interesting to watch Acton put her through the veritable wringer of emotion and angst. It made me laugh, made me frustrated made me look at my own situation and think what I would do or want. Yes the singular life, the ordered predictably or everyday appealed but where was the spontaneity, freedom to show off the person you loved, to enjoy a relationship, the good and the heartbreak that perhaps made us all the better for experiencing.

And this is what I liked so much about The Couple, Actins’s ability to entertain, but infuse her narrative with a subversive serious aspect.

I would like to thank Zaffre Books for a copy of The Couple to read and review and to Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Helly Acton

Helly Acton is a copywriter from London with past lives in Zimbabwe, the Middle East and Australia. She studied Law at King’s College London before following a more creative path into advertising. At 26, Helly took a career break to travel in Africa and Asia, before landing in Sydney. Six years and one life-affirming break up later, she returned home and threw herself into online dating in the city. Helly uses this experience as a single woman in her early thirties – torn between settling down and savouring her independence – as a source of inspiration.

Helly currently lives in Berkshire with her husband, Chris, their little boy, Arlo, and their little dog, Milo. Sometimes, she gets their names mixed up.

#Blogtour This Is How by We Are Human Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomTTours #ThisHowWeAreHuman

This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech Orenda Books 10th June 2021

The Blurb

Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.

Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.

Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.

When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.

A topical and moving drama about a mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family … to survive … This Is How We Are Human is a searching, rich and thought-provoking novel with an emotional core that will warm and break your heart.

My Review

A new novel by Louise Beech is always something to celebrate, to get excited about and she is an author that never disappoints. This Is How We Are Human was no exception, in fact I would go as far as to say that it is her best novel yet.

I had to wait a couple of days before writing my review. I needed to let the words but more importantly the characters sink in, to gain perspective and just enjoy and appreciate what I had read.

At first glance you would be forgiven that we had been here before, an autistic character grappling with life in a normal world, but Beech turned it on its head and took us somewhere where perhaps we never think about, never really appreciate. Just because a person has what we perceive to be a disability doesn’t mean that they don’t have sexual needs just like everyone of us. What we don’t do is talk about it, we just brush it under the carpet and dismiss, not for Beech.

She gave us Sebastian James Murphy aged twenty years, six months and two days, age so important, to know he was an adult, not a child. He was funny, serious, intelligent, loved fried eggs and desperately wanted to have sex. Mother Veronica was going to make his wish come true and would do anything to make it happen, and when the solution presented itself it all seemed just too good to be true.

Enter Violetta, high class escort, a woman just trying to make the best of her own personal situation. I absolutely loved her, she was honest, practical and the fact Beech didn’t make her the usual stereotypical escort was utterly refreshing. So often we see the glamour, and the money not the risk, the brutality and sense of righteous ownership from the clients. My heart sank every time she went to a meeting and I recoiled as I read Beech’s unflinching descriptions. Beech infected her with such huge vulnerability, a body and mind ripe for something new and unexpected that you sort of guessed what would be yet enjoyed the journey and revelled in the outcomes.

The relationship between Violetta and Sebastian was a true highlight, and one Beech depicted with huge sensitivity. It never felt awkward or forced but tender, poignant. I felt they were each other’s trigger to open their minds to new things, to endless future possibilities. You couldn’t help but admire Beech’s ability to get so deep inside Sebastian’s mind, to normalise his autism, to show that he had the same feelings, needs as all of us, just a different approach to getting there.

But life never runs smooth and when truth found it’s way out it made for some tense and heart rending reading . The emotion Beech infused was, at times, unbearable but necessary, necessary to show what Sebastian, Violetta and Veronica meant to each other and the profound effect decisions made can have.

This was a novel that left its footprints in your mind that would leave an indelible mark, of a novel never to be forgotten and an author who once again showed immense skill and unbound versatility.

I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy This Is How We Are Human to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Reader’s Choice in 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe, was shortlisted for the Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her 2019 novel Call Me Star Girl won Best Magazine’s Book of the Year, and was followed by a ghost-story cum psychological thriller set in a theatre, I Am Dust. Louise is currently working on her seventh book, and she lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Follow Louise on Twitter @LouiseWriter and visit her website: louisebeech.co.uk.

#Blogtour Diving For Pearls by Jamie O’Connell @jamieoconnell @DoubledayUK @annecater #RandomTTours #DivingforPearls

Diving for Pearls
Diving For Pearls by Jamie O’Connell Doubley Uk June 3rd 2021

The Blurb

A young woman’s body floats in the Dubai marina. Her death alters the fates of six people, each one striving for a better life in an unforgiving city.

A young Irish man comes to stay with his sister, keen to erase his troubled past in the heat of the Dubai sun. A Russian sex worker has outsmarted the system so far – but will her luck run out? A Pakistani taxi driver dreams of a future for his daughters. An Emirate man hides the truth about who he really is. An Ethiopian maid tries to carve out a path of her own. From every corner of the globe, Dubai has made promises to them all. Promises of gilded opportunities and bright new horizons, the chance to forget the past and protect long-held secrets.

But Dubai breaks its promises, with deadly consequences. In a city of mirages, how do you find your way out?

My Review

I love Instagram and many of the so called celebs I follow spend holidays or even live in Dubai. You cannot help but be bedazzled by the beautiful hotels, beaches, the rich luxurious lifestyle they enjoy, but is it all a huge front, is there something murky, unsavoury that lurks beneath the shiny exterior?

Jamie O’Connell didn’t hesitate to show Dubai at its best but where he excelled was Dubai at its worst. His characters were from all walks of life from Siobhan, a harried mother of two, wife to a wealthy businessman wrapped up in designer clothes, and ladies that lunch to Tahir, a humble Pakistani taxi driver, earning money to give his family a better life.

There was Aasim who lived a life of perceived freedom, a medical student in Dublin, a man who hid his homosexuality from his family.

Trevor sister of Siobhan, physically fit yet mentally exhausted, adrift and finally Lydia Russian sex worker part of a subversive underground out to satisfy the needs of her wealthy characters. Joan mother of Siobhan and Trevor, worried for her children yet neglectful her own life.

My favourite character had to be Gete the Ethiopian maid. She was O’Connell master stroke, our eyes, our ears, our objective commentator who watched on as events, actions tore down carefully constructed lives.

At first I felt I was reading a series of short stories as O’Connell introduced his characters and then suddenly a death, a young women’s body in Dubai Marina. It all started to make sense, Aasim’s dash home, Siobhan’s husband prolonged absence, a fretful Tahir and a cautious Lydia.

It was then Dubai’s contradiction reared it’s head, no longer the rich bright safe haven, as O’Connell unearthed police brutality, corruption, racism, sexism, a two tired legal system that supported the white, the wealthy. O’Connell spared nothing, made you angry at the injustice, the need for a quick conviction, the maintenance of Dubai’s glossy veneer.

You read as characters scrambled to protect themselves, selfish intent at the forefront, the truth hidden below the surface cruelly exposed. The wealth and glamour lost its sheen as escape seemed the only option and O’Connell left you with a distinct bad taste in the mouth. Why should money, race, social status dictate outcomes, the very poorest the ones who suffered, pay the price? Yet O’Connell also showed the importance of family, money secondary to happiness, to live a life that may not have the glamour but was somehow purer and simpler.

A fabulous debut novel that definitely provoked but also had all the elements of a damn good story.

I would like to thank Doubleday UK for a copy of Diving For Pearls to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Jamie O’Connell has had short stories highly commended by the Costa Short Story Award and the Irish Book Award Short Story of the Year. He has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines Short Story Competition and shortlisted for the Maeve Binchy Travel Award and the Sky Arts Futures Fund. He has an MFA and MA in Creative Writing from University College Dublin. He has worked for Penguin Random House, Gill Books and O’Brien Press. Diving for Pearls is his first novel.

#Blogtour One Last Time by Helga Flatland #HelgaFlatland @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #OneLastTime

One Last Time by Helga Flatland Orenda Books 24th May 2021

The Blurb

Anne’s life is rushing to an unexpected and untimely end. But her diagnosis of terminal cancer isn’t just a shock for her – and for her daughter Sigrid and granddaughter Mia – it shines a spotlight onto their fractured and uncomfortable relationships.

On a spur-of-the moment trip to France the three generations of women reveal harboured secrets, long-held frustrations and suppressed desires, and learn humbling and heart-warming lessons about how life should be lived when death is so close.

With all of Helga Flatland’s trademark humour, razor-sharp wit and deep empathy, One Last Time examines the great dramas that can be found in ordinary lives, asks the questions that matter to us all – and ultimately celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, in an exquisite, enchantingly beautiful novel that urges us to treasure and rethink … everything.

My Review

You would be forgiven for thinking you were heading into a crime novel as the opening scenes depicted Anne beheading her chickens. Her hurried stuffing of the carcasses into a freezer hinted at a woman with a lot on her mind who you surmised was at a crossroads in her life, a moment that would have consequences for her and her family.

Before the reasons were revealed Flatland swiftly moved to Oslo and Anne’s daughter Sigrid, a hard working GP, mother and wife. Here we had our two leading characters, whose lives Flatland proceeded to reveal in flash backs and their interactions as they navigated Anne’s slow demise.

Anne and Sigrid so different yet there were hints of similarities they perhaps never saw, or refused to acknowledge both extremely headstrong, wilful in their pursuit of what they wanted. For Sigrid, an apology for her perceived abandonment as a child, cast aside as Anne cared for her ill husband. For Anne, the desire to die on her own terms and perhaps to mend and bridge the gulf that existed between herself and Sigrid.

How they navigated the process was something Flatland did with amazing skill and sensitivity. Anne determined to be independent, to find solace in her rural surroundings yet a sense of unfinished business, to pull Sigrid close, to find a way of explaining her past actions, to find solace before she died. Flatland so beautifully showed her anguish, guilt that perhaps she would leave her mute, sick husband alone, but also anger at Sigrid’s unwillingness to let down her guard, to cede something, anything that showed they still had love and respect.

Sigrid was just as torn, her role as doctor became the armour she could hide behind, the clinical almost emotional less way she dealt with Anne’s cancer felt harsh and lacking in compassion. Flatland gradually chipped away at that armour, as we watched Sigrid’s own deteriorating relationship with daughter Mia. Would she make the same mistakes, or was there an opportunity to learn, to let Mia grow, learn, find her own way with Sigrid’s support and understanding.

At times Flatland made me frustrated, the tension that hung in the air of things left unsaid. You wanted to bash Sigrid’s and Anne’s heads together, tell them that time was short, that grudges, past mistakes should be left behind, to make the most of the time they had left. I railed against Sigrid’s need to always see the worst of her childhood, the happy moments shut away, out of sight. Her relationship with past love and father of Mia, Jen’s, an itch that needed to be scratched, unfinished business. Did she still have feelings, was her current partner enough or was there something more that she wanted. Yet Flatland showed that it was necessary for them to navigate this path, to understand and finally, hopefully reach a resolution.

You knew the ending but not how it would be and when it came it was tender, poignant hugely emotional, tissues close to hand. You left with a sense of having read an author with an acute understanding of the human psyche, of what makes us tick, of the contradictions, the complexities of family, and the intensity that often forms the basis of mother daughter relationships.

I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of One Last Time to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Helga Flatland is one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize. She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies. A Modern Family marked Helga’s first English publication when it was released in 2019, achieving exceptional critical acclaim and sales, and leading to Helga being dubbed the ‘Norwegian Anne Tyler’. One Last Time is her second book to be translated into English (by Rosie Hedger), and published in 2021. Helga is (sporadically) on Twitter @HelgaFlatland.

#Blogtour Heat Stroke by Hazel Barkworth

The Blurb

Rachel and her daughter Mia have never had secrets. Until now. Lily is missing. She’s somewhere she shouldn’t be – with him. Mia worries for her best friend. But she feels betrayed. In the middle of a stifling heatwave, somebody knows more than they’re letting on. Rachel, Lily and Mia stand on the edge of irrevocable change. Soon, just one burning question will remain… how could they let things go this far?

My Review

I didn’t mean to read it all in one sitting but I couldn’t help myself, it was so good.

From the very first sentence, the first page, I could not put it down, I wanted to know where Lily was, but more importantly I was intrigued by teacher and mother Rachel.

She was our narrator, and from the outset I just knew something didn’t fit, there was a niggle in the back of my mind that maybe she wasn’t honest with us and those around her.

She was Mum to Mia, a single child, adored, cosseted and loved, husband Tim absent due to work. Yes Rachel was a good Mum, a good teacher, yet she was very much full on, lonely, lost, wracked with anguish as she watched Mia grow up, need her less, pull away to live her own life. Maybe if Tim had been there he would have diluted the situation, provided the balance that she needed rather than push her into situations that Barkworth fully exploited with wonderful success.

As the hunt for Lily intensified Barkworth pushed Rachel closer and closer to the edge, yet there was restraint, the need to protect Mia at all costs. Was she right or should she had said something? I was torn, I could see both points of view, and I erred on the side of honesty and transparency. It was what made this novel so damn good, the dilemma Barkworth posed, the feeling of losing your child, that dread of the empty nest and how far you would go to protect your child.

When anyone disappears there is always that urgency, to collect information, and ultimately to find them as quickly as possible and Barkworth’s narrative perfectly matched that. The sentences were short, punchy, economical, nothing wasted, the information, feelings, actions, events thrown out there. It was intense, but utterly compelling and immersive. The insertion of what Lily might be going through, were timely and

I didn’t think Barkworth could increase the intensity any more but she did, the latter pages a maelstrom of emotion and revelations. I was exhausted when I finally read the final sentence, sleep took sometime as I needed to climb down from an adrenaline fuelled high.

Heat Stroke was just superb, an amazing debut novel.

I would like to thank Headline for a copy of Heat Stroke to read and review and to Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

HAZEL BARKWORTH grew up in Stirlingshire and North Yorkshire before studying English at Oxford. She then moved to London where she spent her days working as a cultural consultant, and her nights dancing in a pop band at glam rock clubs. Hazel is a graduate of both the Oxford University MSt in Creative Writing and the Curtis Brown Creative Novel-Writing course. She now works in Oxford, where she lives with her partner. HEATSTROKE is her first novel.

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