We That are Young by Preti Tanejia @PretiTaneja @GalleyBeggars

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We that Are Young by Preti Taneja Galley Beggar Press August 10th 2017

Many books published this year have been modern retellings of a Shakespeare classic. Many have met with great success whilst others have floundered. Preta Taneja is the latest author to join the list with her version of King Lear.

Set in a modern day India at a time of political unrest and social uprising against corrupt politicians and businesses, We That Are Young, is the story of the Bapuj family and their vast and hugely successful network of businesses, the Devraj conglomerate. A business that seemingly has its tentacles in every strand of Indian society.

At its head is -Devraj Bapuji, all powerful in both business and family life. His eldest daughter Gaju is the apparent heir and most senior in the business. Radha, head of Pr loves parties and beautiful things. Sita, the youngest daughter and recent Cambridge graduate is not yet embroiled in the business and is very much the spoilt and indulged of the three daughters.

Outside the family are Ranjit Singh Devraji’s aide de campe, his gay son Jeet, not yet out to his family and lastly Jivan, illegitimate son of Ranjit, returning from exile in America after the death of his mother.

Jivan’s arrival coincides with Sita’s engagement party, from which she flees, setting of a catalyst of events that plunge the entire family and business into deep turmoil.

Told from the perspective of each character this is a novel that explores the very heart of India, from the wealthiest to the poorest.

The characters are amazingly drawn and my favourite has to be Jeet. From party lover and admirer of beautiful things to a life in the slums and garbage dumps of India, Jeet’s transformation is the most revelatory and perhaps shocking. His story clearly shows the abject poverty in which vast swathes of India reside.

Radhu is the complete opposite portraying the trappings of wealth, of lavish parties and habitual drug taking, yet deep down deeply unhappy.

As the family disintegrates Taneji writing goes into emotional overdrive. The anguish, the sheer horrors of the trauma many of the characters face leap from the page. The imagery she captures, from the poverty ridden slums to the lavish hotels and parties are vivid and colourful.  The brutality and violence at times made me wince, but the scenes never seemed out of place or too much, perfectly complementing the story.

We That Are Young is a long novel at a mere 530pages but don’t let that deter you because once started you will find it very hard to put down. It is hugely engaging, the writing is stunning and it is definitely one of my books of the year so far.

Why oh why was it not on the Booker Longlist!!

A huge thank you to Galley Beggar Press  for a proof copy to read and review.

About the author

Preti Taneja 1 by Rory O'Bryen

Preti is a writer, broadcaster and human rights activist. She is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at Warwick University. Preti also writes for The Guardian, The New Statesman, Scroll.In and The Conversation.

Preti’s novella Kumkum Malhotra won the Gatehiuse Press New Fiction Prize.

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall @zoewhittall @FrancineElena @HodderBooks

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The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall  Hodder and Stoughton July 13th 2017

The Woodbury family are rich, they have lived and indeed had an overriding influence on the community of the small Connecticut town in which they reside.

George Woodbury, current head of the family, is a well respected teacher at local private school, Avalon Heights. Famed for saving his daughter Sadie, from a gunman in the corridor of the school George has super hero status, that it is until he is arrested for possible rape and sexual molestation of Avalon school girls on a ski trip.

The family gather round unable to believe his guilt. The wife Joan, in total denial, brother Andrew, a hot city lawyer, a man struggling with his sexuality, and Sadie, the daughter who idolised her father and the only one who perhaps believes he is guilty.

As the community railes against the family, they each must face up to the terrible consequences of George’s arrest and deal with the slow implosion of their neat, respectable family life.

The story particularly concentrates on the character of Sadie. Sadie is intelligent, top of her class, destined for a top notch college, happy with her boyfriend Jimmy and their numerous friends. George’s arrest is particularly catastrophic for Sadie. This wonderful Father, she so clearly adored, who saved her from the gunman has now been knocked from his pedestal. Sadie must reevaluate just who he is and more importantly who she is, to the point of shutting herself off from her family, and hiding herself away at Jimmy’s house. As her friends desert her and she begins to dabble in weed she develops a crush on her boyfriends mothers partner, Kevin. Kevin is writing a novel with little success until he realises he has the ultimate story right on his doorstep. Cultivating his relationship with Sadie he slowly weedles out her feelings and the details of George’s misdemeanors with devastating consequences for Sadie.

Whittall is particularly adept at portraying Sadie’s ever increasing conflicting emotions, her deteriorating relationships with her family. I loved the parallel story of Sadie falling under Kevin’s advances alongside the emerging details of her Father’s sexual assault charges. It perfectly highlights how young girls are so vulnerable and can be so easily drawn in and flattered by the attentions of an older man. It is so clearly a story of our times.

George’s wife, Joan was a character that I found particularly irritating, but I think that is how the author wanted me to feel! A woman so clearly in denial, inept at dealing with the fallout, I wanted to shake her , to tell her to wake up and deal with the situation. I was relieved when she finally did seem to act but there was always the nagging doubt that husband George would always find a way to draw her back in.

George is the one character in the novel that I found a little predictable. The typical rich, respectable pillar of the community, with a dark secret. Manipulative, clever and a little smarmy, using his finances to cover his tracks, to protect himself. He just wasn’t edgy enough for me!

Whittall is very good at highlighting small town mentality, of the nuances of people hell bent at protecting their respectability,  and the twist and turns in the novel beautifully highlight the many contradictions in the communities in which we live.

Whittall has written a novel that reflects the times in which we find ourselves and she has done it very well.

Thank you to   Francine Toon and Hodder and Stoughton for the proof copy to read and review.

About the author

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Born in South Durham, Quebec Whittall has lived in Toronto since 1997. She is the author of two previous novels, Bottle Rocket Hearts and Staying Still for as Long as Possible. The Best Kind of People was shortlisted for The Gillier Prize in 2016

 

 

I Know A Secret by Tess Gerritsen @tessgerritsen @alisonbarrow @TransworldBooks

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I Know A Secret by Tess Gerritsen  Transworld Books August 10th 2017

It has been quite some time since I last read anything by Tess Gerritsen. In fact I remember reading her very first crime novel Harvest way back in 1996 and being instantly hooked! I was interested to see if Gerritsen could still draw in the reader and if the format still had a spark and not appear tired.

Detective Jane Rizzoli and Forensic Psychologist Maura Isles are on their 12th case and a lot has happened over the ensuing books, both in their personal and professional lives. I did wonder if this would mar my enjoyment of the story or make me feel like I had missed something important, but thankfully it didn’t. In fact their personal lives remained very much in the background, a mere sideline to the thrilling murder enquiry they become involved in.

If you don’t like blood and gore then this is definitely not a book for you. The opening chapters graphically recount the murder of a young woman found dead on her bed, her eyes gouged out and the eyeballs in her hands.

As Rizzoli and Isles start their investigation they are gradually drawn into a multi-layered plot of  long ago child abuse, and ritualistic murder. The only person that might be able to help them is Holly Devine who appears to have a connection with all the victims and knows that she may be next. Yet Holly is aloof, and cold and hiding her own terrifying secret.

From the first to the last page I was instantly drawn in and if life hadn’t got in the way would have devoured the whole book in one or two sittings!

Rizzoli and Isles are their usual feisty selves, working seamlessly together as the investigation becomes ever more complex.

The character of Holly Devine is brilliantly done. She is cold, chilling and clearly very selfish, only caring about her own needs and protecting the secrets she hides. The air of mystery surrounding her had me continually questioning her innocence throughout the book.

Gerritsen’s skills lie in her brilliant handling of the numerous characters and the twists and turns of a multi layered plot. At no point did I feel confused or that I had to turn back the pages to remind myself of previous events.

The imagery, if you can stand a bit of blood and gore is fantastic and the ritual based killings well researched and informative without over loading on too much detail.

The ending was something I wasn’t expecting and I am eagerly awaiting Gerritsen’s next installment of Rizzoli and Isles.

I Know A Secret is gripping, thrilling and fabulous . Gerritsen is on top form and I won’t be leaving it as long before I read another of her fantastic novels.

Thank you to Alison Barrow at Transworld Books a proof copy to read and review.

About the author

Tess Gerritsen

Tess Gerritsen is a graduate of Stanford University and obtained her medical degree from the University of California.

It was whilst she was on maternity leave that Gerritsen began to write fiction. her first novel was a  romantic thriller published in 1987.

Harvest her first medical thriller was published in 1996 and since then Gerritsen’s thrillers have been published in 40 countries and  30 million copies have been bought by the book reading public.

Gerritsen has now retired as a doctor and lives in Maine.

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting #LarsMytting @maclehospress T is for Tree #GregFowler @bwpublishing

 

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The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting Maclehose Press August 10th 2017

Remember Norwegian Wood, the book about wood that topped the bestseller list ?? Well Mytting has now written a novel, not his first but the first one to be translated into English. Is it any good???  Yes, most definitely.

It tells the story of Edvard, a young man who grows up on his Grandfather's  potato farm in Norway. Life is not easy, his parents are dead, killed in a mysterious accident in 1971 and his Grandfather is reviled for being a Nazi sympathiser during the second world war.

When his Grandfather dies Edvard resolves to find out about his past, how and why his parents died and the truth about the apparent estrangement of his Grandfather's brother Einar.

Letters found in a forgotten room and discussions with the aged Priest open up a veritable pandora's box of questions that drive Edvard to the wind, rain soaked Shetland Islands and finally to the battlefields of the Somme in France.

It is beautifully written with tenderness and emotion and the characters are wonderful.

From the first page to the last I was completely hooked. This book has everything.

It is a love story based in the past and the present. It is a tale of obsession, of war, of wood and of forgiveness.

A must read for anyone. I believe Mytting has another bestseller on his hands!

About the Author

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Lars Mytting is a novelist and a journalist who was born in Favang, Norway, in 1968.

The Sixteen trees of the Somme was awarded the Norwegian National Booksellers Prize and will be made into a film.

He is previously know for his non fiction book, Norwegian Wood which was a huge bestseller.

 

 

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T is for Tree by Greg Fowler  Black and White Publishing August 10th 2017

A baby squirms and squeals in a hospital cot and its young mother watches, still suffering the after effects of the birth. Slowly she gets out of bed, leaves the room and disappears.

Fast forward 8 years and that young baby is now in his room, kept locked away by his grandmother. You see Eddy is different, he's not like every other 8 year old. He looks different and according to his Grandma Daisy he's dumb, that because Eddy has Downs Syndrome.

Central to the story is the tree that stands outside the side window of Eddy's bedroom. The branches are slowly growing and creeping through the crack in the window, enveloping the walls of his room. When a young girl, Alex moves in next door the tree becomes the thing that binds them together. Sitting on the branches between their two houses eating jam sandwiches, their friendship grows and deepens.

As the years pass Eddy's relationship with his Grandmother and Alex change, sometimes for good and at other times bad. What never fails is Eddy's optimism and his willingness to see the good in everyone.

The characterisations, particularly of Eddy, are wonderfully done, really getting to the heart of who he is. Sometimes sad, but filled with hope and happiness this is a well written debut novel that will tug at the heartstrings.

About the author

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Greg Fowler lives in Wellington, New Zealand with his wife and three children. Greg is a professional risk consultant with a passion for writing. It is with much encouragement from his wife Fiona that T is For Tree became a published novel and Greg hopes to continue with his writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gather The Daughters by Jennie Melamed. @jennie_melamed @tinderpresso

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Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed  Tinder Press July 25th 2017

There maybe rose on the front cover of this novel, but roses have thorns and this is certainly a thorn ridden novel.

Imagine your on an island completely cut off from the rest of civilisation, your a young girl on the brink of puberty, destined to marry, have only two children and forever be under the control of first your father and then your husband.

This is normal life for Vanessa, Jane and Amanda.

Vanessa, the daughter of a Wanderer, a person permitted to visit the Wastelands and a revered member of the island community.

Amanda has reached puberty and is now married to Andrew, expecting her first baby but feels trapped, depressed and wishes to escape the confines of life in the community.

Jane, willful, unwilling to bend to the rules, starving herself to stave off puberty and inevitable marriage and children.

All three girls soon begin to question the islands rules. Jane begins to push the boundaries of disobedience further and further, and Amanda is embroiled in her own depression with devastating consequences. Vanessa  is the only one to rebel in a less obvious way,  too respecting of her father and family, perhaps suspecting that they too are questioning their very place and existence in the community.

Now I don't usually like dystopian novels but after seeing so much Twitter love I knew I had to read it.

It is not a novel for the fainthearted and some may find the nature of the material disturbing, but if you can get over that then you are in for one hell of a story.

The characters are superbly realised and Jane in particular jumped off the page with her defiance, determination and sheer unwillingness to conform to the rules of the community. She is wise beyond her age, yet fearless in her pursuit for change.

Vanessa almost seemed the polar opposite, the book reading, intelligent, gentler character, eavesdropping on her Father's meetings, forming her own opinions and finding her own way to rebel.

The community itself is one huge character and Melamed paints an extremely disturbing  picture of a community where men rule, where women submit, where lives are extinguished when they are no longer useful. Those who question or rebel are dealt with and no one but the Wanderers are allowed to leave. Yet the community has growing problems, the number of babies born with defects and dying increases. Diseases wipe out whole swathes of the population until new families need to be brought in to dilute the inbreeding and secure the future of the island.

The story is fast paced, deeply immersive and the imagery all too real! I really felt emotionally attached to these young girls, urging them to find a way out, angry at the men for abusing their own children, for the mothers who stood by and watched it happen.

I loved the ending and am sincerely hoping that Melamed will be writing a sequel, in fact I demand that she write a sequel!!

Try not to be put of by the sexual content of the novel and its obvious comparison with Attwoods The Handmaids Tale as you will miss out on what is a jaw dropping, disturbing and thought provoking novel.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tinder Press for the opportunity to read and review.

About the author

 

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Jennie Melamed is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specialises in working with traumatised children. Jennie currently lives in Seattle with her husband and dog.

Gather The Daughters is her first novel.

 

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#blogtour The Watch House by Bernie McGill @berniemcgill @Phoebe_Swinburn @TinderPress

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The Watch House by Bernie McGill  Tinder Press 10th August 2017

Rathlin Island lies off the cost of Country Antrim and is the northernmost point in Northern Island. In 1898 the East Lighthouse on Rathlin was used by Gulielmo Marconi to successfully transmit the first commercial  radio signals across water from the lighthouse to Ballycastle on the Northern Irish mainland.

Rathlin Island is also an island full of myth and folklore, an island that in 1898 was still somehow stuck in a time warp, many unwilling to embrace the new fashions and ways that were slowly creeping in from the mainland.

It was also a time of great hardship as islanders struggled to scrape a living, many leaving for the mainland or emigrating to America to seek their fortune.

Set against this backdrop we meet Nuala, alone in her family home barely earning enough to keep herself clothed and fed. Her parents, brother and sisters long since gone to Newfoundland and her grandparents now dead, Nuala is waiting for her parents to send money for the passage to join them. When word from her family arrives that life is not much better and funds are not available Nuala is forced into accepting a marriage proposal from the Tailor. Moving into to his newly renovated house she is unprepared for the wrath of his sister Ginnie, who treats her pretty much as the housemaid and with obvious contempt.

When engineers from the mainland arrive to carry out experiments with wireless telegraphy on behalf of Marconi she is sent by Ginnie, always eager to make money, to cook their evening meal. What Nuala doesn't expect is her friendship with the engineer Gabriel, a man who recognises Nuala's intelligence and to the annoyance of local lighthouse keeper Tam Casey, teaches her the rudiments of morse code and telegraphy. As their friendship turns to love Nuala's  marriage to the tailor, and life with his sister becomes a prison from which there is no escape and events slowly spiral out of control changing Nuala's life forever.

From the heartrending first chapter this novel drew me in and didn't let me go until i read the last page and closed the book.

First of all we had the island setting. An island that could be beautiful one minute, and wild and desolate, cut off from the mainland next. An island where the community is tight knit, where everyone knows everyone's business, where secrets are hard to keep.

Then you have the characters. Nuala, alone, slightly apart from the rest of her community, willing to accept her lot in life, yet willing to take risks realising her love for Gabriel may be the only chance she has of happiness no matter how shortlived.

Gabriel, Italian, full of new ideas, patient teacher, drawing Nuala in, promising nothing, yet always the perfect gentleman, always honest about his feelings for Nuala and their relationship.

The Tailor is portrayed as a pathetic, weak man, forever under the influence of sister Ginnie. Ginnie, herself is bitter and twisted, jealous of Nuala's intrusion in the life she shares with her brother.  Her actions are those of an unhappy woman, a woman who thinks nothing of inflicting the cruelest thing imaginable on Nuala, never once thinking of the consequences.

This fantastic combination of setting and characterisation are wonderfully done by McGill. The island's weather perfectly matches the mood of the characters, creating wonderful imagery and drama. I had vivid images of Nuala battling the wind and the rain as she roamed the island in despair.

McGill cleverly weaved in the story of Marconi and the development of telegraphy and communications, using it to highlight the slow disintegration of island life, of the diminishing belief in the old ways and folklore, so prevalent on the island. You could clearly see the future for those island folk who resented and feared the new ways.

McGill has written a novel that will have you feeling a full range of emotions, from despair and anger to sheer joy. I have to admit to shedding a tear at the end, a sign of a novel that has held me in its clutches and not let me go until the very end.

I was delighted to be invited on the blogtour for The Watch House and would like to thank @Phoebe_Swinburn and @TinderPress for a proof copy to read and review.

 

 

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I was even more delighted to learn that The Watch House has made the longlist of The Guardian's Not The Booker Prize.

About the author.

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Bernie McGill was born and raised in Northern Ireland. She attended Queen's University, Belfast and published her first novel, The Butterfly Cabinet in 2011.

McGill was also shortlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize for Sleepwalkers, her collection of short stories.

Bernie lives in Portstewart, Northern Ireland with her family.

 

 

 

 

Under The Sun by Lottie Moggach @alicemaydewing @picadorbooks

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Under The Sun by Lottie Moggach   Picador July 13th 2017

 

I loved Moggach's first novel, Kiss Me First and was expecting great things from Under The Sun.  Reading the blurb on the back of the book anyone would expect a straight forward thriller but this book is much more than that. It is a story of a woman who followed her heart to Spain with the man she thought she loved and found herself abandoned, unsure who she is or indeed where she belongs. Over the ensuing pages Anna fights to get her home back, attempts to discover who the mysterious Simon is and who the African men could be residing in her property. Throw in an ill judged affair with a married expat and the return of her absent father and Anna has a whole lot of issues to deal with.

Anna's character is brilliantly realised by Moggach. A character full of despair, and self pity, doing little to help herself until finally digging deep she finds the strength to pull herself together and get her life back on track. There were times, particularly at the start of the novel that I found Anna mildly irritating, her constant need to please Michael, had me shaking the book in frustration, wanting her to ditch this vile man!! That soon turned to urging her on as she finally found the where with all, to fight for want she wanted.

The ex-pat community setting perfectly highlighted how the Brits are viewed abroad. The Spaniards treating them with disdain and the Brits creating their own bit of Britain, still clinging to British values never fully immersing themselves in Spanish culture. The use of Africans and particularly the mystery of the body on the beach showed up the problems Europe now has with illegal migration and the desperation of those willing to travel under dubious and dangerous circumstances to find a better life.

The novel was a little slow paced to start but soon gathered speed as Anna, slowly grappled with her life and the circumstances she found herself in.

Not your typical thriller but a hugely satisfying novel that I enjoyed immensely.

About the author.

Lottie Moggach is the daughter of novelist Deborah Moggach. She is a journalist who has written for The Times, The Financial Times, Time Out, Elle and GQ.

Her first novel, Kiss Me First, was shortlisted for The Guardian First Novel Award and is being adapted as a series for Channel 4 and Netflix.