Walking Barefoot by Grace Coleman

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Walking Barefoot by Grace Coleman. Aside from my review, info on the author and the book you can also download a free copy of Walking Barefoot on Smashwords. Only today…for 24 hours!

*To claim your free copy of Walking Barefoot simply visit Smashwords on the 25th of April and enter the discount code FR64E at check out. There are no limits to the number of downloads but hurry, this code will only be active for 24 hours!*

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/715754

About the Author

About the author: Walking Barefoot is Grace Coleman’s debut novel. It began 6 years ago in a Byron Bay basement and had significant re-sculpturing after a Curtis Brown novel writing course in 2013. When not pretending to be an author, Grace Coleman is TV Scheduler who lives and works in London.

Visit gracecoleman.co.uk/

About the book

Set in a futuristic London in a world ravaged by war, Walking Barefoot explores the life of Will, past and present. The cocksure eighteen year old who goes travelling in a bid to find himself. The city living adult who struggles to be happy despite his well paid job, upper quadrant apartment and sexy girlfriend. When nightmares begin to haunt his sleeping and waking life Will is unsure whether he is suffering from the illness that killed his father or being led by unseen forces to uncover a city-wide conspiracy. As his paranoia heightens he must ask himself – is he willing to lose himself to find the truth?

Review

Imagine being able to transport yourself to the place of your dreams in the blink of an eye. A bit like time-travel without the whole time-space continuum aspect of it all. In a world full of constructed reality and a life lived nearly entirely inside glass walls, it is no wonder some people try to live vicariously through others and any means possible.

Will has decided to do the equivalent of a gap year before settling down to the dreary business of life. He is fascinated by the places and countries his father once visited.

Continents, countries and towns that are virtually non-existent in the history books, the minds and memories of people. Places slowly deteriorating, decaying and disappearing from sight and mind. Will wants to walk in his father’s footsteps. To smell the fresh air and to experience new worlds.

Years later, as his career is ascending into the higher echelon, his mental health starts to deteriorate. At first he thinks it is just stress and pressure, but then Will starts to question things. What is reality and what is fantasy?

You know what they say, it’s not paranoia if they are really out to get you. Will is convinced that there is something untoward going on. He is determined to get to the bottom of things, except he isn’t entirely convinced that his fears and hallucinations aren’t just an indication of mental health issues.

Coleman has created a world built on dreams within conceptual hallucinations. It is a futuristic story with a very subtle dystopian undertone. Think Matrix with a side-order of end of the world angst and a tiny slice of horror. Although the author brings the story to a conclusion, I do think a sequel could be a possibility, then again that may just be wishful thinking on my part.

Buy Walking Barefoot at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Giveaway

*To claim your free copy of Walking Barefoot simply visit Smashwords on the 25 April and enter the discount code FR64E at check out. There are no limits to the number of downloads but hurry, this code will only be active for 24 hours!*

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/715754

The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

ladiesI wouldn’t describe this as a novel, it is more like a series of tales that interconnect. At the same time the tales can be viewed as short chapters, because some of the threads are woven from the first to the last one.

It is quirky with a strong geographical and cultural vibe to it. Mma Ramotswe is the main character, and boy does she drive the story.

In the midst of all the witty repertoire, folklore infused messages of morality and general sense of humour, there are some serious topics too. I think McCall likes to slide them under innocent looking rocks, the type of rocks scorpions use to hide in the shade. When you move them or are in the close vicinity you just never know what might scuttle out and pinch you.

In a sense the author lulls the reader into a false sense of security. You get all comfortable, fuzzy and smile at jolly ol’ Mma Ramotswe, then bam you’re blind-sided by domestic violence. A slap to the head and you’re frozen by the kidnapping and murder of children for the use in witchcraft rituals. A joke here and a giggle there, and racism raises its nasty little head.

It is a very subtle way of introducing the reader to the complexities of the country and the intricacies of the power structures within the country. At the same time the reader gets a taste of the people and their traditional settings.

I liked it. It has a quirky charm to it.

Buy The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

sweetpeaLeave it to Skuse to roll out the crazy train when it comes to characters and plots. I can almost guarantee that there will be something really twisted in any story she writes.

At first Rhiannon seems like such an underdog. The type of person everyone likes to shove around and kick while they are down. Never praised for her achievements or allowed to rise above her lowly station. Typically the type of person to end up being a victim.

Then there is the other side of Rhiannon, the part of her personality nobody knows about. Hmm well some of them know, but they choose to say nothing. thereby possibly endangering the rest of humanity. Ok that might be a slight exaggeration.

When the reader is introduced to the more vengeful side of Rhiannon they may find it hard to feel any sympathy towards her at all. She is cold, calculating, and yet at the same time you could say she is ridding the world of unsavoury characters. The thing is, who is she to be both judge and jury, and to hand out punishment. Saying that, a small part of me totally identified with Rhiannon aka Sweetpea. I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out which part of her I identified with.

Essentially that is part of the Skuse magic, she isn’t afraid to write what everyone else is thinking or present the unimaginable. Occasionally we all have the kind of thoughts that could land us in prison. Luckily we don’t have anyone policing our actual thinking processes yet. Close, but no cigar, as yet.

Sweetpea is a brutal read, but perhaps more so because it isn’t your typical garden variety killer. You might find it an uncomfortable read at times, because there is a wee bit of Sweetpea in everyone of us. Kudos to the author for another memorable read.

Buy Sweetpea at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Monster or The Deviants by C.J. Skuse.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

the womenWhen you compare how many books are written about the perpetrators of the Holocaust vs books on the brave people who tried to stop the face of evil. Well, the scales are rather imbalanced. Regardless of whether it would have changed the outcome of history or not, at least they tried. Against all odds, they tried.

Marianne thinks she needs to keep her promise to protect the women and children of her husband’s co-conspirators. That in itself is a noble thing to do, and she does in fact save Benita, Ania and their children in her own way, however Marianne can be very judgemental at the same time.

The pain, horror and difficulties of those considered to be the guilty party tend to be swept under the rug. After everything the people of Germany did, and their collaborators of course, why would anyone feel any pity towards them? The author gives the reader a flavour of some of those post-war difficulties. This doesn’t mean she excuses or shifts the blame, she just tries to remind us that in war there is a lot of collateral damage, and the lines between guilt and innocence are often very blurry.

Towards the end of the book there are conversations between Ania and her daughter Mary. They are reminiscent of conversations, questions and clarifications Jessica Shattuck had with her own grandmother about her past.( I loved my grandmother, but she was a Nazi) Shattuck has tried to align the image she has of her grandmother with that of her past as a member of the Nazi party.

Many scholars and historians have spoken of a collective criminality, responsibility and guilt when it comes to the Nazi era. Men and women, who under normal circumstances would never have committed crimes, are guilty of participating in and allowing the worst of atrocities.

No matter how hard Shattuck looks for an explanation there will never be a satisfactory answer. The majority of these men and women weren’t sociopaths, psychopaths or sadists. The majority of them were normal people in the midst of a mass movement of propaganda, patriotism and not so subtle brainwashing, who did condone and commit sadistic crimes. They looked the other way and chose to believe the truth of the concentration camps was merely Allied propaganda. It’s easier to ignore than to accept that you are part of the problem.

The one thing Shattuck can and should take away from all of her literary attempts to alleviate some genetic sense of guilt, is that the descendants are not to blame for the sins, mistakes or crimes of their ancestors.

The Women in the Castle is a well balanced read. It considers both sides of the coin, and most importantly the collaboration of both sides to attempt to rebuild lives after the war. Marianne, Ania and Benita are mothers and friends, there aren’t just women influenced and driven by the choices of their past.

It is tale of friendship, hardship and ultimately one of loyalty. Shattuck delivers the harsh reality of war in a direct and no nonsense way. There is no need for violins or overly dramatic scenes. The truth is sufficient. Definitely an author I will be revisiting again.

Buy The Women in the Castle at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons

choirThis is a story of support and friendship, and how the smallest of lights can become a beacon of hope in the darkest of times. The members of the group are as different as can be, and yet they all have at least one thing in common.

The Choir brings them all together, and although the main reason is to save the hall, they really enjoy being a group. It’s like a home away from home.

Two women strike up the unlikeliest of friendships, even if it is more of a tenuous one at first. Both of them are struggling to cope with problems in their private lives, whilst trying hard to maintain their composure and the outside façade.

Natalie finds her supposedly perfect life in sudden disarray when her husband suddenly decides to change the parameters of their relationship. Caroline is struggling to connect with her mother, with whom she has always had a strained relationship. Dementia is a cruel companion, an illness that takes no prisoners and leaves no family member unaffected.

Lyons knows exactly how to portray the reality of relationships, which is especially evident in the ‘thought bubbles’ of the characters. You can say one thing, but think an entirely different one. The relationship between the two women is like a tug-of-war of emotional support. They are both frightened to admit that they need someone in their corner.

As always it is a story readers can relate to. Nearly everyone tries to remain strong in difficult situations. Admitting that you need a friend or support can be tantamount to a sign of weakness for some. The truth is everyone needs help now and again. Maybe everyone needs a song too.

Buy The Choir on Hope Street at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @1AnnieLyons or @HQStories visit annielyons.com or connect with Annie on Facebbook

Read Life or Something Like it or Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons.

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

flora banksThis book is one of those little gems shining through in a sea of books.

Barr manages to present a rather tragic story with an incredible amount of humour, love and compassion.

The reader meets two versions of Flora, actually make that three, because there is also an in-between grey area. We meet docile Flora, the girl who follows rules and listens to her parents. Then there is Flora the impulsive adventurer. The girl who is off her meds. Third Flora is the girl who exists in the confusion of post-tablets and pre-clarity.

Flora has problems with her short term memory. She relies on post-it notes, written messages on her arms and a handwritten book of memory props to get along every day.

Now at this point I have to wag a finger at any a parent who would leave a vulnerable child, teen or young adult alone based on the assumption that another teen will be looking in on them. Teenagers can be as flighty as birds and as dramatic as a reality TV show character on LSD.

So Flora is left to her own devices and ends up coming off her medication. Even before that she spends an unhealthy amount of time obsessing about being kissed by her best friend’s boyfriend. The kiss becomes a pivotal part of the story, her obsession and a possible recovery.

Her search for Drake is a bold one, but it is also one ridden with dangers. The fact she is lucky enough to encounter people who care, which is perhaps a scenario we all wish for, if one of our children were alone and in trouble. Flora is halfway across the globe searching for love, and the only person who is aware of her exploits is her brother.

Barr makes an important point when it comes to vulnerable people and independence. Are they hindered by their loved ones when it comes to evolving, growing up and being able to make their own decisions? The gut instinct to keep them safe may also be the factor keeping them from moving forwards.

I really enjoyed the read. It is funny without being insulting, it is realistic without bending the boundaries of imagination and it definitely pulls on the heartstrings. I would love to know what Flora gets up to next. At this rate she may end up in a tent on top of Mount Everest.

Buy The One Memory of Flora Banks at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Blog-Tour: Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl

Today I am excited to take part in the Blog-Tour for Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl. 

Faithless is part of a police procedural series featuring the #Oslodetectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich.

About the Author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

About the book

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her—and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he begins to look deeper into the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda finds another body, and things take a more sinister turn. With a cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway casting a shadow, and an unsettling number of coincidences clouding the plot, Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers—and the killer—before he strikes again. Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, atmospheric page-turner marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.

Buy Faithless

Review

Faithless is a psychological thriller done Dahl-style. The author captures the noirish witty quality of Scandinavian banter, especially between the police officers or detectives.

I think at one point I actually gawped at the pages, due to the amount of rubbish Frølich had to put up with. The sheer audacity of Janne and Karl, but especially Janne. She gives off a Children of the Corn crazy cult chick vibe. All wagging fingers and lectures. Kudos to Frølich for keeping his cool in the face of her cray cray logic.

Multiple crimes and story-lines are woven seamlessly into the story, which sounds easy, however it does take skill to do so without one being detrimental to the other. The author does this in such a subtle way that the reader just goes along with the flow of it.

Dahl has created strong memorable characters with quirky personalities. They think nothing of taking the proverbial urine out of each other, then seconds later they maintain the face of pure professionalism. Saying that, certain members of the team have the tendency to go all lone wolf in their investigations, and one of them ends up in mortal danger.

The author delivers a captivating read and mixes his specific panache with a Nordic Noir style. He pulls the reader along for a wild ride of suspicions, accusations and rash decisions. The Gunnarstranda and Frølich books can be read as stand-alone novels. You don’t really need the back-story to get the gist of it. Either way you’re in for a great read.

Buy Faithless at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Connect with @Orendabooks