#Blogtour Still Water by Rebecca Pert

 A little late, and just catching the tail end of this fabulous Blogtour – it’s my turn to talk about  Still Water by Rebecca Pert.

About the Author

Rebecca Pert was born in 1990, the youngest of four siblings. She grew up in a small town in Devon before attending Cardiff University, where she received an MA in Creative Writing. Rebecca was the winner of the first Cheltenham Festival First Novel Competition in 2018. She now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, son and dog. Still Water is Rebecca’s first novel. Follow @Rebecca_Pert, Visit linktr.ee/rebeccapert

About the book

When Jane Douglas returns to the Shetland Islands, she thinks she has escaped the dark shadows of her childhood. She carves out a simple life on the bleak, windswept island, working at the salmon fishery and spending quiet evenings at home. And for the first time in her life, she’s happy.

Then the body of Jane’s long-missing mother is found in a flooded quarry. Her mother disappeared when Jane was a teenager, following the death of Jane’s baby brother. Jane has spent her life running from her past, living in fear that she has inherited her mother’s demons. Now, Jane must face what actually happened on that fateful, tragic day twenty years ago…

Review

I think it’s safe to say Jane lives in a bubble of self-motivated confinement, due to her past trauma. She carefully navigates the world by engaging at the bare minimum with her surroundings. Her work, her lover and her neighbour. Never too close.

The bubble starts to deteriorates when a cold blast from the past brings all the trauma back to the present, and Jane finds it increasingly hard to cope. The body of her missing mother brings everything to the point of teetering on the edge.

For me the core of this premise is the way women are perceived, judged and ultimately treated according to certain misconceptions. The go-to language and judgement always veers towards the negative and the dark side. It’s important to keep that in mind, especially when it comes to Jane’s mother.

Also, even after so many decades and more understanding surrounding women, childbirth, and the subsequent experience of motherhood – there are still plenty of misunderstood areas when it comes to the aforementioned and women’s health in general. Still very much second class citizens, who are fobbed off as hysterical, weak, emotional and misdiagnosed. 

This is a poignant reminder of all of the above, whilst simultaneously speaking truth and why it is always a matter of individual subjective perception when it comes to the often difficult relationships between mothers and daughters. It’s a remarkable read.

Buy Still Water at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: The Borough Press pub date 23rd June 2022 | Hardback, eBook and audio £14.99. Buy at Amazon com.  

#BlogTour The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

It’s my turn on the BlogTour for this exciting new dystopian story – The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird.

About the Author

About the author: Christina was born in 1993 and grew up between London and Glasgow. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and graduated with a First in 2015. Christina works as a Corporate Litigation lawyer in London. The End of Men is her first novel.

Follow @ChristinaRoseSB on Twitter or on Instagram,

About the book

Glasgow, 2025. Dr Amanda Maclean is called to treat a patient with flu-like symptoms. Within three hours he is dead. This is how it begins. The unknown virus sweeps through the hospital with deadly speed. The victims are all men.

Dr Maclean raises the alarm. But by the time the authorities listen to her, the virus has spread to every corner of the world. Threatening families. Governments. Countries.

Review

I wish – just for myself – this book had a before and an after. A read and review of this story before the Covid pandemic and my review now. I can imagine the before would have thought it a brilliant concept, but probably not something we would realistically ever see in our lifetime. Now it’s a whole other ballgame isn’t it. A lot of it comes pretty close to what we have experienced and are experiencing at this moment in time.

Dr Amanda Maclean recognises the significance of a deadly fast-spreading flu-like virus that hits her emergency room one day. All the victims, both young and old are male. She tries to warn official channels and finds her concerns blown off as the virus spreads to other parts of the country. Ignoring and dismissing her comes at the cost of many lives.

Rather cleverly when you look beyond the virus and a little closer at the implications of the gender specific nature of said virus, it shines a spotlight on certain downfalls of a patriarchal society. One of those things is the constant silencing and gaslighting of women by men. But perhaps the most poignant point of all, whether one gender needs the other to survive or is a small minority sufficient and does history change when it’s no longer being written by men for men.

I was intrigued, and possibly a tad concerned, by the way the author saw the virus changing the world. The policies, laws and procedures put in place to contain it. The necessity of vaccination and the lack of vaccination then dictating the steps forward in regards to survival. Very much an eye-opener.

It’s a riveting dystopian premise, but perhaps more so because fiction has become melded with too much reality in the last year or so. Very much an author to watch.

Buy The End of Men at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : The Borough Press pub date 29 April 2021. Buy at Amazon comAt Waterstones.

#BlogTour Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Mirrorland by  Carole Johnstone.

About the Author

Carole Johnstone’s award-winning short fiction has been reprinted in many annual ‘Best of’ anthologies in the UK and US. She lives in Argyll & Bute, Scotland, with her husband. Mirrorland is her debut novel. 

Follow @C_L_Johnstone on Twitter, Visit carolejohnstone.com

About the book

No. 36 Westeryk Road, an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A house of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it’s what lies under the house that is extraordinary – Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?

Now in her thirties, Cat receives the shocking news that her sister has disappeared. Forced to return to Edinburgh, Cat finds herself irresistibly drawn back into Mirrorland. Because El has a plan. She’s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth  long-buried secrets…

Review

Cat and El were as close as siblings can be, until they weren’t of course. They are the mirror images of each other and are used to surviving and living under extreme threat and stress – real or imagined that is the question. They created their own world to live in until a betrayal rips them apart.

Now El is missing presumed dead, but Cat is convinced her sister is alive and well somewhere. Not only that she is convinced El is playing one of her silly games, but also that she would know without a doubt if El were dead. Of course nobody believes her, they think it is just wishful thinking.

It’s a dark domestic thriller mired in magical realism. A twisted tale of fantasy, deception and an element of something inexplicable. A world of pure imagination built to keep El and Cat safe.

What I absolutely loved about this read was the realistic aspect of the imaginary world. Johnstone describes each place with such vivid enthusiasm that the imagined becomes the lived and the real. The scene in Mirrorland (the place not the book) was so well written I could feel the threat and see the world they inhabited.

It was fascinating how the author wove in and out of multiple genres and look forward to more, especially if we get more magical realism.

Buy Mirrorland at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: The Borough Press pub date 1st April 2021 | Hardback | Ebook | Audio | £12.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Silence by Susan Allott

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Silence by Susan Allott.

About the Author

Susan Allott is from the UK but spent part of her twenties in Australia, desperately homesick but trying to make Sydney her home. In 2016 she completed the Faber Academy course, during which she started writing this novel. She now lives in south London with her two children and her very Australian husband.


About the book

It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father, phoning from Sydney.

30 years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Greens’ next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared. At the time, it was thought she had gone to start a new life; but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla’s father Joe was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and now he’s under suspicion of murder.

Reluctantly, Isla goes back to Australia for the first time in a decade. The return to Sydney will plunge her deep into the past, to a quiet street by the sea where two couples live side by side. Isla’s parents, Louisa and Joe, have recently emigrated from England — a move that has left Louisa miserably homesick while Joe embraces this new life. Next door, Steve and Mandy are equally troubled. Mandy doesn’t want a baby, even though Steve — a cop trying to hold it together under the pressures of the job — is desperate to become a father.

The more Isla asks about the past, the more she learns: about both young couples and the secrets each marriage bore. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?Review

The story moves between two timelines – 1990s and 1960s. Isla, who has her own burdens to carry including self emotional isolation, loneliness and alcoholism, is asked to come back home. Her father is under suspicion for the disappearance of one of their neighbours, a woman who vanished three decades ago. The case has been reopened and now the finger of guilt is pointing right in his direction.

There are hard lessons to be learnt, the most poignant one is that families always have their secrets. Nobody is perfect, and just because you know someone as your father it doesn’t mean he didn’t have a life before you and one just as a man. It’s a slow burner of a mystery that combines the complexity of family dynamics and neighbourhood ones for that matter, whilst delving into the guilty burden of a past the Australians may have apologised for, but can never make right.

Kudos to the author for including an often forgotten part of Australia’s history. The damage inflicted by white colonialism on the indigenous people of Australia. The hoards of children displaced, kidnapped (there is no other word for it) in the name of government agencies, church missions – all by rule of parliament. The Stolen Children, also known as the Stolen Generations, were children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. The policies on removal of children of indigenous Australian and mixed descent were still being carried out well into the 1970s. They were just as appalling as any eugenics theory, which were also being implemented in Australia in the 20th century.

Allott and her talent for atmospheric writing remind me of Jane Harper, and not just because of the Australian connection. It’s this uncanny ability to recreate an emotional reaction to sound, sight and smell. Combined with a knack for storytelling it gives the read the kind of edge that makes you take note as a reader.

Buy The Silence at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: The Borough Press; pub date 6th August 2020|Hardback |£14.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie.

About the Author

Caroline Mackenzie is a freelance translator living in Trinidad with her husband and son. A national scholar, she studied in the UK on an Open Scholarship for four years to qualify as a specialist translator before returning to her native Trinidad, where she began writing more extensively. Her short fiction has appeared in literary publications around the world, and in 2017 she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. In 2018 she was named the Short Fiction winner of the Small Axe Literary Competition. One Year of Ugly is her first novel, and the TV rights have already been snapped up by Netflix.

Follow @carolinemackenziewrites on Instagramon Amazonon GoodreadsBuy One Year of Ugly

About the book

Having escaped crumbling, socialist Venezuela, Yola Palacios and her family are settling into their new under-the-radar life in Trinidad.

But when the formidable* Aunt Celia dies, the Palacios discover that she’s been keeping one hell of a secret. She’s seriously in debt to a local criminal called Ugly, a debt that is now theirs to repay.

He might dress like David Bowie, but Ugly’s business style is pure Pablo Escobar. What he says, the Palacios must do, otherwise: big trouble. Ugly’s right-hand man Román is tasked with keeping an eye on the family but Yola can barely keep her eyes off him. Forbidden fruit is the original aphrodisiac, and when Yola and Román fall in lust, even bigger trouble is on the horizon…

Told with raw, acid humour, One Year of Ugly is a story of family, first love and finding home. A blisteringly fresh take on the migrant experience, set in a beautiful corner of the Caribbean, and a poignant reminder that no matter what form of ugly crosses your path, there’s always a way to laugh through it. (*family bitch)

Review

The Palacios family are migrants from Venezuela living in Trinidad, having sought refuge from the dismal situation in their country of origin. When Aunt Celia dies the Palacios family mourn the fact this foul-mouthed wise woman has gone, especially Yola who felt understood by her more than anyone else in her family.

That’s until Ugly, a successful and ruthless coyote, turns up to tell them he expects the family to honour the really high debts Celia left behind. They become a cog in his relocation package company, which awakens emotions and unexpected thoughts about their fellow countrymen, and for Yola the debt comes with a more conflicting surprise.

I absolutely loved the way the author approached the story, the often controversial topics and the vibrancy with which it is written. There are no punches pulled. There are no moments of redressing situations, messages and characters. Thoughts are just thrown out there with wilful abandonment and simultaneously with a cunning accuracy. Don’t be fooled by the snark and tomfoolery.

There is one chapter in particular I found myself drawn to, probably because I’ve experienced it, but also due to the fact that people who haven’t experienced it never quite understand what it feels like. ‘A pall of Otherness’ – it’s absolutely a thing. How other that Otherness is depends on your nationality, race, ethnicity, colour and shade of skin, and where you experience it.

I think my mantra should now be, according to the wise words of old Aunt Celia – ‘Life is a big piece of sugarcane’ – obviously what she means is open to quite a few interpretations, but hey-ho I am up for sucking the sweetness out of life.

Yup, that’s exactly what you get from Mackenzie, a bittersweet symphony of life as the majority of us don’t know it and are quite happy to ignore from the safety of our secure walls and borders. The perhaps most poignant point of this story is the hypocrisy of those who should be able to comprehend the problems of migrant families, and indeed those without the legal paperwork, and yet often they turn into the very people driven by throwback attitudes of colonialism and privilege.

Also, on a softer note, the touching message in this story about allowing yourself to reach for your dreams even when the world tells you it’s a waste of time. Life passes by so quickly that dreams are often buried and forgotten. The story is absolutely a statement about illegal migrants living in political limbo and one about being humane when the atmosphere around us suggests otherwise, but it is also very much one of hope.

Buy One Year of Ugly at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: The Borough Press / Hardback £12.99 / eBook £7.99 / pub date 14th May 2020. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Waterstones.

The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen

augusta hopeFor me the story is about all of us being connected at some level, regardless of where we are in the world. Six degrees of separation. It’s also about fate and small pieces of a large puzzle fitting together to create a bigger picture. One could say it’s coincidence, one could also say there is no such thing as coincidence.

Augusta  and Julia are twins, but they couldn’t be more different. Julia is everything her parents expect her to be and more, and Augusta dances to her very own music. She loves words. Words are life, discovery, mystery and knowledge. Words lead to people, things and places. They are doors to other worlds.

Simultaneously the reader is introduced to Parfait on the other side of the world. His life is a complete contrast to that of Augusta, and there is no connection between the two, barring a wish and a dream of places far away.

The juxtaposition of the two lives of these two young people is relevant to our day and age, especially that of Parfait. His fate as a refugee and that of his brother is tragic. Glen wants us to see the way we live our day-to-day lives, whilst men, women and children risk their lives to reach a safer country in an attempt to escape their war-torn countries and the violence.

In a way Julia becomes the guilty conscience the author hopes our society will develop. We need to stop acting as if we see nothing, hear nothing and then speak nothing. A visceral connection needs to be strung from us to them.

Both Parfait and Augusta experience and have to deal with incredible grief and guilt. It is one of the bridges that connects and leads them to each other. In fact they become the hypothetical bridge of connection.

It’s a profound and emotional piece of literary fiction. The main character has shades of Eleanor Oliphant, and the story is introspective with politics and family dynamics woven into this beautiful contemporary read.

Buy The Other Half of Augusta Hope at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: The Borough Press; pub date 13 Jun. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @JoannaGlenBooks on Twitter