Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

anything you do sayFair warning *Possible Spoilers*

This is the kind of story which evokes a lot of emotions, controversy and discussion. So it probably isn’t any surprise that I want to have a really good chin-wag about it.

There are so many elements of this story that are hot topics at the moment. The systemic abuse of women, cross-race effect, the morality of her actions, why self-defence is negated in cases of severe force and the whole decision whether or not to act or help.

The behaviour Joanna encounters in the bar is fairly atypical unfortunately. The fact it happens so frequently probably explains her lack of response, which is in no way meant to sound like victim-blaming. Women have become so used to the systemic abuse that they tend to brush it off or ignore it, because making a big deal or speaking up can lead to escalations.

Joanna is on edge when she leaves the bar and almost expects Sadiq to follow her home, and of course this assumption of bad intentions is part of the problem. Then there is the issue of cross-race effect, ergo being able to recognise faces of ones own race easier and finding it more difficult to differentiate the faces of different races. This phenomenon causes a lot of misidentification when it comes to crimes.

Then there is the issue of self-defence, and I can guarantee the majority of people will think they have the right to defend themselves with any force necessary, however the truth is the legal situation isn’t as simple as it may seem. Reasonable force is the important factor and whether or not the victim believes they are in imminent danger, but it must be proportionate to the supposed danger. If the response causes injury or death it can be ruled as excessive force, ergo the victim then becomes the perpetrator.

The story follows Joanna in two scenarios simultaneously, the Joanna who reports the incident and the Joanna who tries to cover it up. Put yourself in her shoes for a minute, ask yourself what you would do in the same set of circumstances. Would you leave, watch him die, call for help or pretend it never happened at all?

This book is an excellent read because it challenges our perception of this event and possible scenarios we might encounter. I think the foremost question on my mind, whilst reading this story, was what I would do in the same situation. The answer to that particular question will be different for every single one of us and based on our own frame of references.

McAllister likes to present readers with complex characters and the kind of situations that are neither black or white. The grey areas become murky and distorted, which is what makes her stories so compelling.

Buy Anything You Do Say at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @GillianMAuthor

Visit gillianmcallister.com

Read Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister

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Blog-Tour: Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

Today I am thrilled to welcome an author from my local area, and to be taking part in the Blog-Tour for Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech. It is a remarkable read you don’t want to miss.

About the Author

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines.

Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

Follow @LouiseWriter @Orendabooks #MariaintheMoon

Visit louisebeech.co.uk

Buy Maria in the Moon

About the book

‘Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’

Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.

With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything.

Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

Review

Maria in the Moon has echoes of Eleanor Oliphant, especially when it comes to the anti-heroine type of main character. Another common denominator is the fact I enjoyed both stories, because the authors travel far off the well beaten path of literary clichés.

Catherine-Maria has this strange need to help others, she does this by volunteering at crisis helplines, which brings her into contact with people at their most vulnerable moments and often their last moments. Regardless of her own issues, and there are plenty of those, she always manages to wrangle herself into a position where she is confronted with the worst case scenarios in society. Her new pet project is a helpline set up to help the victims of the 2007 floods of Hull and East Yorkshire.

Part and parcel of the volunteering is being known under an alias. This is to keep both the volunteers and the callers safe. In Catherine’s case the pseudonym is also an important part of her identity crisis. How can she be Catherine-Maria when she doesn’t really know where Catherine-Maria went.

She knows Catherine, the promiscuous danger loving girl with a prickly attitude and a sharp-edged tongue. She knows all the personalities and names she pretends to be. She is a walking, talking example of coping mechanisms. The question is what is she trying to cope with, because at this point she doesn’t have a clue. The only thing she knows is she can’t remember entire years from her past, and someone is haunting her both at night and during the day.

She meets Christopher there, yet another man she connects with via her volunteer work. At this point one could start to question whether her romantic relationships are just an involuntary reaction to the emotional distress caused by the phone conversations she has to navigate and digest.

Another major part of her story, and the person who steers the majority of her reactions, is her mother. Their relationship is complex and most certainly the cause of many of her problems. Their problems go beyond the normal mother and daughter conflicts.

Maria in the Moon is a cold realistic ‘look in through the window’ approach to a highly sensitive subject. Beech pulls it off like a million dollar art heist. Although Catherine isn’t the most sympathetic of characters, which is completely on par with a real situation of this kind, she does build a tenuous rapport with her audience, the readers. Kudos to Beech for being able to convey the confusion, pain, anger and desperation of the emotional turmoil and most importantly the complexity of the situation.

A commendable and memorable read.

Buy Maria in the Moon at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

standard deviationIt is quite witty, probably unintentionally so and possibly because there were many things that rang a bell for me. I personally know someone who talks as much as a tribal leader telling a tale that takes twenty paths and fifty corners before coming to a conclusion.

Graham introduces us to his life, his second wife and the autistic son they have together. The way he describes his wife could be perceived as mocking or as a slightly ironic take on his own situation. He loves her and yet he finds her traits annoying at times, despite the clear advantages he has from being married to a woman with connections and one who talks like a waterfall. What they do have in common, he often wonders, what is it that keeps the two of them together?

The one thing he can’t deny is the way they come together when it comes to their son and his Asperger’s. They are both willing to go the extra length to make sure he is comfortable, at ease and happy.

One of the things that makes him feel at ease is origami, the art of paper folding. The whole joining the origami club is one of the funnier aspects of this story, despite the serious element of why the young boy loves folding paper.

It isn’t uncommon for people in couples to wonder whether the grass is greener on the other side or in this case if the grass he has already walked on has suddenly become greener and more inviting. Graham knows why he left his first wife, and yet the forbidden fruits they dangle in a way that makes him question his decisions. Quite bizarrely he is a jealous man, and the thought of his second wife doing anything similar drives him up the wall.

In the midst of all the humour there is a serious tone to the story. Taking care of children on the autism spectrum, coping with the complexities of divorce and marriage, and mystery of the workings of the male mind.

Buy Standard Deviation at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @katherine_heiny

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

juniper.jpgThe idea itself is lovely. Dealing with grief by tracking it daily via a happiness index. For each person the index would be different of course, because what makes one person smile or feel a moment of happiness isn’t always the same for another person.

Think about what kind of things make you happy each day. Even the smallest things count. A memory, an interaction, a piece of chocolate or perhaps just relaxing after a long day.

Since the death of her sister Camilla, Juniper has been desperately trying to find her happy. She is so grief stricken that she is trying to grasp what she can from life.

She is also trying to fulfil what she believes to be her sister’s last wish. A letter to her love. So Juniper takes it upon herself to find the mysterious recipient. She is also really invested in making the people around her happy. She does this by playing matchmaker, by saving those around her from possible negative thoughts and bad intentions.

In her quest to survive day by day and to not crumble under the weight of her personal loss, Juniper inadvertently finds herself building friendships, experiencing love and learning a few hard lessons along the way.

The focus is on the people left behind, as opposed to a lot of books that seem to make the dead the main characters. What’s done is done and those who are gone aren’t coming back, so let’s concentrate on the living.

The author tries not to delve too far into the teen drama or rather make the scenarios too candy floss sweet or unicorn eccentric. It is passionate without being soppy, witty without being ridiculous and is realistic in a down-to-earth way.

Definitely a read I would recommend.

Buy Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @thatjulieisrael visit julieisrael.com

Mrs Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

mrs fletcherI have to be honest it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I could easily pontificate about Perrotta’s skill when it comes to social commentary and his ability to make readers squirm, because he hits the realism button far too often. However I do believe this is over-hyped and doesn’t live up to expectations.

It doesn’t take a master of social interactions to create this type of scenario. In fact I think a lot of it is gratuitous sexual gratification, perhaps for the shock factor. Shall we say, the ticking of en vogue boxes.

Even though the words sexual harassment were thrown in as a kind of jokey afterthought, and not taken seriously at all, Mrs Fletcher was definitely guilty of crossing the line. She was guilty of crossing quite a few of those. There seemed to be a really big focus on the son and his dubious actions, especially his very particular brand of misogyny, and yet none on the mother. There shouldn’t be distinction made between the two just because one of them is a middle-aged woman.

One could argue that her son knows no better because he wasn’t taught to treat women with respect. What is her excuse? Does she believe women aren’t held up to the same standards when it comes to crossing boundaries?

There was also a contradiction when it came to Mrs Fletcher being an over-protective mother, and yet that same person becomes so involved in her sexual fantasies that the plight of her son goes completely unnoticed.

Taking a step back I can see the intent or the point the author was striving to make, a tongue-in-cheek scathing eye-opener on the life a suburban housewife, but it wasn’t executed very well.

Buy Mrs Fletcher at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Blog-Tour: The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett

Today I am pleased to take part in the Blog-Tour for The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett. It is a read I think many women will be able to identify with. Bartlett delivers realistic characters with a big helping of reality, and yet she balances the fun, the chaos and the more serious side of things with the skill of a circus juggler.

About the Author

Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of warmth, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.

Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power comedies under her own name.

About the book

One chance isn’t always enough…

Everyone expects great things from Emma Billings, but when her future gets derailed by an unexpected turn of events, she realises that getting back on track means travelling in a different direction.

She finds that new path in the closed-down pub on Carlton Square. Summoning every ounce of ingenuity, and with the help of her friends and family, she opens the Second Chance Café. The charity training business is meant to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and (hopefully) away from the Metropolitan Police, and her new employees are full of ideas, enthusiasm … and trouble. They’ll need as much TLC as the customers they’re serving.

This ragtag group of chancers have to make a go of a business they know nothing about, and they do get some expert help from an Italian who’s in love with the espresso machine and a professional sandwich whisperer who reads auras, but not everyone is happy to see the café open. Their milk keeps disappearing and someone is cancelling the cake orders, but it’s when someone commits bloomicide on all their window boxes that Emma realises things are serious. Can the café survive when NIMBY neighbours and the rival café owner join forces to close them down? Or will Emma’s dreams fall as flat as the cakes they’re serving?

Review

With all due respect to the high level of patience Emma shows throughout the entire fiasco with her nemesis, there is such a thing as being too nice. Personally I think I would have given the coppers a real reason to visit me. Emma is too complacent. She just ignores all the underhanded schemes and the attempts to bring her project to a standstill.

She needs to find a backbone and stand up for herself. While we are at it she also needs to articulate her needs better when it comes to her husband. Mothers often find themselves in a bit of a conundrum. They want to take care of their babies, and yet at the same time they want some free time. Unfortunately they feel guilty when they leave their children to go to work, pursue hobbies or just enjoy some child-free moments. It’s like being caught between a rock and a hard place. I don’t think men quite comprehend the strange boomerang type relationship women have with their children.

This story made me want to jump inside the pages and take up arms on behalf of Emma. I was enraged by the petty attacks on her business. A place where anyone can enjoy a slice of cake and a posh cup of coffee. It also isn’t called Second Chance for nothing. Emma wants to give back to the community or society in general by hiring juvenile delinquents to work in her café.

She believes everyone deserves a second chance in life, especially young people in vulnerable or difficult situations. Where others see hopeless cases, Emma sees potential instead of trouble, which is a good message overall. Teens are often typecast at an early age, which can determine and influence the rest of their lives. Of course this doesn’t mean all teens are misunderstood, some of them aren’t interested in a second chance.

Bartlett manages to keep this story light and amusing, despite the serious topics she has woven into the fabric of this tale. She distracts the readers with bright noisy rattles, whilst introducing hardcore problems and bringing them to the table. It almost seems like an accidental plot at times, but of course this is just Bartlett doing what she does best.

It is a read I think many women will be able to identify with. Bartlett delivers realistic characters with a big helping of reality, and yet she balances the fun, the chaos and the more serious side of things with the skill of a circus juggler.

Buy The Second Chance Café in Carlton Square on Amazon UkAmazon com or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @HarperImpulse

The Other Us by Fiona Harper

The other UsIn The Other Us Harper moves away from her usual repertoire we have come to love and enjoy. She takes a big step away from her witty romantic comedies and leads her readers into this emotionally complex story. She still manages to infuse her special brand of humour into the characters and the story though.

I really enjoyed it. Leaving the elaborate plot aside, and I do so enjoy reads that make you ponder and sometimes screw with your brain, I do think this story is one readers will be able to relate to. Why? Because the majority of people will always believe that the grass is greener on the other side. They may not believe it all the time, especially during long-term relationships, but there will be occasions when they think about greener pastures.

Maggie wakes up one morning to find herself right back on the day she made a choice, the kind of choice that determines which path you take in life. So, the question is whether she should take this bizarre opportunity to choose a different life for herself.

Imagine being able to revisit some of the most important decisions in your life, but armed with the knowledge of your future. Sounds like an intriguing proposition to me, having the ability to change the outcome of your future. Except for the minor issue of the butterfly effect. You change one detail and inadvertently you may set a whole different sequence of events in motion.

Maggie has a grown daughter and is married to a dependable, and yet a wee bit boring Dan. She is thrilled to wake up a few decades earlier and have the opportunity to pick the love of her life Jude. Life with Jude means not having her daughter or her best friend Becca though. Is being with Jude worth it? And as if that wasn’t complicated enough, Maggie jumps back and forth into more than one alternative life.

She has no control over when, where or who she will end up with from one day to the next and is thrown into a state of constant emotional confusion. Does she give up one person to live with another, will she ever see her child again or in fact ever become a mother? In fact I think that was one of the most prolific questions the story raised. I’m sure plenty of people have mentioned flippantly that if given the chance they would have done things differently and made other choices. If you have children now that also means those children would probably not even exist in the new reality. So a choice against the father of your children is also a choice against the children you love. Maggie has to deal with the same dilemma.

Harper delivers an intriguing premise and an invigorating read. The time-hopping element and parallel realities give this story undertones of a science fiction plot, however the whole scenario could also just be one very long vivid dream. A dream full of Freudian slips with far-reaching consequences, all with the ultimate goal of comprehending that your own lawn is the same shade of green. Your subconscious often sends you very vivid messages, maybe this is just a very graphic wake-up call for Maggie. Kudos to Harper for the great read and the ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ Ewing reference, it was the first thing I thought of.

Buy The Other Us at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @FiHarper_Author@HQStories or @HarperCollinsUK

Read The Summer we Danced, The Doris Day Vintage Film Club or The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams by Fiona Harper