Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

little firesHands down Izzy wins best rebel move by a teenager.

I think this book will generate a lot of opinions and conversations, and I can guarantee the opinions will differ on a lot of the core issues raised in this book. In fact this is probably a little Molotov cocktail in the guise of an innocent little book.

When is a mother a mother and when is she not? I think it is fair to say that giving birth makes you a mother in the technical sense of the word and from a biological point of view, however not every bio mother or father is a parent.

This book wades into the murky, emotional and difficult waters of adoption, surrogacy and abortion. Ng also puts motherhood and relationships between mothers and daughters under close scrutiny.

It is a book full of controversial topics, however the author approaches all of them in a subtle non-controversial manner. There is no attempt to sway the reader one way or the other, both sides of the argument are presented in each situation. When I say both sides this includes uncomfortable facts like a rich white family creating a diverse environment and not raising a child of a transracial adoption in a colour-blind environment.

Also the presumption that financial stability is better for a child than a genetic connection or how a traumatic event can spiral into anxiety can end up voicing itself as a lifetime of criticism and dislike.

Again, I have to say that aside from the controversial topics, I also really enjoyed the way Ng didn’t flavour the soup in any way. She lets the reader pick the seasoning and the way they decide to imbibe the topics. I think the result will be an interesting variety of opinions.

Buy Little Fires Everywhere at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @pronounced_ing (love the Twitter handle) @LittleBrownUk

Visit celesteng.com

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#BlogTour The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the BlogTour for The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald. I admire her tenacity and audacity when it comes to the topics she has approached in this book.

About the Author

Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria. She was educated at the local grammar school and later at Goldsmiths’, University of London where she studied for a BA in psychology and then a PGCE in biology and science. She taught in a secondary school in Croydon for eleven years before taking some time out to write and paint. In 1990 she returned to teaching at a sixth form college in south-east London where she taught psychology. For over twenty-five years she was also a visiting tutor in the psychology department at Goldsmiths’. She has now given up teaching to focus fully on writing.

Her four published novels Meeting Lydia, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternative and The Man in the Needlecord Jacket can each be read independently but are also a series. A fifth part is at the embryonic stage.

Follow @LindaMac1 on Twitter #Needlecordjacket #RandomThingsTours or @LindaMacDonaldAuthor on Facebook

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Visit troubadorbooks.co.uk

Buy The Man in the Needlecord Jacket

About the Book

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket follows the story of two women who are each struggling to let go of a long-term destructive partnership. Felicity is reluctant to detach from her estranged archaeologist husband and, after being banished from the family home, she sets out to test the stability of his relationship with his new love, Marianne.

When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a thought-provoking book, written from the perspectives of Sarah and Felicity. The reader is in the privileged position of knowing what’s going on for both of the women, while each of them is being kept in the dark about a very important issue.

Inspired by the work of Margaret Atwood and Fay Weldon, Linda explores the issue of mental abuse in partnerships and the grey area of an infidelity that is emotional, not physical. The book will appeal to readers interested in the psychology of relationships, as well as fans of Linda’s ‘Lydia’ series.

Review

First and foremost I have to congratulate the author on her characters, to be more specific the age range she picked for her characters. There is a tendency in all fiction to choose the handsome young man and the young nubile woman, perhaps more so the latter. MacDonald has chosen two middle-aged women, Felicity and Sarah, and their prospective partners for this particularly realistic venture into women’s fiction.

The reader follows the lives of both Felicity and Sarah as they become linked via a charming man called Coll. Sarah is Coll’s girlfriend and Felicity is his new obsession.

This story is about the way women of a certain age are perceived by society, and the way they feel about it. Their youth is a fond memory of forbidden pleasures, spontaneity and a time when middle-age was merely a blip on the future horizon.

There is a general misconception about age changing the wants, needs and desires of people. This misconception is shared and believed by younger generations. They are often horrified, sometimes amused, by the fact both women and men still want physical intimacy when they hit middle-age or pension-age. The real question is, why shouldn’t they want that?

Sarah and Coll have a relationship, which I would deem on the abusive side. Anyone who insults you, degrades you and makes you feel insecure, and invalid on a regular basis, is guilty of verbal and emotional abuse. Coll is a classic manipulator. He likes to control the narrative, especially when it comes to his own needs. His own insecurities are projected onto Sarah in a way that makes it appear as if she is to blame. Again this is a classic scenario of control. Over lengthy periods of time abuse victims begin to believe the false narrative and live up to it, which is a typical self-fulfilling prophecy setting. The victim often doesn’t identify this behaviour as abuse.

One of the elements of this story I was really interested in was the use, lack of or withdrawal of intimacy as a tool of power and manipulation. The reader can actually see how Sarah rationalizes his actions as the story unfolds.

Felicity is actually more self-aware, however she is still suffering the consequences of her mid-life crisis. Yes, women have them too. She is honest about what she needs and what her body needs. Her attempt to re-establish her old life creates discord between her children and her soon to be ex-husband. Felicity wants her old life back and yet at the same time she wants to walk upon a different path entirely.

MacDonald strips away any kind of illusion or semblance of hope that the middle stage of life gets any easier when it comes to love, relationships and life in general. It is probably just a tad more difficult, because physical appearance and health tends to decline.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a subtle reminder that women should champion other women instead of breaking them down. It is also a strong statement about the emotional destruction an abusive relationship can cause, especially when the abuse is often a non-visible one, as opposed to a visible physical one. The book also takes the bull called infidelity by the horns and treats it to a violent ride of culpability. The kind of ride you don’t want to miss.

Buy The Man in the Needlecord Jacket at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Blog-Tour: Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill. It really is my pleasure to introduce you to this controversial little gem of a book. I’m sure it will generate plenty of discussions and reactions.

About Melissa Hill

A USA Today and No. 1 Irish times and Italian best-seller, Melissa Hill’s books are translated into 25 different languages. One of her titles has been optioned for a movie by a major Hollywood studio, and another is currently in development for TV with a top US production company. Visit her website at www.melissahill.ie or contact her on Twitter @melissahillbks, or melissahillbooks on Facebook and Instagram. Follow @HQStories

Buy Keep You Safe

About the book

What if your choice for your child could harm someone else’s?

Every mother faces impossible choices. Vaccination is one of the hardest. For single mum Kate O’Hara, there was no decision to make. Her daughter Rosie is one of a small percentage of Irish children who can’t be vaccinated against measles. All Kate can do is hope that her little girl is safe.

For mummy blogger Madeleine Cooper, it was a leap of faith she wasn’t prepared to take when she and her husband declined controversial measles jabs for their daughter Clara. All she can do is pray that it’s the right decision.

But when classmates Clara and Rosie both become sick will Kate pay for Madeleine’s choice?

Review

There is no denying that this is a hot topic. There are plenty of parents, who choose not to vaccinate their children. They will hit you with a multitude of arguments of why it’s the healthier choice for their children, of course it may be at the expense of your child or mine, but the most important factor is that their conscience is clean.

They are convinced the vaccines can be linked to autism, a false fact that has been debunked. The one in every thousand statistics make it seem as if every child will be the one who has a severe reaction. I can understand and feel empathy for the parents trying to protect their children, however the fact these same parents rely on the so-called herd-immunity to keep their own children safe and healthy automatically negates all their arguments for not vaccinating. If you are so convinced that vaccinations are a bad choice and a danger to children then surely you would want them abolished entirely instead of hoping the rest of the vaccinated herd keeps your own baby healthy, right?

Although I believe in vaccinations I also firmly believe that Health Services have a duty of care to children and parents. Vaccines need to be regularly checked and researched. Eradicating dangerous illnesses whilst keeping patients safe should be a priority, as opposed to the growing wealth and influence of big pharmacy. I have lived in a variety of European countries and the vaccines differ from country to country, so over-vaccination and unnecessary vaccinations need to be vetted better. Fact is that anti-vaxxers are the reason certain diseases are making a reappearance again, for instance polio in certain western societies.

At the same time the Health Services need to inform people better and make a more concentrated attempt to debunk myths and wrong information being spread by worried parents.

I really smirked at the ‘it wasn’t as if she used the blog or any other media she was involved in to foist her opinions on anyone else, and it was just a bit of light-hearted fun’ paragraph. The sad thing is Madeleine truly believes that, and I’m guessing the majority of Mommy bloggers would say the same thing, however subconsciously they know that is the farthest thing from the truth. It’s all about telling the world your opinion, and of course about how many followers you can attract while doing so. The more funny, snarky or original you sound the better. Regardless of whether you may be spreading dangerous information and pseudo science disguised as facts. Goop springs to mind. There is nothing worse than a sanctimonious supposed do-gooder being able to convince an audience of false facts, just because they are popular.

If you are putting your opinions out there then you also have a duty of care. I think many people who have a social media following tend to forget or rather they decide not to acknowledge it, because the end count is more important.

Kate and Madeleine both made choices for their children, however Kate makes hers because the vaccine does present a proven danger to her child, as opposed to the presumed danger Madeleine thinks exists.

Hill gives an excellent balanced view of both sides of the argument, there is no bias towards either side of the vaccination issue. Both the anti-vaxxers and vaxxers get their day in court. She also plays around with the question of guilt when it comes to sending an ill child into society when they are a probable danger to other children. It made me think of these idiotic chicken pox lollipops and parties some parents have, when they think having the child contract a contagious disease sooner rather than later or at all, is a brilliant idea.

Ultimately the reader decides, and the author makes sure all the opinions are well-represented and both her main characters are flawed and realistic. We all have to make these decisions as parents, and we try do it to the best of our ability. with the welfare of our children at heart.

Hill manages to keep the story well-paced and captivating, despite the seriousness of the topic. It never bows under the pressure of blame or conscience, instead it informs and educates. A good book doesn’t always have to be entertaining. Sometimes, and this was one of those moments, it needs to be more than that.

Buy Keep You Safe at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill

the betrayalsI think I might put this book on my list of favourites for this year. It wasn’t at all what I expected, and yet at the same time it was.

I don’t even think the betrayals are the driving force in this story. The deterioration of Daisy, the codependency of her brother Max, and of course the triggers, they are what propel the story forward with quite a lot of force.

First of all kudos to the author for the in depth research and description of the obsessive compulsive disorder. It controls and rules Daisy, her life and to a certain extent the lives of those around her. Like many other disorders, it has become somewhat of a blasé throwaway phrase that people mention in a jokey kind of way. The truth is it can control and take over your entire life, and indeed people who suffer from severe OCD are often unable to cope with the demands of everyday life, due to their condition.

I enjoyed the perfect imperfections of the characters and the story. In general life isn’t an ice cream sundae with a cherry on top. It tends to be more like a melted mess that drips faster than you can eat it.

The lives of two families are changed forever when Nick and Lisa decide that lust is stronger than loyalty. Their spouses and children are less than thrilled. In fact Daisy believes their betrayal is the trigger for her OCD and every other problem in her life. To be more specific she believes Lisa is the root cause of her problems, and what Daisy thinks Max thinks too.

It’s interesting how Daisy suffers from selective memory and fixates on her father and his mistress. Memory and in particular false memories and the way our brain works in relation to memories is Nick’s speciality, which makes some aspects of the plot all the more ironic.

It really is an engrossing read, perhaps more so because the complete disintegration of families and relationships is so commonplace, and it leaves many victims in its wake. Neill writes a compelling plot with relatable characters.

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

The Wife – To Have and to Hold (Book 1) by M.L. Roberts

the wife part1This definitely has a Dr. Foster feel to it, and if you haven’t seen that particular programme then be prepared for a paranoid and vengeful woman, and the close scrutiny of a marriage.

Marriage, relationships and friendships are at the forefront of this story. The story starts after specific events, which lead to the deterioration of her mental health and her marriage. The reader remains unaware of what those events are specifically until the author starts to reveal some of the details towards the end of this book.

It’s hard to feel a lot of empathy for Ellie. because she seems so unstable. She is jealous, paranoid and isn’t adverse to the occasional bouts of stalking. She doubts everything her husband says and does, perhaps with good reason though.

Roberts describes the charismatic husband really well. The charmer, the kind of man women want attention from, even if it is just the faintest of touches or a short moment of eye-contact. I think they thrive on the energy, the heavy feeling of lust and danger in the air. The short culmination of spiked desire, albeit only in a brief second of imagined abandonment. Michael is that type of man. The kind of man who holds the attention of the room, and enjoys every second of it. You have to be a strong woman or partner to accept this particular vice or personality trait. Why? Well, because he will only ever belong to you completely when there is only the two of you and no other person to stroke the ego of the prettiest peacock in the room.

No wonder Ellie is driven to distraction, especially after the damage her marriage has already incurred. It’s interesting to note, and yet absolutely the norm, that as a woman she is expected to forgive, forget and go back to being the happy little wife. Regardless of the pain, horror and irreparable damage to her life and well-being she has had to endure.

The author writes a good game. In book one the nails are being slowly driven into the coffin one by one, whilst the reasons for her obsessive and paranoid behaviour are revealed at a calculated pace. Some characters look guiltier than others, however there are always three sides to every story. Her side, his side and somewhere in the middle is the truth. This is a four part series and I am looking forward to reading the next book For Better, For Worse.

Buy To Have and to Hold -The Wife (Book 1) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @AuthorMLRoberts @michellebetham @HarperImpulse

Order:

The Wife – Book One: To Have and to Hold

Pre-order:

The Wife – Book Two: For Better, For Worse

The Wife – Book Three: In Sickness and in Health

The Wife – Book Four: Till Death Us Do Part

Autopsy of a Father by Pascale Kramer

AutopsyFather 2I think it is fair to say that Kramer manages to sneak into your head-space and then lets the events unfold in front of you like a slideshow of personal memories.

Family can give you the best experiences in life, but also the worst. Parental relationships can be the foundations of your identity, however the flip-side of the coin can also be a dysfunctional relationship that means there is no foundation of identity at all or a lack of one.

Although the relationship between Ania and Gabriel takes the main stage in this story, it is so much more than a daughter’s autopsy of the relationship with her father.

Kramer rips a plaster off of the pus filled boil of immigration. She has chosen the suburbs of Paris to point a spotlight at this and the underlying racial tensions in France. To be completely fair, to France that is, it is a topic of contention in quite a lot of western countries at the moment. An issue that has swayed elections and given fodder to the right-wing. We are living in an era where we have to be very careful that we don’t repeat mistakes of the past.

Gabriel is a well-known and admired journalist until he decides to publicly support a group of young French men, who ruthlessly murdered an innocent African immigrant. The victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gabriel is vilified for his xenophobic rant. He loses his job, and his neighbours and fellow villagers aren’t afraid to show him how displeased they are by his opinion.

The former left-wing intellectual has suddenly taken on an anti-immigrant stance, which is sort of hypocritical considering that his wife was Iranian. His family structure sort of mirrors that of his home country. His half French and half Iranian daughter embraces her dead mother’s culture and religion. He loved his wife, and yet he rejects his daughter. He used to embrace the diversity in his country and now he rejects anything but the French culture.

Ania is unaware of all of this. The two of them have a fractured relationship. She never lived up to his expectations and he never accepted her shortcomings. The two of them are strangers bound by nothing more than blood. Ania isn’t really bothered by the lack of interest, at least that is what she tells herself. What really gets her goat is when her father treats his grandson, her son, with the same disinterest. I think most readers will be able to comprehend the difference. You get used to the indifference or the negative qualities your parents have and accept them as part of their eccentricities, however we react like protective parents when our children are subjected to the same personality flaws.

There is a moment in the story when Gabriel and Ania are in the same train compartment, and yet he pretends he hasn’t seen them. Almost as if he doesn’t want to associate himself with the two of them in public. Are these the actions of a xenophobe or of a man ashamed of his past actions? Is this realisation the reason he commits suicide?

In a way the story ends without any definitive answers. There is no clarification between Ania and Gabriel, and no resolution in general. Of course that is the reality of life and relationships, sometimes conflicts aren’t resolved.

Aside from the parallels Kramer draws to the political situation in France, which is quite cleverly done in the context of a family setting, I really think she portrayed the relationship between daughter and father well. The dysfunctional side of family, the distances that grow between people, and the hard and hurtful truth that usually remains unspoken.

Buy Autopsy of a Father at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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The Sunset Gang by Warren Adler

sunset gangWarren Adler is perhaps best known for The War of the Roses. His work is infused with his special brand of dark wit, hard-hitting truths and sense of humour.

The Sunset Gang is a collection of ten stories revolving around the retirement village called Sunset Village. The feature connecting them all, aside from retirement and old-age, is the fact they are all Jews.

It is the cotton which connects and threads through all the stories. Their language, identity, lives and where their stories start and end.

Yiddish is about the way the ancient language helps two people to discover themselves and their love of life again. It felt as if the kinship and brother/sisterhood was the message in this story. Conversing in Yiddish reignites something buried deep inside them. Perhaps something others could and should discover too.

Itch is, as many of the stories are, a testament to how lonely advanced age can be, even after an eventful and full life. Thrust suddenly into the strange schedule of a retirement community many find themselves missing the days of old and friends, who have since passed away.

An Unexpected Visit is an excellent example of how parents and children grow apart when both are adults. Suddenly life is so busy that families grow apart. In this case a visit with his father helps a son to re-evaluate his own life and priorities.

The Detective, this story is painfully true and it happens more often than people might think. It is all about compassion, empathy and more importantly how pride can be a huge obstacle when it comes to survival.

God Made Me That Way, same attracts same in this tale. It is probably karma when these two elderly people cross paths. Their mutual affinity for the opposite gender places them in the strange category of con-people or thieves of the heart.

The Braggart doesn’t just apply to older generations, it is the truth for many people. Successful careers and money may sound great, but they aren’t a replacement for genuine emotions and children who care enough to keep in touch.

The Demonstration is perhaps the most poignant from a political point of view. A man determined to stand up for his people. To not sit by silently and do nothing. It is about anti-Semitism, racism and hatred.

The Angel of Mercy is actually both sad and very mystical. If there is one thing that hovers over a retirement village it is definitely death. Mrs Klugerman seems to not only know when death is hovering over certain people, she also seems to be able to heal. Either way she catches the attention of someone under their own shadow of death.

Poor Herman, they do say that everyone meets twice in their lifetimes. In this case the strong embers of young love have been buried beneath the mediocrity of a more suitable lifestyle and partner. When they meet again after many decades the two of them reconnect as if they were teenagers again.

The Home is a situation many of us will possibly face, although the majority of us won’t want it to happen them. After a lifetime of being in control and being considered the head of the family one is suddenly considered a problem. An inconvenience that is too old to make decisions and unable to take care of themselves. A scary thought.

I enjoyed the humour, the Jewishness of it all and the fact each story spoke to me. Adler excels at describing every day situations and emotions. I liked the way the author managed to make excellent emotional, moral and even strong political points in the midst of such touching stories.

Buy The Sunset Gang at Amazon Uk or go Goodreads for any other retailer.

Connect with @WarrenAdler on Twitter or www.facebook.com/warrenadler or visit www.warrenadler.com