#BlogTour Small Deaths by Rijula Das

It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Small Deaths by Rijula Das. – Winner of the 2021 Tata Literature Live! First Book Award – Fiction Longlisted for The JCB Prize for Literature 2021.

About the Author

Rijula Das received her PhD in Creative Writing/prose-fiction in 2017 from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where she taught writing for two years. She is a recipient of the 2019 Michael King Writers Centre Residency in Auckland and the 2016 Dastaan Award for her short story Notes From A Passing. Her short story, The Grave of The Heart Eater, was longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2019. Her short fiction and translations have appeared in Newsroom, New Zealand and The Hindu. She lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand. Follow @RijulaDas on Twitter

About the book

In the red-light district of Shonagachhi, Lalee dreams of trading a life of penury and violence for one of relative luxury as a better-paid ‘escort’. Her long-standing client, Trilokeshwar ‘Tilu’ Shau is an erotic novelist hopelessly in love with her.

When a young girl who lives next door to Lalee gets brutally murdered, a spiral of deceit and crime begins to disturb the fragile stability of this underworld’s existence. One day, without notice, Lalee’s employer and landlady, the formidable Shefali Madam, decrees that she must now service wealthier clients at plush venues outside the familiar walls of the brothel. But the new job is fraught with unknown hazards and drives Lalee into a nefarious web of prostitution, pimps, sex rings, cults and unimaginable secrets that endanger her life and that of numerous women like her. 

As the local Sex Workers’ Collective’s protests against government and police inaction and calls for justice for the deceased girl gain fervour, Tilu Shau must embark on a life-altering misadventure to ensure Lalee does not meet a similarly savage fate.

Set in Calcutta’s most fabled neighbourhood, Small Deaths is a literary noir as absorbing as it is heart-wrenching, holding within it an unforgettable story of our society’s outcasts and marking the arrival of a riveting new writer.

Review

This is very much a read between the lines story, despite the fact the brutal reality of these scenarios couldn’t be presented in a more precise and clear way. With that in mind, and the fate of the vulnerable, the disposable and those who have no one to miss them when they disappear without a trace – the title of small deaths takes on an entirely different meaning.

In the midst of the degradation, the abuse and the lack of control over her life Lalee accepts help from one of few who have shown her kindness. Is it kindness though, when Tilu is just another customer? Sometimes you just have to grasp at straws, especially when you are in the midst of a whirlpool of expendability.

When you take a close look at the frame of the premise you can take it and place it in multiple countries – the structure is always the same. You take the desperate, the innocent, the vulnerable and those who are easy victims and create a profitable base for criminals and deviants. In Shonagachhi you see the way these specific areas become their own cosmos – a community within the wider societal community.

It’s literary fiction, the retracing of what led to a crime, and the attempt to change just one small iota – one life – of the many held captive by the depravity of the criminals and collaborators of Calcutta and its red-light district. It’s a bleak reality check and an excellent read. Kudos for the last chapter.

Buy Small Deaths at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Amazon Crossing; pub date 13th September | Paperback: £8.99 UK | €9.99 EU. Buy at Amazon com.

Blogtour #Audiobook Women Like Us: A Memoir by Amanda Prowse

It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour for the Audiobook – Women Like Us: A Memoir by Amanda Prowse.

About the Author

Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author whose twenty-six novels, non-fiction title and seven novellas have been published in dozens of languages around the world. Amanda is the most prolific writer of bestselling contemporary fiction in the UK today; her titles also consistently score the highest online review approval ratings across several genres. Her books, including the chart topping No.1 titles What Have I Done?, Perfect Daughter, My Husband’s Wife, The Girl in the Corner and The Things I Know have sold millions of copies across the globe.

A popular TV and radio personality, Amanda is a regular panellist on Channel 5’s ‘The Jeremy Vine Show’ and numerous daytime ITV programmes. She also makes countless guest appearances on BBC national independent Radio stations including LBC and Talk FM, where she is well known for her insightful observations and her infectious humour. Described by the Daily Mail as ‘The queen of family drama’ Amanda’s novel, A Mother’s Story won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the year Award while Perfect Daughter was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016. Follow @MrsAmandaProwse on Twitter

About the book

Amanda Prowse has built a bestselling career on the lives of fictional women. Now she turns the pen on her own life. From her childhood, where there was no blueprint for success, to building a career as a bestselling novelist against all odds, Amanda Prowse explores what it means to be a woman in a world where popularity, slimness, beauty and youth are currency – and how she overcame all of that to forge her own path to happiness.

Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always entirely relatable, Prowse details her early struggles with self-esteem and how she coped with the frustrating expectations others had of how she should live. Most poignantly, she delves into her toxic relationship with food, the hardest addiction she has ever known, and how she journeyed out the other side.

One of the most candid memoirs you’re ever likely to read, Women Like Us provides welcome insight into how it is possible – against the odds – to overcome insecurity, body consciousness and the ubiquitous imposter syndrome to find happiness and success, from a woman who’s done it all, and then some

Review

I thought it was interesting how Amanda simultaneously gives the reader, the audience, this trifecta of reasoning and emotion that pings off itself. Acknowledging the truth of her family, upbringing and all the nuances of the working class background and feeling the societal guilt the world (very much a British thing, sorry) forces into our very psyche at the same time. You’re supposed to feel inferior and as if those around you are too. Somehow feel ashamed for who you are.

When you take that invisible burden and it is weighed down by layers of remarks and what people like to refer to as banter, however the way the target receives it can be completely different. In this case it has created a foundation of almost self-loathing and doubt, which leads to seeking comfort in external sources.

It’s a frank and open dialogue about herself and her life, one that is a rollercoaster of emotions. As a reader you go on that ride and often find correlation in situations, thoughts and experiences. It’s brave to open yourself up in such a way, even if it is a self-examination of sorts. It’s definitely an audiobook I would recommend to others.

On a side note – the author narrates the story herself and does so extremely well, but what I wanted to mentioned is what a perfect voice for audio she has – deliciously soothing with a hint of sultry. Combined with her story, which I think most women will be able to relate to in one way or another, it makes it such an easy listening experience.

Buy Women Like Us at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher – Audible UK: pub date: 6th September 2022 | Paperback: £8.99. Buy at Amazon comBuy via Audible Uk.

Listening Length – 12 hours and 16 minutes, Author – Amanda Prowse, Narrator – Amanda Prowse, Audible.co.uk Release Date – 06 September 2022, Publisher – Brilliance Audio, Program Type – Audiobook, Version – Unabridged, Language –  English.

#Blogtour The Secret of Elephants by Vasundra Tailor

It’s a pleasure to kick off this fantastic Blogtour The Secret of Elephants by Vasundra Tailor.

About the Author

Vasundra Tailor was born in India and was just a few weeks old when her parents brought her to Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) in 1954. Though set against a backdrop British colonial rule and segregation in the area, Vasundra had a happy childhood, surrounded by a large extended family.

She qualified as a pharmacist in 1977, and was eager to leave Zimbabwe for the UK to escape the fighting between the minority white government and local freedom fighters. She arrived at Heathrow in the Spring of 1978, and moved to Strathclyde for her Masters in Pharmaceutical Microbiology, before settling in London a year later, where she is still based today.

Vasundra started writing in 2016, after enrolling onto an online Creative Writing course, joining book groups and local writing groups, which gave her the feedback and confidence to tackle her first book. Fascinated by human relationships, Vasundra’s writing is interested characters from diverse backgrounds and explores how people connect with those around them.

The Inspiration for The Secret of Elephants, Vasundra’s debut novel, came from the families currently living in a property in India which once belonged to her father. In November 2019, an extract of The Secret of Elephants won the second runner-up prize for the Mo Siewcharran Fiction Competition, to help discover unpublished fiction writers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. Follow @vasundrajay on Twitter

About the book

Two sides of the same family – one living in luxury in a magnificent mansion, the other penniless in its shadow. Could a mysterious letter from the past help Nirmala and her young son take back what is rightfully theirs?

Navsari, India. Penniless and trapped in a loveless marriage, Nirmala spends her days anxiously caring for her sick young son, Varun. Looming over Nirmala’s impoverished home is an imposing mansion built by her grandfather, and from its balcony her cruel aunt scorns them, refusing to help in any way.

But when a mysterious letter addressed to her long-dead father arrives from Zimbabwe, it opens a door to a past Nirmala never knew existed and a future she never imagined possible. If the contents of the letter can be believed, not only does she have family in Africa, but they might also hold the answers to a family mystery that spans three generations.

While travelling to Zimbabwe might lead to a brighter future for Nirmala and her son, it could also reignite the bitter family feud that condemned her family to poverty. Nirmala is ready to risk it all to uncover the truth, but how will she cope when this journey changes her life forever?

Review

Nirmala has spent the majority of her life in the shadow of her family and their wealth. She is the poor relative, the one they look down upon, the one who lives in a little ramshackle place across the road from their impressive mansion.

Living a life in fear of the displeasure of a man she never wanted, doesn’t love, and who treats her with disdain. A man who thinks her son – their son – is a weakling because he is unwell. When by pure chance a letter addressed to her deceased father  falls into her hands and reveals a secret she was unaware of, she starts to wonder whether life for herself and her son could be different.

The gift of being a natural storyteller isn’t one that all writers possess – they all tell stories, but there is a difference between telling a story and being a storyteller. The author leaves lines in the sand as she pulls her rake behind her, with an almost peaceful quality, and compels the reader to follow the patterns of the story being unfolded before them.

It’s a tangled web of emotional baggage and trauma. Decisions made in the blink of an eye with no regard for the majority of the people involved, they cast dark shadows over the generations of this family. They influence paths taken, chances missed and how connections are made between family members.

I think one of the most poignant relationships in the story is the one between Kanta and Suresh. The way her lack of emotional attachment creates this wave that devours everyone in their close vicinity. Does the damage inflicted become justifiable when weighed with the truth?

The author pulls in moments from history, surroundings, and politics to give context to the places the story is set in, but does so in a way that never overshadows the main plot and characters. It’s a nice wee slow burner of a read.

Buy The Secret of Elephants at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Lake Union pub date 1 Sept. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Blunder by Mutt-Lon

It’s my turn on the BlogTour The Blunder by Mutt-Lon, translated by Amy B. Reid.

About the Author

Mutt-Lon is the literary pseudonym of author Nsegbe Daniel Alain. His first novel, Ceux qui sortent dans la nuit (Those Who Come Out at Night, 2013), brought him critical acclaim when it received the prestigious Ahmadou Kourouma Prize in 2014. Les 700 aveugles de Bafia (2020), published in English as The Blunder, is his third novel and the first to be translated into English. He lives in Douala—Cameroon’s most international and cosmopolitan city—and speaks English fluently.

About the Translator

Amy B. Reid is an award-winning translator who has worked with authors from Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Haiti. Among her translations are the Patrice Nganang titles Dog Days: An Animal Chronicle (2006) and the trilogy comprised of Mount Pleasant (2016), When the Plums Are Ripe (2019), and A Trail of Crab Tracks (2022), as well as Queen Pokou: Concerto for a Sacrifice (2009) and Far from My Father (2014) by Véronique Tadjo. 

In 2016 she received a Literature Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for When the Plums Are Ripe. She holds a PhD in French from Yale University (1996) and is a professor of French and Gender Studies at New College of Florida.

About the book

Cameroon, 1929. As colonial powers fight for influence in Africa, French military surgeon Eugène Jamot is dispatched to Cameroon to lead the fight against sleeping sickness there. But despite his humanitarian intentions, the worst comes to pass: seven hundred local villagers are left blind as a result of medical malpractice by a doctor under Jamot’s watch.

Damienne Bourdin, a young white woman, ventures to Cameroon to assist in the treatment effort. Reeling from the loss of her child, she’s desperate to redeem herself and save her reputation. But the tides of rebellion are churning in Cameroon, and soon after Damienne’s arrival, she is enlisted in a wild plot to staunch the damage caused by the blunder and forestall tribal warfare. 

Together with Ndongo, a Pygmy guide, she must cross the country on foot in search of Edoa, a Cameroonian princess and nurse who has gone missing since the medical blunder was discovered.

As Damienne races through the Cameroonian forest on a farcical adventure that unsettles her sense of France’s “civilizing mission,” she begins to question her initial sense of who needed saving and who would save the day.

Review

Damienne is both the main character and simultaneously the colonial example, ergo a perfect example of the irony and humour the author uses to bring readers this moment of important history. She embodies the white saviour, the colonial attitude towards indigenous people of all countries usurped, used and modified to embody foreign replicas of the home country.

She returns after over three decades to Cameroon, to the scene and aftermath of a terrible injustice and her the part she played in said injustice, and the attempt to stop bloodshed and tribal warfare.

When I read books like this, that have a factual core in the midst of the fiction, and one that has been swallowed into the black hole of history. Forgotten, as many fatal mistakes, atrocities, and in general inhumane acts in the name of colonial regimes. The victors write the history, and in doing so they often omit the details that don’t fit in with the white-washed written narrative.

The blunder of Jamot, as it is known, is one of these overlooked omissions – a tragedy that has probably become a bit of a tale of horror passed on through the generations. The need for some people to play the saviour supersedes the necessity for accountability when they make mistakes.

Some translators have the ability to translate both word and voice, which Reid certainly does very well, however I think I was more impressed with the fact its apparent the story was consumed and understood with such clarity. In fact the note by said translator at the end is the perfect add-on to a fascinating read.

Buy The Blunder at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher Amazon Crossing; pub date 12th July 2022 | Paperback £6.99 UK. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour #Audiobook No Place To Run by Mark Edwards

It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour for the Audiobook version of No Place to Run by Mark Edwards.

About the Author

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people. Mark has sold over 3.5 million books since his first solo novel, The Magpies, was published in 2013 and has topped the bestseller lists numerous times. His other novels include Follow You Home, Here To Stay and The House Guest. 

He has also published six books co-authored with Louise Voss. His last book, The Hollows, was published in July 2021. Mark lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and two cats. He Tweets at @mredwards

About the book

Two years ago, on a trip to Seattle to visit her brother Aidan, fifteen-year-old Scarlett vanished into thin air.

After years of false leads and dead ends, Aidan has almost given up hope. But then a woman sees a girl running for her life across a forest clearing in Northern California. She is convinced the girl is the missing Scarlett. But could it really be her?

Heading south, Aidan finds a fire-ravaged town covered in missing-teenager posters. The locals seem afraid, the police won’t answer any questions and it looks like another dead end―until a chance meeting with returned local Lana gives Aidan his first clue. But as they piece together what happened, Lana and Aidan make deadly enemies. Enemies willing to do anything to silence them. Only one thing matters now: finding Scarlett ― even if it kills him. 

Review

This review is based on the audiobook version – I personally often find listening and reading experiences of the same book or material to be completely different, despite the subject matter. Possibly because the narrator replaces a lot of the imaginary character constructs, and situational reactions and tensions, one automatically creates whilst reading. That’s a pretty long-winded way of saying that I am also going to be reading the hardcopy or digital version of this story.

When Aidan decides to solve the mystery of his teenage sister, who disappeared into thin air a few years prior, he doesn’t realise he will end up having to wade through a quagmire of deception, greed, and ruthless corruption. He finds a companion in Lana, who like himself is looking for a missing loved one – in a town covered in missing posters. Sounds creepy, right? Yeh, it goes to places you just won’t expect it to.

Having read prior work by this author I think it’s fair to say that although this also carries the trademark slow-building and burning when it comes to storytelling, it is also the most boundary pushing and extensive in terms of scope. There was definitely an aspect of opening new doors and seeing where that leads us, especially in regard to combining genres. It’s more speculative, and tugs quite a few ripcords when it comes to controversial topics and indeed 21st century problems.

It’s a captivating, has the potential to be a more than one-of, mystery come thriller. A slight deviation from the usual books by this author, but I am absolutely here for it. I love it when an author goes beyond the realms they might be boxed into for a variety of reasons – the results are often a great reading or listening experience.

Buy No Place to Run by Mark Edwards at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publication: Thomas & Mercer, pub date 21st June 2022 | Paperback -£8.99. Buy at Amazon com.

Listening Length – 10 hours and 11 minutes, Author – Mark Edwards, Narrator – Will M. Watt. Whispersync for Voice – Ready, Audible.co.uk Release Date – 21 June 2022, Publisher – Brilliance Audio, Program Type – Audiobook, Version – Unabridged, Language – English.

#BlogTour The Burning Question by Linda Regan

It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour The Burning Question by Linda Regan.

About the Author

Linda Regan is the prolific writer of eight crime novels, as well as a celebrated actress of stage and screen. After winning a worldwide writing competition with her novel Behind You! (2006), Linda published seven more novels, including Passion Killers (2007) which was selected as a Sunday Observer pick of the year. Since then, she has written the immensely popular DI Johnson series (2015) and the DCI Banham series (2019).

In addition to her writing, Linda is a much-loved actress, known for her recurring role in the hit BBC sitcom Hi-De-Hi, and guest appearances in popular shows The Bill, Birds of a Feather, Doctors, and Holby City. Before joining the cast of Hi-De-Hi, Linda started out in a comedy dance troupe in her youth before going on to a lead role in the West End production of Tom Stoppard’s Dirty Linen. Playing such vivid and iconic characters throughout her career, has helped Linda to develop character focused stories that bring a uniquely immersive filmic quality to the page.

In addition to her acting, Linda uses her personal experiences to write her signature brand of “strong crime”. All of Linda’s novels are set in South London, where Linda writes with meticulous knowledge of the landscape where she grew up and currently lives with her husband, actor Brian Murphy. Follow @Linda_Regan on Twitter

About the book

DCI Paul Banham and DI Alison Grainger are back. This time they’re investigating the tragic death of a young woman, burnt in her home. When another identical arson attack is reported, Grainger and Banham are on the hunt for a link, unaware that the new trainee DC, Hannah Kemp, already knows the connection. She also knows that if she comes forward with the information, her own past will come to light, and she’ll potentially lose her job. But, if she doesn’t, more women will lose their lives. 

Hannah knows who they are, and she knows their attacker will stop at nothing to keep his ring of illegal prostitutes earning. Once he realises Hannah is now a police detective, she, too, will be in mortal danger. 

As the clock ticks against her own life, she must decide whether to stay quiet for the sake of her career, or risk everything she’s worked for to stop a ruthless killer once and for all.

Review

It’s a mid-series book, however it is absolutely readable as a standalone novel. DCI Paul Banham and DI Alison Grainger are investigating a fatal arson attack with multiple victims. It soon becomes evident that there was an intended victim and some collateral damage. Unfortunately the victim has a link to someone in the team, one she wants to keep buried for very good reasons.

It’s a balance between police procedural and cosy crime, the focus and the soft layer gives it a more comfortable feel. Despite the subject matter, which is a bit seedy and dark at times, it doesn’t have a brutal hardcore crime vibe. Nothing wrong with that, the author definitely puts an emphasis on the interpersonal scenes and situations.

Perhaps sometimes to the point of making the police procedural side less convincing, because the interpersonal relationships and interactions take precedence over procedure. Again, this is merely a matter of what kind of crime read you are looking for. 

The author definitely likes to muddy the waters when it comes to the rule of law and the areas in between black and white, but perhaps the whole intention is to present a set of flawed characters, because the reality is even the people upholding the law are just mere humans. 

Buy The Burning Question at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Headline Accent, pub date 12th May 2022 | Paperback Original – £9.99. Buy at Amazon comVia Headline.

#BlogTour The Homecoming by Anna Enquist

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Homecoming by Anna Enquist, translated by Eileen Stevens.

About the Author

Anna Enquist studied piano at the academy of music in The Hague and psychology at Leiden University. She is the author of the novels The Masterpiece; The Secret, winner of the 1997 Dutch Book of the Year awarded by the public; The Ice Carriers; Counterpoint; Quartet; and the international bestseller The Homecoming, which received the Prix du Livre Corderie Royale-Hermione for its French translation. 

Anna is also the author of A Leap, a collection of dramatic monologues, as well as numerous poetry collections, including Soldiers’ Songs, for which she was awarded the C. Buddingh’ Prize; A New Goodbye; and Hunting Scenes, winner of the Lucy B. and C.W. van der Hoogt Prize.

About the Translator – Eileen Stevens

Eileen Stevens earned her MA in linguistics with a specialization in translation from the University of Amsterdam. Her many Dutch-to-English translation credits include Connie Palmen’s Your Story, My Story; Karin Schacknat’s In and Out of Fashion; Vera Mertens’s The Concentration Camp; and Ineke van Doorn’s Singing from the Inside Out. She has also translated numerous essays on classical music and the arts. A New Jersey native, Eileen spent twenty-five years working as a professional violinist in a Dutch orchestra and has lived in Amsterdam since 1990.

About the book

After twelve years of marriage to English explorer James Cook, Elizabeth has yet to spend an entire year with her husband. In their house by the Thames, she moves to the rhythms of her life as a society wife, but there is so much more to her than meets the eye. She has the strength to manage the house and garden, raise their children, and face unbearable sorrow alone.

As she prepares for another homecoming, Elizabeth looks forward to James’s triumphant return and the work she will undertake reading and editing his voluminous journals. But will the private life she’s been leading in his absence distract her from her role in aid of her husband’s grand ambitions? Can James find the compassion to support her as their family faces unimaginable loss, or must she endure life alone as he sails off toward another adventure?

An intimate and sharply observed novel, The Homecoming is as revelatory as James Cook’s exploration of distant frontiers and as richly rewarding as Elizabeth’s love for her family. With courage and strength, through recollection and imagination, author Anna Enquist brilliantly narrates Elizabeth’s compelling record of her life, painting a psychological portrait of an independent woman ahead of her time.

Review

It’s always fascinating to read about the women behind important historical figures. The people who remain anonymous, invisible and because of that they disappear into the folds of history books and archives. The importance of their roles is underrated and often never told. Putting that into perspective, who doesn’t know about James Cook, and who in turn knows anything about his wife Elizabeth.

We meet Elizabeth as she is preparing for her husband to return to her once again. Not unlike modern military wives, she is the glue that holds the family and home together, awaiting the man who is little more than a distant love. They have spent little time together for the duration of their marriage – his endeavours, tasks and adventures always come first.

She carries the weight of grief alone, the unusual existence of being the wife of an early version of a celebrity. It’s no wonder that the two of them have little common ground when he finally and reluctantly returns home. The feet they itcheth to be waterborne once more.

The subtle combination of historical fact, imagined dialogue, actual excerpts of letters and journals with a smidgen of faction thrown in to compliment the tale. It’s also a lovely homage to the woman behind the man.

I always appreciate a good translation, which when done well leaves no lasting impression of having been translated, and captures the true essence, the nuances and voice of the author. Kudos to Stevens for that, and to Enquist for the fascinating read.

Buy The Homecoming at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher Amazon Crossing, pub date 1st April 2022 | Paperback: £8.99. Buy at Amazon com.