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.

Paris for One and other Stories by Jojo Moyes

parisThis is a book of short stories, two of them more novella length. It contains the following eleven tales: Paris for One, Between the Tweets, Love in the Afternoon, A Bird in the Hand, Crocodile Shoes, Holdups, Honeymoon in Paris, Last Year’s Coat, Thirteen Days with John C, Margot and The Christmas List.

They are stories about women and empowerment. They are also tales of love, desire and the imperfections of relationships.

Paris for One is all about Nell, a straight-laced shy young woman, who is stood up by her unreliable boyfriend. She ends up on a romantic trip to Paris by herself. Alone in a foreign country, dealing with an unknown language and the disappointment of not being important enough to her boyfriend for him to spend time with her in the city of romance.

It’s all about Nell discovering her inner mojo and comprehending that she is supposed to live life for herself and not in accordance with the expectations of others. Sometimes you have to take a risk and step outside of the box you yourself and others have put you in.

Moyes hits the right notes, and has the gift of gab and the gift of storytelling. Although emotions are laid bare and presented to the reader, which evokes a sense of empathy, there is also a strong layer of realism in the dialogue and scenarios. This stark contrast is what makes the stories relatable and memorable.

Buy Paris for One and other Stories at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @jojomoyes @MichaelJBooks

Visit jojomoyes.com

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

Blog-Tour: Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

I am delighted to be taking part in the Blog-Tour for Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica. I am partial to a wee bit of Kubica, because she writes the kind of story that messes with your head. There is no definitive line between good or bad guy. Kubica explores the grey areas no person wants to acknowledge. The wasteland between black and white, and the darkest depths of human nature. In Every Last Lie she turns a spotlight on despair, grief and the emotional quagmire of an unexpected tragedy.

About Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and American Literature from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She lives near Chicago with her husband and two children.

Mary Kubica’s first book, The Good Girl, was one of the first psychological thrillers to the market. It has been optioned for TV by Anonymous Content, the production company behind the TV series True Detective and films Winter’s Bone, Babel and Being John Malkovich.

Follow @MaryKubica @HQStories @HarperCollinsUk

Visit Mary online at www.marykubica.com, on Facebook at MaryKubica

Buy Every Last Lie

About the book

She always trusted her husband…Until he died.

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed.

But when Maisie starts having nightmares, Clara becomes obsessed that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident.

Who wanted Nick dead? And, more importantly, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out the truth – even if it makes her question whether her entire marriage has been a lie…

Review

Kubica likes to twist the truth and stretch the lies to create the kind of read that makes you doubt and wonder whether everything is as it seems. Her characters are always balancing precariously on the boundary between good and evil. Grey areas are her forte instead of the usual black or white ones.

Clara is in the stressful and tiring months of taking care of a new baby. She has a picture perfect family, even if she is a wee bit too tired to notice at the moment. So exhausted that she doesn’t notice her husband and young daughter haven’t returned home. She is completely overwhelmed by the news of their accident and unable to process that she will never see Nick again.

Her grief is overridden by the suspicion that Nick was murdered and she is determined to prove it. The niggling doubt in her mind or rather her refusal to accept the official truth makes her seem unreliable and possibly unstable. All the doubts and disbelief are compounded by the nightmares Maisie starts having, and the things she has to say about the night of the accident.

What I liked the most about this particular Kubica story was the obsession. Clara is completely consumed by the thought that her husband was killed, as opposed to the accident just being a careless quirk of fate. She doesn’t care about the facts, the possible scenarios or plain old common sense.

It is an incredible mixture of emotional turmoil. Kubica has combined the various stages of grief with the constructed frame of a psychological thriller, and the result is an unexpected pleasure. Clara is like us, faced with the normal banality and difficulties of life. A hungry baby and a distressed young daughter, an empty bank account and the responsibility of taking care of her elderly relatives.

It could happen to any of us, which is why this read will probably resonate with a lot of readers. It combines the fears we have and perhaps even the realities we have had to endure. When a tragedy occurs it sends most people into a tailspin, some never completely recover from them. It only takes one moment of distraction or recklessness to change many lives, and I suspect that thought is the one which will remain with most readers after reading Every Last Lie.

Buy Every Last Lie at AmazonUK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Pretty Baby, Don’t You Cry and The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.

The A to Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson

A to ZIf my mother did this my sister and me, then I would conjure up her spirit to tell her what a fool she is. My sister and I would both find this process a complete waste of time, and one that would probably end with one or the other in jail. (Makes note not to buy this book for my mother)

I would however do this for my daughters if I felt they needed to reconnect and be there for each other after my death. Not that I would ever let things become so bad that I wasn’t speaking to my children on a regular basis.

Blood is thicker than water, however blood doesn’t mean you automatically have to be friends. In fact the reality is that many take a step back from family members because they are related but don’t like them.

Andrea has planned everything in fine detail. She wants Rose and Poppy to reunite and become the friends they once were. She wants them to support each other and get over the problems that keep them apart.

Poppy and Rose used to be as thick as thieves until something ripped them apart. Now they are like strangers, and Poppy doesn’t even know her nephew.

Rose is just as guilty as Poppy, as far as I am concerned. It takes two to tango and yet Rose places all the blame on Poppy. Of course it is more of a betrayal if it is your sister, but come on now blaming one person is ludicrous.

The idea itself is quite an interesting one. You don’t know what you’ve lost until it is gone forever. It is all about taking people for granted and letting relationships get to the point of no return. Both women have to learn to put the past behind them and to move forward with a clean slate. It is an emotional and honest read, possibly because it is a realistic scenario.

Buy The A to Z of Everything at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @Debbiemjohnson@HarperImpulse or @HarperCollinsUk