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.

A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman

a horse

Stick with it, would be my first observation. It may take a while for you to be drawn into this, and to be fair Grossman plays his cards close to his chest. The majority of the book takes place on stage with Dov and his stand-up comedy routine.

Dov bares his emotions and soul to the audience. He pays particular attention to his old acquaintance Avi, after extending a personal invitation to him. Why comedy? Well, that becomes self explanatory when Dov tells everyone what happens to his parents.

Avishai is both observer and narrator, through past and present. I think one of the most important questions is what role he plays in the story. Why does Dovaleh want him there? What will his presence change? Does Dov expect something from Avishai?

I do believe Dov wants Avi to comprehend what he did and how he treated Dov all those years ago. There is a moment during the comedy routine or rather the life monologue where Avi is once again given the choice between looking away or intervening. This decision may be the beginning of a healing process, then again perhaps it is just late justice.

Grossman reminds me of Roald Dahl in a sense that his writing reflects his grief. You can feel the pain of losing his son in his words. Even after a decade he still seems to be searching for the why of it all. This is also a theme within this particular story. Why Dov? What is the point of our existence? Why one person and not the other? Perhaps most importantly why so many of us look the other way when someone is in need or just needs some support.

This is an unusual read, one I can imagine well as a short film. It is a confession of sorts, the type that needs absolution or maybe Dov is seeking it for others. A Horse Walks into a Bar is a complex conversation full of self flagellation in the form of jokes.

Buy A Horse Walks into a Bar at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

dont closeThere are plenty of hot topics in this psychological thriller, however I think there was one in particular that resonated more with me. Possibly because in this story it is the root and cause of everything else, all the other problems to come, and perhaps also because it is so commonplace nowadays.

Divorce, separation, custody battles and enforced patchwork families. That doesn’t mean some families don’t manage amicable arrangements, however the emotional trauma still remains the same. Depending on how vicious and vindictive things get the emotional damage is unmeasurable.

For the twins, Robin and Sarah, the moment they are ripped apart is the beginning of the end. The reader meets two happy little girls in the past and then moves forward to encounter two unhappy women in the future. The paths the two of them take are completely different. Robin finds fame and enough anxiety to fill a house, whereas Sarah creates a family, but is ousted by her manipulative husband.

It is fair to say that all is not what it seems, as the layers of this story are slowly torn away like someone peeling an onion. The anger, abuse and hate ripples through the two families over the years. It leaves victims in its wake.

Seddon confronts the reader with quite a few uncomfortable truths, and yet simultaneously she spins a web of fear, deceit and mayhem around them. It is done in such cunning way that you don’t see the twist coming until it nearly smacks you in the face.

Buy Don’t Close Your Eyes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @hollyseddon and @Atlanticbooks

Read Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Blog-Tour: Don’t Say a Word by A.L. Bird

I do ‘love me some A.L. Bird’ so it is my absolute pleasure to kick off the Blog-Tour for the amazing Don’t Say a Word by A.L. Bird. Get ready for another tense and captivating read.

About the Author

AL Bird lives in North London, where she divides her time between writing and working as a lawyer. The Good Mother is her major psychological thriller for Carina UK, embarking into the world of ‘grip-lit’. Don’t Say a Word is her new psychological thriller from HQDigital, an imprint of HarperCollins. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London, and is also an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course, which she studied under Richard Skinner. She’s also a member of the Crime Writers’Association.

For updates on her writing, you can follow her on Twitter, @ALBirdwriter, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ALBirdwriter or by visiting her website, at www.albirdwriter.com

Buy Don’t Say a Word

About the book

A happy child.

Every parent knows the world can be scary. Lawyer Jen Sutton knows it better than most. And she’ll go to any length to protect her son from what – and who – lies outside their front door.

A loving mother.

Some might say she’s being over-protective. But isn’t it a mother’s duty to protect her child from harm?

A family built on a lie.

Jen has kept her secrets safe. Until the postcard arrives, signed by the one person she hoped would never catch up with her… and her new case begins to feel a little too close to home.

One thing is clear: Jen has been found.

Now, she faces a choice. Run, and lose everything? Or fight – and risk her son discovering the truth.

Don’t Say a Word is the electrifying new psychological thriller from AL Bird – perfect for fans of CL Taylor and Sue Fortin.

Review

It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. In a nutshell that is both the life motto and curse Jen lives by and with. She is convinced her past is right on her heels and ready to implode her new life. She is hiding from a vengeful, abusive ex, and someone who used to be both her closest confidante and her nemesis at the same time. Chloe is with Jen 24/7. In her head, on her mind and featuring in quite a few flashbacks. Jen feels as if she is hemmed in by the paranoia and the gut feeling that retribution is waiting just around the corner.

So when a case at work starts to ring a few alarm bells she puts it down to her heightened senses and her instincts. All she ever thinks of is her son and keeping him safe. These coincidences are exactly that, aren’t they? And that is precisely why Jen is always in a constant state of anxious apprehension. She knows the fear will always follow her around like a little black rain cloud.

There is a chapter in this book that really annoyed me, not from a plot point of view, but because it is the painful truth. The way some children fall through the system. The kids with no voice, the ones no one ever listens to, because they are invisible. Then the way the system or rather those enforcing the system, become nothing more than highly judgemental morality police. They judge based on ticked boxes, theoretical knowledge and false assumptions.

Be prepared for the kind of read that makes you query the characters, the truth and perhaps even the systems our society uses to keep our children safe. Whether we like it or not there is a level of indifference, which in turn explains why abuse and domestic violence are still so prevalent in the 21st century.

Sometimes I think Bird takes pleasure in screwing with our brains. Nothing is ever what it seems in her stories. The lines between the good and the bad guys are always skewed. Fifty shades of grey instead of clear black or white. The reader is often suddenly blind-sided by the unexpected twists and turns.

Don’t say a Word is a ride on the wild side with barely any space to take a breath and exhale. Bird combines her experience of the real world with her innate talent for creating fascinating reads.

Buy Don’t Say a Word on Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Follow @ALBirdwriter and @HQDigitalUK

Read The Good Mother by A.L. Bird.

Blog-Tour: Dying to Live by Michael Stanley

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for Dying for Living by Michael Stanley. It is a light-hearted read infused with important topics. The kind of significant issues the western world can’t really fathom because it is part of the traditional tapestry of African culture.

About the Author

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award, and book 5, A Death in the Family, was an international bestseller.

Visit detectivekubu.com

Follow @detectivekubu and @Orendabooks

Buy Dying to Live

About the book

The body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and the death is written off as an accident. But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that although he’s clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What’s more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles … but where is the entry wound?  When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu gets involved. As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case becomes…  A fresh, new slice of ‘Sunshine Noir’, Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction’s most endearing and humane detectives.

Review

The Michael Stanley writing duo weave important issues into their often light-hearted detective series. Violence and abuse of women, the Aids epidemic. biopiracy and witch doctors.

Muti plays a huge role in this story, and indeed in the daily lives of many people in Africa. Muti is word used for traditional medicine in Southern Africa. Traditional medicine is indigenous or folk medicine, as opposed to what we know as modern medicine. There are witch doctors who only use plants, herbs and in general legal substances, however there are still a large number of them who don’t.

They kidnap, torture and kill men, women and children to obtain body parts to use in their muti rituals. In the last few years there has been a global focus or rather an attempt to inform and prevent the abduction and murder of albinos, which is just one example of how dangerous witch doctors are.

Another example is the unhealthy and quite frankly downright scary advice they give to their patients or customers.They actively encourage and convince HIV patients to stop taking their antiretrovirals and actively work against the modern medical community, thereby contributing to the spread of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

When Detective Kubu Bengu is asked to look into the unusual death of a Bushman (Afrikaans: boschjesman) he has no idea he and his team will be pulled in multiple criminal directions, but with one common thread, witch doctors. One dead body turns into more and Kubu gets a schooled in the art of Bushmen knowledge.

Stanley delivers a vigorous read with a quirky, dominant set of characters and plenty of food for thought. It’s almost as if they want their readers to have fun whilst reading, but at the same time show them some harsh realities. Well, consider me shown.

Buy Dying to Live at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @detectivekubu