#BlogTour Nowhere Girls by Teuta Metra

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Nowhere Girls by Teuta Metra. It’s a story about loyalty, friendship and strength in a world of gender inequality, abuse and harassment. It questions the boundaries of female friendships and what constitutes a real friendship.

About the Author

Now a fiction writer, Teuta Metra’s experience as an Albanian journalist has made her an expert on the struggles of women from her country. Author, journalist and teacher, Teuta now lives in The Netherlands with her husband and two sons.

Follow @Teuta_Metra on Twitter, Visit teutametra.com/

Buy Nowhere Girls

About the book

Friends Alba and Sara could not be more different. While Alba is forcing her way into the upper echelons of Albanian’s richest and most powerful, Sara is working more than one job as a struggling journalist. Both desperate to escape their corrupt country, they’re quickly dragged into a sordid world of politics and lies.

When tragedy strikes their friend Ina, the two women must come together to save her little boy. Can they put away their troubles and secure a better future for the child? Or will their past catch up with them?

Nowhere Girls is a thrilling tale of love, lies and the lengths a woman will go to for freedom.

Review

There are some really powerful and significant emotions one can feel throughout the book and it doesn’t come from the characters per se. It emanates from the author through her words. The feelings of anger, frustration at the injustice and the overall desire for change.

The rage, and to me it certainly felt like rage, is directed at the way women are treated in her native country, Albania. To be fair, although the focus is on three friends from Albania in this story, I believe the author feels the same about the way women are treated everywhere.

That and the ineptitude of the way society deals with domestic abuse are the underlying sub-plots in this story about friendship and loyalty between three women. How we are still completely incapable to sufficiently help the victims of domestic abuse in a fast, safe and satisfactory manner. The number of annual deaths due to domestic violence are shocking, the statistics on violent attacks shamefully high and that is without the amount of unreported incidents.

The stories of Alba, Sara and Ina are interwoven in a strange way. Sometimes the connections are based on need rather than the desire to enjoy time with a friend. Alba really appears to be guilty of this, although I found Sara a lot more ruthless than Alba at times. The two women battle with ambition and making their place in their world.

Ina and her story seems to take place in the background, and yet for me it was the one which felt more important to me. How meeting the wrong guy puts her on the path of pain, sorrow and destruction. Sara can see him for what he is, but Ina is drawn into a dangerous web of abuse.

I think Metra should focus all her emotions and write about her anger, frustration and the changes she would like to see for girls and women in her country and around the world. Forget the side stories or the fictional aspect even. The book and publishing world is all about women’s empowerment at the moment.

It’s a story about loyalty, friendship and strength in a world of gender inequality, abuse and harassment. It questions the boundaries of female friendships and what constitutes a real friendship.

Buy Nowhere Girls at Amazon Uk (paperback) or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.Buy Kindle edition at Amazon UkBuy at Amazon com

The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons

choirThis is a story of support and friendship, and how the smallest of lights can become a beacon of hope in the darkest of times. The members of the group are as different as can be, and yet they all have at least one thing in common.

The Choir brings them all together, and although the main reason is to save the hall, they really enjoy being a group. It’s like a home away from home.

Two women strike up the unlikeliest of friendships, even if it is more of a tenuous one at first. Both of them are struggling to cope with problems in their private lives, whilst trying hard to maintain their composure and the outside façade.

Natalie finds her supposedly perfect life in sudden disarray when her husband suddenly decides to change the parameters of their relationship. Caroline is struggling to connect with her mother, with whom she has always had a strained relationship. Dementia is a cruel companion, an illness that takes no prisoners and leaves no family member unaffected.

Lyons knows exactly how to portray the reality of relationships, which is especially evident in the ‘thought bubbles’ of the characters. You can say one thing, but think an entirely different one. The relationship between the two women is like a tug-of-war of emotional support. They are both frightened to admit that they need someone in their corner.

As always it is a story readers can relate to. Nearly everyone tries to remain strong in difficult situations. Admitting that you need a friend or support can be tantamount to a sign of weakness for some. The truth is everyone needs help now and again. Maybe everyone needs a song too.

Buy The Choir on Hope Street at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @1AnnieLyons or @HQStories visit annielyons.com or connect with Annie on Facebbook

Read The Happiness ListLife or Something Like it or Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons.

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

gustavNeutrality, yes it is a word Switzerland likes to wave around like a flag of honour. The truth is rather more dismal I’m afraid.

What they call neutrality I call collaboration, what they call being an objective observer I call turning a blind eye to the atrocities going on. The Swiss closed their borders to the Jews, the Swiss helped the criminals to escape and the Swiss are still sat on illegal war gains.

Money, art and artefacts belonging to the victims of WW2 and hidden by so-called neutral Switzerland. Yeh, so much for sitting on your fake laurels and praising yourselves for being such outstanding citizens of the world. Switzerland: synonymous with sanctimonious.

In The Gustav Sonata the horrific events of the Second World War are still influencing the people and their day-to-day lives. Anti-Semitism is still rife, albeit in a subtle way and yet often more insidious in its nature. This is definitely apparent when it comes to Emilie. Gustav finds it hard enough to maintain friendships without his mother weeding out his friends based on their religious beliefs.

Gustav strikes up an unlikely friendship in pre-school with a lonely little boy called Anton Zwiebel. The two of them connect, and despite the occasional argument, they have a friendship that lasts many decades.

Essentially their friendship is the main focus of the story or rather the denial of the emotional attachment between the two of them. In essence the moral of the story is, if you aren’t true to yourself and what you feel, you will never truly be at peace, content and happy.

For me The Gustav Sonata had a certain Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) feel to it. The little boy who lives inside his head, whilst he battles the injustices around him and fights to survive in a world that doesn’t care whether he is there or not. The relationship between Gustav and his mother is a one-sided one. Emilie can’t seem to get over the traumatic experiences in her past. She feeds and clothes her son, but emotionally she is stunted and Gustav suffers for it. As a child he filters this information in a way which is more comfortable and less hurtful for his own sanity.

Even without the complex and emotional relationship between Anton and Gustav, and the story of discovery of self, it is an interesting read. It’s possibly a book that may fall under the radar. Hopefully it won’t.

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

She Just Can’t Help Herself by Ollie Quain

she justWhat I really like about Quain’s writing and voice is the way she doesn’t pull any punches. It is gritty, realistic and at times uncomfortable. Why? Well that’s what emotions are, they are messy, make you squirm and inevitably they can bring out the best and worst in people.

Her stories have a certain Jackie Collin’s glam, glitz and fame mixed with a 21st century vibe. Quain combines the cut-throat fakery of the media, the shallow world of celebrity and the insidious nature of advertising. In the midst of this is the complicated lives of Tanya and Ashley, and the emotional breakdown of their friendship.

Tanya and Ashley used to be tighter than a nuns knicker elastic, and also as different as two girls can possibly be. Something happens to destroy their relationship, an event that causes an irreparable rift between them.

The overall theme is friendship and whether or not a broken one can be repaired or not. Seems simplistic, but there are things that are unforgivable, especially between best friends. The question is whether you can resume one after the unforgivable. Never forget, never forgive, but maybe they can move on with a clean slate, or maybe not.

It’s a modern story, which will probably resonate with a lot of readers. The complications of marriage, divorce, friendship and careers, combined with the pressures and demands of adulthood.

Buy She Just Can’t Help Herself at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read How to Lose Weight and Alienate People by Ollie Quain.

Sweet Breath of Memory by Ariella Cohen

Today is my turn on the Blog-tour for Ariella Cohen’s debut adult novel Sweet Breath of Memory. It  is an interesting journey of grief, memories, guilt and friendship.

About the author

Ariella is a graduate of Columbia University, the Hebrew University and the University of Michigan Law School.  Although she makes her home in New England, her dream self resides in County Mayo, Ireland.

Sweet Breath of Memory is her debut novel and she’s hard at work on the sequel. Ariella believes in the healing power of cat purrs, champagne, Vivaldi and almond cookies.

To read more about Ariella Cohen go to ariellacohenauthor.wordpress.com

Follow @ariella_cohen or @Kensingtonbooks on Twitter

About the book

With its tree-lined streets, vibrant downtown and curbside planters of spring bulbs, Amberley, Massachusetts, seems a good place for Cate Saunders to start over. It’s been two years since her husband, John, was killed in Iraq and life has been a struggle. Her new job as a caregiver doesn’t pay much, but the locals are welcoming. In fact, Cate has barely unpacked before she’s drawn–reluctantly at first–into a circle of friends.

There’s diner-owner Gaby, who nourishes her customers’ spirits as well as their bodies; feisty Beatrice, who kept the town going when its men marched off to WWII; wise-cracking MaryLou, as formidable as Fort Knox but with the same heart of gold; and, Sheila, whose Italian grocery is the soul of the place. As Amberley reveals itself to be a town shaped by war, Cate encounters another kindred spirit–a Holocaust survivor with whom she feels a deep connection. When revelations about John’s death threaten Cate’s new-found peace of mind, these sisters-in-arms’ stories show her an unexpected way forward. And Cate comes to understand that although we suffer loss alone, we heal by sharing our most treasured memories.

Review

At the very heart of it this story is about friendship. Strong supportive relationships between women, regardless of their ages and backgrounds. They share bonds through pain, loss and tragedy.

The reader learns about their personal stories and how the bonds between them became so strong in the first place. The main character is welcomed into the folds of this unusual small town. Enveloped by the care, the concern, the questions and the emotions of all these close-knit women.

Cate has been fighting an inner battle of guilt and grief since the death of her husband. He died in combat, or so the powers that be say. She is convinced that there is something fishy about his death. Her own personal guilt about not being able to help him or be there for him when he needed her the most, is what fuels her quest for answers.

Cohen integrates quite a few historical, political and socio-economic issues of our era into the story. One of those is the blanket of silence over the deaths of soldiers in recent wars. Loved ones are looking for answers, and the way veterans and widows (ers) aren’t supported sufficiently after their service to their country is over.

Then there is Miriam’s story, which becomes the inspiration for Cate and her writing. The tragic tale of a war refugee, a Holocaust survivor and a woman who has lost everything. Cate starts finding single pages of a journal written by Miriam or rather the pages find her. The pages tell the tale of her tragic journey from the Lodz Ghetto all the way to Amberley. She describes the horror of war, of the Holocaust and of the death she managed to escape.

The underlying element and moral of  Cohen’s story is allowing ourselves to feel compassion for others. Learning to recognise how similar we are and yet how different our reactions are to grief, loss, anger and sorrow. An interesting read.

Buy Sweet Breath of Memory at AmazonUK, Waterstones or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Gessami Residence by Jane L. Gibson

The-Gessami-Residence-book-360x500.pngThe one thing I thought was very bold and yet completely honest was the way Gibson portrayed her middle-aged (mid 30’s to mid 40’s) group of female characters.

None of them are interested in seeing the sights, visiting museums or learning about the foreign country they are in. They are there to have fun, let loose and party.

Regardless of whether some people deem it inappropriate because they aren’t in their 20’s any more, this is quite the norm nowadays. A bunch of friends leaving behind the kids, the husband, the cat and the white picket fence for a week or two of innocent fun. Then again innocent might be the wrong word for it.

Jenny and her friends don’t really conform to the image some readers may have, but I know my friends and I often joke about getting away for a weekend. Tequila body shots off half naked men, Ole! At this rate I am more likely to swig an exciting lemonade off the cover of my next read.

Hidden in all the jokes and fun stuff is a huge mountain for Jenny to overcome. Getting back on the bike and into the dating scene is no simple feat when you have spent most of your life with just the one man. Your body is no longer that of a nubile goddess, spanks are in order instead of Victoria’s Secret and that’s before we get to any of the intimate stuff.

Gibson needs to let her emotions flow into her characters, which will give them more depth and allow readers to connect on a deeper level. When that happens her stories will perhaps go from quick summer read to something more memorable.

Buy The Gessami Residence at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.