#BlogTour Stay Mad, Sweetheart by Heleen Kist

Today it’s an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for Stay Mad, Sweetheart by Heleen Kist. It’s the kind of read you don’t want to miss.

About the Author

Throughout her life, Heleen Kist has been fondled, patronised and ordered to smile by random men. So she wrote ‘Stay Mad, Sweetheart’, a feminist tale of revenge, out November 19th 2019.Whilst her professional knowledge of technology start-ups fed the novel’s setting, its theme of insidious harassment and discrimination required no research: it is familiar to all women.

Heleen was chosen as an up and coming new author at Bloody Scotland 2018. Her first novel, ‘In Servitude’ won the silver medal for Best European Fiction at the Independent Publishers Book Awards in the USA and was shortlisted for The Selfies awarded at London Book Fair.

A Dutch strategy consultant living in Glasgow and married to a Scotsman, she’s raising their son to be a good man and their daughter to kick ass.

Follow @hkist on Twitter, on Facebookon Goodreadson Amazon, Visit heleenkist.comBuy Stay Mad, Sweetheart

About the book

There’s a fine line between innocence and guilt. An even finer line between justice and revenge.

Data scientist Laura prefers the company of her books to the real world – let alone that cesspit online. But when her best friend Emily becomes the victim of horrific cyberbullying, she makes it her all-engulfing mission to track down the worst culprits.

Petite corporate financier Suki is about to outshine the stupid boys at her firm: she’s leading the acquisition of Edinburgh’s most exciting start-up. If only she could get its brilliant, but distracted, co-founder Laura to engage.

Event planner Claire is left to salvage the start-up’s annual conference after her colleague Emily fails to return to work. She’s determined to get a promotion out of it, but her boss isn’t playing ball.

As the women’s paths intertwine, the insidious discrimination they each face comes to light. Emboldened by Emily’s tragic experience, they join forces to plot the downfall of all those who’ve wronged them. But with emotions running high, will the punishments fit the crimes?Review

Not a crime. Not a crime. Not a crime.

I think, for me at least, these words will be forever connected to this read. How many actions and words aren’t considered criminal, despite being the catalyst for pain, fear and often even death. Has our society become lost in the anonymity of technology, perhaps to the point of actively ignoring all feelings of empathy towards our fellow human beings?

It’s easy to shout about freedom, wave placards demanding our democratic rights and become indignant at the thought that someone may be trying to control our output, regardless of how damaging it may be. There is no accountability and there should be.

The story begins with Emily and the way she is hounded and maligned after speaking out about a sexual assault. Her subsequent actions lead us to her best friend Laura, her work colleague Claire, and Suki, who is involved with both of the aforementioned on a professional level. What they all have in common is the lack of gender equality, the way they are perceived and treated because they are women, and their desire to change the patriarchal status quo.

Aside from the on point subject of the story in the Me Too era, there was also another element of the story that I found quite fascinating. In fact if it is feasible, doable or perhaps already something being coded into systems, then it is also something that is simultaneously awe-inspiring from a technological point of view and deeply concerning when looked at from the aspect of the human it effects. Then again when you look at it from the position of a possible victim or someone vulnerable it could be a positive tool.

From a purely business perspective being able to not only see connections, reactions and then even preempt them to ensure a more effective workplace environment and scheme, it’s the future. Using the same code to safeguard and identify certain behaviour and problems – it’s both invasive and a spectacular advancement.

It’s a poignant piece on sexual violence activism, gender equality politics, a statement about behaviour in an anonymous world of technology, but this story is foremost about culpability and holding ourselves and others accountable for both words and actions.

Kist has written an incredibly compelling and clever piece of fiction, which is unfortunately far too close to fact than is comfortable.

I think I will finish the review on this thought – harassment and abuse has become the norm – it’s systemic, which is why complacency has crept in. Stay safe, take note and stay mad. You’re not alone.

Buy Stay Mad, Sweetheart at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Red Dog Press; 19 Nov. 2019. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Red Dog Press. Buy at Hive.co.uk.

Connect with Red Dog Press on Facebook, on Twitter @reddogtweets -Visit reddogpress.co.uk

The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howell

beautyoftheend-jacketI can’t fault Howell on her writing. She has a natural flow and a lovely way with words. I have to say after the convoluted build-up the plot evolved and rose to a climax, only to fall a little flat towards the end though.

Maybe it’s me, but it felt as if the first half of the book was going in a completely different direction to the second half.

Noah has let his whole life be directed by his teenage obsession with April. The girl and woman he defines as a goddess. The truth is April is just a normal girl with a little more extra baggage than her peers.

Throughout the book it becomes apparent that Noah lives in his own personal bubble. He only sees and hears what he wants to. Everything uncomfortable or that doesn’t fit inside his bubble counts as non-existent.

In the end I think he is as much to blame as April. If he had only looked beyond his own needs and sense of comfort then perhaps her story could have been a different one.

April is a victim of her incredibly difficult childhood. As is often the case, she is a girl and then woman who has always been viewed as nothing more than an object of sexual gratification. She has been used and abused by the men in her life. A lifetime cycle she finds hard to exit. A cycle her friends seem to be a part of. Her life becomes a pandora’s box of secrets.

I like the way Howell writes, I just think in this case less would have perhaps been more.

Buy The Beauty of the End at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Nina is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi

nina.pngIt doesn’t get much grittier or realistic than this. I am sure this will echo with quite a few readers, especially the ones who can relate to Nina’s life on a more personal level.

The relationship between Nina and her mother is pivotal. She feels abandoned by her mother, is reluctant to accept the new father figure in her life, but clearly dotes on her baby sister. Their plans revolve around what is best for her step-father and her mother.

Apparently being 17 going on 18 also means you can throw someone out of the nest. Like an animal being cast out of the herd. Of course the truth is age is just a number and doesn’t necessarily mean maturity.

Perhaps if Mom had been less involved with herself and her future plans she might have been able to help Nina sooner. In fact she should have asked more questions and been more concerned the day Nina came home in that state in the taxi.

Khorsandi’s story is bold. Unfortunately it is a vivid and true image of our society at the moment. One would think that in the 21st century sexual assault would finally be perceived differently, and the reactions to it should be more about victim support and less about victim blaming. Unfortunately that still isn’t the case. Something which is painfully clear in this book.

Zoe’s reaction is shameful, deplorable and all too common. Instead of questioning the actions of her boyfriend, she sets out to shame her friend. There really is no excuse for putting images and videos of sexual assaults or indecent images of victims online. It should be punished by law and that includes sharing them. If Nina had been under 16 years of age it would be considered to be an illegal offence.

The most interesting part of the story is Nina’s reaction to the events. She is quite willing to accept the global view that as a girl she is just out of control. She is easy, she’s a slut, she’s a whore and hey she is totally up for it. Oh wait I forgot, it is her fault because she had a drink.

Not once does any man/boy say let’s not, because you have had a little too much to drink. No one questions why she is clearly out of control or losing the plot. The combination of a genetic disposition, her family history and the events in the alley are all contributing factors in her downwards spiral.

It takes Nina a long time to comprehend what happened to her. To acknowledge the ugly truth about the events in the alley. To take the blame placed firmly upon her shoulders by others and putting it where it belongs, on the shoulders of the abusers.

I wish I could say Nina’s situation is just fiction and a great idea for a book. It isn’t, this is the reality of sexual assault, rape and abuse in our day and age. A society of people who have no idea what No means, and certainly have no clue that if the woman/man you’re with has not given their consent then you’re committing rape. Unconscious does not mean yes. Being so drunk you have no idea what is going on does not mean yes.

Be prepared for bare truths and no attempt at candy floss cover-ups. It is a book I will be recommending because of the way Khorsandi doesn’t gloss over the truth.

Buy Nina is Not Ok at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.