Book reviews, Contemporary fiction, Womens fiction

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley – Book Review

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Everybody lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth instead?

Julian Jessop is living a lie. He’s lonely but refuses to speak to neighbours. He loved his wife when she was alive, but he didn’t tell her. (In fact, he wasn’t very kind to her at all.)

He feels invisible to the world but he doesn’t want to go out.

But now he wants to be honest.

So he writes his truth in a small green notebook and leaves it in his local cafe.

Monica gave up a high-flying career as a lawyer to open her own cafe,

but it isn’t going as well as she hoped.

On finding the notebook, she’s both inspired to write her own truth and to help Julian out of his loneliness.

Little does Julian know that his one small act is about to bring a whole group of people together as they discover the power, and the danger, of honesty.

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MY REVIEW 

This is the story of a little notebook.

Julian feels a bit jaded by life, he’s frustrated that no-one seems to be truly honest with each other any more. So he writes the truth about himself in a little notebook and leaves it in a cafe for someone else to find.

It is found and read by Monica, who adds her own thoughts and does the same….gradually a few people add their own worries and truths one by one.

With the anonymity comes a real honesty, but is there a cost? As these people gradually meet, friendships are made.

I found this to be a charming tale of home, dreams and friendships, with a gentle humour, great characters and some emotional moments too. A lovely, uplifting read and just what’s needed in these troubled times.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

You can buy a copy here: https://amzn.to/3aMz4Ne

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Clare Pooley graduated from Cambridge and spent twenty years in the heady world of advertising before becoming a full-time mum. She is the author of the hugely popular blog, Mummy was a Secret Drinker, under the pseudonym Sober Mummy and her memoir, The Sober Diaries was published by Hodder in 2017 to critical acclaim.

Her blog has had over two million hits and she recently gave a TEDx talk titled Making Sober Less Shameful.

Clare’s debut novel The Authenticity Project is inspired by the time Clare spent in advertising, a world where the line between authenticity and fiction is constantly blurred, and by her own experience of exposing truth about her seemingly perfect life in her memoir. 

Book reviews, Chinese Fiction, Contemporary fiction, Short story

Two Lives: Tales of Life, Love & Crime by A Yi – Book Review

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Seven stories, seven whispers into the ears of life: A Yi’s unexpected twists of crime burst from the everyday, with glimpses of romance distorted by the weaknesses of human motive. A Yi employs his forensic skills to offer a series of portraits of modern life, both uniquely Chinese, and universal in their themes.

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MY REVIEW 

Two Lives is a collection of 7 short stories, a mix of tales about life, death and the character of people.

I feel there is a real sense of place in these stories and a definite quirk to them. There’s a man who walks away from home,  missing for many years, only to return but not tell the woman where he’s been, a tale an anti-aging process that’s pure science fiction to tales of violence, rape and suicide. All dealing with the human psyche in all its glory, good, bad and indifferent.

At times this is not an easy read, but it’s always compelling, to watch these lives as a bystander. I found the general feeling of disdain for women uncomfortable at times and causes a visceral reaction….which is the point I think.

Two Lives may not be to everyone’s taste but it’s well written, unique and original. Disturbing and challenging at times, but definitely unforgettable.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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A Yi (author) is a celebrated Chinese writer living in Beijing. He worked as a police officer before becoming editor-in- chief of Chutzpah, an avant garde literary magazine. He is the author of several collections of short stories and has published fiction in Granta and the Guardian. In 2010 he was shortlisted for the People’s Literature Top 20 Literary Giants of the Future. A Perfect Crime, his first book in English was published by Oneworld in 2015. He is noted for his unsentimental worldview, and challenging literary style.

 

Alex Woodend (Translator) is a writer/translator whose fascination with Spanish and Chinese began at Franklin & Marshall College. He continued his studies at Columbia University where he wrote his Masters on early post-Mao literature. Translator of The Captain Riley Adventures , Murder in Dragon City, and other works, he currently lives in New York.

 

FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launched recently in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.

 

Book reviews, Contemporary fiction, Science fiction

Happy Family by James Ellis – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Set in the near future, Happy Family is a darkly humorous tale about the filters and frames we use to shield ourselves from reality, and what might happen should we discard them.

Germaine Kiecke was a foundling, an orphan, brought up by the infamous ‘Motherhood’ in a Belgian orphanage. Now she is a successful art academic who defines herself by her profession and prefers to experience the world through art and an augmented reality game called Happy Family.

But when the artist Tom Hannah, the creative force behind Happy Family, moves to Spain, surrounds himself with high walls, three large guard dogs called Harpo, Chico and Groucho, and a runaway who teaches him to think like a tree, his existential melt-down threatens all Germaine holds dear.

She is forced to re-engage with life and travels to Spain to try to make things right. Along the way she meets people who are also, for one reason or another, dependent on Tom’s fictional world to augment their own ‘real’ lives.

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MY REVIEW 

Well where do I start?

Tom is in crisis, he wonders what is the point of life if you then just die.? Why bother?

He drinks to near oblivion most nights and tries to kill himself. He is saved by Alta and her dog, Badger. She decides to move in with Tom to keep an eye on him.

Tom is the creator of Happy Family, an augmented reality game, think The Sims on steroids!!! Nearly everyone is playing, to augment their own lives…..

This is a tale of loneliness and vulnerability but also hope-ish. It’s also a crazy rush of technology, alternate realities and dark humour. Unique, thoughtful and with a large dose of bonkers. 

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

James has written two novels, The Wrong Story and Happy Family. He has published a number of short stories, a travelogue of his journey through Central America and a monthly column for The Gudgeon magazine. He designs and delivers tutor-led workshops for fiction writers and is a regular speaker at writers’ events. 

Book reviews, Contemporary fiction, Domestic noir, Thriller

The Last Cuckoo by Maria Frankland – Book Review

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Do you listen to your mother? Even after she’s dead?

Anna Hardaker is following you …

This seemingly innocent Tweet fills Jamie Hardaker with confusion and fear. After all, his mother Anna has been dead for nearly three weeks.

What follows is an orchestrated Twitter campaign to lead those Anna loved, and didn’t love so much, to the truth behind her “accidental” death.

 

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MY REVIEW 

This is a unique thriller, told by Jamie, whose mother, Anna has died after an accident. It’s told as his innermost thoughts, how he misses his mother, he talks to her all the time.

Her fiancé, Iain tries to help Jamie, but it’s all fraught and not helped by Claudia, his daughter and was soon to be Jamie’s step-sister. These two young people really don’t get on at all. 

Anna had been at the end of her tether with their constant bickering and other family members sticking their oar in really didn’t help matters.

After Anna’s funeral, Jamie receives a twitter notification, from his mother’s account. He initially ignores it, but as more tweets are added, he wonders who could have access to her account…he even wonders if it could be her ghost..but when they start to intimate that Anna’s death may not have been an accident he begins to wonder who would be so heartless.

Was there more to Anna’s death? And who could possibly know?

Not only is this a mystery, it’s also a tale of a modern family…..a step-family and it’s challenges…messy and realistic. It’s so well written, it’s hard to believe it’s the author’s debut thriller novel, with plenty of twists and surprises making this a thriller that makes you think. Very clever and totally gripping throughout. 

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Maria Frankland’s life began at 40 when she escaped an unhappy marriage and began making a living from her own writing and becoming a teacher of creative writing.

The rich tapestry of life with all its turbulent times has enabled her to pour experience, angst and lessons learned into the writing of her novels and poetry.

She recognises that the darkest places can exist within family relationships and this is reflected in the domestic thrillers she writes.

She is a ‘born ‘n’ bred’ Yorkshirewoman, a mother of two and has recently found her own ‘happy ever after’ after marrying again.

Still in her forties, she is now going to dedicate the rest of her working life to writing books and inspiring other writers to also achieve their dreams too!

 

Twitter @writermaria2017

http://www.mariastephenson.com/

 

Book reviews, Contemporary fiction, Family drama

Paper Sparrows by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi – Book Review


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The summer of 2006, and nineteen-year-old Layla returns to Lebanon. When she arrives she finds that her troubled younger brother is missing. She heads to Beirut to search for him, but her quest is cut short when Beirut comes under fire. A new war has begun, and she is trapped in the middle of it.

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MY REVIEW

Layla is studying music in London and is returning home to Lebanon for a visit. She’s looking forward to seeing her family, Mum, dad and brother Ziad.

When she arrives Ziad is not home, she’s hurt and surprised but he’s now a 16 year old boy with a life outside the family home. But, her parents are concerned, he seems to be a bit wild, even stealing money from them.

Layla visits Ziad’s friend to try to find him, only to be told his so called friends hadn’t wanted him around as his disability was ‘cramping their style’ and Ziad had gone off alone.

Angry, she is determined to find him, along with Joe, a new friend and Dog, a local stray. But then the bombings start and Layla is scared, worried about Ziad and needs to find him…..but at what cost. 

This is an incredible read, it is a family drama set in Beirut amidst the conflict in 2006 in Lebanon. There’s a budding romance,but it’s also about the effect of war on the innocent civilians caught in the middle of an ongoing conflict that seems never ending. A beautifully written tale of family, love, compassion and anger. Heartbreaking and heartwarming and I loved every minute.

Thank you to Holland House books for a free copy of Paper Sparrows. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

You can buy a copy here: https://amzn.to/2TxEsNd

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Nathalie Abi-Ezzi has lived in Lebanon, Austria and the UK.

It was while working on her Ph.D in English Literature at King’s College London that she realized that she wanted to write her own novels rather than just analyse other people’s. So, while working variously as an editor, teacher and tutor, she wrote and published several prize-winning short stories and her first novel, A Girl Made of Dust (4th Estate, 2008), which was short-listed for the Desmond Elliot Prize and the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award, and was the winner of the LiBeraturpreis in 2011. 

Book reviews, Contemporary fiction, Dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic, Science fiction

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

From a Tang Dynasty legend of a young girl trained as an assassin with the ability to skip between dimensions on a secluded mountain sanctuary to a space colony called Nova Pacifica that reflects on a post-apocalyptic world of the American Empire and ‘Moonwalker’ Neil Armstrong, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories is laced with  depictions of silkpunk fantasy, Sci-Fi and old Chinese folklore, wrapped up in a mesmerising genre-bending collection of short stories.
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MY REVIEW 

This is a collection of short stories by Ken Liu with the theme of Science fiction. 

These are tales of alien invasion, of the singularity ( the digitisation of human consciousness – a bit like the film Chappie), survival after the singularity, climate disaster and post apocalypse survival. There are some lighter moments but not many.

This is not a light happy read but almost a warning of letting technology take over and leaving us in a digital dystopia. 

I have to admit a couple of stories did go right over my head, I really missed the point I think and was left a bit puzzled, but this in no way detracts from this rather marvellous, dark and thought provoking collection. 

Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and a free copy of the book. This is my honest and unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Ken Liu is an American author and the winner of the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy, Sidewise, and Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards. He emigrated to the US from China at age of 11 and graduated from Harvard with a degree in English Literature and Computer Science. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Ken worked as a software engineer, corporate lawyer, and litigation consultant. His work includes the epic fantasy series, The Dandelion Dynasty and his debut collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. His short story Good Hunting was adapted for an episode for Netflix’s science fiction web series Love, Death and Robots. 

Book reviews, Contemporary fiction, Japanese fiction, Murder mystery

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Takes the classic elements of the crime genre with a twist, providing a multi-voiced insight into the psychology of contemporary Japan, with its rituals, pervasive envy and ever so polite hypocrisy. But it’s also about the nature of evil and the resonance and unreliability of memory.

On a stormy summer day in the 1970s the Aosawas, owners of a prominent local hospital, host a large birthday party in their villa on the Sea of Japan. The occasion turns into tragedy when 17 people die from cyanide in their drinks. The only surviving links to what might have happened are a cryptic verse that could be the killer’s, and the physician’s bewitching blind daughter, Hisako, the only family member spared death. 

The youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery. Inspector Teru is convinced that Hisako had a role in the crime, as are many in the town, including the author of a bestselling book about the murders written a decade after the incident. 

The truth is revealed through a skillful juggling of testimony by different voices: family members, witnesses and neighbors, police investigators and of course the mesmerizing Hisako herself.

“This spine-chilling masterpiece will make you aware of the dark places in your own heart.” Hokkaido Shimbun

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MY REVIEW 

Set in Japan in the ‘70s, members of the respected Aosawa family celebrate three people of three generations birthday on the same day. They have a large party and when drinks arrive from a friend of Dr Aosawa they drink happily. But, 17 people then die, including children as the drink had been poisoned. Only one member of the family survived, a young blind girl, Hisako.

As the only survivor she is a suspect, but a young man then commits suicide claiming he was reaponsible for the deaths, he was doing as he had been asked. Why? And asked by who?

This is a unique tale with a style of writing that feels as though you are being spoken to, being asked questions. It makes you think and wonder. I mean, who wouldn’t want peace and quiet to sit and listen to the world around you?

Beautifully written and so descriptive of mood, inner thoughts and especially the weather. You can feel the humidity of summer and the rain. It’s an intense, intriguing ramble to solve a dark puzzle. Brilliantly different and I loved it.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

You can buy a copy here: https://amzn.to/3c6ezMS

 

ABOUT The Author and the Translator

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Riku Onda, born in 1964, is the professional name of Nanae Kumagai. She has been writing fiction since 1991 and has won the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers, the Japan Booksellers’ Award, the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel for The Aosawa Murders, the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize, and the Naoki Prize. Her work has been adapted for film and television. This is her first crime novel and the first time she is translated into English.

Alison Watts is an Australian-born Japanese to English translator and long time resident of Japan. She has translated Aya Goda’s TAO: On the Road and On the Run in Outlaw China (Portobello, 2007) and Durian Sukegawa’s Sweet Bean Paste (Oneworld Publications, 2017), and her translations of The Aosawa Murders and Spark (Pushkin Press, 2020) by Naoki Matayaoshi are forthcoming.

Book reviews, Contemporary fiction, Mental Health

Four Minutes To Save A Life by Anna Stuart – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

There’s always time to help out a stranger…isn’t there?

Supermarket delivery driver Charlie enjoys his new job, because he doesn’t have to spend too long with people, who, he’s found, are nothing but trouble. But when he’s assigned the Hope Row street, he realises there are a lot of lonely people out there – and for some, he’s their only interaction.

The supermarket boss tells Charlie he’s a driver, not a social worker – but Charlie can’t abandon the Hope Row residents and he sets about trying to draw them out of their shells and back into the world. But will his helping hand make everything worse?

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MY REVIEW 

Oh my heart…..I love this book.

Charlie starts his new job as a supermarket delivery driver and on his first round, he recognises a name. Someone from his past and it’s time for him to make amends.

On his round he meets, Ruth a borderline alcoholic who is grieving a marriage breakup and misses her daughter. Greg, disabled by a horrific accident  is an online inspiration but also lonely and Vikram, mourning the death of his wife, estranged from his son but cooks meals every Friday, hoping if he keeps cooking he will come.

Charlie has his secrets, but he is such a lovely soul, he manages to introduce these lonely people to each other and things start to brighten until secrets come to light…

I can’t say too much for fear of spoiling this truly emotional tale but it is a real tearjerker in so many ways. It’s also very timely as it deals with depression, loneliness, grief and guilt and how small acts of kindness can make such a huge difference to people. 

I fell in love with all the characters, Vik’s cooking sounded absolutely delicious and the friendships so heartwarming. If you need a little warm hug of a read then this is just perfect, but have some tissues to hand as there will be tears. 

Thank you to Tracy and Compulsive Readers for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the ebook. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

You can buy a copy here : https://amzn.to/2SVoYlF

 

 

About the Author:

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Anna Stuart has wanted to be a writer ever since she sat up in her cot with a book. For years she wrote short stories and serials for the women’s magazines before being published by Pan Macmillan as a historical novelist under the pseudonym Joanna Courtney. Her Queens of the Conquest series, set in the pre-1066 years, has been published to acclaim in all formats including audiobook and been translated for European markets but she returned to the contemporary world with Bonnie & Stan in 2019. Four Minutes to Save a Life is her second novel under the Anna Stuart name.