Wednesday, 19 July 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood (17th July-7th August)

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood
Publisher HarperCollins (7th November 2017)
Pages 416

My Rating:

Disclosure: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from TLC Book Tours and the publisher in order to take part in this tour.
“Rivals The Girl on the Train as a compulsive read (and beats it for style). — Observer (UK)"
In the vein of Fiona Barton’s The Widow and RenĂ©e Knight’s Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?

The One Person You Should Trust Is Lying to You…
Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.

As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.

In this gripping, timely debut, Nuala Ellwood brings us an unforgettable damaged character, a haunting , humanizing look at the Syrian conflict, and a deeply harrowing psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.

My Thoughts:
My Sister's Bones is a dark and disturbing novel set in the present day chaotic, violent Hell-hole of war torn Aleppo, and the scenic predictable, mundane coastline of Britain's Herne Bay in Kent.

Kate Rafter has returned home prematurely from her latest assignment as a female foreign war correspondent after the recent death of her mother, and thrust back into the fractured relationship with her resentful alcoholic sister Sally.

In the opening scene we meet Kate as she is being detained and questioned by, who appears to be, a police psychologist after displaying some very erratic behaviour and making accusations about a neighbour. She is being tormented by voices, visions and flashbacks and it is apparent that Kate is suffering from PTSD after several assignments reporting and witnessing violence, and the unrelenting devastation of war.

It is during these flashbacks, and heartbreaking revelations of a childhood tragedy, parental violence, and abuse that we find out eventually how much is real or imagined as she struggles to, keep hidden but at the same time, face the demons coming at her from all angles.  It is also a fascinating examination of how memories are formed, of how reliable they may be after years have passed, and of how individuals remember events very differently, and how using different coping mechanisms for survival have affected them.  I loved the author's in-depth perceptiveness and understanding of the human condition and of how life's experiences can mould a persons character and personality.

However, as much as I loved 'My Sisters Bones' I didn't feel the domestic crime element of the mysterious neighbour added value or substance to the storyline, even so Nuala Ellwood has written a superior, powerful thought provoking mystery thriller that, for me, only just fell short of a 5 star rating.

Highly recommended for fans of twisty-turny, creepy psychological thrillers with unreliable female protagonists, and untrustworthy supporting characters such as in, 'The Girl On The Train', 'Gone Girl', and 'The Widow'.

I am very excited about this author's debut and looking forward to reading her next novel.

About Nuala Ellwood
Nuala Ellwood is the daughter of an award-winning journalist. Inspired by her father’s and other journalists’ experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, she gained Arts Council Funding for her research into the topic and ultimately made it the main theme of My Sister’s Bones, her debut psychological thriller.
Find out more about Nuala at her website, and connect with her on Twitter.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: White Fur by Jardine Libaire (30 May-22 June)

White Fur by Jardine Libaire
Publisher: Hogarth (30th May, 2017)
Pages: 320


Disclaimer: A copy of White Fur was provided by the Publisher via TLC Book Tours to give an honest review and to take part in the tour

I just love these cover images!
When Elise Perez meets Jamey Hyde on a desolate winter afternoon, fate implodes, and neither of their lives will ever be the same. Although they are next-door neighbors in New Haven, they come from different worlds. Elise grew up in public housing without a father and didn’t graduate from high school; Jamey is a junior at Yale, heir to a private investment bank fortune and beholden to high family expectations. Nevertheless, the attraction is instant, and what starts out as sexual obsession turns into something greater, stranger, and impossible to ignore.

The unlikely couple moves to Manhattan in hopes of forging an adult life together, but Jamey’s family intervenes in desperation, and the consequences of staying together are suddenly severe. And when a night out with old friends takes a shocking turn, Jamey and Elise find themselves fighting not just for their love, but also for their lives.
White Fur follows these indelible characters on their wild race through Newport mansions and downtown NYC nightspots, SoHo bars and WASP-establishment yacht clubs, through bedrooms and hospital rooms, as they explore, love, play, and suffer.

Jardine Libaire combines the electricity of Less Than Zero with the timeless intensity of Romeo and Juliet in this searing, gorgeously written novel that perfectly captures the ferocity of young love.

My Thoughts
Set over the course of a year in 1986, 'White Fur'  follows in monthly instalments the highs and lows of the relationship between Elise Perez and Jamey Hyde.
Written in third person dual POV narratives I found it easy to read with short paragraphed chapters, easy to pick up and put down at any point. Not a format, I appreciate will suit everyone but then again there's a a lot about White Fur that isn't going to be to everyone liking.  More on that shortly.

Elise Perez comes from the poor housekeeping projects in New York City; doesn't know who her father is; doesn't attend school, and takes care of her half siblings while her mother shirks parental responsibilities to be with her abusive boyfriend. Elise makes a difficult decision to move out of the family home leaving her sisters in the care of her mother and boyfriend.

Jamie Hyde is a privileged rich kid attending Yale; shares a flat with his lifelong best friend and flatmate next to where Elise is now staying with a gay friend.
Jamey is rich and going places. He has class, breeding, is reserved and knows how to behave in polite company.
Elise has had a rough abusive life and lived the life of hard knocks. She is tough, a fighter, a force to be reckoned with, has no airs or graces. If someone's a dick she'll tell them they're a dick !

As a couple they're an odd mix, culturally and racially and have absolutely nothing in common, but there is a spark between them at their first meeting which continues to smoulder and flame. Their relationship is wild, explosive and sexually charged. She is wild, passionate and exhaustative sexually, a contrast to his previous inexperienced relationships.  He's never met anyone quite like Elise. She makes him feel special and that she will do anything for him whenever he wants her to. Jamey is obsessed with her but equally frustrated by his inability to ignore this attraction and seems to resent her for it.

As their relationship matures and they learn more about themselves and each other the frantic sex gives way to a deeper intensity of emotions and understanding but as friends and family become increasingly involved and determined to drive a wedge between them will they be able to remain steadfast.

By way of a warning a good first half of the story describes graphically detailed sex scenes. Some readers may have difficulty here with such explicit powerful imagery projected, however it gives a sense and perspective of the transition from impulsive lust to meaningful love that these young lovers experience. With short, sharp paragraphing the details are quickly absorbed into your head leaving sometimes rather uncomfortable indelible imprinted images.

Gritty, and raw White Fur touches on some sensitive subject matter such as child physical abuse, under aged sex (rape), drug addiction and mental health issues. A fair amount of humour is in evidence throughout making this a less dark depressing read.

This is most definitely NOT what I would call a fluffy romantic read, it is a coming-of-age character driven love story following two young lovers over the course of a year as their relationship matures. Think of it as a contemporary 'Romeo and Juliet' with explicit sexual content.  Overall, even though not a fan of the ending, I found it a compelling read and would definitely read more from this author.

About Jardine Libaire
Jardine Libaire is a graduate of Skidmore College and the University of Michigan MFA program, where she was a winner of the Hopwood Award. White Furis her second novel for adults. She lives in Austin, Texas.

TLC BOOK TOURS Schedule for Jardine Libaire's White Fur:

Tuesday, May 30th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, May 31st: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Thursday, June 1st: Palmer’s Page Turners
Friday, June 2nd: Nightly Reading
Tuesday, June 6th: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, June 12th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, June 13th: Life by Kristen
Wednesday, June 14th: I Brought A Book
Thursday, June 15th: Booksie’s Blog
Wednesday, June 21st: SJ2B House of Books
Thursday, June 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Monday, June 26th: Books a la Mode
Friday, June 30th: Fuelled by Fiction

Sunday, 18 June 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: Among The Lesser Gods by Margo Catts (June 5th-29th)

Among The Lesser Gods by Margo Catts
Publisher: Arcade Publishing (May 9, 2017)
Pages: 336

Disclaimer: A free digital copy of 'Among The Lesser Gods' was provided in exchange for an honest review and to take part in this blog tour.
For fans of authors like Barbara Kingsolver and Leif Enger, a stunning new voice in contemporary literary fiction.
“Tragedy and blessing. Leave them alone long enough, and it gets real hard to tell them apart.”

Elena Alvarez is living a cursed life. From the deadly fire she accidentally set as a child, to her mother’s abandonment, and now to an unwanted pregnancy, she knows better than most that small actions can have terrible consequences. Driven to the high mountains surrounding Leadville, Colorado by her latest bad decision, she’s intent on putting off the future. Perhaps there she can just hide in her grandmother’s isolated cabin and wait for something—anything—to make her next choice for her.
Instead, she is confronted by reflections of her own troubles wherever she turns—the recent widower and his two children adrift in a changed world, Elena’s own mysterious family history, and the interwoven lives within the town itself. Bit by bit, Elena begins to question her understanding of cause and effect, reexamining the tragedies she’s held on to and the wounds she’s refused to let heal.
But when the children go missing, Elena’s fragile new peace is shattered. It’s only at the prospect of fresh loss and blame that she will discover the truth of the terrible burdens we take upon ourselves, the way tragedy and redemption are inevitably intertwined—and how curses can sometimes lead to blessings, however disguised.
“If Anne Tyler turned her attention to the inter-generational intrigue of small town Colorado, it might look something like Margo Catts’s arresting debut. Drenched in lyrical language and blade’s edge observation with a heartbreaking secret at its core, Among the Lesser Gods is an essential American love story for our nomadic, unrooted times.” — Carrie La Seur, author of The Home Place

“I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Margo Catts is the perfect guide to Leadville and to life, with a sharp eye for everyday details, a pitch-perfect ear for conversation, a sympathetic heart for her characters’ travails, and a sure foot along their unpredictable paths. I’m so happy this book crossed my desk and will definitely be looking out for a second novel from Catts.” — Brigid Pasulka, author of The Sun and Other Stars

“Margo Catts’s compassionate observation of human nature shines through in her unforgettable characters, as she immerses the reader in lives that are torn by tragedy, challenged, and changed. This is a finely crafted and uplifting novel full of warmth, wisdom, and generosity of spirit.” — Judith Allnatt, author of The Silk Road

“I didn’t want the story to end, even as I was desperate to know what would happen next.” — Tiffany Quay Tyson, author of Three Rivers
“Margo Catts has a sharp eye for the intricacies of family, love, and tragedy. In luminous prose, she deftly explores the impact of the past upon our lives. This is a heartfelt book that will break your heart at times and at others fill you with joy.” — Daniel Robinson, author of After the Fire

My Thoughts
Among The Lesser Gods is Margo Catts' debut offering and set mainly in Leadville, Colorado during the late 1970's.

Elena Alvarez is running away from yet another mess and responsibility; she's somewhat a repeat offender in the field. Up to this point she has managed to get away without having to deal fully with the consequences her actions may have caused, however with this latest move, returning home to her small community mining town, she will have to face her current predicament, and revisit her troubled, tragically painful past.

Gently paced with a slow immersion into the characters lifestyles I did unfortunately find it a little too slow and difficult to get into. By the halfway mark I still didn't feel invested in any of the characters and decided not to read any further at this time. I'd so wanted to 'love' this book as the author has spent time living in the same middle eastern country that I had for several years. I felt a connection, alas though not a connection with these characters.

There were definitely elements that I love in a book, literary fiction well written with complex flawed characters, strained family dynamics, a ghost story mystery, and an air of menacing suspense, it just fell a tad flat on my initial attempt of reading.

In all honesty I don't believe its the book at fault. I have read several similar styled story-lines recently and do find that I become restless with the same, 'same old', if my reading material isn't varied. Maybe the timing was wrong and I'll revisit it again sometime. If I do I'll update my thoughts.

There are so many rave reviews for Among The Lesser Gods and I would encourage the reader to take these other reviews into account.

About Margo Catts
Margo Catts grew up in Los Angeles and has since lived in Utah, Indiana, and Colorado. After raising three children in the U.S., she and her husband moved to Saudi Arabia, where her Foreign Girl blog was well known in the expat community. Originally a freelance editor for textbooks and magazines, she has also done freelance writing for business, technical, and advertising clients, all the while working on her fiction. She is a contributing author to Once Upon an Expat. Among the Lesser Gods is her first novel. She now lives in Denver, Colorado.

Margo Catts's TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: Schedule Link

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Guest Reviewer SwiftLit: Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
Publisher: HarperCollins UK(Fourth Estate)
Pages: 336


I would like to introduce Scott my first guest reviewer on my blog. I have worked with Scott for over a year and have thoroughly enjoyed working with him during this time. Scott has however, decided to move on to other endeavours and even though I'll miss him, I wish him every success.  Fortunately he has agreed to be a guest reviewer for Jon McGregor's 'Reservoir 13' and here is his review.  

Scott's Thoughts:
When reading McGregor’s work you quickly become aware that you are reading something different. If you were feeling particularly adventurous you may even call it something new. His style is obviously beautiful yet often opaque and enigmatic.
Characters can be seemingly nondescript and yet we simultaneously feel we know everything we need to know about them. Reservoir 13 is McGregor’s best work so far.

Spanning 13 years this is an epic. And yet what takes up the major proportion of the novel are not events that are epic in scale but comparatively minuscule. The life cycle of a family of foxes as they go through breeding and birth, the migration and return of the swallows each summer. The guaranteed, uninterrupted presence of nature is a prevalent theme that is refreshing to read. This constant quality of nature is one of the few certainties we get throughout the book, with certainty being something the novel sometimes lacks.

It begins as most of McGregor’s fiction does; a traumatic event that leaves ripples in the surrounding society. We enter into the narrative believing it to be a missing person thriller. A girl holidaying with her parents has gone missing. McGregor keeps this missing person narrative sustained by little more than a spider's thread at times as it becomes clear this is a novel that instead takes the effects of time and dealing with grief as its central narrative concern. The goings-on of the village, its people and the natural world that surrounds it are what occupies Reservoir 13, amongst which are whispers and rumours of a missing girl - a glimpse at the narrative we first thought to be reading. It is a very neat trick that McGregor utilises to create an at times stunning novel.

I have always believed that Jon McGregor is a writer whose style most closely mimics the rhythms of everyday human thought and experience. If his previous works, to their credit, could be seen as attempts at creating a unique style, then Reservoir 13 is where the winning formula begins to shine through. For me, this novel not only confirms my prior views but brings McGregor’s work into an ever more exciting territory.

"My name is Scott and I am the creator of SwiftLit.  I have thought long and hard about what I want SwiftLit to represent and below are just a few points that have gone into forming the business so far:

1. I want to provide a subscription box that offers great literary fiction to everyone in an accessible way.
2. I want to communicate the passion I have for books with a wider group of readers.
3. I want to challenge people to read things they may not have considered picking up before.
4. I want to create a company that offers individuals the chance to connect over a passion for books and lively debate!

I'm sure in the evolution of this company many things will likely change, but the core points raised above are at the centre of SwiftLit's ethos and I hope to bring that into everything we do.
Everyone who follows is a potential future customer so the more people who see that the better."

Thank you Scott for being the first guest reviewer for SJ2B House of Books and for such a great insightful review.  It's certainly made me bump Reservoir 13 up on my reading list. I wish you every success with the SwiftLit Company.

You can find out more about SwiftLit by going to the company Instagram site here:

Hopefully this will be one of many more guest review posts.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS REVIEW: Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Hardcover: 320 Pages
Publisher: Hogarth (May 9, 2017)

My Rating:
Disclaimer: A complimentary digital copy of 'Woman No. 17' was provided by TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest unbiased review and to take part in this blog tour.

A sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships set in the posh hills above Los Angeles, from the New York Times bestselling author of California.
High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.

But in the heat of the summer, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady’s privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear.

Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.

My Thoughts:
Set high in the Hollywood Hills, LA, Woman No. 17 is a contemporary 'dramedy' with a razor sharp, edgy dialogue and a dark creepy undertone, an undertone in my opinion that didn't really surface. There are some real comedic moments where I laughed out loud, one of my favourite involving the shit-faced nanny and the pooch. Shamelessly, I loved it.

Pearl 'Lady' Daniels, the mother of two boys, one a lively toddler, Devin, and his half brother, 18 year old Seth, has been commissioned to write a book. A book about motherhood and caring for children with special needs. A book which she has no true impetus to write. She hires a nanny to enable her to concentrate on writing without the distraction of family interruptions or routines. This solution in itself brings its own distractions.  Lady is a complex woman with a simmering mass of emotion and hidden depths to her personality that will gradually bubble over during the course of the story.

Esther Shapiro has a very strong dual personality, hers and that of her alter persona of 'S' Fowler which lends an underlying creepiness into the mix.  Esther a 21 year old college graduate is committed to her latest piece of conceptual art, 'The Katherine May Project' where she will devote every waking moment to impersonating her mother as a young girl.  There's nothing she won't do to succeed in the project. Esther, transformed into the unshaven, plain faced, drably dressed, renamed 'S' Fowler is taken on as the Daniels' live-in nanny.

Seth's character is somewhat unique and impressive. As a mute, self imposed or not really doesn't necessitate too much contemplation, Edan has given depth and perception to a character that could so easily have fallen into the background, or have been one-dimensional at best. He uses his iPad, Twitter feed and sign language, including secret signings for Lady, to communicate and interact in a believable fashion.

Early on its pretty obvious that a relationship is inevitable between the nanny and Seth.  It is a relationship that will have a troubling, powerful impact on all three of them.

During the course of alternating perspectives and back stories, a fuller understanding of how the complexities of the family dynamic, significantly that of the mother-daughter relationships, have shaped the women into who they have ultimately become. Sometimes full of selfish tendencies as with Lady not wanting to share Seth with anyone for fear of losing him, and dismissing Devlin's needs in order to fulfill her own; and Esther with her utter disregard for those caught up in her performance art, as she causes upset and mayhem, crossing boundaries, and taking advantage of everyone to the point of exploitation, all for the cause of her art.

I really enjoyed Edan Lepucki's second novel and think it perfect for fans of art literature or anyone wanting to read something 'off-centre' about art and dysfunctional relationships.

Highly recommended.

Edan Lepucki’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for WOMAN No. 17:

Monday, May 8th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, May 9th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, May 10th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, May 11th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Tuesday, May 16th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, May 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, May 18th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Monday, May 22nd: Art Books Coffee
Tuesday, May 23rd: Palmer’s Page Turners
Wednesday, May 24th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, May 25th: Booksie’s Blog
Tuesday, May 30th: SJ2B House of Books
Wednesday, May 31st: Fuelled by Fiction

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS Review: Vanishing Point by E V Legters

Vanishing Point by E V Legters

Publisher: Lethe Press (May 27, 2017)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction /LGBT

My Rating:
Disclaimer: A complimentary digital copy of 'Vanishing Point' was provided by the author in exchange for an honest unbiased review and to take part in this blog tour.

"Nothing's changed except Angela Dunnewald." From the inside of her life and marriage, Angela discovers she's gone quite mad. Her sense of self, of direction, has frayed and she finds herself lost and alone despite a calendar full of society events, charity meetings, shopping dates, and dinners her aloof husband expects her to attend. Her best friend is a vivacious flirt, but Angela only strays when she discovers a young drifter haunting the grounds of her house. Desire to be intimate unlocks the need for achievement; Angela becomes unrecognizable to her peers and to herself.

Legters’ new novel offers betrayal, passion, secrets, and truth, all from inside a world that threatens to suffocate to the vanishing point.

My Thoughts:
Written in the present, third person narrative and interspersed with flashbacks to Angela's early married life, much of the book is written in a bleak and languidly depressive tone, but it does have an uplifting anticipatory edge and ultimate feeling of hopefulness too.

Evie's characters are well rounded and plausible with flawed, highly complex personalities, all working to their own agendas.  I didn't particularly like any of them, far too spoilt, spiteful and full of their own self importance for my liking.

I had a real sense that Angela was, indeed, at vanishing point. Her mental state affected me in such a way that I felt despair and miserable reading about her achingly dull, insignificant existence. There, only to give meaning and purpose for another; for Ross her husband of 19 years; or for her friend Lydia of 12 years in accompanying her to the many committee meetings or social gatherings where no one is interested in anyone but themselves.

Change is on the way when Angela notices a young man in the garden.  Ross would call the police insisting on his removal...they don't pay taxes for drifters to endanger them or their property...but Angela doesn't do anything, she is fascinated by his self confidence. He has possession of himself, a surety whereas she has none.  What follows is an intense relationship with some pretty heated sex scenes between Angela and her lover which I felt uncomfortable about to begin with. I'd worried, needlessly, that such an emotive plot line was going to descend into a tasteless porn romance. Nothing wrong with 'pornance' except it wouldn't have been in keeping with the start of this book. The sex scenes were tastefully, and sensually written and showed the evolvement of their relationship perfectly. It is within the realms of her relationship with Daniel that Angela encounters an unknown depth of feeling and desire for, and from another, and where the seeds for her empowerment and personal transformation grow.

There is such an elegance and beauty to Legters' style of writing as illustrated here when Angela is comparing Ross' hands to that of her lovers:

"Daniel’s hands are thin, and the skin also fine-grained; she would have expected a carpenter’s hands to be rough and worn, with a callous or two on the palm. Instead, when he touches her, it’s almost as if he weren’t touching her at all; she has the impression of air, and peace.
Ross’s hands have become wide and heavy and obvious. If they grope her in the dark,she stays still, pretending they can’t wake her."

As for Ross, has he not provided Angela with everything 'they' could possibly ever want?  Ross is infuriating in his insensitivity to Angela's needs and her desires, in dismissing them as petty and unimportant.  He doesn't take anything she says seriously and disregards her almost to the point of not listening to her at all.  She'd loved this cherry tree...

"Ross had said the cherries dropping stained the flagstone. She came home one day to a stump. She’d loved its blossoms; their first spring in the house, she took a dozen pictures of them, and had one framed for the study. Ross said the flagstones were more important, and that he hadn’t known she cared about it. He never apologized."
...Ross never apologises for his actions.

One compromise that Ross had made at the start of their marriage, reluctantly, was to keep a treasured wicker chair Angela had since childhood.  Even so, she was still made to feel silly about wanting to keep such a valueless in evidence here:

"The wicker chair is the one thing from her childhood...She spent hours in it growing up, reading, dreaming."...“Let someone have it who really needs it.” When she told him she needed it, ...he said, “doesn’t wicker belong out of doors?” She reminded him that he’d have plenty from the house where he grew up...“Yes, valuable antiques...” “Ross.” He gave in, ..."Beginning with that conversation, nearly everything she wanted gradually became too much work to gain, and so she gave in to more and more, telling herself all these petty things didn’t matter."

His incomprehension as to why Angela should be so ungrateful or unhappy within their marriage frustrated me no end. It was all too easy for me to think that Ross was all deserving of his wife's infidelity. However, even with such an intense dislike of him, that moral part of me still felt he was as much a victim as his wife and entitled to be told the truth. Alas, real life isn't that way so why should it be for him.

Overall, Vanishing Point is a stylishly written literary tale about a woman so conditioned over time to feel undeserving of attention or real consideration in any way that her reaction is to compromise, and comply in order to save others from their own fragility, and of how as a disillusioned housewife she acts out of impulsiveness to embark on an illicit affair.

Fans of Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road, and Bernard Schlink's The Reader, will undoubtedly savour this one.

About E.V. Legters

Vanishing Point is E.V. Legters’ second novel. Her first, Connected Underneath, published under her given name, Linda, instead of her chosen name, E.V., was released last year and is an INDIE Press Book of the Year finalist. Born in the far western reaches of New York State, and a long-time resident of Connecticut, E.V. is exploring new venues in which to finish her third. She is currently in Portugal.

TLC Tour Stops

Thursday, May 11th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, May 18th: SJ2B House Of Books
Monday, May 22nd: Sweet Southern Home
Monday, May 29th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, May 31st: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Tuesday, June 6th: Books and Bindings

Find out more at website.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

After Birth by Elisa Albert

After Birth by Elisa Albert
Publishers:Vintage Publishing
Source: Publishers/NetGalley

Read: February 2017
(DNF'd on first attempt in 2015)


Disclaimer: A complimentary copy was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.
Sometimes I'm with the baby and I think: you're my heart and my soul, and I would die for you. Other times I think: tiny moron, leave me the fuck alone.

A year has passed since Ari gave birth and still she can't locate herself in her altered universe.  Sleep-deprived, lonely and unprepared, she struggles through the strange, disjointed rhythms of her days and nights. Her own mother long dead and her girlhood friendships faded, she is a woman in need.
When Mina - older, alone, pregnant - moves to town, Ari sees hope of a comrade-in-arms. Perhaps the hostile terrain could be more easily navigable together.

With purifying anger and outrageous humour, Elisa Albert unleashes on a culture that turns its new mothers into exiles, and expects them to act like natives. And as she defines the raw experience of motherhood, Albert offers a hilarious and devastatingly honest examination of how we become the women we are.

My Thoughts:
"An edgy, raw 'of the moment', anger rant about pregnancy, birth and motherhood"
'After Birth' is a hard hitting, revelatory tale about 'life after birth', and motherhood told with brutally honest portrayals of its character's and their unforgiving, often outrageous hilarious and irrational observations. With the exception of the lesbianism, drugs and some other scenarios, specifically the 'milk mother' relationship (an unselfish act practiced within certain social/religious groups), it was as if I were reading a close encounter of 'my' life 'After Birth'.  Decidedly the most traumatic experience I've had to date, I felt utterly humiliated and devastated as the fairytale promised me fractured and disintegrated. You know, the one about 'the most beautiful rewarding experience a woman should have is giving birth'. I felt betrayed...It certainly wasn't meant to be the way it played out for me...was it ?

Ari the central character feels similarly... “the baby books said nothing about this,” ... and again about her cesarean section: ...“They cut me in half, pulled the baby from my numb, gaping cauterized center...Sewn back up again by a team of people I didn’t even know...Severed from hip to hip iced, brutalized, catheterized, tethered to a bed, the tiny bird’s heartfelt shrieks as they carted him off somewhere hell itself.”...

On one of her home visits it was obvious to my health visitor that things were a little off when after weeks of sleep deprivation, and still unable to stand upright from my emergency c-section op, and subsequent emergency op to repair the reopening of the aforementioned, I told her that I didn't want my baby, he didn't want me, and to take him away.  Fortunately she didn't believe me and immediately telephoned the doctor who prescribed antidepressants. Why did I let things take such a hold? Well, at the time I 'knew' that I couldn't tell anyone because 'they' would take my baby into care as I was such a bad mum, and then section me for being mentally ill...but they did neither.

Ok so not everyone has such an awful time of it but some mothers do, and although a fictional account 'After Birth' was a revelation and potentially a 'self help' book in my opinion.  Reading about these character's experiences dredged up such powerful emotions from deep down, but ultimately it brought about an acceptance and exorcism 'of sorts' to that period in my life.

My experience was nearly 19 years ago and If this book said anything to me...NO, IT SCREAMED OUT AT ME...that sometimes we need help... that we're not alone...that we'll probably get over it and be okay in the end...that we should not be afraid to ask for help! I went on two years later to have another baby, by elective c-section, and had the polar opposite experience.

After Birth is not a fluffy tale of motherhood, it does not paint a pretty picture of talcum powder smelling newborns, and reading it may destroy the cutesy image. What it does, is give the reader an insight into the frightful nightmare that the experience can be like, at least for some.

The tone of anguish, and despair of the characters was right on the button and the book truly resonated with me. This is a personal emotional account of my thoughts rather than an actual review and other readers will take more, or less from it but essentially it is an harsh story with tender moments narrated by well written colourful characters, some likeable and others not so much, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

I wouldn't say that all mothers should read it especially if going through a first pregnancy but I'd definitely suggest giving it a try.  It may not be the right moment, but it's worth giving it a chance.

A narrative of pure emotion and highly emotive, I wholeheartedly recommend 'After Birth' for it's entertaining value and stark honesty. Perfect for the new wave feminism happening now, and guaranteed to whip up some frank and excitable debate in book reading groups.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

HF Virtual Book Tours Book Blast: Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Nan A. Talese
Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family's home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. "So little is permissible for a woman," writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

Available for Pre-Order at
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell's

Praise for Lilli de Jong

"Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father's selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father's apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli's story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother's love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks." - Library Journal, Starred Review

“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

“A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

“The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it's a testament to Benton's skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist's struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

“A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

“I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It's not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it's also important . . . Lilli's life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

About the Author

Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton's website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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