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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith

The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith.
Published in ebook 9th April 2020 and paperback 9th July 2020 by Orenda Books.

What happens in a future where antibiotics no longer have the power to fight infection?

The world becomes a terrifying place, where minor infections can kill, and people are afraid to do things they once took for granted: where sacrifice is required in order to keep the majority safe.

Anyone over the age of seventy is not allowed access to the new treatments being developed, and should they become ill, they face internment in the hospitals for the elderly - the hospitals nicknamed 'The Waiting Rooms', where no one ever recovers.

It is now twenty years after the antibiotic crisis that changed the landscape of human existence, and nurse Kate begins the search for her birth mother. She knows very little about the woman that gave birth to her, other than her name and age, and is unsure about whether she really wants to know more, because her adoptive mother gave her all she ever needed - but something drives her to find out about her own history.

As Kate uncovers some disturbing facts about the mother she has never known, she unwittingly puts herself and her family in danger. It seems that the woman she is searching for has more secrets to hide than just an illegitimate child, and someone else is looking for this woman too...someone with revenge in mind.

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The Waiting Rooms is an absolute chiller of a novel, made all the more terrifying by the fact that this could easily become the dystopian future we are all heading for.

I imagine there can be few of us that have not heard the reports of infections increasingly becoming resistant to modern antibiotics, due to their overuse (and often misuse), and if you are in any doubt about what this might lead to then you need look no further than this book.

For me, the best kind of speculative novel is one which develops a future that is just beyond our experience - one that is so realistic we can almost taste it - and Eve Smith has most certainly achieved this here, in her debut book. I absolutely loved the way she has picked up the scary facts about antibiotic resistance and run with them to develop a future that may well come to pass if we do not stop and take a different path from the one we seem destined to follow, and used this as a backdrop to a gripping story.

But this is not just a book based around hard science, because our author makes it all the more personal in the way she uses her characters to tell the story. 

Kate works as a nurse in one of the 'waiting room' hospitals, albeit one of the nicer ones, so we get to see a close up view of how the elderly are treated, including a hint of the range of treatments that are now no longer possible because of the risks associated with reduced immunity, and the acceptance of euthanasia as an alternative to a prolonged and painful death. But Kate shows us what it is like being a mother in this time too, with the added burden of the additional worries this brings.

We also get a glimpse of the past, through the eyes of Kate's birth mother, a woman now facing the cut-off that comes with her approaching seventieth birthday, which allows us to see the horror that came with the crisis, the uncomfortable political truths behind it and the choices people are forced to make to protect those they love - as well as the reality of being elderly in this world.

And, as an added extra, we get an idea of what it is like to be a young person who has never had the chance to experience the freedoms we all take for granted, from the point of view of Kate's own daughter.

Three women tell us all we need to know about how all aspects of life have changed, and this works beautifully - the fear, the shades of responsibility and guilt, and the consequences of love are all tied up in their stories. 

The Waiting Rooms is certainly dark and compelling, and very accomplished for a debut novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it a proper page-turner, even though it absolutely scared me to death, but maybe that is what we all need to be to head-off Eve Smith's vision? This is a must read, with more than a little relevance to the strange days we find ourselves in, and is available now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Eve Smith and Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

Decades of spiralling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. 
Ordinary infections are untreatable, and a scratch from a pet can kill. 
A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. 
The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms’ … 
hospitals where no one ever gets well.

Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, 
armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything. 
Because Kate is not the only secret that her mother is hiding. 
Someone else is looking for her, too.

Sweeping from an all-too-real modern Britain to a pre-crisis South Africa, 
The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, 
and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.

About the author:

Eve Smith’s debut novel The Waiting Rooms was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize First Novel Award.
Eve writes speculative fiction, mainly about the things that scare her. She attributes her love of all things dark and dystopian to a childhood watching Tales of the Unexpected and black-and-white Edgar Allen Poe double bills. Eve’s flash fiction has been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and highly commended for The Brighton Prize.

In this world of questionable facts, stats and news, she believes storytelling is more important than ever to engage people in real life issues.

Eve recently contributed a piece of flash fiction, Belting Up, to an anthology of crime shorts called Noir From the Bar. The collection of stories has been launched to raise money for the NHS.

Eve’s previous job as COO of an environmental charity took her to research projects across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and she has an ongoing passion for wild creatures, wild science and far-flung places. 

A Modern Languages graduate from Oxford, she returned to Oxfordshire fifteen years ago to set up home with her husband.

When she’s not writing, she’s chasing across fields after her dog, attempting to organise herself and her family or off exploring somewhere new.





Thursday, June 25, 2020

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams.

Published 6th February 2020 by Trapeze.

Read June 2020.

Queenie Jenkins feels like she is not in control of her life anymore - if she ever was. She is on a break from her long-term boyfriend, Tom, which she hopes is a break rather than a break-up anyway... she has nowhere to live... work is getting on top of her (along with a lot of dead-beat men)... and her family is showing her zero sympathy.

Queenie was named to be queen of everything, but she is struggling to rule her own life.

This darkly comic take on life, love, race and family will have you rooting for the lovely Queenie all the way!

******************************************************

I have been meaning to read Queenie for quite while now, and my copy has been sitting on a shelf in all its delicious pinkness for longer than I intended - so I am very glad to have finally become acquainted with the lovely lady herself, as she is quite simply wonderful.

Queenie is struggling with her life and doesn't seem to know which way to turn to get back in control. Having lost the stability she believed she had with her ex-boyfriend, Queenie falls into a pattern of casual sex with a string of highly unsuitable, and not very nice, men and who treat her like an object - and all other areas of her life are suffering too.

The lovely Queenie deserves so much more, but she cannot even begin to see this until she confronts a few home truths about herself and her background, and she is going to need some help doing this.

For most of the story, all you want to do is give Queenie a great big hug and make her see that she is worth so much more than she thinks she is. Although she feels her life is on the slide from the time she and Tom begin their break, as the reader you can see that she has actually been a ticking time-bomb for some considerable time - and Tom was hardly the perfect boyfriend she thought him to be. Queenie needs to find out who she really is and what she really wants before she can be happy - and she is not going to do this by relying on men like Tom, even if he is the best of a bad bunch.

There is a lot to unpackage from this book, and it is so much more than the humorous account of the ups and downs of one London black girl's life, which really surprised me as it is normally promoted as a funny book. Although there is an awful lot of laugh out loud humour, especially from Queenie's interactions with her friends and family, this book asks some very deep and timely questions too.

The significance of Queenie's cultural heritage, and her traumatic upbringing, weigh very heavily on her. She has been brought up to believe that the traditional "strong black woman" trope is the only way to live, by both her own family and society in general, and this is really not working out well for her.

Queenie's mental health needs addressing, but how can she do this when she should be able to take everything life throws at her on her own broad shoulders, and her family would rather die than acknowledge that counselling is an option? I found this rather sad as Queenie's difficulty in reaching out for help comes not only from feeling that she is letting herself and her family down, but that she is somehow betraying the expectations placed on her as a black woman too. Everyone is telling her she should be behaving in a certain way, particularly the kind of men she associates with, and it's not surprising that she is struggling. That is a lot of pressure to be dealing with.

One of the really interesting things that this book also highlights is the effect of gentrification on parts of London like Brixton, where redevelopment is actually wiping away black heritage from neighbourhoods of the city where they have been a defining part of the character of the area since Windrush days. It's all too easy to say that this is a necessary evil, when there is demand for new housing and amenities, but we should all be more aware about how much is being lost in the name of progress.

Ultimately, this is a book about finding your strength from family and friends, and making peace with yourself and the expectations that are placed on you. Queenie's loved ones are a great source of her problems, but they are all there for her in their own special way, and this is where much of the humour comes from in this tale - especially her friends, The Corgis (and I think we all need a Kayzike and her sizeable handbag in our lives).

Yes, it is a funny book, but it also so much more, because there is so much to think about from Queenie's tale - I will be very surprised if it doesn't make your heart sing, and your eyes brim with tears that are not laughter related too.

If you haven't read this one yet, then you really should.

Queenie is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer.

From the cover of the book:


She just can't cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. 
That's just a break though. Definitely not a break up. 
Stuck between a boss who doesn't seem to see her, a family who don't seem to listen 
(if it's not Jesus or water rates, they're not interested), 
and trying to fit in two worlds that don't really understand her, it's no wonder she's struggling.

She was named to be queen of everything. 
So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?

A darkly comic and bitingly subversive take on life, love, race and family, 
Queenie will have you nodding in recognition, crying in solidarity 
and rooting for this unforgettable character every step of the way.


Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds

Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds.
Published in ebook 11th April 2020 and paperback on 23rd July 2020 by Orenda Books.
Read June 2020.

Journalist Lydia Wright is sent a video, apparently showing a murder on a London train, and she thinks she may have just the scoop she needs to revive her flagging career. But when she starts to investigate the story, it seems that there is no report of a crime having taken place.

At first, Lydia thinks she may have been pranked, but when an old colleague gets in touch with further details, she knows that she is on to something.

As Lydia goes about trying to find the witness who made the video she crosses paths with fixer Michael Stringer, who has his own reasons for wanting to find out what has happened to the  victim.

Stringer deals in information, but the mystery murder has left him exposed and in danger from one of his heavyweight clients. He needs to find out what Lydia knows and fast if he is to stay ahead of the game.

As the clues lead Lydia into a nightmare world of corruption, gangsters and dodgy dealings, she finds herself in way over her head and in need of help - and Stringer finds that he may have been set up to take the fall for someone else. 

They are both in mortal danger with little chance of walking away from the mess they find themselves in. How will they survive in this landscape where information has more power than a bullet?

*****************************************************

Blood Red City takes us right into the heart of the gritty dealings of the under-the-counter side of London's financial world. A world where huge sums of ill-gotten gains are funneled through complicated systems of shell-corporations, trades and investment deals under the nose of the authorities, in order for it to be secretly laundered into legitimate business funds.

Wright is no stranger to investigating the murky dealings of the high and mighty of London's political and property scenes, but when her big story was nixed by the management of her paper, and she was sidelined to reporting celebrity gossip, she was sure that her chance to be taken seriously as an investigative journalist was over. So when what looks like another big story has fallen into her lap, she is very keen to see it through to the bitter end. Little does she know what she is getting herself in to.

Stringer, on the other hand, is more than used to working both sides of the law in pursuit of his clients' needs. He deals in information and is a fixer for some very wealthy and powerful people. His modus operandi is polished and frighteningly believable in an age were social media is king, and almost everyone is reliant on the world wide web. 

As the thrilling story begins to unfold from two different sides, that of Wright and Stringer, it is soon clear that they are working towards the same goal - to find out why a man was killed on a London train - and you find yourself yearning for them to work together to find a way to survive the fall out from the great big perilous can of worms they have opened. Both of them have skills that could complement each other - Wright is driven and desperate to uncover the machinations of the unworthy and, despite spending so much time in the underbelly of London's less seemly side, Stringer is still capable of making the right call when necessary.

I absolutely loved this tale of greed and gangsters, fixers and fraud, news and negotiations, money and menace! This is an intelligent thriller, which has such a realistic edge to it, that it will leave you wondering how much of this dodgy dealing actually goes on in the real world - rather a lot, I fear. There are baddies galore, even though many of them operate secretly under the veneer of respectability, and Wright and Stringer both make excellent characters to get behind.

This has all the elements you could ever want in a pacy, slick caper based in the financial heart of London, with the delicious hard-edge of an undercover spy story to boot - Bonds (investment) with a touch of Bonds (James), if you will. Rod Reynolds skillfully handles all the deliciously twisty threads as they beautifully come together into a very satisfying ending. I absolutely loved it and was rather sad to reach the end - in fact, I would dearly love to see the pairing of Wright and Stringer again Mr Reynolds, should you ever be so inclined! 

Another highly recommended corker from the Ordena Books stable, Blood Red City is available to buy now in ebook format, and pre-order in paperback, from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Rod Reynolds and Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of this book  in return for an honest review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book: 

A witness but no victim. A crime but no crime scene…

When crusading journalist Lydia Wright is sent a video of an apparent murder on a London train, she thinks she’s found the story to revive her career. But she can’t find a victim, much less the killers, and the only witness has disappeared. Wary she’s fallen for fake news, she begins to doubt her instincts – until a sinister call suggests that she’s not the only one interested in the crime.

Michael Stringer deals in information – and doesn’t care which side of the law he finds himself on. But the murder on the train has left him exposed, and now he’ll stop at nothing to discover what Lydia knows.

When their paths collide, Lydia finds the story leads through a nightmare world, where money, power and politics intersect … and information is the only thing more dangerous than a bullet.

A nerve-shattering and brutally realistic thriller, Blood Red City bursts with energy and grit from the opening page, twisting and feinting to a superb, unexpected ending that will leave you breathless.

About the author:

Rod Reynolds is the author of four novels, including the Charlie Yates series. His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling and Cold Desert Sky; the Guardian has called the books "Pitch-perfect American noir."

A lifelong Londoner, Blood Red City is his first novel set in his hometown. Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in novel writing from City University London.

Rod lives with his wife and spends most of his time trying to keep up with his two young daughters







Monday, June 22, 2020

Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly

Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly.
Published in ebook 25th June 2020 and in paperback 23rd July 2020 by Agora Books.
Read June 2020.

Fifteen Years ago, Heidi was the victim of an attack that she barely survived; an attack that also left her little sister, Anna, missing and her best friend, Nina, dead. No one has ever been found guilty of these crimes.... and Anna has never been traced.

Heidi does not remember what happened that day. In fact there are big chunks of her memories missing, seemingly gone for ever, and she lives her life with little recollection of her history.

Now, for some reason that Heidi cannot fathom, she has started to remember bits and pieces from the past - memories of events, things and faces that might help solve the mystery of what happened all those years ago.

As Heidi follows the trail of clues, she uncovers a web of secrets, lies and betrayal that she is not prepared for. And there are some very dangerous people would rather their guilt stayed hidden....

************************************************************

Heidi is the victim of a horrible attack that left her best friend dead and her sister missing, but she cannot remember what happened or why. She lives her live as an outsider, afraid to get close to anyone, and unsure of who she really is and what she is capable of.

When flashes of memory start to come back to Heidi, she opens a whole can of evil worms connected to a paedophile ring that was involved in the abuse and disappearance of boys and girls around the time of her assault - and with the help of one of the detectives connected to the original investigation, it seems the chance may finally be here to find out who was responsible. 

As the new investigation starts to take shape, it becomes clear that the original inquiry was seriously flawed - perhaps deliberately. Someone did not want the truth exposed.... and that someone is apparently still around and directing things behind the scenes. How far does this web of corruption reach and how far was Heidi herself involved?

As more and more of the past comes back to Heidi, she begins to feel that she may have been responsible in some way for Nina's death and Anna's disappearance, but the truth, when it comes, is so much worse than she realised.

What an absolutely cracking thriller! Monstrous Souls is a masterclass in perfect pacing and seamless plotting that will keep you turning the pages all the way to the shocking end. This is absolutely heart in your mouth stuff, full of secrets, lies, corruption, and betrayal - all beautifully packaged in a dark and compelling story.

And this is tale that has chilling echoes of some of the most distressing real life cases that have been in the news in recent years - stories of grooming and abuse of young people on a huge scale, especially those from socially deprived backgrounds, that involve perpetrators in positions of trust and power that were able to cover up their activities for years with a conspiracy of silence. This is also a book that asks some interesting questions about the nature of guilt and how much someone's silence can make them complicit in the acts of others - very thought provoking indeed.

For a debut thriller, this is a most impressive and accomplished book. I can't wait to see more from Rebecca Kelly.

Monstrous Souls is available to pre-order now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Rebecca Kelly and Peyton Stableford at Agora Books for gifting me a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

What if you knew the truth but couldn’t remember?

Over a decade ago, Heidi was the victim of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, 
her younger sister missing, and her best friend dead. 
But Heidi doesn’t remember any of that. She’s lived her life since
then with little memory of her friends and family and no recollection of the crime.

Now, it’s all starting to come back.

As Heidi begins retracing the events that lead to the assault, she is forced to confront the pain 
and guilt she’s long kept buried. 
But Heidi isn’t the only one digging up the past, and the closer she gets to
remembering the truth, the more danger she’s in.

When the truth is worse than fiction, is the past worth reliving?

An addictive thriller about a case gone cold and the dangers lurking on our doorsteps, 
Monstrous Souls will have you gripped to the very end.


About the author: 

Rebecca Kelly was brought up with books but denied the pleasure of a television. Although she hated
this at the time, she now considers it to have contributed to a life-long passion for reading and
writing.

After a misspent education, Rebecca had a variety of jobs. She’s spent the last years raising her
children but has lately returned to her first love – writing.

Rebecca lives in the UK with her husband and youngest son and an over-enthusiastic black Labrador,who gives her writing tips.





Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor.
Published 23rd July 2020 by Scribner.
Read June 2020.

It's July, 1962, and Evie Epworth is looking forward to the summer holidays on the Yorkshire dairy farm that is home to her and her widowed father. Time to make some decisions about what sort of future she wants for herself, now she has finished her 'O' Level exams. What sort of woman should she become?

She dreams of becoming a smart, independent woman in the big city (London, or maybe Leeds?), but more than that she does not know - and her posters of "Brooding/Sophisticated" Adam Faith are not being much help.

But before Evie can start her new life, she has a problem to resolve - a big pink problem - in the shape of the buxom, gold-digging Christine, who has her sights on becoming Evie's step-mother and getting all she can out of Evie's mild-mannered father, including trying to persuade him to sell off their beloved farm.

How can Evie rescue her poor old dad from the clutches of the determined Christine and save her home - all while working out who she is meant to be? This is going to take some planning - and the help of some amazing friends....

****************************************************

The Miseducation Of Evie Epsworth is a coming of age story, set in 1960s East Yorkshire. Sixteen and a half and on the cusp of womanhood, Evie is trying to decide what to do with her future. If this wasn't difficult enough, her quiet life has been disrupted by the arrival of the manipulating scarlet woman, Christine, who is intent on getting between Evie and her father, and taking him for all he is worth - as well as gradually erasing all reminders of Evie's mother from their home.

Evie needs a plan to scupper the ambitions of the formidable Christine, and it seems she has a variety of friends and allies to help her along the way, some of whom she did not even know existed until recently - friends who will also teach her about the world and the mother she does not even remember. I adored each and every gorgeous one of them - except the grasping Christine and her mother obviously, who Matson Taylor draws deliciously as the despicable villains of the piece!

The story is told through the eyes of the clever, young Evie as she undergoes her campaign against the evil Christine, interspersed with romantic and heart-breaking episodes from the  history of her mother and father's relationship. Evie's observations on life are both funny and poignant, and filled with all the moments of teenage drama you would expect (and more!), as she tries to fathom what this becoming an adult lark is all about.

There is so much humour - of the Yorkshire, London and even French variety - and lots of touching and emotional moments that will have your heart and eyes brimming over, especially to do with friendship and family reconciliations.

I was particularly impressed by how much our author was able to bring the 1960s alive too, especially with his references to popular culture, as he must surely be just a slip of a lad! There is a real feel that the times they are a-changing for everyone, especially women, and that Evie may be on the brink of a whole new life. Although I was not born until the end of the 60s, I found all this very nostalgic, which was absolutely blooming lovely!

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this romp through the East Yorkshire countryside. It is an utterly fabulous read, and I found it such a tonic. This is just the kind of book we should all be reading at the moment, so do yourself and favour and order a copy right now!

The Miseducation of Evie Epsworth is available to pre-order in ebook and hardback formats, and to buy as an audio book, from your favourite book retailer right now.

Thank you to Matson Taylor and Scribner for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.


From the cover of the book:

July, 1962

Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. 
But what kind of a woman will she become?

The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree 
and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived 
under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith 
on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) 
offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. 
Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine 
and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, 
she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother,
 the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.

If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink 
and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off 
then maybe she can move on with her own life 
and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.

Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful 
debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire 
since Wensleydale cheese.


About the author:

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire, but now lives in London. 

He is a design historian and academic-writing tutor and has worked at various universities and museums around the world; he currently teaches at the V&A, Imperial College, and the RCA. 

He has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial, and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers.




Monday, June 15, 2020

Don't You Know There's A War On by Janet Todd

Don't You Know There's A War On by Janet Todd.
Published 9th March 2020 by Fentum Press.
Read June 2020.

1975: Joan Kite, widowed since World War II, lives with her only daughter, Maud, trapped in a brittle love-hate relationship that neither of them seem able to escape.

Joan has grown increasingly bitter over the years, out of step with the world she is living in; mourning the loss of the life she once envisioned for herself; regretting the sacrifices she believes she has made for her daughter; and ruing the person Maud has become under her guardianship.

In a rare act of spontaneity on Maud's part, she suggests that Joan should write about her life to make sense of the past that has brought her to where she is now, and although she is reluctant at first, Joan soon takes some relish in venting her spleen in her notebooks.

When Joan begins to tell her story, we start to understand why she has become alienated from the world around her, and she holds nothing back in the telling, including the details of a long held secret that binds her daughter to her, and has helped form the complex and twisted relationship they enjoy.

As the compelling story plays out to its shocking conclusion, we are left in no doubt about how disappointments and power plays within family relationships can make them go terribly awry, especially between mothers and daughters.

***********************************************************

Don't You Know There's A War On? is a novel that positively oozes with the weight of past disappointments, the bitterness they cause, and how they can affect the relationships between family members.

When we meet Joan and Maud, it is soon evident they are trapped in some kind of corrupted mother-child relationship that has brought them spiraling downwards into a poisonous pit of deep dark resentments. To comprehend how they have got here we need to understand Joan, and it is through her account of the life she has led, especially that part played out against the War years, that we get to appreciate how she has been shaped into the person she is - and has subsequently shaped her daughter too. 

Joan's upbringing is one of loneliness and emotional neglect, and the arrival of the Second World War puts paid to her ambitions to be free of her past. Instead Joan becomes a widowed single mother, the result of circumstances that will eventually hit us like a punch to the gut as the story plays out, and she sees her chance for a better life taken away by the small human being who is now dependent on her. Although the War also brought the chance of some independence and companionship to Joan, through working towards the war effort, this too is eventually taken away as women are "demobbed" when peace time comes around again - consigning them back to their former domestic lives. She has been promised great things by King and country, but the reality is hard indeed, especially for a war widow with no prospects. 

'Oh to come from somewhere else, to be going to a place far away. Somewhere where the air was crisp and the talk witty, brittle and allusive. You don't forgive a person for messing this up. You don't forgive your country for fooling you either.' 

Motherhood does not come naturally to Joan, and she has no experience of love. The only way she can cope is by adhering to the strict standards she imposes on herself, and her child, and maintaining the appearance of gentility. She has been told that sacrifice is required of everyone in wartime, so there is no point in complaining, and the phrase "Don't You Know There's A War On?" is for ever ringing in her ears. 

As the years go by, Joan finds she understands the world around her less and less. Her ethos of discipline and self-sacrifice has little to do with the modern age in which she now lives. She has never allowed herself to drop her guard, or to come to terms with her own repressed desires and resentments, and she has no notion about how to be a nurturing mother to her equally lost and confused daughter. Rather than bringing her child up to be strong and forceful, she finds her a great disappointment, and has no compunction about making this clear to Maud.

But Joan is also unable to let go of the daughter she has raised and made the centre of her life, and when Maud has a chance of happiness Joan can't help but destroy this, even if it leads to the destruction of them both.

"What sort of private hell have the two women created in this house?"

And the road to their destruction is most beautifully written by Janet Todd, and she drags you down into the pit of torment Joan and Maud have made for themselves in the most deliciously seductive way imaginable. There is so much unsaid between these women, unable as they are to break through the barriers they have built up between them over the years - so much is hinted at by our writer, especially in terms of repressed sexuality, that has never been allowed to break through the veneer of cold, if threadbare, respectability fostered by Joan.

"This writing, this memory, this scratching with jagged nails 
in the graves of one's head, is not for the fainthearted. 
Not everyone welcomes the dead coming up from deepwater."

But Joan finds herself holding nothing back in her diary. Her reminiscences are heart-rending and painful, sharply observed, sardonic and sometimes downright funny, but there is an underlying bitterness that is difficult to overlook - even when you know the truth behind Joan's story, and see the unfairness behind her plight - that makes it difficult to like her. A feeling which is compounded by her tendency towards the uncomfortable realms of the taboo as her strength begins to fail and her ideas of love become ever more warped. Ultimately, the cruelty and coldness towards Maud colour your view of Joan to the point that it is impossible to forgive her behaviour towards a child that has no responsibility for the loss of the life her mother feels she deserved.

This is a complex and powerful book, exploring the difficult relationship between a mother and daughter that has been irrevocably disrupted by events beyond their control. Janet Todd chooses her words with utmost skill throughout this incredible novel, and I was particularly struck by the clever way she uses the senses, principally smell and touch, to elicit strong emotion and longings in her characters.

I found myself jotting down many extracts of sublime writing from this book, and could so easily reproduce quote after delicious quote for your reading pleasure in this review, but I would be doing you a disservice if I did as you should really discover them yourself - I promise that you won't be sorry you did.

Don't You Know There's A War On? is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, in ebook and paperback formats.

Thank you to book publicist Ruth Killick for sending me a copy of this novel in return for an honest review, and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

'Oh to come from somewhere else, to be going to a place far away. Somewhere where the air was crisp and the talk witty, brittle and allusive. You don't forgive a person for messing this up. You don't forgive your country for fooling you either.' 

Joan is a widow, an outsider in a diminished England, where she lives with her only daughter, Maud, angrily conforming to a culture she feels has left her behind. 

When Maud is threatened, Joan begins a diary to make sense of her alienated past, before and during the War. Giving rein to a loathing for the society that has thwarted her aspirations, she is merciless, her writing often sublimely funny; but Joan has a secret, never confided, which binds Maud to her. 

As Joan chronicles her life, her observations reveal psychological dramas, which, once uncovered, lead to a shocking conclusion. 

Played out against the turbulence of the Second World War and its aftermath, Joan's story is one of a complex mother-daughter relationship, an evocation of the complicities that poison familial attachments and affect intimacies between women. 

Its nuanced portrayals of the power plays in unbalanced relationships make for a compelling tale of human and political failings. An adroit satire of disintegrating worlds, the novel enthrals and surprises; it confirms Janet Todd as one of the most original voices in contemporary literature.


About the author:

Janet Todd was born in Wales and grew up in Britain, Bermuda and Sri Lanka. She has worked in Ghana, Puerto Rico, India, Scotland and England.

In the US, at the University of Florida and Douglass College, Rutgers, she became active in the feminist movement and began the first journal devoted to women's writing. She has published on memoir and biography, as well as on authors including Jane Austen, Mary Wollstonecraft, Aphra Behn, Byron and members of the Shelley circle. Her lifelong passion has been for female novelists, both the little known and the famous.

A Professor Emerita at the University of Aberdeen and Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Janet Todd is a former President of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, where she inaugurated a festival of women writers and established the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. She lives in Cambridge and Venice.



Friday, June 12, 2020

SAS Great Escapes by Damien Lewis

SPOTLIGHT ON:

SAS Great Escapes:
Seven Great Escapes Made by Real Second World War Heroes
 by Damien Lewis

An Audible Audiobook – Original recording



Released exclusively on Audible on 28th May 2020. 
Available to pre-order HERE
for £13.12 or 1 credit.


Audible, the world’s leading provider of spoken-word entertainment, has secured worldwide English language audio rights to SAS Great Escapes: Seven Great Escapes Made by Real Second World War Heroes from internationally bestselling author, filmmaker, and former war reporter, Damien Lewis.

A heart-in-the-mouth real-life thriller, SAS Great Escapes is a fresh look at the most audacious escapes the SAS made during the Second World War.

Marking the first audio-exclusive from the SAS’s master chronicler and No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author, Damien Lewis, who spent twenty years reporting from the world’s war and conflict zones, SAS Great Escapes is white-knuckle listening of the highest calibre. 

From the mountains of Italy, to the deserts of Africa, SAS Great Escapes explores seven of the most dangerous and daring escapes during WWII by heroes who epitomise the bravery, esprit de corps and daring do of Britain’s finest elite fighting force. 

Damien Lewis is the author of over fifteen books including fiction and non-fiction (spanning military history, biography and memoir), and is published in more than thirty languages. His bestselling account of the SAS’s attempt to rescue British forces in Sierra Leone, Certain Death, is currently being produced as a film by the team that made Layer Cake, X Men and Snatch, while his fictional thriller, Cobra Gold, is being developed as a Hollywood film by Safady Entertainment (Machine Gun Preacher), with the production team behind Avatar.

Damien Lewis, author of SAS Great Escapes commented: “Working on an Audible Original has been a great new adventure for me, just as I hope SAS Great Escapes brings tales of incredible adventure and derring-do from WWII to a wider audience. The stories are better than fiction – you could not make up such epic escape and evasions, or the characters involved. A gift to author and publisher alike!”


PRAISE FOR DAMIEN LEWIS’ BOOKS:

'Reveals a true story of British courage and daring.' - The Sunday Times
'Riveting.' - Richard & Judy Show
'A gripping thriller,' - The Mail on Sunday
'Reveals the horror,' - Sky News
'Powerful, harrowing and brave … A triumph,' - The Economist
'Mesmerising,' - Vogue
'Compelling,' - FHM




About the author:

Damien Lewis spent twenty years reporting from the world’s war and conflict zones: the Balkans, Kosovo, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, South and Central America, Syria, Iraq and others. 
For a decade he filed stories with the Frontline News Agency, and he is a founding Member of London’s Frontline Club (named after the agency). In the course of his work he met, filmed with and interviewed warlords, child soldiers, genocidal leaders, victims, aid workers, rebels, priests, presidents, corporate leaders, soldiers and spies. 

For several years running he was nominated for what is arguably the British war-reporter’s accolade of choice – The Rory Peck Awards, named after the British journalist of that name who was killed on assignment. A personal friend of the Peck family, Lewis won a host of other awards for his frontline news reporting. As with many of those who choose to work at the most risk-laden end of the profession, he remained resolutely freelance – filing for top news networks (BBC, CNN, ITN, Channel 4, ZDF and others) but never wanting to have his wings clipped. 

He witnessed a number of friends and colleagues injured or killed in the line of their work. In 2000 he suffered a spinal injury and underwent major surgery, which entailed a year in rehabilitation and recovery. During that time he surfaced from the crazed reality of the profession that had claimed him, and crawled his way back to the ‘normal’ world; to the light. He had had little idea how deep down he had gone or how dark his life had become. 

He wrote his first book during recovery – Slave, with escaped Sudanese slave Mende Nazer – which evolved out of the last news assignment he had been working on. Slave was an international bestseller, it was translated into thirty-six languages and was made into the film, I Am Slave. He has since written a host of bestsellers and has rowed back more or less completely on the frontline reporting work.

In 2003 he wrote his first book about elite military operations, Operation Certain Death, which was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Lewis’s elite forces books Bloody Heroes and Fire Strike 7/9 were Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, and Zero Six Bravo, was a Sunday Times number one bestseller. 

In 2014 Lewis wrote his first book about elite military operations in WWII – Churchill’s Secret Warriors, which was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller, and is presently being made into a movie, by Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Paramount Pictures. Lewis has had many of his other books optioned as films. Operation Certain Death is being produced as a movie by the team that made Layer Cake, X Men and Snatch. His military book, Cobra Gold, is being developed as a Hollywood movie by Safady Entertainment (Machine Gun Preacher), using the production team behind the mega blockbuster Avatar, amongst other films, and his recent elite forces book Operation Relentless is being developed as a US TV drama series by Entertainment One.

About Audible:

Among the acclaimed performers who have narrated works of literature for Audible are Zachary Quinto, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lily Collins, Emma Thompson and Jesse Eisenberg. Audible Studios has won a Grammy Award, for its production of Janis Ian’s memoir Society’s Child, and has also been recognised with the Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year, for Colin Firth’s performance of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair
Audible invented and commercialised the first digital audio player in 1997, and has since been at the forefront of the explosively growing audiobook download segment. On average, Audible members listen to Audible content for 2 hours a day. In 2018, Audible customers downloaded nearly 3 billion hours of content.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Q by Christina Dalcher

Q by Christina Dalcher.
Published 30th April 2020 by HQ.
Read May 2020.

To outside eyes, Elena Fairchild has the perfect life. She is a teacher at one of the elite silver schools, with a successful husband and two beautiful daughters – and in world where all are judged on perfection, her family are more fortunate than most.

Everything in this world is about your Q level (Quotient) and if you want a good life, then your Q must be as high as possible. All citizens undergo compulsory, routine testing to ensure they are where the government thinks they should be, especially when it comes to schooling - as it is vital for teachers to concentrate their efforts on the gifted students so they can realise their full potential. 

Those that don’t make the grade are now sent to the mysterious government boarding schools, but what really goes on behind the doors of these out of the way institutions?

When one of Elena’s own daughters fails her assessment and is sent away to a government school, their family life is turned upside-down. Elena knows she cannot leave her beautiful, but fragile daughter to this unknown fate, so she deliberately fails her own assessment in order to be sent to the same school.

What she discovers there is more terrifying than she could ever have imagined and she will do whatever it takes to save her daughter..... and make sure everyone knows about the government’s horrifying plans.

***********************************************************

I am always a sucker for a dystopian thriller, especially one set in a near future so realistic you can almost taste it, and this is one of the best I have read for quite some time. This is a proper page-turner - thrilling and chilling in equal measure - and one that is is impossible to put down once you have started.

It's difficult to talk too much about this one without giving away spoilers, but I will do my best. 

Suffice to say that Elena's life is not quite as perfect as we are first led to believe. She loves her daughters fiercely, but she has come to realise some things about her husband, Malcolm, that make her very uncomfortable - their marriage is on shaky grounds and she is struggling to see what even attracted her to him in the first place. Their eldest daughter, Anne, is a model student and thriving under the new educational system, which makes her the apple of her father's eye, but the youngest daughter, Freddie, suffers from crippling anxiety which leads her to struggle, especially at school. Elena finds herself constantly shielding Freddie from Malcolm's criticism and his distant coldness, which is such a stark contrast to the way he treats Anne.

When Freddie inevitably fails her school assessment and is sent off to one of the mysterious government schools, where her family are only able to visit her a couple of days a year, Elena knows Freddie will not survive on her own. She has to make the difficult decision to engineer things so that she can be with Freddie, whatever the cost, even of this means leaving Anne - and making herself vulnerable to Malcolm's retribution.

It is not until Elena gets to the remote Kansas school that Freddie has been sent to, that she comes to understand what these new government institutions are for. These are not just dumping grounds for less able students and those unable to keep up with the pressure to perform... they are the beginning of something quite terrifying instead... a social engineering experiment of the worst kind.

Elena harkens back to the stories of her own German grandmother and knows she must do whatever it takes to save not only her daughter, but all those now in danger from the government's horrifying plans, including questioning her own culpability in how events have turned out - and she learns a chilling lesson about the history of her own country along the way.

This is compelling and disturbing stuff - thrilling, edge of your seat writing with a valuable and timely message that will have you feeling the weight of your own responsibility in how events turn out, and the importance of remembering the dark deeds of history. There is a lot to take away from this one, all wrapped up in an excellent read that will shock you to the core. Q is a must read.

Q is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer in hardcover, ebook and audio formats, and will be available in paperback from January 2021.

From the cover of the book:

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s new elite schools. Her daughters are exactly like her: beautiful, ambitious, and perfect. A good thing, since the recent mandate that’s swept the country is all about perfection.

Now everyone must undergo routine tests for their quotient, Q, and any children who don’t measure up are placed into new government schools. Instead, teachers can focus on the gifted.

Elena tells herself it’s not about eugenics, not really, but when one of her daughters scores lower than expected and is taken away, she intentionally fails her own test to go with her.

But what Elena discovers is far more terrifying than she ever imagined.

About the author:

Christina Dalcher is the Sunday Times bestselling author of Vox. She earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University, specializing in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects. She and her husband split their time between the American South and Naples, Italy. Q is her second novel.


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson.
This edition published September 2014 by Vintage. First published March 1985.
Read May 2020.

This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up to be a servant of God, by a mother intent on her child becoming a missionary to poor heathens.

Jeanette loves her little church family, with its religious fervour and passion to save - they are her world and she is sure that her destiny it to spread the holy word, as her mother has always assured her.

But when Jeanette falls in love with another member of her spiritual family - and that person is a girl - she cannot understand how their love can be wrong, even if it is labelled as an unnatural passion by her church.

Can Jeanette's feelings really be unnatural? Does her destiny lie in another direction than as one of God's holy prophets? In the end she must question all that she has been taught to believe, leave everything she thought she knew behind, and make a new life for herself.

******************************************************************

Oranges are Not The Only Fruit is a book that I have been meaning to read for years and since I managed to get a bargain copy of Jeanette Winterson's autobiography, What Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? recently, I thought the time was ripe for to read the semi-autobiographical (and earlier) book first.

Well, I was in for some surprises here, and am mightily sorry that I have taken so long to read Oranges. What amazing book!

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Orange Are Not The Only Fruit is the tale of  Jeanette, an adopted girl brought up in an evangelical household and intended for life as a missionary. However, even though Jeanette loves her church and family, she finds that she is unable to follow her destined path, because she is a lesbian - someone who indulges in unnatural passions in the eyes of her church.

Jeanette longs to belong and never having fit in at school (mostly due to her religious beliefs) means that she relies heavily on her church family to validate her existence, and it's quite telling that chapters are headed with biblical titles that fit perfectly with each stage of Jeanette's story. She adores being part of the crusade to save, is devoted to God, but comes to see that who she is can never be compatible with the beliefs of her family. To her, the love she experiences with another woman is pure and true and cannot be unnatural.

Ultimately, Jeanette must make a decision - should she deny herself happiness and remain in the bosom of her church family, to keep her mother happy, or should she cut the ties of family that bind her and be fee to live as she wants? This is a hard choice for a working class girl with no money and nowhere to go, but she has been brought up to be strong and her strength of character is what carries her through.

Many parts of this book are quite difficult to read. Jeanette's church almost entirely runs on the strength of some formidable women, who are certainly not afraid to take the fight of the Lord right to the doors of the heathen masses. You want so much to admire these women, but their utter conviction that they are right leads them into some very questionable acts that end in downright cruelty and smack of deep hypocrisy - and this leaves a very nasty taste in your mouth. 

But there is so much humour in these pages too - and this is what surprised me most about this book. Think Victoria Wood's style of Lancashire humour and you will understand why I found myself chuckling so much at the absurd statements and pithy asides Jeanette Winterson has coming out of the mouths of her characters.

I also loved the whimsical way Winterson has with her writing. Some of this tale is told in the allegorical form of fairy tales that break up the main story. At first this seems a little strange, as it does not appear to relate to Jeanette's plight, but each tale has something important to say about her search for identity and freedom. I found the last tale particularly moving, as it addresses family ties and the ability of those we love to attach an invisible thread to us and draw us back, even when we thought we had escaped from our former lives.

This is one of those books that simply needs to be read. Even if you just confine yourself to Jeanette Winterson's introduction to the book you will be doing yourself a huge favour. Her idea that you should "Read yourself as a fiction as well as a fact." as a way to explore who you are is a really compelling one, and her love of fiction shines out through her words - and I cannot but wholeheartedly support the idea that reading what you don't know is always sound advice.

"Oranges is autobiographical in so much as I used my own life as the base for a story.
There's nothing unusual about that. The trick is to turn your own life into something
that has meaning for people whose experience is nothing like your own.

Write what you know is reasonable advice.
Read what you don't know is better advice.

"Reading is an adventure. Adventures are about the unknown.
When I started to read seriously I was excited and comforted
all at the same time. Literature is a mix of unfamiliarity and recognition.
The situation can take us anywhere - across time and space, the globe,
through the lives of people who can never be like us -
into the heart of anguish we have never felt - crimes we could not commit."

Yet as we travel deeper into the story, the feeling we get is of being understood -
which is odd when you think about it, because at school learning is based on
whether or not we understand what we are reading.
In fact it is the story (or the poem) that is understanding us.
Books read us back to ourselves."

I could easily go on and on with Jeanette Winterson's words here, but I won't - get yourself a copy of this incredible book and read them for yourself. You won't be sorry.

By the way, the audio book of this modern classic is read by Jeanette Winterson herself and it is glorious, so if audio books are your thing then I highly recommend you check this one out.

From the cover of the book:

'Like most people I lived for a long time with my mother and father. My father liked to watch the wrestling, my mother liked to wrestle; it didn't matter what'

This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God's elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts.

At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. Innovative, punchy and tender, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a few days ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.


Tender Cuts by Jayne Martin

Tender Cuts by Jayne Martin.

Published 4th November 2019 by Vine Leaves Press.

Read May 2020.

Tender Cuts is a collection of 38 powerful flash fiction tales about life and the wounds it inflicts upon ordinary people.

Stories as diverse as that of a child beauty queen; the heartbreak of the lonely; the grief of the bereaved; nagging voices from the grave; and even the story of the heart-throb lobster of the laundromat, each tale has a way of getting under your skin and making you question what it means to be human.


******************************************************************

Tender Cuts is my first flash fiction collection and I have to admit that the power of these teeny-tiny tales has set me thinking. 

These stories are certainly diverse in nature - from the sublime to the ridiculous -  but time and time again I found them getting to the heart of the human condition in a succinct and stirring way. It is absolutely fascinating how Jayne Martin manages to elicit such a visceral response, whilst using so few words each time.

When I reached the final page of this book, I had questions...so many questions...about flash fiction.

I have always thought of flash fiction as more of an exercise in writing, rather than an end. However, after reading Tender Cuts, I can now appreciate that it requires a considerable amount of skill to consistently capture the essence of a story in so few words - and that flash fiction can be an art in itself.

So, I was very keen to pick Jayne's brains after reading her book, and she was very kind to agree to answer a few burning questions for me, as part of my review of her book.

It is my pleasure to share Jayne's thoughts with you here:

What attracted you to writing flash fiction?...

Before coming to flash, I had written movies-for-television for twenty years, so the
writing of strong, powerful moments contained in short scenes was a natural for me.
Writing flash is like cooking a reduction sauce. You take away rather than add until you
have its essence. Emotional resonance is, in my opinion, the most important ingredient.
There is no time for explanations in flash. The reader is invited to enter the story at the
character’s peak of vulnerability and then experience and interpret the story in their own
way. Sometimes readers come up with very different interpretations than I intended and
they are all absolutely valid.

Do you think writing flash fiction requires special skills?...

You have to be a brutal editor. If you’re one to fall in love with your words, this genre
isn’t for you. Because of the length limitations, sentences have to do double duty. The
use of sensory detail is paramount because our brains are wired to respond emotionally
to sensory input. I would liken the skills needed to those of a master of bonsai.

Do you see flash fiction as an end in itself, or a journey to something else?...

Absolutely an end to itself, although I will say that writing flash has made me a better
writer in every other form, including memoir and essay pieces. But yes, for me, flash is
its own specific world. It’s popularity has exploded in recent years and I believe that is
largely due to how we’re becoming used to receiving information in bite-size pieces
digitally, and also because (and especially right now) people are stressed and may be
finding it hard to focus on longer works. I probably have five novels that I’ve started and
abandoned. With the stories in “Tender Cuts,” a reader can have a complete and
satisfying reading experience in a less than three minutes.

My particular favourite pieces in Tender Cuts were those about Julie-Sue, the child
beauty queen, and I found it interesting that she seems to be the only character you 
came back to more than once in this book (I named this The Ballad of Julie-Sue!). 
What about this character struck such a chord with you?...

Originally, the title story “Tender Cuts,” was the only one featuring the Julie-Sue
character. When I was putting together the collection, I realized that it needed a
structure or “spine,” and so I wrote the other three stories featuring that character:
“Making the Cut,” “Prime Cut,” and “Final Cut,” the last story, which is told by Julie-Sue’s
grown daughter after her death. I was struck by the idea of a parent, in this case Julie-
Sue’s mother, living out her own dreams through the exploitation of her daughter and
how that affected Julie-Sue as she grew older. Then the other stories were ordered in
groupings of age as Julie-Sue ages.

Are you tempted to pick up any of your stories and develop them into longer pieces,
such as short stories, novellas or even full novels?...

I’m very tempted, and actually thinking about that now. If I do, it would be in the form of
connected flash stories or a novella-in-flash. Right now the challenge is to write stories
that are relevant in our chaotic and rapidly changing world. Flash can address that, but
to write a novel that might not find readers for four or five years – that’s a lot more iffy.

Do you have any words of wisdom for fellow aspiring authors?...

The writers who find success aren’t always the best or most talented. They’re the ones
who never gave up. Don’t take rejections personally. I know that seems difficult, but the
response to your work is entirely subjective. No two people look at a painting or respond
to a story in the same way. I’ve had stories rejected multiple times that eventually found
publication. It’s the nature of the business, so develop a thick skin or you will just make
yourself miserable.

Finally, author Jennifer Egan once said, “Read at the level that you want to write,” which
is the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten.

For articles I’ve written on the craft of writing flash, visit my blog at www.jaynemartin-
writer.com

Thank you so much to Jayne Martin for sharing her thoughts. I am sure you have found Jayne's answers as fascinating as I have and if you are looking for a glimpse into the world of flash fiction, I can wholeheartedly recommend Tender Cuts as a very interesting place to start!

Thank you to Jayne Martin for kindly sending me a copy of this book, in return for an honest review.
Tender Cuts is available to by now from your favourite book retailer, of via the links below:

Amazon UK
Amazon US

From the cover of the book:

If Joy Williams and Raymond Carver had a love child that was often left in the care of Lydia Davis it might grow up to be Jayne Martin. Martin’s writing evokes the literary DNA of those who have influenced her most, while in a style and voice that is uniquely her own.

In these 38 tiny tales, everyday people do their best to manage the wounds life inflicts on all of us: A six-year-old beauty pageant contestant strives to please her demanding mother; a woman marries a 1985 Buick LeSabre; in a laundromat bored wives fall under the romantic spell of a lobster; a grown woman is still being fat-shamed by her deceased mother via a Ouija board; a widow carries her husband’s ashes around in Baggies.

With pathos and humor, these and all of the characters in this collection will speak to the reader’s own wounded heart.

About Jayne Martin:

Jayne Martin is a Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions nominee, and a recipient of Vestal Review’s VERA award. Work in New Flash Fiction Review, Spelk, Crack the Spine, Midwestern Gothic, Barren, MoonPark Review, Blink-Ink, and Bending Genres among others. She is also the author of Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry, a collection of humor essays. Her TV-movie writing credits include Big Spender for Animal Planet, and A Child Too Many, Cradle of Conspiracy, and Deceived by Trust for Lifetime. She lives in California, where she rides horses and drinks copious amounts of fine wines, though not at the same time.