The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten – Blog Tour

Thank you so much Becky Hunter for gifting me this wonderful historical novel and having me on the tour!

–Synopsis–

Ellen Alpsten’s stunning new novel, The Tsarina’s Daughter, is the dramatic story of Elizabeth, daughter of Catherine I and Peter the Great, who ruled Russia during an extraordinary life marked by love, danger, passion and scandal.

Born into the House of Romanov to the all-powerful Peter the Great and his wife, Catherine, a former serf, beautiful Tsarevna Elizabeth is the envy of the Russian empire. She is insulated by luxury and spoiled by her father, who dreams for her to marry King Louis XV of France and rule in Versailles. But when a woodland creature gives her a Delphic prophecy, her life is turned upside down. Her volatile father suddenly dies, her only brother has been executed and her mother takes the throne of Russia.

As friends turn to foes in the dangerous atmosphere of the Court, the princess must fear for her freedom and her life. Fate deals her blow after blow, and even loving her becomes a crime that warrants cruel torture and capital punishment: Elizabeth matures from suffering victim to strong and savvy survivor. But only her true love and their burning passion finally help her become who she is. When the Imperial Crown is left to an infant Tsarevich, Elizabeth finds herself in mortal danger and must confront a terrible dilemma–seize the reins of power and harm an innocent child, or find herself following in the footsteps of her murdered brother.

Hidden behind a gorgeous, wildly decadent façade, the Russian Imperial Court is a viper’s den of intrigue and ambition. Only a woman possessed of boundless courage and cunning can prove herself worthy to sit on the throne of Peter the Great.

–Review–

With yet another gripping prologue, you get engulfed in the epic story of Elizabeth Petrovna Romanova, daughter of Peter the Great and Catherine I of All the Russias.

What a fantastic book!

Enter, if you dare, the Russian court and all of its marvels. Thanks to Ellen’s divine and poetic writing, you get to experience, taste, smell, feel, touch it all to perfection. 

In this next installment of the unforgiving race for the throne of the Russian Empire, journey with Elizabeth through all the hurdles she had to overcome and her incredible destiny.

With all the scheming forces at work, this fierce woman had to show much resilience to survive. First promised to the King Louis XV of France, fate had other plans for her. 

Stakes are high and the price to pay even greater… Having lost both her father and her mother in the span of 2 years, the games became more dangerous than ever, the enemies lurking in the shadows. 

Wading through all the humiliations, the loss of her sister with whom she had once the strongest of bonds, the death of her fiancé and torture of her lover, only her eternal devotion to Russia and its people, the assistance of Lestocq, Schwartz and Alexis, the love of her life, kept her going.

I can only recommend you pick up a copy of this wondrous story of courage, resilience and tenacity, and witness Elizabeth’s fascinating transformation whilst facing adversity with bravery and humility.

And if you haven’t done so already, pick up a copy of Tsarina by the same author.

With Love
AGJ

Out 8 July with Bloomsbury Publishing
TW: torture, death, violence, sex

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers are saying!

–About the Author – Ellen Alpsten–

Novelist and journalist

Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, before attending L’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. Whilst studying for her Msc in PPE she won the Grande École short story competition with her novella Meeting Mr. Gandhi and was encouraged to continue writing.

Upon graduating, she worked as a producer and presenter for Bloomberg TV in London: knowing no-one and working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work and a nap. Tsarina, the first and only account of the incredible rise of Catherine I of Russia from serf to Empress, is her debut novel. 

Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as  VogueStandpoint and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three children and a chubby, moody fox-red Labrador.

Grown Ups by Marie Aubert – Blog Tour

A very big thank you to Tara McEvoy over at Pushkin Press for having me on this tour!

–Synopsis–

Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and starting to panic. She’s navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs, but forces these worries to the back of her mind as she sets off to the family cabin for her mother’s sixty-fifth birthday.

But family ties old and new begin to wear thin, out in the idyllic Norwegian countryside. Ida is fighting with her sister Marthe, flirting with Marthe’s husband and winning the favour of Marthe’s stepdaughter. Some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets tensions simmering even further, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, her whole family.

Exhilarating, funny and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups asks what kind of adult you are without a family of your own.

–Review–

A short, nevertheless very thought-provoking book! 

Through this honest portrayal of antipathic Ida and her dysfunctional family, you are pulled into this eternal debate of “what does it mean to be a “grown-up”?

Ida is 40, single, and demonstrates quite a few self destructing traits. Life as she believes she should have hasn’t materialised for her, but does she really want it to? 

In her eyes, her sister Marthe is the opposite of who Ida aspires to be, but somehow has it all: a boyfriend Kristoffer, a step daughter Olea, and, coming as an unwanted surprise to Ida, a baby on the way. Ida wants nothing more than to overtake her.. or does she really?

Their mother has settled with her long term boyfriend Stein, having had to suffer through the girls father deserting them when they were young. She sparks up the siblings rivalry but is it on purpose or is she simply oblivious?

In this very clever book, wonderfully translated by Rosie Hedger, Marie Aubert takes no kid gloves to show that as much as we’re sometimes pretending, in the end aren’t we just still kids playing grown ups? 

Tantrums, jealousy, lies, selfishness, deceptions, cries for attention, as much as Ida and Marthe try to pretend to have it all figured out and together, they’re bickering and behaving like 6 year old, experiencing the same feelings they did when they were young. 

What shapes our behaviour? Does being a parent, owning a cabin, driving a boat, really means being a grown up? “You have to let kids be kids”.. but do we ever really stop being kids? 

With Love
AGJ

Out now with Pushkin Press 

–About the Author – Marie Aubert–

Marie Aubert was born in 1979 and lives in Oslo. She made her debut with the short story collection Can I Come Home with You (2016), which was a huge success in Norway, selling more than 10,000 copies. Her acclaimed first novel Grown-ups (2019) won the Young People’s Critics’ Prize, and was nominated for the Booksellers’ Prize.

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers are saying!

TSARINA by Ellen Alpsten

An absolute masterpiece! Thank you so much to Becky Hunter for gifting me this wonderful book! I cannot wait to finish the sequel “The Tsarina’s Daughter” for my spot on the upcoming blog tour.

–Synopsis–

Lover, mother, murderer, Tsarina

1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta is sold into labour at the age of fifteen – where in desperation she commits a crime that will force her to go on the run.

Cheating death at every turn, she is swept into the current of the Great Northern War. Working as a washer woman at a battle camp, she catches the eye of none other than Peter the Great. Passionate and iron-willed, Peter has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire.

With nothing but wits, courage and formidable ambition, Marta will rise from nothing to become Catherine I of Russia. But it comes at a steep price and is tied to the destiny of Russia itself.

–Review–

Ellen Alpsten is such a talented writer and storyteller. She has expertly crafted an historical novel into an addictive page turner.

1725, INTERREGNUM, Peter the Great is dead, and Catherine (formerly known as Marta) only has a few hours to make or break her destiny.

Whilst she waits for the Council to arrive, she thinks back on her life… and what a life she has led!

Her story is one of bravery, love, resilience, strength, courage, dedication. Her journey through the world is simply breathtaking. Catherine went through so much, had to endure so much, however she had but one motto: show no fear.

Amidst the wars, feasts and famines, social pressures to abide by, such as the dreaded “obligation” to produce sons, Ellen very skillfully depicts what it was like to be a woman in this men’s world. 

Despite it all, Catherine had a very singular relationship with Peter. He chose her (makta), and she chose him (tsarik). She stood by him through all the storms, through his obsessions and ambitions, she accompanied him to almost all the battle camps during the Wars against Sweden or Persia, she nursed him through is long lasting disease (syphilis). 

Peter’s relationship with people, and especially his own son from his previous marriage, were quite tumultuous and she always acted in the background to try and appease things. Catherine was good, kind and lenient. She saved many people from his wraths and managed to secure long lasting friendships and loyalty amongst his closest. Her influence in the background was key, but too often forgotten by historians.

Peter’s reign was one of major changes, new territories, new laws (many, many of them), new capital erected from the ground up (St Petersburg), constitution of a Senate, and much more. Peter was desperate to shake things up and tear apart the old customs, build a new world. In the shadows she played such an important role in this tumultuous period which reshaped Russia, and it simply is a delight to ready this beauty of a book, giving her back the credit that she duly deserved.

Through hell and back, from poverty to wealth, from washerwoman to Empress, Catherine’ story is an inspiration and I am truly grateful to Ellen for sharing her extraordinarily detailed amount of research with the world to bring us this book. 

I personally adored the descriptions of all the jewels… As a qualified gemologist I was pleased to see Ellen’s depictions matching my own (limited) knowledge in this respect!

Ellen’s writing is spectacular, I was completely hooked from the start and couldn’t put it down. Even if I had vague notions of this part of Russian history, reading this incredible destiny greatly enhanced my knowledge and desire to know more. It is a book that everyone should read (although a word of caution, this is not a story for the fainthearted!)

Ellen, if not done so already, it has to be translated in French, I know a few people who will absolutely love this!

With Love
AGJ

TW: rape, adultery, sex, abuse, death, violence, still birth
Out now and available in hardback, paperback, e-format and audio – Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

–About the Author – Ellen Alpsten–

Novelist and journalist

Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, before attending L’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. Whilst studying for her Msc in PPE she won the Grande École short story competition with her novella Meeting Mr. Gandhi and was encouraged to continue writing.

Upon graduating, she worked as a producer and presenter for Bloomberg TV in London: knowing no-one and working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work and a nap. Tsarina, the first and only account of the incredible rise of Catherine I of Russia from serf to Empress, is her debut novel. 

Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as  VogueStandpoint and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three children and a chubby, moody fox-red Labrador.

The Readers’ Room by Antoine Laurain

Thanks so much to Isabelle over at Gallic Books for my copy of this fantastic book! 

I absolutely loved it! Obviously it’s a French author so I start biased but I just adore Antoine’s books ! 

Quick (only 182 pages), easy and so so gripping it’s just perfection ! 

Violaine Lepage is a woman of many vices. And after a near death experience during a plane crash, she seems to have forgotten them all! Somehow the accident makes her a better version of herself. She doesn’t smoke anymore, she no longer is unfaithful, but what else might have she forgotten…

Through the pages, Antoine Laurain pays homage to many authors, and especially Proust.  Violaine cannot remember aspects of her life, but rather than reminiscing with a taste, smell or other sensations, her madeleine is actually Marcel Proust himself, philosophising with her. 

Such a clever book! A mystery with a pinch of romance, philosophy, psychology, identity, sprinkled with inexplicable events, leaving you wondering, triggering your imagination and opening up your power of  interpretation! 

A wonderful nod to books and their magic, conjured up when a reader picks them up. Books have a life of their own…

It is a book that you will want to read several times… at least I know I will!! 

For my French friends, you can find this beauty published under the title “Le Service des Manuscripts”.

With Love
AGJ

Out now

— Synopsis—

When the manuscript of a debut crime novel arrives at a Parisian publishing house, everyone in the readers’ room is convinced it’s something special. And the committee for France’s highest literary honour, the Prix Goncourt, agrees. 

But when the shortlist is announced, there’s a problem for editor Violaine Lepage: she has no idea of the author’s identity. As the police begin to investigate a series of murders strangely reminiscent of those recounted in the book, Violaine is not the only one looking for answers. And, suffering memory blanks following an aeroplane accident, she’s beginning to wonder what role she might play in the story … 

Diamonds at the Lost and Found by Sarah Aspinall – BLOG TOUR

— Synopsis —

Thank you so much to Hannah at Midas PR and to 4th Estate the publisher for having me on this blog tour, and to Sarah Aspinall for writing such a gem.

For readers of Hideous Kinky, Dadland and Bad Blood; the astonishing, beguiling story of Sarah Aspinall’s harum scarum childhood, and a love letter to a woman who defied convention to live a life less ordinary.

My Mother attracted unusual people and events to her, and she made things happen….

Sarah Aspinall grew up in the glittering wake of her irrepressible mother Audrey. Born into poverty in 1930s Liverpool, Audrey had always known that she was destined for better things and was determined to shape that destiny for herself. From the fading seaside glamour of Southport, to New York and Hollywood, to post-war London and the stately homes of the English aristocracy, Audrey stylishly kicked down every door she encountered, on a ceaseless quest for excitement – and for love.

Once Sarah was born, she became Audrey’s companion on her adventures, travelling the world, scraping together an education for herself from the books found in hotels or given to her by strangers, and living on Audrey’s charm as they veered from luxury to poverty – an accessory to her mother’s desperate search for ‘the one’.

As Sarah grew older, she realised that theirs was a life hung about with mysteries. Why, for instance, had they spent ages living in a godforsaken motel in the Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina? Who was the charming Sabet Sabescue, and what was his hold over Audrey during several months in Cairo? And what on earth happened to the heirlooms that an ancient heiress, Miss Gillette, gave Sarah when they visited her in Palm Springs?

And why, when they returned to Southport was Audrey ostracised by the society she so longed to be part of?

Diamonds at the Lost and Found tells the story of how Sarah eventually pulled free of her mother’s gravitational pull to carve out a destiny of her own. It is a beguiling testament to dreams, defying convention and exasperated love.

— Review —

What a fascinating and thought provoking story! In this memoir, Sarah, aka Sally, shares with us the intimate moments of her childhood alongside her very unconventional mother Audrey.  

Let’s get this show on the road” was Audrey’s motto. 

Audrey was many things and so much more, to Sally and everyone they met along the way. She was “a chancer, a dreamer, a procurer, a delinquent, as well as a teller of tales.” She was never standing still, always restless, always wanting more. She needed to dazzle, sparkle, glitter, whether physically or through her personality.

Her life was this never ending quest, this “hunt” for love and fantastic stories, which was as fulfilling as costly. 

Audrey’s duality was simply fascinating: she would have stopped at nothing to get her “happy ever after”, she was a resilient, resourceful, determined and independent woman, who would never take no for an answer and as far from the domestic type as possible, but she was desperate for a man in her life! She somehow couldn’t detach from this primal need; she wouldn’t feel complete without a man!

When Neil, Sally’s father, died ever so young from poorly treated illness, Audrey decided to continue her journey but this time accompanied by Sally, her “partner in crime“.

From Liverpool, to Southport, America, Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Cairo and everywhere in between, on cruise ships, in trains, cars, and hotels around the world, Sally was her wing-woman.

Shocking, funny, heartbreaking, exciting, lonely, and most peculiar, Sally’s coming of age story is simply extraordinary. 

Sarah takes you on this sensory discovery journey, whereby you are growing up with her. You get to experience all those things she discovered. You smell the perfumes, scents of places, of people, you touch the fabrics, delight your eyes and ears with the music, songs and dances. What a wonderful world she got to be part of. 

It certainly had its downsides and finding yourself in the shadow of such an exuberant mother is no easy task.

Audrey probably wouldn’t have won “mother of the year” award, in that she didn’t push for her daughter to have an academic education, she didn’t cook, and was quite self absorbed in her desperate attempts at finding love. Audrey despised all sports (apart from dancing) and cultivated an absolute loathing of getting one’s hair wet, so she never forced Sally to go to school, especially not on swimming days! 

Sally was treated like an adult, used to lure men, included in choreographies and random appearances, she didn’t fit with other kids. She was often alone, sometimes even neglected, so she took refuge in her books and in the company of other travelers, often much older. 

She had to become her own person without much support, and with what she had. Younger she was doing everything to please her mother. She was astonishingly obedient, staying alone for long period of times. She ended up living 2 lives; Audrey’s, and one she got to discover for herself, through art, literature, music, plays and encounters.

Despite Audrey’s self centered personae, she managed to raise an extraordinary girl. She made sure to give her the tools to fend for herself, and instilled in Sally this resilience, this strength and desire for life. She gave her amazing principles such as “all the world loves a tryer“, “don’t ask don’t get“, and she helped shape the woman Sarah has become. 

Such an inspiring story, and I really loved reading a book depicting implicitly the importance of the school of life. This is something too often dismissed, but as equally important as academia, if not more! Success is as much based on what we learn from books and teachers as what we learn in the world and from the people we meet throughout. 

Even if Sally resented her mother for spoiling her education, she was taught so many precious skills that it made up for Audrey’s shortcomings. 

Audrey didn’t want Sally to be a kid but becoming an adult meant to separate from her and she couldn’t bear it. And when the teenage years started kicking in, Sally’s desire to be different from her mother became almost an obsession. 

But can we really escape taking on some of our parents behaviours? Are we doomed to follow in their footsteps? What does it take to free ourselves from the imprints made by them in our DNA?

After all, Audrey did really love Sally, in her own special way, and she gave her everything she thought she could. And this is really what this book is all about: LOVE.  It drives us, consumes us but it is the best feeling in the world, and when you get to experience it you do fell like the luckiest person alive. 

I cannot stop thinking about it, I was transported in this life story that sometimes seemed out of this world. I stickered and post-ited so many pages for further contemplation, especially about the different sides inside ourselves…

Please pick up this book and embark on this magical and thought-provoking journey with Sally and Audrey, you can only come out on the other side feeling somewhat transformed. 

With Love

AGJ

Out now with 4th Estate

— About the Author – Sarah Aspinall —

And don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers have to say!

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain

It’s official… I am in love with Albert!

Such a wonderful, moving and joyous adventure! This is a story that everyone needs in their life!!! Thanks again Rosie over at Headline for gifting me this incredible proof, and the biggest thanks to Matt Cain for writing this story!

— Synopsis —

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO START YOUR LIFE’S BIG ADVENTURE . . .

Albert Entwistle was a postman. It was one of the few things everyone knew about him. And it was one of the few things he was comfortable with people knowing.

64-year-old Albert Entwistle has been a postie in a quiet town in Northern England for all his life, living alone since the death of his mam 18 years ago. He keeps himself to himself. He always has. But he’s just learned he’ll be forced to retire at his next birthday. With no friends and nothing to look forward to, the lonely future he faces terrifies him. He realises it’s finally time to be honest about who he is. He must learn to ask for what he wants. And he must find the courage to look for George, the man that, many years ago, he lost – but has never forgotten . . .

Join Albert as he sets out to find the long-lost love of his life, and has an unforgettable and completely life-affirming adventure on the way . . . This is a love story the likes of which you have never read before! 

— Review —

Albert wants to be invisible. Over the years, he has devised a well-established technique to keep human interactions to a minimum. It’s just him and his cat Gracie, since his mother passed away.

Albert wasn’t always like that though, and throughout the pages you get to discover what happened almost 50 years ago, along embarking on this self-discovery journey with him.

3 months before his 65th birthday, he is told he will have to go on compulsory retirement. From there, his whole world starts unravelling: Gracie dies, and he forces himself to go through his mam’s belongings, which he left untouched since she passed away years ago.

This brings out so many memories for him, most of them painful, especially when he finds in his mam’s box of treasures, the letters he used to exchange with the one and only love of his life… George.

His romance with George was the happiest time of his life, but things somehow ended dramatically. Since then, Albert has never allowed himself to feel anything for other men, or be loved by anyone else. He closed himself off from the world.

When reminiscing his past, you get to witness the unfortunately sad history of gay persecution, from it being a crime in the 60s to the police raids, beatings, insults and worse. Some chose to fight for their rights, where others like Albert decided that they were rotten and destined to a life of loneliness.

But all of it is too much for Albert and he decides it’s about time to get his act together if he doesn’t want to die alone. He wants his next 30 years to be happy ones and will take you with him on his magnificent journey.

Finding George turns out not as easy as Albert firstly anticipated! To succeed at finding love, he must find himself first. And to do that he will have to open up and… well you’ve guessed it.. COME OUT!!!

This fantastic adventure makes Albert become who he was meant to be all along, open himself up to the world to find his inner happiness. Getting out of one’s comfort zone is the best thing that can happen, opening up new horizon and embracing the best of what life has to offer. From Toddington to Bradford, Blackpool, Manchester and London, he will have to be honest with who he really is, and stop hiding.

“In some ways I’m like a picture that hasn’t been coloured in yet. Or one that I’m still in the process of colouring in…”

Albert cannot go about it alone, and has no choice but surmount the fear of judgement.

Through this beautiful story of resilience, you’re reminded of the importance of love and friendship in life! All the amazing protagonists you meet along the way are so lovable and relatable. Their depth demonstrates to perfection that everyone is more than meets the eyes.

From Nicole the “lioness” protecting her girl and fighting for a better life, refusing to be judged by her boyfriends parents, to Marjorie always loud and happy, as a facade to hide what’s really going on in her world, this is so much more than a simple love story. One should never judge others, you never know their personal circumstances and their difference isn’t a threat. Our individuality is our strength and this book is a great reminder that love, tolerance and acceptance conquer all.

A true delight that I can only recommend! Get your copy now! It will leave you in a wonderful place! 

With love,
AGJ

Opinions are my own
Out 27 May
Published by Headline Review, an imprint of Headline Publishing Group


About the Author – Matt Cain

Matt Cain was born in Bury and brought up in Bolton. He was educated at state schools and then Cambridge University.
 
Matt spent ten years making arts and entertainment programmes for ITV, including documentaries about Freddie Mercury, Mamma Mia! and The Da Vinci Code, and profiles of Ian McKellen, Darcey Bussell and Will Young for The South Bank Show.
 
Between 2010 and 2013, Matt worked in front of the camera as Channel 4 News’ first ever Culture Editor, a role in which he attracted acclaim for his coverage of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Mercury Music Prize and the Turner Prize, as well as interviews with Grayson Perry, the Spice Girls and Pedro Almodóvar.
 
Matt’s first novel, Shot Through the Heart, was published by Pan Macmillan in 2014. The second, Nothing But Trouble, followed in 2015.

Between 2016 and 2018 Matt worked as Editor-in-Chief of Attitude, the UK’s biggest-selling magazine for gay men. Whilst in the role he negotiated world-exclusive covers with Sam Smith, Ricky Martin and James Corden, launched and hosted the popular #AttitudeHeroes podcast, and ran the Attitude Awards, hosted by Tom Daley, with winners including Prince Harry and Kylie Minogue. He also wrote exclusive reports on his personal experience of HIV prevention drug PrEP, homophobia in Russia, and life for gay people in China.

As a freelance journalist, Matt has written for all the UK’s major newspapers and appeared on Sky News, BBC Breakfast and Good Morning Britain. He was a judge for the 2013 Costa Book Awards and the Polari First Novel Prize in 2014 and continues to judge the South Bank Sky Arts Awards. He has been nominated for Stonewall’s Writer of the Year award and in 2017 was voted winner of Diversity in Media’s Journalist of the Year award.

In 2017 Matt crowdfunded his third novel The Madonna of Bolton, after receiving over 30 rejections from publishers, reportedly due to its gay protagonist and theme. The title reached its funding target in seven days, becoming Unbound’s fastest-crowdfunded novel ever. Pledges came in from 28 countries and the project was backed by celebrities including David Walliams, Mark Gatiss, David Nicholls, Lisa Jewell and Gok Wan. The Madonna of Bolton was published by Unbound in 2018.

Matt is an ambassador for both Manchester Pride and the Albert Kennedy Trust, the UK’s national youth LGBT+ homelessness charity. He’s also a patron of LGBT History Month. 

He lives in London.



Luster by Raven Leilani

What a sucker punch!

I listened to the audiobook last month, courtesy of NetGalley and Macmillan Audio UK (thank you very much!) and I do understand why it was long listed for the women’s prize for fiction, but more importantly why it won the Dylan Thomas prize! Congratulations Raven, well deserved!!

— Synopsis —

Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family.

Razor sharp, provocatively page-turning and surprisingly tender, Luster by Raven Leilani is a painfully funny debut about what it means to be young now.

— Review —

What are you ready to endure to be loved ? To feel some sort of connection?

Edie is young, broke and doesn’t know what she wants. She’s an artist, she’s struggling, she could be so much more but she just doesn’t know it yet. She doesn’t have anyone who can help her, no family or friends to tell her that she’s worth something so she goes for the worst kind of men and accepts all sorts of horrifying behavior, just to feel something.

She is desperate to find her place in the world, but her job is all but fulfilling, and the relationships she tries to cultivate all seem to turn from bad to worse.

Then, she meets Eric through a dating app. He is married but his wife Rebecca has agreed he could have someone else on the side, under certain rules and conditions… which turns into the zaniest of situation!

Raven’s writing is so clever! She broaches heavy subjects such as class, race, alcoholism, depression in a very subtle fashion.

Crude, poetic, dark and funny, this is such a compelling story.

It makes you feel so uncomfortable, but at the same time hopeful, sad, and laughing out loud.

Through totally madcap situations, Raven go through the extremes to depict how hard it can be to belong somewhere, to find a way through life. Witty and raw, this is a must read (or in this case a “must- listen”!) 

AGJ

TW: depression, sex, violence, racism.

Opinions are my own

Out now
Published by Pan Macmillan

A MAN NAMED DOLL by Jonathan Ames – BLOG TOUR

Thank you very much to Tara @Midas PR and Pushkin Press for having me on this blog tour!

–Synopsis–

Happy Doll is a charming, if occasionally inexpert, private detective living just one sheer cliff beneath the glass houses of Mulholland Drive with his beloved half-Chihuahua half-Terrier, George.

A veteran of both the Navy and LAPD, Doll now works through the night at a local Thai spa that offers its clients a number of special services. Armed with his sixteen-inch steel telescope baton, biting dry humour, and just a bit of a hero complex, the ex-cop sets out to protect the mostly undocumented immigrant women who work there from clients who won’t take “no” for an answer.

Doll gets by just fine following his two basic rules: bark loudly and act first. But when things get out-of-hand with one particularly violent patron, even he finds himself wildly out of his depth.

A MAN NAMED DOLL is a highly addictive and completely unpredictable joyride through the sensuous and violent streets of LA – and a scathing indictment of the corruption, vanity, and inequality that plagues it.

–Review–

So refreshing!

I am a fan of crime fiction and this one didn’t disappoint. It has all the ingredients of a dark and twisted crime novel, with the added bonus of noir humour… Brilliant!

Happy Doll, also referred to as Hank or Hap, is the perfect anti-hero. He’s got some attributes such as strength and deduction, but it all goes wrong. He’s not yet hit rock bottom in his life but he’s about to.

Murphy’s Law catches up to him when his best friend Lou (Shelton) asks him for a kidney, and ends up dead 24 hours later. Doll will stop at nothing to find out what happened even if everything starts to unravel. You follow Doll through the rabbit hole that never seems to end.

My logic was stoned logic; everything I was doing was smart if you were stupid”

As flawed as he is endearing, there is so much depth to Doll’s character despite his facade. With his mother dying during childbirth, being raised by a mocking and unloving father has left its scars. He is committed to getting better though, and is going to therapy (4 times a week).

But despite it all, Happy really tries. He is most loyal to the one relationship in his life, and the most important: the one with George, his unconditionally loving and faithful dog, as happy as its master’s name!

Unfortunate deaths, near misses, violence, disfigurement, absurdity, sarcasm, satire, I could go on and on about the variety of subjects you get to experience whilst reading this book.

A really quick and easy read, that I highly recommend – to be experienced with a pinch (or two!) of salt – I cannot wait for the next books in the series.

There is also a Spotify Playlist (https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4vA6JKnFQPo2qHbKlcD3jK?si=6AbsNGW1QwecpygPqJWxOw) available that I strongly recommend listing to whilst reading. Enjoy!

AGJ

Don’t forget to check out the thoughts of my fellow bloggers on the tour!



–About the Author – Jonathan Ames–



Novelist, essayist, creator of the beloved TV series Bored to Death and Blunt Talk, Jonathan Ames is celebrated not only for his comic sensibilities and devotion to the absurd but for his lurid attraction to inner demons. He is the author of nine books including Wake Up, Sir!The Extra Man and You Were Never Really Here, all published by Pushkin Press. You Were Never Really Here was adapted for an award-winning film, starring Joaquin Phoenix, by Lynne Ramsay.
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A Man Named Doll, published by Pushkin Press Vertigo on 29 April 2021.

Opinions are my own

FRIDGE by Emma Zadow – BLOG TOUR

I am really excited to be posting about this intriguing playscript today, as it is my stop on the blog tour organised by the great people at Renard Press. Special thanks to Will for having me on board.

Synopsis

Alice hasn’t been home for a while – for seven years, in fact. But when her little sister Lo tries to take her own life, she has to return to the life she left behind. The change of scenery from London to Norfolk proves quite the culture shock, however, and Alice has to confront what she left behind all those years ago.

The sisters’ relationship hasn’t evolved in Alice’s absence, and when she steps through the door she’s plunged back into the same world she escaped from. Set against Norfolk’s bleak landscapes, but masquerading as childhood nostalgia, Fridge is an all-too-familiar exploration of the broken promises of youth, and a bitter exposition of a generation left behind.

Review

As my first playscript review, I truly hope that I have captured enough below to do it justice.

This play is the proof that you don’t need much to make a great story: 3 characters and 1 fridge.

In the wittier of fashions, through references to Disney, tales, music and drinks, Emma transports you back to the 90s and makes you feel nostalgic and certainly in need of escapism.

It’s suffocating, it’s deep and cringey, it’s brilliant.

I read it several times and I just loved discovering new layers, new depth and subtleties after each read.

Lo is struggling with mental illness and depression but has no one to help and support her. She just needs to be loved, and even though Charlie has been the one constant, the anchor, he has always loved Alice.

Alice. She wanted more than this Norfolk life, so she left. She left for London and escaped. She needed it, as much as Lo needed to escape too, even if she tried to do so by very different means.

Alice has had to assume too many different roles: friend, sister, mother. After some reprieve she is now right back in the middle of it all and reminiscing. Nothing has changed, but can it ever? Is there hope that things can get better? You get to embark on the reverie of what once was and what could be.

More importantly: the fridge. What a clever metaphor. The fridge is always there, literally or figuratively depending on the scenes.

It represents so many different things. Sometimes a bus shelter, sometimes a TV, it is so much more than just a prop. As much of a comfort place as it is a prison, it is the key to the whole story. The present, the past and the future, the hiding place and the portal to a different world, a different time, the happiness and the sadness, the escape.

As Emma herself mentioned in an interview, the fridge is there and its meaning left to everyone’s imagination.

Alternating dark and funny, emotional and blunt, the dialogue is well thought through, the protagonists are wonderfully complex, and I have to admit I would really love to see this play!

It took me back to my theater years with my friends, and gosh I miss those days!

I can’t wait for theaters to reopen and to be able to go and enjoy the show.

Out now with Renard Press
Order your copy here: https://renardpress.com/books/fridge-limited-edition-hardback/

About the author – Emma Zadow

https://twitter.com/emmazadow

Emma Zadow is an actor, playwright and screenwriter from Norfolk. She trained at Rose Bruford College as an actor, and her plays have been performed at the Arcola, the Old Red Lion Theatre, Camden Fringe Festival, Norwich Arts Centre and Pleasance Theatre. Emma is an alumni playwright from the Soho Theatre Writers Lab, and she was shortlisted for the ETPEP Award and Tony Craze Award. A BBC New Creative, her screenplays include the hit short film The Cromer Special and Jigging. Emma now lives in London.

Don’t forget to check out my fellow book bloggers reviews on the tour!

Opinions are my own.

AGJ

THE WITNESS by Terry Lynn Thomas – Blog Tour

Thank you very much HQ Stories for having me on this blog tour, it is always a joy to be able to read new gems in advance!

Synopsis

From the USA Today bestselling author, comes the second explosive thriller about attorney Olivia Sinclair who must solve a cold-case murder to clear an innocent man’s name…

HE SAW WHAT YOU DID…

Teenager Ebby Engstrom witnesses a murder – and then passes out. The next morning, he wakes in his bed with no memory of how he got there, and is told his mother was stabbed to death the previous night.

Thirty years later, the case has gone cold, with numerous suspects but no new clues – until Ebby starts having uncontrollable flashbacks to that night. As repressed memories surface, he questions his own role in the murder, leading to a dramatic confession and Ebby’s arrest.

Family friend and attorney Olivia Sinclair is convinced of Ebby’s innocence, but the only way to clear his name is to find the real killer herself. And it seems almost everyone connected to the Engstrom family had a reason to want Cynthia dead…

An unputdownable thriller full of suspense, perfect for fans of Gillian McAllister, Alafair Burke and The Good Fight.

–Review–

If you haven’t read the first one in the Olivia Sinclair’ series, fear not! You won’t be lost as Terry cleverly introduces reminders of what happened in the first installment.

And what a great second one! This time, Olivia is not accused of murder and she is trying to turn her life around.

A truly enjoyable thriller, I read it really quickly in 2 sittings (if only I didn’t need to sleep). Through amazingly fluid writing and a great story line, you get engulfed in the mystery until the end! A steady pace, nothing slow and nothing rushed. Perfect!

This story is so much more than just a chase after a murderer from a 30 year old case. Terry spoils us with gripping side stories that perfectly tie in together in the end! 

Who stole the mysterious gold coins at the time of Cynthia Engstrom’s murder? Where did they disappear?

The protagonists are really well rounded and full of secrets. Everyone has something to hide and you never know who will surprise you next.

Through the clever flashbacks and following Ebby, you are discovering the truth alongside him and you get involved in the story, rooting for him to remember.

What is his family hiding? What are they protecting him from?

What is Mark guilty off? Ebby’s awful brother is certainly not as innocent as he wants us to believe!

Who is this mysterious Leanne in Brian’s life? As Olivia and Brian’s relationship is evolving, has a new threat arisen?

Olivia is such a refreshing protagonist, she’s an attorney, she’s clever but she’s no action woman and doesn’t try to be, she’s authentic, genuinely nice and a great person ! We all want her as our friend if we’re ever accused of murder!

Really great story with all the required ingredients: suspense, romance, betrayal, secrets, family drama.

Another success for Terry Lynn Thomas which should delight the fans of whodunnit stories!

Out 23 April 2021 in e-format (Kindle, Kobo, or check out your preferred site)

Out 10 June 2021 in Paperback and Audio By HQ Stories / HarperCollins 

About the author – Terry Lynn Thomas

Terry Lynn Thomas is the USA Today bestselling author of six historical mysteries. The Drowned Woman (previously published as Neptune’s Daughter) won an IndieBRAG Medallion, The Silent Woman and House of Lies released to critical acclaim and became USA Today bestsellers. The Betrayal is Terry’s first foray into the world of domestic suspense. 

When she’s not writing, Terry likes to spend time outdoors with her husband and her dogs. 

Keep up with Terry on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/terrylynnthomasbooks/) Twitter (@TLThomasbooks), Instagram (@terrylynnthomasbooks) or via her website at http://www.terrylynnthomas.com.

Check out review from fellow book bloggers!

Opinions are my own.
AGJ

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