GOOD GIRL BAD GIRL has hit the top spot on Amazon USA - Crime Fiction #1, #2 and #3.
(and #4 in the UK)
#9 Discover Authors of Colour
This collection of essays has highlights that are cutting, provocative and highly entertaining. For those essays, I rate them a five.
These come mostly at the beginning and the end of the book where Gay is talking about her own hobbies and interests and we have an insider-view on how she thinks and how she sees the world.
I found her thinking refreshing, and in some ways it was a relief to hear a woman speaking these thoughts that are so rarely expressed in modern media.
Gay encompasses wide themes in her essays - for instance: race, racism, classism, gender discrimination, privilege, rape culture and feminism. Theses themes are all blended together and Gay was unique for me in being able to do that. I found her thoughts insightful.
There is a large section in the middle of the book where Gay picks out pop culture American television series and American movies. She spends a lot of time critiquing these and I found my interest waning. That's because I've never seen these series. Though Gay writes humorously, the wit was lost on me because I couldn't relate it to the characters and episodes she was describing.
Overall, I'd say the book is worth reading to catch Gay's thoughts and enjoy her wit.
I laughed out loud at her observations of scrabble tournaments and her opponents at these contests. She is daringly honest and anyone who can make scrabble outrageously funny certainly has talent.
When I was reading the book, I often felt I was listening to a stand-up comedienne, who was using humour to better make her points.
Gay is an author I'd like to read more of. I think she would be particularly good at live events/videos.
#5 Best New Crime Suspense Thrillers - Book Review
This is my second Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster book. (yes, you’re right, I haven’t read them in order at all!)
This one is fast, chilling and excellently written.
The hub of the story involves two killers.
We learn how they meet and how their relationship goes downhill. We learn about their obsessions, the pact they make together and the dynamics between them. It’s all complicated and gruesome/noir.
Max is a deranged killer. Nina is hopelessly in love with him and will do all she can to keep him, even to the point of… (well, you’ll have to read the book to find out!)
Then we have the police procedural side. Erika Foster spends large amounts of time battling her police bosses and fighting cut-backs in budgets.
She is let-down by colleagues and feels lonely and middle-aged. I felt genuinely sorry for her.
There didn’t seem to be much light on the horizon for Erika except her sister and her nephew and niece whom she visits in Slovakia during her recuperation.
The passages around Erika and her boss, Marsh, were particularly sad because he is trying to get back with his wife and Erika has no one.
There is also a heart-breaking passage where Erika is recovering in hospital and she has a memory of the child she decided not to have. For me, that passage showed the author’s real strength as a writer.
The plot is addictive.
I have to say, when I finished it, I wasn’t sure that I actually enjoyed the story. This doesn’t mean it’s not a good book, it really is. I think it’s simply that the killing duo were so ruthless and somehow depressing, and that, combined with Erika’s struggles made it a gritty read.
As I said, it’s fast, chilling and excellently written.
Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for providing me with a copy. This is my honest review.
#6 Discover Authors of Colour #BookReview
I’d heard varying views on this book and wanted to find out for myself.
Coates writes three long letters to his son. They come across as an out-spilling of the author’s own journey as a black man in America and his quest for understanding of the emotions, violence and policies that have come his way.
The book gives us Coates’ honest thoughts on many important issues – on race, racism, poverty, deprivation, privilege and its abuse, police brutality. He documents his own personal experiences. He tells us of the experience of his friends and family.
Above all, Coates is a student of life (he was taught to find his own truths by his mother). He is an observer and someone who wishes to plunge the depths.
He wishes that more progress had been made so that the advice he could give to his son would be more positive - that the issues he struggled with growing up would be less present today. That is not the case. There is little light on the horizon, not none at all, just very little. There has been very little progress.
Coates explains the pervasive fear he has always experienced for his own body – that at any moment his life could be taken on the streets. When his son was born he felt the same terror for his own child.
He discovered the beauty of black heritage, so absent in the media and schools. This was a discovery he made at Howard University, where the diverse black fraternity was alive with debate and dynamism and talent.
He became a reporter and said, “…the softness that once made me a target now compelled people to trust me with their stories…”. I liked that line a lot.
He tells us “…for 250 years black people were born into chains…”
“…transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton, and gold” – the founding wealth of America
“…the truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear….”
I resonated with much of what Coates had to say. It’s a timely piece, sobering and brutally honest.
Coates himself says that he has struggled with expressing love and softness to his son (my words) because he has been too terrorized by his own inability to secure the safety of his son on the streets, such that, every moment of life, he is fearful of loss and tragedy. This was the powerful lesson I took away from this book.
The flip side, in terms of the writing, is that I had expected more warmth and a more personal nature to the letters. As I was reading, I felt the author was speaking directly to the reader. This was not negative, in fact it was powerful, but it was not the expectation raised by the book blurb.
In terms of presentation, I have to say that I think the publisher would have been better to split the three letters into smaller sections, to give the reader time to breathe. Do not let this put you off!
As I said, a timely piece, sobering and brutally honest.
#5 Discover Iconic Authors of Colour
This was my first Langston Hughes but it won't be my last.
This is the story of Sandy and the people he loves. Sandy grows up in a poverty-stricken, African-America community in the post-slavery era.
Sandy's grandmother works dawn to dusk washing clothes for rich white folks. She ministers to the sick in the poor, black community. She looks after Sandy. Then there is Sandy's mother who is a domestic for a white woman, his two Aunts, both rebels in their own way and Sandy's father, Jimboy who is absent working on the railroads.
His aunts and his grandmother want Sandy to 'make something of himself'. Sandy does well at school and he has dreams of his own...
We get to know the characters. We see the detail of their daily lives and their toil, sacrifices and struggles.
Sandy (based, apparently, on the young Hughes) is insightful and kind. He understands a lot. He knows his aunts' secrets and his grandmother's worries and he does his best to navigate them.
Especially poignant was his desire for a sledge at Christmas when the family are barely able to put bread on the table. Then something surprising happens...
We learn what each person thinks of white folks (without bitterness).
We learn too, of the faith and strong spirit of the African-American community - who support and buoy each other up. This is particularly clear with Sandy - whom everyone wants to succeed.
A lovely book. Hughes gives us a gentle eye on the realities of that era.
#9 Discover Ten New Authors of Colour
Red Blood Yellow Skin by Linda L. T. Baer
This is the story of one girl's life in Vietnam.
She was born Nguyen Thi Loan in 1947 and she lived through three wars in Vietnam - between the Vietnamese and the French in the 1940s-50s, then the civil war between North and South Vietnam, then she is a young woman when America sent almost half a million soldiers to the country in the 1960s.
It's an incredible story, We learn of her life as a young child in rural Vietnam. We learn of her simple lifestyle and family traditions. We see how the fighting affected her family and neighbours. We learn of the mass exodus and flight to the south which left thousands homeless and starving.
We learn of how her family survived and the sacrifices they had to make.
Linda has such a strong spirit and she grew up in situations which are almost impossible to contemplate, yet she survived and found her own way, by her own initiative, by luck and by courage.
This book tells of events from the humble perspective of an ordinary person. There is no political agenda. It's a simple testimony. For that reason, it's an incredibly powerful and enthralling story.
Valentina by S. E. Lynes
This story is deceptively simple and surprisingly good.
There are three main characters - Shona, Mikey and Valentina.
I liked Shona. She’s struggling with her new baby and with her lovely new house. She's moved to the Scottish countryside and she's hundreds of miles from her friends. She wants to make her marriage work. She’s proud and doesn’t want to admit her new life isn’t working for her. Doesn’t want her new husband, nor her old friends and family, to know how alone and isolated she feels. Shone is also no push-over, as we’ll see as the story progresses.
Then there’s Valentina. Valentina is charismatic, charming and beautiful, and the new best friend Shona’s been longing for. But is Valentina really such a good friend?
Mikey wasn’t someone I liked and, as the story progressed, I liked him even less. He thinks he can have everything, and, for a while, he does.
The first part of this story was a bit slow for my liking. However, the author has a nice style of writing where Shona is talking directly to the reader and reflecting back on her choices. This feels very personal and deflects from, even makes up for, the slowish pace.
The friendship/love/hate triangle between the Shona, Valentina and Mikey, plays itself out in unexpected ways. Toward the end of the book, we switch from Shona to Valentina’s view point, and the story really becomes enthralling.
The tension builds throughout – going from innocent beginnings to disaster.
We had a lovely time in Barcelona - plenty of paella, tapas and a Flamenco show.
Then some fantastic days snorkelling at Platya d'Aro.
Here's a photo from the Flamenco show - they were wonderful musicians and, dramatic dancers.
It's time to say goodbye to our three lovely kittens.
They're all going to nice, new families. We are heartbroken to see them go.
#8 Discover Ten New Authors of Colour
The Orphan of India by Sharon Maas
We follow the story of Jyoti – told, at first, by her adoptive, British parents who cross Jyoti’s path in Bombay, India. After a tragedy, they are able to follow an exhausting procedure and bring the little Indian girl lawfully to England as theirs.
However, Jyoti's adoptive parents were never the ideal couple. Jack is a talented musician and teaches Jyoti, who has a natural love for music. Monika is side-lined. Then their marriage starts to go badly wrong and their dreams of having a child of their own may not, it seems, be sufficient to stop things going off the rails.
Jyoti will come into her own as a gifted violin player. As readers, we know her first love is for the sitar (an Indian instrument) and her private longing to play Indian music versus her success as a classical violin player, is handled masterfully by the author. Through this, we are shown Jyoti’s struggle with her life in England versus her roots in India.
Jyoti also has difficulties in her love life. As a little girl she falls for a young man who later comes back to her once she is rich and famous. They seem ideally suited, but what of the Indian sitar player who also entranced her? How can she ever reconcile her feelings for two men and two continents?
Jyoti must endure terrible losses and find a way to overcome her inner feelings of coming from nothing. She must learn to capitalise on her strengths. This is the part of the story which most captured my imagination and Maas deals with it sensitively and with profound insight. A very well written book in a literary style, that is far more than it seems.
Biopic Sharon Maas
Five things you didn’t know about Sharon Maas
1) I am a German citizen. Yes indeed. I first came to Germany in 1975, when I was 25, and married a German. I did not like it much and didn’t have an easy time getting adjusted – though I did learn the language pretty quickly. Again and again I tried to escape: to France, to the USA, to India--but it never worked out. I always returned to Germany. I even married another German after my divorce! And here I am still. Germany has changes so much over the last 40 years and now I love it, and feel very much at home and at ease. However, now that I am retired, I’m thinking of moving to a nice warm tropical country: how much are you betting it will work out?
2) I’m a social worker and my first employment was as a probation worker in Germany. I also worked with pre-release convicts in a halfway house in Boston, back in 1981. I had a long break to raise children and write books, after which I worked as a social worker in a German hospital. I had a second job helping young unaccompanied refugees in a home in Germany. That was the best job ever. But now I’m retired and have all the time in the world for my true calling: writing.
3) I was in jail myself! After hiking around South America for a year I was arrested for possession of a box of marijuana in 1972 – a long story I’ll tell someday. I was locked up for a couple of weeks, and then miraculously released. An experience that turned my life around…
4) My favourite book of all time is the Mahabharata, the Indian epic. It’s also the oldest and longest epic in the world. I thought it was much too long, that the main story got lost in the length, so I wrote my own version, hoping to catch the wonderful essence of that book, and self-published it. It’s called Sons of Gods. And I still think the Mahabharata is the best story of all time.
5) Apart from Germany I have two spiritual homes. One is Guyana, the country I grew up in. I wouldn’t change that for the world, as that childhood was simply wonderful. My spiritual home is in India, for it was there, as an adult, I found my bearings and my identity. But basically I just love being on earth, and feel that every country, every culture, is fantastic.
Thanks for talking to us, Sharon, and good luck with your latest release.
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