Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Mary Shields is a moody, acerbic probation offer, dealing with some of Glasgow’s worst cases, and her job is on the line. Liam Macdowall was imprisoned for murdering his wife, and he’s published a series of letters to the dead woman, in a book that makes him an unlikely hero – and a poster boy for Men’s Rights activists.

Liam is released on licence into Mary’s care, but things are far from simple. Mary develops a poisonous obsession with Liam and his world, and when her son and Liam’s daughter form a relationship, Mary will stop at nothing to impose her own brand of justice … with devastating consequences.

My Review

Mary is a social worker. She has no patience for all the red tape, the rules and the meaningless acronyms. She is also a bit of a loose cannon and many of her actions are increasingly bizarre due to going though the menopause. She has decided to leave the job that she has done for years but she has one last client and this client and his friends are causing her a lot of problems.

I don’t think she was a bad person, it became evident very early on that there were many people that she tried to do her best for. She appeared to be a good judge of character, wouldn’t suffer fools and the people who she felt deserved a bit of sympathy she would help in any way she could. It was these times when you saw the real Mary, the Mary who cared, the Mary who kept in touch with ex clients and their families years after she needed to. But she was also irrational, a loose cannon who was at the end of her tether with everything that was happening in her personal and professional life. And her life is about to get worse.

There are many believable situations. The clients who if you could, you would go out of your way to avoid. Knowing what they had done and having to put personal feelings to one side. The rules and regulations that are ruining many professions and the bosses who were unsuitable for the job. 

There were times when I was reading this book that I was crying laughing. I am one of those people who make no sense when I am trying to explain to others what I am finding so amusing. The usual response is a baffled look and silence. There will be many women who could understand everything that Mary was going through and will love every page of this novel. There will be a handful of younger ones who don’t know what they face later in life. Fully expecting, as one character says for a cure to be found.

It’s a very funny, quick novel that if you don’t mind a bit of bad language you will love.



The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Betty Stash is not a Beloved one of those lucky people for whom nothing ever goes wrong. Everything falls into their laps without effort: happiness, beauty, good fortune, allure.
Her little sister, the delightful Gloria, is. She s the one with the golden curls and sunny disposition and captivating smile, the one whose best friend used to be Betty s, the one whose husband should have been Betty s. And then, to everyone s surprise, Gloria inherits the family manse a vast, gorgeous pile of ancient stone, imposing timbers, and lush gardens that was never meant to be hers.
Losing what Betty considers her rightful inheritance is the final indignity. As she single-mindedly pursues her plan to see the estate returned to her in all its glory, her determined and increasingly unhinged behaviour aided by poisonous mushrooms, talking walls, and a strange dog escalates to the point of no return.
An exploration of domestic derangement, as sinister as Daphne Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, The Beloveds will have you wondering if there is any length to which an envious sister won’t go.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Beloveds doesn’t have many characters in it but really there was just one. Elizabeth, sometimes Betty, sometimes Lizzy is the only one who had a voice. And a deeply unpleasant one it was. The first few pages where I had a bit of sympathy for her didn’t last long. I don’t really have much idea whether any of her complaints were justified but I doubt it. She was either resentful to, or jealous of, everybody she had contact with. Gloria, Henry, Bert, her neighbours couldn’t do anything right. I would have liked to seen how they felt, especially Gloria, but it certainly added to the fascinated horror that you didn’t get to find out.
She is a brilliant. twisted creation and one I definitely wouldn’t like to know. Cruel, snobbish, critical and she had a very big chip on her shoulder. A creepy slant to the novel was House. I would never have the imagination to give a house a character but it is the second biggest in the book.
A big surprise when I started to read this book was that it was set in England, for some reason I assumed it was American. So village life near Bath combined with the more hectic life in London was welcome.
Maureen Lindley is an author I would read again.

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The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware – Review.

 

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About the Book

When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.

There’s just one problem – Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.

Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I always enjoy Ruth Ware’s novels so I was pleased be given the chance to read an advanced copy of her new book.
When Harriet, or as she prefers to be called Hal receives a letter that could make her life easier she jumps at the chance. Despite feeling that it wasn’t intended for her. But the risk that she was in at home in Brighton was nothing compared to what she faced in the now dilapidated home in Cornwall. The house that she goes to is nothing like the image that she had seen on a postcard.
A family, united by the death of their mother, but the undercurrent of malice gets more evident as the novel progresses. It’s difficult to tell which of them, if any, genuinely welcome Hal into their lives. Especially when the will is read.
I loved the way everything was described. The way the house had fallen into disrepair through neglect. Most of the rooms were cold, dark and unwelcoming, Hal’s bedroom especially. I had a vivid impression of a home that wasn’t full of happy childhood memories where everybody was loved and visitors made welcome. Instead this was a home where children grew up in fear of their mother and the housekeeper Mrs Warren. The mother only appears through memories and diary entries but they were a clear image of a woman who wasn’t able to show love easily. Mrs Warren does appear. It did feel a little strange that the family accepted her rudeness and lack of respect. But then I started to wonder what she knew.
I was a little dubious about the storyline involving tarot cards. I have always thought I would be too scared to attend a reading of any kind but the way it was described showed a different way of approaching it. I still wouldn’t do it, but I now think about what the cards reveal slightly differently.
I liked Hal a lot, she’d had a tough life and lost the only parent she had too young. I ached for her to be able to be close to her new family but not knowing who was a threat. For that reason I won’t reveal my thoughts about the other characters. Make up your own mind.
Recommended.

#Orionontour – Book Event at Trof Manchester.

 

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Last night I was lucky enough to attend the first ever Orion on Tour Event. It was held at Trof in Manchester’s Northern Quarter on one of the hottest days of the year. I had never heard of Trof but it worth a visit.

I didn’t really know what to expect but the event was a fantastic very laid back get together for authors, publicists from Orion, journalists, bloggers and anybody who worked in the book industry. I saw a handful of familiar faces and met a few new people.  and of course there were some free books, competitions, drinks and nibbles.

If you get the chance to go the next event which is in Birmingham you should go. You can see how much fun people had with the photos I am sharing.

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Orion-2Orion-4Thanks to all involved for a brilliant evening. Hope to see you all again soon.

Disco Sour by Giuseppe Porcaro – Guest Post.

 

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Today it is my pleasure to feature a guest post from Giuseppe Porcaro. I will share what the book is about first.

About the Book

A politician addicted to dating apps embarks on an existential odyssey to save democracy from being swiped away. In the aftermath of a continental civil-war, nation-states have collapsed, the European Union (TM) holds on, preventing anarchy. Bastian Balthazar Bux is a leading member of The Federation (R), the European network of civil society and local governments. Bastian has just been unexpectedly dumped through an app, the BreakupShop (TM) service. Heavy hearted, he just wants to drink, get on with work and forget his romantic woes. However, he discovers that Nathan Ziggy Zukowsky is planning to sell Plebiscitum (R), a dating-style app that is meant to replace elections with a simple swipe, at the same conference he is invited to attend in Chile. Haunted by the ghosts of his recent relationship, he finds himself without his all-important Morph (R) phone, just a few hours before embarking on his trip to try to save democracy. Will he make it to his conference on the other side of the world? Will he stop Zukowsky from selling his app? And will he ever find a way to deal with his breakup? “Disco Sour is a hallucinatory trip through a future which feels just a phone-swipe away. There are notes of Pynchon, Stross, Heller and Stephenson here, but this is very much Porcaro’s book. It’s wildly inventive, scarily plausible, and it’s also very, very funny.” Dave Hutchinson

SCRATCH NOTES FOR ALTERNATIVE HISTORY BUILDING IN DISCO SOUR

DISCO SOUR is an alt-history novel set in the near past (even if many people think it’s the near future). Set in a parallel timeline where Europe is hit by a civil war, it revolves around the story of Bastian, a dating app addicted politician, who embarks on an existential odyssey to save democracy.

For alt-history geeks, the events covered in the book span between 2008 and late 2013 in this parallel universe, but they are told from the point of view of the narrator-protagonist, who writes his memories from the future, in the late 2040s.

I had a great fun to rewrite a page of recent history and in this post I collect a summary of the scratch notes I’ve made to build the geopolitics of this universe. Not everything made it finally in the book, but it was a lot of fun writing it. No spoilers are presented.

So, the war. It all starts with the burst of the housing bubble in Greece in the late 2000s. The economy is pumped by money laundering and driven by massive urbanisation. The city of Thessaloniki explodes the first. People lose their jobs, anger is set towards real estate companies, or whomever is perceived guilty.

Before the war, national governments were emptied of their actual meaning, weakened by lack of funds, lack of political instruments, and outsourcing state functions to private actors. For example, there were there were no national armies, but private contractors were hired by the government for ad hoc operations.

The sparkle.

The death of a teenage boy, suspected to be raped and then drowned by the owner of the largest Greek real estate company sets the city on fire, circa 2008. People come on the street and set fires and barricades to building sites in the hood of Kalochori in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Kalochori is a symbolic place. It’s an economic free zone, operating under authorities independent from the domestic laws of its host country, these zones typically provide premium utilities and a set of incentives – tax exemptions, foreign ownership of property, cheap labour, and deregulation of labour, etc. – to entice business. Exempt from the law, labour abuse can proceed unchecked by political process. Free zones contribute to the hollowing out of the nation state.

The attitude of the Greek state after the accident is ambiguous. First, they don’t want to get involved in the riots. Police is deployed but they have the strict order not to fire against anyone. They act as a sort of interposition buffer within city boundaries and they just limit themselves to contain violence.

Pressured by the largest companies and the mafia, in virtue of the right to defend property, the government drafts a legislation allowing armed self-defence of building sites and free economic zones by hired troops. Most of translational real estate companies fearing a domino effect, they pressure Greece to make a case for a European legislation on the matter.

After an extraordinary European summit of Heads of State, a legislation is jointly passed throughout the continent: the Constructions & Free Zones Acts. The only thing that softens the legislation is the absolute prohibition to use armed air-forces and air-drones as they would easily go beyond the perimeters of the constructions and free zones.

At that point, the European Commission and the European Parliament issue a declaration against the Acts, but it’s a symbolic protest. As retaliation, Denmark, Sweden, the UK exit from the European Union and form a new “United Kingdom”.

Escalation.

All over Europe people see these laws as provocations, and they respond with provocation, spreading way beyond free zones and the largest urbanisation projects. They start smashing anything that vaguely resembles a construction site, including work in progress in the streets.

Cities become battlefields. The death toll in this first wave is considerable. There is only the will to destroy everything, rather than fight against someone specific. Also, provocation plays a big role. Students, local activists, normal citizens, can’t believe, at the beginning, that the militarisation is for real.

The first weeks are real butchery and confused. Often troops are hired by local contractors, that are either in charge of scaffolding, or the security of the site, other times they are hired by landowners. In the Free Zones, troops from various contractors operate, making it difficult to have coordination in the military actions.

The conflict peaks.

The organisation of different factions happens not along party lines or among fighting for a cause. But vendetta. For those within their family, their associations, their neighbours, that have been killed or injured by the troops during the first wave.

This is a simplified scheme of the parties in conflict all over the continent.

Private troops: they take the liberty to react to any attacks to their ranks, even outside free zones and building sites. These troops are directly or indirectly hired by Russians, Chinese and Arab companies, but it’s difficult to map the exact ownership of each troop deployed as there are many subcontractors.

Local armies: they formally fight against private troops and attached to city and other local governments.

“Rebel” troops: they are comprised by students, anarchists, citizens’ associations turned into various militias, etc. they also fight private armies, but eventually they also happen to attack building sites owned by local governments.

Negotiations and armistice.

Eventually, the war evolves in its third phase. More tactic, less bloody.

The various factions start to position themselves to gain only small victories on the ground. Everyone is looking at their own interests to leverage their stakes sooner or later, when the military phase will be over. It’s de facto anarchy, but it starts to be an organised anarchy.

Negotiations finally lead to the armistice and to the end of the war. Thanks to the peace talks everyone (except the already dying nation states) get something.

Local governments are granted large autonomy on the field, under compliance with the privatisation acts and the European fundamental law (they are the ones controlling the territory, run local police etc.).

Private companies get the privatisations concordat. Every service or good needs to be registered, copyrighted, privatised. This goes along with the empowerment of the European Patent Office, which becomes a very powerful entity, almost independent to the European Union.

The European Union receives the mandate to preserve the rule of law, draft the fundamental law and ensure a governance at continental scale.

Associations, trade unions, students, etc. get a share of the new decision making system, but they need to share part of this power with local authorities.

Nation states are blamed as the scapegoats of the whole mess – but anyway, they didn’t exist anymore in the form we use to know already since before the war – the armistice just recognises that the primary political entity in the continent is the European Union, with its administrative regions, city states, associate entities, etc.

Disco Sour Blog Tour Poster