A Laughing Matter of Pain : Blog Blitz

A Laughing Matter of Pain by Cynthia Hilston

harrycoverHarry Rechthart always knew how to laugh, but laughter can hide a lot of pain that’s drowned by the bottle and good times. He grew up the joker in the early 1900s in Cleveland, Ohio, but as he enters adulthood, conflict splits him. His once close relationship with his brother, Erik, breaks as they come into their own and Erik goes off to college. No longer under Erik’s shadow, Harry feels he might finally shine and make others see him as someone to be proud of. Harry finds an unlikely comrade who understands how he feels–his younger sister, Hannah. Once free of high school, Harry and Hannah double date sister and brother, Kat and Will Jones, attending wild, extravagant parties during the years of Prohibition. Harry thinks he’s won at life–he’s found love in Kat, in a good time, and in the bottle. But all the light goes out fast when Harry’s alcoholism leads to disastrous consequences for him and Kat.

Harry thinks the joke’s on him now that he’s sunk lower than ever. He’s in jail. He’s pushed away his family. He’s a broken man, but in the darkest depths of a prison cell, there is hope. Can Harry rebuild his life and learn that true laughter comes from knowing true joy, or will he bury himself once and for all in this laughing matter of pain?


Superficially, this is a cautionary tale of a boy coming into manhood in the shadow of a clever and much-loved older brother. It maps his journey through the excitement of 1930s American prohibition, with illicit booze and bootleggers, parties and speak-easies, glamour and sleaze. Harry is out of control. He can’t see or accept how bad he has become, nor the seedy depths he is spiralling down. He hits rock bottom. It is from his cheerless and miserable jail cell, with the lies and pretence stripped away, he tells his story.

Deeper into the tale, we find this powerful and moving study is not of one man alone, but the story of many. It is the study of family; the dynamics of sibling relationships, the conflicts and tensions between parents and children, and the damage we inflict on ourselves and those we love.

BUT…

this is not a bleak story. It is liberally laced with light and love, and with hope and redemption. The author has cleverly and successfully adopted the speech and style of the period which conjures all those images we have of that period in US history. She writes in a way that pulls you until you become so invested in the characters you have no choice but to keep reading. We have been given a gem of a novel that is perceptive and thought-provoking, and readers should add it to their TBR stacks.


A Laughing Matter of Pain

Purchase Links

Amazon UK: HERE

Amazon US: HERE

 


Author

authorimageCynthia Hilston is a thirty-something-year-old stay at home mom of three young kids, happily married. Writing has always been like another child to her. After twenty years of waltzing in the world of fan fiction, she finally stepped away to do her debut dance with original works of fiction. Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful is her first original novel. She’s currently working on more books. Visit her website for more information.

In her spare time – what spare time? – she devours books, watches Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, pets her orange kitty, looks at the stars, and dreams of what other stories she wishes to tell.

Social Media:

Website: http://www.cynthiahilston.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cynthiahilstonauthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/cynthiahilstonauthor

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-Hilston/e/B01KSD8RPS/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1532102291&sr=1-1

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cynthiahilston

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/authorcynthiahilston


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Dangerous Waters – Blog Tour

Dangerous Waters by Anne Allen

Dangerous Waters 3D CoverTragedy seems to follow Jeanne Le Page around . . .
Can she really go through it again and survive?
She is lucky to be alive at sixteen Jeanne was almost killed in a boating accident which brought heart-breaking family tragedy. Now, fifteen years later, Jeanne returns reluctantly to the island of Guernsey following the death of her beloved grandmother. Struggling for breath as the ferry nears the island; she is overwhelmed by a dark foreboding as hazy memories of that terrible day resurface.
Only returning to sell her inheritance – her grandmother’s old cottage – Jeanne has no intention of picking up her old life. But the cottage holds a secret, dating back to World War II and the German Occupation, and Jeanne becomes drawn into discovering more. Then, soon after her arrival, a chance meeting with an old teenage crush leads her to thoughts of love.
Jeanne is forced to face her demons, reliving the tragedy as her lost memory returns.
When the truth is finally revealed, her life is endangered for the second time. 

Dangerous Waters is the first in the Guernsey Novels series

The Guernsey Novels

The author Anne Allen proudly presents an exciting prize draw to win a short-break to the beautiful island of Guernsey & signed copies of The Guernsey Novels, enter at end of review

Anne AllenDangerous Waters is a good story. A really good story. Author Anne Allen plays with genre; mixes it up, and slips seamlessly between them. This is romance, history, and mystery, but on so many levels – distant past, recent past, and present. She maintains a good balance on the whole, though I would have liked more of the distant past story, it’s  research, and piecing it together (but then I’m a historian).

The writing is too verbose for my taste, with irrelevant information and over-laboured issues. Examples:

  • Unless the dishwasher is ploy to introduce a character or an incident, and being used to move the plot along,  we don’t need to know anything about it
  • There is a lot of eating and drinking, but the  real food interest is the collection of historical family recipes and their modern reconstruction. An important catalyst in Jeanne’s story. By the time we get to their being cooked, I was bored reading about characters eating & drinking. Writing should have been confined to the recipes.

The Letters:

These are an historian’s dream! I appreciate that Jeanne is not an historian, but she is a journalist and writer. Who in their right mind would delay reading them?  Yet Jeanne does. This doesn’t quite fit in with her character and motivation.

AND YES  *head in hands* tracing ‘W’  IS a priority.  The letters and the recipes are the whole soul and centre of Jeanne’s book. It is their stories from the 19th and 20th centuries that give it a unique selling point, and thereby make it very attractive to a publisher. Equally, they are at the centre of this book too. An amazing opportunity allowed to just gradually slip away by the end (which came too swiftly). I couldn’t help but think that with DNA kits, Ancestry, Find My Past, and myriad of other sites online, Jeanne potentially had the chance to find someone from W’s family. DNA is a part of the story, but missed that vital and fascinating opportunity.

What I loved.

Guernsey Author and BooksAnne Allen’s genre mix is excellent, quite well-balanced, and works well. She doesn’t follow the easy path of an angst and issue ridden character where ‘misery loves misery’, creating morose people missing opportunities to make their lives better. Of course life’s experiences leave their mark, but her main characters generally take responsibility for themselves rather than sink deeper and further into their unhappy episodes.

Jeanne, Marcus, and Nick are great characters; well-drawn, rounded, and full-bodied, to pinch a wine metaphor. If we ignore the occasional ‘not so great’ dialogue, the interplay between characters is good. Jeanne’s inner monologue could have done with an edit, but its insightful, funny, and utterly realistic. I certainly felt an affinity with her on certain points.

There are typical romance novel teases. Will she won’t she? But I also loved the will he won’t he? I don’t know why, but at one point I half expected ‘A’ to appear full of remorse (or with an eye to the main chance, given Jeanne’s inheritance). At first Jeanne comes across as an easily manipulated young woman, but her development through the novel is subtle, and she soon shows that she had an iron rod back.

Molly and Peter are lovely, though more use could have been made of Peter. Molly is gentle and loving, though at times I think a little misguided. This makes her a lovely flawed human being, and she is certainly not a ‘substitute-mother’ trope. They’re Islanders, they know the people Jeanne went to school with and with whom her parents and Grandmother were friends. They would have heard the gossip and rumours, but little is made of this. This is an island community, people know things, guess things, and stories would have been flying around about the accident. Even so, they add an interesting perspective.

Historically, wartime occupation romances can be tricky things, and depending on the country, retribution against females was mostly violent and abusive, even towards the children of those relationships. Allen is no apologist. She writes fictionally about events that actually happened, and the character of Mrs Ozane was crucial. She came into the picture late in the day, but not too late. A lovely little old lady now, yet a very vibrant young woman during the occupation. What a lost opportunity  – in real life she could have furnished us with a fascinating tale or two from wartime Guernsey. Through her we get to feel the desperation and despair of the elder Jeanne, her fear of the consequences of her actions, but no guilt. Love is love. Although these things are merely touched upon in comparison to other parts of the story, she still tugs at our heartstrings, and we can only feel sympathy for such awful events in a terrible time.

There are lovely descriptions of the island, the walks on the beach, the countryside –  I’ve never been to the Channel Islands, but the author makes Guernsey a ‘must see’ place.

Then there is the garden. I could see myself there, in summer, with a good book. All the way through I hoped for something magical to happen concerning it, because young Jeanne clearly has some sort of sixth sense, and with all the herbs and so forth, it sounded like a white witches’ charm!  (And I wanted magic, damn it!)

Dangerous Waters a great story, and I did enjoy it. I just wish Anne Allen had a much better Editor. On the whole her writing is lovely, and she certainly has great story-telling instincts. It’s a shame so much was lost in the extraneous prose. I’m torn but for this novel can only give 3 stars while wishing it could be 5.

Please pick up Dangerous Waters and read it. If you’re unsure, try a sample from Amazon first.

I will never read Anne Allen’s entire series – not all the plots appeal to me – however I’m hoping that, with another five books under her belt, the editing skills have been honed. So I have chosen three that  do interest me, and downloaded samples. If I do read the books in full, I shall post reviews for them here, though it may be many months before I can.

SO WATCH THIS SPACE.

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Game Show : Blog Tour

Game Show by Allie Cresswell

Buy your copy here : £1.99

Imagine that for one night only you could do absolutely anything you wanted and get away with it.
Welcome to Game Show.
It is 1992, and in a Bosnian town a small family cowers in their basement. The Serbian militia is coming – an assorted rabble of malcontents given authority by a uniform and inflamed by the idea that they’re owed something, big-time, and the Bosnians are going to pay. When they get to the town they will ransack the houses, round-up the men and rape the women. Who’s to stop them? Who’s to accuse them? Who will be left, to tell the tale?
Meanwhile, in a nondescript northern UK town, a group of contestants make their way to the TV studios to take part in a radical new Game Show. There’s money to be won, and fun to be had. They’ll be able to throw off their inhibitions and do what they want because they’ll all be in disguise and no-one will ever know.
In a disturbing denouement, war and game meld into each other as action and consequence are divided, the words ‘blame’ and ‘fault’ have no meaning and impunity reigns.
Game Show asks whether the situation which fostered the Bosnian war, the genocide in Rwanda, the rise of so-called Islamic State in Syria and the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar could ever happen in the West. The answer will shock you.

This is a compelling and forceful book which I highly recommend everyone to read. As an historian, it took me to past events that I wish hadn’t crammed themselves into my mind all at once, but in the context of this book they are important to remember.  More of these later.

I found it difficult to get hooked into the reading at first. There are many characters introduced to the reader quite quickly, and repeatedly being engaged with one and then pulled to another could have resulted in putting the book down. The author’s writing however, is consistent, intelligent, and seductive; you want to know where these characters’ experiences will take them, so you must keep reading. The slow build throughout the first part of the novel reaches its apex about halfway, and from there on all the strands start to come together ever more tightly.

The characters are well-defined, and you will have mixed feelings about some of them, like others, and detest some. The overlapping of lives, and the stark contrast between the Game Show and its contestants and the wretched desperation of the family and people in Bosnia, are handled with unmitigated skill. The pace and tension build to a crescendo in one story, only to sweep you up and do it all again in the next, leaving you both mentally and emotionally exhausted by the end. Thankfully there are moments of ‘comic relief’ to ease your reading journey.

The question posed in the synopsis asks – could this happen in the West? Well it has…the Holocaust. Germany was a civilised land of art, literature, music, and more, and was no more anti-Semitic than many other nations. It took poverty, hunger, greed, a desire for power and someone to blame, coupled to an extreme political party and its leader, for people to turn on one another. Sounds remote? This book is set in 1992, but speaks directly to us now. Currently, we are in a situation where ‘poverty, hunger, greed, a desire for power and someone to blame’ are causing problems in many nations, including First World countries. So no, the answer did not shock, and Game Show goes much deeper than that.

The use and abuse of power against people has been repeated many times by the West just since 1945; Kenya, Vietnam, Abu Ghraib, are three that spring to mind, as well as the several waves of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. The use of rape as a weapon of war is well documented, and while it is right that this is an important theme in the book, I feel it was over-used. Sexual violence encompasses a broad spectrum, as does torture, and it would have been fitting to have included those too.

What the author does highlight most effectively, is the political constipation that allows these events not only to happen, but to continue to happen and to spiral out of control, with none taking action to stop it. Leaders can be caught up in the chaos, as demonstrated by the Stanford Experiment (see end notes and appendices in the book). They can also be so caught up in their political careers, busy cow-towing to political behemoths, they become too paralysed to do what they know is the right thing.

Game Show - Allie CresswellIn addition, the advent of reality TV and its repeated pushing of the boundaries of acceptability, is also most powerfully highlighted. To my mind, the author’s big question isn’t ‘could it happen’, but who will stop it? If we can treat our fellow human beings so viciously and brutally, then without restrictions and rules, it is inevitable that reality TV will continue to push boundaries. Where will it end? Allie Cresswell shows us a very real possibility ‘Game Show’.

As you may have guessed, this book touched me deeply. It is powerful and emotional,  BUT it is exceptional.  I highly recommend reading it.

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