Title: The Smash-Up

Author: Ali Benjamin

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Quercus

The Blurb

After years spent in the city, working with his business partner Randy on Bränd media, Ethan finds himself in the quiet, closed-off town of Starkfield. His wife Zenobia is perpetually distracted by the swirling #MeToo politics, the Kavanaugh hearings, and her duties to the feminist activism group she formed: All Them Witches. Ethan finds himself caught between their regular meetings at his home and the battle to get his livewire daughter Alex to sleep.

But the new, stilted rhythm of his life is interrupted when he receives a panicked message. Accusations. Against Randy. A slew of them. And Ethan is abruptly forced to question everything: his past, his future, his marriage, and what he values most.

Unrelenting in its satire, The Smash-up jolts you into the twisted psyche of successful brand advertising, where historic exploitation is only ever a panicked phone-call away. With magnetic energy and doses of comic wit, Benjamin creates a world of social media algorithms, extreme polarization, the collapsing of identity into tweet-sized spaces, and the spectre of violence that can be found even in the quietest places.

The Review

The Smash-Up by Ali Benjamin kept appearing on my Twitter feed. It was lauded as the latest new voice and a must read book and so I bought into the hype and requested it from NetGalley. Once again – because when so many people are singing a books praise – the Tweeters were right. The Smash-Up by Ali Benjamin is not a comfortable read. The dichotomy of opposing forces – Masculinity verses Feminism (not the traditional opposite of femininity) is central to the development of the story and what Benjamin has managed to do so successfully is give both sides of the argument merit. Her take on feminism is brilliant, moving, intense, heartbreaking and, at times, all too real. This is especially powerful in the stream of conscious ramblings of Zen. Meanwhile, Ethan’s helplessness and inability to have any control reflects the worries of modern man.

The Smash-Up really is a powerful story that generously lends equal importance to topics that invariably lack equality.

The Smash-Up by Ali Benjamin is available now.

For more information regarding Quercus (@QuercusBooks) please visit www.quercusbooks.co.uk.

Title: Last Christmas

Author: Emma Thompson and Greg Wise

Pages: 256 Pages

Publisher: Quercus Books

The Blurb

The perfect gift book, featuring the writing of Meryl Streep, Bill Bailey, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Colman, Caitlin Moran, Richard Ayoade, Emily Watson and others, to coincide with the upcoming movie Last Christmas, starring Emma Thompson, Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding.

When you think back to Christmases past, what (if anything) made it magical? Looking towards the future, what would your perfect Christmas be? What would you change? What should we all change?

This is a beautiful, funny and soulful collection of personal essays about the meaning of Christmas, written by a unique plethora of voices from the boulevards of Hollywood to the soup kitchens of Covent Garden.

Away from the John Lewis advert, the high street decorations and the candied orange in Heston Blumenthal’s Christmas pudding, this gem of a book introduced and curated by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise celebrates the importance of kindness and generosity, acceptance and tolerance – and shows us that these values are not just for Christmas.

The Review

I am sitting here on Christmas Eve writing the review for Last Christmas (I know that it is January the 10th as this goes live but I am trying to keep the festive period going). Admittedly, I don’t feel particularly Christmassy. Don’t worry, it will come. It will come later when I am in my new Christmas pyjamas and I have watched The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. This for me is what Christmas is about: being wrapped up warm and feeling safe and snug. Sadly, that isn’t the case for everyone.

Last Christmas which has been created by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise is a selection of tales from many different people, some celebrities others who are not famous but who are dealing with the very real issue of displacement and its creation has been to raise some much needed funds for Crisis.

The stories range from endearingly funny to absolutely heartbreaking and serve to remind us of how lucky we are and the true meaning of Christmas. If you are going to buy one book then please make it Last Christmas. The money raised from the book is going to help those in need.

Last Christmas by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise is available now.

For more information regarding Quercus Books (@QuercusBooks) please visit their Twitter page.

The People We Were Before Book CoverThe Blurb

If war is madness, how can love survive?

Yugoslavia, summer 1979. A new village. A new life. But eight-year-old Miro knows the real reason why his family moved from the inland city of Knin to the sunkissed village of Ljeta on the Dalmatian Coast, a tragedy he tries desperately to forget.

The Ljeta years are happy ones, though, and when he marries his childhood sweetheart, and they have a baby daughter, it seems as though life is perfect. However, storm clouds are gathering above Yugoslavia.

War breaks out, and one split-second decision destroys the life Miro has managed to build. Driven by anger and grief, he flees to Dubrovnik, plunging himself into the hard-bitten world of international war reporters.

There begins a journey that will take him ever deeper into danger: from Dubrovnik, to Sarajevo, to the worst atrocities of war-torn Bosnia, Miro realises that even if he survives, there can be no way back to his earlier life. The war will change him, and everyone he loves, forever.

The Review

Wow. What can I say about The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe? My mind has been blown apart by this novel.

Ok, let’s start here:

I was born in 1983. I was raised in Liverpool and I have spent my years trying to consume as much information and knowledge as I could. Yet I knew nothing about the war in Kosovo. Sure I had heard about it on the news but I was too little to comprehend what was happening. This book, The People We Were Before, has changed that somewhat. I’m shocked at my ignorance of a genocide that took place in my lifetime and I knew absolutely nothing about it. Nothing.

The People We Were Before could be described in many ways: a family saga, a romance, a thriller, historical fiction, war story. It cannot be pigeonholed into just one category.

Thorpe’s story focuses on Miro, a young boy whose family has just moved to the Dalmatian Coast with his family amidst the stirrings of political strife. The story develops along with Miro’s change from boy into man; the trials and tribulations that grown up life bring shakes Miro’s world to the very core and his life mirrors the chaos of the warzone that is developing in Dubrovnik.

Thorpe’s character development is tremendous. I truly felt the familial ties between Miro and his brother Goran, I enjoyed the friendships that Miro developed and I fell hopelessly for his love story with Dina. I became part of the story with them. When an author can so seamlessly transport me to another world I know that I am reading something pretty special.

Whilst normally I am a character driven reader it was the descriptions of the abject horrors of war that really packed a punch with me. The panic and the mayhem that Thorpe portrays in The People We Were Before is astounding. My heart was beating wildly throughout most of the book as I felt true panic for Miro and co.

The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe is the most ambitious debut I have read in a long time and fortunately for Thorpe she delivers.

The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe is available now.

5 Stars

The People We Were Before Tour Poster

27 Amy WinehouseTitle: 27 Amy Winehouse (The 27 Club Series Book 1)

Author: Chris Salewicz

Pages: 38 Pages

The Blurb

In 27: Amy Winehouse, the first in a series of exclusive ebooks, acclaimed music writer Chris Salewicz celebrates the life of one of the most talented performers of recent times. In an intimate mini-biography, he explores Amy’s artistic influences and inspirations, her ability to capture the imagination and her appetite for self-destruction. Salewicz provides a startling portrayal of the perils of genius and the true cost of fame. Must the ferociously good die young?

The Review

Chris Salewicz 27 series examines the lives of the talented musicians who all tragically ended up as members of the “27 Club” – a club so named because all of the members died when they were 27. Amy Winehouse is one such member.

Salewicz examines the highlights and pitfalls of Amy Winehouse’s life and all the eventualities that led to her death. He started his book talking about her death and poses the thought that admittedly I had thought at the time. Weren’t we all expecting this death to happen much sooner? Winehouse lived her life on a Molotov cocktail of drink, drugs and dodgy decisions. Yet one thing no one can deny is that she did things of her own volition. As much as we would all love to blame other people – her dad for being controlling, Blake for introducing her to drugs, the paparazzi for hounding her – essentially, like us all, Winehouse had free will and she chose the things that led to her demise.

I was – no, I still am – a fan of Amy Winehouse. Her albums – few that they were – drip with raw emotion, her pain and her truth; they are the verisimilitude of her life. Seeing her live was something else; you never knew which Amy you were going to get. I was lucky enough to see her three times. On one of those occasions she was majestic. The other two are best not spoken of.

27: Amy Winehouse is a fascinating read. It is not judgemental, it tells you what happened, it gives you dates and facts and figures. I think my one criticism is that it can come across as a bit cold. Others have written about this same topic and have managed to be a bit warmer. Other than this personal preference, I thoroughly recommend this book as a quick read.

27 Amy Winehouse (The 27 Club Series Book 1) by Chris Salewicz is available now as are the other five books in the series.

35 Stars

27 Amy WinehouseTitle: 27 Amy Winehouse (The 27 Club Series Book 1)

Author: Chris Salewicz

Pages: 38 Pages

The Blurb

In 27: Amy Winehouse, the first in a series of exclusive ebooks, acclaimed music writer Chris Salewicz celebrates the life of one of the most talented performers of recent times. In an intimate mini-biography, he explores Amy’s artistic influences and inspirations, her ability to capture the imagination and her appetite for self-destruction. Salewicz provides a startling portrayal of the perils of genius and the true cost of fame. Must the ferociously good die young?

The Review

Chris Salewicz 27 series examines the lives of the talented musicians who all tragically ended up as members of the “27 Club” – a club so named because all of the members died when they were 27. Amy Winehouse is one such member.

Salewicz examines the highlights and pitfalls of Amy Winehouse’s life and all the eventualities that led to her death. He started his book talking about her death and poses the thought that admittedly I had thought at the time. Weren’t we all expecting this death to happen much sooner? Winehouse lived her life on a Molotov cocktail of drink, drugs and dodgy decisions. Yet one thing no one can deny is that she did things of her own volition. As much as we would all love to blame other people – her dad for being controlling, Blake for introducing her to drugs, the paparazzi for hounding her – essentially, like us all, Winehouse had free will and she chose the things that led to her demise.

I was – no, I still am – a fan of Amy Winehouse. Her albums – few that they were – drip with raw emotion, her pain and her truth; they are the verisimilitude of her life. Seeing her live was something else; you never knew which Amy you were going to get. I was lucky enough to see her three times. On one of those occasions she was majestic. The other two are best not spoken of.

27: Amy Winehouse is a fascinating read. It is not judgemental, it tells you what happened, it gives you dates and facts and figures. I think my one criticism is that it can come across as a bit cold. Others have written about this same topic and have managed to be a bit warmer. Other than this personal preference, I thoroughly recommend this book as a quick read.

27 Amy Winehouse (The 27 Club Series Book 1) by Chris Salewicz is available now as are the other five books in the series.

35 Stars