Happy Families by Julie Ma

Good morning and Happy Friday! Today I’m delighted to share an extract of Happy Families by Julie Ma with you, as part of the blog tour!

Synopsis

Three generations, two secrets, one extended family . . .

Amy is thirty-four and has just given up her glittering career in the big (Welsh) city to move back in with her grandfather, returning to work in the small-town Chinese takeaway where she spent her bookish and boring childhood. Why? That’s a secret she won’t tell.

Just like the secret of why her grandfather, Ah Goong, and her father, TC Li, haven’t spoken to each other in thirty years. Weirder still, they’ve lived in the same small flat about the takeaway for the majority of those years, with Amy’s mother Joan acting as their unfortunate go-between and buffer.

Now Amy’s parents have moved, leaving her in charge of looking after the old man. But then Ah Goong collapses in the street and Amy realises time is running out if she wants to play happy families again . . .

EXTRACT

Ay yah, what are you doing here?’

Lisa leans forward to give my mother a kiss and Mum’s shoulders rise up to touch her earlobes. All this physical affection must be the style in Lisa’s family, but I know it’s something my mother has only just learnt to tolerate.

‘We thought we would come and see how you’re get- ting on,’ says Ray. He has his hands in his grey trouser pockets and is rocking himself backwards and forwards on the balls of his feet. ‘And to check if you want a lift to the hospital to see Ah Goong. Visiting hours don’t start until six thirty so there’s no rush.’

‘Can you stop that fidgeting?’ snaps my mother. ‘Of course I want to see him. Who else is coming? If your father comes as well, do you think your wife would mind helping Amy look after the shop for a bit?’

We’re talking about Lisa as if she’s not here, in a language she doesn’t understand. It seems extremely rude, although it isn’t meant to be. To be on the safe side, we all take great care not to look in her direction in case she twigs. She doesn’t seem too bothered. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see she’s produced a tube of lip balm and is fish-puckering her mouth while applying it. It’s mesmerising, like watching a cat washing its face.

‘I’m sure she could do, if you like,’ Ray replies.

‘Are you having a laugh?’ I interrupt. ‘Dad’s not going to want to visit.’

I don’t know what’s come over me, blurting it out like that. Perhaps it’s the thought of being left in the shop with Lisa to help me out. I’m sure she’s great at picking out an ISA, but in this line of work she’s as much use as a toddler helping you with the washing up. Basically no use at all and just as likely to break something as clean it.

‘Why wouldn’t he want to come?’

My mother turns and glares at me. Ray flashes me the look.

You dared speak on the unspeakable matters, it says to me, leave it alone.

Sorry, my eyebrows reply, cheekbones flushing.

Luckily, Dad appears in the doorway leading out from the kitchen. He nods to us and Lisa starts forward to give her usual kiss and hug greeting but I spot Ray’s restraining hand on her arm and my brain does one of its turns of thinking in Cantonese, not English.

Sei gweilo sing. Bloody western ways.
Ay yah! What are you doing here?’ he asks.
‘Well, I work here,’ I reply. ‘I live upstairs.’
‘Not you.’ Dad turns his attentions to Ray. ‘Do you want to take something back with you?’
He means for their dinner. Dad’s a feeder. Food = love.

‘Not tonight. We were just coming in because we’re

off to visit Ah Goong in hospital and wondered if you or Mum wanted to come with us.’

My mother beams at Ray’s pretence that we’re a nice, normal family.

Dad has turned to pull some of the day’s earlier orders from the lethal looking spike on to which they have been skewered, and starts shuffling through them.

‘Well?’ my mother asks.

‘Hmmm? I don’t have time now. The Prawn Man is coming at seven to take the order.’

Every Wednesday, a rotund Taiwanese man comes from that well-known fishing port of Wolverhampton with his frozen van of shellfish to fill the orders that power a thousand chop sueys, chow meins and curries filled with the familiar apostrophes of protein.

‘Well then,’ says Lisa in English, turning towards Ray, ‘it looks like it’s just you, me and your mum then.’

How did she work that out?

Happy Families by Julie Ma is published 18th February 2021 by Welbeck, priced £8.99 in paperback original. My thanks go to Megan Denholm, ED PR and Welbeck for the invitation to the blogtour.

Until next time!

Sukhy xxx

Love Orange by Natasha Randall

Hello and happy Tuesday bookish friends! Today I’m delighted to share my review of Love Orange by Natasha Randall ♥️

Synopsis

An extraordinary debut novel by Natasha Randall, exposing the seam of secrets within an American family, from beneath the plastic surfaces of their new ‘smart’ home. Love Orange charts the gentle absurdities of their lives, and the devastating consequences of casual choices.

While Hank struggles with his lack of professional success, his wife Jenny, feeling stuck and beset by an urge to do good, becomes ensnared in a dangerous correspondence with a prison inmate called John. Letter by letter, John pinches Jenny awake from the “marshmallow numbness” of her life. The children, meanwhile, unwittingly disturb the foundations of their home life with forays into the dark net and strange geological experiments.

Jenny’s bid for freedom takes a sour turn when she becomes the go-between for John and his wife, and develops an unnatural obsession for the orange glue that seals his letters…

Love Orange throws open the blinds of American life, showing a family facing up to the modern age, from the ascendancy of technology, the predicaments of masculinity, the pathologising of children, the epidemic of opioid addiction and the tyranny of the WhatsApp Gods. The first novel by the acclaimed translator is a comic cocktail, an exuberant skewering of contemporary anxieties and prejudices.

My Thoughts

Love Orange has a cast of characters that really do drive this story; and there is one in particular that I REALLY loved to hate!  Hank, the head of the Tinkley family is an uptight, controlling misogynist, BUT his scenes are so brilliant that I just could not get enough of him!  Jenny, his wife, is also fascinating – her peculiar behaviour and increasingly strange mannerisms make for some hilarious reading; I just could not tear myself away!

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There are a number of important themes and aspects running through this book, the first being that the Tinkleys live in a “smart house”, something which affects them all to  a varying degree, and really made me stop and think about the control of technology on our lives.  The lack of communication between the members of the family adds to their dysfunctional aura and brings into sharp focus their somewhat irrational thoughts on gender and descendancy.

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Randall’s clean and fresh prose made this a quick and enjoyable read and really highlighted the dark humour within.

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With a fiercely compelling narrative, Love Orange is a veritable soap opera of a novel and I truly felt like a fly on the wall; listening in on the Tinkley’s, utterly paralysed by how their lives unravelled before me!

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Love Orange is out in hardcover and you can buy it here  Thank you again Quercus and Riverrun for my finished copy plus the invitation to the buddyread.

Hope you all have a lovely day!

Until next time!

@mrscookesbooks ♥️

Oh No, Bear! By Joanne Partis

It’s Story Book Sunday where I review a children’s picture book with my two daughters and this week one of the books we’ve been reading together is Oh No, Bear! 🥰

Synopsis

When a tempting smell drifts into Bear’s cave one morning, he wakes up HUNGRY.

 

Bear’s clever nose leads him to the delicious food . . . but it belongs to his friends.

 

Bear is sure he can resist.

 

Until . . . Oh no, Bear!

Our Thoughts

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One of the books we’ve been reading this week is #OhNoBear by @joannepartis 🥰

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This has a gorgeous bright an appealing cover!  The Littles were very taken with the big brown bear wearing a scarf 🧣 and coat 🧥!

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Oh No Bear is a really lovely autumnal looking book.  The beautiful illustrations are all oranges, browns and gold and there is certainly an air of being a bit cooler running through the pages.  So lovely and seasonal!

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The narrative is a total joy to read together.  The story of Bear having something very important to do, but getting repeatedly distracted by food really tickled the Littles and they particularly enjoyed shouting out the capitalised parts of the text on each page – with gusto!

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Charming, funny and perfectly seasonal; we loved Oh No, Bear and think you will too!

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Oh No Bear is out now in paperback and you can buy it here and our thanks go to our friends at Little Tiger Books for our review copy.

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Hope you all have a lovely Sunday!

Until next time!

@mrscookesbooks ♥️

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