Book Review: The Watch House by Bernie McGill.

Book Review: The Watch House by Bernie McGill.

Happy Sunday fellow bookworms.  For this week’s blog post, I will be reviewing The Watch House by Bernie McGill, a fellow Northern Irish writer.  So before we get started on what I thought, let’s find out what the book is about:

watch house review pic‘There are messages in the air, a closeness like the kind that comes before a storm, a listening, a holding of breath.’ It is summer, 1898, on the small Irish island of Rathlin and the place is alive with gossip. A pair of strangers has arrived from the mainland, laden with mysterious radio equipment, and the islanders are full of dread. For native Nuala Byrne, abandoned by her family for the New World and trapped by a prudent marriage to the island’s ageing tailor, the prospects for adventure are bleak. But when she is sent to cook for Marconi’s men and is enlisted, by the Italian engineer Gabriel, as an apprentice operator, she becomes enthralled by the world of knowledge that he brings from beyond her own narrow horizons. As Nuala’s friendship with Gabriel deepens, she realises that her deal with the tailor was a bargain she should never have struck.

The Watch House is a gripping story about the power of words to connect us, and the power of suspicion to drive us apart.

Set on the small and isolated Island of Rathlin, not too far from where I type, the story centres around the  real life use of the Island by the Italian inventor Marconi and his new wireless morse code technology.  The main character, Nuala Byrne, is our guide for the island along with its suspicious and superstitious residents, who finds herself falling for the Italian engineer Gabriel, sent to set the equipment up on the Island.

This wouldn’t normally be the type of book I would pick up…I’m not a huge historical fiction fan, nor am I big into romance, but I’m very glad I did.  Bernie is an incredible writer.  She is a word smith, a poet who has such an artful way with language, giving every sentence an almost lyrical quality.  There wasn’t a chapter without some beautiful or profound quote you would happily have embroidered on a pillow.  She is the type of writer which makes me very jealous due to her uncanny ability with the written word.

The book is incredibly well researched, with every historical detail accurately depicted and every square inch of the island and its caves brought to life.   I found myself genuinely interested in the Italian inventor Marconi and his Morse code technology to the point that I lost an hour googling him online.  It even made me want to visit Rathin island, somewhere which despite its closeness, I have never had reason to visit.  It is obvious to the reader, the time and effort Bernie put into writing this book and it is very much appreciated.

The characters themselves are incredibly real and believable.  From the curious, adventure seeking Nuala to her vile, spinster sister in law Ginny, I found myself genuinely engrossed in their lives and individual stories.  I enjoyed the switching of perspectives between these narrators, to see the world through their eyes and from their own perspectives- it really helps the reader connect with Nuala and to root for her happiness, no matter how futile our hopes for a happy ending appear.

The central themes of this book are well explored and carry as much importance and relevance now as they did a century ago.  The theme of communication is explored deeply in the book and is just as relevant today in our world of ever evolving communication technology.  The clash between the old and the new, the struggles of some to come to terms with sudden modernity is something else which we still see today, as many struggle to keep up with this constant evolution.  Indeed, even the idea of the corruption and interception of communication is explored, with devastating consequences for the lead character.  Whilst this book involves wireless morse code rather than the super computer I call my smart phone, the implications of messages being intercepted and corrupted, the power of communication and the benefits it can bring, reaches across time and raises the same questions and issues now as it did then.

Whilst I had some issues with the ending and the decisions made by certain characters, albeit with the best of intentions, I recommend this book to any fan of historical fiction.  I would give it four stars out of five!

 

 

 

Giveaway: Fancy winning a signed book & some bookish goodies?

Giveaway: Fancy winning a signed book & some bookish goodies?

Hello readers! I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of you.  Thank you for reading my stories, for following my Instagram page and subscribing to this blog.  Thank you for the kind comments, the likes, the book recommendations and most importantly, thank you for your friendship!  Because I have genuinely made some wonderful friends through this kind, nerdy, book loving community.  To show my gratitude, I am doing two things…first of all, for the next FIVE days, my crime fiction novel Broken Mirrors will be FREE on kindle.  Head over to Amazon now and grab your copy!  But not only is my book free, by downloading a copy, you have a chance of winning lots of bookish goodies along with a signed hard copy of the book.  Entering is simple- just send your proof of purchase/download of my free kindle edition to mariemcwilliamsblog@outlook.com and you will be entered into the giveaway.  So what could you win?

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The prize includes:

  • “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars” Oscar Wilde Quote print by The Literary Emporium.
  • Book Lovers badge set by The Literary Emporium featuring FOUR bookish badges: I like big books and I cannot lie, Well read, Readers gonna read and Fight evil, read books.
  • Frankenstein quote bookmark by Literary Emporium: “You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.”
  • Library Card notepad by The Literary Emporium.
  • Strange the Dreamer quote necklace by Fan Girl Pixie Jar: “Dream up something wild and improbable.”
  • Amortentia tea by Riddle’s Tea Shoppe.
  • Skull and Crossbones silicone tea strainer.
  • Signed hard copy of Broken Mirrors.
  • ‘I like big books and I cannot lie’ shopper.

So if you fancy a FREE crime thriller and would like the chance to win all of these goodies, head to Amazon and download your free kindle copy now! Terms and conditions below!

Broken Mirrors: When Marie moves from Belfast to London, she envisions a fresh start and an escape from a broken home. Once there, she meets Malcolm Carter, a charming, handsome man who sweeps her off her feet and gives her a life she could only have imagined. But Malcolm isn’t all he seems; he’s a criminal, a mobster and a murderer. Detective Fraser Duncan knows what he is, and he’s determined to take him down, but things get more complex when a rival and brutal gang leader appears on the scene, setting his sights on Malcolm’s empire. When Marie chooses to stay with Malcolm, regardless of what he is and what he has done, she starts down a path from which she can never return, and now she has been taken. Detective Duncan and Malcolm must set their differences aside and join forces in a race against time to save the woman they love.

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Terms and Conditions:

  1. You must be over 18 to enter this giveaway or have your parents permission.
  2. This giveaway if open internationally.
  3. To enter you must email proof of download/purchase of the free kindle copy of Broken Mirrors by Marie McWilliams to mariemcwilliamsblog@outlook.com.
  4. Only kindle downloads/purchases between 18th September 2018 midnight (pacific standard time) and 21st September 2018 midnight (pacific standard time) are valid for giveaway entry- sorry!  But you can enter as many times as you like, so get your friends/mum/boyfriend/wife/dog to download it too and send me a screen shot of proof of down load by them for additional entries.
  5. A winner will be chosen at random after 21st of September 2018 and will be contacted by Email.  If that winner fails to respond within five days, a new winner will be randomly drawn.

 

 

Wildest Dreams Book subscription box: Unboxing & Review.

Wildest Dreams Book subscription box: Unboxing & Review.

I received some wonderful book mail this weekend…this month’s Wildest Dreams book subscription box, the theme of which is ‘Survival September.’  This box is inspired by those nail biting Young adult stories of survival and the characters fighting their way through them.  In this post, I will show you what the box contains and review each item. Let me know your favourite stories of survival in the comments and remember, if you like the box as much as me, you can use my discount code MARIE15 for 15 %.

First up, this month’s Young Adult book is That’s not what happened by Kody Keplinger.  So what’s it about?

It’s been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah’s story–that she died proclaiming her faith.   But it’s not true.
I know because I was with her when she died. I didn’t say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah’s parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I’m not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did–and didn’t–happen that day.
Except Sarah’s martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don’t take kindly to what I’m trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what’s right. I don’t know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up . 

wildbox2I haven’t read anything by this author yet, but I am familiar with her work having watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) the big screen adaptation of her debut novel The Duff. It’s the perfect choice for this month’s box and sits perfectly within its theme.  The story sounds interesting and a little edgier that her other work and I am genuinely excited to read it.  Keep an eye out on my blog for a review once I’ve sank my teeth into it.

Now for the bookish items within the box.  Along with the novel, there is a ‘Caravel’ inspired whipped cream wash by Shimmer and Luxe.  It is called ‘Exquisite nightmares and stolen dreams’ and smells like sugared almonds.  I have to say, this genuinely looks and smells good enough to eat and having tested a little bit on my hands, I am super excited to lather up when I’m next in the bath…it left my hand feeling super soft and smelling like candy!  Also, that colour is just divine, rightwildbox3

Next, there is Hunger games inspired tea by Rosie Lea Tea, which is rhubarb flavoured Japanese green tea.  I am a huge Green tea drinker, and I just love rhubarb so I am particularly excited to sample this.  I had the pleasure of tasting Rosie Lea tea from last month’s box and I can say their teas are just delicious!  There are even some tea bags in case you prefer that method over a tea strainer, which is a detail I really appreciate.
Processed with VSCO with m5 presetLastly, there is the cutest book mark featuring the most awesome Sarah J.Maas quote ever from Throne of Glass: “I can survive well enough on my own- if given the proper reading material.”  Never a Truer word spoken.

The Wildest dreams boxes never let me down and as always, I am excited to read the book and I love the goodies inside!  Now, for a relaxing bubble bath with my whipped body wash…

Book Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.

Book Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.

Happy Sunday fellow book worms…for this post I will be reviewing Into the Water, the eagerly anticipated second novel by bestseller Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train.  Before we delve into my thoughts on the book, let’s take a look at that trusty blurb to find out what it’s about:

Just days before her sister plunged to her death, Jules ignored her call.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules must return to her sister’s house to care for her daughter, and to face the mystery of Nel’s death.

But Jules is afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of this small town that is drowning in secrecy . . .

And of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

This book centres around a small English town called Beckford, through which there runs a river, affectionately known as ‘The Drowning Pool,’ where “troublesome women” are drowned.  Many women seem to have lost their lives to its waters.  There were young women accused of being witches drowned there, women who committed suicide there and, as the blurb suggests, women who were murdered there.  The drowning which is at the heart of the book is that of Nel Abbott, a local woman who happened to be writing a book about the drowning pool and the many women who met their end there, much to the chagrin of the local residents who would prefer to leave the past in the past.  Nel’s teenage daughter Lena believes her mother committed suicide, but her estranged sister Jules is convinced it was murder, but which one is correct?

My first and biggest problem with this book is the sheer amount of narrators.  There are ELEVEN narrators (yes you read that right) all of which give their own perspectives and theories on Nel’s death as well as the various other secrets which come to light throughout the book- It is beyond confusing.  Each one throws out their own reliable accounts and red herrings into the mix and worse still, none of these narrators have different enough voices to truly set them apart from one another, and after a while, they all blend into one another.  At points, I found myself flicking back to previous chapters to clarify who was who and who did or said what.  As a result, storylines are rushed and characters left undeveloped and any suspense or mystery is lost.  Whilst I admire Hawkins’ ambition, sadly the whole thing fails to come together and makes for one confusing read.

My second problem is with the characters themselves and the fact that they are all wholly unpleasant.  I did not empathise or connect with any of them and as a result, when they revealed some tragic or traumatic incident from their past, I read it the way I would read their lunch order- with complete disinterest and detachment.  There are also parts of the book which feel clumsy, with important plot points and pieces of evidence sandwiched into chapters which might as well have read, “remember this, this is important to Nel’s murder.” Then there is the killer, whose identity is blatantly obvious from the second you are introduced, despite the dozens of red herrings presented by all of our unreliable narrators.  I have never read an author go to such pains to point out what a “good guy” someone was before.  There might as well have been a neon sign above their head reading “Killer here.”

But there are positives to this book.  I thoroughly enjoyed the excerpts from Nel Abbott’s own book and the glimpses into the witch trials, peppered with hints at the paranormal, I just wish this had been explored more.  There are also a number of interesting subjects touched upon within the book: the unreliability of our own memories, familial relationships, feminism and patriarchy, but because there are so many things going on, so many secrets revealed and narrator’s stories to follow, none of these topics are fully developed or explored.  It is also obvious from reading this book that Paula Hawkins is a good writer, with some beautiful imagery and descriptions which set scenes beautifully and left clear images in your mind.  Whilst I wasn’t a huge fan of this book, I have bought The Girl on the Train, so she has obviously left an impression.

Overall, it’s not a bad book, it’s just not a great book either.  I admire the author’s ambition, but think the whole thing falls rather flat and makes for a confusing and forgettable read.  I have no doubt however, given the huge success of Paula Hawkins and her debut novel The Girl on the Train, that this book will sell millions of copies, and it will find many fans.  I would give it 3 stars out of 5.

Have you read this book?  What did you think?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date on all my latest posts.

Edwin The Black: A Short Story and Artist Collaboration.

Happy Monday readers!  For this evening’s post, I have collaborated with an incredibly talented artist and super sweet person, Lauren Shepherd.  I first came across her incredible illustrations on her Instagram page and immediately fell in love.  Lauren is a motion graphics designer, illustrator and dachshund mom based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.  Her work features wildlife, wildflowers and bones and is both romantic and macabre…check her out and I bet you will love her work as much as me!  I wrote a short story inspired by her body of work and her unique style and she in turn created these stunning images inspired by my story.  I hope you enjoy it!  If you are an artist and would like to collaborate, get in touch and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with my latest posts!  Happy Reading!

 

Edwin the Black

edwin 2Edwin watched the child with curious detachment.  They were such odd-looking creatures, all exposed, pink flesh pimpling at the slightest sign of cold.  They looked naked.  This one was female, and what little fur she possessed was a fiery red, like that of his fox friend Orla.  She was called Lana, for that is what the child’s mother had yelled when the imp had wondered too close to the edge of the forest.

Edwin sat above her in his evergreen, only the tuft of red hair visible as she turned in circles over and over until she fell, dizzy and unsteady on her feet.  He could not fathom the purpose of such an action, perhaps it was some form of mating ritual?  Regardless, the child seemed to have tired of her games, and now lay still amongst the fallen pine needles, the deep red of her hair vivid against the brown, dead forest floor.  Within minutes, her breathing steadied and her eyes closed, a peaceful look passing over her freckled face.

Curious as to these large, cumbersome creatures, which had encroached so much into his home, he decided to get a closer look.  His black wings reflected the afternoon sun, as he swooped down beside her tiny sleeping form.  He landed without making a sound, and all that was audible in that moment was the slow and steady breathing of the fleshy lump which now lay mere feet from him.

He walked slowly around her, his yellow eyes absorbing every detail.  He could see she was well fed, her flesh coating every limb in lumpy, pink flesh.  Her skin was paler than others he had seen, and her eyelashes were the same red as her hair, thin enough to seem almost transparent in the sun.  He knew she was a child, as the adults of her kind towered above her, carrying her here and there and showering praise on her when she did the most rudimentary things.  Edwin scoffed a short quiet squawk.  He could never understand their pride at their young ones doing, in a year or more, what creatures such as himself did in a matter of weeks, perhaps less. The adults of this species seemed to be very easily pleased.

There was so much about the humans which perplexed and at times, disgusted himself and his kin. They took more than they needed, and often left destruction in their wake, and more than once he had witnessed their kind hurting each other for no discernible reason.  Yes, his brothers and he killed, but it was for survival, for food.  The humans seemed to them to be so needlessly destructive.  Someday, it would surely be their end.

Suddenly, the child shifted, her chubby arm moving towards Edwin, startling him from his quiet contemplation.  He jumped backwards without thinking, and without warning, felt a sudden and painful tightness around his left leg.  Looking down, he saw a thin wire attached to a wooden stake in the earth, and he knew it was one of the human’s traps.  They didn’t hunt like animals, they used tools and weapons.  They cheated.

Panic clawed at his flesh just as much as the wire hands, and he began to desperately edwin 1flap his wings, trying to fly free of the vice like grip he found himself in, but each movement only seemed to tighten its hold on him, and he felt his flesh slice as his blood oozed free.  Frantic, he looked around him for something he could use to free himself, and instead saw two large brown eyes staring at him.  She was awake, the human child, his desperate squawks of fear and pain had made sure of that.  It would only be a moment before she raised a rock above her head and used it to crush his tiny skull.  His short life flashed before his eyes, his nest, his Mother and the squirming, fat earth worms she would bring him as a chick.  The first time he fell from the nest, fear of death being replaced by the freedom and exhilaration of his first flight.  He wished he had mated, settled down and sired some young, but it was too late for regrets now.

The child reached her hand towards him, and even at her young age, he could see how easily they could wrap themselves around his fragile body and simply squeeze.  He thought about fighting, about pecking and clawing and spilling a little blood in exchange for his own.  But, he knew this would only bring the adults, and they would bring with them an even worse death.  He cursed at himself for his stupidity, his arrogance at sitting so close to such a dangerous being, as he felt the hand move around him.

He waited there for the pain, and the darkness that would surely follow, and he waited, and nothing came. When he opened his eyes again, he saw her there still, her eyes wide and curious, studying him as he had studied her. She sat so still, her hands by her side, and in one he realised, sat the stake, the wire noose.  Confused, he looked down at his leg to find it free. He was free.  She had freed him.  But why?  Why would such a blundering creature care about some bird which fell prey to its trap? No doubt, he would make a meagre meal, but why trouble herself with helping him when she could have ignored his cries and left him for another predator of these woods?

Some moments passed, the two studying each other, before she smiled at him, her eyes bright and wide. He wished he could have smiled back, but beaks do not allow for such gestures, and so he simply bowed his head and hoped she would understand it as thanks.  Then he flew to the highest branch he could reach, thankful his wings were unharmed.  He heard a voice yell the child’s name, and she emerged from the trees into the clearing, waddling towards it with eager excitement.

He watched her walk away hand in hand with her mother, and he thought hard about the days events, the information swimming amongst the other information he had collated over his life time.  These humans, they were feared, they were violent and destructive, and yet, this one had saved his meagre life for no rhyme or reason.  She had showed him kindness and for that, he was filled with an emotion he had never before experienced; something akin to loyalty.

And so, he flew, high above the two red haired creatures, one grown, one young, and followed them home. He would watch the child, and he would protect her as she had protected him.  He would be her guardian, for he owed her his life, and all debts in nature must be repaid.  He was Edwin the black, and now he was protector of Lana the red.