Book Review: She’s Not Here by Mandi Lynn.

Book Review: She’s Not Here by Mandi Lynn.
Hello readers! I hope you had a better weekend than mine…at this stage I’m wondering if the common cold can justify a hospital visit, because despite a solid diet of day nurse, Lemsip and self pity, I still feel like I’m dying! Regardless of how rough I feel, I have managed to fight my way through the piles of snotty tissues to mae this week’s blog post, a review of ‘She’s not Here’ by Mandi Lynn. Mandi kindly sent me a copy of her book in exchange for a fair and honest review and as a fellow indie author myself, I am always happy to support authors and publishers! So what’s the book about?
Willow watched her father diminish in front of her as Alzheimer’s pulled him further away each day. When a fire creates the perfect disaster, Willow’s desperation to find a cure to the disease causes her to change Samantha Ellison’s life forever.

Treated as an experiment, Willow injects Samantha with a serum that mimics Alzheimer’s and deteriorates her brain. With Sam’s mental capacity declining at an alarming rate, it won’t be long until people start looking for answers. With Willow’s husband as the doctor, it’s only a matter of time before he uncovers the truth. The only question is whether he discovers Willow’s secrets in time to save the innocent life at stake.

shes not here reviewAs with all books, there are some good points and bad points. First of all, as someone with relatives and friends who have suffered from dementia, I am always happy to see books putting the topic in the public eye. Alzheimers is a horrible disease, which robs people of everything that made them who they were. Mandi has done a good job of describing the nature and the effects of the disease on the individual as well as the devastating effects on the people around the sufferer, those who have to watch their loved ones fade away. The relationship between Willow and her Father is a poignant one and her desperation to keep him tethered to solid ground even as he floats further and further away is an emotional read. Her loss and heartache is well written. It’s a difficult topic to tackle and I think the author deals with it sensitively.
The down side to choosing Alzheimer’s is that it is not necessarily an exciting disease to have at the centre of what is intended to be a thriller. It isn’t some unknown epidemic tearing its way through a city, wiping people out or something which requires a lot of medical action like crash carts and emergency procedures…It is the loss of memories. Whilst that creates a lot of opportunities for emotional scenes and development, it does not provide much ‘action’ so to speak. As a result, the pace of the book does not remain consistent and wanes for large portions. Moments like the fire at Sam’s home and the discovery of what Willow has done are far outweighed by hospital visits and blood tests and so the books storyline can seem stagnated and repetitive.
Another issue I found was the fact that none of the characters were particularly likeable. Sam’s Grandfather spends the whole book throwing a hissy fit, his wife is less than useless and frankly might as well not be there, Avery, Sam’s sister, thinks only of herself and instead of wanting to be there for her sister through her illness, she just gets irritated and upset by the impact the illness has on her.  Even Sam, an innocent victim in the novel, is not developed enough initially for the reader to feel a huge amount of concern or fear at her deteriorating health once Willow injects her with the serum and that leads to the most problematic characters for me: Willow and her husband Randy.  I accept that Willow is desperate.  She is clearly traumatised by the deterioration and eventual loss of her father and terrified of going the same way and I get that Randy loves her deeply, but these people swore oaths to heal and protect people not to destroy their lives.  It didn’t matter about any potential cure or the whole needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, what they did was inexcusable and flies in the face of everything their roles stand for.  I have trouble reconciling that Willow, having suffered so badly because of Alzheimers, would be so willing to inflict that pain on someone else or that two people who dedicated their lives to helping people would so readily throw them under the bus.  When they both receive a justifiably unhappy ending, I felt no sympathy, in fact they deserved far far worse.  I feel it would have been more realistic and far less selfish had Willow been fighting to save her Father from the disease rather than herself.  Maybe then I would have sympathised with her and her empathised with her decisions.
Saying all this, there are moments where the reader can see the true potential of this novel.  The decline of Willow’s mental health is a great thread in this story and I wish the author had drawn on this further.  I would have liked Willow to have really lost it, the true weight of the disgusting act she committed pulling her further and further into madness, (think “The Tell Tale Heart”).   I also love the whole who started the fire story line and again wish this had been explored more, the full effects of guilt and blame covered a little more.  It’s clear that Mandi is a good writer however and there are some beautifully written moments threaded throughout the book.
Overall, this is an original story and a good read exploring moral ambiguity, familial relationships and grief in a new and interesting way.  Worth a read if you fancy something a bit different.  I will award it 3 out of 5 stars.

A Response to Vulture and all the other Bookstagram haters.

A Response to Vulture and all the other Bookstagram haters.

There seems to be a lot of negativity and hate in the world these days.  I can’t open my social media or news paper without seeing someone somewhere bitching about something.  Frankly, the world has become a confusing and frightening place and I find myself genuinely anxious pretty much all of the time…it’s exhausting.  I won’t get into the politics, the wars, the racism and bigotry because that’s not what my blog is about.  My blog, as well as my social media platforms, are happy spaces filled with books, short stories, artists collaborations and all the nerdy things I love and want to share with you all, and isn’t that a lovely thing?  Surely no one could find anything negative and bitchy to say about myself and a group of people sharing photographs and posts about our mutual love of books?  That would be insanity.  Apparently not.

This week a Vulture article by Hillary Kelly became another in a long line of so called journalism, where the entire contents of the articles are just people moaning about how strangers online organise their book shelves and photograph their books (You can read the article here).  They organise their books by COLOUR you say, and not alphabetically or by topic?  Oh dear God, where is their humanity! They sometimes DRAPE themselves over a display of books for a photograph?  When will the madness end?  Frankly, the fact that this actually warrants any amount of word count on any news or popular culture website is beyond me…surely there is some actual NEWS they could report?  There are plenty of awful things happening in the world right now that could probably use the attention of a journalist or an article on a major site, but no let’s just be condescending to Instagram users, that’s way more important.  Also, the fact that these ‘journalists’ are so incensed by these bookstagram communities and their photo arrangements bewilders me…do you not have something better to do with your time?  Don’t you have a life?  Obviously not.

Boostagram 2For those of you unfamiliar with Bookstagram, it is basically Instagram for book worms like me.  It is a community of book lovers and avid readers, sharing images of their favourite books and recommending reads to one another.  Sounds lovely right?  And it is.  I have been a member of the community for a year and a half now and I have thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.  I have made some great friends, met some incredibly talented artists and illustrators, heard about some fabulous reads and developed by own artistic style with my own photos and account.  The community itself is a very supportive one, so when I hear pretentious jerks whining about how Bookstagram accounts like mine spell the death of all that’s good in the world, I get irritated, no more than that, I get angry.  So I thought I would write my own little article, addressing some of these very important issues (can you tell how sarcastic I’m being right now?) being raised by these various Bookstagram hating puff pieces.

1. Yes, we do in fact read books.

The fundamental aspect of Bookstagram, it being the bookish side of Instagram, an app entirely dedicated to the posting of photographs, is the photographing of books.  The very fact that I need to state that seems insane to me.  For some reason, these haters are extremely preoccupied with whether the book pictured has been read or not, as if somehow photographing an as yet unread book is some kind of mortal sin.  The fact is, the book pictured may not have been read.  It could have just arrived or been purchased, perhaps it’s on the Bookstagrammers to be read list, or perhaps it’s a favourite of theirs which has been read a dozen times.  My question is, does it matter?  What difference does it make?  Creating and maintaining a Bookstagram account takes a considerable amount of time and effort and I can assure you, people don’t do it if they do not in fact love to read.  Yes, the books are props in our pictures but books are also our passion and we love sharing that passion with the world.  Bookstagrammers do what they do because it makes them happy and they hope to pass on a little piece of that joy to others.  We all read.  Some read very quickly, digesting books at a rate of knots, others such as myself are slow readers, chipping away at our massive to be read pile one chapter at a time, but we all in fact love reading.  Why else would we spend so much time and effort on our pictures and pages?  We are passionate about what we do.  I have no idea why that irritates you so much- perhaps you need to find a hobby of your own?

2. Photos are meant to encapsulate a moment or a feeling.

One of the other issues people have with Bookstagram, is the manner of the picturesBookstagram 3 themselves.  The Vulture article mentions specific types of photos, some of which I myself have partaken in.  It mentions those images of beautiful women sprawled over a pile of books or an image of sock clad legs next to a pile of books and a cup of coffee.  Instagram is a photo sharing app and its entire purpose is to give a platform to people from all walks of life with all sorts of hobbies and interests- I can’t see anything wrong with that.  Part of the reason some images may be a little abstract, is because we, like everyone else, want to stand out.  There are millions of images out there and we want to get noticed.  Sometimes, that’s in order to build a platform, as with myself, or to sell items or promote a business or perhaps it’s simply because having people like our images makes us proud and happy.  Which takes me to my next point- we also want to take beautiful images.  Photography is a wonderful art form and whilst Instagram may not be lauded by the art snob elites, it’s certainly an opportunity for some of the most talented photographers to get their art out there.  Whether they photograph portraits, animals, home decor or books, they have worked hard to create an image they are proud of and want to share.  Yes, often the image has nothing to do with the books stacked neatly within shot, and yes, perhaps the Bookstagrammer won’t even mention the title of those books or their contents, but a photograph does not literally have to sell or explain something, sometimes it is merely an idea.  Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic” and sometimes that is what the image is trying to portray.  Not a specific storyline or book’s contents, but the magic and wonder that books in general possess.  The photos are supposed to evoke a feeling or encapsulate a moment and sometimes, they are just meant to be beautiful or unique.  Either way, if you like the picture then comment, follow the account, give it a like.  If you don’t, swipe on and keep your unwanted opinions to yourself.

3. Yes, we love a pretty cover but we don’t judge or exclude books based on it.

As previously mentioned, we work hard to take beautiful photos filled with beautiful objects, so of course, we love a beautiful, photo worthy book cover.  Asking us to photograph an ugly cover is like asking a beauty blogger to post makeup they don’t like or a fashion blogger to post an image of themselves in a skirt they hate.  The image is important, the aesthetic is important and I won’t apologise for that.  Saying that, I don’t just buy pretty looking books, the contents are the important part.  I also won’t reject a book because it’s cover doesn’t fit in with my page’s aesthetic.  I buy books or accept ARCs from writers and publishers based on the story, pure and simple.  So if I am reading and photographing a book with a cover that doesn’t fit my page’s style, I will show the inside title page instead.  The book still gets exposure, the writer and publisher still get their advertising and promotion and my page and image look pretty- it’s a win win.  Again, I find myself asking what about that is such a cause for frustration from these Bookstagram haters…literally, what difference does it make to you how I choose to photograph a book?  The answer is Zero.

4. Bookstagram is the death of the publishing industry.

IMG_20180511_102959_772I have heard this one a few times now.  People are whining that Bookstagram features the same selection of books, circulated en masse by large publishing houses that can afford such large scale publicity.  In a way, I can see their point.  I often see the same book in many of the accounts and yes they have all been sent by the publishing firms in order to publicise the book, but I have two points to raise.  First, this is smart advertising.  As modern technology evolves, advertising and PR companies have to evolve too.  In the good old days, a large advert in a newspaper was the way to get a product out there, but the majority of people now get their news from news outlets online applications.  There is the good old TV advert slotted neatly in the middle of a popular soap, but masses of people no longer watch TV live anymore instead choosing to stream from subscription based outlets like Netflix and Amazon Prime or from catch up channel applications.  Businesses have to evolve if they want to promote their product and Social media, bloggers and (dare I use the term) social influencers are a great way to do this.  Millions of people visit blogs each year (not mine unfortunately, but I am very grateful for my small audience- thanks guys) and there are currently 800 million users on Instagram.  That is a huge audience, if you can get its attention.  Publishing houses sending their latest release to popular Bookstagrammers, book bloggers and Booktubers makes perfect sense.  It gives them a mass audience, for the price of a book!  It’s just smart business and it’s a win win for us book worms because we get to read all the best books first and for free.

Second, Instagram gives a platform for small indie writers such as myself, as well as the big publishing houses.  I sent my book to Bookstagrammers and bloggers in order to get exposure too and whilst it didn’t magically make me a best selling author, it did mean that people saw and purchased my book who would have never previously heard of it.  Social media gives everyone an opportunity to have their voices heard, to have their art seen and their stories read and I think that’s wonderful.

For a long time, Kindle and e-books were outselling physical copies and people feared the end of books forever.  Now, books are back.  Sales are soaring and that is in no small part due to bloggers and Bookstagrammers.  We aren’t destroying the industry- we are helping to save it.

5. Keep your negativity to yourself.

Look, I understand that Instagram involves people sharing images publicly and in a way, asking people to judge and form an opinion of that image, I get that, but you guys aren’t just criticising the images.  You are criticising the community as a whole.  You are criticising the entire concept of Bookstagram.  You are criticising people’s hobby and past time, their passion.  This isn’t really about the merit of a particular image, but an attack on the community as a whole.  And that’s what it is, a community.

If you don’t like Bookstagram pictures then move on, there are plenty of pictures on there and I’m sure you are bound to find something you like.  If you don’t like my account or other Bookstagram accounts, then don’t follow us.  If your problem is with Instagram as a whole, remove it from your phone, stop visiting.  Us being us, doing what we do doesn’t impact you in any way.  It has nothing to do with you and the fact that me sharing an image of a book irks you to the point you feel the need to spend the time and effort required to research the topic, source images and write a whole article on it says way more about you than it does about me and my sock clad, coffee featuring images ever will.

We don’t want your negativity and judgement, so go pick on someone else.

Halloween Book Review: Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge.

Halloween Book Review: Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge.

Happy almost Halloween guys and ghouls! For this blog post, I am reviewing Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge, a book I had never heard of before until it was suggested for a group read along by my fellow Stranger Dream reps.  The chat is usually filled with discussions of all things creepy and scary as we are all avid horror fans, so naturally when we chose a group read for Halloween, it was going to be a horror book…and this one is genuinely the ultimate Halloween read.  Here is the synopsis:

dark harvest picHalloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol’ Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.

Pete McCormick knows that killing the October Boy is his one chance to escape a dead-end future in this one-horse town. He’s willing to risk everything, including his life, to be a winner for once. But before the night is over, Pete will look into the saw-toothed face of horror–and discover the terrifying true secret of the October Boy . . .

The book is set in a backwards little hick town in the middle of nowhere, run by a very shady bunch of corrupt and evil adults, where every Halloween they hold their own version of the hunger games.  All the young boys are starved for five days and then let loose on Halloween night with weapons, to hunt down and kill the October Boy, essentially a living pumpkin, as a twisted right of passage.  The only way to escape the town is to kill him and be crowned the victor, or so the boys think.

This is one Hell of a ride…with an incredibly fast pace and constant action, it’s a real page turner.  It’s also not a particularly long read so because I literally couldn’t put it down, I had it read in a day!  Partridge perfect describes action sequences and it means they book plays like a really great horror film inside your head.  On that note, if there happens to be any movie producers or Netflix executives out there reading my tiny blog, then please PLEASE turn this into a movie or show…it would be perfect!  It would be epic!

Despite the book not being long, Partridge manages to create a very real world filled with believable, three dimensional characters.  I can picture that town perfectly, with its dusty back roads and a church at its centre, meaningless building to a town full of people who abandoned God long ago, or perhaps a town which God abandoned.  There is the main character, Pete McCormick, an intelligent boy with a rebellious streak, determined to break free of it and there is the local law man, Ricks, a corrupt, cruel and violent man who rules the town with an iron fist and kills easily and gleefully to maintain the status quo.  Even the October Boy himself is portrayed to perfection, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you so I’ll just say this…sometimes the real horrors aren’t the monsters and ghouls, but human beings.

The entire storyline is incredibly original and it isn’t like anything I’ve ever read before.  Partridge is a truly talented writer creating an immersive and enjoyable experience for the reader from start to finish.  Overall, I cannot recommend it enough and I’m giving it five star!! That’s right- full marks!  Grab a copy now…you won’t regret it.

Unboxing: October’s Monster themed Wildest Dreams book box.

Unboxing: October’s Monster themed Wildest Dreams book box.

wdboxoctAutumn is finally here…the temperature is slowly creeping down, the trees are shedding amber coloured leaves and Halloween is nearly here.  To honour one of my favourite months of the year, Wildest Dreams book box have given their October box a spooktacular theme- We are Monsters.  So what does this monster edition of the book box contain?  Let’s check it out…

First and foremost, we have this month’s book and it would be an understatement to say I am particularly excited about this one.  The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke sounds like a dark and suspenseful tale:
Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are Boneless Mercies – death-traders, hired to kill quickly, wdboxoct4quietly and mercifully. It is a job for women, and women only. Men will not do this sad, dark work.
 
Frey has no family, no home, no fortune, and yet her blood sings a song of glory. So when she hears of a monster slaughtering men, women, and children in a northern jarldom, she decides this the Mercies’ one chance to change their fate.  

But glory comes at a price …

wdboxoct3Now that sounds like my kind of Young Adult novel and has been placed high up on my ever growing to be read pile…a perfect October pick.  But along side the books in these boxes, there is always an epic selection of bookish goodies as well and this month is no exception.  Alongside this twisted tale, there is a Vampire Diaries inspired bath bomb courtesy of Pretty Suds.  The bath bomb contains patchouli, vanilla, notes of rose absolute, orange and jasmine and it smells divine!  According to the label, releasing it into my bath will unleash the darkest of souls so I am very excited to see what happens when I plonk it in my bath!  Keep an eye out on my Instagram for a video and picture of the results!

Next, we have another delicious blend of tea by Rosie Lea Teas.  The ‘It’s a Monster’s World tea’ inspired by ‘This Savage Song’ is a caramelised pumpkin tea…yes you read that right.  As I sit watching the trees blow in the wind outside surrounded by flickering candles and the smiling faces of my pumpkins and other Halloween decorations, I literally cannot think of anything more perfect to drink!

But it doesn’t stop there my ghoulish guys and gals…there is also a bloody syringe pen, wdboxoct2perfect for writing down a tale of horror or for simply writing your shopping list (don’t forget the sweets for the trick or treaters) and as a little extra surprise, my very own Halloween tricky treat in the form of a pair of candy eye balls!  They did not last long after I photographed them and they were yummy!  Thanks guys!

Overall, this is by far my favourite box from Wildest Dreams…every item screams Halloween (one of my favourite times of year) and I am super excited for the book.  My rep period with this company will be coming to an end shortly and I am genuinely gutted!  With all honesty, each box has been a wonderful gift to receive through the mail.  If you are looking for a book subscription box, I really recommend this one!  They are well chosen, nicely packaged, great value for money and a joy to open each month!  Thank you for having me guys- you rock!!

Book Review: The Party by Elizabeth Day.

Book Review: The Party by Elizabeth Day.

Hello readers!  For today’s blog post, I will be reviewing The Party by Elizabeth Day, but before we delve into what I thought, lets start with that all important blurb:

the party reviewMartin Gilmour is an outsider. When he wins a scholarship to Burtonbury School, he doesn’t wear the right clothes or speak with the right kind of accent. But then he meets the dazzling, popular and wealthy Ben Fitzmaurice, and gains admission to an exclusive world. Soon Martin is enjoying tennis parties and Easter egg hunts at the Fitzmaurice family’s estate, as Ben becomes the brother he never had.

But Martin has a secret. He knows something about Ben, something he will never tell. It is a secret that will bind the two of them together for the best part of 25 years.

At Ben’s 40th birthday party, the great and the good of British society are gathering to celebrate in a haze of champagne, drugs and glamour. Amid the hundreds of guests – the politicians, the celebrities, the old-money and newly rich – Martin once again feels that disturbing pang of not-quite belonging. His wife, Lucy, has her reservations too. There is disquiet in the air. But Ben wouldn’t do anything to damage their friendship.  Would he?

Told from the perspective of Martin and his wife Lucy, this book moves back and forth through time, between Martin’s Police interview regarding some unknown dramatic incident at the party in question, and the past where we see how Martin’s relationships were formed.  It’s a very suspenseful method of writing, and I found myself eager to read the next chapter and the next, to finally discover exactly what happened at the party and what it will mean for the main characters.  This is definitely a slow burner, but I found it worth the wait.

At its core, this book is about relationships and the importance we put on them.  Martin strategically wedges himself into the life of his ‘best friend’ Ben and his elite family, as a means of bettering himself and his life, importance and status by proxy, but more than that, Martin finds himself drawn both sexually and emotionally to Ben as he struggles to accept his own homosexuality.  Then there is the cold and loveless relationship he shares with his Mother, one which profoundly shapes who Martin is and the absent relationship of his deceased father, unknown but always felt.  Lastly, there is the relationship with his wife Lucy.  To call their courtship romantic would be the biggest overstatement of the century, with both characters essentially settling, seemingly content to simply find someone who respects them and who will be there.  Lucy’s chapters are the most insightful of the book, as unlike Martin, she is capable of a huge amount of emotional intelligence and of seeing things from the perspectives of others.  She brings a level of humanity to Martin which is much needed, because to put it frankly, he comes across as a needy personality vacuum without Lucy’s observations.

It is also a criticism on the class system and of the power and influence that money and titles still hold over society today.  Ben is the epitome of the white, privileged, upper class Eton boys which seem to flood the chambers of Westminster to this day.  He is able to charm and win over anyone, he is liked by all, but at his core he has nothing behind that smile without his family’s wealth to back him up.  The party itself is filled with the typical Notting Hill set of trendy ‘it’ people and influencers, politicians and rich vacuous people whose sense of self entitlement and detachment from the real world is perfectly described by Day throughout- this is satire at its best.  But if you are hoping for a story about those elites getting their come-uppence then I’m afraid you will be reading the wrong book, for the conclusion is clear- money trumps justice every time.

There are a few negatives to this topic and the characters Day has chosen to create.  First of all, none of them are particularly likeable people.  Apart from Lucy (and I found myself irritated with her at points, particularly when she seems to simply shrug and settle in life), every other character is a total tool (I want to use stronger language to be honest).  Martin, the main protagonist, is the worst.  He is so utterly pathetic at points, so desperate to be loved, so desperate to be important and in with the ‘it’ crowd.  He puts so much importance on wealth and status, even buying ridiculously overpriced trainers simply because Ben bought a pair too.  His priorities are completely shot and it results in a character that I felt nothing but dislike and very occasional pity for.

Another issue I had was with the constant negativity of the book.  Martin in particular spends the entire book criticising and hating on other people, particularly at the party itself where there is no end of examples of loathsome people to bitch about.  It can at times make you as a reader feel cynicism taking over, but perhaps that was the point.  This negativity however is interpreted with some fantastic moments of action and these are the moments where Day utterly shines.  There is the event in Ben and Martin’s childhood where Martin took the fall for a fatal car accident, thus solidifying his place in Ben’s life, there is the ‘blow job’ scene at the party where for a moment Martin’s veil shifts and you see the real him and then there is the climax at the party which results in Martin’s interview at the Police station.  Day excels at these moments of action and it is then you see just how talented a writer she really is.

Overall, I found this book an interesting and suspenseful read and I would recommend it to anyone who fancies something thought provoking and writing with a sharp edge…think the Talented Mr Ripley or a modern Great Gatsby.  I would give it four stars out of five and definitely plan on reading more of Day’s work in the future.

Giveaway: Win a ‘My Chronicles Book Box.’

Giveaway: Win a ‘My Chronicles Book Box.’

I have just reached 9000 followers on my Bookstagram account and to celebrate and show my gratitude for each and every one of my wonderful followers, I have joined forces with the incredible ‘My Chronicles Book Box‘ to bring you an exclusive giveaway…head over to my Instagram to find out how to enter!  The prize is amazing and includes THREE books plus a whole bunch of bookish goodies!  The books included are:

diff kind evilA Different Kind of Evil by Andrew Wilson: In January 1927 – and still recovering from the harrowing circumstances surrounding her disappearance a month earlier – Agatha Christie sets sail on an ocean liner bound for the Canary Islands.
She has been sent there by the British Secret Intelligence Service to investigate the death of one of its agents, whose partly mummified body has been found in a cave.
Early one morning, on the passage to Tenerife, Agatha witnesses a woman throw herself from the ship into the sea. At first, nobody connects the murder of the young man on Tenerife with the suicide of a mentally unstable heiress. Yet, soon after she checks into the glamorous Taoro Hotel situated in the lush Orotava Valley, Agatha uncovers a series of dark secrets.
 The famous writer has to use her novelist’s talent for    plotting to outwit an enemy who possesses a very     different kind of evil. 

riviera expressThe Riviera Express by T.P.Fielden: Gerald Hennessey – silver screen star and much-loved heart-throb – never quite makes it to Temple Regis, the quaint Devonshire seaside town on the English Riviera. Murdered on the 4.30 from Paddington, the loss of this great man throws Temple Regis’ community into disarray.  Not least Miss Judy Dimont –corkscrew-haired reporter for the local rag, The Riviera Express. Investigating Gerald’s death, she’s soon called to the scene of a second murder, and, setting off on her trusty moped, Herbert, finds Arthur Shrimsley in an apparent suicide on the clifftops above the town beach.  Miss Dimont must prevail – for why was a man like Gerald coming to Temple Regis anyway? What is the connection between him and Arthur? And just how will she get any answers whilst under the watchful and mocking eyes of her infamously cantankerous Editor, Rudyard Rhys?

broken mirrors coverBroken Mirrors by ME!! Marie McWilliams: 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.

Along with these three books (A Different kind of evil being a hard back), you will receive lots of surprise bookish goodies!  So head over to my Instagram now and enter!!

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!