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!

 

 

 

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.

Fox & Wit Book Box: Unboxing and Review.

Fox & Wit Book Box: Unboxing and Review.

Hello readers!  I hope you have had an awesome weekend.  Mine has involved a lot of playing around with my daughter during the day and negotiations with her regarding sleep and the necessity of it in the evenings.  I am tired and a little frazzled, but I simply had to shake it off and post the amazing book mail I received yesterday morning…this month’s Fox and Wit book box.  I am always excited to get book mail of any kind, but after last month’s fabulous box, I was particularly looking forward to receiving this one and I was not disappointed.  So let’s take a look at what is inside shall we?

fox wit 3a

First of all, can we take a moment to just take this all in?  Every item is just so amazing!  First of all, we have this badass travel cup and wooden bookmark both featuring this adorable Lord of The Rings illustration.  Featuring Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins alongside a quotation from The Hobbit, “The World is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.”  The fact that this features on a travel mug is too perfect, right?  I am 100% taking some hot tea on my next adventure and I love wooden book marks, so both of these items make me very happy.

fox wit 2aNext up, we have this gorgeous notebook.  The illustration features maps from our favourite fictional lands, like Neverland and Middle Earth.  I love the colours, don’t you?  Mary, the person behind Fox and Wit is a very talented artist and I just love her work.  There is also this adorable Hobbiton luggage tag which was immediately placed on my suitcase for future use.  I love it when Bookish merchandise is both beautiful and practical.

There is also the most beautiful smelling incense, which came with this adorable Peter fox wit 1APan illustrated packaging.  During my last unboxing I mentioned how perfect these labels are for bookmarks and in fact after burning the incense from my previous box, I began using the labels for just that.  I have received the second in my collectable cards, an addition to the box I really enjoy and last but not least there is this gorgeous enamel pin badge reading, “The Mountains Call Me.”  I love enamel pins and have an ever growing collection, of which this will become a new and wonderful edition!

Don’t forget, if you love the bix as much as me and fancy grabbing one if yoyr own, you can use my rep code MARIE10 for 10% off!!

Wildest Dreams Book Box: Unboxing and review of a Comic Lover’s Dream.

Wildest Dreams Book Box: Unboxing and review of a Comic Lover’s Dream.

For todays blog post I am super excited to unbox and review August’s Wildest Dreams book box.  I was privileged to become an official Wildest Dreams rep and this is the first box I have received as part of my rep period and I cannot tell you how excited I am!  This month’s theme is ‘Comic Legends.’  I love a good comic book film, so I am intrigued to find out what’s inside, and if you like it as much as me and fancy grabbing your very own box, you can use my discount code MARIE!% for 15% off!

WDbox 1First up, the featured book is ‘Catwoman: Soulstealer‘ by Sarah.J.Maas:

When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play. It’s time to see how many lives this cat really has. . . .

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking.

Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing’s undoing.

I always love a book where the protagonist is an anti-hero or flat out villain, so I am excited to read this.  I have also never read a comic book character novel, but I always like to be pushed out of my comfort zone and so, I am interested to see what it’s like.

WDbox 2Along with this book, there are a few bookish goodies.  First up, is a set of four comic themed candles by Taken Moons.  Candles are one of my absolute favourite things to find inside a book box so to find FOUR makes me very happy, plus they smell like heaven!!  There are four distinct scents: ‘Warbringer’ a Wonderwoman inspired candle scented with desert breeze, ‘Nighwalker’ a Batman inspired candle scented with jasmine, ‘Soulstealer’ a Catwoman inspired candle scented with cherry chocolate (and good enough to eat) and finally ‘Dawnbreaker’ a Superman inspired candle scented with sandalwood.  I wish that it was possible to embed scent on a blog post, because they smell delicious.  I also love glitter and sparkle so I just love these!

Along with the candles, I have received a bag of Gotham City tea by the fabulous Rosie Lea Tea company.  I have collaborated with this wonderful company before on a giveaway, so I am super excited to taste this tea, especially when I find out the flavour: blackcurrant balanced with Sri Lankan black tea and hints of vanilla!  Can anyone else say yum?  You even get some tea bags to use with the loose teas should you not own a diffuser, which I really appreciate!

Finally, to match with the badass Catwoman book, I have received a badass Catwoman bookmark featuring that awesome tag line, “When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play.”  I look forward to using it to mark the pages when I read the book (because dog-earing is a sin!! lol).

So that’s the box and I really love it!  I plan on burning my candles and putting my feet up with a sumptuous cup of Blackcurrant tea and my Catwoman book (keep an eye out for the review down the line).  As I said before, if you like the box and fancy grabbing your own, you can use my discount code MARIE15 for 15% off.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with my latest posts and if you like my photos, head over to Instagram and follow me for more (my handle is @mariemcwilliamsauthor).  Thanks for reading guys and have a great week!!

 

My Chronicles Book Box: Unboxing & Review.

My Chronicles Book Box: Unboxing & Review.

chronicles 4Hello readers!  For this week’s blog post, I am super excited to bring you an unboxing of this month’s My Chronicles Book Box.  If you haven’t heard of this book box, it is a British based book box available as part of a subscription or as a one off purchase.  They come in various categories, including ‘Crime and Mystery’ and ‘Science Fiction and Fantasy’ as well as one off boxes themed to particular books or book series.  I of course, chose the Crime and Mystery box…I am a crime fiction writer after all.

First of all, can I just say how stunning the packaging and wrapping for this book box are.  Upon opening the box, I discovered a beautiful envelope addressed to myself at my favourite reading nook, sealed with a Chronicles book box wax seal.  Inside, was a letter explaining the contents, along with a ‘newspaper’ style article with an interview from each author featured.  Each book was beautifully wrapped in it’s own brightly coloured paper tied up with string, which meant that it was like a present within a present! The whole thing felt very luxurious and special.  I really appreciated the attention to detail, so I wanted to note that before getting into the box’s contents.

chronicles 1Ok, now for the all important contents and the best part about that?  This box contains not one, not two, but THREE books!  Two of which are hardbacks, and two of which are signed!  As a book worm and book hoarder, I cannot describe how happy I felt to unwrap three new books.  The three books inside the box are:

‘A 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. 

I am particularly excited by this one as a massive Agatha Christie fan, so this will be promptly moving to the top of my to be read pile.  And can I just say, I love this cover.  This book came with a signed plate from the author, and as you know, us book worms love nothing more than a signed book.

‘A Shot in the Dark’ by Lynne Truss: After the notorious ‘Middle Street Massacre’ of 1951, when the majority of Brighton’s criminals wiped one another out in a vicious battle as the local police force enjoyed a brief stop en route for an ice cream, Inspector Steine rather enjoys life as a policeman. No criminals, no crime, no stress. He just wishes Sergeant Brunswick would stop insisting that perhaps not every criminal was wiped out that fateful day.
So it’s really rather annoying when an ambitious – not to mention irritating – new Constable shows up to work and starts investigating a series of burglaries. And it’s even more annoying when, after Constable Twitten is despatched to the theatre for the night, he sits next to a vicious theatre critic who is promptly shot dead part way through the opening night of a new play.
It seems Brighton may be in need of a police force after all…

This is the first in a new crime series and is a more light hearted take on a crime novel.  The reviews I have read say it has a great sense of humour, so looking forward to reading this one.

Finally, ‘The Dead Ex’ by Jane Corry: Vicki’s husband David once promised to love her in sickness and in health. But after a brutal attack left her suffering with epilepsy, he ran away with his mistress.  So when Vicki gets a call one day to say that he’s missing, her first thought is ‘good riddance’. But then the police find evidence suggesting that David is dead. And they think Vicki had something to do with it.

What really happened on the night of David’s disappearance?
And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself?

This wouldn’t normally be the kind of book I would reach for, but it sounds interesting and I like the premise a lot.  This book is signed as well, which makes my inner book worm very happy!

Along with these three books, I also received some bookish goodies.  First of, an amazing chronicles 2print inspired by the famous Hercule Poirot, designed by Teddy from TeddyandGoo.  I already mentioned how much I love Agatha Christie, so this print is 100% going up on the wall of my office.  Next, we have a set of story teller pencils by UStudio design.  They feature such well used literary phrases as ‘Once Upon a Time’ and ‘It was a day just like any other.’  I really like these, and plan on using them to write with.  Hopefully they bring me some inspiration.  Next, we have a gorgeous pin brooch inspired by the ultimate detective Sherlock Holmes, designed by Bonita at Nabu online.  The brook features a tiny silver scarf, violin, spy glass and of chronicles 3course his trade mark pipe, and will be adorning my jacket shortly.  Finally, there is a ‘Discovery of Witches’ print, designed by Beth from Eyes of a Fangirl exclusively for My Chronicles Book Box.  This print is a teaser for a book box themed around the ‘A Discovery of Witches’ series by Deb Harkness, available to order soon.

All in all, a really great box, packed to the gills with crime fiction goodies.  I have to recommend to highly and plan on ordering myself one in the future.

Book Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden.

Hello readers!  The weekend is almost over (I hope you had a good one), and whilst that can be a bit of a bummer, a new week means new reading opportunities.  For this evenings blog post, I am reviewing The Girl in The Tower by Katherine Arden, the second in the Wintersong trilogy (for the review of the first instalment, The Bear and the Nightingale check out my previous post under the category ‘Book Review.’).  So what is the book about?  Let’s have a look at that trusty blurb:

arden review picFor a young woman in medieval Russia, the choices are stark: marriage or a life in a convent. Vasya will choose a third way: magic…

The court of the Grand Prince of Moscow is plagued by power struggles and rumours of unrest. Meanwhile bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. Setting out to defeat the raiders, the Prince and his trusted companion come across a young man riding a magnificent horse.

Only Sasha, a priest with a warrior’s training, recognises this ‘boy’ as his younger sister, thought to be dead or a witch by her village. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, Sasha realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical…

I had high expectations of this book, because I adored the first one in the instalment, but this equalled it and more, seemingly without effort.  I am a huge fan of Arden’s style of writing, and she really brings the magic and peril to life.  When it gets to the big exciting moments, such as fight scenes, it honestly becomes difficult to pry yourself away from the book and I found myself drowsily reading in the small hours of the morning, swearing to myself that I would just read ‘one more chapter.’

Vasya, the main character, develops and grows further with this instalment, and I now feel as if I know her.  She has flaws and weaknesses like all of us, of course, but she refuses to shy from these, instead constantly trying to learn from her mistakes.  I love fantasy fiction, but I find that many of the books fall into the same tropes, particularly when it comes to the lovey dovey stuff.  Not so here.  The love story running throughout both books, grows with intensity in this instalment, and I genuinely cannot wait to see how it ends for Vasya and her Winter King.

The rich folklore, and Russian culture create the most fantastical back drop to what is essentially an adventure story, featuring one badass, independent young woman who refuses to play the role society has planned for her.  Quite frankly, I cannot recommend this enough…buy immediately.

For other book reviews, and pieces of original writing, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!!