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.

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?

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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!!

Soapgate: A joke or something to be concerned about?

Yesterday, I was travelling home on the train from a girls’ trip to Dublin when my phone began blowing up.  I opened my Twitter and Instagram to find the bookstagram community freaking out over so called “Soapgate” and I began laughing out loud like a mad woman at the many MANY hilarious tweets and puns on the Twittersphere (head over to Twitter and read through that hashtag now because some of them are hilarious…trust me, you won’t regret it).  But is this simply a joke or something more sinister?

tweet 9First of all, let me caveat this post by saying I haven’t read any of the series yet, although the first book sits on my to be read pile as I type.  Also, I am not taking a side on this particular issue, I am merely asking the questions and opening the debate up because I would love to hear everyone’s take on it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this scandal, where on earth have you been?  Basically, a company called Bookish and Stuff who produce bookish merchandise and book boxes has found itself going viral for all of the wrong reasons.  They had produced a fan box based on the ACOTAR series by Sarah.J.Maas.  This popular series of books has spawned tonnes of fan fiction and bookish art and products, so a book box whose theme centres around the books is unsurprising, but this particular box had a twist.  The box in question is called the ‘Illyrian Book Boyfriend Box’, the Illyrians being a warrior race of Faeries featured in the series.  The box contained such items as a fan fiction book filled with saucy stories and some risqué faery based prints, but the item that got everyone talking and spawned the now viral hashtag “Soapgate” was a penis shaped soap.  Yes you read that right, a soap shaped like a penis.  I won’t feature any photos of the soap here, but a quick google search or twitter search should help you find one should you wish to see it in all of its glory.  I have seen it and it is surprisingly detailed…in fact it looks like a small sex toy complete with suction cup to stick it to your bathroom tiles (I kid you not)!

This has raised several eyebrows, along with some concerns about the soap itself and tweet 5other items in the box as well.  First of all, many people, including myself, are under the impression that the ACOTAR series is Young Adult fiction, a type of fiction which targets children as young as 12 years old.  Apparently, it is in fact ‘New Adult’ which is intended for audiences around the late teens and early twenties.  Apparently, the series features some very naughty sex scenes and graphic sexual content not appropriate for younger readers.  I have seen plenty of young people featuring this book on their bookstagrams so perhaps it is reaching the wrong audiences anyway.  This has opened up a debate about the way the series has been publicised and advertised, with some people believing it wasn’t done responsibly enough by the author and publisher who should make it clearer that these books are not suitable for a young adult audience.  See this article for more on that issue.

tweet 2In turn, that has opened a debate about the propriety of the soap itself.  If children are reading these books, they will be buying this box or more accurately, having their parents buy them this box and I cannot imagine any parent would be too happy with that coming through the door!!  Bookish and Stuff have stated that they made it clear to customers that the book was for adults only, contained items of a sexual content and should not be purchased by or for those under 18 years of age, however I have seen several people noting online that these warnings and age restrictions only appeared after many of the boxes were already soldtweet 8

 

Thirdly, people are angry about someone selling fan fiction and the clear copyright issues that raises.  Sarah.J.Maas worked very hard on her books so is to fair, or legal for that matter, for someone to profit from the characters and stories she created?  The many fans of this author and series don’t think so and are tweeting their outrage in abundance.

The company Bookish and Stuff have released an official statement on the soap, as follows: “We of course know the debate about what really is YA series and if ACOTAR should be YA or NA it’s an ongoing discussion, one we do not control.  However the fact that the series contains multiple graphic sex scenes remains.  Our box was advertised and sold to adults 18+, we offered multiple warnings about its not safe for work and mature sexual content.  The infamous soap should be taken as the joke it is: a literal Illyrian wingspan, it even says so on the label.  These are sold as Bachelorette joke favours in the real world.  We want to clarify that they are for external use only, as instructed on the label.  But with everything in life there will always be those that are scandalised.  If the book scandalised you, it wasn’t for you.  Most of the feedback has been positive so we are going to concentrate.” – Yaira Lynn.

Whatever your opinion, this has certainly got people talking and the book box itself is sold out!  Please comment with your opinions and attitudes on the soap itself and the issues raised as a result of it going viral, I would love to know what you guys think.  But before I sign off, I have one burning question…Why is it blue?

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The Crowns of Croswald: Magical Book Box Unboxing & Giveaway.

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Hello Readers, I hope you are having a great week!  For today’s blog post, I was privileged enough to receive a Crowns of Croswald magical book box from the author herself, D.E.Night and I thought I would unbox it for you and reveal the magic inside.  Each box contains a SIGNED copy of Crowns of Croswald, which makes me very happy!  There is nothing more exciting than a signed book to us bookworms.  So what’s the book about?

In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret…

For sixteen years Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical. When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald’s mysterious gems. When Ivy’s magic––and her life––is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever.

Sounds great right?  I am super excited to read it, so keep your eyes peeled for a review down the line.  Along with the book, there is a truly magical artefact called the Glanagerie bottle.  I imagine this beauty plays quite an important role within the book and I cannot wait to find out how.  The best part about it?  It actually glows!  Yes this beautiful bottle lights up.  Along with the bottle, there is an explanation, a set of instructions if you will, about the bottle and its contents.  I won’t spoil it for you here, but needless to say it is the stuff of magic!  Along with these items you also receive a stunning print and a letter from the author themselves, both of which are just beautiful.  On a random side note, I am so impressed with the packaging for this box.  The Box itself is designed to look like it is made of sark wood and has old books along each side and the tissue paper your items come wrapped in is a newspaper cover featuring further clues about the book and the magical world in which its set.  I don’t mean to sound super old here, but I really appreciate the attention to detail with them and it genuinely helps immerse you in Croswald.  All in all this is a stunning box and one I really recommend to anyone interested in Fantasy fiction.

But I haven’t even got to the best bit yet…you could WIN your very own Crowns of Croswald box!  That’s right, you can get your hands on a signed copy of the book along with the other bookish goodies!  Just head to my Instagram to enter.  The Giveaway ends on the 10th of August- Good luck!!