Book Review: Bearmouth by Liz Hyder.

Book Review: Bearmouth by Liz Hyder.

Hello readers and welcome to my latest blog post.  This time I will be reviewing Bearmouth, the debut novel from Liz Hyder.  But, before we dive in and see what I thought, let’s have a look at that dependable old friend the blurb to find out exactly what this dark young adult book is about:

Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labour, the sunlit world above the mine a distant memory. Reward will come in the next life with the benevolence of the Mayker. New accepts everything – that is, until the mysterious Devlin arrives. Suddenly, Newt starts to look at Bearmouth with a fresh perspective, questioning the system, and setting in motion a chain of events that could destroy their entire world.

BearmouthI am not usually the biggest fan of young adult fiction but I found the subject matter and dark tone of this book very appealing.  Unlike a lot of books aimed at a younger or middle grade audiences, this author pulls no punches and refuses to sugar coat the harsh, grim reality depicted in the book.  On the surface, it is a book about friendship, loyalty and freedom but at its core it deals with the heavy subjects of capitalism, corrupt governments and organised religion with this novel being scathing about all three.

First, let’s look at the topics of capitalism and corrupt governments.  The system described in the book is a more extreme version of today’s society.  The poor are kept poor through low wages and the accumulation of debt.  The miners who work in Bearmouth are paid pittance and everything costs money, including their own equipment and clothing necessary to perform their duties, as well as a lift to the surface, so no one can afford to get out.  Management encourages further debt by presenting temptation to spend their money in in the form of alcohol, a welcome escape from the brutality of the mines but a perfect way to keep the men pliable and hard working.  It reminds me very much of the slaves of Egypt being fed beer by their masters.  The manager even sets quotas on a black board, saying continuously that they must increase productivity, even offering rewards (free beer of course) to the teams which gather the most coal.  Have you heard anything more capitalist?  Ignorance of the poor is also encouraged and the protagonist Newt is even told she is in trouble for her knowledge of writing and reading after one of her letters home is intercepted.  That’s another thing that seems strangely and scarily familiar about Bearmouth, the residents are spied on by the masters and any sign of dissent crushed as those who dear to question the status quo are labelled ‘awkward men’ and their already difficult lives made even worse.  When one of the characters Thomas dares to ask for a raise, his own bunk mates are offered money to spy on him and his friends.  A more modern version would of course be the interception of electronic communications by our own governments who have overstepped their bounds on more than one ocassion.  Any gatherings or groups are forbidden so any opportunity for rebellion or organisation such as a union is impossible.  The poor get poorer, the rich get richer and the divide between the two gets wider and wider…sound familiar?

Then there is the topic of organised religion.  The workers of Bearmouth are encouraged, bearmouth2and I use that term Kindly because it is more like forced, to follow a religion similar to most organised religions.  A deity, in this case ‘The Mayker’ created the world and the humans which inhabit it.  As the human’s proved ungrateful, they were punished and continue to be until a ‘sine’ is given that they are forgiven and set free.  All the workers must attend church on Sundays, the only time they are permitted to gather in a group, where prayers are spoken, songs sung and everyone asks for forgiveness.  Anything that happens, no matter how horrible, is ‘the maker’s way’ and should never be questioned lest you suffer his wrath.  The miners work themselves to death (literally) as they are told they will be rewarded in the next life.  The ‘Master’, the owner or perhaps manager of the mine, has been directly chosen by the Mayker himself and should therefore also never be questioned or doubted.

All the workers through their blind, unquestioning faith and loyalty to both the system and their religion, are easily controlled and manipulated.  It is only with the arrival of someone who dares to ask a simple question, to say a simple word, that others begin to question things themselves: WHY?

Bearmouth is a dark and interesting read presenting complex topics in an interesting and easily understood way.  Although the way in which it is written, with deliberate spelling mistakes, can be a little strange to get used to at first, I found it added to the naivety and vulnerability of the protagonist and allowed the reader to first understand why she does not question things and then journey with her as she begins to ask why herself, thereby making her journey and character arc seem more believable and relatable.  It is the perfect read for lovers of Young Adult looking for something a little grittier and different and I enjoyed reading it.  I would give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

**I was gifted this book by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.**

Unboxing: The Victorian Horror Box from Wick Wish Candles.

Unboxing: The Victorian Horror Box from Wick Wish Candles.

Victoriana1Well, it’s official, you can call off the search and stop the debates because this box is officially the best subscription box I have ever received, EVER.  I may be slightly biased, because I am featured inside this one, well one of my original short stories is anyway, but  facts are facts and this box is basically perfection.  Every item is stunning, everything is packed and presented perfectly and when the spoiler card is essentially frame worthy, you know you’re on to a winner.  If you are a fan of horror, or all things Gothic or Victorian, then this box of wonders brought to you by The Wick Wish Candle Company is basically everything you’ve ever dreamed of.  So, since we have slid quietly into the autumn and as the nights grow darker and the air a little cooler, let’s sit back and peek inside this world of Gothic wonders but beware, as with all things worth having, it is not for the faint of heart…

Victoriana3So what is in this beautiful box?  First up, it being a candle box and all, there are of course the three featured candles.  Keeping in theme with all things Gothic, we have a candle named after the queen of Gothic literature herself, Mary Shelley.  Smelling of cinnamon, blood orange and teakwood, it basically smells like autumn in a candle.  Next up, the bad boy we all fell for in our early teens, it’s the delicious Lestat Di Lioncourt.  He smells of oak moss, incense and graveyard dirt, an earthy scent which entices the recipient to an early grave.  Last, but not least, we have a more recent edition to the Victorian genre with the fabulous Crimson Peak.  This one smells of tea leaves, firethorn berries and bergamot and quite honestly brings be back to the film.

Victoriana2Along with these stunning candles, there is also a Victor Frankenstein dark roast coffee by Mocking Byrd Coffee Company, which smells almost as delicious as the candles which accompany it.  It’s only fitting that Mary Shelley has her dark and twisted Doctor to keep her company.  To stir this delicious concoction, we have a black stainless steel Little Rose teaspoon, because coffee this good cannot be touched by any old ordinary spoon.  There is also two Annabel Lee inspired bath melts by The Witch’s Bath.  These smell positively delightful and I am looking forward to having a gothic style bath, candles lit, bath melts melting along with my stress and worries.

But the gothic goodies don’t stop there.  There are three original and exclusive tarot cards designed by incredible artists.  We have Death by Sheila Goicea, the curator of the wonderful Foals, Fiction and Filigree, The Devil by Allie Surges of Princess Gloom and finally The Lovers by Jackie Powers of Powers of Jac.  Every single one of these pieces is beyond stunning and will 100% be getting framed and hung on my office wall.  There is also a reproduction of All is Vanity by the artist Charles Allan Gilbert in 1892, a picture than genuinely hangs at this moment in my Victorian style bathroom.

Finally, the part I am most excited about…a penny dreadful containing an original and exclusive short story by yours truly entitled The Grave Digger, about, well you’ve guessed it, a Grave Digger in Victorian London.  The responses to the story have been really positive so far and I want to thank everyone for their kind words and support.

This entire box is presented perfectly.  Contained inside a matte black box with a simple sticker denoting its contents, each candle is individually wrapped in black tissue paper and individual stickers saying things like, ‘Ghosts are real’, ‘Gentleman Death’ and, ‘Beware; for I am fearless.’  The spoiler card is designed to look like a mourning card, encased in a translucent envelope and will also be displayed somewhere in my office in due course.  Even the shredded paper placed inside to protect each item is black!  But best of all for me is the wonderful presentation of my story.  It looks so authentic, so truly Victorian, even containing original Victorian product adverts on the back and I want to thank Rachel from the bottom of my heart for creating something so lovely to show off my story…you my friend, are an artist.

If you want to buy any of the incredible items from Wick Wish yourself, you can use my discount code BOOKISH10 to save 10% now.

Unboxing: Books That Matter September Book Box.

Unboxing: Books That Matter September Book Box.

Hello readers!  For today’s post, I will be unboxing this month’s Books That Matter book box and I am particularly excited for this one.  Not only is it the box’s First Birthday (Happy Birthday guys) but in order to celebrate, it has an extra special, magical theme and one which could not be more up my street.  This month, the theme is (drum roll please) ‘Myths, Goddesses and Legends’, celebrating the women of Greek mythology.  As a fan of mythology and legends, I could not wait to tear into the box.  Before we see what is inside, remember you can use MARIE10 to save on a box all your own.

greek boxFirst and foremost, this month’s featured book is critically acclaimed Circe by Madeline Miller.  This book was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year and I have heard nothing but positive things about it.  I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but it’s hard not to swoon over this beauty.  The cover is a stunning metallic, which I am always a sucker for, and perfectly captures it’s Greek, mythological inspiration.  So what’s it about?

Woman. Witch. Myth. Mortal. Outcast. Lover. Destroyer. Survivor. CIRCE.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child – not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows, at home in neither the world of gods or mortals. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens the gods, she is banished to the island of Aiaia where she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs and taming wild beasts. Yet a woman who stands alone will never be left in peace for long – and among her island’s guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.

So Circe sets forth her tale, a vivid, mesmerizing epic of family rivalry, love and loss – the defiant, inextinguishable song of woman burning hot and bright through the darkness of a man’s world.

This one has been on my to be read list for a while and now I really have no excuses not to read it.  Have you read this one?  What did you think?  As an extra special treat, there is an exclusive Circe postcard, beautifully frame worthy should you wish to express your love of Greek mythology.

As always, along side this month’s read, there is an array of perfectly picked goodies and greek box 3in this box, that metallic theme continues with a stunning 22ct gold plated star charm bracelet by CaruSer.  This really is one of those rare and extra special finds in a subscription box.  It is beautiful and I have no doubt it will become one of my go to jewellery choices.  There are also two metallic, and made hair ties by Cabellobands.  I am a firm believer that a girl can NEVER have enough hair ties (where do they vanish to) and I love the luxurious look of these.  Finally, there are two appliqué stickers of the Goddess Aphrodite and the nymph Daphne, along with a book mark featuring Medussa and Calliope, designed by the brand Myths and Tits. I adore the style and vibrancy of these beautiful images and I am already seeking a place to stick the stickers.

As always, Books That Matter present a thoughtful and inspirational box that not only sparks the joy in any reader, but delivers a clear and impactful feminist message.  This box is about giving the females of Greek mythology their rightful place.  No longer are they merely plot devices but feminist icons, given their own well deserved narratives.  Thank you so much for gifting me the box guys and remember, if you love it as much as I do, you can use discount code MARIE10 to save 10% on your own!

Unboxing: August Crime & Mystery My Chronicle Book Box.

Unboxing: August Crime & Mystery My Chronicle Book Box.

Hello readers, it’s that time again…time to open that beautiful blue box, pull out each book, all individually wrapped in brightly coloured paper and string like a series of wonderful presents, all signed by the authors, all perfectly chosen and just when you think you can’t possibly have a better day, there are the accompanying bookish goodies too. I love my quarterly my Chronicle Book Boxes and if you fancy trying one of your own, you can use MIRRORS10 to save 10% now!! So what does the latest Crime and Mystery box contain?

Our first featured book is Those People by award winning author Louise Candish: Until Darren and Jodie move in, Lowland Way is a suburban paradise. Beautiful homes. Friendly neighbours. Kids playing out in the street. But Darren and Jodie don’t follow the rules and soon disputes over loud music and parking rights escalate to threats of violence.
Then, early one Sunday, a horrific crime shocks the street. As the police go house-to-house, the residents close ranks and everyone’s story is the same: They did it. But there’s a problem. The police don’t agree.And the door they’re knocking on next is yours.

This one sounds like an enthralling read full of twists and turns and it’s definitely one I can’t wait to dig in to. Best part? It’s signed by the author herself and it’s a hardback.

Next up we have The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver, a fast paced thriller set in Southern California:

A student kidnapped from the park.
Nineteen-year-old Sophie disappears one summer afternoon. She wakes up to find herself locked inside a derelict warehouse, surrounded by five objects. If she uses them wisely, she will escape her prison. Otherwise she will die.
An investigator running out of time.

Sophie’s distraught father calls in the one man who can help find his daughter: unique investigator Colter Shaw. Raised in the wilderness by survivalist parents, he is an expert tracker with a forensic mind trained to solve the most challenging cases. But this will be a test even for him.
A killer playing a dangerous game.

Soon a blogger called Henry is abducted – left to die in the dark heart of a remote forest – and the whole case gets turned on its head. Because this killer isn’t following the rules; he’s changing them. One murder at a time…

This one sounds like one hell of a thrill ride reminiscent of the horror movie Saw and I’m always a fan of a serial killer story line. Again, this one is a hardback and it’s signed by the international best selling author himself.  I’m beyond excited to add it to my to read pile!

The final book is Tick Tock by Mel Sherratt, a gritty British Police procedural set in Stoke on Trent:

TICK… In the city of Stoke, a teenage girl is murdered in the middle of the day, her lifeless body abandoned in a field behind her school. TOCK Two days later, a young mother is abducted. She’s discovered strangled and dumped in a local park. TIME’S UP… Can they catch the killer before another young woman dies?

Again this sounds right up my street and it comes signed by the author herself. Each author has also given an exclusive interview which you will find inside your personalised, wax sealed envelope along with your spoiler card.

Alongside these epic thrillers, there is also a gorgeous scented candle by Bookwormmychronicle3 Candles and Crafts. This ‘Crime and Punishment’ themed, glittering beauty smells incredible with masculine tones of sandalwood and is exclusive to the box. There is an ‘I love Crime Fiction’ fridge magnet, perfect for proudly displaying your love for the genre and an exclusive engraved wooden bookmark to help you keep track of your reading progress. Shaped like a beautiful fish tail, it is a constant reminder to not be lured by an author’s red herrings!

This is another great example of well sourced books all of which I feel myself instantly excited about. This book box is such great value, always containing THREE books, all signed and all beautifully wrapped alongside carefully chosen, exclusive goodies and I will never stop gushing about it! Remember, if you want to get yourself a box you can save 10% using code MIRRORS10! And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with all my latest unboxings, book reviews and pieces of original writing.

Free Kindle Book & Amazon Giveaway.

Free Kindle Book & Amazon Giveaway.

My crime thriller Broken Mirrors is FREE on Kindle from now until Wednesday and to celebrate, I am running a giveaway on my Instagram and Twitter.  If you download a free copy and send me a screenshot (either via Twitter or Instagram) and you will be entered for the chance to win any book you want from Amazon (to the value of £15.00).  Head to my Instagram or Twitter now to enter and Good luck! You can get your copy free here.

brokenmirrorsBroken 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.

Book Review: The Fearing Book One, Fire & Rain by John.F.D.Taff.

Book Review: The Fearing Book One, Fire & Rain by John.F.D.Taff.

Hello readers, I hope your weekend was as good as mine!  For this week’s blog post we will be reviewing The Fearing, Book one: Fire and Rain by John.F.D.Taff which was very Kindly sent to me by Grey Matter press for a fair and honest review.  Before we get down to it, let’s read that handy blurb to see exactly what it’s about:

fearing cover

Humanity faces a series of catastrophes spawned by a worldwide event that unleashes all of mankind’s greatest fears.
In the American high desert, vacationers returning from a road trip are thrust into a heart-stopping flight from death as they try to avoid a cataclysmic end. In rural Missouri, the lives of a group of high school students are destroyed after their small town is devastated and they’re forced to confront the end of everything they’ve ever known.
And on the eastern seaboard, there’s someone else. An enigmatic man who thrives on despair and embraces all fear. A man with his own dark and sinister goals. Someone who wants to ensure humanity goes out with the biggest bang possible.

At only 98 pages, this is a quick and absorbing read.  As a result, the reader is immediately thrown into the deep end.  The action sequences are still nicely spaced to allow an ever growing momentum towards and answer that the reader never receives in this first book in the series.  What I was seriously impressed with, was Taff’s ability to make a character fully formed and three dimensional in only a few pages and interactions.  He has an uncanny ability of revealing his character’s true natures and in this case, their darkest fears, without it feeling rushed or forced.  I found myself instantly drawn to and simultaneously creeped out by Adam and his dark, supernatural abilities.  I was routing for the teenage survivors Sarah and Kyle’s budding romance and I love the motley crew of elderly survivors aboard the tourist bus, particularly their badass driver Rich.  Despite these characters being of all ages, genders and backgrounds and despite being scattered around the USA, their fates and fears are inextricably linked by the strange, earth shattering phenomena sweeping the country and I for one am DESPERATE to find out exactly what is going on and who of all of these characters, will survive (Please Rich, Sarah and Kyle).

As you can probably already tell, I loved this book.  It is a truly original and exciting read fearing fire and rainwhich leaves you wanting more.  My only complaint would be the fact that the book has been split up into four separate small parts.  I liked the story so much, I want to read it in its entirety and I am a little irritated I have to wait.  Still, that’s a pretty good negative to have thrown at a book and it demonstrates just how well the plot and characters got their hooks in me as a reader and  I have a feeling the other parts will be worth the wait.  I’m giving it 4.5 stars out of 5 ND I am only marking it down slightly because they are making me wait. Book Two: Water and Wind will be released August 20th and is available for pre-order now.

Thanks to Grey Matter Press and John himself for sending me this copy, I genuinely enjoyed every bit of it.  What about you readers, have you read this or any of Taff’s other works?  What did you think?  Leave me a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with all my latest articles, books reviews and pieces of original writing.

Books That Matter UK Unboxing: The Wild Women Box.

Books That Matter UK Unboxing: The Wild Women Box.

Happy Sunday readers! I apologise for my absence recently but I have been slowing down a little with social media, trying to gain a little perspective. I have however, missed you all terribly so when I got my latest Books That Matter box, I simply had to take the opportunity to do an unboxing post for you guys.

This time, the theme is ‘Wild Women,’ a category in which I feel extremely comfortable myself! The box has been specially curated to explore the themes of ecofeminism, sustainability and our planet. As usual, I am blown away by this box. They have packed it with amazing goodies and a book I am genuinely looking forward to reading. The best news?  You can use code MARIE10 to get 10% off your purchase now! So let’s dig in shall we…

 

 

First up, this month’s book is The Word for Women is Wilderness by Abu Andrews. This book follows the nineteen-year-old protagonist Erin in her travels from the Midlands to Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland and eventually a lonely cabin in the wilds of Alaska where she charts the changing landscapes of her own mind and reimagines not just a woman’s place in society, but humanity’s place on planet earth. It sounds like one Hell of an adventure and one I’m looking forward to delving into.

Next up, we have another great read. This time it’s a zine from the Revival Collective, a Brighton based sustainable fashion collective. It’s called ‘Feminist Fashion Revival’ and is packed with informative articles, fashion inspiration, craftivism as well as guides and facts about the intersection of feminism, fashion, ethics and environmentalism.

 

Alongside this informative reading, there is a beautiful metal straw by Sugar and Sloth. The straw is a gorgeous ‘oil slick’ colour and is perfect to take to outings and picnics. There is also a vegan shampoo bar in a travel tin by Hairy Jayne hair care. This smells wonderful and the tin can be reused to keep new bars in. Small changes like this and the straw are a great way to reduce waste and do your part to help the environment. There is also a packet of seeds from Wildflower Limited, with a percentage from each packet’s price going to the bumblebee conservation trust. Wild flowers don’t just look and smell beautiful but they are great for attracting local wildlife like our friendly Bees. If you have a little unused or unloved part of the garden just throw these in and watch them grow!

Finally, there is a cute ‘sustainability is a feminist issue’ print and ‘A woman’s place is in the revolution’ bookmark…sentiments I can certainly get behind.

This is another wonderful box from Books that Matter and for the price, their boxes are not only fantastic value but genuinely informative. Plus you can use MARIE10 to save 10% now! You even get to make a small difference to the world with this one so why not grab your own while you can?

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all the latest posts and if you want to see an unboxing video of this box along with pics of bookish goodies galore, head to my Instagram!!