Gather The Daughters – Jennie Melamed

Published July 25, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

For fans of Emma Cline’s THE GIRLS and Emily St John Mandel’s STATION 11, this dark, unsettling and hugely compelling story of an isolated island cult will get under your skin.

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS tells the story of an end-of-the-world cult founded years ago when ten men colonised an island. It’s a society in which men reign supreme, breeding is controlled, and knowledge of the outside world is kept to a minimum. Girls are wives-in-training: at the first sign of puberty, they must marry and have children. But until that point, every summer, island tradition dictates that the children live wildly: running free, making camps, sleeping on the beach. And it is at the end of one such summer that one of the youngest girls sees something so horrifying that life on the island can never be the same again.

What did I think?:

Tinder Press are fast becoming one of my favourite publishers, they are bringing out some outstanding books this year so thank you so much to them and to Caitlin Raynor for sending me an advance copy of this unbelievable dystopian story in exchange for an honest review. Gather The Daughters is released today and believe me, you simply must get your hands on it because the narrative and indeed, the world that Jennie Melamed has created is truly stunning and you won’t regret a second you spend reading it.

The story is set on an island which is quite isolated from the rest of the world both physically, separated by a band of water and literally as the way of life experienced by the islanders is not exactly conventional. The society is patriarchal and there are very clear rules about what women can and cannot do, say, be exposed to etc according to “the ancestors,” whose strange rules are law and should never be questioned or disobeyed. There are strict guidelines about not touching daughters in the families until they have entered their summer of fruition i.e. got their first period. It is after then that they are married off and treated as little more than breeding machines with the sole purpose of increasing the population of the colony. However, every summer, the children are let loose on the island to run wild, play, have fun, fend for themselves and enjoy the small freedom that they have before entering a life of drudgery. It is during this one summer that one small girl, Caitlin witnesses something shocking happening on the island and from then on, nothing will ever be the same again.

Wow. Just wow. I could already tell when I read the synopsis that this was a book I simply had to get my hands on and I was over the moon when it surpassed my already very high expectations. The writing is wonderfully sublime, the world-building one of a kind and the characters – like a dream come true. We hear from multiple daughters of the island including Caitlin herself, and the brilliant Janey whose actions when she hears what Caitlin has seen have huge consequences for everyone on the island. Some of the things that happen in this novel are truly horrific, others are nail-biting and it makes for the most amazing debut piece of fiction that I have read in a long, long time. Jennie Melamed has created such a frightening dystopian society that makes you think, gets deep under your skin and has a unique style and voice all of its own. This is an author to watch out for I’m certain and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next – I’ll be first in the queue to read it although I might have to fight for my place when everyone else reads this too!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

The Twelve Lives Of Samuel Hawley – Hannah Tinti

Published July 24, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Bursting with imaginative exuberance, THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY by Hannah Tinti has been described as ‘One part Quentin Tarantino, and one part Scheherazade‘ (Ann Patchett) and will appeal to fans of The Sisters Brothers or The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter Loo to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife’s hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother’s mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past – a past that eventually spills over into his daughter’s present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. Both a coming of age novel and a literary thriller, THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY explores what it means to be a hero, and the price we pay to protect the people we love.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Tinder Press for approving me on NetGalley for this fantastic novel in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, this story was one amazing, crazy ride and I loved every moment of it. When I first saw the title of this book, I immediately compared it in my mind to The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August which was a book I reviewed with my sister Chrissi Reads and is also one of my all-time favourite books. Let me just say that The Twelve Lives Of Samuel Hawley is nothing like Harry August when we consider the subject matter but it’s just as thrilling and written just as beautifully and is definitely a book I would re-read in the future.

This novel focuses on two main protagonists – widower Samuel Hawley and his daughter Loo whom he is raising on his own after his wife, Lily died shortly after Loo was born in a terrible accident on a lake. The “twelve lives” of the title are actually twelve bullets that have struck Samuel at different points in his life in various places in his body. We, the reader learn the story behind each individual bullet, how Samuel came to be shot and what the consequences were for him. Interspersed with the bullet stories is also the story of Samuel’s relationship with his wife Lily and, after she gave birth to his daughter, the story of Samuel and Loo. Samuel has made a lot of mistakes in his life (well….come on, he’s been shot twelve times?!) but he has a fierce love for his daughter and would go to the ends of the earth to protect her. Unfortunately, this means he always has to sleep with one eye open as his chequered and colourful past is threatening to catch up with him.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting from this novel but it certainly wasn’t this and I was delighted to discover a gritty, exciting and incredibly unique plot with fascinating characters that make it difficult to put the book down. In the synopsis, it’s compared to Quentin Tarantino and Scheherazade by Ann Patchett and I couldn’t have put it more perfectly myself. There are violent, bloodthirsty and graphic scenes combined with moments of such tenderness that it almost feels like you’re reading a very modern day fairy tale minus the magical realism. Samuel and Loo were such intriguing characters to read about and although they were both flawed and a bit kooky I literally didn’t want to let them go by the end of the novel. On the strength and pure beauty of Hannah Tinti’s story-telling I will one hundred percent read anything she writes and now can’t wait to read her debut novel The Good Thief.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Queen Of Shadows (Throne Of Glass #4) – Sarah J. Maas

Published July 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

What did I think?:

Have I mentioned that I’m an unashamedly desperate and adoring Throne Of Glass groupie? Because I am and with every book in the series, Sarah J. Maas’ world keeps getting more complex and the plot practically explodes with even more intricate details. Seriously, I’m beginning to wonder whether the author had this whole thing mapped out in her head from day one or if she is making it up as she goes along because this world she has built is so fascinating and incredibly detailed that I just marvel at her imagination and story-telling ability.

Queen Of Shadows is the fourth book in the Throne Of Glass series and, as a result, is always tricky to review as I’m super wary of giving away spoilers and ruining everything for anyone who has not started this series yet and is considering it. I’m going to keep things as vague as I possibly can but I highly recommend if you’re at all interested in the epic journey that is Throne Of Glass to go and read the first few books and then come back. In this novel, Celaena Sardothien grows exponentially as an individual after having been under the most horrific suffering in the previous instalments of this story. She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, is ready to wreak revenge on those who have wronged both her and those that she loves, is desperate to save her land and her people and bring down the evil forces in her world that are determined to cause as much havoc, death and destruction as they can.

It’s not going to be an easy ride for Aelin. She comes across both old and new adversaries that are hell-bent on stopping her before she can ruin their mission. With Rowan Whitethorn by her side however and the blossoming of their relationship, she feels that she can face anyone and anything. The addition of new characters and the formation of strong friendships builds her strength and confidence up even further and with their ferocious support, Aelin may finally be able to move mountains, take down her own personal barriers, learn to love again and, of course, save the world from a deadly enemy.

I think I’ve already gushed on enough about how much I love the world building in this series, now I just have to take a few moments to describe to you the wonderful characters that Sarah J. Maas has created. First of all, Aelin herself, the gutsy, independent female lead that I fell in love with the instant she was introduced in the first Throne Of Glass novel. Then we have Manon Blackbeak, who I mentioned in my previous review Heir Of Fire and is just as utterly brilliant and intriguing in this volume – I’m eagerly anticipating great things happening with her character in future novels and can hardly wait. Then we have the new additions, Aelin’s new friend, the enigmatic Lysandra who I adored and Elide whose story at times actually broke my heart. In fact, there are a lot of characters to get to grips with in this series but they are all so beautifully fleshed out that I never found myself overwhelmed by the sheer number of them, I loved them all as individuals – yes, even the villains of the piece. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, Empire Of Storms although I have to admit, it’s tinged with a side note of sadness. I can sense the series coming towards the end and although I know it has to happen, I’m dreading it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Word Processor Of The Gods by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Published July 22, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Word Processor Of The Gods all about?:

Richard Hagstrom receives a birthday present from his recently deceased nephew of a word processor that Jon has built himself from scratch. This isn’t an ordinary piece of machinery however – it has the potential to change Richard’s life.

What did I think?:

Ah, Stephen King. How I do love you! The master does it again with this phenomenal short story all about a rogue word processor with magical but deadly properties. This is one of King’s relatively shorter stories in the collection but it packs as much of a punch as his longer ones, particularly when you get to the end which I’m not going to spoil, don’t worry! Of course, no writer is perfect and I have found myself slightly disappointed with a couple of the author’s short stories in this collection but on reflection of the ones I’ve read so far (as I find myself pretty much halfway through) the majority of them I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and are so haunting and original that they have stayed in my thoughts.

Word Processor Of the Gods is another excellent example of the genius that is Stephen King. It’s about a man called Richard Hagstrom, husband to a disaffected wife, Lina and a disgruntled, ungrateful teenage boy called Seth. When we first meet Richard, he is installing a word processor in his study which was a gift from his nephew, Jon. Richard often feels that Jon is the son that he should have had and the fact that he built this machine himself, using multiple scraps and various different electrical components warms his heart. Sadly, Richard’s brother Roger, his wife and Jon were killed in a horrific car accident (his brother had been driving drunk) so the gift is even more bitter-sweet and tinged with grief and regret.

Of course, if you’re reading a Stephen King story and thinking this is just an ordinary word processor, you’d be very wrong. Richard is shocked to discover that the machine made out of so many different bits and bobs, whilst emitting a strange sound and smoking ever so slightly actually works – but perhaps it works a bit too literally. When Richard types a particular command onto the screen and presses either the EXECUTE or the DELETE button, things actually happen…..or disappear. How would you deal with this kind of power? What would you change if given half a chance? What would be the consequences if you had the opportunity to permanently alter your life?

I have to admit, this story started of kind of slow and considering it was fairly short, I was slightly concerned that I wasn’t going to enjoy it as much as I had hoped. However, after Richard turns on the word processor for the first time, all doubts I had were immediately blown away by how action packed the narrative ending up becoming. I loved the idea, became fascinated by the characters and their motives and was completely floored by that ending. If you’ve never read any Stephen King before, I recommend this story as a fantastic place to start. It shows off his unique style perfectly and will certainly have you wondering what you would do if you found yourself in similar circumstances.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Hot Dog Stand by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Broken Branches – M. Jonathan Lee

Published July 21, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to publisher Hideaway Fall for sending me a copy of this fascinating novel in return for an honest review when I contacted them and expressed my interest in working with them. Hideaway Fall are a new independent publishing company based in Yorkshire and aim to support local and Northern based authors who write kooky, unique and astonishing fiction. Broken Branches is the first novel that they have brought out and if their future projects are anything like this, I’m so excited for their future and am honoured to have the opportunity to be part of it all, giving a little bit of attention and publicity to novels like this that fully deserve to be read and enjoyed.

Broken Branches is the extraordinary and incredibly eerie story of Ian and Rachel Perkins and their young son as they inherit Ian’s old childhood home, the aptly named Cobweb Cottage after a family tragedy. The novel is told from two different time periods, the “present” Ian and Ian when he was a younger boy, growing up in the cottage with his mother, distant and gruff father and older brother, Stuart. The reader finds out quite quickly that for generations, there is thought to have been a curse on the Perkins family which all began with an incident involving an imposing sycamore tree outside the front of the house and has led to multiple past deaths and terrifying incidents.

Ian is attempting to investigate the so-called “family curse” by re-tracing his family tree, accumulating documents related to his family and attempting to piece together what has actually happened in different generations of the family. As the project becomes more overwhelming, he becomes more obsessed and determined to crack the mystery and, as a result, his marriage suffers with both partners becoming relative shadows of themselves. To add to their woes, Ian is experiencing strange things within the cottage – hallucinations and strange noises, increased awareness of an alien presence and a very real sense that something is very wrong and dangerous within his home. As Ian scrambles to find out as much information as possible, things continue to spiral downwards for the family and we start to really wonder how much of what is happening is real and how much is just pure superstition?

I had read a few wonderful reviews of Broken Branches before contacting Hideaway Fall and they all made it obvious that this was a book I just had to read. I was fairly prepared for it going to some dark places and dealing with some tough issues but what I hadn’t realised is the extent of the murky depths that it would take me to. We see grief, loss, depression and pure horror in all their guises and not only did the author explore these themes with real panache but he also put a lot of heart and soul into what can be a very tricky and emotive subject matter. I certainly was not equipped to deal with the creepy, superstitious side of this novel and at quite a few points in the narrative, I was a bit loathe to turn out the lights! Finally, I love going into a story thinking I know what it’s going to be about and then the author does something to throw me off, surprises and delights me and has me looking at certain events, characters etc in a completely new light. In fact, when I finished this book, I immediately wanted to go back to the start and read it in light of new information that was revealed. If you like fiction that chills you, moves you and makes you want to keep turning the pages you should definitely try Broken Branches, I’m sure you won’t regret it!

Broken Branches is released by Hideaway Fall publishers on the 27th July 2017.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About Miss You by Kate Eberlen with Chrissi Reads

Published July 20, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven’t met properly yet. And perhaps they never will . . .

Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can’t get it out of her head, even though she’s in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever – but not in the way she expects.

Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be.

For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England.

Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and fate, there’s no way the two of them are ever going to meet each other properly . . . or is there?

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Did you judge this book by its cover? I can imagine it’s one you wouldn’t pick up if you saw it in the shop!

BETH: Do you think just because you’re my sister you know me? Haha, of course you’re right, I have to be honest. This cover would immediately make me scrunch up my face in the way that you know so well and I wouldn’t necessarily pick it up because of that. I’m not the biggest romance fan in the world and it has to be told in just the right sort of way to touch this cold, cold heart. No cheesiness here please! But, as you know, I have been completely wrong about covers in the past… Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is a classic example!

BETH: How do you think that this book compares with others in the genre?

CHRISSI: Interesting question! As you know, I have read quite a lot of this genre, so I feel like I’m well informed to answer this question. I think it fits nicely into the genre, but it’s not necessarily a book that I think stands out. Don’t get me wrong, it was easy to read and I enjoyed it, but it’s not one that will stay with me for a long time.

CHRISSI: Both Tess and Gus experience bereavement in this novel. Discuss how the different characters deal with this situation.

BETH: Both Tess and Gus have lost someone important in their lives. With Tess, it is her mother who died of cancer and with Gus it is his older brother who died in a horrific skiing accident on holiday. They both deal with their loss in very different ways and I think a lot of that is bound up with how close they were with their respective loved one. With Tess, it’s her mother so of course she feels the loss keenly but has to get on with things as she has a younger sister, Hope to bring up and look after. This completely ruins any plans she had for university but she is incredibly strong as a character and just gets through it. Gus on the other hand, feels constantly guilty for the loss of his brother, Ross. He feels he is in some way to blame for the accident as he “let” Ross go off on his own down a dangerous slope. Coupled with this is the fact that Ross has constantly bullied and belittled him throughout their lives prior to the accident so they didn’t have the best or most loving relationship which he also feels some residual guilt for.

BETH: Which character’s point of view did you enjoy reading about the most?

CHRISSI: My answer would have to be Tess. I really enjoyed reading about her story. I think the main reason for this is the relationship Tess has with her younger sister. I called Asperger’s before it mentioned it in the story. I have children with both low functioning autism and high functioning autism (Asperger’s) in my class and I could recognise the traits immediately. I loved how, even though Tess struggled with not following her dreams, she was there for her sister. I was rooting for Tess from the start and hoping she found some happiness for herself.

CHRISSI: Discuss how Kate Eberlen structured this novel.

BETH: I really enjoyed the structure of this novel. It’s told in dual perspectives so one chapter is Tess’ point of view and the next is from Gus. It also starts in the late nineties when they are both eighteen years old and ends in the present day. I really enjoyed this as I am a similar age to the characters and enjoyed the nostalgic feel that the author brought when talking about certain things in the nineties that I remember very clearly! I also loved how we got hints of the “tall man,” or “tall woman,” aka Gus/Tess when they almost met so many times during the narrative.

BETH: Do you believe that some things are just meant to be or is everything just chance?

CHRISSI: That’s a hard one for me to answer. I’d like to think that things happen for a reason, but then sometimes awful things happen and I can’t justify that with ‘things happen for a reason.’ So to answer, I think I believe in coincidences. But who knows? Ooh, look at you with such a tricksy question!

CHRISSI: Did your initial impressions of this book change by the ending?

BETH: I’m afraid it did and I’m sad to say, not in a good way 😞. I did love that what I expected to happen did happen which pleased me for the characters sake but unfortunately, it did feel slightly cheesy by the end and they were way too quick to say the “three magic words,” which made me believe in them and their relationship a little less. Apart from that though, I was really enjoying their story up to that point!

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I think I would. I did enjoy reading it and it didn’t take me long to read at all.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Pointe – Brandy Colbert

Published July 19, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Theo is better now.

She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

What did I think?:

Pointe by Brandy Colbert was one of my Chrissi Cupboard Month picks a while back now and recommended as a “must-read” book by my sister who is also a blogger over at Chrissi Reads. I remember when she first read it and reported back and she had a very visceral and emotional response to the story so I was intrigued as to whether I would feel the same. On finishing it, I can definitely see why she had that response. This novel is packed full of difficult and dangerous subject matters that could be quite tough to read about for some people. Ultimately, it wasn’t a five star read for me but it was a solid, memorable piece of fiction that I still remember months down the line after reading it.

This is partially due to our main character, a young girl called Theo. She has had a lot of drama and personal struggles in her short life so far including an eating disorder and difficult first relationship and has had to deal with her best friend, Donovan being abducted and secreted away where she cannot reach him. She is starting to get her life back on track, feeling brave enough to date boys again but her real passion in life is dancing and she is in the tough process of training to be a prima ballerina. When Donovan unexpectedly returns however, it dredges up a host of memories that Theo does not welcome and is definitely not prepared for. Has her friendship with Donovan stood the test of time? And can she put old ghosts to rest, start telling the truth, accept help from her close family and friends and finally move on from the past?

As I mentioned earlier, there are some awful subjects tackled in this novel. So, trigger warnings for eating disorders, abuse, drugs, cheating, manipulation….to name a few, the author has covered the entire spectrum of potentially damaging incidents that any person would be terribly unlucky to suffer! Theo may not be a particularly likeable character for some readers but I found her refreshingly real and even though she was flawed and made multiple mistakes and questionable decisions, the whole point of the novel is watching her adapt and grow into an adult who learned from what she had been through. It’s a gritty, dark story that does pull on your heart strings and unsettle you but is entirely worth the murky moments when we see how far our characters have come. Finally, I also loved that our main characters were black (hooray for a bit of diversity!) but their race was never fussed over or exaggerated. As it should be, of course!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0