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Short Stories Challenge 2018 – At The Mountain Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

Published March 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s At The Mountain Of Madness all about?:

The Mountain Of Madness follows our male character as he embarks upon an expedition to the Antarctic, initially in search of fossils but ends up finding something much more unexpected and incredibly dangerous.

What did I think?:

Sigh. I think I’ll always be grateful to this short story as it’s only when I dragged myself through this (almost literally kicking and screaming at some points) that I realised that Lovecraft and I are not a match made in heaven. I’ve been worrying about our compatibility for some time now after I’ve read a number of stories in this collection but have always persevered, thinking perhaps there’s something about him I’m just not getting. To be fair to him, there has been the occasional story where I’ve thought: “That was alright, sort of enjoyable,” but generally, I’m finding reading some of his work the most mammoth task. This was definitely the case with The Mountain Of Madness. For starters, it was just so incredibly LONG and, full disclosure here, I found myself skimming whole parts of the narrative just to get to the end that little bit quicker.

Funny story – when I was reading it (and heartily complaining to my boyfriend all the way through), I had been quiet for a little while and he took one look at my face and then told me to give up the story, it looked like it was causing me physical pain! Well, by that time I was so close to the end that I thought I might as well finish it. Now I’m thinking that it’s a shame I’m never going to get that time back again, which was an HOUR by the way and that was with skimming as well. God knows how long it would have taken me if I had bothered to read every word diligently!

So, as a quick explanation of this story, it started out promisingly enough with a group of men, all with different skills i.e. biologist, physicist, geologist who embark on a once in a lifetime trip to the Antarctic to try and get a better idea of the area’s history, primarily by sampling some of the rock formations, which is where our main guy comes in as a geologist. It is not long however, before the men find something else entirely, something terrifying, hideous, other-worldly (hey, what else did you expect, it’s Lovecraft right?) and puts them all in very grave danger.

Where do I even begin? I always like to try and find some positives and if you’re a die hard Lovecraftian, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, he’s definitely adept with his vocabulary, long descriptive sequences where nothing much happens at all and the build up, cooling down and further build up of a scene. This however, is becoming exactly my problem with him. I can deal with the beautiful wording, although at time it does get a bit too much and some of the creatures he creates are incredibly imaginative however it just all feels like more of the same old thing and to be honest, I’m getting bored.

I do understand that most of his stories have connections to the wider world of the Cthulhu Mythos and the book of Necronomicon of course, but just for once I’d like to read a story that doesn’t feel like it’s going in the exact same direction as the last. For example, male character goes searching for alien/ancient beings, male character finds strange city that makes him feel a bit weird, male character finds evidence that creatures are highly intelligent, male character sees creature and is terrified, male character (or friend of male character) has nervous breakdown and fears no-one is ever going to believe him. You see what I mean? It’s getting a bit tedious and although I can see why people rate Lovecraft so much as an author, I fear I’m not going to change my mind about him. This is now the eleventh story I’ve read in this collection and with fifty-six left to go, I’m sad to say I’m going to have to remove this collection from my Short Stories Challenge from here on in. I’ve really tried to give him a chance and I just can’t do it anymore!

I’d love to hear your opinions on Lovecraft if you’ve read him. Do you feel the same as me? Or is there something I’m clearly missing?

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: Four Hundred Rabbits by Simon Levack from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Vol 7.


Tangerine – Christine Mangan

Published March 20, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Little, Brown publishers for getting in touch with me via email and secondly, for allowing me to read an advance reading copy from this exciting new voice in crime fiction via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. As this book is released today (happy publication day!) I have seen relatively few reviews of it knocking around but comparison to Patricia Highsmith and Donna Tartt is never a bad thing and made me very keen to check it out and see if it stood up to the hype. It does, without a question. Tangerine is one of the most evocative and compelling debut thrillers I’ve had the pleasure to come across and it managed to lift me right out of a massive reading slump so of course, I thank the author for that! I also thank Christine Mangan for providing such a fascinating plot, interesting characters and although the reader is aware fairly soon what is happening in the novel, nothing can be taken for granted purely because of the unreliability of our narrators.

As with most thriller novels, I don’t want to give too much away but I’ll try to give you the bare bones of the synopsis if I can. This is the story of Alice Shipley who is living in Tangier, Morocco with her husband in unfortunately quite an unhappy marriage where she is forced to turn a blind eye to his numerous faults. The match was loosely arranged as very much one of convenience by her Aunt, who also happens to be her only guardian after Alice’s parents were killed in an accident. One day, an old college friend, Lucy Mason turns up unexpectedly on the doorstep of Alice’s apartment in Tangier and although in some ways, Alice is happy to see her friend, it takes her right back to an incident many years ago that the friends have never really discussed or come to terms with. Alice is thrown right back into that close, intimate relationship with Lucy until her husband abruptly disappears which causes both women to start re-examining everything, including each other.

One of the best bits about this novel, as I alluded to in the first paragraph is the unreliability of our two female protagonists. Both Alice and Lucy have their own issues in the past and these issues have continued into their present and still haunt them on a daily basis. It reminded me a little bit of those heady days of adolescence female friendships when things could get a little intense – obviously rarely to the extreme, but does anyone else remember the ferociousness of those feelings? This is what Tangerine felt like to me. At certain points of the narrative, I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was going on, basically with the fragility of both girls let me just say, things could have gone either way. As things started to unravel, piece by piece, we began to get a very unnerving picture of what is happening and how it may turn out for each character and it’s absolutely gripping. I read this book in under forty-eight hours, I found myself hooked and appalled in equal measure and it became completely necessary to keep reading until I knew how it was all going to end. Christine Mangan is a fresh and exhilarating new talent in the world of crime fiction, I adored every minute of this and can’t wait to see what she writes next, I’ll definitely be watching out for it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


Five Star TBR Predictions – Round Two

Published March 19, 2018 by bibliobeth

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Hello everyone and welcome to my Five Star TBR Predictions – Round Two. For my original post, please click HERE and for my Wrap Up please click HERE. I’ve now done individual reviews for all five books that I predicted I would give five stars so you can check them out by searching for them on my blog.

So, if you haven’t been here before, what’s it all about?

One of my favourite book-tubers, Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings recently posted a brilliant video where she went through her TBR and tried to predict which five books would be five star reads for her. She then did a wrap up video after she had read the books to see how many she had got right. I thought this was a fantastic idea and immediately wanted to do the same as a blog post rather than a video. Honestly, none of you need to see me stammering away in front of a camera – it’s not a pretty sight. I’ll leave it to the experts! Without further ado, I’ve picked five books from my TBR that I think will be five star reads for me and I’ll give you a little bit of background information about how I got the book and why I think I might give it five stars.

1.) NOS4R2 – Joe Hill

Joe Hill is a bit of a special author for me, being the son of my all-time favourite author, Stephen King. I’m slowly making my way through his back catalogue. I gave his first two novels, Heart-Shaped Box and Horns the big five stars and I’m making my way through his short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts in my Short Stories Challenge (where I’ve read one story so far and unfortunately, it wasn’t five stars). However, I seem to be a big fan of his novels and I have high hopes that this one is going to be another five star read for me!

2.) The Vegetarian – Han Kang

I’ve already mentioned this book in my New Year, New Books Tag as one of the books I most wanted to get to this year. I’ve heard so many good things about it, I adore that cover and it’s such a short read at 183 pages that I really have no excuse for getting round to it. Will it be five stars? I hope so!


3.) Dadland – Reggie Carew

Dadland walked away with the Costa Award for best biography back in 2016 and I’ve seen quite a few rave reviews about it. It’s quite rare I give a non fiction tome five stars but I’ve got a good feeling about this one and think it’s going to be an emotional read.

4.) My Name Is Leon – Kit de Waal

This is one of those books I can’t BELIEVE I haven’t read yet and need to remedy that in the next few months! It was on the Costa Shortlist for best first novel in 2016 like Dadland and has been on my TBR a ridiculous amount of time. This needs to happen. I have a sneaking suspicion it might be a five star!

5.) Sing Unburied Sing – Jesmyn Ward

This is the only new release on my Five Star TBR Predictions, it recently won the National Book Award over in America and here in the UK it has been long-listed for the Women’s Prize For Fiction. I’ve heard a few mixed reviews now, some fantastic and some luke-warm but I still have confidence I’m going to love it!

So that’s five books from my TBR which I think (and hope!) are going to be five star reads for me in the future. I’ll get on with reading them in the next few months and then I’ll be back with a wrap up post where I’ll let you know if I was right in my predictions or not. I will also be reviewing each book separately as always but I’ll do that after my wrap up post so as to not give anything away ahead of time. 

Make sure to check out Mercy’s video on her channel to see which books she has predicted will be five star reads for her. If anyone else wants to do this, I would absolutely love to see your choices, please leave a link to your post (or just tell me your choices) in the comments section below!


The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) – Alan Bradley

Published March 18, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

What did I think?:

I have to admit I was first attracted to this novel by the extremely quirky title and the promise of a precocious and determined female protagonist. Essentially, The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie provided me with exactly this but I was delighted to get so much more besides. This novel is like a hot water bottle in your bed on a freezing night and the cosiness of the narrative is perfectly complimented with our wonderful female lead, whose endearing qualities and dogged stubbornness to root out the truth is both charming and heart-warming.

Our setting is 1950’s England, where eleven year old Flavia de Luce lives with her father and two older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. Flavia has a thirst for knowledge and a keen mind, being particularly interested in chemistry and the possibility of incorporating poison ivy into her older sister’s lipstick when she annoys her!

If Feely only knew that lipstick was made from fish scales, I thought, she might be a little less eager to slather the stuff all over her mouth. I must remember to tell her. I grinned. Later.

However, Flavia’s mind is about to be thoroughly tested after a number of strange occurrences. First, she finds a dead bird with a postage stamp attached to its beak and then a little later, she finds a strange man dying in the cucumber patch in her garden. Rather than being terrified, Flavia becomes set on discovering what has happened to the stranger, why it happened and who is responsible. As a result, her amateur detective skills and intelligent ponderings lead her right into the heart of a rather sinister mystery where she will not rest until it is resolved.

I’ve read quite mixed reviews of this novel on Goodreads, particularly about the character of Flavia who seems to be a bit of a “marmite” individual for various reviewers. I can completely understand this, Flavia can be incredibly annoying, nosey and stubborn and I can see why she might frustrate some readers. However, I adored her. Her sense of humour (as illustrated in the above quote) was so engaging and I loved all the opportunities Alan Bradley took in the novel to make me smile, they were so numerous. If I had to describe this novel to anyone interested in reading it, I would perhaps talk about a miniature, female Sherlock Holmes with the wit of the very best stand up comedian in a setting Agatha Christie would be proud of.

It’s a real feel-good story and although the mystery isn’t difficult to unravel for the reader and in fact, I did guess what was going on fairly quickly, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. The beauty of this book for me is to be had in the character of Flavia and the way she unpicks a very mysterious murder. I can only imagine growing to love this character more and more as the series continues and I simply must make time for the second book, which also has another fantastic title – The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown

Published March 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:


Based on the shocking true story of the infamous witchfinder Matthew Hopkins, this haunting and gripping novel is perfect for fans of The Miniaturist, Sarah Waters and The Essex Serpent.

‘The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…’

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

What did I think?:

I’ve been familiar with The Witchfinder’s Sister for a little while now after my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads read and reviewed it as part of a blog tour. So when Richard and Judy picked it for their Spring Reads 2018 here in the UK, I was intrigued to finally discover what it was all about, particularly when I re-read the synopsis and realised it was a work of historical fiction based on events that really happened and people that actually existed in history. I love a good historical fiction, particularly one that is based largely on fact and it promised to be an intriguing read that I was hoping would keep me captivated. Generally, this is a good read, especially for anyone interested in the time period when many women were accused of witchcraft and subjected to horrific tortures in order to prove their guilt. However, by the end, it just didn’t grab my attention as much as I would have hoped and unfortunately, I wasn’t as blown away by the narrative as I had expected to be.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is told primarily from the point of view of Alice Hopkins, who has recently lost her husband in a tragic accident and is forced to return home to her brother’s house whilst in the early stages of pregnancy to beg for his help and shelter. Alice hasn’t seen her brother, Matthew Hopkins for a while and they parted fairly acrimoniously last time they spoke, with Matthew not having many kind words to say about Alice’s choice of husband. However, when Alice is finally reconciled with him, she is surprised by just how much of a difference she sees in her brother. After hearing rumours from the servants, she finds out that Matthew is keeping a list of women in the town that he suspects to be witches. Worse still, he is heavily involved with the apprehension, questioning and indeed, torture of these alleged witches and is so determined to convict as many women as possible, it is frightening. This novel follows Alice and Matthew as the former tries desperately to talk sense into her brother and the latter becomes hell-bent on pursuing this path, for various hidden reasons of his own.

As a piece of historical fiction, The Witchfinder’s Sister is luminous in both detail and atmosphere and this all leads to an instantly compelling narrative. I really felt for Alice at the beginning of the novel, having lost the love of her life and being forced back into a situation that causes her great anxiety. Then we learn a little more about Alice and the number of pregnancies that she had which resulted in miscarriage, a topic which is sadly very close to my own heart. As the novel continued however, I found myself becoming quite frustrated with Alice, mainly because I felt she didn’t stand up to her brother enough (I do note that women were meant to be submissive in this time period but Alice did seem like she should have had enough fire in her belly to dispute Matthew’s goings-on!).

Furthermore, there was a point in the narrative where something quite supernatural occurs which I thought was quite an interesting direction to take the story. However, nothing more really happened in this vein and I wondered what the point was of having it within the tale in the first place. Aside from these minor issues, I did think this was a solid novel and the author sets the scene absolutely beautifully with intricate descriptions and the inclusion of some very interesting parts of Matthew’s notebook which I fully appreciated. I think fans of historical fiction or those that love a good “witchy” story will really enjoy this and I must assure you, I do think it’s a good read, it just wasn’t an amazing one for me, personally speaking.

Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

The Witchfinder’s Sister was the twenty-first book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Another Day In The Death Of America – Gary Younge

Published March 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

On Saturday 23 November 2013 ten children were shot dead. The youngest was nine; the oldest was nineteen. They fell in suburbs, hamlets and ghettos. None made the national news. It was just another day in the death of America, where on average seven children and teens are killed by guns daily.

Younge picked this day at random, searched for their families and tells their stories. What emerges is a sobering, searing, portrait of youth and guns in contemporary America.

What did I think?:

This piece of non fiction has been on my TBR for quite a long time and I’m delighted (yet still slightly traumatised from the reading experience) that I’ve finally got around to reading it. If you’re a long-time follower of my blog you might remember a post I did on the short piece of work by Stephen King called Guns. If you haven’t read it and feel as passionately as I do about gun regulations, you really should, I found it to be a phenomenal read. But back to Gary Younge whom in Another Day In The Death Of America, takes one 24 hour period, completely at random and catalogues in detail the stories of young people who have died because of guns. Some of the families of the victims he was unable to speak to personally, (understandably some grieving parents found it too difficult to talk to a journalist) but in these cases, he goes behind the scenes and learns as much about the young person that has died as possible.

It’s absolutely shocking to think that in the one day that Gary Younge chose, TEN young people were shot dead, the youngest being just nine years old which was particularly horrifying to me. I’m not sure if it was the age of this victim, a young boy called Jaiden, or the manner of his death which was so abhorrent to me and I really felt passionately angry at the perp. What kind of grown man or to put it better – monster, inflicts that on a child purely to get back at an ex? With Another Day In The Death Of America, the punches just keep on rolling and I had to keep my notebook handy to write down multiple facts as I read them as I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. Did you know that firearms are the leading cause of death in black children under the age of nineteen in America and the second cause of death in children of the same age groups after car accidents? Furthermore, a lot of people justify these figures as being “black on black crime” (a direct quote from a New York Mayor) but the difference between black people killing other black people and white people killing other white people is barely significant.

I just want to mention one more story that had a profound effect on me, although I have to add that all these stories will touch in you in some shape or form. There was a case of two boys, eleven and twelve years old respectively, who were left alone overnight without adult supervision. Tragically, one of the boys was killed by the other accidentally. The father was held as responsible, often leaving his guns out where the children could reach them and in the end, he was charged with the crime of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” Basically, this is the same charge as if the two boys had found his stash of porn!

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book, apart from Gary Younge’s obvious compassion towards all the victims, is that not all of the victims are made out to be angels. He accepts that in fact, some of them made very bad decisions and life choices and illustrates their individual circumstances, situation they were born in to, limited choices, bad schools, the availability of drugs, the lure of gangs etc. He doesn’t make any excuses for them but lays out the cold, honest facts on the table for the reader to scrutinise. At the end of the day however, does anything in the world excuse the fact that they were shot? I don’t think so.

After the horrific Florida Parkland shooting recently, I feel more strongly than ever that there should be more stringent regulations on guns. In this book, Gary Younge could not have illustrated this point any better by including a quote by President Obama who said words to the effect: “if there’s a lock to prevent a child getting into some aspirin, there should definitely be a lock to stop a child pulling a trigger on a gun.” In fact, it’s a sobering thought that 31% of accidental deaths caused by firearms could be prevented by adding child lock/loading indicators. If you’re interested in this topic and have fervent views on gun violence like my own, I highly, highly recommend this book. It will make you think, break your heart and pray that something can be done to stop this madness soon.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


Another Day In The Death Of America by Gary Younge is the twentieth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Clay Girl – Heather Tucker

Published March 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Vincent Appleton smiles at his daughters, raises a gun, and blows off his head. For the Appleton sisters, life had unravelled many times before. This time it explodes.

Eight-year-old Hariet, known to all as Ari, is dispatched to Cape Breton and her Aunt Mary, who is purported to eat little girls . . . With Ari on the journey is her steadfast companion, Jasper, an imaginary seahorse. But when they arrive in Pleasant Cove, they instead find refuge with Mary and her partner Nia.

As the tumultuous ’60s ramp up in Toronto, Ari is torn from her aunts and forced back to her twisted mother and fractured sisters. Her new stepfather Len and his family offer hope, but as Ari grows to adore them, she’s severed violently from them too, when her mother moves in with the brutal Dick Irwin.

Through the sexual revolution and drug culture of the 1960s, Ari struggles with her father’s legacy and her mother’s addictions — testing limits with substances that numb and men who show her kindness. She spins through a chaotic decade of loss and love, the devilish and divine, with wit, tenacity, and the astonishing balance unique to seahorses.

The Clay Girl is a beautiful tour de force that traces the story of a child, sculpted by kindness, cruelty and the extraordinary power of imagination, and her families — the one she’s born in to and the one she creates.

What did I think?:

I really don’t know where to start with this review and I’m really hoping my ramblings make some sort of sense but we’ll see how we go. The Clay Girl was the last book that I predicted I would give five stars to in my Five Stars TBR Prediction post after I had seen so many positive reviews and couldn’t resist it after reading those powerful first few sentences of the synopsis. It didn’t end up being a five star read for me personally, I had a few teeny weeny little issues with it that prevented me giving it the big five but interestingly enough, it’s a book that has stayed with me ever since I finished reading it. It’s up there with some of the most creative and quirky writing styles that I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across and although the subject matter at points made for a very difficult reading experience, I’m infinitely glad that I put myself through it.

This novel tells the story of Ari (Hariet by birth but her mother made a spelling mistake when naming her) and her imaginary seahorse companion, Jasper. Ari relies on Jasper to keep her company, keep her strong and keep her sane through her traumatic childhood with an abusive father and an alcoholic mother. After her father dies, she is peddled off to her Aunt and her partner to live and she begins to feel she could at last be happy but unfortunately, not for long. Her mother regains custody of her and she is forced to re-enter a world of indifference and neglect with a mother who just couldn’t care less. At first, she has another person in her life to make things a bit brighter but when fate shows its hand again, Ari is once again left in a circle of abuse with another “father figure” to make her and her siblings life a living hell. Ari depends on her seahorse Jasper, her vivid imagination and huge strength of character to make it through the precarious nature of her childhood to a place where she can finally escape back to her aunts and be happy once more.

I think that’s pretty much all I want to say about the plot but I just want to reassure readers that even though it sounds like a cycle of unrelenting misery for our female protagonist (and to be honest, it kind of is!), the gorgeous language that Heather Tucker uses to tell Ari’s story makes this awful story well worth the heart-ache. The things that Ari goes through from childhood right through adolescence and early adulthood are tricky to read about but the journey she goes through as a person makes it well worth your time. This isn’t going to be a book for everyone, I have to say. The narrative can be very strange and confusing at times, even the way sentences are structured and grammar is used and sometimes I felt like I had to go back and re-read whole chunks of it as I wasn’t fully concentrating at the time of reading it. However, if you’re in the mood for something a bit different with a stunning literary edge, I would highly recommend trying The Clay Girl and seeing what you think. The stranger, dream-like, more hazy parts of the narrative didn’t pull me in as much as I would have hoped but I have to admit, I would read anything Heather Tucker writes purely for the beautiful way she uses words.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


Look out for my Five Star TBR Predictions – Round Two coming soon to bibliobeth.