British Books Challenge 2018

All posts in the British Books Challenge 2018 category

Nine Pints: A Journey Through The Mysterious, Miraculous World Of Blood – Rose George

Published January 12, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Most humans contain between nine and twelve pints of blood. Here Rose George, who probably contains nine pints, tells nine different stories about the liquid that sustains us, discovering what it reveals about who we are. In Nepal, she meets girls challenging the taboos surrounding menstruation; in the Canadian prairies, she visits a controversial plasma clinic; in Wales she gets a tour of the UK’s only leech farm to learn about the vital role the creatures still play in modern surgery; and in a London hospital she accompanies a medical team revolutionising the way we treat trauma.

Nine Pints reveals the richness and wonder of the potent red fluid that courses around our bodies, unseen but miraculous.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Portobello Books for sending me a review copy of Nine Pints, a non-fiction book that does what it says on the tin and much more besides. I actually read this book as part of Nonfiction November and am shamefully only getting round to posting my review now as I found myself taking a rather unexpected break in December from my blog, another reason why you haven’t been seeing that many reviews from me! This book first came to my attention via my blogger buddy, Stuart from the fabulous blog Always Trust In Books and it’s also thanks to him that I managed to snag my very own copy. I’m so excited to finally be able to tell you all about it because this book could not be more “me,” even if it tried.

Rose George, author of Nine Pints: A Journey Through The Mysterious, Miraculous World Of Blood.

As a scientist working with blood as my day job, I knew I had to read Nine Pints and I was delighted to discover that what was inside was just as fascinating, insightful and informative as I could have anticipated. In fact, it completely surpassed my expectations and I discovered huge chunks of knowledge about blood, its history and the people who championed advances in science and technology that I hadn’t previously been aware of. The author focuses on a range of different topics related to blood and the format of having a variety of essay-like chapters specific to a certain subject made for a fantastic reading experience. I found myself immersed in a particular area like the use of medicinal leeches or the AIDS epidemic in Africa and was able to absorb the information given without feeling like anything was rushed or skipped over.

Rose George has such a personable writing style and the way she disseminated scientific and technical details to the reader was both clear and precise but with a wonderful entertaining quality that put me in mind of Mary Roach. I felt she really opened up the field of science to the layperson, without insulting anyone’s intelligence or assuming any prior knowledge of the reader but at the same time, never simplifying things down to the extent where you feel you’re back at school. Her engaging manner of writing meant that you never felt lectured to – you just felt you were part of the conversation WITH her and that’s such a rare quality in a writer, I take off my metaphorical hat to her.

Quick science lesson (!!) – the components of blood.

It’s true, I do have prior knowledge of this subject because of my day job however what I loved most about this book was that Rose George still managed to surprise me with exciting new portions of information and the topics she covered were so diverse and not necessarily expected for a book on the subject of blood. I especially enjoyed learning about Janet Vaughan (my new favourite lady scientist heroine) whom, amongst many other achievements, pioneered the blood donor system in Britain today. Who knows where we’d be without her? Then there were entire topics on menstruation, one following super-inventor Arunachalam Muruganantham, otherwise known as Pad Man in his fight to make appropriate and necessary sanitary protection for women in his country who were forced to resort to horrendous measures just to stem their monthly flow of blood. These specific chapters I found very affecting, especially as I hadn’t really realised how taboo menstruation still is in some countries – to the extent where women are forced to live in separate accommodation and not allowed to touch men whilst bleeding as they are thought to be contaminated.

Rose George approaches all these topics and so much more with intelligence, heart, a dry wit and sensitivity and it left me with a new-found respect for the life-giving fluid I take for granted both within my own body and the fluid I see as just a “substance,” when I work with it every day. If you’re at all interested in how our body works, how far scientific advances have come in history and sadly, how behind we are elsewhere in the world, this is definitely the book for you.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Talking About The Cactus by Sarah Haywood with Chrissi Reads

Published January 3, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO BLOOM

People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green—a prickly independent woman, who has everything just the way she wants it and who certainly has no need for messy emotional relationships.

Family and colleagues find her standoffish and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs.

At forty-five, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward—a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control.

When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places.

This sparkling debut is a breath of fresh air with real heart and a powerful emotional punch. In Susan we find a character as exasperating and delightful as The Rosie Project‘s Don Tillman. An uncompromising feminist and a fierce fighter, it’s a joy to watch her bloom.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Initially, you didn’t think this book would be a book for you. Did your opinion change?

BETH: Kind of! I hadn’t heard much about this novel or author prior to seeing it on the Richard and Judy book club list and I know it’s bad and I shouldn’t do it but I totally judged it by its cover. I really should know better by now and NOT do that as occasionally it has no reflection on the story within but I can’t help myself, I still do it! Generally, I found The Cactus to be an enjoyable read with a fascinating female lead that I was intrigued to know more about and the narrative was interesting enough to make me want to carry on reading.

BETH: What did you make of the relationship between Susan and her brother Edward?

CHRISSI: Ooh, I think it was a rather broken relationship. I think there was a lot of sibling rivalry between the two. I don’t feel like it was a very loving relationship at all. I think Susan was too different. I feel like Susan felt her brother wasn’t as organised as her and she looked down on him for the way he was. Susan felt superior to her brother and couldn’t possibly understand why he would be left the house in their mother’s will.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character in this book? If so, who and why?

BETH: I think Susan herself was a very well drawn character and as I mentioned above, I was curious enough about her story to become invested in the novel as a whole. She has quite a prickly disposition when you first meet her (one of the reasons for the name of the book?) and she appears to be quite a difficult individual but she does grow on you and when you understand more about her past, you can understand why she has such an impenetrable wall built around her.

BETH: How would you classify this novel? i.e. which genre does it fall into?

CHRISSI: Tricky question. I think I would probably put it in contemporary fiction, that’s if you don’t let me just call it adult fiction. Is that cheating? Oh well. Contemporary it is in my opinion! I think it’s a book that can be enjoyed by both sexes. It actually reminded me a little bit of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. That’s a book that I feel appeals to both male and female readers too.

CHRISSI: Share a favourite quote from this book. Why was it your favourite?

BETH: “But these days fairy-tale endings come in all shapes and sizes. It’s okay for the princess to end up with the prince, it’s okay for her to end up with the footman, and it’s also okay for her to end up on her own. It’s okay for her to end up with another princess, or with six cats, or to decide she wants to be a prince. None of these make her any more or less a feminist. It’s about finding out who you are and what you want, and then being true to it.”

I actually resonated with this quote so much that I shared it to my personal Facebook page! I love that it refers to fairy-tales, I love that the author is saying that it’s okay to be who you are and do what you do as an individual, as a feminist and as a woman. She hits the nail on the head and I just adore it.

BETH: Susan has a unique way of interacting with other people. Did you sympathise with her at all?

CHRISSI: I did! I can see that Susan would irritate a lot of people and put people’s backs up with her ways of interacting. To me, Susan was a character that would be diagnosed with autism. Her way of dealing with the world reminded me of a few children that I teach that are on the autistic spectrum. As you get to know Susan, I feel like you begin to understand why she is the way she is. The past can define us and I think it does define Susan.

CHRISSI: Can you compare this book to another or is it quite unique?

BETH: I have to admit, when I first started this book I thought it was going to be quite similar to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fineby Gail Honeyman. In a way, it kind of is – with a tricky, somewhat isolated main female lead but in other ways The Cactus is very different. This was such as a relief as even though Eleanor Oliphant was one of my favourite books of 2018, I didn’t want another book so similar to it. Luckily this novel stands on its own perfectly.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely give it a go! 🙂 I thought it was a decent read.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

CHRISSI’S Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Elmet – Fiona Mozley

Published January 2, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Fresh and distinctive writing from an exciting new voice in fiction, Elmet is an unforgettable novel about family, as well as a beautiful meditation on landscape. 

Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.

Atmospheric and unsettling, Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.

What did I think?:

So, I finally got round to reading Elmet! After being short-listed for a number of prizes including the Man Booker and The Women’s Prize For Fiction here in the UK I had heard so much about this work of literary fiction and knew it was something I just had to experience. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to do it alone. The wonderful Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader, blogger extraordinare, beautiful bookstagrammer, all round good egg and one of my blogger besties read this with me as our very first buddy read and that’s just one of the many reasons why this book will now always have a special place in my heart. Elmet is not only a literary masterpiece and one of the very best examples of the genre for those wishing to dip their toes into literary fiction but is a debut novel for crying out loud! It’s almost impossible to believe, the author writes with such beauty and conviction that you’d assume she’d been mistress of her art for decades.

Fiona Mozley, author of the debut novel, Elmet.

Jennifer and I had such a wonderful discussion about Elmet and it really was a pleasure to share this quiet but powerful read with her and feed off each others insights. The story of Daniel, Cathy and their Daddy who live quite a simple, meagre existence out in the wilderness moves along at the beginning at a relatively slow pace but the emotional punch it ends up packing is truly a mighty one. There are so many questions and reasons for wanting to carry on reading and each moment we stopped to discuss what we had read, I found myself eagerly anticipating not only how the narrative would continue but how interesting our chat was going to end up being! Why have the family isolated themselves in the woods? What has happened to Daniel and Cathy’s mother? Furthermore, when their way of living is threatened, how will each character individually respond and what will be the ramifications of their actions?

Imagine our contemporary world right now and a dwelling built right here in these woods where our characters live, surviving on what the forest gives them for food and comfort. Enter the world of Elmet.

It was fairly obvious to me from the very start that Mozley is a spectacularly gifted writer. Her words drip from the pages like honey and she talks about the landscape in particular so vividly and in so much glorious detail that you could almost smell the mud under your feet. Elmet is a celebration of nature and how we can harness it to live a far less complicated existence but more importantly, this is a story of the bond between a father and his children. Daniel, Cathy and Daddy are such outstanding and impressively drawn characters, all with their own unique personalities that it was exciting to follow their journey, celebrate their eccentricities and worry about their futures.

If you like your fiction to have a clear and distinct resolution, I have to say this might not be the novel for you. Elmet can be kind of vague, nothing is wrapped up neatly with a little bow, occasionally the reader makes up their own mind about what a specific individual might be thinking or indeed, by the end, how their story may continue. However, the subtle little clues the author expertly drops along the way left me in no doubt about my particular interpretation of events. Even now, weeks after finishing this novel, I’m still thinking about where our characters might be and how they might be coping after a dramatic finale that left both Jennifer and I reeling.

Elmet is a book that works even better when the finer points of the narrative are chewed over with a friend and I’m so grateful to Jennifer for being that person that I was fortunate enough to experience it with. If you like your literary fiction descriptive, full of heart and thought-provoking, I would definitely suggest this novel and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

For Jennifer’s fabulous review please see her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

An Act Of Silence – Colette McBeth

Published January 1, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

MOTHER. WIFE. POLITICIAN. LIAR.

THEN: How far did she go to conceal the truth?

Politician Linda Moscow sacrificed everything to protect her son: her beliefs, her career, her marriage. All she wanted was to keep him safe.

NOW: What will she risk to expose the lies?

When the voices she silenced come back to haunt her, Linda is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line . . .

An Act of Silence is about the abuse of power, the devastating effects of keeping the truth buried, and the lengths a mother will go to save her child.

What did I think?:

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve had this book, my first read by Colette McBeth on my Netgalley TBR list for a long time now and all these naughty other books kept getting in the way, preventing me from starting it. After finally getting round to experiencing the author’s style, I’m delighted to report that she writes precisely the sort of books I want to be reading. I was instantly pulled into the world of our lead female character, her son and her past and the story moved at such a steady pace (with some very clever reveals) that even when I wasn’t reading it, I was THINKING about reading it, a sure sign that I’m invested.

Colette McBeth, author of An Act Of Silence.

An Act Of Silence is McBeth’s third novel, following Precious Thing and A Life I Left Behind and although I can’t make any comparisons as yet with her previous work, it reads like an established and very confident thriller writer with oceans of expertise under their belt. We follow our female protagonist, Linda Moscow in an utterly compelling opening where she is tasked with the ultimate quandary – her only son is accused of murder and she must decide first of all, whether she believes his protestations at his innocence. Secondly, as a can of worms from the past is well and truly opened up, she must protect herself and her family in the safest way possible whilst ensuring any villains have the potential to be finally unmasked.

The Houses Of Parliament in London, UK where our character Linda Moscow spent most of her political career as Home Secretary.

I have to admit when I read initial reviews of this novel and I saw it marketed as a “political thriller,” I was slightly wary. I’m not the biggest fan of politics, in or out of literature and novels that I’ve read in the past that tend to follow this particular narrative have more often than not, sadly fallen flat for me. However, I had no need to worry. The politics does play an important part in the narrative, specifically concerning Linda’s past and a horrific scandal that she found herself embroiled in but, interestingly enough, the novel focuses much more on characters, the relationships between them and how events from the past have influenced their individual actions and reactions in the present.

From the very first early moments of this story, I was captivated by the relationship between Linda and her son Gabriel. If I had to describe it in three words I would say: complicated, fractured and uneasy. As a reader, I became desperate to know what precipitating events had led to the point where every word and movement they make around each other becomes so tentative and weary. There’s so much more bubbling under the surface of An Act Of Silence than that which is initially suggested and the joy of reading this is discovering all those surprises for yourself. The author visits some very murky places and incredibly dark subject matters but this only results in an even more fascinating plot which unravels slowly, deliberately and quite brilliantly as all begins to be revealed.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Thank you so much to Headline books for providing a complimentary digital copy of An Act Of Silence via Netgalley.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kit-Lit 2018 – DECEMBER READ – Time Travelling With A Hamster by Ross Welford

Published December 30, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

“My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty nine and again four years later when he was twelve.

The first time had nothing to do with me. The second time definitely did, but I would never even have been there if it hadn’t been for his ‘time machine’…”

When Al Chaudhury discovers his late dad’s time machine, he finds that going back to the 1980s requires daring and imagination. It also requires lies, theft, burglary, and setting his school on fire. All without losing his pet hamster, Alan Shearer…

What did I think?:

When Chrissi first chose this book for our kid-lit challenge this year, I have to admit I was intrigued. Who couldn’t be with that title? I hadn’t heard of the book or the author before now and when I read the synopsis and it mentioned our lead character travelling back to the 1980’s I started to get a little bit excited. I grew up in the 1980’s and recently have been on a real nostalgia trip, particularly for the music of that era which I’ve always adored. BBC Four here in the UK have been re-playing classic Top Of The Pops episodes from the eighties in order and I’ve had the most wonderful trip down memory lane enjoying tunes from 1986, when I would have been six years old and just getting into music in a big way. I was gleefully anticipating some eighties references that might take me back to that time through the magic of literature and perhaps that was what was a slight disappointment about this novel for me – my expectations and the fact they weren’t really met in this specific way.

Ross Welford, author of Time Travelling With A Hamster.

I have to stress though that I am nit-picking. In general, this is a brilliant read for children and what I was personally expecting shouldn’t be taken into account if you’re considering whether to pick this book up or not. Time Travelling With A Hamster is about so much more than just the 1980’s. It’s about the relationship between families and in addition, the different generations within the same family. It packs a definitive emotional wallop to the system as we follow our young protagonist travelling back in time to prevent his father’s death in the future. As a story of time travel, it’s a fascinating and exciting account of how events can be altered dramatically by tiny, seemingly inconsequential decisions that end up having enormous repercussions for more than one individual in the future.

One of the stars of the story is a small hamster named Alan Shearer. NOTE: Not the ACTUAL Alan Shearer, obviously!

As a fantastical adventure story, Time Travelling With A Hamster does everything you would expect and hope for as a work of children’s literature. There is some interesting character development in both our lead, Albert and his father Pythagoras (or Pye for short) and there is the wonderful addition of Grandpa Byron and his phenomenal feats of memory to give the reader a warm, gooey feeling inside. It certainly made me remember my own grandfather, a remarkable man, with fondness and longing for the times we spent together and the close bond that we were incredibly lucky to have had. The story rattles along at a nice pace and it certainly made for a pleasurable reading experience, particularly with the inclusion of several surprising events that I wasn’t expecting and always appreciate to shock me out of that comfortable, safe and predictable narrative.

With the element of time travel, the diversity of the characters and the loveable hamster companion, I can see why many children would really enjoy this story and I would definitely be open to reading more from this author in the future.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP ON 2ND JANUARY 2019: Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – The Titles Are Revealed!

 

Blog Tour – Attend by West Camel

Published December 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah. Seamstress, sailor, storyteller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books for the complimentary digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, when Anne first emailed me about this book I was immediately entranced by that simplistic yet stunning front cover. It really draws the eye (and perhaps also threads the eye?!) and is a perfect example of how beautiful cover art can entice a reader to want to know more about the story. Luckily it had a fantastic synopsis too – I mean, “self-proclaimed centenarian immortal?” I simply HAD to read this book when that line jumped out at me! Please pardon the pun but this is a beautifully woven story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It has its darker moments, which to be honest, I’m always a fan of but there were softer, more gentle periods too that I really appreciated.

West Camel, author of Attend.

This is the story primarily of three people. Anne is a former heroin addict, mother to Julie and grandmother to Tom. She has been away from her family for some time while she recovers from her addiction and is determined not to see any of them until she can ensure she won’t succumb to her demons and let them down again. As a result, she hasn’t even met her grandson and at the time the novel is set, she is slowly trying to integrate herself back into their lives whilst attempting to fight her own personal battles. Sam is a young gay man who has also had some hardships in his life and eases his loneliness by going out a lot, desperate to find someone who will finally “see” and appreciate him. Our final protagonist is Deborah, an older lady with a plethora of stories to tell, primarily how she has become immortal through working on a small piece of sewing. All three characters are drawn together by seminal events that occur in their lives and by finding each other, there is an opportunity for each one to eventually find happiness and contentment.

Deptford, South-East London, England where Attend is set.

The more I think about this novel, the more I realise what the author might have been trying to say and how moving the narrative is in general. We have three characters, all three are intriguing, have a story to tell, have had difficulties in their lives in the past and present and crucially, all of them are struggling with being seen by other people. I think my favourite part of the narrative had to be Deborah’s story, particularly when she told parts of her past that were incredibly heart-breaking. There’s a particular moment during the war when she is trapped in a shelter that was so moving and written so beautifully I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished that specific chapter. Additionally, I loved how all the characters find that inner strength they eagerly desire from each other and they emerge more resilient by the end.

Finally, I really appreciated that you can’t really categorise this novel. It’s such a heady mixture of contemporary fiction with a dashing of historical and crime elements and a sprinkling of magical realism. I feel like the more fantastical, whimsical parts of the story worked very well as a whole and it never strayed into the realms of unbelievable. From that beautiful front cover, to an equally beautiful story within the pages, Attend is an imaginative piece of work that will touch your heart and potentially make you believe in magic all over again.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village
with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in
higher education and business before turning his attention to the
arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist,
and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best
European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press
Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his
work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide
range of material for various arts organisations, including ghostwriting
a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the
European Literature Network. He has also written several short
scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres,
A highly anticipated debut, blending the magical realism of Angela Carter
and the gritty authenticity of Eastenders
and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

Find West on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8283285.West_Camel

or on Twitter at: @west_camel

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Attend will be published on 13th December 2018 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41967084-attend

Link to book on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Attend-West-Camel/dp/1912374390/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544092398&sr=8-1&keywords=attend+west+camel

The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books)

Published December 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.

And now for something a bit different…

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special review on my blog. A little while ago, I participated in my first ever buddy read with Stuart who blogs over at Always Trust in Books (and is an awesome blogger so you should all go follow him if you don’t already!). So far we’ve read the first two books in the brilliant Arc Of A Scythe series by Neal ShustermanScythe and Thunderhead and we’ve even read a little non-fiction too – Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review our books – individually or more of a collaboration and he had the brilliant idea of capturing our Twitter chat and then including it as part of our review. So please find here before our thoughts and feelings about The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle at the moment of reading it. If you’re worried about spoilers, never fear! Stuart and I deliberately kept the juicier parts of the narrative very vague so if you haven’t read this yet, no big secrets are given away.

What did WE think?:

Stuart: Hey Beth. I hope your week hasn’t been to hectic! Are you good to start reading today?

Beth: I sure am!! 😁 very excited, how would you like to divide it up?

Stuart: Let’s go with pages 100, 231, 350 and the end. Is that okay for you?

Stuart: Just to let you know, I am going to need some time before I actually post this buddy read. I am planning on doing a huge shake-up on my blog, name change and all.

Beth: That’s perfect. No worries at all dude. Ooh I’m kind of intrigued about your shake up! 🤔 don’t worry we can post whenever you’re ready.

Stuart: I just need to jumble everything up and refocus. I’ve been a tad slack recently. Cool! Well I’ll get started now 😁

Beth: I’m crossing everything that we’ll love this as much as everyone else seems to! 🤗

Stuart: Me too. Don’t want to be that reader 🙄. Liking what I am reading so far.

Stuart: I’m ready 😀. So many questions!

Beth: Me too!! First of all, let’s talk about that opening chapter? 😳 Wow, wow, WOW!

Stuart: It was a pretty explosive entry into the narrative. That line ‘How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home’ gave me chills. It is a great fusion of spiky adrenaline and dreamy confusion.

Beth: Fantastic description and exactly how I felt. I love a narrative like this that keeps you guessing. By about 30 pages in I already knew I was going to love it and I’m so intrigued to see how it continues. I’m intrigued about our narrator being trapped in different characters each morning but to have a puzzle to solve as well? Who knows what’s going to happen?!

Stuart: I was fascinated by the mystery but I was also slightly uneasy with the initial journey into Blackheath. When he truly discovers what is going on, that really did it for me and now I am completely fixated 😅

Beth: I think it might be one of the few books that I could give five stars in such a short time of

reading it! What do you think about the strange figure that appears telling our main lead what’s going on?

Stuart: The plague mask is an interesting point. I hope it has meaning instead of just being a cool feature. I don’t know what to think really. What could they possibly achieve with such a scenario. I wonder if the others are going to be competitive or helpful.

Beth: I definitely wasn’t expecting the whole costume thing. I definitely think they’re going to be competitive. I’m quite concerned it could turn quite nastier than we’re anticipating? 😕

Stuart: Well if that whole servant assault scene was anything to go by then it is going to be brutal. I’m hoping it might turn out to be an impossible love story, that would be perfect. Shall we continue reading?

Stuart: Should have probably finished on the next chapter 😅

Beth: Yes I’ll see you at the next checkpoint! 🤗

Stuart: I really like the way that the traits of each person come through. It would have been a shame if each individual was overly similar.

Stuart: ‘It’s like I’ve been asked to dig a whole with a shovel made of sparrows’. Turton’s imagination is excellent!

Stuart: Ready when you are! We always get the oddest of places to stop for our chats 😅

Beth: We certainly do! Still SO many questions! Who is the plague doctor? Who is this mysterious footman? I loved that quote you put above, the imagery is just fantastic and I really feel present in this world, like an onlooker at the party. I am glad like you say that each “host” is so very different. There’s a lot of characters to get to grips with and it makes it much easier when they have their own personalities!

Stuart: Having Aiden grapple with his hosts personalities and use their qualities (or lack of) to his advantage was really good. The plague doctor guess is still a work in progress. It is quite immersive and I am finding myself trying to keep track of who was where and when. My speculation generator is working overtime. What do you think of Turton’s writing?

Beth: I’m really enjoying it. It’s highly imaginative and the way he must have had to get all these

different pieces of the plot to come together is staggering! I’m not getting confused between the characters which is a relief but I am having to remind myself what certain individuals have done! 😂 How about you?

Stuart: It is an ambitious tale for sure! I am enjoying his multi-layered narrative and you’re definitely right about it not getting muddle up. Turton traps you with this impossible situation and I knew I had to finish this novel no matter what from the very beginning. I like the fluidity of the story, anything can change and Aiden’s hosts are beginning to overlap in new and interesting ways. Can’t wait to delve in deeper!

Beth: Me neither. Do you think Anna can be trusted? 🤔

Stuart: I’m not sure! There are so many versions of each character at various points in the story. I do know that the footman will stop at nothing to bring the others to their end. Ready to carry on?

Beth: Absolutely! I might be a bit slow for the next couple of days as work is a bit mad but looking forward to it. P350 right?

Stuart: Yeah no problem. Hope work goes okay!

Stuart: He has done this loop thousands of times!

Stuart: Ready 😁. Another perfectly timed break!

Beth: Oh my God I’ve just started reading. P245 – “brave rabbit.” 😱 Then the next chapter when he’s warned about the carriage…🤔

Stuart: Oh yeah. It has gotten so much darker!

Beth: It sure has. P316 “Every man is in a cage of his own making.” (The Plague Doctor) and the suggestion Aiden is being lost in the personalities of his hosts? 😳

Stuart: I think he might have done this to himself as some sort of penance. He has choosen to be there but why?

Beth: Oooh that’s interesting! You’ve made me think now. P331-332 oh my god!! 😳

Stuart: Oh yeah, the clock is ticking…

Beth: Hooray! I’m at p350, you’re right that was the perfect place to stop. Wow. I have such a mixture of feelings right now. I’m really confused, excited, intrigued, bewildered?? 😂

Stuart: It is very paradoxical and nuanced at the same time. One moment Aiden is chatting and the next second he is gunning for his life. I can’t stop trying to guess who it was. My head hurts 🤕

Stuart: I feel like making a wall chart with all the players criss-crossing and events displayed. I feel close to a solution then I forget another important part 🤣

Beth: Ahh mine too 🤕 😂 I don’t think you can call it at all. I have no clue what’s going to happen! And because it jumps backward and forward in time sometimes it’s so easy to lose the thread! This footman is really creeping me out though, how about you? 😕

Stuart: I just don’t know how he fits into the scheme. Is he there for sport? Does he have a bigger goal? How does he know more than everyone else? I’m getting dizzy again!

Beth: We really don’t know much about him. He’s so mysterious. All we know is that he wants to kill off all the hosts. It’s like they’ve both got the same goal – to stop the loop and it’s first one to the finish line?

Stuart: There are so many little lines of text that throw us off course. Turton is a pro at getting us to trust no one!

Beth: Haha that’s very true! We don’t even know who our main character really is, that could come as a surprise if we find out later? 🤔

Stuart: Possibly! Time to continue?

Beth: Let’s go to the end!! 👊🏻💪🏻👍🏻👌🏻🤘🏻

Beth: What is going ON?! P429 😅🤷🏼♀️😂

Stuart: I know. Many different hands at play. I love seeing all the earlier moments explained.

Very satisfying!

Beth: Finished!! 😅😳

Stuart: 😬🤕😅

Beth: Oh my goodness what did you THINK? Were you expecting that?!

Stuart: I was amazed by the Anna situation/ending. What a scenario! The Evelyn Hardcastle side of things… I am on the fence. How about you?

Beth: It took me a little while to get my head round it if I’m perfectly honest. It was so unexpected that I found myself re-reading entire passages twice or three times just to make sure I understood exactly what Turton had done. 🤔

Stuart: The connection between Anna and Aiden was superb. The best kind of backstory! I couldn’t get enough. I know what you mean though. Evelyn’s was a bit of a tougher conclusion. I still have questions… But what a book overall! Turton deserves the praise. Maintaining all those threads in a meaningful and whole narrative without totally losing his own mind is a success in itself!

Beth: Absolutely. So beautifully intricate I can’t even imagine how he pulled it all together. I feel like it’s the kind of book you need to read again just to appreciate all the threads that he wove and the incredibly convoluted plot?

Stuart: I think that is what makes this book so appealing is its superbly weaved mystery and the fact that Turton’s delivery is both controlled yet explosive at the same time. I would read it again just for those ‘ahhhhhh!’ moments 😅

Beth: I’ll certainly be reading anything Turton puts out in the future! Who do you think was the most interesting host? 🤔

Stuart: I’m going to say Derby but only because, not only was he the turning point for the whole story, he was a nasty piece of work that Aiden had to keep under control. You?

Beth: I think Rashton, the policeman? I really enjoyed his detective work and thought things really started coming together when Aiden was in his body.

Stuart: That is true, plus he was an unknown player right up until the last act. I did love those moments where actions from the earlier chapters get explained or come into play. It was very satisfying!

Beth: Yes! It’s why I wonder if a second reading would be even more valuable to cement the timeline of events even more? 🤔

Stuart: I am enjoying going back through it in my mind and trying to make new connections. Seven Deaths was a book that really tested my intuition. I have a bit of a book hangover now…

Beth: Me too haha 😂

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

I think you might be able to see from our Twitter chat that Stuart Turton sent us into complete emoji-overload! This book had such a convoluted plot but what I couldn’t get over at any point in the narrative was how amazingly clever it was and how all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle slotted together right at the end. I can’t imagine the amount of preparation and thought that had to go into a novel like this and I salute the author whole-heartedly for pulling it off in an incredible fashion where I’m still thinking about the book quite a while after finishing it.

Stuart Turton, author of The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Personally speaking, I find there is a fine line with complexity in novels. That is to say, I want something innovative, deep and slightly confusing that might fox me a little and have me scratching my head BUT I don’t want it to frustrate me and lead to me putting down the book because it isn’t exciting enough to hold my interest. Turton walks this line perfectly with Evelyn Hardcastle. Yes, it is intricate and makes your head spin a little bit however the glorious nature of the plot, the characters and the way the author structures it made me desperate to figure out the puzzle. So where it might have been maddening at points, it was maddening in a terrific way and I was constantly invested and involved in the story, curious to discover what exactly was going on.

And the characters? Wow. Just wow. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel before where the characters were so completely diverse and individual from each other! I have to admit when I saw the extensive list of players in the beginning, I was slightly nervous – would I be able to keep up? The answer is – quite easily. Each character is very distinguishable and incredibly fascinating. In fact, there wasn’t a single person that I didn’t want to know more about which is an enviable task for an author I’m sure.

The mystery in this novel is second to none. From the very beginning, I was enveloped in Aiden’s journey through his various hosts in order to figure out exactly who killed Evelyn Hardcastle and what their potential motive is. Nothing is wrapped up nicely in a little bow (which I appreciated) and it’s a long, elaborate story to get there but boy, is it worth it! I came away from this book immediately wanting to go right back to the first page and start again to pick up on the things that I had missed and it’s a rare book that makes me want to do that. If you haven’t read this novel yet, I encourage you with every breath in my body to DO IT – it’s a reading experience that cannot be missed and I’m so delighted to have finally realised why everyone is talking about it.

Thank you to Stuart from Always Trust In Books for another amazing buddy read – check out his review on his blog today!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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