British Books Challenge 2018

All posts in the British Books Challenge 2018 category

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

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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):

imagesCAF9JG4S

Blog Tour – Good Samaritans by Will Carver

Published November 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans.
But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…
And someone is watching…
Dark, sexy, dangerous and wildly readable, Good Samaritans marks the scorching return of one of crime fiction’s most exceptional voices.

What did I think?:

Oh Holy Mother. What did I just READ?! Well, the obvious answer is Good Samaritans by Will Carver of course but seriously, I wasn’t expecting this. Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and Karen Sullivan and all at Orenda Books for sending over a digital copy of this astounding novel in exchange for an honest review. Well, I’m going to be perfectly honest – I was blown away. I’ve read the three books in Carver’s January David series, Girl 4, The Two and Dead Set and enjoyed his writing style but I’ve never been so ecstatic about an author’s comeback until I read Good Samaritans. This novel is on another level of thrilling sumptuousness (is that even a word?) and I just wanted to stay on that level and never come down. Why did it have to end again?

Will Carver, author of Good Samaritans and the January David series.

What can I say about this novel? Finding the words to describe such marvellous characterisation and a blinder of a plot-line is going to be difficult, especially if I want to keep that air of mystery that this book absolutely deserves. Let me just say it’s primarily the story of three people. We have a married couple, Maeve and Seth and a gentleman called Ant who works for the Samaritans helpline. Seth suffers from vicious insomnia and often spends his evenings with the phone book on his lap, calling random numbers hoping for someone to talk to. Many of these callers end up hanging up on Seth (after showering him with abuse of course!) but there is one lonely, desperate young woman, Hadley Serf who decides to talk to him after wires become crossed and she believes she is on the line to the Samaritans. From this moment, all our characters become embroiled in some very murky, distorted goings-on that may make you a little nervous when talking to a stranger on the other end of the phone in the future.

Good Samaritans? 

My fellow blogger Mart, (fabulous, hilarious reviewer and all round good egg) over at The Beardy Book Blogger wished me luck with reviewing this book and boy was he right! I don’t want to give ANYTHING away but how do I find the words to persuade you all that this is first of all, a book you need to be reading by the end of the year and that this is an author that is reaching the dizziest and loftiest of heights? Just trust me, please. This was a “skyscraper of New York” piece of writing that I couldn’t get enough of and broke new grounds of darkness, gritty substance and staggeringly fabulous creativity. Be prepared for graphic sexual content, deplorable acts of violence and some warped minds and ideals that will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished the final page. Yes, there is a bit of “sexy time” and although I’m not usually a fan of this kind of thing, it never felt gratuitous and strangely enough, worked with the characters and the narrative that we are given.

The characters in Good Samaritans are beautifully realised and fantastically crazy whilst also maintaining that remarkable sense of authenticity that is sometimes so difficult to pull off when writing multiple characters, both male and female. I felt like the author really thought about their mindset at each moment of the novel and wrote believable and compelling moments for each one of them. If you like your crime raw, bruised, deliciously evil and a little bit uncomfortable, this is the novel for you. If Carver carries on writing like this, I’ve found myself another favourite author!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January
David series (Arrow). He spent his early years in Germany, but
returned to the UK at age 11, when his sporting career took off. He
turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and
television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful
theatre company.
He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, while
working on his next thriller. He lives in Reading with his two children.

Find Will on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4717409.Will_Carver

on his website at: http://www.willcarver.net/

on Twitter at: @will_carver

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. Good Samaritans was published on 15th November 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/40574569-good-samaritans

Link to book on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Good-Samaritans-Will-Carver-ebook/dp/B07DFP29VY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543164877&sr=8-1&keywords=good+samaritans

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat And Other Clinical Tales – Oliver Sacks

Published November 27, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In his most extraordinary book, “one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century” (The New York Times) recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders. Oliver Sacks’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents.

If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks’s splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine’s ultimate responsibility: “the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject.”

What did I think?:

This particular work of nonfiction might not come as a surprise to recent readers of my blog as I’ve been participating in Nonfiction November and being quite enthusiastic about the fact that neuroscience is one of my favourite things to read about. Saying that, it might come as a bit of a shock (and it certainly was to me!) that I haven’t picked up a single book by world-renowned neuroscientist Oliver Sacks who has written a plethora of books on the topic before sadly passing away in 2015. Awarded a CBE in 2008, Sacks even has an asteroid named after him for crying out loud! It was high time I discovered his work and I was delighted when my partner, Mr B picked one of his most famous books as part of my September TBR.

Generally, I have to say that I really enjoyed this fascinating little book. I have some small issues with it which I’ll go into a bit later but overall, it was a mind-blowing insight into the world of the brain when it happens to malfunction. It’s a book I absorbed in small chunks, reading a particular case each night and personally, I found this to be the best method of taking in the wealth of information that we are given as a reader. Now I’m quite lucky to have a scientific background because of my day job within science but I have to admit there were moments when I feel the author assumed the reader had a greater medical knowledge than they might otherwise have. This makes me slightly concerned that someone who doesn’t have any prior scientific know-how might be a bit turned off by portions of this book but thankfully I don’t think there’s too many instances of information overload and most of the time, I believe you would get the gist of what the author is describing.

Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat And Other Clinical Tales.

I have to say, the cases that Sacks describes in this book are absolutely unforgettable. There’s the “Man” from the title who has issues with visual recognition, even attempting to lift his wife’s head clean off her neck, mistaking it for his hat! Oddly enough, as we find with many of these neurological cases, despite our man’s severe visual recognition problems, he still manages to work as a successful music teacher and live a fulfilling life. We also have a man suffering from Parkinson’s who can’t help but tilt as he walks, rather like the Tower Of Pisa and develops a strange method to correct his tilting when Sacks draws his attention to it. Then there is the lady who has a strange dream that she cannot feel parts of her body and one day, when she awakes, her dream seems to have become her worst nightmare. She loses all sense of where her body is in space and in time (known as proprioception) and she is forced to concentrate at every waking moment to assess where her body might be, even for something as simple as sitting down.

I think the most heart-breaking story for me was the story of the middle-aged sailor who Sacks meets and immediately forges a relationship with. However, our sailor believes himself to be nineteen years old and in the year 1945 and neglects to remember who Sacks is after a few minutes of leaving the room. There is sadness in a lot of the cases that Sacks recounts and other accounts that had me shaking my head in disbelief and wonder, purely at how our brain can mess up so randomly and most importantly, drastically affect the rest of our lives as a result. However, the most interesting thing is that in many of these cases, the person afflicted didn’t realise anything was actually wrong and seemed perfectly content in the new life that their brain had made for them. Does this make it okay? Of course not! But are they suffering? It’s hard to say and there’s so much about the brain that we still don’t know which makes it an endlessly fascinating subject for me.

Image from: https://charterforcompassion.org/science-and-research-compassion-book/what-neuroscientists-can-teach-you-about-the-brain

As I alluded to earlier, I do have some small criticisms about this book, aside from the occasionally complicated and unexplained scientific terms I mentioned before. I am fully aware that this book was originally published in 1986 and therefore, attitudes and political correctness were perhaps slightly different however I did find it uncomfortable reading when Sacks devoted whole chapters to individuals that were mentally challenged/autistic and referred to them in terms that would be derogatory nowadays i.e. idiot, retarded, simple to name a few. Of course I understand this was merely a sign of the times and wouldn’t be acceptable today but this book has had multiple editions published and I don’t think a quick update would have hurt? Just my opinion.

Apart from this little niggle, I found this to be a highly informative and intriguing read and I’ll be interested to pick up another of Sacks works in the future for sure.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks was the fifty-first book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

And So It Begins – Rachel Abbott

Published November 25, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

So this is how it ends. It is clear to me now: one of us has to die.

Mark and Evie had a whirlwind romance. Evie brought Mark back to life after the sudden death of his first wife. Cleo, Mark’s sister, knows she should be happy for him. But Cleo doesn’t trust Evie…

When Evie starts having accidents at home, her friends grow concerned. Could Mark be causing her injuries? Called out to their cliff-top house one night, Sergeant Stephanie King finds two bodies entangled on blood-drenched sheets.

Where does murder begin? When the knife is raised to strike, or before, at the first thought of violence? As Evie stands trial, the jury is forced to consider – is there ever a proper defence for murder?

And So It Begins is a darkly compulsive psychological thriller with all the hallmarks of a Rachel Abbott bestseller – a provocative dilemma, richly-layered mystery, knife-edge tension, and brilliant characterization.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Becky Hunter and Wildfire Publishers for sending me a copy of Rachel Abbott’s latest stand-alone novel in exchange for an honest review. The aim of the new imprint from Headline according to publishing director Alex Clarke is to publish books that “spread like wildfire,” and with an objective like that, it definitely sounds like something I want to be part of! I was lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for Rachel’s previous novel (the seventh book in her DC Tom Douglas series), Come A Little Closer and really enjoyed my first experience of reading the author’s work so jumped at the chance to try something new, especially when the initial rave reviews from my fellow bloggers came flooding in. Ultimately, I was delighted to find And So It Begins to be an even more enjoyable experience than Come A Little Closer and really believe the author has found a very special niche within the psychological thriller genre.

Rachel Abbott, author of And So It Begins, a stand-alone thriller and courtroom drama.

As with most novels in the genre, it really helps for future readers if I’m as annoyingly vague as possible because with this particular book, believe me, I’m going to have to be. It’s a fascinating and compelling story of a couple, Evie and Mark who fall in love, have a baby and move in together relatively quickly. To anyone on the outside, they appear to be the picture of matrimonial bliss with Mark’s high-flying career as a talented, sought after photographer, a gorgeous baby girl and a stunning, opulent house with sea views. The thorn in their side initially appears to be Mark’s sister Cleo whom for many years had taken on the role of care-giver with her younger brother Mark and is incredibly protective of him, including his relationship with women which so far has been demonstrably shaky over the past few years. Then one night, Sergeant Stephanie King is called to the extravagant house and finds two bodies on a bed, covered in blood. What has happened? Furthermore, can people on the outside ever know what really goes on between a couple in the privacy of their own home?

I know it probably doesn’t look anything like this as the story is set in England (!!) but when I read about the house that Evie and Mark live in with views of the sea on just one side, making it feel quite isolated, I immediately pictured the house from Sleeping With The Enemy, one of my favourite ever films starring Julia Roberts.

Well. What can I say? Since Come A Little Closer, I feel Abbott’s writing has got a whole lot murkier – in a good way! I was immediately entranced by the synopsis and the promise of a mystery that would take the entire novel to unravel – this is obviously the best kind of course and I wasn’t disappointed. Instantly, I needed to know what on earth happened to this couple where we find them in such a horrendous situation and piece by piece, the answers are gradually revealed with more surprises than you could have ever imagined. I think what really sold this book to me however was the inclusion of the courtroom drama, adding a different dimension and layer to the author’s style and it had me captivated throughout, right to that final, tantalising moment where the jury pronounce their verdict.

As with all my favourite thrillers, And So It Begins focuses on a multitude of characters – Evie, Mark, his sister Cleo and Sergeant Stephanie King and each individual brings something fresh and intriguing to the narrative, making you wonder exactly what is going on and who exactly you can trust. Everyone has their part to play and story to tell and it’s certainly a book that you might find difficult to put down once you become invested. This was definitely the case for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

One More Chance – Lucy Ayrton

Published November 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Dani hasn’t had an easy life. She’s made some bad choices and now she’s paying the ultimate price; prison.

With her young daughter Bethany, growing up in foster care, Dani is determined to be free and reunited with her. There’s only one problem; Dani can’t stay out of trouble.

Dani’s new cellmate Martha is quiet and unassuming. There’s something about her that doesn’t add up. When Martha offers Dani one last chance at freedom, she doesn’t hesitate.

Everything she wants is on the outside, but Dani is stuck on the inside. Is it possible to break out when everyone is trying to keep you in . . .

What did I think?:

One More Chance landed on my doorstep courtesy of Millie Seaward and the team at Dialogue Books, a new imprint from Little, Brown publishers that “source, nurture and publish writing talent – and reach audiences – from areas currently under-represented or not covered by the mainstream publishing industry. This will include people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, the LGBTQI+ community and those with disabilities.” 

I thoroughly support this initiative and a huge thank you to Millie and Dialogue for providing me with a copy of this gripping debut novel in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I realised this was a story set inside the British prison system, and specifically focused on the life of female prisoners, I knew it was a book I had to pick up. There’s been a lot of negative press recently about the state of British prisons and generally, it’s a topic I’m very intrigued by, both here and in other countries. I was delighted to discover an instantly compelling narrative with characters that felt completely authentic and I sped through it in no time at all.

Lucy Ayrton, author of the novel One More Chance.

This is the story of Dani, who has spent a fair few spells in prison after recurrent drugs-related offences. However, when we currently meet her, she becomes desperate that her current stay in jail is going to be her last. For Dani has something now to fight for – her young daughter, Bethany who has been taken away from her and placed with foster parents. Dani is determined to get her back but before this can happen, she has to resist any drama within the prison system (which is harder than it initially appears) go through a drug programme service so that she can “get clean,” and reduce the risk of re-offending in the future and finally, prove she can have a career and a way of providing for her baby on the outside. Things start to look up for Dani when she gets a mysterious new cell-mate, Martha who insists that she can help Dani get to her daughter. However, is it really is easy as that? Will Dani be able to resist temptation and keep out of trouble or will the thought of Bethany prove too difficult to pass up?

Notorious H.M. Prison Holloway in London, one of the largest female jails in Europe where our character Dani is incarcerated. It was closed in 2016 as part of the government’s overhaul of the prison system.

For what I expected from this novel, One More Chance ticked all the relevant boxes. It was a fascinating insight into the world of female prisoners and felt remarkably gritty and genuine. The author, Lucy Ayrton, is Communications Manager of a prison charity and much of this story was inspired by women she met and talked with on visits, particularly within the Holloway Mother And Baby Unit. This really comes across in the narrative, you can feel the characters bouncing off the pages with their authenticity. These people feel very real and believable and although they may have issues, it’s impossible not to feel some sort of sympathy for the situation they find themselves in.

Our female lead, Dani in particular is wonderfully interesting and I really enjoyed getting to know her. She drove me absolutely crazy with the decisions she made sometimes but in the end, I just felt a great deal of pity for her, especially the inner turmoil she experienced in being apart from her daughter. Dani often felt she needed to put on a front, especially in a system that promotes violence and the importance of never showing your fear but I could sense her vulnerability and appreciated the emotional roller-coaster that rocked her childhood and adolescence life.

One More Chance is a page turning and at times, eye-opening read about the world of female incarceration from an exciting new voice in fiction that really understands what she’s writing about. I’m looking forward to seeing what Lucy Ayrton does next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Mini Pin-It Reviews #27 – Four Graphic Novels

Published November 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four graphic novels for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) Noughts & Crosses Graphic Novel – Malorie Blackman and John Aggs (Illustrator)

What’s it all about?:

Callum is a nought – an inferior white citizen in a society controlled by the black Crosses.

Sephy is a Cross – and the daughter of one of the most powerful, ruthless men in the country.

In their hostile, violent world, noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. But when Sephy and Callum’s childhood friendship grows into love, they’re determined to find a way to be together.

And then the bomb explodes . . .

The long-awaited graphic novel adaptation of one of the most influential, critically acclaimed and original novels of all time, from multi-award-winning Malorie Blackman.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

2.) Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes – Mary M. Talbot, Bryan Talbot

What’s it all about?:

Part personal history, part biography, Dotter of Her Father”s Eyes contrasts two coming-of-age narratives: that of Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, and that of author Mary Talbot, daughter of the eminent Joycean scholar James S. Atherton. Social expectations and gender politics, thwarted ambitions and personal tragedy are played out against two contrasting historical backgrounds, poignantly evoked by the atmospheric visual storytelling of award-winning graphic-novel pioneer Bryan Talbot. Produced through an intense collaboration seldom seen between writers and artists, Dotter of Her Father”s Eyes is smart, funny, and sad – an essential addition to the evolving genre of graphic memoir.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

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3.) Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

What’s it all about?:

The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it “a deadpan epic.”

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

4.) Sally Heathcote: Suffragette – Mary M. Talbot, Bryan Talbot, Kate Charlesworth

What’s it all about?:

Sally Heathcote: Suffragette is a gripping inside story of the campaign for votes for women. A tale of loyalty, love and courage, set against a vividly realised backdrop of Edwardian Britain, it follows the fortunes of a maid-of-all-work swept up in the feminist militancy of the era. Sally Heathcote: Suffragette is another stunning collaboration from Costa Award winners, Mary and Bryan Talbot. Teamed up with acclaimed illustrator Kate Charlesworth, Sally Heathcote‘s lavish pages bring history to life.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four YA Novels.