Challenges

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Book Tag – Books Beginning With A.U.T.U.M.N.

Published September 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Autumn as today marks the beginning of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. I came up with this idea after seeing one of my favourite book tubers, Lauren from Lauren And The Books do a video at Christmas. She took each letter of the word CHRISTMAS and presented a title from her bookshelves that began with that letter. I’m going to nab that great idea and today I will be taking each letter of the word SUMMER and showing you a book from my TBR that begins with that letter which I hope to get round to very soon.

Check out my books beginning with S.P.R.I.N.G. HERE and my books beginning with S.U.M.M.E.R. HERE!

So without further ado, let’s get on with it!

A

What’s it all about?:

Science historian Laurel Braitman draws on evidence from across the world to show, for the first time, how astonishingly similar humans and other animals are when it comes to their emotional wellbeing.

Charles Darwin developed his evolutionary theories by studying Galapagos finches and fancy pigeons; Alfred Russel Wallace investigated creatures in the Malay Archipelago. Laurel Braitman got her lessons closer to home — by watching her dog. Oliver snapped at flies that only he could see, suffered from debilitating separation anxiety, was prone to aggression, and may even have attempted suicide. Braitman’s experiences with Oliver made her acknowledge a startling connection: non-human animals can lose their minds. And when they do, it often looks a lot like human mental illness.

Thankfully, all of us can heal. Braitman spent three years travelling the world in search of emotionally disturbed animals and the people who care for them, finding numerous stories of recovery: parrots that learn how to stop plucking their feathers, dogs that cease licking their tails raw, polar bears that stop swimming in compulsive circles, and great apes that benefit from the help of human psychiatrists. How do these animals recover? The same way we do: with love, medicine, and above all, the knowledge that someone understands why we suffer and what can make us feel better.

I adore non-fiction about animals and this book, which I won in a giveaway on Twitter has been sitting on my shelves for far too long. I’m hoping to put it on my TBR for Non Fiction November so will hopefully be reading it very soon, as I read the synopsis, I’m too excited to leave it any longer!

U

What’s it all about?:

A dark enchantment blights the land

Agnieszka loves her village, set in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. A young woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all she values behind.

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she is everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he takes.

There was SO much hype around this book when it first came out and I can’t believe I still haven’t read it yet. I know my sister, Chrissi Reads didn’t get on too well with it and I’ve heard mixed reviews but I’m determined to find out what I think myself – what a gorgeous synopsis!

T

What’s it all about?:

During the long, hot summer of 1976, a young Cambridge mathematician arrives in a remote village in the Lake District and takes on a job as a farm labourer. Painfully awkward and shy, Spencer Little is viewed with suspicion by the community and his only real friendship is with scruffy, clever ten-year-old Alice.

This book wins the award for the shortest synopsis ever! Anyway, I’ve heard great things, particularly from my favourite book tuber, Savidge Reads so this definitely has to be read. At some point. #toomanybooks

U

What’s it all about?:

‘According to his mother, Jack Burns was an actor before he was an actor, but Jack’s most vivid memories of childhood were those moments when he felt compelled to hold his mother’s hand. He wasn’t acting then.’

Jack Burns’ mother, Alice, is a tattoo artist in search of the boy’s father, a virtuoso organist named William who has fled America to Europe. To fund her journey, she plies her trade in the seaports of the Baltic coast. But her four-year-old son’s errant father can’t be found, and soon even Jack’s memories of that perplexing time are called into question. It is only when he becomes a Hollywood actor in later life that what he has experienced in the past comes into telling play in his present……

Confession time. I haven’t read any John Irving before despite owning a few books by him on my shelves. This looks like a perfect place to start though. Intriguing synopsis and potentially fascinating characters I think!

M

What’s it all about?:

A twenty-four hour whirlwind of death and life.

In the depths of a winter’s night, the heart of Simon Limbeau is resting, readying itself for the day to come. In a few hours’ time, just before six, his alarm will go off and he will venture into the freezing dawn, drive down to the beach, and go surfing with his friends. A trip he has made a hundred times and yet, today, the heart of Simon Limbeau will encounter a very different course.

But for now, the black-box of his body is free to leap, swell, melt and sink, just as it has throughout the twenty years of Simon’s life.

5.50 a.m.

This is his heart.
And here is its story.

Also published as The Heart, this book won the Wellcome Trust Book Prize in 2017 and as a scientist who loves science non fiction, this seems like the perfect book for me. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book!

N

What’s it all about?:

Nutshell is a classic story of murder and deceit, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master.

To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things.

Ian McEwan. Contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Told from the point of view of a foetus. Enough said, right?

Here ends my Books Beginning With A.U.T.U.M.N! What I’d love to know from you guys is if you’ve read any of these books before and what you thought? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you’d like to do your own books of A.U.T.U.M.N. from your TBR, I’d love to see them so please feel free.

Hope you all have a cosy Autumn/Fall!

Love Beth xx

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It’s All In Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness – Suzanne O’Sullivan

Published September 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘Even if medical tests cannot explain your pain or tiredness or disability, it does not lessen your suffering. The pain of medically unexplained illness is every bit as real as any other and, if anything, is multiplied by the lack of understanding.

Most of us accept the way our heart flutters when we set eyes on the one we secretly admire, or the sweat on our brow as we start the presentation we do not want to give. But few of us are fully aware of how dramatic our body’s reactions to emotions can sometimes be.

Take Pauline, who first became ill when she was fifteen. What seemed at first to be a urinary infection became joint pain, then food intolerances, then life-threatening appendicitis. And then one day, after a routine operation, Pauline lost all the strength in her legs. Shortly after that her convulsions started. But Pauline’s tests are normal; her symptoms seem to have no physical cause whatsoever.

Pauline may be an extreme case, but she is by no means alone. As many as a third of men and women visiting their GP have symptoms that are medically unexplained. In most, an emotional root is suspected and yet, when it comes to a diagnosis, this is the very last thing we want to hear, and the last thing doctors want to say.

In It’s All in Your Head consultant neurologist Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan takes us on a journey through the very real world of psychosomatic illness. She takes us from the extreme — from paralysis, seizures and blindness — to more everyday problems such as tiredness and pain. Meeting her patients, she encourages us to look deep inside the human condition. There we find the secrets we are all capable of keeping from ourselves, and our age-old failure to credit the intimate and extraordinary connection between mind and body.

What did I think?:

Oh, the thoughts. Oh, the feelings. Let me try and start at the beginning and I’m hoping my words make some sort of coherent sense. If not, I apologise. I have a couple of non fiction shelves at home (which you’ll see in due course if you enjoy my Shelfie by Shelfie book tag), and never seem to get round to reading them until this year, I began a new venture where I read three books at once – a current “main” read, a non-fiction read and a re-read of an old favourite. I’ve been eagerly anticipating many of my non-fiction reads, well….apart from this one. Let me explain. I’m a sucker for an interesting title, cover and synopsis and I don’t shy away from potentially controversial subject matters if it means I can educate myself about particular topics but I really wasn’t sure whether this book might hit a little too close to home, even for me.

Neurologist and author, Suzanne O’Sullivan who won The Wellcome Trust Prize in 2016 with It’s All In Your Head.

If you’ve been following me for a while now, you might have seen in a previous review/post that I’ve been struggling for the past eight years with a chronic illness. Basically, my diagnosis is fibromyalgia with chronic fatigue syndrome and hypermobility. It’s got to the point in my life now where I’m managing to cope really well with it. I still have my bad days of course, and at the end of the week, it’s still a mission to keep myself standing upright but I’m absolutely determined  to stay positive and that it’s not going to take my life away from me. This is why I still continue to work full-time, even if it is quite a struggle at times, I have to be honest. If you want to read more about my story, I wrote a personal post HERE.

As I was FINALLY picking up this book, I felt nervous and excited in equal measure. I didn’t know whether this book was going to make me feel horribly angry or completely vindicated about my own chronic health issues. I posted a picture of the book on Instagram and had some amazing and very interesting responses, many of whom were reacting the same way as I did when I first saw that title. Of course, a title like It’s All In Your Head seems to have been deliberately chosen to be controversial and raise a few hackles and, job done, my hackles were well and truly primed. Nobody with chronic illness likes to be told “it’s all in your head,” especially considering the amount of pain, suffering, physical and emotional turmoil we go through on a daily basis. There is literally nothing else my doctor can do for me and how to manage my pain myself has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn.

However, as I soon came to realise as I made my way through this fascinating and insightful book is that we don’t have to take that title literally and assume the author is saying something she is clearly not. As I’ve learned myself through my chronic illness journey, sadly a lot of my condition is psychological but a) that does not mean I’m going crazy, b) that does NOT mean I’m imagining it, c) my pain IS real and will probably always be there and d) I have to find the best way to cope with it (with the help and support of my loved ones) that will mean I have a fulfilling and enjoyable life. The author does briefly touch on illnesses like fibromyalgia and like she confirms, there is no definitive test for diagnosing it which makes it hard for both the patient and the doctor to ensure that the treatment offered is correct. Obviously more research desperately needs to be done and is ongoing but various studies have shown that although the pain is felt physically in different regions of the body, one theory is that the actual problem may lie in the pain receptors of the brain. In this sense, when you take the phrase “it’s all in your head,” might not mean what I initially assumed it to mean when I looked at the cover of the book and was instantly offended!

In this book, O’Sullivan follows a number of different patients, all with medically unexplained symptoms ranging from tiredness and pain to numbness, paralysis and even violent seizures and when nothing is discovered in blood tests, scans etc, suggests that there may be an emotional connection to the terrifying (and often debilitating) symptoms they are experiencing. She explores some intriguing ideas, including the age-old question – when did it become such a stigma to be psychologically unwell? As a society, we have an undeniable determination to pin everything down with physical evidence of malaise, only accepting cold, hard figures and scientific facts to prove that we are genuinely unwell. However, the individuals she talks about are truly exhibiting physical signs of illness and even if there isn’t a test yet that can decipher exactly what’s going on, O’Sullivan is simply suggesting all possible avenues, even psychiatric ones should be explored so that the patient can get the most appropriate, effective and individual treatment for them alone.

I’m so glad I read this book. Not only was it an absorbing and informative read but personally, I felt like it made me look at my own health problems in a whole new light. I came to this book determined to be angry with it and sceptical of the author’s own thoughts and feelings. However, at the end I felt slightly ashamed when I realised that they were perfectly sound and sensitive, particularly in her reactions to people who are genuinely suffering. Of course there are always going to be “those” people who are attempting to cheat the system and fake illness which is a real shame for those of us who are in very real pain and torment but I loved that O’Sullivan takes each one of her patient’s ailments seriously and compassionately, ensuring all the relevant boxes are ticked before suggesting that there might be an alternative explanation for their symptoms.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

It’s All In Your Head: True Stories Of Imaginary Illness by Suzanne O’Sullivan was the forty-sixth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Blog Tour – After He Died by Michael J. Malone

Published September 21, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

You need to know who your husband really was…

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son, Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…
When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought they knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger.
Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and all at Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and providing me with a complimentary copy of this fantastic psychological thriller in exchange for an honest review. There’s been a few novelists published by Orenda that I’ve been woefully behind in getting round to their work and Michael J. Malone is another one of those that I wish I’d picked up MONTHS ago. I’ve heard glowing praise and read wonderful reviews about his other work and of course, I’ve been following my fellow bloggers reviews on this blog tour which only made me keener to find out if I too could potentially become a huge fan. Well, Orenda never let me down with the supreme quality of authors that they publish so it was no big surprise that I loved everything about this novel, meaning Malone has yet another adoring reader to add to his list, which he fully and absolutely deserves – this story was exciting, meaningful and wonderfully told.

Michael J. Malone, author of After He Died.

Set in and around Glasgow, this is primarily the story of our female lead, Paula Gadd, in her late forties and grieving for her husband, Thomas who passed away unexpectedly one evening while out for dinner. Paula wasn’t present at the time of his death and sadly, blames herself for not being there at her husband’s time of need. However, things are about to get a whole lot darker when at her husband’s funeral a young woman slips a note into her pocket with a phone number to call insinuating that Thomas wasn’t who Paula thought he was. Having been married for almost thirty years, Paula’s world implodes as she continues to struggle with both her grief, the memories of losing her teenage son Christopher some years previously and this intense, new information that she has no idea what to do with. As the story continues, Paula begins to find out some remarkable secrets about her husband that still continue to affect certain people around her, including herself, in very frightening and unpredictable ways.

Glasgow, Scotland where much of After He Died is set.

Being of Scottish descent myself, I was delighted to read a book set in my home country which brought back feelings of nostalgia, happiness, comfort and home. I particularly enjoyed the way Malone used Scottish words and phrases that occasionally slip into my own vocabulary and leaves a minority of English people I may be talking to at the time looking rather confused! Coupled with this was the marvellous characterisation, particularly of Paula and the young woman she meets at the funeral, Cara. Funnily enough, I wasn’t sure about Paula at first. I was desperately sorry for her loss and was interested in how her future would look but it wasn’t until further along in the narrative that I really warmed to her. Much like Cara, she has gumption, drive, determination, focus, incredible strength and bravery and as some of you might know by now, I can’t get enough of a resilient, gutsy female lead!

However, I think the thing I admired most about this novel was the way Michael J. Malone chose to write about poverty in Scotland in contemporary times. It’s something that’s not really written about (or if it is, I haven’t read it, happy to accept recommendations!), and of course, it’s not just in Scotland, it’s all over the world, I accept that unequivocally. Nevertheless, it’s so refreshing to read a story where a well-off upper middle class woman comes face to face with the darker side of people who go hungry, are addicted to drugs, are homeless etc and explores her reactions/actions as a result. This is why I loved Cara so much as a character too. She was a real fighter for the unheard and often unseen, despite having a difficult upbringing herself and I loved her “never give up” attitude, morals and ethics. I might have had a bit of a girl crush, to be honest!

As I mentioned before, I can’t believe this is the first Malone book I’ve experienced but I’m ever so glad I started with this one. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment and can only rub my hands in gleeful anticipation at his past novels, just waiting to be explored.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up
in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary
magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland
and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize
from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes:
Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The
Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a
number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines soon
followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also
worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

Find Michael on his Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6203125.Michael_J_Malone

on Twitter at: @MichaelJMalone1

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. After He Died was published on 30th July 2018 and is 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 After He Died on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40492826-after-he-died?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to After He Died on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/After-He-Died-Michael-Malone-ebook/dp/B07DFPCLNK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1537471301&sr=8-1

Blog Tour – The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

Published September 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Long ago Andrew made a childhood wish. One he has always kept in a silver box with a too-big lid that falls off. When it finally comes true, he wishes it hadn’t…

Long ago Ben dreamed of going to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally goes there, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…

Ben and Andrew keep meeting where they least expect. Some collisions are by design, but are they for a reason? Ben’s father would disown him for his relationship with Andrew, so they must hide their love. Andrew is determined to make it work, but secrets from his past threaten to ruin everything.

Ben escapes to Zimbabwe to finally fulfil his lifelong ambition. But will he ever return to England? To Andrew? To the truth?

A dark and poignant drama, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a mesmerisingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart.

What did I think?:

I’m ashamed to say The Lion Tamer Who Lost is my first experience with Louise Beech’s writing but after this beauty of a novel, it certainly won’t be my last and I will one hundred percent be perusing her back catalogue of works whilst thoroughly chastising myself for not picking a book up by her sooner! As an author, Louise has always been at the periphery of my awareness, I’ve read the rave reviews from my fellow bloggers, I’ve heard the hype and become intrigued and when Anne Cater emailed me to invite me to take part in the blog tour for her latest novel, I simply had to jump on board and finally experience what it seems like everyone else has had the joy of experiencing so far. Thank you so much to Anne and to Karen Sullivan and all at Orenda Books for allowing me to download a copy of this superb, memorable and inspiring novel in return for an honest review and I’m delighted to report back that I loved every minute of it.

Louise Beech, author of The Lion Tamer Who Lost.

I might sound like a bit of a broken record here but as with a lot of other books I’ve read this year, I really cannot tell you too much about this book for fear of ruining it’s magic and majesty for the thousands of lucky readers who are still to get their paws on it. In a nutshell, it’s about two men, Ben and Andrew – the former goes off to Africa to fulfil his dream of working at a lion sanctuary but when he arrives there, he can’t help but have regrets and concerns about the situation he has left back home. Andrew is a writer, a dreamer, hungry for love and a family of his own and in the habit of making wishes (kept in a special wish box) that have a strange way of coming true, even if they are not in the way he would have hoped or expected. It’s a love story but it’s also a story of identity, learning to love yourself, accepting yourself for who you are, the importance of family and friends and communication between all parties and the desperate situations that we find ourselves in when communication falls apart.

Ethical volunteering at a lion sanctuary near Cape Town, South Africa.

https://www.viavolunteers.com/volunteer-south-africa-cape-town-lion-tiger-sanctuary.php

Now, I had heard rumours about the stunning nature of Louise Beech’s writing but I still wasn’t prepared for the sheer gorgeousness and emotion that encompassed the entire narrative. Louise really understands how to write characters that get deep under your skin in that you immediately feel an emotional attachment with them, are invested in their past, present and future stories and only want the best outcome for them as the story continues. This was definitely the case for me. Ben and Andrew were so vivid, real, raw and available throughout the novel that I felt I could have walked into the story and immediately sparked up a deep and meaningful conversation with them.

I also appreciated that this story wasn’t just about romance, it was also about family and friendship and, even more specifically, about all the troubles that come with that. As the old saying goes: “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family,” and Ben and Andrew both find this out in different ways as Ben struggles to connect with his bigoted father and military brother and Andrew finds it hard to find any family at all after the loss of his mother, no siblings and never knowing whom his father was. There are flawed characters, there are difficult circumstances and both men learn a lot about themselves and each other in the process but it all felt so incredibly authentic, just like issues any one of us may experience with our families and have to deal with.

I can’t express in enough words to try and convince you how wonderful and heart-breaking this novel is but I’m hoping my star rating speaks volumes. I became completely enamoured with the writing, the plot and the characters and was left bereft by the ending. Louise Beech deserves all the praise in the world for creating such a magnificent story that will remain etched on my memory for a long time to come.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be
Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in
My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Her third book, Maria in
the Moon, was widely reviewed and critically acclaimed. Her short fiction has
won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the
Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport
Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of
Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre,
where her first play was performed in 2012.

Find Louise on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4122943.Louise_Beech

on her website at: https://louisebeech.co.uk/

or on Twitter at: @LouiseWriter

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. The Lion Tamer Who Lost will be published on 20th September 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 The Lion Tamer Who Lost on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40191563-the-lion-tamer-who-lost

Link to The Lion Tamer Who Lost on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lion-Tamer-Who-Lost-ebook/dp/B07DFQ9SW7/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537036095&sr=8-1&keywords=the+lion+tamer+who+lost

Two O’Clock Boy (DI Ray Drake #1) – Mark Hill

Published September 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘A fantastic debut: dark, addictive and original. I couldn’t put it down
Robert Bryndza, author of The Girl in the Ice

Discover the gripping, twist-filled start to a fantastic new London-set crime thriller series starring morally corrupt DI Ray Drake – the perfect new addiction for fans of LUTHER. 

TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS… ONE BECAME A DETECTIVE… ONE BECAME A KILLER…

Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

What did I think?:

Two O’Clock Boy (also published as His First Lie) was a very welcome discovery for me on Netgalley after I had heard a little bit of buzz about the author so thank you so much to Little, Brown publishers for approving my request and apologies it has taken so long for me to get round to reviewing it! The author, Mark Hill has previously worked as a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer and now he can add another string to his bow because he is without a doubt, an accomplished crime fiction author. The first book in the DI Ray Drake series is filled with drama, betrayal, dark secrets and lies and it’s one of those delicious narratives that keeps you on tenterhooks throughout, always teasing just a little bit but never giving too much away until the final, cataclysmic showdown where all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle finally fall into place.

Mark Hill, author of Two O’Clock Boy/His First Lie.

This startlingly good debut novel incorporates two separate time periods. The first, is set at Longacre Children’s Home in the 1980’s where a group of children were terrorised, used and brutally victimised by the manager, Gordon Tallis. In the present time, our male lead, DI Ray Drake, a widower with a rather interesting past of his own has just promoted one of his members of staff, Flick Crowley. He insists she should take the lead in the next murder case they happen upon, where almost an entire family is butchered to death in the most horrific way. However, he is not prepared for what Flick will discover as she starts to investigate the suspicious deaths. It all harks back to Longacre and the abuse that happened in the home in the 80’s, with one maverick murderer appearing to be targeting every single one of the individuals that were present at that moment in history. As Flick gets closer to the truth, DI Ray Drake must do everything possible to try and steer her away from it – for very intriguing reasons of his own.

London provides the setting for Two O’Clock Boy/His First Lie.

Two O’Clock Boy was such a pleasant surprise that has made me so keen to read further books in the series. I think you might instantly expect with all crime fiction/thriller novels to have a fast-paced plot and unexpected twists and turns but for some reason, this novel felt really different and unique. If I could compare it to anything, I might compare it to Tana French who I feel writes crime novels with a bit of a literary edge and her stories are quite slow-burning, which you take a while to become invested in but once you do, it’s thoroughly worth the effort. The similarity with Mark Hill is the slow-burning element to the narrative and how it seems to be much more focused on getting to know the characters intimately, flaws and all (which I always appreciate in a novel!).

However he does differ in that there are darker moments of the narrative, particularly those scenes set in the children’s home, which although they are never gratuitous, still leave you feeling slightly uncomfortable and a bit uneasy. Stories about child abuse are NEVER going to be nice to read about but the author deals with the topic intelligently and sensitively and I was compelled throughout, transfixed by both the characters and the plot and never sure what exactly was going to happen next. As I’ve alluded to, our characters are far from perfect, including our male lead Drake who has secrets from his past and in the present, a very difficult relationship with his teenage daughter. I didn’t always agree with his actions in both time periods and at times, did want to shake him for the way he acted and treated people close to him, particularly his new Detective Sergeant, Flick Crowley. Nevertheless, I found his flaws, misdemeanours and difficulties were what made him so hugely interesting, relatable and readable in addition to the multitude of other characters we also meet from all different walks of life that all have their own individual personalities and quirks.

This is an exciting and brilliant debut novel from Mark Hill and sets him up as a force to be reckoned with in the British crime fiction genre. I for one can’t wait to read the second in the series, It Was Her that sits on my Kindle already, just begging to be started!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill was the forty-fourth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Blog Tour – Doll House by Ashley Lister

Published September 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Following the death of his best friend, author Ben Haversham is crippled by a terminal case of writer’s block. The isolation of his agent’s remote cottage, nestled in an out-of-the-way village, seems like the ideal location for him to rekindle his creativity.

Except, Sandalwood village, with its curious museum the ‘Doll House’, is not as idyllic as it first appears.

There is a history to Sandalwood. There are nefarious plots and dark secrets held by the sinister souls who reside in Sandalwood. And there are dark and dangerous characters determined to keep those secrets.

Even if his own ghosts hadn’t followed him to Sandalwood, Ben discovers that he would still have been haunted by the many malevolent spirits that reside in the village beneath the shadow of the Doll House.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Caffeine Nights Publishing for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review. I’m a huge fan of all things horror (raised as a child on Point Horror then graduating to James Herbert, Dean Koontz and Stephen King) but I’ve read surprisingly little of it in recent years. I’m not sure why, I seem to have difficulties finding anything that stands out in the genre, or wins both the popularity contest and legions of fans which usually attracts my attention on social media. Well, I’m so glad that this was brought to my attention because as soon as I read that synopsis, I knew it was time to dip my toes into the genre again and find out whether I still had the strength of stomach to deal with it.

Do you need a strong stomach for Doll House? Absolutely. It’s incredibly graphic in points both in horrific descriptions of violence and in one case, sexually graphic so if you’re prone to a bit of queasiness, just warning you now. However, I was delighted that my stomach seemed to be as steady as I remembered and I found this a fascinating, disturbing and incredibly memorable novel in the way that parts of it will be demonstrably difficult to forget.

Ashley Lister, author of Doll House.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into the synopsis as the blurb above does a brilliant job of that all by itself. All I will say is that it involves a cottage where an author is working on his next novel, some terrifying goings-on with dolls, clowns, the supernatural and some very shady, untrustworthy and terrifying characters that may have ulterior motives and not necessarily our main character, Ben Haversham’s best interests at heart. The sense of isolation and unpleasant nature of the narrative is only heightened by the fact that Ben finds himself completely trapped, unable to advance beyond a certain point or indeed, exit the village at all. Additionally, how is it that Ben’s novel appears to be writing itself whilst he is sleeping and has no recollection of writing at all? Even more shockingly, what is the real purpose behind Ben’s habitation in the cottage? Is it to write his next book or is there something much more forbidding going on in Sandalwood?

Wow. This was a ride I really wasn’t expecting. Having had no prior experience with the author’s work I’m always curious about what to expect, particularly in the horror genre. I like to think of myself as being quite difficult to scare although I must confess, as I get older I do feel slightly more vulnerable to any “bumps in the night,” within a narrative! There were moments in this novel that I was genuinely petrified and was glad to have been reading it in the daylight hours and not alone in bed, particularly when our main character is so isolated and cut off from “normal” society himself. It’s a fairly short novel at 229 pages in the paperback edition and although it’s easy to consume in one or two sittings, at the same time it feels the perfect length for what the author was attempting to achieve. It’s definitely a novel that has made me more keen to branch out in the horror genre and see what I can find and of course, to read another book by Ashley Lister.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Ashley Lister is a prolific author, having written more than fifty full length titles and over a hundred short stories. Aside from regularly blogging about writing erotica, Ashley also lectures in creative writing and hosts open mic poetry events in Blackpool, Lancashire. Doll House is Ashley Lister’s second horror novel from Caffeine Nights, following on the success of the much acclaimed Raven and Skull.

Website : http://www.ashleylister.co.uk/

Twitter: @ashleylister

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater and Caffeine Nights for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Doll House will be published by Caffeine Nights on 28th June 2018 and is 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 Doll House on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41542428-doll-house

Link to Doll House on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doll-House-Ashley-Lister/dp/1910720933/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536864327&sr=8-1&keywords=doll+house+ashley+lister

September 2018 – My Boyfriend Chooses My TBR!

Published September 9, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to something a bit different on bibliobeth today. I’ve been with my boyfriend coming up to sixteen years now and he’s well aware of my “little problem” with books. To bookworms like us though, it’s not a problem right? It’s a necessity! Anyway, for something a bit fun, I asked him if he would mind picking out five books for me to read this month from my shelves and I gave him free rein to run amok. At first, he rubbed his hands in glee (I think he was preparing to be a bit devilish and pick some HUGE tomes) but in the end, he picked a fabulous list with some great reasons for doing so which I’ll share with you in this post. This is what he picked and why:

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

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.”

Why did he pick this?:

This is one of the books that my partner has already read and thoroughly enjoyed and he wanted to know what I thought about it too so we could compare notes. I’m delighted he chose it as I was considering it for Non Fiction November but if I’m honest, other books would probably have beaten it to the eight coveted spots that I’m considering. Hey, I have a lot of non fiction on my shelves. Now however, I can get to it sooner than expected, hooray!

2.) Cop Town – Karin Slaughter

What’s it all about?:

Karin Slaughter, author of the bestselling Will Trent novels, is widely acclaimed as “one of the best crime novelists in America” (The Washington Post). Now she delivers her first stand-alone novel: an epic story of a city in the midst of seismic upheaval, a serial killer targeting cops, and a divided police force tasked with bringing a madman to justice.

Atlanta, 1974: As a brutal murder and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way—wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies. It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.

Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are pushed out of the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach the boiling point. With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.

Relentlessly paced, acutely observed, wickedly funny, and often heartbreaking, Cop Town is Karin Slaughter’s most powerful novel yet—a tour de force of storytelling from our foremost master of character, atmosphere, and suspense.

Why did he pick this?:

Now I didn’t know this but ever since I suggested to my partner that he could do this for September he’s been making little notes on his phone every time I moan about a book that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. This is especially true of Karin Slaughter who I am woefully behind with her books and because I’m such a stickler for wanting to read things in publication date order, Cop Town is the next one I need to read. I won’t go on and on about how much I love him for listening to me and putting this on the September TBR (I don’t want to make you all nauseous) but I’m SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW.

3.) A Brief History Of Seven Killings – Marlon James

What’s it all about?:

Jamaica, 1976. Seven gunmen storm Bob Marley’s house, machine guns blazing. The reggae superstar survives, but the gunmen are never caught.

From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a dazzling display of masterful storytelling exploring this near-mythic event. Spanning three decades and crossing continents, A Brief History of Seven Killings chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – slum kids, one-night stands, drug lords, girlfriends, gunmen, journalists, and even the CIA. Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable and extraordinary novels of the twenty-first century.

Why did he pick this?:

We did this little thing after he chose the September TBR where he hid the books from me then brought them out, one by one and told me his reason for choosing them. When he brought this one out, my reaction was so mixed it was funny. I’ve been wanting to read this book for AGES, ever since it won the Man Booker Prize in 2015 and I heard all the hype about it. My other half actually listened to it on audiobook and hasn’t stopped going on about how good it was so I know I need to get round to it. I don’t know why I’m feeling a bit anxious about it – perhaps it’s the size at 688 pages? Or maybe it’s the fact that it won a huge prize and I’m worried I won’t agree with the hype? We’ll soon see.

4.) Buried In Books: A Reader’s Anthology – Julie Rugg

What’s it all about?:

For bibliophiles, life is full of tricky problems: wondering whether a small trunk full of reading material can be taken on board as hand luggage; how to smuggle yet another guilty stash of tomes past the nearest and dearest. But as Julie Rugg shows in this anthology, bibliophiles are by no means new. For centuries bookish types have been delving in bibliophilia. Buried in Books is a compilation of more than 350 literary extracts, quotations, and bon mots arranged in 14 chapters that cover every aspect of bookish behavior: reading, buying, borrowing, recommending, hunting, even defacing. The selections range from short, pithy quotations to more extensive extracts, and they are taken from diaries, memoirs, novels, plays, and letters by authors from Samuel Pepys to Iain Sinclair, Laurence Sterne to Lucy Mangan. If you are an obsessive reader, stroke this book lovingly, listen as you riffle through the pages, and be proud: you are in good company.

Why did he pick this?:

In his words, he wanted to pick something that “you wouldn’t necessarily pick for yourself,” and he’s absolutely right! Not that I’m not looking forward to this book but there’s so many books on my shelves that this one does tend to take a bit of a back seat to others that excite me a bit more. Books about books are really wonderful but are almost books you want to dip in and out of rather than read in a couple of sittings. I’ve decided that’s exactly what I’m going to do with this one and perhaps read a little from it each week.

4.) My Name Is Leon – Kit de Waal

What’s it all about?:

It’s 1981, a year of riots and royal weddings. The Dukes of Hazzard is on TV and Curly Wurlys are in the shops. And trying to find a place in it all is young Leon.

Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, a belly like Father Christmas, and mutters swearwords under her breath when she thinks can’t hear. Maureen feeds and looks after them, and claims everything will be okay.

But will they ever see their mother again? Who are the couple who secretly visit Joke? The adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing pretend faces. They are threatening to take Jake away and give him to strangers. Because Jake is white and Leon is not.

As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.

Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we somehow manage to find our way home.

Why did he pick this?:

Once again, I was really delighted when my partner pulled this out from behind his back. He picked this as it’s a book he’s actually interested in himself and he didn’t realise I had put it on my latest Five Star TBR Predictions TBR. (Which by the way, I’m getting on dismally with – I’ve only read two of the five books so far – Dadland and NOS4R2). I’m relieved he chose it as it will push me to get to it that bit sooner. Although I was planning to read this in the next month or so anyway – promise! 😛

I really enjoyed having my boyfriend pick out my TBR for the month and to tell you the truth, I think he really enjoyed the process too! It’s something we’ll definitely be doing in the future but probably not until early next year as I now have “ARC/Netgalley” month in October, Non Fiction November in November and Chrissi Cupboard Month in December to look forward to. 

What I’d love to know is have you read any of these books? Which were your favourites? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Love Beth xxx