Challenges

All posts in the Challenges category

Gone Without A Trace – Mary Torjussen

Published May 24, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

GONE WITHOUT A TRACE by Mary Torjussen is a chilling, twisty, compulsive thriller about a woman whose boyfriend has vanished. Fans of I LET YOU GO and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN will be gripped.

No one ever disappears completely…

You leave for work one morning.

Another day in your normal life.

Until you come home to discover that your boyfriend has gone.
His belongings have disappeared.
He hasn’t been at work for weeks.
It’s as if he never existed.

But that’s not possible, is it?

And there is worse still to come.

Because just as you are searching for him
someone is also watching you.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the lovely Millie Seaward from Headline Books for sending me over a copy of Mary Torjussen’s exciting and gripping novel in exchange for an honest review. I love a good mystery and a compelling psychological thriller and Gone Without A Trace was both of these as well as being very fast paced which meant that I managed to finish the story in the space of twenty-four hours, a definite sign of a good read.

Our main character Hannah, when we meet her is on her way back from a very successful business trip where she may have even snared herself a promotion. She walks through the door of the house she shares with long-term boyfriend Matt, champagne in hand to find something very disturbing. There is no trace of Matt’s personal belongings or indeed himself at the property at all. In fact, it’s as if he never existed in the first place. All Hannah’s personal items have been placed in the position they were in when Matt first moved in and stranger still, all traces of Matt on social media, text messages and emails on Hannah’s phone has been permanently deleted. She dials his phone number but it has been cut off, she phones his place of work but they tell her they have no-one of that name working there. Matt has literally disappeared into thin air and Hannah doesn’t know what, if anything, has gone wrong in their relationship. She begins to search for Matt through any means possible which leads to her life unravelling astronomically and her current friendships and relationships being threatened. Then the anonymous text messages start to arrive and strange things happen in her house that she cannot explain and no one else will believe. Is Hannah finally losing her grip on reality or is something a lot deeper and darker going on?

Well, to be perfectly honest when I started this story I didn’t know what to think. The character of Hannah herself isn’t the most likeable individual, I have to say and at times when her search for answers bordered into the obsessive, threatening her livelihood and her mental health, I felt terribly frustrated with her and yes, wanted to give her a fictional shake. This was a great tool used by the author however as believe me, it’s all for a greater purpose. By the time I got further through the novel as more secrets were unearthed, I realised why the author had written it as she did. And damn, was it effective! I was totally shocked and surprised and really appreciate a narrative where I cannot predict what’s going to happen next. Aside from this, I really enjoyed the other difficult relationships that the author chose to explore, such as Hannah’s love-hate friendship with her childhood friend, Katie and her very strained relationship with her mother and father. By the end of the novel, little things that happen throughout start to add up and everything will make sense, I assure you. Personally, I found this a hugely enjoyable novel and I look forward to what Mary Torjussen comes up with next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Thorn In My Side by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Published May 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Thorn In My Side all about?:

It could have been just any night, and they could have just been any two brothers — but it wasn’t, and they weren’t. The scene is an Atlanta bar. The music is loud and the dance floor is packed. The good-looking brother picks up a girl. But when dark deeds ensue out in the parking lot, what happens next can only be described in two words: vintage Slaughter.

What did I think?:

Okay, so I think regular visitors to my blog are aware that Karin Slaughter can’t do much wrong in my eyes and I always get a little bit excited when one of her short stories rolls around on my Short Stories Challenge. As the synopsis suggests, “vintage Slaughter,” is perfect terminology to use as what happens during this story is shocking, compelling and disturbing, everything I’ve come to expect from the author and yet she still manages to surprise me, every single time.

This very dark, twisted little tale involves two brothers who have a very interesting relationship with each other and a are a bit different from the norm. I do want to veer away from spoilers as I really enjoyed the surprise myself when the reader finds out what makes them special but it might make writing this review quite tough, apologies for any vagueness! The brothers are called Kirk and Wayne and are as different as chalk and cheese. Kirk is the more confident, wise-cracking, brash brother that has a bit of an eye for the ladies and Wayne is the softer, more unassuming, shy brother of the two which causes its own problems for Kirk for reasons I simply cannot divulge. However, one night they pay a prostitute to ahem… service Kirk in the back of their van at a club and things go very badly. This is the tale of the relationship between a very unique set of brothers that has been simmering just below boiling point for so long, but one catastrophic set of events tips things right over the edge and changes both brothers lives forever.

Doesn’t sound too very shocking in the grand scheme of things? Think again. There’s a lot of things I’m not able to say in this review for fear of ruining the shock factor that I myself felt when I realised the direction Slaughter was taking the narrative. She has a fantastic way of writing the most loathsome characters, like Kirk, the self-assured yet incredibly dangerous brother who I loved reading about but made my skin crawl with his actions and the decisions he makes. The author describes it herself on GoodReads as a bit of a departure story for her from what she usually writes and there are a couple of lower starred reviews that may reflect this. For me however, I thought it was a disturbing yet intriguing read with many of her classic trademarks that I appreciated. Maybe it’s not a story for everyone sure, especially the more sensitive or easily offended but personally, I think she’s knocked it out of the park once again.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Drowned Village by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Mini Pin It Reviews #9 – Four Books From Book Bridgr/other publishers

Published May 21, 2017 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 books from Book Bridgr for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1 – Glow by Ned Beauman

What’s it all about?:

With GLOW, Ned Beauman has reinvented the international conspiracy thriller for a new generation.

A hostage exchange outside a police station in Pakistan.
A botched defection in an airport hotel in New Jersey.
A test of loyalty at an abandoned resort in the Burmese jungle.
A boy and a girl locking eyes at a rave in a South London laundrette . . .

For the first time, Britain’s most exciting young novelist turns his attention to the present day, as a conspiracy with global repercussions converges on one small flat above a dentist’s office in Camberwell.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) The Ladies Of The House by Molly McGrann

What’s it all about?:

On a sweltering July day, three people are found dead in a dilapidated house in London’s elegant Primrose Hill. Reading the story in a newspaper as she prepares to leave the country, Marie Gillies has an unshakeable feeling that she is somehow to blame.

How did these three people come to live together, and how did they all die at once? The truth lies in a very different England, in the double life of Marie’s father Arthur, and in the secret world of the ladies of the house . . .

Stylish, enchanting and deliciously atmospheric, this is a tragicomic novel about hidden love, second chances and unlikely companionships, told with wit, verve and lingering power.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney

What’s it all about?:

One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight . . .

Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland’s twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) The Secret Place by Tana French

What’s it all about?:

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP SOON ON MINI PIN IT REVIEWS: Four Thriller Novels.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Gallowberries by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Published May 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Gallowberries all about?:

Gallowberries is about a young woman who has recently lost her mother. Both women are witches and this story focuses on how the daughter manages to take care of herself as she learns more about her own powers.

What did I think?:

I can already tell that this short story collection has the potential to be the most fantastic one I’ve ever read and I’m only two stories in. The first story, The Shadow Tree had me falling completely under the author’s spell and Gallowberries was much the same. It encompasses everything I love in a story – a bit of fantasy, a lot of fairy tale, beautiful lyrical writing and the edge of darkness to make something that is so wonderful to read that you are sorry when you reach the final page as you just want it to go on forever. A huge thank you again to the lovely Fiction Fan for recommending this author and this particular collection, I’m one hundred percent bowled over by it.

Gallowberries is almost like a novella in itself. Not length wise, as it’s regular short story length but the amount of time and events it covers is epic in scale and you almost feel you are seeing a large portion of someone’s life, written in Angela Slatter’s inimitable style that gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling inside. The story involves a young woman called Patience whom when we meet her is admiring the apples growing on a tree that are managing to flourish with a little help from her magical powers. It is while she is looking at the fruit that she happens to notice a handsome man who speaks to her causing her to fall. This is Gideon Cotton who she ends up getting to know romantically (although sadly for her he is never planning to introduce her to his family or indeed marry her….he has a more “suitable” wife-to-be all lined up!).

However, little does Gideon know but Patience is already very familiar with him and his family. He is desperately seeking a witch that murdered some of his family, poisoned others through the wells, cursed cows to be barren and ensured that fields propagated dead crops. Patience is well aware of this as she is the witch he is seeking. In her mind, she had good reasons for revenge. Her mother was due to be hanged for witchcraft by his family and at the last minute she escaped by using the magical properties of gallowberries. This does mean that Patience is unable to see her anymore as she has passed over to another world where Patience cannot follow. With the help of her new friend, Dowsabel who takes Patience in when she is destitute and has nowhere else to go, Patience begins to use her magic for good and see hope and happiness in her life again. Nevertheless, this is an Angela Slatter fairy tale….a happy ending is not guaranteed and with the threat of Gideon finding out who she really is always a concern, Patience may have to call on her dark powers again to ensure her survival.

Loved, loved, loved this story. As I mentioned before, it is a truly epic narrative with so much content, action, heartbreak and sorrow jammed into a relatively short space of time but the brilliant thing is, it never feels rushed or “too much.” The fairy tale-esque nature of Angela Slatter’s writing is always a bonus but she always chooses such strong and interesting female characters like Patience herself and her friend Dowsabel whom I found fascinating to read about and indeed, ended up fully championing despite the questionable things that Patience had done in the name of revenge. Also, the darkness. Oh, it’s incredibly dark! Some of the things that occur might make you cringe, may make you squirm but it’s such amazing storytelling that you simply cannot look away before you find out how it all ends. So far, the two stories in this collection I’ve read have been incredibly strong and if this is an indicator of how the collection is going to continue, I’ve got many more treats in store. Is Angela Slatter a new favourite author? You’re goddamn right she is!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Thorn In My Side by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe

Published May 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Gold-Bug all about?:

Believing William Legrand to have gone insane following an insect bite, his friend initially decries his quest for gold as the ramblings of a madman. Yet when Legrand’s conviction fails to waiver, they set off on a bizarre journey, accompanied by Jupiter, Legrand’s loyal and equally skeptical servant. What follows is a strange tale of coded messages, hidden treasure, and uncanny prophecy that will both enthrall and baffle even the most perceptive readers.Part horror story, part detective fiction, The Gold Bug is an ingenious tale bearing all the hallmarks of Poe’s extraordinary narrative skill.

What did I think?:

Welcome to the first story in a new collection in my Short Stories Challenge after I completed a previous collection. I’ve always been curious about the work of Edgar Allan Poe, especially after reading his story The Tell Tale Heart many years ago and loving it. It actually forms part of this collection so I will be reviewing it once I’ve read it again and am excited to discover what I think of it as an adult. Unfortunately, The Gold-Bug was a slightly disappointing story for me and I sincerely hope that doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the collection. There were some good bits sure, but at times it felt quite long-winded and unnecessary, which I’ll get into a bit later.

We are told the story from the point of view of an unnamed however seemingly reliable narrator who is quite concerned about a reclusive friend of his, Will Legrand. When he goes to visit him, Will has become obsessed with a golden bug that he and his black servant, Jupiter found when out one day. Our narrator seems to think he has gone quite mad, especially when Jupiter confirms his suspicions and says he is quite worried for his master. Well, as it turns out, Will has found a bit of parchment from a previous shipwreck that leads him to the location of some buried treasure on the island. However, he must crack the code before he can hope to find where the treasure lies.

Okay so at first I have to admit I was intrigued. Yet I thought a lot more would be made of the gold-bug than what actually happened which was slightly disappointing. That wasn’t what irked me about this book however. The first was the outrageous racist attitude towards Jupiter and the way he was written as a character. The language he uses is awful, the way he is presented is shameful and the way he is treated is deplorable! Yes, I know, this story was written an age ago when attitudes were different (unfortunately) but I can’t help the way I feel about that sort of thing and sadly, it will affect my enjoyment of a story.

Secondly, I was expecting a bit more out of the ending. Edgar Allan Poe’s character Legrand, rabbits on for far too many pages about how he manages to crack the code on the parchment and while some people may find it interesting, I just found it dull and had to force myself to finish. What would have made it interesting is how the men chose to divide the treasure amongst themselves (if that did indeed happen – maybe something could have gone horrifically wrong, maybe someone could have been murdered?). I believe that would have made a more interesting story and a better ending as a result. This story is a great piece of detective fiction if that’s what you were expecting but as it was classed as part “horror” story I have to admit to wanting a bit more.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Gallowberries by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – APRIL READ – A Snicker Of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Published May 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Introducing an extraordinary new voice—a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

What did I think?:

Why have I never heard of this book? When Chrissi and I were researching which books to put on our Kid Lit list for this year, this one appeared which had very positive reviews on GoodReads (4.09 average). Then we got some lovely comments when we did the big reveal of Kid Lit 2017 in January with a few people saying this was one of their favourite children’s books which made us both very excited to read it. Now I’ve finally read it, I can see why. This is a beautiful, magical tale of an ordinary yet very EXTRAordinary young girl that touched my heart with its strong messages about the importance of love, family and friendships.

When we first meet our protagonist, Felicity Pickle she is in the car with her mother, sister and dog, Biscuit travelling to yet another town to start their lives over. Felicity’s mother is described as having a “wandering heart,” and she rarely stays in the same place for too long, feeling an unbelievable urge to move on which is obviously a bit de-stabilising and distressing for the two children at times. However, they are about to return to her mother’s childhood home, Midnight Gulch, a town famous for at one time being a magical, wondrous place until a duel between two magicians and a terrible curse removed most traces of the magic for good.

There has always been something special about Felicity. She sees words in the air around her. This happens when people talk and she sees their innermost thoughts in the form of words and even in objects around her which sometimes suggests the history of a particular place. She writes all the words that are new to her or that she particularly likes down in a little blue book and she has her own talent with words, forming poems for her little sister when she is upset. Joining another new school at Midnight Gulch was always going to be hard for the girls and Felicity especially finds it difficult to form new friendships when there is the risk that she will be removed and taken to another place at any given moment. However, when she meets Jonah, learns more about the history of magic in the town and attempts to lift the dreadful curse, there is a chance she might also be able to cure her mother’s wandering heart and find a home for good.

Oh what a lovely book this is! It’s one of those feel good, warm and fuzzy novels that just makes your heart happy. I just loved the characters, particularly Felicity and Jonah but also the smaller characters on the periphery that added so much to the story. For example, Felicity’s Auntie Cleo, who the family stay with who is just marvellous, adores her sister and the children but has stories all of her own like many of the people in the town. I also really enjoyed how ice cream was so much of the narrative as the town’s biggest business and some of the flavours mentioned made my mouth water – how I wish they were real! This is a fantastic debut from an author that really knows how to write a whimsical, touching tale that gets you hooked, makes you joyful and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT TIME ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT – The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #2)- Rick Riordan

He Said/She Said – Erin Kelly

Published April 26, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Who do you believe?

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack.

She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim’s life that is changed forever.

Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear.

And while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something – and someone – is always in the dark…

What did I think?:

First of all, the hugest of thank yous to the team at Hodder and Stoughton and Louise Swannell for kindly sending me a copy of He Said/She Said in return for an honest review. To be perfectly honest, I have nothing but gushing praise for this fantastic and thrilling novel! I have read one of Erin Kelly’s other books, The Poison Tree in my pre-blogging days and I remember thoroughly enjoying it but reading this, her most recent book, made me a devoted fan of her writing. Have you ever read a book that gripped you so entirely that you became really cross when you had to stop and do menial, everyday things? If this has been the case with you, dear reader, prepare yourself for not being able to do ANYTHING ELSE while reading He Said/She Said.

The story is about a couple called Laura and Kit, the latter of whom is a keen eclipse chaser and travels all around the world over a number of years to be present at each phenomenal event, weather permitting. When Kit and Laura first meet, she is aware of his eclipse obsession and begins to get in the spirit of things herself, watching her first eclipse with Kit at a festival devoted especially to the event in Cornwall, 1999. It is at this festival however, that both Laura and Kit witness something terrible. Laura is unlucky enough to witness the majority of the situation, Kit only sees the aftermath but it is something that haunts them well into their adult life together and in the present time, where Laura is pregnant. The couple have changed their names and are terribly careful to not leave any online presence – this means no photos, certainly no social media and Laura is suffering from crippling anxiety precipitated from the events that began all those years ago. However, why are they going to all this effort to hide themselves? What exactly happened in Cornwall in 1999 that has affected them so greatly?

I don’t want to go in to too much more detail but I really hope that has whetted your appetite and curiosity. It certainly did the job for me and I was hooked pretty much from the very first chapter. We hear from multiple perspectives, both Kit and Laura’s and across two time periods, the present (2015) and the past (1999). It’s a beautiful and effective way by the author of demonstrating a very slow, methodical reveal of what happened to Laura and Kit to have made them go to the extremes and terror they now live under. It’s also a fascinating character study and I loved the tricks that Erin Kelly used to make you convinced (or not so convinced as the case may have been!) about the personality of a particular individual. I also believe an audible gasp when finishing the novel has got to be a good sign, right? Yes, that happened. Now all I can do is beg you all to read this novel and discover the magic that the author weaves for yourself.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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