Challenges

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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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Nonfiction November Week 5: New To My TBR

Published December 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the final week of Nonfiction November! If you’d like to find out what it’s all about, please see my post two weeks ago where I revealed my Nonfiction November TBR. my post for Week 1 where I talked briefly about my year in nonfiction so far and Week 2 where I paired up three nonfiction books alongside similar fiction tomes. Week 3 invited us to Be The Expert/Ask The Expert/Become The Expert and in Week 4 I talked about books that “read like fiction.”

This week, I’m going to talk about nonfiction books that I’ve added to my TBR through the month of Nonfiction November inspired by all my fellow bloggers out there. It’s hosted by Katie (@ Doing Dewey), please find the link to her post HERE.

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Oh, there are so many. I’ve chosen to highlight a few that really intrigued me and I’m most likely to put on my wish list soon.

Here we go!

1.) A River In Darkness: One Man’s Escape From North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa

This book comes recommended from Rennie at What’s Nonfiction. I listened to In Order To Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey To Freedom by Yeonmi Park recently and was extremely moved by her story so I’d love to read anything else based around the Korean totalitarian regime.

2.) Everything Is Normal: The Life And Times Of A Soviet Kid by Sergey Grechishkin

Also from Rennie, I spied this fascinating memoir set in the 1970’s-1980’s just preceding the collapse of the USSR. I love reading about Russian history but haven’t read anything set after the 1950’s so I’d love to dive into this one at some point.

3.) Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – And The World by Rachel Swaby

This book comes courtesy of Katie from Doing Dewey and as a woman, feminist and scientist I really think I need to read it!

4.) Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

This memoir comes extremely highly recommended from my good friend and fellow blogger, Janel at Keeper Of Pages. She listened to it recently and raved about it and you can check out her review HERE. I featured this book on the #nonficnov Instagram challenge and it sits on my Audible TBR just waiting to be devoured.

There were so many others I could have picked but I thought I would limit myself to four for now, after all I already have two shelves worth of nonfiction still to read myself, I don’t want to get too carried away! I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them. Let me know down below in the comments!

Lastly, thank you so much to the hosts of Nonfiction November, Doing Dewey, What’s Nonfiction, Sarah’s Bookshelves, Sophisticated Dorkiness and JulzReads for a terrific month of challenges. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed taking part and will definitely be taking part again next year! Thanks also to the hosts of the Instagram challenge, Kim @kimthedork and Leann @ Shelf_Aware_, I was so proud of myself that I managed to find a book for every single prompt this year – yaay, go me! 😀

Love Beth xx

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – NOVEMBER READ – Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Published December 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.

What did I think?:

I had a sneaking suspicion before I suggested this title to Chrissi for our Kid-Lit list this year that I was going to enjoy it and I’ve got to say, I love it when my hunches about a novel are spot on! I’ve already read two books in Lowry’s infamous Giver series so I was aware of the power of her writing style and when reading the synopsis and discovering it was set during World War II (another of my favourite time periods to read about) I was quietly confident that I was on to a winner. I was anticipating an emotional and dramatic narrative considering the atrocities that were perpetuated against the Jewish people during the war but I wasn’t expecting such beautiful and understated characters that carried out unbelievable feats of bravery where it made for an astonishing and compelling read.

Lois Lowry, author of Number The Stars.

This is the story of ten year old Annemarie Johansen and her Jewish best friend, Ellen Rosen, two ordinary little girls living in Copenhagen, Denmark whose lives like everyone elses is turned upside down when Denmark surrenders to the Nazi’s and German soldiers enter their town, assuming control and terrifying everyone at any given opportunity. The brutality of the Nazi’s increases exponentially as they begin to carry out their twisted ideals in Copenhagen by slowly removing any Jewish members of the population. Desperate to help, Annemarie’s family takes Ellen into their home, pretending she is one of them and with the help of the Danish Resistance, make new plans to help all the other Jewish people in the town that haven’t already been “re-located” so they may escape almost inevitable death.

King Christian X of Denmark making his regular pilgrimage by horse through Copenhagen in 1940, as referenced in Number The Stars.

What a lovely and moving story this was! I’m always in two minds about how I feel after reading World War II narratives but I particularly enjoy reading stories set in different countries that I haven’t read about before so as to learn how they coped, especially if they had to suffer Nazi occupation. Part of me feels disgusted and devastated by the treatment shown, particularly to the Jewish contingent but another part of me is always compelled to keep reading and absorbing as much as I can about this terrible period of our worlds history, to ensure it is never forgotten and (fingers crossed) will hopefully never happen again.

The story felt remarkably authentic and it’s obvious the author did her research on Denmark at this troubled time. I adored the inclusion of King Christian X who defiantly continued to ride through the town on his horse and see his people despite the ominous presence of the Nazi soldiers who wondered at his audacity! The fact that this actually used to happen made me feel quite emotional and it made me consider the terrible decision he had to make about surrendering to the Germans. Denmark was a small country with a relatively small army in comparison to the German military and I completely understand why he made the decision he did – in order to save many more lives than if he had stood against them in war.

Number The Stars has an intriguing, very readable and gripping plot coupled with some fantastic characterisation in Annemarie and her family. Although Annemarie was perhaps the most developed of the characters (I would have liked to have known a bit more about the characters within the Danish Resistance), she was an instantly loveable and endearing part of the story and I appreciated her journey from a frightened ten year old girl to a brave, determined fighter who is put into the most horrific situations but takes it all in her stride in order to protect her friends and family.

This is a stunning story with an important message and I really hope it continues to be read by children all over the world for years to come.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN DECEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Time Travelling With A Hamster by Ross Welford.

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!

Banned Books 2018 – NOVEMBER READ – King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland

Published November 26, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Once there lived a lovelorn prince whose mother decreed that he must marry by the end of the summer. So began the search to find the prince’s perfect match and lo and behold……his name was Lee. You are cordially invited to join the merriest, most unexpected wedding of the year. KING & KING is a contemporary tale about finding true love and living happily ever after, sure to woo readers of any age. A great gift. Exuberant artwork full of visual play calls for repeated readings. Accelerated Reader quiz available.

Inside/Out Book Club selection. Lambda Literary Award. Honorable mention in the “Most Unusual Book of the Year” category for Publishers Weekly’s 2002 “Off the Cuff” Awards, or “Cuffies” selected by booksellers.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the eleventh banned book in our series for 2018! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

DECEMBER: Flashcards Of My Life– Charise Mericle Harper
For now, back to this month:

King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland

First published: 2000

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2004 (source)

Reasons: homosexuality

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I was surprised to see there was only a single reason for this book being banned. Not because I think there should be multiple reasons for challenging it but because they normally come up with a few reasons, no matter how ridiculous to back up why it should be removed from a certain surrounding, like a library or a school. Now I could POSSIBLY imagine why homosexuality could be used as a reason one hundred years ago (not that I agree with it!) but to use that as a reason in the year 2000. We certainly do not live in the age of enlightenment.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I can see why this book may have banned possibly way back when…but not 2000. That’s only 18 years ago. Why? It actually makes me really cross that this book is challenged. It’s nothing explicit. Just a gentle love story. The fact that it is challenged gives the impression that there’s something wrong with having homosexual characters. No, just no. That’s telling young children that a homosexual relationship is wrong. What if their parents are homosexual? Argh. It just makes me cross.

How about now?

BETH: Sigh. First of all, why are people challenging picture books for children? Like another of the picture books that we have read in our Banned Books series – And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, books set in this format for the younger reader are often hugely helpful in bringing an important message to younger ears in a way they can understand and find fun. So no, I don’t agree with challenging/banning it because of homosexuality either eighteen years ago or right now. Why should sexuality be a reason to ban a book, no matter what age it is aimed at? Surely that’s more likely to enforce prejudices rather than accept the diversity of people?

CHRISSI: Definitely not. I feel so strongly about this book being challenged. 😦 I think it’s sad that in 2018, this book can’t be accepted by all. There’s nothing vulgar or explicit in this story. It’s such a gentle love story. I would have absolutely no problems reading this to young children. I think it explains that love is love no matter who you end up loving.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: As with other picture books I have read, King & King was quick and easy to read and I really appreciated the message it was trying to get across. The art was gorgeous and I found there was so much to look at, I could imagine children staring at the pages for a while, enjoying all the bright colours on offer. It felt for me like a quirky style where you could almost imagine you were seeing different fabrics – newspaper, cotton, silk etc and I can imagine this would be an interesting experience for youngsters too.

CHRISSI: It’s a gorgeous picture book with a wonderful, heart-warming message. I think it’s a lovely book to read to any child.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

3-5-stars

Coming up on the last Monday of December: we review Flashcards Of My Life by Cherise Mericle Harper.

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