April 2018 – NetGalley/ARC Month

All posts tagged April 2018 – NetGalley/ARC Month

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!

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The Resurrection Of Mary Mabel McTavish – Allan Stratton

Published July 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It’s the Great Depression and Mary Mabel McTavish is suicidal. A drudge at the Bentwhistle Academy for Young Ladies (aka Wealthy Juvenile Delinquents), she is at London General Hospital when little Timmy Beeford is carried into emergency and pronounced dead. He was electrocuted at an evangelical road show when the metal cross on top of the revival tent was struck by lightning. Believing she’s guided by her late mother, Mary Mabel lays on hands. Timmy promptly resurrects.

William Randolph Hearst gets wind of the story and soon the Miracle Maid is rocketing from the Canadian backwoods to ’30s Hollywood. Jack Warner, J. Edgar Hoover, and the Rockettes round out a cast of Ponzi promoters, Bolshevik hoboes, and double-dealing social climbers in a fast-paced tale that satirizes the religious right, media manipulation, celebrity, and greed.

What did I think?:

I honestly don’t quite know where to start with this review and I’ve spent some time mulling over the book since finishing it and am still none the wiser on how to get some coherent thoughts down to express the complexity of mixed feelings I have about this novel! The Resurrection Of Mary Mabel McTavish is a book that has been languishing on my Netgalley “to read” list for quite a long time now and as I’m making a concerted effort to improve my Netgalley ratio this year, I thought it was about time I read it. As soon as I reminded myself of the synopsis, I have to say I was excited. The Great Depression, 1930’s Hollywood and a normal girl who becomes an overnight sensation after bringing a young boy back to life after just putting her hands on him? Yes please, I’ll have some of that.

Allan Stratton, author of The Resurrection Of Mary Mabel McTavish.

Excuse me while I’m still formulating my thoughts. Okay, so this novel had so much promise and at times, was executed absolutely wonderfully, then there were other times where I felt the narrative dragged unnecessarily and that was a real shame. It divided me so much that at times I wanted to give it three stars, at times four stars, most of the time somewhere in between at three and a half stars and very occasionally, two stars. I struggle to recall a time in the recent past where a book has twisted my opinion this much and to be frank, I’m still attempting to work out why. There were so many positives – the plot which INSTANTLY made me want to read it, the wry humour and satire which did make me smile on multiple occasions and the way in which the author explored the idea of religion, society and morals, especially after an event as life-changing as The Great Depression.

The Great Depression, 1930’s America.

In fact, this novel got off to a terrific start, following our heroine Mary Mabel McTavish as she leads a humdrum slave-like existence with a distant and occasionally cold father and the reader feels her despair at life and misery over the loss of her mother and the blase attitude of her only other caregiver. Her attempted suicide is prevented at the last minute with a hallucination of her mother’s ghost and a feeling of power that she in turn, bestows on a young boy, Timmy Beeford, bringing him back to life and returning a slightly exasperating little human to his weary parents. This was all great and incredibly intriguing to read about. I think things went downhill for me when people start to capitalise on Mary’s powers and use her abominably in order to make money of their own. It was humorous at points sure, but there were times when I just wanted to shake Mary and open her eyes as to how she was being manipulated.

I think the two saving graces time and time again in this narrative were the owner of The Bentwhistle Academy For Young Ladies, Ms Bentwhistle who did make me howl with laughter at times, especially when she decides to pull the wool over the Americans’ eyes in pretending she’s one of the gentry. Obviously, she’s intended to be a shady, rather villainous character compared to our heroine but by the end of the novel, I just found her hilarious. Then there was our avid preacher, Brother Percy Brubacher who is incredibly odd (and a little scary!) but hugely fascinating and I would have liked to have seen more scenes with him and explore his back story in greater detail. Sadly, apart from these two, most of the other characters, even our female lead felt decidedly two-dimensional and unbelievable and this did affect my enjoyment of the novel as a whole.

Hope this review made some kind of sense – if I had to sum it up I would say interesting premise, a few brilliant characters and good use of humour but at times the characterisation and plot suffer from peaks and troughs. This unfortunately means that at times the story drags and becomes much less compelling.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

The Resurrection Of Mary Mabel McTavish was the thirty-sixth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

 

Savages: The Wedding – Sabri Louatah (Les Sauvages #1)

Published May 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A Saturday in May. Paris.

It’s the eve of the French presidential elections – ‘The Election of the Century’ say the newspaper headlines – and Chaouch, the nation’s first Arab candidate, has victory in his sights. It has been a long campaign, and with his wife Esther and daughter Jasmine by his side, he spends the remaining hours with close advisors in a hotel in Nimes. Much of the dinner table chatter revolves around Jasmine’s boyfriend; Fouad Nerrouche, a well-known actor with the same Algerian origins as her father, who has just publicly endorsed Chaouch’s candidacy. However shallow it may seem, it’s difficult to ignore the influence of celebrity support in this complex and unpredictable race . . .

The same day. Saint-Etienne.

The Nerrouche family is frantically preparing for a grand wedding, and Fouad himself is there to help out. But younger cousin Krim – who has recently lost his job – is becoming increasingly agitated, and no one knows why. As the day goes on, it becomes clear that the cousin’s problems go far deeper than unemployment. Krim has been stealing from a local gang leader and after being discovered, found himself indebted to his powerful cousin, Nazir – Fouad’s brother. Nazir is a very shady figure, and is heavily involved in a dark underworld of crime. Together, their plans will cause Fouad’s two very different worlds to meet in a way no one would have dared to imagine. Within a few hours, the threads start to unravel, and the collision between the destiny of a family and the hopes of a country becomes inevitable.

With the pacing of a thriller, Louatah melds the tense atmosphere of a family saga with the gripping suspense of a political drama into one breathtaking read.

What did I think?:

I was really pleased to receive this book through my letterbox from Corsair Publishers in exchange for an honest review, thank you so much to them. I’m a huge thriller/crime fiction fan and love reading books set in different countries so initially I was quite intrigued to get started. Plus, at 256 pages in its paperback form, I knew it wouldn’t take me long to read so I packed it in my hand luggage on my recent holiday to Mexico and read it in its entirety on the plane journey over there. Now I feel like I’ve been writing a few more critical reviews recently and when I realised this was unfortunately, not the book for me, my heart sank a little bit. I would never want to offend an author, after all, they’ve put metaphorical blood, sweat and tears into their work, who am I to be so negative about it? But, there’s times when you just have to realise that each book speaks individually to the reader and what somebody may not get on with, another person is going to love. I feel I have to be honest when I’m given a book to review and I’m in no way saying this is a bad book, not at all. I just personally didn’t connect with the plot or the characters I’m afraid.

Sabri Louatah, the author of The Savages: The Wedding.

The Savages can be described as a family drama and also a political thriller. It follows the Nerrouche family on the day of a wedding, more specifically, a member of the family called Krim who has become embroiled in some shady business with a gang leader and is constantly terrified that his misdeeds will catch up with him. His family are mostly unaware of the huge hole that Krim has got himself into and are becoming increasingly worried for his state of mind as he is in obvious turmoil. Meanwhile, another member of the family, Fouad has recently began a serious relationship with Jasmine, daughter of the first Arab candidate for the French presidential elections. As tensions rise on both sides of the family, the two stories are brought together in a dramatic cliff-hanger of a finale that could change many of our characters lives forever.

St-Etienne, France where part of our story is set.

There is so much more going on in this narrative then what I’ve just mentioned before. In fact, the whole story is very complex and there always seems to be something going on, you could never say the pace is dull. I do enjoy an intricate plot of course, but for some reason this story just felt far too busy for me. There was almost too much going on and at times, I just wanted the author to slow down and get some clarification on a few things which I was confused about. It almost felt like there was a sub-text of hidden things below the surface of the novel that the reader was just expected to understand and perhaps this is my own fault, being quite ignorant of parts of the culture explored in this novel. I don’t necessarily need everything spelled out for me but sometimes, I just felt like this was a party I didn’t have an invite to.

There are occasional great parts of this novel that I do want to highlight. First of all, the pace which I’ve already mentioned. Secondly, I quite enjoyed the character of Slim, the groom of the wedding as he struggles with his sexuality and the attention of a young transvestite. I would have loved to see more of his story explored but who knows? This is a four part saga and there’s plenty of times for the reader to get to know the characters a bit better. Personally, it was just unfortunate that I never felt fully invested in either the plot or the characters to get excited at any level and sadly, there’s not much chance of me ever continuing with the series.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 2):

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Savages: The Wedding was the thirty-first book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018.

April 2018 – NetGalley/ARC Month (and my first buddy reads!)

Published April 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone! Every other month I alternate what I’m reading quite specifically between three things. It’s either Chrissi Cupboard Month where I try my best to get through all the books my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads lends me (and that’s a lot!). Then there’s Real Book Month where I try and read all the physical books just waiting to be devoured on my bookshelves (also a LOT!) Finally, there’s Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC Month where I try and catch up on all those ARC/review copies sent to me by authors, publishers, NetGalley and Book Bridgr. (A LOT!) April is going to be one of the latter months and here’s what I’m looking forward to getting to this month:

The Curse Of Time (Bloodstone #1) – M.J. Mallon (with kind thanks to the author)

What’s it all about?:

Fifteen-year-old Amelina Scott lives in Cambridge with her dysfunctional family, a mysterious black cat, and an unusual girl who’s imprisoned within the mirrors located in her house. When an unexpected message arrives inviting her to visit the Crystal Cottage, she sets off on a forbidden pathway where she encounters Ryder, a charismatic, but perplexing stranger.

With the help of a magical paint set, and some crystal wizard stones she discovers the truth about a shocking curse that has destroyed her family’s happiness.

Drift Stumble Fall – M. Jonathan Lee (with kind thanks to the publisher, Hideaway Fall)

What’s it all about?:

The author of five novels, M Jonathan Lee is a tireless mental health awareness campaigner, working closely with organisations including Mind, Time to Change and Rethink and blogs regularly for Huffington Post. Having personally experienced anxiety and depression during his life, Jonathan draws on his experiences to inform his writing.

Richard feels trapped in his hectic life of commitment and responsibility. From the daily mayhem of having young children, an exhausted wife and pushy in-laws who frequently outstay their welcome, Richards existence fills him with panic and resentment. The only place he can escape the dark cloud descending upon him is the bathroom, where he hides for hours on end, door locked, wondering how on earth he can escape.

Often staring out of his window, Richard enviously observes the tranquil life of Bill, his neighbour living in the bungalow across the road. From the outside, Bills world appears filled with comfort and peace. Yet underneath the apparent domestic bliss of both lives are lies, secrets, imperfections, sadness and suffering far greater than either could have imagined. Beneath the surface, a family tragedy has left Bill frozen in time and unable to move on. As he waits for a daughter who may never return, Bill watches Richards bustling family life and yearns for the joy it brings. As the two men watch each other from afar, it soon becomes apparent that other peoples lives are not always what they seem.

Savages: The Saint-Etienne Quartet Volume 1: The Wedding – Sabri Louatah (with kind thanks to Corsair publishers)

What’s it all about?:

A Saturday in May. Paris.

It’s the eve of the French presidential elections – ‘The Election of the Century’ say the newspaper headlines – and Chaouch, the nation’s first Arab candidate, has victory in his sights. It has been a long campaign, and with his wife Esther and daughter Jasmine by his side, he spends the remaining hours with close advisors in a hotel in Nimes. Much of the dinner table chatter revolves around Jasmine’s boyfriend; Fouad Nerrouche, a well-known actor with the same Algerian origins as her father, who has just publicly endorsed Chaouch’s candidacy. However shallow it may seem, it’s difficult to ignore the influence of celebrity support in this complex and unpredictable race . . .

The same day. Saint-Etienne.

The Nerrouche family is frantically preparing for a grand wedding, and Fouad himself is there to help out. But younger cousin Krim – who has recently lost his job – is becoming increasingly agitated, and no one knows why. As the day goes on, it becomes clear that the cousin’s problems go far deeper than unemployment. Krim has been stealing from a local gang leader and after being discovered, found himself indebted to his powerful cousin, Nazir – Fouad’s brother. Nazir is a very shady figure, and is heavily involved in a dark underworld of crime. Together, their plans will cause Fouad’s two very different worlds to meet in a way no one would have dared to imagine. Within a few hours, the threads start to unravel, and the collision between the destiny of a family and the hopes of a country becomes inevitable.

With the pacing of a thriller, Louatah melds the tense atmosphere of a family saga with the gripping suspense of a political drama into one breathtaking read.

The Two O’Clock Boy – Mark Hill (with kind thanks to Sphere Publishers, via NetGalley)

What’s it all about?:

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

One night changed their lives
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.

Cries in the fire and smoke
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.

A truth both must hide
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.

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.

Happily – Chauncey Rogers (with kind thanks to the author)

What’s it all about?:

If the shoe fits, wear it.
If it doesn’t, 
make it.

Laure is a teenage street urchin just trying to get away. Where the rest of the world sees an enchanting love story, Laure sees royal incompetence and an opportunity to exploit it. She’ll have wealth and a way out of a life she detests, if she can only manage to hoodwink the royal family and survive to tell the tale.

The Resurrection Of Mary Mabel McTavish – Allan Stratton (with kind thanks to Dundurn Publishers)

What’s it all about?:

It’s the Great Depression and Mary Mabel McTavish is suicidal. A drudge at the Bentwhistle Academy for Young Ladies (aka Wealthy Juvenile Delinquents), she is at London General Hospital when little Timmy Beeford is carried into emergency and pronounced dead. He was electrocuted at an evangelical road show when the metal cross on top of the revival tent was struck by lightning. Believing she’s guided by her late mother, Mary Mabel lays on hands. Timmy promptly resurrects.

William Randolph Hearst gets wind of the story and soon the Miracle Maid is rocketing from the Canadian backwoods to ’30s Hollywood. Jack Warner, J. Edgar Hoover, and the Rockettes round out a cast of Ponzi promoters, Bolshevik hoboes, and double-dealing social climbers in a fast-paced tale that satirizes the religious right, media manipulation, celebrity, and greed.

My Sweet Friend – H.A. Leuschel (with kind thanks to the author)

What’s it all about?:

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives
A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?
Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.
But is Alexa all she claims to be?
As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?
In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.

So that’s most of what I’ll be reading in April. If you’ve followed me for a while, you will know that I will also be reading my banned book and my kid lit for the month (both challenges that I carry out with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads) and anything else I manage to squish in will count as part of my Mount TBR Challenge 2018. Luckily, I can also use quite a few of the titles on this April TBR as I received them before January of this year. Oops.

This month I’m also very excited as not only will I be collaborating with my sister as usual but for the first time, I’ll be doing buddy reads with the lovely Janel from Keeper Of Pages and Stuart from Always Trust In Books. They are both fantastic bloggers and you’re probably following them already but if you don’t, you totally should they’re amazing. I keep up with both of their sites on an (almost) daily basis and I hugely admire both of them. With Janel, I am continuing my love affair with Stephen King’s son by reading The Fireman by Joe Hill and Stuart and I are going to tackle the young adult book Scythe by Neal Shusterman which I’ve heard some terrific things about. Hopefully this can be the start of many more buddy reads, I really am very excited about it!

Finally, I have to mention that I’m going on holiday for two weeks from Wednesday April 11th so apologies if I’m slow to share your posts or comment on them (or indeed, reply to my own comments if you’re kind enough to leave me some!). I’m going to attempt to schedule some posts written in advance but probably won’t be able to get enough for one to go out every day of the two weeks so posts might be a bit erratic for now until the end of April! I’m not taking my laptop but hey, the hotel has Wi-Fi so I’m sure I’ll be able to keep up with what everyone else is posting.

Anyway, hope everyone has a wonderful reading month and I’ll speak to you all soon.

Love Beth xx