debut authors

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Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Published January 21, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Grace Vincent for drawing my attention to this book and inviting me to read a complimentary copy from Corsair Publishers in exchange for an honest review. Where The Crawdads Sing is one of those books where you read the synopsis and instantly know that you have to be a part of whatever this novel is offering. However, I still wasn’t prepared for such a lyrically gorgeous and beautifully descriptive love song to nature, to harsh and difficult living environments and to outsiders living on the cusps of communities which is what this novel provided in abundance. I’ve mentioned in reviews relatively recently that I love being transported to new places in fiction/nonfiction and the author has done exactly that with Crawdads. Throughout the narrative, I felt an expert blend of the wild and unkempt (both in nature and within our characters) and careful, considered plot development that made me constantly want to keep turning the pages.

Delia Owens, author of debut novel, Where The Crawdads Sing.

When I read that this was the author’s debut novel, I couldn’t help but be blown away. Her background as a wildlife scientist stands her in extremely good stead for the creatures she describes and they certainly flew off the pages for me as a reader due to her vivid and colourful way with words. As a bit of an animal nut myself, I very much appreciated the nods to nature in all its glory but the author clearly proves that she can write her human characters just as well, if not better. We hear the heart-breaking story of Kya, a vulnerable young woman who is left to fend for herself on the marsh land with very primitive accommodation after her family start to disappear one by one. Locally, she is known as Marsh Girl and very much mocked and looked down upon, to the point where she only attends one day of school in her life after being teased mercilessly.

However, Kya is far from stupid and as the story continues and she learns to interact, connect and trust certain individuals we discover a new side to her character – an intelligent, knowledgeable and caring woman whose daily experiences surviving on the marsh mean that there isn’t much she doesn’t comprehend about the creatures she shares her life with. Sadly, her eagerness and child-like naivety to find a replacement family and perhaps someone to love again becomes her cross to bear and having always been on the periphery of the town, Kya becomes a figure of fun and potential target for other, unscrupulous individuals.

The Roanoke Marshes of North Carolina, similar to where our female protagonist Kya may have spent all her time searching for food and observing the wildlife.

Image from: http://www.ncwetlands.org/scene-marsh-channel-roanoke-marshes-game-land-ncwetlands-kg-3-2/

This is such a stunning piece of work that perfectly encompasses the raw beauty of nature and the innocence of childhood and really made me stop to think and appreciate my own surroundings compared to material things that I might own. The author is obviously fond of nature and this really comes across throughout the narrative where the environment was described in such minute detail that I could picture myself there completely. Delia Owens doesn’t shy away from tough subject matters, especially regarding Kya’s family and at times, my heart broke for what she had to suffer and then soared when she became such an independent, strong young woman despite her hardships, bitter disappointments and unconventional start to life.

Kya is one of those fantastic characters that go on a real “journey” through the novel. We see her as a scared young girl, a determined, gullible young adolescent and then when she learns to read and unleashes her talent for painting, the world *almost* becomes her oyster. I really felt for Kya throughout this story – mainly because if she had been born in a different place to perhaps a different family, her life could have been a lot different. She is treated horrendously by members of her family and occasional other individuals she comes across as she grows up and at times, it all began to feel a bit hopeless for her ever getting a happy ending, purely because of prejudices she faced due to her impoverished upbringing. I found myself really rooting for her throughout Crawdads, desperately hoping she’d come out the other side but one of the things I most adored about this novel? NOTHING is ever guaranteed, expected or black or white. Delia Owens is fantastic at providing both the realistic and the surprise elements for the reader and I was really excited to find out at the end of this novel that I still had questions.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Blog Tour – Blackberry And Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

Published January 10, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

WHEN Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.

Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.

It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Ella Patel for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Quercus Books for providing a complimentary copy of the novel on a recent Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening/bloggers event which showcased some of the books they were excited about for 2019. I was lucky enough to meet the author herself and her editor at the event and they made Blackberry and Wild Rose come alive in my imagination before I had the good fortune to read it leaving me in no doubt at all that this book HAD to make my January TBR. Now I’ve read it, I can see why Quercus were excited. This gorgeous, sumptuous novel is abundant in historical detail and provides a fascinating insight into the work and politics of Huguenot silk merchants in the late eighteenth century.

Sonia Velton, author of the debut novel Blackberry And Wild Rose.

Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres to devour and I always believe, must be the most difficult but rewarding niches to write within. The amount of research that has to go into your chosen time period/setting must be astronomical because at the end of the day, the reader has to feel transported to that particular place. It has to be evocative, believable and encapsulating and certainly with the historical fiction I read, I like to be able to visualise everything I’m reading about so succinctly. In Blackberry And Wild Rose, it is obvious that Sonia Velton knows her topic inside out and upside down. More importantly, she is able to produce a compelling, rich narrative that immediately captures the readers attention with some glorious, authentic characterisation that puts you immediately within the grimy, vivid and impoverished heart of eighteenth century London.

Spitalfields woven silk court dress from the 18th century.

Image from: https://www.museumoflondonprints.com/image/138334/spitalfields-woven-silk-court-dress-18th-century

Blackberry And Wild Rose is a beautiful story of two very different women, the wife of a Huguenot master silk weaver, Esther Thorel and a young woman, Sara Kemp who has been working as a prostitute since she arrived in London. Esther “rescues” Sara from the brothel and the demanding madam she is working under and sets her to work in her home as a maid, believing she is doing a good, Christian deed. Before long, we start to realise that there is a lot more bubbling under the surface for both women that will have drastic implications for the rest of their lives. I loved that nothing about either of the characters that Velton creates is black or white, good or bad. We get a unique impression of each woman along with their thoughts, feelings and potential motives for their actions. Additionally, as we get to know them a bit better, we realise that each woman has their own particular flaws that make them imperfect but, provide them with an increased resilience. They are then able to battle through their problems and focus on making a better life for themselves with minimal damage to their dignity and characters.

Set against the backdrop of the seedier side of London at this time period, I loved how this novel was a story of two halves. That is, the rich Huguenot wife who seemingly, never wants for everything and the “down on her luck” young woman who resorts to selling her body just to be able to survive. The clash of two such different women with the realisation that in fact, they’re more similar than they realise was fascinating to read and with the addition of the silk-weaving politics at the time, made for a hugely enjoyable reading experience. Sonia Velton writes with such beauty and elegance that I was delighted by this novel and certainly made a little note to myself to seek out whatever she writes in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Sonia Velton has been a solicitor in Hong Kong, a Robert Schuman Scholar in Luxembourg and spent eight years being a full-time Mum of three in Dubai. She now lives in Kent. Her first novel, BLACKBERRY AND WILD ROSE, tells the story of a fictional household of master silk weavers living in eighteenth century Spitalfields. The protagonist is loosely inspired by Anna Maria Garthwaite who was the foremost silk designer of the mid-eighteenth century and the title takes its name from an actual silk design. The novel was shortlisted as a work in progress for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2015 and longlisted for the Myslexia Novel Competition.

Find Sonia on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17154363.Sonia_Velton

or on Twitter at: @soniavelton

Thank you so much once again to Ella Patel and Quercus Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Blackberry And Wild Rose is published on 10th January 2019 and will be available as a hardback 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 Blackberry And Wild Rose on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36222190-blackberry-and-wild-rose?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to Blackberry And Wild Rose on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blackberry-Wild-Rose-Sonia-Velton/dp/178747075X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1546941572&sr=8-1&keywords=blackberry+and+wild+rose

In Servitude – Heleen Kist

Published January 4, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Grace thought her sister led a perfect life.
She was wrong. Now she has to pay the price.

When Grace’s beloved sister Glory dies in a car crash, her carefully considered life spirals out of control. She discovers Glory was laundering money through her café for a local crime lord. What’s worse, Grace finds herself an unwitting accomplice, now forced to take over her sister’s shady dealings.

Determined to protect herself and those Glory left behind, Grace plots to turn the tables on Glasgow’s criminal underworld. But her plans unravel when more family secrets emerge and she starts to question Glory’s past intentions.

Grace grows convinced her sister was murdered. Seeking justice, she finds betrayal…

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the author, Heleen Kist for reaching out to me via Twitter and offering a complimentary digital copy of her debut novel, In Servitude in exchange for an honest review. As you may have realised if you’ve read my review policy recently, I’m being very selective about the books I will accept for review and am having to say “no” to the vast majority of them. I have a huge backlog of reviews, four bookshelves worth of unread books on my own TBR that I’d love to get to at some point and I just have to be a bit more strict with myself and what I choose to read. This is all a rather long-winded way of getting round to the point which is….. it’s got to be quite a special request that has me intrigued, makes me drop my rules and regulations and want to read it. As soon as I read the synopsis of In Servitude and was made aware of the number of five star reviews on Amazon/Goodreads – well, it would have to be a much stronger and less curious person than I who was able to resist!

Heleen Kist, author of the debut psychological thriller In Servitude.

I have to briefly mention that whilst this wasn’t a five star read for me, I really appreciated what the author was trying to achieve and there were moments of the narrative where I was completely gripped and desperate to know what was going to happen next. Rattling along at an astronomically fast pace, In Servitude begins with the tragic death of Grace’s sister Glory, continues with the surprising events that Grace discovers connected with her sister and the Glasgow criminal underworld and concludes with some eye-watering, astonishing and unexpected revelations that left me with a whole new respect for the author, her timing and story-telling abilities.

Glasgow, Scotland – the setting for In Servitude.

I was delighted to discover that the novel was set in Glasgow, a city I know quite well and was strangely comforted by the way the author describes it, as a perfect mixture of beauty, culture, grittiness and as with most other cities around the world, potential danger in the wrong parts. As Grace takes over her sister’s business venture, a vegan cafe, she becomes enveloped in the seedier element of the city and is shocked to discover that she didn’t know her sister half as well as she liked to think she did. Grace is determined, independent and brave in the face of adversity and emotional trauma and I admired the way she dealt with an impossibly crazy situation in order to try and “do the right thing,” and protect her sister’s memory.

The ending? Well quite honestly, it knocked me sideways. I believe I just stared at my Kindle for a few minutes in confusion (which was swiftly followed by excitement) until Mr B, my long-suffering other half, had to ask if I was feeling well! It was the most perfect conclusion to an interesting psychological thriller which I devoured within just two days as the rapid pace of the narrative wouldn’t allow for anything longer than that. Heleen Kist is certainly a promising new author in the genre and I look forward to seeing what she produces next.

Would I recommend it?:

Yes!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Elmet – Fiona Mozley

Published January 2, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Fresh and distinctive writing from an exciting new voice in fiction, Elmet is an unforgettable novel about family, as well as a beautiful meditation on landscape. 

Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.

Atmospheric and unsettling, Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.

What did I think?:

So, I finally got round to reading Elmet! After being short-listed for a number of prizes including the Man Booker and The Women’s Prize For Fiction here in the UK I had heard so much about this work of literary fiction and knew it was something I just had to experience. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to do it alone. The wonderful Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader, blogger extraordinare, beautiful bookstagrammer, all round good egg and one of my blogger besties read this with me as our very first buddy read and that’s just one of the many reasons why this book will now always have a special place in my heart. Elmet is not only a literary masterpiece and one of the very best examples of the genre for those wishing to dip their toes into literary fiction but is a debut novel for crying out loud! It’s almost impossible to believe, the author writes with such beauty and conviction that you’d assume she’d been mistress of her art for decades.

Fiona Mozley, author of the debut novel, Elmet.

Jennifer and I had such a wonderful discussion about Elmet and it really was a pleasure to share this quiet but powerful read with her and feed off each others insights. The story of Daniel, Cathy and their Daddy who live quite a simple, meagre existence out in the wilderness moves along at the beginning at a relatively slow pace but the emotional punch it ends up packing is truly a mighty one. There are so many questions and reasons for wanting to carry on reading and each moment we stopped to discuss what we had read, I found myself eagerly anticipating not only how the narrative would continue but how interesting our chat was going to end up being! Why have the family isolated themselves in the woods? What has happened to Daniel and Cathy’s mother? Furthermore, when their way of living is threatened, how will each character individually respond and what will be the ramifications of their actions?

Imagine our contemporary world right now and a dwelling built right here in these woods where our characters live, surviving on what the forest gives them for food and comfort. Enter the world of Elmet.

It was fairly obvious to me from the very start that Mozley is a spectacularly gifted writer. Her words drip from the pages like honey and she talks about the landscape in particular so vividly and in so much glorious detail that you could almost smell the mud under your feet. Elmet is a celebration of nature and how we can harness it to live a far less complicated existence but more importantly, this is a story of the bond between a father and his children. Daniel, Cathy and Daddy are such outstanding and impressively drawn characters, all with their own unique personalities that it was exciting to follow their journey, celebrate their eccentricities and worry about their futures.

If you like your fiction to have a clear and distinct resolution, I have to say this might not be the novel for you. Elmet can be kind of vague, nothing is wrapped up neatly with a little bow, occasionally the reader makes up their own mind about what a specific individual might be thinking or indeed, by the end, how their story may continue. However, the subtle little clues the author expertly drops along the way left me in no doubt about my particular interpretation of events. Even now, weeks after finishing this novel, I’m still thinking about where our characters might be and how they might be coping after a dramatic finale that left both Jennifer and I reeling.

Elmet is a book that works even better when the finer points of the narrative are chewed over with a friend and I’m so grateful to Jennifer for being that person that I was fortunate enough to experience it with. If you like your literary fiction descriptive, full of heart and thought-provoking, I would definitely suggest this novel and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

For Jennifer’s fabulous review please see her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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

The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books)

Published December 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.

And now for something a bit different…

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special review on my blog. A little while ago, I participated in my first ever buddy read with Stuart who blogs over at Always Trust in Books (and is an awesome blogger so you should all go follow him if you don’t already!). So far we’ve read the first two books in the brilliant Arc Of A Scythe series by Neal ShustermanScythe and Thunderhead and we’ve even read a little non-fiction too – Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review our books – individually or more of a collaboration and he had the brilliant idea of capturing our Twitter chat and then including it as part of our review. So please find here before our thoughts and feelings about The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle at the moment of reading it. If you’re worried about spoilers, never fear! Stuart and I deliberately kept the juicier parts of the narrative very vague so if you haven’t read this yet, no big secrets are given away.

What did WE think?:

Stuart: Hey Beth. I hope your week hasn’t been to hectic! Are you good to start reading today?

Beth: I sure am!! 😁 very excited, how would you like to divide it up?

Stuart: Let’s go with pages 100, 231, 350 and the end. Is that okay for you?

Stuart: Just to let you know, I am going to need some time before I actually post this buddy read. I am planning on doing a huge shake-up on my blog, name change and all.

Beth: That’s perfect. No worries at all dude. Ooh I’m kind of intrigued about your shake up! 🤔 don’t worry we can post whenever you’re ready.

Stuart: I just need to jumble everything up and refocus. I’ve been a tad slack recently. Cool! Well I’ll get started now 😁

Beth: I’m crossing everything that we’ll love this as much as everyone else seems to! 🤗

Stuart: Me too. Don’t want to be that reader 🙄. Liking what I am reading so far.

Stuart: I’m ready 😀. So many questions!

Beth: Me too!! First of all, let’s talk about that opening chapter? 😳 Wow, wow, WOW!

Stuart: It was a pretty explosive entry into the narrative. That line ‘How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home’ gave me chills. It is a great fusion of spiky adrenaline and dreamy confusion.

Beth: Fantastic description and exactly how I felt. I love a narrative like this that keeps you guessing. By about 30 pages in I already knew I was going to love it and I’m so intrigued to see how it continues. I’m intrigued about our narrator being trapped in different characters each morning but to have a puzzle to solve as well? Who knows what’s going to happen?!

Stuart: I was fascinated by the mystery but I was also slightly uneasy with the initial journey into Blackheath. When he truly discovers what is going on, that really did it for me and now I am completely fixated 😅

Beth: I think it might be one of the few books that I could give five stars in such a short time of

reading it! What do you think about the strange figure that appears telling our main lead what’s going on?

Stuart: The plague mask is an interesting point. I hope it has meaning instead of just being a cool feature. I don’t know what to think really. What could they possibly achieve with such a scenario. I wonder if the others are going to be competitive or helpful.

Beth: I definitely wasn’t expecting the whole costume thing. I definitely think they’re going to be competitive. I’m quite concerned it could turn quite nastier than we’re anticipating? 😕

Stuart: Well if that whole servant assault scene was anything to go by then it is going to be brutal. I’m hoping it might turn out to be an impossible love story, that would be perfect. Shall we continue reading?

Stuart: Should have probably finished on the next chapter 😅

Beth: Yes I’ll see you at the next checkpoint! 🤗

Stuart: I really like the way that the traits of each person come through. It would have been a shame if each individual was overly similar.

Stuart: ‘It’s like I’ve been asked to dig a whole with a shovel made of sparrows’. Turton’s imagination is excellent!

Stuart: Ready when you are! We always get the oddest of places to stop for our chats 😅

Beth: We certainly do! Still SO many questions! Who is the plague doctor? Who is this mysterious footman? I loved that quote you put above, the imagery is just fantastic and I really feel present in this world, like an onlooker at the party. I am glad like you say that each “host” is so very different. There’s a lot of characters to get to grips with and it makes it much easier when they have their own personalities!

Stuart: Having Aiden grapple with his hosts personalities and use their qualities (or lack of) to his advantage was really good. The plague doctor guess is still a work in progress. It is quite immersive and I am finding myself trying to keep track of who was where and when. My speculation generator is working overtime. What do you think of Turton’s writing?

Beth: I’m really enjoying it. It’s highly imaginative and the way he must have had to get all these

different pieces of the plot to come together is staggering! I’m not getting confused between the characters which is a relief but I am having to remind myself what certain individuals have done! 😂 How about you?

Stuart: It is an ambitious tale for sure! I am enjoying his multi-layered narrative and you’re definitely right about it not getting muddle up. Turton traps you with this impossible situation and I knew I had to finish this novel no matter what from the very beginning. I like the fluidity of the story, anything can change and Aiden’s hosts are beginning to overlap in new and interesting ways. Can’t wait to delve in deeper!

Beth: Me neither. Do you think Anna can be trusted? 🤔

Stuart: I’m not sure! There are so many versions of each character at various points in the story. I do know that the footman will stop at nothing to bring the others to their end. Ready to carry on?

Beth: Absolutely! I might be a bit slow for the next couple of days as work is a bit mad but looking forward to it. P350 right?

Stuart: Yeah no problem. Hope work goes okay!

Stuart: He has done this loop thousands of times!

Stuart: Ready 😁. Another perfectly timed break!

Beth: Oh my God I’ve just started reading. P245 – “brave rabbit.” 😱 Then the next chapter when he’s warned about the carriage…🤔

Stuart: Oh yeah. It has gotten so much darker!

Beth: It sure has. P316 “Every man is in a cage of his own making.” (The Plague Doctor) and the suggestion Aiden is being lost in the personalities of his hosts? 😳

Stuart: I think he might have done this to himself as some sort of penance. He has choosen to be there but why?

Beth: Oooh that’s interesting! You’ve made me think now. P331-332 oh my god!! 😳

Stuart: Oh yeah, the clock is ticking…

Beth: Hooray! I’m at p350, you’re right that was the perfect place to stop. Wow. I have such a mixture of feelings right now. I’m really confused, excited, intrigued, bewildered?? 😂

Stuart: It is very paradoxical and nuanced at the same time. One moment Aiden is chatting and the next second he is gunning for his life. I can’t stop trying to guess who it was. My head hurts 🤕

Stuart: I feel like making a wall chart with all the players criss-crossing and events displayed. I feel close to a solution then I forget another important part 🤣

Beth: Ahh mine too 🤕 😂 I don’t think you can call it at all. I have no clue what’s going to happen! And because it jumps backward and forward in time sometimes it’s so easy to lose the thread! This footman is really creeping me out though, how about you? 😕

Stuart: I just don’t know how he fits into the scheme. Is he there for sport? Does he have a bigger goal? How does he know more than everyone else? I’m getting dizzy again!

Beth: We really don’t know much about him. He’s so mysterious. All we know is that he wants to kill off all the hosts. It’s like they’ve both got the same goal – to stop the loop and it’s first one to the finish line?

Stuart: There are so many little lines of text that throw us off course. Turton is a pro at getting us to trust no one!

Beth: Haha that’s very true! We don’t even know who our main character really is, that could come as a surprise if we find out later? 🤔

Stuart: Possibly! Time to continue?

Beth: Let’s go to the end!! 👊🏻💪🏻👍🏻👌🏻🤘🏻

Beth: What is going ON?! P429 😅🤷🏼♀️😂

Stuart: I know. Many different hands at play. I love seeing all the earlier moments explained.

Very satisfying!

Beth: Finished!! 😅😳

Stuart: 😬🤕😅

Beth: Oh my goodness what did you THINK? Were you expecting that?!

Stuart: I was amazed by the Anna situation/ending. What a scenario! The Evelyn Hardcastle side of things… I am on the fence. How about you?

Beth: It took me a little while to get my head round it if I’m perfectly honest. It was so unexpected that I found myself re-reading entire passages twice or three times just to make sure I understood exactly what Turton had done. 🤔

Stuart: The connection between Anna and Aiden was superb. The best kind of backstory! I couldn’t get enough. I know what you mean though. Evelyn’s was a bit of a tougher conclusion. I still have questions… But what a book overall! Turton deserves the praise. Maintaining all those threads in a meaningful and whole narrative without totally losing his own mind is a success in itself!

Beth: Absolutely. So beautifully intricate I can’t even imagine how he pulled it all together. I feel like it’s the kind of book you need to read again just to appreciate all the threads that he wove and the incredibly convoluted plot?

Stuart: I think that is what makes this book so appealing is its superbly weaved mystery and the fact that Turton’s delivery is both controlled yet explosive at the same time. I would read it again just for those ‘ahhhhhh!’ moments 😅

Beth: I’ll certainly be reading anything Turton puts out in the future! Who do you think was the most interesting host? 🤔

Stuart: I’m going to say Derby but only because, not only was he the turning point for the whole story, he was a nasty piece of work that Aiden had to keep under control. You?

Beth: I think Rashton, the policeman? I really enjoyed his detective work and thought things really started coming together when Aiden was in his body.

Stuart: That is true, plus he was an unknown player right up until the last act. I did love those moments where actions from the earlier chapters get explained or come into play. It was very satisfying!

Beth: Yes! It’s why I wonder if a second reading would be even more valuable to cement the timeline of events even more? 🤔

Stuart: I am enjoying going back through it in my mind and trying to make new connections. Seven Deaths was a book that really tested my intuition. I have a bit of a book hangover now…

Beth: Me too haha 😂

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

I think you might be able to see from our Twitter chat that Stuart Turton sent us into complete emoji-overload! This book had such a convoluted plot but what I couldn’t get over at any point in the narrative was how amazingly clever it was and how all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle slotted together right at the end. I can’t imagine the amount of preparation and thought that had to go into a novel like this and I salute the author whole-heartedly for pulling it off in an incredible fashion where I’m still thinking about the book quite a while after finishing it.

Stuart Turton, author of The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Personally speaking, I find there is a fine line with complexity in novels. That is to say, I want something innovative, deep and slightly confusing that might fox me a little and have me scratching my head BUT I don’t want it to frustrate me and lead to me putting down the book because it isn’t exciting enough to hold my interest. Turton walks this line perfectly with Evelyn Hardcastle. Yes, it is intricate and makes your head spin a little bit however the glorious nature of the plot, the characters and the way the author structures it made me desperate to figure out the puzzle. So where it might have been maddening at points, it was maddening in a terrific way and I was constantly invested and involved in the story, curious to discover what exactly was going on.

And the characters? Wow. Just wow. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel before where the characters were so completely diverse and individual from each other! I have to admit when I saw the extensive list of players in the beginning, I was slightly nervous – would I be able to keep up? The answer is – quite easily. Each character is very distinguishable and incredibly fascinating. In fact, there wasn’t a single person that I didn’t want to know more about which is an enviable task for an author I’m sure.

The mystery in this novel is second to none. From the very beginning, I was enveloped in Aiden’s journey through his various hosts in order to figure out exactly who killed Evelyn Hardcastle and what their potential motive is. Nothing is wrapped up nicely in a little bow (which I appreciated) and it’s a long, elaborate story to get there but boy, is it worth it! I came away from this book immediately wanting to go right back to the first page and start again to pick up on the things that I had missed and it’s a rare book that makes me want to do that. If you haven’t read this novel yet, I encourage you with every breath in my body to DO IT – it’s a reading experience that cannot be missed and I’m so delighted to have finally realised why everyone is talking about it.

Thank you to Stuart from Always Trust In Books for another amazing buddy read – check out his review on his blog today!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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One More Chance – Lucy Ayrton

Published November 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

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

What did I think?:

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

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

Lucy Ayrton, author of the novel One More Chance.

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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