fantasy

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Banned Books 2019 – FEBRUARY READ – Northern Lights/The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) – Philip Pullman

Published February 25, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

“Without this child, we shall all die.”

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the second banned book in our series for 2019! 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:

MARCH: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding– Sarah S. Brannen

APRIL: We All Fall Down- Robert Cormier

MAY: Crazy Lady– Jane Leslie Conley

JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles

JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

Northern Lights/The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) – Philip Pullman

First published: 1995

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)

Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, violence.

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

BETH:  Of course not. I’m one of those people who never experienced reading the His Dark Materials series as a child so I only came to it with an adult mentality. Either way, I think I would have had the same opinion. There is no reason on earth why this book should be challenged or banned, ESPECIALLY for the reasons mentioned. As always, I tried to guess the reasons why this book, the first in the series, might have been difficult for some people to stomach and once again, I was completely wrong. I assumed that the fantasy/magical aspect might have offended a few people (even though children clearly love a good, imaginative narrative that doesn’t necessary have to be believable!).

CHRISSI:  I have to say no. It’s a load of poppycock. I have no idea why this book was challenged. Like Beth, I thought it might be about the fantasy elements, I know some of the parents of children at my school don’t like fantasy because of religious reasons and I wondered whether that could be it. No. Political viewpoint? Religious viewpoint? This confuses me.

How about now?

BETH: Northern Lights was challenged over ten years after it was published and to be honest, I’m struggling to see why if there were challenges from concerned readers, they didn’t appear prior to 2008? If anyone has any ideas, please do enlighten me! Additionally, it really does irritate me when the reasons for challenging a book point towards a political or religious viewpoint. Now, I’m not a particularly political or religious individual BUT I do like to learn about different attitudes/cultures and viewpoints and I very much enjoy it when there’s a difference of opinion to my own in a novel, unless I feel like I’m being preached to. Saying that however, I really didn’t think there was a strong viewpoint either political or religious in Northern Lights and I’m a bit confused as to where this reasoning has come from?

CHRISSI: I am utterly confused by the reasons for challenging this book. I didn’t think it had a particularly strong political or religious viewpoint. Even if it did, why does it matter? Why should it be banned? Shouldn’t we be allowed to make our own minds up? Shouldn’t we open our minds a little to other’s views?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really love His Dark Materials as a series but particularly this first novel, Northern Lights. Lyra is a wonderfully rich character who never fails to make me laugh, the world-building is imaginative and thought-provoking and I adored the adventure aspect of the entire novel. Plus, I absolutely love the idea of having a daemon companion as a unique part of your personality. I’d love to know what yours would be in the comment below if you’ve read this book? Mine would be a ring-tailed lemur!

CHRISSI: Ooh. This is a toughie. Whilst I appreciate that Philip Pullman is a talented writer and that this story is fabulously creative… there’s something about it that I don’t connect with. I have a disconnect with it and I can’t tell why. I usually like fantasy/magical reads but this one leaves me quite cold. I know I am in the minority with that. I certainly wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it! Oh and my daemon would definitely be a lop-eared rabbit.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

COMING UP IN MARCH ON BANNED BOOKS: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen.

 

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The Night Tiger – Yangsze Choo

Published February 20, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

man and walk among us…

In 1930s colonial Malaya, a dissolute British doctor receives a surprise gift of an eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy. Sent as a bequest from an old friend, young Ren has a mission: to find his dead master’s severed finger and reunite it with his body. Ren has forty-nine days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth forever.

Ji Lin, an apprentice dressmaker, moonlights as a dancehall girl to pay her mother’s debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir that leads her on a crooked, dark trail.

As time runs out for Ren’s mission, a series of unexplained deaths occur amid rumours of tigers who turn into men. In their journey to keep a promise and discover the truth, Ren and Ji Lin’s paths will cross in ways they will never forget.

Captivating and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores the rich world of servants and masters, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and unexpected love. Woven through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

What did I think?:

This review comes with an enormous thank you to the wonderful team at Quercus Books who hosted a blogger event just before Christmas where they were introducing a few exciting books coming out in 2019. I had an opportunity to snatch up a copy of The Night Tiger and even if the synopsis hadn’t given me goosebumps (which it did!) I would have been intrigued by that beautiful cover alone. I went into The Night Tiger having been familiar with the author’s work before after the beautiful journey that was her debut novel, The Ghost Bride but it had been a while since I experienced her writing style therefore this book came as a fantastic surprise. It instantly transported me into the world of 1930’s Malaya (now Malaysia) and possessed an edge of magical realism that had me entranced  with the plot development, variety of characters and the power of superstition and folklore.

Yangsze Choo, author of The Night Tiger.

I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, particularly the kind that is set in a different culture and allows the reader to learn a little something about changing customs/beliefs through history that are perhaps quite unusual from their own. I’ve read a number of novels set in a similar location and time frame to The Night Tiger, just prior to the Second World War and I’m always concerned that I may tire of this particular era. However, I trusted enough in the originality of Yangsze Choo’s writing to bring something fresh and new to this period and without a doubt, that’s exactly what I got from this novel. Not only do we have a cast of stunning, interesting characters that you immediately want to know more about, but you have that fantastical element based on genuine superstitions that the populace had at that time regarding death and the importance of the body remaining whole when buried.

I adored the inclusion of the tiger in the novel who almost becomes a character in his own right. His ghostly presence is constantly used in the background to explain a series of suspicious deaths which are blamed upon a rogue tiger terrorising the community. Myth and superstition are rife and there is also a worry, especially in the minds of one of our young protagonists, that the deaths may be the result of a tortured soul able to return to our world and transform into an animal form until appeased, otherwise known as a “were tiger.”

Malaya in the 1930’s

Image from: https://specialcollections-blog.lib.cam.ac.uk/?p=10341

Everything came together in such a stunning way in The Night Tiger. The magical element of the narrative complimented the story perfectly and never felt over-done or unbelievable, helped by the fact that it was based on the actual superstitions of individuals living at that time, as I’ve mentioned. In addition to this, we have astounding characters like Ren and Ji Lin who both have their own compelling story arc and a captivating personal journey for both young people, which eventually leads to the amalgamation of their narratives and an incredibly satisfying resolution. The growth of our characters combined with what they learn about themselves and the other people they are close to is nothing short of enthralling and I loved the drama, mystery, suspense and creative nature of the entire story.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Book Tag – Books Beginning With W.I.N.T.E.R.

Published February 8, 2019 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Winter as part of my seasonal book tag. I was actually meant to do this tag in December but had a major blogging slump and had to postpone it for a little while but as we’ve had a little snow recently here in the UK, it finally seemed like the perfect time.

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

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

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

W

What’s it all about?:

Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born.

When his master’s eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or “Titch,” is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.

He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, Titch abandons everything to save him.

What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe.

From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again–and asks the question, what is true freedom?

I was sent a copy of this book by my lovely blogging bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages when she was sent two copies. That beautiful synopsis really draws me in and I’m also intrigued as it was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize last year (2018).

I

What’s it all about?:

A supernatural superthriller from the author of Let the Right One In

Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear.

And for just one of them, their homecoming.

This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre. On family, on children, Lindqvist writes in a way that tears the heart and twists the soul. I Am Behind You turns the world upside down and, disturbing, terrifying and shattering by turns, it will suck you in.

This book was also a lovely gift from one of my blogger friends, Stuart from Always Trust In Books who I buddy read with on a regular basis. I’m sorry Stu, I still haven’t got to it yet but hopefully at some point this year! 😦

N

What’s it all about?:

DID YOU SEE ANYTHING ON THE NIGHT THE ESMOND FAMILY WERE MURDERED? 

From the author of CLOSE TO HOME and IN THE DARK comes the third pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller.

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked. 

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn’t an accident.

I’ve been an avid fan of Cara Hunter since her first two books in this series, Close To Home and In The Dark. No Way Out is the third book in the series and it comes out later this month. I’m so excited to get to it and a big thank you to Penguin Random House for sending it my way!

T

What’s it all about?:

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

This is the second book in the Winternight trilogy and even though the third one is now out, the second one is STILL sitting on my shelves waiting to be read. Sigh! I must try and get to it this year.

E

What’s it all about?:

An extraordinary story of love and hope from the bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist 

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia share a cup of coffee, and their story begins. It will be a love story but also a story about war and a world in crisis, about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow. Before too long, the time will come for Nadia and Saeed to leave their homeland. When the streets are no longer useable and all options are exhausted, this young couple will join the great outpouring of those fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world . . .

This is another one of those books that was nominated for the Man Booker prize back in 2017 and has been sitting on my shelves for quite some time! I’ve now heard mixed reviews since it was released and it has made me slightly wary of bumping it up my TBR. 

R

What’s it all about?:

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

Red Clocks will definitely be getting read this year – hooray! Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader and I have chosen it as one of our (many) buddy reads and so this WILL be happening at some point. I can’t wait. 

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

Hope you all have a cosy Winter (what’s left of it anyway)!

Love Beth xx

Only Human (Themis Files #3) – Sylvain Neuvel (buddy read with Janel from Keeper Of Pages)

Published February 5, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

We always thought the biggest threat to humanity would come from the outside.

We were wrong.

As the human race picks up the pieces of destruction left behind, a new world order emerges. New alliances are formed. Old divisions are strengthened. And, with a power struggle fuelled by the threat of mutually assured destruction, nothing is certain.

At a time when the world’s nations should have been coming together, they have never been more divided.

What did I think?:

I can’t believe I’ve been buddy reading with blogger bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages for almost a year now! We’ve read some staggeringly good books and with the final book in The Themis Files, we’ve now completed a series together which gives me a strange sense of achievement. Now that all the three books in the trilogy are completed, I feel quite bereft and not sure what to do with myself and as I’m sure Janel would agree, it’s been quite a journey. Now, reviewing the third and final book in a series was always going to be notoriously difficult and like Janel in her review, I had to delete a portion of the synopsis to avoid potential spoilers.

Sylvain Neuvel, author of Only Human, the third and final book in The Themis Files.

Generally speaking, this series has been a bit like the tornado that hits Kansas in The Wizard Of Oz. It’s been shocking and indeed, devastating at points but there have been moments and particular characters through the series that will remain permanently in my thoughts and that I still continue to muse on and admire for their strength, determination and resilience. In this way, it’s been such a mesmerising reading experience – for specific individuals like Kara and Rose alone and of course, for the structure and writing style of the narrative which is nothing short of brilliance.

I have to admit, it hasn’t always been a stellar reading experience, I have had a few issues with the series as a whole. There’s been dramatic jumps in time that were slightly disconcerting in Sleeping Giants and a slightly disappointing sequel that felt more of a “filler” novel in Waking Gods but I’ll also never forget the unexpected moments, twists that made me want to scream blue murder at the author and overall, the fascinating, imaginative world that he created.

As a science fiction series, I can’t really comment if The Themis Files stands out in the genre as I’m not a huge connaisseur but I think I can say with complete confidence that The Themis Files makes me WANT to read more science fiction. Apart from a couple of exceptions (The Sparrow and The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet), this is a genre that kind of intimidates me and I often don’t feel like it’s going to be my cup of tea. Well, this series has turned that thought completely on its head and now I fully believe if other books in the genre come close to The Themis Files, I could definitely become a convert! Sylvain Neuvel has combined a fantastical, technologically advanced world and an intriguing alien species with a wonderful element of mystery and excitement but much more than that, he has created characters that you really care about, particularly his female leads.

I think Sleeping Giants will always remain my favourite book in the series but to be perfectly honest, Only Human comes a close second. If you’re curious about science fiction and have been a little afraid to give it a try, please trust me when I say that this series has the potential to blow your mind a little bit. Even though this might be the end for The Themis Files, I wait in eager anticipation for what Sylvain Neuvel will do next – his unique way of telling a story and creating personable, memorable characters knows no boundaries and I’ll be one of the first in line to snap up whatever he writes next.

Thank you so much to Janel @ Keeper Of Pages for another excellent buddy read. Check out Janel’s fantastic review of Only Human HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Previous buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

The Fireman by Joe Hill – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Girls by Emma Cline – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) by Sylvain Neuvel – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Three (The Three #1) by Sarah Lotz – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

 

Mini Pin-It Reviews #28 – Four YA Novels

Published January 23, 2019 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four YA novels for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) More Happy Than Not – Adam Silvera

What’s it all about?:

Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future.

As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) Made You Up – Francesca Zappia

What’s it all about?:

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

 

 

 

3.) The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1) – Brandon Sanderson

What’s it all about?:

The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson’s New York Times bestselling epic teen adventure is now available in paperback.

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2013.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

4.) The Savages (The Savages #1) – Matt Whyman

What’s it all about?:

They’d love to have you for dinner . . .

Sasha Savage is in love with Jack – a handsome, charming … vegetarian. Which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that Sasha’s family are very much ‘carnivorous’. Behind the family facade all is not as it seems. Sasha’s father rules his clan with an iron fist and her mother’s culinary skills are getting more adventurous by the day. When a too-curious private detective starts to dig for truths, the tight-knit family starts to unravel – as does their sinister taste in human beings . . .

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Graphic Novels.

Blog Tour – Changeling (Six Stories #3) – Matt Wesolowski

Published January 20, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.
Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there. He talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…
Intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought provoking, Changeling is an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, taking you to places you will never, ever forget.

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 Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing the free digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I’ve become a huge fan of Matt Wesolowski’s work after thoroughly enjoying both novels in the Six Stories series – Six Stories and the prequel, Hydra and was so delighted to get my spot on this blog tour that I might have given a very loud “whoop!” Now, I’ve sat down three times and tried to compose my thoughts about this novel for you all and each time I’ve failed miserably. Does anyone else really struggle with talking about stand-out books like I do? I feel like there’s only so many adjectives I can use that adequately describe how fantastic this series is and with Changeling, I’m seriously running out of words. How does it stand out for me? The answer is, in every way possible. The structure, the writing style, the individuality, the imaginative (yet realistic) story-telling, the horror, the tension and the intense emotions that accompany this story that left me utterly enraptured.

Matt Wesolowski, author of Changeling, the third book in the Six Stories series.

One of the beautiful parts of this series, which follows the format of a true crime podcast hosted by Scott King, is that each novel can easily be read as a stand-alone. Personally, I always love to start from the beginning of a series but if you pick up Changeling on a whim, you’re not going to be spoiled for anything which occurs in the previous two books. This particular episode of the podcast Six Stories focuses on the unsolved disappearance of a child, Alfie Marsden in the 1980’s and some peculiar goings-on in the forest where he was last seen. Once again, the author manages to combine elements of true crime, mystery, fantasy and horror so effortlessly and fluidly that it will have you questioning everyone and everything concerned and as Scott King interviews six different individuals connected with the Marsden case, slowly but surely, parts of the puzzle start to slot into place with unexpected and scandalous consequences.

Changeling is set near the English-Welsh border shown in purple on this particular map.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/England%E2%80%93Wales_border

Matt Wesolowski is such a gifted story-teller and wordsmith that it’s always a genuine pleasure to sit down with one of his novels and to be perfectly honest, I don’t want this Six Stories series to ever end. I may have mentioned in a previous review that I was initially wary when I heard this series was structured as if you were reading a podcast transcript and I really wasn’t sure if it would work but believe me, it works like a dream. The author manages to capture the drama and the authenticity of real people living normal lives with an other-worldly, more fantastical element. It sits so neatly and comfortably that if you were a previous paranormal sceptic, you’d start looking over your shoulder and listening a bit more to those bumps in the night. There were occasions in Changeling where some of the scenes or even suggestive moments made me quite glad I was reading this book a) in the daytime b) around other people. I’ll certainly never listen to tapping again the same way….that’s for sure!

With this latest offering in the Six Stories series, I feel Matt has “tapped” (sorry, couldn’t resist!) into a far more deeper, emotional component of his style which I fully welcomed and embraced. I appreciated the more vulnerable, heart-breaking aspects of the narrative and although it made for incredibly difficult reading at times, it’s all completely worth it by the end, I assure you. I genuinely believe that the brilliance of this series just cannot be rivalled and even potential copy-cats would have a tough job emulating all the aspects that the author manages to bring together to make this such a unique, thought-provoking and unforgettable reading experience. Will there be more? I really do hope so but even if there isn’t, Matt Wesolowski still has an immovable fan in me for whatever he decides to do next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is
an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in
horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an
US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End
of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror
story set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a
winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing
Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the
USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WH Smith Fresh Talent pick, and TV
rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published
in 2018 and became an international bestseller.

Find Matt on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5303620.Matt_Wesolowski

or on Twitter at: @ConcreteKraken

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. Changeling will be published on 24th January 2019 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 Changeling on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40885780-changeling

Link to Changeling on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Changeling-Matt-Wesolowski/dp/1912374579/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1547922413&sr=8-2&keywords=changeling

The Three (The Three #1) – Sarah Lotz

Published January 15, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Four simultaneous plane crashes. Three child survivors. A religious fanatic who insists the three are harbingers of the apocalypse. What if he’s right?

The world is stunned when four commuter planes crash within hours of each other on different continents. Facing global panic, officials are under pressure to find the causes. With terrorist attacks and environmental factors ruled out, there doesn’t appear to be a correlation between the crashes, except that in three of the four air disasters a child survivor is found in the wreckage.

Dubbed ‘The Three’ by the international press, the children all exhibit disturbing behavioural problems, presumably caused by the horror they lived through and the unrelenting press attention. This attention becomes more than just intrusive when a rapture cult led by a charismatic evangelical minister insists that the survivors are three of the four harbingers of the apocalypse. The Three are forced to go into hiding, but as the children’s behaviour becomes increasingly disturbing, even their guardians begin to question their miraculous survival…

What did I think?:

I’m finally starting to get on top of my backlog of reviews after I took a much needed break from blogging over the month of December whilst in the middle of an enormous blogging slump. I’m feeling that old motivation to shout about books again and what better book to shout about than one I had the pleasure to read with blogging bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages? The Three was our November buddy read and one we both ended up feeling puzzled about because of its relatively low Goodreads ratings. I first came across Sarah Lotz in her stupendous novel The White Road but had The Three on my shelves gathering dust for quite some time. Thank goodness for my buddy Janel who also had the same problem and we resolved to read it together and decide for ourselves how we both felt.

Janel and I have quite similar tastes in books which of course, makes our reading experiences all the more special and every conversation I have with her is always exciting, thought-provoking (and as with all good friends) really makes me cackle with laughter. However, we ended up finishing The Three kind of dumb-founded and at times, lost for words as to why this novel hasn’t received higher ratings from readers. This was such an immersive read that both fascinated and frightened me from the very first page and whilst perhaps reading it whilst on a plane to Budapest wasn’t the best idea (!!) it certainly made for a more visceral and nail-biting adventure that will be hard to forget.

Sarah Lotz, author of The Three.

Janel and I have recently finished The Themis Files trilogy by Sylvain Neuvel and I’m not sure if we chose this latest read sub-consciously but on our first conversation for The Three, I could hardly wait to blurt out how similar I found the structure of the novel. Of course, the writing style of Lotz and Neuvel are very different, she tends to edge more towards horror/dystopian and he is much more science fiction but I’m referring to the way both novels are set out. They both feature short, snappy chapters that are told in the form of interviews, newspaper/book excerpts, diary entries etc and not only do I adore this way of telling the story but I find it brings a whole new and unique flavour to the narrative overall. We initially hear from a woman writing a book about the strange events regarding the multiple, mysterious plane crashes but, more specifically, this turns into a story about the strange sole survivors of the mentioned crashes. They all happen to be children and chillingly, all three appear to be a bit “odd” after the event. Is it the trauma of the crash? Or is something a lot more sinister going on here?

Do I recommend reading The Three whilst on a flight? Depends how vivid your imagination is!

I have to admit, it took me a little while to get to grips with the vast array of characters we are presented with in The Three and for a while, I wondered if it was for this reason that some readers had an issue with it. After a period of settling in however, I realised this is absolutely part of the beauty of this novel – you never know whom you’re going to hear from next, what they’re going to say and how this will impact on the narrative. Lotz is a whizz at creating a silent build-up of tension and those quieter moments of the story are clear evidence of her brilliance. I got genuine chills down my spine from reading the initial few pages and at points, had to close the book and take a couple of deep breaths before I could continue reading.

As I’ve already mentioned, there’s such a grand variety and diversity of characters to enjoy in this novel and they’re all individual and beautifully readable in their own ways. No, they may not all be likeable but is this really necessary in a story? For me, I don’t have to like a character to be invested in their story and to be honest, I find the thought processes of characters I don’t particularly gel with MORE interesting than the cookie-cutter, run of the mill “nice” person. In The Three, we’re got some wonderful personalities including a religious fanatic Len, that makes his own prophesies about the plane crashes, the child survivors and what that means for the future of the world. Then we’ve got Paul Craddock, the uncle of one of the survivors whose journey from the beginning just prior to the plane crash versus where he ends up I found to be particularly intriguing.

Best of all, The Three is set in a range of different places from the USA and the UK to Japan and South Africa and as we move across these different continents, you get a real sense of how each individual country is coping with how the world has changed in the aftermath of these disasters. I’m not hundred percent certain but the political state of the world at the moment in addition with some of the topics covered in this novel may have affected how certain readers felt about it. Perhaps things are a little too sensitive and close to the bone if they might actually be happening (or threaten to be happening) right now? Happily, I feel I can divorce myself from that sort of thing and just enjoy the novel for what it is – a damn good, intensely gripping yarn that I found more insightful and more horrifying purely because the events that take place could really happen in the world at this moment in time. What’s more scary than that?

Thank you so much to Janel @ Keeper Of Pages for another excellent buddy read. We’re very much looking forward to completing this duology with Day Four by Sarah Lotz as our January read. Check out Janel’s fantastic review of The Three HERE.

Also look out for our December buddy read review of Only Human (The Themis Files #3) by Sylvain Neuvel coming soon!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Previous buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

The Fireman by Joe Hill – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Girls by Emma Cline – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) by Sylvain Neuvel – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.