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The Devil Aspect – Craig Russell

Published March 18, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A terrifying novel set in Czechoslovakia in 1935, in which a brilliant young psychiatrist takes his new post at an asylum for the criminally insane that houses only six inmates–the country’s most depraved murderers–while, in Prague, a detective struggles to understand a brutal serial killer who has spread fear through the city, and who may have ties to the asylum 

Prague, 1935: Viktor Kosárek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country’s six most treacherous killers–known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon–and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth.

Meanwhile, in Prague, fear grips the city as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier–London’s Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum.

Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this stylishly written, tightly coiled, richly imagined novel is propulsively entertaining, and impossible to put down.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Clara Diaz and Constable, an imprint of Little Brown Publishers for getting in touch via email and providing me with a complimentary digital copy of The Devil Aspect via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. After reading that incredible synopsis, I couldn’t help but be excited to read this novel, the first of Craig Russell’s work that I’ve come across and now I’ve discovered him, definitely won’t be the last. This fascinating and occasionally unsettling work of fiction is part historical, part crime and mystery, part thriller with a drop of horror thrown into this heady mixture of genres to make it a story that I still find myself thinking about weeks after finishing it.

Craig Russell, author of The Devil Aspect.

You don’t need to know anything extra about this novel save what is in the synopsis above. In fact, if you’ve already skipped the synopsis and headed straight to my thoughts, I might even boldly suggest that you go into this novel knowing as little as possible. This isn’t because the synopsis gives away spoilers but because I read the synopsis a long while before I actually physically started the book and had forgotten much of what the novel encompassed. This meant that the juicy little surprises revealed throughout the narrative came as a welcome shock compared to if I had been overly familiar prior to starting my journey into Russell’s delectable writing. All you really need to know is that it’s the story of a psychiatrist in the 1930’s who begins work at a Prague asylum harbouring incredibly dangerous prisoners who will never be released back into the general public. He is investigating new medicinal and hypnotic methods into unravelling the evil deeds that they have done with the hope that he can make them better people as a result.

Prague, 1935 – the setting for The Devil Aspect.

Image from: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/62768988526418513/?lp=true

That’s The Devil Aspect in a nutshell. However, you can’t really put this book into a nice little box and wrap a bow around it. It’s about so much more than that. It explores the unpredictability of madness, the power of the human brain, the danger of psychopaths, the difference between evil and good and how folklore and superstition can be used against already fragile and vulnerable individuals to take advantage. It’s definitely a thought-provoking read that made me consider how frightening the human mind can be, especially as we don’t know half of what it’s capable of OR how the terrifying way in which our memory can fail/change, sometimes without our conscious knowledge that it has occurred.

I’m not usually too bothered about graphic events in a work of fiction but holy hell, some parts of this really were brutal – Russell definitely doesn’t shy away from detail. I’m sure all I need to mention is Jack The Ripper for you the reader, to understand what I’m alluding to? As an aside, I would have been interested to see the fascist angle in this book to be explored in more depth however I completely understand why the author didn’t do this. He has SO many irons in the fire with what he chooses to write about and perhaps another thread to the story would have been slightly too much to deal with. I was a perfectly willing and happy participant to the surprises and shocks I received throughout The Devil Aspect and will absolutely be seeking out more of the author’s work.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Blog Tour – The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Published February 9, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

Dark, suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.

What did I think?:

I’ve been so amazingly lucky to be involved with the blog tours for Jane Harper’s first two books in the Aaron Falk series, The Dry and Force Of Nature so I was delighted when Caolinn Douglas contacted me via email and asked me to be part of the tour for Jane’s new book. The Lost Man is a thriller set once again in the author’s home country of Australia but this time, it’s a stand-alone novel that introduces us to brand new characters and once again, an impossibly mysterious situation. In this story, we follow Nathan Bright and his family as they struggle to deal with the discovery of his brother Cameron’s body. As I’ve come to expect with all of Jane’s novels, nothing is quite what it seems and Cameron’s death is much more complex than originally expected.

I was excited to read The Lost Man as a buddy read alongside blogging bestie, Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader and boy, did we have a lot to talk about? This book really got under my skin in the most unexpected manner and the second half of the novel in particular had me on tenterhooks throughout, to the point where I actually had to message Jennifer and just squeak acronyms at her i.e. OMG, OMG!

Jane Harper, author of The Lost Man.

Jane Harper is an absolute wizard at creating atmospheric settings and using the harsh climate of the Australian outback to her advantage in developing a tense, nail-biting narrative that I found it difficult to tear my eyes away from. The seclusion of the area, the isolation of family members and the way that they are forced to interact, communicate and work together as the nearest neighbours are three hours drive away was nothing short of brilliant and I could almost smell the unease in the air. The thought of being in such a remote area where it would be difficult to get prompt help in an emergency is absolutely terrifying to me and the idea of having to be prepared with survival materials every time you take a drive was quite difficult to wrap my head around but completely fascinating and only served to heighten the drama of the situation.

The Australian Outback – road trip anyone?!

Personally, I felt this book was very much a novel of two very different halves. Let me stress that this isn’t a bad thing at all. I found the first half of The Lost Man to be slightly slower in pace. We were introduced to the Bright family, we experienced their confusion at losing their brother/son/husband etc and we began to see bits and pieces of Nathan’s private investigation into uncovering the reasons behind Cameron’s death. At this time, I appreciated the intricate detail that Jane Harper presented us with, allowing the reader to become familiar with the setting and the situation. In fact, I felt as if I was eased into a situation delicately and methodically so by the time I was halfway through, I was entirely comfortable (although obviously intrigued) with what was happening.

Holy Moley, by the second half of the novel does she pull the rug out from under your feet or what?! I was genuinely thrilled by the direction the narrative took, the secrets that were uncovered and the meaningful way in which the reader gets to know each individual personality a bit deeper. Jennifer and I had a lovely chat about halfway through and as with all of our little talks, we tried to analyse the plot and figure out what might be going on, voicing our predictions for the rest of the book. I’m over the moon to announce that we were wrong and I couldn’t be happier telling you that.

I honestly feel that Jane’s literary writing style is almost one of a kind. There’s not many other authors out there that I can think of that manage to create such literary, intelligent work that combines beautiful characterisation with a plot that you can’t help but become heavily invested in. As a result, I simply HAVE to give it nothing less than the full five stars!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Jane Harper is the international bestselling author of The Dry and Force of Nature. Her third book, The Lost Man, will be realised in February 2019.
Jane has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year.
Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.
Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

Find Jane on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/556546.Jane_Harper

on her website at: http://janeharper.com.au/

on Twitter at: @janeharperautho

Thank you so much once again to Caolinn Douglas, Grace Vincent and Little Brown UK for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Lost Man is published on 7th February 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 The Lost Man on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863488-the-lost-man

Link to The Lost Man on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Man-Jane-Harper/dp/1408708213/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549469849&sr=8-1&keywords=the+lost+man+jane+harper

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

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):

four-stars_0

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!

The Good Son – You-jeong Jeong

Published May 30, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Talented Mr. Ripley meets The Bad Seed in this breathless, chilling psychological thriller by the bestselling novelist known as “Korea’s Stephen King” 

Who can you trust if you can’t trust yourself?

Early one morning, twenty-six-year-old Yu-jin wakes up to a strange metallic smell, and a phone call from his brother asking if everything’s all right at home – he missed a call from their mother in the middle of the night. Yu-jin soon discovers her murdered body, lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs of their stylish Seoul duplex. He can’t remember much about the night before; having suffered from seizures for most of his life, Yu-jin often has trouble with his memory. All he has is a faint impression of his mother calling his name. But was she calling for help? Or begging for her life?

Thus begins Yu-jin’s frantic three-day search to uncover what happened that night, and to finally learn the truth about himself and his family. A shocking and addictive psychological thriller, The Good Son explores the mysteries of mind and memory, and the twisted relationship between a mother and son, with incredible urgency.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Grace Vincent and Little, Brown publishers for providing me with a digital copy of this astounding novel from “the Korean Stephen King,” in exchange for an honest review. When Grace first emailed me and I read the comparison to King above, well of course I had to have it! As a die-hard Constant Reader (King fan) anything that is compared to my all-time favourite author, I have to check out. Now, I normally hate comparisons to other books or authors but this one I didn’t mind so much. I think because it was compared to King and my expectations are astronomically high when it comes to him, I was too curious to see how You-jeong Jeong would measure up. And did she? Well, I would say absolutely yes. However, I feel like her novel stood completely on its own as a twisted, dark tale that wasn’t reminiscent of King’s work in my opinion, but a great example of a unique author with an individual, quirky style.

You-jeong Jeong, author of The Good Son

I don’t want to go too deep into the synopsis as I believe the one above taken from Goodreads describes this novel more than adequately without me giving any more detail. In fact, this is one of those books where you’ve got to be incredibly careful exactly what you say, because you could be giving away major spoilers. However, never fear, I’m not one to be doing that and I will be as deliberately vague as possible. Set in South Korea, we have our unreliable narrator, Yu-jin who finds his mother’s lifeless body at the bottom of the stairs in his house and has no memory of the previous nights events, apart from going running late at night. Our male lead has suffered with seizures and memory loss for as long as he can remember and although he is on tablets that are meant to control/stop his episodes, he goes for periods where he doesn’t take them at all as taking the medication gives him debilitating headaches. As the narrative continues, we get glimpses into Yu-jin’s childhood and the present day as he attempts to remember what happened to his mother as ever so slowly, the memories start trickling back.

South Korea, where our story is set.

I was very worried about writing this review but I’m relieved to realise that as soon as I sat down, everything I wanted to say (without giving away major spoilers) just managed to flow (PHEW!). I was hugely impressed by this novel and it’s one that has continued to stay with me, despite having read it a few weeks ago now. I think this is for a number of reasons – first, the unreliable narrator, secondly, the brutality of the story and thirdly, the multiple surprises that are round every corner. The way in which the information is fed to you by the author is nothing short of spectacular and you become desperate to discover exactly what’s going on in Yu-Jin’s head and what has occurred in his past to get him to the situation in which he finds himself at the beginning of the story. It’s not a story for the faint-hearted, I have to say. There is violence, graphic and shocking details of this violence and characters that crawl under your skin, give you goosebumps and make you shiver.

This novel starts as a slow burner but please don’t let that put you off. You-jeong Jeong expertly builds and weaves all the necessary parts of this jigsaw puzzle of a story piece by piece. This is absolutely necessary in my opinion to construct a tense and creepy atmosphere where you’ll be glad certain characters in this story exist only in this book, it’s that terrifying.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

 

Blog Tour – The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Published April 27, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

What did I think?:

The debut novel from author Lisa Ko has already got a lot of attention and immediately pricked up my interest. As mentioned above it has already had the honour of becoming the winner for the 2016 PEN/Bellweather Prize for fiction and it was also a finalist in the prestigious National Book Award. Then when Oprah’s Book Club called it “imperative reading,” I knew I had to seek this book out as soon as it was published over here in the UK. You can imagine how delighted I was when this book ended up finding me! The lovely Grace Vincent from Little, Brown publishers invited me to take part in this blog tour celebrating the book’s release and kindly coordinated sending over a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Being completely honest, this book took me a little while to get into. However, I’m not sure if that was a personal thing (as I was on holiday at the time and had multiple distractions to tear me away). Nevertheless, as soon as I forced myself to read fifty pages without stopping or looking up, by the end of this time, I was irrevocably caught up in the fascinating story of both Peilan Guo, a Chinese-born young woman who is compelled to escape overseas to America as a young woman whilst pregnant with her first child, fearing both the strict Chinese regulations about pregnancy, desperate not to get married to the father of the baby and her constant feelings that things are missing from her life.

This story is also about Peilan’s son, Deming Guo, the relationship between the mother and son and how this changes mainly due to two major events. This includes Peilan having to send Deming back to her father so that she can make enough money to pay off a huge amount borrowed from a loan shark just to get over to America. He comes back to her when he is old enough to go and school and little by little he slowly manages to trust and respect her as his mother. Then something horrendous happens when Deming is a little older. Peilan goes to work one day and never returns. There are rumours that she has left Deming and all her friends, including her partner, Leon and has no plans to return. Deming ends up fostered to a white American couple, Peter and Kay who try to be loving parents towards him but cannot fit the huge hole Deming has in his heart where he, like his mother, also feels like he cannot fit in or succeed in life anywhere he might go.

I’m going to stop there as I don’t want to give too much away but I have to stress how much I enjoyed this novel once I really got into the meat of the narrative. Of course, Deming and Peilan were the real stars of the show but I also enjoyed the background appearances of Leon, his sister Vivian and her son Michael whom Deming lives with when his mother is still there and for a short while before she disappears. I don’t think I’ve read too many books about the immigration experience (although I am aware of some I should definitely get to), but this novel really opened my eyes about the struggles these poor people have, the choices they are forced to make, the conditions they might live under and the little prospects they face for the future if they make a bad decision.

I was furious at Peilan at the start for abandoning her son, especially when you see how much pain Deming goes through as a teenager and then a young adult. He thinks if he does certain things in his present, his mother might return to him. Then, on the other hand, he thinks he has obviously done bad things in his past to push her away to never return. However, things are not always as they seem and it was fantastic to read a novel with not only a dual narrative but that skips around time periods, just to give a sweet little taster of what might be happening until the final difficult details all come out. This was an illuminating with at some points, heart-breaking passages that has made me appreciate the suffering of immigrants a whole lot more. It made me wish we could have a whole re-think of the system, here and abroad – this is especially topical as to what is going on in the news at the moment and I have a new found respect for anyone just trying to make a better life for themselves and their family.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5)

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

I’m the author of THE LEAVERS, a novel that won the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Fiction. Set in New York and China, THE LEAVERS follows one young man’s search for his mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant who disappears when he’s 11 years old, after which he is adopted by a white family. It’s the story of one mother and her son: what brings them together and takes them apart.

I’m a believer in the long game: I started writing stories when I was 5 years old and published my first book at 41.

Find Lisa on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15053129.Lisa_Ko

on her website at: http://lisa-ko.com

and on Twitter @iamlisako

Thank you once again to Grace Vincent and Little, Brown publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Leavers was published on the 26h April 2018 by Dialogue Books and will be available as both a paperback and an e-book. If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!

Link to The Leavers on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30753987-the-leavers?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to The Leavers on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Leavers-Winner-Bellweather-Prize-Fiction/dp/0349700524/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524767801&sr=8-1&keywords=the+leavers