Mental health/illness

All posts tagged Mental health/illness

Blog Tour – Days Of Wonder by Keith Stuart

Published June 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A story about family, love and finding magic in everyday life, Days of Wonder is the most moving novel you’ll read all year.

Tom, single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On the same day each year, he and its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for his little girl, a moment of magic to make her childhood unforgettable.

But there is another reason behind these annual shows: the very first production followed Hannah’s diagnosis with a heart condition that will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen, that time is coming.

Hannah’s heart is literally broken – and she can’t bear the idea of her dad’s breaking too. So she resolves to find a partner for Tom, someone else to love, to fill the space beside him.

While all the time Tom plans a final day of magic that might just save them both.

Days of Wonder is the stunning follow-up to Keith Stuart’s much-loved debut A Boy Made of Blocks – and a book to fall in love with.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Clara Diaz and Sphere Publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I first came across Keith Stuart when I read his incredible debut novel, A Boy Made Of Blocks which completely captured my heart. So, it’s safe to say not only was I stupidly excited when I received my copy of Days Of Wonder but my expectations for the novel were astronomically high. Luckily, I was in no way disappointed. Keith Stuart writes with passion and intelligence but most importantly of all, with real heart and this novel was a touching, beautifully realised piece of contemporary fiction with an emotional edge that had me laughing and tearing up in equal measure.

Keith Stuart, author of Days Of Wonder.

This novel explores the special relationship between single dad, Tom and his fifteen year old daughter, Hannah. His wife and Hannah’s mother, Elizabeth left when her daughter was quite young and since then, it has been them against the world. This is particularly poignant when Hannah begins to get ill and heart-breakingly, is diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. In other words, her heart just isn’t strong enough to pump blood around her body. The cold, hard reality of this condition is that she could die at any time and more recently, her normal, teenage exertions have caused her to black out, indicating that she could be getting worse. Tom, manager of the local Willow Tree Theatre, has been trying to keep her spirits up ever since she was diagnosed, by introducing her to the theatre and encouraging the troupe of actors he employs to put on small plays for her each year on her birthday – these he calls “days of wonder.” The rest of the narrative follows Hannah and Tom as they struggle with her condition and the potential closure of the place that they love the best. They learn the importance of leaning on their friends within and out of the theatre and explores the beautiful bond between father and daughter as they deal with the terrifying situation where they never know whether one day may be her last.

This picture illustrates the thin walls of Hannah’s heart compared to a “normal” heart.

Oh my goodness, this book. It was so moving and brilliantly written, by the end I felt as if I knew all the characters intimately, as if they were in my own life. Keith Stuart expertly blends the happy and devastating moments of Hannah’s life with wonderful, laugh-out-loud humour and painful, gut-wrenching moments so that one moment you can be smiling and by the next page you’re horribly upset. My favourite part of the whole novel has to be the characterisation which is simply fantastic but in particular, that father-daughter relationship between Tom and Hannah which filled me with a sort of aching longing for a relationship I sadly have not experienced myself. Besides this, there are multiple other characters, like fiesty pensioner Margaret and their close friends at the theatre: Sally, Ted and James amongst others who are all beautifully drawn and all feel startlingly authentic. Additionally, all these characters have their own problems in their lives, for example, Callum’s struggles with mental illness, Sally and Ted’s independent marital issues, James’ private and internal battle with his own feelings….. I could go on.

Told in alternate chapters between both Hannah and Tom’s point of view, this is a stunning story of a father and daughter who forge a stronger and more meaningful relationship through their tough times. It highlights the importance of family and friends and the magical consequences of fighting for something you desperately believe in. As the saying goes – read it and weep. I certainly did.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Keith Stuart is an author and journalist. His heartwarming debut novel, A Boy Made of Blocks, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and a major bestseller, and was inspired by Keith’s real-life relationship with his autistic son. Keith has written for publications including Empire, Red and Esquire magazine, and is the former games editor of the Guardian. He lives with his wife and two sons in Frome, Somerset.

Find Keith on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/441866.Keith_Stuart

on Twitter at: @keefstuart

Thank you once again to Clara Diaz and Sphere publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Days Of Wonder is published on the 7th June 2018 and will be available as a paperback and e-book. If you fancy some 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/34460802-days-of-wonder?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Days-Wonder-most-magical-moving/dp/0751563315/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528039280&sr=8-1&keywords=days+of+wonder+keith+stuart

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Published May 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

What did I think?:

If you haven’t read this book yet and have been umming and aahing about picking it up, please finish your current read and read it next! I put off reading this book for the longest time, even after it won the Costa Award for Best Debut Novel and even still when it was long-listed for The Women’s Prize For Fiction this year. I have heard so many rave reviews and sometimes all the hype can make me steer clear of a book rather than gravitating towards it. After all, what if it isn’t as good as everyone says? What if I’m the lone wolf in a sea of popular opinion? I’m delighted to tell you, I’m most definitely a sheep. I ADORE THIS BOOK. Janel from Keeper Of Pages (please follow her, she’s one of my blogger bezzies and a wonderful reviewer!) finally convinced me to pick this novel up in our second buddy read this month and like The Fireman last month, we both can’t speak highly enough of it. Please check out her awesome review HERE. This novel has the strange accolade of being heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time. It made me laugh, it brought me close to tears and finally, now I see what all the fuss is about.

Gail Honeyman, author of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

So, is Eleanor Oliphant Completely Fine? Well, no she’s not. You know that very British thing that most of us do when we’re feeling rubbish and yet someone asks us how we are and we say: “Fine, thank you,” when we’re clearly not?! This is poor Eleanor. Her life consists of working nine to five, five days a week in an accounting firm in Glasgow. She barely interacts with anybody except to do her job and her social awkwardness and blunt way of speaking does not endear her to her co-workers. In fact, she becomes quite the figure of fun. As soon as Friday hits, Eleanor grabs a couple of bottles of her favourite vodka, shuts herself up in her house and doesn’t speak to another living soul until Monday morning when the whole cycle starts again. This is until she meets Raymond who works in IT at her company and they both help a stranger when he falls ill in public. From here on, Eleanor’s life changes dramatically and will never be the same again. She begins to realise she is not in the slightest “fine,” and never wishes to be so miserable or lonely again.

Glasgow, Scotland where our story is set.

I can’t even deal with how many emotions this book evoked from me. I felt an instant connection when I realised it was set in Scotland, as my veins do run blue with Scottish blood but besides the setting, this is such a stunning piece of debut fiction that it took my breath away. Beginning in quite a melancholy way, where we see the loneliness and hopelessness of our female lead’s life was gut-wrenching to say the least. However, then it changes and the story is so very uplifting that it made me cheer silently multiple times as I got to know Eleanor, broke my heart for her, rooted for her and at the end, felt real and definite hope for her future. Eleanor is a complex character that really gets under your skin. Because of her past, she is not aware of the intricate niceties of interacting with other people and can come across rude, abrupt and brutally honest.

I couldn’t believe some of the things that she came out with sometimes, there were plenty of laughs but I remember at the same time shaking my head in disbelief and sadness at her naivety when facing the modern world. Things like smartphones, going to gigs and getting her nails done are big deals for Eleanor and as she continued to force herself into new, sometimes scary situations, I couldn’t help but smile at the endearing nature of it all. You don’t find out what has happened in Eleanor’s past until quite late on in the novel and although Janel and I desperately wanted to know what had gone on with her, I completely believe this was the perfect way to structure the book. You fall in love with Eleanor first as a character and it only makes it more heart-breaking when the trauma of her past is finally revealed in full, horrific detail.

Please do me a favour and read this book if you haven’t already. Eleanor is such a special character and both her and her story will play on my mind for a long while to come.

Thank you once again to Janel for an amazing buddy reading experience!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

 

Blog Tour – The Pursuit Of Ordinary – Nigel Jay Cooper

Published May 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

After witnessing a fatal car accident, a homeless man wanders the streets of Brighton, trying to ignore the new, incessant voice inside his head. But he can’t forget the crash, can’t get the face of the woman cradling her dying husband out of his mind. She stared into his eyes, his soul. He has to find her.

Is Dan ill or has he really been possessed by the spirit of Natalie’s dead husband, Joe? If he hasn’t, why does she let him into her home so easily? Does she have secrets of her own? The Pursuit of Ordinary is a twisting tale of modern life and mental health where nothing is what it seems…

Following the success of debut novel Beat the Rain, Roundfire introduces the second book from bestselling author Nigel Jay Cooper.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Anne Cater and to Roundfire Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for sending me a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. Who could resist saying yes to a book like this when you read THAT synopsis? This is the first book I’ve read by the author, Nigel Jay Cooper but I can promise you now it won’t be the last. This book surprised and moved me in equal measure and for different reasons (which I’ll go into a little later) but let me just say briefly, the description, although fantastic, gives no clues as to what dark treasures this novel actually holds. With wonderful representation of mental illness, including highlighting a condition I knew very little about, The Pursuit Of Ordinary takes the reader on a journey into the struggles of life, particularly when you’re embroiled in events that seem beyond your individual control.

A representation of mental ilness?

Our story is set in Brighton and involves a number of main characters. First there are husband and wife, Natalie and Joe whose lives change forever when Joe is involved in a fatal car accident. Natalie is left on the road cradling her husband’s head and begging for help from passers-by when a homeless man appears in her field of vision. Little does she realise how important this man will be in her life. His name is Dan and before long, he tracks down Natalie with his head in turmoil. He strongly believes that he has become possessed by the spirit of her husband Joe who is desperate for him to get in touch with Natalie as he has promised her he will: “always find a way back to her.”

Brighton, England. Ooh, isn’t it lovely?

Natalie is obviously traumatised by the events that have occurred and continue to occur but learns to trust Dan, eventually welcoming him into her house. Her only condition is that he try to get a job and begin to piece his life back together. She doesn’t become aware for quite a while that Dan is severely mentally ill and she begins to wonder about the stories that Joe is telling her, when he “comes forward,” and speaks in quite a different accent compared to Dan’s Brighton twang. Then as the two get closer, the reader realises both Dan and Natalie have deep secrets that they may be terrified to share with the other and individual demons that they must conquer themselves.

I loved the way this was written. Not only did we get Natalie and Dan’s perspectives but we also got the deceased husband Joe’s version of events. It was really interesting how the author chose to tell a certain event from Joe’s point of view and then we hear the exact same event from Natalie’s perspective. You might think that this sounds slightly repetitive and unnecessary but I can assure you it doesn’t read like that at all. It’s fresh, enlightening and made me incredibly curious to read on and figure out what was going on with this interesting threesome. I will always, always applaud a writer that decides to focus on mental health, especially the way he represented Dan – as a normal person, which of course he is, with just a few issues that plague him from time to time.

I’ve had my own battles with mental illness, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and unfortunately, emotional/physical abuse. I really resonated with so many parts of this story and the way the characters reacted to the circumstances they were put under. Yep, that was me. Yep, I did that. Why did I do that again?! It’s crazy, but when you’re in that situation, it’s very hard to see a way out, the control the person has over you is extreme and you’re never quite the same person afterwards or, it takes you a massive amount of time to recover. I felt so much, remembered huge amounts of my own past and re-appreciated finally getting out of the situation like our characters attempt to. This book is fantastically revealing and makes you think about what people might be going through in their own personal lives, even if they put on a happy face and make out like everything is fine.

I’ve applauded this author and now I’m going to salute him for tackling a wide range of potentially difficult but very important subjects, including emotional abuse, low self-esteem, homelessness, mental illness, bulimia and the dynamics of relationships with family and friends (although for many of our characters these dynamics are sadly non-existent). It’s honest and authentic writing with the plot progressing and ending not as “fairy-tale” as you might expect. But then, you can’t wrap mental illness up nice and neat with a bow, it’s an ongoing healing process that might be with you for life, it’s all about the slow and steady recovery and I feel optimistic our characters are going to a much better place.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Author, writer, father, runner. Not always in that order. Born in London, England, Nigel lives in Brighton with his partner, their two children and greying ginger dog. His first novel, Beat The Rain, was published in July 2016 and became his publishers bestselling title. It was also nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards 2016 for Best Debut Author. His second novel, The Pursuit of Ordinary, will be published in 2018. Nigel was co-founder of global advocate marketing platform Qubist (Qube Media) and previously worked as a writer and editor for Channel 4 Television and as a newspaper sub editor. He’s a sometime marathon runner and occasional actor and singer. Sometimes his brain switches off and lets him sleep, but not that often.

Find Nigel on his Goodreads page  at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15065567.Nigel_Jay_Cooper

on his website at: http://www.nigeljaycooper.com/

on Twitter at: @nijay

Thank you once again to Anne Cater and Roundfire Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Pursuit Of Ordinary was published on the 27th April 2018 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 book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36313350-the-pursuit-of-ordinary

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pursuit-Ordinary-Nigel-Jay-Cooper/dp/1785358065/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1524942071&sr=1-1&keywords=the+pursuit+of+ordinary

Blog Tour – Drift Stumble Fall by M. Jonathan Lee

Published April 10, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Charlotte Cooper and Hideaway Fall for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. This is M. Jonathan Lee’s fifth novel and I’ve only recently come across his work after loving his fourth book, Broken Branches last year. Well, I can now consider myself a fully fledged Lee fan. This novel is a fantastic read that perfectly explores the issues of depression, anxiety, feeling trapped and longing for escape. I always worry when reading a novel about mental health that it will affect me in a bad way, I’m quite sensitive to a lot of the areas explored in this story. However, I’m always proved wrong with brilliant novels like this that allowed me to fully empathise with our main character and root for better days ahead for them.

This is the story of two families – Richard, Lisa and their two children Hannah and Oscar and across the road, their neighbours, an elderly couple called Bill and Rosie. Richard is obviously struggling with mental health issues and has been for a number of years. He feels that his life has become stagnant, devoid of meaning and dreads each waking moment when he has to spend time with his wife, children or his in-laws, when he has to pretend to be a normal human being and father. Without his family’s awareness, he is planning to leave and start all over again, possibly in America where no one knows him and he can have the kind of peace he craves. He spends a lot of time staring into space, out of the window and often sees his neighbour Bill looking out too. He begins to fantasise about what it would be like to have Bill’s life, something he believes is considerably nicer than his own. However, he is in no way aware of the immense struggles that Bill and Rosie are going through in their lives themselves. The grass isn’t always greener and both men may be about to find that out for the very first time in his life as their town experiences huge snowfall and makes the feeling of entrapment feel even more intense.

I had such mixed emotions when reading this book. It was brutally honest about the daily toils of parenting and how sometimes it can all get a bit much, even for someone who has sound mental health! I’m not a parent myself so I can’t really comment on that but I have seen evidence of it in my own family and friends so am well aware of the difficulties. I really felt for Richard and for Bill and Rosie although Richard especially produced such conflicting feelings for me. I just wanted him to get help (I know, easier said than done) and when he started making serious plans for leaving and even started to put these plans into action, I just wanted to step in and stop him, shake him, give him a hug….maybe all three! This novel is truly heart-breaking in the way it makes you feel. Every time Richard becomes too anxious, the turmoil in his brain becomes too much and he has to step away from the situation I was right with him. Then there is Bill and Rosie and the suffering that they are enduring which ends in a rather distressing situation that only made the lump in my throat feel like a boulder. I won’t say any more because the beauty and agony of this book really deserves to be discovered for yourself but I can’t praise it highly enough.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

M Jonathan Lee is a nationally shortlisted author who was born Yorkshire where he still lives today with his wife, children and dog, Alfie.

His debut novel, The Radio was shortlisted for The Novel Prize 2012. He has spoken in schools, colleges, prisons and universities about creative writing and storytelling and appeared at various literary festivals including Sheffield’s Off the Shelf and Doncaster’s Turn the Page festival.

His second novel, The Page was released in February 2015.

His much anticipated third novel, A Tiny Feeling of Fear was released in September 2015 and tells the story of a character struggling with mental illness. All profits from this novel are donated to charity to raise awareness of mental health issues. This was accompanied by the short film, Hidden which was directed by Simon Gamble and can be seen here.

In 2016, he signed for boutique publishers, Hideaway Fall and his fourth novel Broken Branches was released in July 2017, winning book of the month in Candis magazine for September.

He is a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness and writes his own column regularly for the Huffington Post. He has recently written for the Big Issue and spoken at length about his own personal struggle on the BBC and Radio Talk Europe.

His fifth book, the critically acclaimed Drift Stumble Fall is released in Spring 2018.

Find M. Jonathan Lee on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6953417.M_Jonathan_Lee

on his website at: https://www.mjonathanlee.com/

on Twitter at: @mjonathanlee

Thank you once again to Charlotte Cooper and Hideaway Fall for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Drift Stumble Fall will be published on the 12th April 2018 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!

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38350672-drift-stumble-fall

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Drift-Stumble-Fall-Jonathan-Lee/dp/0995492344/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1523122695&sr=1-1&keywords=drift+stumble+fall

 

The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

Published March 9, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The New York Times Top Ten Bestseller

The Immortalists is about as good as it gets’ Karen Joy Fowler

‘Like literary nectar’ Hannah Beckerman

‘I couldn’t put it down’ Carys Bray

It’s 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York’s Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they’re about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.

Over the years that follow, the siblings must choose how to live with the prophecies the fortune-teller gave them that day. Will they accept, ignore, cheat or defy them? Golden-boy Simon escapes to San Francisco, searching for love; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician; eldest son Daniel tries to control fate as an army doctor after 9/11; and bookish Varya looks to science for the answers she craves.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists is a story about how we live, how we die, and what we do with the time we have.

What did I think?:

It is a truth universally acknowledged (well, by me for certain!) that Tinder Press have been publishing some fantastic novels recently and I can always guarantee when I read a book by this publisher that I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it. Thank you so much to Caitlin Raynor and Tinder Press for sending this wonderful surprise my way late last year in exchange for an honest review and as expected, I completely adored it. The proof copy I was sent was brilliantly simple with just two sentences on the front and back of the book respectively. The front cover said: “How would you live your life if you knew the day you were going to die?” and the back cover said: “New York, 1969. Four siblings, too young for what they are about to hear, seek out their fortunes.” Well, the marketing was pure perfection as this was all that was needed to hook me in and made me unbelievably excited to learn the stories of our four protagonists.

Oh my goodness and what stories they are! The Immortalists is a delightfully slow-paced and beautifully detailed look at each sibling and how learning the date of their death changes the way they might live their lives as a result. We have Varya, the eldest and most sensible, her brother Daniel who becomes a doctor for the military, Klara who becomes a magician in San Francisco and lives with the youngest sibling, Simon who trains as a dancer in the same city. As I mentioned, the date that each sibling is given affects them all in different ways and perhaps encourages them to make different or riskier life decisions that they might have normally. Klara and Simon are the risk-takers of the family and run off together to make a new life where they can both be happy away from the sometimes constraining nature of their Jewish family but unfortunately, their own personal demons do return to haunt them. Meanwhile, Daniel and Varya remain at home to look after their sensitive mother and are more wary about making choices that could affect the quality/length of their lives. It is Varya however who has arguably the most interesting job and reaction to the prophecy, as a research scientist investigating what levels you can go to to extend the human life span.

This novel took me on the most amazing journey that I never wanted to end. We follow each sibling in turn from the late sixties until the present day as each of them reaches the day that they are expected to die, according to the fortune teller. We learn about all their hopes and dreams, all their worries and especially, the struggles and trials that they face as they each reach adulthood and are confronted with the inevitable spectre of Death. It covers so many different themes, like the bonds between families, religion, homosexuality, mental illness and of course, life and death. It’s rare to read a novel where you connect with every single one of the characters but for me, this is exactly how I felt, I loved them all for very different reasons and cried and laughed with them at each struggle and triumph.

Every era of time that is captured, from the easy, open environment of San Francisco to New York in the age of modern technology is drawn fantastically, with so much atmosphere and intricate detail that you can almost imagine yourself by the side of each sibling, experiencing exactly what they do in each moment. Chloe Benjamin has created something truly magical with The Immortalists with characters that have touched my heart, many of whom made me so emotional regarding the direction that their lives ended up and the choices that they made. It really made me think (and I’d love to discuss with you in the comments below), if you had the opportunity to know the date you were going to die, would you want to know? If yes/no, why? Let me know!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin was the eighteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Book Collector – Alice Thompson

Published January 11, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Alice Thompsons new novel is a gothic story of book collecting, mutilation and madness. Violet is obsessed with the books of fairy tales her husband acquires, but her growing delusions see her confined in an asylum. As she recovers and is released a terrifying series of events is unleashed.

What did I think?:

I had never heard of The Book Collector before until the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights recommended it when my sister and I went there for one of their glorious reading spas. Apart from it having the most gorgeous, eye-popping cover art, I knew I had to have it as soon as I heard the words fairy-tale, dark, disturbing and gothic. The Book Collector was all of these things and so much more besides and managed to pack in so much drama, intrigue and delicious murkiness into just 224 pages meaning that I flew through the pages with ease, enjoying every single minute.

Our main female protagonist is Violet whom is nineteen years old and an orphan when we first meet her but within a year she has a whirlwind affair with Lord Archie Murray who she ends up marrying and having a son with called Felix. Archie is a book collector by trade (hence the name of the novel!) and has many beautiful first editions that Violet enjoys looking through but he becomes very possessive and mysterious about a particular book of fairy tales that she is not allowed access to under any circumstance and he keeps under lock and key. Meanwhile, Violet is finding motherhood more difficult than she expected. Her husband is unexpectedly controlling and she begins to suffer hallucinations. Whilst trying to remove what she believes to be insects from her son’s body one day she unintentionally harms him and is marched off to an asylum by Archie until her mental health recovers. When she returns, Archie has employed a nanny, beautiful and enigmatic Clara whom she instantly resents.

There are bigger problems however. A number of young women are going missing and then being found in the most brutal of circumstances. Many of these women Violet knows from the institution and she is terrified, both for her sanity and for her own life. Can she find the connections between these vicious deaths? And what part does the intriguing book of fairy-tales have to play in this particular story?

Phew! I told you it packed in a lot right? This wonderful little novel is just as grim and deeply unsettling as the synopsis suggests. As a result, it’s probably not going to be for everyone, especially if you’re slightly squeamish or queasy as there are some graphic, no holds barred descriptions of some quite nasty stuff in here, therefore a strong stomach required! If you’ve been following my blog for a little while you might remember I’m a bit of a sucker for the words “fairy-tale” when describing a novel and I adored the way in which these elements were weaved into The Book Collector. It was morbid, a happy ending isn’t necessarily guaranteed, there’s always an evil “bad guy” to be vanquished but aren’t the best kind of fairy tales exactly like this? Occasionally whimsical, haunting and definitely troubling, this small novel is a little gem of literature. It’s quick and easy to read but the events you find within has the potential to stay with you many months after you’ve turned the last page.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

Published December 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows, a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

What did I think?:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years or so, you cannot have failed to witness the phenomenon that was Gillian Flynn’s third novel, Gone Girl. When I read it, I was completely blown away, particularly with all the intricate twists and turns that made the narrative so blinking exciting to read. I finished it determined to explore the rest of the author’s back catalogue, to satisfy my impatience in waiting for her to write something else, like RIGHT NOW. Sharp Objects was actually her debut novel and I thought, a great place to start. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed. It didn’t have the “ka-pow” of Gone Girl unfortunately (perhaps I had unrealistic expectations anyway) but it was still a rollicking good read and incredibly dark, definitely not one for those of you sensitive and triggered by certain issues i.e. self harm.

Most of the characters in this novel are disturbed, damaged or broken in some way, shape or form including our main female protagonist, Camille Preaker who returns to her home town as a reporter investigating the murder of two young girls. However, in attempting to unravel the mystery surrounding the tragic deaths, she becomes embroiled in confronting her own demons. This includes trying to repair a fragile relationship with a distant mother and endeavouring to forge some kind of connection with her thirteen year old half sister, Amma. Camille finds out very quickly that her past trials and tribulations are still very much a part of her present and that the toughest and most frightening test of her life may be still to come.

This is another one of those novels that you really can’t say too much about the plot for fear of ruining everything so I’m going to stop there. I will just say that even though I was familiar with Gillian Flynn’s style of story-telling, I was still woefully unprepared for the twisty darkness that lies within this novel. Every single character here has a murky past, is troubled in some way and a lot of the times, is entirely unreliable. Yet this is what made it such a fascinating read, even if I had to muffle exclamations of horror at some points! Personally, I particularly love to hate an unlikeable character and there are plenty of them in this novel to shake your head at, get frustrated and perhaps in some cases, feel a little frightened of. Even Camille herself is far from perfect and had me screaming at her internally quite a few times with the decisions that she made. No, it’s not Gone Girl, that’s true so if you’re expecting that you might be a bit disappointed. However, if you’re in the mood for something deliciously sinister and raw, this should be right up your street.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0