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The Resurrection Of Mary Mabel McTavish – Allan Stratton

Published July 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

What did I think?:

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

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

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

The Great Depression, 1930’s America.

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

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

 

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The Curse Of Time (Bloodstone #1) – M.J. Mallon

Published July 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to the author for getting in touch via email and offering to send me a copy of her debut novel, the first in the Bloodstone series, The Curse Of Time in exchange for an honest review. The author is a fellow blogger and publishes a wide variety of posts including book reviews, author interviews, haiku poetry and snippets of her own writing life. Visit her website HERE. I’ve been in the mood for a good young adult fantasy for a while now and as soon as I read the synopsis, with the promise of a magical curse and a female lead character with a difficult past, I was instantly intrigued to get started. Generally, I found this to be a highly imaginative work of fiction with bucket loads of promise for both character and plot development. I have to admit it took me a little while to get into the flow and rhythm of the story, but once I was there, it was impossible to put the book down without becoming quite embroiled in a fascinating mystery.

M.J. Mallon, author of The Curse Of Time.

I don’t want to delve much deeper into the plot of this novel, the synopsis above does that more than adequately and the beauty of this story is definitely discovering all its secrets for yourself. I do want to touch on a few things that I really enjoyed and mention why I haven’t given it a higher rating. To begin with, I’d like to mention the characters which were perfectly drawn and enjoyable to read about. I particularly enjoyed our heroine, Amelina and Ryder (although the less said about this latter character the better, I believe saying anything would be giving away major spoilers!). Indeed, it was Ryder and Esme, the girl trapped in the mirror who were the most interesting aspects of this story for me. They both had an air of mystery, desperation, sadness and curiosity and were probably the most compelling reason for me wanting to read on. I also want to take a moment to mention the gorgeous illustrations in my copy of The Curse Of Time which really added something special to my reading experience and that I was delighted to share on my Instagram account, I was so entranced by them:

Esme And The Mirror by Carolina Russo – visit her website HERE.

As I alluded to earlier, the breadth of the author’s imagination is undeniable and I loved her foray into the powerful properties of crystals, the importance of friends and family and (one of my favourites) magical talking household objects! Who doesn’t love that? I also admired that she isn’t afraid to go to some dark places in her fiction, including dysfunctional relationships, self-harm, emotionally unhealthy relationships etc and this only served to make her narrative more gritty and authentic. My only slight issue with this book is that because so much seemed to be going on at once, occasionally the story felt a bit “busy” and everything just felt a little bit rushed where at times, I did struggle to catch up. Unfortunately, I did feel that sometimes the dialogue between the characters suffered at these points and became a little stilted which was a shame.

On the other hand, it did wonderfully illustrate the veritable explosion of great ideas M.J. Mallon has and certainly no one could ever accuse this novel of being dull or lacking in originality. If you’re a fan of fantasy/magical-based narratives that walk on the slightly darker side of life I would definitely suggest The Curse Of Time as an intriguing read from a hugely promising author.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

The Curse Of Time was the thirty-fifth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

Published July 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

What did I think?:

It feels like everyone and their dog (well maybe not their dog, but you know what I mean?) has been talking about this novel in recent times. Why am I only now getting round to it? I’ve read The Night Road by Kristin Hannah before and thoroughly enjoyed it and I trust the reviews of both my sister and my fellow bloggers who have raved about The Nightingale, yet…something stopped me. Hype can be a terrible thing, sometimes it can make you MORE wary to pick up a book. What if you don’t like it as much as everyone else does and as a result, it’s just a bit of a let down? So it sits on the shelves and you might look at it from time to time and think: “I must get round to that!” and still it sits.

Dogs read – right?!

Thank God for Janel who blogs over at Keeper Of Pages. As one of my best blogger friends and buddy reader extraordinaire, when I found out The Nightingale was also on her TBR I immediately (and rather excitedly) suggested we should choose that as our third buddy read together. And so it was done. Now I see what all the fuss was about, now I understand the beauty and the heart-break of Kristin Hannah’s extraordinary words and NOW I can push it into the hands of every single person I meet as a “must-read” book. In all seriousness, this book was nothing short of spectacular and I’m so very grateful that it was a experience I got to share with someone else as they were reading the same passages as myself at the same time. (Note: my boyfriend was also pleased with this development as I didn’t have to keep bothering him all the time to talk about the story!!).

Kristin Hannah, author of The Nightingale

Our story is set in France in the late thirties and follows the lives of two very different sisters, Vianne Mauriac and her younger sister Isabelle. The two sisters had a tough time growing up and lost their mother when they were quite young. Their father, now single and with his own personal issues, found it difficult to raise them and both girls learned independence from a tenderly young age. Vianne, the responsible older sister, marries her childhood sweetheart Antoine and moves to a quiet village whilst Isabelle, more rebellious and fiery is sent off to boarding school. The Nightingale follows their lives as Vianne’s husband is sent off to war and she struggles to raise their small daughter as their village is besieged by the Nazi’s. With a German soldier stationed at her home watching everything she does, Vianne has little choice for the sake of her family but to comply and stay as invisible as possible.

Meanwhile, Isabelle is determined to fight back against the horrific regime, refusing to be subservient or quiet and desperate to help the Resistance in their quest to take back France for the French, by any means necessary. The Nightingale is the story of two very different sisters and the individual ways in which they cope and fight against the intense traumas of war. It also explores their relationship both in the past and in the present time, identifies the true nature of a family bond and what happens when this bond is threatened in the most unimaginable way.

French prisoner of war soldiers – World War II

I’ve been a bit worried about writing this review and I know exactly why. I want it to be eloquent and passionate and I want to persuade as many of you as possible who are reading and haven’t read The Nightingale yet as to the reasons why you simply must read this book. However, I don’t know if I can put it into words quite how this story made me feel. I can be quite critical generally when I’m reading a story, to be honest. There’s normally small niggles and parts of the narrative/characterisation that irk me and make me hesitate to recommend it unreservedly. That is definitely not the case with this novel. There is nothing negative I can say about this book at all – it’s wholly positive and if I sound like I’m gushing, well….I am and I can’t apologise for it – this book deserves it!

Is it the plot? The setting? The characterisation? It’s all these things and I think that’s what makes The Nightingale so special for me. You know when you like the setting but the plot is a bit wishy-washy and the characters could have been developed a bit more? Or you might really enjoy a character but the plot doesn’t feel as compelling as you would have hoped? I’ve had so many of these instances with novels, especially in the recent past but in The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah has pulled the big three together perfectly and there wasn’t a single point of the narrative where I thought: “Hmm, that could have been done better.” It was quite frankly, flawless.

Image from: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/591449363537969990/

The plot was compelling, exciting, horrifying and gut-wrenching. However, any of these adjectives could also apply to the sisters’ relationship and how this developed as the story continued. I was fully invested in this novel from a very early stage and this was initially due to a strong, meticulously planned plot but it was only accentuated by the creation of such intriguing, lovable and occasionally frustrating characters in both our female leads, Vianne and Isabelle. I think I can speak for both myself and Janel when I stress how much emotions we felt for these women, positively and at times, slightly negatively until quite near the end, when pieces begin to fall into place. My heart in particular felt obliterated at the twists and turns Hannah chose to include and the devastating consequences of some of our characters actions.

There were times when I almost felt I had to read it with one hand over my eyes. I desperately needed to know what happened to two women I had got to know and connected with so well but at the same time, I didn’t want to know either! It was the perfect/horrible dilemma to be placed in as a reader and although parts of the novel made for very difficult, hideous reading, it was necessary to illustrate the horrendous events that actually happened, in our not too distant history. Finally, I also adored the statement that Hannah was making about women in the war whose important and quite often life-threatening work is often forgotten or put aside in terms of what the men did. Her passion for the subject is completely evident in her writing along with the painstaking research she must have carried out to write this epic story. The Nightingale makes me so excited to read the rest of the author’s back catalogue, for me, she’s a one of a kind writer with a beautiful gift for making you feel so much in the creation of a simply unforgettable story.

Thank you so much once again to Janel for an amazing buddy read experience! Check our her amazing review of The Nightingale HERE.

Previous buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages:

The Fireman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was the thirty-fourth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in The Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Talking About Close To Home (DI Adam Fawley #1) by Cara Hunter with Chrissi Reads

Published April 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Someone took Daisy Mason. Someone YOU KNOW.

Last night, 8-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from her parents’ summer party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy’s time is running out…

Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, CLOSE TO HOME is a pulse-pounding race against time and a penetrating examination of what happens to a community when a shocking crime is committed by one of its own.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Did you have any preconceptions about this book before you started it?

BETH: I really try not to have preconceptions about any book before I read it but I think it’s human nature, you do make a snap judgement depending on how the book looks and what you’ve heard about it. Luckily, I had heard only good things and if anything, the preconceptions were basically high expectations based on the number of positive reviews I’ve read and the fact it was picked for the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club list this year. Always a good sign! However, we do know there have been books that have been chosen that we haven’t particularly loved – would this be one of them? No chance. I adored this book and believe it’s the start of a hugely promising crime series that I’m now desperate to follow.

BETH: Our lead detective, DI Adam Fawley is reported in this novel as also experiencing tragedy in his life. Were you as eager as me to know his back story?

CHRISSI: So very desperate. I loved how it was teased throughout. That sounds like I mean that I was happy he experienced tragedy, not at all, I just loved the way the details were drip fed to us. Anticipation. I really wanted to know what had happened to DI Adam Fawley. I was intrigued throughout and wanted to know what had happened to him. I grew to love him as a character and felt like I could feel his pain through the pages of the book. He’s not real, Chrissi, he’s not real!

CHRISSI: What does this novel say about children and the world they’re growing up in now?

BETH: Interesting and very tough question! And I’m going to try and do this without spoilers….One of the things that I enjoyed most about this book was the use of different media to tell the story. For example, we have Twitter feeds, news articles, interview transcripts etc. and not only did this give an alternative look at the story from a number of points of view, it broke up the narrative in a really fun-to-read way. However, I think it illustrated perfectly how powerful and dangerous social media can be in distorting views, inciting hatred, giving false information and potentially endangering lives. We already know from the very start of the novel that Daisy has disappeared with someone “close to home,” and it makes you wonder if you can really trust anyone – a terrifying thought.

BETH: Who do you think is a better parent to Daisy, Barry or Sharon?

CHRISSI: Well this is an evil question, Beth! They both have their flaws. Definitely. I have to say that I doubted them all the way through at different points in the story. Cara Hunter is awesome at keeping you guessing, I have to say. If I had to choose it would be Barry. I think. Argh! I don’t know. I don’t like this question, Beth. I don’t know if I’m picking Barry because I intensely disliked Sharon!

CHRISSI: Cara Hunter sets her novel in Oxford, a place that’s been portrayed many times in crime fiction. What do you think of her version of the city?

BETH: I’ve visited Oxford a couple of times now (once with you fairly recently!) and I loved Cara’s version of this beloved and well-known city. I enjoyed that we got to hear about a few staples of the city, like the spires but it generally felt much more focused on an ordinary street with very ordinary people living there but where an extraordinary and very traumatic thing has occurred. I liked how the author focused on the community around the Mason family, what they saw, how they connected with the Masons and how they reacted to the event.

BETH: Without spoilers, did you see this ending coming and what did you think of it?

CHRISSI: That ending! Oh my goodness. I don’t want to spoil it at all, so I’m going to be very careful around discussing it. It deserves to be read without knowing what’s going to happen. If you manage to get it without spoilers (like I did!) then your mouth might drop open…a bit like mine did. I definitely didn’t see it coming. As I mentioned before, Cara Hunter totally kept me guessing. The ending that happened never, ever crossed my mind. Mind blown.

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in the (heavily) populated genre?

BETH: It’s up there with the best in my opinion. As I mentioned, I loved the way in which Cara Hunter styled this novel and used a vast array of other media to tell this tale. It felt unique, different and was a clever little break from a cliffhanger in the narrative that just made you want to read as fast as you could to get back to the main crux of the novel and find out what happened next! These parts were ever so important however as they brought vital information into the case of Daisy Mason that you wouldn’t want to miss by glossing over these sections. There was not only a stellar plot (and THAT ending) but I absolutely adored all the characters, even those you love to hate. They were frank, authentic, fully formed and I felt just as interested in them as I did in what happened to Daisy. Can’t say enough good things, it was brilliant.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes, yes I would. I have automatically downloaded the next book in the series on NetGalley, which I’m super excited about. I tend to find crime fiction a bit overpopulated and a little bit samey, but I’m happy to say that I found Cara Hunter’s book to be incredibly unique and well worth reading. It kept me captivated throughout. I’m excited to see where this series goes.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

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Close To Home by Cara Hunter was the twenty-seventh book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Charlotte Brontë: A Life – Claire Harman

Published April 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

On the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth, Penguin is publishing the definitive biography of this extraordinary novelist, by acclaimed literary biographer Claire Harman.

Charlotte Brontë’s life contained all the drama and tragedy of the great Gothic novels it inspired. She was raised motherless on remote Yorkshire moors and sent away to brutally strict boarding school at a young age. She watched helpless growing up as, one by one, her five beloved siblings sickened and died; by the end of her short life, she was the only child of the Brontë clan remaining. And most fascinating and tragic of all, throughout her adult life she was haunted by a great and unrequited love – a love that tortured Charlotte but also inspired some of the most moving, intense and revolutionary novels ever written in the English language.

Charlotte was a literary visionary, a feminist trailblazer and the driving force behind the whole Brontë family. She encouraged her sister Emily to publish Wuthering Heights when no-one else believed in her talent. She took charge of the family’s precarious finances when her brilliant but feckless brother Branwell succumbed to opium addiction. She travelled from Yorkshire to Europe to the bright lights of London, met some of the most brilliant literary minds of her generation (Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, William Thackeray), and became a bestselling female author in a world still dominated by men. And in each of her books, from Villette and Shirley to her most famous, Jane Eyre, Charlotte created brand new kinds of heroines, inspired by herself and her life, fiercely intelligent women burning with hidden passions.

This beautifully-produced, landmark biography is essential reading for every fan of the Brontë family’s writing, from Jane Eyre to Wuthering Heights. It is a uniquely intimate and complex insight into one of Britain’s best loved writers. This is the literary biography of the year; if you loved Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens, this event is not to be missed.

What did I think?:

My wonderful boyfriend was kind enough to buy me this beautiful hardback edition of Charlotte Brontë – A Life a couple of years ago for a birthday and I cannot believe I’m only getting round to reading it now. Jane Eyre is tied with Pride And Prejudice for one of my favourite classics, actually if I’m being honest, one of my favourite ever books and I’m eagerly anticipating doing a re-read of my lovely Penguin clothbound edition very soon. I’ve always been fascinated about the life of Charlotte but occasionally, memoirs intimidate me slightly so I’ve putting this off for a while now! I honestly don’t know why I was being so silly because this biography was hugely readable and very enjoyable to boot. I have remained shamefully ignorant about Charlotte and her sisters in the past but found out much more than I could ever have anticipated from Claire Harman’s wonderfully researched tome. It’s definitely made me more keen to catch up on the rest of Charlotte’s novels – Vilette, Shirley and The Professor and I can’t wait to get started.

The reader is spoiled with this book in that not only do we get the life of Charlotte to pore over but we get detailed information on every single member of her family. Of course, who could leave out Anne and Emily who had such great successes of their own? We learn about the difficulties faced by Charlotte’s father when he first came to the country from Ireland and how he managed as a single father of six children after his wife died unexpectedly. Not only does Charlotte grow up without the steady hand and love of her mother whom she barely remembers but she has to suffer unbearable agonies as through her life, each of her five siblings also passes away. We get a fascinating insight into Charlotte’s time at boarding school which were so hideous that they inspired the events at the school in her most famous novel, Jane Eyre. Furthermore, we also learn about her great love, a married Belgian schoolteacher who she never really gets over and who breaks her heart by not reciprocating her feelings. Throughout it all, Charlotte comes across as one of the most determined, headstrong, stubborn and gentle women that I’ve had the pleasure to read about. Her life was filled with heart-ache but throughout it all, she never gave up and managed to do what she had always dreamed of – to be a successful writer.

Oh my goodness, after this stunning, intricately detailed biography, I feel almost like I know Charlotte inside out. My heart broke with hers when her sisters and brother died, I felt her agony at suffering with low self-esteem and at times, fragile mental health and saw her pain when she fell in love to have it ignored. Not only did I enjoy “meeting” Charlotte but I loved learning in greater depth about Emily, Anne and Branwell too who all had their own individual demons to fight. Some parts were completely shocking – like Emily’s treatment of a dog which was not only hideous but thoroughly confusing to me. There is also evidence that Charlotte herself didn’t actually die of TB as was suspected but was instead suffering from quite a different condition that still plagues many women today (although luckily, they don’t usually pass away from it!). I don’t think I’ve read many biographies that touch my heart and make me feel so many emotions but Charlotte Brontë – A Life was definitely one of these. It’s quite dense in places and reads quite slowly in others but it’s all worth it to learn about the enthralling life of such a beloved author in our history.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Charlotte Brontë – A Life by Claire Harman was the twenty-sixth book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Into The Trees – Robert Williams

Published April 5, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Harriet Norton won’t stop crying. Her parents, Ann and Thomas, are being driven close to insanity and only one thing will help. Mysteriously, their infant daughter will only calm when she’s under the ancient trees of Bleasdale forest.
The Nortons sell their town-house and set up home in an isolated barn. Secluded deep in the forest, they are finally approaching peace – until one night a group of men comes through the trees, ready to upend their lives and threaten everything they’ve built.

Into the Trees is the story of four dispossessed people, drawn to the forest in search of something they lack and finding their lives intertwining in ways they could never have imagined. In hugely evocative and lyrical writing, Robert Williams lays bare their emotional lives, set against the intense and mysterious backdrop of the forest. Compelling and haunting, Into the Trees is a magisterial novel.

What did I think?:

Into The Trees came my way via the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath who recommended this novel (and sold it remarkably well!) in a reading spa that I attended with my sister, Chrissi Reads. It’s been a little while now since we first heard about it so my memory had faded somewhat about why I was so excited to read it but then everything came flooding back as soon as I had read the first intriguing chapters. After a previously disappointing reading experience with a previous Mr B’s recommendation, Hideous Creatures, I was so relieved to be pleasantly surprised by this novel. It’s relatively slow paced so if you’re a fan of non stop action in your plots, this may not be the book for you. There is one major, dramatic event which is pivotal to the characters in our story but apart from this, it’s very much a methodical character study of how this event affects both the family in the book and those closest to them.

This is the tale of Ann and Thomas Norton whom when our story begins, are struggling with their new baby, Harriet. She refuses to sleep at night and our poor, severely sleep-deprived parents are really suffering with the exhaustion and physical, mental and emotional stress of it all. On a whim one night, Thomas drives Harriet into the forest and strangely enough, she stops crying. After repeating the experiment numerous times, the couple discover that it is only when Harriet is within the trees that she will sleep through the night. Of course, this is an answer to their prayers and they immediately sell their house and move to one within the forest so that they can all finally be happy. Unfortunately, their peace and happiness does not last for long when a terrible crime is committed against the family. The reverberations of this incident will haunt parents and children alike, especially Thomas who sinks into severe depression with the guilt of not being able to better protect his family and terrified that it could happen to them again.

I absolutely adored the opening chapters of this novel, which I also believe was its strongest part (and if it had carried on in this vein, there is no doubt I would be giving it a higher rating). The mystery behind why baby Harriet will not stop crying unless she is in the forest was almost fairy-tale in its execution and although we never find out exactly why the trees had such a calming effect on her I was fascinated to see how it would all turn out. I’m finding it quite hard to categorise this novel or pop it into a genre, I don’t think it slots easily into a neat little box. There’s parts of it that are almost fantastical but not quite, then there’s the literary style of the author’s writing and finally, the thriller portion where the family are attacked. The pace ebbs and flows, reaching a peak when the crime is committed and then slowly meandering down to a much more sedate narrative. I very much enjoyed the characterisation, particularly of Thomas and Thomas’ new friend, quiet but soft-hearted Raymond.

Furthermore, the villain of the piece is wonderfully drawn, very easy to hate yet incredibly authentic to read. Think of the worst neighbour you’ve ever had (or heard about) and then imagine him written down as a character. He was very believable and I also appreciated his journey as a character, through self-loathing, greed and despair. As a reading experience, I definitely had an enjoyable time with this novel. There were parts that were stronger than others and the ending left me feeling slightly crestfallen, just wanting a bit more but it’s certainly made me curious to check out some of the author’s other works.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Into The Trees by Robert Williams was the twenty-fifth book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Hideous Creatures – S.E. Lister

Published April 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

An extraordinary, magical odyssey into the dark heart of the New World . . .

Arthur Hallingham is the youngest son of an English earl. He’s on the run from his former life – from a family where painful, half-understood secrets lurk.

Arthur travels on a slave ship to the coast of America. Amidst the teeming squalor and vaulting ambitions of the New World, he encounters Flora, the tough daughter of an outlaw, and Shelo, a native medicine man with mysterious powers who seems to have a plan for him.

The three set off on a journey through the thick forests and along the wide rivers of the lush southern wilderness. As they near their destination, Shelo’s terrible and destructive purpose is gradually revealed.

Hideous Creatures is a rich, beautiful and compelling novel that will appeal to fans of Audrey Niffenegger, Erin Morgenstern and Neil Gaiman, by a young debut author destined for literary stardom.

What did I think?:

Along with The Immortals by the same author, the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights recommended this book to my sister and I when we attended a reading spa (highly recommended by the way, if you’re ever in Bath, please do it!). Hideous Creatures is actually the author’s debut novel but I read the two books out of order as the story-line of The Immortals just appealed to me a bit more. Now that I’ve gone backwards and read the author’s first book second, I can really appreciate both the beauty of her prose and how far she has come as a writer since penning Hideous Creatures. In complete contrast to how I felt about The Immortals sadly, I was not a big fan of this novel. It boasts the author’s characteristic, quirky style and obviously beautiful way with language but unfortunately, I felt that was all it had going for it. I couldn’t connect with any of their characters and got slightly confused over their back stories. In truth, it was a bit of a slog to get through although I have to mention there are various things to appreciate along the way.

This is a novel about a young male protagonist, wealthy Englishman Arthur Hallingham who flees from his home after learning a terrible secret hidden within his family. He has always chased adventure and longed to see far off lands abroad so manages to secure passage upon a ship and ventures to the American wilderness. It isn’t long before he meets up with two other individuals, outsiders like himself and also people who are nursing a secret in their past. They are Shelo, native medicine man who performs a strange service for those who seek him out and Flora, daughter of an outlaw who comes into their group quite suddenly but ends up becoming an integral and very important part of their circle. Hideous Creatures follows their journey as Shelo continues to carry out his peculiar and terrifying rituals and Arthur ruminates on his colourful past in England.

I have to admit, when I started this book I was quite excited. Obviously I’ve mentioned the exquisite nature of the writing which anybody with a love for the clever way our language can be used will fall head over heels in love with. There is the beginning of Arthur’s journey on the ship and when he meets Shelo for the first time which was a fascinating aspect of the story (although a bit difficult to read as it did involve him being placed in an awful house which was used for illegal, brutal abortions). All of this (aside from the horrifying abortion aspect) was enjoyable and intriguing to read and I found myself wanting to know what would happen to Arthur, even if I didn’t particularly like him much as a character. Then we meet Shelo and again, I was curious, especially about this ritual he carries out on a nightly basis that leaves his clients screaming but strangely very satisfied! Finally, Flora appears and I did like her immediately as a fiery and independent female protagonist BUT I don’t feel the potential with her character was really reached and she just seemed to fade into the background which was a shame.

Generally, as the novel continued, I felt my enthusiasm for it wane even further and it wasn’t long before I found all the strange goings-on a little too hard to stomach. Not in the fact it was gruesome at all, but that I just didn’t feel I cared enough about any of the characters, their past secrets or what would become of them. I am bitterly disappointed, as I mentioned I loved the author’s second book, The Immortals so much but because of the strength of that novel, I would still be so excited to read anything else this author were to write in the future. Funnily enough, I’m still very glad I read this story, even though I didn’t end up loving it, it was worth it for the gorgeousness of the words alone.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Hideous Creatures by S.E. Lister was the twenty-fourth book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!