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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):

imagesCAF9JG4S

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

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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!

 

Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

Published April 3, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

From the bestselling author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated:

Discover the mind-blowing, life-changing book which revolutionised the way we think about meat – coming soon as a major documentary film by Natalie Portman

Eating Animals is the single most original book about food written this century. It will change the way you think and change the way you eat. For good.

Whether you’re doing veganuary, trying to cut back on animal consumption, or a lifelong meat-eater, you need to read this book.

‘Universally compelling. Jonathan Safran Foer’s book changed me’ – Natalie Portman

‘Moving, disturbing, should be compulsory reading. A genuine masterwork. Read this book. It will change you’ Time Out

‘If you eat meat and fish, you should read this book. Even if you don’t, you should. It might bring the beginning of a change of heart about all living things’ Joanna Lumley

‘Gripping, breathtaking, original. A brilliant synthesis of argument, science and storytelling. One of the finest books ever written on the subject of eating animals’ TLS

‘Shocking, incandescent, brilliant’ The Times

‘Horrifying, eloquent, timely’ Spectator

What did I think?:

A quick side-note before I start talking about this book, I normally include the Goodreads synopsis above but I don’t normally include the quotes. With Eating Animals, I have chosen to because it was reading the quotes that pushed me to read this book earlier than I might originally have done. With Joanna Lumley suggesting “a change of heart about all living things” and Natalie Portman stating that it had changed her, I was super intrigued. Now, I’ve always been a meat-eater. I was raised as a meat-eater and although I’m a huge animal lover, as long as the food didn’t have a “face,” I was relatively okay about eating it, as long as I didn’t imagine the animal in its original form, frolicking in a field. Then a few years ago, my boyfriend turned vegetarian, purely because he had heard some awful things about the treatment of animals prior to them being killed for our meat. I was concerned at first about how our eating would change but to be honest, I haven’t noticed much of a difference. He will cook me meat when I want but generally, for ease of cooking, we both eat the same thing and I’ll perhaps eat meat, away from him on my own time. However my consumption of meat/fish has definitely gone down and I always wondered, could I do without it?

I have to admit, this book has been on my TBR for the longest time and I was a bit worried about reading it. Perhaps I’ve been putting it off as I didn’t want to be confronted with the brutal truth about where our meat comes from and thought it might finally tip me over the edge into vegetarianism. Well, now I’ve finished it and finally know the ugly truth. And it is horrendous. Some of the facts about how chickens, pigs, turkeys, cattle etc are treated in this book are truly disgusting and it has definitely made me think twice about eating meat in the future. I’ve made the decision not to go into detail about how exactly the animals are treated in this review because I really don’t want to offend or upset anyone but believe me, it’s all kinds of shocking. I think I’ve had blinkers on for so long now about this issue and have heard rumours here and there but it’s seeing it put down there in black and white with clear facts and figures and statistics provided by the author that is really eye opening and a huge game changer for me.

You’d think this might be a manual advocating vegetarianism/veganism as the only proper way to do things and that it could potentially get a bit preachy. I didn’t find this at the beginning, in fact the author plays devil’s advocate and talks about the benefits of eating dogs (of all things!). He describes the vast numbers of stray dogs that are euthanized each year and how large an ecological and economic problem getting rid of their bodies is. Of course, I don’t condone eating dogs in the slightest, they’re one of my favourite animals but it’s interesting to see him try and find an environmental case for eating animals, even if they’re few and far between. It was also fascinating to learn that animal agriculture in general provides a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined and it is actually the number one cause of climate change. That’s definitely food for thought (no pun intended!).

Overall, I’m not quite sure where to rate this book. It absolutely did what I expected it to do – it turned me off eating animals with its brutal honesty and has made me seriously consider vegetarianism as a lifestyle option. Knowing what I know now after reading this book, personally I would feel so guilty eating meat as I realise the process it *might* have gone through to get to my plate. Perhaps ignorance is really bliss but I’m glad I read Eating Animals, I feel much more educated about the farming process and so-called “free range.” It wasn’t a perfect book at all, occasionally it got slightly repetitive and I didn’t care much for the writing style or how it was structured but I can’t deny it’s a life-changing book that made me think differently about how I eat.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably! (with caution)

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer was the twenty-third book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night – Jen Campbell

Published April 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.
That’s why I bought her heart online.’

Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world.
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve haunting stories; modern fairy tales brimming with magic, outsiders and lost souls.

What did I think?:

I’ve followed Jen Campbell’s You Tube channel for quite some time now as we appear to share quite similar taste in books, especially anything slightly quirky and fairy tale-esque. However, I shamefully haven’t ever got round to any of her books before so when I saw all the promotion about The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night and clocked THAT cover, I knew I had to finally check out her style. Now, this is a short story collection and I would normally put any short story collections in my Short Stories Challenge and enjoy a story at a time, at quite a leisurely pace. However, with this collection I just couldn’t wait and gobbled them all up in a much shorter space of time. There is no way that I can be as eloquent as Jen with words but believe me when I say that this collection is something really special. It seems to display every single aspect that makes up Jen as a person combined with the fact that she touches on subjects quite close to her heart, like folklore and legends, LGBT issues and individuals that have something about themselves, whether it be physical in appearance or their personality that is just a little bit different and aside from the norm.

It’s quite rare for me to read a short stories collection where I could rate every single one of the stories five stars and unfortunately I couldn’t quite do this with The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night. There was one particular story, “In The Dark” that I couldn’t quite connect with but I know other reviewers who have loved it so that’s probably just personal taste. I’d just like to talk about a couple of the stories that had a huge effect on me and that began with the very first story in the collection, “Animals” which was all kinds of wonderful and portrayed a world where hearts can be bought and sold online. For me, it was one of the darkest, most twisty tales in the bunch – it made me shiver and it was completely brutal, but the way Jen used poetic language made me swoon. In a lot of these stories, it’s evident how much research she’s put into what she’s writing as she draws on old legends from other countries. For example, we learn about the Celtic goddess of sleep who transforms into a swan every year and the giant in Norway who kept his heart outside of his body so he could live forever. I’d love to talk more about this particular story but I simply cannot, you simply have to discover its beauty and magic for yourself. It knocked me sideways.

Another story where I “didn’t see it coming,” was the gorgeous title story, “The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night.” This tells the story of a man and a woman who are lying in bed one night talking together about potential beginnings in their world. What I really enjoyed about this story (apart from the bitter-sweet and heart-breaking ending of course!) was the style that Jen chooses to use, it’s told in the form of a script, almost like a play and it was quite refreshing to read a story in this manner. It seemed to get across the message behind the tale and the relationship between the couple even more perfectly than if the author had used prose. Finally, I’d like to talk about the brilliance of “Aunt Libby’s Coffin Hotel.” This is set on a small island and follows a girl and her Aunt who run a hotel where guests can stay and feel close to their deceased loved ones by spending the night within a coffin and making contact. I loved everything about this, the imaginative idea and how the narrative slowly plays out until the reader gets a real idea of what’s really going on with these mysterious characters and their strange ideas.

I always had a sneaking suspicion I was going to enjoy Jen Campbell’s writing, it was obvious to me that as a poet, she was always going to construct some stunning sentences but I was really surprised by exactly how much I adored it. Her lyrical style and love of the other-worldly, more peculiar parts of our world is everything I could ever want in an author and I felt like I was reading every single word she wrote with unbridled delight. The fantastical/magical elements are spot on, as I was anticipating but I loved that Jen also isn’t scared to go to the dark places in a few of these stories. As a writer of short stories, I truly believe that this author is up there with those of the highest calibre writing in both the past and present – I’m thinking Angela Carter, Angela Slatter for starters? I can only rub my hands in glee for anything she’s going to write next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night was the twenty-second book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown

Published March 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

THE MOST THRILLING HISTORICAL DEBUT OF 2017

Based on the shocking true story of the infamous witchfinder Matthew Hopkins, this haunting and gripping novel is perfect for fans of The Miniaturist, Sarah Waters and The Essex Serpent.

‘The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…’

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

What did I think?:

I’ve been familiar with The Witchfinder’s Sister for a little while now after my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads read and reviewed it as part of a blog tour. So when Richard and Judy picked it for their Spring Reads 2018 here in the UK, I was intrigued to finally discover what it was all about, particularly when I re-read the synopsis and realised it was a work of historical fiction based on events that really happened and people that actually existed in history. I love a good historical fiction, particularly one that is based largely on fact and it promised to be an intriguing read that I was hoping would keep me captivated. Generally, this is a good read, especially for anyone interested in the time period when many women were accused of witchcraft and subjected to horrific tortures in order to prove their guilt. However, by the end, it just didn’t grab my attention as much as I would have hoped and unfortunately, I wasn’t as blown away by the narrative as I had expected to be.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is told primarily from the point of view of Alice Hopkins, who has recently lost her husband in a tragic accident and is forced to return home to her brother’s house whilst in the early stages of pregnancy to beg for his help and shelter. Alice hasn’t seen her brother, Matthew Hopkins for a while and they parted fairly acrimoniously last time they spoke, with Matthew not having many kind words to say about Alice’s choice of husband. However, when Alice is finally reconciled with him, she is surprised by just how much of a difference she sees in her brother. After hearing rumours from the servants, she finds out that Matthew is keeping a list of women in the town that he suspects to be witches. Worse still, he is heavily involved with the apprehension, questioning and indeed, torture of these alleged witches and is so determined to convict as many women as possible, it is frightening. This novel follows Alice and Matthew as the former tries desperately to talk sense into her brother and the latter becomes hell-bent on pursuing this path, for various hidden reasons of his own.

As a piece of historical fiction, The Witchfinder’s Sister is luminous in both detail and atmosphere and this all leads to an instantly compelling narrative. I really felt for Alice at the beginning of the novel, having lost the love of her life and being forced back into a situation that causes her great anxiety. Then we learn a little more about Alice and the number of pregnancies that she had which resulted in miscarriage, a topic which is sadly very close to my own heart. As the novel continued however, I found myself becoming quite frustrated with Alice, mainly because I felt she didn’t stand up to her brother enough (I do note that women were meant to be submissive in this time period but Alice did seem like she should have had enough fire in her belly to dispute Matthew’s goings-on!).

Furthermore, there was a point in the narrative where something quite supernatural occurs which I thought was quite an interesting direction to take the story. However, nothing more really happened in this vein and I wondered what the point was of having it within the tale in the first place. Aside from these minor issues, I did think this was a solid novel and the author sets the scene absolutely beautifully with intricate descriptions and the inclusion of some very interesting parts of Matthew’s notebook which I fully appreciated. I think fans of historical fiction or those that love a good “witchy” story will really enjoy this and I must assure you, I do think it’s a good read, it just wasn’t an amazing one for me, personally speaking.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

The Witchfinder’s Sister was the twenty-first book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!