mystery

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Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Published January 21, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Grace Vincent for drawing my attention to this book and inviting me to read a complimentary copy from Corsair Publishers in exchange for an honest review. Where The Crawdads Sing is one of those books where you read the synopsis and instantly know that you have to be a part of whatever this novel is offering. However, I still wasn’t prepared for such a lyrically gorgeous and beautifully descriptive love song to nature, to harsh and difficult living environments and to outsiders living on the cusps of communities which is what this novel provided in abundance. I’ve mentioned in reviews relatively recently that I love being transported to new places in fiction/nonfiction and the author has done exactly that with Crawdads. Throughout the narrative, I felt an expert blend of the wild and unkempt (both in nature and within our characters) and careful, considered plot development that made me constantly want to keep turning the pages.

Delia Owens, author of debut novel, Where The Crawdads Sing.

When I read that this was the author’s debut novel, I couldn’t help but be blown away. Her background as a wildlife scientist stands her in extremely good stead for the creatures she describes and they certainly flew off the pages for me as a reader due to her vivid and colourful way with words. As a bit of an animal nut myself, I very much appreciated the nods to nature in all its glory but the author clearly proves that she can write her human characters just as well, if not better. We hear the heart-breaking story of Kya, a vulnerable young woman who is left to fend for herself on the marsh land with very primitive accommodation after her family start to disappear one by one. Locally, she is known as Marsh Girl and very much mocked and looked down upon, to the point where she only attends one day of school in her life after being teased mercilessly.

However, Kya is far from stupid and as the story continues and she learns to interact, connect and trust certain individuals we discover a new side to her character – an intelligent, knowledgeable and caring woman whose daily experiences surviving on the marsh mean that there isn’t much she doesn’t comprehend about the creatures she shares her life with. Sadly, her eagerness and child-like naivety to find a replacement family and perhaps someone to love again becomes her cross to bear and having always been on the periphery of the town, Kya becomes a figure of fun and potential target for other, unscrupulous individuals.

The Roanoke Marshes of North Carolina, similar to where our female protagonist Kya may have spent all her time searching for food and observing the wildlife.

Image from: http://www.ncwetlands.org/scene-marsh-channel-roanoke-marshes-game-land-ncwetlands-kg-3-2/

This is such a stunning piece of work that perfectly encompasses the raw beauty of nature and the innocence of childhood and really made me stop to think and appreciate my own surroundings compared to material things that I might own. The author is obviously fond of nature and this really comes across throughout the narrative where the environment was described in such minute detail that I could picture myself there completely. Delia Owens doesn’t shy away from tough subject matters, especially regarding Kya’s family and at times, my heart broke for what she had to suffer and then soared when she became such an independent, strong young woman despite her hardships, bitter disappointments and unconventional start to life.

Kya is one of those fantastic characters that go on a real “journey” through the novel. We see her as a scared young girl, a determined, gullible young adolescent and then when she learns to read and unleashes her talent for painting, the world *almost* becomes her oyster. I really felt for Kya throughout this story – mainly because if she had been born in a different place to perhaps a different family, her life could have been a lot different. She is treated horrendously by members of her family and occasional other individuals she comes across as she grows up and at times, it all began to feel a bit hopeless for her ever getting a happy ending, purely because of prejudices she faced due to her impoverished upbringing. I found myself really rooting for her throughout Crawdads, desperately hoping she’d come out the other side but one of the things I most adored about this novel? NOTHING is ever guaranteed, expected or black or white. Delia Owens is fantastic at providing both the realistic and the surprise elements for the reader and I was really excited to find out at the end of this novel that I still had questions.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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

Published January 20, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

What did I think?:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

AUTHOR INFORMATION

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

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

or on Twitter at: @ConcreteKraken

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Changeling will be published on 24th January 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to Changeling on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40885780-changeling

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

Talking About The Woman In The Window by A.J. Finn with Chrissi Reads

Published January 17, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What was your initial impression of Anna? Did it change as the book went on?

BETH: I’m not sure what I thought of her to be honest. It’s perfectly obvious she was an unreliable narrator as I’ll get to in the next question but as a reader, I’m always prepared to give a character a chance and get to know more about them before I make a judgement. I felt terribly sorry for her because it was obvious she had severe mental health problems with her agoraphobia and because I knew this was a psychological thriller I knew that nothing she would witness from her window was going to be good!

BETH: Why did you think Anna was so obsessed with observing her neighbours? How did it make her feel more connected to the outside world?

CHRISSI: I truly think Anna was bored with her life. Observing her neighbours felt like she had something to do, what with being stuck in the house all day and night. I think observing her neighbours made her feel connected to the world because she almost ‘lived’ through them. She got to experience their every day routine and that became her routine too. Observing her neighbours gave her a sense of normality.

CHRISSI: There have a been a number of thrillers/suspense stories with an unreliable narrator suffering from a drinking problem. Why do you think the authors make that choice? How does drinking impact the story they’re telling?

BETH: Initially, this book very much reminded me of Girl On The Train i.e. mature female protagonist with a drinking problem witnesses something horrific. In this way, I think that it’s a narrative I’ve read about before so the author has to do something special to make it a bit different. Obviously, drinking can impair your judgement especially if you’re drinking to the extent that our female lead is AND mixing it with strong medication so things you see can be mis-interpreted. In this novel, we’re not even sure if what Anna sees actually happened as the drugs she is taking do have the potential to cause hallucinations….did it happen or didn’t it?

BETH: If this book were to become a film how do you think it would translate? Would you watch it?

CHRISSI: Hmm…I think it could potentially be a good film especially if an extremely talented actress was cast as Anna. I think the agoraphobia gives it an edge that many thrillers don’t have and it would be interesting to see them tackle mental health. I’m not sure if I’d watch it though. For me, it was a little repetitive in points, but they could take some of the repetitiveness out. I haven’t watched The Girl On The Train which is a similar book. I think for me to watch an adaptation, I have to totally believe in the cast.

CHRISSI: Do you think this book has enough about it to stand out in its genre?

BETH: Personally, I think it does. As I mentioned, this trope has been done before so you have to do something different and I think with the addition of the agoraphobia, it made things slightly twistier as you knew whatever Anna did see would be more difficult for her to deal with as she wasn’t able to leave the house and raise the alarm. It was a fascinating read and I think the author did a good job in describing how debilitating and frightening this condition can be for its sufferers.

BETH: What did you think of the ending? Were you satisfied or did you want more?

CHRISSI: I was interested in the story throughout but I found it to be a little bit predictable in points. Personally, I think it was a very cinematic ending. I wasn’t overly sold by the ending, but it certainly was full of drama. It is here that I could see the book being turned into a movie. They could do a lot with it.

CHRISSI: Did the story grip you throughout or did you feel your interest go at any point?

BETH: Generally, I did find it a compelling read and one that I would recommend however, I did kind of guess what was going on towards the end which was slightly disappointing. There was a moment where I was surprised (but I won’t ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet!) but as for what Anna saw out of her window – I saw it coming. I’ve done this a lot recently with thrillers I’ve read so perhaps I’m just getting better at predicting things or I’ve read too many thrillers recently?! Who can say? It didn’t affect my enjoyment though, I still thought it was a great read.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely read more from this author. I thought it was a very accomplished debut and I liked the fact that the author tackled mental health.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

The Three (The Three #1) – Sarah Lotz

Published January 15, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

What did I think?:

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

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

Sarah Lotz, author of The Three.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Previous buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

In Servitude – Heleen Kist

Published January 4, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Grace thought her sister led a perfect life.
She was wrong. Now she has to pay the price.

When Grace’s beloved sister Glory dies in a car crash, her carefully considered life spirals out of control. She discovers Glory was laundering money through her café for a local crime lord. What’s worse, Grace finds herself an unwitting accomplice, now forced to take over her sister’s shady dealings.

Determined to protect herself and those Glory left behind, Grace plots to turn the tables on Glasgow’s criminal underworld. But her plans unravel when more family secrets emerge and she starts to question Glory’s past intentions.

Grace grows convinced her sister was murdered. Seeking justice, she finds betrayal…

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the author, Heleen Kist for reaching out to me via Twitter and offering a complimentary digital copy of her debut novel, In Servitude in exchange for an honest review. As you may have realised if you’ve read my review policy recently, I’m being very selective about the books I will accept for review and am having to say “no” to the vast majority of them. I have a huge backlog of reviews, four bookshelves worth of unread books on my own TBR that I’d love to get to at some point and I just have to be a bit more strict with myself and what I choose to read. This is all a rather long-winded way of getting round to the point which is….. it’s got to be quite a special request that has me intrigued, makes me drop my rules and regulations and want to read it. As soon as I read the synopsis of In Servitude and was made aware of the number of five star reviews on Amazon/Goodreads – well, it would have to be a much stronger and less curious person than I who was able to resist!

Heleen Kist, author of the debut psychological thriller In Servitude.

I have to briefly mention that whilst this wasn’t a five star read for me, I really appreciated what the author was trying to achieve and there were moments of the narrative where I was completely gripped and desperate to know what was going to happen next. Rattling along at an astronomically fast pace, In Servitude begins with the tragic death of Grace’s sister Glory, continues with the surprising events that Grace discovers connected with her sister and the Glasgow criminal underworld and concludes with some eye-watering, astonishing and unexpected revelations that left me with a whole new respect for the author, her timing and story-telling abilities.

Glasgow, Scotland – the setting for In Servitude.

I was delighted to discover that the novel was set in Glasgow, a city I know quite well and was strangely comforted by the way the author describes it, as a perfect mixture of beauty, culture, grittiness and as with most other cities around the world, potential danger in the wrong parts. As Grace takes over her sister’s business venture, a vegan cafe, she becomes enveloped in the seedier element of the city and is shocked to discover that she didn’t know her sister half as well as she liked to think she did. Grace is determined, independent and brave in the face of adversity and emotional trauma and I admired the way she dealt with an impossibly crazy situation in order to try and “do the right thing,” and protect her sister’s memory.

The ending? Well quite honestly, it knocked me sideways. I believe I just stared at my Kindle for a few minutes in confusion (which was swiftly followed by excitement) until Mr B, my long-suffering other half, had to ask if I was feeling well! It was the most perfect conclusion to an interesting psychological thriller which I devoured within just two days as the rapid pace of the narrative wouldn’t allow for anything longer than that. Heleen Kist is certainly a promising new author in the genre and I look forward to seeing what she produces next.

Would I recommend it?:

Yes!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

An Act Of Silence – Colette McBeth

Published January 1, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

MOTHER. WIFE. POLITICIAN. LIAR.

THEN: How far did she go to conceal the truth?

Politician Linda Moscow sacrificed everything to protect her son: her beliefs, her career, her marriage. All she wanted was to keep him safe.

NOW: What will she risk to expose the lies?

When the voices she silenced come back to haunt her, Linda is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line . . .

An Act of Silence is about the abuse of power, the devastating effects of keeping the truth buried, and the lengths a mother will go to save her child.

What did I think?:

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve had this book, my first read by Colette McBeth on my Netgalley TBR list for a long time now and all these naughty other books kept getting in the way, preventing me from starting it. After finally getting round to experiencing the author’s style, I’m delighted to report that she writes precisely the sort of books I want to be reading. I was instantly pulled into the world of our lead female character, her son and her past and the story moved at such a steady pace (with some very clever reveals) that even when I wasn’t reading it, I was THINKING about reading it, a sure sign that I’m invested.

Colette McBeth, author of An Act Of Silence.

An Act Of Silence is McBeth’s third novel, following Precious Thing and A Life I Left Behind and although I can’t make any comparisons as yet with her previous work, it reads like an established and very confident thriller writer with oceans of expertise under their belt. We follow our female protagonist, Linda Moscow in an utterly compelling opening where she is tasked with the ultimate quandary – her only son is accused of murder and she must decide first of all, whether she believes his protestations at his innocence. Secondly, as a can of worms from the past is well and truly opened up, she must protect herself and her family in the safest way possible whilst ensuring any villains have the potential to be finally unmasked.

The Houses Of Parliament in London, UK where our character Linda Moscow spent most of her political career as Home Secretary.

I have to admit when I read initial reviews of this novel and I saw it marketed as a “political thriller,” I was slightly wary. I’m not the biggest fan of politics, in or out of literature and novels that I’ve read in the past that tend to follow this particular narrative have more often than not, sadly fallen flat for me. However, I had no need to worry. The politics does play an important part in the narrative, specifically concerning Linda’s past and a horrific scandal that she found herself embroiled in but, interestingly enough, the novel focuses much more on characters, the relationships between them and how events from the past have influenced their individual actions and reactions in the present.

From the very first early moments of this story, I was captivated by the relationship between Linda and her son Gabriel. If I had to describe it in three words I would say: complicated, fractured and uneasy. As a reader, I became desperate to know what precipitating events had led to the point where every word and movement they make around each other becomes so tentative and weary. There’s so much more bubbling under the surface of An Act Of Silence than that which is initially suggested and the joy of reading this is discovering all those surprises for yourself. The author visits some very murky places and incredibly dark subject matters but this only results in an even more fascinating plot which unravels slowly, deliberately and quite brilliantly as all begins to be revealed.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Thank you so much to Headline books for providing a complimentary digital copy of An Act Of Silence via Netgalley.

The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books)

Published December 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.

And now for something a bit different…

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special review on my blog. A little while ago, I participated in my first ever buddy read with Stuart who blogs over at Always Trust in Books (and is an awesome blogger so you should all go follow him if you don’t already!). So far we’ve read the first two books in the brilliant Arc Of A Scythe series by Neal ShustermanScythe and Thunderhead and we’ve even read a little non-fiction too – Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review our books – individually or more of a collaboration and he had the brilliant idea of capturing our Twitter chat and then including it as part of our review. So please find here before our thoughts and feelings about The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle at the moment of reading it. If you’re worried about spoilers, never fear! Stuart and I deliberately kept the juicier parts of the narrative very vague so if you haven’t read this yet, no big secrets are given away.

What did WE think?:

Stuart: Hey Beth. I hope your week hasn’t been to hectic! Are you good to start reading today?

Beth: I sure am!! 😁 very excited, how would you like to divide it up?

Stuart: Let’s go with pages 100, 231, 350 and the end. Is that okay for you?

Stuart: Just to let you know, I am going to need some time before I actually post this buddy read. I am planning on doing a huge shake-up on my blog, name change and all.

Beth: That’s perfect. No worries at all dude. Ooh I’m kind of intrigued about your shake up! 🤔 don’t worry we can post whenever you’re ready.

Stuart: I just need to jumble everything up and refocus. I’ve been a tad slack recently. Cool! Well I’ll get started now 😁

Beth: I’m crossing everything that we’ll love this as much as everyone else seems to! 🤗

Stuart: Me too. Don’t want to be that reader 🙄. Liking what I am reading so far.

Stuart: I’m ready 😀. So many questions!

Beth: Me too!! First of all, let’s talk about that opening chapter? 😳 Wow, wow, WOW!

Stuart: It was a pretty explosive entry into the narrative. That line ‘How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home’ gave me chills. It is a great fusion of spiky adrenaline and dreamy confusion.

Beth: Fantastic description and exactly how I felt. I love a narrative like this that keeps you guessing. By about 30 pages in I already knew I was going to love it and I’m so intrigued to see how it continues. I’m intrigued about our narrator being trapped in different characters each morning but to have a puzzle to solve as well? Who knows what’s going to happen?!

Stuart: I was fascinated by the mystery but I was also slightly uneasy with the initial journey into Blackheath. When he truly discovers what is going on, that really did it for me and now I am completely fixated 😅

Beth: I think it might be one of the few books that I could give five stars in such a short time of

reading it! What do you think about the strange figure that appears telling our main lead what’s going on?

Stuart: The plague mask is an interesting point. I hope it has meaning instead of just being a cool feature. I don’t know what to think really. What could they possibly achieve with such a scenario. I wonder if the others are going to be competitive or helpful.

Beth: I definitely wasn’t expecting the whole costume thing. I definitely think they’re going to be competitive. I’m quite concerned it could turn quite nastier than we’re anticipating? 😕

Stuart: Well if that whole servant assault scene was anything to go by then it is going to be brutal. I’m hoping it might turn out to be an impossible love story, that would be perfect. Shall we continue reading?

Stuart: Should have probably finished on the next chapter 😅

Beth: Yes I’ll see you at the next checkpoint! 🤗

Stuart: I really like the way that the traits of each person come through. It would have been a shame if each individual was overly similar.

Stuart: ‘It’s like I’ve been asked to dig a whole with a shovel made of sparrows’. Turton’s imagination is excellent!

Stuart: Ready when you are! We always get the oddest of places to stop for our chats 😅

Beth: We certainly do! Still SO many questions! Who is the plague doctor? Who is this mysterious footman? I loved that quote you put above, the imagery is just fantastic and I really feel present in this world, like an onlooker at the party. I am glad like you say that each “host” is so very different. There’s a lot of characters to get to grips with and it makes it much easier when they have their own personalities!

Stuart: Having Aiden grapple with his hosts personalities and use their qualities (or lack of) to his advantage was really good. The plague doctor guess is still a work in progress. It is quite immersive and I am finding myself trying to keep track of who was where and when. My speculation generator is working overtime. What do you think of Turton’s writing?

Beth: I’m really enjoying it. It’s highly imaginative and the way he must have had to get all these

different pieces of the plot to come together is staggering! I’m not getting confused between the characters which is a relief but I am having to remind myself what certain individuals have done! 😂 How about you?

Stuart: It is an ambitious tale for sure! I am enjoying his multi-layered narrative and you’re definitely right about it not getting muddle up. Turton traps you with this impossible situation and I knew I had to finish this novel no matter what from the very beginning. I like the fluidity of the story, anything can change and Aiden’s hosts are beginning to overlap in new and interesting ways. Can’t wait to delve in deeper!

Beth: Me neither. Do you think Anna can be trusted? 🤔

Stuart: I’m not sure! There are so many versions of each character at various points in the story. I do know that the footman will stop at nothing to bring the others to their end. Ready to carry on?

Beth: Absolutely! I might be a bit slow for the next couple of days as work is a bit mad but looking forward to it. P350 right?

Stuart: Yeah no problem. Hope work goes okay!

Stuart: He has done this loop thousands of times!

Stuart: Ready 😁. Another perfectly timed break!

Beth: Oh my God I’ve just started reading. P245 – “brave rabbit.” 😱 Then the next chapter when he’s warned about the carriage…🤔

Stuart: Oh yeah. It has gotten so much darker!

Beth: It sure has. P316 “Every man is in a cage of his own making.” (The Plague Doctor) and the suggestion Aiden is being lost in the personalities of his hosts? 😳

Stuart: I think he might have done this to himself as some sort of penance. He has choosen to be there but why?

Beth: Oooh that’s interesting! You’ve made me think now. P331-332 oh my god!! 😳

Stuart: Oh yeah, the clock is ticking…

Beth: Hooray! I’m at p350, you’re right that was the perfect place to stop. Wow. I have such a mixture of feelings right now. I’m really confused, excited, intrigued, bewildered?? 😂

Stuart: It is very paradoxical and nuanced at the same time. One moment Aiden is chatting and the next second he is gunning for his life. I can’t stop trying to guess who it was. My head hurts 🤕

Stuart: I feel like making a wall chart with all the players criss-crossing and events displayed. I feel close to a solution then I forget another important part 🤣

Beth: Ahh mine too 🤕 😂 I don’t think you can call it at all. I have no clue what’s going to happen! And because it jumps backward and forward in time sometimes it’s so easy to lose the thread! This footman is really creeping me out though, how about you? 😕

Stuart: I just don’t know how he fits into the scheme. Is he there for sport? Does he have a bigger goal? How does he know more than everyone else? I’m getting dizzy again!

Beth: We really don’t know much about him. He’s so mysterious. All we know is that he wants to kill off all the hosts. It’s like they’ve both got the same goal – to stop the loop and it’s first one to the finish line?

Stuart: There are so many little lines of text that throw us off course. Turton is a pro at getting us to trust no one!

Beth: Haha that’s very true! We don’t even know who our main character really is, that could come as a surprise if we find out later? 🤔

Stuart: Possibly! Time to continue?

Beth: Let’s go to the end!! 👊🏻💪🏻👍🏻👌🏻🤘🏻

Beth: What is going ON?! P429 😅🤷🏼♀️😂

Stuart: I know. Many different hands at play. I love seeing all the earlier moments explained.

Very satisfying!

Beth: Finished!! 😅😳

Stuart: 😬🤕😅

Beth: Oh my goodness what did you THINK? Were you expecting that?!

Stuart: I was amazed by the Anna situation/ending. What a scenario! The Evelyn Hardcastle side of things… I am on the fence. How about you?

Beth: It took me a little while to get my head round it if I’m perfectly honest. It was so unexpected that I found myself re-reading entire passages twice or three times just to make sure I understood exactly what Turton had done. 🤔

Stuart: The connection between Anna and Aiden was superb. The best kind of backstory! I couldn’t get enough. I know what you mean though. Evelyn’s was a bit of a tougher conclusion. I still have questions… But what a book overall! Turton deserves the praise. Maintaining all those threads in a meaningful and whole narrative without totally losing his own mind is a success in itself!

Beth: Absolutely. So beautifully intricate I can’t even imagine how he pulled it all together. I feel like it’s the kind of book you need to read again just to appreciate all the threads that he wove and the incredibly convoluted plot?

Stuart: I think that is what makes this book so appealing is its superbly weaved mystery and the fact that Turton’s delivery is both controlled yet explosive at the same time. I would read it again just for those ‘ahhhhhh!’ moments 😅

Beth: I’ll certainly be reading anything Turton puts out in the future! Who do you think was the most interesting host? 🤔

Stuart: I’m going to say Derby but only because, not only was he the turning point for the whole story, he was a nasty piece of work that Aiden had to keep under control. You?

Beth: I think Rashton, the policeman? I really enjoyed his detective work and thought things really started coming together when Aiden was in his body.

Stuart: That is true, plus he was an unknown player right up until the last act. I did love those moments where actions from the earlier chapters get explained or come into play. It was very satisfying!

Beth: Yes! It’s why I wonder if a second reading would be even more valuable to cement the timeline of events even more? 🤔

Stuart: I am enjoying going back through it in my mind and trying to make new connections. Seven Deaths was a book that really tested my intuition. I have a bit of a book hangover now…

Beth: Me too haha 😂

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

I think you might be able to see from our Twitter chat that Stuart Turton sent us into complete emoji-overload! This book had such a convoluted plot but what I couldn’t get over at any point in the narrative was how amazingly clever it was and how all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle slotted together right at the end. I can’t imagine the amount of preparation and thought that had to go into a novel like this and I salute the author whole-heartedly for pulling it off in an incredible fashion where I’m still thinking about the book quite a while after finishing it.

Stuart Turton, author of The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Personally speaking, I find there is a fine line with complexity in novels. That is to say, I want something innovative, deep and slightly confusing that might fox me a little and have me scratching my head BUT I don’t want it to frustrate me and lead to me putting down the book because it isn’t exciting enough to hold my interest. Turton walks this line perfectly with Evelyn Hardcastle. Yes, it is intricate and makes your head spin a little bit however the glorious nature of the plot, the characters and the way the author structures it made me desperate to figure out the puzzle. So where it might have been maddening at points, it was maddening in a terrific way and I was constantly invested and involved in the story, curious to discover what exactly was going on.

And the characters? Wow. Just wow. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel before where the characters were so completely diverse and individual from each other! I have to admit when I saw the extensive list of players in the beginning, I was slightly nervous – would I be able to keep up? The answer is – quite easily. Each character is very distinguishable and incredibly fascinating. In fact, there wasn’t a single person that I didn’t want to know more about which is an enviable task for an author I’m sure.

The mystery in this novel is second to none. From the very beginning, I was enveloped in Aiden’s journey through his various hosts in order to figure out exactly who killed Evelyn Hardcastle and what their potential motive is. Nothing is wrapped up nicely in a little bow (which I appreciated) and it’s a long, elaborate story to get there but boy, is it worth it! I came away from this book immediately wanting to go right back to the first page and start again to pick up on the things that I had missed and it’s a rare book that makes me want to do that. If you haven’t read this novel yet, I encourage you with every breath in my body to DO IT – it’s a reading experience that cannot be missed and I’m so delighted to have finally realised why everyone is talking about it.

Thank you to Stuart from Always Trust In Books for another amazing buddy read – check out his review on his blog today!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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