mystery

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Five Books I’d Love To Receive For My Birthday – 2019

Published April 16, 2019 by bibliobeth

Happy Birthday to me! April is my birthday month and my birthday actually falls on Easter Sunday this year. Like any other regular bookworm, the only thing I want for my birthday is BOOKS. I did this post last year in 2018 and enjoyed doing it so much I thought I’d have another go this year. Let’s be honest, there’s no chance of my wish-list ever getting any smaller – there’s just too many good books out there people!! This post isn’t a hint to loved ones or family members but if I’m lucky enough to get any vouchers, this is what I’ll be buying. Let’s get on with it.

 

1.) My Sister The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite

What’s it all about?:

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

Why do I want it?:

This book has been on my radar for a little while and now it’s been long-listed for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019 that’s just bumped it up on my wish-list even further. I’ve heard great things and that synopsis is far too intriguing to pass up, right?

2.) The Silence Of The Girls – Pat Barker

What’s it all about?:

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war’s outcome. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position, able to observe the two men driving the Greek army in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate not only of Briseis’s people but also of the ancient world at large.

Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war—the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead—all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker’s latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives—and it is nothing short of magnificent.

Why do I want it?:

I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology and re-discovered my love for it after reading The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Mythos by Stephen Fry a little while ago. Again, I’ve heard great things about this re-telling and it’s on the long-list for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019.

3.) Remembered – Yvonne Battle-Felton

What’s it all about?:

It is 1910 and Philadelphia is burning. For Spring, there is nothing worse than sitting up half the night with her dead sister and her dying son, reliving a past she would rather not remember in order to prepare for a future she cannot face. Edward, Spring’s son, lies in a hospital bed. He has been charged with committing a crime on the streets of Philadelphia. But is he guilty? The evidence — a black man driving a streetcar into a store window – could lead to his death. Surrounded by ghosts and the wounded, Spring, an emancipated slave, is forced to rewrite her story in order to face the prospect of a future without her child. With the help of her dead sister, newspaper clippings and reconstructed memories, she shatters the silences that have governed her life in order to lead Edward home.

Why do I want it?:

This book looks absolutely fascinating and a must-read from everything I’ve heard. Again, it’s long-listed for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019. If you read my Birthday TBR from last year, you’ll notice I’m AGAIN mentioning mostly Women’s Prize books. Guys, I can’t help it if the long-list is released so close to my birthday! 😀

4.) Normal People – Sally Rooney

What’s it all about?:

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

Why do I want it?:

There’s been so much buzz about Sally Rooney and although I still haven’t read her first novel, Conversations With Friends, I’m really intrigued about this one. It was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize last year and is also long-listed for the Women’s Prize 2019. Surprise surprise!

5.) My Year Of Rest And Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh

What’s it all about?:

A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

This story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs, designed to heal us from our alienation from this world, shows us how reasonable, even necessary, that alienation sometimes is. Blackly funny, both merciless and compassionate – dangling its legs over the ledge of 9/11 – this novel is a showcase for the gifts of one of America’s major young writers working at the height of her powers.

Why do I want it?:

Yes! An outlier that isn’t on the Women’s Prize 2019 long-list! In all seriousness, although I’ve heard mixed reviews about this novel I’m too intrigued to pass up on it. It might be a love it or hate it kind of book but with those kind of reads I really love to make up my own mind.

 

I’d love to know what you think of my birthday wish-list selection. Have you read any of these books and what did you think? Or do you want to read any of them and why? Let me know in the comments below!

The Confessions Of Frannie Langton – Sara Collins

Published April 15, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘A book of heart, soul and guts…beautifully written, lushly evocative, and righteously furious. Frannie might be a 19th century character, but she is also a heroine for our times’Elizabeth Day

‘They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?’

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

‘A seductive and entrancing read, with captivating historical detail…The Confessions of Frannie Langton is an extremely powerful book that resonates long after the final page has been turned’ Laura Carlin, the author of The Wicked Cometh

‘I loved it…Not only a good read but an important book, reminding us of both how far the world has come and how little it has changed. I was gripped, amused, and saddened. I ate Sara Collins’ words up as though they were the sugar, or laudanum, that she writes about so evocatively. It’s a glory of a book’Stephanie Butland

What did I think?:

This review comes with an enormous thank you to Ellie Hudson at Viking Books UK who very kindly sent me a copy of this astonishing debut novel in exchange for an honest review. I had seen a bit of buzz around this book for a little while now, especially from the people I follow over on Instagram and once my attention is captured in that way, it’s hard to rest until I find out what all the fuss is about for myself. It’s even more satisfying as a reader when all that hype is completely worth it and you read a book that is so captivating that you’re just grateful for the opportunity to have picked it up. The Confessions Of Frannie Langton is a fascinating historical treat which follows a young woman from Jamaica that intrigues you from the very first chapter and is the sort of novel that gets under your skin, digging its heels in until you’ve finished the final page.

Sara Collins, author of debut novel The Confessions Of Frannie Langton.

The devastation of slavery and how it affects the individuals who are enslaved, the slave-owners who harbour ridiculous beliefs and their unbelievable feelings of entitlement and the first rumblings of anti-slavery are all brought vividly to life through the power of Sara Collins’ writing. It provides us with unforgettable characters like Frannie who possesses such a convoluted personal history filled with grief, heart-break and horrific decisions. She never feels as if she belongs in a specific area or with a particular group of people purely because of the colour of her skin and because she is raised in a very experimental way i.e. to be educated to the same level as a 19th century “white” person. As a result, individuals of both races treat her with derision and suspicion, believing she is not “one of them,” or that she believes herself above her station in life.

Coupled with this, Frannie has had some hideous experiences at her first home in Jamaica, enslaved and put to work as an assistant for Mr Langton in order to investigate some of his personal theories. It is because of the events that occur in her home country that leads to her arriving in England and being placed in the home of the Benham’s. This concurrently marks another huge turning point in her life which brings us to the present time period where the reader first meets her, being tried in a court of law. From this moment, we go back in time and hear Frannie’s incredible story and begin to learn about the instances in her past that have brought her to such a dangerous reckoning.

The Old Bailey courthouse, London, 1897 as it would have looked when our character, Frannie Langton stood trial. 

Image from: https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/The-old-bailey.jsp

This was such an interesting read and as I mentioned earlier, I found myself gripped by it from the very beginning, mainly because we meet Frannie at such a pivotal moment in her life and as a reader, I just wanted to know everything that preceded it. Little did I know, the trial at The Old Bailey was not the only defining moment of Frannie’s young life and the novel explores all the uglier (and occasionally happy moments) of her story in full, glorious detail. She is an unreliable narrator at the beginning, mainly because she has no recollection of the immediate events that led to her trial but ever so slowly, things start to make sense and become slightly clearer. Nevertheless, the author keeps us on tenterhooks until the very end before revealing all the dastardly goings-on of the night in question.

This novel is luminous in the way it approaches the historical elements of the narrative and oozing with atmosphere that made me feel as if I was walking the exact same paths as Frannie herself. There were some tough moments too and I loved that Sara Collins was not afraid to explore the dark side of that particular time period, especially with slavery and the perspectives on the black community. It felt gritty, realistic, disturbing and important and I’m so excited to see what she’ll write next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

The Dollmaker – Nina Allan

Published April 13, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive but graceful, unique, and with surprising depths. Perhaps that’s why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector’s magazine.

Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped, and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.

On his journey through the old towns of England, he reads the fairy tales of Ewa Chaplin–potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice–to break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.

A love story of two very real, unusual people, The Dollmaker is also a novel rich with wonders: Andrew’s quest and Bramber’s letters unspool around the dark fables that give our familiar world an uncanny edge. It is this touch of magic that, like the blink of a doll’s eyes, tricks our own.

What did I think?:

The whimsical nature of The Dollmaker was first brought to my attention during an event held by Quercus Books last year where they showcased some of the fiction they were excited to be publishing in 2019. The Dollmaker was one of these books and marketed in such a gorgeous display that not only was it immediately eye-catching but I was instantly intrigued to read the novel. Thank you so much to the publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wonderful display for The Dollmaker from the team at Quercus Books.

From the very beginning, The Dollmaker felt like a very “me” book. From the quirky subject matter to the inclusion of fairy-tales and the nods to magical realism, I was incredibly excited to read it, desperately hoping I would be instantly captivated and under the author’s spell. Now that I’ve finished it, I can finally report back with a mixture of both positive and more tentative thoughts that I’ll do my best to get across coherently. First of all, I don’t think this book is going to be for everyone. Stay with me though because that isn’t necessarily a negative statement. Very much like the dolls within the narrative, the story itself is quite disjointed and has a tendency to shift as you’re reading it, almost at times like a stream of consciousness.

Nina Allan, author of The Dollmaker.

We see most of the story through the eyes of Andrew and Bramber who have struck up a correspondence and are beginning to feel quite strongly towards each other, sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings through the letters they write and receive. When we begin the novel, we learn about Bramber, who has spent much of her life in an institution for reasons unknown and as she gradually opens up to Andrew, we learn more about the events that led to her present situation. Unknown to Bramber, her correspondent Andrew, who has mastered the fine art of doll-making is on his way to where she is to finally meet her face to face and build on their relationship. Interspersed between their stories and letters are fairy-tales from Ewa Chaplin (also a doll-maker) which Andrew is reading on his journey. However, as the stories continue, there appear to be some strange cross-overs between characters in Chaplin’s tales and events in Andrew and Bramber’s own lives.

I have to say, the fairy-tale aspects of this novel were one of my favourite parts. I didn’t enjoy all of them to the same degree but some of them were incredibly dark, delicious and gripping. However, this is also where the difficulty rose for me with this novel. I appreciated the beautiful, unusual style of writing and the clever way in which the author intertwined parts of the fairy-tales with the main narrative. Yet it was only when I read the fairy-tales that I found myself fully invested in the story. Sadly, I didn’t feel a connect with either Andrew or Bramber and although I was intrigued to find out what would happen if and when they met face to face, I didn’t get as much out of their characters or personalities as I would have liked. Sometimes it felt as if it went off in too many directions for me to catch hold of the thread and unfortunately, I found myself looking forward to the next fairy-tale rather than the story between the two main protagonists.

There’s no denying that The Dollmaker is a very unique and accomplished read and there are real sparks of magic, suspense and darkness that were wonderful to experience but it was just a shame I couldn’t find a connection with the primary characters or their individual stories. Nevertheless, I would still be interested in reading other works by this author on the strength of her storytelling ability.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Talking About The Last Thing She Told Me By Linda Green with Chrissi Reads

Published March 28, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Even the deepest buried secrets can find their way to the surface…

Moments before she dies, Nicola’s grandmother Betty whispers to her that there are babies at the bottom of the garden.

Nicola’s mother claims she was talking nonsense. However, when Nicola’s daughter finds a bone while playing in Betty’s garden, it’s clear that something sinister has taken place.

But will unearthing painful family secrets end up tearing Nicola’s family apart?

The new emotionally-charged suspense novel from Linda Green, the bestselling author of While My Eyes Were Closed and After I’ve Gone.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Did you ever feel like this book was too far-fetched?

BETH: This might not be the same answer for everyone who reads it but unfortunately for me at points, I found it difficult to connect with. Not necessarily unbelievable but there were points when I thought the way certain characters reacted to circumstances weren’t how I imagined they would in a real-life situation. However, I don’t have any personal experience similar enough to what some of the women suffer through in this book so who can say for certain how someone would/should react? I have plenty of experience with grief and it certainly does crazy things to a person, emotionally and psychologically speaking. Also, the part with the fairy bone and Maisie being allowed to keep it for a night according to the police – I really don’t think that would actually happen.

BETH: What did you think of the relationship between the women, primarily Nicola and her mother Irene? Did you find any similarities between Nicola’s relationship to her oldest daughter, Ruby?

CHRISSI: I felt like the relationships between women in this story were quite fractured. Nicola and Irene definitely had a difficult time within this story, mainly down to what had happened to Irene in the past. Nicola may not have realised this. I feel like Nicola tried to be more open and honest with her own daughter although she hid a major secret from her. There were so many secrets in this story that affected all of the female relationships.

CHRISSI: What purpose did William’s letters to Betty serve throughout the book?

BETH: I thought they served as a nice little addition to the narrative. I really enjoy the inclusion of letters in a novel, it gives such a fascinating insight into a character’s life and personality but the danger with them is that if you’re only hearing from one person’s point of view, it gives only one side of the story. With the different threads going on throughout this book, I couldn’t help but be slightly suspicious of William’s character and motives and it was interesting to read how it all panned out in the end.

BETH: Did you predict what would happen at any point in this novel?

CHRISSI: I don’t think so. I had some ideas along the way but nothing that was particularly solid. I think it could have gone in any direction really… it was that sort of book!

CHRISSI: Without spoilers. why do you think Nicola finally acknowledges what happened to her at age 20?

BETH: I think Nicola goes through so much inner turmoil as she relives her own personal experiences through that of her mother and grandmother. It reminds her how different life was for women just a generation or two ago and how little power or control they seemed to have over their own destiny. As a result, it makes her think again about how times have changed. She now has the perfect opportunity to break her silence and speak out whilst arriving at the realisation that telling her family the truth is better than hiding terrible secrets.

BETH: Why do you think Betty mentioned the babies to Nicola before she died?

CHRISSI: In my opinion, Betty wanted her family to be able to move on. If she told Nicola then the secrets would be out in the open. I think it somewhat took a weight off Betty’s mind and she could die knowing that she had done the right thing.

CHRISSI: What significance do the fairy statues have throughout the story?

BETH: I love the addition of the fairy statues (and I’m sure you did too, I know you have a fondness for fairies!). However, they do represent something a lot darker and more saddening than you would normally associate them with. I believe they represent childhood, innocence and how these things can be permanently altered through traumatic experiences.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. I haven’t read this author before, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy her writing was to read.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Yes!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Beautiful Bad – Annie Ward

Published March 24, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

IN THE MOST EXPLOSIVE AND TWISTED PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER SINCE THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, A PERFECT LOVE STORY LEADS TO THE PERFECT CRIME.

‘Compelling. Filled with unexpected twists… a riveting read’ Sarah Pekkanen, author of The Wife Between Us

Maddie and Ian’s romance began when he was serving in the British Army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend Jo in Europe. Now sixteen years later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America.

But when an accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, the years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of shocking crime.

But what in this beautiful home has gone so terribly bad?

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the always wonderful Quercus Books for hosting a bloggers event at the end of last year where they showcased some of the fiction they were most excited for in 2019 and secondly, for providing me with a complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I picked up Beautiful Bad, I turned to my blogger bestie, Janel @ Keeper Of Pages and told her that I NEEDED to read this book. The proof copy was beautifully simplistic and incredibly effective with just a few lines of text on the back cover that went like this:

“Things that make me scared:

  1. When Charlie cries.
  2. Hospitals and lakes.
  3. When Ian gets angry.
  4. ISIS.
  5. That something is really, really wrong with me…”

I mean – wow. Who couldn’t resist but pick this book up with a teaser like that?

Annie Ward, author of Beautiful Bad.

Now, I hope those of you who have followed my blog for a while understand by now that I will always, always give you an honest review. If I absolutely don’t like a book and DNF it (i.e. a one star rating), I won’t review it as I don’t think it’s fair to the author or his/her future readers to review a book that I haven’t read the whole way through. My two star ratings are for books I finished but I had a few problems with and didn’t really enjoy that much but can see why other readers might. I’m sure you also appreciate that I don’t revel in writing more critical reviews and even if I didn’t enjoy a book, I will ALWAYS try and find something positive to say about it rather than ripping all an author’s hard work and efforts to shreds. Three stars and above = I enjoyed the novel but to varying degrees depending on whether I rated it three stars, four stars or the big five stars. I feel that I had to put that little disclaimer in because I did enjoy Beautiful Bad in general but unfortunately, I did have a few problems with it that were purely personal to me and I completely understand that other readers might feel very differently.

My expectations were so high with Beautiful Bad, partly because of that intriguing taster on the back cover and there were just a few ways in which it didn’t meet those ridiculously high standards of mine. As it’s a psychological thriller, I don’t want to get too deeply into the nitty gritty but I want to assure readers that haven’t read this yet and are excited about it that it really is a very compelling and fascinating read. The reason I kept on reading was that I was curious to find out what exactly was going on and what happened on one terrible day.

The novel is told from both Maddie and Ian’s point of view and we hear in intricate detail about how they met, fell in love, the initial struggles of their relationship, where they are right now in the present as a married couple and what difficulties they continue to face. Annie Ward explores mental health and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in an assured, often saddening way and I was constantly gripped by the relationship between the couple and how they managed to navigate through their troubles, especially with the addition of a gorgeous little boy, Charlie to their family.

Iraq, one of the many settings we visit in Beautiful Bad.

Image from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/iraq-lawmakers-seek-timetable-for-withdrawal-of-foreign-troops-1519933363

Through the eyes of Maddie and Ian, we are taken to a multitude of different settings including Iraq, Kansas, Manhattan, England and the Balkans and piece by piece, their journey to becoming a married couple is slowly explored. With such a variety of locations to explore you may be wondering exactly what my issue was, especially as I normally thrive on learning about different places and cultures. However, in Beautiful Bad at times it felt like there was too much unnecessary detail within these settings. That is to say, I didn’t feel I learned much about the place in enough detail as I would have liked. I understand this might have been to explore the juicier details of Maddie and Ian’s relationship but even then, I don’t feel as if the right sort of things were explored. It just seemed to be them going for a drink, fighting with Maddie’s friend Jo, falling in love WAY too quickly and him calling her “Petal” far too much which became slightly sickening. As a result, I didn’t feel as if I connected with any of the individuals as characters because sadly, I just couldn’t find their relationships believable on any level.

This book has so many potentially great things going for it, it was such a shame I felt such a disconnect with the characters and parts of the narrative. It’s mysterious and puzzling and even though I found some parts a bit slow, by about the middle of the novel, I was gripped enough by the story that I wanted to continue and see how it ended. Additionally, I have already seen so many positive reviews for this book so please don’t let my variable opinion sway you towards not picking it up – it certainly has some incredibly thrilling moments and in the hands of a different reader, you might get the completely opposite reaction. If you’ve already read it, I’d love to chat with you in the comments, please let me know what you thought!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

The Devil Aspect – Craig Russell

Published March 18, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

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

What did I think?:

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

Craig Russell, author of The Devil Aspect.

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

Prague, 1935 – the setting for The Devil Aspect.

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About The Colour Of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris with Chrissi Reads

Published March 14, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Whatever happens, don’t tell anyone what you did to Bee Larkham…

Jasper is not ordinary. In fact, he would say he is extraordinary…

Synaesthesia paints the sounds of his world in a kaleidoscope of colours that no one else can see. But on Friday, he discovered a new colour – the colour of murder.

He’s sure something has happened to his neighbour, Bee Larkham, but no-one else seems to be taking it as seriously as they should be. The knife and the screams are all mixed up in his head and he’s scared that he can’t quite remember anything clearly.

But where is Bee? Why hasn’t she come home yet? Jasper must uncover the truth about that night – including his own role in what happened…

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: This book has been compared to The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time. Do you understand and/or agree with that comparison?

BETH: Absolutely. It also reminded me a little bit of The Trouble With Goats And Sheep by Joanna Cannon.You started reading this novel a little bit before me and I saw your post saying that it reminded you of The Curious Incident. Now I’ve had a chance to read it myself, I completely agree. Both stories follow a young boy with autism as he struggles to cope with the suspected murder of one of his neighbours. There are differences however which made it unique in its own special way. For example, Jasper has synaesthesia which offers an additional quirk in how he views the world. Secondly, whilst our main character in Curious Incident is desperately trying to investigate his neighbours murder, Jasper appears more troubled by the situation.

BETH: Was this book what you expected? If not, why not?

CHRISSI: Not at all. I expected it to have Curious Incident vibes and it did. However, I thought it was totally unique. The character of Jasper was so well thought out and well developed that it made me absolutely adore him. I thought the family dynamics were fascinating. I basically can’t rave enough about this book because I thought it was fantastic. I really did. It will stay with me for some time!

CHRISSI: What did you think had happened to Bee Larkham? Did your opinion change throughout the book?

BETH: I had no idea. The author drops little hints along the way and it does become quite worrying, especially in the clues that are given throughout the narrative and how they connect to our main characters but as for the details of what happens to Bee, it is left deliberately vague until the very end. It’s much more a story of Jasper, his relationship with his father and his struggles with face blindness and how to recognise people, even those that should be completely familiar to him. I wouldn’t say my opinion changed through the novel exactly but I was surprised by the final reveal.

BETH: Did you have a favourite character in this novel? Who was it and why?

CHRISSI: My favourite character was Jasper. He was so endearing. I have taught children very similar to Jasper before, although without the synaesthesia, so he reminded me of them. I have a special place in my heart for children with autism. I think it’s fascinating how they see the world and Jasper certainly fascinated me. He’s such a delightful character and I think, if you’re going to read this book, you’re in for a treat when you meet Jasper.

CHRISSI: Had you heard of synaesthesia before reading this book? If so, did you think the author’s interpretation was accurate?

BETH: I had heard of it before but was always a little bit confused about what exactly it entailed. This is one of the only novels I’ve read that focuses on the subject and explains it to the reader in a way I could finally understand. Jasper has problems with face blindness and is only able to recognise people (even his own father) by either focusing very hard on particular items of their clothing or the colour of their voice. Whenever there is noise, be that music, bird song or just people talking, they emit a very specific colour. Some of these are more palatable to Jasper than others and he will recognise that person in future by concentrating on the specific colour he sees when they speak.

BETH: If this book was a colour, what would it be and why?

CHRISSI: My initial thought is blue. I don’t know if that’s because my version had a blue cover. I feel like the colour blue has such a strong representation in this story that it just has to be blue!

CHRISSI: This book is undoubtedly unique. What was it that made it so unique for you?

BETH: Can I say everything? Even though the similarities to Curious Incident are there, it stands on its own completely as a very separate, very special piece of writing. I loved how it explored Jasper’s world and the growth of his relationships with other characters, even his own father. The description of the colours was done so beautifully it made the writing more vibrant and an absolute pleasure to read. Then there was the mystery element of what exactly happened to Bee Larkham and I adored how this was unravelled – from her very first days on the street until the present time when her demise is much more convoluted than you could ever imagine.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Certainly! I thought this was an incredible read!

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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Blog Tour – The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Published February 9, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

What did I think?:

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

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

Jane Harper, author of The Lost Man.

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

The Australian Outback – road trip anyone?!

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

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

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

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

on Twitter at: @janeharperautho

Thank you so much once again to Caolinn Douglas, Grace Vincent and Little Brown UK for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Lost Man is published on 7th February 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to The Lost Man on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863488-the-lost-man

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

Blog Tour – Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain

Published February 7, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Death stalked the Vale.
In every corner, every whisper.
They just didn’t know it yet.

Six neighbours, six secrets, six reasons to want Olive Collins dead.

In the exclusive gated community of Withered Vale, people’s lives appear as perfect as their beautifully manicured lawns. Money, success, privilege – the residents have it all. Life is good.

There’s just one problem.

Olive Collins’ dead body has been rotting inside number four for the last three months. Her neighbours say they’re shocked at the discovery but nobody thought to check on her when she vanished from sight.

The police start to ask questions and the seemingly flawless facade begins to crack. Because, when it comes to Olive’s neighbours, it seems each of them has something to hide, something to lose and everything to gain from her death.

What did I think?:

This review comes with an extra special thank you to the powerhouse that is Quercus Books who drew my attention to this novel when they hosted a Word-Of-Mouth event for bloggers just before Christmas, showcasing the books they were most excited for in 2019. Also, many thanks to Milly Reid for accepting me onto the blog tour this week in order to promote this surprisingly fantastic book. I say surprising as I haven’t actually read any of Jo Spain’s work before and so I went into Dirty Little Secrets with very little expectations at all. I always find the best kinds of books and certainly the ones that stay with you long-term are the ones that come out of nowhere, knock you for six, have you tweeting and raving about them and then automatically recommending it to anyone who will listen. That’s what Dirty Little Secrets was like for me and I’m stupidly excited to share my thoughts with you all today.

Jo Spain, author of Dirty Little Secrets.

So what can I tell you about this book while remaining suitably vague and mysterious? It’s an absolute must read, in my opinion, particularly if you like unreliable narrators, multiple points of view, intriguing and unlikeable characters, a plot that just won’t quit coupled with a remarkably literary and focused writing style. I was genuinely bowled over by how invested I got in this story within such a short space of time and I fully believe this was purely because of the way in which the characters were written. We hear from numerous individuals around the gated community of Withered Vale who are all being interviewed about the police regarding the suspicious death of one of the members of their community, Olive Collins. None of the neighbours are particularly personable, they all appear to have their own little secrets and skeletons in the closet and additionally, each harbours a potential motive for wishing harm on Olive.

I adore a decent psychological thriller, especially one that can keep me on my toes and have me gripped throughout, constantly feeding my curiosity without giving the game away too early. Dirty Little Secrets does all that combined with a unique focus on the characters and their individual stories to whet our appetite as a reader and have us wondering exactly what might be going on here. I loved that literally ANYONE could have had a hand in Olive’s death and it left me scratching my head on numerous occasions wondering how the author was going to wrap it all up. Well, she wraps it up gloriously I assure you and I’m delighted to report that I was left in complete darkness and ignorance until the very end.

Why have I not read any Jo Spain before? How is that even possible that a talented author has been writing books like this and I haven’t even realised?! Her writing came completely out of nowhere, sucked me in and left me truly hungry to go and peruse the rest of her back catalogue. I may have been woefully ignorant of this author in the past but thankfully, that’s no longer the case and I can’t wait to get stuck into more of her work, especially if the brilliance of Dirty Little Secrets is anything to recommend her by.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

Jo Spain is the author of the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Her first book, top ten bestseller With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller. The Confession her first standalone thriller, was a number one bestseller and translated all over the world.
Jo is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, a former political advisor in the Irish parliament and former vice-chair of InterTrade Ireland business body.
She now writes novels and screenplays full-time. Her first co-written TV show TAKEN DOWN was broadcast in Ireland in 2018 and bought by international distributors Fremantle.
Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and four young children. In her spare time (she has four children, there is no spare time really) she likes to read. Her favourite authors include Pierre Lemaitre, Jo Nesbo, Liane Moriarty, Fred Vargas and Louise Penny. She also watches TV detective series and was slightly obsessed with The Bridge, Trapped and The Missing.
Jo thinks up her plots on long runs in the woods. Her husband sleeps with one eye open and all her friends have looked at her strangely since she won her publishing deal.

Find Jo on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14190033.Jo_Spain

on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/JoSpainAuthor/

on Twitter at: @SpainJoanne

Thank you so much once again to Milly Reid and Quercus Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Dirty Little Secrets is published on 7th February 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to Dirty Little Secrets on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38120306-dirty-little-secrets

Link to Dirty Little Secrets on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dirty-Little-Secrets-Jo-Spain/dp/1787474321/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549467094&sr=8-1&keywords=dirty+little+secrets+jo+spain

The Last – Hanna Jameson

Published February 4, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead

Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?

What did I think?:

This review comes with an enormous thank you to Viking, an imprint of Penguin Books who were very kind to send me a proof copy of this extraordinary novel in exchange for an honest review. I was actually supposed to attend the launch of this book in Shoreditch, London on Friday night but unfortunately due to some pesky snow affecting the rail network I was unable to get there. From what I’ve heard though, a great night was had and congratulations to the author and publisher on the recent release of this book.

Apart from being an aesthetically pleasing novel with some of the most gorgeous endpapers I think I’ve ever seen, I don’t think any fans of speculative or science fiction (with a remarkably realistic edge) could resist the pull of that glorious synopsis. I certainly couldn’t. Lucky for me the story inside the pages completely matched that stunning outside cover and I was hooked from page one with an endlessly fascinating plot and set of characters.

Hanna Jameson, author of The Last.

The Last is Jameson’s fourth novel after her debut, award-nominated novel, Something You Are and two further novels in the series, Girl Seven and Road Kill and even though I haven’t had the pleasure of exploring these works yet I can tell she is a writer to be reckoned with. The Last immediately pulls you in with its quirky first-person narration in the form of journal entries from historian Jon Keller and ensures you remain gripped with the discovery of a body in a Swiss hotel after a nuclear bombing that has devastated an unknown portion of the world.

It appears to span a mixture of genres from the Agatha Christie like murder mystery to a thrilling, almost dystopian end of the world scenario topped off with a unique, modern twist in terms of style and how the story is presented to the reader. There are a variety of interesting characters to get to grips with and in similarity to another novel I’ve read recently, not a single one of them are reliable or appear completely innocent which only heightens the drama and tension of the narrative.

Switzerland, a beautiful setting for a wonderfully gripping story.

I don’t believe I warmed to a single one of these characters – even Jon, our main protagonist and story-teller. However, I don’t think we were meant to. Each individual we meet within the hotel could have a reason for committing murder and although the reader is never told every single character’s circumstances in intimate detail, we are left with the air of mystery that makes us question whether it in fact, could have been them. I adore unlikeable characters, it’s always fantastic in my opinion to have an emotion connected to a person you’re reading about and if this emotion is a strong one, it’s the bait on the end of the line to keep you reading, desperate to know what’s going to happen with their story.

The scariest thing about this novel? Perhaps that it has the potential to actually happen with the management (or mis-management?) of nuclear weapons around the world at the moment, something I have very strong opinions on. It’s an event not entirely out of the realms of possibility and it really makes you think about how you would cope if you were in the position of being one of the survivors of a nuclear attack. More than that though, I feel the author wrote in a very insightful manner about how certain characteristics and behaviour would be forced to emerge if you were going to survive something like this. I know I certainly couldn’t be as ruthless and emotionless as some of the characters in this novel but it was really interesting to see how people coped, which personalities came to the forefront and how plans were made/roles were developed within a group to make the best of such a horrific situation.

After eager anticipation in waiting to read this novel, I’m delighted to say it didn’t disappoint. It gave me everything I wanted in terms of character, plot development, thrills and chills and unexpected incidents. I’ll certainly be checking out Hanna Jameson’s back catalogue of work and am excited to see what she’ll bring out next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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