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The Twelve Lives Of Samuel Hawley – Hannah Tinti

Published July 24, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Bursting with imaginative exuberance, THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY by Hannah Tinti has been described as ‘One part Quentin Tarantino, and one part Scheherazade‘ (Ann Patchett) and will appeal to fans of The Sisters Brothers or The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter Loo to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife’s hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother’s mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past – a past that eventually spills over into his daughter’s present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. Both a coming of age novel and a literary thriller, THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY explores what it means to be a hero, and the price we pay to protect the people we love.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Tinder Press for approving me on NetGalley for this fantastic novel in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, this story was one amazing, crazy ride and I loved every moment of it. When I first saw the title of this book, I immediately compared it in my mind to The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August which was a book I reviewed with my sister Chrissi Reads and is also one of my all-time favourite books. Let me just say that The Twelve Lives Of Samuel Hawley is nothing like Harry August when we consider the subject matter but it’s just as thrilling and written just as beautifully and is definitely a book I would re-read in the future.

This novel focuses on two main protagonists – widower Samuel Hawley and his daughter Loo whom he is raising on his own after his wife, Lily died shortly after Loo was born in a terrible accident on a lake. The “twelve lives” of the title are actually twelve bullets that have struck Samuel at different points in his life in various places in his body. We, the reader learn the story behind each individual bullet, how Samuel came to be shot and what the consequences were for him. Interspersed with the bullet stories is also the story of Samuel’s relationship with his wife Lily and, after she gave birth to his daughter, the story of Samuel and Loo. Samuel has made a lot of mistakes in his life (well….come on, he’s been shot twelve times?!) but he has a fierce love for his daughter and would go to the ends of the earth to protect her. Unfortunately, this means he always has to sleep with one eye open as his chequered and colourful past is threatening to catch up with him.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting from this novel but it certainly wasn’t this and I was delighted to discover a gritty, exciting and incredibly unique plot with fascinating characters that make it difficult to put the book down. In the synopsis, it’s compared to Quentin Tarantino and Scheherazade by Ann Patchett and I couldn’t have put it more perfectly myself. There are violent, bloodthirsty and graphic scenes combined with moments of such tenderness that it almost feels like you’re reading a very modern day fairy tale minus the magical realism. Samuel and Loo were such intriguing characters to read about and although they were both flawed and a bit kooky I literally didn’t want to let them go by the end of the novel. On the strength and pure beauty of Hannah Tinti’s story-telling I will one hundred percent read anything she writes and now can’t wait to read her debut novel The Good Thief.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Leopard At The Door – Jennifer McVeigh

Published July 12, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

After six years in England, Rachel has returned to Kenya and the farm where she spent her childhood, but the beloved home she’d longed for is much changed. Her father’s new companion—a strange, intolerant woman—has taken over the household. The political climate in the country grows more unsettled by the day and is approaching the boiling point. And looming over them all is the threat of the Mau Mau, a secret society intent on uniting the native Kenyans and overthrowing the whites.

As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home and her country, she initiates a covert relationship, one that will demand from her a gross act of betrayal. One man knows her secret, and he has made it clear how she can buy his silence. But she knows something of her own, something she has never told anyone. And her knowledge brings her power.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Penguin UK who contacted me and asked me if I’d like to read a copy of Jennifer McVeigh’s second novel, Leopard At The Door in exchange for an honest review. I actually read Jennifer’s first novel, The Fever Tree, which it was picked for the Richard and Judy Book Club here in the UK a little while ago and enjoyed it so was delighted to discover that she had chosen to re-visit Africa as the setting for her second novel. One of my biggest enjoyments about reading is that I love to learn a little something along the way, whether that’s about a different country, religion, culture, moment of history etc and Leopard At The Door seemed to offer this opportunity so I gladly took it and began reading.

Our main character, Rachel spent her childhood in Africa but was shipped off back to England and boarding school when her mother sadly died. She spends six years over in England and never quite feels she belongs so when she turns eighteen she begs her father to return and eventually makes the long and arduous journey (as it was in the 1950’s). However, the beautiful country she left is not quite the safe and secure country that she remembers and holds dear. The British colonial rule in this time period has drummed up a great deal of tension between native Kenyans and white dwellers on the land. One particular group, the Mau Mau tribe are insisting that natives should swear an oath to their tribe and punish any loyal to the British or even the British themselves with violence, looting, burning of their dwellings and death. As well as this, Rachel has also to deal with a new family situation that she had not anticipated and a potential threat to her own safety when she falls for the “wrong” man.

There were a lot of things to like about this book. First of all as I’ve already mentioned, the setting which was written beautifully and did make me feel like I could have been there, picturing each scene as it happened. I would however have really love to have seen more background about the Mau Mau tribe and about the native Kenyan villagers as it was during these moments in the narrative when the story seemed to really come alive for me. Rachel was a good character and I did enjoy reading about her but I found her relationship with her father quite frustrating and also wished for some more scenes where it was just the two of them (without the lurking “evil stepmother” in the background!). The love interest was, I’m afraid to say, slightly predictable and I wasn’t quite sure if I believed it as it seemed to build up very suddenly after being relatively nothing at the beginning but perhaps that’s my cynical side talking. The villains of the piece were I must say, written very well and incredibly sinister and easy to hate. I think anyone with an interest in African history (especially where the British went over and ruined everything!) will enjoy this novel, for me I would have just loved to have seen it explored on a deeper level.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Quieter Than Killing (DI Marnie Rome #4) – Sarah Hilary

Published June 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.

Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.

What did I think?:

If you’re a crime fiction lover and haven’t read any Sarah Hilary can I just ask why on earth not? With the fourth offering in the author’s DI Marnie Rome series that began with Someone Else’s Skin, and continued with No Other Darkness and Tastes Like Fear, Sarah Hilary has cemented herself in my eyes as the queen of British crime and with each successive novel, her writing, characters and plot just keep getting better and better. Thank you so much to Headline publishers via NetGalley for allowing me to read a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. In Marnie Rome’s London, the seedy and grittier side of our capital city is brought to life in an explosion of colour but grounded so deeply within reality that you could almost imagine that you were reading about the neighbours next door rather than fictional characters.

Marnie Rome and her wonderful sidekick Noah Jake are back and have a new case to solve. Horrific assaults are happening all over London but the strange thing about these vicious attacks is that the victim in each case has a criminal record themselves or a record of having wronged someone in their past. Marnie and her team immediately hit on the idea of a vigilante attempting to dole out justice for past crimes in the strangest and most brutal way possible. There are a few very important alternative threads to this story however. A ten year old boy has been kidnapped and is being held hostage at an unknown address by an unknown perpetrator. Furthermore, Marnie’s childhood home has been burgled with the tenants living there at the time subjected to a nasty beating, leading to them being hospitalised. In this convoluted plot and intricate web of secrets, violence and manipulation how are all these threads linked and why is Marnie and her personal life being dragged into the battle?

If I had to compare this book to the previous two novels in the Marnie Rome series I would say that Quieter Than Killing is slightly slower in pace but this is in no way, shape or form an insult to the writing. In fact, I loved that we got to learn so much more about our characters as individuals, with their own problematic families and personal lives. This novel exudes more of a quiet menace that is simply delicious to experience and although it could easily be read as a stand alone, I highly recommend reading the series from the beginning to get the full flavour of our character’s back stories which is hugely important for the plot. Once again, I adored the relationship between Marnie and Noah (please don’t ever break them up Sarah!) and just feel these characters keep getting stronger, more “real,” and infinitely more intriguing where I just keep wanting more. I’m eagerly anticipating the fifth book in the series which I’m certain will be another belter and I can’t wait to become immersed in Marnie’s world once more.

To read my interview with the wonderful Sarah Hilary, please see my post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession (Six Tudor Queens #2) – Alison Weir

Published June 25, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by bestselling historian Alison Weir, author of Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen, is the second captivating novel in the Six Tudor Queens series. An unforgettable portrait of the ambitious woman whose fate we know all too well, but whose true motivations may surprise you. Essential reading for fans of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick.

‘Weir is excellent on the little details that bring a world to life’ Guardian

The young woman who changed the course of history.

Fresh from the palaces of Burgundy and France, Anne draws attention at the English court, embracing the play of courtly love.

But when the King commands, nothing is ever a game.

Anne has a spirit worthy of a crown – and the crown is what she seeks. At any price.

ANNE BOLEYN. The second of Henry’s Queens. Her story.
History tells us why she died. This powerful novel shows her as she lived.

SIX TUDOR QUEENS. SIX NOVELS. SIX YEARS.

What did I think?:

Alison Weir has been for the longest time now in my eyes, the queen of historical non-fiction and I was delighted when she began writing historical fiction especially as her new project is focused on one of my favourite time periods in history – the Tudor period in England. This will take the form of six novels over six years, one for each wife of the inimitable Henry VIII. The first book, Katherine Of Aragon: The True Queen came out last year and was utterly brilliant so I was incredibly excited to be approved by NetGalley to read the second novel, Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession when it was published in May of this year. Thank you so much to them and the publishers, Headline for this opportunity and for a copy of the novel in return for an honest review.

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession was everything I was hoping it would be coupled with being a huge surprise and delight to read. Drawing on new research available, the author shows us a different side to Anne, certainly a shocking turnabout from how she is often portrayed in history. It’s true that Anne Boleyn doesn’t have the best reputation in the world. She embarked on an affair with Henry VIII while he was still married to Katherine Of Aragon, an affair that continued for many, many years and led to a number of upsets and permanent changes in England as a result of their relationship, particularly in Henry’s break with the Roman Catholic church. Henry was finally set free of the shackles of his marriage to Katherine, which he had become convinced was an abomination in the eyes of God as she had been originally his deceased brother Arthur’s wife. These shackles were not removed willingly however by Katherine, she was determined until her last breath that she was the true Queen of England and their marriage was right and lawful and it was only her death that allowed Henry and Anne to become (legally) husband and wife.

It is not too long however before Henry once again begins to question the validity of his marriage with Anne. She has given him one child, Elizabeth but no male heirs that he was so desperate for and certain that Anne would provide. Then the rumours start to circulate. From musicians in Anne’s chamber, to old flames and even her own brother, Henry is persuaded into believing that the innocent girl he met and fell in love with may not be so innocent as he thought.

I’m presuming we all know how the story ends? I have to say, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, I still felt an odd sort of hope of a reprieve for Anne at the very end. It’s quite silly really, especially when I have read a couple of different accounts (fiction and non-fiction) of the events and it ends the way it truthfully did all those years ago. However, I became so attached to Anne as a character that it was hard to let her go at the end. She was a flawed, stubborn and sometimes quite precious person but I admired her ambition and determination and the way she took quite a feminist stance on a few issues, entirely alien at that time of history, something I had no idea about and found a very welcome addition to the story. Let’s just talk about her opinions and feelings towards Henry as well? Let me just say I did not see that coming! In other accounts I have read, Henry and Anne are both deeply in love with each other. So, to have it suggested that this may not necessarily have been the case was fascinating and very exciting to read as a result. Alison Weir exhibits a true mastery in re-telling the stories of the Tudor reign and her Six Tudor Queens series is really exceeding all my expectations. Do I really have to wait a whole year before reading about the next wife, Jane Seymour?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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April 2017 – Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC Month

Published April 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone! Every other month I alternate what I’m reading quite specifically between three things. It’s either Chrissi Cupboard Month where I try my best to get through all the books my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads lends me (and that’s a lot!). Then there’s Real Book Month where I try and read all the physical books just waiting to be devoured on my bookshelves (also a LOT!) Finally, there’s Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC Month where I try and catch up on all those ARC/review copies sent to me by authors, publishers, NetGalley and Book Bridgr. (A LOT!) April is going to be one of the latter months and here’s what I’m looking forward to getting to this month:

Hangman by Stephan Talty

(received from Book Bridgr)

Me, Myself And Why by Jennifer Ouellette

(received from NetGalley)

When We Go Missing by Kristen Twardowski

(received from author)

The Book Of Life by Deborah Harkness

(received from Book Bridgr)

The Strangler Vine (Avery & Blake #1) by M.J. Carter

(received from NetGalley)

The Accidental Life Of Greg Millar by Aimee Alexander

(received from author)

Some of these books I’ve been meaning to get to for the longest time and this month it shall finally be done! Really looking forward to all of these, I think I’ve picked an interesting selection. Have you read any? What did you think? Chat to me in the comments!

Mini Pin-It Reviews #3 – Four Books From NetGalley

Published October 13, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Hi everyone and welcome to my third edition of pin-it reviews where I’ll be focusing on four books that I got from the wonderful NetGalley.

1 – Divinity And The Python – Bonnie Randall

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What’s it all about?:

Divinity – Where desire and deception both hide in the dark

The Cards Forecast Work
Shaynie Gavin is so much more than the sexy siren who mixes cocktails at The Python. A carpenter with a business plan, Shaynie is trying to amass enough funds to launch her own dream – Divinity, a place where up-cycled furniture from the past is sold alongside Tarot readings forecasting the future – and all in a setting that could not be more perfect: a former funeral parlor. Shaynie’s belief that Divinity is attuned with the passions, the loves, and even the lies of its departed souls, allow her to feel satisfied when the cards she draws there reveal Wands, the Tarot’s symbol for work. And yet…Shaynie would be so grateful if the Tarot would also, just once, illuminate a Hellnight from her past. A lost evening whose scars still slither over her skin, Hellnight haunts Shaynie. Yet when she calls the question of that chilling evening into her deck…

The Cards Forecast Love
…and love appears in the form of pro hockey star Cameron Weste. Weste is haunted by scars and superstitions of his own, and he wants Shaynie’s Tarot to answer far deeper questions than she first guesses this sexy lothario to be capable of. Who knew Weste was this intense? The Tarot, apparently. And yet…

The Cards Forecast The Devil
When Cameron Weste lands in her life, a stalker surfaces too, dropping clues to a connection between Shaynie, Cameron, and her lost, brutal Hellnight. Suddenly every card warns of deception, and nowhere feels safe. Shaynie and Cameron have to fight for their love – and their lives – as The Devil, their stalker, is determined to turn the Death Card for them both.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

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2- If You Could See What I See – Cathy Lamb

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What’s it all about?:

In this moving, insightful new novel, acclaimed author Cathy Lamb delves into the heart of going home again, the challenge of facing loss—and the freedom of finally letting go…

For decades, the women in Meggie O’Rourke’s family have run Lace, Satin, and Baubles, a lingerie business that specialises in creations as exquisitely pretty as they are practical. The dynamic in Meggie’s family, however, is perpetually dysfunctional. In fact, if Meggie weren’t being summoned back to Portland, Oregon, by her grandmother, she’d be inclined to stay away all together.

Since her husband’s death a year ago, Meggie’s emotions have been in constant flux, and so has her career as a documentary film maker. Finding ways to keep the family business afloat—and dealing with her squabbling sister and cousin—will at least give her a temporary focus. To draw customers to their website, Meggie decides to interview relatives and employees about their first bras and favorite lingerie. She envisions something flip and funny, but the confessions that emerge are unexpectedly poignant. There are stories of first loves and aching regrets, passionate mistakes and surprising rendezvous. And as the revelations illuminate her family’s past, Meggie begins to find her own way forward.

With warmth and unflinching humour, If You Could See What I See explores the tender truths we keep close—and what can happen when we find the courage to bare them to the world.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

3 – Vatican Waltz – Roland Merullo

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What’s it all about?:

This book is for those who want a journey of the soul. What were your feelings about God, the Divine, your own soul when you were growing up? Did you go to the church of your parents? Being in that building, where your family said their prayers, did it inspire you also?

This book is about a young girl growing up with the gift of being a mystic. Sometimes, no words are needed to reach the heart of Divine love. Silence is the fare for admission to the land where you encounter the God/Goddess.
This young girl grows up with the gift of contemplative prayer. She shares her prayer life with her parish priest, who sees before him a future saint in the making. She receives messages from the Divine voice & visions that the Catholic Church in America is dying. Little or no vocations to the Priesthood. Her visions tell Her its time for Women to become Priests, like in the times of the Apostles. This voice is so strong that Her parish priest writes to an archbishop, who is willing to see Her. This archbishop doesn’t share Her vision for the catholic Church, for Women have been banned for centuries. But he sees that this young Woman is special. He can’t put his finger on it though.
So, He asks someone higher up, in the holy city of Rome, the Vatican, to see Her.

And off goes this young, innocent Woman, on a plane for the 1st time. But before She lands in Rome, a group of people knows She coming, and why. Would you have the faith, the trust in your soul, to obey the Divine voice & visions? This is an unexpected journey, full of excitement, danger & perhaps a change in the wind. Take this trip of the spirit. It could one day be yours to make also.

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Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

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4- Beloved Strangers: A Memoir – Maria Chaudhuri

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What’s it all about?:

On and on we dream, we wish, we love – no matter that the dreams come to an end, the wishes evolve or that love dissipates like dust in the wind. Perhaps, what matters only is that we have lived long enough to dream, hard enough to wish and indisputably enough to love. One of Maria’s early memories growing up in Dhaka is of planning to run away with her friend Nadia. Even then, Maria couldn’t quite figure out why she longed to escape. It is not that home is an unhappy place. It’s just that in her family, joy is ephemeral. With a mother who yearns for the mountains, the solitude and freedom to pursue her own dreams and career, and a charismatic but distant father who finds it difficult to expresses emotion, they are never able to hold on to happiness for very long. Maria studies the Holy Book, says her daily prayers and wonders if God is watching her. She dreams, like her mother, of unstitching the seam of her life.

It is her neighbour, Bablu, the Imitator of Frogs, who both excites and repulses Maria by showing her a yellowing pornographic magazine, but it is Mala, a girl her own age who comes to work in their house, whose wise eyes and wicked smile makes her dizzy with longing. When she moves to New England for university at eighteen Maria meets Yameen, a man who lives in a desperately squalid apartment in Jersey City, woos her with phone calls and a marathon night of drinking in New York bars, and is not what he seems… From Dhaka to New York, this is a candid and moving account of growing up and growing away, a meditation on why people leave their homes and why they sometimes find it difficult to return. “Beloved Strangers” is an unforgettable memoir marking the arrival of a brilliant new voice from Bangladesh.

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Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP SOON ON MY PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Books That Fall Into My “Random” Category!