Sunday, 27 March 2016

Abigale Hall - Lauren Forry - Dark and spooky



My Review

This is a dark and disturbing horror story, somewhat gothic in style with a definite feel of similar books by Daphne du Maurier. It makes a compelling page turner but is much gloomier and more depressing than I imagined. If you like sombre, sinister, suspenseful tales full of foreboding this one is for you.

Abigale Hall, set in the gloomy aftermath of World War 2, in days of food shortages, job shortages and the return of many walking wounded to civilian life,  tells the story of 2 orphan sisters, teenager Eliza and her younger sister Rebecca living with an Aunt. Their life is pretty grim, living in the repercussion of their parents deaths, but bearable. Eliza works in a cinema, has a boyfriend Peter and seems devoted to her little sister, whom it soon becomes apparent has some disturbing problems of her own.

Suddenly Eliza finds she and her sister are banished from their Aunts home in London to a remote part of Wales where live in jobs have been secured for them both, helping the dreadful Mrs Pollard, housekeeper in an ancient, typically spooky, crumbling, cursed mansion.

As the girls life there unfolds and their situation becomes so awful that their previous mundane existence in London seems like a distant dream, the story moves between this ramshackle pile, the local village of Plentynunig where locals mutter of curses and shun the girls, and back in London where hapless Peter ponders his girlfriends sudden departure and tries, fruitlessly to discover her whereabouts getting himself in ever deeper water.

The story is a real page turner because I kept wondering what was going to unfold next - and whatever does is NEVER pleasant! There is a creeping sense of unease which builds and develops into an overriding theme of gloom and nastiness, I don't think I found one uplifting momenet throughout the whole book! From discovering about the death of the girls parents, to finding out whats going on in the old house things get darker and grimmer. So many deaths occur I lost count and everything which unfolds has an underlying nastiness of decay and corruption.

From roomsful of grim defaced books, dead mice carried around in pockets, to horrible apparitions, strange ghost lights and history of dead and missing girls the book carries you relentlessly towards its awful conclusion where you just know everyone's not going to come out of it smiling and smelling of roses, or even alive!

The house is not called Abigale Hall, which confused me somewhat, it's called Thornecroft and Abigale Hall is just an area of the rambling mansion.

This is a well written and competent gothic horror story for afficionados of the genre and anyone who likes to go to bed shivering and looking over their shoulder.

I was kindly provided with an advance copy for review purposes by the publishers Black and White Publishing.

It is due for publication at the end of April and can be pre ordered now.

The blurb ....

A house steeped in secrets.

A lie they must escape…

On a foggy night in 1947, orphaned sisters Eliza and Rebecca are banished from London by their aunt and sent to work at an isolated Welsh mansion. They are to clean and do housework for the secretive owner. Soon, rumours of missing maidservants and a ghost that stalks the deserted halls begin to unsettle them. And wandering through the mansion’s dusty rooms, Eliza finds blood-spattered books, crumpled photographs and portraits of a mysterious woman – clues to a terrible past that might just become her future.

As Eliza unravels a mystery that has endured for decades, troubled Rebecca falls under the spell of the cruel housekeeper Mrs Pollard, who will stop at nothing to protect the house’s secrets. And unless the sisters can uncover the truth, a terrible fate awaits them.


Friday, 18 March 2016

In Her Wake - Amanda Jennings - phenomenal



My thoughts

OMG I loved this book ....

Wow - sometimes a book quickly gains a reputation to live up to and this one has been loved and enthused about by several of my peers in book blog land, so I began it with a touch of trepidation. There is always a slight worry that, as has happened to me once or twice, despite people whose judgement I trust loving a new book, I fail to "get" it. 

That certainly didn't happen with In Her Wake, which blew my socks right off with its astounding magnetism which sucked me in from page one right through to the red eyed, soggy tissue garnished very last word.

There are books which entertain, books with amazing characters, books with twisty plots, books where every tiny loose thread is tightly woven into the story leaving no stone unturned, books which are amazingly clever, books which make you gasp out loud, books which make you distraught with anguish and this is ALL of the aforementioned - and more!

In Her Wake is a story of lies, secrets and deception of the VERY highest calibre.

Quite simply a phenomenal read.

Bella is a young woman facing huge changes in her life. We meet her when she is on her way back to her childhood home to attend her mothers funeral, along with her much older, rather domineering husband David, she finds her father inevitably distraught and also aged and shaken.

On the heels of this already difficult situation follows another tragedy which rocks Bella to her core and reveals a deep secret which has remained concealed from her all her life. The shock waves send Bella, reeling to lick her wounds and seek answers in a small seaside village in Cornwall where she embarks on a terrible and wonderful journey of self discovery.

She finds family she never knew about and in a series of flashbacks and discoveries we watch her realise why her isolated and lonely childhood was so different from that of many children and deal with the consequences.

The whole story flows absolutely seamlessly, is amazingly real and believeable and the characters a real mix of good and bad, many damaged by circumstances their flaws tempered with the empathy I felt for many of them.

The real beauty of this book is the exquisite penmanship of the author. This is a domestic drama with psychological twists which reads like a work of the most outstanding literary accomplishment.

It is utterly breathtaking and completely mesmerised me the whole way through.

It will be available now for your kindle and the paperback will be available very soon. and can be pre-ordered.

I must thank and commend Karen Sullivan from Orenda books for her unfailing patience in getting a copy of this book to me despite the first copy going missing in the post. My copy was provided in exchange for an honest review and I'm delighted to say it exceeded every expectation.

The Blurb....

A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own.

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life.

Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Dear Dad - Giselle Green - unashamedly romantic



If you like a book to tug at your heartstrings, have a hunky yet vulnerable hero, a feisty yet fragile heroine and a hurt and lonely child, all looking for that special someone in their lives you won't go wrong with Dear Dad, the very latest romantic novel by Giselle Green

These 3 people are brought together when each of them is at the most defenceless point of their lives. Is it fate which has brought them together, a genuine mistake or a downright lie?

Jenna is a talented tattoo artist, recently returned to England from Italy where she has recently split with her fiance who cheated on her. She is reluctant to put down roots, doesn't want to be here and has no idea which direction her life is going, with no job, she can't even get a modest flat to call home.

Nate is a journalist, a war correspondent suffering from extreme anxiety issues related to post traumatic stress he is unable to leave his home and feels his career and life as he knew it have ground to a halt.

Adam is a young lad being bullied at school, at 9 years old he takes his responsibilities to his sole guardian, his ageing and confused Nan, very seriously. When he learns from her that the Dad he has never met lives quite close by, he seizes the chance and pens a heartfelt letter to him.

That man is Nate and he receives the boys letter with surprise, he knows he is not his Dad but can he turn his back completely on a cry for help when he knows what being in need really feels like?

What follows is a veritable dance of emotions as circumstances bring these 3 lonely people together. There are a lot of untruths and deceptions, all of them well intentioned but many misconstrued.

The 3 main characters are just perfect for the story. and Adam is the lynch pin, I felt so sorry for this lad, yet really warm towards him and kept rooting for him all the way through. There are a few almost larger than life coincidences that I had to just sit back and accept, after all, who knows if something actually couldn't play out just like this?

It's a real feel good book despite being based around a couple of awful subjects - bullying and post traumatic stress, played out amidst fractured family lives. I loved the characters, the heartwarming story and the lovely writing. A great book full of emotion, to curl up with at the weekend and relax with a frothy coffee and your favourite pack of biscuits. Just make sure you're comfy - cause once you start reading Dear Dad you aren't going to want to put it down 'til you reach the very end.

I received a complimentary copy to read and review in advance of publication. It's OUT NOW for your kindle and very soon in paperback.

The Blurb

Handsome, 28-year old, Nate Hardman is a frontline reporter with a big problem. Suffering from shell-shock and unable to leave his house, he’s already lost his social life and his girlfriend. Now his career prospects are sinking fast.

9 year-old Adam Boxley who lives alone with his ageing nan, also has big problems. Neglected at home and bullied at school, he’s desperate to reach out to his dad – and that’s when he sends his first letter to Nate. Only Nate’s not who he thinks he is. Will he help? More importantly – can he?

Across town meanwhile, caring but impulsive teacher Jenna Tierney really wants to help Adam – except the feisty redhead has already had enough of teaching. Recently hurt by yet another cheating boyfriend, Jenna’s now set her sights on pursuing a dream career abroad … only she’s about to meet Nate – her dream man who’ll make her re-think everything.

The big question is; can three people desperate to find love, ever find happiness when they’re only connected by one big lie?

Friday, 11 March 2016

The Primrose Path - Rebecca Griffiths - Twisty and tantalising



My thoughts


This is a truly twisty tantalising, psychological thriller in which the author has planted so many red herrings, I finished reading it with the aroma of kippers still in my nostrils!

Told from several points of view, it tells the story of Rachel, formerly known as Sarah. She is trying to rebuild her life by keeping a low profile, as a man who has just served a prison sentence is being released. When she was younger her face was splashed all over the news as his raped, abused, abductee and she doesn’t want to come across him again in a hurry, so she retreats to a remote cottage in Wales.

We are introduced to Sarah’s Mum Jennifer who is also a complex character, searching for her daughter about whom she has mixed feelings. In Wales we are told the story of abused youngster Beth, meet her revolting family especially the antisocial, obese giant of a brother Idris. 

There are loads more great characters and all are very well drawn, from local man Dai, subservient cleaning lady Mrs Pepper to an ageing Punk care worker, for a plot driven book the characters are all super realistic and all have something to hide, secrets abound and when I discovered a series of murders of young women going on in a nearby seaside town I suspected EVERY single person, discounted them and then suspected them again! I heard the voice and thoughts of the murderer and trying to match them to an individual became an obsession!

It’s a very coherent and enigmatic multi layered, yet easy to follow, book with lots of quirky characters with idiosyncrasies and flaws galore. It gallops along at a fair old pace dragging you behind it shouting Whoah! Very enjoyable, entertaining and readable for lovers of twisty psychological chillers.

I received my advance copy from Netgalley to review and my thanks go to the publishers Sphere for making it available. You can pre order a copy now from Amazon  for your kindle.

Publishers description

As a teenager, Sarah D'Villez famously escaped a man who abducted and held her hostage for eleven days. The case became notorious, with Sarah's face splashed across the front of every newspaper in the country.

Seventeen years later, Sarah's attempt to build a normal life for herself in London has failed. When she hears of her kidnapper's impending release from prison, fearful of the media storm that is sure to follow, she decides to flee to rural Wales under a new identity, telling nobody where she's gone.

As Sarah settles in to her isolated new home and gets to know the small community she is now part of, it soon becomes creepily apparent that someone is watching her. Meanwhile, back in London, her mother makes a shocking discovery - something she fears will put Sarah's life in danger. She must urgently find her missing daughter before it's too late...


Thursday, 10 March 2016

The English Girl - Katherine Webb - an epic journey



My Thoughts

On opening this novel I was transported to the sandy deserts of Arabia and the bustling port of Muscat in Oman. I travelled with Bedouins and visited slave auctions in this epic historical romance by Katherine Webb, author of the superb books The Legacy and the Unseen.

This is a book about journeys of the body and of the soul, about women travelling and making an attempt to assert themselves in a predominantly male environment. Set in the 1950s and harking back to the 1920s, we are taken on an odyssey to Oman alongside Joan a young woman who travels there with her fiancé Rory. This trip is the culmination of her interest in archaeology and a lifetimes longing to visit the Arabia of her childhood bedtime stories inspired by the biographies of her heroine, fabled female explorer Maude Vickery.

Planning to visit her beloved brother, serving in the armed forces, trying to keep the peace in this volatile country,  Joan is frustrated to find that in this place where time stands almost still she is at best tolerated as a tourist rather than welcomed as the adventurer she dreams of being. She decides to explore vicariously through the eyes of her heroine Maude and engineers a meeting with the indomitable and unusual old lady.

The two womens burgeoning friendship places Joan in situations she never imagined in her wildest dreams and she begins to develop from the diffident, demure, rather gauche young woman who won’t defy convention and finds in herself another Joan, one who will take risks and take actions which are not quite the done thing.

Making a shock discovery concerning those she loves most, leaves her reeling and makes her act even more out of character making some rash decisions which could end up being life altering rather than the frisson of adventure she is seeking.

Whilst Joans story plays out in the heat of Oman, the story of ageing explorer Maud emerges and we discover that everything about this grand dame of the desert isn’t quite as straightforward as it first appears. Mauds story is no less compelling than that of Joan and to understand this partial recluse of a woman who shares her home with a dour and enigmatic manservant, two ancient dogs and a pet gazelle, we need to experience her journey when she was the first and only white woman to trek through the silent quarter of the desert, breaking new ground and making a journey of self discovery.

The descriptions of place are delightful and the atmosphere of dusty desert and bleak rocky mountains is superb. But what makes this book exceptional is the rich and complex characters, many with unpredictable idiosyncrasies and contradictions, and one in particular who turns out to have been and done, something so truly despicable I felt as though I wanted to commit murder!

I shed a tear or two, gasped in awe at some of the harrowing, unpredictable and unlikely events which transpire and was completely captivated by the location and adventures of our two heroines.

At one or two points I struggled to grasp Joans motivations, but the fact that she was a confused and rather indecisive young woman trying her hardest to be someone outside her own comfort zone, helped me accept her rashest decisions. A wonderful book with depth, epic scope and romantic escapism to suit most tastes. I will say no more about the storyline, to find that out you must read it yourself. Enjoy your travels in Arabia!

I was provided with a free ebook for review purposes via Netgalley and my thanks also go to the publisher Orion Publishing group.

The Publishers Description

Joan Seabrook, a fledgling archaeologist, has fulfilled her lifelong dream to visit Arabia by travelling from England to the ancient city of Muscat with her fiancé, Rory. Desperate to escape the pain of a personal tragedy, she longs to explore the desert fort of Jabrin, and unearth the treasures it is said to conceal.

But Oman is a land lost in time - hard, secretive, and in the midst of a violent upheaval - and gaining permission to explore Jabrin could prove impossible. Joan's disappointment is only alleviated by the thrill of meeting her childhood heroine, pioneering explorer Maude Vickery, and hearing first-hand the stories that captured her imagination and sparked her ambition as a child.

Joan's encounter with the extraordinary and reclusive Maude will change everything. Both women have things that they want, and secrets they must keep. As their friendship grows, the thrill of adventure seduces Joan, and only too late does she begin to question her actions - and Maude's motives. Realising she has become a pawn in a treacherous game to settle old scores, Joan must decide where her loyalties lie, and find a way to halt a chain of events that she herself has set in motion, before the terrible consequences can play out.

Will the girl that left England for this beautiful but dangerous land ever find her way back?

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Fellside - M. R. Carey - dark and haunting



My thoughts

I find this novel very challenging to categorise, it's very cleverly written and most unusual in subject and style. I loved the authors "The Girl with all the Gifts" and was expecting something vaguely similar, a post apocalyptic or dystopian novel perhaps. But this is not like that at all, it IS however a very imaginative, haunting, thriller with elements of fantasy which reads like "Prisoner Cell Block H" meets "A Christmas Carol".

We meet the main protagonist Jess when she is lying in a hospital bed unable to speak, or communicate and with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Now this, I'm sure is one huge red herring, it sent me scampering off down the completely wrong track - I thought to myself "Uh huh, she's dead but not dead, a zombie or something" especially after reading the aforementioned book by this author.

We soon discover that Jess is not one of the living dead although her prospects are little better than this. Badly disfigured following a fire which left a young boy dead, she is soon charged with his murder and sentenced to be incarcerated in a harsh and brutal womens prison, Fellside.

Jess is a deeply flawed character, a heroin addict, she is nonetheless wracked with guilt, that a young lad she felt only fondness and sympathy for is dead and his death lies firmly at her door.

As a lifer and given her state of mind she is placed on suicide watch, removing the opportunity of killing herself, so she takes the only way she can think of to regain control and begins a hunger strike not as a protest but as the only way, of ending her miserable life, that she can take into her own hands.

Lying in bed, weakened in body, filled with self loathing and despised by those who tend her she drifts in and out of conciousness and in the murky half life between dreams and waking she encounters a spectral, lost soul, with the ability to guide her in and out of other peoples dreams.

When Jess discovers that she has a mission to complete before dying she begins to make a (quite startlingly rapid) recovery. Accompanied by her phantom companion she begins to seek out information which will atone for her own sins and provide peace of mind for the wraithlike Alex.

However she becomes embroiled in the corruption of life in this grim institution, where the inmates make the characters in TV's "Bad Girls" drama look like pussy cats and the staff are just as iniquitous.

Violence and cruelty is rife in this institution and the graphic barbarity and corruption is only slightly counterbalanced by the strange, ethereal, other wordly experiences in Jess's dream life with her ghostly accomplice.

Principally, I was enticed into this dark and haunting world by the surprising, murky, gritty setting and uncommon, ingenious, storyline. Few of the characters are remotely likeable, apart from the phantasmagorical Alex, even Jess is too deeply flawed and single minded to completely warm to and the rest of them!! Even when you think you glimpse a redeeming feature in anyone it's obscured by a rank miasma of corruption and immorality.

My recommendation is, go into this book without any preconceptions, open your mind and go with it, it's extremely impressive, completely engrossing and darkly different. (I defy anyone who watched the tv show Bad Girls not to superimpose the face of Jim Fenner onto the visage of the nefarious Devlin)

My thanks go to Netgalley for my advance e-book version in exchange for writing a review.

The Blurb:

The unmissable and highly anticipated new literary thriller from the author of the international phenomenon The Girl with all the Gifts.

Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. It's not the kind of place you'd want to end up. But it's where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.

It's a place where even the walls whisper.

And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess.

Will she listen?