Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Review - West by Carys Davies

WEST by Carys Davies - my review

This book was, for me a very fast read, it's a short book with a big punch.

It tells the story of Cy Bellmann, a pioneering Brit who has previously emigrated to Pennsylvania to farm mules and horses, this act alone tells us he is man not averse to taking a great risk to achieve what he wants in life even if it is to the cost of those dear to him, you'd think he'd be satisfied with what he has! Now widowed and left alone with just his young daughter Bess who is now 10, for company, like many of us, he knows there must be something greater than his humdrum life.

He's only 35 but boy does this guy have a sudden mid life crisis. He hears news of a momentous discovery far away in Kentucky, a pile of colossal animal bones. He is convinced this skeleton reveals the presence of a yet undiscovered wondrous living creature and it ignites a fire in him he hasn't felt since before his wife died, he burns to be the one to find this huge animal.

Talk about throwing caution to the wind - he buys a new hat and overcoat, clambers on a horse and sets off in a Westerly direction, abandoning his only daughter to the not so tender ministration of his curmudgeonly spinster sister Julie telling her vaguely he may be back in a couple of years.

The book in turns follows his trail throughout the wild and inhospitable West as he follows his unlikely and foolhardy quest. Then it follows Bess as she matures without the love of a parent, and spends time at the library trying to follow his likely progress on maps.

The book is sparse without much of the embroidery and detail which often fills works of pioneers on a great journey yet it paints a starkly beautiful image of a land so vast that it is indeed possible creatures could be hiding and never have been seen in living memory. Cy encounters Native Indians and gets himself a travel companion/guide, a young American Indian lad with a wonderful tongue in cheek name, who speaks not a word of English.

Meanwhile whilst he is away, Bess grows older and begins to attract very unwelcome attention of the wrong sort and her Aunt who barely even acknowledges her is no protector.

This is a simple tale of how grief coupled with a deep yearning can cause us to lose sight of the treasures we already have, in the never ending quest for "there must be more than this".

It is also about seeking atonement and mentally punishing oneself for past deeds, whilst telling oneself that it is for the greater good that one makes decisions and not for self gratification.

It is a delectably enjoyable book and is almost allegorical in its nature with the extinct species at the heart of the tale continuing to have an impact over the years, how grief manifests itself as guilt and no matter how deeply buried the skeletons are they eventually rise to the surface, and the moral that even if there is something bigger than us out there it doesn't necessarily follow that it is what we need for our own survival.

The ending is satisfying and the path to reach it is a terrible and awesome journey of deprivation and dogged determination. A lovely little fable with great characters.

The Blurb

When Cy Bellman, American settler and widowed father of Bess, reads in the newspaper that huge ancient bones have been discovered in a Kentucky swamp, he leaves his small Pennsylvania farm and young daughter to find out if the rumours are true: that the giant monsters are still alive, and roam the uncharted wilderness beyond the Mississippi River.

West is the story of Bellman's journey and of Bess, waiting at home for her father to return. Written with compassionate tenderness and magical thinking, it explores the courage of conviction, the transformative power of grief, the desire for knowledge and the pull of home, from an exceptionally talented and original British writer. It is a radiant and timeless epic-in-miniature, an eerie, electric monument to possibility.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Review of Eliza Waite by Ashley Sweeney

My review of Eliza Waite by Ashley Sweeney

This is a very enjoyable work of historical fiction which however reads like 2 separate books! Both of which I hasten to add I enjoyed.

Eliza Waite, the eponymous heroine of the tale is a strong and resourceful character. Considered big and clumsy and even unattractive she makes her way in life the best she is able with the few skills she has and the ones she hasn't already got she learns or adapts to.

The first part of the book tells of her time living mostly alone on a remote island off Washington in the late 19th century. Recently widowed she is loath to mourn the death of a man she never loved, but when fate saw fit to take her beloved only son as well it's hardly surprising she becomes almost unhinged in her grief and decides to remain on this virtually uninhabited isle and forge a living surviving the best way she can. I think I liked this part of the book best, with its air of pioneering and survivalist minimalism in a natural environment

Eliza loves to bake and cook, even when ingredients are at a premium she adapts the recipes she collects and makes tasty and delicious baked goods, sharing many of her recipes with the reader in the pages of this book.

She also reminisces about her earlier life and the events which ended up bringing her here, she certainly didn't have much going for her before she wed.

But time passes, albeit slowly and she eventually makes a break from solitude and escapes the island to make her way to Alaska, part of the Gold Rush phenomenon and thus begins part 2 of the story.

Eliza carves her own way by opening a bakery and cafe for the miners and fortune hunters. Skagway is a lawless and pretty uncivilised town which turns her ideas of what is considred acceptable in society on its head and she finally feels she has found her place in the world, making friends and discovering her own niche. But her past is about to come and haunt her and turn her new found peace of mind on it's head.

A few bits of the book jarred with me a little, the ahemm, unorthodox medical treatment offered by the towns doctor alarmed me, the train of coincidences which led Eliza here I found pretty darned unlikely. Though overall she's a likeable woman, the underdog you want to protect from those darned kicks, who I was rooting for and the story fair rattles along and draws you in right from the beginning.

A competently written, entertaining and enjoyable read, for lovers of historical fiction. Elizas remarkable and fascinating story kept me engrossed throughout.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Top 100 book blogger award

I'm very pleased to have reached the dizzy heights of receiving a blogger award.

Beadyjans books has been selected by a panelist on as one of the top 100 book blogs.

Why not have a look at the list and find some great book blogs to follow. I'm in there alongside some wonderful fellow bloggers, publishers and bookish folk.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

My Review and Blog Tour of Home by Amanda Berriman

Home - by Amanda Berriman

How fabulous it is to be the penultimate blogger on this blog tour, sharing my thoughts about the awesome new book by Amanda Berriman - entitled Home.
Published on 8th February it's available now.

My Review

Home is where the heart is and in this book the heart belongs to Jesika, who at 4 and ½ has a warm heart as well as a lively and enquiring mind.

Home will inevitably draw comparisons to Room by Emma Donoghue both books being narrated in the unique cadences of a very young child. In this case the narrators voice is that of Jesika who lives with her Mum and baby brother Toby in an apartment where the landlord is a nasty angry man who shouts a lot and comes demanding money.

Jesika is a real sweetheart and I connected with her character easily and smoothly. Throughout my time immersed in this book I was 4 and a half and felt everything this little girl felt. I saw the world through her eyes and lived her life. She has left a little bit of herself in my soul.

Jesika loves Home even though it's just a shabby old flat  with loads of idiosyncrasies, even though when her Mum bathes her she knows the water mustn’t be any higher than the crack in the bath. She has to keep away from the broken window and not stare at the neighbours too much or ever, ever touch the rubbish that accumulates in the communal areas. Oh and Mum keeps telling her not to touch the moles on the wallpaper, though she knows the moles are just black stuff she can draw in. The sanctity of Home is under threat from the nasty landlord and Mum is doing everything she can to keep it safe.

Jesika’s Dad is no longer around, he disappeared back to Poland and Jesika no longer sees Bab-bab which makes her very sad. 

She loves going to pre-school even though she hasn’t yet got a special friend there. Her Mum has lots of friends, or so it seems to Jesika and she loves to go and visit them all, there are Nandini and Emma the ladies in the laundrette, Abe who runs the greengrocers, even the next door neighbour with the teeth, but Mum insists they aren’t real friends, just people who feel sorry for her and she hates accepting, help seeing it as a sign of weakness. 

The whole book is peopled with wonderful individuals each of whose lives a book could have been written.

When Toby’s cough won’t get better we meet Dolphin, Duncan and Para-Ted and the violent lady (who really isn’t violent at all she just wears a purple dress) and Jesikas memories of her beloved Bab-bab who she can never see any more get muddled with memories of an ambulance.

Confused? You won’t be, you really won’t, everything in this book slots neatly into place and this story is perfectly seamless and beautifully constructed and a really wonderful reading experience.

One day though, Jesika makes a real friend at pre-school. Paige is a little girl who always sits alone and Jesika with her caring nature realises the other girl is nervous and befriends her. Paige lives in a big house with a beautiful princess bedroom and loads of toys, with her Mum Tina and Uncle Ryan and at last it would seem that Mum is making some real friends as well as Jesika’s new bff.

As the 2 girls become pals, Paige teaches Jesika some new games Jesika doesn’t quite understand and she also learns about secrets. Everything is confusing to a 4 year old, so she can’t work out when things are secret and when you can shout about them. Everything is contradictory and Jesika just wants to always do her best. Sometimes she gets scared and when she gets really scared she bites people even though she knows it’s very wrong to bite. 

The author clearly knows little children really well. For the time I read this book I was Jesika, I was 4 ½ years old and I understood her every thought and reasoning and it really brought back the massive frustrations of being small and being constantly told what to do but not always why.

Breathtaking in it’s simplicity and heartbreaking in the content, Home is a book for anyone who has ever been 4 and a half! It's a book about friendship and family and secrets.

It will make you think, it will make you laugh and it will make you cry, (well, if you're human that is). 

It sounds cute but don't dismiss it for that reason, Oh no, it’s not all sweetness and light, there are some very unpleasant subjects tackled, and nasty things happen, which when viewed from a childs point of view are even more distressing.

But there is enough brilliant levity to make it a utterly joyful read, which I can recommend unreservedly and which will stay with me for a long time. 

When you read Home, give Jesika a hug from me while you live in her world for a while.

The Blurb:

Jesika is four and a half. 

She lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn't draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby. 

She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Blog Tour and Review of Hydra by Matt Wesolowski

Hydra by Matt Wesolowski - blog tour and my Review:

I'm delighted to take part in the Random Things blog Tour today for the second book in the Six Stories Series by Matt Wesolowski.

Published by the magnificent Orenda books it is a crepy and menacing thriller.

My Review:

This second book in Matt Wesolowski’s six stories series is equally as sinister and creepy as the original Six Stories his first novel.

Written in the form of a podcast, featuring a series of six interviews each looking at the same story from a different perspective. The narrator is Scott King whose Investigative style of journalism leads him to revisit past crimes and take a fresh look at what really happened.

Each crime he rehashes has distinctly sinister connotations and Hydra is creepy and menacing from the outset. He is granted the privilege of interviewing a notorious criminal Arla McLeod, now incarcerated in a Mental Health institution where she has languished since the night a few years ago when at the age of just 21 she massacred her entire family by bludgeoning them to death with a hammer.

As if that’s not dark and macabre enough we are treated to the circumstances around this murder in small doses, interspersed with fractured memories of encounters with Black eyed Kids (a real internet phenomenon apparently, which makes the scary even more terrifying)

Then the journalist continues to present episodes of his podcast assisted by interviews with folk who knew Arla, when she was a child, at school and in her teenage years when she was an emo fan of a cult music artiste going by the name of Skexxixx.

That Arla was a troubled youngster is never in any doubt but as her past is revealed by people who knew her and by Arla herself it also become clear that unpleasant occurrences throughout her formative years play a large part in how and why she became the way she did and the horrible crime which occurred.

Each time we revisit the same event, the same period of time, yet viewed from a different position by a different person and all the stories have one common thread, that of something nasty, something dark and something very, very, scary going on around Arla.

Scott King uses his skills as a journalist to winkle out truths people don’t really want to speak about as he pieces together what is a gruesome and sinister tale.

And then he begins to receive threats …

The story is a real creeper, in that it creeps up and scares you and is also creepy and frightening with a real sense of horror and a unique tension created by the retelling of an event over and over yet never revealing quite the same facts and all the time the dark eyed kids watch from the sidelines. Brrr it’s enough to make you shiver.

This is one to read with the lights on, to make sure theres nothing lurking in the corners of the room. A delectable masterpiece of bone chilling ghoulishness that will keep you flipping those pages until the bitter end.

The Author

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

The Blurb:

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod
bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack
known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will
speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an
internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself,
as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out.

As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a

Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour Hello blog readers and book lovers. Today I am joining in t...