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#Bookreview and Blog tour THE INCENDIARIES by R. O. Kwon (@rokwon) For lovers of poetic prose, complex narration and unique voices #TheIncendiaries #NetGalley

Banner The Incendiaries Blog Tour 7th September

Hi all:

I was very happy to be invited to participate in the blog tour of this book because it gave me the opportunity to read the first book by an author who is being acclaimed by public and critics alike.

Book review and book blog The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

The Incendiaries: A Novel by R. O. Kwon

“Religion, politics, and love collide in this slim but powerful novel reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, with menace and mystery lurking in every corner.” —People Magazine

“The most buzzed-about debut of the summer, as it should be…unusual and enticing … The Incendiaries arrives at precisely the right moment.” —The Washington Post

“Radiant…A dark, absorbing story of how first love can be as intoxicating and dangerous as religious fundamentalism.” —New York Times Book Review

A powerful, darkly glittering novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university, is drawn into a cult’s acts of terrorism.

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet in their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is drawn into a secretive cult founded by a charismatic former student with an enigmatic past. When the group commits a violent act in the name of faith, Will finds himself struggling to confront a new version of the fanaticism he’s worked so hard to escape. Haunting and intense, The Incendiaries is a fractured love story that explores what can befall those who lose what they love most.

https://www.amazon.com/Incendiaries-Novel-R-Kwon-ebook/dp/B077CSDFGP/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Incendiaries-Novel-R-Kwon-ebook/dp/B077CSDFGP/

Editorial Reviews

“Kwon is a writer of many talents, and The Incendiaries is a debut of dark, startling beauty.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Disarmingly propulsive.” —Vogue

“A singular version of the campus novel … a story about spiritual uncertainty and about the fierce and undisciplined desire of [Kwon’s] young characters to find something luminous to light their way through their lives.” —NPR’s “Fresh Air”

“If you only read one book this summer, make it this complex and searing debut novel.” —Southern Living

“[With] a fairy-tale quality reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History … [The Incendiaries is] the rare depiction of belief that doesn’t kill the thing it aspires to by trying too hard. It makes a space, and then steps away to let the mystery in.” —The New Yorker

“A juicy look at campus mores…Kwon delivers a poignant and powerful look into the millennial mindset.” —NPR Books

“One of those slim novels that contain multitudes, R.O. Kwon’s debut novel shows how unreliable we are as narrators when we’re trying to invent — and reinvent — ourselves.” —Vulture

“If you haven’t had a chance to pick up one of the buzziest novels of summer, take Emma Roberts’ — and my — word for it: you can’t miss The Incendiaries.” —Bustle

“In R.O. Kwon’s terrific new novel The Incendiaries, a cultist looks for meaning in tragedy. Kwon’s debut is a shiningly ambitious look at how human beings try to fill the holes in their lives.” —Vox

“Kwon’s lush imaginative project … [is to expose] the reactionary impulses that run through American life…[creating] an impression of the mysterious social forces and private agonies that might drive a person to extremes.” —The New Republic

“The main attraction and reward of this book is Kwon’s prose. Spiky, restless and nervously perceptive, it exhales spiritual unease.” —Wall Street Journal

“Kwon’s multi-faceted narrative portrays America’s dark, radical strain, exploring the lure of fundamentalism, our ability to be manipulated, and what can happen when we’re willing to do anything for a cause.” —Atlantic.com

“Deeply engrossing.”—PBS Books

“Remarkable…Every page blooms with sensuous language…These are characters in quiet crisis, burning, above all, to know themselves, and Kwon leads them, confidently, to an enthralling end.”—Paris Review

“A God-haunted, willful, strange book written with a kind of savage elegance. I’ve said it before, but now I’ll shout it from the rooftops: R. O. Kwon is the real deal.”
Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Florida

“Every explosive requires a fuse. That’s R. O. Kwon’s novel, a straight, slow-burning fuse. To read her novel is to follow an inexorable flame coming closer and closer to the object it will detonate—the characters, the crime, the story, and, ultimately, the reader.”
Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees

The Incendiaries probes the seductive and dangerous places to which we drift when loss unmoors us. In dazzlingly acrobatic prose, R. O. Kwon explores the lines between faith and fanaticism, passion and violence, the rational and the unknowable.”
Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You

“Absolutely electric, something new in the firmament. Everyone should read this book.”
Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

“A swift, sensual novel about the unraveling of a collegiate relationship and its aftermath. Kwon writes gracefully about the spiritual insecurities of millennials.”
Karan Mahajan, author of The Association of Small Bombs

“A classic love triangle between two tormented college students and God. The Incendiaries brings us, page by page, from quiet reckonings with shame and intimacy to a violent, grand tragedy. In a conflagration of lyrical prose, R. O. Kwon skillfully evokes the inherent extremism of young love.”
Tony Tulathimutte, author of Private Citizens

“An impressive, assured debut about the hope for personal and political revolution and all the unexpected ways it flickers out. Kwon has vital things to say about the fraught times we live in.”
Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation

“A profound, intricate exploration of how grief and lost faith and the vulnerable storm of youth can drive people to irrevocable extremes, told with a taut intensity that kept me up all night. R.O. Kwon is a thrilling writer, and her splendid debut is unsettled, irresistible company.”
Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth and Find Me

Author R. O. Kwon
Author R. O. Kwon

About the author:

O. Kwon is the author of the novel The Incendiaries (July 2018) and is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing is published in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, and elsewhere. She has received awards from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Omi International, the Steinbeck Center, and the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. Born in South Korea, she has lived most of her life in the United States. She can be found at http://ro-kwon.com.

https://www.amazon.com/R.-O.-Kwon/e/B07B2HG6D1/

 

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Grace Vincent, on behalf of Virago, Little Brown Book Group UK, for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. Thanks also for the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for the launch of the novel, the first book published by R.O. Kwon, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

This novel describes the attempts by one of its protagonists, Will Kendall, of making sense and understanding the events that have led to his girlfriend’s, Phoebe Lin, participation in a horrific event. As often happens in novels with a narrator (or several), no matter what the story is about, the book often ends up becoming a search for understanding and meaning, not only of the events that form the plot but also of the actual narrator. Why is s/he telling that particular story? And why is s/he telling that story in that particular way? This novel is no different, although the manner the story is told can, at times, work as a smokescreen, and we don’t know exactly who is telling what, and how accurate he or she might be.

On the surface, the novel is divided into chapters, each one headed by one of three characters, John Leal (this one written in the third person and always quite brief), Phoebe (written in the first person), and Will, also written in the first person. At first, it’s possible to imagine that Phoebe’s chapters have been written by her, but later, we notice intrusions of another narrator, a narrator trying to imagine what she might have said, or to transcribe what she had said, or what she was possibly thinking or feeling at certain times. As we read this book, that is quite short notwithstanding the seriousness of the subjects it deals in, we come to realise that the whole novel is narrated by Will, who, after the fact, is trying to make sense of what happened, by collecting information and remembering things, and also by imagining what might have gone on when he was not present. He acknowledges he might be a pretty unreliable narrator, and that is true, for a variety of reasons, some of which he might be more aware than others.

The novel is about faith, about finding it, losing it, and using it as a way to atone and to find meaning, but also as a way to manipulate others. It is about love, that can be another aspect of faith, and they seem to go hand in hand in Will’s case. He discovered his Christian faith in high school, in part as a refuge from his terrible family life, and lost it when it did not live up to his expectations (God did not give him a sign when he asked for one). He moved out of Bible School and into Edwards, and there he met Phoebe, a girl fighting her own demons, a very private person who did not share her thoughts or guilt with anybody. Will falls in love with her and transfers his faith and obsession onto her. But she is also unknowable, at least to the degree he wishes her to be open and understandable for him, and she becomes involved in something that gives meaning to her life, but he cannot truly become a part of. He abandoned his faith, but he seems less likely and able to do so with his belief in her.

The novel is also about identity. The three main characters, and many others that appear in the book do not seem to fully fit in anywhere, and try different behaviours and identities for size. Will invents a wealthy family who’ve lost it all, to fit into the new college better; Phoebe hides details of her past and her wealth, and is Korean but knows hardly anything about it and John Leal… Well, it’s difficult to know, as we only get Will’s point of view of him, but he might, or might not, have totally invented a truly traumatic past to convince the members of what becomes his cult, to follow him.

The language used varies, depending on what we are reading. The dialogue reflects the different characters and voices, whilst the narrator uses sometimes very beautiful and poetic language that would fit in with the character (somebody who had been proselytizing, who was used to reading the Bible, and who tried to be the best scholar not to be found out). Also, he tends to use that language when remembering what his girlfriend had told him or imagining what John Leal might have said as if he remembered her as more beautiful, more eloquent, and more transcendent than anybody else. This is a book of characters (or of a character and his imaginings and the personas he creates for others he has known) and not a page-turner driven by plot. The story is fascinating and horrifying but we know from early on (if not the details, we have an inkling of the kind of thing that will happen) where we are going, and it’s not so much the where, but the how, that is important. The book describes well —through the different characters— student life, the nature of friendships in college, and some other serious subjects are hinted at but not explored in detail (a girl makes an accusation of rape, and she is not the only victim of such crime, there is prejudice, mental illness, drug use, abortion…).

I read some reviews that felt the description or the blurb were misleading, as it leads them to expect a thriller, and the book is anything but. I am not sure if there must have been an earlier version of the blurb, but just in case, no, this book is not a thriller. It’s a very subjective book where we come to realise we have spent most of the time inside of the head of one single character. Nonetheless, it offers fascinating insights into faith, the nature of obsession, and what can drive people to follow a cult and to become strangers to themselves and to those they love.

The ending is left open (if we accept the narrator’s point of view, although there is an option of closure if we don’t) and I was impressed by one of the longest acknowledgements I’ve ever read. It hints not only of a grateful writer attentive to detail but also of a book which has undergone a long process and many transformations before getting into our hands.

A couple of examples of the poetic language in the book:

Punch-stained red cups split underfoot, opening into plastic petals. Palms open, she levitated both hands.

The nephilim at hand, radiant galaxies pirouetting at God’s command. Faith lifted mountains. Miracles. Healings.

Not a light or easy read, but a book for those eager to find a new voice and to explore issues of faith, love, identity. Oh, and for those who love an unreliable narrator. A first book of what promises to be a long and fascinating literary career.

Thanks so much to NetGalley, to Grace Vincent and the publisher, and to the author, for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for writing, and if you’ve found it interesting, feel free to share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog FREAKY FRANKY: Santa Muerte followers discover the horrifying consequences of worshipping with evil intentions by William Blackwell (@wblackwell333) #horror #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book I have reviewed as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was intrigued by the title (not sure it fitted into the genre, and wondered about the long subtitle that seems more a description than a title, but I checked the beginning of the story and I had to keep going) and it seemed very relevant to the book I just reviewed yesterday. And here it is:

Freaky Franky by William Blackwell
Freaky Franky by William Blackwell

Freaky Franky: Santa Muerte followers discover the horrifying consequences of worshipping with evil intentions by William Blackwell

When an enigmatic town doctor saves the life of Anisa Worthington’s dying son, she abandons Christianity in favor of devotion to the cult of Santa Muerte or Saint Death. Some believe the mysterious skeleton saint will protect their loved ones, help in matters of the heart, and provide abundant happiness, health, wealth, and justice. But others, including the Catholic Church, call the cult blasphemous, evil, and satanic.

Anisa introduces Santa Muerte to her friend Helen Randon, and soon one of Helen’s enemies is brutally murdered. Residents of Montague, a peaceful little town in Prince Edward Island, begin plotting to rid the Bible belt of apostates.

Anisa suspects Helen is perverting the good tenets of Saint Death. Before she can act, a terrible nightmare propels her to the Dominican Republic in search of Franklin, her long-lost and unstable brother, who mysteriously disappeared without a trace twenty years ago.

To her horror, Anisa learns Franklin is worshiping Saint Death with evil intentions. As a fanatical and hell-bent lynch mob tightens the noose, mysterious murders begin occurring all around Anisa. Unsure who’s an enemy and who’s an ally, she’s thrust into a violent battle to save her life, as well as the lives of her friends and brother.

https://www.amazon.com/Freaky-Franky-consequences-worshipping-intentions-ebook/dp/B077X41V9J/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Freaky-Franky-consequences-worshipping-intentions-ebook/dp/B077X41V9J/

I’m sure this is not William Blackwell, or at least I hope it isn’t but…

About the author:

William Blackwell studied journalism at Calgary’s Mount Royal University and English literature at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia. He worked as a print journalist for many years before becoming an author. Currently living on an acreage in Prince Edward Island, Blackwell loves to travel and write fiction.

He’s written many titles including: Brainstorm, Nightmare’s Edge, The Rage Trilogy, Assaulted Souls trilogy, Orgon Conclusion, Rule 14, Resurrection Point, The Strap, A Head for an Eye, Blood Curse, Black Dawn, The End Is Nigh and Freaky Franky.

To learn more about Blackwell’s work and read the musings of a meandering mind, please visit his website: http://www.wblackwell.com Twitter: @wblackwell333

Thanks for stopping by.

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I have been reading a book called Paperbacks from Hell (check my review here) and when I saw this book, it reminded me so much of many of the covers and topics I had been reading about that I could not resist, although I was not sure about the title (was it horror, humour, or something else entirely?).

The novel begins with quite a bang. A strong scene where we are introduced to la Santa Muerte (Saint Death) a religion/cult (depending on whose point of view you take) that has flourished in Mexico and is spreading to many other places. Although we all have heard about the Mexican Día de los Muertos, this might cover new ground for many of us, but the author is well informed and provides good background into the history and the various opinions on Saint Death, that is an interesting topic in its own right.

But don’t get me wrong. This book is not all tell and not show. We have a number of characters who are linked (unknowingly at first) by their devotion to Saint Death. What in the beginning seem to be separate episodes, which show us the best and the worst consequences of praying to Saint Death, later come together in an accomplished narrative arc. Whilst praying for health and good things can result in miracles, praying for revenge and death carries serious and deadly consequences.

The story, written in the third person, alternates the points of views most of the characters, from the main characters to some of the bit actors, good and bad (although that is pretty relative in this novel) and it moves at good pace. It is dynamic and full of action, and this is a novel where the plot dominates. The characters are not drawn in a lot of detail and I did not find them as cohesive and compelling as the story, in part, perhaps, because they are, at times, under the control of Saint Death (but this is not a standard story of satanic possession). Although none of the characters are morally irreproachable,  Anisa and Dr. Ricardo are more sympathetic and easier to root for. Yes, Anisa might resent her missed opportunities and the fact that she is stuck in Prince Edward Island looking after her son, but she goes out of her way to help her friend Helen and her brother Franklin and warns them not to pray for revenge. Dr. Ricardo threads a fine line between helping others and protecting himself, but he does the best he can. Franklin, the Freaky Franky of the title, is a much more negative character and pretty creepy, especially early in the novel. Although we learn about his past and the tragedies in his life, he is Anisa’s brother, and she’s also gone through the same losses, without behaving like he does. He uses Saint Death’s power mostly for evil, although he seems to change his mind and attitude after Anisa’s intervention (I was not totally convinced by this turn of events). I found Natalie, the American tourist visiting the Dominican Republic with her fiancé, Terry, difficult to fathom as well. Perhaps some of it could be explained by the love/lust spell she is under, but she clearly suspects what Franklin has done to her, and her changed feelings towards a man she has known for five minutes makes no sense, at least to me (sorry, I am trying to avoid spoilers). Much of the action and events require a great deal of suspension of disbelief, but not more than is usual in the genre.

The novel keeps wrong-footing the readers. At first, we might think that everything that is going on can be explained by self-suggestion and that all the evil (and the good) is in the mind of the believer. These are desperate characters holding on to anything that offers them a glint of hope. And later, when bad things start to happen, it seems logical to believe that the characters we are following have acted upon their negative thoughts and impulses (and even they have doubts as to what they might have done). But nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems.

Although there is plenty of explicit violence and some sexual references (those not as explicit), I did not find it frightening or horrific as such. However, it is a disquieting, dark, and eerie book, because of the way it invites readers to look into the limits of morality and right and wrong. Is revenge ever justified? Is it a matter of degrees? Who decides? It seems la Santa Muerte has very specific thoughts about this, so be very careful what you wish (or pray) for.

An eye-opener with regards to the Saint Death cult and a book that will be enjoyed by readers who don’t mind supernatural novels with plenty of violence, and prefer their plots dynamic and action-driven.

Thanks to Rosie and to her team for the great suggestions, thanks to the author, and thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’B007JQTHE8,B0094XQSLE,B008F6GV86,B01KNK4JNK,B01NAP1WEO,B00NDCO4D6,B00INC8L1C,B00D8AQJPO’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’7ea9e396-0dd8-11e8-8813-7bb083d34186′]

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE TAKEN. DI ERIKA MARTIN book 2 by Alice Clark-Platts (@aclarkplatts) British policing and a dark and twisted family

Hi all:

Today a British thriller that doesn’t take place in one of the big cities, but funnily enough it’s in an area where I spent some time working, a wonderful part of the country, and I love Durham Cathedral…

Cover and review of the bookThe Taken by Alice Clark Platts
The Taken by Alice Clark Platts

The Taken. DI Erica Martin Book 2 by Alice Clark-Platts.

Penguin UK – Michael Joseph

Description

In a Durham boarding house at dawn, Pastor Tristan Snow is murdered while he prays. Detective Inspector Erica Martin’s investigation encounters a host of suspects all staying in the boarding house. Violet Snow, his daughter, who seems unsurprised by her father’s murder. Sera Snow, his inscrutable wife. Her sister, Antonia, who was closer to the Pastor than anyone yet knows. And Fraser McKenzie, Snow’s manager and best friend, who has his own dark secrets to hide. DI Martin soon learns that this is a case in which nothing is what it seems, and no-one is innocent…

 

A tense and powerful police procedural set in the city of Durham where a murdered preacher may be more monstrous than his own killer.

There’s the lost.
There’s the missing.
And there’s the taken.

She asked me once if we had any secrets, and I shook my head. 
‘No secrets between us,’ she said. 
‘No,’ I answered. ‘Never ever.’

In a Durham hotel at dawn, celebrated preacher Tristan Snow is murdered as he prays. None of the other guests – not even his daughter, his wife, or her sister – saw or heard anything.

But then again, they all had a motive for murder.

Detective Inspector Erica Martin is confronted by secrets and lies, lost in a case where nothing is what it seems.

With no answers, DI Martin is consumed by questions: Is anyone in this family innocent? When the victim might have been a monster – is there such a thing as justice? And does anyone deserve to die?

Praise for Alice Clark-Platts:

‘Had me on the edge of my sun lounger. Excellent plotting and a genuinely unguessable resolution to the mystery’
Sophie Hannah

‘Grabbed me from the first page and wouldn’t let go. A compelling read, beautifully written … A tense, captivating tale, brilliantly told’
Rachel Abbott

‘A gripping, highly charged thriller’
Ralph Fiennes

‘A brilliantly plotted and utterly gripping thriller’
Emma Kavanagh

‘Superb … A very assured page-turning storm I read in one sitting’
Stav Sherez

‘Intriguing and sinister with masterful plotting and tension’
Mel Sherratt

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I voluntarily agreed to review.

Although this is the second novel in the DI Erica Martin’s series and I haven’t read the previous one, I did not find this detracted from my ability to enjoy the novel.

The story, set for the most part in Durham, in the North East of the UK, follows DI Erica Martin’s team as they investigate a bizarre death, that of a somewhat special preacher cum TV celebrity. The novel is narrated from a variety of points of view, mostly in the third person, although there are also parts in italics that at first, we don’t know who they belong to or whom they address (they seem to be a letter of some sort). Although Martin’s point of view dominates the action, we also have the points of view of other members of her team, and other characters, including the victim and the many suspects. In my opinion there is clear differentiation between the different points of view that helps the reader to not get confused, and each segment is clearly separated, so although I know some readers don’t appreciate head-hoping, due to the complexity of the case and the way the investigation develops, the change of points of view serves the book well.

Martin is a capable woman, also blessed (and cursed) with a strong intuition, but somewhat distracted by her impending divorce and her burgeoning relationship with her superior, Sam Butterworth. She’s a good boss, understands her team and has a good relationship with them, and is sympathetic and has her heart in the right place. Although we get to know a bit less about the other members of her team, Jones is also a reliable and likeable character (and high up in Martin’s esteem) and it’s a breath of fresh air to have a police team where everybody seems intent on doing the best job they can and there’s no corruption or shady motives. It’s true that Martin’s capacity for empathy and her reaction to the complications and the revelations of the case affect her personally, but, at least for me, that’s a bonus rather than a weakness.

The family of reverend Snow (although his church sounds more like a cult than a benign church) and those close to him hide many secrets, and the more layers that are peeled away, the worse things get. I read one of the reviewers commenting the Snows are a dysfunctional family. It’s possible there might be some more dysfunctional than this one, but it’s pretty high up on the ranking. If what we learn from the church’s functioning is bizarre and scary, in some ways this pales in comparison to the intricacies of the family relationships.

The plot is carefully crafted, with red herrings and many suspects that are highlighted and then dismissed, and although it might be possible to have some suspicions, things aren’t as clear-cut as most readers might suspect at first. I don’t think thriller and mystery readers will be disappointed with the plotting side of the story.

Although there are some violent scenes and descriptions of wounds and injuries, they are not extremely graphic. On the other hand, some of the topics of the book might be distressing for readers (as there is violence against children and women), and the bizarre behaviours and states of mind (that merit quite an in-depth psychological discussion) make it a hard book to read and one that will cause much discussion.

The writing style is easy to follow, descriptive enough to make the different characters believable, with changes in rhythm (not always frenetic, but it flows and ebbs with some contemplative and precious moments too), and very well chosen quotes from Euripides’s Medea.

A good novel for those looking for a British police procedural book, well-crafted, with a complex plot, likeable characters that also encompasses challenging topics. I for sure wouldn’t mind reading more of Erica Martin’s cases.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Taken-Erica-Martin-Book-Thriller-ebook/dp/B01GGZPKPW/

https://www.amazon.com/Taken-Erica-Martin-Book-Thriller-ebook/dp/B01GGZPKPW/

Thanks to NetGalley, to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and do like, share, comment, and CLICK! And Merry Xmas!

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