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#Bookreview THE NOWHERE CHILD by Christian White (@CWhiteAuthor) (@HarperCollinsUK) Dark, scary, and gripping.

Hi all:

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve read and reviewed quite a few books written by Australian authors recently, and here comes another one. I’m not sure why, but I suspect this won’t be the last one either.

The Nowhere Child by Christian White
The Nowhere Child by Christian White

The Nowhere Child: The bestselling debut psychological thriller you need to read in 2019 by Christian White

A little girl went missing years ago. That child is you.

A dark and gripping debut psychological thriller that won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, previously won by THE DRY and THE ROSIE PROJECT.

‘Read page one, and you won’t stop. Guaranteed’ Jeffery Deaver

A child was stolen twenty years ago
Little Sammy Went vanishes from her home in Manson, Kentucky – an event that devastates her family and tears apart the town’s deeply religious community.

And somehow that missing girl is you
Kim Leamy, an Australian photographer, is approached by a stranger who turns her world upside down – he claims she is the kidnapped Sammy and that everything she knows about herself is based on a lie.

How far will you go to uncover the truth?
In search of answers, Kim returns to the remote town of Sammy’s childhood to face up to the ghosts of her early life. But the deeper she digs into her family background the more secrets she uncovers… And the closer she gets to confronting the trauma of her dark and twisted past.

https://www.amazon.com/Nowhere-Child-bestselling-psychological-thriller-ebook/dp/B07FV282YY/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nowhere-Child-bestselling-psychological-thriller-ebook/dp/B07FV282YY/

Editorial Reviews

“A nervy, soulful, genuinely surprising it-could-happen-to-you thriller ― a book to make you peer over your shoulder for days afterwards.”―A.J. Finn, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

A stunning debut…White skillfully creates a credible story filled with surprises and realistic characters worth caring about.”―Associated Press

The Nowhere Child is the personification of a high-concept thriller, brilliantly executed. White raises the bar on psychological suspense, telling Kim Leamy’s tale in a stylish voice and with a heart-pounding pace. Read page one, and you won’t stop. Guaranteed.”―Jeffery Deaver, New York Times bestselling author

The Nowhere Child is compelling and intense. The alternating chapters between past and present are perfectly paced and masterfully written to maximize suspense and lead us down a path of love, hate, redemption, and―ultimately―hope. I literally could not put this book down until I turned the last page. The best debut novel I’ve read in years.”―Allison Brennan, New York Times bestselling author of the Lucy Kincaid and Max Revere series

The Nowhere Child is pure dynamite. The high concept premise grabbed me from the first page and refused to let me go until I finished. You may try to read it slowly, so you can savor every single word, but the story is so all-encompassing―the need to know what happens next so urgent―you’ll forget all about savoring and find yourself tearing through the pages as fast as your fingers can manage. You do not want to miss this book!”―Linda Castillo, New York Times bestselling author of the Kate Burkholder series

The Nowhere Child is a well-written thriller that avoids the clichés of the genre. The characters are interesting and believable and the book kept me reading up to the satisfying conclusion.” ―Phillip Margolin, New York Times bestselling author of The Third Victim

An impressive debut novel, deftly plotted, constantly shifting and full of vivid characters.”― Garry Disher, author of the Inspector Challis mysteries

“White skillfully builds an uncertain, noxious world of dysfunctional families and small-town secrets. The Nowhere Child is a gripping debut from an exceptional new talent.”― Mark Brandi, Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award-Winning author of Wimmera

“Such a clever idea, which grips from the very first chapter.”―Ragnar Jonasson, author of Snowblind

“Beautifully written, perfectly suspenseful and wonderfully dark. I could not put this book down.”― Susi Holliday, author of The Deaths of December

Packed with tension, twists and tremendous pace, it’s hard to believe that this is the work of a debut author. The Nowhere Child is stunning and flawless. I can’t recommend it enough.”― Thomas Enger, author of Burned

The Nowhere Child is a fabulous read, populated by such well-drawn and identifiable characters that I felt I knew them. I was desperate to know how the story unfolded. Brilliant!”― Louise Voss, author of From the Cradle

“[An] outstanding debut. By juxtaposing past and present, the author keeps the tension high. The impatient may be tempted to skip ahead, but they shouldn’t. Thriller fans will want to savor every crumb of evidence and catch every clue. White is definitely a writer to watch.”―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In this stunning first novel, White weaves stories within stories while keeping the thrilling mystery alive. [A] tightly woven debut thriller.”―Library Journal (starred review)

“White has written a “returning-to-your-southern-roots” tale with a difference; Kim is exploring
roots she never knew she had, and the journey is as bumpy and fraught with bewildered feelings as readers
might imagine. This worthwhile story of a woman’s quest for the truth will work with women’s-fiction readers as well as mystery fans.”―Booklist

“A very auspicious debut…A tightly written book with a dynamite plot.”―Toronto Globe and Mail

Author Christian White
Author Christian White

About the author:

Christian White is an Australian author and screenwriter. His debut novel, The Nowhere Child, won the 2017 Wheeler Centre Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript, and will be published in June through Affirm Press and in multiple territories around the world in 2019.

He also co-created the television series Carnivores, currently in development with Matchbox Pictures and Heyday TV, and co-wrote Relic, a psychological horror feature film to be produced by Carver Films (The Snowtown MurdersPartisan). The film has received funding support through Screen Australia and Film Victoria, and will be directed by Natalie Erika James. He has written several short films that have screened at film festivals around the world, including Creswick, which won Best Short Form Script at the 2017 Australian Writers’ Guild AWGIE Awards.

Born and raised on the Mornington Peninsula, Christian had an eclectic range of ‘day jobs’ before he was able to write fulltime, including food-cart driver on a golf course and video editor for an adult film company. He now spends his days writing from home in Melbourne, where he lives with his wife, filmmaker Summer DeRoche, and their adopted greyhound, Issy. He has a passion for true crime podcasts, Stephen King and anything to do with Bigfoot.

The Nowhere Child is his first book. He’s working on his second.

Follow Christian White on Twitter.

https://www.christian-white.com/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collins for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I’ve read quite a few books by Australian writers recently (Liane Moriarty, Jane Harper, Liza Perrat), and although very different, I enjoyed all of them and could not resist when I saw this novel, especially as it had won an award Harper’s first novel The Dry also won.

Although part of this novel is set in Australia, it is not the largest or the most important part of it. This novel is set in two time frames and in two places, and the distance in time and space seems abysmal at times. The novel starts with a bang. Kim, the main protagonist, an Australian photographer in her late twenties, receives an unexpected visit and some even more unexpected news. This part of the story, the “now”, is narrated in the first person from Kim’s point of view, and that has the effect of putting the readers in her place and making them wonder what they would do and how they would feel if suddenly their lives were turned on their heads, and they discovered everything they thought they knew about themselves, their families, and their identities, was a lie. She is a quiet woman, and although she gets on well with her stepfather and her half-sister, and she badly misses her mother, who died a little while back, she’s always been quite different to the rest of the members of her family, and enjoys her own company more than socialising. There are also strange dreams that bother her from time to time. So, although she does not want to believe it when the stranger tells her she was abducted from a small town in Kentucky as a little girl, she is not as surprised as she should be. At this point, we seem to be in the presence of a domestic drama, one where family secrets are perhaps a bit darker than we are used to, but the plot seems in keeping with the genre. And most of the “now” section of the book is closer in tone and atmosphere to that genre.

But we have the other part. The “then”, written in the third person, from a variety of characters’ points of view. Readers who dislike head-hopping don’t need to worry, though, because each chapter in the “past” section is told from only one character’s point of view, and it is quite clear who that is, avoiding any possible confusion. The story of the background to the kidnapping, and the investigation that followed, is told from the point of view of members of little Sammy’s family, the sheriff (I really liked him), neighbours of the town, and other characters that at first we might not grasp how they are related to the story, but it all ends up making sense eventually. This part of the novel feels much more gripping and dynamic than the other, and although we don’t always follow the characters for very long, the author manages to create credible and sympathetic (or not so sympathetic) individuals, some that we get to feel for and care, and even when they do some pretty horrible things, most of them feel realistic and understandable. And the story of what happened in the past makes for a pretty dark combination of thriller and mystery, well-paced and gripping.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I must say the town of Manson of the novel is a place that seems right out of a dark fairy tale, and I kept thinking of the opening titles of the TV series True Blood (not because of any supernatural thing, but because of some of the images that appear there). While some of the scenes seem typical of a small town in the middle of nowhere, others reminded me of Southern Gothic novels, and, a word of warning: there is violence, and there are scenes that can be terrifying to some readers (although no, this is not a horror novel, the author is not lying when he says he admires and has learned a lot from Stephen King). The story is full of secrets, red-herrings and confusing information, clues that seem clear but are not, and Kim/Sammy is a woman who keeps her emotions to herself, understandably so considering the circumstances. I am not sure many readers will connect with Kim straight away because of her personality, but I understand the author’s choice. If she was an emotional wreck all the time, it would be impossible for her to do what she does and to learn the truth, and the novel would be unbearable to read, more of a melodrama than a thriller or a dark mystery. The part of the story that deals with the present helps reduce the tension somewhat while keeping the intrigue ticking, and although it feels slow and sedate compared to the other part, it does ramp up as they dig into the past and the two stories advance towards their resolution.

Without going into detail, I can say that I enjoyed the ending, and although I suspected what was coming, I only realised what was likely to happen very late in the story. Despite this being the author’s first novel, his screenwriting experience is evident, and he has a knack for creating unforgettable scenes. This is a novel destined to become a movie, for sure, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t.

This is not a typical mystery or thriller, and although it has elements of the domestic noir, it is perhaps more extreme and darker than others I have read in that genre. We have a very young child being kidnapped; we have murder, extreme religious beliefs, prejudice, postnatal depression, a dysfunctional family, snakes, secrets, lies, child abuse, and more. If you are looking for an intriguing read, don’t mind different timelines and narrators, and are not put off by difficult subjects and scary scenes, you must read this one.

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep smiling!

Ah, and in case you’ve never watched True Blood and don’t know what I’m talking about…

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview CREATURE by Hunter Shea (@huntershea1) A love letter in the guise of a #horror novel.

Hi all:

Today I bring you the review of a book in one of my favourite genres, although it is a bit of a special one.

Review of Creature by Hunter Shea
Creature by Hunter Shea

Creature (Fiction Without Frontiers) by Hunter Shea. A love letter in the guise of a horror book dealing with a painful topic. Highly recommended.

The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal.

But they are not alone. Something is in the woods, screeching in the darkness, banging on the house, leaving animals for dead.

Just like her body, Kate’s cottage becomes her prison. She and Andrew must fight to survive the creature that lurks in the dead of night.

FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.

https://www.amazon.com/Creature-Fiction-Without-Frontiers-Hunter-ebook/dp/B07GJVWWWR/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Creature-Fiction-Without-Frontiers-Hunter-ebook/dp/B07GJVWWWR/

Editorial Reviews

‘Creature is unique. This book was a roller coaster for me, start to finish. Hunter’s prose keeps you engaged in the fate of these characters throughout. Highly recommended!’ – John Kilgallon

‘It’s much more than most creature features, it has heart and thought, and a superb, head-on horror conclusion. The best Hunter Shea I’ve read so far and by more than a little.’ – Eddie Generous (Unnerving Magazine)

‘A heart-wrenching story with massive amounts of carnage.’ – Cemetery Dance

‘This was a thrilling read from start to finish. Exciting, emotional, intriguing.’ – Housewife of Horror

‘The imagination and creativity here were astounding. It was also frightening and spellbinding.’ – Char’s Horror Corner

‘You know you’ve read a great book when you are smiling after you turn that last page. I don’t know how Hunter Shea keeps churning out terrifying stories that feel original, but I want more.’ – Cedar Hollow Reviews

‘Creature is another in a long line of solid Hunter Shea titles. A must read.’ – Ex Libris The Eyes of Madness

‘This isn’t a mile a minute gore-fest, but it packs in a number of scares that are absolute powerhouses thanks to their authenticity and realism.’ – Michael Patrick Hicks

Author Hunter Shea
Author Hunter Shea

About the Author

Hunter Shea is the author of over 20 books, with a specialization in cryptozoological horror that includes The Jersey Devil, The Dover Demon, Loch Ness Revenge, and many others. . His novel, The Montauk Monster, was named one of the best reads of the summer by Publishers Weekly. A trip to the International Cryptozoology Museum will find several of his cryptid books among the fascinating displays. Living in a true haunted house inspired his Jessica Backman: Death in the Afterlife series (Forest of Shadows, Sinister Entity, and Island of the Forbidden). In 2011, he was selected to be a part of the launch of Samhain Publishing’s new horror line alongside legendary author Ramsey Campbell. When he’s not writing thrillers and horror, he also spins tall tales for middle-grade readers on Amazon’s highly regarded Rapids reading app. An avid podcaster, he can be seen and heard on Monster Men, one of the longest running video horror podcasts in the world, and Final Guys, focusing on weekly movie and book reviews. His nostalgic column about the magic of 80s horror, Video Visions, is featured monthly at Cemetery Dance Online. You can find his short stories in a number of anthologies, including Chopping Block Party, The Body Horror Book and Fearful Fathoms II. A lifetime New Yorker, Hunter is supported by his loving wife and two beautiful daughters. When he’s not studying up on cryptozoology, he’s an avid explorer of the unknown, having spent a night alone on the Queen Mary, searching for the Warren’s famous White Lady of the Union Cemetery and other mysterious places. You can follow his travails at www.huntershea.com

https://www.amazon.com/Hunter-Shea/e/B007RMLXAA/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Flame Tree Press for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I have read great reviews of this author’s books, all in the horror genre, and a recent one (by Char Horror, whose reviews I follow on BookLikes) convinced me to read one of his novels. I was lucky enough to find it on offer at NetGalley, and yes, the reviewers were right. It is a book worthy of reading.

It is difficult to review this book without giving too much of the plot and possible spoilers away. If I had to define this book, I’d say it is a love letter. I know it might sound strange when we are talking about a horror book, but there you have it. Of course, there are many elements of horror as well, but from reading some of the comments I guess this is a far cry from the author’s usual romp-and-munch monster books (or “cryptozoological”, as he defines them). There is a monster, well, a creature, although it comes in quite late in the book (we do feel some dark presence well before that, though), but this is a story that starts as a domestic drama and shares many of its elements. The protagonists, Kate and Andrew, are a young couple. Their life is completely taken by the wife’s chronic autoimmune and genetic illnesses (Ehlers-Danlos and lupus) and what it takes to keep her alive. She is a virtual prisoner at home and most of the time she struggles to even get out of bed. Her husband has a job but spends most of his spare time looking after his wife, and the rest of the time thinking about her. They have a dog, Buttons, who keeps watch over Kate, and she survives thanks to cocktails of pain relief medications, experimental treatments that bring on their own kind of hell, watching black and white movies and the support of her husband. When he manages to secure a few weeks off and a cottage by a lake in Maine, they both hope they will have a reprieve and a break from real life. Unfortunately…

The book, written in the third person, alternates the points of views of wife and husband, and the author is very skilled at describing the feelings of the couple, the effects of the illness, both physical and psychological (although Kate is the perfect example of the unreliable narrator, due to her illness and the pain-killers and other medications she takes, she is very articulate and finds ways to explain her symptoms that make us share in her suffering more vividly than many scare books) on both, and the toll it takes on a relationship to have to battle with such terrible monsters day-after-day. Yes, there are “real” monsters and also the illness, which is more monstrous, in many ways, than any monster, because it lives inside and it feeds off the person, literally. It is evident on reading it that the author has close and deep knowledge of the subject, and this is confirmed later in the afterword, which I found very moving.

The characters, which include the couple, Kate’s brother, Riker, and British sister-in-law, Nikki, are sympathetic, likeable, but also realistically portrayed, especially the central couple. If at times Andrew seems almost saintly in his patience and never-ending acceptance of his caring role, there are times when he gives way to anger, frustration, and a touch of egotism and selfishness. He also acknowledges that after so long battling with his wife’s illness, he might no longer know how to be anything else but her husband and carer. Kate is in and out of medication-induced slumber, at times hides things from Andrew, is not always wise and takes unnecessary risks, at least from her husband’s perspective. Theirs is not a perfect relationship, but considering the strain they labour under, it is pretty amazing in its strength and solidity.

The novel is claustrophobic despite its location and the brief excursions into nature. We are mostly reduced to the inside of the house/cottage, and to a single room most of the time, and that adds to the feeling of anxiety and tension that increases slowly but ramps up towards the end of the story. I kept thinking about Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game because of the location, and the way the story plays with the power of the mind to conjure up ghosts and monster from the dark recesses of our consciousness, but the background and the central theme are very different.

What about the creature? I am sure readers of horror will wonder from early on what the nature of that presence is. At first we have unexplained attacks on the couple and they do try to find rational explanations to allay their fears (and at some points, it looks as if the story is going to bear off into home invasion ground), but eventually, a not-easy-to-explain-away-rationally creature appears. What this creature is and where it comes from is something you can decide for yourselves, although there are clear indications and even explanations offered during the novel that make sense within the context. I did suspect what might be behind it from quite early on, but it is very well done and it fits into the logic of the story (however we might feel about horror and its hidden meaning).

Now, some notes of caution. There is a scene where the characters exchange jokes in poor taste, which might offend readers (yes, even horror readers), and although people in extreme situations might find refuge in pretty dark humour, there are topics that many people find disturbing. There is also quite extreme gore and explicit violence, although I don’t think that would put off fans of the genre.

As mentioned, this is not a standard horror book and it might be enjoyed by readers interested in domestic drama, chronic illnesses, and great writing, if they have a strong enough stomach to deal with the gore. There are also questions and answers at the end that would make the book suitable for book clubs interested in the genre and the central topic. Although I know this is not perhaps a typical example of Shea’s writing, I am impressed and intend to catch up on some of his other books, and his podcast. Hats off to him for his bravery in tackling this difficult subject, and I hope it was as therapeutic for him as he states.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author, thanks to all you for reading and please, if you have enjoyed it, feel free to like, share, comment, click, and always keep reading and smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog Saigon Dark by Elka Ray (@ElkaRay) (@crimewavepress) A blend of psychological (noir) thriller with domestic drama, with a conflicted protagonist #Bookreview

Hi all:

I had this book on my list for a while and when I read it I realised it can fit in a category of books that seem to have become more and more popular recently. Those who read my blog regularly might remember our discussion about it (waving at you, Debby!).

Book review. Saigon Dark by Elka Ray
Saigon Dark by Elka Ray

Saigon Dark by Elka Ray

“There’s no way this book can be easily described – well written and fascinating subject matter is only the beginning. It could easily become a huge hit and also has all the hallmarks of a Noir classic.”

— Lissa Pelzer, Author & Crime Critic

A STORY ABOUT FAMILY, BETRAYAL AND BELONGING – AND HOW HARD WE FIGHT TO PROTECT THOSE WE LOVE.

In Saigon, a grief-stricken young American mother switches her dead child for a Vietnamese street kid. Then she returns to the US. Good and bad. Life and death. Some choices aren’t black and white

She remarries and starts to feel safe until she gets a note: ‘I know what you did’.
Can she save her daughter from her dark secret?

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Saigon-Dark-Elka-Ray-ebook/dp/B01M4PZWBX/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Saigon-Dark-Elka-Ray-ebook/dp/B01M4PZWBX/

Author Elka Ray
Author Elka Ray

About the author:

Born in the UK, and raised in Africa and Canada, Elka now lives in Central Vietnam. She’s the author of two novels, a short story collection and three kids’ books that she also illustrated. To learn more about Elka’s upcoming projects, please visit www.elkaray.com

https://www.amazon.com/Elka-Ray/e/B004VRXDM0/

My review:

Thanks to the publishers, Crime Wave, for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This novel is a thriller that takes place within the domestic sphere and one of its unique features is that it is set (mostly) in Vietnam. The main character is a paediatric surgeon, Lily, whose family escaped to the United States when she was a child, and after studying Medicine decided to go back and work there. Although she is a successful professional, her personal life is not a happy one. Her husband, another doctor from a similar background to hers, has left her, and her youngest child, a little girl, suffers from a rare genetic condition, and she does not know how well she will develop. Tragedy strikes; the character seems unable to react rationally due to the pain and makes one disastrous decision after another. We all know that secrets have a way of coming back and biting us, and although Lily is quite lucky, not even she can escape the consequences of her actions, or can she? (I am trying not to reveal any spoilers).

The novel is told, in the first-person, from the point of view of Lily, and as was the case with a recent novel in the same/similar genre I read and reviewed, that might be a problem for some of the readers. It is impossible not to empathise with Lily, and although some of her reactions are bizarre, the author is very good at getting us inside her head and making us understand her disturbed mental state. Perhaps we think we would never do something like that, but we can understand why she does. Personally, I did not sympathise with her (or even like her very much) and at times felt very frustrated with her. I had to agree when one of the other characters told her that she was selfish, blind to other’s needs, and she never thought of anybody else. This is all the more evident considering her privileged existence in contrast to that of the general population, and how much of what happens is a direct result of her actions and her decisions, whilst others are victims of the circumstances with no options to escape. She seems to realise this towards the end, when even her son is more together than her, but all that notwithstanding, the action of the novel is gripping, and it is impossible not to feel curious about what will happen next and wonder if fate and karma will finally catch up with her.

The novel moves at a reasonable pace, at times we seems to be reading a standard domestic drama (about child-rearing and the relationship with her new husband), whilst at others it is an almost pure thriller, and we have blackmailers, red herrings, betrayals, and plenty of suspects. I think those two elements are well-combined and are likely to appeal to fans of both genres, although those who love hard thrillers might take issue with the amount of suspension of disbelief required to accept some of the events in the novel.

The ending is fairly open. Some questions (perhaps the main one) are resolved, but some others are not, and this might be frustrating for readers who prefer everything to be tied up in the end. There is a hint of some insight and growth in the character, but perhaps not enough considering the hard lessons she’s gone through.

There is some violence (although not extreme), serious issues are hinted at (domestic violence, poverty, bullying), and I particularly liked the realistic setting, and the way it depicts Vietnam, Hanoi and Saigon, the big social differences, and the expat scene.

In sum, a blend of psychological (noir) thriller with domestic drama, intriguing and heart-breaking at times, which takes place in an unusual and fascinating setting, recommended to those who don’t mind first-person narration and slightly open endings and who prefer their thrillers with more drama and less emphasis on procedural accuracy.

Thanks to the publishing company and the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and please, feel free to like, share, click, review, and above all, keep smiling!

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