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#Blogtour #HouseofGlass HOUSE OF GLASS by Susan Fletcher (@sfletcherauthor) (@ViragoBooks) A beautiful, contemplative, and touching novel about what it means to be whole

 

House of Glass by Susan Fletcher A beautiful, contemplative, and touching novel about what it means to be whole

June 1914 and a young woman – Clara Waterfield – is summoned to a large stone house in Gloucestershire. Her task: to fill a greenhouse with exotic plants from Kew Gardens, to create a private paradise for the owner of Shadowbrook. Yet, on arrival, Clara hears rumours: something is wrong with this quiet, wisteria-covered house. Its gardens are filled with foxgloves, hydrangea, and roses; it has lily-ponds, a croquet lawn – and the marvellous new glasshouse awaits her. But the house itself feels unloved. Its rooms are shuttered, or empty. The owner is mostly absent; the housekeeper seems afraid. And soon, Clara understands her fear: for something – or someone – is walking through the house at night. In the height of summer, she finds herself drawn deeper into Shadowbrook’s dark interior – and into the secrets that violently haunt this house. Nothing is quite what it seems.

Reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier, this is a wonderful, atmospheric Gothic page-turner.

A deeply absorbing, unputdownable ghost story that’s also a love story; for readers who love Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger; Frances Hodges Burnett’s The Secret Garden; Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace; Jane Harris’s The Observations.

Author Susan Fletcher
Author Susan Fletcher

Susan Fletcher took her inspiration from the gardens and grounds of Hidcote House, spending time in their archives and library, at different times of the year. One of the country’s great gardens, Hidcote is an Arts and Crafts masterpiece in the north Cotswolds, a stone’s throw from Stratford-upon-Avon. Created by the horticulturist, Major Lawrence Johnston. The garden is divided into a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, each with its own character. The formality of the ‘rooms’ fades away as you move through the garden away from the house.

https://www.amazon.com/House-Glass-Susan-Fletcher-ebook/dp/B078WDM9SF/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/House-Glass-Susan-Fletcher-ebook/dp/B078WDM9SF/

About the author:

Susan Fletcher was born in 1979 in Birmingham. She is the author of the bestselling ‘Eve Green’ winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, ‘Oystercatchers’ and ‘Witch Light’.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Susan-Fletcher/e/B001ITYXNW/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Virago Books for providing me an ARC copy of this book. I was later contacted by Kimberley Nyamhondera suggesting I take part in the blog tour for the launch of the book, and as I knew the author I immediately agreed.

I had read and reviewed another one of Susan Fletcher’s books (Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew, you can read my review here) a couple of years ago and loved it. When I checked my review, to remind myself what I had thought about it in more detail, I realised I could use almost word by word the same title for my review, although the subject of the novel is quite different. “A beautiful, contemplative, and touching novel.” Yes, this definitely applies to House of Glass as well. This time the story is set in the UK right before the breaking of the First World War, and in fact, there are rumours spreading about its likelihood already when the novel starts. It is a fascinating time, and the life of the protagonist, Clara Waterfield, is deeply affected by the historical period she has to live in, from her birth in very late Victorian times, to what would be a very changed world after the Great War, with the social upheaval, the rapid spread of industrialization, the changing role of women, and the all-too-brief peace.

Clara, who tells the story in the first person, is a great creation, who becomes dearer and dearer to us as we read the book. This is not a novel about a protagonist who is fully-formed, recognisable and unchanging, and runs across the pages from one action scene to the next hardly pausing to take a breather. Clara reflects upon her past (although she is very young, she has suffered greatly, but not lived much), her condition (she suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, brittle bones, and that meant that she was kept indoors and not exposed to the risks and dangers of the outside world, the London streets in her case throughout her childhood), her family, and life experiences or her lack of them. No matter what she looks like, her short stature, her difficulty walking, her limitations in physical activity, this is a determined woman, make no mistake. She has learned most of what she knows through books (non-fiction mostly, although she enjoyed the Indian tales her mother used to read her), she has experienced not only pain, but other kinds of loses, and there are secrets and mysteries surrounding her, but despite all that, she is all practical and logical when we meet her. Her lack of exposure to the real world makes her a fascinating narrator, one who looks at everything with the eyes of a new-born or an alien suddenly landed in our society, who might have theoretical knowledge but knows nothing of how things truly work, while her personality, determined and stubborn, and her enquiring nature make her perfect to probe into the mystery at the heart of Shadowbrook.

Readers might not find Clara particularly warm and engaging to begin with (despite the sympathy they might feel for her suffering, something she would hate), as she dispenses with the niceties of the period, is headstrong and can be seen as rude and unsympathetic. At some point, I wondered if there might have been more to her peculiar personality than the way she was brought up (she can be obsessive with the things she likes, as proven by her continuous visits to Kew Gardens once she discovers them, and her lack of understanding of social mores and her difficulty in reading people’s motivations and feelings seemed extreme), but she quickly adapts to the new environment, she thrives on change and challenges, she shows a great, if somewhat twisted, sense of humour at times, and she evolves and grows into her own self during the novel, so please, readers, stick with the book even if you don’t connect with her straightaway or find her weird and annoying at times.  It will be worth your while.

Her point of view might be peculiar, but Clara is a great observer of people and of the natural world. She loves her work and she is careful and meticulous, feeling an affinity for the exotic plants of the glass house, that, like her until recently, also have to live enclosed in an artificial environment for their own safety. That is partly what enhances their beauty and their rarity in our eyes. By contrast, Clara knows that she is seen as weird, lacking, less-able, and hates it. She is a deep thinker and reflects upon what she sees, other people’s behaviours, she imagines what others might be talking about, and dreams of her dead mother and soon also of the mystery behind the strange happenings at the house.

The novel has been described as gothic, and that is a very apt description, even though it is not always dark and claustrophobic. There are plenty of scenes that take place in the garden, in the fields, and in the open air, but we do have the required strange happenings, creaks and noises, scratches on doors, objects and flowers behaving in unpredictable fashion, previous owners of the house with a troublesome and tragic past, a mysterious current owner who hides something, violence, murder, and plenty of rumours. We have a priest who is conflicted by something, a loyal gardener who knows more than he says, a neighbouring farmer who has plenty of skeletons in his closet, and a housekeeper who can’t sleep and is terrified. But there is much more to the novel than the usual tropes we have come to expect and love in the genre. There is social commentary; there are issues of diversity and physical disability, discussions about religious belief and spirituality, and also about mental health, women’s rights, and the destructive nature of rumours and gossip, and some others that I won’t go into to avoid spoilers.

I don’t want to give anything away, and although the story moves at a steady and contemplative pace, this in no way makes it less gripping. If anything, the beauty of the language and the slow build up work in its favour, giving us a chance to get fully immersed in the mood and the atmosphere of the place.

I marked a lot of passages, and I don’t think any of them make it full justice, but I’ve decided to share some, nonetheless:

She’d also said that there was no human perfection; that if the flaw could not be seen physically, then the person carried it inside them, which made it far worse, and I’d believed this part, at least.

For my mother had never spoken well of the Church. Patrick had said nothing at all of it. And my own understanding had been that imperfect bodies were forms of godly punishment; that imperfect meant I was worth less somehow. I’d disliked this notion intensely. Also, I was not a spare rib.

I could not taste fruit from studying a sketch of it, cut in half. What use was only reading of acts and not doing them? Knowing the route of the Ganges was not the same as standing in it.

 

The ending… We find the solution to the mystery, (which I enjoyed, and at the time I wondered why the book did not finish at that point) but the novel does not end there, and we get to hear what happened in the aftermath of the story. And yes, although at first, I wasn’t sure that part was necessary, by the end of the book proper I was crying and felt as if I was leaving a close friend in Clara, one that I was convinced would go on to lead a happy life.

Another fantastic novel by Susan Fletcher, one I recommend to fans of gothic novels, of Daphne du  Maurier’s Rebecca and her other novels, of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, and of inspiringly gorgeous writing. I do not recommend it to readers who prefer an action-laden plot with little space for thought or reflexion, although why not check a sample of the book and see for yourselves? I must catch up on the rest of the author’s novels and I hope there will be many more to come.

Thanks to NetGalley, to Virago, and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, please give it a like, share, comment, clik, review, and remember to keep smiling and reading!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE by Ruth Emmie Lang (@ruthemmielang) A great debut novel for those looking for a bit of magic and hope #Iamreading

Hi all:

I will be on my way to Barcelona today, so if I take time to reply to your comments, don’t worry. I wanted to post this today because I hope to catch up on more reading and I didn’t want to have to post too many reviews very close to Christmas (as I know we all have other things to do). And, I had to share this book. Although the novel is not Christmassy per se, its spirit is very appropriate to this time of the year. And I loved it. Well, here it is.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

“Exquisite and adventurous” —Bustle, “11 New Fiction Books You Need”

“Told with brains and heart” –Michelle Gable, New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment

“Bristles with charm and curiosity” –Winston Groom, New York Times bestselling author of Forrest Gump

“A wholly original and superbly crafted work of art, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is a masterpiece of the imagination.” –Lori Nelson Spielman, New York Times bestselling author of The Life List and Sweet Forgiveness

“Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups who, like Weylyn Grey, have their own stories of being different, feared, brave, and loved.” –Mo Daviau, author of Every Anxious Wave

Finding magic in the ordinary.

In this warm debut novel, Ruth Emmie Lang teaches us about adventure and love in a beautifully written story full of nature and wonder.

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

That tornado was the first of many strange events that seem to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he doesn’t like to take credit. As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places. From freak storms to trees that appear to grow over night, Weylyn’s unique abilities are a curiosity at best and at worst, a danger to himself and the woman he loves. But Mary doesn’t care. Since Weylyn saved her from an angry wolf on her eleventh birthday, she’s known that a relationship with him isn’t without its risks, but as anyone who’s met Weylyn will tell you, once he wanders into your life, you’ll wish he’d never leave.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell. Stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door.

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beasts-Extraordinary-Circumstance-Ruth-Emmie/dp/1250112044/

https://www.amazon.com/Beasts-Extraordinary-Circumstance-Ruth-Emmie/dp/1250112044/

Author Ruth Emmie Lang
Author Ruth Emmie Lang

About the author:

Ruth Emmie Lang was born in Glasgow, Scotland and has the red hair to prove it. When she was four years old, she immigrated to Ohio where she has lived for the last 27 years. She has since lost her Scottish accent, but still has the hair.

Ruth currently lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and dreams of someday owning a little house in the woods where she can write more books. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is her first novel.

https://www.amazon.com/Ruth-Emmie-Lang/e/B06VW16MRN/

My review

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is a joy. Readers need to be prepared to suspend disbelief more than usual, perhaps, but from the very beginning, you realise you are in for a ride where everything will be extraordinary. Weylyn, the protagonist, is born in circumstances that his doctor never forgets, and he grows up to be more than a bit special.

I will not repeat the description of the book, which summarises quite well the main aspects of the novel. Weylyn’s story is told, mostly, from the point of view of the characters he meets along the way, and who, somehow, are changed by his presence in their lives. The story is set in the present, with interludes where a boy who literally falls on Weylyn (who lives like a hermit in the forest, with a wolf as his only company) keeps pestering him to tell him his story, and then goes back to the past, and the story is told, always in the first person, by a number of characters. As all readers know, narrators have a way of revealing a lot about themselves when they tell somebody else’s story, and this is true here. None of the narrators are unreliable, but they tell us more of their own stories through their memories of Weylyn than they do about Weylyn himself. We get to know him by the effect he has on those around him (children, adults, some of the characters —those he is closest to— her revisits over the years) and he remains a bit of a cipher, perhaps because he does not know himself or can explain himself fully either. We hear from him towards the end of the book, also in the first person, but he is not a character who defines himself by his “powers” (if that is what they are), and he never gives his talents a name, although he allows people to think whatever they like (He even tries to hide his prowess behind a pig, Merlin, insisting that the horned pig is the one who controls the weather). Despite all these points of view, the book is easy to read as each point of view is clearly delineated and their stories and narrative styles are distinct and appropriate to the characters. The writing flows well and there is enough description to spur readers’ imagination without going overboard.

In a world where children and parents have difficulty communicating, where fitting in and appearances are more important than true generosity, where politicians are self-serving and corrupt, where people stay in relationships because they don’t know how to end them, and where the interest of big corporations always trumps the needs of the common man, Weylyn is like the energy and light he manages to harvest, a ray of hope and a breath of fresh air.

Weylyn is a great character, but so are most of the other characters in the book. Some are more memorable than others, but they are all likeable and changed for the better by their interaction with Weylyn.

Although there are magical and fantastic elements in the novel, in my opinion, it fits into the category of magic realism (as the world the characters live in is our world and that is precisely why people are touched and surprised by his skills, his “specialness”). It would also fall under literary fiction, although it is a much easier read than many books classed under that label (and I feel this is a book not exclusively for adults either. There is minimal violence, clean romance, and many young characters, all distinct and likeable in their own ways).

A story for readers who love great characters and like to let their imaginations fly, not always feeling the need to remain anchored to reality. This is one of those books that we feel sorry to reach the end of and are thankful because we know their memory will remain with us. A great debut novel.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publisher, and to the author, for this extraordinary book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

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

#TuesdayBookBlog IN WOLVES’ CLOTHING by Greg Levin (@greg_levin) A sharp novel, both in action and in style, with fabulous dialogue and a flawed hero you’ll love #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you the review of a novel that once again I’ve discovered thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I must say I will be watching this author very closely in the future.

In Wolves' Clothing by Greg Levin
In Wolves’ Clothing by Greg Levin

In Wolves’ Clothing by Greg Levin

On his best days, Zero Slade is the worst man you can imagine. He has to be. It’s the only way to save the Lost Girls.

During his seven years on a team fighting child sex trafficking, Zero’s become quite good at schmoozing with pimps, getting handcuffed by cops and pretending not to care about the children he liberates. But the dangerous sting operations are starting to take their toll on his marriage and sanity. His affinity for prescription painkillers isn’t exactly helping matters.

When the youngest girl the team has ever rescued gets abducted from a safe house in Cambodia, Zero decides to risk everything to find her. His only shot is to go rogue, and sink deeper into the bowels of the trafficking world than he’s ever sunk.

It’s the biggest mission of his life. Trouble is, it’s almost certain death.

https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Clothing-Greg-Levin-ebook/dp/B075WSMPBT/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wolves-Clothing-Greg-Levin-ebook/dp/B075WSMPBT/

Author Greg Levin
Author Greg Levin

About the author:

Biography

Greg Levin is an award-winning author of psychological thrillers with a dark comedic tinge. He’s gone from being read merely by immediate family and friends to being read also by extended family and Facebook acquaintances.

Greg’s novel The Exit Man was optioned by HBO and later by Showtime for development into a TV series, and won a 2015 Independent Publisher Book Award (a.k.a., an “IPPY”). Greg earned a second IPPY with his next novel, Sick to Death, which Craig Clevenger (The Contortionist’s Handbook) called “a tour de force dark comedy.” Greg’s latest book, In Wolves’ Clothing, is his most dangerous. He wrote much of it during a ten-week-long workshop led by the great Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club and lots of other books Greg sleeps with at night).

Greg resides with his wife, daughter and two cats in Austin, Texas. He is currently wanted by local authorities for refusing to say “y’all” or do the two-step.

Website: http://www.greglevin.com

Facebook: @greglevintheauthor
Twitter: @greg_levin
Instagram: @greglevinauthor

Join Greg’s email list to receive a free ebook and a 3-chapter sample of In Wolves’ Clothing, as well as his bi-weekly(ish) blog posts and occasional news/special offers related to his books. You can join the list at greglevin.com.

https://www.amazon.com/Greg-Levin/e/B0051AYWFI/

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Amber from Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, check here if you would like your books reviewed) and to the author for providing me with a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

Zero Slade is the narrator of this story that packs plenty of action, violence, and darkness in under three hundred pages. He is a flawed hero or even an anti-hero. He drinks too much, he takes prescription painkillers (of course, no longer prescribed, although there’s little doubt that he is in pain); he loves his wife but lies to her and cannot share his feelings; he is good at his job but is falling into a downward spiral where he makes mistakes, often makes the wrong decisions and gets himself and others into trouble. He is a master of witty retorts (although these seem to take the form of a mental commentary rather than things he tells people, as he pretends, both for professional and for personal reasons to be calm, collected, and not easily fazed), and dark-humour and a cynical point-of-view are second-nature to him. His style of internal dialogue reminded me of noir-novels and of the voice-over narrations used by film-noir detectives of the thirties and forties. He is big, strong, and, in appearance at least, tough. And he needs to be, to do the job he does.

The book’s subject is horrific, and although the novel does not go into a lot of detail about sex trafficking, it does highlight the reality of it, the terrible statistics, and the experiences of the young girls and of those who try to help them, often with little long-term success. Doing such a job requires special qualities and takes a toll on all those involved. Zero reflects on the motley crew he works with early on in the novel and when we meet the new recruit he is supposed to train, Caleb, we wonder what he has in common with the rest and how he came to be there. He seems too together. A Buddhist who always sees the positive side of every situation. Of course, things are not always what they seem, and Zero is not the only one keeping secrets.

Coping with such extreme experiences is not easy. Zero’s first-person narration allows the reader to get inside his head and share his techniques to try and avoid getting emotionally involved and overwhelmed by what he sees. His drinking, his drug abuse, and his defence mechanisms and strategies all point to the fact that rather than being hard, tough, and unfeeling, he is trying to protect himself because otherwise, he’d crack.

We don’t get to know all of the secondary characters well (the book is short, but we do get a good sense of what Zero thinks about them, even if he is not always the best judge of character and he gets more than one surprise) but especially those on the good side are varied, interesting, sympathetic, and morally complex. We don’t know every single detail of Zero’s life either (and he spends a fair amount of time under the influence of drink, drugs, both, or in pain) but he shares enough of his memories and experiences for us to root for him. We know how he met his wife, we learn about his brother’s passing, and even about some bad things that he might or might not have done. Many unreliable narrators sometimes try to paint themselves in a positive light, but although Zero is in denial about his addictions, he is a master of understatement and skilled at putting himself down.

I have once again highlighted a lot of the book, but just a few samples of a novel that’s eminently quotable:

Whenever people say, “It could always be worse,” they’re right … unless they’re talking about what the Lost Girls have been through. That’s where worse ends.

Talking about a superheroes blockbuster movie: It’s about Lycra overcoming evil.

I hate that playing a pedophile comes more naturally to me than being myself.

The trouble is, the camera always takes five pounds off the truth.

The flight attendant returns with my refill. Saved by the bourbon.

One of the nurses helping him move tells him: “Okay, this is always the hard part.” The perfect title for my autobiography.

This is a fast novel, sharp both in action and in style, with fabulous dialogue and a quick-fire and pared-down writing that is dynamic and vibrant. It also has a big heart, deals with a very serious subject, and manages to convey the depth of feeling of a character that goes to big lengths to hide that he is a big softy. Ah, and the ending is great too.

If you don’t mind a fair amount of violence (never gratuitous, but still…), the subject matter, and like heroes down on their luck with plenty of verbal style, you are in for a treat with this novel. An author to follow closely and an important subject.

Thanks to Rosie Amber and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’B00C3GXCOU,0990402916,0990402932′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’0d7d06c8-c8b6-11e7-b5b3-979ef4c8721c’]

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog LINDISFARNE (PROJECT RENOVA BOOK 2) by Terry Tyler (@TerryTyler4) That rare thing. A second strong book in a trilogy. #Bookreview #Post-apocalyptic

Hi all:

I bring you the review of book 2 in the Project Renova series. In case you haven’t read it, this is my review of Tipping Point, book 1 in the series. (Yes, I enjoyed it!)

Lindisfarne. Project Renova Book 2 by Terry Tyler
Lindisfarne. Project Renova Book 2 by Terry Tyler

Lindisfarne (Project Renova Book 2) by Terry Tyler

‘You’re judging this by the standards of the old world. But that’s gone. We don’t live there any more.’

Six months after the viral outbreak, civilised society in the UK has broken down. Vicky and her group travel to the Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne, where they are welcomed by an existing community.

New relationships are formed, old ones renewed. The lucky survivors adapt, finding strength they didn’t know they possessed, but the honeymoon period does not last long. Some cannot accept that the rules have changed, and, for just a few, the opportunity to seize power is too great to pass up. Egos clash, and the islanders soon discover that there are greater dangers than not having enough to eat.

Meanwhile, in the south, Brian Doyle discovers that rebuilding is taking place in the middle of the devastated countryside. He comes face to face with Alex Verlander from Renova Workforce Liaison, who makes him an offer he can’t refuse. But is UK 2.0 a world in which he will want to live?

Lindisfarne is Book 2 in the Project Renova series, sequel to Tipping Point (Book 1).
A book of related short stories, entitled Patient Zero, features back and side-stories from minor characters, and should be available in November, 2017. Book 3 is due in mid 2018.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lindisfarne-Project-Renova-Book-2-ebook/dp/B075WDTK9L/

https://www.amazon.com/Lindisfarne-Project-Renova-Book-2-ebook/dp/B075WDTK9L/

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author:

Terry Tyler is the author of fifteen books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Lindisfarne’, the second book in her new post apocalyptic series. She is proud to be self-published, is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and writes for one of their main fansites. She lives in the north east of England with her husband, and is still trying to learn Geordie.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Terry-Tyler/e/B00693EGKM/

My review:

When I read (and reviewed) Tipping Point, the first novel in the Project Renova series, I guessed that setting the next story in Lindisfarne would bring things to the boil. If the first book introduced us to the main characters and set up the background of the story (how the population of the world had been decimated by a virus, the conspiracy that was behind what had happened, and a group of survivors set on creating a new life for themselves), the second one moves on from there and places a number of characters, with their personal crises, their problems, and their different origins and values, together in a very restricted environment. Lindisfarne is a wonderful place, but as I had observed before, is it not easy to hide there, and emotions are bound to ride high when people who would not normally have chosen to live together are thrown in close proximity to each other with no easy way out.

The author does a great job, again, of creating and developing characters that are real, with complex motivations (not all black or white), and whom we get to care about (well, some we get to truly dislike). The story is told the points of view of several characters. Some of the accounts are in the first person. Vicky, the woman who was the main character of the first book is still the central character here, but she shares her first-person narration with her daughter Lottie (who just becomes more and more fabulous as she grows, and she talks and thinks like a girl her age, even if a very strong and determined one) and Heath, the man she loves (but whom she has difficulty committing to). Some are in the third person. We are given a privileged insight into Wedge’s twisted mind (he is a biker who escaped prison in the first book and he reaches the island looking for revenge, and well, yes, he finds it), and the story of Doyle (a guy who was a data analyst and was involved in the running of the Renova project at a worker-bee level) who wanders alone most of the time until he stumbles across the next stage of project Renova is also included, although he is not part of the community. The stories of those two, Wedge and Doyle, are told in the third person, perhaps because they are the characters that are more closed-off and we are less likely to identify with (although we still see things from their points of view, not always pleasant, I might add). Doyle’s character also allows us to get a glimpse into what is going on in the world at large and what the forces pulling the strings are planning next. There is a chapter, a particularly dramatic one, where several points of view are used, for very good reason, but in the rest, it is clear who is talking, and there is no head hopping. The different points of view help give readers a better sense of the characters thanks to the varied perspectives and also provide us with some privileged information that makes us be less surprised by what happens than some of the characters are.

Vicky, who matured during the first book, continues to get stronger, but she goes through quite a few harrowing experiences in this book, she still finds it difficult to make decisions (she always thinks about everybody else’s needs first) and is sometimes two steps forward and one step back. When she comes face to face with the man she thought she could not live without again, she makes an understandable choice, but not one we’ll like. Later on, things take a turn for the better, but… The rest of the characters… I’ve mentioned Lottie. She’s great and I loved the chapters from her point of view. And we have an official psychopath baddie, but, well, let’s say he’s not the worst one of the lot. (To be truthful, I prefer an all-out ‘honest’ baddie to somebody who pretends to be good and do everything for others when he’s a lying, good-for-nothing… Well, you catch my drift).

I don’t want to give you too many details about the plot, but let’s say that we discover quite a few secrets, we come to meet characters we’d only heard about before and see them in all their glory (or not), there are strange alliances, issues of law and order, cheating, fights, and even murders. And we get a scary peep into what the future holds.

As I had said in my review for the first one, due to the care and attention given to the characters, and to the way the small community is configured (we get to know everybody and it is a bit like soap opera but in a post-apocalyptic environment), this book will be enjoyed also by people who don’t usually read this genre of novels. There is a fabulous sense of place and the author manages to use the island (its history, its landscape, and its location) to its utmost advantage. The books need to be read in order to truly understand the story, the development of the characters, and their motivation. If you haven’t read Tipping Point, I recommend you start with that one and keep reading.

I know there is a book of short-stories being published later in the year and the third novel next year. I can’t wait to see what will happen next after the epilogue (and what Dex will be up to next). A great series and one that makes us question what makes us human, what do we really need to survive, and what makes us civilised (if we are).

I was provided an ARC copy of the novel that I freely chose to review.

Thanks to the author for her great book (and looking forward to the rest), thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

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#TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT THE UNRAVELING OF BRENDAN MEEKS by Brian Cohn (@briancohnMD) A good psychological portrayal of a young man suffering from schizophrenia and a mystery that is not all in his mind. #Bookreview

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that is released TODAY and I had a chance to read before its publication thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team. I had read another book by the author recently and was very curious….

The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn
The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn

The Unraveling of Brendan Meeks by Brian Cohn

THE UNRAVELING OF BRENDAN MEEKS is a first-person glimpse into the mind of a young man with schizophrenia as he deals with tragic loss. The result is a unique and unforgettable mystery clouded with hallucinations and fraught by paranoia.

Meeks is a young man born with a silver spoon jammed down his throat, a fact his domineering mother has never let him forget. Although he has nearly everything he could ever want—friends, money, a good education—Brendan’s life falls apart during graduate school when he begins to show signs of schizophrenia. Forced to drop out of school, he watches most of his friends disappear and his parents distance themselves further and further.

The only constant left in Brendan’s life is his loving sister, Wendy. When she turns up dead, he must ignore the insults and threats from the voices in his head to begin his own investigation. With the help of an odd assemblage of his few friends—a drug dealer, a meth addict, and a war veteran with a bad case of agoraphobia—he begins to uncover a conspiracy that may, or may not, be a byproduct of his own delusional mind.

Mystery, crime, murder, suspense, detective, schizophrenia, mental health, mental illness, substance abuse, drug abuse, heroin abuse, overdose, depression, suicide.

https://www.amazon.com/Unraveling-Brendan-Meeks-Brian-Cohn-ebook/dp/B074KPSD6B/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unraveling-Brendan-Meeks-Brian-Cohn-ebook/dp/B074KPSD6B/

Author Brian Cohn

About the author:

Brian is an ER doctor practicing in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives with his beautiful wife and their two rambunctious children. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama where he grew up loving to read. His passion for books continued through his college career at the UNC-Chapel Hill, and traveled with him back to Alabama where he attended the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He moved to St. Louis for residency training, met his wife, and fell in love with both her and the city itself. He has been practicing emergency medicine for over a decade and loves helping people every day, but turned to writing as a creative outlet.

A self-professed nerd, Brian has long enjoyed everything science fiction, from books to TV and movies. He is also a huge fan of great mysteries and thrillers, and is a sucker for a surprising plot twist. He writes the kind of books that he would want to read, reflecting a deep-seated curiosity about what motivates people to do the things they do.

When he’s not busy writing and taking care of patients, Brian loves to run, play with his children, and spend quiet time watching TV with his wife. If he can only figure out how to do all three things at once, he’ll finally have it made.

https://www.amazon.com/Brian-Cohn/e/B01MYVF8I0/

My review:

I’m writing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. If you are an author and are looking for reviews, I recommend you check here, as she manages a great group of reviewers and if they like your book, you’ve made it!

Having read and enjoyed Brian Cohn’s previous novel The Last Detective  (you can check my review here), I was very intrigued by his new novel. Although it also promised a mystery/thriller of sorts, this one was set firmly in the present, well, as firmly as anything can be when told by a character suffering from paranoid schizophrenia who rarely takes his medication. As I am a psychiatrist, and I read many thrillers, the book had a double interest for me.

As the description says, the story is narrated, in the first person, by the main character, the Brendan Meeks of the title. Although he is from a good family and had an affluent (if not the happiest) childhood, his mental illness disrupted his education (he was studying a Masters in Computer Sciences at the time), and his life. He now lives in a rundown apartment in St. Louis, surrounded by other marginal characters (a war veteran suffering from PTSD who never leaves the house, a drug-addict girl whose dealer has become something more personal, an understanding Bosnian landlord…). His main support is his sister Wendy. When she dies, he decides to investigate her death, and things get even more complicated, as his brain starts making connections and seeing coincidences that might or might not be really there.

Brendan is the perfect example of an unreliable narrator. His mental illness makes him misinterpret things, give ominous meanings to random events, and believe that everything that happens relates to him and “the code”. Brendan hears voices, abusive voices, mostly in the second person, that give him orders, insult him, tell him to harm himself and others… He has a complex system of paranoid delusions, all related to a “code” he believes was implanted in his brain, and he is convinced that there is a conspiracy of various agencies (mostly men dressed in dark suits driving black SUVs) that will stop at nothing to try and recover that information. Thanks to his parents’ money (as this is the USA, his access to care would be limited otherwise) he sees a psychiatrist once a week, but he rarely takes medication, as he is convinced that if he does, he won’t be able to escape these agents that are after him. Yes, the medication helps with the voices, but it does not seem to touch his delusions (if it is all a delusion). There are several points in the novel when Brendan ends up in hospital and is given medication, and then he seems to hold it together for a while, enough to go after some clues and make some enquiries, but the longer he goes without medication, the more we doubt anything we read and wonder if any of the connections his brain makes are real or just a part of his illness.

I thought the depiction of Brendan’s mental illness and symptoms was very well done. It brought to my mind conversations with many of my patients, including his use of loud music or the radio to drown the voices, his feelings about the medication, his self-doubt, the attitude of others towards him (most of the characters are very understanding and friendly towards Brendan, although he faces doubt and disbelief a few times, not surprisingly, especially in his dealings with the police and the authorities), and his thought processes. He is a likeable and relatable character, faced with an incredibly difficult situation, but determined to keep going no matter what. His sister’s death motivates him to focus and concentrate on something other than himself and his own worries, and that, ultimately, is what helps him move on and accept the possibility of a more positive future. He also shows at times, flashes of the humour that was in evidence in the author’s previous novel, although here less dark and less often (as it again fluctuates according to the character’s experiences).

The narration is fluid and fast, the pace changing in keeping with the point of view and the mental state of the protagonist. There are clues to the later discoveries from early on (and I did guess a few of the plot points) although the narrator’s mental state creates a good deal of confusion and doubt. The rest of the characters are less well-drawn than Brendan, although that also fits in with the narration style (we only learn as much as he tell us or thinks about them at the time, including his doubts and suspicions when he is not well), and the same goes for his altered perceptions of places and events (sometimes offering plenty of detail about unimportant things, and others paying hardly any attention at all).

Where the book did not work that well for me was when it came to the mystery/thriller part of it. There are inconsistencies and plot holes that I don’t think can be put down to the mental state or the altered perception of the character. There is an important plot point that did not fit in for me and tested my suspension of disbelief (in fact made me wonder if the level of unreliability extended beyond what the novel seemed to suggest up to that point and I became even more suspicious of everything), and I suspect readers who love police procedural stories will also wonder about a few of the things that happen and how they all fit together, but, otherwise, there are plenty of twists, and as I said, the build-up of the character and the depiction of his world and perspective is well achieved. Although the subject matter includes drugs, overdoses, corruption, child neglect, difficult family situations, abuse, adultery, and murder, there is no excessive or graphic use of violence or gore, and everything is filtered through Brendan’s point of view, and he is (despite whatever the voices might say) kind and warm-hearted.

I recommend it to readers interested in unreliable narrators, who love mysteries (but perhaps not sticklers for details or looking for realistic and detailed investigations), and are keen on sympathetic psychological portrayals of the everyday life of a young man suffering from schizophrenia.

Thanks to Rosie and to the author for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

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