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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#BLOGTOUR #TuesdayBookBlog SUGAR AND SNAILS by Anne Goodwin (@Annecdotist) (@InspiredQuill)Inspiring, sensitive, and beautiful writing on a highly controversial topic #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I am taking part in the online blog tour for a novel by an author who has recently become a new favourite of mine. Anne Goodwin. Although I read her most recent novel, not long ago, she is now touring with her first, and you shouldn’t miss it either. Oh, and don’t miss the opportunity to visit the other blogs on the tour.

Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin

Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

Book links 

 Ebook https://books2read.com/u/baaaBQ

Publisher Inspired Quill (paperback and e-book) http://www.inspired-quill.com/product/sugar-and-snails/

Linktree https://linktr.ee/sugarandsnails

Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B010O8F9M6/

Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B010O8F9M6/

Amazon India https://www.amazon.in/dp/B010O8F9M6/

Amazon Australia https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B010O8F9M6/

Amazon Canada https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B010O8F9M6/

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnJ5pbhSLho&feature=youtu.be

Inspired Quill

Books2read

Linktree

Amazon

UKUSCAAUSIN

Author Anne Goodwin

Author bio and social media links

Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and a short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital. Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e-book of prize-winning short stories.

Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com

Twitter @Annecdotist

Facebook @Annecdotist

Instagram authorannegoodwin

YouTube: Anne Goodwin’s YouTube channel

Link tree https://linktr.ee/annecdotist

Amazon author page: viewauthor.at/AnneGoodwin

Publisher Inspired Quill

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

I recently read and reviewed one of Anne Goodwin’s novels, Matilda Wilson Is Coming Home (you can read my review here), although that wasn’t a standard review, because the author wanted to know a psychiatrist’s opinion on the story. In case you don’t have the time to read the whole review, let me summarise it: it moved me deeply, and I loved it. So, I couldn’t let the opportunity to read, review, and then participate in a blog tour for her first novel, Sugar and Snails, pass me by. I had read some fantastic reviews from readers whose opinions I respected, so I had high expectations for this novel. And they were met and exceeded.

This is a remarkably difficult book to review, because although it is not a mystery in the standard sense, there is a secret at the heart of the story, and one that when it is revealed (and I will do my best not to spoil the revelation) has a similar effect to a plot twist. It makes us reconsider all we have read before and realise that the signs were there, but perhaps we put ourselves so much in the protagonist’s shoes that we lost all sense of perspective and objectivity. I am not sure I can share much more of the plot than what the blurb reveals, but I’ll add a few more details. Diana is a university lecturer in Psychology whose Ph.D. thesis had to do with the way teenagers make decisions. By the end of the novel, we get to realise that this topic is strongly linked to Diana’s life story, and she comes to accept that we cannot hide our past behind a locked door and pretend it didn’t happen. As the blurb states, this is a mid-life coming-of-age story, and I must confess that having read a few of those in recent times, it is fast becoming a favourite subgenre of mine.

I cannot discuss all the themes in detail, but I can mention amongst others: childhood trauma and bullying, difficult family relationships, Psychology, university life, middle-age expectations, long-term friendships, middle-age romance, issues of identity, secrets, and lies (or half-truths), guilt and its consequences, prejudice, therapy (or what passed for therapy at some point in the not too distant past)… Although I can’t go into details, for the reasons mentioned above, I should say that the main subject of the book is quite controversial (not so much the subject itself, but how best to approach it and its practicalities), and everybody is bound to have an opinion, no matter how much or how little experience or knowledge they have on this particular matter. From that perspective, I am sure this book would be perfect for book clubs, because the events, the attitudes of the many characters, and the way the story is told will make people eager to engage in discussion.

The book is told in the first person by Diana, and I hesitate to call her an unreliable narrator, although, if we take the story at face value and only think about the plot, there is some of that. She does not give us all the information from the start, but there are reasons why, and she is not so much trying to trick us as trying to trick herself, or rather, trying to fit into the role she has created for herself. The story is not told linearly, because the memories of the past keep intruding into the protagonist’s life due to her present circumstances, but the outline of current events follows a chronological order, and there is never any confusion as to what is happening when. Sometimes we only come to fully understand a memory we have already been witness to later on when we obtain new information and we can review everything from a slightly different perspective, and this is one of the most interesting aspects of the way the story is told and a big asset.

Diana, as a character, might not have a lot in common with many readers (although that was not my case and I identified with quite a few aspects of her current story), but her first-person narration, the way she keeps analysing everything that goes on in her life, her lack of self-assurance and the distinctiveness of her voice are bound to connect with most readers. It is clear that she is trying hard to protect herself, while at the same time being a good friend, a dedicated lecturer, a loving cat owner, and a lonely woman who does not dare allow anybody in because the price to pay could be devastating. There are many other interesting characters whom we meet through Diana’s point of view (her parents, her sister, her brother, her friend Venus [one of my favourites], her other colleagues and friends, her new boss, a university student [who makes her question many things] and her father…) and they all come across as complex human beings, who sometimes make mistakes, but never intentionally. There are also a number of professionals (psychiatrists, therapists, social workers, teachers) who make an appearance, and although we don’t get to know them as well, they represent different models or options of therapy. Some might seem old-fashioned now, but unfortunately, they reflect the situation in the past and some recent welcome changes.

I have described the way the story is told, and the writing not only flows well, despite the changes in the timeline, but it is also engaging, moving, and gripping. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an easy story to read from an emotional point of view; there are many dreadful things that take place in the book, and people who are at a fragile or vulnerable moment in life, and those who might have had difficult dealings with mental health services or suffer from severe mental health problems might find it a particularly painful read. Despite those caveats, readers cannot help getting caught up in the story, and the way the protagonist slowly comes to terms with who she is and gains insight into what is really important for her. Perhaps an easy life and peace of mind should not be her main priorities, and being true to herself is fundamental, but reaching that realisation is far from straightforward. There are many quotes I have highlighted and inspiring paragraphs, but I worry about letting the cat out of the bag, so rather than risking that, I would recommend that anybody with doubts check a sample of the writing, to see if it suits their taste.

The ending… I enjoyed it. I think it is perfect. It does not over-elaborate the point and leaves things open to readers’ imaginations, but it does so on an optimistic and hopeful note, and it does feel like a true resolution for the character. What else should we ask for?

In summary, this is a novel about a controversial subject that deals with it in a sensitive and truly insightful manner. It has an unforgettable central character, and it is beautifully written as well as inspiring and hopeful. I have included some warnings in the body of the review, but I am sure many readers will enjoy it and it will make them stop to think about the real world situation many people find themselves in and, perhaps, reconsider their opinions. Ah, I recommend reading until the end and learning a bit more, not only about the author but also about the publisher, Inspired Quill, their mission, and their contributions to charity (a 10% of all profits will be donated to charity). Oh, and the cover is a work of art. Beautiful.

Thanks to the author for this opportunity, thanks to Rosie and her group for the ongoing support, thanks to you all for reading, and remember to stay safe, to keep reading, smiling, and doing things that make you happy. ♥

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog LEGACY (PROJECT RENOVA #4) by Terry Tyler (@TerryTyler4) The brightest jewel in the series recommended to those who love complex storytelling. #post-apocalyptic

Hi all:

Today I bring you the fourth book in a trilogy! Yes, what can I say? We writers sometimes can’t let go. Best laid plans and all that. To be honest, I hope the author keeps going…

Legacy. Project Renova #4 by Terry Tyler
Legacy. Project Renova #4 by Terry Tyler

Legacy (Project Renova #4) by Terry Tyler

‘Out of all the death and destruction has come the freedom to be who we really are.’

A hundred years after the world was devastated by the bat fever virus, the UK is a country of agricultural communities where motherhood is seen as the ideal state for a woman, new beliefs have taken over from old religions, and the city of Blackthorn casts a threatening shadow over the north of England. Legacy travels back in time to link up with the characters from Tipping Point, Lindisfarne and UK2.

Seventeen-year-old Bree feels stifled by the restrictions of her village community, but finds a kindred spirit in Silas, a lone traveller searching for his roots. She, too, is looking for answers: the truth behind the mysterious death, forty years earlier, of her grandmother.

In 2050, Phoenix Northam’s one wish is to follow in the footsteps of his father, a great leader respected by all who knew him―or so his mother tells him.

In 2029, on a Danish island, Lottie is homesick for Lindisfarne; two years earlier, Alex Verlander and the kingpins of the Renova group believe they have escaped the second outbreak of bat fever just in time…

Book #4 of the Project Renova series rebuilds a broken country with no central government or law, where life is dangerous and people can simply disappear … but the post-Fall world is also one of possibility, of freedom and hope for the future.

Amz UK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Legacy-Project-Renova-Book-4-ebook/dp/B07JNC9K6Z

Amz.com

https://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Project-Renova-Book-4-ebook/dp/B07JNC9K6Z

Author Terry Tyler
Author Terry Tyler

About the author

Terry Tyler is the author of eighteen books available from Amazon, the latest being ‘Legacy’, the final book in her post apocalyptic series. She is currently at work on a new dystopian novel, set in the UK, twelve years in the future. Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and has a great interest in history (particularly 14th-17th century), and sociological/cultural/anthropological stuff, generally. She loves South Park, Netflix, autumn and winter, and going for long walks in quiet places where there are lots of trees. She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

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

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this novel but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have been following Terry Tyler’s Project Renova from the beginning (you can check my reviews for Tipping Point, here, for Lindisfarne, here, and for UK2, here)and loved all of the novels, getting more and more personally involved in the adventures and with the characters, that became part of the family, as it progressed. When a trilogy comes to an end and you see readers wondering what happened next and pestering the author for more, you know this is not just another dystopian adventure.

Before I get into the detail of this novel, which is fabulous in case you’re wondering, I must say that my recommendation is to read the four novels in the intended order. The series is written to be read as a whole, and the books are not independent. Although this novel introduces many new characters, to fully appreciate the project (yes, I know) and the overall effect, you need to be familiar with the complete story so far. But don’t worry, though, if it’s been a while since you’ve read the other novels, because the author includes a link to “the story so far” before the new novel starts, so you’ll be able to quickly refresh your memory.

This is the most structurally complex novel of the series. Although all the books are narrated by several characters, and that is the case here too, and in UK2 we had different settings as well, this novel takes us back and forth in time. After a brief interlude that follows directly on from the last novel (and there are a few of those interspersed throughout the text, but very brief), Part One is set in 2127, a hundred years later, and we go back to Norfolk, where we meet Bree, a young girl who lives there, and Silas, a traveller.  This gives us an opportunity to learn what has happened in that period all over the UK, at least in large strokes, and also to meet two young people that, at least to begin with, we don’t know how they relate to the rest of the plot. Part Two goes back to 2089 and we learn about Sky, who lives in a Northern settlement called Blackthorn. Although she lives a life of luxury, we soon learn that she is in a minority, and the place sounds like a dystopian nightmare (if you’re familiar with Huxley’s Brave New World that part of the story will give you pause, and women will be particularly horrified by that possible future), so it’s not surprising that she ends up taking a fairly extreme decision. Part Three is set in 2050, and in this case we follow the next generation of some of the characters we had left in the last novel, particularly Phoenix. Part Four, set only two years after the last novel, in 2019, reunites us with Lottie, my favourite character of the series (and I’m not the only one).  Part Five is set again in 2127, and we see what happened next to Bree and Silas and we get a sense of how the whole story fits and see the bigger picture. And the last bit of the story, back in 2027, answers a question that most people will be wondering about.

Does this mean the story is confusing? Not really, but if you’re trying to find connections and work out who everybody is from the start, you might feel a bit lost. My advice would be similar to what I used to tell people who were reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury: even if you can’t see where things are heading, keep reading, because it will all fall into place. And it is fabulous. In fact, the way of telling the story works wonderfully well to emphasise the theme of legacy, the fact that family lines, and especially people’s behaviour, mark those who come into contact with them and is carried through the generations. The structure made me think of novels such as Cloud Nine, and movies like Pulp Fiction, and if you enjoy a bit of a challenge when it comes to the way a story is told, this will add to your enjoyment.

The epic story (a saga) is narrated in the first person in the present tense by the different characters, and that gives it immediacy, making it easier to connect with them, even when sometimes we might know that things are not what they seem to be, and at times we might know much more than the characters do, and that give us a fascinating perspective.  The story works well, and as I said, everything fits in, but the author has a particular skill for creating vastly varied characters that are totally believable, and like them or not, we can’t help getting involved in their lives. Lottie continues to be my favourite character, but Bree and Silas are great as well, and their relationship is heart-warming without being overly sweet. Both of them have doubts and reservations, and they prove their feelings with actions, rather than meaningless words. Even the less likeable characters have a heart (well, at least the ones we meet personally) and I was surprised when I felt sorry for some of them, whom at first I had thought of as unredeemable.

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail, because the story has to be read. The writing is fabulous, descriptive enough without ever getting boring, and the characters and the events narrated will make you think about known historical figures, religious beliefs, and about what moves society, and what is truly important.

I am pleased to read in the author’s note that she is thinking about writing some novellas and possibly a novel set in one of the places we visit here.  Although I loved the story and the ending as well, I know I’ll keep thinking about the series, and I won’t be able to resist further incursions into this world. And yes, I’ll be one of the readers pestering the author for more.

Thanks to the author for another fantastic book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE TAKING OF ANNIE THORNE by C.J. Tudor (@cjtudor) (@penguinrandom) #horror A well-written book but the plot might sound familiar

Hi all:

I bring you the second book by an author whose debut novel I really enjoyed:

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

The Taking of Annie Thorne: The spine-tingling new thriller from the bestselling author of The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor.

‘Some writers have it, and C. J. Tudor has it big time. The Taking of Annie Thorne is terrific in every way’ Lee Child

The new spine-tingling, sinister thriller from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Chalk Man . . . 


One night, Annie went missing.

Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst.

And then, after 48 hours, she came back.

But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what.

I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same.

She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.


‘Shows that her excellent The Chalk Man was no one-off in matching Stephen King for creepiness’ Sunday Express’s 2019 Bestseller Predictions

‘Written with such skill and fluency it’s hard to believe this is only her second book. Indeed I think it gives King a run for his money’ James Oswald

‘Dark, gothic and utterly compelling, The Taking of Annie Thorne pulls off a rare combination – an atmosphere of unsettling evil along with richly nuanced characterisation’ J. P. Delaney

‘Deliciously creepy, impeccably plotted and laced with both wicked humor and genuine shocks, this is the kind of read-under-the-covers thriller you didn’t think people wrote anymore. Lucky for us, C. J. Tudor still does. An absolute corker of a book’ Riley Sager, bestselling author of Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied 


Praise for C. J. Tudor . . .

‘If you like my stuff, you’ll like this’ Stephen King

‘Wonderfully creepy – like a cold blade on the back of your neck’ Lee Child

‘A tense gripper with a leave-the-lights-on shock ending’ Sunday Times

‘A must-read for all horror fans’ Daily Express

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07CNNN4B3/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CNNN4B3/

Editorial Reviews

Some writers have it, and some don’t. C. J. Tudor has it big time . . . The Taking of Annie Thorne is terrific in every way (Lee Child)

Shows that her excellent The Chalk Man was no one-off in matching Stephen King for creepiness (Sunday Express’s Bestseller Predictions 2019)

Dark, gothic and utterly compelling, The Taking of Annie Thorne pulls off a rare combination – an atmosphere of unsettling evil along with richly nuanced characterisation (J. P. Delaney, bestselling author of The Girl Before)

Tudor’s 2018 The Chalk Man was a standout mystery novel with a fresh voice and a spooky plot. This is even better (Washington Post)

Spine tinglingly good (Amy Lloyd, bestselling author of The Innocent Wife)

Deliciously creepy, impeccably plotted and laced with both wicked humor and genuine shocks, The Taking of Annie Thorne is the kind of read-under-the-covers thriller you didn’t think people wrote anymore. Lucky for us, C. J. Tudor still does. An absolute corker of a book (Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied)

The Taking of Annie Thorne deserves every plaudit it receives (Richard Armitage, narrator of The Taking of Annie Thorne and star of The Hobbit)

Dark and creeping and utterly unpredictable, The Taking of Annie Thorne is another triumph of a novel by C J Tudor. With its compelling characters and witty writing, it grips from the very first page (Jenny Quintana, author of The Missing Girl)

Gripping and dark, The Taking of Annie Thorne descends like its very own mine shaft, getting creepier the further you go. You’ll race to the finish (Roz Nay bestselling author of Our Little Secret)

With shades of Pet Sematary and an all-round aura of creepiness, The Taking of Annie Thorne cements C. J. Tudor’s position as a major new talent at the dark heart of crime writing. Her characters are compelling, the village of Arnhill as atmospheric as its abandoned pit, and she possesses that rare ability to keep the reader turning the pages, desperate to discover what happens next. Brilliant (Fiona Cummins, author of Rattle)

Author C.J. Tudor
Author C.J. Tudor

About the author:

C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.

She left school at sixteen and has had a variety of jobs over the years, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, ad agency copywriter and voiceover.

In the early nineties, she fell into a job as a television presenter for a show on Channel 4 called Moviewatch. Although a terrible presenter, she got to interview acting legends such as Sigourney Weaver, Michael Douglas, Emma Thompson, and Robin Williams. She also annoyed Tim Robbins by asking a question about Susan Sarandon’s breasts and was extremely flattered when Robert Downey Junior showed her his chest.

While writing the Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl.

She’s been writing since she was a child but only knuckled down to it properly in her thirties. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’

The Chalk Man was inspired by a tub of chalks a friend bought for her daughter’s second birthday. One afternoon they drew chalk figures all over the driveway. Later that night she opened the back door to be confronted by weird stick men everywhere. In the dark, they looked incredibly sinister. She called to her partner: ‘These chalk men look really creepy in the dark . . .’

She is never knowingly over-dressed. She has never owned a handbag and the last time she wore heels (twelve years ago) she broke a tooth.

She loves The Killers, Foo Fighters and Frank Turner. Her favourite venue is Rock City.

Her favourite films are Ghostbusters and The Lost Boys. Her favourite authors are Stephen King, Michael Marshall, and Harlan Coben.

She is SO glad she was a teenager in the eighties.

She firmly believes that there are no finer meals than takeaway pizza and champagne, or chips with curry sauce after a night out.

Everyone calls her Caz.

https://www.amazon.com/C.-J.-Tudor/e/B074WBT1GL/

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK (Claire Bush in particular) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review. I had read and enjoyed C. J. Tudor’s previous novel The Chalk Man (you can read my review here), and I was eager to see what she’d follow it with.

I know I can go on in my reviews, so I’ve decided to cut to the chase, in case you’re in a hurry. Did I enjoy the novel? Yes. C. J. Tudor can definitely write and write well. But, if you are looking for an original story and something that will take you by surprise, this is not the book for you. That is particularly true if you’re a fan of Stephen King, although there are elements in the story that will be familiar also to people who watch a lot of movies, even if they don’t read King’s novels or his adaptations to screen (a somewhat difficult feat, I must admit). I’m not saying there are no surprising elements in the book, and there are quite a few twists and turns in it, but the general plot lines I think will be recognisable to many, especially to people who read this genre often.

In many ways, this book has much in common with the author’s first novel. The main character, Joe Thorne, is also a teacher, and far from an exemplary one. It is not so much his teaching that is at fault, but his drinking, his gambling, his lying… Yes, this is a morally dubious main character, who also narrates the story in the first person, and who, although we might or might not suspect this, to begin with, also belongs in the category of the unreliable narrator. He seems to freely share negative things about himself from the very beginning, but as the story moves on we realise that what he tells us might not be the whole truth. I won’t elaborate more on this, because there is a twist close to the end that puts things under an interesting light. Like in his previous novel, the author is also forced to look at things that happened years back, which involved him and his friends at the time.

I kept wondering what I thought about Joe, and I’m not sure I’ve decided yet. He is intelligent, witty, but has a penchant for getting himself into trouble, and although his way of using sarcasm to protect himself makes him rather amusing, there are moments when we glimpse at other aspects of his personality. He was a devoted brother, he was bullied and later joined the bullies’ gang, and he suffered terrible loses as a teenager, although… He struggles between trying to avoid tragedy repeating itself and trying to keep himself out of trouble, as he is being tracked by Gloria, who is intent on getting him to pay off his gambling debts, one way or another (I confess Gloria is my favourite character in the novel. I’m not sure if that says more about me or the novel, but she is fast, small but lethal, and you underestimate her at your peril). Joe tells the story of what is happening now when he returns to the town where he was born to take up a teaching job, because somebody has anonymously warned him that some pretty terrible things that happened when he was a teen have started happening again.

This is a trip back in time, and the narration of Joe’s current investigation and life (including living in a cottage where a murder-suicide took place) is interspersed with his memories of what happened to the Annie Thorne of the title, his little sister, who disappeared, returned (sort of), and then died in an accident that killed their father as well. (By the way, and just in case you read it or see it in some place, it seems the book was originally going to be published in the US as The Hiding Place, and I have seen some reviews on Goodreads under that title). There are many other characters in the novel, some that we meet in the past and the present (Joe’s friends and schoolmates, some still around, school staff members…), and some that are brand new, like some of the teachers (Beth is another one of my favourites). Although not all of them have big parts, and some are drawn only in outline, the author is very skilled at creating a sense of community and a believable, if creepy, small town. This mining community, with its challenges and changes over the years, comes to life, and despite the supernatural touches suffusing the story, the setting remains, mostly, well-grounded and realistic.

As I said at the beginning, the story is not very original. In some way,s it is like a collage of disparate elements many readers will recognise: the prologue brought to my mind Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and some other aspects of the story did as well (although there are no aliens, just in case), some reviewers mentioned The Tommyknockers (I hadn’t thought about it, but yes, in a way the connection in theme is also there), like her previous novel, some bits of it made me think of It, although the Stephen King novel it resembles the most is one whose new film adaptation is due out later this year (and I won’t mention it in case people are not familiar with it. It’s one of the first novels by King I read, and the first novel I read in English in its entirety, so it’s not one I’ve ever forgotten). There’s even a passing nudge at The Usual Suspects. Postmodernism is fond of pastiche, but it is normally used to emphasise the fact that the surface of an object or a creation is everything, and we can mix and match diverse elements without feeling obliged to refer to their original meaning or intent. I am not sure if C. J. Tudor would call her novel a pastiche, and she does give the stories and the characters her personal touch, but I can see the point of a reviewer who called it “fan fiction”.

The novel, as it is (and if you’re not familiar with King’s books all I’ve mentioned might not affect you at all), is full of atmosphere, quirky characters, some pretty dark moments, some that might be scary (I don’t scare easy, so I’m perhaps not the best person to comment), and some set pieces and scenes that are compelling and are easy to imagine as a film or TV adaptation. As I said, there are plenty of twists and turns, and the book is highly entertaining. There are many reflections that would make readers chuckle, even though sometimes we might also feel like telling the character to stop being so clever and get on with things.

I thought I’d share a few quotes, to give you an idea of the writing style:

“Finally, a long time since I’ve seen anything resembling civilization, or even a McDonald’s, I pass a crooked and weathered sign on my left: Arnhill welcomes you. Underneath, some eloquent little shit has added: to get fucked.”

“It is the sort of village that glowers at you when you arrive and spits on the ground in disgust when you leave.”

Here, Joe is talking to Beth about the teacher whose cottage he’s living in now. Beth is telling him she is fed-up with people asking if they had seen the tragedy coming, if there were any signs.

“Julia came into the school wearing a great big placard around her neck: ‘I intend to kill my son and myself. Have a nice day.’

“Well, politeness costs nothing.” (Joe replies).

On a more philosophical note:

“People say time is a great healer. They’re wrong. Time is simply a great eraser.”

So, this is a good read for lovers of thrillers with a touch of the supernatural and horror, but I’d be a bit wary of recommending it to enthusiastic readers of the genre or of Stephen King who are looking for something unique. But if you enjoy well-written stories in the genre and have fun looking for references and connections to well-known books and films, you will have a blast with this one.

Thanks to Penguin Random House, to the author, and to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and to keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #Newbook MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER by Oyinkan Braithwaite (@OyinBraithwaite) (@doubledaybooks) Domestic noir, dark humour, and a fantastic new voice

Hi all:

I was intrigued by this book from the moment I saw it…

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

“Feverishly hot”–PAULA HAWKINS

“The wittiest and most fun murder party you’ve ever been invited to.”–MARIE CLAIRE

A short, darkly funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead.

Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s deliciously deadly debut is as fun as it is frightening.

https://www.amazon.com/My-Sister-Serial-Killer-Novel-ebook/dp/B079WNMQ4V/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Sister-Serial-Killer-Feverishly-ebook/dp/B07D7KJV13/

Editorial reviews:

“This riveting, brutally hilarious, ultra-dark novel is an explosive debut by Oyinkan Braithwaite, and heralds an exciting new literary voice… Delicious.”

–Nylon

“You can’t help flying through the pages..”

–Buzzfeed

“Lethally elegant”

–Luke Jennings, author of Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle

“Strange, funny and oddly touching…Pretty much perfect…It wears its weirdness excellently.”

–LitHub

“Who is more dangerous? A femme fatale murderess or the quiet, plain woman who cleans up her messes? I never knew what was going to happen, but found myself pulling for both sisters, as I relished the creepiness and humor of this modern noir.”

–Helen Ellis, New York Times bestselling author of American Housewife

“Disturbing, sly and delicious, Braithwaite’s novel compels us to consider the limits of loyalty and the insidious weight of silence.”

–Ayobami Adebayo, author of Stay With Me

“Braithwaite’s blazing debut is as sharp as a knife…bitingly funny and brilliantly executed, with not a single word out of place.”

–Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

“A gem, in the most accurate sense: small, hard, sharp, and polished to perfection. Every pill-sized chapter is exemplary. Where others waste ink and trees, Braithwaite can conjure fully-detailed settings and characters with a finger snap. Of these, all shine. One dazzles. Tell Shirley Jackson that the Merricat Blackwood of the 21st century lives in Lagos, her name is Ayoola, and she is so obliviously/adorably/hilariously/heartbreakingly wicked, she’ll make you cry tears of all flavors.”

–Edgar Cantero, New York Times bestselling author of Meddling Kids

“Sly, risky, and filled with surprises, Oyinkan Braithwaite holds nothing back in this wry and refreshingly inventive novel about violence, sister rivalries and simply staying alive.”

–Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew and Ways to Disappear

Author Oyinkan Braithwaite
Author Oyinkan Braithwaite

About the author:

Oyinkan Braithwaite is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at Kachifo and has been freelancing as a writer and editor since. She has had short stories published in anthologies and has also self-published work.

In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top ten spoken word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam.

In 2016, she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Atlantic Books (Doubleday) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

The title of this book hooked me. The fact that it was set in Lagos, Nigeria, made it more attractive. I could not resist the cover. And then I started reading and got hit by this first paragraph:

“Ayoola summons me with these words —Korede, I killed him. I had hoped I would never hear those words again.”

Told in the first person by Korede, the book narrates her story and that of her “complex” relationship with her younger sister, Ayoola, beautiful, graceful, a successful designer, beloved of social media, irresistible to men, the favourite of everybody… She’s almost perfect. But, there is a big but, which you will have guessed from the title. She is a serial killer.

This is a short and very funny book, although it requires a certain kind of sense of humour on the part of the reader. You need to be able to appreciate sarcasm and dark humour (very dark) to find it funny, but if you do, this is a fresh voice and a different take on what has become an extremely popular genre recently, domestic noir. I kept thinking about the many novels I had read where I had commented on the setting of the book and how well the author had captured it. There are no lengthy descriptions in this novel, but it manages to capture the beat and the rhythm of Lagos (a place where I’ve never been, I must admit) and makes us appreciate what life must be like for the protagonists. Because, although Ayoola is a murderer, life goes on, and Korede has to keep working as a nurse, she is still in love (or so she thinks) with one of the doctors at the hospital, their mother still suffers from her headaches, Ayoola wants to carry on posting on Snapchat, the patient in coma Korede confides in needs to be looked after, the police need to be seen to be doing something, and there are more men keen on spending time with beautiful Ayoola…

I found Korede understandable, although I doubt that we are meant to empathise with her full-heartedly. At some points, she seems to be a victim, trapped in a situation she has no control over. At others, we realise that we only have her own opinion of her sister’s behaviour, and she has enabled the murderous activities of her sibling, in a strange symbiotic relationship where neither one of them can imagine life without the other. We learn of their traumatic past, and we can’t help but wonder what would we do faced with such a situation? If your sister was a psychopath (not a real psychiatric diagnosis, but I’m sure she’d score quite high in the psychopathy scale if her sister’s description is accurate) who kept getting into trouble, always blaming it on others, would you believe her and support her? Would you help her hide her crimes? Is blood stronger than everything else?

I loved the setting, the wonderful little scenes (like when Tade, the attractive doctor, sings and the whole city stops to listen, or when the police take away Korede’s car to submit it to forensic testing and then make her pay to return it to her, all dirty and in disarray), the voice of the narrator and her approach to things (very matter-of-fact, fully acknowledging her weaknesses, her less-than-endearing personality, sometimes lacking in insight  but also caring and reflective at times), and the ending as well. I also enjoyed the writing style. Short chapters, peppered with Yoruba terms, vivid and engaging, it flows well and it makes it feel even briefer than it is.

If you enjoy books with a strong sense of morality and providing deep lessons, this novel is not for you. Good and bad are not black and white in this novel, and there is an undercurrent of flippancy about the subject that might appeal to fans of Dexter more than to those who love conventional thrillers or mysteries. But if you want to discover a fresh new voice, love black humour, and are looking for an unusual setting, give it a go. I challenge you to check a sample and see… By the way, the date of publication varies according to format and location, so it might not be available yet depending on where you live…

Thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday, and to the author for the opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading , and remember to like, share, comment. click, review and keep smiling! 

 

 

 

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