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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE DEVIL’S WHISPERS: A GOTHIC HORROR NOVEL by Lucas Hault (@TCKPublishing) A Dracula variation for lovers of old-fashioned horror and Gothic stories

Hi all:

Well, I love horror, but this one is for lovers of old-fashioned horror.

The Devil’s Whispers by Lucas Hault

The Devil’s Whispers by Lucas Hault

In a silent, sleepy castle, evil has awakened…

Famed British lawyer Gerard Woodward is summoned to an ancient Welsh castle to assist a dying lord in his final affairs. But as his host slips closer to death, Gerard begins to feel less like a guest and more like a prisoner. When he finds himself locked inside his room, he realizes he must escape.

After finding his way out of his room, Gerard begins to wonder if he was safer locked inside. The labyrinthine halls echo secrets. A terrible wail and the rattling of chains sets his nerves on end. Something sinister is happening within the walls of Mathers Castle, and when he descends into the dungeons, he discovers a horrible secret…

In nearby London, children vanish into the night, animals are horribly mutilated, and a savage creature stalks the shadows. When Gerard’s wife, Raelyn, becomes the creature’s next target, his need to escape reaches a fever pitch. He must get out alive so he can dispel the evil that threatens to destroy his beloved Raelyn… and the rest of us.

Fans of epistolary Gothic horror classics like DraculaFrankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray will devour The Devil’s Whispers.

https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Whispers-Gothic-Horror-Novel-ebook/dp/B09Q6HFT83/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09Q6HFT83

https://www.amazon.es/Devils-Whispers-Gothic-Horror-English-ebook/dp/B09Q6HFT83/

Author Lucas Hault

About the author:

Faisal Johar, who writes under his pen name Lucas Hault is an Indian Novelist residing in Ranchi. He received his formal education from St. Anthony’s School, completed his intermediate from St. Xavier’s College and graduated from Jamia Millia Islamia in the year 2017. His first novel named The Shadow of Death — The Conquering Darkness was self-published in the year 2018 under Prowess Publishing. Faisal is also a screenwriter and has written a couple of short horror films for YouTube. He considers J.K. Rowling as his role model and aspires to walk in her path of punctuality. Another of his book titled, The Malign : A Collection of 12 Short Stories was published in June 2021. To get to know more about him, you can connect with him on FB and Instagram.

https://www.amazon.com/Lucas-Hault/e/B09QBTBKVD/

 My review:

I thank TCK Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

The description recommends this book to fans of epistolary Gothic classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Being a big fan of Oscar Wilde, I won’t compare the novels, but I have read many reviews querying if The Devil’s Whispers can be considered an homage to Dracula, as it follows the original story very closely, basically changing the names, locations, and some of the details of the monster, but not much else. What came to my mind, when trying to find a way of defining it, is something akin to what music composers call “variations”. It’s been decades since I read Dracula, so I can’t (or indeed want) to write a blow-by-blow comparison of the two, but it is true that they are very similar. Some of the differences I can easily mention are the settings (no Transylvania here, although people who love Cardiff might take issue with the way it is portrayed in this novel), the professions of some of the characters (Raelyn is a doctor, but as many people have mentioned, a female doctor in the early part of the XX century [1903] would have had a very difficult time of it, and that is no way reflected in the novel), some of the myths and the beliefs surrounding the supernatural events are different, and, unless I am mistaken, women and children play much bigger parts than in the original.

This is not a historical novel, and anybody looking for accurate depictions of the era, the place, the language, or even the mores and habits, will be disappointed. Neither the Cardiff nor the London of the story have anything to do with reality, and the characters are not very consistent either. Things develop very quickly, and somebody passes from love to hatred in the blink of an eye (sometimes as a result of supernatural influences, that is true, but not always). Suspension of disbelief doesn’t quite cover the reading experience, as we have characters who can leave their jobs at the drop of a hat and disappear for days or weeks on end with no ill consequences, married people who profess their love for their husbands or wives but don’t hesitate before leaving them without a word of explanation or making contact again, to name but two. What the story has, though, is plenty of atmosphere, and an old-fashioned Gothic feel to it. Rather than a reinterpretation of the genre, this is something closer to what many of the stories from the era might have been like, many of which wouldn’t have survived until now or become classics. It makes me think of Little Women, the scene when Prof. Bhaer is disparaging the type of sensationalist romance stories one can find in newspapers, knowing full well that Jo writes them as well, and advises her to write stories that truly matter to her. Those titillating narrations are the kinds of stories that would have been popular at the time, and, why not? (I will not reveal what happens in Little Women, in case somebody hasn’t read it. If you haven’t, please do. I love it!)

I also kept thinking of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlett Letter among many other novels (I recommend it as well), who wrote about the differences between a novel and a romance (not a romantic novel in the sense of a love story, but something quite different).

This is what he wrote on the subject in his preface to The House of the Seven Gables (1851):

When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume, had he professed to be writing a novel. The latter form of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man’s experience. The former – while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart – has fairly a right to present that truth under circumstances, to a great extent of the writers own choosing or creation. If he thinks fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical medium as to bring out or mellow the lights, and deepen and enrich the shadows of the picture, he will be wise, no doubt, to make a very moderate use of the privilege here stated, and especially to mingle the marvellous rather as a slight, delicate and evanescent flavour, than as any portion of the actual substance of the dish offered to the public. He can hardly be said, however, to commit a literary crime, even if he disregarded this caution.’

So, a novel has to be plausible, while in a romance, flights of fancy and imagination are allowed, and those are the working tools of the author. From that point of view, this book would fall into the category of a romance, and, readers who approach it as such, are likely to be swept by the story and enjoy the experience, but if you are looking for a well-written and high-quality novel as most critics understand it, you are bound to be disappointed.

To be fair, Bram Stoker wrote to entertain his readers and doesn’t seem to have been particularly concerned about issues such as classic status or high-brow definitions of quality. He had problems in the USA because he wanted his story to remain in the public domain rather than be copyrighted, so perhaps there is something more to the comparison than meets the eye.

I know this isn’t one of my usual reviews, but I hope people will get an idea of what they might find and if it is the kind of thing they’d like to read. There are scenes of violence, bizarre events aplenty, and some gore, but more in the style of classic horror than realistic modern descriptions. And I will agree with the recommendation to read Dracula as well if you haven’t yet. Oh, and don’t forget to keep eating onions!

 Thanks to the author and the publisher for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep the wonder going, the magic, to keep smiling, and to be happy!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE BURNING GIRLS by C. J. Tudor (@cjtudor) (@PenguinUKBooks) A priest turned detective, a small town with a dark past, and plenty of secrets

Hi all:

I bring you the third book by an author I’ve been following from the first novel she published, and I’m not surprised she’s become very popular (and there is talk of TV adaptations as well).

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor  

The darkly compelling new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Chalk ManThe Taking of Annie Thorne and The Other People, soon to be a major TV series

‘Hypnotic and horrifying . . . Without doubt her best yet,’

The Burning Girls left me sleeping with the lights on’ CHRIS WHITAKER, bestselling author of Waterstones Thriller of the Month We Begin at the End

‘A gothic, spine-tingling roller-coaster of a story . . . CJ Tudor is a master of horror’ C.J. COOKE, author of The Nesting
______

500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death
30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace
Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide

Welcome to Chapel Croft.

For Rev Jack Brooks and teenage daughter Flo it’s supposed to be a fresh start. New job, new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn’t easily forgotten.

And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft’s history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome.

Yet right away Jack has more frightening concerns.

Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls?
Who’s sending them sinister, threatening messages?
And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself?

Chapel Croft’s secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn’t touch them if not for Flo – anything to protect Flo.

But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft – and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest . . .

______

‘Tudor operates on the border between credulity and disbelief, creating an atmosphere of menace’ Sunday Times

‘A mesmerising and atmospheric page-turner, with plenty of shocks and a surprise twist for a finale. Her best novel yet’ Sunday Express

‘The best book yet from C. J. Tudor’ Best

Praise for C. J. Tudor:

‘C. J. Tudor is terrific. I can’t wait to see what she does next’ Harlan Coben

‘Britain’s female Stephen King’ Daily Mail

‘A mesmerizingly chilling and atmospheric page-turner’ J.P. Delaney

Her books have the ability to simultaneously make you unable to stop reading while wishing you could bury the book somewhere deep underground where it can’t be found. Compelling and haunting’ Sunday Express

‘Some writers have it, and some don’t. C. J. Tudor has it big time’ Lee Child

‘A dark star is born’ A. J. Finn 

https://www.amazon.com/Burning-Girls-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B0882PLRBF/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Burning-Girls-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B0882PLRBF/

https://www.amazon.es/Burning-Girls-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B0882PLRBF/

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

About the author:

C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

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

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Penguin Michael Joseph UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I discovered C. J. Tudor with her first novel, The Chalk Man, a pretty impressive debut, and have read the two novels she has published since, The Taking of Annie Thorne and The Other People. As you can guess from that, I enjoy her writing and her penchant for creating stories that are never boring, with characters that keep us guessing until the end (or near enough). It is true, as well, that the topics she covers and her plots are not unique —if such a thing even exists—, especially for people who read plenty of thrillers, horror novels, mysteries, and watch films and TV series in those genres. But she knows how to pick up some elements that might feel familiar at first (after all, that is one of the reasons why many readers enjoy reading certain genres, because they know what to expect) and create something that manages to meet the expectations while keeping readers on their toes. And sometimes, scaring them a fair bit in the process.

That is true as well for this novel, which for me had a few things that made it particularly attractive. One would be the setting. The novel is set in the UK, in Sussex, an area where I lived for a few years and that I know fairly well. Although the village where the novel is set doesn’t exist, and neither does the actual tradition that gives it its name (and I won’t elaborate on that to avoid spoiling the story, although there is a fake Wikipedia entry at the very beginning that explains it all), I’ve read in an interview that the author felt inspired by the area and by the town of Lewes and its history, and I am not surprised that is the case. It is a very atmospheric place. I’ve read comments calling it “Gothic”, and it isn’t a bad name, but there is something more ancient and primordial at play as well (The Wicker Man comes to mind).

Another thing I found interesting is how self-referential the novel feels. The author has been compared to Stephen King (and she acknowledges how much she loves his books) on many occasions, as you can see reflected by the editorial comments, and his novels appear repeatedly in the book, as do references to popular movies and TV (The Lost Boys, The Usual Suspects, Heathers…) that might (or might not) be connected to the story and the plot. By openly acknowledging those in her pages, the author seems to be giving us clues and adding layers of meaning, although perhaps it is a fairly tongue-in chick ploy, and it is all part of the misdirection, twists and turns, and red herrings that are spread around the novel. Because another thing (and author) I kept thinking about when reading this novel was Agatha Christie and her works, in particular her Miss Marple novels, with their small villages with dark goings-on, where everybody is hiding something and outsiders have a hard time trying to find somebody trustworthy and to discover the truth. And there is also an elderly lady, Joan, who would fit perfectly into one of Christie’s novels, (and she is one of my favourite characters as well).

As I said, I won’t be discussing the plot in detail, to avoid spoilers, but I’ll mention some of the things readers can find in this novel: exorcisms gone wrong, crypts hiding dark secrets, ghoulish ghosts, disappeared girls, religious martyrs, child abuse and death, bullying and manipulation, abandoned creepy houses, unrequited love and jealousy, hidden motives and fake identities… This is not a mild or cozy novel, and there are some pretty gruesome and violent episodes, so I wouldn’t recommend it to readers looking for a light-hearted read.

That doesn’t mean the novel is all doom and gloom, as there are several characters with quite a sense of humour, and the protagonist, Jack, and Jack’s daughter, Flo, are both pretty witty and often funny. The protagonist narrates a lot of the story in the first person: Jack’s self-comments and observations appear sharp, clever, and they made me chuckle many times. Some also made me nod in agreement, and although I won’t say I agree with everything Jack does in the novel, I definitely understand the protagonist’s reasons. Apart from Jack’s first-person narration, there are fragments narrated in the third person, some from Flo’s point of view, and others from the perspective of a different character who we soon realise is trying to find Jack. Who he is and why he is after them… well, you’ll need to read the book to learn that. There are also brief fragments in italics that help create a fuller picture in our minds of what might have happened, even if we don’t know exactly whose memories we are accessing when we read them (but we are likely to have our suspicions). Does that mean the story is confusing? I didn’t find it so, and although this might depend on how familiar readers are with the genre, the different personalities of the characters come through in the writing, so I don’t think most people will have many problems telling whose points of view they are reading. Nonetheless, I recommend readers to be attentive and keep a close eye on everything, because, as is the case with more traditional mysteries, all the details are important, and the clues are there for a reason. If you blink, you might miss a piece of the puzzle that becomes important later on.

As is to be expected from these kinds of books, there is a false ending and a big twist. The author drops hints and clues along the way, and I am sure most people will suspect at least some of the information that is revealed, although perhaps not everything. Because, let me tell you that if you love unreliable narrators, you shouldn’t miss this one. Some reviewers felt disappointed by the ending, because… Well, I can’t tell you, of course. But, as I’ve said, there are hints dropped, and there is a bit of a soliloquy (not a soliloquy, but I could imagine it would become one if this were a play) where we get an explanation/justification of some important plot points. I’m not sure it was necessary, to be honest, but I can see why the author did that. Oh, and I did enjoy the ending, by the way.

Other reviewers also took issue with some depictions of characters and events that they feel reinforce negative stereotypes and prejudicial media representations of certain groups. Although this could be argued in one or two instances, and it is always a matter of interpretation, much of that view might result from a partial or perhaps too literal reading of the book with might have missed some of the nuances of the story.

This is a novel that, beyond the gripping plot and the mysteries it contains, deals in identity, in how we can reinvent ourselves and get a second chance, and also in what important role prejudices and labels can play in the way we are seen and perceived by others. While some people struggle to fight against assigned roles and expectations, others can use them to hide behind them and protect their true selves, or even manipulate them to their advantage. It also revisits the debate about evil. Do we believe some people are born evil or are we all born innocent and other people and our circumstances can turn us into monsters? Can there be some valid justifications, no matter how subjective they might be, for actions that would be considered evil by most people? Or there is no grey area when it comes to good and evil, and a person’s point of view doesn’t come into it? We might or might not agree with how things work out in the story, but I am sure we will all have formed an opinion by the end of the novel, perhaps even one that surprises us.

I recommend this book to fans of mysteries with some supernatural and horror elements, also to readers looking for a page-turner with plenty of atmosphere and a gripping storyline. I am sure most followers of C. J. Tudor won’t be disappointed, and, personally, I am looking forward to her next novel already.

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview THE LABYRINTH OF THE SPIRITS by Carlos Ruiz Zafón Trans. (@ZafonOficial) (@orionbooks) A magical visit to Barcelona and to the world of books and stories. Unmissable!

Hi all:

It’s with great pleasure that I bring you a wonderful book.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruíz Zafón
The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruíz Zafón

The Labyrinth of the Spirits: From the bestselling author of The Shadow of the Wind (Cemetery of Forgotten Books 4) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Lucia Graves

The long-awaited new novel from the author of the global bestseller and modern classic, The Shadow of the Wind.

As a child, Daniel Sempere discovered among the passageways of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books an extraordinary novel that would change the course of his life. Now a young man in the Barcelona of the late 1950s, Daniel runs the Sempere & Sons bookshop and enjoys a seemingly fulfilling life with his loving wife and son. Yet the mystery surrounding the death of his mother continues to plague his soul despite the moving efforts of his wife Bea and his faithful friend Fermín to save him.

Just when Daniel believes he is close to solving this enigma, a conspiracy more sinister than he could have imagined spreads its tentacles from the hellish regime. That is when Alicia Gris appears, a soul born out of the nightmare of the war. She is the one who will lead Daniel to the edge of the abyss and reveal the secret history of his family, although at a terrifying price.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits is an electrifying tale of passion, intrigue, and adventure. Within its haunting pages, Carlos Ruiz Zafón masterfully weaves together plots and subplots in an intricate and intensely imagined homage to books, the art of storytelling and that magical bridge between literature and our lives.

‘For the first time in 20 years or so as a book reviewer, I am tempted to dust off the old superlatives and event to employ some particularly vulgar clichés from the repertoire of publishers’ blurbs. My colleagues may be shocked, but I don’t care, I can’t help myself, here goes. The Shadow of the Wind is a triumph of the storyteller’s art. I couldn’t put it down. Enchanting, hilarious and heartbreaking, this book will change your life. Carlos Ruiz Zafón has done that exceedingly rare thing – he has produced, in his first novel, a popular masterpiece, an instant classic’ Daily Telegraph

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Labyrinth-Spirits-bestselling-Cemetery-Forgotten-ebook/dp/B07DCY1MX1/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Labyrinth-Spirits-bestselling-Cemetery-Forgotten-ebook/dp/B07DCY1MX1/

Editorial Reviews

Review

“THE LABYRINTH OF THE SPIRITS is the sublime culmination to a truly outstanding series…a reading experience not to be missed…As long as you actually open a door to the labyrinth and enter it, all is well. As to not reading the Cemetery of Forgotten books at all, that is obviously a grave error.” (Publishers Weekly, ShelfTalker)

“Ruiz Zafón clearly has had a great deal of fun in pulling this vast story together…His ability to keep track of a thousand threads while, in the end, celebrating the power of storytelling is admirable…. A satisfying conclusion to a grand epic that, of course, will only leave its fans wanting more.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Gothic, operatic, and in many ways old-fashioned, this is a story about storytelling and survival, with the horrors of Francoist Spain present on every page. Compelling…this is for readers who savor each word and scene, soaking in the ambiance of Barcelona, Zafón’s greatest character (after, perhaps, the irrepressible Fermín Romero de Torres).” (Booklist)

Author Carlos Ruiz Zafón

About the author:

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the author of six novels, including the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind. His work has been published in more than forty different languages and honored with numerous international awards, including the Edebé Award, Spain’s most prestigious prize for young adult fiction. He divides his time between Barcelona, Spain, and Los Angeles, California.

https://www.amazon.com/Carlos-Ruiz-Zaf%C3%B3n/e/B001JOSYGI/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Orion Publishing Group) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I enthusiastically and freely chose to review.

I read the first two novels of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books series years back, in Spanish. I have recommended The Shadow of the Wind to anybody who would bother to listen to me (probably multiple times, sorry) and was enthralled by the complex tale of creation and mental unravelling span by The Angel’s Game. In the maelstrom of the last few years, somehow I lost track of the series and missed the publication of The Prisoner of Heaven (although I have been trying to locate a copy since I started reading this volume), but when I saw the last novel in the series was being published in English and offered on NetGalley, I knew it was my chance to catch up. As I also do translations and had read two of the novels in their original Spanish version, I had the added interest of scrutinising what the translation into English would look like. Well, I must say I thought it was superb, in case I forget to mention it later. Lucia Graves (daughter of Robert Graves, here you can read in interview with her) manages to capture the style of the author, the complexity and beauty of his language, and translates the local peculiarities of the dialogue, helping readers feel the joy and the intoxicating and magical experience of reading the original. Hats off!

If you’ve read up to this point, you’ll likely have guessed that I loved this novel. To get it out of the way, I’ll clarify that I think it can be read by itself, or as a starting point to a reader’s visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and although perhaps somebody who starts by reading this book will feel s/he knows already the whole story, I suspect they’ll feel curious and intrigued and will want to learn the full details of the stories that come to fruition here (this is my case as well). Here, the author of the story inside the book, Julián, (yes, the story is full of books and writers) explains how the series works better than I can:

The way I dreamed of it, the narrative would be divided into four interconnected volumes that would work like entrance doors into a labyrinth of stories. As the reader advanced into its pages, he would feel that the story was piecing itself together like a game of Russian dolls in which each plot and each character led to the next, and that, in turn, to yet another, and so on and so forth. The saga would contain villains and heroes, and a thousand tunnels through which the reader would be able to explore a kaleidoscopic plot resembling that mirage of perspectives I’d discovered with my father in the heart of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books.

This is a long novel, and a complex one, although not one difficult to read or follow (I don’t think). As the quoted paragraph says, there are many stories here, and many memorable characters, some dead, some alive, and some… (among them, Alicia Gris, femme-fatale, spy, little girl, seductress, avenging angel, long-suffering survivor of a terrible war; Daniel Sampere, bookshop owner extraordinaire searching for answers; Fermín Romero de Torres, whimsical, fun, full of life and common-sense, witty, heroic, down-to-earth;  Julián Sempere, the stand-in for the author and heir to a long tradition; Isabella, a mysterious figure much of the action revolves around; authors David Martín, Julian Carax, Víctor Mataix; the fabulous Vargas, a hard-working an old-fashioned honest policeman with some secrets of his own; the complex Leandro; the horrifying Hendaya; the intriguing Rovira…). The story moves back and forth in time, from the time of the Civil War in Spain (1938) to its aftermath during the Franco regime, and into 1992. We visit Madrid, Paris —however briefly— although the main setting, and the main character, is Barcelona, in all its glory and horror.

In the darkest corner of her heart, Barcelona, mother of labyrinths, holds of mesh of narrow streets knotted together to form a reef of present and future ruins.

I kept thinking what genre one would fit this book into. Amazon has it listed in the categories of literary fiction, historical fiction, and mysteries. All true, I guess. There are secrets, mysteries, action, revenge, intrigues, crimes, murders, torture… The novel reminds me, in some ways, of the big adventures and narratives of old, novels by Victor Hugo (whose pen, possibly?, makes an appearance in the novel), Jules Verne, the Dumas (father and son), with its sprawling narrative, its wondrous descriptions of people and events, its historical background (the Spanish Civil War and the postwar years, accurately reflected through a fantasy lens), and even its gothic setting (we have mysterious mansions, dungeons, cells, castles, underground passages, true labyrinths…). This book bears homage to literature, to books, to authors, to the power of imagination, and to the magic of reading.

The book talks about books and writing and contains plenty of advice on writing, some of it contradictory, and there are many different types of writers contained in its pages. It is metafictional at its best, and I was not surprised when I read that the author also composes music. There are variations on a theme in evidence (stories are told and retold: sometimes different versions, sometimes from different perspectives, and in different formats). There is plenty of showing, there is telling from direct witnesses, or third-hand, there are documents that bring us missing pieces from the pens of those who are no longer able to tell their own stories, and everybody gets a chance to tell his or her own story, be it in the first person or the third, be it directly or through a narrator. The author has explained that he writes his novels in a similar way to how movies are conceived and designed, and that is evident when one reads the story, as it is impossible not to visualise it. Carlos Ruiz Zafón professes his admiration for Orson Welles and that comes across loud and clear in this book. But, however much he loves movies, he believes books can conjure up worlds that no filmmaker would be able to bring to life, and that is his stated reason for not selling the rights for the film adaptation of the series. Part of me would like to watch it, but I am convinced I’d be disappointed, so incredible is the world the author has built.

I have mentioned the style of writing when I talked about the translation and I have shared some quotes. I kept highlighting and highlighting text while I was reading it and I found it very difficult to select some to share, but I hope the few fragments I have included will pique your curiosity and make you check a sample if you are not sure if you would like it (you would!). One of the tips on writing contained in the book highlights the importance of the way the story is written, above and beyond the plot, but in this case, the two mix perfectly.

I have mentioned some of the themes, the historical background, and the mystery elements included in the story, with some gore and violent scenes, but there are plenty of magical, lighter, and funny moments as well, and I wanted to share a couple of sentences from Isabella’s notebook that I particularly enjoyed, to illustrate the sense of humour (sometimes a bit dark) also present:

We were three sisters, but my father used to say he had two daughters and one mule.

I didn’t like playing with the other girls: my specialty was decapitating dolls with a catapult.

I’m not sure what else I can tell you to try and convince you to read this book. I am from Barcelona and love the city, even if some of the places mentioned in the novel no longer exist (or not in their original form). You could use the book as a guide for a visit (and I know there were tours visiting some of the streets and settings of The Shadow of the Wind), or you could lose yourself in the labyrinth of your imagination. You could imagine the movie, cast the characters, or put yourself in their place (I’d happily be Alicia Gris, pain and all). If you need to live some adventures and take a break from your life, go on, enter the labyrinth and visit the cemetery of the forgotten books. You might never want to find the way out. I am rearing for another visit soon.

Ah and when I read this article about the pleasures of slow reading, I immediately thought of this book and decided to share it with you. Because this is one of those books that are better enjoyed and savoured slowly.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/sep/14/joe-moran-pleasures-of-slow-reading?

Thanks very much to NetGalley, to the publisher, and to the author and translator, for this fabulous book, thanks to all of you for reading and for putting up with my enthusiasm and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling and reading!

 

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE WOMEN OF HEACHLEY HALL by Rachel Walkley (@RachelJWalkley) #RBRT A Romantic mystery, with a touch of the paranormal, a gothic mansion and wonderful characters.

Hi all:

It’s not one of my usual days to share a review, but as this book launches today, I decided it was only appropriate, as I’d really enjoyed it.

Thanks to Rosie Amber (and don’t forget to check her blog, here).

Cover of The Women of Heachley Hall by Rachel Walkley
The Women of Heachley Hall by Rachel Walkley

The Women of Heachley Hall by Rachel Walkley

Miriam has one year to uncover Heachley Hall’s unimaginable past and a secret that only women can discover.

The life of a freelance illustrator will never rake in the millions so when twenty-eight-year-old Miriam discovers she’s the sole surviving heir to her great-aunt’s fortune, she can’t believe her luck. She dreams of selling her poky city flat and buying a studio.
But great fortune comes with an unbreakable contract. To earn her inheritance, Miriam must live a year and a day in the decaying Heachley Hall.
The fond memories of visiting the once grand Victorian mansion are all she has left of her parents and the million pound inheritance is enough of a temptation to encourage her to live there alone.
After all, a year’s not that long. So with the help of a local handyman, she begins to transform the house.
But the mystery remains. Why would loving Aunt Felicity do this to her?
Alone in the hall with her old life miles away, Miriam is desperate to discover the truth behind Felicity’s terms. Miriam believes the answer is hiding in her aunt’s last possession: a lost box. But delving into Felicity and Heachley’s long past is going to turn Miriam’s view of the world upside down.
Does she dare keep searching, and if she does, what if she finds something she wasn’t seeking?
Has something tragic happened at Heachley Hall?

https://www.amazon.com/Women-Heachley-Hall-Rachel-Walkley-ebook/dp/B07B53V6YM/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Women-Heachley-Hall-Rachel-Walkley-ebook/dp/B07B53V6YM/

Picture of author Rachel Walkley
Author Rachel Walkley

About the author:

Born in the Midlands, I grew up in East Anglia and am now firmly lodged in the North West of England. My first writing achievement was my Brownie badge and after that, I’ve never let go of the dream of becoming an author. Once a librarian and caretaker of books, I’m now a teller of tales and want to share with you the secrets that hide in the pages of my books.
Please stop by my website – rachelwalkley.com and find out more about my books in the making.

https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Walkley/e/B07B5G7VZP/

You can check her blog here:

http://thequietwriter.com

My review:

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

I love old mansions, old houses, and antiques, and that was one of the things that attracted me to this book, together with the mystery aspect of it. As I’m in the process of moving, and I’m dealing with a house sale, the topic felt timely, and I am pleased I decided to go with my gut feeling.

This book manages to combine quite a few elements that I love in stories. There is a lone female protagonist, Miriam, that has to face challenges (OK, she is not fighting with a sword, but she has to confront difficulties she has never had to deal with before) and she gets to learn plenty about herself in the process. There is an old mansion (there is more than a touch of the gothic novel) that hides mysteries and tragedies of old (there are rumours that it is haunted and… well, I’m trying not to include any spoilers in this review, so I’ll keep my peace). There are family secrets, both Miriam’s and those of previous occupants of the Hall, that Miriam feels compelled to investigate, to fully understand her legacy and her feelings about Heachley Hall. There is a small town with friendly folks (and some not so friendly) that help give the place a genuine feel. The struggles of Miriam to make a living as a self-employed illustrator of children’s stories made me feel particularly connected to the character. I also enjoyed the way her relationship with Ruth, an older woman, a client and now a friend, is portrayed. There is also an element of historical fiction, as later in the book Miriam has access to a document that covers past events in the house (again, I’m trying not to give too much away), and we get to experience the way time transforms the mansion and also see how much society has changed since the XIX century. Ah, and let’s not forget, there is also a very romantic love story. (And a paranormal element…)

Imagine getting stuck, alone, in a huge old house that is falling to bits, with hardly any money to make any renovations or even make it liveable, and having to stay there for one year and one day to receive your inheritance. Although money is initially a big draw for Miriam (she is not in a particularly good place and feels she should show people she can rise to the challenge), she is also intrigued about her aunt Felicity’s reasons for setting up such strange condition. She only remembers having visited her aunt a few times as a very young child, and it makes no sense. Like so many amateur detectives, she is like a dog with a bone and has to keep making enquiries, no matter how many times she seems to have hit a dead end.

I liked Miriam. Although she has suffered tragedy and losses as a young child, she has reached adulthood as a well-balanced individual. She does have insecurities and issues, but she does not allow any drawbacks to bring her down and keeps going. She becomes stronger and more determined as the book progresses, but she does not waste much time feeling sorry for herself (only a little bit). I enjoyed the rest of the female characters as well, and although we only learn about some in the retelling of their stories, the author manages to bring them to live and make us connect emotionally with them.

The story is mostly narrated in the first person by Miriam (apart from the document I mentioned before), and she is excellent at describing, not only people and places (she is an artist after all), but also her own feelings, doubts, and mental processes. Although I know not all readers are keen on first-person narratives, I think the author does an excellent job of creating an engaging and genuine character. She is no superheroine who can do everything as soon as she steps into the property (she gets some help with her project), and she gets distracted, forgets things, gets scared, but does not give up. The story ebbs and flows as the time passes and the mystery aspects kept me reading on, although this is not a fast-paced action novel. The writing is beautifully descriptive without going over the top, and although there are sad moments, there are also light and joyful moments its readers can enjoy.

The mystery aspect of the novel is well integrated into the narrative, and although I had my suspicions about what was going on, the story is beautifully constructed and precious, and it is very satisfying. If you are one of those readers who hate cliff-hangers and always feel that there is some explanation missing and you’d like to know a bit more, you’ll be over the moon when you read this novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which combines so many of my favourite things, and I’d recommend it to people who enjoy gothic stories (it is not scary but it has some eerie moments), who love old mansions, mysteries without blood and guts (no explicit violence), who like to read a romance with a difference (no explicit sex either), and who like to make friends with the characters of a novel and feel at home with them. Although it does remind me of some books (Rebecca, Jane Eyre…) and movies, I don’t want to go into any detail to avoid spoiling the story for you. But do check it out if any of the things I’ve mentioned appeals. It’s a winner.

Thanks to Rosie Amber and to her whole team for their continued support, thanks to the author for her 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 Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE ENGLISH WIFE: A NOVEL by Lauren Willig (@laurenwillig) (@StMartinsPress) Recommended to fans of Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Jane Austen’s novels. #bookreview #historicalfiction

Hi all:

I am sure today’s book won’t be to everybody’s taste, but I loved it. See what you think.

The English Wife by Lauren Willig
The English Wife by Lauren Willig

The English Wife: A Novel by Lauren Willig

From New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous novel set in the Gilded Age, full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

https://www.amazon.com/English-Wife-Novel-Lauren-Willig-ebook/dp/B072TY6MS6/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/English-Wife-Novel-Lauren-Willig-ebook/dp/B072TY6MS6/

Author Lauren Willig
Author Lauren Willig

About the author:

Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Pink Carnation series and several stand alone works of historical fiction, including “The Ashford Affair”, “That Summer”, “The Other Daughter”, and “The Forgotten Room” (co-written with Karen White and Beatriz Williams). Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages, awarded the RITA, Booksellers Best and Golden Leaf awards, and chosen for the American Library Association’s annual list of the best genre fiction. After graduating from Yale University, she embarked on a PhD in English History at Harvard before leaving academia to acquire a JD at Harvard Law while authoring her “Pink Carnation” series of Napoleonic-set novels. She lives in New York City, where she now writes full time.

https://www.amazon.com/Lauren-Willig/e/B001IGQV62/

My review:

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

In case you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read the whole review (you know I can go on and on), I love this novel. I recommend it to anybody who enjoys historical fiction with a mystery at its heart, especially if you enjoy gothic novels. If you love Rebecca and Jane Eyre, I would advise you to check it out. And, for the insights it offers on the society of the time (both sides of the Atlantic), I think fans of Jane Austen who are interested in novels beyond the Regency period will also enjoy it.

This historical novel, set at the end of the XIX century, starts with a murder and the mystery surrounding it. On the day when Annabelle and Bay, a couple of the best of New York society (Annabelle, the aristocratic English wife of the heir of the Van Duyvil dynasty) have organised a ball to celebrate the completion of their new mansion, he is found dead with a knife (a dagger from his costume) in his chest, and his wife is presumed drowned under the icy waters of the river. Janie, Bay’s sister, alarmed at the different versions of the story that circulate (either her brother killed his adulterous wife and then committed suicide, or his wife killed him intending to run away with her lover, although her brother is also accused of adultery with their cousin Anne…) and how they will affect her little niece and nephew, decides to try to find the truth. She chooses an unlikely ally (more unlikely than she realises at the time), a reporter (her mother values privacy, appearances, and reputation above all, and she appears to be the perfect obedient daughter), and the novel tells the story of their investigation, that we get to follow chronologically from the moment the body is discovered, in January 1899, for several weeks. We also get to read about events that took place several years earlier (from 1894 onward), when Annabelle (also known as Georgie) first met Bay, in London. She was working as an actress and they become friends. These two strands of the story, told in the third person, but each one from the point of view of one of the main characters, Janie and Georgie, run in parallel until towards the very end, and that offers us different perspectives and insight while at the same time helping keep the mystery going. The more we know about the ins and outs of the characters, their relationships, their families, and their secrets (and there are many. Other than Janie, who only starts keeping secrets after her brother’s death, all the rest of the characters carry heavy loads, sometimes theirs, sometimes those of others), the more we feel invested in the story, and the more suspects and red herrings that keep appearing. I have read some reviewers that complained about the story not being a mystery or a thriller. Well, a thriller it is not, for sure (although I found the reading experience thrilling for other reasons). It has some of the elements of a classic mystery of the era, with the added beauty of the detailed setting, the appreciation of the subtle social nuances of the time, the strong portrayal of the characters, and the beautiful language. You might guess who the guilty party is (I must confess I kept wavering between several possible explanations), and also some of the other secrets (some are more evident than others), but I thought it worked well, although not, perhaps, for a reader who is looking, exclusively, for a mystery and wants to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. This is not a book written following the rules of the genre we are so familiar with (nothing extraneous that does not move the story forward, kill you darlings, keep descriptions to a minimum) and, in my opinion, is all he better for it.

This book is full of great characters. We are limited to two points of view only, which might be biased due to personal reasons, and some characters, like Cousin Anne, generates strong emotions from all those involved (she never conforms, she steals the man her cousin Janie was going to marry, later divorces, and her attitude towards Annabelle is not supportive), but she has some of the best lines, and we get to understand her quite well by the end of the story. Janie, who has always been dismissed by her mother and ignored by the rest of the family, is an articulate, intelligent, cultured, and determined woman. Burke, the reporter, is a complex character with stronger morals than anybody would give him credit for, and Mrs. Van Duyvil, the mother, is a larger-than-life woman, whose influence is felt by those who come into contact with her, and she is far from likeable, and there are other characters that appear in a negative light. Even the “good” characters (Bay and Janie) have complex motives for their actions, and nothing is a black or white as we might think at the beginning.

As I mentioned above, the author (whose work I’d never read before but I’ll make sure to check) captures well the nuances of the time, the dress, the setting, the social mores (yes, a little like Jane Austen, although in a very different historical period), writes beautifully, and her choice of female characters as narrators allows us a good insight into what life was like at the time for women, whose power always had to be channelled through men. Times were changing already, and people keep referring to the Vanderbilts’ divorce, but this was not generally accepted yet, and certain things had to be kept hidden. The dialogue is full of wit and sparks at times, and although there is drama, sadness, and grief, there is also merriment, fun, romance, and very insightful comments on the society of the time (and yes, our society as well).

The book is full of literary references, historical-era appropriate, and most readers fond of the genre will enjoy the comments about books (and plays) of the time. I did. The narrative takes its time to explore the situations and the characters in detail, but I felt it moved at the right pace, giving us a chance to reflect upon the serious questions behind the story. Who decides who we truly are? How important are appearances and social conventions? What role should other people’s opinions play in our lives and actions? I don’t want to give any spoilers away (I enjoyed the ending, by the way, but that’s all I’ll say about it), but I thought I’d share some snippets from the book.

The juries of the world were made of men. A man could hold his honor dear in masculine matters such as gambling debts and never mind that he left a trail of ruined women behind him. Men diced with coin; women diced with their lives.

Georgie took a sip of her own tea. It was too weak. It was always too weak. She blamed it on the Revolution. Since the Boston Tea Party, the Americans had apparently been conserving their tea leaves.

“So you came rushing through the ice?” Janie didn’t know whether to be touched or shake him for being so foolish. “Slaying a dragon would have been easier. And warmer.”

Viola lifted her head. “I don’t want a lullaby. I want a story.” “Even better. I have a wonderful one about a prince who turned into a toad. You’ll adore it. It’s very educational.” (This is Anne. She has many wonderful retorts).

And this one must be one of my favourite sentences of the year so far:

Janie felt like a prism: fragile, but with the chance of rainbows.

In sum, a beautifully written historical fiction novel, with a mystery (several) at its heart, memorable characters, fantastic dialogue, and a gothic touch. Unmissable.

 

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

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview HER: A Horror Short Story by Danielle Rose (@DRoseAuthor) A solid short-story, scary and chilling, and a great introduction to the author’s writing

Hi all:

I don’t know if you’ll remember that a while back (it was July) I participated in tour of a cover reveal of the short-story Her by Danielle Rose. Well, today I have the review of the story, and in case you didn’t remember the original post, here it is:

 

Title: HER
Genre: YA Horror, Short Story
Publisher: OfTomes Publishing
Cover Art by: Gwenn Danae
Cover Text by: Eight Little Pages
Expected Release Date: Sept. 19th, 2017

Blurb:
Kemper Academy is over a hundred years old, but it has only recently reopened after a series of murders and stories of hauntings shut it down. Avlynn, a new student, refuses to let the rumors scare her, chalking them up to a bit of friendly freshman hazing. But when night falls and screams draw her from her room, she finds the truth is much more horrifying than any ghost story.
Danielle Rose holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. Currently residing in the Midwest, where she spends her days dreaming of warmer temperatures, when she’s not writing, she enjoys pretending she lives in California, spending an embarrassing amount of time at Hobby Lobby, and binge-watching Netflix. Visit Danielle on the Web: www.Danielle-Rose.com.

Author Links:
Newsletter: www.danielle-rose.com/newsletter
Bookbub: www.bookbub.com/authors/danielle-rose
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/DRoseAuthor
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2rzAzIe
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DRoseAuthor
Twitter: www.twitter.com/DRoseAuthor
Instagram: www.instagram.com/DRoseAuthor
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/DRoseAuthor
YouTube: www.youtube.com/channel/UC47sNgypZ3FOTuGPRNaRgKA
Pre-Order Link:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2sEq0E6


My review:

It is a bit difficult to write this review without sharing any spoilers, as the story is very short indeed. Blink and you’ve missed it. Despite that, it is atmospheric, intriguing, and fairly dark (although there’s no gore involved at all, so don’t worry if you’re squeamish).

The author uses many of the tropes of horror novels and films (an old gothic-looking property, a ghost story, night, cold, a daring young girl who refuses to show others she is scared) and puts them to good use.

The story is not long enough for us to get a great insight into the characters, although we easily identify with Avlynn, as we see all that happens from her point of view, we hear the screams, we realise our roommate is not there, we wonder which way we should go and we face… (No, I’m not telling you what). The twist at the end is perhaps not totally unexpected but it works very well and makes the story all the more chilling. Yes, we should remember that we ignore some warnings at our peril.

A solid short-story, scary and chilling, and a great introduction to the author’s writing. Recommended to anybody who enjoys ghost stories, especially to those who like short reads and don’t want to get bogged down in too much backstory.

I was given an e-copy of the story as part of a blog tour organised by Lady Amber’s Reviews & PR and I freely chose to review it.

Thanks to Lady Amber and the author, 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 #RBRT PAINTED BY Kirsten McKenzie (@Kiwimrsmac). Gothic psychological horror, with haunted house and ghosts for art and lovers of antiques. #Bookreview

Hi all:

Today I bring you a novel in one of my favourite genres. Thanks to Rosie Amber for her great review group where I keep discovering great books.

Painted by Kirsten McEnzie
Painted by Kirsten McKenzie

PAINTED: A Horror Novel by Kirsten McKenzie

If art can capture a soul, what happens when one of those souls escapes?

When art appraiser Anita Cassatt is sent to catalogue the extensive collection of reclusive artist Leo Kubin, it isn’t the chilly atmosphere of the secluded house making her shiver, it’s the silent audience of portraits clustered on every wall watching her.

Kubin’s lawyer didn’t share the detailed instructions regarding the handling of the art, and Anita and her team start work in ignorance of the very instructions designed to keep them safe. Safe from the art.

In the dark, a portrait stirs as the subject eases themselves out of the portrait and stretches, free at last from the confines of a canvas which they have no intention of ever returning to. They have a painting to finish and the people in the house will only be in the way…

Buy Painted now and you’ll never look at the art on your walls the same way again.

Perfect for lovers of early Stephen King and Rachel Caine

What readers are saying about PAINTED:

“Refreshing to encounter this subtle, delicate narrative where horror peeps slyly out…”
“Painted is an effective haunted house book, favoring tension and subtlety over outright violence and kills.”
“McKenzie does an incredible job in the characterization of the people in her novel. With each and every one, I came away with the feeling that I knew them–down to even the secrets they kept hidden from each other.”
“This novel literally took my breath away in places.”
“The plot is sensationally addictive and the creepy factor kept me alert page after page.”
“No gore or cheap scares here, this is a subtle and delicate chiller written in the spirit of a Shirley Jackson novel.”

Links:

Amazon.co.ukhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/PAINTED-Horror-Novel-Kirsten-McKenzie-ebook/dp/B072TT8QXJ

Amazon.comhttps://www.amazon.com/PAINTED-Horror-Novel-Kirsten-McKenzie-ebook/dp/B072TT8QXJ

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35170823-painted

Author Kirsten McKenzie
Author Kirsten McKenzie

About the author:

For many years Kirsten McKenzie worked in her family’s antique store, where she went from being allowed to sell the 50c postcards in the corner of Antique Alley as a child, to selling $5,000 Worcester vases and seventeenth century silverware, providing a unique insight into the world of antiques which touches every aspect of her writing.

Her historical fiction novels ‘Fifteen Postcards’ and its sequel ‘The Last Letter’ have been described as ‘Time Travellers Wife meets Far Pavilions’, and ‘Antiques Roadshow gone viral’.

Her first horror novel, ‘Painted’, was released in June 2017.

She lives in New Zealand with her husband, daughters, and her SPCA rescue cat, and can be found procrastinating on Twitter under the handle @Kiwimrsmac.

My review:

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

When I read the description of Painted I knew I had to read it, as it was a horror novel (and despite how much I like the genre, I don’t seem to read many of them), and it had to do with art. When I read that the author had worked in the antiques family business; that sealed the deal for me.  I had not read any work by this author before (and I understand this is the first time she writes horror) but I am pleased to have discovered her.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but let’s say we have a dead painter who left very specific instructions in his will as to how to deal with the artwork he left behind. Unfortunately, there had been changes at his lawyer’s and his instructions were ignored. And we all know what happens when we ignore warnings, don’t we?

There are authors who are better at building characters than at creating a plot, and there are also authors who excel at describing places and objects but are not so good at providing psychological insights. McKenzie manages to create a great gothic atmosphere (some reviewers have said that the novel is more gothic than pure horror, but both things do not exclude each other), with a fantastically eerie and creepy house, full of even creepier portraits, and a variety of objects, furniture, and even plants that all combine to create a fabulous setting for the novel. In fact, the house becomes another character, one that hides many secrets, and of course, many ghosts.

But the author also creates fully-fledged characters, with their passions, foibles, secrets (some darker than others), and stories. Even when we do not get to share much time with them, we get flashes of their personality (be it because of their fastidiousness about their personal appearance, or because of the way they hang on to mementos from the past, or the way they present a false and harmless persona to the world when they are anything but). She manages to do this by using a variety of techniques, especially by her particular use of point of view. The story is written in the third person, but it shares the points of views of different characters. There is a certain degree of head-hopping, although I did not find it confusing and it is very smoothly done. We do see things from the perspective of all the characters. We mostly follow Anita, the young woman sent by the auctioneer’s to catalogue the paintings, because she is the first one to arrive and she spends the most time at the house, but we even get an insight into the thoughts of the lawyer’s secretary and of the farmer’s dog. And of course, the baddies (although it is not easy to decide who is good and bad in the story). There are also moments when we are told something that none of the characters could know (a great way of creating suspense and forecasting future events), like references to shadows, sounds nobody has heard yet, and things that happen behind characters’ backs or when they are asleep.

The character easiest to empathise and later sympathise with is Anita. It is clear from the beginning that she is battling with something that happened to her in the past and is bravely trying to get on with her life (despite still experiencing symptoms of PTSD). Her story is terrible in its own right, and it makes her reactions to what happens more justified. Some characters are nasty and difficult to like (like the lawyer), but most of them are given interesting backgrounds and scenes that make them memorable, and some are much more twisted than we realise.

I loved the details of the process of cataloguing the house contents (as I love antiques and TV programmes about antiques. Yes, I could watch The Antiques Roadshow forever and never get bored), the descriptions of the painting process, and the pace of the novel. The atmosphere is created slowly and we follow the characters’ commonsensical approach to the events to begin with and share with them their descent into paranoia and utter horror. The step-by-step reveal, the twists and turns, and the ghosts (it reminded me of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James) are also masterly rendered. And the ending… No, I did not see it coming, and as a fan of unhappy endings in horror books, this manages to satisfy, to surprise and to leave us wondering.

This is psychological horror, with ghosts and haunted house, at its best, and it does not contain gore or extreme violence (there is more menace and imagining than there is anything explicit), so I would recommend it to lovers of the genre, and to those who love atmospheric readings and don’t mind a scare or two. I cannot comment on the author’s previous writing, but she definitely has a talent for this genre, and based on the quality of her writing, I’m sure we’ll hear more from her.

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

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview #RBRT BLOOD OF THE SIXTH by K. R. Rowe (@KRRowe) A Southern gothic tale that will scare and delight #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

Today I bring you another one of my reviews for Rosie’s Book Review Team. I advise you to check her blog and follow the other reviewers if you’re interested in books.

And without further ado…

Blood of the Sixth by K.R. Rowe
Blood of the Sixth by K.R. Rowe

Blood of the Sixth by K. R. Rowe A gothic Southern tale that will scare and delight

In the quaint Southern town of Port Bella Rosa, something sinister lurks beneath the cobblestones. When hunger stirs a centuries-old evil, a demon awakens, releasing its hunters in search of prey. Jackals swarm from the mist, seeking out quarry, sating their master with offerings of human flesh.

Allie Kent catches a glimpse of the first victim: a corpse with its organs, muscle and bone all consumed, leaving nothing more than skin behind. While police work to solve the unexplained murder, more bodies are found mutilated. Finally convinced the killer isn’t human, Detective Phillip Chambers is desperate to shield Allie from harm.

But something haunts Allie: shadows spill through her darkened window; nightmares invade her sleep while visions confuse her waking thoughts. With Phillip her only protection, Allie struggles to keep her independence in check while treading a thin line between reality and insanity. But is the evil dwelling beneath the stones her only true threat—or will the demons in Allie’s head have the strength to destroy them both?

Here, my review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided with an ARC copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I enjoy horror books (and movies) although I don’t read exclusively in that genre. I must admit that perhaps I’m more lenient with horror books than I’d be with others. If they manage to scare me, I’m usually happy. As happens with comedy, where it’s very difficult to make people laugh, it’s not that easy to scare people (or at least people who enjoy being scared. I know people who wouldn’t read horror or watch movies). If the book can scare me, the story is good and the characters are solid and interesting, we have a winner.

And, we have a winner! As I mention above I am reviewing this book as a member of Rosie’s Books Review Team, and I noticed it in the catalogue of books available a while back, but I had so many other books to read that I didn’t dare to take it on. And there it was, teasing me. Eventually, I had to read it.

The story, told in the third person, alternating between the points of view of Allie Kent, the main protagonist of the story, and some of the other characters, including Phillip Chambers, a detective who falls for her from the very beginning.

The opening of the novel (and as I said I’ve read a few in the genre) is very strong. I won’t mention anything, although I dare you to check the beginning of the novel in the look inside feature. You’ll see what I mean.

The main characters have difficult and traumatic experiences behind (Allie’s we discover slowly, and they are much worse than we imagine), and Allie and Phillip cling to each other. But the bizarre crimes have also much history behind them, and soon the ghosts of the past become more vivid and alive than the present for Allie, causing all kinds of terrible things.

The crimes are not only gory and scary, beautifully (if you know what I mean) and eerily rendered but also relate to a tragic love story. The baddies… well, supernatural doesn’t quite cover it. If you’re or have ever been scared of the dark, you’ll jump at shadows after reading this.

The author cleverly creates a claustrophobic atmosphere, where Allie’s apartment, her building, and the neighbourhood become part of the story, giving it a gothic feel. I can honestly say that I felt as if the town was shrinking and only the areas where the crimes were committed existed.

As I mentioned above, the writing is superb, with excellent descriptions, not only of settings and of the gory details but also of the psychological experiences of the characters, that although written in the third person feel very close. The novel fits in well in the tradition of the Southern gothic novel, with complex family relationships, oppressive atmosphere and the weight of traditions.

So, here you have a pretty scary story, with sympathetic characters you care for, a well-developed and intriguing story, and a gothic atmosphere. There are many aspects of the story that readers of other genres would also enjoy, but I hesitate to recommend it to people who don’t enjoy horror, because… well, it’s horrific and more. I’m looking forward to exploring more of the author’s novels and I strongly recommend it.

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Sixth-K-R-Rowe-ebook/dp/B01M61LG9Y/

https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Sixth-K-R-Rowe-ebook/dp/B01M61LG9Y/

Thanks so much to Rosie for coordinating the team and for helping us discover such great reads, thanks to the author for a fantastic novel, and thanks to you all for reading, and you know what to do, like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team

#RBRT TRUST ME I LIE by Louise Marley (@LouiseMarley) Mysteries, fairy tales, false identities and an unlikely couple. #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

As you know August is #AugustReviews month and I decided to set an example by bringing you a review of a book I’ve just read. I’ve read it as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I’m thankful to her and all the members of the team for the great books are recommendations. And without further ado…

Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley
Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley

Book Title: Trust Me I Lie

Author: Louise Marley

Pages: 350 pages

Genres: Murder Mystery, Suspense, Romance, Humour

Publication Date: 20th June 2016

 

Trust Me I Lie

 

When Milla Graham arrives in the picture-perfect village of Buckley she tells everyone she’s investigating the murder of her mother, who died eighteen years ago. But there’s already one Milla Graham buried in the churchyard and another about to be found dead in the derelict family mansion.

 

Obviously she’s lying.

 

Detective Inspector Ben Taylor has no life outside the police force. Even his own colleagues think he’s a boring stick-in-the-mud. But now he’s met Milla and his safe, comfortable life has been turned upside down. She’s crashed his car, emptied his wallet and is about to get him fired.

 

He knows she’s a liar because she cheerfully told him so.

 

Unless she’s lying about that too …

And now that you’re utterly intrigued, my review:

Mysteries, fairy tales, false identities and an unlikely couple.

I am writing this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to the author for providing me a free copy of the novel in exchange for an unbiased review and to Rosie for the opportunity.

I try to read in a variety of genres (it’s good to keep the brain on its toes, so to speak, and since I joined Rosie’s team I’ve been tempted by the varied offerings of titles I might not have come across otherwise). But whilst for some genres I have to prepare myself and be in the mood, mysteries and thrillers I am able to read in most circumstances.

I liked the title of the novel (I don’t like liars, but an honest liar… well, I prefer that to people who swear blindly they’re telling the truth when it’s obvious they are not) and when I read it was set in the UK and it involved a family whose business was to publish books (and pretty fancy fairy tales editions at that) I knew I had to try it. And it does deliver in spades.

The story is told in the third person from the two main characters’ points of view, Milla Graham (although if she’s really Camilla Graham or her cousin, or somebody else entirely is a big part of the puzzle), a reporter who writes features about musicians and musical events, and Ben Taylor, a detective, divorced, father of a young daughter, and a man always on a mission to rescue somebody (especially damsels in distress, even if they don’t want to be rescued). There are other fragments, in italics, also in the third person, that narrate the event at the heart of the mystery (the night when the Graham’s old house burned down and three children and their mother died), that took place eighteen years before the rest of the novel. The point of view these other fragments are narrated from is not clear as we read them (other than it is somebody who witnessed what happened) but by the end of the novel we have a clear picture of what really happened (although we will have been tripped and wronged in our assumptions many times along the way).

Both main characters are likeable in different ways. Ben is handsome, honest and a good guy, who, as many female characters tell him, seems to suffer from rescue fantasies. He lives in a chocolate box cottage and he meets the other protagonist in a traumatic manner (he runs her over) in the first chapter. His car ends up in a ditch and as he has no other option he invites the stranger, a young woman, to his house. She disappears with some of his money early next morning but she does not disappear from his life. At first sight Ben appears to be a type of character we’re very familiar with (a handsome detective somewhat disillusioned by his job and with his family life in tatters) but his immediate attraction and sympathy for Milla makes him do out of character things that surprise others around him as much as himself. And we get to discover some surprising things about him too.

Milla is, without discussion, quite unique. She lives hand to mouth, has adopted the identity of the dead daughter of a very rich family (it made me think of the stories about Anastasia, the Romanov tsarina who was supposedly still alive), and it’s difficult to know what her real motivations are. Does she really believe she’s Camilla Graham? Is it all part of a hoax to get money? Is she trying to help Patrick Graham, the man who was sent to prison for the murder of his wife (and the real Camilla’s mother)? Is she the cousin of the family now trying to create confusion? Or is she a fantasist who does not know what the truth is any longer? She is determined, resourceful and will stop at nothing to reach her goal. Whatever that might be. And she is open about her lies (and does surprise herself when she doesn’t lie).

The novel features charming English towns, an old mansion that has become a gothic castle in ruins, murders staged to imitate the illustrations of famous fairy tales (with designer clothing and four poster beds also thrown in), a murderer dressed and made-up like the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, mysterious bracelets, and a world of fairy tales that turns very dark.

The main characters are fascinating and likeable and you can’t help but root for them, no matter how outrageous their behaviours. If you stopped to think about it, some of their actions definitely stretch one’s belief, but the pace is so dynamic and the story so intriguing and surprising, that you keep trying to guess what will happen next and enjoy the ride. The writing is descriptive and vivid and one feels a part of the story, or at least a very close witness of the events. Although the crimes described are horrendous, there is no gross attention to the details of the violence, no CSI-style descriptions, and although not a cozy novel, it’s not a hard-edged thriller either. Ah, and there is romance but no explicit sex scenes (or implicit even).

I had a great time reading the novel, enjoyed the satisfying ending and my only disappointment is that being a big fairy tale fan I would have loved to get my hands on the wonderful illustrated volumes of fairy tales described in the novel but unfortunately it won’t be possible. I recommend it to readers of mysteries that prefer an involved story rather than a hard-edged scientific investigation in dark, urban and grittily realistic settings. If you love quirky characters, do not hesitate and give it a try. And I’ll be keeping an eye on Louise Marley’s work for sure.

Links

AmazonUK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Trust-Me-Lie-Louise-Marley-ebook/dp/B01HDYDJZ8

Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/Trust-Me-Lie-Louise-Marley-ebook/dp/B01HDYDJZ8

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30715819-trust-me-i-lie

The author shared a bit of information about herself too.

Author Louise Marley
Author Louise Marley

Louise Marley

Louise Marley writes murder mysteries and romantic comedies. She lives in Wales, surrounded by fields of sheep, and has a beautiful view of Snowdon from her window.

Her first published novel was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, which was a finalist in Poolbeg’s ‘Write a Bestseller’ competition. She has also written articles for the Irish press and short stories for UK women’s magazines such as Take a Break and My Weekly.

Her latest novel is Trust Me I Lie.

You can connect with her in

Social Media:

Website: http://www.louisemarley.co.uk/

Blog: http://www.louisemarleywrites.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LouiseMarley @LouiseMarley

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LouiseMarleyAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/LouiseMarley

Thanks to Louise for her great novel that I thoroughly enjoyed, thanks to Rosie for creating such a great group, and thanks to you all for reading, and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK! And this month, don’t forget to REVIEW!

Categories
Book launch New books

#New book The Vampire of Blackpool by Catherine Anne Green (@SpookyMrsGreen) #Paranormal eerie and spooky, with a British touch

Hi all:

I’m pleased to see that authors I’ve met through blogging and social media are keeping busy with their books, and there’s a great variety of them. Here, Catherine Anne Green who also belongs to the fabulous and supportive group of authors ASMSG told me she’d released a new book, and as I’ve visited and enjoyed my time in Blackpool, I could not resist…

The Vampire of Blackpool by Catherine Green
The Vampire of Blackpool by Catherine Green

The Vampire of Blackpool by Catherine Green

British paranormal romance author Catherine Green has taken a break from her Redcliffe novels series set in Cornwall, and has launched her brand new novel, The Vampire of Blackpool. A contemporary English Gothic story, it tells the tale of vampire Meredith Hanson, her love interest Samantha Morris, and her rival, the vampire hunter Ryan James. The novel is strictly for an adult audience, and Catherine’s vampires do not sparkle!

 

The vampire, the witch, and the hunter battle it out in a contemporary Gothic adventure in Northern England.

 

Meredith Hanson lives in Blackpool, the former Victorian holiday hotspot of Northern England. She masquerades as a reclusive author, feeding on the blood of unsuspecting tourists without remorse. Her life takes on new meaning when she meets a young witch in a local pub one evening. Despite Meredith’s cold demeanour, she finds herself oddly fascinated with Samantha Morris, and falls into an accidental relationship with the girl. It is at this time that a vampire hunter arrives in Blackpool. He is tough, he is determined, and his next target is an ancient vampire that has been spotted in the tourist town. He intends to bring her down and destroy her to save the lives of innocent humans. Will he succeed? Or will the experienced vampire seductress be the cause of his undoing?

 

The Vampire of Blackpool is available to order in paperback and ebook formats via her website www.catherinegreenauthor.blogspot.com or you can find it in Amazon and other ebook stores.

Here, a bit of information about the author:

Author Catherine Green holding a copy of her new gothic novel The Vampire of Blackpool. Oh, to be beside the seaside!
Author Catherine Green holding a copy of her new gothic novel The Vampire of Blackpool. Oh, to be beside the seaside!

About the Author

Author of British paranormal romance series The Redcliffe Novels, Catherine Green was raised on books from a young age, and has happy memories of Saturday mornings spent in her small local library, devouring the contents of the shelves. Catherine has always been fascinated by the supernatural world, and it feels natural for her to write about vampires, werewolves, witches and other mystical creatures in her contemporary stories.

 

If you sign up to Catherine’s newsletter, she will send you a free copy of her Redcliffe short story, It’s Complicated, to introduce you to her fictional supernatural seaside town in Cornwall, England.

You can find Catherine in the following places:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpookyMrsGreen

Author blog: http://www.catherinegreenauthor.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter page: https://twitter.com/SpookyMrsGreen

Personal Blog: http://spookymrsgreen.com/

Thanks so much to author Catherine Green for bringing us her brand new novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and you know what to do, like, share, comment and CLICK!

 

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