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#Bookreview THE WHISTLING by Rebecca Netley (@PenguinUKBooks) (@Rebecca_Netley ) A new Gothic author has arrived. Hooray! #TheWhistling

Hi all:

I think this novel by a new author might become a favourite for many readers.

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley

If you can hear it, it’s already too late . . . SEND SHIVERS DOWN YOUR SPINE WITH THIS CHILLING AND GRIPPING STORY SET IN A FAR-FLUNG SCOTTISH ISLAND

**THE PERFECT HALLOWEEN READ AS THE NIGHTS DRAW IN**

‘Chills you to your bones . . . More unsettling and beautiful than you can imagine’ 5***** READER REVIEW
________

On the remote Scottish island of Skelthsea, Elspeth Swansome takes on a position as a nanny.

Her charge, Mary, hasn’t uttered a word since the sudden death of her twin, William – just days after their former nanny disappeared. But no one will speak of what happened to William.

Just as no one can explain the lullabies sung in empty corridors.
Nor the strange dolls that appear in abandoned rooms.
Nor the faint whistling that comes in the night . . .

As winter draws in, Elspeth finds herself increasingly trapped.

But is this house haunted by the ghosts of the past?

OR THE SECRETS OF THE LIVING . . . ?
________

Chilling, twisty and emotionally gripping, The Whistling is an atmospheric page-turner with shades of the classics, yet a unique character of its own, perfect for fans of Susan Hill and Laura Purcell

‘I was sucked in from page one and read it in one fell swoop’ 5***** READER REVIEW

‘A wicked twist . . . brilliant, scary, clever. Horror writing at its best’ 5***** READER REVIEW

‘A great story with moments of heart-grabbing terror, beautifully written’ 5***** READER REVIEW

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XB7M4N7/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08XB7M4N7/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B08XB7M4N7/

Author Rebecca Netley

About the author:

Rebecca Netley grew up as part of an eccentric family in a house full of books and music, and these things have fed her passions. Family and writing remain at the heart of Rebecca’s life. She lives in Reading with her husband, sons and an over-enthusiastic dog, who gives her writing tips. The Whistling is Rebecca Netley’s debut novel and won the Exeter Novel Prize.

 My review:

I thank NetGalley and Penguin Michael Joseph UK for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review. This is the debut novel of the author, and it is likely that we’ll be hearing plenty from her in the future.

This is a Gothic novel, and although it is brand new, lovers of the genre will recognise many/most of the expected tropes and details they’ve come to love over the years: a remote and dark place (the imaginary Scottish Island of Skelthsea, which the author manages to make both, menacing and beautiful); a threatening mansion that becomes a character in its own right; a young lone woman, who has experienced much trauma and loss, arrives to the house and has to confront a less-than-warm welcome and some open animosity; secrets and mysteries everybody insists in keeping from the main protagonist; some eerie and difficult to explain events; some seemingly friendly people who offer to help, and others who seem intent on harming or at least obstructing the protagonist; “strange” children; plenty of alternative versions of what might have happened, some more difficult to believe than others; and a paranormal element to the story (or more than one), in this case related to the island’s ancestral knowledge/traditions (or superstitions?). Many of the reviewers mention some of the novels The Whistling reminded them of, and, for those who like to read both, the classics and more modern takes on the genre, this one fits into quite a well-known subgenre, that of the young woman coming to look after and/or educate the (usually recently orphaned) children of a fairly well-to-do family, who have been left in charge of a relative not up to (or interested in) the task. You’ll probably be able to come up with a few titles that would fit the description —films as well as books— although in my case, to begin with, I kept thinking of Henry James’s A Turn of the Screw, because the tone of menace and the emphasis on the previous nanny reminded me of that story, but… I will try not to reveal any spoilers, because despite the general sense of familiarity one experiences when reading the story, there are quite a few twists and turns, and plenty of red herrings to keep readers guessing.

This a very atmospheric novel, and apart from the actual paranormal element, there are quite a few other topics (some more habitual than others), that play a part in the story. There is grief; trauma; difficult family relationships; sibling rivalry; small communities and how they deal with outsiders; the role of women in society; poor mental health and how it was dealt with in the past; different kinds of love; duty, and feelings of guilt; ancient beliefs, tradition, and rationality; how vulnerable we are to suggestion, especially when we are alone and not on familiar ground… Although the novel stays close to the classic style, and I wouldn’t say it presents a totally novel take on the subject, the focus on the character’s past history and the amount of psychological detail it conveys give it a more modern feel.

It is difficult to talk about the characters without giving away too much of the story, but I will say that the protagonist, Elspeth —who is also the first-person narrator of the story— is a sympathetic character, and one easy to root for. She has lived through some pretty traumatic experiences, and we meet her at a moment when she has lost everybody and everything, and places all her hopes and dreams on this job, on her new charge, Mary, and on a new life away from her sad memories and experiences. As you can imagine, things don’t go to plan, but despite her fear and the threats and warnings she keeps getting, she sticks by the girl and gets to really care for her. What is quite extraordinary as well, in this novel, is how many of the characters share characteristics and are mirror images of each other or, perhaps, they embody different examples of the effects such traumas could have in the development of a person, depending on their previous personalities and circumstances. We have quite a few characters who have lost their parents, at a fairly early age; who have suffered trauma (physical, mental, or even both); who have been abused or have seen loved ones being abused or made a mockery of by members of the community they live in; who have had difficult relationships with siblings and have then lost them (and experience guilt); who have had to deal with a responsibility imposed on them by birth or society; who have nobody they can trust and have to keep quiet (figuratively or otherwise)… This background is shared by characters who (at least on the surface) are “good”, but also by some Elspeth suspects from the very beginning of being evil, which highlights the idea that both, nature and nurture, are equally important when it comes to the upbringing of a person (and this is further brought home by the many siblings who also populate the novel, and who tend to be completely different from each other).

The story is told by Elspeth, from her point of view, and that works very well to place readers in her shoes and make us experience things first-hand. It is also a great way to tell the story and to maintain the mystery, as we, like her, know nothing of the setting, and we discover it with her, slowly and gradually. There is some telling, as Elspeth gets increasingly curious and suspicious about what is going on, and she starts asking questions, but many of the other characters are very reluctant to divulge any but the most basic of information, and we only get to learn some bits of gossip and rumours for much of the novel.

I have mentioned how well the author captures the atmosphere, the way she uses the island, the house, the weather, to play with the protagonist’s subjectivity, and to increase the tension and the suspense of the story. There are vivid descriptions, but they never feel forced or excessive, and there are plenty of events and happenings to keep the action and the story moving. The story has three parts, and some reviewers complained that the novel, especially the first part, is quite slow. Most of them recognised, though, that this is in keeping with the genre of the novel. Personally, I felt it worked well, and the story didn’t drag for me. (People who are not used to the genre or to these kinds of books might feel it is too slow, but I don’t think it would work as well if it was any faster). The story picks up the pace as the warnings, threats, and worrying events pile up, and the clues to the mystery and the red herrings are nicely scattered around the book and will keep readers turning the pages, even if it is at a more leisurely pace than in modern mystery novels. Don’t hesitate to check a sample of the book if you like the sound of it, as you will get a fair idea of what the style of the whole novel is like pretty quickly.

To give you a taster, I couldn’t resist sharing a few passages. Remember, though, that I read an ARC copy, so there might be modifications and small changes in the final version.

I felt then not just the strangeness of the unfamiliar house but something else, a quality to the quietness that seemed unnatural, and experienced the tiniest nibble of some doubt. 

Perhaps, I thought, mourning could never be fully emptied. 

‘Some souls are made to be dark.’ She studied me with something like pity. ‘The world gives birth to both the viper and the lamb, and there are churches for each.’ 

The silence was as deep and still as distant galaxies. Every piece of my life came polished to diamond sharpness, fragments hurled at me with the speed of comets: the coiling smoke of Swan House, my mother’s face with death upon it, the warmth of Clara’s hand —no regret: my heart was as flat as paper.

What to say about the ending? It is all solved and all questions answered, and I liked it a lot. Most of the explanations are pretty rational and would fit into a standard mystery novel, but the supernatural also plays a part, as it should in this genre. Did I guess what was really going on? To tell you the truth, I was carried away by the atmosphere and the all-engrossing aura of the story, and I didn’t spend as much time as I would in a standard mystery novel thinking about the whos and the whys. I did guess right, though, most of the answers, although not all the details, and many of the detours and red herrings made me change my mind a few times. But, although not a standard mystery, for me that part of the story works well, and the ending is a happy one, given the circumstances.

Would I recommend this novel? Definitely for anybody who loves Gothic mysteries and fiction, particularly those involving a mysterious house, magnetic locations, young women, and children. If you favour a quick and fast story, and a modern style of writing, clipped and to the point, this might not be for you, as it is written in the style of the classics. I am not sure I would class it as a horror story (I didn’t feel scared, but I am not easily frightened), and although there are eerie moments, they are mostly psychological in nature (that does not mean there is no real danger involved, and violence makes an appearance, although mostly out of the pages and is not explicit or extreme), anxiety-inducing and suspense and dread are the main emotions. A child dies, and there are plenty of disturbing and disturbed characters and traumatic events, so people looking for a light read, or a cheery story might need to be cautious, although the story ends on an optimistic note. A great example of a new Gothic novel, with a likeable and determined female protagonist, with no romance involved (in the main story), and with mysteries and supernatural happenings taking place in a truly remarkable setting. I will follow the author’s career with interest.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep smiling, keep reading, and to stay safe. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog WHEN THE STARS SANG by Caren J. Werlinger A delightful read, full of great characters, inspiring, and heart-warming. Also recommended to dog lovers! #LGTB #Bookreview

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, although it is not in a genre I read very often. A great read.

When the Stars Sang by Caren R. Werlinger
When the Stars Sang by Caren R. Werlinger

When the Stars Sang by Caren J. Werlinger

Nearly twenty-five years ago, Kathleen Halloran’s brother drowned during the last summer they ever spent with their grandmother on a remote island off Maine’s coast. Like a siren’s call she can’t resist, Kathleen is pulled back to Little Sister Island. She leaves her job and her girlfriend packs up her few belongings and moves into her grandmother’s cottage.

Molly Cooper loves life on Little Sister, where the islanders take care of their own. Kathleen Halloran doesn’t belong here, and her arrival stirs up unwelcome memories for the islanders—including Molly’s brother. Molly is certain Kathleen will pack up at the first big blow. When she doesn’t, Molly begins to see maybe there’s more to Kathleen than she thought.

Sometimes, before you can move forward, you have to look back.

https://www.amazon.com/When-Stars-Sang-Caren-Werlinger-ebook/dp/B07B7CT41D/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Stars-Sang-Caren-Werlinger-ebook/dp/B07B7CT41D/

Author Caren J. Werlinger
Author Caren J. Werlinger

About the author:

Caren was raised in Ohio, the oldest of four children. Much of her childhood was spent reading every book she could get her hands on, and crafting her own stories. She was influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula Le Guin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather, and the Brontë sisters. She has lived in Virginia for over twenty years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy and lives with her partner and their canine fur-children. She began writing creatively again several years ago. Her first novel, Looking Through Windows, won a Debut Author award from the Golden Crown Literary Society in 2009. Since then, she has published several more novels, winning three Goldies and multiple Rainbow Awards. She recently completed her first fantasy trilogy, The Dragonmage Saga.
Check out her blog: http://cjwerlinger.wordpress.com

https://www.amazon.com/Caren-J.-Werlinger/e/B002BOI2ZI/

My review:

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

I occasionally read romance novels although I am not their number one fan, but there was something about this book that called my attention from the very beginning. I am always attracted towards stories that are set in special locations (real or imagined) and the description of the island definitely fitted the bill for me. And, in this case, first impressions were right.  I loved the story and the place, and I wish it existed and I could be a part of the community in Little Sister.

The story is narrated in the third person from the point of view of two female characters, Kathleen, who returns to Little Island as an adult (after a traumatic breakup with her on-and-off girlfriend of 14 years), and goes to live to the house of her recently deceased grandmother (although she had not been back there since she was a child due to a very traumatic event), and Molly, the island’s sheriff, and also a handywoman, who loves restoring and repairing boats, but can set her hand at anything that needs repairing (even a broken heart). Although they are suspicious of each other at first, it is clear that they are meant for each other, but, as we all know, the path of true love never does run smooth, and there are a number of obstacles on their way, some of their own making, but others to do with childhood trauma, dysfunctional family relationships, and a past that refuses to be buried. If you are a big fan of romances, LGBT or otherwise, you do not need to worry. Although I won’t discuss the ending to avoid spoilers; I think you’ll be happy with it.

The author creates realistic characters we care for, and not only the protagonists. While Kathleen and Molly can be stubborn and blind at times (and even annoying, but ultimately likeable), there is a full catalogue of fabulous secondary characters, including Molly’s family (her wonderful parents, and her brothers, including Aidan, who is an integral part of the incident that made everything change for Kathleen), sisters Olivia and Louisa (who always carry the ashes of their father with them), Rebecca, the librarian and depository of the island’s traditions, and many more. Oh, and let’s not forget Blossom, a stray dog adopted by Kathleen (well, the adoption is mutual), that is both a totally realistic dog and a fantastic and heart-warming character.

There is lovely food, a variety of ceremonies and traditions, a strong sense of community [including matrilineal heritage that reminded me of the book The Kingdom of Women by Choo Wai Hong (you can read my review here)], secrets, deception, ecology and renewable energy, and plenty of love, not only between the two women, but between all the members of the community. The sense of belonging and the healing and growth of the characters is intrinsically linked to the way of life in this island that mixes Irish folklore and beliefs with Native-American (First Ones) ones. Werlinger creates a beautiful setting, both in its landscape and spirituality. Readers feel a part of this wonderful community, and I, for one, was sorry to come to the end of the book and would love to live in such a place.

The writing ebbs and flows, allowing readers to enjoy the descriptions of the island, its inhabitants, their actions and also their mental processes, although I did not find it slow and I was hooked to the story and the feeling of becoming one with the inhabitants of the place. As a writer, I easily empathised with Kathleen, who is an editor and also creates book covers, and I enjoyed the fact that female and male characters are diverse, are not restricted to standard gender roles, and the attitude of the islanders towards same-sex love is open and unquestioning. There are certain necessary characteristics that make a relationship truly compatible, but gender is not one of them.

As readers, we share the thoughts and experiences of the main characters although the third person narration also gives us enough distance to be able to make our own minds up. There are some surprises, some quasi-magical elements, some light and fun moments, but there are also nasty characters (although these are always outsiders), and intuition and family connections are very important. As for the love story, there are some sexual elements, but not a full-blown graphic description of events, and I found it rather delicate and in good taste (and I am not a fan of erotica).

I wanted to share a few things I highlighted:

Normally, those messages would have torn at Kathleen’s heart. But she wasn’t sure she had a hart any longer. She tapped her chest, half expecting it to sound hollow, like the Tin Man.

“It should be a mix. None of us is just one thing, complete in and of ourselves. We are the island, and the island is us.”

“That is not how it works. Love that has to be deserved or earned was never love to begin with.”

A joyful read, which I recommend to readers who enjoy books set in special locations, who appreciate a strong sense of community and belonging, and love solid characters. There are ups and downs, happy and sad events, although it is not a book for lovers of adventures and frantically paced novels. This is a contemplative and inspiring book, heart-warming and positive. If you need a pick-me-up, this is your book.

Thanks very much to Rosie for her fabulous group and for the opportunities to review and discover great books, thanks to the author (she has written many other books that I’ll have to check), and thanks to all of you for reading. Remember to like, share, comment, click, REVIEW and SMILE!

[amazon_link asins=’0996036865,0998217905,B00JW2M60O,B00BJ9FMV8,B01APWFEC6,0996036881,B00HMQ7MHY,B00EVSTP08′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’9528a693-2de5-11e8-83f0-018384406b52′]

Categories
Book reviews Guest author post New books Traducciones/Translations

#Bookreview (sort of) and new author. The Quiet Island by Mo de la Fuente (@ModelaFuente) An island, a Mystery and Unforgettable Characters

Hi all:

First of all it’s Friday and as you know I usually bring you new authors and books. I have featured this writer, Mo de la Fuente, in my blog before, and shared some of her novels in Spanish. I was lucky enough that she decided to have one of them translated to English (she took advantage of my special offer in March, 50% discount… I might do it again, but there’s always a deal to be had for my author friends and fellow bloggers). I recently shared my review of her novel in Spanish (that has nothing to do with me), and what I decided to do today, was share that review (translated to English) with you.

The review is not reflection of my own work (the author has very kindly said that she prefers my version to hers) but I enjoyed the original, as you’ll see from my review. I also share the author’s page in Amazon, that is available in bilingual version.

The Quiet Island by Mo de la Fuente. Translation: Olga Núñez Miret
The Quiet Island by Mo de la Fuente. Translation: Olga Núñez Miret

The Quiet Island by Mo de la Fuente

As dawn breaks, the usual calm of a tiny quiet Mediterranean island is shattered by the news. A teenage girl has gone missing. Inspector Villanueva, temporarily transferred to the island, and sub-inspector Esteller must fight against the elements, the lack of resources, and their own demons to solve the mystery of what happened in a place where nothing ever does.

Here my review, of the original (no reflection of my own work):

I don’t read exclusively a single genre, although I freely admit that I like thrillers and mystery books and I read quite a few of them. In part because they are like a puzzle we try to solve thanks to the clues the text gives us, in part because I like to see how the writer manages to bring something new to the genre. And for me, no matter what type of story I’m reading, finding interesting characters I can connect with it’s the most important thing.

This novel takes place in the small island of Tabarca, in the Mediterranean, off the shore of Alicante. As several of the reviews of the book point out, reading the novel makes one want to visit it, because of the wonderful descriptions of the peace and quiet, the thought of a place with no cars, without pollution, and calm. In such a small place, where everybody knows everybody else (apart from the tourists, of course) and where nothing ever happens, a girl’s disappearance is an event that upsets everyone. And when Clara turns up dead, things only take a turn for the worse. The combination of the place and the setting with the investigators: Hernán, an inspector sent there god knows why, Mónica, who had been sub-inspector in Barcelona but decided to quit due to personal reasons, and Raúl, the only one not hiding from something and who is totally happy there, works beautifully.

The investigation is hindered by circumstances (even with the arrival of the inspector, there are only three police officers in the island, there’s no lab, and no way to follow correct protocol) and the lack of resources (an excellent commentary on the budget cuts Spain is suffering), and little by little we discover more details about the island’s inhabitants and about the members of the police. I really enjoyed the ending (that I won’t talk about in detail as I don’t want to spoil the surprise) and it rounds up a novel that, although short, is long enough to intrigue and touch us.

I found Mónica’s personal story, closely related to the case, fascinating, and it would make a great novel (or more than one) on its own. Quite aside from the details, for me the author manages to portray complex psychological aspects and the reactions of the characters in a very accurate manner, by using several points of view, that help the reader get under the skin of the characters, sharing in their emotions and their life experiences. For me, Mónica, María (the victim’s mother) and the island of Tabarca stand out in the narration and I’m sure I won’t forget them in a hurry.

I recommend this book to readers who love mystery novels that go beyond the usual, psychological thrillers and extraordinary settings.

Link:

http://rxe.me/PBRFDS

 

And here, the author’s page:

Autora Mo de La Fuente
Author Mo de La Fuente

Mo de la Fuente (Salamanca, Spain) studied Translation and Audiovisual Communication at the University of Salamanca and Westminster School of Languages (London). She is an official translator and “Ojalá Paula” is her first novel. Besides, she writes and produces short films.
If you want to learn more about the autor, her novel and her interests, visit her blog http://ojalapaula.blogspot.com.es/

http://amzn.to/1ZlLJKS

Thanks so much to Mo de la Fuente for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve found it interesting, like, share, comment and of course, CLICK!

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