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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Vanished Days (Book 3 Slains) by Susanna Kearsley (@SusannaKearsley) (@simonschusterUK) Beautiful Scottish-themed historical fiction with a twist in the tale

Hi all:

I bring you a book I enjoyed enormously, and I hope you find it interesting as well.

The Vanished Days (Book 3 Slains) by Susanna Kearsley

The Vanished Days (Book 3 Slains) by Susanna Kearsley

A sweeping love story set against the Jacobite revolution from much-loved, million copy bestselling author Susanna Kearsley

There are many who believe they know what happened, but they do not know the whole of it. The rumours spread, and grow, and take their hold, and so to end them I have been persuaded now to take my pen in hand and tell the story as it should be told…

Autumn, 1707. Old enemies from the Highlands to the Borders are finding common ground as they join to protest the new Union with England, the French are preparing to launch an invasion to carry the young exiled Jacobite king back to Scotland to reclaim his throne, and in Edinburgh the streets are filled with discontent and danger.

Queen Anne’s commissioners, seeking to calm the situation, have begun settling the losses and wages owed to those Scots who took part in the disastrous Darien expedition eight years earlier.

When Lily, the young widow of a Darien sailor, comes forward to collect her husband’s wages, her claim is challenged, and one of the men who’s assigned to examine her has only days to decide if she’s honest, or if his own feelings are making him blind to the truth, and if he’s being used as a pawn in an even more treacherous game.

A story of intrigue, adventure, endurance, romance…and the courage to hope.

‘A hugely engrossing book and a complete world created’ Ian Rankin

Praise for Susanna Kearsley’s books:

‘A thrilling, haunting and deeply romantic story powerfully told by an engaging heroine…enchanting and beautifully evoked.’
RACHEL HORE

‘I’ve loved every one of her books! She has bedrock research and a butterfly’s delicate touch with characters?sure recipe for historical fiction that sucks you in and won’t let go!’
DIANA GABALDON, bestselling author of Outlander

‘A deeply-engaging romance and a compelling historical novel… a marvellous book.’
BERNARD CORNWELL

 https://www.amazon.es/dp/B08HZG8F44/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HZG8F44/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08J1FQB27/

Author Susanna Kearsley

About the author:

I‘m a former museum curator, avid amateur genealogist, and writer of modern gothic novels that interweave contemporary suspense and romance with historical adventure, meaning they don’t fit neatly into any category and are therefore a marketer’s nightmare.

The Bookseller once said of me, in a review, “She has a poetic sensibility and a sense of mystery; she could write the modern Rebecca.”

So that’s what I strive for.

https://www.amazon.com/Susanna-Kearsley/e/B000APO704/

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Simon & Schuster UK for providing me an early ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I read so many great comments and recommendations of this novel that I decided to request it, even though I normally avoid starting to read a series in the middle (or the end, as seems to be the case here, because this is the third novel in Susanna Kearsley’s Slain Series: The Winter Sea and the Firebird are books 1 and 2), but as this was described as a ‘prequel’, I thought it should work for me even if I hadn’t read the others, and it would be a good way to get introduced to the author, whom, although very popular, I had never read before. And yes, I was right. It worked for me, beautifully, I might add. But, of course, now I feel very intrigued by the other two books in the trilogy, and by the rest of Kearsley’s novels as well.

Although I will try not to go on and on (I’m known for doing precisely that), for those of you who are in a hurry, I will summarise my opinion straight on. Yes, I loved it. I loved the setting (I love Scotland and stories that take place there as well), the historical period (not one I knew much about, but now I am pretty intrigued by it), the characters (I’ll keep thinking about them for a long time), the quality of the writing (beautifully descriptive, full of detail but never over the top, and packed with scenes that pop out of the page), and a final twist that makes us reconsider (and better understand) what has previously gone on.

Having never read this author’s work before, I cannot comment on how this novel might compare to the others she has written. I checked the reviews to get some sense of what her fans thought, and most seem to love it as well, although others complained that there was far too much historical detail, and also that it differed from most of her other novels, as there wasn’t a dual timeline (there sort of is, but not how most people think of it) or any paranormal elements. I have seen her work recommended to readers who love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (I’ve never read it or watched the series, so, again, I can’t comment), and Gabaldon herself recommends it, so, if you like that series and others similar, you know what to expect.

The story is set, as the description explains, in Scotland (mostly Edinburgh and Leith, although other places are mentioned as well) in 1707, but the book moves back and forth between the late XVII century and the action taking place in 1707, as the narrator, Adam, gets involved in an investigation that makes him have to dig into the past of a woman, Lily, who claims to have been married to a sailor who lost his life during the Darien expedition and is seeking compensation. I must confess to knowing nothing about the Darien expedition —a Scottish attempt at setting up a colony in America— before reading this novel, and only a little about the Jacobite revolution and the twists and turns that resulted from the fights between the different claimants to the throne of Scotland, the unification with England, and the important role religion played in those events. The author couldn’t have chosen a most fascinating historical period, and although it can be confusing at times (I’m not sure I always knew exactly who was supporting who), I think she manages quite well to incorporate the historical detail into the story and also to weave real characters into the novel, without shoehorning them into narratives that would have been alien to the real people. I recommend the author’s notes at the end, as she explains her process of creation, how the novel changed in the writing (and she quotes Robert Louis Stevenson, a favourite of mine), and also her method in trying to ensure historical accuracy while at the same time making sure the reading experience is an enjoyable one. I think she made the right choices, at least as far as I’m concerned.

I have visited Edinburgh but I am not a great expert on the place, and I appreciated the feeling of walking through its streets as they must have been at the time, the atmosphere of the place, the way the people behaved and talked, the different social classes, their habits, customs, and expectations, and this worked to make the book come alive for me, and I felt immersed in the place and the period, thanks to her descriptions and the reflections of the character. Some of the themes discussed in the book are: the nature of identity (what makes us who we are), legacy and the importance/weight of family history, self-made people versus those who have inherited their positions/wealth, truth and lies (and the grey area around them), how to judge other people’s characters, loyalty and betrayal, beliefs and convictions and how far we’d go to defend them, different kinds of love, the power of literature and stories to keep us sane and hopeful in dreadful situations, and more.

One of the things that I most enjoyed was the way the story is told. Adam, the narrator, put me in mind of other narrators in other novels (Heart of Darkness, The Great Gatsby), although I eventually decided that, perhaps, he reminds me most of Ishmael in Moby Dick, as he at times is talking in the first person about himself and his actions (when investigating the case), addressing the reader directly, and at other times, mostly when he goes back in time to narrate parts of the story of Lily, he seems to disappear and the story is narrating itself, although we have the odd authorial comment, where he might include something akin to an author’s note, or realise that some of the things he has narrated do not make sense as he has written them and adds a little clarification. The only thing that bothered me for much of the narration was the fact that Lily’s story was being told by another, and a man at that, rather than herself (cherchez la femme once more), but the final twist puts a spin on things and brings a new perspective into what had gone before (and no, of course, I am not going to mention it). It also helped me make sense of some of the events and behaviours narrated, which I had felt seemed out of character.

I don’t want to talk too much about the characters, as I don’t want to risk revealing anything that might affect the enjoyment of readers, but I liked Lily from the beginning (even if the revelations kept making me change my mind about what she might be like and her circumstances), and Adam was an intriguing character from the beginning and he grew more and more on me as the book progressed (and I love him now, for sure). There were many other memorable characters (servants, the family Lily grows up with, in Leith, who become very important for the story), including the historical ones, and from the notes, I understand that readers of the author’s previous novels will recognise many of them from before, so that will be an added appeal. However, let me reassure you that it is not necessary to have read the previous novels to understand or enjoy this one (and yes, I can easily imagine previous followers of the author will enjoy it even more). There are some bad characters, truly horrible ones, and some that are somewhat suspect but we don’t get to know well enough to pass judgement Oh, and don’t let me forget Gilroy, who has many surprises up his sleeve as well. The book is full of characters, and we don’t get to know them all in detail, but the main characters are well-drawn and feel real and true. They had become friends and companions by the end of the story.

I’ve already talked about the beauty of the writing; there is a lot of history and stories told, and there is a degree of telling as pertains to this type of story, the writing is vivid, and although the narration meanders at times, it never dragged for me, and I was always eager to keep reading.

Because I read an ARC copy I am not keen on sharing too many quotes, in case they have changed, and, as usual, I recommend anybody interested to check a sample of the book to see if it suits their taste. To give you a taster, I share a few of the fragments I highlighted (and there were many): 

Here, Adam is addressing the reader directly, and explaining his method of narration:

And you are right. She did not tell it to us in that way. She told it haltingly. We asked her questions, and she answered, and from there the story took its shape. Some details I did not learn till long afterwards, but since my purpose is to write things down for you in all their fullness I have woven everything in place as best I can, that you may have the clearest picture.

 It is no small thing, hope. Without it, darkness wins. My mother used to set me on my feet again and tell me, ‘Were it not for hope, the heart would break,’ and she was right. Sometimes, when all seems darkness and despair, hope is the only thing that does remain for us to grasp —a tree branch beating at the ice within a child’s hand.

And so we make an opening, and day by day press forward, and we hold that hope.

And therein lies its power.

 I have a certain memory of that night, held in the way one holds a seashell gathered on the shore —time dulls its brightness, and wears down its sharper edges, yet we only have to hold it to our ear and we can once more hear the singing of the sea. And so it is with memory.

 The ending… I haven’t mentioned that there is a love story at the heart of the book (aren’t I forgetful!), and yes, the ending more than lives up to my expectations. As I’ve already mentioned the twist in the tale, I won’t talk about it again, and no, in my case I didn’t see it coming (some people did), although there were details and things that gave me pause, I think it works beautifully.

They were not included in my ARC copy, but from the author’s note, I guess that there were plans to include a family tree/list of characters, and also a map or several of the different settings mentioned in the story. I don’t know if they appear in the final version, but I am sure they would enhance the reading experience if they do.

In sum, my first experience with one of Susanna Kearsley’s novels couldn’t have been better. I loved the story, the setting, the characters, the writing style, and learned a lot about the historical period. So, I recommend it to anybody keen on historical fiction, particularly Scottish historical fiction, to anybody looking for a great story, full of unforgettable characters, adventures, and perhaps, eager to discover an author new to them.

Thanks to the publisher, to NetGalley, and to Susanna Kearsley for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep safe, to do things you enjoy, to always keep going, keep reading, and keep smiling. 

Oh, a quick note, when I was trying to share the review of the book on Amazon, I realised that the book is only available in a paper version at the moment, and the Kindle version won’t be out until April, but you might want to add it to your wish list if you prefer to read an electronic version.

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog SHOOT THE MOON: AN ALTERNATIVE GAME OF HEARTS by Bella Cassidy (@BellaMoonShoot) Weddings, laughs, tears, romance and some hard-truths #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a bit of romance today. I don’t do that often, but I couldn’t resist this one. Blame Rosie.

Shoot the Moon by Bella Cassidy

Shoot the Moon: An alternative game of hearts by Bella Cassidy 

Tassie loves many things: her friends, her job, her garden. Even her first boyfriend. But there’s a kind of love she just can’t find.

Until, in losing everything, she sees what she needed most was there all along.

Sometimes it’s not the person you need to forget, but the person you need to forgive.

Shoot the Moon is the sweetest of bittersweet novels, combining two very different love stories. One of which will probably make you cry.

Tassie Morris is everyone’s favourite wedding photographer, famous for her photos of offbeat ceremonies and alternative brides. Yet commitment is proving impossible for Tassie herself, who cannot forget her first love.

When she’s sent to photograph a ceremony on Schiehallion – the Fairy Hill of the Scottish Caledonians – she meets Dan, who might be the one to make her forget her past. That is, until a family crisis begins a chain of events that threaten to destroy not only Tassie’s love life, but her entire career.

Set in a colourful world of extraordinary weddings, Shoot the Moon explores the complexities of different kinds of love: romantic love, mother love, friendship. And, ultimately, the importance of loving yourself.

“If there’s someone in your life whom you’ve never quite got over – perhaps this book could help explain one of the reasons why.”

 https://www.amazon.com//dp/B09D2DHZYG/

https://www.amazon.co.uk//dp/B09D2DHZYG/

https://www.amazon.es//dp/B09D2DHZYG/

Autor Bella Cassidy

About the author:

Bella Cassidy grew up in the West Country – reading contemporary romances, romances, historical novels, literary fiction… Just about anything she could lay her hands on. After a few years in London, working as a waitress and in PR and advertising, she went to Sussex to read English – despite admitting in her pre-interview that this rather sociable period in her life had seen her read only one book in six months: a Jilly Cooper.

She’s had an eclectic range of jobs: including in the world of finance; social housing fundraising; a stint at the Body Shop – working as Anita Roddick’s assistant; as a secondary school teacher, then teaching babies to swim: all over the world.

She’s done a lot of research for writing a weddings romance, having had two herself. For her first she was eight months pregnant – a whale in bright orange – and was married in a barn with wood fires burning. The second saw her in elegant Edwardian silk, crystals and lace, teamed with yellow wellies and a cardigan. Both were great fun; but it was lovely having her daughter alongside, rather than inside her at the second one.

https://www.amazon.com/Bella-Cassidy/e/B09D3CZX2M/

My review:

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

I am familiar with the name of the author but not being a big reader of romantic novels (I read the odd one and usually enjoy them, but in general prefer other genres and sometimes read them to take a break or when I need something different to my usual read) I hadn’t read one of hers yet. My mother is a big fan of shows about weddings and wedding dresses, and I thought the job of the protagonist promised some amusing adventures, and that was indeed the case, but there was much more to the novel than that.

The description of this novel is very accurate, and I think it gives a good indication of what readers can expect from it. This is a romantic novel, with a background in the world of wedding photos and wedding magazines (and it is eye-opening to realise how much insight a photographer can get into the lives and relationships of those she photographs), with some of the ceremonies taking place in wonderful settings all over the British Isles (or almost), from London, to Exeter, the Scottish Highlands, even New York (sort of), and with stops in Somerset and Shropshire, among other places. We also have wonderful contrasts between city and country life (managing a farm, cheese making, dog breeding… also make an appearance), and although most of the story is narrated in a chronological order (with some jumps forward in time) between 2014 and 2016, Tassie, the main protagonist, also remembers scenes from her youth and her recent past, and quite late in the book we get snippets of a diary set at a much earlier time (when Tassie was a very young child). I won’t go into a lot of detail, to avoid revealing too much, but there are secrets that help explain difficult family relationships and behaviours, and, most importantly, this is one of those novels that I would classify as an adult coming of age stories, because a character that seemed to have got stuck at a young age (much younger than their chronological age), finally gets to mature and grow up. Oh, and there is a touch of the spiritual/paranormal as well.

There are many other themes that pop up in the novel, and some are explored in more detail than others (faith and loss; the difficulties a couple can face when trying to have children, miscarriages, and the toll that takes on the mental health; coming out (or not) to your traditional family; issues of trust; family relationships and the secrets families keep; toxic relationships and how to get free from them; second chances and living our dreams…) but it is far from simply a light and amusing read that will leave you with a smile on your face. There is that as well (yes, it is a proper romantic novel, and there is a happy ending, I can tell you that, although you’ll have to read the whole thing to see how it comes about, and “happy” might look quite different to what we think when we start reading the novel), but there are some important subjects explored in detail in the novel. I recommend readers to not skip the section of acknowledgments at the end, as it gives a good insight into the process of creation of the novel, and it also provides some extra resources to people wanting to explore further some of the issues that play an important part in the book.

The novel, which is narrated in the third person but from Tassie’s point of view, has a fabulous cast of secondary characters. To be totally honest, Tassie isn’t my favourite. Other than Alex, her long-term love interest, and a couple of the characters that appear fleetingly at some of the weddings, she was probably the character I liked the least at first. I didn’t hate her, but although I loved her friends (Syd and Oliver are fabulous, and so are their partners, and there are many other characters that appear only briefly, like the reverend and mother of one of the brides, or Syd’s witch aunt [well, Wiccan. She has an owl! How could I possibly not love her?] that I would have happily read whole books about), she was one of those people I felt like shaking and telling her to get her head out of the sand and start really looking at what was going on around her and in her own life. Perhaps because I’ve had friends with similar issues, I felt closer to those trying to advise her and getting frustrated because nothing seemed to make a difference than to her and because even the wonderful adventure she lives in Scotland with Dan (who is great. Yes, another favourite of mine) seems to follow the usual pattern. The fact that the story is narrated in the third person helps readers get a bit more perspective and perhaps puts them in a privileged position to get a clearer picture of what is at stake, although events that happen later help move things along. And perhaps, the whole point of the story is to make us see that certain things can only get solved when we are brave enough to confront them, no matter what the likely outcome or how painful the process might be. So, yes, although I didn’t feel I had much in common with Tassie, and she wasn’t my favourite character, to begin with, she grew on me, and I felt sorry to see her go at the end.

Although some of the subjects are emotional (and yes, be prepared from some tears), the writing is fluid and dynamic, combining wonderful descriptions of places, people, and situations (some quite hilarious), with quiet moments of reflection and introspection, and the odd touch of magic. There is romance, of course, and although there is passion, this is not an erotic novel full of “hot” sex scenes (much to my relief, as I am not a fan), and most of what goes on take place behind closed doors, so those who prefer to get graphic and detailed blow-by-blow accounts will be disappointed. On the other hand, you have romantic locations, descriptions of gardens and home vegetable patches rides on horses, helicopters, leaking boats, and quite an array of weddings. As usual, those who want to know if the writing will be suited to their taste, are advised to check a sample.

I’ve already mentioned the ending, and as I said, things are solved in what I felt was a very satisfying manner, and I am not talking only about Tassie’s love life, but also about some of the other difficult relationships she and those around her have to go through. Not that it is an easy process, but this is one of the many beauties of this book.

In summary, I recommend this novel to anybody who enjoys romantic novels and is not looking for “hot” or erotic stories but prefers stories exploring complex relationship issues and providing good psychological insights into relevant topics. Fans of weddings and romances set in Scotland (the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Sky, real towns and spots) will particularly enjoy this novel, and for those who like some extras, the author is promising a tour of the locations (on Facebook and Instagram).

Thanks to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to Rosie and her team for all the support, and thanks to all of you, of course, for reading, sharing, commenting, and please, keep safe and keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews

#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 HYDE by Craig Russell (@TheCraigRussell) (@ClaraHDiaz) Scottish Historical Gothic mystery, and a twist on Stevenson’s Hyde (without Jekyll)

Hi all:

I bring you a book that will be published in a couple of days by a writer whose previous book I enjoyed. Recommended to readers of historical fiction who love a touch of the Gothic/horror.

Cover of the book Hyde by Craig Russell with a Celtic design, of three spirals in Gold, the triskelion, on a green and black background.
Hyde by Craig Russell

Hyde: A thrilling Gothic masterpiece from the internationally bestselling author by Craig Russell 

When it comes to Gothic crime, Craig Russell is peerless. Absolutely stunning.’ – M W Craven
From international bestselling author Craig Russell comes a modern Gothic masterpiece.

Edward Hyde has a strange gift-or a curse-he keeps secret from all but his physician. He experiences two realities, one real, the other a dreamworld state brought on by a neurological condition.

When murders in Victorian Edinburgh echo the ancient Celtic threefold death ritual, Captain Edward Hyde hunts for those responsible. In the process he becomes entangled in a web of Celticist occultism and dark scheming by powerful figures. The answers are there to be found, not just in the real world but in the sinister symbolism of Edward Hyde’s otherworld.

He must find the killer, or lose his mind.

A dark tale. One that inspires Hyde’s friend . . . Robert Louis Stevenson.

Praise for Hyde:

‘Stephen King meets Robert Louis Stevenson… an imaginative gothic tale guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine the next time you walk a dark Edinburgh night.’ – David Hewson, author of The Garden Of Angels

‘Russell delivers a brooding, stunningly atmospheric tale set in Stevenson’s Edinburgh – multi-layered and intricately plotted, this is a Gothic thriller from the hands of a master.’ – Margaret Kirk, author of Shadow Man

‘A deliciously dark reimagining of a timeless character and a wonderful recreation of a gothic Edinburgh . . . Another winner for a consummate storyteller.’ – Douglas Skelton

‘Gloriously diabolical. A terrifying thrill ride through the hidden chasms of the human soul.’ – Chris Brookmyre, author of Black Widow

I absolutely adored it. Intense, harrowing and hugely entertaining. Craig Russell conjures the kind of spine-tingling tale that kept me reading through the night. Spectacular. – Chris Whittaker

‘The story is a thrilling ride through the murky depths of madness and horror, written with all Craig’s trademark skill and style. Definitely five stars from me’ James Oswald
‘A Gothic masterpiece which will lead you so far into the darkness that you won’t know who to trust. Another splendid offering from a writer who is top of his game. ‘ – Theresa Talbot

Praise for Craig Russell

‘A masterclass in suspenseful, character-driven prose fiction. Simply exceptional’
Frank Darabont, writer and director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile

https://www.amazon.es/Hyde-English-Craig-Russell-ebook/dp/B07T6XP5QS/

https://www.amazon.com/Hyde-English-Craig-Russell-ebook/dp/B07T6XP5QS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hyde-English-Craig-Russell-ebook/dp/B07T6XP5QS/

Author Craig Russell
Author Craig Russell

About the author:

Award-winning author Craig Russell’s novels have been translated into twenty-five languages worldwide. Film rights to his forthcoming novel, THE DEVIL ASPECT, have been acquired by Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures. The LENNOX series has been acquired by BAFTA award-winning Synchronicity Films for adaptation into a returning TV series. The first television adaptation in Germany, by Tivoli Films, of a Jan Fabel novel attracted an audience of six million viewers. Four further novels have been made into films (in one of which Craig Russell makes a cameo appearance as a German detective).

Craig Russell:
* won the 2015 Crime Book of the Year (McIlvanney Prize) for ‘The Ghosts of Altona’
* was a finalist for the 2019 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Award
* was a finalist for the 2017 McIlvanney Prize for ‘The Quiet Death of Thomas Quaid’, the latest in the Lennox series;
* was a finalist for the 2012 inaugural Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the year;
* was a finalist for the 2013 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger;
* was a finalist for the 2012 Crime Book of the Year (McIlvanney Prize);
* won the 2008 CWA Dagger in the Library for the Fabel series;
* was a finalist for the 2007 CWA Duncan Lawrie Golden Dagger;
* was a finalist for the 2007 SNCF Prix Polar in France;
* is the only non-German to be awarded the highly prestigious Polizeistern by the Polizei
Hamburg.

Official website: http://www.craigrussell.com

Facebook Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/craigrussellbooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thecraigrussell

https://www.instagram.com/craigrussellauthor

My review:

Thanks to Clara Diaz from Little, Brown Book Group UK and to NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Russell’s novel The Devil Aspect (you can read my review here) and enjoyed the historical detail, the emphasis on psychological factors, and the Gothic/horror elements of the story, and there are many features I recognise here, although the setting is Scotland, Edinburgh to be more specific, the myths this time are Celtic, and the historical period is the Victorian era, at a time when Scotland has become a part of the United Kingdom, but not everybody is in agreement with that and/or with the imperialist drive of the British government. As was the case with the other novel, it is difficult to talk about the plot without revealing too much and spoiling some of the surprises —and there are plenty— to come, because the story is constructed as a mystery-cum-police procedural, combined with psychological/supernatural/dark Gothic-horror elements. The whole narrative is framed by a conversation between writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his friend Edward Hyde, where Stevenson tells Hyde that he is obsessed by the subject of the duality of the spirit, the fact that we all have a dark side that is hidden but might manifest itself in certain circumstances, but he feels unable to write about it. Hyde decides to tell him a relevant story, and the rest of the novel is the story which we are to assume managed to inspire Stevenson to write one of his most famous novels.

I have mentioned duality, and, in fact, multiple dualities and hidden identities are among the most important subjects of the story: Edinburgh (Scottish but also a part of the British empire; old/traditional and at the head of the industrial revolution, modernisation and electrification; prejudiced [against foreigners, sexual diversity, women…] and tolerant); Hyde, the main protagonist (decent and honest, but with a traumatic past, unable to tell the truth about his doubts and fears, and deeply concerned about the darkness within); secret and dark societies hiding behind socially acceptable fronts; moral crusades pretending to protect the public from terrorist risks… There are plenty of historical details about old Edinburgh, its characters, its institutions, its stories, its buildings… I am sure anybody who’s ever visited Edinburgh or who has dreamed of visiting it will be fascinated by this story, and will have plenty of places to add to their list, and they will view some pretty well-known locations under a different light. I was also inspired by the stories from Celtic mythology mentioned to research more on the subject, and there is much that intrigued me and kept me hooked onto the story. As this is a mystery and a historical police procedural, there are crimes, and despite (or because of) their ritualistic nature they are quite gross and gore, so caution is advised to those who prefer milder reads.

The story is narrated in the third person, mostly from Hyde’s point of view (although he is an unreliable narrator, as he experiences some strange visions and dreams, and also periods of blackout and lost time, when he doesn’t know what has happened, so separating the truth from his dreams is not always straight forward), although we also get some chapters or fragments of chapters from other characters’ perspective; like his psychiatrist and friend (who also hides some secrets of his own); Cally Burr, a wonderful female doctor (and my favourite character together with Hyde); Elspeth Lockwood, the daughter of a well-off family, and a pretty strong and determined woman (who is also pretty unreliable as a narrator); Hyde’s collaborators… Some of the other characters we only get to know through their interactions with the rest, like his boss; a mysterious leader/spiritualist and his right-hand man (who is fascinating as well); a man suspected of being a nationalist leader; a photographer who is more involved than he seems at first; relatives of the victims…

The story’s style is Gothic, not only because of the nature of the subject and the setting, but because it does reverberate with the style of the old novels of the period, and that includes the use of old Scottish words and terminology, and a pace that is more leisurely and less concerned with only advancing the story as most modern novels are. There is plenty of telling, including descriptions of locations, people, stories and detailed background of the mythology and the individual characters’ experiences that help create a credible and eerie Gothic atmosphere. But there is also much showing, as we experience some of the events from the point of view of the protagonists, getting to feel their confusion and puzzlement, and not knowing either if what we’re reading is happening or is a dream, or perhaps a state of consciousness somewhere in between. The different narratives alternate, and although it is clear whose perspective we are reading at any given time, it is important to keep one’s attention sharp, as is the case with police procedurals in general. Because there are some dark/Jungian/mythological/paranormal elements, I am not sure this book will work for purists of that genre, but there are plenty of twists, red herrings, false clues, and surprises, and those should keep most readers who love mixed-genres hooked and satisfied. There are also plenty of subjective and introspective moments for those of us who love to explore the recesses of characters’ minds, and although it is not a slow book, it allows readers time to ponder on the beauty of certain passages, and also to think about the deeper meaning of some of the experiences explored in the novel. As I tend to do, and because I want to avoid revealing any important points of the novel, I recommend future readers to check a sample of the book to help them decide if the style works for them.

Was I surprised by the ending? Well, I guessed some aspects of it (no, I won’t go into more detail than that), although quite late into the story, but not all, and yes, I enjoyed it. I would go as far to say that it was quite beautiful. It definitely worked for me.

So, do I recommend it? Yes, to those who are not purists of the police procedural, to readers who love historical fiction with a bit of a twist, who are not afraid of violent crime and dark and horrific subjects, who love unreliable narrators psychologically troubled, and especially those who aren’t looking for a stylistically modern narrative but are able to enjoy descriptions, precious writing, and language appropriate to the historical period. I intend to carry on reading Russell’s novels in the future and wonder where and when he’ll take me next.

Thanks to the publisher and the author for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, keep reviewing, smiling, and above all, keep safe!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog NO MORE MULBERRIES by Mary Smith (@marysmithwriter) An immersive trip into rural Afghanistan #Afghanistan

Hi all:

Many of you probably know and follow the blog of the author whose first novel I’m reviewing today. I hope she is feeling better.

No More Mulberries by Mary Smith

No More Mulberries by Mary Smith

Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan and the warmth and humour of her women friends in the village, but she can no longer ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son, who seems determined to remain distant from his stepfather.
When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. Instead, she must focus on helping women desperate for medical care and has little time to think about her failing marriage. When an old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where she and her first husband had been so happy. Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going so horribly wrong.
Her husband, too, has a past of his own – from being shunned as a child to the loss of his first love.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005RRDZ12/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005RRDZ12/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B005RRDZ12/

Author Mary Smith

About the author:
Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

Mary loves interacting with her readers and her website is www.marysmith.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000934032543

Twitter: https://twitter.com/marysmithwriter

Blogs: http://novelpointsofview.blogspot.co.uk

http://marysmith57.wordpress.com/2014/07

My review:

I know I can go on with my reviews, and although I’ll try not to test your patience, I thought I’d offer you a capsule summary of my opinion. Do yourself a favour and read it. This is one of those novels one can’t help thinking about and talking about to anybody they meet. To begin with, I loved the clinical cases and the little stories embedded in it (all those events and lives that touch the protagonist’s life) although I wasn’t so convinced about the main characters. As the novel evolved, I came to appreciate and gain a better insight into the characters as well and came to accept them and like them too.

I was familiar with the author’s blog and had read some of her posts about her life in Afghanistan, so I knew she had plenty of local first-hand knowledge, a wealth of anecdotes, and could tell a story. She does have a sense of humour as well, although that isn’t too evident in the novel (the circumstances the characters are living through are very difficult, so it’s not surprising). I had had her books on my list for a while, and I decided it was time to read her first novel. Having read it, I’m eager to explore her writing further.

The description offers readers a good idea of what to expect. Miriam (born Margaret. She became a Muslim and adopted a new name when she married her first husband, Jawad), a Scottish midwife, and a widow who lost her first husband in tragic circumstances (although she doesn’t know the full details of her first husband’s death at the time we meet her) is back in Afghanistan with her second husband, Iqbal, a doctor who has set up a clinic in the little village where he was born. They have been married for five years, have a daughter together, and also live with Miriam’s son from her first husband, a quiet child who works hard but isn’t too close to his stepfather. Miriam can’t help but compare her two husbands and has put her dead husband on a pedestal nobody can reach. Iqbal resents this, and finds it difficult to cope with being back in his village, where he can’t escape expectations, tradition, and prejudice, regardless of how much he has achieved since his childhood. They are both unhappy and unable to talk about it, trying to do what they think the other expects of them. When Miriam ends up spending a few weeks away at a training medical camp, she gets confronted with her unhappiness and has to face some hard truths about the past and about herself. It’s make or break for her relationship and her life in Afghanistan.

There are elements of romance in the story (a romance where cultural differences take centre stage); grief and how different people deal with it is an important theme, as are also: the role of family; tradition and expectations; life in rural Afghanistan; international organisations providing education and health aid; and how far and deep you need to go sometimes to find your true self.

I have mentioned before that I didn’t connect with the characters straightaway. Although the story is narrated in the third person, it is mostly told from Miriam’s point of view, and she has a keen eye for observing and zooming on little details, gestures, and things, that makes the book quite cinematic in many ways. She can observe a movement, a dirty finger, she can marvel at an oven, or a night sky, but she is also at times quite blind to her own behaviour and the way she might be making matters worse for herself and others, and I was quite impatient with her attitude at times. That is not to say that her husband’s actions help matters, although there is a point in the novel when we get to read about his traumatic childhood from his own point of view (also in the third person) and that makes him more sympathetic. The author cleverly shares the main characters’ flashbacks/memories (Miriam’s most of all) that slowly, layer by layer, help unfold the events that got her to Afghanistan. We read about her love story with her first husband, we hear about their life together, and this is contrasted with her experiences with Iqbal. Events that take place later on, and the advice offered by some of Miriam’s friends help us understand that her memories are not always accurate, and there is more to the story and the characters than meets the eye. Miriam is an unreliable narrator, not only for the readers, but also for her own self.

Apart from the protagonist couple, we have many other characters, like their children, both lovely, Western characters (with their own prejudices and good points), neighbours and friends (wise, peculiar, amicable, gossiping, warm-hearted, mean…), all distinct and familiar, no matter how different their circumstances and way of life might be. They all feel like real people and are recognisable as such, even in the cases where we might not fully understand the motivations behind their actions and/or might dislike what they do, and there are many I’d love to have as friends.

Despite the changes in time-frame brought in by the flashbacks and memories, I felt the book flowed reasonably well, and I didn’t find it confusing. The author uses unfamiliar words to describe objects, clothing, places, characters, and actions, and although the meaning of most can be worked out from the context, I’ve noticed that some reviewers asked about a possible glossary. In some cases I felt an image would be better, for instance when describing clothing. The descriptions don’t overwhelm the book or slow its pace, and the author manages to give us a real sense of life in rural Afghanistan, and makes us not only see, but also feel, taste, and smell all aspects of it. She also makes us pay attention to the unspoken gestures and to the silences of the characters, to the importance of the things that go unsaid, and that is a difficult thing to achieve using only the written form.

I leave you a couple of examples of the writing, so you can judge by yourself.

On moonless nights the Milky Way was a magical white path through stars that didn’t twinkle —they blazed. Constellations her father had taught her to recognise when she was a child —Orion, the Plough, the Seven Sisters —demonstrated proudly that here, they possessed far more jewel-bright stars than she had ever seen in Scotland.

Although they had no decent sized pockets, waistcoats took the place of handbags. Safety pins and sewing needles were embedded in the fabric, matches stowed away in a small side pocket while, pinned to the inside were the keys to unlock the tin trunks in which were stored sugar and sweets and other household valuables.

I won’t talk too much about the ending, but yes, I liked it. I found it perfectly fitting.

So, as I started this review by recommending everybody to read this book, I can only repeat it. If you’re interested in stories about Afghanistan, in stories with protagonists that make difficult choices and are not always wise or likeable, in stories where people try to find themselves and to find a place to fit in, appreciate good writing and have always wondered how it would be like to share your life with somebody from a totally different culture, you should try this book. Oh, and check the author’s blog. I must go and catch up on more of the author’s books.

Thanks to Mary (and hope she is feeling better soon), thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, visit Mary’s blog, and stay safe.

Categories
Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Rosie's Book Team Review Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE HUNTED: AN RJ ROX THRILLER (The RJ Rox Thrillers Book 1) by Jo McCready (@jo_mccready) A solid first-novel and a thoroughly enjoyable read #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a novel by an author totally new mean, another one of the novels I’ve discovered thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team.

The Hunted. An RJ Rox Thriller by Jo McCready

The Hunted: An RJ Rox Thriller (The RJ Rox Thrillers Book 1) by Jo McCready

On the vast Buchanan Estate in the wilds of Scotland, tech billionaire James Sullivan dies a suspicious death. Rookie agent RJ Rox is drawn back to a homeland to which she’d sworn she’d never return. She soon realizes the present is far more threatening than her past as she hunts the killers and the powers that unleashed them.

The close-knit community surrounding the estate is the perfect place to hide secrets and lies. RJ finds herself searching for the weakest link that will allow her access into Buchanan’s sinister world.

Thrown together with a partner who clearly hates her makes RJ even more determined to prove herself to the elusive Kingfisher organization.

Remote, desolate, and beautiful, the hills hide a killer lying in wait. Can RJ close the case before anyone else is subject to the same fate as Sullivan? Before she is hunted herself?

https://www.amazon.com/Hunted-Rox-Thriller-Thrillers-Book-ebook/dp/B08GD43SBG/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hunted-Rox-Thriller-Thrillers-Book-ebook/dp/B08GD43SBG/

https://www.amazon.es/Hunted-Rox-Thriller-Thrillers-Book-ebook/dp/B08GD43SBG/

Author Jo McCready

About the author:

Jo McCready grew up on the rain soaked streets of small town Scotland before moving to the sunnier climes of Auckland, New Zealand in 2010. She has a background in psychology and a lifetime love of mystery and murder. She is a founding member of the Auckland Crime Writers group.

https://www.amazon.com/Jo-McCready/e/B08GF5N97F

My review:

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

I had never read anything by this author before, but I was intrigued by the description of the book, the setting (I love Scotland), and when I used the ‘look inside’ feature to check the beginning of the book, I knew I had to keep reading.

The above description gives enough details of the plot, and it is difficult to talk about it without revealing any spoilers.  I am not a big reader of spy novels and equivalents (the protagonists might not be spies per se, but there are big organisations running the show and sending their operatives to investigate people, places, or events, using fake identities, all over the world. Yes, you know what I’m talking about), but I am familiar with the formula and the tropes, and here we have a few: we have a rookie (RJ is only on her second mission), paired up with a much more experienced partner (Stuart Black, although we don’t get to know his real identity); there is a boss who keeps tracks of them; his secretary who is the one who really knows what’s going on; a fairly high-profile case that has not been officially investigated; international travel; risky situations and some twists and turns to keep the readers guessing. What I particularly enjoyed and found refreshing though, was the fact that although we might think we know where things are going (we’ve watched the movie or read the book before), the author manages to subvert our expectations without stepping out from the genre completely. Yes, RJ, the main character, has a background story that weighs on her, but she doesn’t allow it to stop her or even slow her down too much. She doesn’t spend an inordinate time reflecting upon it either. There are no big speeches or moments when the two main characters bear their souls, become “close friends”, and talk about their past or their lives. They don’t even get to share their real names. Stuart offers practical advice when required, but does not spend half of the book speechifying about his experience and previous cases. Although they both learn from each other in the process, this is not a book where RJ is inexperienced, shy, and doubts herself all the time, always deferring to Stuart. She is determined to prove she deserves to be there, and she is aware of what she does and does not know. She is prepared to take risks but can take a step back when needed and ask for help.

They are also neither superheroes nor superhuman. They have skills and are highly-trained, but they get hurt, make mistakes, trip, and get things wrong. And although the organisation can supply them with plenty of stuff and information, they don’t have incredible gadgets that can do impossible things. So, although this is a work of fiction and, as such, it requires a certain degree of suspension of disbelief, it is not in the realm of fantasy and wishful thinking. There are bumps in the road, and people don’t magically heal from wounds. The action is kept at a reasonable human-size, and I was grateful for it, as this is one of the aspects that tend to put me off these kinds of books.

There are secrets and lies, but not everybody is in the thick of it, and although most readers would suspect a big cover-up from the beginning, things are not as straightforward as they might appear. Let’s say, without revealing too much, that there are plenty of red herrings to keep people guessing, and although there is a baddie in the story we’ll all love to hate, many other characters are neither totally black nor white, and have more redeeming features and are more interesting than they might at first appear.

I have mentioned some of the themes before, and I can’t really talk about the real motivation behind the events they investigate without revealing too much, but let’s say I hadn’t read any stories set in that world before although it is all too real (as I said, I’m not a big reader of this genre, so there might be many books that have touched on that aspect before, but I haven’t heard of them). I found it fascinating and horrifying at the same time, and I am sure I won’t be the only one.

I liked RJ. The author gives us glimpses of her losses and the impact they have had but does not go into it in detail. There isn’t much time for navel-gazing or pondering. She hesitates at times, but she is a determined young woman, intelligent, knows her own mind and she has very clear priorities. She might work for a big organisation but will not blindly follow orders. We get to know little about Stuart, and he does not take charge of everything, while at times he demonstrates interesting and unexpected skills. We don’t get to know too much about the organisation (as it should be), but I liked both the boss and his secretary, and I imagine they will get to play important parts in the series as it develops. The author has a talent for creating recognisable local characters without going into so much detail that it distracts from the story. They are realistic enough and I particularly liked the owner of the pub/B&B, her little girl and her two young sons. Oh, and their cat! And Wullie Carstairs (and no, you’ll need to read the book if you want to know who he is).

The story is told in the third person, mostly from RJ’s point of view, but sometimes we get an insight into the organisation and its workings, and there is also another character whose point of view we share. And yes, the author is very clever in her use of point of view, as I must confess I was caught by surprise and didn’t see the main twist coming. I don’t know if the way the story is told will be to everybody’s taste, but I can reassure readers that despite the different points of view there is no head-hopping and no risk of getting confused. We know at all times where we are and through whose eyes we’re following the action.

The writing is sparse, and it manages to achieve a good sense of place and location without going into long detailed descriptions that would interrupt the flow of the story and the action. McCready’s writing has something cinematographic about it, as at times she will zoom into a small detail in a scene —a moth, the chewing of the inside of somebody’s cheek, a scab…— which makes it all more vivid and visual. The language is not complex or convoluted, and although some of the events investigated are violent, those are told rather than shown, and I don’t think squeamish readers or those who prefer no explicit violence in their books would have an issue with it. That doesn’t mean there are no dangers or risky situations, though, and although there are some quiet moments, the story moves at good pace and it keeps us turning the pages.

The ending is satisfying, although I found it slightly rushed in execution (perhaps because there had been quite a build-up). I liked the fact that the trial is included, and the epilogue is a nice touch, for sure.

In summary, this is a solid start to a new series that will appeal to those who enjoy investigations and adventures ran by a big secret organisation. The central character is capable and likeable, and there is plenty we don’t know about her yet, so there is more to explore in the future. I think this would also appeal to young adult readers and to learners of the language as it is not too convoluted and the action keeps it interesting and engaging. It might not be sufficiently detailed for readers who love to get into all the details of the investigation (I wouldn’t recommend it to people who like hard police procedurals), but it is a fast-moving novel, in a great setting, and it explores a criminal world not usually the subject of these kinds of stories. A solid first-novel and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Thanks to the author for her novel, thanks to Rosie and her team for all their support, and special thanks to all of you for reading, sharing, liking, and commenting. Remember to keep smiling, reviewing, and make sure to stay safe. 

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Book review Book reviews

THE HUNTING PARTY: A NOVEL by Lucy Foley (@HarperCollinsUK) (@lucyfoleytweets) A twisted mystery and an homage to the classics of the genre

Hi all:

I bring you a mystery that although reminiscent of old classics, is fairly more twisted and dark than mysteries of old.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

The Hunting Party: A Novel by Lucy Foley

AN INSTANT SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED THRILLERS OF THE WINTER BY:

Goodreads • BookBub • PopSugar • BookRiot • Crimereads • Pure Wow • Crime by the Book

ALL OF THEM ARE FRIENDS. ONE OF THEM IS A KILLER.

“A ripping, riveting murder mystery — wily as Agatha Christie, charged with real menace, real depth. Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware.” – A.J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

DON’T BE LEFT OUT. JOIN THE PARTY NOW.

https://www.amazon.com/Hunting-Party-Novel-Lucy-Foley-ebook/dp/B07B7LLJLZ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hunting-Party-Novel-Lucy-Foley-ebook/dp/B07B7LLJLZ/

https://www.amazon.es/Hunting-Party-Novel-Lucy-Foley-ebook/dp/B07B7LLJLZ/

About the author:

Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages.

Follow her on:

Twitter: @lucyfoleytweets
Instagram: @lucy_foley_author
Facebook.com/lucyfoleyauthor

https://www.amazon.com/Lucy-Foley/e/B00LMBVZNC?

My review:

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

Lucy Foley is a new author to me, but I was intrigued by the premise of the book, which promised to be a look back at the classics but with a modern touch. The format is easily recognisable (a group of people isolated in a somewhat strange setting, a crime, and the suspicions that fall on all those present). I had recently read The Glass Hotel and although they are set in very different locations (the hotel here is in the Scottish Highlands), there were some similarities in the isolation of the place, and in the motivations of some of the employees to seek such isolation, but this is a more conventional caper, where everybody hides secrets, dislikes and even hatreds, and there is a lot of emphasis placed on the relationship between the university friends who go on holiday together even though they no longer have much in common, and whom we get to know pretty well during the book.

There are plenty of lies, obscure motivations, relationships that are not what they seem to be, infidelity, popularity contests, friction between the so-called friends, and the book is told in two separate timeframes, one after the crime (although a bit like in Big Little Lies, we hear about the aftermath of the crime, but who the victim is doesn’t get revealed until almost the very end), and another that follows chronologically from the time when the friends set off towards their holiday destination. Eventually, both narratives catch up, and we get a full understanding of what has gone on.  It’s a great strategy to keep readers guessing, and although I did have my suspicions of at least some of the things that were to come, I admit that there are some interesting red herring thrown into the works . Readers need to remain attentive to the changes in time frame to avoid getting confused as to when things have taken place, although this is clearly stated in the novel.

One of the problems some readers seem to have with the novel is that the characters are not terribly likeable. The story is narrated mostly from the point of view of several of the women: three of the female friends (Emma, the newest one to arrive in the group; Miranda, the Queen Bee who never quite lived up to everybody’s expectations; and Katie, Miranda’s best friend, the only single one, who seems to have outgrown the group in many ways ), and also Heather, the manager of the hotel, who has secrets of her own (and is one of the nicest characters)— all of them told in the first person—, and one man’s point of view, Doug, another employee of the hotel, although in his case we get a third-person account, and one marred by many of his personal difficulties (let’s say that he is not a very reliable narrator). Reading the events from several points of view helps us gain perspective and heightens our suspicions as to what might really be going on. I must agree that the characters, probably because we are privy to their internal thoughts rather than to others’ opinions of them, are difficult to like. Self-obsessed or obsessed with others, with random likes and dislikes, cruel, or unable to face the truth… none of them are people most of us would choose as friends. Considering this is a book about a group of friends, it does offer a particularly grim view of old friendships, emphasising the lack of sincerity and honesty and the dark undertones to most of the relationships between them. On the other hand, I must admit that dark —or at least grey— characters make for a much more interesting reading experience than goody two-shoes.

The writing style is straight forward and manages to create a clear image of the characters in the reader’s mind. There are some rather memorable scenes as well, but the book takes its time building up the background and the relationships, rather than moving at a fast pace, but still manages to keep readers intrigued and interested.

As I said, I had my suspicions about who the guilty party might be and what was behind the murder from early on (the clues are all there), but nonetheless I found the ending satisfying, and I think most readers will feel the same.

In sum, a solid thriller, that brings back memories of old style mystery novels, with more emphasis on the psychological aspect, and which also has much in common with the domestic noir style (although here transposed to the Highlands). An interesting novel for lovers of the genre, and one that I’m sure in the right hands could be turned into a successful movie.

Oh, an update on my news. The course is hard but not going too badly so far, but due to the Coronavirus all the schools and institutes have been closed, and we’ll do what we can online, but as we have to also teach students, and at the moment we don’t know when that will be possible, I might not be back as soon as I expected, or I might be back and disappear again. I’ll keep you posted, but will carry on posting reviews when I have a chance.

Thanks to the publisher, the author and NetGalley, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep smiling! And be safe!

 

 

Categories
book promo Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview MACBETH by Jo Nesbo (@NetGalley) A dark and twisted take on the original for readers interested in morally ambiguous characters. #JoNesbo #Shakespeare

Hi all:

I was very intrigued by this book and well… Here is the review, finally.

Review of Macbeth by Jo Nesbo
Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

JO NESBO: #1 Sunday Times bestseller, #1 New York Times bestseller, 40 million books sold worldwide

He’s the best cop they’ve got. 

When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess.

He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past. 

He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach. 

But a man like him won’t get to the top.

Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his.

Unless he kills for it.

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Macbeth-Jo-Nesbo-ebook/dp/B01N6STDIS/

https://www.amazon.com/Macbeth-Jo-Nesbo-ebook/dp/B01N6STDIS/

Editorial Reviews

“Majestically satisfying…a deliciously oppressive page-turner” (Steven Poole Guardian)

“Immensely enjoyable and gloriously dark… He has accomplished that toughest of literary feats: putting his own unmistakable mark on one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays” (Matt Gibson Daily Express)

“Inventive and deeply satisfying… a dark but ultimately hopeful Macbeth, one suited to our own troubled times” (James Shapiro New York Times Book Review)

“Nesbo makes excellent use of all the atmosphere of his genre, and the stakes at play are every bit as convincing as those in the original… This is Nesbo doing what he’s good at” (Lucy Scholes Independent)

“Macbeth as a SWAT team leader. His wife as a former prostitute. The three witches as drug dealers. It’s Shakespeare’s darkest tale — reimagined by the king of Nordic noir” (Graeme Thomson Mail on Sunday)

“Majestically satisfying…a deliciously oppressive page-turner”

“Immensely enjoyable and gloriously dark… He has accomplished that toughest of literary feats: putting his own unmistakable mark on one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays”

“Inventive and deeply satisfying… a dark but ultimately hopeful Macbeth, one suited to our own troubled times”

“Nesbo makes excellent use of all the atmosphere of his genre, and the stakes at play are every bit as convincing as those in the original… This is Nesbo doing what he’s good at”

“Macbeth as a SWAT team leader. His wife as a former prostitute. The three witches as drug dealers. It’s Shakespeare’s darkest tale — reimagined by the king of Nordic noir”

Author Jo Nesbo
Author Jo Nesbo

About the author:

The gripping new thriller from the author of The Snowman 

Jo Nesbo is one of the world’s bestselling crime writers, with The Leopard, Phantom, Police, The Son and his latest Harry Hole novel, The Thirst, all topping the Sunday Times bestseller charts. He’s an international number one bestseller and his books are published in 50 languages, selling over 33 million copies around the world.

Before becoming a crime writer, Nesbo played football for Norway’s premier league team Molde, but his dream of playing professionally for Spurs was dashed when he tore ligaments in his knee at the age of eighteen. After three years of military service, he attended business school and formed the band Di derre (‘Them There’). They topped the charts in Norway, but Nesbo continued working as a financial analyst, crunching numbers during the day and gigging at night. When commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, The Bat.

Sign up to the Jo Nesbo newsletter for all the latest news: jonesbo.com/newsletter

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jo-Nesbo/e/B004MSFDCG/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Vintage Digital for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is part of the Hogarth’s Shakespeare project, a project designed to create novels based on some of Shakespeare’s original plays and bring them up-to-date thanks to best-selling novelists. Although I have been intrigued since I’d heard about the project (because I am a fan of some of the authors, like Margaret Atwood and Anne Tyler), this is the first of the novels to come out of the project that I’ve read. Evidently, the idea behind the series was to try and bring new readers to Shakespeare and perhaps combine people interested in the plays with followers of the novelists. My case is a bit peculiar. I love Shakespeare (I prefer his tragedies and his comedies to the rest of his work) but I can’t say I’m an authority on him, and although I’ve read some of his plays, I prefer to attend live performances or watch adaptations (I’ve watched quite a few versions of Hamlet, but not so many of the rest of his plays, by poor chance). I’ve only watched Macbeth a couple of times, so I’m not the best person to comment on how closely Nesbo’s book follows the original. On the other hand, I have not read any of the author’s novels. I’ve watched a recent movie adaptation of one of them (mea culpa, I had not checked the reviews beforehand) but, although I know of him, I cannot compare this novel to the rest of his oeuvre. So I’m poorly qualified to write this review from the perspective of the most likely audience. But, that’s never stopped me before, and this review might perhaps be more relevant to people who are not terribly familiar with either, Macbeth or Nesbo’s books.

From my vague memory of the play, the novel follows the plot fairly closely, although it is set in the 1970s, in a nightmarish and corrupt city (some of the reviewers say it’s a Northern city somewhere not specified. That is true, and although some of the names and settings seem to suggest Scotland, not all details match, for sure), where unemployment is a huge problem, as are drugs, where biker gangs murder at leisure and control the drug market (together with a mysterious and shady character called Hecate, that seems to pull the strings in the background. He’s not a witch here but there’s something otherworldly about him), where the train station has lost its original purpose and has become a den where homeless and people addicted to drugs hung together and try to survive. The police force takes the place of the royalty and the nobles in the original play, with murders, betrayals and everything in between going on in an attempt at climbing up the ladder and taking control of law-enforcement (with the interesting side-effect of blurring any distinction between law and crime), with the city a stand-in for the kingdom of Scotland in the original.

The story is told from many of the characters’ points of view (most of them) and there is a fair amount of head-hopping. Although as the novel advances we become familiar with the characters and their motivations, and it is not so difficult to work out who is thinking what, this is not so easy to begin with as there are many characters with very similar jobs and, at least in appearance, close motivations, so it’s necessary to pay close attention. The technique is useful to get readers inside the heads of the characters and to get insights into their motivations, even if in most cases it is not a comfortable or uplifting experience. The book is truly dark and it seems particularly apt to a moment in history when corruption, morality, and the evil use of power are as relevant as ever. (Of course, the fact that this is an adaptation of a play written centuries before our era brings home that although things might change in the surface, human nature does not change so much). The writing is at times lyrical and at others more down to earth, but it is a long book, so I’d advise readers to check a sample to see if it is something they’d enjoy for the long-haul. I’ll confess that when I started the book I wondered if it was for me, but once I got into the story and became immersed in the characters’ world, I was hooked.

The beauty of having access to the material in a novelised form is that we can get to explore the characters’ subjectivity and motivations, their psychology, in more detail than in a play. Shakespeare was great at creating characters that have had theatregoers thinking and guessing for hundreds of years, but much of it is down to the actors’ interpretation, and two or three hours are not space enough to explore the ins-and-outs and the complex relationships between the characters fully. I was particularly intrigued by Duff, who is not a particularly likeable character, to begin with, but comes into his own later. I liked Banquo, who is, with Duncan, one of the few characters readers will feel comfortable rooting for (Banquo’s son and Angus would fall into the same category, but play smaller parts), and I must warn you that there is no such as thing as feeling comfortable reading this book. I thought what Nesbo does with Lady is interesting and provides her with an easier to understand motivation and makes her more sympathetic than in the play (it is not all down to greed or ambition, although it remains a big part of it). No characters are whiter-than-white (some might be but we don’t get to know them well enough to make that call), and although the baddies might be truly bad, some remain mysterious and unknown, and they are portrayed as extreme examples of the corruption that runs rampant everywhere. Most of the rest of the characters are human, good and bad, and many come to question their lives and what moves them and take a stand that makes them more interesting than people who never deviate from the path of rightness. Macbeth is depicted as a man of contrasts, charitable and cruel, a survivor with a difficult past, perhaps easy to manipulate but driven, full of doubts but determined, addicted to drugs and ‘power’, charismatic and dependent, full of contradictions and memorable.

The ending of the novel is bittersweet. It is more hopeful than the rest of the novel would make us expect, but… (I am not sure I could talk about spoilers in this novel, but still, I’ll keep my peace). Let’s just say this couldn’t have a happy ending and be truthful to the original material.

Although I have highlighted several paragraphs, I don’t think they would provide a fair idea of the novel in isolation, and, as I said before, I recommend downloading or checking a sample to anybody considering the purchase of this novel.

Not knowing Nesbo’s other novels, I cannot address directly his fans. I’ve noticed that quite a number of reviewers who read his novels regularly were not too fond of this one. Personally, I think it works as an adaptation of the Shakespeare play and it is very dark, as dark as the plot of the original requires (and perhaps even more). It is long and it is not an easy-going read. There are no light moments, and it is demanding of the reader’s attention, challenging us to go beyond a few quotations, famous phrases, and set scenes, to the moral heart of the play. If you are looking for an interesting, although perhaps a not fully successful version of Macbeth, that will make you think about power, corruption, good and evil, family, friendship, and politics, give it a try. I am curious to read more Nesbo’s novels and some of the other novels in the project.

On a personal note, as I was reading this novel, the relationship between Macbeth and Banquo brought to my mind one of the novellas included in Escaping Psychiatry, Teamwork. Readers have described it as noir, and it is fairly twisted. Here is a sample:

“Who is this Justin, then?” Mary asked.

“Oh…Poor guy. He’s going through a really hard time. He comes from a very traumatic background. One of Tom’s men, Sgt. David Leaman…did you meet him?…took him under his wing and…treated him like a son. A truly good job he did with him. Recently…about two months ago, they were working together in a case and…Sgt. Leaman was killed. Tom is quite concerned about Justin, who seems to have reacted very weirdly to the whole thing. He just wants to go back to work, won’t talk to anybody, won’t have counselling…”

So that was it. An informal consultation. That’s what Tom wanted. Fair enough, but at least he could have told her. However hard she tried to leave psychiatry behind and get on with her other career, it didn’t seem to work. She was always pulled back.

“Is it nearly ready?” Tom asked from the dining-room.

“Yes. Ready!”

Dinner was somewhat weird. It was evident that Justin wasn’t a regular visitor to the house and didn’t quite know what to say. And he didn’t seem the talkative type either. He was sitting opposite Mary, and asked her:

“Doctor in what?”

“Literature and film, aren’t you?” Tom replied for her. Once Tom got distracted by his wife’s conversation she added:

“I also studied Medicine. And Psychiatry. I still work at it sometimes.”

She’d hit the target. His face changed and he became even quieter. Shortly after, he said that he needed to make a phone call. He wasn’t too long and remained as quiet as before when he returned. Both Justin and she made their apologies quite early and left together. Once in the street, as he opened his mouth to say goodbye, Mary said:

“Listen, I didn’t know anything about it. I asked Maureen in the kitchen and she told me what happened to Sgt. Leaman. I’m terribly sorry. But Tom hadn’t told me anything. I can see why he invited me, and I must say I found it a bit weird at the time, but he’d always been helpful and kind to me, I couldn’t say no for no reason. I just wanted you to know that I didn’t come here with the intention of analysing you or anything like that. Goodnight then. And good luck.”

As she turned to leave, he asked:

“Could we…talk? In confidence?”

“If you think it might help…”

“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t talk much. David was one of the few people I’ve ever talked to…And his wife Lea, but less…She’s too distraught to bother her with the way I’m feeling right now.”

“Let’s go somewhere. Do you know any place?”

“There’s an all-night diner not very far away from here. There’re never too many people there.”

He was right. There were a couple of people having something to eat, but otherwise, the place was dead quiet. Mary ordered a hot chocolate and he had some ice-cream and coffee. He had a spoonful of the ice-cream and put it to one side.

“No appetite? You didn’t eat much at the McLeods either.”

“No. I don’t feel like eating.”

“Have you lost weight?”

“Probably. Clothes seem loose now.” He went quiet. Mary asked.

“Are you sleeping all right?”

“Not really…I fall asleep easily enough, and then…I wake up in the middle of the night. I keep having these horrible nightmares…I can see David being shot in the head over and over again…”

“Did you see it?…I knew you’d been there, but I didn’t realise…”

“Yes. I was there. When I close my eyes I keep seeing him…falling down…Yes, I know…post-traumatic stress and all that crap. I don’t care what you call it; I’m not going to let it beat me. Not after what I’ve been through. I was beaten up by my father, tortured by him, really…He sent my mother and me to hospital time and again until one day…he hit her; she knocked her head against a banister and died. I pushed him downstairs, he was drunk…He didn’t die but ended up in a coma, like a vegetable. He finally died a couple of years ago and I couldn’t have cared less. It was a relief. I was 14 when all that happened. And then…They put me in a children’s home, and I did drugs, and drank, and…other things…And David caught me at a robbery…I was 16 at the time, and…I don’t know what it was, but he felt sorry for me. Lea says I probably reminded him of the son he lost as a child. Anyway, he took an interest, took me home with him and…He can’t be dead!” Justin burst out crying and Mary kept quiet, offering him a tissue after a few minutes.

“I hadn’t cried…for a long time. It makes me feel stupid and…”

“Vulnerable?… We’re all human and we hurt. It’s allowed, you know?”

“No. Not me. If I let everything come out…It’s a can of worms, Mary…Can I call you Mary?”

“Sure you can.”

“It’s…The only way I can get on with my life is by forgetting what went on before. Dave used to tell me that I didn’t have control over what the bastard of my father did to me and that he’d been punished for it, and I might as well concentrate on the rest of my life, because over that…I had some control and I could decide what to do. I could change it over; I could become anything I wanted if I just tried hard enough.”

Here, a reminder of the whole book and links:

Escaping Psychiatry cover by Ernesto Valdés

Escaping Psychiatry

‘Escaping Psychiatry’ is a collection of three stories in the psychological thriller genre with the same protagonist, Mary, a psychiatrist, and writer. She is trying to develop her literary career but circumstances and friends conspire to keep dragging her back to psychiatry.

In ‘Cannon Fodder’ Mary has to assess Cain, an African-American man accused of inciting a religious riot when he claimed that he could hear God and God was black. He might not be mad, but Mary is sure he’s hiding something.

‘Teamwork’ sees Mary hoodwinked into offering therapy to Justin, a policeman feeling guilty after his partner and ersatz father was killed on-duty. Before Mary can extricate herself from the case, things get personal.

In ‘Memory’ Mary goes missing after an incident with Phil, who is manic as he hasn’t been taking his medication. When she is found, she has been the victim of a horrific crime, but they soon discover she was luckier than they had realised.

The epilogue revisits Mary at the point of the trial of her abductor and sees what changes have taken place in her life. Will she finally manage to Escape Psychiatry?

AMAZON (e-book)    KOBO           NOOK            APPLE           SCRIBD        

PAGE FOUNDRY   OYSTER  GOOGLE     PAPER

And also in AUDIO: in AMAZON  and i-TUNES
And if you want to check a sample of the audio you can go here!

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

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview ENCHANTED BY THE HIGHLANDER (A HIGHLAND FAIRYTALE) by Lecia Cornwall (@Leciacornwall) A fun and light read recommended to lovers of fairy tales and Scottish-themed adventures

Hi all:

We are getting close to Christmas, and although I have a few Christmas related books on my list, I haven’t got to them yet, but I bring you something that for some reason always makes me think of holidays. A fairy tale.

Enchanted by the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall
Enchanted by the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall

Enchanted by the Highlander (A Highland Fairytale) by Lecia Cornwall

Gillian MacLeod is shy and quiet, the least likely of all her sisters to seek out excitement and adventure. But on a moonlit night at a masquerade ball, Gillian steals a kiss from a mysterious stranger, knowing she’ll never see him again.

John Erly, disowned by his noble English father, started a new life in Scotland. Most people are suspicious of the foreign mercenary and he does everything is his power to avoid romantic entanglements. But he can’t forget the bewitching beauty who kissed him in the dark, and stole his heart, even though he has no idea who she might be.

A year later, John is given the duty of escorting Gillian to her wedding and immediately recognizes her as the temptress he’s dreamed of for months. There’s not much he can do when she’s promised to another man, but fate intervenes and this time, passion—and adventure—can’t be denied. Honor demands he stay away from the MacLeod’s enchanting daughter, but love has a very different ending in mind…

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Enchanted-Highlander-Highland-Fairytale-Cornwall-ebook/dp/B074SX4HM4/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Enchanted-Highlander-Highland-Fairytale-Cornwall-ebook/dp/B074SX4HM4/

Author Lecia Cornwall
Author Lecia Cornwall

About the author:

Lecia Cornwall lives and writes in Calgary, Canada in the beautiful foothills of the Canadian Rockies, with five cats, two teenagers, a crazy chocolate lab, and one very patient husband. She’s hard at work on her next book. Come visit Lecia at www.leciacornwall.com, or drop her a line at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.

NEWS! July 27, 2012: SECRETS OF A PROPER COUNTESS, Lecia’s debut novel, has been honored with the National Readers Choice Award for Best First Book of 2011!

NEWS! November 15, 2012: HOW TO DECEIVE A DUKE named an RT Book Review Magazine 4 1/2 star TOP PICK!

http://www.leciacornwall.com/bio.php

https://www.amazon.com/Lecia-Cornwall/e/B004LBD5MO/

My review:

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

I love fairy tales. Although probably Beauty and the Beast is my favourite, I have a soft spot for most classics. I also love the Scottish Highlands (I’ve visited two or three times but I hope I will visit again in the future). When I saw this book, which combined a retelling of Cinderella with a setting in the Highlands, I could not resist (I also liked the cover).

This is book 4 in A Highland Fairytale series, but it can be read as a standalone (I haven’t read any of the other books in the series). The story is told in the third person from different characters points of view, but there is no head-hopping and the changes in perspective are clearly marked. The novel is set in the XVII century and tells the story of is Gillian, a young girl daughter of Donal, the laird of the MacLeod’s clan, quiet and shy, whose father and sisters think will never get married (although she is very pretty but too quiet to make herself noticed). Quiet waters and all that, because Gillian has dreams and wants to marry for love. While visiting one of the sisters, she meets an Englishman who is Captain of her brother-in-law’s men, John Erly, and although he has no fortune to his name and a terrible reputation, she discovers there is more to him than people think and falls in love with him. At a masquerade ball, they kiss (he is not wearing much of a disguise but he does not know who she is) and she loses her mask. Despite the effect she has on him, nothing happens and she goes back home. A few months later she is engaged to get married to an old nobleman (older than her father) as her family is convinced she wants a quiet life and an old husband is just the ticket for her. Somehow, John ends up escorting her to Edinburgh with a full complement of Highlanders… And the rest, well, you’ll need to read the book to know.

I don’t want to rehash the plot or reveal any spoilers. As this is a romance and a fairy tale, you can imagine how things end up from the beginning, but the beauty is in the details. Gilliam is far from the wilting violet everybody mistakes her for, and John isn’t the rogue others think either. They go through many adventures, including being assaulted by outlaws, a wedding that is ruined, numerous suitors, fights and perils, a competition to obtain Gillian’s hand in marriage, secrets, confessions, and plenty of Highland traditions, expressions, songs, whisky, and a fair amount of fun (and romance). Of course, it is a fairy tale, so it does require a deal of suspension of disbelief, but both main characters are likeable, and most of the secondary characters are great too (even if we don’t get to know them as well, they provide light relief and liven up the action).

The retelling of Cinderella is limited to the mask and the ball, as the circumstances of the character are quite different (she is beloved by her family even if they don’t understand her true feelings) and what happens later bears no resemblance to the story, but is an enjoyable romp. There is plenty of action and humour, there is violence, there are also scary moments, and a couple of erotic scenes (they are quite mild but I would have enjoyed the book more without them as I’m not a big fan. Especially the first one felt particularly unrealistic, and I know I’m talking about a sex scene in a fairy tale, but for me, it did stretch credibility more than the rest of the book). The writing is in keeping with the story, easy and fairly dynamic, at times reminding me of the serials of old, like the Perils of Pauline, where there is a never-ending amount of trouble waiting for the heroine (who luckily is pretty resourceful).

A fun and light read recommended to lovers of fairy tales and Scottish-themed stories, who enjoy adventures galore and don’t mind some violence and a bit of sex.

There is a note by the author about her sources for the Scottish traditions mentioned in the story (including some raunchy songs) at the end of the book. They sound like quite a good read too.

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

[amazon_link asins=’0062328441,0062328468,B01BSN14HK,0062328492,B01KFX67H6,B01MTQG3AZ,0062332406′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’7d1d97d7-ce31-11e7-b7dc-b746b401918d’]

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Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview Ronald Laing: The rise and fall and rise of a radical psychiatrist by David Boyle (@davidboyle1958) #RBRT An insightful and clear introduction to Laing’s life and work in time for his rediscovery

Hi all:

Today I bring you another one of the reviews I’ve written as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team (don’t forget to visit her blog, here). As a psychiatrist, I could not resist this one.

Ronald Laing: The rise and fall and rise of a radical psychiatrist by David Boyle
Ronald Laing: The rise and fall and rise of a radical psychiatrist by David Boyle

Ronald Laing: The rise and fall and rise of a radical psychiatrist by David Boyle

The radical psychiatrist R. D. Laing took the world by storm in the 1960s and 1970s with his ideas about madness, families and people’s need for authenticity. At the height of his fame, he could fill stadiums like Bob Dylan and often did so. He became an icon of the movement that held psychiatry to be an agency of repression, his phrases on a million hippy T-shirts. Then he fell from grace, flung out of the medical profession, and his influence has been waning since. His basic ideas have been regarded as having been discredited. Yet, despite this, his influence is also everywhere – but largely unnoticed and unremarked.

This book tells the extraordinary human story of his struggle, first with the authorities as a psychiatrist in the army and then a series of mental hospitals. It explains his extraordinary influence in the context of the upheavals of those psychedelic days – and it looks at what we can still learn from Laing today. Boyle finds he still has an unexpectedly potent message.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Ronald-Laing-rise-radical-psychiatrist-ebook/dp/B01N4OO83K/

I know the publishing company is organising events and giveaways so don’t forget to visit and click the links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ronald-Laing-rise-radical-psychiatrist/dp/0993523986/

Author David Boyle
Author David Boyle

About the author:

I live in the South Downs, in Sussex, and write in a small green hut at the end of the garden – mainly about history, politics, economics and the future. I find that history now absorbs me the most, from Richard the Lionheart to Enigma and with a great deal in between. I try to recapture some of the spirit, even the magic, of the past – I’ve also written quite widely about fairies (I find this doesn’t sit easily with writing about economics, but I still wrestle with holding the two sides together…).

I’ve found myself more recently writing about codes and the navy, which is a lifelong fascination, and – most recently – writing about family members as well, in Unheard, Unseen (about early submarines) and my great-great-grandfather is the central figure in Scandal.

But then, where the magic and the economics can potentially come together is in fiction – notably in my Leaves the World to Darkness (fairies) and The Piper (money).

https://www.amazon.com/David-Boyle/e/B000APQC2K/

My review:

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

I’m a psychiatrist and although I studied Medicine in Spain I have trained as a psychiatrist in the UK. Despite that, R.D. Laing and his ideas weren’t a part of our curriculum (I don’t know if things have changed now, as that was almost 25 years ago). During one of my training jobs, one of the psychotherapy tutors showed us a recording of an interview with R.D. Laing and he talked to us about him. He came across as a fascinating man with very interesting ideas, quite contrary to the standard focus on biological psychiatry, evidence-based interventions and emphasis on classification and symptoms rather than people. I read several of his books at the time and although I was fascinated by his ideas I didn’t have the time to study his figure and the rest of his work in detail.

This short book (the text takes up around 88% of the book as after that there are some extracts from other books from the same publisher, The Real Press) does an excellent job of highlighting both the person (the biography is succinct but it manages to include the salient points of his family life, his work experience and how both influenced his ideas) and his works. It also places Laing’s figure in its historical and socio-political era, linking it to other thinkers and movements of the time (hippy movement, antipsychiatry, existentialism, LSD culture…). Due to its length, it is not an exhaustive study of the individual works but it presents a good overview that will allow those who’ve never heard of R.D. Laing to gain some familiarity with his life and his work, and will bring together loose ends for those who might have read some of his works but don’t know how they fit into his career (because, as the author points out, some of Laing’s books are very difficult to understand). This text also provides a good guide to students interested in going deeper into Laing’s work and offers suggestions for further reading (both of Laing’s own works and of works about him). The book is being launched to coincide with the premier of a movie about Laing called ‘Mad to Be Normal’ starring David Tennant, and it should be a great complement to those who might come out of the movie intrigued and wanting to know more without embarking on complex theoretical books (that are very much of their time).

Boyle does a great job of extracting the most important aspects of Laing’s work and life and shows a good understanding and empathy towards the man and his ideas. Rather than focus exclusively on the most scandalous aspects of his life, he emphasises his care for patients, his own disturbed childhood, and how he insisted patients were unique and not just cogs in a machine that had to learn to show the required and accepted behaviour. Although many of his ideas have been discredited, his feelings about the profession and his insistence on listening to patients and putting their needs first resonate today as much as they did at the time. Personally, I’m pleased to see his figure is being re-evaluated. Never too soon.

Laing is one of these people whose life and scandals throw a big shadow over his work, but this book and, hopefully, the movie, might help new generations to rediscover him.

I could not resist but share a bit of one of the interviews with R.D. Laing (there are quite a few much longer on YouTube if you’re interested):

And the trailer of the movie Mad to Be Normal

 

Thanks so much to Rosie and to The Real Press for the copy of the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

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