After He Died By Michael J Malone – A Review

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication Date: 20th September 2018

You need to know who your husband really was

Paula Gadd is no stranger to heartbreak. Having lost her son Christopher 7 years ago and now mourning the recent death of her husband Thomas, she is awash with grief and overwhelmed with her loss.

When she is approached by a young woman at Thomas’s funeral who simply says ‘You need to know who your husband really was’, Paula is left wondering what on earth this woman could mean and questioning her entire marriage to the man she loved and has now lost.

With Thomas not there to explain himself, Paula is left to try and piece together events surrounding Thomas’s death. The only people who can offer her any help are Thomas’s two brothers Joe and Bill and the strange woman Cara who she met at the funeral.

Paula struggles with what Cara is telling her, the difference between the man she knew and loved and the type of man Cara is portraying with her information are so at odds with each other. Whilst dealing with her grief Paula is left to unravel the past whilst protecting her future.

What I enjoyed about this book was the fact that although it is a thriller there was a gentle humour at various points. Paula has a very touching relationship with Joe who is a priest and brother of Thomas. Joe as a character was very engaging, as I enjoyed reading the scenes between him and Paula, they share a lovely bond.

Cara is also a very engaging character, such a strong willed kick ass woman, she does masses for girl power! Determined and driven she is a force to be reckoned with. Even though the relationship between Cara and Paula is initially extremely strained, they ultimately share a begrudging bond aswell.

Aside from larger than life characters this book is chock full of plot twists. Tense and gripping, especially in the latter chapters, this story will keep you guessing throughout.

It’s difficult to know who to trust and who to believe, you can really feel Paula’s confusion and bewilderment. Living a life she never expected and discovering things she never in a million years would have thought would happen.

As with all good action packed thrillers, this one is pacey and full of momentum. Just when you think you might have it all sussed out you’re back at square one.

Tense and full of twists, this is a great thriller to get your hands on. I would thoroughly recommend it.

Thank you as always to Anne Cater and the Orenda team for the review copy.

See you soon

Bookish Chat xxx

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The Book Collector By Alice Thompson – A Review

Publisher: Salt

Look at that beauty!

As some of you will no doubt know, I recently took a trip to Bath and more importantly had a little visit to the fantastic Mr B’s Book Emporium, which you can read about here .

Whilst there I met the lovely Amy and signed up to a 6 month paperback subscription. We chatted about my tastes, likes and dislikes etc etc and then Amy went away to have a little think about the kinds of books she could treat me to. I opted to have a little teaser email sent to me before the book was posted, which is just the authors name just incase I’ve already read a lot by that author and there’s a chance I’ve already read the selected book. So…….the first teaser email asked if I’d ever read any Alice Thompson. I knew immediately what book they had in mind and I was thrilled! This book has been on my wish list for a while after hearing Jen Campbell talk about it on booktube.

I waited patiently for it to arrive and when it did, it was packaged beautifully!

This book is everything I love. Gothic historical fiction with a dark dark tone. My tastes were nailed in this first selection. Amy got me spot on!

Edwardian England and Violet seemingly lives a charmed life. She has a baby son, Felix whom she adores and a thoroughly devoted husband, Archie, the proprietor of a secondhand bookshop with a huge interest in rare and expensive books.

Archie also had a first wife Rose who unfortunately died in childbirth, who Violet takes an interest in. After the birth of their son Violet struggles with her anxieties around keeping her baby safe and happy. Her anxieties grow further when she discovers a rare book of fairytales in a safe in her husbands study, a book she has seen him treat in her words ‘like a lover’. A very special book that Archie is fiercely protective of.

When she asks Archie about the book he clams up and becomes very defensive, almost angry that she has dared to open the safe containing it. He tells her she mustn’t touch it, which piques her interest further. She also discovers her husband disappearing in the night, and when she follows him to the local asylum she cannot fathom why he would be going there, especially in the dead of night.

The book plays on her mind and together with her confusion and worry surrounding her ability as a mother and her husbands nighttime escapades, Violet starts to suffer from delusions. She imagines insects crawling under the skin of the baby and when Archie discovers her clawing at him, he decides to have her committed to the asylum.

On Violet’s release she discovers that Archie has hired a nanny, Clara, to help out with Felix and from here Violet’s life is destined to never be the same..

In one of my previous posts I have discussed the fact that historical fiction never used to be my bag. I only really discovered it in the last year or two. It has to be dark and gritty to catch my attention and I love it when it involves asylums, the way women were treated back then, hysteria and a good old slug of laudanum!

This book has all of those things in spades. It has an almost dreamlike quality to the writing and feels quite claustrophobic. Imagine being a woman during those times and having little or no say over your own life. Having your husband decide to have you committed and your whole existence changing with just his signature on a piece of paper.

Violet although clearly suffering from some form of mental health issue is still a strong woman. She’s not as deluded as her husband makes her out to be. She’s shrewd and cleverly plays situations to her advantage despite uncovering some awful secrets.

I raced through this book, with my heart pounding. A grim, creepy, chilling story with a nightmare quality that haunts you long after you’ve finished.

This is a perfect book to get your hands on this autumn/winter if you’re after an atmospheric read. (Published by Salt aswell, so you know you’re in for a treat!).

A fabulous first choice for my subscription and I’m now so excited for the next delivery!

See you all soon.

Bookish Chat xxx

The Possession Of Mr Cave By Matt Haig – A Review

Publisher: Canongate

Whoa. This book has taken me completely by surprise. In a very good way.

I picked it up in a charity shop never having read any of Matt Haig’s books (but only ever having heard good things about his writing).

I knew from the blurb that the Mr Cave of the title has suffered great loss and grief after the deaths of his mother, wife and some time later the death of his son. This left him with his 14 year old daughter Bryony as the centre of his world. I knew what follows is that Mr Cave becomes over protective of his daughter, fearing losing her too.

What I didn’t know was just how dark this story was going to be and just how literal the ‘possession’ in the title would be.

The book starts with a description of the death of Reuben, the son of Terence (Mr Cave). He watches as his son hangs from a lamppost as a kind of dare. Egged on by a group of boys Terrence has never seen his son with before. Terrence heartbreakingly witnesses Reuben fall from the lamppost and die right there in front of him on the pavement. He also witnesses the reactions of the boys in the crowd and one boy in particular who he develops an obsession with.

Right from this moment onwards Terrence sees a massive change in his daughters behaviour. Having previously been the golden girl, obsessed with her cello and her horse. The one that had a keen interest in school, who excelled and never gave any cause for concern. The one who was sent to the private school whilst her brother had to make do with the local comprehensive. After the loss of her brother, Bryony starts to rebel. In small ways at first, and Terrence starts to feel his grip on her diminishing. Their relationship faltering and becoming strained and distant.

At first this story read like any typical teenager/parent relationship. Terrence disapproving of the clothes Bryony wears, the friend she has taken to hanging around with and wanting to know where she’s going and when she’ll be back. Nothing wrong with that…..

Until Terrence begins try to exert more and more control over Bryony. Delirious with the need to protect her. Going to ever further lengths to try to regain his relationship with her and ultimately keep her safe.

But why does he keep having black outs. Dizzy spells. Whisps of memories that don’t appear to be his own?

Why is he so desperate to keep a hold of Bryony. What is he so afraid of?

This story is so heartbreaking even from the first few pages. Watching this poor bereaved man fall apart and unravel before your eyes.

He is completely consumed by his losses. The suicide of his mother, the traumatic death of his wife and the tragic death of Reuben. He is completely eaten up with guilt about the way he treated Reuben, and the disparity between that and his treatment of Bryony.

I like to think I can handle dark tales, and I can. The darker the better. When I tweeted that I was going to start reading this someone replied hinting at how dark it was. I lapped if up. Bring it on! But this book was surprising. It messes with your mind. In a fantastic way. And although I’ve read much more harrowing tales, this one crept up on me.

Having never read any Matt Haig before I will certainly now go on to seek out his back catalogue. His writing is extremely compelling. Written without definite chapter delineation it almost feels like a stream of consciousness which lends itself so well to the unravelling of Terence’s mind.

Overall I loved this surprising gem of a book and would thoroughly recommend it.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat. Xxx

Nevertheless She Persisted By Jon Walter – A Review

Publisher: David Fickling Books

Publication Date: 6th September 2018

She was warned.

She was given an explanation.

Nevertheless she persisted

I have to hold my hands up and say I had never heard this quote until I googled the book. But you can get t-shirts, notebooks, wall prints with it on and I love it. I am however a little ashamed that I’d never even heard of it.

I’ve never read a book based around the women’s sufferage movement before. It’s a subject I find fascinating and emotive and so this is the reason I decided I’d like to get involved with the blog tour for this book.

Again I am ashamed at my woeful lack of knowledge of the struggles these women faced. It’s all too easy to be a little blasé about it all as it happened such a long time ago. However this book, albeit a fictionalised account, has really opened my eyes.

The book tells the story of two sisters Clara and Nancy, both working in Holloway prison at a time when the women’s sufferage movement was in full force.

Both girls have suffered at the hands of their father and are using their live-in employment in the prison as an escape from their home life.

Clara is proud of her role in the prison, she takes her duties very seriously and is determined to climb the career ladder and make something of herself in a time when women are seen as second rate citizens and expected to marry and settle down to have a family. She goes about her duties quite detached from the inmates.

Nancy on the other hand has escaped her father and finds it much harder to settle into her new employment. At times she even wonders whether she should have remained at home. She feels totally out of her depth in the prison and it’s only when she is asked to work on the wing housing the sufferagette prisoners that she begins to see just how unjustly treated these women are.

When she develops a connection with one of the most prestigious of the suffragette prisoners, an actress known as The Duchess, Nancy starts to become more and more entrenched in the cause and finds herself questioning the prison’s methods.

As Clara struggles to explain to her gentleman friend Ted how she won’t give up her career for marriage and Nancy feels a calling towards the suffragette life, both women are fighting to stand up for what they believe, with both women making the ultimate sacrifice.

I absolutely tore through this book. As I said at the start it is such a fascinating subject and one that brings about such an array of emotions. I felt like I was being subtley educated without having history forced upon me. I was so oblivious to the fact that so many women suffered for the cause. So many women were force fed in prison due to them going on hunger strike. The methods used were appalling and the force feeding descriptions were hard to read without feeling my own stomach churn.

This is a book that has made me want to find out more of the facts of what actually went on at that time. I feel I owe it to those brave women.

Both Clara and Nancy were immensely strong willed women in their own ways. Their relationship and family life was not always easy but ultimately their bond was unbreakable.

This book is heartwarming but also brutally honest in its depictions. A real eye opener which I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

I would thoroughly recommend it.

Thanks as always to Anne Cater and David Fickling Books for the advance review copy.

See you all soon.

Bookish Chat. Xx

How We Remember By J.M Monaco – A Review

Publisher: Red Door

Publication Date: 13th September 2018

I received an email from Red Door Publishing detailing a couple of upcoming blog tours and this one was the one that sounded most interesting to me so I said sign me up!

How We Remember tells the story of Jo. A middle aged woman who has been forced to return to her hometown in the states after her mother dies.

She has to leave her husband and job in a London university behind and return home to help her father and brother arrange the funeral and also of course attend the funeral and pay her last respects and say her goodbyes to her mother.

Returning home to the place she grew up, Jo not only has to deal with the sadness and heartache of losing her mother but she is also faced with a tumult of overwhelming emotions and has to confront events from her past that she wanted to bury.

She has to deal with the long buried feelings of being sexually assaulted by her uncle and how that was dealt with by her aunt and mother at the time.

She also is thrown back into the midst of her troubled brothers issues and her fathers issues too. Things she thought she had left behind when she took a job in London and started building a new life for herself far away from her stifling small town American life.

This story for me is best categorised as a family drama. I enjoy seeing how people develop into the adults they are today based on the events that shape them as children or young adults (and Jo is most certainly shaped by hers).

Some of the subject content is hard to read but not at all gratuitous and kept firmly in keeping with the tone of the story. I was happy with the pace and the flashback chapters, detailing Jo’s formative years.

If you enjoy a slow burner of a family saga then this is the book for you.

Thanks to Anna at Red Door for the advanced copy.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xx

I’d Rather Be Reading – A Poem by Me

The alarm goes off, it’s time for work
You’re really not a one to shirk…
Do you really need to earn those wages?
When all you want is a few more pages….

The bus to work is the perfect time
For quiet reading, just sublime!
That is of course if you can concentrate
Whilst foghorn Frank yells to his mate

Lunctime rolls around, you deserve a break
And all you want for goodness sake
Is to read a few pages, what’s wrong with that?
But your annoying colleague fancies a chat….

A nice sit down and a cup of tea
Now’s your chance, rub your hands with glee
A short story or two, that’s your goal
But what’s happening on Twitter?..perhaps a quick scroll?…

Sinking into bubbles, a lovely hot bath
With who will you share it? Maybe Attword or Plath?
No such luck, who’s this coming in?
It’s a child with a question.  You give up, pass the gin!

Snuggle under the duvet, settle down and chill out
You’ll finish this book, of that you’ve no doubt
But your eyelids are heavy, the words make no sense
You’ll try again tomorrow, let battle commence!

Another Rebecca By Tracey Scott-Townsend – A Review

Publisher: Wild Pressed Books

I have to admit that this book took me a little by surprise. The cover looks like you could be in for a nice gentle read. Well lemme tell you that the cover is deceiving. And boy am I glad it was!

This book is centred around Bex, her teenage daughter Rebecca and Rebecca’s father Jack.

Bex is a very complex woman and is firmly in the grip of alcohol addiction. She has suffered terribly in her past and has never got over an incident which she (and those closest to her) know as The Great Grief. Bex considers her life to have stopped years ago and she is merely existing not living.

Rebecca is her long suffering daughter. The one who picks her up off the floor, reminds her to eat and drink, changes her sheets when she has an accident when she’s drunk and generally worries herself silly over her.

A lot of Bex’s back story is told through the eyes of Jack who recounts their meeting and their tough relationship. Bex to him was his world but unfortunately the same couldn’t be said of him for Bex.

When Rebecca suffers an illness and has a fit in hospital (this happens right at the start of the story) she has a vision of a horse and a boy coming to take her away into oblivion. She feels strangely drawn to the boy and holds onto this vision in her lucid life when she is fully recovered.

This vision is intrinsically linked to her mother in ways that Rebecca is soon to discover, but life for both Bex and Rebecca is not easy.

Writing wise this story starts on an almost dreamlike whimsical tone. With the recounting of Rebecca’s dream. After this you are quite literally dropped slap bang into stark reality and the dreamlike lyrical writing stops. I enjoyed this transition a lot.

If I’m honest I enjoyed Bex’s narrative the most. Understanding her back story, the events that had shaped her and caused her unending struggle with alcohol and just living.

Interestingly I felt for her as I read her story but then when the chapters changed to Rebecca’s story my sympathies switched to her. Such a young girl having to deal with an alcoholic mother, financial struggles and feeling trapped.

If you enjoy a great family drama told from more than one perspective then this book is right up your street. With themes of grief, loss, addiction and family ties, this story is hard hitting and doesn’t get tied up in a pretty parcel of a conclusion. My favourite kind of ending.

Check out the rest of the reviews on the tour.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Wild Pressed Books for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

If you fancy winning yourself a copy of this book, click on the link below and try your luck! There are 7 copies up for grabs (5 print and 2 kindle) so get clicking! What have you got to lose?…..

Another
Rebecca – Blog Tour – Giveaway

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xxx