I’ve reviewed four books I read a couple of weeks or so ago, but since then I’ve read 3 more and am part way through my fourth.
I don’t want to get into a situation where I think ‘oh balls to it’ because I’m that far behind so i’ll continue to review in the order I’ve read them when I’ve got the time and the brain space! Sometimes life gets in the way…
Anyway, lets crack on!…
First Love – Gwendoline Riley
I can only describe this as a strange little book. At 176 pages its not quite a novel and not quite a novella but it came on my radar as it was shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize For Fiction and I’d heard some good reviews on booktube.
This book tells the story of a married couple called Neve and Edwyn, she is younger than him and they have what I can only describe as a very toxic relationship. We flit back and forth in time from Neve’s perspective to gain information about her relationships with her terrible parents (an abusive Father and a self-involved Mother) and her own romantic relationships prior to her marriage to Edwyn. There are elements of affection and tenderness in their relationship but for the most part Edwyn is utterly vile to Neve, she treads on eggshells waiting for his next ‘blow up’. He is mostly verbally abusive but has also been physically abusive to Neve.
This exchange perfectly captures just how vile Edwyn is. Here he rants at Neve about a time she got drunk with her friends and he had to put her to bed:
‘My voice got dull. I spoke like a machine that was running down while he seemed only to gain energy.
“You offered to pay for the drink” I said, “I told you I’d pay you back when I could and I will”.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t want your money. And don’t get me wrong, I was happy to pay of course. You can’t have a party with no wine”.
“I was happy not have a party if you remember”.
“Sure. But the fact is that you drank until you were sick. And your friends got drunk. On my money.”
There was a pause. Again I smiled, stupidly, pleadingly.
“Is that a northern thing, do you think?” he said.
“Is what a northern thing?”
“Well you enjoy being sick on yourself, don’t you? I’ve never known anyone else who enjoys being sick on themselves”.
“So it’s a reasonable question, then, isn’t it? Is that what people in the north do? Is that something you find acceptable, or civilized, or fun? Perhaps it is. I wouldn’t know.”
This book was a quick read although odd. I enjoyed reading it however it did leave a lot of unanswered questions.
Rattle – Fiona Cummins
I am recommending this book to everyone who enjoys a good creepy psychological thriller with a gory twisted edge. I’ll start by saying I absolutely loved this book, a proper five star read for me.
It tells the story of Erdman and Lilleth Frith who have a 6 year old son Jakey who was born with a bone deformity which means that any slight knock or fall can cause new bone to grow over old bone which essentially means he’s growing a second skeleton and becoming trapped in his own body. This is apparently known as ‘Stone Man Syndrome’. Running parallel to this is the story of a young girl called Clara who has been abducted by a man from right outside her school gates. Clara too has an interesting bone deformity in that the middle three fingers on both hands are missing and she has ‘cleft hands’.
She has been abducted by a man who has a macabre museum of skeleton specimens which are deformed or medically interesting in some way. He researches people afflicted with interesting deformities and trys to procure skeletons for his collection, which has been in his family for years and which he took over from his own father.
I think you can guess the link between Jakey, Clara and The Bone Collector. Jakey is the ultimate specimen and the Bone Collector has set his sights on having him on display in the museum.
This book is so dark and creepy and builds tension so well. Its not a bit like any other typical child abduction story, not in any way at all. The Bone Collector is dubbed as ‘A psychopath more frightening than Hanibal Lecter’ and I don’t think that’s far short of the mark! I think this is due in part to the fact that he lives a quiet life and draws no attention to himself, moving amongst the public and holding down a job like you or me, and yet he is ultimately riddled with evil. Rotten to the core.
‘Yes, mostly he prefers to wait until they’re dead before setting to work with his knife. But sometimes it cannot be helped. Sometimes he cannot make himself wait.
Take the girl for instance, she promises so much. And there is much to admire in a specimen such as her, much to discover. He yearns to experiment. To peel back the layers of her skin and look upon the bone. To display an exhibit that still moves and breathes….’
I enjoyed the fact that this story is told from multiple perspectives, Clara, the girl who has been abducted, The Bone Collector, Jakey, Erdman and Lilleth and Etta Fitzroy, the policewoman tasked with cracking the case. All well fleshed out characters and I didn’t enjoy one persons perspective over another.
This story has so much more depth than just a bog standard abduction story as I’ve said, it’s so sinister and dark. My heart was pounding at times.
The ending of this was amazing. One of those endings that makes you close the book slowly, look up and immediately want to tell someone about it. It surely paves the way for a sequel, it has to! I’m waiting with baited breath for it!.
The Stopped Heart – Julie Myerson
Now this book I will be recommending left right and centre! I love Julie Myerson as an author anyway, so when I saw her latest book The Stopped Heart on the shelf at the library, I snapped it up.
This has all the elements of a perfect 5 star read for me. Dual narrative *tick*, dual narrative split between two time periods. *double tick*, supernatural elements *massive big tick*.
So as I’ve said, this story is split between the present day and around 120 years prior to this in a cottage on farmland. It starts in the past with the sudden and dramatic arrival of a mysterious red haired man called James who gets trapped under a fallen tree in the garden of the cottage during a storm. The family living in the cottage consists of 6 children and their mother and father. The mysterious James is taken in by the family and starts helping them out on the farm. It soon becomes apparent that James has a very dark past indeed. This part of the story is told from the perspective of the older child Eliza who I think is around 13 years old. One of the other children Lottie, acts strangely and tells tales of seeing a lady, or ‘the girls’ or tales of her life before she ‘died’. The rest of the family write theses tales off as the makings of a wild and vivid childish imagination but are they?..
We skip forward in time to the present day, still in the same cottage where a new couple Mary and Graham Coles have just moved in following a family tragedy. You are quickly made aware that they have lost both of their young daughters in terrible circumstances and its not long before you find out how. (I won’t do any spoilers here though!)
Mary starts to feel unsettled in the cottage and sometimes catches glimpses of a red haired man in the lane when she is looking out of the window, or hears the sound of children laughing in the garden. Meanwhile a century earlier, little Lottie claims she can see ‘The Lady who cries a lot’…..
“lottie! I cried. Whatever are you doing? Why aren’t you in bed?”.
She was gazing up at me with hot eyes, Her cheeks were bright and her breath smelled sickly and of fever. She licked her lips.
I don’t like it she said.
“What? What don’t you like?”
She keeps coming – Lottie looked around the room and then back at me. She held up her hands. I said to her to go away, I said: You must go away right now or I’ll bite you! But every time I say it, she just stays and stays-
I watched as she plucked at her nightgown and stomped her bare feet and gazed all around the room again. I saw that she was on the verge of tears.
Make her go away Eliza. Please make her.
Make who go away?
She’s in here? you mean in this room?
And are the little girls in here too?
Lottie let out a wail
Not them! The little girls are dead!……
I absolutely loved the overlap of time periods and the supernatural thread that ran through this book. I loved seeing the character of Eliza develop and how her relationship with the mysterious James evolved and ultimately consumed her. The story of Mary and Grahams tragedy was dealt with amazingly well, even though the subject matter was difficult to imagine.
Parts of this story are unsettling and disturbing, especially when it came to Lottie and her ‘visions’. There are also lots of emotional, upsetting parts, especially towards the end of the book. This book I know I could read over again, and that isn’t something I commit to lightly as I’m usually a one read only kinda gal!
If you get the chance to pick this one up then do, and let me know what you think.
Hide – Matthew Griffin
This was an ‘on a whim’ library pick up, mainly because I liked the cover….shallow I know. It wasn’t a very long read so I rattled through it fairly quickly. It was such a sweet story…..I say sweet, it was actually pretty heartbreaking at times.
It tells the story of Wendell and Frank an old couple living in a small town in America. They’ve been together since they were fairly young and are now in their 80’s. They have successfully kept their relationship a secret over the years, isolating themselves from the world, going shopping separately, never being seen out together, telling people they are brothers etc. Life hasn’t always been easy for them but they get by just fine in their own little bubble. That is until Frank has a stroke whilst out gardening one afternoon and Wendell is pretty much left to be his carer on his own and deal with watching the love of his life deteriorate both mentally and physically before his eyes.
The story often flits back in time to tell the story of how they met and the various struggles they’ve had along the way. I enjoyed this part because it was good to have the perspective of a young Frank as he is portrayed as strong and hardy, totally dependable, which is of course in complete contrast to the Frank after his stroke. It was heartwarming to see the depth of love and respect in their relationship without it being overly sickly sweet. In fact it was often quite darkly humourous. Overall I really enjoyed it. I tweeted the author to tell him how much I enjoyed it and of course he tweeted me back because I’m like totally down with the authors these days kids!……
So that’s me, not quite up to date but I’m doing the best I can at the moment.
As always, if you’ve read any of these please let me know your thoughts.