Naomi’s Room By Jonathan Aycliffe – A Review

It’s just turned 1am and I have just closed this book.

Oh to the em to the gee! What have I just read!?!?

This is hands down the creepiest most horrifying book I’ve ever read in my life! When I saw it being mentioned on Twitter a few days ago as being a scary book, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I loaned it from the library and took it away on holiday to Scotland with me but was too scared to read it in a cottage that dated back to the 1800’s, so I brought it home again unread. Man am I glad I didn’t start reading it in the cottage!

I like to think I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to scary shizzle. I love being scared by a good horror film, particularly if there’s a paranormal element and books are just the same. But THIS book is just something else entirely!

Charles and Laura’s 4 year old daughter Naomi gets abducted from a toy shop on Christmas Eve and subsequently turns up dead in an alleyway having been horrifically mutilated. Charles and Laura obviously struggle to come to terms with their daughters death and as a veil of grief settles on their house, strange occurrences start to happen.

Screams in the night, noises coming from the attic above them and when a journalist photographer shows up with some very disturbing photos he’s taken of the house showing faces at windows and two Victorian children playing in the garden, Charles and Laura have to face up to the fact that there is something very sinister at play in their house.

There are certain themes and events that tickle my horror pickle and strange photographs is one of them. Along with Victorian creepy kids *tick*, ghostly apparitions *big tick*, whispered voices *big fat tick* and creepy goings on in an attic space *ding ding ding jackpot*.

Something is coming down the stairs. It is very slow, and I think it stops and listens every step or so. If I hold my breath and wait, I can almost hear it breathing. Please God, help me get through this, help me get through tonight at least……..

The first two thirds of this story are so insidiously creepy that I was expecting at any moment to be disappointed by an obvious over explaining of the goings on, (I hate that!) or just something so far fetched happening that it broke the spell. Well dear reader, the disappointment never came and my heart continued to pound out of my chest! I even had to have a cheeky little glass of rum to steady my nerves. (Medicinal, honest guv).

There is a strong element of mystery solving in this story, which I love. Anything that involves searching archives in a library to uncover secrets about a particular house or family and I’m there!

It’s the final third that takes this story from being a traditional ghost story (albeit a bloody amazing one!) into something so twisted and macabre that my mind was blown!

I read this in one terrified sitting and even had to come downstairs and be around people as I read it, no way was I staying up in the bedroom on my own! Not a chance mate!

Still…….I have to now go up to bed……….time for one more rum maybe……?

See you soon……I hope……

Bookish Chat xxx

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Putney By Sofka Zinovieff – A Review

Publisher: Bloomsbury

I really enjoyed this book and it feels so wrong to say it given the content. I nearly didn’t review it and I don’t really know why as I found it an amazing read.

I’ll start by saying this book deals with the very emotive subject of child grooming, child sexual abuse and the handling of historic child sex abuse…..I know right!

It’s the 1970’s and Ralph a composer has gone to visit his friend Edmund to talk about a collaboration. During this visit he encounters Daphne, Ed’s 9 year old daughter. She instantly bewitches him and he becomes enthralled by her. Ralph is 27 when this encounter takes place.

Ralph continues to make regular visits to the house in Barnabus Road, under the guise of visiting Ed and his wife Ellie. However it is their daughter he is more interested in. In fact he is obsessed with her. Ed and Ellie live a very bohemian life and Daphne and her brother are left to their own devices at early ages. Coming and going from the house as they wish along with many and varied visitors.

Daphne quickly becomes as obsessed with Ralph as he is with her. Enthralled by his adult charms and secret little gifts.

When at the age of 13 their relationship becomes sexual, a tipping point has been reached that they cannot go back from.

Fast forward to the present day and Daphne now a woman in her fifties with a young daughter of her own has her memories shaped by her old friend Jane who was around to witness much of the affair between herself and Ralph at the time it was happening. Ralph now in ailing health is forced to revisit that bohemian, heady time in his life and confront some demons.

You don’t need me to tell you that the subject matter involved here is very emotive. The initial description of the relationship is quite passionate and poetic but you have this creeping horror under your skin when you remember that this relationship is beyond wrong. In both the eyes of the law and society. It is almost too hard to wrap your head around the fact that Ralph feels (even as a man in his 70’s) that the relationship was based on true love and a deep connection beyond sex. He is blind to the fact that what he did makes him an abuser, a sexual predator. It takes Daphne some time to come to terms with this too, but having a daughter of a similar age to herself when the relationship turned sexual helps to cement the idea that the whole thing was very wrong.

The story is told through the perspectives of Ralph, Daphne and Jane. The abuse scenes are not gratuitous or salacious in any way. The whole story is beautifully written and handled extremely tactfully.

It is fascinating to see how much times have changed. The way that historic child sex abuse cases are handled and how relationships were perceived back in those days. What Ralph did was morally reprehensible and you read the story with an overwhelming sense of dread. Unflinchingly raw and emotional, this was a tough read at times as you can well imagine.

It is certainly a book I won’t be forgetting in a hurry, for all the right reasons.

I would recommend it wholeheartedly.

See you soon

Bookish Chat. Xx

The Necessary Marriage By Elisa Lodato – A Review

Publisher: Weidenfeld And Nicolson

Publication Date: 23rd August 2018

I had seen bits and pieces about this one on Twitter and had my head turned by that beautiful cover. When Jennifer Kerslake over at Orion offered to send me a copy I jumped at the chance. She recommended Bitter to me by Francesca Jakobi which is one of my favourite books of the year so far, so I knew I was in good hands.

This is the story of 2 sets of marriages, with completely different couples wanting completely different things out of their relationships and indeed their lives.

It’s the 1970’s and 16 year old Jane has fallen for her history teacher Mr Campbell, or Leonard. In her eyes he is everything she thinks she wants in a man, intelligent, dependable, reliable and he sets her heart racing. When her feelings are reciprocated by Leonard, they embark on a tentative relationship, one which Jane wants to take to a physical level fairly quickly (she is coming up to 18 by this point I should add). Leonard on the other hand puts the breaks on their relationship going any further as he has promised his elderly mother that he will find a partner and marry her. He is a very respectable man who wants things to be done in the traditional way.

They marry and go on to have two daughters Becca and Julia and for a while Jane is content with life. Her relationship with Leonard however starts to become a little stale, she’s not wowed by passion and has quickly, and at a young age become bogged down by the humdrum domesticity of her life.

That is until a fiery couple, Marion and Andrew and their two sons Jonathan and Robert move in next door. Jane becomes interested in their relationship, and with their children being similar ages and attending the same school, she starts to get to know the couple better.

It is clear from the outset that Marion is unsettled, always pining for her hometown in Ireland. When she disappears one day, Jane finds herself getting far more involved with the family next door than she anticipated. She’s enlisted by Andrew to help out with the boys and Jane enjoys not only caring for them but caring for Andrew too. But at what cost?

This story is told from three perspectives. Jane and Leonard as a couple, moving on to Marion and Andrew and the background story of their relationship and then Becca and Jonathan and their friendship.

If I’m honest I enjoyed Marion and Andrew’s story the most. It was the most intriguing and Marion as a character is fascinating. I would have liked a little more of the story from her perspective. A tumultuous, passionate relationship, which still couldn’t make her happy. Not even with the love of her boys, whom she adores.

When the story started I did wonder whether it would be the usual ‘young girl falls for her teacher who then takes advantage of her’ trope, but it is nothing like that at all, which made me very happy indeed. Sometimes that particular trope can get a bit samey.

The writing in the first few chapters, explaining Leonard and Jane’s burgeoning relationship was quite light and tripped along nicely, with a surface knowledge of these two characters. However as you are drawn further into the book, all of the characters gain such depth. There’s a gritty intensity that quietly builds. At times raw and compelling. I really enjoyed this journey.

What I thought was an excellent family drama turned into something completely different as it neared it’s conclusion and I was taken by surprise in a very enjoyable way.

Passionate, real, and at times heartbreaking. I would thoroughly recommend this book to you all.

Thank you as ever to Jennifer Kerslake and Weidenfeld and Nicolson for the advanced copy.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xx

Vox By Christina Dalcher – A Review

Publisher: HQ Stories

Publication Date: 23rd August 2018

I had seen so much buzz surrounding this book and just knew I had to have the chance to read it and absorb it, just to see for myself if it was as good as early reviews were saying.

Well dear reader, I can confirm that it is deserving of every last bit of praise, despite the fact that it horrified me!

This story centres around neurolinguistic scientist Jean McClellan and her family, husband Patrick, eldest son Steven, two twin boys Sam and Leo And 6 year old daughter Sonia.

As the females in the household Jean and Sonia are fitted with ‘bracelets’ which count their words. All females are allocated just 100 words a day to use and the bracelet counts them down one by one. The counter resets at midnight every night. If they dare to go over their 100 word limit there are dire consequences.

This is all down to instruction from the president of the USA and the religious ‘Pure’ movement. They want to see women as inferior beings, control them, censor them and take away their voices and opinions. They are no longer permitted to work and female children can only study maths in school to enable them to budget effectively for their family.

This movement extends to them being under surveillance via cameras everywhere so that they can’t even use sign language to communicate. They cannot read books or write anything down. These along with a litany of other ‘rules’ were enough to raise the hairs on my arms and raise my hackles!

When Jean’s skills as a neuroscientist are called upon by the Pure Movement, she has to make some tough decisions and stay perceptive around who she can and cannot trust.

What scared me about this story was the fact that we could one day find ourselves not a million miles away from something like this occurring. That creeping sense of foreboding when you are reading that makes you stop and think ‘my god, what if?….’

In considering the 100 word limit I also appreciated how very little could be said in 24 hours and just how many words were eaten up in the simplest of necessary sentences.

You also appreciate the little things that cannot be done for your own family. Soothing a child when they are ill. Reading them a bedtime story or even just telling them you love them. If your 100 words are up you have to stay quiet.

I really sympathised with Jean, the absolute horrors she faced and the torturous decisions she had to make.  She’s a very likeable, gutsy character with real heart, despite not being perfect herself.

The pace of this book really ramps up around two thirds of the way through.  There were some chapters towards the end that had me so tense my whole body was rigid whilst I was reading. At the end you have to remind yourself to breathe!  When you close this book that sense of forboding lingers for so long afterwards.

You would like to think that this dystopian nightmare is exactly that, just a nightmare…….however……what if?…………..

I’ll leave you with that chilling thought.

See you soon

Bookish Chat xxx

Death By TBR – A Poem By Me

It started with one book on the nightstand
Did she really need anything more?
But soon it had snowballed to book after book
Stacked high on the bedroom floor.

But which of the tomes in the teetering pile
Brought about her demise?
Was it the latest paperback thriller
Riddled with Russian Spies?

Or could it be down to that stunning hardback
That she’d had in her sights for a while?
Or maybe that one on the bestseller list
The one that had made her smile.

Or could it be all 8 of the sumptuous books
That were up for that literary prize?
Or that pacey psychological thriller
Based on a web of lies

Or maybe that whole series of books
(The one that everyone owns)
Any one of these beasts could have seen her off
Just how long is this ‘Game Of Thrones’?

Whoever the culprit, she can no longer tell
As she’s drawn her last juddery breath
Trapped by a french flap, wedged under a deckled edge
A most wasteful of bookish deaths.

But what can we glean from this cautionary tale?
We really must protect ourselves!
Do we perhaps buy far less books?
Of course not, we buy more shelves!

RIP Bookworm

Gross Anatomy By Mara Altman – A Review

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: 23rd August 2018

Can we just all appreciate the beautiful cerise pink cover of this book for a moment…………thanks.

Ok, this book is a non-fiction account of Mara Altman’s various troubles/anxieties/thoughts regarding the female anatomy told from her own perspective regarding her own body.

Just the prologue of this book had me chuckling to myself

Why does my dog, every time I squat down, make a beeline for my crotch? The only other thing she’s drawn to with such consistency is the garbage can…

With lines like that I just knew that this lady was completely on my humour level and I was going to enjoy this rollercoaster ride around the female body.  Being both a female and possessed of a troublesome body of my very own, I could identify with ooooohhhhh 99% of Mara’s own concerns/thoughts/bewilderments, not to mention embarrassments!

This book is divided into two sections, ‘The Top Half’ which covers such topics as facial hair, body hair, nits and breasts and ‘The Bottom Half’ which covers such delights as bum’s, vagina’s and birthmarks. I was pleasantly surprised that the topics covered were not just the ones you would expect a book like this to cover.  The section on nits was hilarious (and kinda vile!) and had me literally wanting to scratch my scalp off as I was reading it!

What I very much enjoyed about this book was the fact that we always hear about a particular worry or wonderment from the perspective of Mara and then she essentially gives us the ‘science bit’ and tells us the thoroughly researched reasons why certain things occur.  The sciencey bits were not too ‘sciencey’, perfectly pitched information that was very absorbing and informative.

The author’s own experiences are not only told in such an engaging and readable way, they really make you feel as if you’re not alone.  We all have anxieties surrounding  our bodies, and it’s nice to hear from the perspective of a fellow female who isn’t a close friend or family member humouring you about your worries.

Mara is such a witty and hilarious writer, she can certainly tell an engaging anecdote.  I feel like I could go and have a drink with her and laugh my socks off!

Not afraid to shy away from the embarassing, the cringeworthy and the downright disgusting, this book is a rip roaring romp around the confusingly marvellous, imperfectly wonderful female body.

Get yourself a copy and be prepared to identify with everything you read (if you’re a female) or appreciate the marvel of the female form a little better (if you’re a male).

Thank you to Rosie Margesson and Harper Collins for the review copy.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xxx

Bellevue Square By Michael Redhill – A Review

Publication Date: 15th August 2018

Publisher: No Exit Press

I closed this book in a kind of wonderment. What had I just experienced? And it is just that, an experience to read this book.

Even now I’m unsure what I have read. In a good way. In a cracking way! I feel like I’ve been duped, hoodwinked, led down a deliciously long complex path full of twists and turns….

So what on earth is it all about you say?!

Well, our protagonist is Jean Mason, the owner of a book shop called Bookstore. She has a husband called Ian and two sons Reid and Nick. One day whilst working at the book shop, one of her longstanding customers comes in and says he has just seen her in the market and she didn’t acknowledge him. She also had shorter hair. Jean tells the man this is impossible and that she has been in the bookshop the whole time.

The man becomes quite agitated, convinced the woman he has seen is Jean. There is a slight altercation and the customer leaves. Leaving Jean a little bewildered.

Later, Jean has another strange visitor to the bookshop convinced that Jean is the doppelgänger of another woman who is seen in the market and around Bellevue Square by the name of Ingrid.

The thought that she may have a doppelgänger, someone out there looking exactly like her (bar the hair) fascinates Jean and she starts hanging around the square hoping to catch a glimpse. She begins interacting with the people who regularly frequent the square and the park, the misfits, the alcoholics, the drug users, the mentally ill. They are all also sure they have seen Jean’s doppelgänger.

Jean becomes obsessed with locating Ingrid and the very idea consumes her. When her obsession and apparent unease begins to show at home, her husband Ian becomes increasingly worried about Jean’s mental state given that she has been prone to depression in the past.

From here, Jean’s life begins to spiral out of control quite dramatically. And the reader is taken on one hell of a journey with her. Both inside and outside of her head.

This book is riddled with unreliable narrators not least Jean herself. I am a huge fan of an unreliable narrator. I like to be kept guessing and boy does this book keep you guessing.

Just when you think you might have a handle on what’s going on, you fall down yet another rabbit hole, and begin to question everything you’ve read so far.

As I said at the start, this book is more like an experience. A real thinker. I was wrong footed and set off kilter a fair few times throughout. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything in quite the same vein before.

A gripping, compelling story of the complexities of mental illness with a dark sinister almost claustrophobic edge.

I really enjoyed it and if you fancy getting your hands on something unique, I would highly recommend it.

Thank you to Anne Cater and No Exit Press for the review copy.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xxx