Netgalley

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements

Release Date: 8th February 2018

Genre: HorrorType of books: ebook, from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Description from Netgalley:

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements is an eerie and compelling seventeenth-century ghost story set on the dark wilds of the Yorkshire moors. For fans of Michelle Paver, Helen Dunmore and Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, this gothic tale will weave its way into your imagination and chill you to the bone.

My Review

Sometimes you get a good feeling when you start reading a book, like a gut instinct, that it’s going to be good. ‘The Coffin Path’ is set on the moors and this atmosphere is the perfect place for a gothic story. The first scene dives straight into action with Mercy helping a ewe who is struggling to give birth. It’s the beginning of a chilling story. When she’s going home after helping the ewe Mercy feels like she is being followed, later on there is a hint that there has always been a curse at Scarcross Hall.

The beginning drew me in and I was hooked until the viewpoint change to a new character which also changed the tone of the story from the gothic but not for good. The mystery surrounding the new character soon kept me riveted allowing me to put my doubts aside and not stop reading until the surprising conclusion. I really enjoyed this book. It’s a gothic ghost story with mystery and drama. The atmosphere and setting is amazing and the characters are people you will care about. It’s one of those books where words fail me, how can I capture it in one sentence or paragraph? The one thing that stays with me besides the character of Mercy, is the imagery of the moors.

Netgalley

Pocketful Of Crows by Joanne M. Harris

Title: A Pocketful of Crows
Author: Joanne M.Harris
Type of book: Ebook, free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Description from Netgalley:

 “am as brown as brown can be,
And my eyes as black as sloe;
I am as brisk as brisk can be,
And wild as forest doe.
(The Child Ballads, 295)
So begins a beautiful tale of love, loss and revenge. Following the seasons, A Pocketful of Crows balances youth and age, wisdom and passion and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl.
Only love could draw her into the world of named, tamed things. And it seems only revenge will be powerful enough to let her escape.
Beautifully illustrated by (TBC), this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.”
My thoughts

This story has me lost of words, so the review is short. I enjoyed it and it’s stayed with me. I think it’s one of those stories I’ll have to read again to discover more about it. 

My Review
This story is like a rhyme or a ballad, a folk tale and mythology. It’s a pagan story of magic, the seasons and nature and love. It’s starts telling us about this woman and her people, it’s rhythm like a rhyme or poem with it’s own beat, until it turns into a tale of a girl falling in love. But it’s not a love story, it feels like an old story, like a story of the seasons. A witch story. It’s an imaginative tale with vivid descriptions, it has a sense of a folk tale or a fearie tale. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like this. 
 You can’t really pin this story down with words, it has to be experienced for yourself, to understand the magickal quality that it has. This will be one of those stories that stays with me and that I’ll have to read again to take in. 


Netgalley, short stories horror

The Travelling Bag by Susan Hill

Title: The Travelling Bag
Author: Susan Hill
Type: Short stories horror
Ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Review:
It is with great regret that I must write my first negative/critical review for this blog.

Susan Hill may be most well known for ‘The Woman In Black’ a novel which I enjoyed. Her novels are set in the past and are excellent ghosts stories. I enjoyed her other novel ‘The Small Hand’ is was a really good read but I didn’t enjoy her novella ‘Printer Devil’s Court’ for the exact same reason why I didn’t really enjoy ‘The Travelling Bag’. I hoped that this book would be better but in her short fiction although you get the amazing horror writing that you can expect from this author, some chilling scenes that resonate in the mind after you’ve finished the book, the plot and ideas don’t seem fully formed or properly finished just like ‘Printer Devil’s Court’ and and they have disappointed me.

The Travelling Bag is a collection of four stories of horror:

The Travelling Bag is a story of revenge, which at first reminded me of a Sherlock Holmes story. A psychic investigator is telling the story of this “intriguing” case. I enjoyed the way that the story was told but didn’t get the point/plot in the end. It seemed a bit of a yarn although there was a chilling resonance at the conclusion.

The second story is Boy Number Twenty-One, it starts with a fire in an old house, Cloten Hall, and a man thinking back to how much it meant to him and if someone he knew was still there. We are told the story of how he met that person. I did not understand from the beginning what/who the boy was that meant so much to him and at the end of the story I was still uncertain.

Alice Baker is a more modern story of a new member of staff in an office and a weird smell and sense of oddness around her. It was an interesting story but it meanders and ends on an old cliche, I expected more to happen.

The final story in this collection is called Front Room. It starts off a bit ambiguous from the rest of the plot with a couple musing over a sermon they’ve heard in church about helping people less fortunate. They fix up their front room and suddenly a relative is mentioned who they can help. It is a very creepy story, with this evil woman. The horror scenes-towards the end- were not tense probably because they felt rushed and the ending also felt a bit sudden.

Each of these stories I’ve felt that I didn’t quite understand the point. I often read short horror stories and they usually leave me with a feeling of satisfaction at the conclusion, where some horror has been revealed or conquered. But Susan Hill’s stories while chilling they don’t have that satisfying conclusion. With each story I expected more from the beginning which the middle and end did not deliver. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was that didn’t make these stories work for me, whether it was the pacing, or whether they were just overwritten for short stories.
  Susan Hill is a good horror writer, these short stories and her novels prove that she can write horror but I I won’t be reading Susan Hill’s short fiction anymore as I really don’t enjoy it, I will stick to the writers I do enjoy.
However, please remember this is all my opinion and you should always try a book for yourself.

And if case you’re wondering who I do enjoy/prefer: Helen LaycockPatsy Collins anthologies from Dark Tales.

Netgalley

Update and Review of The Rules Of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Update:
Finished: The Rules Of Magic by Alice Hoffman, from Netgalley review below.
Currently Reading: Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan (couldn’t resist after enjoying the first book, read outside your confort zone!)
The Travelling Bag by Susan Hill, from Netgalley.

Review of The Rules Of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Title: The Rules of MagicAuthor: Alice HoffmanType of books: Ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: 10th October 2017


The Rules of Magic is a prequel to Practical Magic, I’ve never read Practical Magic although I’ve watched the film and loved it. When I started reading The Rules of Magic I wanted to skip through until I found some action. The novel is written in the past tense and often it reads like a report rather than a narrative- you are told about something happening rather than witnessing it unfolding on the page. (Please note that there are just my opinions and everyone is different, so please read this novel yourself to see what you think.)
However, Alice Hoffman is a good storyteller and tells the story of three siblings who are learning about themselves and the magic that’s in their blood. It’s a sad and melancholy story. It’s not a fast paced tale but more of a slow burn.  We are taken through the lives of Jet, Franny and Vincent and introduced to the magic of herbs and spells. The characters are very real and I enjoyed reading about them and learning more about their world, the story really is about them it’s not about magic or witchcraft.
It doesn’t seem to have any conflict/problem that stands out, although there is a curse that needs to be broken which is given some thought. But having seen Practical Magic I know the curse won’t be broken so knowing the outcome I can’t get too involved in the conflict, in this way it feels like a prequel rather than a story you could read on it’s merit – things that are resolved in Practical Magic can’t be resolved in this novel. The history of the Owens’ and their ancestry is different to the film which isn’t a bad thing, I think I’d have to read Practical Magic to better understand how these books fit together, especially with regard to the curse and the family history before I can really form an opinion.
I have mixed opinions of the style of this book sometimes the past tense report-like narrative frustrated me. But then the description of the places made me feel like I was actually there. There is no dominating conflict or problem, but maybe it’s not meant to, it’s a good story of three very real characters, whose lives I was drawn into.  There are tense scenes and mystery told at it’s own time and pace, in keeping with the feel of the novel. In making me care about the characters and making me feel sad Alice Hoffman has done her job as a novelist.
I will definitely read Practical Magic. The Rules of Magic is a sad but enchanting story and it has stayed with me after I’ve finished reading.

Netgalley

Review: Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis: The Vampire Chronicles 12 by [Rice, Anne]
Name: Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantic
Author: Anne Rice
Type of book: ebook (recommend physical book as easier to skip to appendixes and it’s better)
FREE EBOOK IN EXCHANGE FOR REVIEW FROM NETGALLEY


  If you haven’t read Prince Lestat then you really need to read that first. This review contains spoilers straight away of Prince Lestat.

My Review:


The story starts where Prince Lestat ends:
 Amel is inside Lestat and they are trying to build their Court, the vampires story continues and we are also introduced to a new character who’s story is crucial to the narrative.
Lestat is dreaming of a city falling into the sea and so begins the story of the Realms of Atlantis.
Anne Rice is a great writer, the atmosphere in her novels! It’s as though you are right there experiencing it all for yourself. The characters as always are real and breathing (do vampires breath?) beings, our favourites are there and it feels like meeting up with old friends. I loved the continuity- Lestat thinks about his past and remembers Claudia and little moments that I recall from the previous novels. I can’t really put into words how delightful it is to read about these characters again and read about the events in The Vampire Chronicles which I so loved to read and reread in my pre-teens!
I read some bad reviews of this novel and was uncertain whether I wanted to read it. Straight away I felt that there was just too much talking and not enough action. At times the story felt directionless, there’s a lot of talking and nothing much seems to happen. It pains me to give a negative review to anyone who has sat down and poured out their soul and imagination on to paper, but I like to be honest.  There’s a lot of description of clothing and surroundings but that isn’t always bad, it builds up atmosphere. Loyal Anne Rice fans won’t be concerned. I did get into the story though and continued reading and enjoyed it immensely until the moment of revelation where Lestat is being told a story. It reads like a report and I felt that this section did not flow very well. I skimmed through some pages because there was so much information the information did not seem relevant to me, there were too many excruciating details of Atlantis which did not seem to aid the story’s plot in anyway.
I was frustrated but…
I can’t say I hated this book! I enjoyed reading about Lestat again, Lestat had been and always will be my favourite literary character. Anne Rice-despite the sluggish parts- is a great writer, her world comes to life off the page. And I loved the story, I loved the ideas and how they all come together so naturally. So how can I say I hated it!
After that section of story where I skimmed, only a few pages, I was then hooked again, it was like being in my pre-teens again where I read the books at breakfast or during school dinner break (yeah, I’m a bookworm!) eager to get to the end, devouring the contents of the book. I had to know if everything was OK and then without realising I got to the final page! And I didn’t want it to end! Confusing I know, I went from skimming pages and being frustrated to not wanting to say goodbye to Lestat. Despite what I’ve said I loved this book, I felt happy and sad: I felt everything with the characters, I lived everything with the characters.
 That’s the thing that has always kept me reading, that is Anne Rice’s main accomplishment: her characters are amazing. And if you love the characters as much as I do anything that lets this book down maybe overlook. After all how can you resist Lestat? I know I can’t.

Netgalley

The Barrowlands by Phillip Lewis

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to write a review for this book for two reasons: 1- I couldn’t finish it 2) I didn’t enjoy it.
But in the interest of being honest I decided to do it anyway. A good novel for me is one with an amazing style, characters who come to life and a story that keeps me engaged. This novel had a good style but it was not consistent. Here is my review:


I had to preserve with the beginning of this book as it did not hook me. I expected to read a dark, gothic story that was what appealed to me about the description of this book. But it did not live up to it’s description.  I got to the part where they move to the gothic house with it’s amazing library I thought that the story was going somewhere, I thought maybe it’s going to be a gothic tale -Poe is mentioned after all-  maybe I just have to go past the beginning set up and now the story will begin.
 But it never did.  It reads like a memoir but one that rambles on. And on. Sometimes the author skips ahead a month or years, the narrative just jumps around too much. A detail was given late in the story about a nickname the main character calls his sister, as though the author had thought of this late in the novel but not thought to go back and add it in the beginning.

Parts of this book did draw me in and I loved the writing, it was atmospheric and intriguing. But it’s like the book is written by two different people- one moment  the language and the style is lovely (not called literary fiction for nothing). But the next moment it reads more like a report than a story. I go from being drawn in to bored.

I didn’t feel like I was involved or immersed enough in the story either and I could not connect with the main character at all.  I had no sympathy for the way he cut himself off from his family with no reasoning behind it. If this character was a real person you’d just think he was arrogant and self-involved, why would we want to read a story about him? He doesn’t appear to have any redeeming features.

I couldn’t recommend it, if you love literary fiction you will be let down by the parts that don’t seem to fit. And if you love fiction in general you will wonder why you should bother reading a book that doesn’t grip you or seem to have a point.

I tried to get into the book, I tried over and over but each time I was frustrated. I hate not finishing a book, but I also don’t wish to waste time reading a book I don’t enjoy when there are so many out there that I could be enjoying instead.

challenge, Netgalley

Review: Did You See Melody? By Sophie Hannah. (Ebook from netgalley in exchange for review)


To say this book is a riveting read would be an understatement, I read this book within two days because I didn’t want to stop reading.

Cara’s arrival in Arizona and the initial mystery that surrounded it hooked me and then as she becomes intrigued by the story of a missing girl so did I.
I felt like I was being pulled along as slowly but with perfect pacing the story unfolds and answers are given. At times I wanted to scream because of the shift in the narrative at a moment I thought I was going to find something out, but that’s all the fun of this type of book, it keeps you gripped to the page.
The story of the missing girl is told using transcripts of a TV show and articles which Cara watches/reads. I thought that this would put me off at first but it didn’t because I needed answers and found myself eagerly reading page after page.  
I don’t usually read crime novels and I expected to read a plot driven thriller. But this novel has not only a gripping plot but likeable realistic characters; I even liked- to my surprise- the outspoken ‘Tarin’, (I think she’s my favourite).
Towards the end of the story my interest started to wane because the viewpoint changed-but I urge anyone not to be put off by this (if you are)  because any negative opinions I had quickly changed by the time I reached the conclusion.
The solution to the mystery was very clever! And the ending: woah!
But you’ll have to read it and find out for yourself. I’m trying hard not to give the best bits away.
I need a breather after reading this book but I enjoyed it and will be reading more like it in future.
Netgalley

I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth Kostova’s books for many years, and often reread ‘The Historian’. I stumbled upon her latest book ‘The Shadow Land’ whilst browsing through the titles on Netgalley (a site that allows you to read books for an honest review) not even aware of it’s existence. I was so excited to read this book. Here is my review of:

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova (due to be published 11th April 2017)

Elizabeth Kostova never disappoints, in this her third novel she again weaves history effortlessly into the narrative and breathes the atmosphere of Bulgaria into her words.
I can’t do this novel justice really: this is simply another amazing book from Elizabeth Kostova, a captivating story, compelling characters and such atmosphere.
The story begins with a young woman who has travelled to Bulgaria; (in true Elizabeth Kostova style) we are drawn into all the sights and sounds of the country- immersed in it as though we are actually there. Alexandra mistakenly picks up someone else’s suitcase, it isn’t until she’s far away from its owners that she realises it contains human ashes. The story is about her trying to find the people who they belong to. We journey with her around the country finding out more about the man who was Stoyan Lazarov and more about Alexandra herself. Sometimes I wonder whose story this is Alexandra’s or Stoyan’s. Later in the novel we hear Stoyan’s story and that is the point where I was stunned into silence- no spoilers here.
This is proper story, not a fast paced thriller or who-dunnit but a story about people and a country and I have learnt so much about Bulgaria and it’s history from this story.
At some points throughout the story (although you are warned before you start reading) there are these little turns from Alexandra’s story, mesmerising roads which you will follow and be drawn into. And each one is telling you more about the characters and adds so much depth to the story. But despite these twists and turns this is one of those books which you will find hard to step away from until you’ve reached that final page.
Loved it.

Netgalley

Kate Riordan: The Shadow Hour

CURRENTLY READING: The Shadow Land By Elizabeth Kostova, I’m on chapter 22 and loving it. Will review as soon as I’ve got to the end, wanting to find out what happens but also wanting it to last. In the meantime I just found this review I wrote last year (I think) for Netgalley. I loved this book and recommend this author. The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan (the similarity in these titles is a complete coincidence except I remembered I wrote a review for this book).

My Review

Mystery and secrets await Grace at Fenix House. Sent there by her grandmother who was once a governess there herself, Grace instantly finds holes in the stories her grandmother told her and is compelled to find out the truth.  The story is told from Grace’s viewpoint and dips into her grandmother’s viewpoint in the past to reveal the secrets and mysteries. The Shadow Hour is a riveting read, one of those novels you’ll find yourself reading late into the evening, promising yourself ‘one last chapter’. 


Reminiscent of classic novels, (Jane Eyre is mentioned and the end is revealed) some scenes would not be out of place in a gothic novel. Each atmospheric scene is perfectly described without clichés and you are easily transported into Grace and Harriet’s world.  Tense, dramatic, surprising and emotional this story is perfect: great atmosphere, plenty of mystery to keep you reading until the last page. Can’t wait for the next book by Kate Riordan.