review

The South Westerlies by Jane Fraser

The South Westerlies

Synopsis

The South Westerlies is an attempt to know place (Gower) through the creation of a collection of short stories. Place is not a cosmetic backdrop, but an affecting agent in the lives of a wide cast of fictional characters. The collection is unified by the tone of the prevalent dank south-westerly wind that blows across the peninsula, the UK’s first designated area of outstanding natural beauty. However, the author chooses to let her gaze fall on the downsides of a much vaunted tourism destination and a place that is too beautiful, perhaps, for its own good. -from GoodReads

My Review

There’s this strange tone to these stories, like Jane fraser has captured that mournful gloomy feeling that hovers over the coast threatening rain, somehow capturing that atmosphere of a grey and overcast seascape. I can’t put my finger on it, it’s just an unsettling feeling, a wrongness about a character in the story. A woman whose husband tries to do everything for her but her moods. A man whose wife leaves and gets obsessed with wasps that die in his conservatory. These are compelling stories with vivid characters written with vivid detail. Although I haven’t been to the places in this book they are drawn enough for me to feel as though I’m there. One story tugs at feelings of nostalgia and I feel a little bit in sync with the story, others are sad stories about loss and longing. Snapshots into lives of farmers, wives of farmers and different people who live by the sea.

Stories like ‘On the Fourteenth Day’ capture the spirit of the sea and the myths it evokes. ‘Everything Around Here is Turning to Rust’- about a woman with an arrogant old fashioned husband, who seemed impressive and then she married him to be treated like a slave, the type of man who thinks a womans place is to cook etc and won’t do it for himself. This story had an ending that left me wondering. My favourite is ‘The Black Ribboned Hat’, it tugs at the heart and draws you in.

These are poetic stories, at first maybe I thought they were too sombre but they are so much more than that. I enjoyed this collection, I don’t think I’ve read anything else like it and I can see myself revisiting this again. Beautiful stories.

Netgalley, review

Choose Your Own Adventure Eighth Grade Witch by Andrew E.C. Gaska; E.L. Thomas; C.E. Simpson

 

Synopsis

The first official Choose Your Own Adventure graphic novel!

From the hit Choose Your Own Adventure® novels comes a newly adapted graphic novel taking readers on their own visual adventure! Enter a ghoulish world of nightmares, witches, ghosts, and dreaded the eighth grade as Rabbit, the new kid on the block! As Rabbit, readers will get to choose which adventure–or nightmare–they’ll embark on. From learning about the mysterious witch Prudence Deadly, to trouncing through spooky graveyards, to meeting ghostly ancestors or channeling some witchcraft with classmates, no one path leads to the same destination.

Will you choose a path that leads to the light? Or will the path you choose lead to a gruesome end? You get to decide! – From Netgalley

My Review

I used to love choose your own adventure books as a child so I jumped at the chance to read and review one for Netgalley. This is a graphic novel so it’s a lot different to what I read in the past.We begin as Rabbit as she moves into her new house and have to decide the choices she makes. Does she follow that trail? Does she stop the evil? 

I enjoyed this book, I liked the idea of it being a graphic novel. I read it a few times, trying to find all the endings and I still can’t stop myself from wanting to read more, try a different path. It’s an intriguing story, with a few threads to follow. Sometimes you might have an abrupt ending as is the case with the choose your own adventure books, other times you’ll go down a weird path. It’s a fun book and it’s got me hooked on these adventure books again. 

Note: I did find some errors, the page I was sent to did not follow on the story, I’m guessing this is because it’s an uncorrected proof copy. But the format and the mistakes did let the book down, hopefully the mistakes will be corrected before it’s published.

Have you read the Choose Your Own Adventure books before?

review

This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin

I’ve reviewed two of Gail Aldwin’s novels here (The String Games and Paisley Shirt) in the past and I am delighted to have the opportunity to read This Much Huxley knows.

Synopsis

I’m seven years old and I’ve never had a best mate. Trouble is, no one gets my jokes. And Breaks-it isn’t helping. Ha! You get it, don’t you? Brexit means everyone’s falling out and breaking up.

Huxley is growing up in the suburbs of London at a time of community tensions. To make matters worse, a gang of youths is targeting isolated residents. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?

Funny and compassionate, this contemporary novel for adults explores issues of belonging, friendship and what it means to trust. 

‘Read this and feel young again’ ­– Joe Siple, author of The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride 

Moving and ultimately upbeat’ – Christopher Wakling, author of What I Did 

A joyous novel with the wonderfully exuberant character of Huxley’ – Sara Gethin, author of Not Thomas

My Review

It was easy to like Huxley, he’s an intelligent boy in year two, and I became engrossed in his story. It was interesting to see things through a child’s eyes and see how they interpret the world differently from adults. Including when some adults in the story talk with prejudice and Huxley doesn’t understand.

The story becomes even more compelling with the introduction of Leonard, a new person living in the community who is disabled. He seems like a friendly person and very lonely, but the adults think differently to Huxley and are suspicious of Leonard. I didn’t know who to believe, is Leonard genuine or not? It’s hard to work out if prejudice against him is clouding this character or if there is something sinister going on. It’s all explained as the story progresses of course.

It’s really interesting to read a story in a child’s perspective, it’s not something I read often and I enjoyed it. I liked Huxley and his vivid imagination. I liked the way he played with words, turning them into a joke that the adults don’t understand e.g. reputation: rip-you-station. Disapproves: dizzy-proves. It’s a sweet and interesting book that makes you think and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to read and review this book.

You can find out more about Huxley by following the #ThisMuchHuxleyKnows on twitter. And more about Gail Aldwin on her website https://gailaldwin.com/

review

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John. E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit
FBI Special Agent and expert in criminal profiling and behavioural science, John Douglas, is a man who has looked evil in the eye and made a vocation of understanding it. Now retired, Douglas can let us inside the FBI elite serial crime unit and into the disturbed minds of some of the most savage serial killers in the world.

The man who was the inspiration for Special Agent Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs and who lent the film’s makers his expertise explains how he invented and established the practice of criminal profiling; what it was like to submerge himself mentally in the world of serial killers to the point of ‘becoming’ both perpetrator and victim; and individual case histories including those of Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy and the Atlanta child murders.

With the fierce page-turning power of a bestselling novel, yet terrifyingly true, Mindhunter is a true crime classic.- GoodReads

My Review

After watching the Netflix series I wanted to read the book it was based on, I bought the book before I started the series as I was intrigued after recently starting to read true crime books. The series is a complete dramatisation of the book, the FBI agents in the series are fictitious so the book was completely different to the show. I really enjoyed the show and I’m hoping that they do another series.

Mindhunter, the book, is compelling and interesting. It starts with John Douglas detailing how he became a profiling for the FBI and how the Behavioural Science Unit came to be. It was very autobiographical to begin with and he continued to reinforce this idea that he’d always been a profiler of sorts since he was young, but I found his way of thinking a little strange.

The book got more interesting when he started to detail the history behind the FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit, reporting the investigations into various serial killers and how interviewing convicted serial killers helped them to examine their behaviours and develop a profile for this type of criminal. While reading the cases is disturbing it was interesting to read how they developed their methods of profiling and why. How their methods helped to change the way law enforcement could investigate crimes, understanding the killers’ behaviours which could then help build a profile and lead to an arrest.

In the most part this book was very informative and the style wasn’t dull like some non-fiction books can be. Once I started reading I’d quickly get intrigued and read a few chapters at a time.

However there were some aspects of the books that did affect my overall enjoyment. The book doesn’t seem to be written in a linear timeline, the cases are not discussed year by year, similar cases are grouped together, (correct me if I’m wrong). For the most part I think it followed a timeline but it wasn’t easy for me to follow or absorb the information. This is just the style of the book, it was still interesting but having a fixed timeline would help me to remember the historical facts. (Or it could just me). After reading a few cases the story did become repetitive, case introduced, how they investigated and then how it ended, but after taking a short break I came back to it with renewed enthusiasm.

I think if there was a little less autobiography and the cases written more historically I would’ve enjoyed this book a lot more. But I did like it and recommend it as an interesting book to read if you want to know more about serial killers and how their crimes were and have been investigated.

review

Review: Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso

Fallible Justice (Wilde Investigations, #1)
In Old London, where paranormal races co-exist with ordinary humans, criminal verdicts delivered by the all-seeing Heralds of Justice are infallible. After a man is declared guilty of murder and sentenced to death, his daughter turns to private investigator Yannia Wilde to do the impossible and prove the Heralds wrong.

Yannia has escaped a restrictive life in the Wild Folk conclave where she was raised, but her origins mark her as an outsider in the city. These origins lend her the sensory abilities of all of nature. Yet Yannia is lonely, and struggling to adapt to life in the city. The case could be the break she needs. She enlists the help of her only friend, a Bird Shaman named Karrion, and together they accept the challenge of proving a guilty man innocent.

So begins a breathless race against time and against all conceivable odds. Can Yannia and Karrion save a man who has been judged infallibly guilty? (less)
-GoodReads

The first pages of this book drew me in completely. I loved the characters. Yannia is one of the Wild Folk but she’s left her home and gone her own way. She is a private investigator in Old London, a place where other magical people live. A man is found guilty of a crime but his daughter is determined that he didn’t commit it and asks Yannia to investigate. But the justice system is meant to be infallible, they know if a person is lying.

Everything about this book was interesting, the magical world, the characters, the atmosphere (such a good sense of place) and the compelling mystery. It’s a world I am looking forward to getting into again when I read the next book in the series. I always seem to say the same thing about fantasy books but this is a unique world and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

If you’d like more information or to buy this book/ebook, I’d recommend going direct to the publisher https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/. I bought a signed copy and also had a free flash fiction by Laura Laakso. There’s some great books on this website, this was the third one I bought.

review

The Mermaid’s Call by Katherine Stansfield

This is book 14 of the 20 Books Of Summer Challenge, there’s only a week left and I can’t see me reaching 20. Last year I read 14 so I’ll definitely beat that. I’ve been a bit slow reading lately and also blogging, so I’ll update at the beginning of September my final figure. 

I picked this book because I read The Magpie Tree which is the second book in this series last year. This book got my attention from the beginning, mainly because it’s set in Boscastle which is a place I love and miss visiting. 

Cornwall, 1845. Shilly has always felt a connection to happenings that are not of this world, a talent that has proved invaluable when investigating dark deeds with master of disguise, Anna Drake. The women opened a detective agency with help from their newest member and investor, Mathilda, but six long months have passed without a single case to solve and tensions are growing.

It is almost a relief when a man is found dead along the Morwenstow coast and the agency is sought out to investigate. There are suspicions that wreckers plague the shores, luring ships to their ruin with false lights – though nothing has ever been proved. Yet with the local talk of sirens calling victims to the sea to meet their end, could something other-worldly be responsible for the man’s death?

-from Goodreads

My Review

The Mermaid’s Call is book three, you can read it as a stand along but you will always benefit from reading them in order. 

I enjoyed this historical mystery, it was lovely to be back with Anna and Shilly again. Anna and Shilly have recently set up their detective business in Boscastle, they are approached with a strange case. A man has a dream that his brother has been killed, Shilly also has a strange dream and feels this pull of the siren. They go to Morwenstow to investigate. 

I don’t want to give too much away. I like the characters of Anna and Shilly, they are still mysteries themselves, or at least Anna is. The Parson was also an intriguing character and I learnt at the end in the author’s note that he was a real person.

I love the dark, coastal atmosphere of this book.  The mystery was interesting and there was a lot of reference to things from that era, the religion, the story of the wreckers. 

Although I did enjoy this book, SPOILER? it didn’t really follow through with the supernatural element like the previous book did. Unless my expectations were too high? 

However it was  interesting and a lovely dark read and I am definitely going to read the next to find out what happens next for Shilly and Anna. 

review

The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn

It’s been two years since I read and loved Raynor Winn’s first book The Salt Path and I was going to buy the follow up The Wild Silence this year. The publication date had to be changed later in the year, but then I seen it on Netgalley. So thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Wild Silence

Nature holds the answers for Raynor and her husband Moth. After walking 630 homeless miles along The Salt Path, living on the windswept and wild English coastline; the cliffs, the sky and the chalky earth now feel like their home.

Moth has a terminal diagnosis, but against all medical odds, he seems revitalized in nature. Together on the wild coastal path, with their feet firmly rooted outdoors, they discover that anything is possible.

Now, life beyond The Salt Path awaits and they come back to four walls, but the sense of home is illusive and returning to normality is proving difficult – until an incredible gesture by someone who reads their story changes everything.

A chance to breathe life back into a beautiful farmhouse nestled deep in the Cornish hills; rewilding the land and returning nature to its hedgerows becomes their saving grace and their new path to follow.

The Wild Silence is a story of hope triumphing over despair, of lifelong love prevailing over everything. It is a luminous account of the human spirit’s instinctive connection to nature, and how vital it is for us all.”- GoodReads

My Review

This book starts by telling us what happened after Mo and Ray left the coast path, Moth is doing a degree and Ray’s mother is ill. She’s not doing too great being back in the normal world and things are starting to go back to the way they were before they went: Mo’s health is deteriorating and Ray feels she’s lost what she gained on the path.

Ray starts to think about her childhood and then we’re right there with her as she remembers how she’s always felt this tie to the land, this longing to be outside and to be connected to everything. The style is as exquisite as the first book. Her story is heart-breakingly sad and it’s hard to find the right words when it’s someone’s life. 

 I found some of Ray’s feelings about nature and her reticence towards people striking a chord within me. Feeling raw from the sad events in her life it all cut me to the quick. Things are difficult for them, Ray trying to get a job and then she realises Moth has forgotten their time on the coast path. So she has an idea to start writing a book about their experiences to help Moth remember and starts telling us how The Salt Path came to be written. 

The Salt Path is a beautiful book that was written especially for Moth so he wouldn’t forget, a way of keeping that time frozen for them. The story was so wonderful it had to be published. 

 I enjoyed this book but I read it too quickly. I should’ve waited to read it when the hardback became released, some books are enjoyed better when their actually in your hands. It was good to read what happened next and also read about how The Salt Path came to be. 

 

*

This book is expected to be published 3rd September 2020 but you can get The Salt Path now, I recommend it. 

Netgalley, review

Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang

I haven’t read a vampire book for a long time, there’s just so many that are the same these days. But  I seen this on Netgalley and I had to read it. 

Opium and Absinthe

Synopsis from GoodReads:

“New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it?

A ravenous reader and researcher, Tillie has something of an addiction to truth, and she won’t rest until she unravels the mystery of her sister’s death. Unfortunately, Tillie’s addicted to more than just truth; to ease the pain from a recent injury, she’s taking more and more laudanum…and some in her immediate circle are happy to keep her well supplied.”

Review

The first few pages of this novel drew me in and wouldn’t let go. I liked Tillie, she lives in a world where women are meant to go to parties, socialise and marry. But she spends the party in the host’s library. She has a passion for knowledge and enjoys reading the dictionary.

I had a brilliant first impression of this book, I loved the unique similes that the author used “her heart was quivering like a cold chicken jelly” and I was intrigued by the mystery. Tillie’s sister is murdered by what looks like a vampire and she’s determined to find out what happened, since nobody else seems to be bothered. Oddly.

Tillie’s  grandmother is a formidable lady, she is very harsh on Tillie and at one point refuses her to leave the house for her safety. Tillie feels trapped but not just in the house, in this life all planned out for her. Since her sister’s death they want her to  fit neatly into her sisters role. She tries to figure out what happened to her sister, meeting people who can help along the way.

The authors love of Dracula is shown by the quotes at the beginning of each chapter and the novel features in the story. So if you haven’t read it, expect spoilers. This was perfect: Tillie is reading the novel and asking questions, she researches the science behind vampires and tries to figure out if the killer is really a vampire. I don’t think I’ve ever read a vampire book or seen a film/series that looks at the science, that looks at how their teeth would have to be or how they could drink blood from two tiny holes, leaving only small puncture wounds. Very interesting and a refreshing change. 

All the while I wonder if it’s really a vampire, or if someone she knows is to blame. I couldn’t figure it out, as the story progresses and Tillie tries to unravel the mystery, putting herself in danger and risking the anger of her family, I was riveted. And I didn’t guess the culprit in the end. But I enjoyed every moment of it. 

 It was interesting to read Tillie’s story, showing the attitudes to women during this time. And how she easily became addicted to opiates after an injury. Also her enthusiasm for writing made me remember myself when I getting into writing for the first time.

There is one glaring error in this book where the author keeps referring to the millennium being in 1900. Strange how this wasn’t corrected, not sure if it has been in the final proof as I read an ARC. But it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story.

I loved everything about this book: the facts, the story, the characters. It’s a riveting, historical mystery that you won’t be able to put down. 

*

I’ve counted this in my 20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge, an update will be posted soon…. 🙂

review

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read an ARC of this book. This is the first book I’ve ever read about racism, I was one of those people that didn’t think that racism was predominate in my country. Wales, U.K.  I’ve never been told otherwise until after recent events made me really look and want to educate myself. This book taught me a lot.

Synopsis from Netgalley:

Not being racist is not enough. We have to be antiracist.

In this rousing and deeply empathetic book, Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center, shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option: until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem.

Using his extraordinary gifts as a teacher and story-teller, Kendi helps us recognise that everyone is, at times, complicit in racism whether they realise it or not, and by describing with moving humility his own journey from racism to antiracism, he shows us how instead to be a force for good. Along the way, Kendi punctures all the myths and taboos that so often cloud our understanding, from arguments about what race is and whether racial differences exist to the complications that arise when race intersects with ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality.

In the process he demolishes the myth of the post-racial society and builds from the ground up a vital new understanding of racism – what it is, where it is hidden, how to identify it and what to do about it.

My Review

This book is a mix of biography, history and essays about being racist or anti-racist. It gives a very in depth and well researched look at racism and it really is eye opening. 

This books suggests the idea that you may be racist because of the racist ideas that are in our society but we don’t become racist and we can change through “persistent self awareness, constant self criticism and regular self examination.” People may not realise they’re racist because it’s how the world is, it’s the norm but they can change. “Racist ideas define society.”

Each chapter presents a different aspect of racism and how it can be divided by things like gender and class. The personal story is interesting and engaging, exploring how the writer himself considered himself racist and wants to be anti racist.

This book made me look at things differently. It helped me to understand “privilege”  privilege means that you are not judged by the colour of your skin.  Another thing that made me think was his explanation about black living spaces that they are not full of crime, racism has built up this image of fear in these communities and you see it on tv and films often. 

Although this book taught me a lot I did find it hard to follow at times, so many quotes and facts. It could be very wordy and the narrative went off on tangents. It’s about America and I don’t know enough about American history and past events to be able to understand some of this book. 

Sometimes the repetition  was off putting, just the repetition of a word or a certain sentence structure. I think that the author was trying to get his point across using repetition but I am of the opinion that less is more. I think that this book might not be accessible to everyone because the ideas are in a round about way. I think it would be a lot more influential if it was presented plainly.  However this is the author’s style and helps shows his enthusiasm and main messages do get across. 

I think the ideas are very important and it’s an educational book that is well worth taking the time to read if you’re looking for a book to learn more about racism. 

*

Coming Soon…. Update on My Summer Reading Challenge, this book is included. 

 

 

review

Wild Spinning Girls by Carol Lovekin

This is a belated review, sometimes you just can’t find the words and need to be in the right headspace to really do a book justice in a review. So I’ve tried. 

Wild Spinning Girls

“If it wasn’t haunted before she came to live there, after she died, Ty’r Cwmwl made room for her ghost. She brought magic with her.

And the house, having held its breath for years, knew it. Ida Llewellyn loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets out for the Welsh house her father has left her. Ty’r Cwmwl is not at all welcoming despite the fact it looks inhabited, as if someone just left..

It is being cared for as a shrine by the daughter of the last tenant. Determined to scare off her old home’s new landlord, Heather Esyllt Morgan sides with the birds who terrify Ida and plots to evict her. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time. Their broken hearts will only mend once they cast off the house and its history, and let go of the keepsakes that they treasure like childhood dreams.” – from GoodReads

My Review 

“I’m a bit Welsh myself as it happens.”

Ida inherits a house and goes to Wales, after losing her job and her parents, intending to take a look and get it ready to be sold. I am always looking for books set in Wales and this is another such book by Carol Lovekin.

It’s not just the place it’s set in that attracts my interest but the atmosphere of the book. Reminiscent of folklore with superstition and magic, nothing I write can really do justice, this book seems to mirror that mystical image of Wales/Welsh folklore. I don’t know if that was intended, or whether the magic and superstition is just part of describing the magic of the characters’ worlds.

This same atmosphere was prevalent in GhostBird and I just can’t get enough of it. The house with it’s haunting feeling, the wildness of the land it sits on, the poetical writing style…Everything just ties together to create this wonderful place and story. 

The plot of the novel is intriguing and I felt bad for Ida, I thought that the characters were brilliant personalities (Roni’s a fun character), all different.

“What was it with all the tea?” 

(Loved this quote, it’s so accurate, a lot of Welsh people drink a lot of tea)

The book is never dull, the story always moving on at an addictive pace. I liked Heather (the girl who Ida can’t get rid of) and I found the relationship between her and Ida interesting. At times I wanted to scream at her which I guess it how most people feel about teenagers. I was eager for them to find a solution to their problems but like in reality problems take time to solve sometimes. I enjoyed the story and Ida’s journey to solve her problems, the way it ended was perfect. 

Sometimes when you’re reviewing a book, it’s hard to really explain what makes it special. I hope I’ve managed to. What always stands out about Carol Lovekin’s books is the beautiful sense of place that stays with you, the realistic characters and that poetic style that is just so hard to describe and do justice to. 

*

If you’d like to know more about Carol Lovekin’s books you can find out more here and also discover more books by Welsh authors from indie publisher Honno. 

My next post will be about this years Summer Reading Challenge.

Happy Reading 🙂 Hwyl am nawr.