Book Review

The Family – Louise Jensen

I am a huge fan of Louise’s writing, so when I saw her latest book pop up on NetGalley I requested it instantly and that sat somewhat impatiently with everything crossed waiting to see if I would be approved. I was so excited when the email popped through – thank you so much to Louise and to her publisher, HQ, for approving my request.

BLURB:

ONCE YOU’RE IN, THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE.

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.
 
But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.
 
Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…

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REVIEW:

As I said at the top of this post, I was thrilled to be approved for an advanced copy of this book, and even more excited when I found out that quite a few of my friends from The Fiction Cafe had also been approved. We decided that we would set up a read along for the book and so we now have a little chat in Facebook Messenger where we can swap our thoughts. I have never taken part in a read along before, but it was so much fun that I can’t wait to do another one.

The Family is a significantly darker book than Louise’s previous work and it felt a lot more emotionally charged than your average psychological thriller. From page one I was teetering on a knife’s edge between controlling myself or letting the tears flow. The grief and desperation in the opening chapters is almost painful to read and my heart hurt for Laura and Tilly.

I can see the appeal of the Oak Leaf Organics way of life – shut off from technology, the constant pressure from social media, accepted for who you are and not what has happened in your past. On the one hand, it felt idyllic, but on the other my head was screaming that Laura should run far and run fast! Although everything seemed so innocent and welcoming, I couldn’t shake the sinister feeling that hung over me.

I actually finished reading this book a little over a week ago and it has taken until now for me to get my thoughts in order sufficiently to write the review that it deserves. By the time the full story unfolded my head was in a spin, not knowing who to trust, what the truth really was. It was exhausting, but at the same time completely brilliant.

Every time I read a book by Louise Jensen, my first thought is always that there is no way she can top the previous book and every time I am proven wrong. The Family is no exception to this, and I honestly think this is her best book yet.

The Family isn’t released until 17th October, but you can pre-order your copy here.

For more information about Louise and her books, head on over to Goodreads.

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Book Review

One of Us – Rachel McLean

Today marks the welcome return of Rachel McLean to my blog, with her latest novel, One of Us, the third book in the Village trilogy. I am sure you all know by now that I am a huge fan of Rachel’s and I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of this book. Many thanks to Rachel, and to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to take part in this blog blitz and for providing me with a copy of the book. This review will contain spoilers for the first two books, so you might want to read them first. Have a look at my reviews for Thicker Than Water and Sea of Lies for all the details.

BLURB:

‘Leave, or die.’

Jess Dyer has won safety for her sister-in-law Ruth and proved her worth as the leader of her refugee community.

Sarah Evans has stood up to her parents and discovered who she can trust.

But the villagers still aren’t welcome. When the local population expresses its anger, can Jess keep everyone safe? And can she hold it together as Steward when someone she loves dies?

And how will Sarah react when her new fiancee Martin receives death threats, telling him he must leave her, and their village?

One Of Us is a gripping thriller about belonging and acceptance. It’s the third book in the Village trilogy, and the sequel to Sea Of Lies.

OOU cover

PURCHASE LINKS:

Buy here

REVIEW:

Rachel McLean’s author bio (see below) states that she wants to write thrillers that make you think, and she has certainly done that with One of Us. Set six months after Sea of Lies, we find the villagers still healing from the kidnap and rescue of some of the village women, and starting to move on with a more settled existence. However, this new found calm is short-lived when they are asked to accept people from the neighbouring town into their community. At first their reaction to this surprised me. After all a community that were once reliant on charity would surely be willing to offer this same charity to others in need. However, the more I thought about it, I could see how their experiences and the treatment they had received at the hands of the very people who now needed their help may have hardened their hearts. I was left wondering how I would react in this situation – my heart tells me that I would always try to help someone in need, but my head can see how it could become more important to keep my family safe.

One of Us feels like a much more emotional book than the previous books in the series. Where they seemed to concentrate more on action, this book deals more with the reactions and the internal turmoil of the characters. My heart absolutely broke for Ruth and Ben in the aftermath of her kidnap and arrest, as well as for poor Martin who still hasn’t been fully accepted by the village. Touching on subjects including depression, PTSD and persecution, this book really touched me, and showed a side to Rachel’s writing that I hadn’t fully appreciated before. Add to these subjects the shocking death of a character who I had grown to love, and you are left with a book that will really put you through the emotional wringer.

Put simply, One of Us is a triumphant end to the Village trilogy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

rachel mclean

My name’s Rachel McLean and I write thrillers that make you think.

What does that mean?

In short, I want my stories to make your pulse race and your brain tick.

Do you often get through a thriller at breakneck pace but are left with little sense of what the book was really about? Do you sometimes read literary fiction but just wish something would damn well happen?

My books aim to fill that gap.

If you’d like to know more about my books and receive extra bonus content, please join my book club at rachelmclean.com/bookclub. I’ll send you a weekly email with news about my writing research and progress, stories and bonus content for each book. And I’ll let you know when my books are on offer.

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Book Review

June Book Jar – Part 3

It is finally time for my final June Book Jar update. As with my previous posts for June, if you want to find out more about any of these books, just click on the title and it will take you on over to Goodreads.

40344249._SY475_First up in this third instalment is The Possible World by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz, the last of the NetGalley books that I read on my holiday. The Possible World is a beautifully written book, and is another one that I think will stay with me for some time. Although it starts with three apparently separate stories, each with a character suffering their own personal heartache, the stories are cleverly weaved together as each character begins to find peace in the others as they begin to heal from their own struggles. It is a a wonderful, gentle book, despite the horrors that have been witnessed, and is one I would thoroughly recommend.

17416065My next book was Looking for Alaska by John Green. This is another book that I have had for a while and just hadn’t got round to reading. John Green is the master of teen devastation and this book is no exception. Filled with a quirky cast of misfit characters I went into this book knowing that it was building to a life changing event for the teens, but having no idea just how heartbreaking this would be. As much as I know they will break me, I just can’t get enough of John Green’s books. (I have also just found out that there is going to be a TV adaptation of Looking for Alaska, so I have everything crossed that we can access it in the UK).

12067._SY160_Book number three in this update is Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said. Apart, these authors are geniuses, but get them working together and it is perfection. If only it were possible for them to write more together. I loved every single page of this book, it was everything I had dreamt it would be and more. The absolute cherry on top of the perfectly iced cake was that when Death arrived on the scene, he still spoke in capitals, even though we were a long way from the Disc. Now I am off to binge watch the TV series with hopes that it will be even half as good as the book.

9542439Last but certainly not least is The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory. It is quite fitting really that it has taken me until today to write this review, as the latest edition of Writing magazine landed on my doormat today, and who was looking at me from the front cover? Only Philippa Gregory herself. I am very much looking forward to reading that article. I read The Other Boleyn Girl some time ago, and decided that I wanted to go back to the beginning of the Plantagenet and Tudor series and read them all in the right order. Although I knew something of the Tudors, I knew very little about the Plantagenets, and as such The Lady of the Rivers was fascinating to me. I will confess that I haven’t read the previous Cousins War books, but I actually found it didn’t matter. I have also loved history, but Philippa Gregory has a way of bringing it to life in a way that I find some other historical authors don’t. I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of the books, and I am sure I will one day return to the beginning of the Cousins War series too.

Well, that is finally it for my June update. I won’t have a July update post for you as I have been a busy little bee with reading for blog tours – I have some coming up for you that I am very excited about, so watch this space.

Book Review

Birth of the Mortokai – D.G. Palmer

Happy publication day to D.G. Palmer and Birth of the Mortokai. Many thanks to you and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of today’s festivities and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

Daniel Welsh was born different—and to Daniel, to be different means to be alone. But what if he’s wrong?

Born an albino with a photographic memory, Daniel Welsh never expected to fit in. Yet, when he is approached by Trinity—a young girl who definitely isn’t human—she reveals a whole new world where he might just belong. Ariest is a place where his features aren’t a disability or the mark of a freak, but rather a trait of powerful mages born of human-faerie unions. His father is a renowned war hero and swordsman, his mother is a human doctor, and that makes him a powerful mage that’ll tip the scales. Magic is real—and so is the threat it brings.

Trinity and her father, a battle mage, aren’t the only ones to have discovered Daniel and his gifts hidden in the human realm.

The Shade have awakened.

Enemies to the fae realm long thought dead have been lying in wait for their moment to strike. Young mages like Daniel are the perfect morsel for their starving appetites and they start their killing spree without delay with the nearest unsuspecting mage boy. Daniel cannot sit idly by while monsters take innocent lives, so he will embrace a destiny he is only just beginning to understand… even if it means losing a life that’s finally worth living.

Birth of the Mortokai is a young adult coming of age fantasy adventure novel. Trigger warning: this novel contains descriptions of albinism, a real genetic disorder that affects 1/17,000 persons worldwide per year.

Birth_of_The_Mortokai

PURCHASE LINKS:

Kobo

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

REVIEW:

In Birth of the Mortokai, D.G. Palmer has created a book that flows so beautifully that the stresses and strains of the real world simply melt away as you are completely absorbed by the new world that Daniel finds himself in. Just as Daniel was able to leave behind the upsets of his Earth realm life, I found that my problems were totally forgotten for the few hours in which I was reading this book. Obviously all books act as a form of escapism, but it takes something special for me to shut out the real world as thoroughly as I did with this one.

In some ways, stepping off the train in Ariest felt like coming home, my love of fantasy and folklore meaning I was already familiar with some of the fae that Daniel meets – Selkie, Kelpie and Kitsune to name a few. As well as these familiar faces, I loved meeting fae that I hadn’t come across before, the Bellowers and the Undine (and hopefully more to come in the future because I am really hoping there is going to be a sequel to this book soon). Arriving in Ariest just in time for Beltane, I felt almost as swept away by the festivities as Daniel did – I could practically hear the music and smell the food.

The blossoming relationship between Daniel and Trinity was incredibly touching, two people who have struggled to make connections throughout their existence finally finding each other. As their little band of potential friends and comrades grew it was interesting to see subtle changes to the dynamics and their personalities.

The villains of the piece, the essence-draining Shade were suitably sinister, and the appearance of one at the Beltane festival left me with questions that I hope I won’t have to wait too long to get answers for. How have they managed to hide in Ariest since their defeat? Has someone unleashed them? Have they been coming and going through the doors in Fungal’s castle? I will be on tenterhooks until I find out!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Currently residing in London, England, D.G. Palmer writes in the Spec Fiction genre, using his imagination to create vivid worlds and captivating characters.

An avid reader and player of video games, in the past, he was part of table top roleplaying groups where he nurtured his storytelling by penning several story arcs.

Feel free to follow him on Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram. If you wish to receive updates about his latest books, event dates and other exclusive news, sign up to The World of D.G. Palmer and enter his mind. He warns it can be a mess sometimes, so make sure you wipe your feet on the way out – you never know what you might take with you.

 

Book Review

Heathcliff – Sue Barnard

If you have always wondered what happened to Heathcliff in the years he was away from Wuthering Heights, read on. Many thanks to Sue Barnard and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in birthday blitz for this book, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now…”

Cathy’s immortal words from Wuthering Heights change Heathcliff’s life.  At just seventeen years of age, heartbroken and penniless, he runs away to face an unknown future.

Three years later, he returns – much improved in manners, appearance and prosperity.

But what happened during those years? How could he have made his fortune, from nothing? Who might his parents have been? And what fate turned him into literature’s most famous anti-hero?

For almost two centuries, these questions have remained unanswered.

Until now…

Heathcliff front cover

PURCHASE LINKS:

Buy here

REVIEW:

It has been a long time since I first read Wuthering Heights at the age of eleven. It was recommended to me by my English teacher, along with Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (in hindsight, I think she thought I was smarter than I was, and I was a little young to fully appreciate either book).

I love the premise of this book, finally uncovering what happened to Heathcliff after his mad dash from The Heights. Over the years, the image I have held of Heathcliff has become distorted, and I had long forgotten just how young he was when he once again found himself penniless and alone. It is also easy to remember the hard, cruel man that he became, and forget that he was once a kind-hearted soul, before the events of his life led him to harden his heart.

The short sections of the book showing the same event from different perspectives read like diary entries written by each of the characters, and made for a fascinating read. I also found that they meant I read this book very quickly.

I thoroughly enjoyed discovering this side of Heathcliff, and it has left me wanting to reread Wuthering Heights.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Heathcliff Sue Barnard Author

Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet whose family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

Sue was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.

Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.

Sue’s first novel, The Ghostly Father (a new take on the traditional story of Romeo & Juliet), was officially released on St Valentine’s Day 2014.  Since then she has produced five more novels: Nice Girls Don’t (2014), The Unkindest Cut of All (2015), Never on Saturday (2017), Heathcliff (2018), and Finding Nina (2019).

Sue now lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

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GIVEAWAY:

Win a signed copy of Heathcliff (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Book Review

June Book Jar – Part 2

Oops, I seem to have found myself practically at the end of July and I am still only on part two of my June Book Jar update – can someone please tell me where this month has gone? How is it nearly August already? Anyway, jumping straight back in, here is your next instalment of books I read on my holiday!

40383557._SX98_First up, we return to my ever increasing NetGalley reading list with The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap. I was completely enthralled by this book and once I picked it up it was impossible to put down. It isn’t fast-paced or action-packed, just incredibly beautiful in it’s simplicity. The friendship that develops between Nova and Kate is so gentle and it touched my heart. Experiencing the world as Nova does was mesmerising and displayed a wonderful depth to the author’s writing. This is a book that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.

18081809._SX98_Our second book in this part of the update is Landline by Rainbow Rowell, another author that I am a big fan – the book jar did well with the authors it presented me with in June. For me, this book felt very different to other Rainbow Rowell books that I have read, and while it is perhaps not one of my favourites of hers (let’s face it, Eleanor & Park is going to take something astounding to knock that off the number one spot), it was still a great read. It was full of flashbacks to my own teen years, in the days before mobile phones and wi-fi, and I loved the references to the old comedies. I found it raised some interesting questions about what I would do if I had a magic telephone connected to the past.

46777._SX98_Next up is Tithe by  the amazing Holly Black. Holly always delivers with her books, and there is an almost lyrical quality to her writing. I love her focus on the Unseelie Court, the darker, malevolent side to Faery as opposed to the sunshine state of the Seelie Court. The atmosphere she creates oozes danger and distrust, and gives you a tingle down your spine. Quite frankly, Holly Black writes the books I wish I had written myself.

 

25659392._SY475_Our fourth and final book in this instalment is Flawed by Cecelia Ahern. I love Cecelia’s usual work. Books like A Place Called Here and If You Could See Me Now always feel like fairy tales for grown ups, they are just so magical. Flawed has a much darker feel to it and the brutal near future world that it is set in was totally gripping. How quickly people turned on their friends and neighbours, and even their family, was astonishing, but at the same time felt all too possible. The need to be perfect seems to be ever-increasing in our own society – how long will it be until being “flawed” really does lead to being an outcast?

If you like the sound of any of these, just click on the title of each of them to find all the info on Goodreads.

Book Review

Battle Ground – Rachel Churcher

Let me introduce you to a new series today with Battle Ground, the first book in the dystopian fiction series of the same name, by Rachel Churcher. Many thanks to Rachel, and to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

Sixteen-year-old Bex Ellman has been drafted into an army she doesn’t support and a cause she doesn’t believe in. Her plan is to keep her head down, and keep herself and her friends safe – until she witnesses an atrocity she can’t ignore, and a government conspiracy that threatens lives all over the UK. With her loyalties challenged, Bex must decide who to fight for – and who to leave behind.

The Battle Ground series is set in a dystopian near-future UK, after Brexit and Scottish independence.

Battle Ground Rachel Churcher cover

PURCHASE LINKS:

Buy here

REVIEW:

I keep hearing people saying that they are no longer reading dystopian fiction because it all just feels a bit too close to reality these days, but surely that is why we should continue to read it, to give us a fighting chance against whatever the future holds.

Battle Ground is set in a post-Brexit, post-Scottish independence Britain, and it really does feel scarily near the mark. Nothing that takes place in this book feels outside the realms of possibility with the current political climate here in the UK. Because of this, it is not always a comfortable read, but it is certainly a gripping one. Once I started I just couldn’t put it down.

Adding to the realistic feel of this book is the fact that the teenagers aren’t just naturally gifted with the skills they need to survive in the new world. Everything they can do has been hard won through gruelling training after their conscription into army. None of the characters are natural heroes, they are all flawed, and struggle with the decisions they are faced with. This just endeared each of them to me more. Further to this, the flashback scenes to when Bex, Margie and Dan were still at school added depth to their characters and showed just how quickly life can be turned completely on it’s head.

The brutality shown by the senior recruits is shocking, especially given their age and relative inexperience as well. I can’t help feeling there is more to their story than initially meets the eye and I am looking forward to seeing this other side of the story in book two, which is thankfully coming out soon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rachel Churcher Author photo

Rachel Churcher was born between the last manned moon landing, and the first orbital Space Shuttle mission. She remembers watching the launch of STS-1, and falling in love with space flight, at the age of five. She fell in love with science fiction shortly after that, and in her teens she discovered dystopian fiction. In an effort to find out what she wanted to do with her life, she collected degrees and other qualifications in Geography, Science Fiction Studies, Architectural Technology, Childminding, and Writing for Radio.

She has worked as an editor on national and in-house magazines; as an IT trainer; and as a freelance writer and artist. She has renovated several properties, and has plenty of horror stories to tell about dangerous electrics and nightmare plumbers. She enjoys reading, travelling, stargazing, and eating good food with good friends – but nothing makes her as happy as writing fiction.

Her first published short story appeared in an anthology in 2014, and the Battle Ground series is her first long-form work. Rachel lives in East Anglia, in a house with a large library and a conservatory full of house plants. She would love to live on Mars, but only if she’s allowed to bring her books.

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Don’t forget to pay a visit to the other blogs taking part in this blog tour.

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