Monthly Archives: January 2019

Review – Changeling by Matt Wesolowski

The Blurb

A missing child
A family in denial
Six witnesses
Six stories
Which one is true?

On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the dark Wentshire Forest Pass, when his father, Sorrel, stopped the car to investigate a mysterious knocking sound. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. Journeying through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there, he talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know what happened to the little boy…

Intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought provoking, Changeling is an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, taking you to places you will never, ever forget.

My Thoughts

If you go down to the woods today…

Changeling is the third in Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series and it is a series of books that just goes from strength to strength. I adored the first two – Six Stories and Hydra – and I adored this one too. Wesolowski manages to provide us with something different every time and there appears to be no limits to his imagination.

Again we follow Scott King and his Six Stories podcast as he investigates the disappearance of seven-year-old Alfie Marsden on Christmas Eve 1988. Alfie vanished along the Wentshire Forest Pass while travelling with his father. King speaks to six witnesses who may be able to shed light on what happened to Alfie that night.

Written with Wesolowski’s now trademark darkly beautiful writing, Changeling has all you would expect from this series. He explores the darkest and most topical of issues leaving you thinking about the book long after you have finished reading it and does it in a way that chills you to the bone. You are immediately dragged into the story and unable to turn away, although you may feel you want to in order to compose yourself. As he takes you through the inevitable folklore that surrounds Wentshire Forest, it becomes difficult to determine what is real and what is down to the power of suggestion and yet beyond this is something that is even darker.

Relationships and what makes a good parent are themes that are explored throughout Changeling and it will have you questioning your moral code and what you believe is right. With the most shocking of all the endings so far, Changeling left me reeling. While it can easily be read as a standalone, I would urge you to read the other tow books in the series first.

If you haven’t yet discovered this talented author make sure you do quickly. Changeling is another incredible book and has to be on your 2019 TBR list. Eerie and enthralling, Wesolowski continues to startle with his third book.

Published on eBook on 15 November 2018 and paperback on 24 January 2019 by Orenda Books, you can get your copy HERE.


2019 Reading Challenge – A book with a one-word title.

Double Review – Murder at the Book Club and The Quiet Ones by Betsy Reavley

Betsy Reavley has been on my radar (and my Kindle) for far too long and given that I have had a bit more time to read my own book purchases, I took the opportunity to read a couple of her books over the Christmas period. So, today I bring you two reviews. And despite being by the same author, the books couldn’t be more different!

Murder at the Book Club

The Blurb

Imagine nine women meeting. Tea and cake are on the coffee table. They’ve come together to share their love of books. They are friends. They trust each other. It’s a happy gathering. What could be more harmless?
Then scratch the surface and look closer.
One is lonely. One is desperate and one of them is a killer.
When the body of a woman is discovered on a Cambridge common, DCI Barrett and DI Palmer are called in to investigate. But the motive behind the crime isn’t clear… And it all leads back to a book club.
As the lies, volatile friendships and tension among the group rise to the surface, DCI Barrett and DI Palmer must work out the motive and track down a cold-blooded killer. But just when they think they are on the right track, a twist in the case throws them off course…

My Thoughts

With the promise of a murder, a book club and a cake on the front cover, how could anyone resist reading this book? Known for her hard-hitting crime novels, Betsy Reavley has taken a different direction with Murder at the Book Club which fits more into the cosy crime genre.

When one of the members of a book club is found dead on a common in Cambridge, all eyes turn to the somewhat disparate group of women who meet regularly to discuss books. As DCI Barrett and DI Palmer investigate, Murder at the Book Club becomes part murder mystery and part, often tongue in cheek, look at human behaviour.

Murder at the Book Club relies heavily on character and part of the joy of this book is the sneaky peek we get into each of the suspects’ lives and mentality. I love trying to figure out what makes people tick and this aspect of the book appealed to me greatly. I was reminded of the people and dynamics that I have come across in various social media groups and at times it had me giggling and nodding my head. By moving it offline and taking it into the real word, Reavley has been able to further explore the idea of what can happen when a group of people who have only one ting in common come together … and it can be deadly!

Unlike in a lot of crime fiction, the focus in Murder at the Book Club is not on the detectives trying to solve the case and I really liked this. Reavley has written an old-school murder mystery in which we rely on the personalities and motivations of the characters alongside policing techniques, with the emphasis being on the characters. As none of them are particularly likeable, they are all potential suspects and this keeps the reader firmly on their toes.

A thoroughly enjoyable read, Murder at the Book Club is brilliant if you are looking for a crime fiction with a lighter edge. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and the observations of life, friendship and social groups will have you both nodding in agreement and, at times, giggling. A great read to curl up with on a Sunday afternoon.

Published on 6 August 2018 by Bloodhound Books. Grab your copy HERE.

And my second review is of The Quiet Ones which is about as far as you can get in tone and style from Murder at the Book Club!

The Quiet Ones

The Blurb

What if you didn’t know where you came from?
Who am I?
This is the question Josie asks herself when a mysterious letter arrives. Then a brutal murder turns her world upside down.
To make sense of the present, Josie must go back to the start.
But who can she trust when no one knows the truth?
And who is the sinister stranger obsessed with her life?
The past is catching up with Josie and the consequences will be fatal …

My Thoughts

I have heard a lot about Betsy Reavley and her books being disturbing and given I read a fair amount of crime fiction and psychological thrillers I thought how dark and disturbing can they actually be? Well, they can be VERY dark! Having been through a spate of guessing the outcome and twists in a lot of psychological thrillers I have read recently, The Quiet Ones proved to be the exception as it caught me totally off guard.

The Quiet Ones is very much a slow burner as it focuses on the life of writer Josie Brewers and her husband Charlie. Told through the perspective of Josie for the majority of the book, we get to know her quite well. Her life is a bit of a mess and Reavley’s portrayal of a woman on the edge of unravelling, dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic childhood and verging on alcoholism is very well done. Now, I like this in a novel as I love to get right to the heart of a character, especially a complex character but it may not appeal to everyone initially. What I would say, however, is bear with it as the ending is worth waiting for and what becomes before starts to make sense. A murder then rocks Josie’s world completely off its axis and things become even more uncontrollable for her.

Chapters are interspersed with the voice of an unknown character, a voice full of malevolence which is really chilling. This adds to the tension as the reader tries to figure out who this person is. Throughout The Quiet Ones the tone is dark and oppressive and it is a book that weighs heavily on you. There is something disconcerting throughout the book that you can’t quite put your finger on and it is a book that is oddly compelling.

It’s difficult to talk about certain aspects of The Quiet Ones without giving the plot away, but I liked the issues raised and they certainly were not on my radar. As the book ends and revelations are revealed I was left feeling winded.

The Quiet Ones is one of the darkest books I have read in a while. It left me thinking about it after I had finished it and it also left me open-mouthed. There are some really nicely written observations throughout as we see the world through Josie’s fuddled mind. A book that will appeal to those who enjoy the slow burn of a real character driven psychological thriller.

Published on 18 February 2016 by Bloodhound Books. You can get your copy HERE.

 

Review – A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan

 

 

The Blurb

“A gripping mystery with a classic feel: And Then There Were None meets The Silent Companions”
Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.
At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.
For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . .
An unrelentingly gripping mystery packed with twists and turns, A House of Ghosts is the perfect chilling read this winter.

My Thoughts

I absolutely adored The Constant Soldier by William Ryan and therefore couldn’t wait to read A House of Ghosts. I had to treat myself to a hardback version of the book as it is gorgeous with a stunning cover, a map on the insert and beautiful illustrations at the head of each chapter. If you are going to treat yourself to a book that will look stunning on your bookshelf or coffee table it should be this one.

Anyway, it is the contents of the book that are important here and Ryan doesn’t disappoint on that score either. Set in the winter of 1917, Kate Cartwright and her colleague Robert Donovan are sent by the War Office to investigate the guests at weekend of spiritualism Lord Highmount has arranged at his home, Blackwater Abbey. What follows is a book that defies genre. I have to admit that I was expecting one thing with A House of Ghosts and got something totally unexpected. Ryan has successfully combined ghosts, psychic powers, a murder mystery, espionage and the personal consequences of war in one beautifully told story.

I love Ryan’s style of writing. His prose is beautiful and the way he phrases each sentence ensures that you are firmly placed within the novel’s time and setting. You are literally in the winter of 1917 and the book is brimming with atmosphere. Blackwater Abbey has all the key ingredients of gothic ambience, isolation and spookiness. While the ghosts of the title are not an overriding feature of the book their presence adds an additional air of mystery and intrigue to the story.

For me, A House of Ghosts is a book about the ravages of war on the mind, guilt and grief. Ryan has created a complex tale that revolves around the horrors of war as he examines issues of shell-shock on returning soldiers and the sadness and desperation of those family members who have lost loved ones.

With its steady pace, this is a book that demands you read it steadily to soak up the ambience and each carefully placed word. I didn’t rush through A House of Ghosts like I do other books as it begged to be savoured.

If you are looking for historical fiction that has a gothic touch and combines mystery and espionage, A House of Ghosts is the book for you.

Published on 4 October 2018 by Bonnier Zaffre, you get your copy HERE.

2019 Reading Challenge

Recently my reviewing and ‘blogging’ has slowed down and I am no longer posting reviews and a feature three times per week. I have to admit that at times reviewing has felt like a bit of a chore, but I guess that everybody needs a break now and again. Last year I made the decision to take a step back from taking part in blog tours and I haven’t regretted it, enjoying the freedom of being able to read what I want, when I want. I have also enjoyed being able to take my time over reading rather than rushing to read and finish.

I have toyed with the idea of giving up the blog and just posting reviews on Goodreads and Amazon as I did before I started Bloomin’ Brilliant Books, but I’m sticking in and continuing to go at my own pace.

I saw a post about a reading challenge over on Crime Fiction Addict on Facebook and I thought it sounded fun, so I have decided to take part. I think it will focus me a little and get me reading those books that have been sitting neglected on my bookshelf and Kindle for far too long. The challenge states to read a book per week but as rules are meant to be broken (sometimes) I’m not sticking with this and if it takes me longer, that’s fine.

So, here it is:

Note that the banner does say 2018. I did try to change it and create my own on Canva but given my limited skills in the graphics area I was unsuccessful and thought sod it, life is too short and it doesn’t really matter! Feel free to join in if you want to.

My Books Of The Year 2018

Once again it is the end of another year. I cannot believe that 2018 is over and 2019 has begun. 2018 was a great year for books, but it was a slow year in terms of reading for me with me only reading 53 books. I have struggled to decide between my favourite books of the year so although I don’t give star ratings on Bloomin’ Brilliant Books I do on Goodreads and Amazon and I have simply listed those I have rated five stars on those sites. Click on the titles to read my full review:

Hydra by Matt Wesolowski

Intelligent, thoughtful and damn scary, read Hydra with the big light on and not before bedtime! Absolutely bloody brilliant!

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravtn

A psychological thriller in the purest sense, The Bird Tribunal is deeply unsettling and will resonate with you for days after reading it. It is, however, more than this and the outstanding prose and rich descriptions make it a beautiful piece of literary fiction. Outstanding!

Last Orders by Caimh McDonnell

An absolute corker and a great way to end the series, Last Orders is brilliant. I loved everything about it and it, along with the other three books, will be one I return to again and again. I’m gutted it’s over but excited to see where McDonnell takes us next. If you haven’t yet read any of these books go out and buy them all now; I promise that you will love them!

Skin Deep by Liz Nugent

Nugent never lets me down and Skin Deep is yet another accomplished novel by this talented author. She has weaved another twisted tale to perfection ensuring her place at the top of my list of favourite authors. Skin Deep takes you for a walk on the darker side of life and it is delectable. An absolute must read for fans of psychological thrillers.

Overkill by Vanda Symon

With a twisty plot, a protagonist who shines and beautifully written observations of the cruellest things, Overkill is crime fiction at its best and this is an outstanding book. I predict that this book is going to soar here in the UK and it deserves to. I adored this book and can’t wait for the next in the series. If you read and enjoy crime fiction, you will adore it too.

Attend by West Camel

The writing is sublime and Attend is a book that is rich in imagery and metaphor, leaving me thinking about it, and feeling it, long after the final page was read. It is a beautifully spun tale that defies being pigeonholed into a genre. A delicately balanced tapestry that combines current social issues, history and a little bit of magic, Attend is an assured debut by a talented writer. Lovers of literary fiction will adore it.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

I have loved Beech’s previous books (although I still have to read How To Be Brave) but The Lion Tamer Who Lost may be my favourite yet. Incredibly moving, at times desperately heartbreaking and always tender, The Lion Tamer Who Lost reminds us that if fate exists, it is fickle and may not always be leading you to the outcome you expect. A truly outstanding and beautiful book.

Docherty by William McIlvanney

Full of grit, rage and despair, yet interspersed with dry, Scottish humour, Docherty is an uncomfortable read but an essential read. If you like your literature to be unflinching in its depiction of life at the harshest end of the scale you will enjoy Docherty.

The Hoarder by Jess Kidd

A first-rate follow up to her debut novel, The Hoarder was everything I expected from Jess Kidd. If you haven’t yet read anything by this author ensure you do now! The Hoarder is exquisite, sublimely written and a great story.

The Old You by Louise Voss

I loved The Old You, and I would go as far as saying if you only read one domestic noir this year make it this one as you will be hard pushed to find better. Tense, chilling and cleverly plotted.

The Retreat by Mark Edwards

The Retreat creeps and twists like the ivy that climbs up an old building and it gets under your skin. Combining old-school style ghost story elements with modern day thriller, Edwards has created a spine-tingling story that it is enthralling and irresistible.

I also want to give a shout out to a book that I have read in a different capacity and, therefore, not reviewed but which I have a huge sort spot for. That book is The Truth About Archie and Pye by Jonathan Pinnock. It is hilarious, and I urge you to read it.