The Art of Death by David Fennell #BookReview

TheArtofDeath def

whats-it-about-2

Death is an art, and he is the master . . .

Three glass cabinets appear in London’s Trafalgar Square containing a gruesome art installation: the floating corpses of three homeless men. Shock turns to horror when it becomes clear that the bodies are real.

The cabinets are traced to @nonymous – an underground artist shrouded in mystery who makes a chilling promise: MORE WILL FOLLOW.

Eighteen years ago, Detective Inspector Grace Archer escaped a notorious serial killer. Now, she and her caustic DS, Harry Quinn, must hunt down another.

As more bodies appear at London landmarks and murders are livestreamed on social media, their search for @nonymous becomes a desperate race against time. But what Archer doesn’t know is that the killer is watching their every move – and he has his sights firmly set on her . . .

He is creating a masterpiece. And she will be the star of his show.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half

I was immediately drawn to the cover of this book, it has a perfect vibe for a dark thriller (who doesn’t love that nice extra touch of some fake blood spatters on a cover eh) and I was really looking forward to reading this novel.

I enjoyed plenty of things about The Art of Death. First off, I found that the macabre vibe of the cover was reflected in the book as well and I LOVED that. It wasn’t there all the time and it didn’t domineer the story but at times there was this extra little dark touch that made my heart pump a little faster. I didn’t realise it at the time but the story really does grow more harrowing with every new chapter. At the start of The Art of Death three bodies (yes why not three at once) are found dead in a glass case for all to see. The killer has a weird sense of seeing dead bodies as art. How he can have a huge following and fans is beyond my comprehension but what do I know. Then, however, the author has a few other tricks up his sleeve that are effectively shocking. Like getting to know the victims quite well first and then witnessing their deaths. Seriously, I don’t want to read about formadehyde for at least three books now, what a way to die! There’s also one particular scene that I read while trying to divert my eyes a little (it didn’t help) and which really stood out for me, as well as one victim that I couldn’t help root so hard for to survive!

The only issue that I had with this book was that even though it had so much going for it and however much I enjoyed the team of Quinn and Archer, it didn’t surprise me enough. I knew what was what and not even the red herrings in the story could fool me. It was just too plain to see…

Another plot and another killer and I might love his next story so definitely one to watch out for. The author and the vibe of the novel reminds me a little bit of J.D. Barker so if the plot gets a bit more clever then he could mean some serious competition in the future.

I received a copy of this book via my Capital Crime Book Subscription box. This is my honest opinion.

Same book, different cover #16

battle-of-the-books

Happy hump day! I’m here to bring you again 5 new book covers. It’s up to you to pick and choose your favorite one. This is just for fun so there are no wrong answers! OK then, I’ll go first, then it’s up to you:

Sleepless by Romy Hausmann 

Sleepless 02  Sleepless

These are very different and I normally always go for dark covers but – surprise – I’m more attracted to the second one this time. The second cover feels more original, and I also love that it fits perfectly with this author’s first book of Dear Child, which had a white cover as well with a matchstick house in the center.

Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

Spacehopper  Spacehopper 02

So apparently, since the US doesn’t know what a Space Hopper (bouncy ball/skippy ball) is, there’s a different title and a different cover (it actually shows the item whereas the UK version doesn’t, isn’t that funny). Anyway, I’m choosing cover 1. It’s colorful and it makes me expect a fun read.

Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

GoodGirl Bad Blood US  GoodGirlBadBlood

There’s not a whole lot of difference between the covers but I still like cover 2 most of all. Maybe it’s the larger font, maybe it’s the blood red that makes it a more vivid cover, I don’t know but I’d reach out for that one first if they were next to each other.

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

TheShapeOfDarkness 02  TheShapeOfDarkness 01 The Shape of Darkness 01

Cover 1! The second cover has a seventies spy-vibe for me and I’m not fond of it. The third gives me a historical vibe but it can’t compete with the more inviting first cover.

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal

Circus of Wonders 01  Circus of Wonders 02

I have the paperback with cover 2 and it looks so much prettier than what you see here. It has a golden shine in the letters and is really amazing. I love that it shows the circus and the familiar stripes but that they chose green instead of red (and blue) on the cover, it makes it so much more elegant and beautiful. I didn’t see Nell there at first on the cover but it’s great to discover some little extra detail like this when you look closer.

Line

So that’s it. Tell me your thoughts! If you can’t get enough, check out Battle Of The Books – #15

The House Guest by Mark Edwards #BookReview

TheHouseGuestdef

whats-it-about-2

A perfect summer. A perfect stranger. A perfect nightmare.

When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side.

So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York.

They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers―let alone invite them into your home―but after all, Eden’s only a stranger until they get to know her.

As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake…

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half

After I read the brilliant novel Here to Stay (here’s my review) I bought a copy of his next book The House Guest, and then I also received it in my Capital Crime subscription box so with two copies on my shelves I felt the universe was telling me I really needed to read it soon. So 6 months later here we are ;-).

I absolutely loved the first part of the novel where we get to know the unexpected stranger Eden (it did make me smile that she turned up at Adam’s and Eve’s Ruth’s doorstep) and the tension starts to seep in because I could feel something was about to go wrong, and I wondered what Eden could be hiding. The bearded guy watching the place highly contributed to that feeling. Was he after her, was she in danger? The cut came rather too quick with Part Two of the story starting already after 58 pages and unfortunately what followed was an over the top plotline and one I personally don’t really enjoy reading about. I can’t really spell it out (although I wish it was mentioned in the book blurb) but if you know my taste you can probably guess the direction it took. There followed an action-packed part for Adam which held my attention because I love a good chase but the idea of this plotline was just a bit too far fetched even though it all fits together perfectly. It was quite spectacular in the end and not how I had envisioned a house-sitting to develop into at all.

Overall this story was okay. The House Guest was only not entirely my genre so not my favourite one if I have to choose. Oh well, I guess now that we have this subject covered, it won’t appear in the next novel so I can’t wait to read the next one!

I bought a copy (ok copies) of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides #BookReview

TheMaidens def

whats-it-about-2

St Christopher’s College, Cambridge, is a closed world to most.

For Mariana Andros – a group therapist struggling through her private grief – it’s where she met her late husband. For her niece, Zoe, it’s the tragic scene of her best friend’s murder.

As memory and mystery entangle Mariana, she finds a society full of secrets, which has been shocked to its core by the murder of one of its students.

Because behind its idyllic beauty is a web of jealousy and rage which emanates from an exclusive set of students known only as The Maidens. A group under the sinister influence of the enigmatic professor Edward Fosca.

A man who seems to know more than anyone about the murders – and the victims. And the man who will become the prime suspect in Mariana’s investigation – an obsession which will cost her everything…

The Maidens is a story of love, and of grief – of what makes us who we are, and what makes us kill.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Michaelides’s debut novel The Silent Patient was an amazing read and merits to be called a real bestseller, and the huge #WTF twist made this book so memorable that it went straight to my top 10 of 2019 (here’s my review). You can imagine how excited I was to read his next book The Maidens and how I jumped for joy when I was approved to read an ecopy on Netgalley.

The Maidens is a solid read but maybe my expectations were a little too high as for me personally it didn’t equal the first novel. One of the things I did however particularly enjoy about this novel were the references to Greek mythology, to the legend of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone who was abducted by Hades (to jog your memory: the turning of the seasons is liased to Persophone) and the Greek celebration of this legend (The Rites of Eleusis because Demeter went to look for her daughter at Eleusis). The (not quite so secret) little student club was quite intriguing and I could easily imagine secret rites among this group and there being someone who wants to share a message to the world. Mariana is quite hung up on the killer being the professor Fosca but the more she became obsessed, the more I became convinced that it couldn’t be him… even though I had no clue who was leaving intriguing calling cards.

Unfortunately the author doesn’t pull the line entirely through and The Maidens themselves were ultimately not as interesting as I expected. The characters of this group were not developed so I didn’t really care much whether they could be a next victim and if you ask me to describe them I wouldn’t really know what to say. I’m in two minds at times as well though because I’m not a fan of reading about cults and rites (remember my review of The Furies) so I was on the other hand quite happy I was spared having to read such scenes.

I did love that a few characters from the first novel are named in this novel too, they are intricately woven into this plot. Don’t worry though, you don’t need the first novel, it’s just a reference made at some point but it was cool!

I quite liked the big twist in the end, he tried to pull off another one of his unexpected twists and although it was for me partially successful, it was a bit radical. I thought the book was leading somewhere but it actually takes a whole different direction in the end, which is amazing, only I don’t deal well with such startling turnarounds.

The Maidens is a psychological thriller with a gothic edge. Don’t take your eyes off the first part is the only advice I can give you and maybe you’ll be more triumphant in discovering who did it than I was.

I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley. This is still my honest opinion.

This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech #BookReview @OrendaBooks

ThisIsHowWeAreHuman def

whats-it-about-2

Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.

Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.

Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.

When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars_1457015727_81_246_96_2

Don’t mind me I’m only still mopping up my bleeding heart! Louise Beech has a bit of a reputation of making tissues a necessary evil when reading her books and she certainly pulled at my heartstrings with This Is How We Are Human. It’s obvious this is a novel written with heart which effortlessly speared mine!

I ended up loving The Lion Tamer Who Lost and I Am Dust, and this is now my third book by Louise Beech. I knew it was going to be amazing and touching before I even started it and that I might as well get myself a paper copy of this novel. I only buy those (or any book really) from authors I’m absolutely sure will deliver in the end, and I can assure you that she delivered everything I hoped for! So this face is now looking pretty smug about the fact that she owns a physical novel; it’s one I know I want read it again.

This Is How We Are Human, blimey what a perfect title, you can feel the premise of this novel by that title alone. Between its pages lies an amazing story of love and friendship without it being a textbook romance novel. This Is How We Are Human is at times gentle but at other times cutting deep and it took me by surprise how deeply I cared for all three main characters and how touched I was by the whole story.

From the start I was on the fence about Veronica’s plan though to secretly pay someone to sleep with her son Sebastian who has autism and is becoming a little obsessed with sex. There’s an unspoken rule not to talk about such issues normally but Louise Beech is brave and there are no taboos for her. Anyway Sebastian thinks nobody will ever want to sleep with him and it breaks his mother’s heart, hence her last resort resolution. I immediately felt it was morally wrong, the secrecy, the make belief, and I worried so much how it was going to end. A tiny part of me didn’t like her for what she was doing, however much with good intentions. She wanted Sebastian to get the feeling that someone could be interested in him but what if he became too attached to HoneyBee? What if he didn’t want it to ever end? Didn’t she think about the possible consequences? The bubble someone with autism lives in is already small and they don’t let just anybody in so my heart already broke just thinking about what could happen. Sebastian is so endearing, he’s a man and he can give some very poignant comments but at other times he’s disarmingly childlike too and it was stronger than myself but I felt a need to protect him, knowing from the very first pages of this novel that the world will fail him.

It mustn’t have been easy to know how to write about sex, let alone from the viewpoints from someone who hasn’t experienced it and from an escort’s point of view but Louise Beech gave the reader an idea of what was happening without making it too awkward or spinning it out. I usually avoid books that have a lot of sex in them but this book does not include those cursed hot and graphic sex scenes so I was able to enjoy it all. I didn’t even want anything else but to have Sebastian’s dream come true.

If there’s anything I take away from this story it is how we are all flawed, and that we are as prejudiced as the characters even if we say we’re not. I made up assumptions while reading this novel and I was wrong to have them. This novel shoved my nose in it and I can’t do anything other than admit this error, there’s still work to be done. I’m sure I won’t be the only one.

This Is How We Are Human is a beautiful and moving story, an eye-opener of a novel with a unique twist.

I bought a paperback copy of this book from the publisher OrendaBooks via their online webshop (only 6.99 £ for the paperback right now!). This is my honest opinion.

The Creak on the Stairs / Girls Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir #BookReviews @OrendaBooks

TheCreakontheStairs def

whats-it-about-2

When a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her collegues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice before it’s too late.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2

I read a sampler of The Creak on the Stairs with the first chapters of this novel almost two years ago and I immediately knew this novel was very promising. This sampler stayed on my mind for a very long time so I was super excited when I finally had the full novel in my hands. I haven’t read a lot of nordic crime yet but after reading The Creak on the Stairs I have to conclude that I really don’t know why that is. I have to admit that the Icelandic names needed some getting used to… there’s a pronunciation guide before the first chapter which I thought was very cool and at first I did give it a try to read every name very carefully the way it was pronounced. I gave up on my mission fairly quickly though and even glossed over some long names (Elma’s mother for example) when I started to recognize them by sight; knowing which character was meant was ultimately enough for me.

The Creak on the Stairs is quite unsettling and much more than a simple whodunnit. It is wonderfully complex and there’s a whole history behind the murder which is divulged throughout the story but was only becoming stunningly  clear to me at the very end. And then apart from the present day investigation by Elma, there’s also a narrative starting in 1989 which describes the childhood of the woman who died. It wasn’t cheerful or an easy upbringing, and I felt a pain and sadness while reading these pages. There are a lot more characters that make an appearance which include several members of the same family and their spouses (Ása and Hendrik, their son Bjarni and his wife Magnea, the husband’s brother Tómas and his wife Ásdis) as well as several witnesses who crossed Elísabet’s path in the past and present. All have a story to tell, so it was impossible to know if any of them were connected or relevant to the story (of course they are) but their individual stories kept me enraptured.

Did I tell you that this story was wonderfully complex? It was complex and utterly tragic and Elma was a great character, someone who has it in her to sink her teeth into it and unravel the truth. I’d like to get to know Elma even better but I liked her and I loved the sort of chemistry in the air between her and her colleague Saevar even though neither one of them is really open to it, and Elma still misses David, the man who she was with for 9 years.

The further into the story the more unsettling it reads and the final revelations were quite unexpected. Finally a novel that was able to surprise me… and that’s not all, in the final pages Elma reveals something that caught me completely off guard!

This is the first novel in the ‘Forbidden Island’ series and what a debut it is! A great novel that makes me want to dive into the next one of the series right away! I’m a standalone type of reader but for this series I’m very happy to make the exception!

I received a copy of this novel in the Capital Crime Book Club box. This is my honest opinion.

Line

GirlsWhoLie def

whats-it-about-2

When single mother Maríanna disappears from her home, leaving an apologetic note on the kitchen table, everyone assumes that she’s taken her own life … until her body is found on the Grábrók lava fields seven months later, clearly the victim of murder. Her neglected fifteen-year-old daughter Hekla has been placed in foster care, but is her perfect new life hiding something sinister?

Fifteen years earlier, a desperate new mother lies in a maternity ward, unable to look at her own child, the start of an odd and broken relationship that leads to a shocking tragedy.

Police officer Elma and her colleagues take on the case, which becomes increasingly complex, as the number of suspects grows and new light is shed on Maríanna’s past – and the childhood of a girl who never was like the others…

amazon uk amazon com

The e-book is out on 22 May, you can pre-order the paperback as it’s publication date is set at 22 July 2021.

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars_1457015727_81_246_96_2 

I didn’t think it was possible but the second novel in the series about Elma, the female police inspector in Iceland pleased me even more than the author’s debut. Without a doubt this will probably stay my favorite novel even in the future, when there are many more books in this excellent series. The plot, the characters, the brilliant twists… everything was amazing. 

It takes a little bit of time before the real developments in the investigation of Maríanna’s murder take off but in the meantime I still had a lot to sink my teeth in. The author explored Hekla’s – Maríanne’s daughter – life and throughout the whole novel there are also extracts that start with the shared feelings of how tough life is for a young mother with a newborn who doesn’t have anyone to rely on. Those snippets continued at regular intervals in the novel detailing the strenuous relationship over 15 years, the struggles of a mother with a girl who doesn’t seem to behave like other girls. So many emotions arose inside me, all wanting to come out. At first I was furious with the way she treated her infant but at times I felt just as much compassion, sensing she might have post-natal depression. Was it all it was though, was she actually an evil person, or was it the child who was really different, making her harder to love?

Who murdered Maríanna? You’d almost think her own daughter Hekla had the most to gain because she loved her weekends at her foster parents much more than staying with her own mum, but wasn’t that a little presumptuous? In the course of the novel several characters appear to be a perfect candidate. There’s so much to uncover and it’s wonderful how deeper into the story, I had the feeling Elma and myself were in way over our heads… where was this going to lead?

I thought I knew what was going on, but the author had some very VERY clever red herrings up her sleeve. The story is much more complex than I initially expected and the characters have a fascinating complexity as well. Eva Björg AEgisdottir twists and turns the story quite literally until you hardly know which way to go… I loved how everything changed by the end and I was SO surprised yet again!

This book and this entire series is absolutely brilliant so far. I highly recommend the series to all readers who set the bar high and who are often let down by the simplicity of other novels because this is anything but! I have become a big fan over the course of these two books and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Elma!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher, Orenda Books, for review. This is my honest opinion.

 

While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins #BookReview

WhileIWasSleeping def

whats-it-about-2

What if someone else was living your happy ever after?

When Maddie wakes up in a hospital bed, she can’t remember anything about what happened to her or what has changed.

She just remembers she was about to be married and had everything to look forward to.

But it seems life has become a lot more complicated while she has been asleep …

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars_1457015727_81_246_96_2

While I Was Sleeping is an incredibly moving and emotionally loaded novel. It’s the second novel I read by Dani Atkins (do read my review of her YA/NA novel This Love if you want) and well she did it again.. for the longest time I was quite ok keeping my emotions under control but then in the end I unraveled completely. How could she do that to me?

The novel is about Maddie who fell into a coma, Ryan the man she was about to get married to and Chloé, a librarian and volunteer at the hospital where she reads to geriatric patients mainly. It’s plain to see that their paths will cross and I thought I knew how this story was going to go… woman wakes up, sees her fiancée with a new woman, will do anything she can to get him back.. a classic version really of good and bad but I could not be more wrong, this story had quite a few surprises in store that changed this whole idea. Maddies life did change completely while she was sleeping, nothing is as it was and yes at first sight Chloé did slip into her role but this triangle is actually more than a little fascinating.

I thought I’d be either team Maddie or team Chloé (and team Maddie seemed the obvious choice) but the thing is, as I got to know Chloé and read her story too, I didn’t feel forced to choose between them at all, I loved them both so much. Neither has a bad bone in their body and I’m not sure this rosy picture is something that would happen in real life but even without the women’s rivalry for a man being the major topic (which made the story even better if you want my honest opinion), there are plenty of other events that give this story a few dramatic spins. While I Was Sleeping is for me most of all about – as it is mentioned somewhere in the novel itself – the fragility of life, but also motherhood, the bond between a child and their parents, and there’s plenty of love to go round in this novel in many different forms

Alas, just when I thought everything was going to be ok in the end, I was forewarned by the author that something bad was going to happen. For the longest time I didn’t know for which woman though, who was going to lose? I held on to my dear heart… I wouldn’t have been happy if it had been the other woman either but I seriously had to swallow a few times when reading the ending, it’s truly heartbreaking

And now I’m immediately going to order some more of this author’s books because I definitely want to read all of them!

I bought a copy of this novel from Bookdepository. This is my honest opinion.

A Chill #Catshelf #Review

Cat Shelf Review

Hey everyone!

I know this IS a surprise but I exceptionally wanted to show you how I spoil my cat ;-). So I bought the CHILL catshelf from Cosy & Dozy when I moved to my new home last year (it was actually one of the first things I bought, before my own bed even I think) and after a year the shelf is finally mounted. My cat has been making it very clear lately she wanted to go on top of the cabinets (usually from my kitchen counter she was looking up but it was too high).

Cosy&Dosy 03  Cosy&Dosy 01Cosy&Dosy 04   Cosy&Dosy 03 02

If you go on their site you can see that you can customize it to your wishes: you can choose the shade of wood (maple – my choice -, walnut or wenge), the colour of the brackets and more than 10 types of cushions. I don’t see mine (PINK of course) between the choices now but let’s hope they bring that back because it’s really a lovely shade of pink, it’s subtle. The cushion is fastened to the shelf with buttons so it can’t slide and the cover is washable, there’s a zipper to easily take it off. They even send the necessary tools to hang this thing. All you need is a man who’s handy (turns out not so easy to find.. available).

Nope I don’t get paid for this, nor do I have any sort of cooperation, I’m just extremely happy with the quality (ok it’s not cheap I admit but worth it), and what’s more Poes (say Puss) is a fan too because it not allows her to lazy on it but also to jump up the bookcase and the kitchen cabinets. My father made a shelf to hang outside of my library and now she can jump – jump – jump onto the top and she loves it.

Cosy&Dosy 05

At least once a day she feels herself on top of the world :-). Only thing is that going down I still need to learn her to go the same way.. she usually jumps from the top to the white shelf down on the foot stool.. which is not how it should go!

I’m thinking of putting a row of books on top maybe too, if anything to keep her from trying to sneak into my library this way, I’ve seen her looking!

        Cosy&Dosy 06   Cosy&Dosy 07

So now my cat corner is all finished. I know it might look a little crowded but I don’t care as long as it keeps her happy. I’m afraid she hasn’t rewarded me yet with more sleep though ;-). In case you’re wondering, it is the only place in the house that I made especially for her. She doesn’t really play with anything but loves jumping on things and in my old place she could jump on the bedroom and living room cabinets… I know she missed it here.

Cosy&Dosy08

So there’s that.. only thing left in the house to do is putting up my metal birds.. but I guess that’s another project for another time…

Birds next project

So dear cat lover, what do you think? Do you have a cat shelf installed in your house and does your cat love to jump on cabinets so much too, or do I have a strange cat? 

Flying high: Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal #BookReview

CircusOfWonders def

whats-it-about-2

1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.

But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.

In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Elizabeth Macneal is a wonderful storyteller, don’t you agree? Her debut novel, The Doll Factory, was incredibly good (here’s my review) so I was more than a little excited to read Circus of Wonders. I was very happy Macneal chose for the Victorian era as the new setting of another book although I wasn’t sure how interested I would be in the circus life. Turns out I really fell for it, feeling as enraptured and close to the magic and the wondrous as if I was literally walking between the wagons at the site.

The exhibition of freaks, monstrosities or the so-called marvels of nature were essential components of travelling exhibitions in Europe and America throughout the Victorian period and Circus of Wonders shows all sides of this phenomenon in a story that moves the voices between Nell (the attraction of the show), Toby (the man who sees her for who she is) and Jasper (the man who wants to make Nell the star of his show).

Nell was an outcast in her village, but when she is forced to join Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders she soon discovers a community there where she is not regarded as a freak. In the company of a bearded woman, a giantess, and other ‘revels’ she finds a a sense of family and belonging. As a reader I was happy the story progressed so positively for Nell, although I knew this probably couldn’t last.

Nell is fast on her way to become the star of the show. Unfortunately Jasper is not satisfied yet and he wants to eclipse the famous P.T. Barnum and his attraction Tom Thumb. So what he wants is to perform for the Queen, he wants fame and fortune and he will do anything to get what he wants. I was anxiously reading about Jasper’s growing obsession to become the greatest showman of all time. Everything comes at a price of course. He makes a pact with a devil and now the pressure is sky high. There is tension and danger lurking in the shadows, which I loved. Will he achieve his goal or does he want to fly so close to the sun that – like Icarus – the wings will burn and he will tumble to the ground? It didn’t bode well…

Even though Nell is the star of the show/novel I liked her but I never really loved her character so I came to enjoy reading other parts of the book more as the story progressed. I found the whole setting highly interesting, how everyone was looked upon, what life entailed in the circus. I loved that real references were woven into the story and Macneal writes scenes so vividly that the era certainly comes alive. The two brothers Toby and Jasper fascinated me most of all and I also loved the mysterious plotline between them. There’s a story – a secret that originated during their time at the Crimean war – that overshadows their sibling relationship and makes it toxic, there’s jealousy and fear and the author keeps up the tension and mystery until the very end by leaving small crumbs all through the story.

I’m afraid to say that by the end of the novel I was less of a fan of Nell. She chooses her path in life when given two choices and I didn’t follow her in her dream and desires so the ending wasn’t entirely how I had envisioned it. Apart from that this is really another excellent immersive read by a historical writer I respect very highly!

I received a free copy of this novel from publisher Picador Books. This is still my honest opinion.

 

The Skylight by Louise Candlish, a #QuickReads2021 title #TheReadingAgency

quick-reads-social-media-banner-2021

Do you know what Quick Reads is? A ‘quick’ introduction:

One in six adults in the UK – approximately 9 million people – find reading difficult, and one in three people do not regularly read for pleasure.

Quick Reads – a programme by The Reading Agency, a national UK charity – plays a vital role in addressing these shocking statistics by inspiring emergent readers, as well as those with little time or who have fallen out of the reading habit, with entertaining and accessible writing from the very best contemporary authors.

This year Quick Reads is celebrating its 15th Anniversary, which means that over five million copies of Quick Reads titles have been distributed since the life-changing programme began in 2006. To celebrate this year there’s this amazing deal:

“Buy one, gift one:

Buy a Quick Read this summer and Quick Reads will gift a copy to help someone discover the joy of reading.”

And all of the Quick Reads are available in paperback for purchase at just £1.

There is something for everyone in the six 2021 titles:

  • The Baby is Mine by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic);
  • The Skylight by Louise Candlish (Simon & Schuster);
  • Saving the Day by Katie Fforde (Arrow);
  • Wish You Were Dead by Peter James (Macmillan);
  • How to Be a Woman, abridged by Caitlin Moran (Ebury);
  • The Motive by Khurrum Rahman (HQ).

I’m very grateful to the lovely publishing team of MIDAS PR for sending me the title of my choice, a copy of The Skylight by Louise Candlish.

Louise Candlish, author of The Skylight (Simon & Schuster) said: It’s an honour to be involved in this [next] year’s Quick Reads. Reading set me on the right path when I was young and adrift and it means such a lot to me to be a part of literacy campaign that really does change lives.”

TheSkylight def

whats-it-about-2

They can’t see her, but she can see them… Simone has a secret. She likes to stand at her bathroom window and spy on the couple downstairs through their kitchen skylight. She knows what they eat for breakfast and who they’ve got over for dinner. She knows what mood they’re in before they even step out the door. There’s nothing wrong with looking, is there? Until one day Simone sees something through the skylight she is not expecting. Something that upsets her so much she begins to plot a terrible crime…

amazon uk

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

I haven’t read any of her novels yet but I wanted to get to know this author’s work after reading so many appraising reviews for The Other Passenger and hearing Our House is now in development for a major TV series, so this Quick Reads title seemed like a perfect introduction. I’m normally not a big fan of short stories so it did set the bar rather high. If Louise Candlish could convince me in only 89 pages then I’d definitely want to read more of her novels, if not, well then that would be too bad but at least I’d know. Well I can say that I read the book in one sitting (that’s also a first and I loved it that I didn’t have to put it down in between reading this) and really enjoyed it 🙂

Louise Candlish had no trouble convincing me of her writing, I liked Simone right away I was practically as shocked as she was when I read about her discovery. I don’t know if I’d follow the same course of action (well I don’t think so) but I was with her every step of the way and with such a limited number of pages it still managed to hold the necessary amount of menace and mounting tension that would happen in a full paged book of 300 pages. I could actually foresee the ending a little bit but I hadn’t actually anticipated the big twist. I didn’t actually mind the ending too much, it was ok as a wrap up and one I could live with. I certainly want to read more of her books now so I think that’s mission accomplished.

This Quick Reads title was a nice surprise. They’re not easy to find here in Belgium but if I’d came across them in a bookstore I’d certainly pick up a few more new authors who seem interesting to me.

I received a free copy of a QuickReads title from publisher MidasPR. This is still my honest opinion.