Tuesday 18 August 2020

Audio Book Review: The Devill All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The Devill All the Time by 
Donald Ray Pollock
Narrated by Mark Bramhall
Duration: 9 Hours, 10 Minutes
W.F. Howes Ltd

Nope, this won’t be to everyone’s tastes but for those who don’t mind nasty, very very nasty characters and quite visceral scenes, oh and politically incorrect attitudes to everyone and everything, this will most certainly be a thrilling listening experience.

I simply love ‘DRP’ and am constantly on the look out for more of his depraved tales. I read ‘TDATT’ four years back and was ‘knocked out’ by its authenticity, the grim grit and violence, tinged with at times a pure naivety, of the characters as their overwhelming personalities came flooding out of the book.

This audio version was a perfect accompaniment and reminder of how I felt from my initial reading. The narrator totally  nailed it for me and held me captive for two days as I listened to him retelling their stories. At no time did I feel the pace slacken or lose interest.  I absolutely loved the book and this audio version.

Now, I just need to see what Netflix does with it !  I’ve booked my sofa seat already and the only way anyone is getting the tv remote will be from my cold dead hand !

Highly recommended for fans of ‘thug lit’, ‘grit lit’ and the like.

A whopping big thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for allowing me to listen to this phenomenal recording. 

You can see my original review here: 

Wednesday 15 May 2019

SKIN by Liam Brown Publishers Tour

Skin by Liam Brown
Genres: Science Fiction/Sci-Fi, Post-Apocalyptic
Publisher: Legend Press: (1 May 2019)
Source: Publisher via Advanced Digital Review Copy

My Thoughts:
Brown’s imagined world where humans have become toxic to each other is a very dark and foreboding place. Through flashbacks we get to find out how such a place has come to exist and how as a family Angela, Colin and their two children, Amber and Charlie have changed over the duration from the past into the present paranoid, government oppressed, state controlled world.

There are some interesting dynamics at play from within the family environment where each household member lives in imposed solitary confinement.  Totally isolated from the rest of humanity they can never be with each other without the protection of their protective suits for fear of contamination. To create some semblance of normalcy however, Angela insists on eating ‘together’ at mealtimes over a live feed to their individual tv monitors. During one such gathering there is the normal sibling rivalry, bickering and teasing, and a sulky teenage blowout where instead of storming off to their room the kids simply switch off their tv connection.

As a family in such circumstances they drift apart from each other and withdraw into their own private environment, adapting sometimes rather selfishly in order to cope or make sense of a world in which they now find themselves. 

Amber and Charlie seem to have managed this process without any obvious difficulties. They’ve remained in their rooms with their x-box, internet computer games, or communicating with the outside world online. Seemingly less affected by the isolation and lack of physical contact or companionship than their parents.

Brown writes with perceptive insight about his female characters and I believed in the personality and behaviour of them.  I was drawn emotionally to Angela, a mother like myself, I felt her anguish at not being able to instinctively reach out to console and comfort those she loved nor to ever be able to physically demonstrate her love for her husband again. I felt her despair in her impossible search to fill the gaping void in her life.

Angela then discovers a young man without any protective clothing while out exploring on her official patrol duties.  Although she should report him to the authorities she keeps his sighting a secret and over the following weeks Angela transitions from a trusting compliant, law abiding citizen to a questioning and suspicious individual challenging what she has been told about the virus.

Brown shows us what it could be like in this plausibly imagined dystopian tale.
Its a world where human contact is forbidden as well as highly dangerous, deadly even. Where skin to skin touch and stimulation from the smells of the environment around us is denied.  Where intense desires to be loved and touched is an all pervasive desire.  He paints an all too vivid picture of just what the future could be like with such deprivation. It’s a bleak place to be.

For me ‘Skin’ had more of a YA feel to it rather than the adult audience targeted and believe it would be enjoyed by both. Skin was an enjoyable entertaining read and with an ending I didn’t see coming would love to read a sequel...I would like to hear more about ‘the egg’ to which the narrator shares her feelings throughout.

Thursday 29 November 2018

TLC BOOK TOUR: The Long Way Home by Kevin Bannister

Title:  The Long Way Home
Genre: Historical Fiction, Based on Real Events
Author:  Kevin Bannister
Format:  Digital
Publication Date:  September 15, 2016
Follows the lives of Thomas Peters and Murphy Steele who are friends, former slaves, fellows-in-arms and leaders of the Black Brigade. Their real-life story is an epic adventure tale as they battle bounty hunters, racism, poverty and epidemic in their adopted country after the war.

'The Long Way Home' has resonated with readers around the world as an unforgettable account of courage, hope and determination triumphing over despair and injustice. Thomas Peters, thoughtful and charismatic, and Murphy Steele, strong and impulsive, lead their followers on an inspirational search for a place where they can  be free.

My Thoughts
In an impetuous spur of the moment a young Murphy Steele runs with Thomas Peters in an attempt to escape their slave owner. Naivety and lack of planning result in their speedy recapture and sadistic scarring punishment. Quietly seething with resentment and vengeful notions Murphy is obsessed with murder and escape. He has become a frighteningly dangerous, powerfully strong brooding young man. Quite the reverse in attitude has happened to Thomas, now he wants to stay out of trouble and live as safe a life he can, even if that means being an obedient slave...One day circumstances will be right for them to run again.

It is through Murphy’s, at times, rather dry narrative but engaging conversational style that their experiences are shared with us as we follow them in pursuit of regaining freedom.  Two runaway slaves, two unsung heroes, with promises of becoming freemen with land of their own, fought bravely alongside the British Army in the American Revolutionary War. As soldiers they led their men in the ‘Black Pioneers’ unit into horrific bloody battle.  Victory was not delivered and the men who survived faced a difficult choice, to remain as slaves or leave for an uncertain future with the British.

I’ve read a few different titles, fiction and non fiction about the slave trade but not one which gives such a vivid in-depth enlightening perspective from two men such as Thomas Peters who had an influence on many fellow freed slaves some of whom he persuaded to return to Africa where they founded the state of Freetown; and Murphy Steele who was a key component in rounding up Black volunteers to accompany him to Nova Scotia where, once again promised by the British, they would be supplied with everything needed to build a new free state for themselves. This is where the sequel (currently in progress) will pick up from. I sincerely hope it won’t be too long in coming to publication.

Unquestionably brave, charismatic and highly influential men of their time, Bannister’s well researched historical novel gives them a real presence and voice to speak to and remind us about injustice prejudice and the cruelty of enslavement, of denying a race basic human rights and who are deemed an expendable piece of property, of the horror of war, and the reminder that as humans we are fundamentally a selfish animal which will usually choose the best course of action to benefit us personally, culturally and racially, that we will utilise treachery, betrayal or indifference as a means to that end.

The times they haven’t changed that much !

Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary digital copy of the book for my thoughts to be included in this tour. Thank you to the author and TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and take part.

Similar reads:
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
KINTU, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Sugar Money, Jane Harris
Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward
Underground Airlines, Ben E Winters
12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup (memoir)
Black Boy, Richard Wright (non fiction)
The Free State of Jones, Victoria E Bynam (non fiction)

Wednesday 3 October 2018

Random Things Tours: The Black Prince by Adam Roberts

The Black Prince
Adam Roberts
Pages: 310 (Hardback)
Source: Publisher
Publisher Unbound (4th October 2018)

A kaleidoscopic historical novel based on unpublished material by Anthony Burgess, from the prize-winning author Adam Roberts

‘I’m working on a novel intended to express the feel of England in Edward III’s time ... The fourteenth century of my novel will be mainly evoked in terms of smell and visceral feelings, and it will carry an undertone of general disgust rather than hey-nonny nostalgia’ – Anthony Burgess, Paris Review, 1973

The Black Prince is a brutal historical tale of chivalry, religious belief, obsession, siege and bloody warfare. From disorientating depictions of medieval battles to court intrigues and betrayals, the campaigns of Edward II, the Black Prince, are brought to vivid life by an author in complete control of the novel as a way of making us look at history with fresh eyes, all while staying true to the linguistic pyrotechnics and narrative verve of Burgess’s best work.

Brings to light unpublished material from one of the twentieth century’s literary titans, author of A Clockwork Orange, Inside Mr Enderby and Earthly Powers;

Adam Roberts has worked with the full cooperation of the Burgess Foundation.

Roberts is a celebrated novelist in his own right: Jack Glass (2012) won the British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel and 2015’s The Thing Itself was described by the Guardian as ‘a dazzling philosophical adventure’. Widespread review coverage is expected and the author will be available for events.

For fans of Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake, Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers, His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

My Thoughts:
My advanced readers copy of Adam Roberts visceral, extremely brutal and bloody book recanting the life of medieval King Edward didn’t arrive in time for me to finish before my scheduled tour slot. Currently 90 pages in I am able to admit that initially it wasn’t an easily immersive book for me.

 ‘The Black Prince’ is ambitiously different with a unique writing style and several narratives relayed through a medium of diverse voices. Sections are in the third person narrative while other accounts are verbalised in the present tense. Newsreels, ‘camera eye’, and prose inserts all add a modernistic and unusual element to the mix. To begin with, I confess I found it rather confusing but with perseverance I am delighted and thrilled to admit that with speedy polemic swing, I now absolutely love the ingenuity of its distinctive style, and unique (art)form of historical storytelling.  I would not be at all surprised if it wasn’t amongst the nominations (and a worthy contender) for one, or even more prestigious book awards!

Brutal, bold, magnificently majestic, ‘The Black Prince’ promises to be a compulsive read for anyone interested in a sensory experience encountering gruesome bloody battle scenes, witness abhorrent behaviour towards victims as ‘spoils of war’, imagine the miserable harsh reality of men, women and children living (surviving), and dying during this brutal medieval period in history, all from a safe distance and comfort and safety of their modern environment.

A more in-depth review will follow at a later date upon completion of reading. In the meantime do read what other bloggers on the tour have to say about this remarkable book. Please stay with us for the duration of the tour.

Thank you to Ann Cater for inviting me to take part in the ‘Random Things Tour’, and to Unbound publishers for sending me a complementary ARC of the book to take part in the tour. I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to read it before the planned publication date of, Thursday, 4th October 2018.

Sunday 30 September 2018

October ‘Halloween’ Reads

It’s almost October and I can’t believe we’re almost 75% through another year and into the ‘retail’ Christmas period once again.  Anyway back to October which begins the spooky season on Monday.

Throughout October for this Halloween season, I have decided to read the scariest horror, gothic and ghost stories (fiction and non fiction) I could find on my shelves. Not a fan of reading one genre for more than two books in a row, this will certainly test my staying power, but I want to see if I can do it.  Also I want to find out if any of them can genuinely creep me out for the spookiest time of the year.

I’m struggling to decide on my first read, but I think I’m almost there and will probably ‘kick off’ with, ‘A Head Full of Ghosts’ by Paul Tremblay... just want to see if it’s really as scary as it’s rumoured to be...mmm but then again it might be, ‘The Hunger’ by Alma Katsu...

...anyway here’s what I’ve tried to minimise the list down to give or take a few digital ARC’s as well...

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
The Black Prince by Adam Roberts
Tasty Morsels by Margo Lanagan
Alice by Christina Henry
The Magic Shop &The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson
Member of the Family by Dianne Lake
Kindred by Octavia E Butler
The Machine by James Smythe
The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James

What are the rest of you spooky readers planning on reading this month ? Drop a comment as I’d love to know and maybe add another read to my list.

Saturday 25 August 2018

TLC Book Tour Between The Lies by Cynthia A. Graham

Author: Cynthia A. Graham
Source: Digital ARC
Publisher: Blank Slate Press
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Paperback: 220 pages

When the corrupt sheriff of Broken Creek, Arkansas detains a young black boy on charges of accidental homicide, his sister asks Hick Blackburn, Sheriff of Cherokee Crossing, to investigate. Hick is reluctant at first. Not only is Broken Creek out of his jurisdiction, but Hick and Sheriff Brewster have a history, and Hick knows Brewster won’t look kindly on his interference. But Hick quickly realizes the boy couldn’t have committed the crime. With the aid of a New York attorney trying to make a name for herself and a shy new deputy who knows the boy’s family, Hick uncovers a conspiracy that goes to the heart of local corruption, nepotism, and racism. But while Hick is working to free an innocent child in Broken Creek, his beloved Maggie, pregnant with their third child, faces challenges of her own back home. This time, will Hick’s dedication to justice extract too high a price?

Heartfelt and poignant, Between the Lies by Cynthia A. Graham handles the complexities of Southern culture and the depths of its racial past with grace and finesse. The character development and plot are deep and complex. This is a novel full of heartbreak, but a story of hope is at its true heart.”–Hunter S. Jones, author of Red Stilleto Strategy

My Thoughts:
‘Between The Lies’ is book three in a southern mystery series set in Arkansas during the 1950’s about small town sheriff Hickory Blackman. In this instalment we follow Hick over the course of four days in July, in an ongoing mental fight with an influential bully in the nearby county of Broken Creek.

Sheriff Brewster has brought into custody a local black child, Thaddeus for the killing of a white man even though, obvious to any ‘dumbass’, that physically Thad is incapable of committing the crime.  Such evidential facts, however, won’t get in the way of Brewster’s objective of obtaining a guilty conviction for such a convenient scapegoat.

A conversation between Hick and Father Grant, pastor of Broken Creek, brings to light the case of George Stinney a 14 year old black boy who was tried for murder, found guilty, and executed.  Now I was intrigued and ‘googled’ George Stinney who from the southern state of Carolina was (rightly or wrongly) found guilty of murder in similar circumstances. I was deeply affected, it was incredibly upsetting and heartbreaking to read about such cruelty, inhumane treatment of a minor and ultimately the horrific execution of a child. Was this a warning of what may be in store for young Thad. Not if Hick has anything to do with it. It’s going to be a fight, but with mental ingenuity to outsmart Brewster it’s not something that Hick will easily allow to happen.

Graham’s style of writing, much like our protagonist, is calm, intelligent and measured.  In contrast to the languid pace she also manages, without being preachy or altering style or pace of the novel, to manoeuvre into place a powerful, poignant nugget of historical fact for the reader to mull over.  Awareness of this event in history added another layer, dimension and understanding of the characters living within a community steeped in racial hatred, and run by a corrupt and bigoted sheriff.  I couldn’t help thinking, with the current worldwide political climate, that we appear to be coming full circle and learned very little if anything from the past.

Now that ending ! Wasn’t what I was expecting at all, and it knocked me for six. A very sad unsettling denouement.  Just another chapter in Hicks life to be overcome and I am keen to see how his character develops and moves on from it.

‘Beneath Still Waters’ is the first book in the series, and although there is a sense of growth in Hick’s character, ‘Beneath The Lies’ could easily be read out of sequence or as a stand-alone. I havn’t yet gotten around to reading ‘Behind Every Door’ but do intend on doing so before the next book.  I highly recommended this series.

Memorable Lines

“You white folks are something else. You like to pretend you know what’s best for us, that you got our interests at heart. But at the end of the day you get to go home and be safe and white. We don’t get to leave. We always black.”

“We all had the same orders. Plant fear in the hearts of the townsfolk regarding colored people, because fear will always turn to hate. After the hate starts to grow, point out things like desegregation will cause inter-marriage and inter-marriage will create a mongrel race of half-breeds. Tell them their women are in danger and that a black man touching a white woman is an abomination.”

“...and Uncle Earl told me to never mention that man’s name again. He said for me to shut my trap and let him run the town as he sees fit. Told me I ain’t nothing but a dumbass anyway and that he only hired me ’cause my mama begged him to.”

Thank you to TLC Book Tours, and Blank Slate Press who provided me with a digital copy in order to take part in this tour.

Cynthia A. Graham’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, August 6th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, August 13th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, August 15th: Broken Teepee
Friday, August 17th: Write Read Life
Monday, August 20th: Prose and Palate and @prose_and_palate
Wednesday, August 22nd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, August 23rd: SJ2B House of Books
Friday, August 24th: From the TBR Pile