Sunday, 26 June 2016

Coming Review: The Wolf Trial: a novel by Neil Mackay

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The Wolf Trial: a novel by Neil Mackay
Freight Books (21 April 2016)

Sheer breathtaking brilliance ... a near perfect 5 ... Oh why not...the perfect 5 !

Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose meets Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho in this brilliant historical epic.
Inspired by an extraordinary true case - the first ever documented account of a serial killer in world history.
In the second half of the 16th century, Paulus Melchior, lawyer, academic, and enlightened rationalist, travels with his young assistant Willy Lessinger to the isolated German town of Bideburg where local landowner, Peter Stumpf, is accused of brutally murdering dozens of people. A society still trapped in a medieval mindset, the townsfolk clamour for the killer to be tried as a werewolf. If their demands are met, his blameless wife and children will also be executed in the most barbaric way imaginable as agents of Satan and creatures contaminated by wolf blood.
Paulus and Willy must fight superstition, the cruelty of those who fear what they don't understand, and a zealous church determined to retain its grip on the souls of Bideburg in this compelling, utterly unforgettable, shocking tour de force.

A Note From the Publisher
Neil Mackay is a multi-award winning investigative journalist, newspaper executive, non-fiction author, radio broadcaster and film-maker. He has won around two dozen national and international awards for his newspaper journalism. Mackay was a launch editor of the Sunday Herald newspaper, and has subsequently been the paper’s Crime Editor, Investigations Editor and Head of News. His last film, an investigation into the rise of the far right in Europe and America, was nominated for a BAFTA. His book, The War on Truth, which investigated the roots of the invasion of Iraq, was published in the UK and USA. He has written for the Sunday Herald, The Observer, Scotland on Sunday, Ireland’s Sunday Tribune, Australia’s The Age and most newspapers in Northern Ireland. His debut novel was All The Little Guns Go Bang Bang Bang.

Advance Praise
'A great storyteller.' Louise Welsh

'First, a warning. This novel isn’t for the squeamish. Then again, neither was 16th century Germany, yet Neil Mackay brings its crimes and cruelties, heresies and horrors to life with all the manifold skills of a natural-born story-teller. A frighteningly impressive achievement. Imagine a land in which Christianity is as bloodthirsty as Isis, and where the punishments heretics face make Bosch’s nightmares look timid. That’s what Neil Mackay has done here, turning back to 16th century Germany and the world’s first recorded trial of a serial killer for an impeccably crafted story that also never stops rooting out answers to the question of evil.' David Robinson, author of In Cold Ink

'The tale is gripping, the violence extreme, and the storycraft utterly superb... The Wolf Trial will be one of the landmark texts of the year, without a shadow of a doubt.' Sogo Magazine

'The Wolf Trial is an audaciously imaginative novel, as haunting and atmospheric as The Name of the Rose, as beautifully written and finely plotted as An Instance of the Fingerpost. It is a novel to savour, to relish its fine and beautiful sentences, its cunning plot, its rich evocation of a brutal time and place. A joy to read... this is historical crime fiction at its very finest.' ES Thomsom, author of Beloved Poison.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

TLC Book Tours Review: Disappearance At Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay

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Disappearance at Devil's Rock, Paul Tremblay
Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: William Morrow (June 21, 2016)
Genre: Horror
Source: TLC BOOK TOURS/Publisher (D-ARC)

A family is shaken to its core after the mysterious disappearance of a teenage boy in this eerie tale from the author of A Head Full of Ghosts.
“A Head Full of Ghosts scared the living hell out of me, and I’m pretty hard to scare,” raved Stephen King about Paul Tremblay’s previous novel, which received widespread critical acclaim. Now Tremblay returns with another disturbing tale just as powerful and unsettling.
Late one summer night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the devastating news that every mother fears: her thirteen-year-old son, Tommy, has vanished without a trace in the woods of a nearby state park.
The search isn’t yielding any answers, and Elizabeth and her eleven-year-old daughter, Kate, struggle to comprehend Tommy’s disappearance. Feeling helpless and alone, their sorrow is compounded by anger and frustration. Neither the state nor local police have uncovered any leads. Josh and Luis, the friends who were the last to see Tommy before he vanished, may not be telling the whole truth about that night in Borderland State Park, when they were supposedly hanging out at a landmark they have renamed Devil’s Rock.

Living in an all-too-real nightmare, Elizabeth is wholly unprepared for the strange series of events that follow. She believes a wraithlike apparition of Tommy materializes in her bedroom, while Kate and other local residents claim to see a shadowy figure peering through their windows in the dead of night.  Then, random pages torn from Tommy’s journals begin to mysteriously appear—entries that reveal an introverted teenager obsessed with the phantasmagoric; the loss of his father, killed in a drunk-driving accident a decade earlier; a folktale involving the devil and the woods of Borderland; the coming zombie “pocketclips”; and a horrific incident that Tommy believed connected them all.
As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened become more ominous and sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about that night at Devil’s Rock.
Tremblay deftly blends literary fiction, psychological suspense, and supernatural horror into an absorbing tale that illuminates a parent’s darkest fears . . . and an adolescent’s darkest secrets. Eerie, thought-provoking, and soul-shattering, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock will haunt you long after Tommy’s final journal entry is read.

My Thoughts:
Unfortunately I did not get through this one and therefore unable to say very much about Disappearance At Devil's Rock except that maybe it just wasn't for me.  I did try but nothing seemed to happen, I didn't connect with any of the characters and I wasn't a fan of the writing style either. I gave up at 40%.

Paul Tremblay has amassed a huge amount of 5 star ratings and rave reviews so I am certainly in the minority here  in my opinion, therefore please do not let me put you off this one and do read what others in the TLC Book Tours have to say.

Disclaimer: Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for my copy of the book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

About Paul Tremblay
Paul Tremblay is a multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist and the author of the crime novels The Little Sleep and No Sleep Till Wonderland. He has served as the president of the board of directors of the Shirley Jackson Awards, and his essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and numerous year’s-best anthologies.
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Tuesday, June 21st: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Wednesday, June 22nd: A Bookworm’s World
Thursday, June 23rd: SJ2B House Of Books
Friday, June 24th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, June 27th: The Reader’s Hollow
Tuesday, June 28th: Booked on a Feeling
Wednesday, June 29th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, June 29th: A Wondrous Bookshelf
Thursday, June 30th:
Tuesday, July 5th: A Dream Within a Dream
Wednesday, July 6th: The Year in Books
Thursday, July 7th: WildmooBooks
Friday, July 8th: Beauty in Ruins
Monday, July 11th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Tuesday, July 12th: Queen of All She Reads

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Friday, 17 June 2016

The Girls by Emma Cline

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The Girls by Emma Cline
Random House UK Vintage (16 June 2016)
Source: Publisher via NetGalley (d-ARC)
Genre: Adult, Cults, Psychological, Coming of Age

Disclaimer: I received an ARC copy of The Girls
from the publisher for my unbiased opinion

California. The summer of 1969. In the dying days of a floundering counter-culture a young girl is unwittingly caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision made at this moment, on the cusp of adulthood, will shape her life....
Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.
Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.
And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.
Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

Advance Praise
'The Girls is a brilliant and intensely consuming novel -- imposing not just for a writer so young, but for any writer, any time' - Richard Ford
'I don't know which is more amazing, Emma Cline's understanding of human beings or her mastery of language.' - Mark Haddon
'Emma Cline’s first novel positively hums with fresh, startling, luminous prose. THE GIRLS announces the arrival of a thrilling new voice in American fiction.' - Jennifer Egan

My Thoughts
First off, my thoughts on the two very different cover images:
UK Cover (above) : Reminiscent of a Summer during the '60's era of flower power and hippy peace and love. This image has a rather sinister ambience because of the subject matter of the book being loosely based on the Manson family murders. It gives a macabre feel juxtaposed against the floaty dreamy innocence of the girls. I prefer this one for its creepier atmospheric vibe.

US Cover (below) : With vivid bold dual colours, a striking image evocative of youth, this cover evokes an image of vibrancy power and defiance.  A little more disturbing is the image of the heart on the girls forehead instead of a cross which the Manson girls carved into theirs.
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I am so very excited about 'The Girls' by Emma Cline. Written exceptionally well with understanding far beyond Ms Cline's 27 years, my mind boggles at the thought that this is her debut novel. It is a masterpiece in character analysis and insight of teens psyches, of sociopathic manipulative individuals, and the coming to terms with what one might have done if circumstances had turned out differently.

Most of us are familiar with the Manson family murders of the late '60's but what we don't really understand is how seemingly normal young women would commit such horrendous violent murder, without any feeling of remorse or guilt.  Emma Cline in her fictional account of the events, has gone to extensive lengths to show us that it is all too frightening easy and that with the right set of circumstances and without a stable grounding of family or peers, young minds are ripe for manipulation, and moulding.

Rather than making the killings the focal point of the book the story centres around the impressionable 14 year old Evie Boyd.  The narrative is told in elliptical format in the first person present tense over two timescale shifts, Summer of 1969 and 2010 four decades later as relived by the now middle aged Evie. The pace of the narrative is thoughtful, steady and analysingly retrospective. It is a poignant, and compelling read and as mentioned earlier Cline concentrates on the girls and the complexity of their relationships within the group dynamic rather than on the charismatic (much older) unstable leader Russell.

After a series of events which leave young Evie feeling rejected, and pretty much alone she befriends Suzanne a member of a hippy commune.  Evie becomes a frequent visitor to the run down ranch where Suzanne lives with the other members of the group and revels in the freedom and intimacy they enjoy.

Through varying stages of manipulative control, frequent drug use, violence and sexual abuse the girls undergo changes in their thought processes and shifts in perceptions. With long term nutritional deprivation (verging on near starvation) and increased drug use, Russell is able to persuade his girls to do whatever he wants without question.

Exceedingly well written with vividly drawn flawed characters, and an incredible wealth of knowledge of what makes teens tick, Emma Cline has written a powerful cautionary coming of age tale and absolutely deserving of all the praise and hype, which in my opinion is justifiable.

Not one to miss out on this Summer.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

HOT Summer Reads : Girls on Fire, Robin Wasserman & The Girls, Emma Cline

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Two 'Sizzling Hot Summer Reads' that you simply must not miss this year are:

 'Girls on Fire' by Robin Wasserman (see review here:)
and the incredible debut novel 'The Girls' by Emma Cline (review to follow).

Both are available right now at all good bookstores.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

TLC Book Tours Review: Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

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Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
Genre: Adult (Mature YA), Fiction, Good Girl Bad Girl,
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Harper (May 17, 2016)
Source: Publisher/TLC Book Tours

Three girls went into the woods; two came out.
It sounds like a joke, or a riddle. But it was only, would ever after be, the rest of our life.
Shortly after Halloween, 1991, the local high-school basketball star is found in the woods near Battle Creek, Pennsylvania, with a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand—a discovery that sends tremors through this conservative community, already unnerved by growing rumors of satanic worship in the region.

In the wake of this incident, bright but lonely Hannah Dexter is befriended by Lacey Champlain, a dark-eyed, Cobain-worshipping bad influence. Lacey forges a fast, intimate bond with the impressionable Dex, making her over in her own image—and unleashing a fierce defiance with unexpected and harrowing consequences. By turns a shocking story of love and violence and an addictive portrait of the intoxication of female friendship, Girls on Fire is an incendiary and unforgettable snapshot of girlhood: girls lost and found, girls weak and strong, girls who burn bright and brighter—and girls who flicker away.

This is not a cautionary tale about too much - or the wrong kind - of fucking. This is not a story of bad things happening to bad girls.
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Welome to the final stop of the TLC Book Tour for Robin Wasserman's latest novel, 'Girls on Fire'

First off, I love the fragmented edginess of the US cover (top) which I think is indicative of the troubled girls' characters. I'm not so sure about the cover for the UK publication (above)  as I don't think it says anything about the book or of who its target audience is.

Hannah is a rather nondescript, uninteresting kind of girl who meets Lacey, an intoxicatingly exciting bad girl. They form an unlikely relationship which becomes intensely obsessive and increasingly unsettling.

'Girls on Fire', told in alternating first person narratives is a coming of age tale in which each of the girls recount, in their own words, their perspective of the events leading up to the final confrontation. Their personal POV's are what gives the story such powerful raw energy, and impact.

Robin Wasserman has constructed a very real and scary portrayal of troubled teens living in small town in the US during the 1990's. I certainly remember the gothic phase of the 90's, the music of Nirvana, and the obsession for teens with anything supernatural or demonic, so I, in the main, believed in the characters and their behaviour.  However, there were a few hilariously 'over the top' scenes which had me chortling, 'oh come on'...'oh too much'...'how's that work then?'.  I can't say anything about the scenes to which I refer due to giving away spoilers but you'll know them if you read the book. This is but a minor gripe and it certainly didn't spoil my overall enjoyment of the book.

If you have to like your main characters, or crave a happy outcome, you will be in for one hell of a disappointment and a scary unrelenting ride with this telling of sick, twisted and manipulative girls. I always remember some guy telling me when I was in my teens, 'if you girls only knew what power you held over us (men)...' yeah pretty scary now I know, but fortunately for everyone most girls don't have the self awareness or confidence to know how to use this power and by the time we realise what it is, it's gone.

Anyway back to it, with crass and vulgar language these girls are hugely unlikeable with little redeeming features. There are references to rape, sexual encounters, toxic relationships, heaps of profanity, teen angst, and of course lots of bad behaviour throughout.

At times I did feel too old for what I perceived to be a YA novel. It felt perverted and voyeristic to be reading a confessional piece, however Wasserman reeled me in until I was hooked and unable to get free, until I was fully invested in the girls and their chaotic world, and until I reached the highly sensational conclusion.

The target audience, to my surprise, is the adult market and not YA.  For me 'Girls on Fire' didn't quite have the maturity of writing style and was at times reliant on coincidence and a certain amount of belief suspension for a successful crossover to an adult audience. Younger readers may not question the scenarios but most adults almost certainly would.

That gripe out of the way, I thoroughly enjoyed 'Girls on Fire' an intensely twisted, well written compelling story and one I'd definitely recommend. I will be taking a look at Robin Wasserman's previous YA novels on the back of this one.

Disclaimer: Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a complimentary copy of Girls on Fire in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

About The Author:

Robin Wasserman is a graduate of Harvard University and the author of several successful novels for young adults.  A recent recipient of a MacDowell fellowship, she lives in Brooklyn, New York. Girls on Fire is her firs novel for adults.
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Tour schedule:
Tuesday, May 17th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, May 18th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, May 19th: Book Hooked Blog
Friday, May 20th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, May 23rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, May 24th: 5 Minutes For Books
Wednesday, May 25th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Thursday, May 26th: Booksie’s Blog
Monday, May 30th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Tuesday, May 31st: The Book Diva’s Reads
Tuesday, May 31st: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Thursday, June 2nd: Ageless Pages Reviews
Monday, June 6th: Lilac Reviews
Monday, June 6th: Booksellers Without Borders
Monday, June 6th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, June 7th: StephTheBookworm
Wednesday, June 8th: A Book Geek
Thursday, June 9th: SJ2B House Of Books

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Quick Review: They Are Among Us by C Bryan Brown

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Genre: Vampire Thriller
Publisher: Post Mortem Press (15 April 2016)
Pages: 268
Source: Purchased

Special Agent Alexandria Maxell believes in human monsters, those whose soul is tainted by the desire for torture, rape, and murder. However, the discovery of a burned body may change her mind as all the evidence indicates the victim and the killer are creatures that exist on human blood. As the body count rises, Alexandria and her team initiate a desperate manhunt to bring the killer to justice, only to uncover a plot to decimate mankind and enslave the survivors. 

Jack Damage has hunted humans for centuries, preying on them at will. Now, twice betrayed by his own kind, Jack is conscripted into the impending human genocide, and he must fight the war on two fronts if he hopes to preserve anything from his old way of life. When the return of a vicious, unrelenting enemy threatens the future of both races, Jack must shift his focus from preservation to survival.  

Out of time and options, Alexandria and Jack both realize that truth and salvation will only exist when they are among us.

My Thoughts:
Ok...this started off brilliantly. The tension build up was superb (tantalising and teasing) and the characters well drawn and above all believable with the unbelievable happenings going on around them.

I loved it..then came the second half and that's where, for me, it fell apart. It almost felt as if this part was written by someone else or that the storyline was running away with itself, out of control.

The potential was huge on this and I'm definitely going to give this author another go.

Friday, 3 June 2016

NOMAD by James Swallow

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If, like me, you've been waiting for the follow up to Terry Hayes' fabulous I Am Pilgrim you'll know the frustration of having to wait until next year for its publication.  However, here is a another thriller in a similar vein to tide you over.

Right now NOMAD is available for just 99p today! Get your copy here:

NOMAD is a fast-paced, pulse-racing terrorist thriller - perfect for fans of I Am Pilgrim, Bourne, 24 and Homeland. It is an espionage thriller for the digital age, inspired by the works of Ludlum, Fleming and Clancy, and is firmly set in a Post-WikiLeaks world.

Praise for NOMAD:
‘An intelligent, likeable and, above all, believable hero is faced with a frighteningly credible threat in a thriller that hits the tarmac running and doesn't stop accelerating until its terrifying conclusion.’ - Ben Aaronovitch

‘A terrific white-knuckle, lip-chewing thriller. Marc Dane is the British Jason Bourne. About bloody time!’ - Rhianna Pratchett

Exciting and thought-provoking in equal measure, NOMAD is a thinking reader’s white knuckle thrill ride. James Swallow has written a benchmark technothriller for the 21st century, one that’s as engrossing as it is plausible.’ Richard Dansky

About The Author:
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James Swallow is a veteran scriptwriter and is the three-time New York Times bestselling author. He was nominated by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) for his writing on the critically acclaimed DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION, 2013’s blockbuster videogame with over 2.18 million copies sold.