Month: September 2017

‘Dark Chapter’ by Winnie M. Li #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Dark-Chapter-CMYK

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Vivian is a cosmopolitan Taiwanese-American tourist who often escapes her busy life in London through adventure and travel. Johnny is a 15-year-old Irish teenager, living a neglected life on the margins of society.
On a bright spring afternoon in West Belfast, their paths collide during a horrifying act of violence.
In the aftermath, each is forced to confront the chain of events that led to the attack.
Inspired by true events, this is a story of the dark chapters and chance encounters that can irrevocably determine the shape of our lives.

‘Dark Chapter’ isn’t an easy read. It details the brutal rape of Vivian by young traveller Johnny and the aftermath of that attack, including the trial. It is honest and vivid and brave, especially as the novel is based on the author’s own experience.
The story is told from two points of view, Vivian’s and Johnny’s. This makes for a difficult read at times. Johnny has few chances in life, he is brutalised and uncared for. Seeing Vivian, (whose own sections draw us into her life, who has our sympathy, our concern), from Johnny’s point of view is challenging, uncomfortable, horrible to read. I was pleased that the novel was unflinching though – Johnny has dehumanised women, his attitude borne of what he sees around him (his father’s treatment of his mother, his brother’s attitude to girls, the pornography he’s watched) and it’s shocking that he has no real remorse.
This is not just about the rape itself. It’s about the aftermath and what that does to both survivor and perpetrator. It’s about how the effects of this horrible crime last and exactly what they can do. It’s about the horrible processes involved afterwards, the endless recounting by Vivian to this expert and that doctor, this psychologist, that friend, of what has happened. It’s about the dreadful way she’s treated in court. But it’s also about her inner strength and her determination.
And it’s about Johnny, and how a young boy can become so full of anger, of hate, of violence that he can treat another human being like this.
I can’t imagine where Winnie M. Li found the strength to write this novel. But she has, and she’s written it with enormous skill. The shifts in point of view are seamless. Vivian is three-dimensional, complex and relatable. Johnny is the bad guy, undoubtedly, but he too is complex and uncomfortably compelling to read. This isn’t sentimental or melodramatic. It’s gripping, unsettling and difficult.
And in the end it’s about Vivian’s survival, and her humanity.

5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC I received in exchange for an honest review.

 

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‘The House’ by Simon Lelic #FridayReads #BookReview

the house

Amazon.co.uk 

Whose story do YOU believe?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered outside their back door.

AND NOW THE POLICE ARE WATCHING THEM.

The blurb of this book makes it sound as if this is a creepy mystery, perhaps a crime involved, perhaps something more sinister and nasty. Well, there is a crime, there are sinister things going on, but it’s not what I was expecting at all. And that’s why I enjoyed it so much.

The novel takes us deep into the lives of Jack and Syd, and the dual narrative, switching from one to the other, really helps with this. I felt close to both characters, invested in both, and I cared about what happened to them. Both of them. This was conflicting at times, and confusing. But it kept me turning the pages.

Syd’s relationship with teenage neighbour Elise, who she identifies with so closely, is a strength of the book. There are some genuinely heart-stopping moments in this part of the narrative. And Syd’s back story was utterly heart-breaking; it was difficult to read at times, but that shows how strong the writing is in places.

The plot is a little confusing at times – you do have to work at this book, but that, I think, is part of its appeal. The protagonists are confused, and the reader is confused along with them. What lies behind the house, and their lives, is complex and twisted and surprising.

There were a few plot points that I found a little hard to believe in completely, and that’s why I can’t give this novel five stars. But it’s a really good read, gripping, complex, clever. Definitely recommended.

4.5 out of 5

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the free review copy.

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT @AlisonW_Editor reviews Whispers In The Alders by @HA_Callum

My review of the beautiful ‘Whispers in the Alders’ for RBRT

Rosie Amber

Today’s second team review is from Alison, she blogs here https://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Alison has been reading Whispers In The Alders by H A Callum

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This is a beautifully-written novel by a very talented writer.

The story centres on the relationship between Aubrey and Tommy – both living in the small town of Alder Ferry and both trying to survive adolescence.

Aubrey is wealthy, but her privilege doesn’t bring her happiness. She is taken from pillar to post by her cold, uninterested and self-centred parents. Her father is responsible for takeovers of local firms, resulting in the dismissal of the employees, something that makes it incredibly difficult for Aubrey to fit into whatever school she has to attend. Tommy is poor, unwanted, his life brutal and cruel. They find comfort and companionship in each other, and they develop an intense relationship that helps them to cope.

The alders provide a sanctuary…

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‘Whispers in the Alders’ by @HA_Callum #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I read and reviewed ‘Whispers in the Alders’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

whispers

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Alder Ferry would have been just another nondescript suburb living in the shadow of its urban parent if not for one detail: the mysterious stand of alder trees anchoring the town to its past and standing as a reminder to the wilderness that once stood in its place.
In the shadows of the alders a boy named Tommy found refuge. There, an eclectic book collection was his only companion through a tumultuous childhood, serving as his escape from the brutal realities of his life. That was, until Aubrey appeared.
Born of different worlds, the alders become their escape while their unlikely friendship blossoms into a love that few people ever come to understand or enjoy—proving that true friendship is a romantic pursuit in its purest form.
Together they come of age in a town hostile to their friendship—a friendship that challenges the intersecting boundaries of class, gender and sexuality. Prejudice and privilege masquerade to destroy their dreams while class, gender and faith collide. All are tested as Tommy and Aubrey carry each other through their teen years and into adulthood. Whispers in the Alders is an impassioned experience that will test the emotions and is a story that will linger with the reader long after the last page is turned.

This is a beautifully-written novel by a very talented writer.

The story centres on the relationship between Aubrey and Tommy – both living in the small town of Alder Ferry and both trying to survive adolescence.

Aubrey is wealthy, but her privilege doesn’t bring her happiness. She is taken from pillar to post by her cold, uninterested and self-centred parents. Her father is responsible for takeovers of local firms, resulting in the dismissal of the employees, something that makes it incredibly difficult for Aubrey to fit into whatever school she has to attend. Tommy is poor, unwanted, his life brutal and cruel. They find comfort and companionship in each other, and they develop an intense relationship that helps them to cope.

The alders provide a sanctuary where the two of them can breathe, where they can be teenagers, away from the hostility and hate they are both subjected to in their small town.

The narrative here is dense, intelligent, poetic in places. This is an author who can really write, who has a detailed and complex knowledge of words and how to use them. This doesn’t make for an easy read at times, but some of the prose was astounding. That said, there were times when the writing overtook the story and I did feel that the narrative could have done with some trimming in places. The writing is beautiful – but sometimes it is too much, and for me this lessened the impact somewhat.  It is a skill to write like this, but there is also a skill in knowing when to cut some of those beautifully composed lines – when the story needs to be allowed to come through. Aubrey and Tommy are complex, interesting characters and they need to be at the fore – a brave and honest edit would help to make this book really shine, and to be the story it deserves to be.

4 stars