Wednesday, 16 August 2017

TLC BOOK TOUR REVIEW: The Quiet Child by John Burley

The Quiet Child by John Burley
Paperback: 304 pages 
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 8, 2017)


Disclosure: I received an advanced digital copy of the book from TLC Book Tours and the publisher in order to take part in this tour.

From the award-winning author of The Absence of Mercy, comes a gripping and darkly psychological novel about family, suspicion, and the price we are willing to pay to protect those we love the most.

It’s the summer of 1954, and the residents of Cottonwood, California, are dying. At the center of it all is six-year-old Danny McCray, a strange and silent child the townspeople regard with fear and superstition, and who appears to bring illness and ruin to those around him. Even his own mother is plagued by a disease that is slowly consuming her.
Sheriff Jim Kent, increasingly aware of the whispers and rumors surrounding the boy, has watched the people of his town suffer—and he worries someone might take drastic action to protect their loved ones. Then a stranger arrives, and Danny and his ten-year-old brother, Sean, go missing. In the search that follows, everyone is a suspect, and the consequences of finding the two brothers may be worse than not finding them at all.

My Thoughts
Right at the beginning of this story Michael McCray, a quiet, measured man, appears to be mulling something over and that maybe he should pack his family up into the Chevy Bel Air right there and then to move for a fresh start to some place new where things may be better for them. Instead he puts the boys in the truck and drives into town to buy ice creams to celebrate their mother, Kate feeling unusually well that day. A decision he will come to regret.

I really enjoyed this southern gothic atmospheric psychological thriller set in the small town of Cottonwood, California in 1950's.  The Quiet Child, for me, was a captivatingly compelling read about the disappearance of two young boys; ten-year-old Sean and his six-year-old brother Danny, and of the race to find them alive.

The pace at the start is like Michael quiet, and measured, but then the pace and action ramps up and doesn't abate until the finality of the book.

Kate desperately wants her boys back at any cost and demands that her husband find them. This Michael vows to do and makes the decision to 'go it alone', without the help of the authorities. How far will he go to save those he loves the most, and will he be able to live with the consequences of his actions?
In the race to find the boys are Cottonwood's Sheriff Jim Kent, and two Shasta County detectives who are also hellbent on bringing them back alive to their mother.

Danny suffers from selective mutism. He hasn't uttered a word in all of his six years of life. A strange boy that things tend to happen around. From the time of his birth, sickness and death has befallen those around him including his mother, now in the final stages of Lou Gehrig's disease.
Misfortune has plagued anyone coming into contact with young Danny and with a long list of sickness, accidents and deaths, the community believe he has special, poisonous powers enabling him to cause them harm. Are they right to be afraid of him and to believe that it may be better for everyone if Danny is never found.

This is 1954 and without the modern day technology and forensic advancements we've become so reliant upon in our modern world this will be a slow methodical and timely investigative operation. The process feels painstakingly long and drawn out giving a sense of time running out for the boys. One such process which brings home this disadvantage is when a telephone call needs tracing.  Paper records are logged by each busy telephone switchboard operative.  These details then need to be cross checked and referenced with at least two other telephone exchanges across the county. This, just one example of how our lives have changed with our immediate access to internet information and tracking technology and mobile phones, gives an authentic sense of time and place to the narrative.

There are some beautiful touching moments with Michael's bitter-sweet memories of his wife over the years interspersed throughout. It is obvious that he is still as much in love with her as he ever was and will do whatever he can to save her from her inevitable premature death.

Do not expect explanations for the source or cause of the illnesses, Burley only hints at the possibility of supernatural forces at play or even, more plausibly for modern times, chemical pollutants seeping in and poisoning the environment and its residents.  As aforementioned this is the 1950's and a time where environmental issues are less likely to be considered, especially from a small town community heavily steeped in superstitious beliefs.  Read, The Quiet Child' with the mind of someone of the era and you'll not be dissatisfied.

Incorporating a credible cast of characters, scenarios and stunning imagery of the area (well chiefly memories being invoked of vacationing in and around the stunning locations), with several twists and turns, The Quiet Child along with its disturbing conclusion, and final shocking twist was a tense, exciting read.

Perfect for fans of American small town historical drama and equally, due to the slight ambiguity of its genre, I think fans of Stephen King and Paul Tremblay would enjoy this one too.

Highly recommended.

About John Burley 

John Burley attended medical school in Chicago and completed his residency in emergency medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He currently serves as an emergency medicine physician in Northern California, where he lives with his wife and daughter, and their Great Dane and English bulldog.

Find out more about John at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter

Tour Stops

Tuesday, August 8th: The Ludic Reader
Wednesday, August 9th: The Book Bag
Thursday, August 10th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, August 11th: Bewitched Bookworms
Monday, August 14th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, August 15th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, August 15th: SJ2B House Of Books
Wednesday, August 16th: Readaholic Zone
Thursday, August 17th: Tina Says…
Monday, August 21st: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, August 22nd: StephTheBookworm
Wednesday, August 23rd: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Wednesday, August 23rd: Art Books Coffee
Thursday, August 24th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, 28 July 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS REVIEW: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (July 11, 2017)


Disclosure: I received an advanced digital copy of the book from TLC Book Tours and the publisher in order to take part in this tour.
With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

My Thoughts:
Set in a small southern town in Alabama, 'The Almost Sisters' is a timely contemporary piece about friendships, family secrets and bi-racial relationships.

The narrator Leia Birch Briggs is a successful writer/artist in the graphic novel industry who, after discovering some life changing news, decides that a visit to her grandmother in Birchville is long overdue. Things do not go quite as planned as her grandmother, suffering from a degenerative disease, has been displaying some unusually outrageous behaviour. Instead of announcing that she will be continuing the Birch's family lineage Leia finds herself taking care of her grandmother.

I loved the fun, quirkiness of Joshilyn Jackson's writing style, and depictions of her characters, all of whom have real presence, warm endearing qualities, and were totally believable. I especially loved the multi-sisterly connections, in particular the endearing relationship between the towns oldest residents, Leia's grandmother Miss Birchie and her lifelong friend and companion, Wattie.

Leia's relationships with her half-sister Rachel and thirteen year old niece Lavender are equally as compelling, as is the relationship between Violence and Violet, characters from Leia's comic novel whom she uses to mirror and work through, to an extent, her own disappointments and frustrations that life heaps on her.

'The Almost Sisters' is an intriguing, story with a touch of a southern gothic feel, about the prejudices and complexities of bi-racial families, and relationships in the modern day 'Second South'; of multi-sisterhood bonds; and witnessing the heartbreaking slow deterioration and loss of a loved one to a degenerative disease. Even though it raises some serious issues it is gently done without becoming sentimental or preachy, and It is ultimately an uplifting story of family loyalty, love and forgiveness.

This is my first encounter with Joshilyn Jackson and one which felt destined to receive a 4 star rating until the ending which didn't quite work for me. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and am now looking forward to reading her earlier novels, in particular 'God's In Alabama'.

Highly recommended and would make a perfect book group choice and summer read.

Memorable scenes: Leia's drunken one night stand with 'African American Batman' from the Comic Convention...fabulously hilarious!

Purchase Links HarperCollins

About Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Connect with her through her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Tour Stops
Tuesday, July 11th: Book by Book
Wednesday, July 12th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, July 13th: bookchickdi
Friday, July 14th: Time 2 Read
Monday, July 17th: Tina Says…
Tuesday, July 18th: StephTheBookworm
Wednesday, July 19th: BookNAround
Thursday, July 20th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Friday, July 21st: Bibliotica
Monday, July 24th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, July 25th: Leigh Kramer
Wednesday, July 26th: Always With a Book
Thursday, July 27th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Thursday, July 27th: Wining Wife
Friday, July 28th: SJ2B House Of Books
Monday, July 31st: she treads softly

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood (17th July-7th August)

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood
Publisher HarperCollins (7th November 2017)
Pages 416

My Rating:

Disclosure: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from TLC Book Tours and the publisher in order to take part in this tour.
“Rivals The Girl on the Train as a compulsive read (and beats it for style). — Observer (UK)"
In the vein of Fiona Barton’s The Widow and RenĂ©e Knight’s Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?

The One Person You Should Trust Is Lying to You…
Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.

As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.

In this gripping, timely debut, Nuala Ellwood brings us an unforgettable damaged character, a haunting , humanizing look at the Syrian conflict, and a deeply harrowing psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.

My Thoughts:
My Sister's Bones is a dark and disturbing novel set in the present day chaotic, violent Hell-hole of war torn Aleppo, and the scenic predictable, mundane coastline of Britain's Herne Bay in Kent.

Kate Rafter has returned home prematurely from her latest assignment as a female foreign war correspondent after the recent death of her mother, and thrust back into the fractured relationship with her resentful alcoholic sister Sally.

In the opening scene we meet Kate as she is being detained and questioned by, who appears to be, a police psychologist after displaying some very erratic behaviour and making accusations about a neighbour. She is being tormented by voices, visions and flashbacks and it is apparent that Kate is suffering from PTSD after several assignments reporting and witnessing violence, and the unrelenting devastation of war.

It is during these flashbacks, and heartbreaking revelations of a childhood tragedy, parental violence, and abuse that we find out eventually how much is real or imagined as she struggles to, keep hidden but at the same time, face the demons coming at her from all angles.  It is also a fascinating examination of how memories are formed, of how reliable they may be after years have passed, and of how individuals remember events very differently, and how using different coping mechanisms for survival have affected them.  I loved the author's in-depth perceptiveness and understanding of the human condition and of how life's experiences can mould a persons character and personality.

However, as much as I loved 'My Sisters Bones' I didn't feel the domestic crime element of the mysterious neighbour added value or substance to the storyline, even so Nuala Ellwood has written a superior, powerful thought provoking mystery thriller that, for me, only just fell short of a 5 star rating.

Highly recommended for fans of twisty-turny, creepy psychological thrillers with unreliable female protagonists, and untrustworthy supporting characters such as in, 'The Girl On The Train', 'Gone Girl', and 'The Widow'.

I am very excited about this author's debut and looking forward to reading her next novel.

About Nuala Ellwood
Nuala Ellwood is the daughter of an award-winning journalist. Inspired by her father’s and other journalists’ experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, she gained Arts Council Funding for her research into the topic and ultimately made it the main theme of My Sister’s Bones, her debut psychological thriller.
Find out more about Nuala at her website, and connect with her on Twitter.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: White Fur by Jardine Libaire (30 May-22 June)

White Fur by Jardine Libaire
Publisher: Hogarth (30th May, 2017)
Pages: 320


Disclaimer: A copy of White Fur was provided by the Publisher via TLC Book Tours to give an honest review and to take part in the tour

I just love these cover images!
When Elise Perez meets Jamey Hyde on a desolate winter afternoon, fate implodes, and neither of their lives will ever be the same. Although they are next-door neighbors in New Haven, they come from different worlds. Elise grew up in public housing without a father and didn’t graduate from high school; Jamey is a junior at Yale, heir to a private investment bank fortune and beholden to high family expectations. Nevertheless, the attraction is instant, and what starts out as sexual obsession turns into something greater, stranger, and impossible to ignore.

The unlikely couple moves to Manhattan in hopes of forging an adult life together, but Jamey’s family intervenes in desperation, and the consequences of staying together are suddenly severe. And when a night out with old friends takes a shocking turn, Jamey and Elise find themselves fighting not just for their love, but also for their lives.
White Fur follows these indelible characters on their wild race through Newport mansions and downtown NYC nightspots, SoHo bars and WASP-establishment yacht clubs, through bedrooms and hospital rooms, as they explore, love, play, and suffer.

Jardine Libaire combines the electricity of Less Than Zero with the timeless intensity of Romeo and Juliet in this searing, gorgeously written novel that perfectly captures the ferocity of young love.

My Thoughts
Set over the course of a year in 1986, 'White Fur'  follows in monthly instalments the highs and lows of the relationship between Elise Perez and Jamey Hyde.
Written in third person dual POV narratives I found it easy to read with short paragraphed chapters, easy to pick up and put down at any point. Not a format, I appreciate will suit everyone but then again there's a a lot about White Fur that isn't going to be to everyone liking.  More on that shortly.

Elise Perez comes from the poor housekeeping projects in New York City; doesn't know who her father is; doesn't attend school, and takes care of her half siblings while her mother shirks parental responsibilities to be with her abusive boyfriend. Elise makes a difficult decision to move out of the family home leaving her sisters in the care of her mother and boyfriend.

Jamie Hyde is a privileged rich kid attending Yale; shares a flat with his lifelong best friend and flatmate next to where Elise is now staying with a gay friend.
Jamey is rich and going places. He has class, breeding, is reserved and knows how to behave in polite company.
Elise has had a rough abusive life and lived the life of hard knocks. She is tough, a fighter, a force to be reckoned with, has no airs or graces. If someone's a dick she'll tell them they're a dick !

As a couple they're an odd mix, culturally and racially and have absolutely nothing in common, but there is a spark between them at their first meeting which continues to smoulder and flame. Their relationship is wild, explosive and sexually charged. She is wild, passionate and exhaustative sexually, a contrast to his previous inexperienced relationships.  He's never met anyone quite like Elise. She makes him feel special and that she will do anything for him whenever he wants her to. Jamey is obsessed with her but equally frustrated by his inability to ignore this attraction and seems to resent her for it.

As their relationship matures and they learn more about themselves and each other the frantic sex gives way to a deeper intensity of emotions and understanding but as friends and family become increasingly involved and determined to drive a wedge between them will they be able to remain steadfast.

By way of a warning a good first half of the story describes graphically detailed sex scenes. Some readers may have difficulty here with such explicit powerful imagery projected, however it gives a sense and perspective of the transition from impulsive lust to meaningful love that these young lovers experience. With short, sharp paragraphing the details are quickly absorbed into your head leaving sometimes rather uncomfortable indelible imprinted images.

Gritty, and raw White Fur touches on some sensitive subject matter such as child physical abuse, under aged sex (rape), drug addiction and mental health issues. A fair amount of humour is in evidence throughout making this a less dark depressing read.

This is most definitely NOT what I would call a fluffy romantic read, it is a coming-of-age character driven love story following two young lovers over the course of a year as their relationship matures. Think of it as a contemporary 'Romeo and Juliet' with explicit sexual content.  Overall, even though not a fan of the ending, I found it a compelling read and would definitely read more from this author.

About Jardine Libaire
Jardine Libaire is a graduate of Skidmore College and the University of Michigan MFA program, where she was a winner of the Hopwood Award. White Furis her second novel for adults. She lives in Austin, Texas.

TLC BOOK TOURS Schedule for Jardine Libaire's White Fur:

Tuesday, May 30th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, May 31st: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Thursday, June 1st: Palmer’s Page Turners
Friday, June 2nd: Nightly Reading
Tuesday, June 6th: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, June 12th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, June 13th: Life by Kristen
Wednesday, June 14th: I Brought A Book
Thursday, June 15th: Booksie’s Blog
Wednesday, June 21st: SJ2B House of Books
Thursday, June 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Monday, June 26th: Books a la Mode
Friday, June 30th: Fuelled by Fiction

Sunday, 18 June 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: Among The Lesser Gods by Margo Catts (June 5th-29th)

Among The Lesser Gods by Margo Catts
Publisher: Arcade Publishing (May 9, 2017)
Pages: 336

Disclaimer: A free digital copy of 'Among The Lesser Gods' was provided in exchange for an honest review and to take part in this blog tour.
For fans of authors like Barbara Kingsolver and Leif Enger, a stunning new voice in contemporary literary fiction.
“Tragedy and blessing. Leave them alone long enough, and it gets real hard to tell them apart.”

Elena Alvarez is living a cursed life. From the deadly fire she accidentally set as a child, to her mother’s abandonment, and now to an unwanted pregnancy, she knows better than most that small actions can have terrible consequences. Driven to the high mountains surrounding Leadville, Colorado by her latest bad decision, she’s intent on putting off the future. Perhaps there she can just hide in her grandmother’s isolated cabin and wait for something—anything—to make her next choice for her.
Instead, she is confronted by reflections of her own troubles wherever she turns—the recent widower and his two children adrift in a changed world, Elena’s own mysterious family history, and the interwoven lives within the town itself. Bit by bit, Elena begins to question her understanding of cause and effect, reexamining the tragedies she’s held on to and the wounds she’s refused to let heal.
But when the children go missing, Elena’s fragile new peace is shattered. It’s only at the prospect of fresh loss and blame that she will discover the truth of the terrible burdens we take upon ourselves, the way tragedy and redemption are inevitably intertwined—and how curses can sometimes lead to blessings, however disguised.
“If Anne Tyler turned her attention to the inter-generational intrigue of small town Colorado, it might look something like Margo Catts’s arresting debut. Drenched in lyrical language and blade’s edge observation with a heartbreaking secret at its core, Among the Lesser Gods is an essential American love story for our nomadic, unrooted times.” — Carrie La Seur, author of The Home Place

“I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Margo Catts is the perfect guide to Leadville and to life, with a sharp eye for everyday details, a pitch-perfect ear for conversation, a sympathetic heart for her characters’ travails, and a sure foot along their unpredictable paths. I’m so happy this book crossed my desk and will definitely be looking out for a second novel from Catts.” — Brigid Pasulka, author of The Sun and Other Stars

“Margo Catts’s compassionate observation of human nature shines through in her unforgettable characters, as she immerses the reader in lives that are torn by tragedy, challenged, and changed. This is a finely crafted and uplifting novel full of warmth, wisdom, and generosity of spirit.” — Judith Allnatt, author of The Silk Road

“I didn’t want the story to end, even as I was desperate to know what would happen next.” — Tiffany Quay Tyson, author of Three Rivers
“Margo Catts has a sharp eye for the intricacies of family, love, and tragedy. In luminous prose, she deftly explores the impact of the past upon our lives. This is a heartfelt book that will break your heart at times and at others fill you with joy.” — Daniel Robinson, author of After the Fire

My Thoughts
Among The Lesser Gods is Margo Catts' debut offering and set mainly in Leadville, Colorado during the late 1970's.

Elena Alvarez is running away from yet another mess and responsibility; she's somewhat a repeat offender in the field. Up to this point she has managed to get away without having to deal fully with the consequences her actions may have caused, however with this latest move, returning home to her small community mining town, she will have to face her current predicament, and revisit her troubled, tragically painful past.

Gently paced with a slow immersion into the characters lifestyles I did unfortunately find it a little too slow and difficult to get into. By the halfway mark I still didn't feel invested in any of the characters and decided not to read any further at this time. I'd so wanted to 'love' this book as the author has spent time living in the same middle eastern country that I had for several years. I felt a connection, alas though not a connection with these characters.

There were definitely elements that I love in a book, literary fiction well written with complex flawed characters, strained family dynamics, a ghost story mystery, and an air of menacing suspense, it just fell a tad flat on my initial attempt of reading.

In all honesty I don't believe its the book at fault. I have read several similar styled story-lines recently and do find that I become restless with the same, 'same old', if my reading material isn't varied. Maybe the timing was wrong and I'll revisit it again sometime. If I do I'll update my thoughts.

There are so many rave reviews for Among The Lesser Gods and I would encourage the reader to take these other reviews into account.

About Margo Catts
Margo Catts grew up in Los Angeles and has since lived in Utah, Indiana, and Colorado. After raising three children in the U.S., she and her husband moved to Saudi Arabia, where her Foreign Girl blog was well known in the expat community. Originally a freelance editor for textbooks and magazines, she has also done freelance writing for business, technical, and advertising clients, all the while working on her fiction. She is a contributing author to Once Upon an Expat. Among the Lesser Gods is her first novel. She now lives in Denver, Colorado.

Margo Catts's TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: Schedule Link

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Guest Reviewer SwiftLit: Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
Publisher: HarperCollins UK(Fourth Estate)
Pages: 336


I would like to introduce Scott my first guest reviewer on my blog. I have worked with Scott for over a year and have thoroughly enjoyed working with him during this time. Scott has however, decided to move on to other endeavours and even though I'll miss him, I wish him every success.  Fortunately he has agreed to be a guest reviewer for Jon McGregor's 'Reservoir 13' and here is his review.  

Scott's Thoughts:
When reading McGregor’s work you quickly become aware that you are reading something different. If you were feeling particularly adventurous you may even call it something new. His style is obviously beautiful yet often opaque and enigmatic.
Characters can be seemingly nondescript and yet we simultaneously feel we know everything we need to know about them. Reservoir 13 is McGregor’s best work so far.

Spanning 13 years this is an epic. And yet what takes up the major proportion of the novel are not events that are epic in scale but comparatively minuscule. The life cycle of a family of foxes as they go through breeding and birth, the migration and return of the swallows each summer. The guaranteed, uninterrupted presence of nature is a prevalent theme that is refreshing to read. This constant quality of nature is one of the few certainties we get throughout the book, with certainty being something the novel sometimes lacks.

It begins as most of McGregor’s fiction does; a traumatic event that leaves ripples in the surrounding society. We enter into the narrative believing it to be a missing person thriller. A girl holidaying with her parents has gone missing. McGregor keeps this missing person narrative sustained by little more than a spider's thread at times as it becomes clear this is a novel that instead takes the effects of time and dealing with grief as its central narrative concern. The goings-on of the village, its people and the natural world that surrounds it are what occupies Reservoir 13, amongst which are whispers and rumours of a missing girl - a glimpse at the narrative we first thought to be reading. It is a very neat trick that McGregor utilises to create an at times stunning novel.

I have always believed that Jon McGregor is a writer whose style most closely mimics the rhythms of everyday human thought and experience. If his previous works, to their credit, could be seen as attempts at creating a unique style, then Reservoir 13 is where the winning formula begins to shine through. For me, this novel not only confirms my prior views but brings McGregor’s work into an ever more exciting territory.

"My name is Scott and I am the creator of SwiftLit.  I have thought long and hard about what I want SwiftLit to represent and below are just a few points that have gone into forming the business so far:

1. I want to provide a subscription box that offers great literary fiction to everyone in an accessible way.
2. I want to communicate the passion I have for books with a wider group of readers.
3. I want to challenge people to read things they may not have considered picking up before.
4. I want to create a company that offers individuals the chance to connect over a passion for books and lively debate!

I'm sure in the evolution of this company many things will likely change, but the core points raised above are at the centre of SwiftLit's ethos and I hope to bring that into everything we do.
Everyone who follows is a potential future customer so the more people who see that the better."

Thank you Scott for being the first guest reviewer for SJ2B House of Books and for such a great insightful review.  It's certainly made me bump Reservoir 13 up on my reading list. I wish you every success with the SwiftLit Company.

You can find out more about SwiftLit by going to the company Instagram site here:

Hopefully this will be one of many more guest review posts.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS REVIEW: Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Hardcover: 320 Pages
Publisher: Hogarth (May 9, 2017)

My Rating:
Disclaimer: A complimentary digital copy of 'Woman No. 17' was provided by TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest unbiased review and to take part in this blog tour.

A sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships set in the posh hills above Los Angeles, from the New York Times bestselling author of California.
High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.

But in the heat of the summer, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady’s privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear.

Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.

My Thoughts:
Set high in the Hollywood Hills, LA, Woman No. 17 is a contemporary 'dramedy' with a razor sharp, edgy dialogue and a dark creepy undertone, an undertone in my opinion that didn't really surface. There are some real comedic moments where I laughed out loud, one of my favourite involving the shit-faced nanny and the pooch. Shamelessly, I loved it.

Pearl 'Lady' Daniels, the mother of two boys, one a lively toddler, Devin, and his half brother, 18 year old Seth, has been commissioned to write a book. A book about motherhood and caring for children with special needs. A book which she has no true impetus to write. She hires a nanny to enable her to concentrate on writing without the distraction of family interruptions or routines. This solution in itself brings its own distractions.  Lady is a complex woman with a simmering mass of emotion and hidden depths to her personality that will gradually bubble over during the course of the story.

Esther Shapiro has a very strong dual personality, hers and that of her alter persona of 'S' Fowler which lends an underlying creepiness into the mix.  Esther a 21 year old college graduate is committed to her latest piece of conceptual art, 'The Katherine May Project' where she will devote every waking moment to impersonating her mother as a young girl.  There's nothing she won't do to succeed in the project. Esther, transformed into the unshaven, plain faced, drably dressed, renamed 'S' Fowler is taken on as the Daniels' live-in nanny.

Seth's character is somewhat unique and impressive. As a mute, self imposed or not really doesn't necessitate too much contemplation, Edan has given depth and perception to a character that could so easily have fallen into the background, or have been one-dimensional at best. He uses his iPad, Twitter feed and sign language, including secret signings for Lady, to communicate and interact in a believable fashion.

Early on its pretty obvious that a relationship is inevitable between the nanny and Seth.  It is a relationship that will have a troubling, powerful impact on all three of them.

During the course of alternating perspectives and back stories, a fuller understanding of how the complexities of the family dynamic, significantly that of the mother-daughter relationships, have shaped the women into who they have ultimately become. Sometimes full of selfish tendencies as with Lady not wanting to share Seth with anyone for fear of losing him, and dismissing Devlin's needs in order to fulfill her own; and Esther with her utter disregard for those caught up in her performance art, as she causes upset and mayhem, crossing boundaries, and taking advantage of everyone to the point of exploitation, all for the cause of her art.

I really enjoyed Edan Lepucki's second novel and think it perfect for fans of art literature or anyone wanting to read something 'off-centre' about art and dysfunctional relationships.

Highly recommended.

Edan Lepucki’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for WOMAN No. 17:

Monday, May 8th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, May 9th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, May 10th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, May 11th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Tuesday, May 16th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, May 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, May 18th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Monday, May 22nd: Art Books Coffee
Tuesday, May 23rd: Palmer’s Page Turners
Wednesday, May 24th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, May 25th: Booksie’s Blog
Tuesday, May 30th: SJ2B House of Books
Wednesday, May 31st: Fuelled by Fiction