SJ2B House of Books

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Speak: A Novel by Louisa Hall


Speak: A Novel by Louisa Hall
Series: N/A
Genre: Fiction, sci fi,
Pages: 336 (Hardback)
Format: e-ARC
ISBN: 9780062391193
PublisherEcco (July 7, 2015)
Source: Publisher/Edelweiss

Rating:


Synopsis: (Source: Hardback Book Flap)

A thoughtful, poignant novel that explores the creation of artificial intelligence—illuminating the very human need for communication, connection, and understanding.
In a narrative that spans geography and time, from the Atlantic Ocean in the seventeenth century to a correctional institution in Texas in the near future, told from the perspectives of five very different characters, Speak considers what it means to be human, and what it means to be less than fully alive.
A young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friend's mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegally lifelike dolls.
All five characters are attempting to communicate—with estranged spouses, lost friends, future readers, or computer programs that may or may not understand them. Although each speaks from a distinct place and moment in time, they all share the need to express themselves while simultaneously wondering if they will ever be heard, or understood. In dazzling and electrifying prose, Louisa Hall explores how the chasm between computer and human—shrinking rapidly with today's technological advances—echoes the gaps that exist between ordinary people.

Praise for Speak:
SPEAK  is that rarest of finds: a novel that doesn’t remind me of any other book I’ve ever read. A complex, nuanced, and beautifully written meditation on language, immortality, the nature of memory, the ethical problems of artificial intelligence, and what it means to be human.” (Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven)

“SPEAK reads like a hybrid of David Mitchell and Margaret Atwood; a literary page turner that spans four centuries and examines the idea of who and what we define as human. Louisa Hall has written a brilliant novel.” (Philipp Meyer, author of The Son)

My Thoughts:
'Speak' A Novel by Louisa Hall is a multi narrative consisting of five seemingly unconnected voices distanced by geography, and alternating time periods spanning from the 1600's, to the near future of 2040.

The 'voices' have their own individual style of narrative:

Mary, a young girl sailing with her parents and her new husband from England to the Colonies uses her journal to document her anguished thoughts as an outlet for her frustrations and feelings of increasing despair and isolation. So touching and exquisitely written this was by far the most compelling narrative for me;

A Texas inmate writes his (confessional) memoirs for his part in the story;

Chat transcripts of a young girl’s internet conversations are used as evidence in the inmate’s trial;

We hear the sad, deeply moving private and individual thoughts of a couple who are drifting ever farther apart, but remaining ever closer together; again these narratives were highly emotive and deeply moving.

Alan Turing writes letters voicing his concerns about a friend to the mother, ultimately divulging his own intimate thoughts, inner turmoils and dilemmas, again sensitive,  touching and beautifully composed.

The narrators 'speak' because they have a need to be heard and understood, but they do not necessarily 'speak' to whom they really should, nor are their voices necessarily heard by their intended listener. Their private intimate divulgences may also be read out of context, misinterpreted or manipulated and used against them or people connected to them in some way by an unintended listener.  Therefore, not speaking and being misunderstood becomes a common thread in this complex tale.

These totally random stories, and characters initially appear to be unconnected, however as you read on, fragments that interconnect the voices and threads begin to come together making sense as the story unravels.

I savoured and devoured this book in equal measures and genuinely didn't want it to end. Louisa Hall is a master in the art of painting vivid imagery with the written word. With stunning, sumptuous and beautiful balletic prose, I absolutely adored this novel.

Powerfully written in its complexity, and diverse in narrative style, Speak is sheer brilliance in its construction and delivery. Fans of David Mitchell's 'Cloud Atlas', Emily St. John Mandel's 'Station Eleven' and Erin Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus' should seek this one out as a 'must read'.

It is unfathomable to believe that 'Speak' is only the second novel from the author. I'll definitely read more from Louisa Hall and will have to contain my excitement until her next book is published.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Louisa Hall grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Haverford. After graduating from Harvard, she played squash professionally and was ranked #2 in the country. She teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at Austin. Her poems have been published in journals, such as The New Republic, The Southwest Review, and Ellipsis. 'Speak' is her second novel. She lives in Austin.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of 'Speak' was provided by Ecco via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND by Stuart Neville


Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville
Series: DCI Serena Flanagan Crime Series #1
Genre: Crime Thriller
Format: ARC (Hardcopy)
ISBN: 9781846556975
PublisherHarvill Secker London (25 June 2015)

Source: Publisher/Dead Good Books(GoodReads)

Rating:

Synopsis:
When 12 year old Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster father it sent shock waves through the nation. DCI Serena Flanagan, then an ambitious Detective Sergeant, took Ciaran's confession after days spent earning his trust. He hasn't forgotten the kindness she showed him - in fact, she hasn't left his thoughts in the seven years he's been locked away.

Probation officer Paula Cunningham, now tasked with helping Ciaran re-enter society, suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered. Ciaran's confession saved his brother Thomas from a far lengthier sentence, and Cunningham can see the unnatural hold Thomas still has over his vulnerable younger brother. When she brings her fears to DCI Flanagan, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.

My Thoughts:
Set in Belfast, 'Those We Left Behind' is an atmospheric and gripping psychological thriller.  A 'must read' for all crime thriller fans.  It follows four key characters, along two timeframes which are seamlessly executed.

Ciaran Devine is being released on parole after serving seven years for killing his foster father. His older brother, Thomas, released two years earlier is anticipating their reunion.
DCI Serena Flanagan has just returned to the department after recovering from breast cancer.
Probation Officer Paula Cunningham has been working with Ciaran to help him adjust to his release from prison.

'Those We Left Behind' is narrated in each character's point of view.  Ciaran portrays a quiet, insular, troubled and anguished child, even as an adult on release it was difficult to imagine him as a nineteen year old man. It was as if he hadn't aged mentally and just remained in the past.  I read somewhere that this often happens. That there is little emotional or mental maturing in very young offenders. Time stays still. They remain in the past, unable to develop or mature. The world moves on leaving them in stasis. The 'outside' becomes a hostile, alien place.  If this was Neville's intention to portray Ciaran as emotionally stunted then he did exactly what he set out to do.

DCI Serena Flanagan shows signs of being a maverick detective as she will fight to achieve what she believes in even if it goes against the grain and causes tension with her superiors. There is also a 
vulnerability about her which comes to the fore during her interviews with Ciaran.

Paula Cunningham, Ciaran's probation officer, believes he is innocent of the crime he confessed to and works towards helping him break free of the unnatural hold his older brother has over him and tell the truth about what happened that night.

Flanagan and Cunningham work together after a murder once again brings the brothers under suspicion. Each endeavour to unburden Ciaran of his loyalty to his brother, but Thomas is not ready to relinquish his hold and be abandoned or betrayed and trouble ensues. 

There is another strand running alongside the main storyline about the paramilitary and the difficulties encountered by the community who want to live as normal a life as possible in the aftermath of 'The Troubles'. This is only touched on with the team leaders where Ciaran finds work, but it certainly has an impact and demonstrates the current tensions and compromises of working and living alongside each other.

'Those We Left Behind' is a character driven, emotional thought-provoking read about abusive sibling relationships and obsession.  Highly compelling it is also about how violent crime affects everyone involved from the perpetrators, to the family of the victim, and the investigating team. Above all it show how there is never any real closure for those left in its aftermath.

'Those We Left Behind' is the first novel I've read by Stuart Neville and I was not disappointed. I look forward to reading what's in store for the main character DCI Serena Flanagan now that she has been awarded justifiably her own series after featuring in Neville's previous novels.

'Those We Left Behind' will surely generate some interesting discussion at book reading groups.  Highly recommended.

About The Author:

Stuart Neville's debut novel, THE TWELVE (published in the USA as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST), won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was picked as one of the top crime novels of 2009 by both the New York Times and the LA Times. He has been shortlisted for various awards, including the Barry, Macavity, Dilys awards, as well as the Irish Book Awards Crime Novel of the Year. He has since published three critically acclaimed sequels, COLLUSION, STOLEN SOULS and THE FINAL SILENCE.
His first four novels have each been longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and RATLINES was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.
Stuart's novels have been translated into various languages, including German, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, Greek and more. The French edition of The Ghosts of Belfast, Les Fantômes de Belfast, won Le Prix Mystère de la Critique du Meilleur Roman Étranger and Grand Prix du Roman Noir Étranger.

His fourth novel, RATLINES, about Nazis harboured by the Irish state following WWII is currently in development for television.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of Those We Left Behind was provided by Harvill Secker via Dead Good Books(GoodReads) in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

BOOKS BOUGHT THIS WEEK


Madness Visible A Memoir of War by Janine du Giovanni & George Orwell : Essays
Sarah by J.T. Leroy, The Charioteer by Mary Renault, Pig Tales by Marie Darrieussecq, The Children of Dynmouth by William Trevor, The Lost Daughter by Elana Ferrante, The Root Worker by Rainelle  Burton & Beside The Sea by Veronique Olmi
The Dark Valley by Valerio Varesi, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Hutson, Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent, Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh, Alex by Pierre Lemaitre & 
The Witch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

THE POST THIS WEEK - Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville
Series: DCI Sarah Flannagan
Publisher: Harvill Secker (25 June 2015)
ISBN: 978 18465 56968

I was so pleased to find out yesterday that I'd been selected to read and review
the above book from 'Dead Good Books' for June's Book Club Read.

Received it this morning - Thanks Rhiannon.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

TLC BLOG TOUR (REVIEW & GIVEAWAY) MERCY HOUSE by Adam Cesare

Adam Cesare’s TLC Book TOUR STOPS:

Monday, June 8th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, June 9th: October Country
Wednesday, June 10th: Bell, Book & Candle
Thursday, June 11th: The Scary Reviews

Mercy House by Adam Cesare
Genre: Splatter-punk, Extreme Horror & Gore Fest
Format: Digital (Approx 250 pages)
ASIN: B00QP3M0SQ
PublisherHydra (9 June 2015)
Source: Publisher/TLC Blog Tours/NetGalley

Rating:

Synopsis:

Welcome to Mercy House, a state-of-the-art retirement home that appears perfectly crisp, clean, and orderly . . . but nothing could be farther from the truth. In Adam Cesare’s thrilling novel, the residents will find little mercy—only a shocking eruption of unfathomable horror.

Harriet Laurel notices the odor at Mercy House as soon as she sets foot inside, brought there against her will by her son, Don, and his wife, Nikki. In the early stages of dementia, Harriet has grown resentful of Nikki, blaming her daughter-in-law for failing to supply grandchildren. Yet even Harriet must admit that her mind becomes clearer as soon as she crosses the threshold. If it wasn’t for that annoying smell.

Arnold Piper is an eighty-five-year-old ex-Marine, a proud man who has cared for himself his whole life. But no longer. Betrayed by his aging body, Arnold is learning that the trials he survived long ago in war-torn Korea pale beside the daily indignities of growing old. Little does he know that his greatest nightmares are still ahead of him.

Sarah Campbell is an idealistic nurse whose compassion has been stretched to the breaking point at the chronically understaffed facility that is Mercy House. But now Sarah’s list of unpleasant duties is about to take a terrifying turn. For something wicked is brewing in Mercy House. Something dark and rotten . . . and deadly.
Advance praise for Mercy House
“Adam Cesare’s Mercy House is a rowdy, gory, blood-soaked horror tale guaranteed to keep you up at night. And if that was all it was, I’d have been a happy reader. But Cesare has a maturity far and away beyond his years. His characters are treated with a surprising capacity for understanding and empathy, giving them an unexpected depth rarely seen among the nightmare crowd. Mercy House is the kind of novel you sprint through, eating up the pages as fast as you can turn them, and yet it lingers in the mind like a haunting memory, or the ghost of a smell. Cesare is poised to take the reins of the new generation. Looking for the new face of horror? This is it right here.”—Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award–winning author of The Dead Won’t Die and Dead City

Mercy House is 100% distilled nightmare juice. Adam Cesare notches up the horror to nigh-unbearable levels. Even my skin was screaming by the end of this book.”—Nick Cutter, author of The Troop

“Adam Cesare makes his presence felt with Mercy House. A no-holds-barred combo of survival horror and the occult.”—Laird Barron, author of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

Praise for Adam Cesare

“Of all the new writers busting out on the scene—and there are some great ones, without a doubt—Cesare’s the young guy with the greatest encyclopedic gorehound know-how, blistering cinematic pace, unquenchable love of both fiction and film, and hell-bent will to entertain. . . . [He] does just about everything right.”—John Skipp, Fangoria

My Thoughts:

If you're a fan of the awesome, Jack Ketchum, Wrath James White, Joe McKinney or Brian Keen, you may like this one, but only if you're not bothered about plot or getting answers.

The opening chapter of Mercy House by Adam Cesare introduces the main characters and is written stylishly well and gives enough character development to care and want to know what happens to them. Nikki and her husband Don are taking her mother-law, Harriet to reside at Mercy House an old people's residential home. Mercy House is a creepy gothic building from the outside but that's nothing compared to what's to come from the inside. Things go according to plan, albeit with some antagonism from Harriet towards Nikki as their relationship has a few snags so to speak but then all hell breaks loose when the crazy 'old folk' start causing mayhem.

Chaos enshrues as things take a downward spiral as the rejuvenated, extremely virile and now much stronger 'oldies' take over the home and conduct their rampage with a huge amount of overaged sex, elderly orgies, extreme sadistic violence, culminating in death for everyone else not in their older years.

The OAP's have an insatiable appetite for violence, sex, violent sex, rape, torture, killing in the most gory manner and displaying the corpses in the most grotesque scenarios, and cannibalism...that's pretty much it !

Over the years I've read a fair amount of this style of horror from the likes of Joe McKinney, Jack Ketchum, Wrath James White, and Brian Keen all of whom I enjoyed very much.  They're certainly different from the mainstream. I hoped I would feel the same about Adam Cesare, but I didn't, not with Mercy House anyway.  Maybe I've overdosed, maybe I've just moved on, but there is very little plot to speak of, and no explanation is even hinted at as to what may have caused the complete rejuvenation and the psychotic behaviour of the 'old fogeys' so I think that may have contributed to my complacency towards Mercy House. It was just 'gore' for 'gore's sake' and I quickly became bored and wanted it to end.

Don't just take my word for it though. See what others have to say about Adam Cesare's Mercy House on Amazon and GoodReads and in the TLC Book Tour.

Enter the GIVEAWAY below for a chance to win $25 e-gift card and a copy of Mercy House and judge for yourself.

Disclaimer: A complimentary digital copy of Mercy House was provided by Hydra via NetGalley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Adam Cesare is a New Yorker who lives in Philadelphia. He studied English and Film at Boston University.

His stories have been featured in numerous publications, including Splatterpunk and the upcoming Giallo Fantastique edited by Ross E. Lockhart, while his nonfiction has appeared in Paracinema, Fangoria, The LA Review of Books and other venues.

He's released three novels with Samhain Publishing and a handful of novellas and collaborative works through other publishers (Deadite Press, Broken River Books, Sinister Grin Press).

Source: Adam Cesare's website http://www.brain-tremors.com

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Ghosts of Altona by Russell Craig


The Ghosts of Altona by Russell Craig
Series: Fabel Crime Series
Genre: Crime Thriller
Format: Digital
ISBN: 9781780874920
PublisherQuercus (4 June 2015)
Source: Publisher/NetGalley
Rating:
Synopsis:
Fabel is back: scarred by an experience that has changed him for ever and haunted by his past, he investigates the biggest case of his career
Jan Fabel is a haunted man.

Head of the Polizei Hamburg's Murder Commission, Fabel has dealt with the dead for nearly two decades, but when a routine enquiry becomes a life-threatening - and life-changing - experience, he finds himself on much closer terms with death than ever before.

Two years later, Fabel's first case at the Murder Commission comes back to haunt him: Monika Krone's body is found at last, fifteen years after she went missing. Monika - ethereally beautiful, intelligent, cruel - was the centre of a group of students obsessed with the gothic. Fabel re-opens the case. What happened that night, when Monika left a party and disappeared into thin air?

When men involved with Monika start turning up dead, Fabel realizes he is looking for a killer with both a hunger for revenge and a taste for the gothic. What he doesn't know is that someone has been aiding and grooming a deranged escapee as his own, personal tool for revenge.

A truly gothic monster to be let loose on the world.

My Thoughts:
There are several interconnecting threads running through the storyline of The Ghosts of Altona and a plethora of characters.  Following the discovery of a woman's remains Jan Fabel the central character reopens one of his first cases, an unsolved disappearance from 15 years ago. The discovery triggers a series of new murders. As the story unfolds we meet some odd seemingly unrelated individuals, including Zombie and Frankenstein, and we drop in on a group of people who regularly meet to talk about their near death experiences (NDE).

Craig Russell's characters in The Ghosts of Altona are not stereotypical but complex individuals neither entirely good, or evil.  They are flawed, depraved, sociopathic, psychopathic, innocent, naive, and charming. Traumatic experiences have shaped them into what they have become or maybe they're just unfortunate to have inherited some very bad genes.

Craig Russell writes intelligently and with sensitivity about a key characters mental illness, and of another's medical condition which has resulted in horrendous physical abnormalities. Incredibly powerful and thoughtful stuff!  It was  difficult to truly hate the 'the bad guys' even though I still wanted to see them get their just deserts.

Initially I thought the ending rather abrupt but after mulling it over actually appreciated the opportunity to draw my own conclusion as to what I wanted to happen between the characters.  Maybe there's more to come in a follow up as an opening is certainly there.

The Ghosts of Altona is an absorbing above average crime thriller which weaves into the storyline the fascinating history of the Gothic origins and traditions.
The Ghosts of Altona is absolutely not one to miss.

I discovered Craig Russell writing as Christopher Galt last year with, in my opinion the totally underrated, Biblical. An intelligent, compulsive, sci-fi read and I really wanted to read more from him.

Biblical is out now (April 2015) in paperback with a new title, The Third Testament.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Craig Russell has worked as a police officer, freelance writer and creative director.
His Fabel novels were inspired by his long-standing interest in the language, culture and people of Germany. The Lennox novels, set in 1950s Glasgow, were inspired by Russell's fascination for the period and love of the unique character of the city.

His novels are translated into twenty-three languages worldwide.

In 2007, Craig Russell was awarded the highly prestigious Polizeistern (Police Star) by the Polizei Hamburg, the only non-German ever to receive this award. He was nominated for the 2007 CWA Duncan Lawrie Golden Dagger, the world's biggest literary award for crime writers, as well as the SNCF Prix Polar in France. In 2008, Craig Russell won the CWA Dagger in the Library. In 2013, he was nominated for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger.
Source: CraigRussell.com

Disclaimer: A complimentary digital copy of The Ghosts of Altona was provided by Quercus via NetGalley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

DISCLAIMER by Renée Knight

Disclaimer by Renée Knight
Genre: Psychological Mystery & Suspense
Format: Digital
ISBN: 9780857522818
PublisherDoubleday (9 April 2015)
Source: Publisher/NetGalley
Rating:
What if you realized the book you were reading was all about you? 
When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up in bed and begins to read.
But as she turns the pages she is sickened to realize the story will reveal her darkest secret. 
A secret she thought no one else knew…
'DISCLAIMER stealthily steals your attention and by the end holds you prisoner - a searing story that resonates long after the final page. The best thriller I’ve read this year' - Rosamund Lupton

My Thoughts:
Dis­claimer is an inter­est­ing and atmospheric mystery suspense thriller and the debut novel from Renée Knight.
The writing style is simplistic but still gripping. A great book to immerse yourself in on holiday, though maybe not on a beach! You'll understand if you read it. The story has a slow start but builds pace and tension as it gets into its flow. Then it was, 'cliche time', 'unputdownable' and I read the last third in one sitting eager to find out who was telling the truest version of events.
There are a few surprises along the way with a pretty devious twist towards the end. The last 15% concentrated on tying up the loose ends, which I found a little contrived and unbelievable after getting to know the characters so well.  Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed this easy read which kept my interest throughout.
Fans of, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn will no doubt enjoy this one too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Renée Knight worked for the BBC directing arts documentaries before turning to writing. She has had TV and film scripts commissioned by the BBC, Channel Four and Capital Films. Her first screenplay, ‘Mother’s Day’, made it onto the Brit List of best unproduced scripts of that year. In April 2013 she graduated from the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course. She lives in London with her husband and two children.
Disclaimer: A complimentary digital copy of Disclaimer was provided by Doubleday via NetGalley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.