Monday, 20 March 2017

TLC Book Tours Review The Roanoke Girls, Amy Engel

About The Roanoke Girls

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (March 7, 2017)
“Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”
After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran…fast and far away.
Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girlsshocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.
“I was immediately drawn into The Roanoke Girls, a haunting and riveting look at one family’s tangled legacy. You won’t stop reading until you’ve unraveled the darkest of Roanoke’s shocking secrets.”
– Laura McHugh, award-winning author of The Weight of Blood
“This is a poised and haunting novel, whose enchanting prose belies its dark and intense subject matter. An evocative modern take on Southern Gothic, with a compelling twist which will remain with you long after the book’s last sentence.”
– L.S. Hilton, New York Times bestselling author of Maestra
“An emotionally compelling page turner, The Roanoke Girls takes you inside the dark world of a twisted family and one woman’s fight to break free from the chains of her own history. This is family intrigue at its very best!”
– Wendy Walker, author of All Is Not Forgotten

My Thoughts:
The Roanoke girls appear to have it all, they're rich, stunningly beautiful and envied by all the townspeople. However, things are not as they seem. Over the course of the book, and as layers are sloughed away we find out what befell the girls in this family saga, and also solve the present day mystery of one missing Roanoke Girl.

Set in a fictional rural town in Kansas, 'The Roanoke Girls' is a deeply disturbing story. It is a complicated mix of sensual beauty with an underlying creepy darkness.  It's a distasteful storyline with manipulative calculating characters.

With a decades old history unfolding as the narrative moves back and forth in time, unpalatable secrets are revealed about the girls relationships within the family and with some of the townsfolk.  Engel has written a perceptively shocking, utterly compelling tale about the many affectations of love; innocent, lustful, cruel, selfish, controlling and warped.  Some of the characters were pretty unlikeable but with the progression of the storyline and revelations about the family's past, it became easier to accept, but not condone, their behaviour and treatment of others.

The interaction between the main character, Lane and 'wild boy', Cooper really resonated with me. Their relationship was electrifying and the sexual tension and pangs of lust were palpable. Allegra and Tommy's relationship couldn't have been more different with the hopelessly infatuated 'wholesome' Tommy being teased and tormented by the more predatory and sexually aware Allegra.

I loved 'The Roanoke Girls' right from the get-go.  Written in a style similar to Emma Cline's, 'The Girls' and likened to Virginia Andrews', 'The Flowers In The Attic', 'The Roanoke Girls' is a fabulous crossover debut for the YA/Adult readership.  Its a tough subject matter to write well about, but with a cracking good storyline I think Engel absolutely 'nailed it', and I cannot wait to read what she offers up next.


My Rating:

Disclaimer: I received a complementary digital advanced reading copy of 'The Roanoke Girls' by Amy Engel from the publisher and TLC Book Tours to take part in the blog tour.

Amy Engel photo credit Trish Brown Photography


About Amy Engel

AMY ENGEL is the author of the young adult series The Book of Ivy. A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family. This is her first novel for adults.

Connect with Amy

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, March 6th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, March 7th: Booksie’s Blog
Wednesday, March 8th: Bookchickdi
Thursday, March 9th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Thursday, March 9th: Buried Under Books
Friday, March 10th: Not in Jersey
Monday, March 13th: Laura’s Reviews
Tuesday, March 14th: Sweet Southern Home
Wednesday, March 15th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Thursday, March 16th: Books and Bindings
Friday, March 17th: Rebel Mommy Book Blog
Monday, March 20th: Fuelled by Fiction
Tuesday, March 21st: Kritter’s Ramblings
Tuesday, March 21st: SJ2B House of Books
Wednesday, March 22nd: Write Read Life
Thursday, March 23rd: Luxury Reading
Monday, March 27th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, March 28th: A Fantastical Librarian
Wednesday, March 29th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Wednesday, March 29th: Patricia’s Wisdom


Friday, 17 March 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS Review of Eggshells by Catriona Lally

Eggshells by Caitriona Lally
Publisher: Melville House Publishing (14 March 2017)
Source: Publisher/TLC BOOK TOURS

Rating:

"Vivian doesn't feel like she fits in - and never has. As a child, she was so whimsical that her parents told her she was "left by fairies." Now, living alone in Dublin, the neighbors treat her like she's crazy, her older sister condescends to her, social workers seem to have registered her as troubled, and she hasn't a friend in the world. 

So, she decides it's time to change her life: She begins by advertising for a friend. Not just any friend. She wants one named Penelope. Meanwhile, she roams the city, mapping out a new neighborhood every day, seeking her escape route to a better world, the other world her parents told her she came from. And then one day someone named Penelope answers her ad for a friend. And from that moment on, Vivian's life begins to change."

My Thoughts:
Set in contemporary Dublin, Caitriona Lally's debut novel, Eggshells is a peculiar tale about a dysfunctional, socially phobic woman who believes herself to be a changeling switched at birth for a human baby.  Vivian is determined to track down the faerie portal and return from whence she came. It is also a story about an odd companionship, struck up at Vivian's instigation, of two women who find it painfully difficult to interact, and fit in with society.

Oddness runs throughout in this, pretty much, plotless tale where nothing of substance actually happens.  Vivian makes lists of words she likes the sound of, and when she wants a friend writes, 'I want a friend called Penelope. When I know her well enough, I’ll ask her why she doesn’t rhyme with antelope. I would also like a friend called Amber, but only if she was riddled with jaundice.'  She places numerous posters on trees to facilitate in her attempt to find a Penelope 'friend'.  Penelope who isn't really Penelope but is equally as strange as Vivian, responds to her advertisement.

What started out as a promising story about an innocent whimsical character unfortunately ended up irritating me. I found the never ending witticisms and bizarre scenarios trite, and because of her aversion to her own personal hygiene, hard to stomach the thought of Vivian when she...'savours her meaty smell'...ewwww.  Vivian has an older sister also called Vivian...why? I didn't get to find out.  Anyway, it was just too much to find a smelly, disfunctional, grey haired woman endearing or charming in the long run.

However, Eggshells did have me questioning my thoughts about the main characters' fragility and unusual behaviour, and pondering what mental condition Vivian could possibly be suffering from, and that's a good thing right? Cos why should it matter what her problem is...maybe it's just her personality and nothing's actually wrong with her...well except that she's had little to no social interaction during her formative years, and told throughout her childhood that she doesn't belong here but in another realm.  Ultimately, I realised that the 'cause' or 'fix' is not so important, maybe more tolerance and understanding of those who behave oddly or differently to the 'social norm' is what's more important.  So, it had a profound effect on me which made Eggshells a cleverly imagined character driven story, with little happening but saying rather a lot.

I'd recommended Eggshells for a quirky, light hearted, but thought provoking read making it perfect for book group reads and deal for fans of the Rosie Project, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and A Man Called Ove.


Disclaimer: I received a complementary digital advanced reading copy of 'Eggshells' by Caitriona Lally from the publisher and TLC Book Tours to take part in the blog tour.


CAITRIONA LALLY
studied English Literature in Trinity College Dublin.
She has had a colorful employment history, working as an abstract writer and a copywriter, as well as a home helper in New York and an English teacher in Japan.
She has traveled extensively around Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and South America.
Caitriona was shortlisted for “Newcomer of the Year” in the Irish Book Awards in 2015


TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Tuesday, March 14th: Chick Lit Central
Wednesday, March 15th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, March 16th: Books ‘n Tea
Friday, March 17th: SJ2B House of Books
Monday, March 20th: Write Read Life
Tuesday, March 21st: 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, March 23rd: Books and Bindings
Monday, March 27th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Tuesday, March 28th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, March 29th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, March 30th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, April 3rd: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, April 4th: BookNAround
Wednesday, April 5th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, April 6th: Just Commonly

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Waterstones Pompey Bookseller Recommends - February

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These are the books that we have recently read and loved:

Sharon: Nina is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi
Binny: Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon
Emma: Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Kirsty: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Anna: Wind Pinball Haruki Murakami

Here's what Scott had to say about 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens

"Having recently moved to Portsmouth, the birthplace of old Charlie himself, I've set myself the challenge of reading as many Dickens books as I can this year. I'm kicking off with Oliver Twist which is a story I thought I knew but have found to contain a lot more than I originally thought. The whole style is much darker and more complex than I expected and as always, Dickens' style of storytelling just immerses you fully into the bygone (but not forgotten) setting of Victorian London. It's a classic you can dip in and out of filled with characters that have become cultural giants - Dodger, Fagin, Nancy, Beadle and obviously the innocent angel faced Oliver himself - they're all in here and they're all fantastic to read."

Scott

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

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Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
Publisher: Penguin-Michael Joseph (12th January 2017)
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Description:
NEW NAME . NEW FAMILY. SHINY. NEW. ME.

Annie's mother is a serial killer. The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police. But out of sight is not out of mind.As her mother's trial looms, the secrets of her past won't let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name - Milly. A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But Milly's mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water. Good me, bad me. She is, after all, her mother's daughter...Translated into over 20 languages, Good Me, Bad Me is a tour de force. In its narrator, Milly Barnes, we have a voice to be reckoned with, and in its author, Ali Land, an extraordinary new talent.Good Me Bad Me is for fans of quality psychological suspense and reading group fiction.


Disclaimer: I received a complementary digital copy from the publisher, Penguin-Michael Joseph, via NetGalley in exchange for a non biased review.


My Thoughts:
WOW...an intense and truly twisted tale...Ali Land's remarkable debut offering, 'Good Me, Bad Me', is an exceptional psychological thriller. Compelling and addictive from the outset, I felt irritated when my attention was demanded elsewhere and I had to put it down for any length of time.


Milly is a damaged, haunted fifteen year old and she has informed the police about her mother's latest killing of a young boy. The catalyst being that she knew this victim.
To await the trial she is placed in a safe environment only to suffer the hostility of the insecure daughter of the dysfunctional foster family.


Set in London, England, 'Good Me, Bad Me', is written in the first person narrative giving Milly's perspective of events. With an intense, fast paced plot-line, and devious, complex characters, it makes a hugely entertaining compulsive read. The tension and anguish of Milly's contradictory feelings she has for her mother are palpable and truly heartfelt. I routed totally for her during her torturous moments reliving her disturbing past. Milly loves, but is also terrified of, her mother. Most of all she's afraid of herself, and becoming just like her.


However, it's not without its flaws, being a touch (ok, very) over the top with scenarios involving the unlikely, aggressive court questioning of a minor who, for the past ten years, has been subject to mental, physical and sexual abuse, and been witness to several child murders.  I'm not convinced this would be allowed to happen in today's court proceedings. The accident scene was a little contrived and implausible too with regards to the suggested timeframes, etc, etc, in my opinion.

These two niggles aside, 'Good Me, Bad Me' is an explosive, pulse racing, tortuous thriller with a convincing portrayal and perceptive character study of the behaviour and thought processes of the daughter of a serial killer mum.  I really enjoyed it.

With a great plot and gripping storyline, it's perfect for fans of, 'The Girl on the Train', 'Gone Girl', and all the other psychological thrillers of the genre.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

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Little Deaths by Emma Flint
Publisher: Pan Mcmillan/Hachette Books (January 2017)
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Rating:

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of Little Deaths by Emma Flint was provided by Hachette Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

Synopsis:
It's the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery.

Noting Ruth's perfectly made-up face and provocative clothing, the empty liquor bottles and love letters that litter her apartment, the detectives leap to convenient conclusions, fuelled by neighbourhood gossip and speculation.

Sent to cover the case on his first major assignment, tabloid reporter Pete Wonicke at first can't help but do the same. But the longer he spends watching Ruth, the more he learns about the darker workings of the police and the press. Soon, Pete begins to doubt everything he thought he knew.

Ruth Malone is enthralling, challenging and secretive - is she really capable of murder?

Haunting, intoxicating and heart-poundingly suspenseful, Little Deaths is a gripping novel about love, morality and obsession, exploring the capacity for good and evil within us all.

My Thoughts:
Well, I wasn't expecting that !

I thought I was in for just 'another psychological domestic thriller' in Emma Flint's debut novel 'Little Deaths', but I was pleasantly surprised.  'Little Deaths' is a well written, compelling, literary crime novel with a classic crime noir influence.

Set in Queens, New York during the stifling hot Summer of 1965, Ruth Malone, a single mother wakes one morning to find that both of her children have gone missing.  Ruth is not the conventional mother or wife (of the times) and at her instigation she has been separated from her husband Frank for the past year. Her priorities also appear a little skewed especially her obsession with her appearance purely to make her attractive and desirable to men.

Frankie Jr's and Cindy's bodies are soon found and in light of a conversation with her lawyer ending with, ‘He can’t have the kids. He can’t have them. I’d rather see them dead than with Frank’, Ruth becomes the prime suspect.

Ruth is not an easy character to like and I found myself judging her, (and boy is she easy to judge), for not behaving in a manor deemed appropriate for a caring mother, or for her lack of emotion as a grieving mother.  As a result i wondered if she could indeed be guilty of murder in order to live the glamorous lifestyle she craved.  I did warm to her somewhat during the course of the book as her narrative gives a privileged insight to her thought processes.  I still didn't agree with her choices or actions, but I did gain an understanding of why she behaved as she did.

Emma Flint has written a thought provoking story based on the '60's real case of Alice Cribbins, and she has kept pretty close to the original facts in this reimagined account albeit with a neat resolution which I found a bit contrived, and coming from nowhere. However I do appreciate that for some readers a finality to a plot is preferred, which is more than can be said for the real case.

Gripping, intensely upsetting in parts, 'Little Deaths' is an impressive debut novel and perfect for fans of Megan Abbott.

I absolutely loved it.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Christodora by Tim Murphy

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Christodora  by Tim Murphy
Publisher: Pan Mcmillan (23 February 2017)
Source: Publisher (NetGalley), The NUDGE and New Books Reviewers
Pages: 496

Rating:

Synopsis:
In this vivid and compelling novel, Tim Murphy follows a diverse set of characters whose fates intertwine in an iconic building in Manhattan's East Village, the Christodora. The Christodora is home to Milly and Jared, a privileged young couple with artistic ambitions. Their neighbour, Hector, a Puerto Rican gay man who was once a celebrated AIDS activist but is now a lonely addict, becomes connected to Milly's and Jared's lives in ways none of them can anticipate. Meanwhile, the couple's adopted son, Mateo, grows to appreciate the opportunities for both self-realization and oblivion that New York offers. As the junkies and protestors of the 1980s give way to the hipsters of the 2000s and they, in turn, to the wealthy residents of the crowded, glass-towered city of the 2020s, enormous changes rock the personal lives of Milly and Jared and the constellation of people around them. Moving kaleidoscopically from the Tompkins Square Riots and attempts by activists to galvanize a response to the AIDS epidemic, to the New York City of the future, Christodora recounts the heartbreak wrought by AIDS, illustrates the allure and destructive power of hard drugs, and brings to life the ever-changing city itself.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of Christodora was provided by Pan McMillan via Netgalley and a hardcopy via Newbooks Reviewers in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

My Thoughts:
During the late 1920's the 'Christodora', a building situated in Manhattan's East Village was where new immigrants and the poorer members of the community would often find themselves housed. In the 1980's the building was redeveloped and made into luxury apartments where only the affluent could then afford to reside. With the beginnings of gentrification of the area the occupants of these luxurious apartments understandably caused resentment from the less affluent and homeless now unable to afford such accommodation where they'd once had little choice but to reside. Inevitably as tensions grew the infamous riots of New York ensued.

Tim Murphy's masterpiece uses the 'Christodora' as its focal point in the novel and is where its pivotal characters, sculptor Jared Traum and his artist wife Milly, and others live. We also follow a group of interconnected friends, artists, and gay activists over a span of four decades, ranging from the 1980's to 2020.

Being British, I couldn't say that I related much to the drug or gay scene of New York. I did however have gay friends, and some friends who took drugs, but I didn't personally know anyone with HIV. 
What I do remember is the paranoia drummed up by the news media and our 'then' Government about the 'AIDS' plague, that a promiscuous gay community had brought upon themselves, and that it was now a threat to all of us if we were bisexual or had more than one sexual partner.
It had also become a requirement for more than one male applying for a joint mortgage and for gay men applying for health insurance, to take an HIV test before consideration. A positive result meant refusal of application, and a blemish on medical files, forever! Eventually we were better informed about this horrific, unprejudiced virus which would claim people from all walks of life, gender and sexual orientation.

'Christodora' educated me in many ways about the HIV plight of the 1980's and of the role 'gay activists' and scientists in America played in the fight for medical research, better health care, and legal rights for both gay men and lesbian women.  It is because of these dedicated brave individuals that AIDS no longer needs to lead to a premature death or that its sufferers be subjected to discrimination, prejudice and fear.

Tim Murphy writes with real depth and clarity about his characters that it's hard to believe they aren't living and breathing people. One character's narrative had such a powerful impact on me that I felt breathless and giddy reading as she ploughed from one scene to another with a volatile energy gathering in pace and momentum, and with her increasing irrational, embarrassing and inappropriate behaviour. I felt 'manic', my head was in turmoil.  Ava and the symptoms of her bi-polar disorder are so incredibly well written, I felt as if I was in the same headspace...as uncomfortable as this was it was brilliantly done!

Overlong at times, and confusing with time shifts leaping back and forth as characters gave their points of view, it was definitely worth the perseverance as I was rewarded with the 'payoff' as gradually everything made sense and the segments slowly slotted into place.

Hugely encyclopaedic in scope 'Christodora' is also a raw emotive 'coming of age' tale of sorts. I found every character compelling from the aforementioned Ava, struggling with her manic episodes, to one of the most intriguing but equally frustrating, and at times intensely unlikeable characters in the book, Hugo Villanueva.

'Christodora' is intelligently, and compassionately written with complex, flawed individuals, and evokes a real sense of an era full of fun, passion, pace and energy, with a vibe of the creative arts, and excitement of the music industry; then it turns on itself like a rabid dog and relentlessly drives us down into an abyss with descriptions of the devastating catastrophic effects of drug abuse (chiefly meth addiction), and the fear, pain and despair of losing, or leaving behind, friends and loved ones because of an unknown disease.

Utterly compelling and educational in respect of the relationships and interrelationships of the characters before, during, and after the emergence of a devastating disease that cut dead the excitement and euphoria of the gay, drug and disco days of the 80's...Highly recommended.


Sunday, 8 January 2017

WATERSTONES Pompey Recommends: #PompeyBooksLoves


These are the books that staff at WATERSTONES Portsmouth have really loved reading over the last few months and highly recommend giving a read:

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This is the first instalment of #PompeyBooksLoves at #Waterstones #Portsmouth on Facebook and Twitter and there will be more new recommendations, and in depth reviews to come.

📖 https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-witches/stacy-schiff/9781474602266
📖 https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-atomic-weight-of-love/elizabeth-church/elizabeth-j-church/9780008209292
📖 https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-goldfish-boy/lisa-thompson/9781407170992
📖 https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-eye-of-the-world/robert-jordan/9780356503820
📖 https://www.waterstones.com/book/homegoing/yaa-gyasi/9780241242728