REVIEW: Corrupt

“Things done in the dark hours of the night, behind closed doors, or in the heat of the moment looked a lot different in the morning, out in the open, and with a clear head.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This is far from the usual genres I read but my local book club picked it as the book for this month and I was up for giving it a go. I think the best thing about book clubs is that you can easily challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

What Did I Think?

Personally, I would say that I am a little crude when it comes to the vocabulary used to describe sex scenes and some of the language in this book definitely made me cringe. But by the end of this book, it’s safe to say I’ve got used to the language.

Just to warn you, if you erotica or dark romance isn’t normally your thing, I wouldn’t start with this book. I had no idea that this book was classed as a dark romance until I got about five chapters in and it was evidently clear. There are some pretty horrific scenes in this book and I would like to urge anyone thinking about delving into this genre, to be careful about which books you pick. For me, I’ve read some pretty dark and disturbing stories over the years, but even for me, this book was eye-opening.

Corrupt follows a rich young woman named Erika who, whilst she was at school, got mixed up with the wrong sort of boys and ended up causing a lot of trouble. Since then, years have passed but the group of four men haven’t forgotten the pain she’s caused them and set out to get their revenge. What makes this difficult is that the leader of the group, Michael Crist, and Erika are both irresistible to each other, blurring the lines between love and hate.

I would say that for my first-ever erotica novel, this one was quite a rollercoaster and one that I didn’t feel comfortable reading in a room full of people. However, the ending for me became too dramatic and over-the-top and began to ruin all the drama, suspense and tension that the author had created prior. Safe to say, I can’t wait to discuss this one with book club!

Corrupt

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Penelope Douglas LLC
Published: 2015
# of Pages: 461
Genre: Erotica, Dark Romance
Trigger Warnings: Violence, abuse, bondage, rough-sex, crime, abusive relationships
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, ” data-type=”URL” data-id=”"www.blackwells.co.uk"“>Blackwells

REVIEW: The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories

“Sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

As you’ve probably gathered, this year, to get in the mood for Spooky Season, I decided to read some spooky books. I’ve read Angela Carter’s other book Nights at The Circus which I loved and I have been recommended The Bloody Chamber SO many times, so I thought it was about time I ticked this one off.

What Did I Think?

I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. I’m usually not a huge fan of short stories but have tried to widen my horizons this year by getting involved in the 2020 National Short Story Award and by reading more short stories.

So if you didn’t know, The Bloody Chamber is a collection of short stories that play upon popular fairy tales and folklore. There are 10 short stories featuring different bad-ass female protagonists, that are all based around famous tales such as Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast and Puss In Boots.

Even though I loved the Gothic elements of each story, I think my favourite by far has to be the first story and the one that features in the title of the book, The Bloody Chamber. The reason why I love this one so much is because it is Angela Carter at her finest. Combining sexual desire, fear, passion, virginity and femininity all in one 42-page story, the story follows a young virgin, who has married a secretive bachelor who tells her she can have every key to every room in the house except one…and from there all his dirty, dark secrets come crawling out.

I think what is so excellent about these stories is that they focus heavily on female sexuality and womanhood, making it still as shocking to read now as it was when it was first released in 1979. In the introduction to the book (written by Helen Simpson in 2006) it states that ‘The Bloody Chamber is like a multi-faceted glittering diamond reflecting and refracting a variety of portraits of desire and sexuality – heterosexual female sexuality – which unusually for the time, 1979, are told from the heterosexual female viewpoint’ which I think beautifully sums up exactly what Carter set out to achieve when writing the book.

In true Gothic tradition, Carter uses fiction to draw upon society’s fears. Following the wave of feminism taking over the world during the 1970s, it’s interesting to see how Carter uses violence, gore and the uncanny to explore love and sex from the female POV.

This is definitely one I wish I had studied during University. However, I (thankfully) did get chance to study Carter whilst at University with reading Nights At The Circus which opened my eyes to the journey that femininity has and is still experiencing.

The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Vintage Books
Published: Originally 1979 (my copy 2006)
# of Pages: 149
Genre: Gothic, Short Stories, Fantasy
Trigger Warnings:
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: The Woods

“TWO girls went in the woods…Only ONE came out.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I was kindly gifted a copy of this book through a Twitter giveaway held by Rosanna Forte; an editor at Little Brown. The book itself even looks creepy, so I thought in the lead up to Halloween I’d get in the spooky mood…

What Did I Think?

First of all, I expected this book to be a thriller but what I didn’t expect was it to be a ghost story too. I personally think if you got the creators of ‘The Conjuring’ or ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ to make this book into a film, it would be genuinely terrifying. Ghosts surround the main character throughout the majority of the story, and some of the imagery it was creating in my very own head was phenomenal ‘keep-your-bedroom-light-on-whilst-you-sleep’ sort of stuff. 

The Woods follows protagonist Tess who is haunted by the death of her sister 10 years ago. It’s been 10 years since she’s left her hometown but upon her stepmother’s imminent death, she has to return to say her goodbyes but instead, has to relive the nightmare of that night all over again when a body is found at the empty house on the edge of the woods. The truth about that night needs to be revealed but for that to happen, Tess needs to return to the woods… 

All the reviews say that this book is ‘unputdownable’ and ‘utterly additive’ and they are right. I started this book at 8:30 pm one Wednesday evening and was up till 2 am still reading. I had to force myself to put down the book and get some sleep. I was also worried that going to sleep after reading this book would give me some pretty horrific dreams, so I made sure to watch something lighthearted and funny before eventually getting to sleep. 

I love a book that keeps you guessing and this book did exactly that. It made me feel uneasy about every single character in the book, second-guessing them all at some point…even our protagonist. Yet I think the defining element of this book is the imagery it creates. Everything is so descriptive, it was like I was actually watching the film in my head whilst reading. I could picture the house, the woods, each and every character so clearly, it was CREEPY. 

I would highly recommend you give this book a read but don’t blame me when you’re having nightmares…

The Woods

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Publisher: Sphere
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 385
Genre: Crime, Thriller, Horror
Trigger Warnings: Murder, child murder, bullying, depression, PTSD, insomnia, family death, paedophilia, child abuse, trauma, graphic scenes, Stockholm syndrome
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: In Five Years

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This was the October pick for Beth’s Book Club and this is one that I have wanted to read for such a long time. When I first joined Bookstagram, this book was just being released so it was everywhere I looked when I was scrolling through my feed.

“This is a love story but not the love story you’re expecting.”

What Did I Think?

I’m glad that Beth picked an easy book to finish October off. The book itself is just over 200 pages, with short chapters and an easy-to-follow storyline and it was everything I needed when I decided to pick this one up. 

The book is about Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan, who has the perfect life; a good career, a gorgeous fiance and the dream flat in New York. But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and next to a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

There was fantastic character development in this book and I had really started to bond closely with the protagonist Dannie by the end. I really liked the idea that she saw what was going to happen in five years and the story led us to that very moment with twists and turns along the way. 

I expected a light-hearted love story/rom-com but I got something very different so I would just pre-warn you if you are thinking about reading this book that isn’t your usual romance novel. I still thoroughly enjoyed it and I devoured the book in one day.

In Five Years

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Quercus
Published: 2020 (UK)
# of Pages: 251
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Trigger Warnings: Death, cancer, relationship, breakdown, heartbreak, grief
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: Salvation Station

“Who would savagely murder a pastor and innocent children, burying the evidence in the flower garden? Why? And most troubling, where was the mother?”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I was gifted a copy of Salvation Station in exchange for an honest review so thank you to Kathryn Schleich for sending a copy across to me. 

I received this book earlier this year and thought in the lead up to Halloween, it would be the perfect opportunity to sink my teeth into this one.

What Did I Think?

Salvation Station has everything a good crime thriller should have. Shocking moments? Check. Gripping storyline? Check. Short and quick chapter to keep the pace of the book quick? Check. 

If you haven’t heard about this book, it follows female police captain Linda Turner, who is haunted by the murders of two small children and their pastor father, and becomes obsessed with solving the harrowing case. She finds herself wrapped up in a mission to expose a fraudulent religious organization and an unrepentant killer. Whilst televangelist Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer before more bodies surface.

I really loved that there were lots of entwining stories within this book as storylines like that really add to the tension. I also liked how the reader knew what the characters in the book didn’t and we are left to witness everything unfold…

However, I must note that I didn’t really agree with the final chapter as it focused on capital punishment. I know that capital punishment sparks a lot of debate and personally, this final chapter was probably the most shocking thing about the book. I personally don’t think this chapter was needed but maybe you will think differently? 

Overall a fantastic crime thriller that really had me gripped and I would strongly recommend this book if you’re looking for a quick and exciting read.

Salvation Station

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: She Writes Press
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 311
Genre: Crime thriller
Trigger Warnings: Murder, graphic scenes, psychological abuse, capital punishment, death
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: Brave New World

“When the individual feels, the community reels.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I decided to read this book because of the newly released TV series of this book which is now available on Sky. After watching the advert, I was surprised to learn that it is based on a book written during the 1930s.

“Everyone works for everyone else.”

What Did I Think?

Now, fantasy and especially science-fiction isn’t usually my kind of thing. I have read 1984 before and I really struggled with the story and spent most of the book well and truly confused. So I knew going into this book, I would probably struggle but I wanted to test out something outside of my comfort zone. 

So no surprises here that this book was not for me. I really liked how it looked into the dehumanising aspects of scientific progress and was quite ahead of its time being written pre-WW2. The book was especially interesting in how it focused on people relying on drugs for happiness and how there were still social rankings, even during a time when people were born from test tubes.

I found it hard to stay motivated to read this book and even by the end of the book, I was none the wiser. There wasn’t a lot of back story to how the world ended up like it did in Brave New World and there were some unusual and random scenes where I had absolutely no idea what was going on. 

This book wasn’t for me but I may still end up watching the TV series to see if I enjoy that more than the book.

Brave New World

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Publisher: Penguin
Published: Originally in 1932 (my copy 2004)
# of Pages: 229
Genre: Fantasy/Science-Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Drug abuse, sexual scenes
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: After The End

“When you stand at the crossroads you cannot see each destination, only the beginnings of the paths that will lead you there. All you can do is hope that someone will walk with you.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This was a Beth’s Book Club pick for September/October and I’m ashamed to say, this has been the only time I haven’t finished the book in time for the book club discussion…shame on me, I know. 

But I started it on the Friday before the discussion on Sunday and I was determined to finish it. I guess that’s one of the best things about virtual book club discussions, especially Beth’s, I can easily catch up on what was discussed if I couldn’t make the discussion.

What Did I Think?

So I picked this book up after getting some pretty bad news and I did think to myself whether I’d be able to concentrate on the book whilst my head had fallen off. I took a weekend off social media (something I do every weekend now) and dedicated it to doing some feel-good stuff. 

Yet this book is far from feel-good so it probably wasn’t the best pick. If you don’t know After The End is about a couple who have a terminally ill son who need to make a BIG decision regarding his care. The book is slightly unusual in the fact that we follow the two main characters, Max and Pip, in the future and see how the court decision impacted their relationship. The concept was really strange and it took me a while to understand what was happening but, I think Clare Mackintosh did a wonderful job of exploring how parents’ lives are changed/affected when you have a disabled/seriously ill child. 

“No one knows what’s going to happen in the future. The only thing we can do is make our choices on the way we feel right now.”

However…I don’t think I was ever really hooked on the story and that could have been because I was reading it at the wrong time. I would definitely say that After The End wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read but I enjoyed the narrative and I had never really read a story like this before. I also think it was incredibly brave of Clare to write this book based on her personal experience. It must have been hard for her during that time, and to relive that experience whilst writing this book must have been even harder, yet also a kind of healing process for her?

After The End

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Sphere
Published: 2019
# of Pages: 370
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Disability, terminal illness, ICU, intensive care, court cases, life vs death, divorce, grief
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Why Did I Read This Book?

On my recent trip to the Bronte Parsonage in the beautiful town of Haworth, here in the UK, I fell more and more in love with the three sisters. For Emily, Anne and Branwell, their lives were drastically cut short through illness, leaving their heartbroken sister Charlotte to mourn.

There was a separate exhibition on at the museum all about Anne in particular, but I always feel like Anne is the ‘forgotten’ sister. Charlotte takes the limelight as Jane Eyre is arguably one of the most famous books to come out of the Bronte family, and obviously every Halloween, Wuthering Heights wrote by Emily will always be celebrated tremendously. Yet where does Anne’s celebration begin?

Shamefully, I’ve not read any of Anne’s work and the trip to the parsonage left me eager to do just that…

What Did I Think?

I think I’m not alone in saying that classics, especially those over 300 pages are daunting. Most early novelists LOVE to add so much detail to their stories that sometimes, chapters in classic novels can grow tiresome and confusing. Yet I have to say, even though The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (The Tenant) is over 500 pages, I had no problems at all with the language or the story. I understood everything that was happening and every time I opened the book up, I slid perfectly back into the story.

Now, even though I love classics, reading The Tenant so easily was new to me and I found myself being able to read huge chunks of the book instead of little bits here and there. I found the story and the characters completely encapsulating and I enjoyed every second of it.

Now if you’ve never read The Tenant it is written in three different parts. The first part is in letter form and we hear via local farmer, Gilbert Markham’s letters that a mystery woman (Helen Graham) and her son have moved into the nearby Wildfell Hall and over the months, he becomes acquainted with Helen but can’t understand why she is so adamant that she will never marry again. 

The second part then comprises Helen’s diary and we witness first-hand her experience of young love, marriage and the heartbreak that has made Helen the fiery woman she is when Gilbert meets her. For the third and final part, we return to Gilbert’s letters to see how things unfold once Helen’s secret is out. 

There were certainly moments throughout this book where I felt I could hear moments of Anne’s personality shining through. There were so many subtle hints about how Anne truly felt about the different treatment of women compared to men and even with her character creation, Helen Graham is a brilliant heroine that takes no sh*t from the men who surround her. Helen Graham is now one of my favourite female characters and it’s so refreshing to see such a strong-willed character like Helen, featured in a novel which was written way before the fight for women’s suffrage. I know that the fight for women’s rights didn’t begin with the Suffragette’s and it certainly didn’t end there either, but what is so great to hear is that there were women, like Anne, who were not afraid to voice their opinions on the treatment of women. 

I certainly enjoyed every moment of this book and it is one that will surely stick in my mind forever. I look forward to hopefully reading more of Anne’s work and hopefully reading more about her because for her to remain known as the ‘forgotten’ Bronte sister would be truly heartbreaking.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Publisher: Penguin Classics
Published: 2012 (my copy)
# of Pages: 524
Genre: Classic
Trigger Warnings: Abuse, divorce, separation, alcoholism, addiction
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

BLOG TOUR: Smile of Deceit

It is my absolute pleasure to be kicking off the blog tour for Smile of Deceit today! You know me, I love a good thriller and this one didn’t disappoint. What I loved most about this book was the setting. From the mountains of the French Alps to a ski lodge just north of Lake Bled, Newman does a fantastic job of making us feel right there, in the middle of all the drama.

Thank you to Faye @ Authoright, Clink Street Publishing and Keith Newman for providing me with a free copy of this fabulous new release and for allowing me to be part of this blog tour…LET’S GET TO IT!

The Book:

When two teenage girls disappear exactly sixteen years apart, police are convinced that the cases must be connected. One suspect was present on both occasions and now he has checked out of his hotel early and cannot be found.

But nothing is straightforward and it becomes clear that police involved in the original investigation have secrets of their own. When the cold case is reopened new evidence about both girls is established quickly, and there is a strong suspicion that the police are being manipulated.

Ruby Delacourt, the partner of the main suspect, is convinced that he is innocent and she uses her skill as a reporter to do her own digging. But she helps to uncover a much darker side to his character and an unexpected link between the two cases.

The Author:

My name is Keith Newman and I have two things in common with Rodney, the character in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ – we are both tall and slim (well at least I was when I was his age) and we both have one ‘O’ level.  Perhaps the similarity ends there.

My full-time formal education stopped when I was 15 in 1957 so I am getting on a bit. Lewes Secondary Modern School for Boys was good for us in many ways – we had to behave ourselves, were taught to work hard or else, and not be too interested in the girls from the school next door.

My first job was as office boy at the local council offices.  It wasn’t long before I knew what everyone was doing in their own little rooms and I probably knew more about the people working there than the boss did.  I moved about quite a bit in the same department, but was always able to select the best manager to work with based on my insight into the various power struggles.  I paid invoices, moved trampolines from one school to another (only losing one in the process) and helped to organise the 11+ examination.  Then I ended up in Personnel (HR as it’s now called).  We had 36,000 employees working in about 300 sites and I got to visit every one.  It was my dream job and I ended up managing the whole team.  We certainly had a variety of problems.

But now in my retirement I’ve started to write fiction and I can for the first time in my life be creative.  My first book, ‘Smile of Deceit’ is a crime thriller and I am already planning the next one.

Smile of Deceit

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 478
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Links: Goodreads, Amazon

REVIEW: Fifty Fifty

“Most killers I’d come across I could make a stab at some kind of explanation for their behaviour. I was always able to rationalise it. This time, there was no easy explanation.
No key. This one I couldn’t rationalise.
There was something dark at the heart of this case.
Something evil.
Watching.
Waiting.”

Why Did I Read This?

This was my local book club pick for October and I have to say this book won all but one vote! Everyone was desperate to read this thriller…and I can see why.

What Did I Think?

OK, guys…it’s been a while since I’ve read a thriller and this book reminded me EXACTLY why I love this genre. 

If this is the first time hearing about this book, Fifty Fifty is about two sisters who are BOTH on trial for the murder of their father. Each thinks each other has killed him. But one is a LIAR.

This was my first time reading a Steve Cavanagh novel, but I had heard extremely great things about his other novel, ‘Th1rte3n’. This book had everything a good thriller needs. Intertwining stories. Different narratives. Twists. Turns. Suspense.

One thing I loved about this book was we get a narrative from the killer herself but Steve Cavanagh does an incredible job of keeping her identity under wraps right until the VERY end. That’s what I love so much about a good thriller, you’re kept guessing right until the final pages and this was certainly the case with Fifty Fifty.

Cavanagh also did a great job of giving us a perspective from a female lawyer within the industry. Kate’s perspective and the experience was one of my favourites throughout the novel because all the odds were against her. She starts the book by being controlled by a horrible, sexist, and pervy boss. Cavanagh was clever and brave to address the sexual abuse and biased behavior within the legal system.

I loved both the lawyers (even though they were fighting on different sides) because they each had their quirks but worked extremely well together. 

There wasn’t anything I didn’t particularly not enjoy about this book because like I said before, I thought it included everything a good thriller should, but when my boyfriend asked me if it was a 5-star, I had to think about it. And for me, if I have to question whether a book deserved 5 stars, then it probably didn’t. However, my opinion might change once we discuss it with the book club because those discussions either go one of two ways; I either end up loving it more or loving it less! 

Safe to say though, I have added a few of Steve Cavanagh’s other books to my TBR!

Fifty Fifty

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Publisher: Orion
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 349
Genre: Thriller
Trigger Warnings: Violence, blood, murder, abuse, graphic scenes, self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, inappropriate behaviour at work
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells