Category Archives: Doubleday
The Wood – The Life & Times of Cockshutt Wood
by John Lewis-Stempel
The standard of nature writing over recent years has just got better and better, we are so fortunate to have so many great nature writers in the UK and twice winner of the Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing. (2015 & 2017) John Lewis-Stempel returns with his best book to date. The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood is an intimate account of John’s last year managing this three and half acres of mixed woodland in Herefordshire.
Lewis-Stempel’s latest has been written in a diary format and takes us through the four season and the changing face of Cockshutt Wood, the flora and fauna of this working wood comes to life through the poetic words of a nature writer at his very best. We meet the Tawny Owl who is affectionately known as ‘Old Brown’ the various animals from pigs to sheep who mad the wood their home to keep the dreaded bramble at bay.
The book starts in December when the days are at their shortest but even now when the trees are dormant there is still life in John’s working wood. The sheer beauty of this book is how John brings the history, poetry and even recipes (some of which I will be trying through the course of the year) There are recipes ranging from Acorn Coffee, Chestnut Soup and Elderflower Champagne.
John comes from a farming family that dates back to the 13th Century and is ideally placed to write about countryside as he sees it, his passion for everything in the countryside and its history and future. As the season moves from Winter to Spring, Cockshutt Wood wakens from its deep winter sleep, animals and amphibians that have slept through the cold and dark winter months now feel the warmth of Spring and waken from their slumber. The mixed woodland now starts to come to life, the sap is rising with the temperature.
The poetry is just wonderful and carefully selected and really works to bring the wood alive. The sights and sounds and even the smell of the wood just seep from every page not to mention the recipes. John ends his tenure managing the wood in the month of November with the words “I though the trees belonged to me, but I now realise I belonged to them” As he left the wood there is a sense of pain at leaving the wood and its inhabitants behind. The writer at one with the countryside and a book that deserves the plaudits. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Wood – The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood by John Lewis-Stempel is published by Doubleday and was published on 8th March 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
There are some writers that you connect with and Donal Ryan is one of those great writers who was just born to write. His latest book From a Low and Quiet Sea (Doubleday) Donal Ryan brings together three stories that may read like four short stories but in a way they are all connected by human experiences of life. Three men three experiences of life.
The three men Farouk, Lampy and John are completely un-connected. Farouk story is set in war torn Syria. Farouk is a doctor trying to look after the sick and those caught up in the fighting and also keep safe his wife and daughter. The situation is now getting very grave and he knows no-one is safe. It takes a visit to the local square and what Farouk then sees with his own eyes is so appalling that he knows that he must get his family out of Syria to safety. Their journey into the unknown and to the safety of Europe will be tragic. This is a story that so deeply touched me and I loved how this story was told with so much sympathy.
We meet Lampy who is struggling with his own personal issues, struggling with the fact that his father never existed in his life, he family exists of his mother and grandfather. Lampy is not sure of his life and were down the road he is as his relationship with Chloe has now ended he feels empty and alone his heart broken. What do other people actually think of him really? What now for Lampy?
Lastly there is John, a life lived and by all account fulfilled but sometimes not everything may seem true and right. John’s life is coming to an end and now he realises he must seek the truth of his own life. Grief and regret come to the fore.
These three stories are just the most beautiful of stories, told with compassion for humanity and written with such empathy to everyday lives. Some books you read leave a last mark on the reader and I am sure that anyone who reads From a Low and Quiet Sea will feel that this is a book that will just linger long in the memory. There is something about the final chapter that read then re-read. This may be a small book in terms of pages but this I promise, there is something within the pages of this book that is much bigger. Anyone who has a heart and shows compassion for their fellow man will read this. “Be kind” HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you Sophie Christopher for the advanced review copy of From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan.
From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan is published by Doubleday and was published on 22nd March and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
How to follow the Blog Tour for From a Low and Quiet Sea
Home by Amanda Berriman
Welcome to life through the eyes and also words of four-year-old Jessica Petrowski. Both little Jessica and her mum will become your new heroes. Home the debut novel by Amanda Berriman is nothing short of extraordinary. This is an extremely moving story of a single mother coping with life and also trying to bring up Jessica and her baby brother Toby.
The family live in what can only be described as an appalling flat not fit to bring up a very young family. The stairs to their ‘home’ are smelly as Jessica knows only too well. This is the story of their lives through little Jessica’s eyes. And I will warn you now Jessica will steal your heart. This little lady sees and hears everything. She knows the ‘Money man’ comes to call and he is not at all nice. Jessica’s world is ever changing and she is growing up fast.
The story of this family almost certainly can be any story involving a single mum living in shocking housing conditions and trying to cope with everyday life and bring up her family. Jessica’s father left the family home to move to Poland. Leaving them to cope alone. Then one night Jessica wakes up to find the green man hurting her little brother, in fact he is a paramedic and Toby is very poorly with ‘new monia’ and has to be rushed to hospital and this is where also Tina is admitted with the same illness. Jessica is now separated from her mum and baby brother for a number of days and has to stay with a foster family while Tina recovers.
All Jessica wants is for her mum and Toby to go to a home with a garden and a trampoline. But they have to go back to the disgusting flat with the smelly stairs. Now Tina faces eviction from what she calls their home. Now what will happen to them. Who will take them in. Jessica sees her mummy crying a lot and cannot understand why she is so sad. We are also introduced to her new best friend Paige, but Paige has a secret and this secret will have shocking consequences come the end of the story.
An incredible story that will move anyone who reads this book. For Tina trying to cope with so much and not at all trusting of many if anyone at all. She is a real hero in every sense of the word and yet she does not want help from anyone. But sometimes in life we all need a helping hand when we are down on our knees as life seems to grind you down. I loved the characters that Amanda Berriman has created here, and Jessica’s voice will live with me for a very long time to come. I wanted the family to pull through and you will be rooting for them as well.
A powerful and moving story of poverty and also abuse but also a story of a mother’s love for Jessica and Toby that shines through despite the desperate heartache. A story many will want to read. My congratulations to Amanda Berriman on a sensational debut novel. A new voice that I am looking forward to hearing more from in the future. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
My thanks to Sophie Christopher for the review copy of Home by Amanda Berriman
Home by Amanda Berriman is published by Doubleday and is published on 8th February 2018 and is available NOW through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops
How to follow the #Home by Amanda Berriman Blog Tour
The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel
I was delighted to have been invited to the Wainwright Prize award in August at Blenheim Palace and seeing John Lewis-Stempel collect the award for the Where Poppies Blow. This was the second time the John has won the award and it was great to meet him after the ceremony and talk about his book. John is one of this country’s greatest nature writers and he returns with his next book The Secret Life of the Owl
The Secret Life of the Owl is may only be short at 96 pages but this is a unique look at the Owls of Britain in both word and verse. No other bird has captivated us more than Owls both is legend and also in mythical terms.
Here John talks about all the species of Owl that make this country their home including Eagle Owl and a winter visitor the Snowy Owl also a few of the rarer species of Owl that have come to Britain. There are some incredible facts that even this life-long bird watcher did not know, for instance it was once known that if you touched or ate an Owl it would cure drunkenness, though I am not sure I would eat an Owl. There is also Poetry that makes the pages which as a lover of poetry I enjoyed. At the start of the book there is a Prologue and at the end an Epilogue John talks about ‘Old Brown’ the Tawny Owl he knows so well in Three Acre Wood both are really worth reading and enjoying John Lewis-Stempel’s words as he talks about his wood and ‘Old Brown’.
As a keen birdwatcher back in my younger days, I would go out on to the marsh were I knew there was a pair of Barn Owls and look for Owl pellets and then taken them home to study what the Barn Owls were taking as prey and here in The Secret Life of Owls John, does indeed take a look at Owl pellets.
I am lucky to have a Tawny Owl that visits the tree during the autumn and winter evenings and there is nothing better than hearing the call of a Tawny Owl during the dark hours, and even early of a morning while standing in the garden I know there is a pair of eyes watching every move I make. Over the years I have manged to see every Owl that makes Britain its home from the Tawny Owl through to the Snowy Owl these have been some of my most magical experiences in watching and studying birds.
This is a wonderful little book for anyone who want to know a little more of some of our most secret of birds and ones that should be celebrated. I have already bought a few copies to give as gifts this Christmas to friends who enjoy our cherished Owls.
Thank you to Sophie Christopher at Transworld Publishers for the review copy of The Secret Life of the Owl.
The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel is published by Doubleday and was published on 19th October 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
Like a warm cosy blanket on a cold winters night, The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa wraps itself around you and does not let you go until the very end. The international bestseller is so beautifully written and a heartwarming tale from Japan.
The story starts with Nana the cat who has been befriended by Satoru Miyawaki and they soon become the best of friends. Now together they embark on a trip together across Japan but this is no ordinary trip, this a trip that involves visiting some old friends including some Satoru has not seen in a long time. The reason becomes obvious that Satoru is looking some a new home for Nana the cat. At first there is no real clue as to why he wants to Nana away to a new home. But as the journey deepens and the seasons change Nana who is a wise cat soon begins to realise why they are on this journey and this will soon become totalling devastating to Nana and to the reader. The news is heartbreaking.
Along their journey together Nana is always riding in the front seat of the Van that Satoru drives. The pair whose bond and love for each other is so strong Nana has become totalling loyal and trusting from the time Satoru took him in from the street. Anyone who loves animals not just Cats will totally understand what I am saying here. Their road trip across Japan together is so incredibly life-affirming and along the way they will meet some of Satoru’s old friends and they too are curious as to why he wants to give Nana away. But Nana has worked it out now.
A beautiful tale of kindness and so warm and tender and will bring great joy to everyone who reads The Travelling Cat Chronicles. Translated by Philip Gabriel who is experienced in translating from Japanese literature and best known for his work with Haruki Murakami. Delighted to highly recommend The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa. This is a book that has sadness, real joy and there is some humour as you take a journey across Japan with Satoru and Nana the cat. Make yourself a coffee and settle down with this wonderful book. You will not want to stop reading it.
Thank you to Poppy Stimpson for the advanced review copy of The Travelling Cat Chronicles.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa is published by Doubleday and is published on 2nd November and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
As we come to the end of July a real sense of excitement for me as one of my favourite book prizes of the year announcements is just a few days away. The Wainwright Book Prize 2017 in association with The National Trust is an award that celebrates the very best in writing about Nature and the great outdoors. One of my boyhood heroes was Alfred Wainwright and I have spent many hours just reading those wonderful iconic Pictorial Guides to the fells of the Lake District. It is no secret that one of my favourite genres in books is nature and the outdoors and my bookshelves are filled to capacity with some of the great books on these subjects. There is nothing better than being out in wilderness whether that is just being at one with nature or just admiring the stunning beautiful wild places that we have in our countryside from the mountains and islands of Scotland to the fells of the Lakes and the valleys of Wales and not forgetting our hardworking farmers. These are places to rejoice and to treasure now but above all for future generations. We are the caretakers and must preserve for our children and theirs to come.
I was honoured to have been given the opportunity to read all the books that make up The Wainwright Book Prize shortlist for 2017. I am still reading through the books and my personal reviews will appear soon. On the 27th June the shortlist was announced and on Thursday 3rd August direct from the BBC Countryfile live show the judges will announce this year’s winners. You can of course read more about the award and the judges chaired by TV’s Julia Bradbury on the website The Wainwright Prize Ahead of the announcement I thought I would give you just give a little introduction into the seven books that make up the shortlist.
The Wainwright Book Prize Shortlist 2017:
The January Man (A Year of Walking Britain) by Christopher Somerville (Doubleday)
The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel (Doubleday)
Love of Country (A Hebridean Journey) by Madeleine Bunting (Granta)
The Otters’ Tale by Simon Cooper (William Collins)
Wild Kingdom by Stephen Moss (Vintage)
The Wild Other by Clover Stroud (Hodder & Stoughton)
Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel (W&N)
Previous Winners of The Wainwright Book Prize.
2016: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (Canongate Books)
2015: Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel (Transworld Publishers)
2014: The Green Road into Trees: A Walk Through England by Hugh Thompson (Windmill/Random House)
The 2017 Shortlisted Books
The January Man – A Year Walking of Britain by Christopher Somerville
This is the story of a year of walking around Britain and was in fact inspired by the song of the same name by Dave Goulder. The author sets off on a journey of discovery with memories of his late father walks that would cover all four seasons from all four corners of Britain from the Scottish isles to forests and vales. This in itself is a hope that readers will don their walking boots and grab their walking poles and explore the length and breadth of our country and the rich natural history and landscapes regardless of the vagaries of the British weather.
Rich not only in its descriptions but the exquisite writing of Christopher Somerville who has written thirty-six books.
The Otter’s Tale by Simon Cooper
For those like me who remember reading Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson then The Otter’s Tale by Simon Cooper will also surely appeal. Simon bought what was an abandoned water mill in Southern England and then go on to share his home and his life with a family of wild Otters.
What this enabled Simon Cooper to achieve was to observe one of this country most secretive of mammals and he did so at very close quarters. The family allowed the author to become a member of their own family and in turn this gives the reader a personal and unique insight into the lives of the Otters in what turned out to be an extraordinary relationship of trust between Otter and man the close relationship between Simon and the female Otter called Kuschta is incredibly close and personal.
Within this story Simon Cooper also discusses the natural history of Otters here in the UK and a mammal that was once so persecuted that it was very close to being extinct in this country. A year in the life of not only Simon Cooper but also a beautiful insight to a family of Otters that shared the life of the author.
Love of Country – A Hebridean Journey by Madeleine Bunting
Some of my happiest of memories are those when I have been walking on some of the islands of the Western Coast of Scotland. Just mention the names of some of the islands like Jura, St. Kilda, Lewis, Harris, Sky, Rum and so many more. Each rich in their own history and also natural history. Here Madeleine Bunting a former Guardian journalist takes us on a journey that took six years to complete. Each time she would return there was more history and culture to uncover more islands to explore. The history of these islands shapes our countries history even today. The author not only explores but also asks questions. This is a wonderful travel companion if you are heading to one of the islands for a holiday. Read before you go and read while you are there as there is so much to read and learn. A wonderful book.
The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel
A former winner of the Wainwright Book Prize this year has two books on the Shortlist, the first titled The Running Hare looks at life on a farmland, the wild animals and plants that life on it and in it. This is an extraordinary piece of writing and you can see why this writer is so acclaimed. With so many species lost, this is a farmer who took a field and farmed it in a traditional way to conserve the wildlife that inhabit our fields. He talks about the birds that feed off the land and microbes that live in the land each having their own battle to survive modern practices. In fast paced modern world can farming go back to old practices to husband farmland thereby protecting the wildlife that also share the same farmland. A Place were the wild Hare can call home and live safely. Beautifully written and profound. A book that will stand the test of time and will be read by future generations to come. This is one of the great nature writers of our time.
The Wild Other by Clover Stroud
A deeply moving memoir from Clover Stroud about a life that was shaped by a tragic accident to her mother when Clover was only sixteen-years-old. Her mother was left with brain damage after a riding accident. Clover found herself from gypsy camps in Ireland to rodeos of Texas then to the far reaches of Russia before the White Horse vale of England brought her home to England. These journeys she took in the name of trying to understand a sense of home that was left shattered and broken. A remarkable and deeply honest account of loss and love. Nature has the power to heal the wounds that seem never to heal and here in The Wild Other Clover Stroud tells her personal story that is full of bravery and a life lived to the full. At times frank Clover reveals all in this haunting memoir that will both move and inspire the reader.
Wild Kingdom by Stephen Moss
Stephen Moss is the acclaimed naturalist, writer and TV producer. Here in Wild Kingdom Stephen Moss at times is frank about this countries disappearing wildlife and asks some important questions about the land we share with the animals the Britain. It is not all bad news, just look at how Otters are now doing. But many others are not faring so well and Moss poses the question how can we bring back Britain’s wildlife. With intensive farming practices and housing developments taking over and wildlife being squeezed out of their natural homes something has to give and the wildlife suffers as a consequence. There has to be room for both man and wildlife to life in harmony. Rewilding is a term we may yet start to hear more of in the years ahead. So many questions are posed here. Moss takes us on a journey from farmland to wetlands from one part of the country to another. He knows what he is talking about and there is so much to understand. Common sense is key. If we care about our wildlife we can make a difference. It is not all bad news there is much to praise but there is not resting on laurels as there is work to do. Generations to come will point to our generation if we do not. This is so well written by a man who is passionate about the future of our wildlife.
Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel
Where Poppies Blow is the second book by John Lewis-Stempel in this year’s Shortlist along with his The Running Hare. We all know of the horrors of the Great War. But in this book the author takes the connection between the British soldiers fighting in the Great War and the animals and plants and the relationships between them.
For many soldiers living inside the land they were close to nature as you can possibly get, many soldiers sought solace in the birds and plants around them, at desperate times it provided both peace and solace in a place of sheer hell. Many soldiers indeed were birdwatchers and there are stories of officers and men fishing in flooded shell craters. Here you will read of soldiers planting flower beds in trenches, this sounds truly remarkable but John Lewis-Stempel has researched this book and brings to life the incredible stories of fighting men and nature and in the end the cure that only nature can bring in its purest form. There is a quote on the inside of the book that just sums up what the men went through. ‘If it weren’t for the birds, what a hell it would be’. A remarkable book that will take pride of place among the many natural history books in my book case.
I have been following The Wainwright Book Prize now for a number of years and I believe this has to be the strongest of the shortlists yet. The quality of the writing is just outstanding. I am not sure if it is just me but it just gets stronger and stronger every year. I really do not envy the judges in their decision, but every one of these seven books is a real candidate to win the prize. Could John Lewis-Stempel win the prize again? I just have a feeling The Running Hare is going to be the book to look out for on Thursday. I would love to hear your views on the shortlist and if you have a favourite to win. I will of course be following the prize announcement as and when it happens and will Tweet the winning book as soon as I know over on my Twitter page The Last Word 1962 I will be reviewing each of the books in the coming weeks.
The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce
There are many out there that love Rachel Joyce and her books and the characters she creates I count myself as being a big fan. How many of you read and loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry or The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey or the wonderful collection of short stories A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Now finally the wait is over and it seems to have been a long wait. Released today (13th July) is The Music Shop (Doubleday). This is a story that will lift your soul and capture your heart.
This is a beautiful story set during the late 1980’s and as the title suggests is based around a music shop where we meet Frank who is more than just loves music it is in fact his life and his passion. Frank’s music shop has just about every possible genre of music so long as it is on vinyl that is. If you were looking for a piece of music, then Frank was your man. Just a few years before the first CD’s hit the record shops but for Frank the idea of selling music on a CD did not go well with him despite everyone around him telling him it was time to move with the times. It was the beginning of the end of vinyl as we knew it.
Then one day something happened it was just like any other day except outside Frank’s music shop there was a woman dressed in a pea green coat. Her name is Ilse Brauchmann This German woman seems a mystery to everyone including Frank but all Ilse wishes is for Frank to teach her about music. Frank is lonely and to escape this he throws himself into his music shop and making sure his customers leave with the music they are looking for. Here through the chapters of this touching and wonderful novel we find out more about Frank’s past and also about Ilse Brauchmann.
There is something warm and cosy about The Music Shop could it be the characters that Rachel Joyce creates or is it the memories we have the nostalgia aspect of the story. The past plays quite a role here and some are quite painful and for Frank the wounds do not heal easily and what was the reason for Ilse stopping by that day to the music shop. As you would expect music plays a major part in this story and in the relationship between the two characters the story. There is some humour here but also some real sadness but above all there is a message of hope. When souls are broken they need help to be put back together. Music has power to deliver on many fronts it can bring hope and it can heal. As the words to the song goes “Music was my first love and it will be my last.” Fans of Rachel Joyce will delight in this tender, wonderful and uplifting novel and just is just so beautifully written. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Thank you to Alison Barrow for the advanced review copy of The Music Shop
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce is published by Doubleday on 13th July and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith
Hailed by The Bookseller as one of the Rising Stars of 2016 Mahsuda Snaith’s debut novel The Things We Thought We Knew is a story of a young Bengali woman is who confined to bed with chronic pain since an accident some years previous. Here she now reflects on the past.
Ravine has not left her bed in the last decade, confined to the council flat in Leicester since her best friend Marianne disappeared. She has just celebrated her 18th birthday and with a bleak future ahead of her, she cannot leave the flat because she is in so much pain her mother as you can imagine is desperate for her daughter to try and make an effort ‘Will you at least try’ are the words from her mother. There is a sense that coming through the story that Ravine is using the pain as she is not in any hurry to make any effort. Her mother gives her a notebook to use as a pain dairy and then we journey back through the years as Ravine uses the diary to open her heart about her best friend Marianne and her disappearance. What really happened that day? As Ravine writes the reader is pulled into an intriguing journey and a story on an affecting friendship. It is clear that Ravine is hiding from the outside world even scared and hiding beneath the duvet provides her with security.
An intriguing coming of age story that will keep the reader guessing as to what really happened to Ravine’s best friend. This outstanding debut novel has some great characters that are so believable that weave through the story. With Mahsuda Snaith writing the initial novel when she was only sixteen. Impressive writing from a new and exciting author. From here I look forward to future books from Mahsuda Snaith.
Thank you to Doubleday for the advanced review copy.
The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith is published by Doubleday and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
You can follow the official The Things We Though We Knew Blog Tour
Fierce Kingdom – Gin Phillips
A mum takes her young son to the zoo in what should be a really special time, but then them events take place that means they have to run and hide in fear of their lives, gunshots are heard then panic sets in. A killer is roaming the grounds of the zoo and the intent is to kill. Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips is a compelling and gripping thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very last. This is one of the most anticipated novels of the summer and is sure to be a bestseller.
4.55pm and Joan and her four-year-old son Lincoln have spent the day at the zoo and it is nearly closing time so they head towards the exits, then Joan hears what she believes is gunshots.
Over the course of the next hours Joan has to think about how to not only how to run and avoid being seen by a madman with a gun who out to kill. She has to try and keep Lincoln from crying, that would attract real and grave danger. I always knew that this was going to be a gripping and tense thriller and how this delivers on every level. At times it left me breathless as you run with both Joan and her young son trying to hide and hope you are not found. Joan as a mother wanted to protect her precious son from this crazed madman. Why was he here killing people? What was his motive? I don’t think I have raced through a book so quickly I just wanted to know what was coming. You just knew something was going to happen.
I have to give credit to Phillips as she has written some incredibly strong characters for Fierce Kingdom, they are just so real which gives this novel such an edge. Incredibly powerful writing creating such dramatic scenes. The idea of setting this within a zoo is just mind blowing there are so many places and buildings not to mention the wild animals. I read this while in hospital and was caught reading during a sleepless night. The book caught the attention of some of the nurses looking after me.
So what we have in Fierce Kingdom is an extremely well thought out thriller that at times is very dramatic and for some would be traumatic I for one despite the setting felt claustrophobic I was there and I wanted to help them escape. The ending is just as dramatic and I for one never really foresaw the ending. This is pulse racing and edge of your seat thriller that will be one book I am delighted to recommend for your Summer reading list. You will not be disappointed.
Thank you to Alison Barrow for the advanced review copy of Fierce Kingdom
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips is published by Doubleday on 15th June and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Follow the Official Fierce Kingdom Blog Tour
Today sees the release of two of this year’s biggest must read books. Paula Hawkins follows up from The Girl on the Train with Into the Water (Doubleday)and a debut novel by Sarah Schmidt called See What I Have Done. (Tinder Press) Two books that are going to be on everyone’s TBR lists this Spring and Summer.
For the first time I am running today on my blog a double book review. Starting with Paula Hawkins Into the Water.
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Imagine for a moment trying to sit down and write your next novel. Ok you say but what if you were the author of the massive international hit that was The Girl on the Train Then not for a moment can I begin to imagine what Paula Hawkins must be thinking as today see’s the release of her new thriller Into the Water. (Doubleday) Although some readers found that The Girl on the Train with its narrator that we know as unreliable to say the least. Paula Hawkins has gone a different route this time around as this new psychological thriller is very different and if this is at all possible it actually is better that her monster hit that captured the imagination of readers across the globe and was also a massive success on the big screen that starred Emily Blunt.
What you will find with Into the Water is that here is a thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat as this is a stunning thriller with more than just the usual twists than your average read. This is an ambitious attempt to move away from the formula that gave Hawkins so much success, here there are more characters and the plot is so layered that is gives more to the reader. There is even something Hitchcock about this book and one that many readers will flock to. The story is set in a small riverside town, and the opening sequences are nothing short of horrific as a woman is tied up and then drowned by a group of men. At this point I had to re-read this first part as I was not sure if this was a current event or was this a past event from history and if so was history to play a major part in the novel. A chilling start that set the tone for what was to be a gripping thriller. It is now August 2015 and this little riverside town now becomes centre stage and a small of that river that has a notorious history that involves the drowning of witches. But there has been a much more recent drowning a middle aged woman called Nel Abbott is found dead in this stretch of water but how was this possible? Now let your imagination play with you here. Some including her daughter think Nel planned to end her life but Nel’s sister Jules is not sure. Now the history of this part of the comes to the fore as other deaths by drowning come to light. It also appears that Nel was taking a keen interest into the drownings has she taken some if its secrets and the towns secrets with her.
There are many character here that have a story to tell and they do this in bite size chapters that play a part in telling the real story of what has been going on in this small town. Some of these characters are hiding the truth and it also appears that Nel was not liked by many in the town. Question is why? Add into the story a psychic and you have the recipe for a thriller that is just building page by page with suspense until the very last moment. If you are going to read Into the Water on a train journey, be warned you may miss your stop but at least it stop you looking at people’s homes through the window of your carriage.
My thanks to Alison Barrow for the advanced review copy of Into the Water.
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins is published by Doubleday and is released today 2nd May and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
It is the morning of 4th August 1892 and the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered in their home. They have been brutally murdered with an axe. It was Lizzie Borden who discovered the mutilated body of her father. Here in See What I Have Done (Tinder Press) the debut novel by Sarah Schmidt she tells the story with fact and fiction in a gripping and riveting debut.
I have to admit to not knowing the story of the brutal murders that took place in the Borden home so before I started to read the book I did a little research to prepare myself for the book. Once I started I became hooked on Sarah Scmidt’s telling of the story using both facts and then using fiction to re-tell the infamous story.
When the Police arrived at the family home in Fall River, Massachusetts it becomes clear there was only one suspect and that was Lizzie Borden. Could she really have taken an axe to her stepmother and to her father? Despite the fact that there was other people in the house the police believe that she was responsible for the murders. Lizzie Borden was then tried and acquitted. To this day the murders remain unsolved in what remains one of the most heinous crimes the axe that was used in the murders was never found.
There are a numbers of characters that Scmidt focuses on in the novel with Lizzie and her sister Emma who at the time of the murders was not present in the family home, then there is the girls Uncle John and then the maid, Bridget. With the facts of the case already known Schmidt then weaves a dark and claustrophobic story. Behind the front door of the family home clearly all was not well. To say this was a troubled family even dysfunctional, there was many things quietly bubbling away under the surface in that steaming hot summer. The entire story just jumps out at you and leaves your pulse racing. This is an incredible first novel that is visceral and truly compelling. Schmidt’s writing is dark and chilling and the palms of your hands become sweaty or was that blood oozing from the pages of this disturbing read. This was clearly a family with many problems hidden behind the shutters of the windows as if they were keeping the secrets from the outside world. The parts of the story as told through Lizzie Borden leave you cold and wondering about her sanity and left me in cold sweats. See What I have Done is a Superb first novel and one I highly recommend.
Thank you to Georgina Moore for the advanced review copy of See What I Have Done.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt is published by Tinder Press and is released today 2nd May and available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.