Why I’ll be MIA for the rest of 2017

Some of you already know that I will soon be having our second child. The rest of you: surprise!

stork baby delivery

While this is incredibly lovely and exciting, I’m now suffering the nastier effects of being in the last stages of pregnancy. Chief among these is carpal tunnel. My hands going numb while also being rather painful makes it hard to type (and sleep, but let’s not worry about that), so I’ll be stepping away from blogging and Twitter for a bit to give my poor swollen fingers a rest.

Average day in the third trimester of pregnancy

And obviously once the baby arrives I’ll be falling off the planet for a couple of months, but I will do my best to put a short update here later in November (levels of craziness permitting) probably featuring cake.

All that said, having to be awake in the middle of the night could well mean I get to read more of your blogs than usual. Silver linings! 🙂

Take care and Happy Halloween, Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving and a good festive season to all!


Claire Huston / Art and Soul

 

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Review | The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

This is how creepy gothic suspense is done! A spooky 4/5 stars.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: 

Inspired by the work of Shirley Jackson and Susan Hill and set in a crumbling country mansion, The Silent Companions is an unsettling gothic ghost story to send a shiver down the spine…

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. But inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…

My take:

A warning: if you’re of a nervous disposition, I wouldn’t advise reading this alone at night or you’ll be jumping at shadows! I admit I’m a scaredy-cat, but The Silent Companions is just the right amount of creepy/suspenseful without being downright terrifying. A good approximation for anyone who wants to know if they’ll be frightened witless would be to say it’s about as scary as an episode of Dr Who featuring the Weeping Angels. In fact, that’s a pretty good indicator of what you’re in for with this book.

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ARC Review | Wardens of Archos (The Relics of Ar’Zac, #2) by Sarina Langer

The rarest of things: a strong middle volume in a trilogy!

Wardens of Archos by Sarina Langer

Wardens of Archos (The Relics of Ar’Zac 2) will be published on 16th October 2017.


SPOILER ALERT

This is the second book in the series and so the blurb below contains spoilers for book 1 – Rise of the Sparrows. However, my review is spoiler free!


The blurb: Once a despised street rat, now the reigning queen of Rifarne, Rachael is at the centre of everyone’s attention. All she wants is a few peaceful moments to herself — but her kingdom has other plans.

A Mist Woman brings her a gift, and a warning: Aeron’s death has released the Dark One’s shades into the world. And Rachael, as the only living seer in existence, is the only one who can stop him before he destroys everything she’s beginning to cherish. But can Rachael trust the Mist Woman, or is Kaida just another sorceress playing with her life?

Rachael is running out of time. The shadows are coming, and their claws are reaching for her.


My take:

Sarina very kindly gave me an advanced reader copy of Wardens of Archos to read.

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ARC Review | The Surrogate by Louise Jensen

A brilliant epilogue is the perfect ending to another enjoyable read from Louise Jensen. 4/5 stars.

The Surrogate by Louise Jensen

The Surrogate is out tomorrow, Wednesday 27th September 2017

Thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book to read and review.

 

The blurb: Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, and are on the point of giving up. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives Kat and Nick one last chance to achieve their dream.

But Kat and Lisa’s history hides dark secrets.

And there is more to Lisa than meets the eye.

As dangerous cracks start to appear in Kat’s perfect picture of happily-ever-after, she realises that she must face her fear of the past to save her family…

My take:

This will be a short review to avoid spoilers!

Regular readers of my reviews will know I have an up-and-down relationships with book branded “psychological thrillers” or “dark thrillers”. However, having enjoyed Louise Jensen’s previous two books – The Sister and The Gift (click the titles for my reviews) – I went into The Surrogate with high hopes, which thankfully weren’t disappointed.

From the blurb and the first couple of chapters, I came to expect something along the lines of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, but I was pleased to discover that the author gives us something else entirely!

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Review | Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Don’t be fooled by that shiny cover. Darkness lies within! 3/5.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the ‘BookFrogs’—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions: trinkets and books, the detritus of a lonely, uncared-for man. But when Lydia pages through his books, she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago—and never completely left, as she discovers.

My take:

My experience of this book suffered because I went into it expecting one thing, but got something else entirely. I think the cover and the blurb somehow made me think this was going to be more magical and mysterious than it was. And that there’d be more about books and the bookshop. Books about books are always a lure.

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Review | The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

 True Grit meets The Road, directed by Quentin Tarantino. That may or may not help you get an idea of what this is like! 4/5 stars.

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

The blurb: Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.

But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

My take:

I put this on my TBR after reading several positive review on other blogs (sorry I can’t remember which ones now… but thank you!). And there is a lot to like about The Wolf Road. From the first sentence Elka’s narrative voice is vibrant and compelling. Indeed, at the heart of the story are three excellent female characters: women who are pragmatic, resourceful and able to put aside their differences to reach common goals. The post-apocalytic setting is almost beside the point: Elka’s story takes place a good while after the nuclear war which set civilization back and it’s our heroine’s specific experiences which are centre-stage; the wider context is only of interest to the extent that it affects her and her choices. The narrative moves at a good pace, as Elka’s physical journey driving the story forward.

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Review | Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

A bold reimagining of Shakespeare’s stormy tale of vengeance, forgiveness and the power of theatre. 4/5 stars.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

The blurb: Hag-Seed is a re-visiting of Shakespeare’s play of magic and illusion, The Tempest, and is the fourth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

The Tempest is set on a remote island full of strange noises and creatures. Here, Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, plots to restore the fortunes of his daughter Miranda by using magic and illusion — starting with a storm that will bring Antonio, his treacherous brother, to him. All Prospero, the great sorcerer, needs to do is watch as the action he has set in train unfolds.

In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever…

My take:

As part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project, Atwood is one of several authors invited to reimagine one of Shakespeare’s stories. Hag-Seed is Atwood’s take on one of the Bard’s last plays, The Tempest. If you’d like to know more about the other authors involved in the project and the stories they were asked to tackle (for example, Tracy Chevalier’s take on Othello), you can find out more here.

I studied The Tempest for 2 years at school and so it’s probably the Shakespeare play I know the best. This definitely influenced my enjoyment of Hag-Seed, which I’m not convinced you’d get a lot out of if you know nothing about the original play.

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Review | The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers 1) by Becky Chambers

Excellent sci-fi for readers looking for characters to love. 4.5/5.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The blurb: Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

My take:

This has been sitting on my TBR for quite a while and I’m delighted I finally managed to get the chance to read it (thank you to my local library). I’ve been experiencing a bit of a reading slump recently, but this book was terrific and I looked forward to every second I had the opportunity to pick it up.

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Review | The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

Good historical fiction and a reminder to follow your dreams 3.5/5 stars.

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: In Edwardian England, aeroplanes are a new, magical invention, while female pilots are rare indeed.

When shy Della Dobbs meets her mother’s aunt, her life changes forever. Great Auntie Betty has come home from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. Della develops a burning ambition to fly and Betty is determined to help her.

But the Great War is coming and it threatens to destroy everything – and everyone – Della loves.

My take:

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The characters are mostly likeable, although it did take me a while to warm to the protagonist, Della. The historical research behind this story is meticulous and the (often surprising) details regarding the early days of aviation, the First World War and other small period touches all serve to give a vivid sense of the era and the male-dominated field Della chooses to navigate.

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ARC Review | Final Girls by Riley Sager

A slow-burning thriller with a decent final pay-off. 3.5/5.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book. Final Girls will be published on 13th July.

The blurb: Each girl survived an unthinkable horror. Now someone wants them dead…

They were the victims of separate massacres. Grouped together by the press, and dubbed the Final Girls, they are treated like something fresh out of a slasher movie.

When something terrible happens to Lisa, put-together Quincy and volatile Sam finally meet. Each one influences the other. Each one has dark secrets. And after the bloodstained fingers of the past reach into the present, each one will never be the same…

My take

The premise here is terrific. The question “what happens to the lone survivor once the credits of a horror movie end”? makes for a great set up and interesting story. However, I felt the overall pacing of the narrative was slightly off.

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