The Home by Sarah Stovell – Review.

About The Book

One more little secret … one more little lie…

When the body of a pregnant fifteen-year-old is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away…

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

A gritty, dark and devastating psychological thriller, The Home is also an emotive drama and a piercing look at the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all.

My Review

The Home is a crime novel, but instead of focusing on the suspicious death of a young girl in care it is more about the three girls who lived together, Hope, Annie and Lara, and what happened to them in their past.

They live in a beautiful and remote part of the country, near Langdale Pike. They should be safe from the past and be able to start rebuilding their lives. But as the story unfolds and you start to learn what each of them faced you saw how impossible it was. What happened to each of them was horrific, more so because you know that it happens. That there are children who experience the fear, neglect and violence that each of the characters faced.

It was impossible to decide who suffered the most but the one whose life story had the biggest impact on me was Hope. It wasn’t surprising that she coped the way that she did. And there was no way I could judge her, even though I did feel sorry for Annie who had to suffer the most from her occasional cruelty.

It was not just the three girls who suffered. The staff, underpaid, under appreciated and over worked. It’s not something I really thought about, how the dedicated staff neglect their own families to do their job and try and improve somebody else’s life.

A heartbreaking novel that has made me think more than any other about what some children experience and also the staff who try and pick up the pieces.

My Top Ten Books of 2019

The time has come again to face an impossible task of narrowing the 117 books I have read into a top ten list. As always it was difficult to do but I have managed and I will list them in no particular order. Apart from my favourite book of the year which I will reveal at the end. You can see my review for each book by clicking on the title.

Expectation by Anna Hope.

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman.

The Photographer Of The Lost by Caroline Scott

Changeling by Matt Wesolowski

Red Snow by Will Dean

From The City, From The Plough by Alexander Baron

On My Life by Angela Clarke

The Taking Of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

The Girl At The Window by Rowan Coleman

My Book of 2019

Turbulent Wake by Paul. E Hardisty

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver – Blog Tour – Extract.

About The Book

Nine suicides
One Cult
No leader

Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.

That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.

Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.

How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?

Extract

Other People 

The trick to running a cult is to get other people involved. Not new members or followers. Not more subscribers or a greater mailing list. It doesn’t matter if there are six people who think someone is Jesus or there are a million admirers hoping for a seat on the spaceship that will fly them away as Earth implodes with greed and apathy. 

It’s not the apostles that make the cult. 

It’s everybody else. 

What is needed are the other people. Because other people always fuck things up. 

Take the small town of Antelope, Oregon. A smudge on a map. Fifty people looking for quiet. They need a post office, a general store, a school and a church to exist. Not to survive. They haven’t moved here for that. Everybody knows everybody and everybody wants to be alone. Because they’ve come here to see out their years in peace. Then die. 

Drop in four thousand disciples adhering to the philosophies of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Watch as they are welcomed as a peaceful people, renouncing a world of materialism in favour of a spiritual life. Embrace their desire to establish their own community. 

Now get other people involved. 

See how the word ‘community’ transforms into the word ‘commune’. Now wait as tensions rise and hostility grows. Wait a little longer. Because here come the other people. And it’s easy to take other people and make them fear something. Soon, a school teacher or postal worker or bar owner or dairy farmer has used the word ‘cult’. 

Sit back and bask in your success as civilians are weaponised and cafes are poisoned and phone lines are tapped. 

This is other people. 

Take a student pastor at the Somerset Southside Methodist Church, Indiana. Tell him that he can’t integrate black people into his congregation. Piss him off. Give him a crusade. 

Watch as he moves on and gives people hope. See his drive for racial equality. You don’t call the healings fake. Not yet. You call them Baptists. You say they are a church. He calls them the Wings of Deliverance. 

Now let him open a soup kitchen for the poor, then watchas other people become involved. Because other people have an innate ability to take something good and turn it straight to shit. 

Migrate that church to Guyana. Call it a compound. Call it Paradise. Call it Jonestown. Say that members did not travel there of their own free will. Get other people to interfere. Intervene. Get shot at. Wait a moment while everything is ruined. While nine hundred men and women take cyanide to kill themselves. Let them poison their children. 

Now you can call it a cult. 

And feel safe that you’re not one of them. 

You. 

Other people. 

Take David Koresh. Take Waco. Tell the world he has several wives and fucks his kids. Set fire to buildings. Smoke him out. Kill twenty of those kids while you’re there. 

Get involved. 

Take the Manson Family. Take Scientology. Take any passage from any holy book out of context. 

Take the unknown and drop in some fear and insecurity. 

What have you done? 

You. 

The other people club

You. At arm’s length. Outside looking in. With your judgement and your free choice and your safety. You don’t understand. 

Not one of these people thought that they were part of a cult. 

And you, you’re no different. You could be part of a cult right now and you don’t even realise. You think you have a choice. 

So, put that rope around your neck. 

Now wait. 

Here come the other people.


Violet by SJI Holliday – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.

Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is also desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.

When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.

Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…

My Review

With thanks to the author for the copy received. I see many thrillers described as psychological and often I’m disappointed. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t with Violet, my new favourite novel by this author. It had it all. Violet was an unreliable, unsettling and at times creepy narrator, and Carrie her new friend and travel companion has just become her new obsession.

But Carrie also has issues, and not just the ones that involve heavy drinking and drug taking. Most of what you learn about her is through her emails home to family and the best friend who couldn’t be with her. It is these that also show what she really thinks about Violet and also what occurred back home.

Everything about this novel works. The setting in countries that are completely different to the UK. The descriptions of the customs, some of which were really eerie. And the increasingly bizarre behaviour of Violet that had me wondering what she would do next.

It is very clever with characters that scared me at times, but strangely ones I could also feel sympathy for. As the story progressed there was insight into why they behaved like they did, especially with Violet.

As I read this novel I also enjoyed seeing daily photographs on the author’s website of her trip that inspired the novel.

Cage by Lilja Sigurdardottir – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

The prison doors slam shut behind Agla, when her sentence ends, but her lover Sonja is not there to meet her.

As a group of foreign businessmen tries to draw Agla into an ingenious fraud that stretches from Iceland around the world, Agla and her former nemesis, María find the stakes being raised at a terrifying speed.
Ruthless drug baron Ingimar will stop at nothing to protect his empire, but he has no idea about the powder keg he is sitting on in his own home.
At the same time, a deadly threat to Sonya and her family brings her from London back to Iceland, where she needs to settle scores with longstanding adversaries if she wants to stay alive.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Cage is the third book in the Reykjavik Noir trilogy. Unlike Trap and Snare this book mainly focuses on Agla and María. Agla is serving time in prison for banking fraud, she has a fairly easy life there, has certain privileges and is happy to help a younger prisoner, Elísa who is an addict. But when she is released from prison she soon releases that she is hated by many. And she realises the true extent of how bad Elísa’s life is.

María is struggling to rebuild her life after the collapse of her marriage and career. Reluctantly she agrees to work for Agla, she blames her for everything that went wrong, but she needs the money. It was María and Elísa who I had the most liking for, Elísa especially, and as her story is revealed the reader had a clear image of how destructive addiction is.

As well as the regular characters there was also Anton. He was a character who made me more unsettled every time he appeared. I did misunderstand him to some degree but just thinking about what he was planning terrified me.

It is a fantastic finale, I appreciated getting to see more of Agla and a more sympathetic side to her. She obviously missed Sonja, who only features briefly in Cage, but knew she had to move on. These are novels that I do recommend you read in order, if only to appreciate the character development. They aren’t people you would like to meet but you start to understand what forces a decision, whether it be the correct one or not. Nobody more so than Anton, young and in love, but I struggled to comprehend his way of proving that love. He is a character who I will think about for some time.