[BOOK REVIEW] The Good Ones by Polly Stewart @harperbooks @pollystew #TheGoodOnes

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The cover of this book is so eye-catching, wouldn’t you agree? Yes, that’s what caught my attention first, then having read the blurb I knew that this was the type of book I would like to read. Having read the book now, I appreciate the cover more because it’s not just there to be pretty. Well done, book designer and author!

The Good Ones is about Nicola Bennett who, after nearly twenty years, comes back to her Appalachian hometown to finally shed some light on the disappearance of her friend Lauren Ballard. Lauren mysteriously vanished one night and the last time Nicola saw her was when she was keying someone’s car. The next day, she was gone, there were traces of blood and signs of struggle. Nicola believes that going back to her hometown and getting a job there will help her uncover more information relating to her friend’s sudden disappearance.

“What choice did you have, after all, when the person who had stood at the center of your sense of self wasn’t there anymore? You grew around that loss like a tree wrapped in barbed wire. You let it bite into you. You shaped yourself to the new reality, until it was hard to tell what was you and what was the hole she’d left.”

What I found to be most interesting when it comes to The Good Ones was the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Lauren and how we got to see the main character investigate many possible leads and explanations as to what might have happened to her because it lead the reader to many interesting possibilities. The book being set in a small town provides the author with tools to go in-depth when it comes to examining the characters and what role they play in it. I feel like the author did a good job when it comes to showing us each character and their role in the book. Our main protagonist Nicola is a character one doesn’t sympathize with very much (at least in my case), I found her willingness to find out the truth to be more about herself rather than truly getting the answers she was looking for and putting the whole story to rest. When it comes to certain twists, I have to say that I enjoyed them, although some were very predictable and they made me want to yell at the main character, I was pleasantly surprised by other twists though. The author knows how to write and create an engaging story which I find to be very important in these kinds of books. What surprised me was the ending! Although I had a feeling that something wasn’t right in my judgement, I was pleasantly surprised by the last twenty pages!

“It was always a surprise how vulnerable people were in sleep, even the ones who showed you almost nothing of themselves during the daylight hours.”

The Good Ones has everything I look for in a mystery novel and I found it to be completely enjoyable! If you’re someone who likes reading thriller/mystery books I’d recommend adding this one to your TBR!

I would like to thank the publisher (Harper Books) for providing me with an advance reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions reflected in this review are my own and aren’t influenced by the fact that I got this book for free from the publisher.

The Good Ones by Polly Stewart comes out on June 6th 2023 from Harper Books

My rating:

Add ‘The Good Ones‘ to your TBR:  

*Pre-order ‘The Good Ones‘ here:

*Pre-order ‘The Good Ones‘ here:a-co_-uk_logo_rgb-630x301

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

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Polly Stewart is the author of The Good Ones, forthcoming from Harper Books in June 2023. As Mary Stewart Atwell, she’s also the author of Wild Girls (Scribner 2012). Her essays have appeared in the New York Times and Poets & Writers, among other publications. She runs the Craft of Crime Fiction interview series, formerly published on Fiction Writers Review and now appearing on Instagram.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[BOOK TOUR: BOOK EXTRACT] Tales of the Suburbs by Justin David @InkandescentUK @Justin_Writer #TalesoftheSuburbs

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Today I am sharing an extract of Justin David’s novella Tales of the Suburbs. TotS is a part of the Welston World Sagas and is a prequel to his novels The Pharmacist and Kissing the Lizard.

BOOK SYNOPSIS (and praise)

As a boy growing up in the Black Country—drained grey by Mrs Thatcher’s steely policies—Jamie dreams of escape to a magical metropolis where he can rub shoulders with the mythical creatures who inhabit the pages of his Smash Hits. Though his hometown is not without characters and Jamie’s life not without dramas—courtesy of a cast of West Midlands divas led by his mother, Gloria. Her one-liners are as colourful as the mohair cardies she carries off with the panache of a television landlady.

‘Rich, layered, filigree characters unveil a compelling portrait of queerness in working class England, a narrative both familiar and sacred. Reading this book was like coming home. Beautiful.’—JOELLE TAYLOR

We follow Jamie through secondary school, teenage troubles and away to art school; there he experiences the flush of first love with Billy, and  the rush of the big city. But what then? Will he return to the safety of Welston, or risk everything on a new life in London?

‘An authentic, poignant account of working class life and manners and, ultimately, the overriding love the

author feels for those who shaped his childhood. I didn’t want it to end.’—ANN MITCHELL

These flamboyantly funny stories of self-discovery, set against the shifting social scenery of the 80s and 90s, are for everybody who’s ever decided to be the person they are meant to be.

——-

I leave you with the wonderful extract of Tales of the Suburbs:

BOOK EXTRACT

In this excerpt from Chapter Three, Mirror Ball, it’s 1988, New Year’s Eve. Jamie Johnson, a teenager growing up in the Black Country—drained grey by Mrs Thatcher’s steely policies—has all his life dreamt of escape to a magical metropolis where he could rub shoulders with the pop stars he found between the pages of Smash Hits. He finds himself here instead…

Ray’s Volvo smells of warm plastic and lemon air freshener. It’s all mock-luxury: leopard print seat covers and faux mahogany panelling. Jamie, his best mate—Paul, and Paul’s sister—Debs are in the back. Angie, Paul’s mum, is in the front passenger seat doing her hair. They’re waiting for Ray, Paul’s dad, to drive them all to the baths. They call it ‘The Baths’, but for as long as Jamie can remember the pool has been covered with a semi-permanent wooden dance floor. It’s used for ballroom dancing now, and prom nights.

It’s New Year’s Eve and they’re all going to party, just like they do every year. No school for another week. They’re all dressed up. Paul and Jamie are in grey chinos, black slip-on shoes and cotton shirts. Jamie’s is pink. Paul’s is lemon. Debs is wearing a sequined dress with a lace over-skirt and mesh fingerless gloves.

As per usual, Ray is the last one to get ready. He sticks his head through the driver’s side window. ‘Angie, have you seen my gold bracelet? I can’t find a stick of jewellery anywhere.’

‘It’s on the dressing table next to your cufflinks. And hurry up—we’re gonna be late.’

He disappears again. Angie carefully divides her hair into sections with a comb and applies portable curling tongs that she’s connected to the cigarette lighter. She looks over her shoulder. ‘Looking forward to it, kids?’

‘Highlight of my year, Mum.’ Paul laughs and elbows Jamie playfully.

Finally, Ray gets in, suitably bejewelled, patting his hair, quiff at the front, duck’s arse at the back. His shirt is open to the fourth button down, revealing the flash of a gold chain and a mat of chest hair. He reeks of eau de toilette, but Jamie knows he must have rushed in the shower because there’s still the undercurrent of armpit odour beneath cheap deodorant.

He throws his leather jacket at Jamie and says, ‘’Ere Cock, put that on the back shelf, will ya?’ He pulls the plug of the heated tongs out, chucks it into Angie’s lap, pushes the cigarette lighter back in and says, ‘Have you got the tickets?’

‘Ray! I was using that.’

‘You look fine. Don’t make a fuss,’ he says, picking a cassette off the dashboard and inserting it into the player. He turns the rear-view mirror to face himself, licks a finger and smoothes down his eyebrows. Then, he adjusts his seat and belts up like a fighter pilot in an F-14 Tomcat.

As he turns the ignition, Angie says, ‘Did you lock the back door?’ and the car lurches forward to the sound of Take My Breath Away, nearly causing her to doodle lipstick over her cheek. She punches him hard on the shoulder. ‘You left it wide open when you went out last Wednesday. That’s why the place stinks of cat’s piss. I come home to a kitchen full of stray moggies.’

Jamie’s still trying to find room for Ray’s jacket behind him. The whole back seat shelf is cluttered with Debs’ dancing trophies.

Angie hands two ten-pound notes over her shoulder. ‘That’s for your drinks, lads. Don’t spend it all at once.’ She didn’t do that last year.

‘Where’s mine?’ Debs says.

‘Your Dad’ll buy your drinks. You’re not old enough.’

‘Neither are these two. They’re only sixteen.’

The lighter pops out again and Ray says, ‘Angie, light me one of them cigars, will you luv.’

‘You’re a girl,’ she says, ignoring Ray. ‘I don’t want you going near that bar. Understand?’

‘It’s not fair. You never let me do anything because I’m a girl.’

Jamie takes the tenner and puts it in his pocket. ‘Thanks Angie.’

Angie turns around in her seat and looks directly at him. ‘Jamie sweetheart, keep your eye on her, will you?’

‘Alright Ange,’ Jamie says. When Angie sits back, he nudges Debs. She looks at him and he puts a finger to his lips, tapping his trouser pocket at the same time. She smiles and touches her top lip with her tongue. Unbeknownst to Angie, Jamie and Paul have been doing extra paper
rounds for beer money.

Angie turns round in her seat again. ‘Here, Jamie, it might be your lucky night,’ she says, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.

‘How do you mean?’ Jamie asks, feeling himself blush.

‘You might meet your future wife,’ she says.

Paul rolls his eyes and inspects his biceps.

Debs shakes her head. ‘Are you kidding? At the baths?’

‘It’s where me and y’dad met,’ Angie says.

‘A marriage made in heaven,’ Paul says.

‘Pure Barbara Cartland,’ Debs says, and looks out of the window.

At the baths, they pull onto the muddy car park where Alan, Janice and Darren are waiting at the bottom of

the steps. They all get out of the Volvo—Debs runs to Darren and snogs him. Ray walks over to Alan, his drinking partner—they shake hands and slap each other on the shoulder.

‘All right, mate?’ Ray says and then turns to Paul and throws his car keys at him. ‘Park it round the back, Son. And don’t scratch it.’

Paul’s eyes widen. ‘Thanks Dad,’ he says, watching them all walk up the steps to the dancehall. Angie and Jamie struggle behind with plastic bags of picnic food, soft drinks and undelivered Christmas presents. Her shoes are sinking into puddles.

Angie shouts to Ray, ‘Do you really think you should be letting him park that car?’

‘Why?’ Ray asks.

‘I only washed it yesterday. He’s gonna drive it through all that mud.’

‘Oh, stop going on, woman!’

From one of her carrier bags, Angie pulls a fire extinguisher sized canister of hairspray and mists her head as they go through the double doors. She passes it forward to Janice who does the same, walking down the corridor.

‘Fuck’s sake Janice!’ Alan says. ‘I can fucking taste the stuff. Leave it out.’

—–

What are your thoughts on the extract? Let me know in the comments!

Make sure to check out the trailer for the book by clicking H E R E.

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*Purchase ‘Tales of the Suburbs’ here:

*You can also find the book here: Foyles and the Inkandescent website.

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Justin David

Justin David is a writer and photographer. A child of Wolverhampton, he has lived and worked in East London for most of his adult life. He graduated from the MA Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, has read at Polari at Royal Festival Hall, and is a founder member of Leather Lane Writers. His writing has appeared in many print and online anthologies and his debut novella, The Pharmacist, was first published by Salt as part of their Modern Dreams series. His photography collection of nocturnal performers, Night Work, has been exhibited in London at venues including Jackson’s Lane. His photographic works have appeared on the pages of numerous magazines including: Attitude, Classical Music Magazine, Gay Times, Out There, Pink Paper and Time Out.

Find him on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads

[Q&A with the author] The Good Ones by Polly Stewart @pollystew @harperbooks #TheGoodOnes

I’m so excited to be sharing this Q&A with Polly Stewart, author of The Good Ones forthcoming from Harper Books on June 6th 2023.

Q&A

Q: What inspired you to write your novel ‘The Good Ones’?

A: When I started The Good Ones, I really wasn’t thinking about it being published. I just wanted to write a book that was so much fun that I’d feel excited to get up and work on it every day. My way of doing that was to put together a bunch of things that I could talk about endlessly: true crime, complicated friendships, the landscape and culture of the Southern U.S., etc. I didn’t outline this book, and I really didn’t have much of an idea of where it would go. I’m just lucky that it came together as well as it did.

Q: How long did it take you to write your novel?

A: From the original idea to publication will be almost five years. I hope the next one will be a bit faster!

Q: Do you have a routine for writing – do you write at a certain time for a couple of hours or do you do it spontaneously?

A: A teacher I had in high school used to tell our class we should write every day. I was an obedient student, so I started doing writing every day back then and I’ve done it ever since. Right now I teach full-time and my kids are still pretty young, so that means from four to seven on weekday mornings and whenever I can on weekend mornings. I really like it. It’s like those early-morning hours give me permission to immerse myself in the story I’m trying to tell.

Q: Does your job influence your work in any way?

A: I teach British literature and creative writing at the college level. The connection with creative writing is pretty obvious, but I also see a connection to my literature courses. There are a lot of references to Jane Eyre in The Good Ones, and I was teaching that novel almost every semester when I was writing the book. Next year I’m teaching a course on Victorian literature where we’ll spend a lot of time on some of the earliest crime and suspense novels, and I’m really excited about that.

Q: Was there a particular scene which you found hard to write (spoiler-free if possible)?

A: I have to trick myself into writing scenes with a lot of action or violence. I think it’s just that I wrote literary fiction for a long time before I came to suspense, and I still feel less confident when it comes to those areas. Usually I make myself bang out a first draft of the scene as fast as I can, Bird by Bird-style, and then at least I know I’ve written something I can come back to later.

Q: Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

A: My main character, Nicola, and I don’t have much in common. Like me, she went to grad school, but after that her life went in a very different direction than mine. The character I relate to most is Nicola’s friend Jessi Westcott. Like Jessi, I have a child on the autism spectrum, and I want to write about the challenges and also the great blessings of being a special needs mom. Jessi is also the first person to call Nicola on her self-absorption and navel-gazing, and I was definitely speaking through her a little bit at that point.

Q: What authors have influenced you and made you fall in love with reading and eventually writing a novel?

A: Oh, so many! My absolute favorite novel of all time is Middlemarch by George Eliot. I’m fascinated by small towns where everyone is connected, and the way she structures the plot to interweave all these different perspectives is astonishing to me. She also writes the most beautiful sentences—I’d probably get one as a tattoo, except they’re so long it would cover my whole body. The Secret History by Donna Tartt, like Middlemarch, is part of my DNA—I listened to it on audiobook recently and I realized I could quote big sections of the text that I’d never made any effort to memorize. There’s also Tana French, Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott…I could go on.

Q: Are you currently reading anything – if so, what are you reading at the moment?

A: I just finished Rebecca Makkai’s I Have Some Questions for You, which was so good that I read it almost in one sitting. I’m about the same age as her main character and grew up in a similar setting, so it was deeply nostalgic for me, but also just an amazingly good story.

Q: Is there a lingering idea for a future novel?

A: I’m going to get back to work on it just as soon as I send off this email! It’s about small towns and family secrets—again, a bunch of things I’m obsessed with all rolled into one book.

Thank you so much to Polly for taking the time to answer these questions for Breathing Through Pages!

If any of the U.K. folks are interested in this book it will be out on June 6th 2023 from Constable.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this Q&A! Make sure to check out my review of the book which I’ll be posting very soon!

THE GOOD ONES

Forthcoming from Harper Books on June 6th 2023

All the buy/pre-order links for The Good Ones are below!

Add ‘The Good Ones‘ to your TBR:  

*Pre-order ‘The Good Ones‘ here:

*Pre-order ‘The Good Ones‘ here:a-co_-uk_logo_rgb-630x301

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Polly Stewart is the author of The Good Ones, forthcoming from Harper Books in June 2023. As Mary Stewart Atwell, she’s also the author of Wild Girls (Scribner 2012). Her essays have appeared in the New York Times and Poets & Writers, among other publications. She runs the Craft of Crime Fiction interview series, formerly published on Fiction Writers Review and now appearing on Instagram.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[BOOK REVIEW] You Can’t Stay Here Forever by Katherine Lin @harperbooks #YouCantStayHereForever

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You Can’t Stay Here Forever has a striking cover, the gorgeous colours, the photograph of a person diving into a pool and that stunning view from the pool – that’s evident, and yes that’s what first attracted me to this book. After taking a look at the cover I then went on to read the synopsis and found it to sound like something I’d enjoy reading. If you’re wondering, yes I did enjoy reading You Can’t Stay Here Forever but I also had certain issues with it.

You Can’t Stay Here Forever is about Eleanor Huang who goes by Ellie, an attorney at a prestigious law firm in San Francisco. When Ellie suddenly becomes a widow and on top of that finds out that her husband had a mistress, her reality begins to blur. Crashing in on her late husband’s insurance policy, she books a three week stay at a luxurious hotel called Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, France (google it, it looks so fabulous and mesmerizing) with her best-friend Mable Chou. Coming to Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc Ellie believes that she’ll be able to find balance and escape the craziness that she left in the U.S. but she’ll soon realise that moving oneself from one place to another won’t resolve any issues. This vacation will influence her and shape the course of her future.

The novel deals with a story that is interesting but slow-paced in a way, hence why people who are looking for a book that has more dynamics will be left unsatisfied. It’s more of a psychological study of a character rather than a novel that’s plot driven. While reading You Can’t Stay Here Forever, I could tell that the author was a debut author but I have to say that Katherine Lin has talent, certain passages and observations written in the novel left me speechless. Especially the following one:

‘At some point it became clear to me that we weren’t exactly hanging out together, more that I was following her around and she let me. I felt like an observer to her life, and almost felt compelled to take notes, as if I were a ghostwriter on assignment.’

I felt like the character of Ellie Huang was the most fleshed out in the book out of all the characters and I found her to be interesting – with flaws as well as virtues. Her decision making was somewhat questionable at times. When it comes to the side characters, specifically Fauna and Robbie, I have to say that they felt one-dimensional, they had no depth to them other than the perception that Ellie and Mable had of them. I didn’t find them to be as interesting as Ellie and Mable did. The progression of Ellie’s story was something I was interested in the most because I was rooting for her to make the best decisions and deal with real-life. Something I found to be touching was the friendship between Ellie and Mable because the author showcased the many layers that a friendship has – from the falling out, to the not-talking, to reconciliation. Their friendship was the beacon of the book, in my opinion, it was something that provided the reader with many observations about how a friendship works and how individuals connect with each other. The book touches on the topic of race, Ellie being an Asian-American woman and Ian being a white American man, married to each other, and it approaches it in a real way, it showcases the issues that are set in reality. The last hundred pages of the book I didn’t find to be convincing because of how unreal I felt they were but mostly because of the pace, the fast realisation of the main character was something that felt unrealistic to me. I feel like the author could’ve spent more times fleshing that part out because it would’ve been more cohesive.

I feel like a rating of 3.5 stars is something I find to be realistic for this novel because of the issues I stumbled upon while reading it, but that doesn’t devalue the book as a whole because I’ve enjoyed my experience with the book. I’m curious to read other people’s opinions on the book and will follow upcoming reviews.

I would like to thank the publisher (Harper Books) for providing me with an advance reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions reflected in this review are my own and aren’t influenced by the fact that I got this book for free from the publisher.

You Can’t Stay Here Forever by Katherine Lin comes out on June 13th 2023 from Harper Books

My rating: halfstar

Add ‘You Can’t Stay Here Forever‘ to your TBR: 

*Purchase ‘You Can’t Stay Here Forever‘ here:amazoncom-inc-logo

*I am in no way compensated by this site, I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

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Katherine Lin is an attorney and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area and a graduate of Northwestern University and Stanford Law School. You Can’t Stay Here Forever is her debut novel.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Instagram.

[BOOK REVIEW] Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn #SharpObjects

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I watched the TV mini series back when it came out in 2018 and was just floored by it! I found it to be so enjoyable and captivating! I bought a paperback copy of Sharp Objects a few years back and have postponed reading because of I don’t know why but I’m glad I picked it up and read it now! I have to say that the mini series is quite close to the book so kudos to Flynn for getting involved with it and providing the readers with what we deserve.

Sharp Objects follows Camille Preaker, a reporter for a small newspaper press in Chicago called The Daily Post. Her first assignment is to investigate the strange murders of pre-teen girls that happened in Wind Gap, a town she grew up in. Camille is reluctant to take the assignment but knows very well that she can’t say no so she goes in – but going in means reconnecting with her strange mother Adora and her step-father Alan as well as seeing her step-sister Amma who she doesn’t know well at all. Visiting Wind Gap won’t be easy for Camille because it’ll open up old wounds and might even open new ones… will she be able to overcome her past and focus on the task she’s been assigned to or will the past catch up with her and influence her investigations?

Flynn is someone whose writing I love and whose mind I find to be so fascinating. She comes up with great and complex female characters and stories. I just loved reading Gone Girl and was amazed at how someone could write such a good thriller that makes the reader gasp and be speechless. I’m so glad I read Sharp Objects because once again Flynn showcases her crafting skills and comes up with such interesting, flawed and complex characters. I found all the characters to be very well-written especially Camille, Adora and Amma. I wanted to learn more about the latter two because I found their psyche to be something so fascinating. Although the book was 400 pages I wished she gave us more of a backstory involving certain characters because that would’ve been even more enjoyable and fun. The book is very dark and it won’t be for everyone because it involves certain trigger warnings such as cutting, mutilation and more. I don’t wish to discuss this book further because of potential spoilers hence why I’ll leave you with this: for anyone who enjoys reading good psychological thrillers and mystery books this one is for you.

Sharp Objects is a fantastic thriller featuring very complex and unlikable characters that’ll make you read-on until you get to the very end and then wish for more.

My rating:

Add ‘Sharp Objects‘ to your TBR: 

*Purchase ‘Sharp Objects‘ here:

*Purchase ‘Sharp Objects‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

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Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.

Her book has received wide praise, including from authors such as Stephen King. The dark plot revolves around a serial killer in a Missouri town, and the reporter who has returned from Chicago to cover the event. Themes include dysfunctional families,violence and self-harm.

In 2007 the novel was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Writer, Crime Writers’ Association Duncan Lawrie, CWA New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Daggers, winning in the last two categories.

Flynn, who lives in Chicago, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She graduated at the University of Kansas, and qualified for a Master’s degree from Northwestern University..

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[BOOK REVIEW] My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell #MyDarkVanessa

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The more I mull over this novel and think back on my experience with it I’m struck by the wrongness of my rating hence the change from 4 to 5 stars. Having previously read Putney (see my review here) I felt the urge to (re)read My Dark Vanessa after it, in order to see how the two works relate to each other and to provide a long due review for MDV. I have to admit that my experience with MDV felt more intimate but I don’t wish to undermine the importance of Putney because it was such an important novel.

My Dark Vanessa follows Vanessa Wye, a fourteen/fifteen year old girl who becomes involved in a sexual relationship with a much older English teacher (eighteen-year difference between the two) Jacob Strane at a boarding school she’s enrolled in. Almost two decades later Jacob is accused of sexual abuse by a former student of his but Vanessa’s perception of that subject and of her relationship with Jacob is quite different. Vanessa becomes conflicted, begins questioning what’s right and what’s wrong because her experience with him didn’t involve sexual abuse, did it?

So, Kate Elizabeth Russell can write! I never felt a dull moment while I read the book because everything was connected to the larger plot points. What I really appreciated was the depth the story had. What I felt lacking in Putney was what I found in MDV and that is the slow realisation of things happening to the main character. Yes, Putney had three characters and MDV had one but I still wished for Putney’s main character (Daphne) to have that deep introspection when it came to the realisation that abuse had taken place. I absolutely loved how Putney had three characters because we got more POVs and more details and I sort of wish MDV had Jacob’s perspective at least (although we got to see the speculation behind his behaviour). Both novels feature very dark, heavy themes and are very interesting in their own ways so I’m glad that I read them both (one after the other). Going back to MDV, Vanessa’s character was very multi-layered and real – from her teenage, rebellious teens to her slightly older thirties. Her problems and dilemmas were realistic (in my opinion) and added complexity to her character. It was interesting seeing the relationship between Vanessa and Jacob through her (V) eyes because I became so invested in her story and wished to help her. I don’t wish to discuss the book further because I feel like I’ll ruin the experience to the future reader. This novel, as well as Putney, is very heavy in its themes and subject matter but also very important. Stories like these are real and need to be told.

If you’re an individual who is interested in the heavier novels that deal with important topics such as sexual abuse, mental health issues and much more then this (and Putney) is the book you’ll want to add to your TBR and read.

I would like to thank the publisher (4th Estate) for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by the fact that I got this book from the publisher.

Have you read this book? Does it intrigue you? Please, let me know down below in the comment section.

My rating:

Add ‘My Dark Vanessa‘ to your TBR: 

*Purchase ‘My Dark Vanessa‘ here:

*Purchase ‘My Dark Vanessa‘ with free international delivery here:

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

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Kate Elizabeth Russell was born and raised in eastern Maine. She holds an MFA from Indiana University and a PhD from the University of Kansas. My Dark Vanessa is her debut novel.

Find her on: Website and Goodreads.

[BOOK REVIEW] Putney by Sofka Zinovieff #Putney

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The story centers around Ralph Boyd a gifted composer who upon being asked by a famous novelist Edmund Greenslay to score his most famous work becomes invited into Greenslay’s world where he meets Edmund’s nine-year old daughter Daphne and becomes infatuated with her. What ensues is a dark, twisted relationship and complex bond between Ralph and Daphne. We also meet Ralph when he approaches his seventies and Daphne in her fifties who looks back on her time with him and starts to realise what happened was far from innocent. Within the story we have a third voice, the voice of Jane, Daphne’s best friend whose role in the book gives us more insight into the psychological effects of the complexity of this relationship.

Putney is a gorgeously written novel, Zinovieff can write! I just love how she described things in the book. She’s definitely a skilled writer. Putney is a dark tale, a spine-chilling one when you look back on it. She doesn’t shy away from delving deep into the complexity of the relationship between Ralph and Daphne. I enjoyed how she gave Ralph flaws and issues of his own instead of just presenting him as a straight-up abuser (which he is). The whole story had depth that I look for in novels that deal with such intricate and hard subjects. My issues with the book might be spoiler hence why I won’t share them but I’ll say that certain small portions of the novel weren’t believable to me, the sudden change of opinions/realisations of things. I wished they were fleshed out better. Zinovieff does a great job at describing the atmosphere, I especially enjoyed reading about Greece. I feel like this story was told very well and that this book should be read by everyone interested in this subject matter, it’s just so important. The author doesn’t as mentioned before shy away from dealing with hard topics such as r*pe, abu** and I think that’s very important because it challenges the reader and makes them think.

If you’re interested in the subject matter this book deals with I’d urge you to get a copy of this book and read it because it’s important and well-written.

I would like to thank the publisher (Bloomsbury UK) for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by the fact that I got this book from the publisher.

My rating:

Add ‘Putney‘ to your TBR: 

*Purchase ‘Putney‘ here:

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**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

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Sofka spent most of her childhood living in London, where her father, Peter Zinovieff, had an electronic music studio (EMS). Visitors to the house during the 1960s and ‘70s included composers and musicians as diverse as Harrison Birtwistle and Pink Floyd. Both her paternal grandparents were from St Petersburg and escaped to England after the 1917 revolution. She was named after her Russian grandmother, the subject of Red Princess: A Revolutionary Life.

After attending schools in London and Oxford, Sofka studied social anthropology at Cambridge. She carried out research for her PhD in Greece, which marked the beginning of a lifelong involvement with the country. She later lived in Moscow and Rome, where she worked as a freelance journalist.

Sofka is the author of five books, the latest of which is Putney (hardback 2018, paperback 2019): ‘Lolita in reverse: a novel for the #MeToo age which addresses the minefield of sexual consent.’

She is married, has two daughters and lives between Athens and London.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[BOOK REVIEW] The Kind Worth Saving by Peter Swanson #TheKindWorthSaving

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The Kind Worth Saving (2023) by Peter Swanson is the sequel to his popular thriller The Kind Worth Killing (2015). Before I begin, I would like to note that this book can’t be read as a standalone because it spoils the happenings of the first one, so be aware of that when deciding whether to go into this one. I would definitely recommend The Kind Worth Killing because it’s quite fast-paced and thrilling! When it comes to The Kind Worth Saving – well, I found it to be fast-paced and interesting but somehow rushed. This review will be spoiler-free. Before I go in: there’s a trigger warning regarding a school-shooting which plays a role in the book.

The Kind Worth Saving follows Henry Kimball (a character from TKWK) who is hired to investigate a cheating allegation from a concerned wife (Joan). While investigating he begins to form some sort of a relationship with the woman being suspected of having an affair with Joan’s husband. From then on things turn upside down and nothing is what it seems. Having some issues Henry calls for Lily Kintner (character from TKWK) to lend a helping hand. Basically this sounds like a reiterated blurb from Goodreads but oh well!

What can one expect from Swanson? Mystery, yes. Thrillery feels, yes. Fast-paced novels, yes! Swanson knows how to craft a nice thriller and keep the reader engaged. I read this book in three days and found it to be very enjoyable. Whenever I stopped reading I kept coming back to the book, always thinking about what’s going to happen next. Although The Kind Worth Saving was an enjoyable read for me I found it to be a bit rushed, especially the ending and actions of the characters. Having built the psychology surrounding each character I expected more cunningness, more reasoning, more psychological battle that leaves the reader gasping and guessing. I must say that the twists were interesting although after the first one I found the rest to be fine, they didn’t WOW me as much. I absolutely enjoyed reading the first part featuring Joan and her “tender age”. Such an interesting character yet I wish we got more from her. I like how Swanson combined the story from the first book and we got a bit more information regarding our returning characters. I don’t wish to spoil anything so I’ll have to refrain myself from discussing the book further for fear of ruining the experience for future readers.

The Kind Worth Saving is a thrilling fast-paced book, something you can always expect from this author. It will definitely keep you entertained!

My rating: ratingstarratingstarratingstarhalfstar

The Kind Worth Saving is out on the 2nd of March 2023.

I would like to thank the publisher (Faber&Faber) for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by the fact that I got this book from the publisher.

Add ‘The Kind Worth Saving‘ to your TBR:  

*Purchase ‘The Kind Worth Saving‘ here:

*Purchase ‘The Kind Worth Saving‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Peter Swanson is the author of four novels: The Girl With a Clock For a Heart, an LA Times Book Award finalist; The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, All the Beautiful Lies. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine. A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

Find him on: Website, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter.

[BOOK REVIEW] The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer #TheChildrensCrusade

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Compared to my previous read Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler this book had more depth and more meat. I also don’t get the low ratings and reviews but some reviews make a good point – still, in my opinion, I feel like this is a solid family saga novel.

The book follows the Blair family, four siblings: Robert, Rebecca, Ryan and James but also the parents: Bill and Penny (it’s mostly focused on the children but it has many interactions with the parents because we follow the children from a very young age). Now, you know there’s going to be drama because the last kid isn’t named with a letter R!! I’m kidding but not really. The novel deals with issues which are real such as sibling rivalry, attachment, detachment, jealousy, distant parents… The synopsis on Goodreads does a good job of giving you the skinny of the novel. The novel is an interesting exploration of a family with many layers in it from the above mentioned sibling rivalry, to the jealousy, distancing from the parents, damaged relationships etc. Every time I sat down to read I read around 80-100 pages in one sitting because of how invested I became in the story. Let’s discuss what I found the book was lacking: explanations, certain scenes which would help give the reader even more depth in regards to the ways certain characters felt towards one another. Having set the story where there’s a psychiatrist and two doctors in the family I expected more complexity when it comes to the intra and interpersonal relationships. I wish the author gave us more context rather than leaving us wondering about what might’ve caused this reaction and this scene. Maybe that’s me being lazy because I know some people love to wonder and analyse but I’d rather have more complexity inside the novel so I could analyse the characters better.

Issues aside I felt like this novel did a nice job in following the family saga rule: provide the reader with many years/decades and many situations where we can see the family interact and see the family grow in many ways (those are my rules at least). I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the story and in the genre.

My rating:

Add ‘The Children’s Crusade‘ to your TBR: 

*Purchase ‘The Children’s Crusade‘ here:

*Purchase ‘The Children’s Crusade‘ here:

*Purchase ‘The Children’s Crusade‘ with free international delivery here:

***I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

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Ann Packer was born in Stanford, California, in 1959, and grew up near Stanford University, where her parents were professors. She attended Yale University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Michener-Copernicus Society, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

She is the acclaimed author of two collections of short fiction, Swim Back to Me and Mendocino and Other Stories, and three bestselling novels, The Children’s Crusade, Songs Without Words, and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, which received the Kate Chopin Literary Award, among many other prizes and honors. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and in the O. Henry Prize Stories anthologies, and her novels have been published around the world.

Beginning in 2016, Ann expanded her writing into film and TV, collaborating on these projects with her husband, the novelist and screenwriter Rafael Yglesias. They divide their time between New York, the Bay Area, and Maine.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[BOOK TOUR: BOOK EXTRACT] I am not Raymond Wallace by Sam Kenyon @InkandescentUK @ogleforth

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Today is my stop on the I am not Raymond Wallace by Sam Kenyon online book tour and I’m so excited to be sharing an extract of the book with you.

I leave you with the extract of I am not Raymond Wallace:

BOOK EXTRACT

Raymond Wallace arrives in New York in the autumn of 1963 on a bursary to the New York Times. He is researching an article on the ‘Growth of ‘overt’ homosexuality’ in the city. One lonely night he walks the length of Manhattan, and finds a bar in Brooklyn called Little Navy. There he meets Joey, and goes home with him. Walking back to his digs after that first night together, Raymond reflects on a past encounter with a figure from his time at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

[Excerpt from Chapter Seven:]

As he swallows the last bite of his sandwich Raymond finds himself simultaneously on 3rd Avenue, with the Chrysler tower in the distance, and in the tunnel beneath Emmanuel Street that night in his second term when he’d come across Stephen lounging on the steps by North Court.

‘Wallace, my saviour!’ Stephen had said, almost as though he’d been waiting just for Raymond. ‘It’s drunk out tonight, isn’t it?’ Stephen had added, groaning with the effort of standing. ‘May I escort you?’

‘I’m fine actually, thanks, Stephen,’ Raymond had said, trying to dodge past.

‘Don’t be a spoilsport, Wallace. We go back a long way.’

Despite Raymond’s protestations, Stephen had deftly and firmly hooked their arms together, making the journey across the court lurchingly awkward. At Z staircase he had dived to push the door open, then stood inside and indicated for Raymond to follow, as though it were his—and not Raymond’s—staircase they were entering. As they had walked up the half-flight of stairs, he had leaned exaggeratedly on Raymond as though for assistance, so that by the time they had reached the top step their cheeks were nearly touching. When Raymond had then tried to extricate himself from his grip, he had felt the sudden pressure of Stephen’s lips on his, smelt his sour drunkenness in his nostrils and then been assaulted by the grotesque, liver-like presence of Stephen’s tongue in his own mouth. Raymond had reflexively pushed him away, and Stephen had staggered down the stairs, laughing. ‘You, Wallace, know exactly what you are and what you want. You’ve always known it. And so have I.’

Raymond had shaken his head and turned swiftly to open his door. But as he’d flicked the lock behind him, his hand had quivered almost uncontrollably. From the safety of the half-closed curtains of his windows, he had watched Stephen’s hobbling retreat across the court with a penitent sort of relief—as though he’d avoided something awful, but only by a whisker.

The following day was when the scandal had broken. For it turned out that, on leaving Raymond that night, Stephen had taken solace in the arms of the organ scholar and the pair had been discovered in flagrante delicto by a cleaner in the morning. As Raymond turns onto East 47th Street he reflects that—at the time—Stephen’s consequent rustication had felt like a fortuitous reprieve.

Raymond expels any further thoughts of Stephen Bennett from his head and, for the remainder of his journey, indulges in infinitely more pleasurable recollections, slipping his hand into his pocket from time to time to touch Joey’s phone number like a talisman.

On a bookshelf in the lobby of the YMCA that afternoon, he comes across a copy of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. He has a vague recollection of having read it before, but can’t remember when. Taking it to his dormitory, he lies on his narrow bed and studies the claustrophobic tale of the fifty-year-old Von Aschenbach and his fatal obsession with the teenage Tadzio; of Von Aschenbach’s descent from his lauded position as celebrated man of letters to a parodic, tragic figure; of his impulsive decision to have his greying hair dyed an uncanny black, his pallid cheeks rouged; of his cherishing the odd insouciant glance from the callow youth, and of Von Aschenbach’s piteous succumbing to the encroaching pestilence with which the city of Venice is afflicted that fateful summer. For Raymond, this reads not as a story of lust and obsession, of age and youth, but rather of the realisation of loss; the desire to regain that which is gone.

When Mann uses the word ‘degeneracy’ to refer to his hero’s life, Raymond is reminded of a speech from a vicar in his first term at Cambridge, in which he had said—ominously, Raymond had always felt—that the past depends on the future—as though any sense of a good reputation was, as of that moment—and perhaps always is—defined solely by how one comports oneself beyond it throughout the remaining portion of one’s life. At the time it had generated in Raymond a pendulous sense of responsibility which he had experienced as a sort of curse. Now, lying on his bed at the YMCA that first night after the night before, Raymond realises that, if he should die at that very instant then at least he would do so without the pestilence of his future mistakes.

When Raymond returns to his room after his evening meal that night he takes off his clothes, removes a small mirror from the wall and uses it to examine his body. He is looking for evidence that something has changed; that something from his time with Joey has remained, there, on his skin; or perhaps he is checking for signs of contamination. He looks and looks but doesn’t find anything at all, and as he climbs into bed, he begins to wonder whether any of it—of last night—was real. And then, in the vertiginous moment just before he drifts off to sleep, he understands that it isn’t whether it was real or not that is his query; it’s whether he had deserved any of it.

What are your thoughts on the extract? Let me know in the comments!

Make sure to check out the trailer for the book by clicking H E R E.

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*Purchase ‘I am not Raymond Wallace’ here:

*Purchase ‘I am not Raymond Wallace’ with free international delivery here: 

*You can also find the book here: Foyles and the Inkandescent website.

***I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

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Sam Kenyon is a writer, composer and teacher, and lives in London with his partner, Mitch, and their daughter. ​ He studied English Literature at Emmanuel College, Cambridge (MA Hons Cantab), before training as a performer and voice teacher at the Royal Academy of Music in London (ARAM, LRAM). ​ From early 2013 he researched and developed a musical based on the life of the maverick theatre director Joan Littlewood. Produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and directed by Erica Whyman, Miss Littlewood premièred at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in June 2018. See his News page for more updates. The script is published by Concord Theatricals, and the cast recording available from the RSC shop, on iTunes and on Spotify. ​​​ In September 2022, his first novel, ‘I Am Not Raymond Wallace’, will be published by Inkandescent. Spanning forty years, starting in Manhattan in 1963 and culminating in Paris in 2003, it is a novel about queer history and families, loss and redemption. ​ He is the Voice Team Leader for the Royal Academy of Music’s teaching diploma, as well as a repertoire coach for their Musical Theatre Department, and he runs a private teaching practice from his home in South East London.

Find him on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.