Author Archives: kehs

Monster Love – Carol Toplolski

Amazon Synopsis
Brendan and Sherilyn. A young couple in love. Each has met their soul mate, and nothing can come between them. In fact, the Gutteridges are so wrapped up in each other that their neighbours barely know them, despite the woman next door’s nosy curiosity. Their families and their work colleagues see only the perfect couple in the perfect home, the perfect car crouching in the drive. And then a baby is born – contaminating this pristine life in which there is only room for two. But they find the ideal solution. What may be one couple’s happy ending is everyone else’s indescribable nightmare…Told through the Gutteridges’ voices, and those of their families, neighbours, and those who will come across them in the aftermath, this perverse love story hurtles to the heart of evil – the evil that could be anyone’s next door neighbour.

My Thoughts

The storyline revolves around neighbours thoughts and feelings on an appalling murder committed by Sheralyn and Brendan Gutteridge. This monsterous couple lock their four-year-old daughter Samantha in a cage and leave her to die without them feeling a shadow of remorse. When I read the harrowing passage about this little girl’s death I thought I wouldn’t be able to carry on but Topolski writes very fluidly and pulls you into the bewilderment that the community feel. The book fed on my own paranoia of how well do we ever know other people. It is a very disturbing tale that is now haunting me and I can’t get the tragic images out of my mind. I did get a reprieve from the horrors it contains because the telepathic communion between the couple seemed  seemed a little far fetched . Thanks to that it took the edge off of the shocking storyline for me.  I will look out for more by the author but hopefully she’ll choose a less sensitve subject next time.

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Listen to my Voice – Susanna Tamaro

I received this book as a proof to read and review and how very thankful I am that I did. I doubt I would have picked this one up otherwise and thus would have missed out on an intriguing read. It is a sequel to Tamaro’s previous book titled Follow Your Heart in which an elderly Italian woman writes a letter to her granddaughter for her to read after her death. I haven’t read this book but that fact didn’t in anyway detract from my enjoyment or understanding of Listen to my Voice.

In Listen To My Voice we hear the granddaughter, Marta, as she tells her story which is addressed to the memory of her grandmother. Marta went to live and be raised by her grandmother when she was 4 years old.  Her gran doesn’t ever tell her about her life before then and thus she knows very little about her parents. Marta believes her father is a Turkish prince and knows that her mother is dead. When Marta’s grandmother dies, she is left alone in the world. After a while she explores the house and discovers a box full of her mother’s belongings in the attic. Marta feels intense anger towards her grandmother for withholding the existence of all these items. The box contains several clues to her past and with the help of her mother’s journal and a faded photograph Marta sets off to track down her father.  She feels he may still be alive although she has long since realised he’s not a Turkish prince. Her search takes her to Israel where she finds a member of her mother’s family. She eventually traces her father and makes herself known to him. What follows is unexpected and leads to a very unusual father/daughter relationship.

As Marta went on her trail of self-discovery I found myself seeking the same answers to the questions she was asking, such as why are we here? What purpose do we serve? Can we alter anything for the better?  Do we enrich each other’s lives? This is an absorbing read, very philosophical and thought provoking, but also has a melancholy feel to it and at times it pulled me down. It maintains a sense of intrigue throughout though, so I never wanted to stop reading and eagerly devoured each page. Marta seemed to be trudging through a life that was filled with sadness, rejection, joy and regret, without any sense of hope.  I came to strongly care about her and truly wanted her to find the answers to her questions. Susanna Tamaro has written a bittersweet, yet heart-warming tale about love, life and the importance of belonging.

5/5

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War on the Margins – Libby Cone

Amazon Synopsis
War makes for difficult decisions.
At the beginning of the Second World War, after the fall of France, Churchill decided to demilitarize the Channel Islands and allow their occupation by the Germans because of their proximity to the Occupied French coast. The events that followed are still being elucidated in the decade since the opening of the archives.
In War on the Margins, we see the effects of the occupation upon marginalized persons such as clerk Marlene Zimmer, the child of a deceased Jewish father and Gentile mother, Claude Cahun (Lucille Schwob) and Marcel Moore (Suzanne Malherbe),Surrealist artists and longtime lovers, and Peter, an escaped Polish slave worker. We follow Suzanne and Lucille in their uniquely Surrealist Resistance activities and as they suffer in German military prison, and revisit Marlene, hiding from her own local authorities, as she slowly realizes that the decisions she has made resulted in the imprisonment of one woman and the saving of the life of another.

My Thoughts
This is an unforgettable read about the effects that WW11 had on the lives of the people of Jersey. To read it is to weep at the atrocities and unfairness, to rage at how this was allowed to happen, but ultimately to rejoice in the determined survival spirit that shone through. The fact that these events really took place and that they are not the invention of the author makes it all the more heart wrenching to read. Libby Cone has written her book in a sensitive manner and even allowed moments of humour to creep in. The author also used actual radio broadcasts of the time and several of the book’s characters were real people, not inventions from Cone’s mind, which makes the book all the more poignant.

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Wooden Womb Man – Elizabeth O’Neill

Amazon Synopsis
The Legg family are a nightmare, and it is only that good if you are part of it. Domestic violence, heavy drinking, junk food and cigarettes are the staples of everyday life and an unholy interest in eggs only adds a surreal twist to the misery Gregg Legg has to put up with. He has always been bullied and the bullying seems as though it will continue throughout his life, being only marginally better since he decided to marry Peggy Legg, who doesn’t let anyone bully her husband except herself. But now there is their son to think about and Gregg doesn’t want history to repeat itself. “Wooden Womb Man” is a surreal, darkly hilarious and often terrifying novel, which digs into the heart of an ASBO community and finds it to be as healthy as the ash from a packet of Kensitas Club. Set in Irvine, Elizabeth O’Neill writes in dialect and describes the horror of domestic abuse and its effects from a new and refreshing perspective, the darkness of the story leavened with some of the worst puns ever set in print.

My Thoughts

I was so drawn into the plight of the battered husband, Gregg, and how he tried to cover up his shame at this treatment from his wife that I could not put this book down. His wife, Peggy, was an evil woman, but at the same time, I felt she deserved some sympathy over the fact that she’d never received help for her mood swings, which were caused by PMT and later by early menopause. When they have a child together there are some truly awful moments that caused me to gasp out loud with shock and dismay. The title is very clever, referring to the shed that Gregg takes refuge in, but the ending, which takes part in his shed, is bittersweet and extremely shocking. In all, this tale is gritty, brutal and violent, but also poignant and heartbreaking.

 

The novel is written in Scottish dialect, and O’Neill has tackled the subject of domestic violence in a refreshingly new style. She has even managed to inject moments of humour, which help to alleviate the horrors that her story tells.

Many thanks to Anthony at www.bluechrome.co.uk for sending me this amazing book.

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Hang a Thousand trees With Ribbons – Anne Rinaldi

Amazon Synopsis

This is a moving historical novel based on the story of Phillis Wheatley – the first African American female poet. It is an intriguing and moving story of a young girl kidnapped from her home in Senegal and sold, in 1761, as a slave to the wealthy Wheatley family of Boston. Phillis Wheatley – as she comes to be known – has a keen intelligence and a knack for learning. When the family discover her gift for writing poetry, they begin to mould her future by having her ‘perform’ for influential guests. Eventually, she is sent to England, where her work is finally published – the first book of poetry by an African American woman. However, all the trappings of success do nothing to change the fact that she is still a slave.

My Thoughts

A wonderfully told tale of the first African American female poet. It charts her life from when she was young girl in Africa, to how she got caught by slave traders, her voyage to America, then being sold into slavery. It’s a tale full of courage and determination that kept me turning the pages until the very end. The strength and determination of this young girl, her journey into womanhood, and her eventual success as a published poet is an inspiring story. This is a period of history that needs to be written about and Rinaldi has done a terrific job. 

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The Last Days of Lacuna Cabal – Sean Dixon

Amazon Synopsis

An original, mischevious rites of passage novel which will delight fans of off-beat fiction such as ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’and ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’. The Lacuna Cabal Montreal Young Women’s Book Club is THE foremost book club in Canada, no, in the world. Priding themselves on their good taste, intelligent discussions and impeccable opinions, they are a group of misfits and oddballs, living on the edge of normality. There are only two rules: what Missy says goes (ok, there is a nod to democracy but let’s be honest here) and NO BOYS. EVER. Of course, the premier book club in the world must read the first book ever written: ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’. But this monumental book leads them to break all their rules, shed members who end up missing out on EVERYTHING, and travel across the open seas to Bahrain in search of a wise man who’ll hopefully have all the answers. Original, funny, quixotic and ultimately very moving,The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal is set in a time of upheaval: the Iraq war is exploding and people across the world are marching in protest.It’s the story of a group of friends who find a family of sorts within their book group, who learn to cope with love, and the lack of it, loss, and the lack of that, and with growing up in a world that is falling apart.

My Thoughts

 Quirky doesn’t go anywhere near describing this amazing novel. I found it surreal, utterly unique, bizarre and at times perplexing but always absolutely enthralling, it kept me intrigued and entertained throughout. Having said that it did take 75 pages before I was well and truly hooked. I persevered with it because it seemed so promising from its blurb and I was pleased to discover I was right to hang on in there with it. I do feel this is destined to become a ‘Marmite’ book though. Another plus is that it’s also inspired me to read The Epic of Gilgamesh, although it by no means necessary to do so to enjoy this book.

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The Secret Season – Tim Jeffreys (Audio book)

A selection of short stories, all with a menacing atmosphere and very well told by the narrators, Mia Jaye and Josh Cass.

Bones in the Meadow has a dark fairytale feel to it and is about the fate that befalls a group of young boys who are out camping.

 The Caged Sea is scarily realistic. It’s about an angry worker and his rage against society.

 The Monkey and the Munequita is slightly off the wall fantasy story and very quirky.

 Two cards on the Table is about a game of chance. It’s filled with a nightmare quality and has a dark,  brooding quality to it.

 Alice and the Scarecrow really creeped me out. Little Alice should have learnt to not be so mean before going on her picnic.

 The Secret Season finishes  this fabulous selection of dark horror tales.

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Living With the Truth – Jim Murdoch

This seemed in some ways like a terrific modern day take on A Christmas Carol. This time we meet Jonathan, a bookshop owner who is nearing the end of his life. He meets Truth who moves in with him and shows him what he has achieved with his life and what might have been. He gets to see what would have happened if only he had spoken his mind, made different choices and shared his thoughts and feelings with others. He learns how our world is governed by Truth, Death, Reality, Peace and Destiny. Some of what he learns is uncomfortable to hear, but then Truth can’t help speaking honestly, it’s what he is. Jonathan learns that Truth really is hard to live with and that Honesty is the best policy, but is it all too late? Read this fantastic, quirky book to find out. You won’t be sorry, especially if you enjoy Pratchett/Gaimen style humour. I read there is to be a sequel. I can’t wait to buy a copy.

 

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer

Told in epistolary form this book is comparable to 84 Charing Cross Road but also has a charm all of its own. Set in 1946, we meet Juliet, a writer who is searching for inspiration to begin a new book. By a string of coincidences she learns about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and becomes intrigued by them. They all begin writing to each other and sharing snippets of their lives. Some of their wartime tales are of heroics; some of love, some are humorous and some are heartbreaking. Through everything that they endured they became united by a shared passion for books. Although, in fact, the book group was originally just a subterfuge to outwit the German soldiers, but became a reality as a love for books was discovered between them all. The surprise at the end is wonderfully warming and such a delight.

 

Mary Anne Shaffer has told a story of wartime horrors and hardships, yet kept the tone gentle and just bearable to read, without taking away the awfulness of the Nazi occupation in Guernsey. This book had me entranced from the very beginning and will stay with me for some time to come.

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Ink Exchange – Melissa Marr

 

Amazon Synopsis
Mortal affections and faery rivalries continue to collide in the town of Huntsdale, as New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr takes urban fantasy to new heights. After suffering a terrible trauma at the hands of her brother’s dealer friends, Leslie becomes obsessed with the idea of getting a tattoo — it’s the one thing that will allow her to reclaim her body, renew her self-confidence. And when Rabbit, her local tattoo artist, shows her a secret book of his own designs, she finds one of them irresistible. Soon, her back is adorned with a pair of mysterious eyes, framed by black wings. Leslie feels good — more than good. Nothing bad can touch her. But what she doesn’t know is that her new tattoo binds her tightly to the faery whose symbol she chose: Irial, the exquisitely dangerous king of the Dark Court

 

My Thoughts

This is the sequel to Wicked Lovely. It’s a dark faery tale; with the main character Leslie having been the victim of abuse that was instigated by her own brother. In an effort to hide her pain she decides to express herself by having a tattoo. She unwittingly chooses a design that incorporates the eyes of the Faery King of the Dark Court. What follows is a tale that is darker than any other faery tale I’ve read. At times Marr seems to ramble and her writing is confusing, but this is a story that is well worth sticking with, as the suspense just builds and builds. I can’t wait to see what Marr has in store for her readers next.
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