Sundial by Catriona Ward

Posted On 10 March 2022

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : Can’t tear your eyes away

Sundial

Sundial is a twisted, psychological horror story that held me riveted to the page.  In fairness to new readers of Ward I’m not going to bandy around words such as ‘loved’ or even it’s much maligned cousin ‘liked’.  This is not that sort of story.  This is a tale instead that will keep you bound to it until the final page turns when, in full possession of all the whys and wherefores, you can close the book, let your heart return to a semblance of normality and try to recover the sleep you’ve lost over the past ‘x’ number of nights that you read into the early hours.

I don’t think this is a story that I can really say too much about in terms of plot without spoiling it so I’m going to go easy on descriptions.  Basically, try and imagine an almost picture perfect family, husband (Irving), Wife (Rob) and two daughters Callie and her slightly younger sister Annie.  To the outside world they have a lovely home, good jobs, a caring relationship and a perfect white picket fence existence.  Take that fly on the wall view and instead you see an incredibly toxic, dysfunctional family who are all pulling and pushing against each other in such hateful ways that their life is barely tolerable.  Add into the mix a lot of secrets from the past and some eventual reveals that quite literally left me gaping like a fish.  What more can I say, this is horrible horror, it’s brutal in parts, spooky in others, ridiculously scary as it reaches its crescendo and frankly gripping in a heart in your throat type of way.

Firstly, the characters.  Well, I certainly struggled to like any of them initially which seems to have been the author’s intentions.  Ward has gone for a ‘let’s throw everyone into the hideous mixing pot, I liked this approach to be honest.  You’re initially on your guard, you’re puzzled about what’s going on with everyone and then like peeling back the onion layers you slowly discover the character motivations and with the revelations, and understanding they inspire, you see certain characters in a whole new light.

The story is told in an interesting way.  We jump back and forward in time with Rob to witness her upbringing and her present dilemma.  What can I say about Rob’s backstory – not much without giving things away unfortunately. But, by way of background, Rob and her twin sister lived a very alternative style of life growing up.  Brought up in the most remote, and perhaps unusual circumstances.  Their home is in the desert, they’re homeschooled and lead a very sheltered life – one that starts to fray a little when the girls become teenagers and start to push at the boundaries.  On top of this their home is also used for scientific experiments which are a little bit horrible to say the least.  Callie also jumps in to narrate at certain points and her chapters are quite spooky.  And there are a few chapters interspersed that are a story within a story.

The writing is, well, brilliant.  I love the way this author tells a story.  She’s got a wicked imagination!  Her descriptions are perfect, she sets a scene with ease and she has the ability to create tension and fear that you can almost taste.  The desert setting was something of an inspired touch too, it lends itself so very well to the overall feel.

Overall I found Sundial a compelling read, it’s definitely dark, it has more twists and turns than a twisty turny thing and it’s literally impossible to put down.

Now, I will just mention here that if you’re thinking of picking this one up you need to be aware of certain elements that may be upsetting, particularly abuse and animal cruelty.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Last week I mentioned that I was pressing on with my SPFBO finalists and those plans managed to stay on track.  I completed the book I was reading and also managed to fit in another SPFBO book which means I’m now at the halfway point. In review books I read The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley which I really enjoyed and already reviewed earlier this week.  I also read Gallant by VE Schwab and my review for that one shall be posted soon.  I do have some catching up to do.  I’ve not been responding to comments and I’ve not been keeping up with my buddy read or blog hopping – I thought I had to push on with my SPFBO and make some headway and also I can’t deny that recent ‘world events’ have definitely had a very negative impact.  I won’t go into that on here though.

Books read this week:

Next Week’s Reads:

I shall of course be starting another SPFBO book.  I’ve started Sundial by Catriona Ward and I’m also hoping to pick up Last Exit by Max Gladstone.

  1. The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn
  2. The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Outstanding reviews:

Gallant by VE Schwab

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Sundial by Catriona Ward

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Sundial by Catriona Ward:

sundial

Sundial is a new, twisty psychological horror novel from Catriona Ward, author of The Last House on Needless Street.

“The new face of literary dark fiction.” —Sarah Pinborough, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes

You can’t escape what’s in your blood…

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. Far from her childhood home, Sundial, hidden deep in the wild Mojave Desert.

But beneath the veneer, Rob is terrified for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.

Running from her past has led her directly back to it — what’s buried at Sundial could never stay a secret forever, and Rob must risk one last trip out there to protect her family, and her future.

Expected Publication : March 2022

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Unique and compulsive, psychological horror

TheLastHOuseQuite possibly this is the most unique, unusual and utterly compelling book that I’ve ever read.  At the same time it’s a book that you have to give your brain a little time to adapt to but once you do you won’t be able to pull your eyes away.  It’s horribly fascinating, almost hypnotic in its ability to make you read ‘just one more chapter’ as you desperately seek to uncover the truth.

The story is told by three unlikely characters.  A man who is very detached from everyday life, who lives by himself and is socially awkward.  Ted finds himself the centre of unwanted and unpleasant attention following the disappearance of a young girl from the local lake.  Dee is also a character who struggles to fit in.  Following the disappearance of her younger sister whilst on holiday she has lost everything she holds dear.  Her entire life is consumed by the desperate need to know what happened to her little sister and maybe ideas of revenge.  Olivia is a cat.  Rescued as a kitten she never sees the outside world and spends a lot of time in her ‘safe space’, she also gives readers an alternative view of events as they unfold – even if that view is a little unconventional.

Okay, I’m trying not to give away spoilers and so I’m not going to touch on the plot at all.  As the description says, ‘a serial killer, a stolen child, revenge, death and an ordinary house.  All of these things are true and yet at the same time all of these things are not true.  When is a door not a door?

So, I loved the writing here.  I think it’s safe to say that you might experience a little ‘what the heck’ moment when you first begin on this journey but all I can say is press on.  I would also say that you need to pay close attention to what you’re reading, which I admit is sometimes difficult because some of the content is so mercilessly intriguing that it encourages you to read on at breakneck speed.  Don’t do it.  Take your time and absorb the detail, there are clues here not to mention a certain unreliability in narration about what’s going on together with an overlapping of certain events that gives everything a skewed perspective at times.

This is quite possibly going to be one of the shortest reviews ever considering how much this book affected me but I really don’t want to give away spoilers.  Instead, I’ll discuss my feelings whilst reading this which jumped around like crazy.  I was intrigued,  I was angry, I was desperate for answers, I was shocked, literally ‘mouth opened in a perfect ‘o’ type of shocked that doesn’t often happen and I was horrified.  In fact for me this is a perfect example of sleight of hand.  Ward led me down the dusty path in a masterful display of ‘these aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ and maintained her mind control completely until she was ready to give me the final punch to the gut.  I didn’t see any of it coming.  I pictured exactly what the author wanted from the beginning.  My mind was made up, the doors were closed, and then the doors were blown open in shocking fashion.  Masterfully done.  I applaud you.

I don’t know what else to say.  This was a gripping read.  It was utterly fascinating for me and I take my hat off to Ward for managing to hold all this together so masterfully.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward.  Check out the description to find out more:

LastHouseThis is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet they are all lies…

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. That’s where you’re wrong.

In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it’s not what you think…

Expected publication : March 2021

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