The Boy on the Bridge (The Girl With All the Gifts #2) by M.R. Carey #SpooktasticReads

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mage credit: Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

theboyThe Boy on the Bridge is my final review for Wyrd and Wonder’s SpooktasticReads event.  I’ve loved the inspiration that this event has given me to read all sorts of creepy, spooky or chilling reads and The Boy on the Bridge fits in perfectly because whilst this isn’t a scary read as such it is about a post apocalyptic world, overrun with Hungries (think zombies) and the potential extinction of the human race.

I genuinely don’t know how to start this review so I’m going to go with my overall feeling upon finishing.  Wow.  The end of this book was nothing short of amazing, I kid you not, it gave me goosebumps and set my mind racing.  I can’t deny that part way through the read I was thinking that this couldn’t possible top or match The Girl With All the Gifts.  To an extent having already read book 1, and this being described by some as a companion novel or prequel to that book, you expect to have lost the element of surprise, and that much is true with regard to the plague (for want of a better word), but in spite of that there’s a gripping story as we follow a number of people, scientists and soldiers, as they travel the country, cooped up in an armoured vehicle and just wait for heads to start to butt.  Definitely a few great character studies here and some desperate struggles along the way.  However, with Book 1 in mind you can’t help trying to put together the pieces of how everything fits together and obviously you’re more than well aware of what the real threat really is – and it isn’t the hungries per se.  On reflection I actually think that’s part of the beauty of this book.  Misdirection.  Whilst you’re reading with the first book in mind, thinking ‘how does this person fit into what comes later’, the author is pulling the rug out from under your feet because the eventual conclusion to this story – and I won’t spoil things so don’t worry – actually jumps forward in time. It’s totally not what I expected and I was most happily surprised.

So, what does this book bring to the table?  Well, as mentioned there’s this claustrophobic story as we watch a team of people fall apart slowly but surely.  There’s betrayal and conspiracy, chases and death along the way. We have an unexpected event that plays a central role which I won’t discuss and obviously there’s the desperate attempt to find a cure – which actually becomes the catalyst for a couple of other events – which again, I can’t really elaborate upon without spoiling.  Oh dear, how to write a review when everything you want to discuss involves spoilers.  Look, I’m not going to be that person, the one who spoils the read for others so I’m going to move on to some other thoughts instead.

One of my favourite books, and quite possibly the book that was the inspiration for so many later zombie stories, is I am Legend.  The ending of that book is also, for me, jaw dropping and amazing and well, all sorts of other things that I can’t even put into words.  Now, clearly this is just my interpretation but The Boy on the Bridge is an odyssey to survival that gives a little nod in the direction of I am Legend .  Again, it’s really difficult to say what I want to say without spoilers but I just loved the way this concludes and without doubt it changed a 4 star read into a 5 star read for me.  I love endings that make me think and I now find myself in a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts as I try to backtrack through both books in an attempt to place all my thoughts in order because basically, the ending to this changes everything else.  That is all.  Is that a big enough teaser to make you pick it up – I hope so.

Anyway, I have no doubt that this is quite possibly the most annoying review I’ve ever written, not to mention frustrating and even medal award winning in being the only review ever to use about 800 words saying very little at all.  With the benefit of hindsight you could have stopped reading after that ‘wow’ in the second paragraph.

The TL:DR version is this:  read The Girl With All the Gifts, take a moment and then, read The Boy on the Bridge.  It’s that easy.  I’ll even throw in a pretty please for good measure.

For information, both books are standalone novels but personally I would suggest it’s necessary to read both, and in the order of release, in order to gain the best from both.

Where I got a copy: bought (this was the audio version and it was very well done).

 

 

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House of Glass by Susan Fletcher #SpooktasticReads

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mage credit: Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Today I’m reviewing another book for Wyrd and Wonder’s Spooktastic Reads event.  This is another gothic tale of haunting that I highly recommend.

House of GlassI am on a winning streak with my gothic reads these past few weeks and here is yet another little beauty to add to your wishlists.  I know, I know, I’m sorry, you have too many books already but you and I both know you don’t want to miss a good book – after all that’s how your TBR grew into such a monster in the first place and, whilst I hate to add to your ever growing stacks, trust me, this book is worth it.  Don’t miss out.  Described as being reminiscent of duMaurier I would suggest this also gave me Jane Eyre vibes and yet at the same time it absolutely stands on it’s own two feet.  Beautifully written and powerfully evocative it contains all the elements that woven together make an engrossing gothic story.

The thing I love about this book is the voice.  Clara is a wonderful narrator and I was quite hooked to the page as she recounted her early years. Clara was born with a condition that makes her skeleton incredibly vulnerable, apologies but I didn’t make a note of the name but it seems to be akin to ‘glass bones’.  A simple fall can result in serious damage and Clara spends her youth spent largely recuperating, mainly in the company of her mother and in a house that is all but wrapped in cotton wool to prevent, as far as possible, further injuries.  As she grows older her condition stabilises a little but of course by that time, and with so many broken bones already in her past Clara finds it difficult to walk without the aid of a stick.  On top of this her appearance is almost ethereal.  With a diminutive frame, strangely entrancing eyes and white blond hair she certainly catches attention although quite often of the negative variety.  And, finally, with a lack of social encounters in her past she has a certain way of interacting with others that is brutally frank and often borders on abrupt.  Here we have a female character, set in a period where societal restrictions would prevent her having any freedom, enjoying a lifestyle that is totally unexpected.  She is a wonderful creation, I loved her and I absolutely applaud the author for taking a character, born with such difficulties to surmount and instead of letting this restrict the story using it instead to create a strong and no-nonsense woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind or talk frankly.  I want more of this.

The story moves forward to approximately 1914.  Unfortunately Clara’s mother and only friend has passed away and Clara needs a purpose.  She takes to visiting Kew Gardens, fascinated by the plants and keen to learn.  She develops an almost teacher/student relationship with one of the head gardeners and from there stems an invitation to a country manor where the new owner, having recently built a grand greenhouse, requires someone with the expertise to fill it with exotic plants.  Shadowbrook House is appropriately named.  The villagers whisper about it, the housekeeper and maids are convinced it’s haunted and there are certainly plenty of strange noises of an evening.  Noises that whisper of footsteps treading along creaking floorboards, or perhaps just noises of an old house settling in to sleep at night.

I don’t think I need to really elaborate too much on the plot, this is a house with a history, it could be haunted or maybe it’s simply a house that is haunted by it’s past, people unable or unwilling to forget the ‘goings on’ that took place within its walls.  It has a forbidden attic, a reclusive owner and plenty of dark secrets just waiting to be unveiled.  I certainly didn’t foresee the final outcome but I confess I never try overly hard to second guess the endings to books – I prefer to let them reveal themselves as intended so it’s possible that others might not find the reveals as surprising as I did.  Undoubtedly this ticks a lot of the trope boxes that you would expect from a gothic read and I can almost picture you rolling your eyes thinking the ‘same old, same old’ but, apart from the fact that these tropes are so enjoyable anyway, what makes this book refreshingly different is the main protagonist who is such an original character.  Clara is an intelligent and practical woman.  She has a scientific mind and so as such refuses to believe in ghosts and things that go bump in the night.  Instead she looks for rational explanation where others simply give in to superstition and she isn’t afraid to go and investigate.  Obviously, her nature is tempered by her easily broken bones.  Clara can’t go flinging herself around or dashing about the countryside, she has to take certain precautions but she doesn’t let her condition dictate who she is or use it as an excuse not to get on with life.

Added to a great protagonist and an eerie tale is of course the writing.  Susan Fletcher is a wonderful writer.  She has an almost magical way with words that simply transports you into whatever vision she is currently creating.  I’ve read a couple of her books before and it’s always the same for me – I rush through the book, devouring the words like a raging maniac and then finish the story feeling almost teary eyed and bereft.  There’s almost a poetic beauty to her words and yet at the same time a simplicity that just brings forth memories.  For this particular book it’s the garden, the scent of the flowers and the herbs, the beautiful colours and the feeling of nature doing what it does best.  Please, don’t take my word for it – go and pick up a copy and see what you think.

In terms of criticisms.  I have nothing.  I think the only proviso I would make is that whilst this is a ghostly tale I don’t think it’s a tale of terror – which I think is mainly down to Clara’s unwillingness to give in to flights of fancy.  But, I don’t really think of that as a criticism, just something to note.

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

 

 

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell #Spooktasticread

Wyrd&Wonder

Image credit: Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Not many more days left now with the Wyrd and Wonder #Spooktasticreads event – and I have so much to cram in.  Reviews, reviews, reviews.  I’ll give it a shot.  Today, The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell.

the silent cOh my.  This book is just about perfect, for me.  Well, no, it’s probably perfect for anybody who wants to read beautiful writing, a gothic story, split timelines and just some major spooky goings on.  I loved this book.  I don’t know if it could be any better to be honest.  I didn’t have a single quibble, not one.  Commence the gushing.

Okay, I’m late to the Purcell Party so I’m sure that not too much plot outline is needed here, everybody has probably already read this book and waxed lyrical but for those like me, who live under a rock, allow me to gush emphatically for a few hundred words in a bid to tempt you to pick this one up.  If you don’t want to give up more of your precious time reading the rest of this, okay, I relate, the TL:DR version is read the book.  Simples.

So, the good, the better and the best.  Here goes.

The plot, which I will only briefly elaborate on.  Set in 1865 Elsie Bainbridge is the central focus of the story.   Recently married and then widowed she went from the dizzy euphoria of being raised from the stigma of being a spinster to being married and then with crashing finality became the focus of malicious gossip almost overnight when her husband died suddenly leaving her the soul heir of his fortune.  Yeah, these things don’t fly to well with most people.  Elsie and Rupert’s marriage was something of a business deal in the beginning but Elsie definitely cared for her husband and with a baby on the way had expectations of falling in love.  With Rupert’s demise Elsie finds herself on a road she hadn’t anticipated.  Her younger brother, and co runner of the business they operate, thinks it best if Elsie escapes to the country until the gossip dies down.  Unfortunately the country retreat isn’t exactly Pemberley.   The estate is run down, the house worn and tired and the nearest village a hotbed of poverty and resentment.

Now, the story begins to unfold in a delicious fashion.  Evocative and spooky the Bridge (the country home) is something of an enigma.  The locals won’t step near the place, one too many skeletons have been found, not even in closets but on the actual estate, a few too many suspicious deaths, in fact if you look closely at the family and it’s heritage it’s almost like they’re cursed.

Elsie is keen for new beginnings though.  She has something of a dark past, her one shining light is her brother, who she tried to protect.  Of course, being a heiress comes with a certain amount of baggage.  Resentment and pure dislike topping the list.  On top of that things are not as they seem at The Bridge.  Secrets are the order of the day  and in spite of Elsie’s attempts to spruce the place up and help the local residents things slowly start to unravel.  Particularly after the Garret, a room that was previously locked, is mysteriously opened.

On top of getting a feel for Elsie’s life we also jump back in time when a couple of journals are found in the Garret.  These journals document the life of Anne Bainbridge.  Her’s is a fascinating story and an equally intriguing storyline to read.  Her husband is ambitious and longs to impress the Court.  When the King and Queen announce that they will stay at his country seat for one night during their summer tour it’s like all his dreams have come true.  However, the locals fear Alice.  They think she’s a witch – common enough during the period (1635) given her love and natural affinity for herb lore but – Annie’s fourth child, a daughter that she desperately longed for and shouldn’t have been able to carry after complications with her third son’s birth, was born mute.  Hetta is an unusual child, like her mother, she loves plants and herbs and is something of a deft hand even at a tender age.  But there’s something different about her, something a little unsettling.  Her father thinks she should remain out of sight during the royal visit and so the start of their troubles commence.

Haha – did I say I wasn’t going to elaborate on the plot.  I guess I got carried away with the wish to dish.  And, I haven’t even given away the best part yet.  I recall being in English class when I was about 12/13 years of age.  Our teacher was making a point about something in particular and it’s with stories like these that that point really comes back to mind.  Deceptively simple and yet stunningly effective – a lot is given away in the title.  Of course I had no idea about that when I picked this up and the cleverness here is that the title could relate to a couple of other characters,  Hetta for example who is unable to communicate, or Sarah – Rupert’s cousin and now companion to Elsie – she doesn’t really have much of a say in things being a dependent.  Yes, of course the title could easily include those and does so quite beautifully –  but the scariness of the story, the absolute genius – is the Silent Companions.  And that is all.  I’m not going to say anything further – you can discover it for yourself just like I did.  You’ll just have to trust me when I say you will be gripped.  Boy oh boy could the Victorians come up with some creepy crap – and here I was thinking that taking photographs of people after they died was a bit scary.  Noooo.  This, this.  What on earth was this all about – I mean, okay, I’m not going to tell you what I’m talking about but why oh why would you have these hideous creations about your home.  Just why?

And, the icing on the cake – we have yet another time jump.  We’re still with Elsie but she’s a little older and she’s being held in an asylum, pending an enquiry into a number of deaths.  I know.  How freaking good is this book – really, you have to read it if you haven’t already.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, because I was convinced this was going to be a short and pithy review, I loved this.  The writing is exquisite the concept is brilliant.  I truly didn’t have a clue what to think or expect.  I couldn’t put the book down except for absolute essentials, everybody in the family is convinced I’ve run away because I’ve been secreted in a closet for approximately 24 hours reading none stop.  Oh hell yes.  Purcell is on the list.  Give me the next book now.  I won’t be waiting quite so long next time.

Where I got a copy – bought.

Friday Face Off : ‘Trick or treat’ – A halloween inspired cover #Spooktasticreads

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Image credit: Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Today, I’m incorporating the Friday Face Off with Wyrd and Wonder’s #Spooktastic event as the theme this week fits perfectly.  The Friday Face Off meme was originally created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – the list has been updated to help out those of you who like to plan ahead – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme. This week’s theme:

Trick or treat – A halloween inspired cover

My cover this week doesn’t have skeletons, pumpkins and witches but a scary house – I always associate creepy, haunted looking houses with Halloween and so this one fits (in my head at least) plus the colours – and middle row, middle cover – does put me in mind of the weirdest ever carved pumpkin.  The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson.

And my favourite – I couldn’t find a really good version of this one for some reason but I like it.  The flies crawling over the top of the book, the font that scoops down into a devil’s tail and the house with it’s glowing eye-like windows – in fact the end of the tale almost gives the house an expression – like a sinister grin.

Amity3

As like last week I’ve added  a Mr Linky here so that you can leave a link if you wish or please leave me a link in the comments so I can visit and check out your covers.  Thanks

Next week – a a cover inspired by Bonfire Night

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ of one of your favourite covers)

2nd November – ‘Remember, remember the fifth of November,’ – A cover inspired by Bonfire Night (i.e. Guy Fawkes, Gunpowder Plot – think fires, fireworks, historical)

9th November – ‘All right! They’re spiders from Mars! You happy?’ – A cover featuring a critter of the eight legged variety

16th November – There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.’  – A scary cover

23rd November – ‘The child is in love with a human. And not just any human. A prince!’ – A cover featuring a mermaid/man

30th November – “..the children of the night. What music they make!” – a cover with a vampire

7th December – ‘I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.’ – A cover featuring a hero

14th December -“Heavy is the head that wears the crown”  – A cover featuring a crown

21st December – ‘ho, ho, ho’ – A seasonal cover

28th December – A freebie – choose one of your favourite titles and compare the covers

2019

4th January – A cover that is fresh – New beginnings for a New Year

11th January – ‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king’ – A cover that depicts a novel set in the Tudor period

18th January – A cover featuring an Amulet – either in the cover or title

25th January – ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’ – A cover featuring a monk/priest/person of the cloth

1st February – A comedy cover

8th February – ‘Hi little cub. Oh no, don’t be ssscared.’ – A cover with snakes

15th February – A heart – for Valentine’s day past

22nd February – “Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death and death will have his day.” – A cover with abandoned building/s

1st March – ‘who will buy this wonderful morning’ – A cover featuring a shop or market

8th March – ‘Two little fishes and a momma fishy too’ – A cover featuring a fish/fishes or other sea creatures

15th March – ‘Beware the moon, lads.’ – A cover with a shapeshifter

22nd March – ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’ – A cover featuring a king

29th March – “I thought unicorns were more . . . Fluffy.”  – A cover featuring a unicorn

5th April – ‘nomad is an island’ – A cover featuring a desert landscape

12th April – ‘Odin, Odin, send the wind to turn the tide – A cover featuring a longboat

19th April – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – A cover featuring a school

Slender Man by Anonymous #spooktasticreads

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Image credit: Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Today I’m reviewing Slender Man and including this as part of Wyrd and Wonders Spooktastic Reads.

Slender ManWhat better way to creep your way through October than to read a copy of Slender Man.  This is a novel that is quite addictive and very quick and easy to read.  I would mention that I didn’t find this as scary as I expected it to be but it has a certain creepiness going on and is a compelling read.

Matt and Lauren both attend an elite private school in New York.  Highly cliquey, this is the type of place where you only attend if your parents are rich or famous or both.

First, a little bit of background information.  As the story begins we learn a little about Matt and Lauren.  Matt is not part of the ‘popular’ crowd, Lauren is, although she has a dark side that she keeps secret.  In spite of their different social standing the two have been friends for many years due to the long-term friendship between their parents although their friendship is not widely known at school.  Matt has been suffering nightmares – or night terrors – and his parents have organised therapy for him to try and work through the situation.  Late one evening, and with no apparent reason, Lauren walks out of her apartment block in the early hours of the morning.  Caught on CCTV she appears to be alone.  She didn’t return home.  What follows is the police investigation and all the rumours that spread like crazy as her disappearance lengthens.

As mentioned above the story makes for compelling reading.  It’s told in epistolary format which makes for very quick reading indeed.  Journals, emails, therapists reports and police interviews combine with online chats and social media sites to provide a gripping and modern style of storytelling.

I have to admit that with a couple of provisos I really enjoyed this and I confess to being curious about the ‘anonymous’ author.

I’ve not read a great deal about the Slender Man but he seems to be a fairly recent addition to the fictional world.  A tall and scary creation that stalks or abducts the young or causes nightmares or other terrors.  The SM haunts the dark and abandoned places.  He can rarely be seen although sometimes a shadow or shape in the trees can capture an outline.  As the story progresses it appears that Lauren has either become intrigued by him or he has taken an interest in her.  Following her disappearance rumours run rife, Matt’s nightmares become much worse and other strange events begin to occur.  It soon becomes apparent to Matt that he needs to take action – even though he’s scared to do so.

Matt is a quiet student.  He doesn’t really interact a lot with anybody, well he has one friend although it wouldn’t appear that they’re particularly close.  Rumours begin to circulate after the police interview him for a second time – word of the secret friendship surface and finally a local newspaper circulates a story which without naming Matt certainly points a finger of suspicion and nobody has any doubts as to which direction the finger is pointing.  To be honest, in some respects he’s his own worst enemy, he’s very closed off and a little bit unapproachable and taciturn.  That being said I felt really bad for him and the way he becomes singled out for such vindictive attacks.

As I mentioned, if you pick this up expecting a real clutch the cushion read then you might be disappointed.  To an extent the SM takes something of a back seat.  There are mentions and sightings, shadows and shapes but nothing really concrete.  There is a sense of things about to go horribly wrong and the overall mystery of the disappearing school girl all tangled in with the general rising hysteria from the school and the poor handling of the case by the detectives leading the investigation.  You know that something is going to go wrong and the anticipation is what keeps you reading.

In terms of any criticisms. This is definitely the sort of read that takes the ‘less is more’ approach.  Much is left to the reader’s imagination and whilst I quite like this approach at the same time it’s something of a double edged sword because ultimately it feels like there is little real explanation or closure.  Ultimately, I really enjoyed the story but I did feel a little bit let down by the ending.  It put me in mind of something else but I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil the read for others.

Criticisms aside this did make for compulsive reading for me and I virtually read the whole story in one sitting because I simply couldn’t put it down.  If I find out who the author is I would definitely be intrigued to read more.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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