The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

IMG_20180201_213230_693In another life, I’m pretty sure I was a witch. Probably not a good one. But a witch none-the-less. And although I’m not much of a witch in this life, I do love a good witch story. Joseph Delaney’s ‘Spooks’ series is one of my favourite witchy series, but for a standalone novel for an older audience, I have discovered ‘The Witchfinder’s Sister’ by Beth Underdown.

It’s 1645, and Alice Hopkins is en route to her hometown of Manningtree, Essex, to join her brother Matthew. Her husband has died in tragic circumstances, and she is pregnant and alone – save for Matthew. It has been some years since Alice has seen her brother, due to a disagreement on her choice of husband. On her return, she soon realises he is not the shy young man she left behind. Rather, Matthew is now the driving force behind the movement to hunt down and punish women suspected of witchcraft. Witches.

Matthew Hopkins is, in fact, a real historical figure, and Underdown has clearly done a vast amount of research into his role in the witch-trials of the 1600’s, and the methods for ‘finding and testing’ a girl to see if she may be a witch. As you can imagine, none of these are methods make much sense and most are damning either way. For example, the swimming of the condemned woman; you sink, you are innocent but die. You float, you are guilty and are arrested and hung (if you don’t die in the holding cell first).

‘The Witchfinder’s Sister’ is Beth Underdown’s debut novel, and it has set her up to be a popular and well-respected author. I’ve read many favourable reviews, and have to agree completely; this is a fantastic read. With a novel set in this historical time-period, the description could easily be heavy and hard to get through, however, Underdown manages to convey all the information in a way that feels light, understandable and still interesting.

The characters are all very likeable, or intentionally dislikable depending who we’re talking about. I felt that most questions and storylines were tied up nicely by the end of the book, and I was left feeling satisfied and a little sad to be finishing Alice’s story. There is a nice little foreshadowing in the last sentence, indicating Alice’s next steps after the pages stop turing for the reader – and it was a very nice touch.

I really enjoyed ‘The Witchfinder’s Sister’ and will be looking forward to Underdown’s next book. I’d love to see her write something from a similar time-period as she has a real talent for writing historical fiction.

Have you read this novel? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Rating: 4****/5

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The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

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Title: The Silent Companions

Author: Laura Purcell

Publisher: Raven Books

Rating: 4****/5

As always, this will be a spoiler free review of the novel.

It’s finally Autumn, my favourite season by far. Yes, yes, we can pull out our cosy jumpers snuggle up in our scarves and carve our pumpkins. But more importantly, I can reread all my gothic horror stories! Well, I can do this at any time of the year (and frequently do) but the Autumn atmosphere it perfect to lock myself away with a good novel as the evenings get longer. And a book is likened to ‘The Little Stranger’ by Sarah Waters, I am immediately interested, hence my eagerness to get my hands on a copy of Laura Purcell’s ‘The Silent Companions’ (thanks Bloomsbury!)

Newly married Elise should be in the prime of her life, she is pregnant and should be looking forward to growing her family and enjoying her pregnancy. Instead, she finds herself widowed within a few months of her wedding and is sent to spend the remainder of her pregnancy at her late husbands decaying country estate, The Bridge.

Elsie’s new servants are resentful of her presence in the house, and the villagers avoid the estate and those that reside within. This leaves only Sarah, Elise’s late husbands awkward cousin for companionship in the lonely countryside. However, The Bridge is not as lonely as Elsie first thinks. There is a locked door inside her new home, and what lurks behind will change the course of Elsie’s future.

The story is told from the third person perspective of Elsie, and later a first person diary account of an ancestor is introduced. Sometimes, with a narrative of mixed perspectives such as this, the story can become confusing and hard to follow, however it flowed well throughout and all of the characters were well-written, if not all likeable.

I’m really pleased to have discovered a new author who is able to create a perfect gothic atmosphere within a great story. Laura Purcell’s second novel, ‘The Corset’ is due out in 2018!

 

 

 

 

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Title: Wintersongwintersong

Author: S. Jae-Jones

Publisher: Titan

Themes: Romance, Fantasy, Adventure

Rating: 5/5*****

 

I stumbled upon this little gem in Waterstones not long ago, and instantly knew I needed to read it! When any book is likened to the film ‘The Labyrinth’, it must be amazing. I think the reason I’ve always loved that film is because of the fairytale aspect, and ‘Wintersong’ encompasses that theme so well. It’s like ‘The Labyrinth’ for adults, and it is amazing!

Set in 19th century Bavaria, Liesl has grown up to be mature beyond her years. As the eldest of her three siblings, she is the one that has protected her brother and sister from their fathers drinking problem, and is disregarded by both her parents for her better looking sister and her musically talented brother. She does, however, catch the attention of one stranger; the Goblin King.

When her sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl must journey into his underground world to save her, reliving the fantasies she’d had as a child, fantasies almost forgotten about. But the longer she remains in this fairytale world, the more she is torn between her mundane human life and the magical place where she feels she belongs.

I feel as though this is the book I have been waiting for, for a long time. By the second chapter I was already trying to find out if there would be a second (there will be!) In many ways, it is marketed as though it is a young adult novel, and I was worried that it would be a let down to me, now that I have outgrown that audience. However, there are scenes here and there that make it appealing to adults and YA’s alike. S Jae-Jones has done a fabulous job of creating Liesl and the Goblin King. He is a mysterious figure throughout the novel, however there are hints here and there that tease as to his background and true personality.

There is also a good mixture of love, mystery and adventure throughout. Fairytale books have been reworked for the YA audience, I’m thinking particularly of the novels by Sarah Pinborough, but they didn’t really interest me anywhere near as much as ‘Winterising’. I feel as though this could be a standalone novel, and because of that is has a solid framework, with a good beginning, middle, and end. It didn’t feel rushed or unfinished in anyway, which I have found other YA novels do. Becase of that it has become a firm favourite of mine.

I am truly so excited for the second novel in this series, ‘Shadowsong’ which is due to be released on 8th January 2018! I’ll probably have the reread ‘Wintersong’ whilst I wait…

The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman

blogTitle: The Light Between Oceans

Author: M L Stedman

Genre: Romance, Family

Rating: 4****/5

 

 

 

Have you ever wanted something so much, something that you’d do anything to get, no matter the cost? Would you take the chance, even if it meant taking that dream away from someone else? Even if it changed the course of their life forever?

This is a situation that ‘The Light Between Oceans’ presents on a large scale. Tom and Isabel fall in love, get married, move in together. However, they aren’t your usual couple; Tom is a lighthouse keeper, and that means that by marrying him, Isabel is resigning herself to years of confinement on a tiny island off the coast of Australia, with just her new husband for company.

This would be difficult for anyone who has grown up with a big family, but after suffering a number of miscarriages, the isolation is just too much, and she prays for a sign from God to keep her going. The very next day, it seems her prayers have been answered; a boat washes ashore, carrying a perfectly healthy baby. Tom and Isabel now have a decision to make that will change the course of four lives forever….

I have been in a bit of a reading slump recently; this book has been sat next to my bed since Christmas, but I’ve finally got around to reading it and I am very glad I did! I am keen to see the film adaption of ‘The Light Between Oceans’, so told myself I’d read the book first. This is M L Stedman’s first and, so far, only novel and it is fantastic. Her writing is very addictive, yet easy to read. Instead of slipping in and out of the story like I tend to do recently, I read the book within a few days. The story of Tom, Isabel and Lucy really raises questions as you read; What would I do in this situation? Are they wrong or right? Would I tell anyone? Once I was finished, I had to discuss the story with my family, I just had to talk to someone about it!

The story is less about the setting and more about the situation of the characters, however the lighthouse that is their home is very idyllic, and the isolation makes the actions of the characters more believable, and perhaps more understandable. The plot never seems too far-fetched, nor was it too predictable (excluding one or two characters that meet early on and then become more significant later). Overall, ‘The Light Between Oceans’ was an addictive, captivating read, even for someone who has lost the ability to really let go of real life, and step into an imaginary world.

 

 

 

The Song Rising & An Evening with Samantha Shannon

sr2Back in March, I was lucky enough to book an evening with Samantha Shannon at Waterstones Piccadilly in London. This was to celebrate the release of the third book in the Bone Season trilogy, ‘The Song Rising’.

Unfortunately, we were sat right at the back in the crowd of people that turned up for the meet and greet, and so rather than seeing Samantha’s lovely face, I was starting at the back of a very large mans head for an hour. We then also had to wait another hour to actually get our copies of ‘The Song Rising’ signed, because the back row was last to go and meet Samantha (damn that front row!) So, by the time we reached her, we were running late for our transport home and only had a chance to quickly say hello. Morale of the story, always try and sit in the front row at author meetings, and don’t take three books to get signed because it’s not fair on the 50 people waiting behind you.

However, luckily I had already started reading ‘The Song Rising’, so this didn’t deter from the excitement of the new book too much.

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Samantha Shannon at the meet and greet

The third installment follows on from where the second, ‘The Mime Order’, left off. I don’t want to spoil anything for those that are only just discovering this series, but I found ‘The Song Rising’ to take a much darker turn than the beginning of the series, and from what Samantha said at the signing, it will only get darker. If you’re anything like me, then you are probably quite intrigued by the romance in the series. Don’t worry, there is plenty to keep you satisfied in ‘The Song Rising’; I was actually pleasantly surprised by the scenes between Warden and Paige. Usually, authors like to have one book without any romance in, to keep the readers guessing (well, in my experience) for the next book, but I’m pleased Samantha still had a few Warden/Paige scenes for us!

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From the meet and greet, Samantha did also say that book four is the main turning point in the series, and a major event at the end of that installment will change the game for all the characters!

Have you read this series? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 

Thanks for reading! 

Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairytale

pans-labyrinthTitle: Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairytale

Authors: Mark Cotta Vaz, Nick Nunziata, foreword by Guillermo Del Toro

Themes: Fairytale, Horror, Film, Cinema

Rating: 4/5

Apologies for the delay with this review. I’ve been really busy with work and travelling for Christmas, but here we are finally in 2017! There are plenty of books I’m looking forward to this year, namely The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon which is published next month, so look out for my review!

I have yet to meet someone who has seen Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and disliked it. Over the years, I have introduced many people to this gem of a film, and it’s always received rave reviews. The Spanish film ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, written, directed and produced by Del Toro, is a fantasy/sci-fi film released in 2006.

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In honour of it’s tenth anniversary, I have been asked to review this spectacular book which allows readers to step behind the scenes for the first time, and explore the making of the film.

It is beautifully illustrated with shots from the movie, pull out sketches and drawings and plenty of behind-the-scenes information on the casting, costume and set design. This would also be a fantastic book for anyone studying film at college or university, looking at film production. It goes into detail about the funding and process of idea to script to film.20161030_162149

This beautiful book is a great gift idea for any fan of the film, or anyone interested in media.Packed full of trade secrets, stunning photography and notes from the director, Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairytale is not to be missed.

 

 

 

Affinity by Sarah Waters

wp-1470940906573.jpgTitle: Affinity

Author: Sarah Waters

Themes: Mystery, Romance

Rating: 4****/5

Continuing my Sarah Waters’ binge reading session, I’ve just finished both ‘Affinity’ and ‘The Night Watch’, having become hooked on her excellent novel, ‘Fingersmith‘, a couple of months ago.

I am really impressed by Waters’ ability to create an entirely unique story in each of her novels; in a time when many authors write series, all of her books are stand-alone novels, and each one is different from the next. Of course, some themes are repeated, for example, lesbian romance occurs in more than just one story. But for the majority, the plot is always well thought out, and includes a twist or two.

‘Affinity’ centres around Margaret Prior, a troubled young woman from a privileged, upper class background, as she begins visiting the dark, grimy halls of Millbank prison in Victorian London. Margaret, who is recovering from a recent suicide attempt, becomes increasingly fascinated with with one particular inmate, Miss Selina Dawes. Dawes is a self named spiritualist, and was imprisoned at Millbank after a séance went wrong, resulting in a death of an older lady. Margaret is aware of the lies and tricks the desperate and depraved prisoners are willing to play on the prison staff, but something about the seemingly innocent Selina calls to her. She finds herself visiting more often and spending longer than necessary lock in a cold, damp cell with this pale girl and her spirits. After researching her case, Margaret puts together events in her head and believes Selina to be innocent. She means to find freedom for Miss Dawes, and hopes to find it for herself along the way. But is Selina really as innocent as Margaret wants to believe?

This really is a great book. It starts rather slowly, with a visit to the prison, but once you are a few chapters in, you’ll be hooked. Having just finished, I feel like I already want to re-read ‘Affinity’ and look for anything that I may have missed now that I know the ending.

The majority of the novel is set out as a diary penned by Margaret, written after the events of each day. However, before each new chapter is a page or two written by Selina before the events of the book. Selina is such a mystery; even at the end of the book I was still desperate to read another diary entry from her. I think it’s nice there is no second novel, readers can imagine what happens when the book has finished, and it will remain in their memory for a long time.

I’m now just starting to read ‘The Paying Guest’, review to come! Have you read any Sarah Waters’ books? Leave me a comment telling me your favourite!

 

The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief by Lisa Tuttle

Title: The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief9781784299606

Author: Lisa Tuttle

Themes: Mystery, Detective, Horror

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books

Rating: 3***/5

After reviewing ‘Dead Letters‘ earlier this year, I was opened up to a fantastic new set of authors, and one of those writer’s was Lisa Tuttle. I loved her short story in the anthology, and so was keen to read her newest title. ‘The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief’ is Lisa’s first book in what looks like a new series involving detective, crime-solving duo, Jesperson and Lane.

She has certainly done incredibly well for herself, and can count the likes of Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin amongst her many fans. In light of this, it seems I have discovered Tuttle a little late in the game, but I am so pleased I did!

TSATPT (as I shall call the book from now on – it’s quite a mouthful) begins with Miss Lane beginning her new job with Jasper Jesperson (great name!) to help him solve mysterious going on. Miss Lane has a background in physic circles, and has the knowledge many would lack when being faced with any kind of paranormal activity. In light of this, Jesperson and Lane make a great team… when they are given cases to solve. And there is the problem. There are not as many cases as one would need to earn a living in London. Or not, at least, until an old friend of Miss Lane’s reappears with a mystery in tow. Young mediums with physic abilities are disappearing in London, and Jesperson and Lane are the only two with the knowledge to get to the bottom of it.

“It was either that night, or the morning of Saturday 14th that the girls let the house unnoticed. They did not appear for breakfast on Saturday morning, but no one thought anything of it. It was only after midday, when the maid was unable to get into their locked bedroom that anyone was alarmed.”

If you are looking for a heavy mystery, perhaps this is not quite a meaty enough book for you. But for a light read, and to have a bit of fun whilst enjoying good writing and some great characters, TSATPT will hit the spot. There is no doubt that Tuttle is a great writer, and she can evoke the perfect atmosphere whilst not straying from the plot of the novel. But the mystery isn’t too complicated, and I figured some of it out by half way through the book.

There is a great relationship between Lane and Jesperson, and I hope this will be explored further in any future novels (if there are any). There are also some scary scenes that had me keeping the covers tight around me at night, but maybe I just scare too easily!

Overall, an enjoyable read by a fabulous author. I am very interested to see any future work from Lisa Tuttle! Have you read any of Tuttle’s stories? What did you think?

You can get your hands on a copy here.

HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Title: HEXisbn9781444793222

Author: Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Themes: Horror, Mystery, Crime

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Rating: 5/5 *****

 

Since I was about twelve, I’ve been a fan of horror films. I used to stay up late, when everyone else had long gone to bed, and I’d watch whatever I could find on that night. Horror in book-form, however, hasn’t always interested me. Usually horror books are somewhat cliché, same story, different characters. I usually sway towards a gothic novel rather than pure horror. Despite this, when I saw ‘HEX’, I was really driven to read it. I do love a good witch tale, and ‘HEX’ definitely fulfils that quota.

It’s 2012 in the small town of Black Spring, and to an outsider, it seems like any other well-functioning area of the USA. But if you were to really pay attention to your surroundings, you might notice something not quite of this era creeping about. You may just see a 17th century woman wondering around. Her eyes and mouth are sewn shut, and she wears a dirty old dress and apron. She walks the streets of Black Spring, day and night, entering homes, lurking in the dark corner of your bedroom, you might even hear her whispering her words of corruption if you dare to get close enough. She is known in the town as the Black Rock Witch.

“The Black Rock Witch came closer and closer on her bare, gray feet. Her nails were a morbid yellow, long and curved at the tips. The iron chains clanked around her gaunt body.”

It has become completely normal for the townsfolk to see her around town. They have accepted her, and have no choice but to live with her presence. Her movements are monitored by social-media and cameras around town, just in case someone decides to challenge the town rules. Don’t talk to the witch. Don’t touch the witch. But above all, don’t open her eyes.

From page one, ‘HEX’ is a fantastic horror read. It is a fresh story that I haven’t seen the likes of on screen or in print before. Thomas Olde Heuvelt is an outstanding writer, this is his worldwide debut. He originally penned ‘HEX’ in Dutch, and then when he was presented with the opportunity to republish the story in English, Heuvelt decided to change a few things, so the English version has a different ending to the Dutch novel! ‘HEX’ is already being developed into a TV series, which I will definitely be watching, but for now I’m off to find out all I can about the ending of the Dutch version…

If you’ve read ‘HEX’, I’d love to know what you thought! Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong

23006161Title: Deceptions (book #3 in the Cainsville series)

Author: Kelley Armstrong

Themes: Fantasy, Thriller, Mystery, Romance

Rating: 3/5

 

‘Deceptions’ is the third book in Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series. I think I read somewhere there will be five books in total, and with two more to go, there are still a ways to go before I’ll be satisfied that all my questions are answered. But don’t fear, a LOT is answered in this installment, and the pieces of the puzzle are finally falling into place.

Olivia Jones has come a long way from the first book, ‘Omens‘ and the second, ‘Visions‘. She learnt that she was adopted, and her biological parents are in fact serving life sentences for murdering a number of people in a horrific way. Not only that, she has fae blood in her, from one of her decedents, and she must work with her lawyer and friend, Gabriel, to find answers from the fae folk that live in the unusual town of Cainsville.

In this third book, Olivia (Eden) discovers more about her involvement with the fae, and why they are so interested in her, Ricky (her new boyfriend) and Gabriel. Her journey takes her further along the path of seeing visions, and back to places she’d rather not revisit. Along the way, she struggles with her feelings for Ricky and Gabriel, and must understand whether her fate is already set, or if she is can shape her own path.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a big Kelley Armstrong fan, and I’ve reviewed many of her books on my blog. I wish this series grabbed me half as much as the Woman of the Otherworld’ did, but unfortunately I feel the story does lack in places. Olivia is a well-rounded character, if a little too boring for me. Sure, she is feisty and emotional, but it’s just not enough. Her relationship with Ricky is also a little bit… typical. She sees cute guy, she likes him and they get together, but from page one of ‘Omens’ it’s obvious Gabriel and her are meant to be, and she starts to realise this in ‘Deceptions’ but the love triangle has already been dragged out for 3 books, do we really need another 2 for her to realise Gabriel is the one for her?

Aside from that, I am a big fan of Gabriel, a workaholic lawyer trying to help Olivia whilst being professional at the same time. The story is good, but confusing at times. Although we do learn much more in this third book than from the first two combined.

Don’t let this review put you off the series, it is great, just not exactly what I’d expect from my favourite author. I hope the next instalment will bring more to the story, and move away from the love-triangle plot that’s been looming from page one.

If you’ve read this series, please do leave a comment and let me know what you think!