Thursday, September 12, 2019

Review: The Good Neighbor by Cathryn Grant

This book is told from a variety of perspectives, almost all of whom are from the same neighborhood where a fourteen year old girl, Brittany Cushing, goes missing. From the beginning her mother is adamant that she wouldn't have left of her own volition and therefore she must have been kidnapped by a man who wished to do horrible things to her.

This seemed like an odd assumption until the reader finds out that her mother keeps her very sheltered, she is homeschooled and her access to the internet and the outside world in general is monitored obsessively by both her parents. This becomes a central plot point and makes Moira Cushing (Brittany’s mother) an unlikeable and somewhat confusing character. At its core the book seems anti homeschooling so bear that in mind. I don’t think that is the author’s intent but it does appear to be a cautionary tale of what happens when we hide our children from the world at large and let them think everyone is out to get them. 

One of the perspectives we hear from the most is Taylor Stanwick, neighbor to the Cushing family and somewhat of a busybody who quickly develops an obsession with helping to find Brittany. Taylor has a husband, Duncan, who thinks she is too invested and becoming too distant from him, Taylor thinks he doesn't care enough about the tragedy that has occurred in their neighborhood

Then there's Luke, a somewhat mysterious character who we know to be old enough to be out of high school but not old enough to drink alcohol. He's known around the neighborhood as a bit of a no hoper and a bit "off" but mostly harmless. He does give off a bit of a creepy vibe and he’s horrible to his mother, so again, not the most likeable or sympathetic character. 

Crystal is a wildcard. she's the only character aside from the detectives investigating who doesn't live in the same neighborhood as the Cushings, she finds the facebook page set up to spread awareness of Brittany's disappearance and contacts Taylor. 

This is where the story really starts, and I am not going to tell you much more about the plot, because well, it’s a mystery! 

This is a very well written, incredibly well paced mystery with elements of pure confusion that are written so well and intentionally. Crystal is an unreliable narrator and as the story progresses other perspectives look less and less reliable until you have no idea who is really telling the truth. 

In essence, most of the characters are unlikeable in a way, and definitely hiding things, but that made me love the book even more. Every character had flaws and redeeming qualities and they felt like real people. Taylor looked, on the surface, like a concerned neighbor, but was she really? or was there something darker at play? And were Moira and Alan really the grieving parents you’re led to believe? 

This is the first book I've read by Cathryn Grant and I've already bought 3 others on kindle to continue reading her great fiction. 

The pace is fast but not racing to a conclusion without building suspense and making you feel something. I felt a lot of things reading The Good Neighbor and most of them can be summed up with this: Oh my god, what is wrong with these people? 

The writing is tight, well constructed, with just enough descriptions so that you can visualise the neighborhood but not so overdone that you sit there going “oh my god, enough with the courtyards already!” 

I would recommend this to readers of authors like Ruth Ware and Riley Sager, though with the cautionary note that this book is not a creepy thriller, it is a mystery with thrilling elements.

4 stars for The Good Neighbor by Cathryn Grant. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Review: Bearmouth by Liz Hyder

For my first review back after the unintentional hiatus, I've decided to review one of the ARCs I was gifted by my local bookstore (seriously, go hang out at your local bookstore and get to know the staff, they get a ton of ARCs that they don't have room for and the staff can't possibly read all of them, which means you might get lucky the way I did). 

This book is, in a single word: amazing

But I think for a review, you'll probably want more than a single word. Allow me to gush about this book for the next few hundred words. 

Firstly, Hyder's voice is so unique. This is experimental fiction at its absolute finest. It isn't pretentious or over-gilded. 

The book is written from the perspective of a young boy who is just learning to read and write, and as such the language is simple and the phonetic spelling is a unique way of reading a book that by rights could be overwritten and use more words than strictly necessary, in the vein of other dystopian/sci fi authors. 

Liz Hyder has taken a possibly pretentious concept and turned it into a charming writing choice creating a fleshed out character in Newt, a young boy who is forced to work in Bearmouth doing hard labour, with the promise that in the next life with the benevolence of The Mayker. Newt is young and naive, and as such accepts what the adults tell him, the way we all do when we're children. Newt is a vividly relatable and believable character despite, or perhaps because of, his naivety. 

Newt works in a mine, called the Bearmouth, toiling for "not much coinage" and accepts that this is his lot in life, until the arrival of Devlin, who shakes things up. He inspires Newt to ask questions, and things slowly change for Newt. 

Newt's journey towards finding out "The Truth" of life in Bearmouth is deeply moving and evokes strong emotions from the reader. I found myself so thoroughly invested in the plot of this novel that when I was interrupted from the reading experience I found it jarring to realise I was on the couch in full daylight, and not down a mine in the dark. 

I can't say too much more about the plot without giving away spoilers but suffice to say Newt is endearing, and the atmosphere is deep, dark and creepy. 

This is a debut novel which I find absolutely breathtaking. To have such a unique voice and story to tell with a debut novel is a rare find. I suspect that Bearmouth will be talked about for years to come and Liz Hyder will become synonymous with experimental fiction.

If you liked Lisey's Story by Stephen King then you may like Bearmouth, not because they are similar in plot or even target audience but because Newt's outlook mirrors Lisey's, the confusion and unfamiliar territory they find themselves in creates a sense of darkness and depths of both earth and emotion that one finds claustrophobic and intriguing. 

If you liked Red Rising by Pierce Brown you may like Bearmouth, again, not because they are all that similar, though Red Rising is a lot more similar to Bearmouth than Lisey's Story, but because Newt is reminiscent of a childlike version of the main character from Red Rising. 

In conclusion, Bearmouth is in my top 5 books for 2019 and I think it may just be my number one book for 2019. 


Yeah, I really loved Bearmouth, could you tell? 

Stay tuned for the next review! Let me know if you've read Bearmouth and tell me what you thought in the comments. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Going all in...

Today we're going a little off topic, to talk about the concept of "going all in". 

To me, Going All In means backing myself in all my endeavours, it means having the confidence and the courage to take the plunge to the unknown and to stop calling myself an aspiring writer, and to simply call myself a writer. Because that's what I am, I write, I am a writer. 

I spent a long time thinking I couldn't ask people to contribute to a Patreon account because I am not a published author and I don't know when or even if that will happen, but in this era of technological advancement and the world becoming smaller by way of the internet, communities of writers, artists, musicians and thousands of other creatives have banded together to ask the world to contribute to the creation of art. 

When I really thought about it, asking the world to contribute to my artistic endeavours isn't as indulgent and "Millennial" as I thought. In years gone by artists of all types had patrons, people who supported them financially so that they could produce art for their patrons and the masses. This concept isn't new and it shouldn't be seen as "freeloading", and that is something I have finally come to terms with. 

I am physically disabled and it is hard. There's no way to dress that up. Getting a job while disabled is almost impossible where I live, there's too many people and not enough jobs. Even with my bachelor's degree in social work I have struggled for the past 4 years to get a job, it is disheartening and my mental health has slowly been declining as a result. In the end I had to take the chance to back myself and Go All In. 

This means that I have set up a Patreon account and included a button to support me on Patreon in the sidebar. 

Right now the perks are pretty casual, for the rest of this month if you sign up to support me on Patreon you will get a personalised thank you card. The $1 tier gives you early access to my book reviews, and drafts of short stories, the $3 tier gives you the $1 perks PLUS early access to flash fiction and short fiction pieces before I submit them to literary journals (basically the polished versions of $1 stories, this way you get to see how I edit and change pieces before they are submitted for publication), and the $5 tier gets you the previous perks PLUS access to my outlining process for novels and novellas and access to Scrivener templates for novels and novellas to use as you like. If you have special requests for what kind of Scrivener templates you'd like to see, or if you have a preferred writing program you'd rather see a template in, leave a comment below and sign up for the $5 tier to see that in the coming months! 

I'm going to leave a link here to my Patreon, please check it out and consider supporting my blog and other writing endeavours!

Review: Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

 Overview: Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World centres around Ivy Aberdeen, a 12 year old whose house was just destroyed in a hurricane a...