Review #31: The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood

The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood by Susan Elliot Wright

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Publication date: 21 February 2019

I obtained a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cornelia Blackwood is about to do something very wrong, for a reason she believes to be right.
She has a loving marriage but she has no friends.
Everyone knows Cornelia’s name but no one will speak to her now.
Cornelia has unravelled once before. What could possibly happen to her next?
An urgent and important novel of love, loss, tragedy and daring to hope again.

I picked up this book from Netgalley back in May last year because it intrigued me and the synopsis doesn’t reveal much at all so it’s fair to say I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this novel.

Cornelia Blackwood is a woman approaching her fourties, whose life hasn’t been kind. When her husband dies unexpectedly in a car crash, she is left childless and with no real family of her own apart from her in-laws. To make matters worse she soon finds out that her late husband had a child with another woman. Led by grief and conflicting emotions, Cornelia decides to befriend said woman in a desperate attempt to meet her husband’s son.

Cornelia’s character is deeply unlucky and when we meet her, she is overwhelmed by grief at the loss of her husband. The story alternates between the present time and Cornelia’s (better known as Leah) memories which help paint a picture of her life before her husband’s death and the deep connection that they had.

As the book goes on, we realise how harsh life has been to Leah. Even though she has a loving relationship with her husband, they are struggling to start a family. After a miscarriage and a stillborn, Leah is left deeply scarred. But when daughter Harriet finally comes along, Leah is so determined to protect her precious baby that she slowly develops a condition known as post-partum psychosis and she starts to behave abnormally and obsessively.

In the present timeline however, we know that Leah was left childless after her husband’s death so there is this constant question at the back of the reader’s head of what happened to Harriet? We can also see Leah start to develop obsessive patterns and behaviours around her husband’s child, that she feels needs to be a part of her life.

This is a novel that is very deeply emotionally charged and it made me feel all kinds of emotions. At the beginning and through most of the book, my heart deeply ached for Cornelia as I struggled to imagine what it would be like to want a family so much only for life to take it away from you every time. But when Harriet came along, the feelings of intrigue took over, only to be replaced by concern once Leah starts behaving oddly. I will admit that towards the end of the novel there were times where I hated Leah as much as I hurt for her, and I just wanted to scream at her to stop.

This is a very moving novel that sheds light on a condition that is not often talked about. While we’ve all heard of post-partum depression, post-partum psychosis isn’t often discussed and it is alarming because if undiagnosed it could have harmful consequences. Even though the author makes a point of stating that Leah’s case was taken to the extreme for the purposes of entertainment, I still believe it is a subject that needs to be addressed and that people need to be aware of. For this, I am really glad that this novel was written, not only was it extremely entertaining but it also conveys an important message that the world needs to know about.

Review #25: The Invisible Investigation

The Invisible Investigation by Lionel Touzellier

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Published on 21 November 2017

I was contacted by the author and given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Joshua Mandley, a scientist specialised in nanotechnology gets assigned a very important and secret mission: to re-analyse all of the pieces of evidence from Kennedy’s assassination in order to discover, once and for all, who really killed the 35th US President. To aid him in his mission he gets the help of Dr Mei Wang, an academic and expert when it comes to Kennedy’s life and death. As secret as their assignment is, different organisations soon find out about it and Mandley and Wang will have to fight off super agents in order to cling onto their discoveries.

Lionel, the author, actually had to try quite a bit to convince me to read his book. Even though historical fiction is my favourite genre, I’m mostly drawn to the Middle Ages period or really anything before the 20th century, so at first, I didn’t feel drawn to this book at all.

Going into the story, when Joshua Mandley the nanoscientist is introduced I half expected the plot to have everything to do with scientific discoveries and turn into an episode of CSI. And while I really enjoy watching things such as Making a Murderer etc, I felt like in a book format it would bore me to death. Thankfully the investigation took a different route, almost turning into a treasure hunt where Mandley and Wang have to follow a trail of clues in order to discover the truth. I really enjoyed that and I think it served the story well, rather than being confined to the rigidness of science.

The fact that Mandley and Wang are closely watched and followed by different organisations also livens up the plot and it becomes an actual thriller with some very fast-paced scenes, rather than a simple crime novel. The thriller aspect of the book and the writing itself reminded me of French author Guillaume Musso, a master of the genre (and one of my favourites) and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lionel was inspired by him.

I didn’t know much at all about the JFK’s assassination beforehand so I actually learned a lot from reading this book AND it picked my curiosity enough that I found myself Googling details of the event after finishing the book so it is fair to say I got into the story a lot more than I originally thought I would.

I was slightly disappointed by the end results of the investigation as I found it all a bit anticlimactic but the ride, for as long as it lasted, was enjoyable.

I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in this part of history, but also to anyone who likes a good thriller and mystery novel.

Review #23: Purgatorium

Purgatorium by J.H. Carnathan

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Published on 27th May 2018

I was contacted by the author and given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When his watch resets to zero, his morning starts again. Everyday his time always ends right at 60 minutes, giving him only 5 minutes to stay at one particular place in his normal routine. The empty streets and familiar places are strange facsimiles of his previous life. He keeps reliving these same events over and over, barely able to remember anything and unable to maintain mental order as he stumbles through a strange existence. He soon learns that his physical body is in a coma and his consciousness is currently in a purgatory-like realm. As his body lies in a coma, his mind has been living a lavish lifestyle at a price: his sinful memories and his autonomy. After finding out his life support is coming to an end he must now run the last race for his life to decide if he is a “soul survivor” ready for a second chance at life or a lost soul willing to give it all up. He needs to outrun reapers, outthink the clock, and chase down his inner demons if he is ever going to get free. The race is on, and if he is going to survive, he’ll have to confront the world he’s always been so desperate to escape from.

I’m not sure what I expected from this book reading the synopsis, but Purgatorium wasn’t it. It’s an insanely complex piece of work and hats off to J.H. Carnathan for coming up with this completely original story. The descriptions of places and characters are incredibly vivid and it makes it so easy for the reader to visualise the setting, and it’s a pretty bleak one. The main character is lost in a place where he’s not quite alive but he’s not dead either. He’s in between, and being chased by reapers looking to erase his memories, he never gets a chance to rest. The story is very fast-paced as the main character is constantly on the move. At first, he can’t remember a thing so he has to regain his memories along the way. This was my favourite part of the book, the bits were the reader plunges into the character’s memories with him and reader and character both try to make sense of his life, how he ended up here and what kind of person he was before falling into a coma. Some memories will make you love him, and some will make you hate him.

He is aided in his quest by a group of archangels, all with flamboyant personalities and they give him clues and information on what he needs to do in order to get back to his physical body. But he will soon find out that they can’t all be trusted, and if one thing is sure in this book it’s that no one really is what they seem. We meet a different archangel every day and they all offer different pieces of information that help complete the puzzle.

The book has a lot of Christian content to it (i.e. the archangels and the concept of seeking redemption for one’s sins) and usually this would have bothered me since I am an atheist; but in this case I didn’t mind it. There is no need to be Christian in order to know what’s right and wrong and the concept of seeking repentance for your own bad actions can be applied universally, whether someone is religious or not.

This book is very different to my usual reading but I really enjoyed it. It is full of twists and turns and it constantly keeps the reader on their toes. I got completely lost into the story and just let it take me wherever it was going. The multiple plot twists towards the end left me speechless. The only criticism I would have is that it felt slightly long at times and I would occasionally drift off. But if you’re into sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers and puzzle-like stories, then you’re in luck! This book covers so many genres that you are sure to find something you like about it.

One last touch I really liked was not knowing the main character’s name until he himself could remember it. There are so many instances where he gets close to finding it out, only for something to happen and throw him off, and that frustrated me beyond belief, but in a good way. So, I applaud the author for that, very well played.

Review #22: Dark Paradise *Spoilers*

Dark Paradise by Gene Desrochers

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Published on 25 June 2018

I was approached by the author and given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

After the unexplained death of his wife in Los Angeles, Boise Montague decides to go back to his native Carribean island of St Thomas for a change of scenery and with hope of rekindling some old friendships. Once there, he discovers that his oldest school friend, Roger Black, became a drug dealer and got killed in what the police assumed to be a settling of scores between drug lords. Unconvinced by the police’s explanation, Boise, with the help of reporter Dana Goode, sets off to unravel what really happened to Roger.

To be completely honest with you guys, I’ve got mixed feelings about this book. I liked that it’s set in a struggling Caribbean island so the setting differs to most murder mystery novels, and it does transport you there. The fact that the author used the local dialect also enhances this feeling of authenticity and exoticism. The author very successfully describes an island where poverty has struck and the only sources of income come from tourists and the odd politicians visiting; and even the police system is somewhat corrupt.

Now the part that I struggled with is the believable-ness of the story. Boise has literally just landed on the island, and within a couple of days, manages to convince a complete stranger to take on an investigation with him, even though none of them are qualified for the task. In particular, the part with the pizza shop owners baffled me. Boise and Dana manage to break into a crime scene and all they find is a pizza box, so they decide to go and talk to the pizza shop owners and within an hour or so of talking to them, they convince them to come along and help them rescue a kidnapped victim. This just doesn’t seem realistic to me. There’s also a lot of running around and interviewing random people, most of which are too briefly mentioned to really make a mark on the story. I know this is supposed to be a fast-paced action story, but it felt excessive and unnecessary. None of the characters, apart from Boise, are given enough back story for the reader to relate to them. There is just too much going on at any one time, and it overshadowed the characters development.

Now, when it comes to Boise himself, he is somewhat of a lovable character. Devastated by the death of his wife and prone to chronic health problems, he has become dependent on pain killers and beer. I believe that he set himself the mission of discovering what happened to his old friend as a way to regain some sense of purpose in life and possibly righting some wrongs (since the death of his wife remains a mystery). However, I found his way of going about it problematic. For example, he goes to someone’s house to ask them some questions. When the lady won’t tell him all that she knows because she needs to leave for work, he follows her to her place of work and basically stalks her all day until she finishes her shift and drives home, where he follows her again and as she says she’s leaving for the airport, he books himself tickets on the very same plane and follows her back to St Thomas. Now, this is not diligent detective work, it’s just downright stalkerish and creepy. I don’t know about you, but if a random guy was following me around all day, I would call the police within the hour and get him arrested.

Finally, I wasn’t particularly surprised by the resolution of the crimes and therefore not very impressed. Overall, I liked the exoticity and unusual setting of the book but the plot itself fell a bit short.

Autumn Reading List

Hey guys! I thought it was about time I presented to you my reading list for the next three or so months! It’s been a long time in the making and I’ve finally finalised it, so it’s ready to be shared with the world!

As well as a few more books from Netgalley, I’ve been contacted by quite a few authors in the last few weeks so I’ve taken on quite a few books to read. To be honest, my eyes were probably bigger than my belly on this one! But at least, that’s my reading sorted until the New Year!

Without further ado, here what you can expect in the next few months:

The Corset by Laura Purcell

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

One Day in December by Josie Silver

The Turn of Midnight by Minette Walters

Sun Shed by Lee Thomas Ward

Dark Paradise by Gene Desrochers

Purgatorium by J.H. Carnathan

Adventus by Andrew Mowere

The Invisible Investigation by Lionel Touzellier

Someone else’s shoes by Sofia Ellis

Celestia by J.D. Evergreen

Apparent Power by Dacia Arnold

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin

Are any of these on your own reading list? Let me know which one you’re looking forward to the most!

Review #16: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

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Publication date: 18 September 2018

I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Imagine you wake up one morning in the middle of a forest, with no recollection of what happened the night before, or even who you are… and when you find your way back to safety in an immense country house called Blackheath, everyone there seems to know you but you have no idea who they are. Imagine that shortly after that, you encounter a mysterious messenger who explains to you that someone is going to die tonight, and that the only way you can escape this place is by solving their murder… what would you do? Run away or start investigating?

Aiden Bishop is trapped in Blackheath where, inevitably, Evelyn Hardcastle will meet her death each night at 11pm, unless he can solve her murder and break the cycle. To do so, Aiden is given eight days and eight “hosts” (guests to inhabit for one day). If he cannot solve the murder in the time given, his memories will be wiped and the cycle will begin again. But Aiden isn’t the only person trapped in Blackheath. Among the guests are two other persons, just like him, investigating to save their lives. But only one of them can escape…

Blimey, this book was insane! If I had to define it I would say it’s a crossover between Groundhog Day and Agatha Christie or even a mix between Pride and Prejudice and Criminal Minds. Blackheath is a huge estate owned by the Hardcastle family and on the 19th anniversary of their son’s death, the lady of the house decided to throw a party, inviting the very same people that were present 19 years ago when her son died. It reminded me of Agatha Christie in the way that the action is set in one place and all the characters are the same throughout the book. It’s also set in a time where maids and servants were still a thing hence the Pride and Prejudice vibes. It also reminded me of Groundhog Day because Aiden repeats the same day again and again until solving the murder, and of Criminal Minds because the story gets dark really quickly and Aiden will have to observe the guests’ personalities and habits to help in his investigation.

The story is incredibly complex, there are endless characters, each with their own quirks and background stories and we go through so many clues trying to solve Evelyn’s murder that it is impossible to keep track of them all (but in a good way, like where they stay somewhere in your brain and start to make more sense as the story advances). This is a book that made me guess, page after page, what was going on as it took me through Aiden’s investigation and I tried to decipher the clues. I had a few different theories at some point, but the book outsmarted me every time and this is my favourite kind of book, where it makes me think really hard until I eventually have to give up and admit that the only way I’ll make sense of it is to just read on.

It’s a pretty long book (over 500 pages) and reading it in a week was a challenge but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The story is so complex that it needs the pages to unfold itself, and every single chapter is a cliffhanger. Once again, I am very surprised that this is a debut novel, as it is astonishingly brilliant. So much work (and post-it notes!) must have gone into it!

The only criticism I have about this is that I could have done with a floorplan of the country house since it is huge and it’s sometimes hard to picture it all in your own mind, but after snooping around on Amazon I realised that the book actually does have a floorplan, it’s only my advanced copy that didn’t, so I guess I can’t even fault it on a single thing.

If you’re into your murder mysteries, do get your hand on it, you won’t be disappointed!

So, what was your favourite book this summer? For me, it’s a toss up between this one and The Psychology of Time Travel that I read the other week.

Review #13: The Psychology of Time Travel

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

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Published on 09 August 2018

I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What an incredible piece of literature this was! This book completely blew me away. I cannot believe this is Kate Mascarenhas’ first book! The research that must have gone into it and the mastery with which she handled this highly complex story is insane. I was quite frankly gobsmacked.

The Psychology of Time Travel is set in three different time periods. First is 1967, when four brilliant women scientists secluded themselves in the middle of nowhere working on a time machine… and succeeded, pioneering the world of time travelling. Then comes 2017, time travel is in full swing by that point since it became a huge organisation (called the Conclave) after the pioneers’ discovery. Barbara (one of said pioneers, now in her eighties) receives a mysterious message from one of her former colleagues and has to plunge once again into the world of time travel, a world she had left behind many years ago. Finally, there is 2018. After Odette discovers a body on the first day of her new job at the toy museum, she is both traumatised and intrigued. Flashbacks of the body will not leave her alone for months and she feels that the only way for her to get better is to solve the mystery of this murder, and for this, she will have to enter the Conclave’s world…

This book is nothing like I’ve ever read before. The one thing that makes it stand out compared to other books and films about time travel is that, in this, there is no changing the past. I feel like a lot of stories about time travel revolve around the idea of going back into the past in order to change the future’s course of events. But in this book, the future is fated and there is no altering it. You might think at the time that you are making a decision that will influence the course of your future, but really you’re acting in exactly the way you should be for your future to go on as planned.

In The Psychology of Time Travel, aspiring time travellers have to pass an amount of physical and psychological tests before they can work for the Conclave. Due to this rigorous testing, it has become an elite profession and only a handful of members of society are actually time travellers. But as exciting as the job may sound, it is a difficult one to say the least. As a time traveller, you can discover your whole future: who you will marry, whether you’ll have children, the exact time and cause of your death… and you just have to take it as it is. Relationships between time travellers and civilians become incredibly complex. A person who doesn’t time travel will stay in one time period, going about their life unaware of what’s to come; whereas time travellers will be constantly hopping from one century to the next, knowing everything about the future and sometimes becoming the bearer of bad news. Some time travellers can then feel superior to civilians due to their excessive knowledge of the future and can develop superiority complexes.

The insight that Kate has into time travelling is unbelievable. I’m sure we’ve all fantasised before about how we’d like to go back in time, either to change something or to relive a happy moment. But Kate’s book goes into the technicalities and exposes how detrimental time travel can be. Time travellers lose their sense of self, because they have several selves (their younger and older selves that they sometimes encounter in different time periods); and they also become desensitised to death because to them, death isn’t final. They always have the opportunity to go back in time and visit the person they have lost and so they fail to understand how civilians are affected by someone’s death. Some of them even like to play Angel of Death and give civilians a forewarning.

There are so many characters and timelines to keep track of in this book but somehow it all flows seamlessly and I never felt like I was losing the plot. The writing is so clever that it reminded me of JK Rowling, especially in the way the author leaves tiny clues throughout the book that all come together in the end. It is fair to say this is the best book I’ve read in a long while. I could go on for hours but I don’t want to give too much of the plot away. I will definitely read this book again, just so that I can notice all the subtle little details I may have missed on the first read.

And as if I couldn’t like this book any more, it also features characters from various races, ethnical backgrounds, genders and sexualities, which was a delightful surprise! Yay! Representation for all!

It is hard to define the genre of this book. I’ve seen it described as a mystery & thriller, and fantasy book. However, I reckon anyone could enjoy it. And if you’ve got a particular interest in time travel, do not hesitate!