‘Life Ruins’ by Danuta Kot

‘They all fall down…’

This book is set in an area of England I have visited a lot, so I really enjoyed the setting, despite the depressing overtones, however, I actually don’t mind a bit of gloom.
I think it’s a solid first book, although I did drift a lot during my reading and found the overall plotting, sadly, a little weak. Personally, I would have loved to see more on the central story, rather than the lengthy issues the principal characters were going through. Saying that, there were moments of drive and these held my attention and were written well.
I enjoyed the more sinister undertones throughout the book, although Whitby and surrounding areas are actually much more joyful in reality, and not perpetually bleak, but that’s the tone the writer wanted, and I can appreciate why. Maybe a bit more light against the dark?
This author certainly has potential; I felt with better structure and plotting to hold the threads together the story-telling would be delivered more coherently for the reader?
I found I was pulling out of the story with the different threads and the final joining of these didn’t have enough impact for me, although the final quarter of the book worked much better.

These are my honest opinions and I wish the author well in their writing career. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the review copy.

‘The Glass Woman’ by Caroline Lea


Really super writing and set in 17th century Iceland, where the land is a vital character in the story-telling. Perfect read for a cold winter day by the fire. I loved visiting the isolated communities and seeing their ways and superstitions. The central characters had some great depth and the crafting of the writing was so skilled that the slow psychological reveals were so fascinating. Superb plotting and word crafting throughout.
The reader really gets a sense of the country, and that’s what I really enjoyed; how the tales and legends of the land were embedded into the overall story-telling frame around Jon and Rosa’s stories. The writer assuredly controls the reader and weaves in some fascinating threads and we are unsure of anyone’s intentions and how much they will be willing to do and sacrifice. Very clever writing.
It’s atmospheric and haunting and I would recommend this book.

‘The Doll Factory’ by Elizabeth Mcneal

‘The Doll Factory’ certainly delivers and it’s a worthy debut novel. Whilst not perfect for me, it’s well onto the way of being so. The word choices are at times really beautiful and then absolutely vile; this juxtaposing creates a real style and engagement within the writing.

The subject of the novel is certainly nothing like the cover evokes – cleverly playing with our perception, which is a theme running through the story.
In the world Macneal creates we are pulled into the imposing and secret thoughts of the principal characters: from a young girl trapped and restricted by society, her family, expectations and her gender; a small boy with no childhood having to deal with truly awful experiences and a man trapped in his warped mind, struggling to retain a sense of the real world; a man encased in his creative mind and a girl physically and devastatingly destroyed by illness. The convergence of these characters collides in a fascinating and vivid narrative.
So why not perfect? I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to write an ending for this novel; this is where I felt denied. It’s left for the reader to conclude and I felt immediately shut off from a resolution; I wanted to see the events after the climax of the action. But maybe that’s just being a selfish reader.
Maybe I’ll think differently on a second read? I devoured this book in four hours, so a slower re-read will be both interesting and enjoyable.
Overall, hats off to Elizabeth Macneal. If this is your debut, then I’ll be looking out for your future work.

4.5 stars – a highly recommended read.

‘The House on Vesper Sands’ by Paraic O’Donnell

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the darkness is complete”

Wow, what an opening narrative hook! I absolutely loved the first chapter, clever, intriguing and mysterious; a perfect way to engage your reader.
This book didn’t disappoint; set in the winter of 1893 in London the snow is beginning to fall on a collection of seemingly disassociated characters, who’ll eventually collide in the latter climax of the novel.
I loved the feel of this world and it’s been described by other reviewers as having a Dickens, Collins and Doyle vibe and there are elements of the atmosphere of those novels.
The London of ‘A House on Vesper Sands’ is a dark and dangerous place, the novel balances this with humour and witticisms. Okay, so it’s not historically accurate and the actions of some of the characters you’ll perhaps never find in Dickens, for example how Octavia Hillingdon, a socialist, parades around London on her bicycle without getting her long dresses snagged up on the wheels, but I really didn’t care!
There’s also a supernatural vibe building throughout and this worked well for the most part. I enjoy fantasy novels so I was happy to go along with it in the spirit of fiction, however I think a more serious historical fiction fan might find the ‘light’ (can’t say no more for spoiler purposes) incredibly daft!
Overall, I was very happy immersing myself in this novel for a couple of evenings and delighted in the characters and their journey. I’m a happy reader who had a great time disappearing into this world.