Welcome to my book-blog. I spend as much time as I can within the pages of a book and hope you'll get some reading inspiration from my library. Catch me on Instagram as well as books.tea.and.me – I'm always looking for recommendations!
FATE PULLED THEM APART BUT NOT BEFORE THEY MADE A PROMISE.
TEN CHRISTMASES LATER, WILL THEIR WISH COME TRUE? . . .
As Norah battles through the bustling December crowds, she hears the notes of a song that transports her back to the most romantic week of her life.
After meeting on a blissful holiday, but knowing they had to part, a boy named Andrew made her a promise:
If they are both single on Christmas Eve in ten years’ time, they will meet under the clock on Grafton Street, Dublin.
Norah has no idea if he will remember, but she has nothing to lose.
So, hoping for a Christmas miracle, she heads to Dublin. To that clock. And, maybe, to Andrew.
But it wouldn’t be Christmas without a few surprises . . .
Ah, what a charming Winter read for all those romantics out there. ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ is a heartwarming little book that comforts and entertains delightfully; a perfect light-hearted seasonal read. It’s a story of timings, Fate, friendships, family relationships and music.
The book jumps about from place to place as our characters live and grow, from Italy to Dublin, America and London. I enjoyed following the character of Noah, who stood out for me. I loved how the story was transported to the reader via music and the memories unraveled the past relationship for the reader.
It’s a book that utilises the romance and seasonal pleasures of Christmas time and I really have a yearning to visit Dublin now and experience the hustle, bustle and sounds of the streets, music and communities.
I would recommend this book for readers looking for a romantic, light Christmas read.
A debut thriller for fans of Lucy Foley and Liz Moore, Dark Things I Adore is a stunning Gone Girl-esque tale of atonement that proves that in the grasp of manipulative men, women may momentarily fall. But in the hands of fierce women, men will be brought to their knees.
Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay.
1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They’re the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed.
2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protégé’s remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn’t know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web.
Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max’s secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won’t be easy, Audra knows someone must pay.
A searing psychological thriller of trauma, dark academia, complicity, and revenge, Dark Things I Adore unravels the realities behind campfire legends―the horrors that happen in the dark, the girls who become cautionary tales, and the guilty who go unpunished. Until now.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2018
Audra’s voice floats to me like the scent of roses across a dark, abandoned garden; first sensed, then followed. “We’re stopping just up here.” It takes me a moment to come to the words, to apprehend their meaning. I’ve been very far away, fallen into the deep crevasses of my own thoughts and memories and preoccupations, clouded things, and now she is throwing a bright, silken rope down, beckoning me to climb back up to her out of the murk.
I blink a few times out at the blur of scenery going by my window—it is so terribly vibrant. We are moving so very fast. The farther into Maine we’ve gotten, the tenser my muscles have become. I feel their gentle protests as I come back to myself in the passenger seat of her little Volvo wagon; she’s driving us onward and onward, farther north, further wild.
“Ground control to Major Tom—are you there, Major Tom?” Her voice is supple: deep as a river bend, scratchy as an alto sax, able to convey everything or nothing at all depending on her mood.
“Yes, reporting for duty. And stopping for a moment sounds good,” I say, adjusting myself in my seat.
“You can even stay in the car,” she says quickly, as if not wanting to inconvenience me. “I really just have to use the bathroom.”
“No problem. Might get out to stretch.” I rub my hands on the thighs of my jeans and yawn, looking back out the window.
Towering balsams, firs, and pines in varying depths of green all shimmy like ‘20s flappers in the stiff breeze, birches wrapped like mummies in what looks to be peeling papyrus lean this way and that, grand oaks, maples, and chestnuts muscle in on one another, flared in their autumn robes; a motley conflagration under the dazzling mid-October sun. We are in the middle of a beautiful nowhere, digging into sprawling hinterlands, into territories of wild earth.
The rolling, winding roads away from Bangor took us through towns with names like Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson, and Shirley, all with their own quaint, beautifully cinematic set dressing. It was like each was curated from grange hall flea markets and movie sets rife with small-town Americana. Stoic stone war memorials. American flags. Whitewashed, chipping town hall buildings from other centuries. Church bell towers in the actual process of tolling, gonging, calling. To me, the sound was ominous in a remote sort of way, unnameable.
I glance over at Audra again, consider her, and wonder if my other students have found out about this little trip. They’ll be upset to hear I’ve undertaken this effort to work with and see Audra. They know I would never do the same for them. The admirers and the sycophants hate Audra. They deride her, mock her, belittle her and her work behind her back. But they’re mediocre, deluded self consolers. She is better than them in almost every way. And they know it.
But I understand her. Because I am her. Or was. Twentyplus years ago, just starting out, full of ideas and energy and hunger and pure, unbridled talent. Dedicated to the work. I can cultivate her. I can make her greater than she ever could have been on her own. None of the others afford me that; not a one.
When Audra first proposed this one-on-one visit, I’d been pleasantly surprised, even a little triumphant. But things couldn’t help but flicker back into memory like sunlight breaking through clouds. Images. Emotions. Colors: cadmium yellow, alizarin crimson, prism violet, cerulean blue. Just snippets, catches of history. I’d lived in Maine for two years, as a matter of fact—but as a much younger man. Barely more than a boy. It was decades ago; many bottles of wine and lovers and lines of cocaine and gallery showings and awards and lectures and semesters ago. So much has happened. So much has grown in the space between me and that capricious boy so far down the tunnel of time that he feels almost entirely obscured from me, insignificant to the man and artist I’ve become. I didn’t tell Audra any of that because my experience here all those years ago holds realities she might consider a little ugly. I didn’t want to ruin our fun. I didn’t want to ruin the potential such a trip might hold for us. I still don’t. So I’m treating this adventure like a clean slate, made just for me and her.
“It’s another mile or two until we stop,” Audra tells me as her eyes track a big pickup roaring by. We pass the mouth of a private dirt driveway. Posted: NO TRESPASSING NO HUNTING, a sign at its edge says. The dirt drive cuts a winding path up a steep embankment, through trees and gone, a scar in the hillside. Halfway up the densely forested slope, I see whorls of gray smoke lifting into the crystalline sapphire sky. I gaze over at Audra again, thinking of the desolation, the beauty, the shocking potential of pure color.
“I can see you here,” I tell her, nodding. “I see you in this place.”
“Yes. I thought you were mad to not go abroad to complete your thesis. Absolutely mad. Every young artist—every good artist—needs difference. It pushes you forward, opens up the imagination to go out there and see the world!” She smiles faintly, sagely as she listens to me, to the bite-size version of this speech of mine she’s heard many times before.
“I know what my paintings need. They don’t need Istanbul. They need”—she takes a deep breath and then gestures around us, breathing out a sigh of pleasure—“this. And all of the money from those departmental awards will keep me comfortable right here.”
“Seeing it now, like this, my guess is you’re right. It suits you. It suits your work.”
“And wait until you see what I’ve been up to since my last update. Any doubts will be cleared away.” There is a devilish little twinkle in her eye. Reminds me of myself right before unveiling a masterwork to a hungry audience. The anticipation. The excitement.
“You sound confident.”
“I am confident,” she replies, sure as granite, light as a summer breeze. As ever, I think, not without some prickliness. But the sudden, joyful flash of her teeth and the uptick of her lips into a smile, the way her hair flares in the sun plunges me into wild, raw infatuation, that just-born kind of infatuation you feel at the beginning of every one of your own very best love stories. The sensation is of a rose reblooming, an egg re-cracking, a sweet, delicious pressure released. It has been this way with me since I met her. This inability to look away from her and what she creates. Even her sheer, bald confidence—I admit I’m the same way. Unwavering about my art. But where I am hotheaded, Audra is all coolness, steady and withholding.
The coolness, the distancing ends this weekend, I’m sure. Why else invite me all the way the hell up here?
When well-to-do Hester learns of her sister Mercy’s death at a Nottinghamshire workhouse, she travels to Southwell to find out how her sister ended up at such a place.
Haunted by her sister’s ghost, Hester sets out to uncover the truth, when the official story reported by the workhouse master proves to be untrue. Mercy was pregnant – both her and the baby are said to be dead of cholera, but the workhouse hasn’t had an outbreak for years.
Hester discovers a strange trend in the workhouse of children going missing. One woman tells her about the Pale Lady, a ghostly figure that steals babies in the night. Is this lady a myth or is something more sinister afoot at the Southwell poorhouse?
As Hester investigates, she uncovers a conspiracy, one that someone is determined to keep a secret, no matter the cost…
I really enjoy books like ‘The Shadowing’, firstly because of the historical setting (we have a sinister workhouse to unpick); secondly, the gothic atmosphere, and thirdly the author is clearly a great storyteller.
Our protagonist is Hester, who is introduced to the reader whilst suffering in the throes of a nightmare wrapped around by mensural pain; we soon learn she is living under the patriarchy of her father. What’s also soon clear, is that Hester has visions of the departed, of shadows and spirits: the dead. Her long-long sister Mercy appears and Hester knows that bad news is approaching. The story develops quickly and the family receive a letter that Mercy has indeed died at a place called the Southwell Union Workhouse, and she has died a pauper.
This book’s central mystery involves what actually happened to Mercy, how she ended up in a workhouse and dying a pauper. Hester becomes obsessed with finding out the truth and this is the hook of the narrative. I really enjoyed the historical setting coming alive, as Hester battles relentlessly to find out the truth and put her sister’s shadow to rest.
There’s a great, creepy atmosphere at Southwell, and I was reminded of Daphine Du Maurier’s world of shady characters, foreboding inns, untrustworthy characters, and ghostly, gothic undertones. It’s a world where, Hester, our strong – albeit a little naïve lead character fights to stand up for her sister and those trying to stop her. I also enjoyed the addition of Matthew, a grouchy, dismissive landlord of a coaching inn, who develops and become a more central part of the narrative; he also provides the dash of romance, and I do mean dash.
I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Shadowing’ and would highly recommend it.
Its RELEASE DAY BLITZ time for AWAKENED by Parliament Press – do keep scrolling for more bookish information…
After losing her parents in an accident only she survived, Hannah is desperate for answers. Haunted by the events of that tragic night, she struggles to move on, yearning for some deeper truth about her loss.
But when it comes time to turn a new page and move cross country for college, she vows to leave the past behind. Afterall, Bellcliff University is a thousand miles away from the ghosts nipping at her heels.
Yet when Hannah accidentally awakens a handsome witch from a hidden cave near campus, she realizes he isn’t the only thing stirring out of slumber. Hannah has roused all magic…including the devil herself.
As if spells, curses, and college jitters weren’t enough, this witch claims to know her from four centuries prior-and their connection is more than casual.
Thrust into a world of sorcery and monsters, Hannah must fight to keep the magic she’d unleashed from claiming a price far too steep for her to pay.
OUT TODAY, SEPTEMBER 7th, 2021
A perfect story for fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s SHIVER, Tracy Wolff’s CRAVE, and Becca Fitzpatrick’s HUSH HUSH.
Publisher : The Parliament House (7 Sept. 2021) Language : English Paperback : 288 pages ISBN-10 : 1956136908 ISBN-13 : 978-1956136906 Reading age : 15 – 18 years
Thank you to Sandstone Press for the blog tour invite for ‘The Wolf in the Woods’; this is my first read by Dan Brotzel and the superb cover design sealed the deal. For more information about the tour and author, please do keep scrolling.
“Oh God. Here you go again, hanging over me, invading my sleep with your morning breath. As my eyes flicker open, you hang over me for a long moment, nuzzling my neck and furtively assessing my reaction. I feel your arms tremble. When you get no response, you slide off with a disgusted grunt. Even though I’m half asleep, I sense the guilt seeking rays emanating from your half-turned back. I roll over and away.”
The Wolf in the Woods
Colleen and Andrew haven’t had sex in eleven weeks and three days [not that anyone’s counting]. Their marriage is in crisis, they’re drinking too much and both have secrets they’re afraid to share. A teetotal week in a remote cottage could solve all their problems. But with the promised beach nowhere in sight, a broken-down car and a sinister landlord, they may not find it so easy to rekindle their romance. In this dark and funny novel, tensions build and tempers fray.
“But you just can’t let me be, can you? The pointed buzzing of an electric toothbrush, the pedantic click of a wardrobe door, a coat-hanger’s righteous jangle – your busy-busy faffing is just enough to break my spell. I am conscious, and there’s no escaping it. No escaping you.
Today I think. Let it be today that I find a way.
‘Come on!” you say. ‘We should have left by now!’
And I think: Next week.
The Wolf in the Woods
The story opens in the middle of a relationship, the mindset of both husband and wife being pealed back for the reader via their own narratives. The separate bedrooms, the routines, the secrets, desires and the predictabilities. There are several tonal shifts as the reader begins to build a picture of who Colleen and Andrew are, whilst being set off-kilter by the man ‘sat at the window’ reminiscent of ‘Mr Punch’ or ‘those creepy horror-film clowns’. There’s the shop assistant who avoids conversation about ‘Red Barn Cottage’ and the person who’s ‘still at it then’. The reader becomes aware that maybe there’s more to this book than a narrative of a marriage at odds.
What follows is certainly a story of a long term relationship, but Brotzel adds suspense using the fairytale in the woods setting and the irony of the welcome pack from the cottage owners saying ‘we’re watching out for you’ and ‘Just knock on the big red door!’ It’s not long until we meet Wolf, who pops by with advice and seems to know a few details about the couple that he shouldn’t; then we meet Mrs Wolf, or Hildy and it’s even more uncomfortable with her inappropriate references to the young children and the glimpse of her ‘flogging her spouse’ with a ‘leather strap’.
There’s some great hooks throughout, particularly why Andrew failed Colleen ‘when it mattered most’, the backdrop of reading books about serial killers, Nazi references, dangers, alcoholism and desires.
This is an unusual and creative book about problems within a marriage set upon a backdrop of perceived menace; I enjoyed its outlandish style and the dark humour.
THE BLOG TOUR
Dan Brotzel’s short stories have won awards and been published widely, with Hotel Du Jack, his first full-length collection, published in 2019. He is also co-author of a comic novel-in-emails about an eccentric writers’ group, Work in Progress (Unbound). The Wolf in the Woods is his debut novel. Dan lives in London with his partner Eve and their three children.
It’s great to be a part of the blog tour for book MIMIC by Daniel Cole with thanks to Ellen at Orion Books for the invite. Cole’s latest is a standalone thriller read, unlike his previous (highly recommended) trilogy – the Ragdoll Books.
1989 DS Benjamin Chambers and DC Adam Winter are on the trail of a twisted serial killer with a passion for recreating the world’s greatest works of art through the bodies of his victims. But after Chambers almost loses his life, the case goes cold – their killer lying dormant, his collection unfinished.
1996 Jordan Marshall has excelled within the Metropolitan Police Service, fuelled by a loss that defined her teenage years. Obsessed, she manages to obtain new evidence, convincing both Chambers and Winter to revisit the case. However, their resurrected investigation brings about a fresh reign of terror, the team treading a fine line between police officers and vigilantes in their pursuit of a monster far more dangerous and intelligent than any of them had anticipated…
I loved the RAGDOLL series, each book was contrasting in style and I really engaged with this variation and creativity. Daniel Coles books are always fun to read, despite taking you into dark places, minds and events. The thrillers are carefully plotted with both dramatic and creative deaths and crimes – so be warned, this isn’t for the faint of heart.
There’s a great and slightly unusual character driven team working on the central investigation: DS Ben Chambers, PC Adam Winters and the modern newbie DC Jordan Marshall. The crime investigation initially begins in 1989 shifting to the reopening in 2006 and I enjoyed the changes of both the investigation, the development and changes of the 1989 investigators.
A part of Cole’s books that add to their charm, even though it’s rather macabre at times, is the humour, which I’ve also really enjoyed in previous Cole books – so please expect a chuckle along the way, if dark humour works for you?
With the theme of art, specifically Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ sculpture opening this crime mystery, Cole has created an intelligent cold case crime at the heart of this thriller. The reader follows the team as they hunt the perpetrator of the sick crimes that haunt them, to find closure on the case and to seek justice.
A gruesome crime thriller based on recreating famous works of art in the most macabre way.
An intelligent, absorbing and addictive read.
The Author – Daniel Cole
Born in 1983, Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and most recently for the RNLI, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing. He currently lives in sunny Bournemouth and can usually be found down the beach when he ought to be writing. Daniel’s debut novel Ragdoll was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been published in over thirty-five countries.
‘A Master of Djinn‘ is the debut novel from P Djeli Clark and set in an alternative Cairo in the early 20th century combining magic and police procedural. If you’d like to know more about this new fantasy novel then please keep scrolling…
Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.
So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.
Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems….
Firstly, I loved the setting – an alternative Cairo, Steampunk style, with a Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigation driving the plot structure. Clark can certainly world build and this was the shining success of the novel. I wasn’t aware of P. Djeli Clark as an author before reading ‘A Master of Djinn’, however he has a back catalogue of short stories before this debut full-length novel, starting with ‘A Dead Djinn in Cairo’ in his ‘Dead Djinn Universe’ series.
What’s impressive about this novel is the world that Clark creates; it’s created with authorial craft and a huge dash of panache. The Djinn have supported Egypt in the removal of the British and the country is now a magical world of Ministries, underground nightclubs, mythical creatures and a dash of added political strife. It’s a truly fleshed out and ‘alive’ world, and our protagonist at the centre is Fatma. Fatma is generally an interesting construct, despite her inability to control and effectively lead an investigation into the murders of a secret brotherhood. This was a little frustrating, as she missed several leads and misconstrued clear information – although this did give the character more layers, flaws and some complexities. Most characters are not overly three-dimensional, they seem more constructs of the world and the plot. The plot is perhaps, the weakest part of the novel – for me. With a sharper protagonist and an edited, reviewed plot this novel would have shined more brightly. Please don’t take that as a reason not to read this book; there’s so much I loved and the final quarter of the book picked up dramatically and totally hurtled me to the final pages. Clark takes his time to describe and set the scene – this is the brilliance of the author’s creativity and I loved the steampunk throughout.
‘A Master of Djinn’ is a witty, supernatural murder mystery where a mismatched detective duo are pitched against a dastardly villainy; it’s set in a brilliant steampunk world enhanced with Ifrit, Djinns and gods ending with a dash of cinematic styling.
Phenderson Djéli Clark is the award winning and Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy nominated author of the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com, Daily Science Fiction, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Apex, Lightspeed, Fireside Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and in print anthologies including, Griots, Hidden Youth and Clockwork Cairo. He is a founding member of FIYAH Literary Magazine and an infrequent reviewer at Strange Horizons. You can read his ramblings on SFF, history, & diversity at his aptly named blog, The Disgruntled Haradrim. His debut full length novel a Master of Djinn will be published by Tor.com in May 2021.
Lyra. Lucy. Percy. Once in a generation, a hero emerges whose story enthralls readers worldwide.
Fireborn is an epic quest, perfect for fans of the His Dark Materials and The School for Good and Evil series, that will spin readers into a magical world like no other–and introduce them to an unforgettable new heroine named Twelve.
Ember is full of monsters.
Twelve gave up her name and identity to train in the art of hunting them–so she says. The truth is much more deadly: she trains to take revenge on those who took her family from her.
But when Twelve’s new home is attacked, she’ll find herself on an unexpected journey, where her hidden past is inescapably intertwined with her destiny–and the very fate of her world.
FIREBORN is a new pre-teen/middle grade (8-12 years) fantasy adventure book that’ll hook you in and send you into a high tension filled world threatened by dark creatures and brutish beasts. This opening novel to a new series shows great potential and I’d recommend you take a look inside to discover more about the world Fowler has created for her protagonist to journey through.
Our central character is Twelve, whose backstory is revealed as the main plot develops. She’s a complex enough character to keep the reader intrigued; we slowly begin to realise why she behaves and responds as she does. Twelve is damaged and is training as a Huntling to protect herself and others from the dangers that lurk outside.
Fowler’s world building is strong and the challenges faced by Twelve and those who rally around her fill the pages with turmoil and battles of mortal danger. I enjoyed the ‘team’ that pulls together after darkness threatens to destroy all Twelve knows and rescue a fellow Huntling from peril. What builds is a story of comradeship, acceptance, healing and friendship bonds despite difference and great odds.
Also, huge part of the enjoyment of this book are the sidekicks; we have Dog, who is made of stone and is a guardian of the Hunting Lodge – a key setting in the novel. Dog is great and battles to control and keep order on the quest. There’s also a squirrel called Widge to keep you entertained, a silent role but a key player and a great addition for readers to adore!
For a debut, this is a strong read and I look forward to see the author and the series grow from strength to strength.
An enjoyable fantasy quest read for all!
About the author – Aisling Fowler
Aisling was born in 1985 and wishes that she had grown up in a magical, mountainous kingdom, but was actually raised in Surrey on a diet of books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her early ‘adventure’ stories involved surprisingly little action and her first novel (3 pages long) was politely declined by publishers at age 11. After earning a BSc in Biology and working as a support worker and then a nurse, the idea for her debut novel, Fireborn, came to her as she moved back and forth between London and the US. Now based in Hackney, when she is not reading or writing, Aisling loves cooking and plotting adventures (for herself as well as her fictional characters). Fireborn will be published by HarperCollins in 2021
It’s lovely to be sharing an extract from GOOD NEIGHBOURS by Sarah Langan to celebrate its July publication. Please do scroll down to find out more about this brilliant new release…
Named as Goodreads One of the Most Anticipated Mysteries and Thrillers of 2021 Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world. But when the Wilde family moves in, they trigger their neighbours’ worst fears. Arlo and Gertie and their weird kids don’t fit with the way Maple Street sees itself. As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and neighbourhood Queen Bee Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes. Suddenly, it is one mother’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.
A RIVERTING AND RUTHLESS PORTRAYAL OF SUBURBIA, GOOD NEIGHBOURS EXCAVATES THE PERILS AND BETRAYALS OF MOTHERHOOD AND FRIENDSHIPS AND THE DANGEROUS CLASH BETWEEN SOCIAL HIERARCHY, CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, AND FEAR.
When her oldest left for Cornell University last year, she’d taken it hard. She’d been happy for Gretchen, but her brilliant future had made Rhea’s seem that much more dim. What was left, once all the kids were gone away, and she was left with a thirty-year-old dissertation and Fritz Sr., Captain Earwax Extraordinaire? She’d wanted to break her life, just to escape it. Drive her car into the Atlantic Ocean. Take a dump on her boss’s desk. Straddle her clueless husband, who’d never once taken her dancing, and shout: Who cleans their ears with a washcloth? It’s disgusting! She’d wanted to fashion a slingshot and make a target range of Maple Street, just to set herself free of these small, stupid people and their small, stupid worlds.
It would have happened. She’d been close to breaking, to losing everything. But just like when Fritz moved into her apartment complex: fate intervened. The Wildes moved next door. Rhea couldn’t explain what happened the day she first saw Gertie, except that it was magic. Another outsider. A beautiful misfit. Gertie’d been so impressed by Rhea. You’re so smart and warm, she’d said the first day they’d met. You’re such a success. Rhea’d known then, that if there was anyone on Maple Street to whom she could reveal her true feelings, it was this na f. One way or another, Gertie Wilde would be her salvation.
Rhea had courted Gertie with dinner invitations, park barbeques, and introductions to neighbors. Made their children play together, so that the Rat Pack accepted the new kids on the block. It wasn’t easy to turn local sentiment in Gertie’s favor. The woman’s house wasn’t ever clean or neat. A pinworm outbreak coincided with their arrival, which couldn’t have been a coincidence. The whole block was itching for weeks.
Worse, her foulmouthed kids ran wild. Larry was a hypersensitive nutbar who carried a doll and walked in circles. Then there was Julia. When they first moved in, she stole a pack of Parliaments from her dad and showed the rest of the kids how to smoke. When her parents caught her, they made her go with them door to door, explaining what had happened to all the Rat Pack parents. Rhea had felt sorry for crying, confused Julia. Why make a kid go through all that? A simple e-mail authored by Gertie stating the facts of the event would have sufficed—if that!
It’s never a good idea to admit guilt in the suburbs. It’s too concrete. You say the words I’m sorry, and people hold on to it and don’t let go. It’s far better to pave over with vagaries. Obfuscate guilt wherever it exists.
The sight of all the Wildes in their doorways had added more melodrama than necessary. The neighbors, feeling the social pressure to react, to prove their fitness as parents, matched that melodrama. Dumb Linda took her twins to the doctor to check for lung damage. The Hestias wondered if they should report the Wildes to Child Protective Services. The Walshes enrolled Charlie in a health course called Our Bodies: Our Responsibility. Cat Hestia had stood in that doorway and cried, explaining that she wasn’t mad at Julia, just disappointed. Because she’d hoped this day would never come. Toxic cigarettes! They have arsenic!
None of them seemed to understand that this had nothing to do with smoking. Julia had stolen those cigarettes to win the Rat Pack over. A bid toward friendship. She’d misjudged her audience. This wasn’t deep Brooklyn. Cool for these kids meant gifted programs and Suzuki lessons. The only people who smoked Parliaments anymore were ex-cons, hookers, and apparently, the new neighbors in 116. What she’d misapprehended, and what the Wilde parents had also missed, was that it wasn’t the health hazards that bothered the people of Maple Street. If that were the case, they wouldn’t be Slip ’N Sliding right now. It was the fact that smoking is so totally low class.
Despite all that, Rhea had stuck by Gertie Wilde until, one by one, the rest of Maple Street capitulated. It was nice, doing something for someone else, especially someone as beautiful as Gertie. There’s a kind of reflective glow, when you have a friend like that. When you stand close, you can see yourself in their perfect eyes.
At least once a month, they’d drunk wine on Rhea’s enclosed porch, cracking jokes about poop, the wacky stuff kids say!, and helpless husbands whose moods turn crabby unless they get their weekly blowies. This latter part, Rhea just pretended. She accepted Fritz’s infrequent appeals for missionary-style sex, but even in their dating days, their mouths had rarely played a part, not even to kiss.
Rhea’s attentions were rewarded. Eventually, Gertie let down her guard. Tears in her eyes, voice low, she’d confessed the thing that haunted her most: The first, I was just thirteen. He ran the pageant and my stepmom said I had to, so I could win rent money. He told me he loved me after, but I knew it wasn’t true. After that, I never said no. I kept thinking every time was a new chance to make the first time right. I’d turn it around and make one of them love me. Be nice to me and take care of me. So I wouldn’t have to live with my stepmom. But that never happened. Not until Arlo. I’m so grateful to him.
When she finished her confession, Gertie’d visibly deflated, her burden lightened. Rhea had understood then why people need friends. They need to be seen and known, and accepted nonetheless. Oh, how she’d craved that unburdening. How she’d feared it, too.
They built so much trust between them that one night, amidst the distant catcalls of children gone savage, Rhea took a sloppy risk, and told her own truth: Fritz boom-booms me. It hurts and I’ve never once liked it … Do you like it? I never expected this to be my life. Did you expect this, Gertie? Do you like it? I can tell that you don’t. I wanted to be your friend from the second I saw you. I’m not beautiful like you, but I’m special on the inside. I know about black holes. I can tell you want to run away. I do, too. We can give each other courage … Shelly can’t keep her hair neat. It goads me. I’d like to talk about it with you, because I know you like Shelly. I know you like me. I know you won’t judge. Sometimes I imagine I’m a giant. I squeeze my whole family into pulp. I wish them dead just so I can be free. I can’t leave them. I’m their mother. I’m not allowed to leave them. So I hate them. Isn’t that awful? God, aren’t I a monster?
She stopped talking once she’d noticed Gertie’s teary-eyed horror. “Don’t talk like that. You’ll break your own house.”
There’d been more words after that. Pleasantries and a changed subject. Rhea didn’t remember. The event compressed into murk and sank down inside her, a smeared oblivion of rage.
Soon after that night, Gertie announced her pregnancy. The doctor told her she had to stop drinking front-porch Malbec, so they hung out a lot less. She got busier with work and the kids and she’d played it off like coincidence, but Rhea had known the truth: she’d shown her true self, and Gertie wanted no part of it.
Retaliation was necessary.
Sarah Langan got her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, and also received her Master’s in Environmental Health Science/Toxicology from New York University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughters. She’s received three Bram Stoker awards, and her work has often been included in best-of-the year lists and anthologies. She’s a founding board member of the Shirley Jackson Awards, and works in both film and prose.
PRAISE FOR GOOD NEIGHBOURS:
“One of the creepiest, most unnerving deconstructions of American suburbia I’ve ever read. Langan cuts to the heart of upper middle class lives like a skilled surgeon.” – NPR
“A modern-day Crucible, Good Neighbours brilliantly explores the ease with which a careless word can wreak havoc and the terrifying power of mob mentality. Langan deftly unveils the psychology behind her character’s actions with blistering prose and spot-on descriptions. She is a writer to watch!” – Liv Constantine, bestselling author of ‘The Last Mrs Parrish’
Firstly, I have taken my eye of the ball, AKA my diary and COMPLETELY messed up. So, with sincere apologies to all – here’s my EMBARRASSINGLY late blog post for the fabulously dark and addictive THE BERESFORD. Please do keep scrolling for some bookish chat…
Just outside the city – any city, every city – is a grand, spacious but affordable apartment building called The Beresford.
There’s a routine at The Beresford.
For Mrs May, every day’s the same: a cup of cold, black coffee in the morning, pruning roses, checking on her tenants, wine, prayer and an afternoon nap. She never leaves the building. Abe Schwartz also lives at The Beresford. His housemate Smythe no longer does. Because Abe just killed him. In exactly sixty seconds, Blair Conroy will ring the doorbell to her new home and Abe will answer the door. They will become friends. Perhaps lovers.
And, when the time comes for one of them to die, as is always the case at The Beresford, there will be sixty seconds to move the body before the next unknowing soul arrives at the door. Because nothing changes at The Beresford, until the doorbell rings…
I loved the concept behind this novel after receiving the blurb – leaving your soul at the door? I’m in! The Beresford title has a tantalising pull to it too, so I jumped at the chance to join the blog tour.
Oh, Oh Oh Mrs May, you old devil you! A key player in THE BERESFORD is its caretaker, Mrs May. Seemingly fragile, a woman of routine, taking afternoon naps (ah, bless her) and taking care of her roses. She is also responsible for the tenants who reside at The Beresford, and believe me, there’s going to be quite a few to keep track of. However, firstly we must consider Abe, the first resident we are hooked onto – unfortunately we don’t get to meet Sythe, his housemate; he’s just killed him as the novel opens and so the tone of the novel is set… and the doorbell comes alive to mark the changing of residents. Carver again subverts form and structure, who we believe to be a central character is challenged and squashed throwing our expectations into disorientation until a pattern emerges. I did worry this formula would become a little benign and predictable as new characters emerged and the doorbell kept ringing – there are elements of this – but I think that’s the point; Carver’s capable authorial crafting controls and builds the narrative into a horror-fuelled climax.
Carver’s Beresford is without doubt a compelling concept. The reader is always thrust off-kilter by the narrative jumps and twists, although a seemingly expected pattern emerges, but as soon as you adjust, Carver promptly sends another swing ball your way. There’s no doubt this book is dark; the horror tone is played with through injected humour and character development. It’s a question of wants, needs, desires, escapism and society. It’s also a question of how far we can go to obtain what we want and feel we have the right to. It’s bold, direct and dark. It’s also an unabashed and crafted comment on humanity.
If you get a moment, do take a walk to The Beresford and just ring the doorbell… I’m sure you’ll be fine.
Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children.
Will’s latest title published by Orenda Books, Hinton Hollow Death Trip was longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize, while Nothing Important Happened Today was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year and for the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell. Good Samaritans was a book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the eBook charts.