Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller

Published: 30th May 2019 (paperback edition) by Sceptre Books

Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, soldier John Lacroix returns home to England a broken man following the infamous retreat by the British Army to Corunna. A Captain within the British Army, John is nursed at his Somerset home by his devoted housemaid Nell and whilst she may be able to fix him physically, mentally John is struggling. He is haunted by his time in Spain and feels immense guilt over the heinous war crimes committed by the men in his charge in the small village of Morales.

To try and escape his torment he boards a ship in Bristol bound for Glasgow, from there he plans to travel further to the islands of the Hebrides. Unbeknownst to Lacroix the British Army have sent men to track him down, Corporal Calley who is a vicious psychopath and Medina, a Spanish officer are quickly on his tail and the thrill of the chase is on. As his pursuers get closer and the net begins to get tighter the tensions build and the suspense becomes palpable.

This is one of those books that I cannot really explain why I enjoyed it so much. The prose is beautifully written, it is descriptive and definitely leaves you wanting to turn that extra page. But, there are flaws within the plot and at times you want it to pick up the pace a little. Despite this though the book combines many wonderful things that all come together to produce an excellent story that I would definitely recommend.

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The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

Published by HQ on 31st October 2019.

Ok, everyone, this is a good one, a very good one.

Set in England in 1917, grieving the death of her fiance and having been sent home from France, Stella Marcham joins her pregnant sister at Greyswick, a manor house set deep in the English countryside.

It does not take long before Stella starts to notice her sister’s unease and the strange goings on within the house. She hears crying in the night and footsteps on the stairs. Stella decides she wants to investigate the history of the house and all it’s hidden secrets, but is she prepared for what she finds? And is the house ready to give up its secrets?

This is a chilling read and an emotional roller coaster ride all at the same time. Anita Frank has created a hauntingly creepy and tense atmosphere that has the ability to give you the goosebumps.

I don’t want to give to much away as the story is intense from the first page to the last. It really is an excellent read and the perfect book to buy on Halloween.

Read it at night, if you dare.

Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley

Publication Date 31st October 2019 by John Murray

I really enjoyed Hurley’s previous book The Loney so I had high hopes for this and it didn’t disappoint.
The story centres around Richard and Juliette who are grieving the sudden loss of their 5 year old son Ewan. We don’t know at first how he died but as the story unravels we learn that Ewan was not your average little boy. Following his death strange and weird happenings begin to occur and and the story takes on a menacing twist.

I find Hurley has a unique style of writing which is descriptive and well paced and this has created a haunting story packed full of emotion. It is different from anything I would normally read as it deals very much with the paranormal so I was very sceptical, however, if like me you can accept that and get past the strangeness of it all you will find an excellent story waiting for you.

The Warlow Experiment – Alix Nathan

Published by Serpent’s Tail.

What makes up pick up and buy a book? A beautiful cover? An intriguing synopsis? Good reviews? Well, the Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan has all of these, and more, in abundance.

Herbert Powyss lives on a small estate in the Welsh Marches, he is a keen horticulturist but at heart is a scientist who longs to be recognised by the Royal Society. But in order to achieve this he must conduct an experiment of the like no scientist has ever attempted before and he hits upon isolation as his topic ‘An Investigation into the Resilience of the Human Mind Without Society’. He places an advert locally for someone who is willing to live for seven years in his cellar with no human contact. They will be confined within rooms that are lavishly decorated with paintings, a small library and a chamber organ. The participant will receive three meals a day from Powyss’s own table and must keep a daily journal. The elimination process is not difficult for Powyss as only one person is willing to take part and that person is John Warlow, in return for this, Warlow will receive £50 a year, for life.

Warlow quickly adapts to his surroundings, he explores everything that is new to him, he rarely misses his wife and children, apart from the youngest Polly and he enjoys the meals he is given, apart from the fish. For Powyss, the experiment is developing slowly, Warlow is not writing in the journals as much as he ought to be but for Powyss the greater problem is his developing attraction to Warlow’s wife Hannah. Over the course of this story we see the development have relationship and the consequences it has for everyone involved. Running alongside the experiment is the on going French Revolution which is influencing many of the staff at Moreham House and again, the consequences of this on these characters adds a new dimension to the story.

I don’t really want to give to much away as this is a story that deserves to be read, devoured and enjoyed by the reader. I felt a great connection with all the characters, which is not often true of books but Nathan has written such a descriptive narrative that it is easy to involve yourself within the story itself.

The Warlow Experiment has become one of my books for 2019, I thoroughly enjoyed it, it is a super read and I would urge everyone one of you to add it to your ‘TBR’ pile, if it is already on there, bump it to the top.

Upcoming Reads – August

I am such a slow reader that I don’t often have regular content for the blog, so, in my wisdom I thought at the beginning of every month I would post the books that are on my ‘TBR’ pile and if any in particular take your fancy and you would like to know more about you can let me know and I can bump it up the pile.

Firstly, I am about 50 pages from the end of the Warlow Experiment by Alex Nathan so you can expect a full review for then next week. (It’s a good one!)

Next up is Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley. I really enjoyed his first book The Loney so I have high hopes this one. It is a NetGalley request so you can expect a full review of that some time before the publication date which is 31st October.

Also on the pile is Circe by Madeline Miller, so many of you have read this and commented on how good it is that I want to get in on the action as well. Another Miller is Andrew Miller and his latest read Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, this is not the kind of book I would normally go for, however, this chap wrote the Costa Prize winning Pure and I loved that so much. If this latest book comes anywhere near as being as good as that then it going to be an excellent read.

A couple of others that I have knocking around include the latest Logan McRae novel All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride. Now, I am a huge fan of MacBride and have read all the previous novels in this series, which numbers quite a few. I just know the second I pick this up I will have it finished within a couple of days so I am saving this one for when I want a quick read. I also have All That Remains by Sue Black, I have a feeling this is going to be slightly heavy going as it is abut the life/job of a pathologist, which will be incredibly interesting but I think I need the right time to pick that one up.

Now for a couple that I have started and need to return to. Firstly Uprooted by Naomi Novik, I got about 100 pages in and then got sidetracked by something else (The Warlow Experiment). This is a really good story and is very well written so is one that I will definitely return to and finish. That also applies to Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver. When I started this I had other things going on and I couldn’t really concentrate on it and do it justice. Again, a few people have said how good it is and from what I have read so far I know it is one I need to return to and finish.

There are other books on my shelves that I haven’t read yet but have been there that long that they have become more ornamental objects than books to read, but we all have that, don’t we?

Now then, come mid-August I am attending the Edinburgh Book Festival and I am pretty sure, nay certain, that there will be plenty of book purchases so September’s TBR pile I feel will be pretty big. I look forward to sharing them with you.

Bone China by Laura Purcell

I have read and adored Purcell’s two previous books, The Silent Companions and The Corset so I had very high hopes for Bone China and it certainly does not disappoint. This is Victorian Gothic at its absolute best. Once again Laura Purcell has written a masterpiece which I found I couldn’t put down. I became so invested in the character’s lives that I had to keep reading to find out what happened to them next.

Set in Cornwall, the story centres around Hester Why, who is quite literally running away from her previous life, she has taken on the role of nurse to a frail and vulnerable Miss Pinecroft of Morvoren House. As Hester arrives she quickly learns that all is not as it seems, her patient is silent and quite clearly disturbed by something in her mind. She very rarely moves and spends her days sat in a freezing cold room with the curtains drawn staring at her collection of fine china. Despite Hester’s pleas Miss Pinecroft will not discuss the troubles on her mind or change her ways. The peculiar behaviour of the residents at Morvoren is not limited to Miss Pinecroft as Hester quickly discovers. The others are governed by a bizarre set of rituals they hope will keep the fairies away. Including lines of salt on the floor, bible balls and keeping the ward of Miss Pinecroft as a child, despite the fact she is a fully grown woman. She may be alcohol and laudanum dependent but Hester knows strange goings on when she sees them and something very strange is happening here.

The story flashes back 40 years to when Miss Pinecroft lived at Morvoren with her father who, after watching his wife and children die from consumption, has made it his life’s purpose to find a cure for this terrible disease. He enlists patients from a local prison who are at various stages of the illness and treats them in the caves below Morvoren thinking that fresh sea air will benefit them. It is the results of this medical experiment that has repercussions that are still being felt at Morvoren . Is what happened within those caves and to the patients still so harrowing in the mind of Miss Pinecroft that she can’t speak of it?

It is evident that both Hester and Miss Pinecroft have pasts they are trying to hide from and the way the story unravels these stories is magnificent. The story is tense and exquisitely written, you feel like you are in the room with the characters and that you at one with them.

Haverscroft by S.A. Harris.

Firstly, wow, just wow!!!

What a book this is, what an amazing creepy tense story the author has created within these pages.

I am by no means a horror fan but I had heard great things about this book so I thought I would be brave and give it a go. If you feel you are brave enough to visit Haverscroft House then you are in for an unsettling time. Haverscroft is the new home for Mark and Kate Keeling and their nine-year-old twins Tom and Sophie. They have uprooted their life in London and relocated, at Marks insistence, to Haverscroft. Mark and Kate’s marriage appears to be floundering, Kates recent mental breakdown and infidelity with Mark’s colleague is putting strain on the couple. You would think relocating to a more rural setting for more family time would be just what they needed but Mark is still spending copious amounts of time in London working whilst Kate is left at Haverscroft and all the strange goings on.

It does not take long for the unnerving tapping noises and the inevitable creaking and groaning to begin. Kate does everything within her power to protect her young family whilst trying to convince her husband she is not going mad. There are plenty of twists and turns and many secrets held within the walls of Haverscroft and the Keeling’s marriage. Kate’s main focus is keeping her family safe, but can she do this when Haverscroft’s past looms large over them and threatens to destroy everything?

This book is an absolute page turner, it didn’t take me long to read, in fact, I devoured it. I found it unsettling, unnerving and at times downright creepy. The tension is palpable, not just within the behaviour of the house itself but within the character’s relationships. The suspense is built throughout the book right until the very last page.

I have been recommending this book to anyone who will listen and I look forward to reading more from this author.