The Au Pair #emmarous @BerkleyPub

The Au Pair by Emma Rous is part gothic suspense with a full measure of domestic noir!

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It’s Murder and Mayhem Monday here at Macsbooks and, if I were asked to choose the perfect MMM book, it would The Au Pair! There is absolutely nothing that I love more than dark, domestic tales of suspense and murder. The Au Pair has it all.

Seraphine and Danny are twins who, along with their older brother, Edwin, have been raised in an old Victorian estate in Norfolk (UK.)  Their lives would appear charmed to the outside world, but there is a darkness within the family that pervades their existence. On the day that the twins were born, their mother threw herself off of a cliff. Now the siblings are attempting to cope with their father’s tragic, accidental death. While going through their father’s belongings, Seraphine discovers a photograph of their parents with one of the twins taken on the day they were born. Their mother looks blissfully happy. What possibly could have happened to make her kill herself and why is there only one twin? With stories of changelings, faeries and sprites haunting them all of their lives, Seraphine is determined to find answers. But will those answers be the ones she is hoping to find or will it lead to more heartbreak for this cursed family.

Told from two points of view, Seraphine’s and that of Laura, the au pair at the time of their birth, Rous weaves together a story of a wealthy family with mental instability, far too many secrets and characters who will stop at nothing to keep those secrets hidden. The complex plot twists and turns in very unexpected ways and takes the reader on a journey from the present to the past and back again. Although I am one who does not like surprises in my noir novels, this ending will absolutely blow your mind! The resolution, however, is perfection!

For those who love domestic drama, suspense and fast paced fiction, this is definitely a book you will want to read! Mark it now, order early, it will be published January 8th.

Many thanks to @BerkleyPub and #EmmaRous for my copy of this amazing tale.

WWW Wednesday

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Welcome to WWW WEDNESDAY, originally hosted by Sam @TakingOnTheWorldofWords. Each week you will answer THREE QUESTIONS: 

  • What Are You Currently Reading
  • What Have You Just Finished Reading
  • What Will You Read Next

Once you’ve answered the question, post a link in the comments so that others can read your responses. Please be sure to read everyone’s replies, otherwise it is just an exercise in futility and a cute “meme” on your blog. Enjoy! 

Currently I am reading:

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Mackintosh is one of my favorite suspense authors and I this one is proving to be one of her best yet! 

What I Just Finished Reading:

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This was my first Jo Furniss book, it will not be my last! Watch for the review 30/8/2018

What I’m Reading Next:

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This “just released” drama by Kristina McMorris is receiving wide acclaim from multiple sources. I tried to read it once before but it was so incredibly heart wrenching that I had to stop. Now, I will attempt to read it again and WILL make it through! Watch for the upcoming review. 

Those are my three – what about you?  ~Mac

 

 

 

Angels Can’t Swim – a novella

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I don’t often read books from first time authors who are not represented by a publishing company; however, lately I have found that many of these books – while a bit more roughly edited – are like finding diamonds in the rough. Angels Can’t Swim is a perfect example!

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There are three girls, competitive swimmers, each holding secrets inside of them that have the potential to destroy their swimming careers and, ultimately, their lives. As the novella unfolds, we learn about each of the girls: their passions, their fears, their innermost thoughts and feelings.

One is beautiful, talented but holding back in the pool because of her secret.

One is gay, barely out of the closet and not yet comfortable in her own skin.

One is seemingly “perfect,” not the best swimmer on the team but the one who appears to have her act together.

However, before the book is finished each of these girls must confront a pregnancy, bulimia and rape.

In a very straight forward account of these three girls, you will become engrossed in their stories. There was a part of me, the editor/proofreader in me, that wanted to edit the writing, but then I realized that this very blunt, unvarnished account is what makes this story so compelling – and it is very gripping. Perhaps it’s because I’m a mother of diver who competed with the US Olympic Diving team, but these stories were so real that I simply could not put it down. From start to finish, which only too a few hours, I never once stopped reading!

The author was a competitive swimmer and she writes as only someone who has been there/done that, can do. I suspect that she personally knew girls who experienced each of these things and I hope that they, too, came out on the other side as a whole and not in pieces. Sadly, I watched too many female divers who did not.

Angels Can’t Swim is not just for athletes, although their lives never are as wonderful as you would think. It is for women of all ages who struggle with self-perception. However, it is specially written for young women who need to know, absolutely should know, that always are people who are willing to help, listen and care. This book affected me deeply and I encourage all women to read it. Again, it is short, only 100 pages, and each page is well worth your read.

I’m giving it 4 stars simply because it did need editing – the story, however, is a solid 5+ stars! You can find this book now at Amazon. Angles Can’t Swim at Amazon  My appreciation to Alexandra McCann, the author, for sharing this book with me.

Snowy: A Leopard of the High Mountains

There are days when one review simply is not enough so for Thursdays I give you Two…

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When my children were small, I purchased many, MANY, foreign inspired or authored books so that they would grow up knowing as much as possible about the world around them. My daughter’s favorite book still is a Russian fairy tale, Natasha and the Bear. Now that they are adults, all three are frequent world travelers and over the years we have hosted multiple exchange students. When I saw Snowy: A Leopard of the High Mountains, I knew this was a must own for our home library.

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Milisava Petkovic is a writer from Serbia and Xuan Loc Xuan is a freelance illustrator based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Together they have created a sweet, heartfelt tale of friendship, family, and the beauty of nature.

While playing in the mountains with her mother, hunters appear and threaten their tranquility. Snowy’s mother diverts the hunters and tells Snowy to run the other direction and meet her back at their home. Snowy runs so hard and for so long that soon she realizes she very lost. Trying to find her way home, she enlists the help of several forest inhabitants, each of whom teach Snowy their unique, basic skills for survival.

Snowy is a delightful book that introduces young readers to animals they may never have heard of before – or, at the very least – a different variation of those creatures. That is the beauty of this book, as well as learning about their co-dependency on one another for survival.

81QyGdytqOLIn addition, Xuan’s illustrations are both lovely and soothing and highlight the story line perfectly. At first glance, I thought the illustrations might be too muted for young readers to enjoy, so I shared the book with a young friend of mine and they were her favorite part of the story. They are created in an Asian style with perfect lines, wonderful colors but not the vibrant, perfectly edited photos of most North American children’s books. This style works well with the story and they are incredible illustrations to admire and enhance the story.

Snowy: A Leopard of the High Mountains is a perfect addition to our home library and I highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates international work and, most especially, for parents of young readers.

I’m grateful for my advanced copy from #Netgalley and to Xuan Loc Xuan and Milisava Petkovic for sharing their work with me. Also, thanks to #FoxChapelPublishing for my copy of #SnowytheLeopard

Convenience Store Woman

This summer is busier than usual here at Macsbooks and books/reading have taken a backseat – sadly. But, now that we’re on the downhill run toward autumn, there will be much more time for pleasurable things – like reading terrific books!

If you love witty conversation, wry humor and quirky characters then Convenience Store Woman is the book for you! 

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Originally written in Japanese, Convenience Store Woman on the surface is a story about Keiko Furukura, a woman whose own parents labeled “a strange child.” Slow to develop, Keiko’s parents were worried about her ability to “fit in” and be a “normal” adult. They wish for Keiko to have a “real job” and a boyfriend. However, Keiko loves her job at the convenience store and her only worry is the pressure to live up to her parents’ expectations.

As the characters come and go through the store, we soon realize that perhaps Keiko is the one who comes closest to “normal.”

Convenience Store Woman is an endearing story, a character study of a myriad of personalities and a tale of acceptance that will warm your heart and leave you wanting more. It also is a wonderful, subtle opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Japanese culture.

This is a beautiful, very short piece of fiction by Sayaka Murata, who still works part time at a convenience store.

My thanks to #Netgalley, the author, Granta Publications and Portobello Books for the opportunity to read this intriguing book.

Tin Man

There are rare times that a book will reach out and grab hold of your heart and soul and affect you in ways that you never knew the written word could do. Tin Man by Sarah Winman is such a unique and marvelous tale.

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Told in two distinct parts, Tin Man is a love story but so much more. It is the memoir of two men, Ellis and Michael, who, during their youth, were shy, young lovers. Ellis, however, went on to marry the woman of dreams, Annie, and the three of them formed a very close, tight friendship. But the book is more than just a love story. Through the young men we learn and we feel what it was like to be in love with someone who society and family and norms forbids. Through their love we feel their pain and confusion and also the realization that, had they been in a different time, place or family, their lives could have been so profoundly different. Whether that life would have been better or worse, we will never know, only that there was a missed opportunity and a memory of “what could have been.”

Winman is a powerful writer who crafts tales with so much feeling and depth that the reader is capable of developing an empathy for the characters she has created. She proved herself to be a talented storyteller with her book, When God Was a Rabbit, but she surpasses all that we thought imaginable with Tin Man, which truly is her best work to date. Tin Man is destined to be a classic and truly is a “must read” piece of fiction.

Our House – Murder and Mayhem Monday

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There is nothing that I love more than a good noir read and Our House, by Louise Candlish, is domestic noir at its finest.

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Fiona “Fi,” arrives home from a trip to find her house is being occupied by a new couple and her kids are missing! Immediately one would think the worst – home invasion, kidnapping…. but no, this couple claims to have purchased Fi’s home from Fi and her husband, Bram. After this foundation is laid, the book continues the story of Fi and Bram told retrospectively: Fi tells her woeful tale via a podcast and Bram tells his version of events via a suicide note. This method of storytelling actually works and is an interesting way of presenting both sides of story.

Fi and Bram’s lives are so convoluted that, at times, it made it difficult to connect with the characters. On the other hand, Candlish created a character, in Bram, who was so well developed that I came to despise the man. It has been a while since I have felt so strongly about a book character. In the end, there is a twist – not one for the sake of twisting – but something we, as readers, should have figured out from the clues but I suspect most, like me, do not and will not see this coming. And then there is the ENDING. The last paragraphs of the book were brilliance. Nope, never ever would I have suspected that ending but, again, it was perfection.

Yes, I am being somewhat vague regarding the plot and storyline. There are too many reviews out there with subtle spoilers and this book is better read blindly with no preconceived ideas of the storyline. I am not going to be the reviewer that ruins the noir element for you.  Our House is one fabulous book for readers of noir fiction, especially if you like a darker domestic tale.

I am so appreciative of the book that I received from the Berkley Publishing Group and Louise Candlish.

The Genius Plague

I’m not a microbiologist, nor do I play one on t.v.  I do, however, love speculative fiction that comes dangerously close to reality and that is exactly what we have with The Genius Plague – a cli-fi thriller reminiscent of Robin Cook’s Outbreak. 

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The Genius Plague is, at heart, the story of two brothers, Paul and Neil. Neil is a microbiologist studying fungus in the rainforest. He arrives home with never before discovered spores only after surviving what many thought was a “terrorist attack” during which all others on the boat were killed. However, upon arrival Paul becomes deadly ill with fungal pneumonia. When he awakens from his illness-fed stupor, he is… different… smarter, more focused – a genius. But at what cost and how does his new found brilliance relate to the problems (concerns) that Neil is having at the NSA? What follows is an incredible thrill ride through the South American jungles, the secret rooms of the NSA and the hidden networks of …. mushrooms. While that may seem a little far-fetched, take a moment to think about the deadliest diseases affecting the world as you’re reading this – they all are fungal related. Go out and dig in your garden. Do you see those tiny white filaments that look like spider webs? Fungi. We, humans and our environment, are completely and totally reliant on the fungi that is all around us. What happens when it decides it is smarter than its hosts? These are the questions that “plague” you in “The Genius Plague.”    

 

Southern Saturday Lit

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Gods of Howl Mountain takes us far down onto the Southern Literary Trail, deep into the mountains of North Carolina. Taylor Brown has created a very dark, intense, somewhat mysterious tale of bootlegging, clan wars and folk healing set in the turbulent 1950s.

Rory Docherty, a Korean War hero, has returned home to live with his grandmother, a folk healer. There he runs whiskey for one of the most powerful bootleggers in the mountains. It is also where he fights his demons – from the war, the loss of his men and his leg, the past that took his father from him at the hands of his own mother. This is a very noir, but realistic, look at the mountain folk of the south throughout twentieth century – not just the 1950s but even, somewhat, today. There are secrets, mysteries, the unknown, that are easier to hide in the mountains than they are in the open land.

This is not a “thriller” or even a suspense novel, but a slow moving tale of these mountain people. There were times that I felt there was too much emphasis on description and too little on the actual plot. However, southern writers tend to be more descriptive and disquisitional so that should be taken into account.

Brown has been compared to Wiley Cash and Cormac McCarthy, both of whom are favorite authors of mine. Although all three write dark, atmospheric tales set in the south, there is a depth that is missing in this Brown novel that would prohibits it being placed in a category with the others. I do see a similarity between Brown’s characters and those of Flannery O’Connor; whether or not that is intentional or a product of southern literature, I’m unsure.

Gods of Howl Mountain is not going to be a book for everyone, however, if you like good, narrative fiction with great detail to character development and setting, then you will enjoy reading Taylor Brown. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 for quality.

 

Fab Fiction Friday – The Clockmaker

All the stars and a few full moons, too, for this amazing gothic thriller!

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First, take a look at that gorgeous cover art! Rarely are we treated to such beautiful cover art. Of course, that is just the beginning. The real treat is inside the cover where there awaits an amazing cross-genre tale that will have you hooked from beginning to end.

The Clockmaker is the story of Annette and her son, Duncan, who are moving to an ancestral home in the highlands of Scotland. It is a tale set during the post-war era and has all of the atmospheric prose of that time period. The house is old, full of creaks and sounds that lend to the overall aura of the book. Of course the house comes with secrets, a some-what supernatural element and an old man that is full of surprises. As murders begin to happen, Annette starts to wonder how this man is tied in with the murders and the other strange events that the small family is experiencing.

This tale is fabulously written. There are times that it could have veered off into the “campy” side of horror or supernatural but it never once did that. Instead, it is  captivating and will have you mesmerized until the very last page – and then you will want more because this is the first book in a trilogy! While this story ends well, there obviously are questions that will be answered in subsequent books – and I cannot wait for those books to be written and printed!! The Clockmaker offers something for everyone’s tastes: history, horror, supernatural, thrills and suspense. I highly recommend it for all.

Tons of thanks to #Netgalley, #Troubadour Publishing Limited, #CeriWilliams and #DrewNeary for my copy of this outstanding book!