Blog Tour Review: The Naseby Horses by Dominic Brownlow

Back when I started blogging in the Spring of this year, Louise Walters was the first publisher to take a chance on a newbie blogger. She responded immediately and graciously to my request to an advanced copy of The Naseby Horses and I could not have been more grateful for that lavender wrapped package when it landed.

Now, many months later I am thrilled to have the privilege of kicking off the blog tour for this unique and atmospheric book.

The Naseby Horses – cover

The immediate appeal of this novel and the reason I sent out my first tentative ARC request was it’s setting. Fenland stories always hit my radar. I am constantly on the lookout for a book that can capture the landscape of my childhood, something that encapsulates the unique sense of space, strange beauty and quite unease found in The Fens.

The Naseby Horses does not disappoint. Aside from the little leap of joy and recognition that sparked inside me when I saw the words ‘Gedney Drove’ in print – I have never seen this familiar spot mentioned in literature before (!) – emersing myself in the prose was like standing in the edge of Fenland field. All unease, beauty and strange possibilities.

This impeccable sense of place is one of the novel’s many strengths and it is indeed crucial to the mounting discord within it. Seventeen year old Simon, the central character, has embraced the landscape. A keen birdwatcher he feels an affinity with the wide skies and fens. The family’s recent move to Glennfield, a remote Fenland village, has been largely prompted by his health. Simon suffers from debilitating and deteriorating epilepsy.

But for his twin sister Charlotte, the move has been a disaster. It has wrenched her away from her natural landscape; the chaos and excitement of London, not to mention friends and boyfriends. Two sides of the same coin, the twins invoke an immediate juxtaposition and their relationship adds another strand of tension to the novel.

Tension is the driving force within this tale. It is apparent from the very beginning; for the story begins with Charlotte’s disappearance. The initial feeling is that she has run back to London, to her old life. But the trouble is Simon may potentially have been the last person to have seen her and his memory has been warped by the fact he suffered a major seizure that evening.

Simon’s illness means that his thought’s and recollections are increasingly disjointed. He is the classic unreliable narrator, guiding the reader through not only the circumstances leading up and immediately after Charlotte’s disappearance but also family and village history.

When Simon is handed information about the local curse of The Naseby Horses, his research leads him to believe that it is the key to unlocking Charlotte’s disappearance and bringing her home safely. However the police and his family are less than convinced, and add in the confusion created by his own deteriorating condition and Simon fears that Charlotte may be lost forever.

And

Dominic Brownlow has created a tale that cultivates and builds upon its unique setting. There is a feeling of a secrets and a deeply entrenched history that is not easily accessed or shared by outsiders. Not everyone will understand or embrace the story and dark past of the village, in the same way that the beauty of the Fenland landscape is not tangible to all.

Told over a tight time scale, the pain filled and chaotic days following Charlotte’s disappearance, the novel manages to weave a complex web of history and mystery, making the unique landscape more than a setting, almost a character in it’s own right.

About the author

Dominic Brownlow lives nears Peterborough with his two children. He lived in London and worked in the music industry as a manager before setting up his own independent label. He now enjoys life in The Fens and has an office that looks out over water. The Naseby Horses is his first novel. It was long listed for the Bath Novel Award 2016.

Dominic Brownlow, author .

And there is more…

For more reviews and reaction to The Naseby Horses check out the rest of the blog tour below.

Blog tour poster

Blog Tour Review: Children of Fire by Paul C.W. Beatty

Throughout my previous posts I have made no secret of my love for historical fiction. Although I have my favourite periods in time the thrill of acquring new knowledge and making new discoveries never leaves me.

Children of Fire by Paul C W Beatty has certainly ticked all my historical fiction boxes and more. Set in the early Victorian period this is a novel which embraces so many cultural changes and significant historical shifts.

The central character Josiah, is a young man recently recruited to the newly formed Stockport police force. Having grown up as the adopted son of a Methodist Minister, Josiah has strong moral foundations. Foundations which have been rocked by his experiences travelling abroad. When we meet Josiah, he is a man mired in self doubt and guilt, questioning his sense of place and identity.

Joining the newly formed Stockport Police force is a way of attempting to outrun his own demons. However Josiah is not a man confident of his professional abilities, so when he finds himself send to the Furness Vale to quietly investigate links between an explosion in a powder mill and a breakaway religious community, The Children of Fire, he feels out of his depth.

What was supposed to be a low level fact finding mission, with Josiah working undercover, quickly becomes a full scale investigation following the violent and seemingly ritualistic death of the community’s leader Elijah Bradshawe.

Suddenly the links and relationships Josiah has made within the group and the wider community are threatened as he is forced to reveal his true identity and begin to unpick complex motivations and allegiances, both past and present.

Much more than a classic whodunnit, the novel touches upon and embraces many social issues of the day. In a world on the very edge of the Industrial Revolution, poverty and power exist side by side. The author weaves through the story a growing and unsettling feeling of imbalance and rising tensions which will ultimately shape the future of England’s industrial North.

The character development is solid. The flawed hero we see in Josiah provides opportunities for other characters to make there presence and motivations felt within the narrative. It is always pleasing to encounter strong female characters. Within the novel the role of women in the shaping of this part of history is not overlooked, conversely it is crucial.

Children of Fire offers a unique perspective on a crucial and often dark time in our countries history. Many thanks to Rachel, of Rachel’s Random Resources and of course author Paul Beatty for giving me a chance to read and review.

Rachel

Catching up…

I was going to start this blog with an apology but then I had to stop myself. It is pretty pointless to apologise for things I can’t control, and I certainly haven’t been able to control the fact that life has just got in the way of blogging recently.

A new job, the inevitable Christmas term mounting chaos means that blogging has had to take a back seat. It is as simple as that.

Well, almost…

You see after a few weeks back at work, when the lazy hazy days of summer were firmly behind me I started to feel the pressure of blogging. Trying to fit in great reviews was a challenge and suddenly reading started to feel like a bit of a chore.

For the first time since my university days I looked around at the mounting pile of books and began to feel overwhelmed. Usually I will quite happily hoard reading material without any real thought of when or how I am going to get it all read; there is something liberating in just have a huge choice of books around me. But suddenly the liberty was vanishing and I was feeling the pressure.

The pressure was probably self imposed but it was real. I was waking up feeling guilty about ARCs I hadn’t read, I started avoiding reading certain books because I didn’t want to have to make notes or erudite comments.

In short reading was in danger of becoming a job, not a pleasure.

And that is something reading has never been to me.

And something I never want it to be.

So for a while I had to stop. Not stop reading but stop blogging.

I have kept up with my blog tour commitments, and will absolutely continue to do so but I have dramatically cut down on agreeing to others.

I haven’t requested an ARC for over two months. I won’t lie this has been HARD! On a superficial level I miss the thrill of book post and the chance to have a sneaky peek at greatness to come. So many times I have logged to Twitter and seen beautiful books by fabulous authors and my fingers have twitched over my email. But have restrained myself. I often have to have stern words, telling myself the book trolley is full…and the night stand…and the book shelves. I have to tell myself that I can’t read everything.

What I haven’t done is stop reading. I have given myself permission to read away from the pile, to read out of my self imposed order and to remind myself of the love of books again.

I feel like I have pulled myself back from a bit of a brink. There is no doubt I love blogging but I love reading more. And I don’t want to lose sight of that.

As a blogger I fully intend to stick around, but I have to admit to myself that I can’t take on every book written and sometimes a pause is a necessary thing.

In the last month I have read some cracking books, and I fully intend to write a catch up blog very soon. But if I don’t then the world won’t end…

Thanks for joining me on my Sunday ramble…

And KEEP READING!

Rachel x

Blog Tour Review: Ghoster by Jason Arnopp

Before I dive into Ghoster , let me extend my thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers and Orbit books for inviting me on the tour…

Wow! Well I’ve literally just finished Ghoster and I have to say my mind is blown!

I’m not really sure where to start…

Firstly Ghoster definitely defies all attempts to fit it neatly into a genre. I started out reading this thinking I was heading into a thriller… half way through I thought I was wrapped up in a ghost story…and by the end I wasn’t really sure where I had been taken!!!

This is a book which thrives on the unexpected and the confusion it creates. It takes the reader down a whole warren of rabbit holes, pushing back the boundaries of both reality and fiction.

When paramedic Kate Collins meets Scott Palmer she believes she has met the man of her dreams. After a whirl wind long distance romance she packs up her life in Leeds to move in with him on the south coast.

Only problem is that when Kate arrives she finds Scott has disappeared. His flat is empty and the only sign of life is Scott’s abandoned smart phone.

And so begins Kate’s desperate quest to discover what has happened to Scott. At first she believes she has been unceremoniously dumped, and it is hurt and anger that motivate her actions. But when unexplained phone calls, noises and damage in the flat begin to escalate, her fury begins to turn to concern and ultimately fear.

Hacking into Scott’s phone seems the logical thing to do but for Kate it is dangerous on so many levels. Prior to her meeting Scott Kate had a serious social media addiction, one that proved to have dire consequences for her paramedic partner and best friend Izzy. By entering Scott’s digital world Kate is reopening old wounds and breaking her own digital detox.

And the more she reveals the more sinister and, frankly down right weird the situation becomes. Nothing is what it seems and there are forces at play that no one seems to understand.

This novel is unlike anything else I have read this year. As I mentioned in my intro it defies classification. I wanted to write my review as near to finishing it as I could, quite simply because I felt that was the best way of putting in to words a true reaction.

Kate is definitely a troubled soul, as is Scott and other characters in the novel. At the heart of their problems is an over reliance on the virtual world and an addiction to online connections. There is certainly a warning within these pages about the danger of excessive internet use, of shunning reality in pursuit of some Instagram perfection.

But is that the whole story? I feel not, but putting my finger on what I am missing feels very tricky. There is no point I pretending that this novel is straightforward. It’s not!

I suspect that for every person that reads it, each will find a different perspective, a different message and a different interpretation of that very unique ending.

Certainly a novel to make to you think!

And there is more…

For more reactions and reviews check out the rest of the Ghoster blog tour. Details below!

Blog Tour Review – A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan

The weather has turned this week. It’s dark mornings, cosy nights and rain splattered windows abound in Cumbria. So A House of Ghosts was the perfect accompaniment to herald the arrival of Autumn.

Many thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me on the blog tour and to Zaffre books for my copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

It is Winter 1917 and the world has been turned upside down.

Thousands of young men have lost their lives, thousands more missing, presumed dead and equal numbers have returned home from The Great War bearing the burden of physical and mental injury. The country is cloaked in a collective grief and interest in spiritualism is on the rise.

Off the coast of England, in an old Monastery Lord and Lady Highmount have assembled an varied group of people together, hoping to contact their sons, recently killed in France.

The group includes not one but two celebrated mediums; Count Orlov, a displaced Russian, whose wife and child were killed as their boat to England fell prey to a U Boat, and Madame Feda. The gathering has also attracted the attention of intelligence officers, who have planted two agents in their midst. The mysterious ‘Donovan’, recently returned from serving in the trenches, a man not easily shaken, and Miss Kate Cartwright.

Kate too has lost her brother in the war and is attending the gathering with her parents, both desperate to contact their fallen son. Kate too is a gifted, if somewhat reluctant, spiritualist. She continually sees spirits all around her, and has inherited the FitzAubrey glass, a mirror which shows the dead and sometimes the future.

Add to the gathering a shell shocked solider, Simms, a cad of an ex-fiancé and a socialist Butler. Then top it off with a raging snow storm and the scene is set for a intriguing and dark tale. Secrets are closely guarded in all quarters and the host of the gathering appears to be enemy number one.

I have to start my reaction to this book by saying that this week has been ‘off the chart hectic’ away from all things blog and book related…

…and I still managed to devour A House of Ghosts in just over 2 nights. It is the kind of book that from the first page gets into your head, under your reading skin and just pushes you forward to the last page.

Very definitely a supernatural tale, there are spirits surrounding the narrative from the earliest chapters, this is also a murder mystery, a family saga and a story filled with intrigue.

As the story unfolds over just a short period of time the action and plot are pacy. There is a feeling of inevitability and tension right from the off. The background of the war years contributes to the feeling that people are behaving in unexpected and unconventional ways. These are unprecedented times which are challenging all members of society, whatever their background and beliefs.

Strong characters and strong emotions carry the story forward. It has a sense of purpose and place with a unique setting and a gripping storyline.

Kate is a strong female lead. Despite the challenges and grief in her life she exhibits a core of steel. She is Donavan’s intellectual equal and the novel is all the stronger for it.

This book is the perfect read for the encroaching storms and long awaited firesides of October. A truly atmospheric read.

Rachel

And there is more…

To read other reviews of this fabulous book, check out the rest of the blog tour. Details below!

Blog Tour Review- An Author on Trial by Luciano Iorio

It’s a while since I reviewed or even read some non fiction, so I have been eagerly anticipating this fascinating Blog Tour Review of An Author on Trial by Luciano Iorio.

This is the story of Giuseppe Jorio, the father of our author. An Italian school teacher and writer , working post and pre World War Two, Jorio’s first novel La Morte di un Uomo (Death of a Man), published in 1939 was well received.

However the work he truly laboured over was an account of his passionate and extramarital affair, conducted and concluded before the birth of his son. Il Fuoco del Mondo (The Fire of the World) was the novel into which Jorio poured his heart and soul. The passionate affair that had been conducted with a younger woman called Tina, led to an unwanted pregnancy and a back street abortion. Stricken by these events Jorio changes his mind about wanting children, was reconciled with his wife and as a consequence his son Luciano was born.

Il Fuoco del Mondo, Jorio’s third novel, was rejected by his publisher. Finished and submitted after the war, the publisher recognised what it’s author didn’t; a growing conservatism and level of censorship from the Christian Democracy party, openly fuelled by the Vatican. When Jorio decided to self publish, he was arrested, his book seized and he faced charges of obscenity.

So began a six year battle to clear his name and defend his book. It was a battle which would encompass five trials, as the case was thrown backwards and forwards from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. Jorio was the first author to be convicted of obscenity in pre-war Italy and the only one to be handed a prison sentence.

The case hinges on whether this book could be classed as ‘a work of art’ and therefore exempt from the rules surrounding obscenity. It is clear through the personal papers, letters and diaries bequeathed to his son after Jorio’s death this novel was considered by the author as his masterpiece. To have it dismissed publicly as nothing more than obscenity was something Jorio never recovered from either professionally or privately.

Some years after the trials Jorio published his book in a ‘purged’ version, with all words consider obscene cut out. Accompanied by a pamphlet detailing his struggle Jorio called this work ‘Umana.’

As his son takes us through his father’s life a portrait emerges of a committed writer, but also a torment and difficult man.

Luciano himself admits that his relationship with his father was often difficult and towards the end of his life somewhat fractured. Luciano seems to struggle to come to terms with the fact that his existence is often seen by his father as a direct result of Tina’s abortion.

Luciano is honest about his father’s short comings and shows us a picture of a man who was a times self absorbed, without being self aware. Through his father’s writing Luciano is trying to find a place, a peace and understanding.

A short, but fascinating book highlighting how art can fall prey to circumstance and politics. And how much of one’s heart and soul a writer pours into there work.

Rachel

Blog Tour Review – The Seagull’s Laughter by Holly Bidgood

Today I take my turn on the Blog Tour for an absolute gem of a book. Huge and heartfelt thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me on the tour and to Wild Pressed Books and Holly Bidgood for a copy of The Seagull’s Laughter in exchange for an honest review.

This is a book which spans both timeline, place and genre, bringing together different stories and different strands to create a beautiful telling of human resilience and self discovery.

At it’s beginning and indeed it’s heart it is the story of Malik, a young Greenlandic man, living and working a traditional and quite solitary life. Born in the years following the Second World War to a Greenlandic mother and an English Arctic explorer named Rasmus, Malik has always felt and treated as an outsider, a misfit. His unique colouring and his one black, one blue eye seem to symbolise his mixed heritage and his own uncertainty about his place in the world.

We meet Malik in 1973, when a strange man, bird like in appearance, visits Malik to tell him the father he has never met has died. Having lost his mother and, being estranged from his young daughter, Malik takes the stranger, the man we come to know as Birdie, up in his offer to return to England with him for the funeral.

So begins a strange odyssey, a journey Malik undertakes to explore his roots and attempt to find answers to his past and ultimately his place in the world. Accompanying him is a traditional Greenlandic spirit guide, Eqingaleq, seen and acknowledged only by Malik himself. A comforting steer through his life, Eqingaleq has a strange habit of disappearing just when you think that Malik might be most in need of him.

Malik finds himself in England, unsure of his purpose, without resources and unable to speak the language. It is the rather dutiful kindness of his father’s family, of the wife Rasmus betrayed all those years ago, that enable him to start to fashion a life for himself.

But this arrangement is doomed not to last. The bonds are too fragile and there is too much that Malik doesn’t understand to make this a permanent home. With the ongoing visits from the increasingly sinister Birdie and unwelcome discoveries Malik is once more forced out onto his lonely journey.

Fate brings him into contact with Martha and Neil. As a young unmarried mother, on the run from a violent partner and a gay man, trying to escape prejudice and hatred, they too are seeking a safe place in the world. Drawn to Malik they invite him to join them on their journey north, to the Island of Shetland.

This book is a journey of discovery. The narrative works across two time frames. The story of Rasmus, told in the third person breaks down the relationship between himself and Ketty, Malik’s mother, providing a level of context and understand vital to Malik’s story.

The narrative of the ‘present day’ is told in the first person, allowing us inside the struggles and experiences of first Malik and then Martha. It paints a vivid picture of a small group of misfits, all seeking to be true to their souls, all facing challenges and ultimately looking to find their place in the world.

Through their journeys we explore the age old questions of heritage and belonging. Bidgood explores the ideas surrounding what we gain from our parents, the choices we make about whether we choose to embrace or overcome our heritage. Watching Malik struggle to get to grips with the English language we come to realise that it is more than a collection of words; that a language is cloaked in and made up of unwritten rules about cultural norms and society. In the same way the Greenlandic folklore, so beautifulLu woven through the narrative, reflects the deep running veins of family heritage and tradition.

This is an accomplished and unique novel. Beautifully constructed and skilfully written, it is a rallying cry to all those on a journey of discovery, those looking for a time and place to call home.

And there is more…

For other views of this charming and unusual book check out the other #BlogTour stops, all listed below.