Book Review: Sleep by C. L. Taylor

Name:  Sleep
Author:  
C. L. Taylor
Number of Pages:
368 (Hardback)
Published:
April 4th 2019 by Avon HarperCollins
Genre:  Thriller, Mystery

Goodreads

All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…
To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.
Each of the guests have a secret but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.
Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.
Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

If you’re reading this then I am no longer alive. Someone has been stalking me for the last three months and, if I am dead, it wasn’t an accident.

Intriguing opening, isn’t it? It certainly grabbed my attention, and from then on I was hooked to the pages of this psychological thriller. Sleep was one of those books that I found myself making time for ‘just one more chapter’.

It kept me guessing throughout, as the story was gradually pieced together and several subplots led me to believe that this or that person was behind the attempt to drive lead character Anna to death.

Anna was involved in a tragic accident in which two of her colleagues were killed and one ended up with life-changing injuries. The guilt leaves her unable to sleep, even though what happened was not her fault. In search of a new start she splits up with her boyfriend and takes a job in a hotel on the Isle of Rum.

Seven strangers arrive for a walking tour and all have some secret or other. I could never have guessed which one had the motive to seek revenge on Anna, who is convinced that she is being stalked and that her stalker has followed her to Rum with the intent that Anna will not leave alive.

I love the setting of the remote island, cut off from the rest of humanity – it provides great atmosphere, especially as the weather turns stormy and the possibility to call for help becomes restricted. The river floods, cutting off access to the rest of the island, so this small group with a potential killer in their midst really are up against a lot. It raises the stakes in the fight for survival and provides a really claustrophobic atmosphere.

Sleep played into what I love about this kind of tale, that I didn’t see the final reveal coming. I like to try to pick up the clues, but I prefer it when I’m totally wrong. At some point there’s reason to suspect almost any of the guests, and there were twists and revelations aplenty until the truth finally came out, and it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. This is my first C. L. Taylor book, and I’m certainly tempted to read others after really enjoying this one.

Book Review: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Name:  Once Upon a River
Author:  
Diane Setterfield
Number of Pages:
380 (Hardback)
Published:
January 1st 2019 by Doubleday
Genre:  Fiction, Historical

Goodreads

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.
Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.
Is it a miracle?
Is it magic?
Or can it be explained by science?
Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Once Upon a River blends historical, mystery, hints of folklore and magic into an engrossing, meandering tale of life along a stretch of the river.

Many lives are played out alongside the riverbank, and we see them all, tied together on the night of the Winter Solstice, when a young girl is rescued and bought into the Swan at Radcot. The girl has drowned, and is dead, but in a turn of events she revives. Is it magic? Is it science? And who is the young girl at the heart of this tale?

Several people believe she belongs to them, that there is a place for her in their family, or that she is their daughter/sister/etc, lost some time ago. So, is this mute young girl a missing daughter of one family, the granddaughter of another, or the sister of someone else? Or is she someone else entirely?
W delve into these various lives, witnessing all manner of things – love, family, friendship, but also darker things – fear, loss, scheming.

The power of stories and storytelling,  love of a good narrative, and the tendency for stories to be adapted with each telling is plain in Once Upon A River, as locals gather in the pub to recall the initial finding of the girl, and develop their own storytelling skills with other tales.
There is a magical quality to some of these tales, such as that of Quietly, the ferryman who dwells upon the river, somewhere between life and death; he is there to meet those who fall in. If it’s their time, then over to the other side of the river they go, if not, Quietly will help them back to safety.

Once Upon a River is a real slow burner and remains so throughout, it meanders like the very river it centres around, travelling here and there, touching various places and lives before reaching its conclusion. It’s a tale to become fully immersed in, savouring the language and the imagery, and is very much centred around the everyday whilst being touched by an air of the magic and mysterious.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Rainy Day Reads

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This weeks theme is:  Rainy Day Reads


There’s a real pleasure in having the opportunity to sit and read on a rainy day. It’s quiet and cosy, and every so often it’s great to pause and watch the rain trailing down the windows. Give me a mug of tea and a great book and I’ll be a happy reader. So, what would I possibly pick up on one of these occasions? Glad you asked…

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield – My current read, and it’s an engrossing, meandering tale built upon the power of storytelling and the way stories draw people together. I’m really enjoying discovering all these characters and I keep wondering who the young girl at the heart of the tale will turn out to be.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Why not try a classic on a rainy day? It’s been a long time since I last read Jane Eyre, but I remember enjoying it and I think an hour or two in Jane and Rochester’s company would be the perfect choice for a rainy afternoon of reading.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – You never know, if it’s cold enough the rain could turn to snow, and then where better than a snow-bound luxury train out in the wilderness in the company of Hercule Poirot and a whole load of suspects?

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie – Or, in the spirit of escapism, you could read yourself away from your rainy afternoon and into the heat of Egypt for a trip on the Nile with Poirot. I haven’t read this one yet, but hopefully this summer I’ll finally get around to it.

11/22/63 by Stephen King – Rediscovering an enjoyable book from one of your favourite authors is another great way to spend a rainy day reading, and this book is certainly long enough to keep you occupied for a whole day and more. Time travel, romance, thriller, this book has a bit of everything.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan – I love finding a new series to get hooked on, and the Powder Mage books by Brian McClellan certainly held my attention. These books were so good I would love to go back and start from the beginning again.

The Passage by Justin Cronin – I still want to re-read this one, and then carry on with the rest of the books. I haven’t managed to get to it yet, mostly due to the vast amount of library books I end up with, so a rainy afternoon might give me the perfect excuse to finally pick up my own book and make a start.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry – A book from my TBR list that l am really looking forward to starting. The cover alone, all blue and dark and mysterious looks really suited to a rainy day.

Book Blogs – Sometimes I can be found whiling away a rainy day adding to my already-endless TBR list/pile by reading reviews from other bloggers.

? – Last one this week is open for suggestions. What would you recommend picking up as a Rainy Day Read?


So, have you read any of the books that made my list this week?  If so, what did you think of them? See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Book Review: Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff

Name:  Last Ones Left Alive
Author:  
Sarah Davis-Goff
Number of Pages:
280(Hardback)
Published:
January 24th 2019 by Tinder Press
Genre:  Fiction, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic

Goodreads

Watch your six. Beware tall buildings. Always have your knives.
Growing up on a tiny island off the coast of a post-apocalyptic Ireland, Orpen’s life has revolved around physical training and necessity. After Mam died, it’s the only way she and her guardian Maeve have survived the ravenous skrake (zombies) who roam the wilds of the ravaged countryside, looking for prey.
When Maeve is bitten and infected, Orpen knows what she should do – sink a knife into her eye socket, and quickly. Instead, she tries to save Maeve, and following rumours of a distant city on the mainland, guarded by fierce banshees, she sets off, pushing Maeve in a wheelbarrow and accompanied by their little dog, Danger. It is a journey on which Orpen will need to fight repeatedly for her life, drawing on all of her training and instincts. In the course of it, she will learn more about the Emergency that destroyed her homeland, and the mythical Phoenix City – and discover a starting truth about her own identity.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Last Ones Left Alive features an Ireland devastated by the Emergency. We never actually find out what this event was, only that it happened before lead character Orpen’s lifetime, and her mother and her partner Maeve retreated to an island to live an isolated existence in order to keep young Orpen safe. Safe did not however mean unprepared, and her parents train Orpen in all matters of survival, including fighting and combat, for the world has been overtaken by skrake, aka zombies, and they’re fierce.

There are two narratives in which we learn of Orpen’s past, and in the present we discover her mother has died and Maeve has been bitten, forcing Orpen to undertake a journey in the hope of finding the elusive Phoenix City, a place not marked on any map, but she believes Maeve knows the location.

There are some heartbreaking scenes throughout as Orpen’s history is slowly revealed, and the violence is bloody and brutal when the skrake attack. Shambling mindless zombies these are not, they’re deadly, strong and fast, and if a person has recently turned, there’s always the chance that at first they’ll appear almost like themselves, for a short time at least. What a prospect to be faced with, knowing there’s only one inevitable conclusion to such an encounter.

Having lived her life on the island, Orpen goes off into the dangerous land of the mainland with many questions. She’s never really encountered people or anything like regular humanity before. Along the way Orpen encounters skrake and people, and the enigmatic banshees, a group she has read about but never encountered before, who become more than just a myth or whisper.

Last Ones Left Alive features a brave young woman setting out on a dangerous journey across a desolate and bleak landscape. She has questions, not all of which will be answered, and I would enjoy a return visit to this skrake- and banshee-inhabited world in the future because there is so much I still want to know.

Book Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Name:  The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author:  
Samantha Shannon
Number of Pages:
827 (Hardback)
Published:
February 26th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Wow, talk about epic fantasy. 800+ pages that made me decide as soon as I saw the sheer scope of this book that if it wasn’t brilliant then back to the library it would go. I couldn’t face lugging such a huge tome around with me if I wasn’t really enjoying it.
Fear not – every single page/chapter was warranted. From the moment I began I was totally absorbed in this wonderfully vivid fantasy world. There is so much packed into this tale, and I loved the fact that the whole saga was contained within one beautiful book, rather than breaking off and having to wait anxiously for the next instalment.

The Priory of the Orange Tree is enthralling from beginning to end.
This whole new fantasy world is built in such a way that feels natural – there’s plenty of history, and a Queendom built upon the rule of the Berethnet matriarchs, descendants of the first Queen of Inys who vanquished a powerful and terrifying dragon known as The Nameless One. For a thousand years the threat from dragons has been dormant due to the continuation of the Berethnet bloodline, but in this tale, that thousand years is almost done, and dragons and their offspring are waking from their slumber, threatening the world once more. The current queen, Sabran the Ninth has yet to provide a female heir to guarantee the continued imprisonment of the Nameless One.
As well as the threat from the otherworldly, there are also dangers closer to home, as in the court of Queen Sabran, there is plenty of intrigue, political schemers, those with ambitions beyond their station, and spies with their own agendas and points to put forward.

The story follows several main characters – Ead Duryen is an outsider bought to Sabran’s court who becomes part of her royal household. Tané is a young orphan raised with the dream of becoming a dragon rider in the High Sea Guard, and Niclays Roos is an alchemist whose actions displeased Sabran enough to see him banished from court. Lord Arteloth Beck and his sister Margret also reside at court and are two of Sabran’s closest friends.

Each of these characters face their own challenges, threats, dilemmas and adventures that will take them far from their beginnings, but to go into too much detail about how and why would only ruin the story for you, so I’ll just say that I really enjoyed each of their stories.

With long fantasy novels featuring several viewpoints I tend to find I’ll have a favourite or two, and then always find myself longing to get back to their perspective when reading about other characters. That didn’t happen here at all, especially with the ladies. Each of their stories was wonderfully drawn out, and I didn’t favour one over another; I liked them all and was happy to spend time in each chapter with whichever of them featured.
I loved the friendship that developed between Ead and siblings Loth and Margret, and I liked the secondary characters who appeared in certain narratives.
I couldn’t wait to see how they all came together in the end, united in the seemingly impossible task of stopping the Draconic Army and the Nameless One.

There are dragon riders, mages, knights, pirates, royals, and so many more colourful characters in this amazing story. Fierce dragons and wyrms, legends and quests both old and new, this book really did have it all. It grabbed me right from the opening pages and swept me away.
There was excitement, surprise, magic, romance and enduring friendship, all set against a fantastic backdrop of a world under threat from mythical beasts.

If you’re looking for an epic fantasy, complete in one volume (although I really wouldn’t mind a return visit to this world), with great characters, a rich history and plenty of plot then don’t be intimidated by the size of this book like I almost was. The Priory of the Orange Tree is definitely one you should read.

Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This weeks theme is:  Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book


A striking cover – We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes it happens. You’re wandering around the bookstore, not quite sure what you’re looking for, then suddenly, you see that cover and you can’t look away. Before you know it you’re checking out the story.

Something very different from my usual reads, or what I’ve been reading lately – Massive brick of a book wearing out your wrists/fingers/hands? Chances are my next read will be a much physically smaller book.
Heavy themes? Next time I may opt for some a little more light-hearted. I like variety in my reading.

A Post-Apocalyptic theme, especially if zombies/other supernatural elements are involved. I love a good post-apocalyptic story. I don’t know why really, but something draws me in to these types of tale.

Certain authors – To name but one, I have been a Stephen King fan for years now, and I’ll always check out his latest offerings. There are so many books from his back catalogue that I need to read too.

Good reviews from bloggers – Although my TBR list/pile extends beyond anything normal sized I do love reading blogs to discover new books, especially fantasy and sci-fi (which I still haven’t read enough of yet).

Library request lists – I get so many of my latest reads from the library that I can’t not mention it here. Sometimes I have to check to see what’s in demand then prioritise that book to avoid returning it late or unread.

Next book in the series – If I’ve enjoyed the previous volume then I always look forward to the release of the next one.

A recommendation from someone in real life – Doesn’t actually happen that often these days for some reason, so if someone pushes a book on me I’ll tend to listen to what they have to say.

A debut author with a fascinating sounding book – I’m always looking out for new and interesting reads.

TV/Movie Adaptations – If something has been adapted and I’ve watched the series/movie, I usually end up checking out the book to see what they changed/kept the same.


So, what makes you pick up a certain book? See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Booking Ahead: April 2019

Booking Ahead is a feature on Pages and Tea where I glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Off I go through the TBR archives once more! Time to pick some potential reads for the month. Given that last month was mostly taken up with my reading of The Priory of the Orange Tree, I have a feeling that some of the other books I mentioned last time may well make a return appearance here.
Here are a few of the books I hope to read over the coming month…

New Books

Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff – I cannot keep away from a new post-apocalyptic novel, and this one is receiving such positive reviews and feedback that I’m really looking forward to cracking open the book.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker – People are succumbing to an endless sleep in which they experience life-altering dreams. Sounds intriguing to me!

Books from the Backlist

I seem to have unintentionally neglected my Beat the Backlist challenge lately. I blame the library for sending through so many of the new books I’ve requested all at the same time! This month I’ll try to add at least a couple more to my (small) total.

The Rose and the Yew Tree by Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott – After my latest epic fantasy read of 800+ pages I feel like I would like something shorter in the coming weeks, before I move on to another long novel, and it’s been a while since I indulged my newfound enjoyment of Agatha Christie. This is a change from her usual crime novels though, so I’m going into it with an open mind.

The Passage by Justin Cronin – I just finished watching the new tv series, so now I want to pick this up for a re-read even more because there is so much that I cannot remember about it. I want to see how it compares to the show, and I also want to carry on with the rest of the books.


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.