Reading Challenge 2015 – ‘A Book By An Author You’ve Never Read Before’

Book Number Two – House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill.

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Catherine Howard is a young woman with a troubled past. Abandoned by her birth mother and adopted, her childhood was a place of taunting and bullying from her peers. Her only friend, Alice, was kidnapped and when Catherine later claims to have seen Alice’s ghost her parent’s send her for some therapy. Even as an adult Catherine struggles and after attacking a colleague at a job in London, she decides to leave for quieter and more peaceful plains in the hope that she can start afresh.

Shrouded in tragedy, Catherine miscarries a baby and is shortly ditched by her boyfriend, Mike. Depressed and drinking quite heavily, Catherine keeps relapsing and having ‘trances’ that have troubled her since childhood, periods of time where she zones out and vividly dreams about events that feel so real she can’t be sure if they are repressed memories, or scenarios created by her muddled mind. When her boss, a sweet elderly man named Leonard, encourages her to take on a job cataloguing the contents of ‘Red House’, the home of master puppet maker M. H. Mason, Catherine hopes it will be the break she needs to take her mind off her recent break up.

But after just one visit to the Red House and meeting Mason’s elderly niece Edith, Catherine is somewhat shook up and feels that despite the house holding many antique items including dolls and taxidermy animals, there’s something odd about the house, the town in which it resides and also the two occupants, Edith and housekeeper Maude.

When Catherine is invited to stay at the house whilst she catalogues the collection, she begins to feel that Edith may be somewhat strange and senile, but decides to play along in the hope that she can get the job done quickly. But pretty soon she begins to both hear and see things in the house that cannot be explained with sheer logic. Images come to her mind and pretty soon it appears she is embroiled in a fate much bigger than anything she can comprehend.

Adam Nevill has an incredibly descriptive use of writing, and really brought the feelings of unease and fear to life for me. However I feel that the latter part of the book was quite tedious, the author could have cut out at least two chapters and still delivered a book with a strange and eerie ending. As it was I felt he went on a little too long for my liking, and I don’t feel that the ending was described clear enough as it was somewhat disorienting, which is perhaps that desired effect he wanted, but I still think less would have been more. A good read with plenty of atmosphere, read this if you’re looking for something to make you shudder with unease.

Star Rating out of 5: 3.5

‘Into her imagination came an impression of Edith Mason with her bleached face, red-rimmed eyes and yellow teeth, crawling down one side of the passageway on all fours, using the skirting board as a guide to find her way back to her room.’

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If you’re taking part in this Reading Challenge, I’d love to hear about it. Why not get in touch on Twitter @GinaAlanaLane or in the comment section below.

Until next time, happy reading.

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Reading Challenge 2015 – ‘A Book That Made You Cry’

Book Number One – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

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It is just a normal day in Kingsbridge when Harold Fry receives a letter from a long, lost friend. He hasn’t seen or spoken to Queenie Hennessey for almost 20 years so when she writes to thank him and say goodbye, Harold feels that his letter in response just won’t be enough. So without any planning, and unbeknownst to his wife, he decides to walk to Queenie, who is terminally ill with Cancer and on the other side of the country, in the hope that it will keep her alive.

Along the way Harold has time to reflect on his childhood, one that was filled with abandonment and lacked any kind of affection, he also reflects on his own relationship with his son David and wonders why he and his wife have felt like two strangers passing one another for so many years.

During his walk Harold begins to meet many people, each with their own story to tell, some are having secret affairs, some are waiting for a loved one to return and others are hoping the day will come when they build up enough confidence to leave their small hometowns and see the world. With each person he meets Harold begins to realise that everyone looks so normal, but each of us harbours our own secrets, regrets and pain. When people hear of Harold’s unlikely pilgrimage, they open up their hearts to him, and although a fair few think that what he is doing is a little crazy, it inspires them and fills them with hope and in return encourages Harold to continue on his soul searching journey.

Back home in Knightsbridge, Harold’s wife Maureen slowly begins to realise how her life would be without her husband, and uses the time he is walking to reflect on her life, her marriage and her passions and hobbies that seem to have been ignored for a long time.

One thing Rachel Joyce perfectly captured was the disjointed way in which memories, even those particularly difficult or painful, come back when you least want them to, and how they often won’t be ignored. Her manner of writing is filled with so much warmth and description that it almost feels poetic. But the thing I perhaps loved the most about this book was how it really stops and makes you think.

The last five chapters of the book were incredibly touching and as soon as I felt that tell tale lump in my throat, I knew it was only a matter of time before I felt warm tears slide down my face. The subtle way she deals with the chapter that looks at things from Queenie’s perspective, really took my breath away. The tears fell from my eyes with no forced effort. This was a truly wonderful novel and I’d recommend this to everyone. It makes you want to make the most of life; it fills you with hope and reminds you how important it is to tell those that matter that you love them.

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Star Rating out of 5: 5

‘Nobody is so frightening once you stop and listen, Maureen.’

 

Happy reading fellow bookworms.

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This Is It

Hello blog readers and followers,

I have printed off the Reading Challenge list so I can tick them off as I go along. I may not do the list in order but I will be sharing my experience of the challenge with you by posting which item on the Reading Challenge I have completed and of course I will review the book too.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have some people recommending novels for me, which I am currently collecting in the form of a list in my Marauder’s Map Notebook (that’s right readers I’m pushing 30 but I’m still a big kid at heart) and hopefully when I’m feeling confused and procrastinating I can turn to that and find some inspiration.

I’d love to know if anyone is doing this Reading Challenge, if you are please comment below and perhaps we can help each other throughout the whole experience!

Happy reading you lovely people, it’s 2015 and I’m proud to be a bookworm!

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