#BookReview The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan

ABOUT THE BOOK

The year is 1792 and Herbert Powyss is set on making his name as a scientist. He is determined to study the effects of prolonged solitude on another human being, though before now Powyss’s sole subjects have been the plants in his greenhouse. He fills three rooms beneath Moreham House with books, paintings and even a pianoforte, then puts out an advertisement, hoping for a gentleman recluse to claim the substantial reward.

The only man desperate enough to apply is John Warlow, a semi-literate farm labourer who needs to support his wife Hannah and their six children. Cut off from nature and the turning of the seasons, Warlow soon begins losing his grip on sanity. Above ground, Powyss finds yet another distraction from his greenhouse in the form of Hannah, with whom he rapidly becomes obsessed. Does she return his feelings, or is she just afraid of his power over her family’s lives?

Meanwhile, the servants are brewing up a rebellion inspired by recent news from across the Channel. Powyss may have set events in motion, but he is powerless to prevent their explosive and devastating conclusion.

Elegantly told and utterly transporting, The Warlow Experiment is an outstanding literary novel that announces a major new voice in British fiction

published by Serpent’s Tail

PURCHASE LINKS

hive.co.uk  £9.99

whsmith £9.35

foyles  – £12.99 signed first edition

MY REVIEW

A Reward of £50 a year for life is offered to any man who will undertake to live for 7 years underground without seeing a human face: to let his toe and fingernails grow during the whole of his confinement, together with his beard.  Commodious apartments are provided with cold bath, chamber organ, as many books as the occupier shall desire.  Provisions will be served from Mr Powyss’s table.  Every convenience desired will be provided.

– Herbert Powyss, Moreham House, Herefordshire…   January , 1793

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Wow! Yep, one of those books that I found to have lived up to the hype that I’d heard about it before buying my own copy! A stunning piece of historical fiction that just made me slow my whole reading speed down so I could savour every word! Think it’s fair to say I enjoyed this one!!

When an advert was placed in 1783 by Herbert Powyss looking for somebody to volunteer to live in solitary confinement for 7 years, but surrounded by food, books etc for the princely sum of £50 a year for life, John Warlow steps forward thinking of the financial rewards for his family – a wife and 6 children – and not giving any thought to the severity of the experiment facing him.

Herbert Powyss is a reclusive scientist looking to make a name for himself and thinks a study of human behaviour is one way to get himself noticed, and in John Warlow he has someone who can be genuinely studied.

You might think that reading about a man being stuck in a cellar – a well appointed cellar at that – wouldn’t be much fun to read about, but what the author has done with this book is focus on the human impact, not only on John Warlow living life without speaking to another soul, but how his abscence affects his wife and children, how the scientist himself deals with his justification of using another human being, and how the servants in the home of Powyss come to terms of this man living beneath them.

It was such a fascinating concept and staggering to hear that the actual advert was really placed in 1793, and you can’t help but put yourself in that position and wonder how you’d deal with things in similar circumstances. Powyss himself was very reclusive and probably saw it as no hardship to be cut off from the real world for so long.

As the years go by, the impact on all the characters is clear to see and it’s clear that it isn’t only John Warlow who is suffering because of this experiment.

It’s often shocking and brutal, but is a totally enthralling study of human nature and behaviour and I was totally entranced from the first page to last! Brilliant!

★★★★★

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#BlogTour The Serpent’s Mark by S.W.Perry #bookreview #randomthingstours #TheSerpentsMark @CorvusBooks @swperry_history

Extremely delighted to be the latest stop on the fabulous blog tour for THE SERPENT’S MARK by S.W.PERRY – my thanks to the author, publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for putting it all together and letting me be part of it all to share my thoughts!

ABOUT THE BOOK

A smart and gripping tale of conspiracy, murder and espionage in Elizabethan London, ideal for fans of CJ Sansom, Rory Clements and SG MacLean.

Treason sleeps for no man…

London, 1591. Nicholas Shelby, physician and reluctant spy, returns to his old haunts on London’s lawless Bankside. But, when the queen’s spymaster Robert Cecil asks him to investigate the dubious practices of a mysterious doctor from Switzerland, Nicholas is soon embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens not just the life of an innocent young patient, but the overthrow of Queen Elizabeth herself.

With fellow healer and mistress of the Jackdaw tavern, Bianca Merton, again at his side, Nicholas is drawn into a dangerous world of zealots, charlatans and fanatics. As their own lives become increasingly at risk, they find themselves confronting the greatest treason of all: the spectre of a bloody war between the faiths…

Published by Corvus Books

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £11.74

hive.co.uk  £11.69

Goldsboro Books – signed, first edition £14.99

Praise for The Serpent’s Mark

“No-one is better than S. W. Perry at leading us through the squalid streets of London in the sixteenth century.” – Andrew Swanston

“The writing is of such a quality, the characters so engaging and the setting so persuasive that, only two books in, S.W. Perry’s ingeniously plotted novels have become my favourite historical crime series.” – S G MacLean

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

S. W. Perry was a journalist and broadcaster before retraining as an airline pilot. He lives in Worcestershire with his wife.

MY REVIEW

Nicholas and Bianca are back and I adored spending time with them both again as they’re thrust into the world of espionage, conspiracy and murder once more!  Set in the 16th Century, the sights and sounds are brought thrillingly to life by the writing of S.W.Perry and I’m already eager to escape back into their world if this fabulous series continues!

There is a slow start to this book as the scene is being set of the changing times of Elizabethan England – the history, the politics, the religion – and all this against the backdrop of Dr Nicholas dealing with the grief that has consumed him after losing his family.  When he is summoned back to London he has to explain his conduct to Robert Cecil , who sets him out to ‘investigate’ an overseas physician and with the distrust of foreigners that was gripping the country at the time, this request doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary for Nicholas, although he is well aware of Cecil and his dodgy background.

Bianca has been continuing to live and work in London while Nicholas had gone to ground, and she’s now a licensed apothecary but the appearance of a cousin from overseas, and a brutal attack on him brings her back into trying to figure out what he might have been involved in and has her in the thick of the action.

The strength of these  characters is that they can conduct their own investigations independent to one another, but still combine their inquisitiveness when needed! They trust one another implicitly and that clearly comes through when they’re facing tough and bleak times.

I loved the attention to detail throughout, the look behind the politics of the time and the lengths people would go to get their own way for what they saw as the greater good.  It was rather graphic at times too which just added to the reality of the brutal treatments used at the time by those with rather unpleasant intentions.

An intoxicating, gripping,  and thrilling piece of historical fiction – more please!!!

★★★★★

#BookReview The Poison Bed by E.C.Fremantle #LibraryLoveChallenge #audiobook

About the book

Elizabeth Fremantle’s THE POISON BED is a chilling, noirish thriller ripped straight from the headlines.

A king, his lover and his lover’s wife. One is a killer.

In the autumn of 1615 scandal rocks the Jacobean court when a celebrated couple are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. She is young, captivating and from a notorious family. He is one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom.

Some believe she is innocent; others think her wicked or insane. He claims no knowledge of the murder. The king suspects them both, though it is his secret at stake.


Who is telling the truth? Who has the most to lose? And who is willing to commit murder?

Published by Michael Joseph

MY REVIEW

I listened to the audio version of this and have to give thanks to the wonderful narrators – Ross Anderson and Perdita Weeks – for bringing this dramatic story to life and giving an extra depth to the story with the way they portray ‘him’ and ‘her’.

The him and her are Robert Carr and Frances Howard, both pivotal characters at the heart of the court of James I and this story brilliantly captures a troubling and scandalous time in British history. They are accused of poisoning Lord Thomas Overbury and the story plays out as to the motives, means and subterfuge behind the plot and makes for fascinating listening, especially as I knew very little about this period of history and it has peaked my interest to investigate more!

Frances and Robert are both extremely fascinating characters – Robert is very close to the King, but is betrayed by his own lustful thoughts towards Frances which becomes obsessive with his pursuit of her. Frances is no stranger to getting what she wants from life and a disastrous marriage to Lord Essex gets her notoriety but not happiness.

Behind the scenes there are many plots to gain power over the King, and the manipulative behaviour displayed is quite staggering at times – there is no ‘playing fair’ in these high stake games that are being played and it’s all about getting what you want, no matter who you damage in the long run and I loved how devious some of the characters were in their quest for power.

The way the story is told from both perspectives also really worked well – you get to see their lives before, during and after the court case and allows you to get to know both characters even better. 

This is a gripping piece of historical fiction and gives a real insight into just how underhanded life could really be in the Jacobean court!

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#BookReview #BlogBlitz Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

About the book

June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark.

Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . .

To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend’s investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him.

And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford…

Published by  Mantle

Purchase Links

Goldsboro Books – signed first edition  £24.99

hive.co.uk  £11.39

waterstones  £14.99

MY REVIEW

A brutal but engaging historical debut  that I found enlightening and shocking and was completely gripped by!

Set in 18th century London, this story brings alive the story of the slave trade in Deptford when the discovery of the body of a leading abolitionist  is found branded with a slave mark, and the family turn to Captain Harry to help them discover just why Tad had met such an untimely and shocking end.

The more he delves into the goings on of the slave trade that was thriving at that time, the more he is plunged into a darker world where those making money close ranks and will do anything to protect themselves and their way of life.

I think the most striking thing about this story was how the author had really captured the callous ways of life back then – from the language used, the attitudes to those used in the slave trade and the general unpleasantness of life for many on the streets of London.  The lack of welfare or concern for many would shock us now, but back then it was par for the course.  And those questioned by Tad were often too scared to say anything in fear of upsetting those in charge who didn’t care who got in their way and would be dealt with in vicious ways.

It isn’t an easy read at times with the levels of cruelty and lack of humanity shown, but the author does an amazing job of keeping the reader hooked with new revelations and twists. 

✯✯✯✯✯

My thanks to the author, publisher and Tracy Fenton for the advanced reader copy in return for a fair and honest review.

#BookReview Little by Edward Carey @BelgraviaB

About the book

‘Don’t miss this eccentric charmer!’ — @MargaretAtwood

‘Edward Carey’s Little is one of the most original historical novels of the year.’ — The Sunday Times


“There is a space between life and death: it’s called waxworks”

The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals alike, who transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud.

In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Alsace. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and . . . at the wax museum, heads are what they do.

Edward Carey’s Little is a wonder – the incredible story of a ‘blood-stained crumb of a girl’ who went on to shape the world

Published by Aardvark Bureau

Purchase Links

Belgravia Books – with signed print £14.99

hive.co.uk

waterstones

MY REVIEW

What a way to start off my reading year in 2019! This was an astonishing piece of historical fiction and I cannot recommend this highly enough as I’m sure you’ll fall in love with ‘Little’ Marie as she comes from very humble beginnings to being part of the world of wax that still lives on now!

When Marie loses both parents before she turns 6, she finds herself taken under the wing of Doctor Curtius, a peculiar and quirky man who creates body parts from wax, and their bond is particularly touching.

When they move to Paris their relationship changes, the Doctor has his head turned by the ‘widow’ and Marie soon finds herself in a particularly sad and lonely space. The treatment she suffers is heartbreaking but she refuses to crack under the pressure and just hows how spirited she is and how determined she is to make something of her life.

The connection between various characters is what makes this book I think, along with the wonderful settings and situations that Marie finds herself in. From being beaten, to living amongst the splendour of the palace of Versailles – I just couldn’t put this book down at times as it was just so beautifully written and staged.

The addition of beautiful illustrations scattered throughout the book really added to the reading experience and I’m just itching to pick this back up and enjoy it all over again! It was a wonderful story that really connected the historic moments in the life of Marie with humour, sadness, creativity and tenderness.

Already guaranteed to be on my best books of 2019 list and we’re only a few days into January! Need I say anymore!!

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#BookReview The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

About the book

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

Richard Flanagan’s story — of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle’s wife — journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho’s travel journal, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds.

Published by Vintage Books

Literary Awards Man Booker Prize (2014)Miles Franklin Literary Award Nominee (2014)Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Fiction (2014)Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Book Award for Book of the Year (2014)Bad Sex in Fiction Award Nominee (2014)The Athens Prize for Literature – Περιοδικό (δέ)κατα (2016)Prix Relay des Voyageurs Nominee (2016)Andrew Carnegie Medal Nominee for Fiction (2015)Queensland Literary Awards for Fiction Book (2014)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2014)Waterstones Book of the Year Nominee (2014)International DUBLIN Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2015)

Purchase Link
hive.co.uk


MY REVIEW


Listened to the audio version of this via the Borrowbox app from the library.

An astonishing story full of love, loss and the horrors of war from a variety of perspectives. It’s also the tale before, during and after of the impacts of relationships and atrocities witnessed have on those involved. And yes there are some cliche moments dotted throughout, but overall this is historical fiction written exceedingly well and you’re left haunted and deeply moved emotionally in equal measures.

The story centres around Dorrigo Evans and his extraordinary life and through his memories we get to witness a love affair that was doomed from the start, his time at a prisoner of war camp in Japan where friendships were formed and the darkest times witnessed, and to life after the war and how being back in the real world felt so hollow and his thoughts would often go back to the past and what he had lived through and lost.

The strongest part of the book for me was the time of War, and the way it was told from the perspective of the prisoners alongside that of the Japanese officers were equally powerful. The despair on both sides of what they were experiencing wasn’t easy reading at times but made for such a compelling story.

An extraordinary story and one I was glad to hear the author reading on the audio version.
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#BlogTour None So Blind by Alis Hawkins #Excerpt #BookReview @DomePress

Delighted to be the latest stop on the Blog Tour for the wonderful NONE SO BLIND by ALIS HAWKINS. My thanks to the author and the publishers, The Dome Press, for inviting me to be part of it all!

Will be sharing my review of this book today along with an extract which will hopefully give you a little flavour of what the book is abut! It’s one you need to add to your TBR pile!

About the book

West Wales, 1850.

When an old tree root is dug up, the remains of a young woman are found. Harry Probert-Lloyd, a young barrister forced home from London by encroaching blindness, has been dreading this discovery. He knows exactly whose bones they are.

Working with his clerk, John Davies, Harry is determined to expose the guilty. But the investigation turns up more questions than answers.

The search for the truth will prove costly. But will Harry and John be the ones to pay the highest price?

Published by The Dome Press


Purchase Links

The Dome Press  £6.29

hive.co.uk  £7.75

book depository  £8.99

About the Author

Alis Hawkins grew up on a dairy farm in Cardiganshire. She left to read English at Oxford and has done various things with her life, including bringing up two amazing sons, selling burgers, working with homeless people and helping families to understand their autistic children. And writing, always.

Radio plays (unloved by anybody but her), nonfiction (autism related), plays (commissioned by heritage projects) and of course, novels.

Her current historical crime series featuring blind investigator Harry Probert-Lloyd and his chippy assistant John Davies, is set in her childhood home, the Teifi Valley. As a side effect, instead of making research trips to sunny climes, like some of her writer friends, she just drives up the M4 to see her folks.

Alis speaks Welsh, collects rucksacks and can’t resist an interesting fact.

Twitter: @Alis_Hawkins

Website: http://www.alishawkins.co.uk

None So Blind – extract

Gus’s curiosity was palpable as we stood in the stableyard waiting for the horses. Only his wariness of listening ears was saving me from an interrogation. Having told him that human remains had been found, I had avoided any questions he might have asked by fleeing upstairs, ostensibly to change but, in actual fact, to quell the shaking that had taken hold of me.

Bones confirmed what I had always feared. She was dead. But buried? Buried implied a second party. It implied – no, surely it was evidence of – murder.

A stable boy led the horses out and held them while we mounted up. ‘How far is it?’ Gus asked, nodding to the boy and taking up the reins.

‘Five minutes or so.’ In fact, had we set out to walk instead of changing and waiting for the horses, we would almost have been there by now. But it would not have done to arrive on foot. Williams of Waungilfach would have felt slighted and it was altogether too soon to allow my father to begin finding fault with me.

In two minutes we were trotting through the gates at the end of the drive. I urged my little mare up the hill towards Treforgan and we passed the hamlet’s open-fronted forge, made our way down the steep little hill past the silent, weekday chapel and the mill with its rhythmically thumping wheel, and found ourselves on the edge of the river meadows where the flat pasture was bounded by the wooded slope of the Alltddu.

Eyes averted so as to give me an impression of the path ahead, was aware of the stiff, leafless cages of last summer’s brambles lining the edge of the path and my mind’s eye conjured up memories of an exuberance of black-spattered bushes rambling up the slope. Blackberries and wild strawberries and damsons – we had picked them all. My mouth puckered at the memory of the sharp sweetness of those damsons, those days.

A sudden greeting snatched me back to the present. ‘Henry Probert-Lloyd!’

William Williams. The sound of his voice brought a slew of unpleasant recollections and I fought down an old anger. ‘Good day to you, Mr Williams.’ I dismounted and found my reins being taken by Ianto Harris.

‘I barely recognised you,’ Williams sounded somewhat resentful.

‘You look quite different!’

My hand rose involuntarily to my beard; even I was not used to it, yet, but its novelty did not excuse his tone. I gave what I hoped was a sufficiently forced smile to act as a dignified rebuke and proceeded to introduce Gus before clarifying why I had come instead of my father.

‘Yes, I see,’ Williams said. ‘It’s good of you to come yourself, of course, but I think I would rather wait until your father can attend to this himself.’

I stiffened. I might have been little more than a boy the last time Williams and I had had dealings with each other but I was a barrister now and more than competent to deputise for a magistrate.

‘Is it not,’ I suggested, ‘simply a case of confirming that these remains are human and sending for the coroner?’ Both of which Williams might have done already, had he not been so afraid of being seen to overreach himself.

‘Your father is a county magistrate—’

‘That’s hardly a necessary qualification, surely?’

‘No but, I think we should wait—’

‘And I am quite sure that he would wish us to act like sensible men’ – let him take that as a compliment if he felt so inclined – ‘and deal with this ourselves.’

Unable to look Williams in the eye and utterly unwilling to tell him why, I turned my head towards the wooded slope beside us. She was up there. That was where she had been for the last seven years. Despite all my desperate hopes and wild imaginings, she had been here all along. Dead, as I had feared. But murder… I had not, for a second, entertained that thought.

MY REVIEW

The dark and brooding cover gives you a little glimpse of what to expect when you start reading this new historical mystery series, and it’s compelling stuff from the first page to the last!

There’s a very dramatic prologue that jumps you straight into a chaotic scene and really helps set the atmosphere for what is about to follow!  When a body is found it sets everyone back to remembering one dark night, none more so than  Harry Probert-Lloyd who was dreading this discovery and is put in charge of investigating just what went on to end in such tragedy.  He is a barrister who is beginning to lose his sight, but refuses to admit defeat,and teams up with a clerk, John Davies, to track down those responsible.Both characters are quite headstrong so often go off on their own quests and I found these characters, who both have flaws of their own, make for much more interesting people to follow!

Their investigations take them amongst family and friends, and over to Ipswich as well to track down those who have moved away, and you’re always wondering why they keep finding dead ends or those who are just plain uncooperative.  The closer they get to the truth, the more troubling it is for them to want to believe.

Harry and John work so well together as a team! They upset a number of people with their questions but also aren’t afraid to work behind each others backs – they know they’re not perfect human beings but they don’t care and I think they respect that in each other!  

This is a book filled with  dark secrets and  lies, lost loves and plenty of twists and turns to keep you turning the pages with anticipation!  Can’t wait for more in this series!!

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My thanks to The Dome Press for my copy in return for a fair and honest review. Please check out the other stops on the Blog Tour!

Happy Reading!