Anne Bonny #BookReview The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead 4.5* #Historical #LiteraryReads #NickelBoys

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The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
My Own Copy ~ Hardback

Synopsis ~

Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. Abandoned by his parents, brought up by his loving, strict and clearsighted grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But given the time and the place, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, which claims to provide ‘physical, intellectual and moral training’ which will equip its inmates to become ‘honorable and honest men’.

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a chamber of horrors, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife, where corrupt officials and tradesmen do a brisk trade in supplies intended for the school, and where any boy who resists is likely to disappear ‘out back’. Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King’s ringing assertion, ‘Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.’ But Elwood’s fellow inmate and new friend Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse; the world is crooked, and the only way to survive is to emulate the cruelty and cynicism of their oppressors.

The tension between Elwood’s idealism and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision which will have decades-long repercussions.

Based on the history of a real reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped and destroyed the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative by a great American novelist whose work is essential to understanding the current reality of the United States.

My Review ~

Publication day for the long awaited new Colson Whitehead novel, finally arrived!
The Nickel Boys is an emotive and thought provoking title. The novel is loosely based around a real life true case of systemic abuse at a borstal type facility in 1960s America. Whilst the novel deals with themes of physical/emotional/sexual abuse, it does so in a sensitive manner. Only using scenes of violence to portray the fear within the boys and the complete and utter control their abusers have over them.

The novel is set in 1960s America the fight for civil rights is a backstory within the boys lives. But unfortunately equal rights will not come quick enough for Elwood and Turner. The boys come from very differing backgrounds, although both have known the emotional pain of abandonment and loss. Despite their different out looks on life, they instantly bond at the Nickel Academy. Their friendship will be the only saving grace during their time of detainment.

How do you follow-up a title as powerful as The Underground Railroad? How do you ever emulate a title that has had such global appeal and massive success?
Colson Whitehead has picked a real life part of history and used it to display how institutional racism gives way to abuse and even murder.
Life at the Nickel Academy is one of brutalisation, humiliation and loss of power for the boys detained there. How anyone can ever conceive that this environment would enable young men to make the changes they need, one can never truly know.
What the boys need is love, acceptance and a chance to learn. But there is NONE of that at the Nickel Academy.

I haven’t included any quotes in this review, as the title is only 208 pages. I raced through them at breakneck speed. leaving no time for note taking. Colson Whitehead has an exceptional way with words and there were many opportunities to quote moving passages.

The Nickel Boys is a hard-hitting title which is perfect for book groups, debate and discussion. I have a feeling it will stay with readers for a long time after the closing pages are finally turned!

Literary food for the soul, heart and the brain. 4.5*

CW
Colson Whitehead
Website
Twitter
Check out the authors website for news on the TV adaption of The Underground railroad and also for links to the real-life case behind The Nickel Boys.

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Anne Bonny #BookReview Dead Man’s Daughter by @RozWatkins 4.5* @HQstories #CrimeFiction #MegDalton #Series #2 #Derbyshire #Thriller

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Dead Man’s Daughter by Roz Watkins ~ DI Meg Dalton #2
Review Copy

Synopsis ~

She was racing towards the gorge. The place the locals knew as ‘Dead Girl’s Drop’…

DI Meg Dalton is thrown headlong into her latest case when she finds a ten-year-old girl running barefoot through the woods in a blood-soaked nightdress. In the house nearby, the girl’s father has been brutally stabbed to death.

At first Meg suspects a robbery gone tragically wrong, but something doesn’t add up. Why does the girl have no memory of what happened to her? And why has her behaviour changed so dramatically since her recent heart transplant?

The case takes a chilling turn when evidence points to the girl’s involvement in her own father’s murder. As unsettling family secrets emerge, Meg is forced to question her deepest beliefs to discover the shocking truth, before the killer strikes again…

My Review ~

‘Please stop. I can feel. I’m still here’

Di Meg Dalton is summoned to Bellhurst House via a phone call from concerned citizen Elaine Grant. What Meg discovers is a distressed and disorientated little girl (Abbie) of 8/9yrs of age. The girl has what appears to be track marks on her arms, yet otherwise unharmed. She claims to be running from her father…

‘Everyone always dies’ – Abbie

When Meg arrives at the family home, she finds the father of Abbie dead with his throat slit. The mother Rachel is aggressive towards Meg, she claims to be the victim of a stalker. With Abbie’s sister Jess having died years ago due to suicide. Meg must ask the uncomfortable questions and seek the truth of just what has been happening at Bellhurst House?

The family background is revealed and as Meg digs deeper and deeper. We learn that this is far from a happy home. But who is the victim and who is the attacker…

‘Child suspects were treated as victims’

There are diverse characters wrapped up in a complex mystery. There are multiple themes that have been extensively researched and HUGE respect to the author for that. Meg Dalton’s character generates more personality in this title. Maybe this is due to the nature of some of the themes. Or just that she is developing well into cracking protagonist. Either way, this is a great second title in the series. 4.5*

RW
Roz Watkins
Website
Twitter
An Extract of Dead Man’s Daughter
My Review of The Devil’s Dice and Q&A with Roz watkins

Anne Bonny #BookReview A Spark Of Light by @jodipicoult 4.5* #NewRelease #LiteraryFiction @HodderBooks

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A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult
Review Copy
Synopsis:

The Center for women’s reproductive health offers a last chance at hope – but nobody ends up there by choice.

Its very existence is controversial, and to the demonstrators who barricade the building every day, the service it offers is no different from legalised murder.

Now life and death decisions are being made horrifyingly real: a lone protester with a gun has taken the staff, patients and visitors hostage.

Starting at the tensest moment in the negotiations for their release, A Spark of Light unravels backwards, revealing hour by urgent hour what brought each of these people – the gunman, the negotiator, the doctors, nurses and women who have come to them for treatment – to this point.

And certainties unwind as truths and secrets are peeled away, revealing the complexity of balancing the right to life with the right to choose.

My Review:

Jodi Picoult follows up her previous literary novel Small Great Things, with another novel that centres around a contemporary moral issue. With Small Great Things the focus was on race and racism. With A Spark Of Light, the focus is on abortion rights and female reproductive rights.

The author has been very clever is the way the narrative is written. She never takes a stance on either side of the debate, she simply allows the characters from both sides of the debate to tell their stories. So whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, this would make for a thought-provoking read.

The novel works in a backwards storyline, starting with the huge event (a gun man entering an abortion clinic) and telling the stories of the individuals and how they came to be their that day. Not just the female patients but the staff members and the people accompanying the patients.
It isn’t long until we discover that one of the young women inside is a 15yr old girl named Wren. And Wren isn’t just anyone’s daughter, she is the daughter of the hostage negotiator brought into deal with the armed man.

‘She shouldn’t have come here she should have stayed a little girl’ – Wren 15yrs

The gunman is named George Goddard and slowly we begin to learn his backstory and why he has entered the clinic with an eye for revenge. . .
‘An eye, a life for a life’

The novel informs us of the backstory of the 5 hostages held inside and the owner and doctor who run the clinic. I was absolutely captivated by their stories and they felt so incredibly real. It wasn’t until I got to the authors note that I realised the depth of research the author has undertaken on the topic.
It really is worthy of your time to read this part of the novel.

The novel does detail the communication between the gunman and the negotiator and we learn both men’s history’s as they attempt to share their personal stake in this situation. But only one man can put down the gun and give up, a man that it seems is beyond reaching. . .
‘Some men wear responsibility and some men are worn by it’

The novel also covers a completely separate abortion case. One of a young woman arrested for taking abortion medicines, because in the state of Alabama although abortion may be legal, there are strict legal guidelines to be followed and adhered too. If this legislation is not followed to the letter, the woman may find herself facing a lengthy sentence as does 17yr old Beth.

‘We are all capable of things we never imagined’

Although the novel is a fictional story HEAVILY based upon facts, research and statistics. You as the reader do become dis-attached from the reality. That is when Jodi Picoult cleverly reminds us of the real-life case of Roe v wade. As a UK reader, I know that Roe v Wade is an incredibly important piece of legislation; but I was unaware of who Norma McCorvey was and the history that surrounds the 1970’s case. The details are again delivered from an unbiased viewpoint.

Jodi Picoult is not trying to conform readers but asking them to see things from the other side of the debate. It is very intelligently done; and the author deserves to win some awards for her brave take on such a personal issue for many women.
The novel tackles the theme of abortion from various angles: the emotional trauma, religious reasoning by telling the stories of the individuals involved within.
The novel does also cover the shame/stigma associated with choice of abortion and I felt this was a very important theme to include.
‘Good women want to be mothers, bad women don’t’

Personally, I am pro-choice. I wouldn’t personally wish to undertake an abortion and I never have. I don’t believe it is something any woman WANTS to undertake. I just don’t think it is something I could undertake, there is no religious/moral reasoning for this. It is just a personal feeling.
I do however, 100% believe in the legal right for ALL women to have access to safe and accessible abortions. Because every woman in the world does not live my personal circumstances and we must accept that we cannot decide for others. . .
‘It wasn’t sex that made you a woman. It was having to make decisions, sometimes terrible ones’

This novel deals with some tough themes. No matter which side of the fence you sit, your personal views will be challenged by the individual stories.
But I think the author puts it best. . .

‘Laws are black and white. The lives of women are a thousand shades of grey’ – Jodi Picoult

4.5*

JP
Jodi Picoult
Twitter
Website

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #BookReview Lies Between Us by @Ronnie__Turner #NewRelease #PsychologicalThriller #DebutAuthor @HQDigitalUK @HQStories #WhereIsBonnie

Lies Between Us
Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Will they ever learn the truth?
Three people, leading very different lives, are about to be brought together – with devastating consequences . . .

John has a perfect life, until the day his daughter goes missing.
Maisie cares for her patients, but hides her own traumatic past.
Miller should be an innocent child, but is obsessed with something he can’t have.

They all have something in common, though none of them know it – and the truth won’t stay hidden for long . . .

My Review:

‘Not all love is pure
not all love is kind
not all love is true love
some love is blind’

The novel focuses around three central characters. John the father with the perfect life who had it all until his young daughter Bonnie went missing. Maisie the Intensive care unit nurse who cares deeply for her patients; and Miller an innocent child with a dark and deadly home life.

The novel opens in 1992 with a traumatic scene from Miller’s childhood, one that will go on to shape the man he becomes. . .
‘Sweet girl. Funny girl. Dead girl’

We then jump to 2015 and the disappearance of author John Graham’s 6yr old daughter Bonnie. John lives with his pregnant artist wife Jules in Oxford and until the disappearance of their daughter they had the picture perfect life.
Is someone targeting John? If so, why?

We then move to 2016 and meet Maisie Green an ICU nurse treating coma patient Tim. Maisie becomes involved in Tim’s life and personal backstory due to the nature of his circumstances. Tim was attacked and left for dead. His devastated wife and daughter regularly visit; and this draws Maisie deeper into their lives.

‘I’ll start with my family because you know the beginning is just as important as the end’ – Miller
Miller’s backstory is harrowing, and I became quite obsessed with his character. I was desperate to know if Miller really is the victim of abuse, or if Miller just perceives himself to be the victim? You have to read his scenes and inner thoughts to fully try to grasp his character. It does not make for easy reading.

‘It isn’t death that fascinates me. It is life’ – Miller

The biggest mystery within the novel is #WhereIsBonnie? Who has taken her and why. The chapters are short, sharp and stick to the point. The author provides you breadcrumb like clues to each of the individual characters.
But will you be smart enough to figure it out?
When John begins to receive threatening notes and photos the tension and suspense is really ramped up!

‘Bonnie is a piece of weaponry in the kidnapper’s arsenal’

The author has written an intelligent and well crafted plot. That instantly reminded me of, Why Did You Lie by Yrsa Sigadottir. It isn’t all the mini/sub plots that give this novel it’s intelligence but how they all eventually come together.

I was 80% of the way through the novel and had no idea how the novel would tie up.
A menacing and taunting psychological thriller, from an author with a bright future ahead of her. 4.5*

Author Photo 2
Ronnie Turner
Website
Twitter

*Apologies to Ronnie & HQ, that my post is a few days late, I have been laid up with flu*

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***

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Anne Bonny #BookReview My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent #Literary @4thEstateBooks A dark, painful and haunting literary novel 4.5*

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My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
Synopsis:

‘You think you’re invincible. You think you won’t ever miss. We need to put the fear on you. You need to surrender yourself to death before you ever begin, and accept your life as a state of grace, and then and only then will you be good enough.’

At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall;
That chaos is coming and only the strong will survive it;
That her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world.
And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him.

She doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school;
Why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see;
Why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done
And what her daddy will do when he finds out …

Sometimes strength is not the same as courage.
Sometimes leaving is not the only way to escape.
Sometimes surviving isn’t enough.

My Review:

You won’t meet many protagonists quite like Turtle Alveston. What makes Turtle so unique, is what draws you in and won’t let go. I became fascinated with seeing how life worked out for this young woman. Yet at times her story haunted me, with its darkness. It is definitely not for the faint of heart….

Julia Alveston aka Turtle is 14yrs old. She is struggling at school and has a twisted relationship with her father. They live in the rural isolation of Slaughterhouse Creek. Turtle is both socially and emotionally isolated. When I heard her internal dialogue, I was not only shocked. But I wanted to reach out to her and protect her, where others have failed to do so. Her teacher and grandfather are aware that things are not as they should be at home. But both feel that without confirmation there is little that can be done.

‘Misogyny, isolation, watchfulness. These are three big red flags’ Anna – Turtle’s teacher.

“Goddamn it Martin, this is no way to raise a little girl” – Grandpa

What follows is a novel that is vague, yet descriptive and subtle yet heart-breaking. The isolation, survival strategies and fear of Turtle’s father Martin, take over. It is obvious he claims ownership of Turtle and it becomes a battle of wills.
As one young girl is desperate to retain control of her most valued possession, her mind!

‘Her mind cannot be taken by force’

The rural setting really adds to the scene of this broken family and Turtle’s father’s obsession with the ‘end of the world’. Whilst he shows concern for the outer world and their ignorance. He doesn’t take responsibility for how his own attitudes and values, undermine Turtle’s basic emotional fundamentals. There is often a simmering silence in the house and you feel on edge as you turn the page. Wondering what shocking abuse, you will be forced to bear witness to next.

‘He is a big silent presence beside her’

But things begin to change one day for Turtle, when she stumbles across two young boys lost in the woods. Brett and Jacob show Turtle a world that is previously unknown to her. They show her what it is to be a typical teenager about the small town they live in. She is as drawn to them, as they are to her. With Jacob being her intellectual equal, we see in Turtle’s beliefs. Her internal thoughts on women are challenged, and she finally has the opportunity to question if this is how she wants to live.

‘This is me. This is who I am, and this is where I live’ – Turtle

When Turtle’s father discovers her meetings with Jacob, he is furious. You get the sense he feels a slip, in his control over his daughter. He berates her using the term ‘you are mine’ and the violence, ownership and threats continue. There’s a moment in the novel where Turtle goes to sleep thinking of her father’s hatred of her. This moved me to tears and I thought, what could be more painful to a girl with no mother….

Sometimes it takes getting lost to be saved!

I’ve struggled to put my words together to compose my review. It took several days to actually process, what I had just read. A psychologist would have a field day with Turtle. But that’s not the intention of this novel, the idea is to see things through the eyes of Turtle Alveston. They are heavy, painful and weary eyes. But they are worthy, nonetheless.
A dark, painful and haunting literary novel 4.5*

GT
Gabriel Tallent
Website