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 #BlogTour #BookReview Something To Live For by @richardroper 5* #NewRelease #LiteraryFiction @orionbooks #FeelGoodFiction #FindYourSomething

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Something To Live For by Richard Roper
Review Copy

Synopsis ~

Sometimes you have to risk everything to find your something…

All Andrew wants is to be normal. He has the perfect wife and 2.4 children waiting at home for him after a long day. At least, that’s what he’s told people.

The truth is, his life isn’t exactly as people think and his little white lie is about to catch up with him.

Because in all Andrew’s efforts to fit in, he’s forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it’s about time for him to start.

Your favourite authors have all got Something to Live For…

My Review ~

‘Andrew looked at the coffin and tried to remember who was inside’

Our protagonist Andrew, has a job working with the local council. His primary role is to locate the family of deceased residents and organise ‘paupers’ funerals. Something which is explained in much better detail than I could do it justice.
Andrew is 42yrs old, as we begin to read we learn he has been at the department for 5yrs. His boss, Cameron Yates puts him in charge of showing their new employee Peggy Green how to perform various roles and this is when Andrew’s life begins to change.

There is a flashback scene to 5yrs previously and we learn how Andrew came to spin the yarn that is ‘a wife and 2 children’. His ‘wife’ Diane and two kids Steph and David, simply don’t exist. But there is a whole story to their lives.
I actually found Andrew’s story quite heart-warming. He’s just a man desperate to fit in and in his ambition to seem ‘normal’ accidentally ends up having to follow a lie for five whole years!!!!!

‘I just wanted to feel normal’

We also learn of Andrew’s family background. His parents are long gone and within the story, he receives some shocking news about his free-spirit sister Sally too. Andrew really is a man with no such luck!

‘Have you ever imagined your own funeral?’

Something To Live For is the perfect novel for fans of Rowan Coleman’s The Summer Of Impossible Things Also for fans of Mike Gayle’s The Man I Think I Know with a dash of Adrian Mole. An easy feel-good read, I raced through the pages. 5*

‘I spend half my life daydreaming about what I’d be doing with myself If I wasn’t stuck where I was…’ 

RR
Richard Roper
Website
Twitter

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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #BookReview The River by Peter Heller 4* #NewRelease #LiteraryFiction #Mystery @wnbooks #Survival #Canada

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The River by Peter Heller
Review Copy

Synopsis ~

Two friends
Wynn and Jack have been best friends since their first day of college, brought together by their shared love of books and the great outdoors.

The adventure of a lifetime
When they decide to take time off university and canoe down the Maskwa River in northern Canada, they anticipate the ultimate wilderness experience.
No phones.
No fellow travellers.
No way of going back.

A hellish ride
But as a raging wildfire starts to make its way towards them, their expedition becomes a desperate race for survival. And when a man suddenly appears, claiming his wife has vanished, the fight against nature’s destructive power becomes entangled with a much deadlier game of cat and mouse.

My Review ~

‘The only tracks in the mud of the portages were wolf and moose, otter, bear’

The prologue warns us of a local forest fire. The opening within this title is at times difficult, with the intensity of the story and the descriptive writing. But once Wynn and Jack’s Backstory is revealed it does become a much easier read. Their childhood and family relationships are explored and we come to understand what drives them to want to be alone in the wilderness.

‘There should be two paddles, a man and a woman’
On their trek down river they come across a man (Pierre) alone. He talks of a missing wife named Maia, but she is nowhere to be seen. Wynn and Jack are torn as what to do, they are not only battling natures elements but the elements of great danger with a forest fire quickly spreading. They decide to venture back to the couples camp and assess the situation from there. On the journey back, 10 days of provisions are lost and things don’t look any brighter when they arrive at the couple’s camp, to find Maia, a victim of a violent attack.

Who did this to Maia? Was this a bear attack? A domestic violence incident?
Who can Wynn and Jack trust? 

‘It’s a death sentence’ 

The remote location really adds to the sense of despair and isolation from assistance. There are various scenarios for Pierre and Maia’s plight, scenarios both Wynn and Jack attempt to understand. The hunger, exposure or the elements and exhaustion seeps from the pages. I really felt as though I was on the river, in a kayak, with the characters.
I raced through the pages in less than 3hrs, a perfect Saturday afternoon read! 4*

PH
Peter Heller
GoodReads

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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract The Dangerous Kind by @deboc77 #NewRelease #Thriller #Psychological #LiteraryFiction @zaffrebooks #1in100People

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The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor
Review To Follow

Synopsis ~

Perfect for fans of Anatomy of A Scandal, He Said/She Said, and Belinda Bauer, The Dangerous Kind is at once a gripping thriller and a stunning portrayal of the monsters that live among us.

One in 100 of us is a ‘potentially dangerous person’ – someone likely to commit a violent crime. We all know them: these charmers, liars and manipulators. The ones who send prickles up the back of our neck. These people hide in plain sight, they can be teachers, doctors, holding positions of trust, of power.

Jessamine Gooch makes a living tracking the 1 in 100. Each week she broadcasts a radio show that examines brutal offences, asking if more could have been done to identify and prevent their perpetrators.

But when she agrees to investigate a missing person case involving a young mother, she is drawn into a web of danger that will ultimately lead to the upper echelons of power, and threaten the safety of her own family.

What if the people we trust are the ones we should fear?

Extract ~

I follow him across the garden and out through a gate in the wall. Away from the manor house it is dark, the night sky bloated with snow that has yet to make itself known.
We keep walking, and before long we reach the foot of a muddy hill.
He tackles the incline at speed. I do the same. The hill is steep, and by the time we reach the top we’re both panting. Ahead, a perimeter of ragged orange netting, held taut by iron posts, rings a copse. He lift s a damaged section of the netting into the air.
‘The broadband in this part of the country is rubbish.’ He nods towards the trees. ‘They’ve been digging. New cables.’
I duck underneath and he joins me on the other side. The edge of the copse is overgrown with weeds and brambles. Thorns catch on my coat as we push our way into a small clearing.
‘That’s better.’ He breathes in the cold air. ‘I can think out here.’
The moon is full but the canopied criss-cross of branches means that large patches of the clearing are in shadow. I head for the carcass of a felled tree, covered with moss: the brightest available spot. I’ve been waiting thirteen years for this moment. I want to be sure to see the look on his face.
I don’t notice the hole.
My ankle twists on the precipice. Unable to take my weight, the cliff ledge collapses beneath me and clods of earth crash into the puddles below. I scramble, trying to right myself, but the crumbling soil continues to give way. I am about to topple forwards, into the hole, when I feel his hand clamp my arm.
‘Watch it.’ He yanks me back to safety. ‘That’ll be the digging I warned you about.’
My legs are rickety. I stagger over to the mossy tree trunk and sit down, my breaths short and shallow. My bicep stings. I had forgotten about his hands. His grip. Strong enough to bruise.
He inspects the hole. ‘This must be one of the sites they have yet to fill in.’
I wait until I’ve stopped shaking, then join him at the edge. This time I make sure to keep well back.

The hole is the diameter of a child’s paddling pool and twenty feet deep, the bottom spotted with puddles. The walls are a sheer vertical drop, sliced clean where the machinery has dug down to the layers below, their surface punctuated by white knuckles, tree roots that have pushed out through the mud into thin air.
Now that my eyes have adjusted to the dark I see mounds of dirt lined up on the opposite side of the hole and that a trail of abandoned tools – spades, buckled plastic buckets and odd bits of metal – litters the ground all the way back to the edge of the copse.
‘Come on, then. Out with it.’ He steps forward into a square of moon-light. ‘Why are you here?’
I look at him, standing there in his suit and tie. His brogues are ruined, the tiny holes and scalloped edges clogged with mud. He’s in his late fifties, his features slacker than they once were, but overall he’s aged well.
He’d always dressed smartly: chinos and polo shirts, jeans with a crease pressed down the middle of each leg. But this suit looks expensive. Something about the cut and line of the shoulders, the way the material hangs flush against his shirt.
‘Because it was wrong.’ I try to sound braver than I feel. ‘What you did.
What you tried to do.’
He won’t look at me. Instead he looks slightly to the left of my head, at the trees behind. ‘Is it money? Is that what you want?’
I’d imagined this moment so often. How it would feel to see him again.
Would I be angry? Scared? Now I’m here I feel something I had never anticipated. Disappointment.
‘I told you what happened that night. You promised to help. You lied.’
He scoffs and waves his hand in the air. Filled with a new sense of purpose, he starts to pace up and down, as though he’s dictating a letter and I’m his secretary, there to take notes.
‘I saw you as a favour but now I think it best if you leave.’
‘Times have changed. Back then, no one would listen. Now they’re all ears.’
The hole gapes blackly behind him. ‘I’m going to tell them everything.’
I pause. ‘So are the others.’
He stops pacing. ‘Others?’
‘You passed us round like we were nothing. I don’t care who you are now,’ I gesture back towards the manor house, ‘or who you’re going to be. It’s time you were brought to account.’
‘Whatever it is you think you’re talking about . . .’ he lapses into silence, reaching for some memory, but it won’t come, or he discards it ‘. . . you’re mistaken.’
There is no sound. The temperature has dropped. A sudden hoar.
‘Think about your family. That’s why I’m here. To give you a chance to talk to them before it breaks.’
This was true, but it was more than that. Watching the after effects on the news, him leaving a police station with his lawyer, harried and trying to cover his face with a newspaper, would not be enough. For my own sanity, I needed to be the one to confront him, to take back that bit of control.
He looks at his feet.
I relax a little. I’ve done what I came here to do. He reacted as I’d expected but now he seems to be taking me seriously. He is almost contrite.
He turns, and for the fi rst time since I got here he looks me in the eye.
I think he is going to apologise, to try and explain, but then he raises his hand and, whiplash fast, he slaps me.

DOC
Deborah O’Connor
Website
Twitter

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Deborah O Connor Blogtour FINAL

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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Juliet The Maniac by @julietescoria #LiteraryFiction @melvillehouse

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Juliet The Maniac by Juliet Escoria

Synopsis ~

It’s 1997, and 14-year-old Juliet has it pretty good. But over the course of the next two years, she rapidly begins to unravel, finding herself in a downward trajectory of mental illness and self-destruction that eventually leads to a ‘therapeutic boarding school’ in rural Oregon. From there, deep in the woods of the Northwest, comes an explosive portrayal of teenage life from the perspective of The Bad Friend, and a poignant reflection that refuses the traditional recovery arc. Like Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Cat Marnell’s How to Murder Your Life, Juliet the Maniac offers no clear answers, no definitive finish-line, just the wise acceptance of the challenges ahead. This punchy debut marks the breakout of a bold and singular young writer.

Extract ~

TWIN ETCHINGS

Nicole bought the switchblade when she went down to Tijuana with her mom and dad. They’d let her go off by herself as long as she was back when she’d promised. She pretended to go shopping for dresses but instead went to the nightclubs, where Mexican girls not much older than us blew whistles loud in her face, dumping cheap tequila down her throat. She pretended to swim but instead bought things you couldn’t here, pills that made us sleepy but not high, and, of course, that switchblade. It looked exactly like a joke switchblade I’d had as a kid, one that was actually a comb. Same black and silver handle, same plastic switch, just as flimsy and cheap looking. But the blade was heavy, pale and cold like the moon. She kept the switchblade in her makeup case, alongside the bright lipsticks she often put on but never wore. This was something we did a lot at her house—put on makeup. Everything Nicole owned was expensive: MAC eyeshadow, Clinique foundation, Dior powder, all purchased from Nordstrom or Saks. Nicole was a pro, blending powders on her eyelids and cheeks with gold-handled brushes until she looked like a doll. She plucked my eyebrows high and thin, drew an X across my cupid’s bow before slicking on lipstick, lines smooth and everything perfectly symmetrical. When she finished, I looked just like Drew Barrymore or Clara Bow. I didn’t think anything when she took the switchblade out of her makeup case. We were listening to the Sex Pistols in her new room in her new house, big and empty because they’d just moved in. The music was as loud as it would go, fuzzing the speakers of her gigantic stereo, the wild and quick beat of my heart. She flicked the knife out, held it close to my throat and laughed. Her eyes flickered and she made a face like a crazy killer and I laughed too, nervous, feeling as though for a second she had turned from my best friend into a stranger.

“God, I’m so fat,” she said, releasing me, looking at herself in the full-length mirror. She wasn’t fat. Her arms were thin and her legs were lean but she did have just the smallest ripple of fat on her stomach. “I wish I could just cut this off,” she said, switchblade hovering over her belly button. Her voice went soft, like she was saying it only to herself. “It makes me fucking hate myself.” I had told her she wasn’t fat enough times before, so I said nothing. “Does it hurt?” she asked, pointing to my hip. A few days earlier, we’d gone swimming in her new pool, and as we were changing she saw the scabs, a triangle I’d cut there with a pocketknife, one night secretly in my bedroom. I’d started cutting myself years ago, before I even knew what it was, just this thing to relieve the pressure when I felt too mad or too happy, a letting out of the air. She was the first to notice, and it made me feel naked and embarrassed, the way her eyes had splayed wide. But I realized now that she wasn’t disgusted, didn’t think I was a freak, the way I had thought that day. To her, the cuts made me cool. “No,” I said. “Not if you do it right. If you do it too light, it stings, but if you go just a bit deeper, it feels good.” I didn’t tell her you had to be in the right mood, or that it always hurt the next day. She could think I was tougher than that, even though I wasn’t, even though the whole reason I did it was because I was weak in the first place, a person who couldn’t stand the simple act of being herself. She took the point of the knife into her arm, and I watched her carve a line straight down. I didn’t tell her to stop. I didn’t tell her not to do it on her arm, not ever, but especially not during the summer, especially not a couple weeks before school began, this place on her body where anyone could see. So she drew two more lines, turning the first into an F. I watched her the whole time as she carefully carved each line, perfectly straight and even, like she had written it on paper. The album ended and neither of us got up. She was almost done

with the second T. She acted like it didn’t hurt, didn’t make any noises or faces, and with each line I felt something in myself softening, as though our secret thoughts were creeping out and curling together. This action done for me, to show me she was tough, to show me there was no difference between the two of us. When she was done, she held it up, an art project for me to admire, and I took my finger and smeared the blood in a straight line through the word, crossing it out. FATTY. The one and only thing she hated about herself—her body. I felt a heavy pull to lick her blood, taste its metallic hotness. Instead, I just wiped it on my pants, and later, I couldn’t get it out in the laundry, this copper patch belonging to Nicole, staining my favorite jeans.

JE
Juliet Escoria
Website
Twitter

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