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
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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Crushed by @kate_hamer #NewRelease #LiteraryFiction #Thriller @FaberBooks

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Crushed by Kate Hamer

Synopsis ~

Phoebe stands on Pulteney Bridge, tights gashed from toe to thigh. The shock of mangled metal and blood-stained walls flashes through her mind as she tries to cover her face so she won’t be recognised. It wouldn’t do to be spotted looking like this. She’s missing a shoe. She feels sick.

Phoebe thought murder and murder happened. Thoughts are just thoughts, they said. Now she knows they were wrong.

At home, Phoebe arranges the scissors and knives so they point toward her mother’s room. She is exhausted, making sure there’s no trace of herself – not a single hair, not even her scent – left anywhere in the house. She must not let her thoughts unravel, because if they do, there’s no telling who might be caught in the crossfire, and Phoebe will have to live with the consequences.

Extract ~

Phoebe

It was a book full of hate. The words must have been scratched underground at the dawn of time. They should’ve stayed there and never come to the surface. It set it all off again.
I’ve had to come to the only place that can calm me down. The corner of Pulteney Bridge. The only thing is, I’ve lost a shoe so people keep looking. My tights have an open gash from toe to thigh, flashing bright white flesh. I try to cover my face with my hair so I won’t be recognised. Things get reported back. I don’t know where my bag has gone – perhaps I dropped it on the way and didn’t notice.
I’d been calm as the sea before that book. It may as well have come crawling towards me on its elbows, dragging its black and bursting body behind. I should have heeded the inkling I had straight away that it was a bomb about to explode.
I lean against the cool stone of the bridge and look over the water to the weir. Usually it soothes me, but not today. In this water are hidden many ancient things. Sometimes one pops out – a coin, a tin mask, a figure of a bull, a crown, a pin. People are always surprised. Why should they be? The river is at the end of a vast drain sluicing straight down from the Roman bathhouse.
The sun glints off the water. The ancient buildings look more friendly in this light. It turns their darkness the colour of honey. The trees are full of early summer and shake their leaves in the breeze. Yet despite the bright surroundings I cannot be contained this time and I have to lean further over the wall, sickness cramping my stomach.
I’d tried to explain to Grace.
‘It’s just a book,’ she said. ‘It’s just a dusty old copy with half the pages falling out because they won’t pay for new ones. What are you on about?’
Her soft blue eyes travelled from side to side as she looked behind me. Her hair is cropped close to her head. The sight of it always makes me feel tender because I know she cuts it herself. It’s so short you can see the shape of her pretty little skull. I wanted to get her attention back. I cupped my hand over my mouth and whispered to her, quoting from the text.
‘I’ve been eating on the “insane root” again. Not now. Not today. A couple of weeks ago.’
Her eyes snapped back on my face and she nodded and gave a little laugh. ‘I’m partial to a few substances myself.’ Then she frowned. ‘You want to be careful, though, you know. Stuff like that can be dangerous.’
I turned away from her. I was bored of tellings-off. I felt light and free. Nothing bad was going to happen. It was just the warm day that had made me feel there could be a bomb, and Mr Jonasson being so close. All the pieces of me that had flown out came back and began fitting themselves together safely with hardly any gaps left in between.
That’s where it should’ve stopped.
But, no. I had to take it further, didn’t I? I had to go on testing myself, trying things out.
I’ve been told once, thoughts are just that by a woman with a face that looked like a little pussy-cat. The more I stared at her the more she seemed to resemble one.
Usually my tests are of the mundane kind. If I think There will be a red car when I turn this corner, perhaps there will be one. What if I wish for blackberry ice cream on the menu and there it is? If I want that plate to fall, it might and shatter on the stone floor. If, if, if, if. The results so far have been inconclusive.
Not this time.
It must’ve been the darkness of the story that made me do it. It was to show myself it couldn’t happen, that the light and airy feeling was how things were going to be from now on. One last little time, I thought. TRY IT OUT.
Was it five or ten minutes later we heard the commotion? Perhaps I was the only one that went towards it. I slipped out and ran down the road until I saw. There was mangled
metal. Blood ran down the walls.
I froze a good few moments before I ran again.
I reach for the front door key that I wear on a heavy chain around my neck. It’s more precious to me than any piece of jewellery could ever be. Hard won. I clasp it now like a rosary. There’s probably keys down there in the water too, along with the other old Roman stuff washed down from the baths. I can almost see it all, bubbling up to the top. Statues and pendants and nails surfacing at once in a thick and filthy mass, and I feel sick again and have to lean right over the wall. A car behind me beeps, once, loudly. They thought I was about to fall, or jump. Maybe I was. I need to move, but maybe I don’t have a choice.

Orla

Well, that was sickening.
I feel shaken to the pit of my stomach as I walk away. They haven’t got enough tents to cover it all up because the blood goes right along the wall on Walcot Street. They were trying to do it in the chaos and then they made everyone drive or walk away and closed the road as quick as they could. Horrific. Stuff like this just doesn’t happen in a place like Bath. I didn’t mean to look but it’s hard not to. It was mesmerising. It’s unbelievable how much blood people have in them. The red was in a stripe coming out from the back of the plastic they’ve rigged up. I could see how it had got cemented in between the blackened old stones and I wondered how they were ever going to get it out. They’ll have to scrape right into the gaps and use hoses so there’ll be a wash of pink water swirling across the road.
Behind the yellow tape there’s people trundling around in white plastic suits now. They look so out of place against all that dirty ancient stone, it’s like flickering beings have been beamed in from the future. My heart feels like it’s never going to slow down to its usual pace. I want to cry so badly. I’m only trying to hold on until I get home. I concentrate hard on looking at the normal little things I see every day to keep me going until I can wail in my bedroom. There’s a shop of mirrors full of glitter. There’s the giant carved head looming over the undertaker’s door – Bath is full of odd things like that, carvings and statues and old buildings. When I was little I always used to whisper ‘Hello’ to the head as I passed because he looked like he was asking, ‘Is it your turn yet? Will you be next?’ And I thought starting a conversation might please him so he’d decide not to choose me. He seems to be staring extra hard and pointedly today. It must be because of what just happened. ‘Hello,’ I whisper in a trembling voice. ‘Not me right now. I’m not ready.’
By the time I get to the fruit shop with bright green plastic grass in the window, my breathing has stopped hurting so much.
How many times and in different lights and times of day have I seen all these ordinary things? Hundreds. Thousands. I try to make them take the place of what I’ve just seen.
That’s when I see Phoebe’s bag dumped in the shop doorway. The sickness returns. What’s happened to her? What’s happened to her? I pick the bag up and stand, rubbing the striped canvas between my fingers, wondering what to do. It seems strangely violent, this familiar bag being here that I’ve seen a million times, swinging on Phoebe’s shoulder, the hard outline of books showing through the fabric. It’s not exactly her dumped body but something makes me think of it. I hug it close, shaking now. God, she frightens me sometimes. It terrifies me the way she carries on. My heart lurches: what if it’s her that’s been killed on Walcot Street? What if it was her blood I saw? I close my eyes and sway, the idea being so shockingly awful. No, it can’t be. I won’t allow myself to think that. I’ll never make it back.
I hurry on, the taste of home so strong now it’s almost on my tongue. I can’t wait to collapse inside and feel safe, to phone Phoebe and make sure she’s all right. But up ahead are Belinda and her crew, and they’re walking so slowly I’ll have no choice but to pass them – it’ll look too odd if I slow down to their pace behind.
As I catch up with them their tense bright faces tighten towards me.
‘Orla, did you see it?’ Samantha’s eyes are starry with the sight of the blood. The ribbon of it in the sun is still glittering her eyes.
‘Yes. Horrible.’
We all nod even though I can see it’s put a spring in all their steps. They’ll go home and dissect it together, crouching on one of their beds with their arms around their knees and big, pointy-cornered smiles on their faces they can’t wipe off they’re so excited.
It’s such a beautiful day. The sky is a perfect blue. I have an intense longing to be off this dusty pavement with these girls clucking and mauling over the horror like they’re actually sticking their fingers into it and dabbling there. I think of our garden just down the road. It’s my favourite place in the world. Walled in on three sides and with an apple tree in the middle. In the summer, green vines crawl up the brickwork and the scent of the passion flowers passes over me. Mum and Dad aren’t really that into it so I can poke about in there to my heart’s content. Even when it’s cold I’ll sit out on the bench wrapped in a blanket. In the winter the plants have their own bare beauty with all their bones and pods showing like they’ve been turned inside out. I need to be there now.
‘Got to go.’ A wave of awkwardness washes over me. What’s wrong with me? I can’t even make a quick getaway without breaking into a terrible sweat.
‘Hey,’ Belinda calls after me. ‘What was it Grace was saying today?’
I shrug like I don’t know but I heard perfectly well. I was sitting right next to her. Someone had just read a piece out from the supplementary notes. It was Simon, I think.
‘The role of the witch is to demonstrate the female, intuitive, otherworldly power of the mind.’
And while we were all pondering it, supposedly thinking about discussion points, Grace came up with one of her own.
She said, ‘Did somebody actually write this shit?’
It wasn’t even under her breath. In a way it was kind of thrilling, like breaking the law must be.
Everyone heard but nothing happened about it. It never does. She gets away with anything because of her circumstances. Grace might be only sixteen, while Phoebe and me are seventeen, but Grace always seems by far the oldest – as if she’s twice our age and she’s been married and had three kids already.
Finally I see our house and the face of it seems like the sweetest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. As I’m trying to get the key into the lock, the door opens and I collapse inside into Mum’s arms.
‘Did you see?’ she asks. ‘Carol from church just called and told me what’s happened. She’s stuck in the traffic.’
I nod and I can feel my mouth turning down so sharp at the corners it actually hurts.
‘Oh Orla.’ She hugs me tight. ‘My darling, darling girl. I was hoping you hadn’t. I was hoping you’d never have to witness something like that.’

KH
Kate Hamer
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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Giveaway (UK & IRL only) The Lost Letters Of William Woolf by @wordsofhelen #LiteraryFiction @MichaelJBooks

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The Lost Letters Of William Woolf by Helen Cullen
Review To Follow

Synopsis ~

Lost letters have only one hope for survival . . .

Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries. Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names – they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’ his work takes on new meaning.

Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn’t know were possible. Soon he begins to wonder: Could William be her great love?

William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.

hc
Helen Cullen
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GIVEAWAY – (UK & IRL only) ~

*To be in with a chance of winning a paperback copy of The Lost Letters Of William Woolf, simply RT the pinned post @annebonnybook. If you do not have Twitter, simply comment on this blog post or the Facebook page Anne Bonny Book Reviews.
I will draw the prize tomorrow AM.*

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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
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Man I Think I know by @mikegayle 5* #Literary @HodderBooks ‘This novel isn’t just about emotion. It actively challenges the view of disability and personal struggle’

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The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Ever since The Incident, James DeWitt has stayed on the safe side.

He likes to know what happens next.

Danny Allen is not on the safe side. He is more past the point of no return.

The past is about to catch up with both of them in a way that which will change their lives forever, unexpectedly.

But redemption can come in the most unlikely ways.

My Review:

I actually got completely and utterly confused in the synopsis of this novel. I thought it was a modern-day version of Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter. I wrongly assumed it was a story of romance between James and Danny. It is not!
That’s not to say, it isn’t just as beautiful and emotive in it’s creation.
The novel focuses on the friendship between Danny and James.
Which is a tender, moving and inspiring story.

‘Some people are simply beyond redemption or salvation or whatever, some of us are simply stuck being what we are’ – Danny

The novel opens to Danny getting the upsetting news that his dole is about to be stopped. He lives with his girlfriend Maya, whom he knows will be furious to discover this. Danny is 36yrs old and appears to have simply given up with life. He applies for a position at Four Oaks residential & respite home. He doesn’t do this to improve the lives of others, but simply to find easy and quick employment. He has no idea, how this choice will have a massive impact upon his life.

James is also 36yrs old, he is learning to adapt his lifestyle due to a savage and brutal attack. James was once a wealthy and privileged property develop. He was celebrating being elected as Labour MP for Birmingham South, when he was viciously assaulted. The attack left him with life-changing disabilities. He lives with his parents and enters the respite centre, so that his parents can enjoy a three-week cruise.
It has been three years since the incident that changed his life. Since the incident James has lived a life of ‘playing it safe’ which by my interpretation is surviving not living.

‘Ever since the incident the safe side is all I get to know’ – James

James arrives at Four Oaks and instantly recognises Danny from his past. But James memory is not always to be trusted, due to his acquired brain injury. Danny denies knowing who James is, which leaves James feeling even more confused and convinced that he knows Danny.

The author has written a thoroughly accurate description of a care home. My previous career was not only working in care homes but as management too. I have cared for individuals with acquired brain injuries and their level of needs is extremely complex and individual. Similarly, to dementia, no person is impacted exactly the same and the symptoms vary person to person. The author has done an outstanding level of research and paid attention to the details. I am MASSIVELY impressed.

Danny eventually admits the truth, that he does know how James is. It turns out the two attended the same prestigious boarding school. Danny was attending on scholarship and his intelligence was renowned. Which is why James is confused as to how/why Danny ended up as a carer. But just like James, Danny has a complex backstory too.

‘I just want to be normal’ – James

The two form a friendship based around James’s desire to live as independently as possible and Danny’s attempt at some form of redemption. What flows is a gentle and emotive novel. There are parts that are emotionally charged. One specific part is Martha’s letter, at that precise moment, I just dissolved into tears.

This novel isn’t just about emotion. It actively challenges the view of disability and personal struggle.

Simply beautiful 5*

MG
Mike Gayle
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