Monday, 15 May 2017

Seas of Snow - Kerensa Jennings

1950s England. Five-year-old Gracie Scott lives with her Mam and next door to her best friend Billy. An only child, she has never known her Da. When her Uncle Joe moves in, his physical abuse of Gracie’s mother starts almost immediately. But when his attentions wander to Gracie, an even more sinister pattern of behaviour begins.

As Gracie grows older, she finds solace and liberation in books, poetry and her enduring friendship with Billy. Together they escape into the poetic fairy-tale worlds of their imaginations.

But will fairy tales be enough to save Gracie from Uncle Joe’s psychopathic behaviour – and how far will it go?

What I thought:

Gracie Scott and her Ma are haunted by a beast,  a beautiful beast.  Beautiful on the outside that is, but inside he is pure evil - always has been and always will be.

Gracie doesn't have any friends at school. For some reason, other girls seem to get pleasure from taunting and bullying her, but it doesn't really matter because she spends all her spare time with her best friend, Billy. Billy Harper lives next door to Gracie and her Ma, and they are always playing together, playing at princesses and dragons or any other make-believe game that Billy has invented for them to play. Then one day Gracie's Uncle Joe comes to stay and her life will never be the same again.

Joe is vile. It's as though he doesn't have a choice of right and wrong, his thoughts are just pure evil. His actions are rarely on impulse, but meticulously planned over long periods of time and they are shocking, in fact truly horrific.

Gracie innocently wonders what she has done wrong for her life to be so tormented, but then she discovers poetry and that helps her escape the demons that haunt her daily life.

This story had me gripped. It is gut-wrenchingly uncomfortable to read at times but laced with beautiful poetry and utterly compelling. I was so frustrated with Gracie's mum, but Billy was just so lovely. He's the kind of boy you would want for your daughter, kind, loyal and always there for her. As they grow older and Billy starts work, he saves hard, planning to take Gracie and move far away. Will the real - life Prince Charming be able to rescue his princess from the terrible fate that Joe had planned for her for so long?

When family secrets are revealed  and Billy makes a shocking discovery, I couldn't stop turning the pages. It was just so good. It was dark, brutal and intense, but what a read! Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

See What I Have Done - Sarah Schmidt

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden - thirty-two years old and still living at home - immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.
Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie's unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie's uncle to take care of a problem.
This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.

What I thought:

I had heard so much about "The Pear" and I couldn't wait to find out for myself just what everyone was raving about. It's based on true events that happened back in August 1892, when Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally murdered in their own home. Their daughter, Emma, and maid, Bridget, were both at home when the pair were hacked to death with an axe. Although Lizzie was arrested and tried for the murders, she was later released and the mystery of their killer remains unsolved. This book is the author's version of events.

The story is told by the four main characters, Lizzie, her sister Emma, Bridget the Irish maid, and Benjamin, a very troubled young man. They each recount the events as they saw them. The Borden household was devoid of warmth and affection, even the bond between the sisters was bound by Lizzie's control over Emma. Benjamin was a very sad character. His whole being breathed hatred, propelled by hurt and a childhood baptism of cruelty. Then there was Uncle John, whose very presence gave me the creeps. The book envelops an odd clutch of characters, creepy and at times quite wicked. Only Bridget, the maid, bore any semblance to normality. Sadly, these characters actually existed!

What really sets this book apart is the author's ability to recreate the whole aura of that moment in time. The stench, ignorance of personal hygiene, the tick tick of the clock, all adding to the atmosphere. My stomach heaved at each mention of the rancid mutton broth and then there were the pigeons - a shocking moment!

This book is gruesome and it's horrific. The fact that it's actually based on true events makes it all the more shocking. I think it's a book people will keep talking about. It's horrible, but it's awesome too, and makes for a really superb read - if you dare, read "The Pear"!