The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

OK, so this mysterious book has been doing the rounds and luckily I didn’t come across any spoilers prior to starting it. Thank goodness!! 

Right, how to write the vaguest of vague reviews yet keep it interesting. Now that’s what I call a challenge!!

How have readers reviewed this without letting the cat out of the bag I’ll never know. It’s a tough one to write. But I’ll do my best. 

What/who’s it about then? 

Well, Ted, predominately. A recluse of a man who lives in a boarded-up house on the street in the books title. It’s situated on the edge of a wooded area somewhere in NW Washington state, US. 

He lives with his young daughter, Lauren and his religious pet cat Olivia. Yes, you read that right, a RELIGIOUS CAT.

There’s history of children going missing in the area, but none of them have ever been found and the crimes have never been solved. 

This is the first time I’ve read a book, finished it, and then had the pleasure of watching it being discussed on television. I was determined to watch Between the Covers on BBC2 last night with the smuggest face ever. Yes, even the guests talking to Sara Cox also struggled to say much about it in case they leaked spoilers!

Throughout reading I had to stop and hold onto my head for fear of my brain exploding! I lost count of how many times I said ‘wait, what, hang on a minute, that can’t be right’. I was re-reading sentences, dialogue, descriptions multiple times because I could not believe what I was reading. 

The Last House on Needless Street is a book I will never ever forget. I went to bed last night thinking about it. Working out how to write a review that would do it the justice it deserves.

I awoke this morning absolutely none the wiser so just thought I’d get a very basic synopsis down and then go from there. 

To be honest, you just need to read it. If Stephen King loved it, then it’s got to be something pretty special don’t you think? 

I will say that Kings’ fans will definitely see a few nods to the man himself throughout the book. Clever, Catriona, very clever indeed!

I can’t say any more about it really, apart from if you buy one book this year, make it this one. It will blow your mind. 

‘People who have lived together for many generations share a special kind of madness’.

Apparently the film rights have been snapped up already and it’s translation rights have been sold in 18 territories. 

Catriona Ward is an exceptional writer and story teller. I’ve read stacks of horror and to discover something of such high quality within this genre is a bit of a rarity these days. It’s dark, clever, incredibly well researched and it could quite possibly be my Book of the Year. 

One last thought, if I were to read it again, knowing what I know now, it would be a completely different story. I don’t re-read that often, but this one is just begging for it!!

ALPHA : VULTURE by Marc Jaytin

Part one of a three part crime thriller.

I’ve read many books with unhinged, murderous characters in my time. Crime thrillers, police procedurals, horrors, true crime and suchlike have always pulled me in. I’m an absolute sucker for the macabre side of human nature.

I beta read ALPHA : VULTURE by Marc Jaytin last year when it was in its early stages. Marc was kind enough to send me a digital copy initially and then a finished physical copy shortly after.

It’s the story of a man on the edge, who tried to end his own pain, but failed. He came back for revenge on society with a toxic mindset that matched his opinions. He plans an organised but cryptic (to the reader) killing spree, travelling mostly by train to different parts of the UK with one thing on his mind. The urge to kill.

The writing is angry, the main character a frustrated, bitter man. He’s right in your face and his sole purpose is to chew you up and spit you out. And probably laugh at you afterwards, if he doesn’t decide to kill you, that is.

For such a good book, it’s got an incredibly bad attitude. It’s begging to be the subject of debate, the heated, argumentative sort.

This debut is difficult to pigeonhole into one genre. It’s a story with very dark overtones, a hint of comedy, a lot of outspoken and questionable statements. The rolling theme of mental illness is weaved throughout the story, Marc isn’t frightened for his character to piss the reader off, for me, it just added to the appeal. I have little doubt it will get some people’s backs up.

ALPHA : VULTURE is perfect for readers such as myself, I love a good verbal roasting in stories. I’m thoroughly entertained by a bit of blood and gore providing it fits the story. The shock factor here is multi- layered. It’s not just in the visuals as you read, but in the dialogue.

This book is a bit weird, I won’t lie. It’s graphic, sweary, gruesome and questionable. There’s bizarre lists, it goes off on strange tangents, but this is the workings of an unsettled mind, so it actually works. It’s destined to start someone tweeting or ranting or demanding it be ‘cancelled’ about something or other. But that’s the world we’re living in, and Marc isn’t frightened to allow his character to speak his mind, irrespective of possible repercussions. Perhaps he’s simply a chip off of the authors block.

I’ve not read anything like this before and I’m looking forward to reading the second instalment. Let the madness continue!

You can find out more about the author here:

Marc Jaytin | Author | ALPHA

Thank you Marc for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Sound Mirror by Heidi James

‘The Sound Mirror spans three generations and thousands of miles. It is an examination of class, war, violence, family and shame from the rich details of ordinary lives and intimately rendered characters.’

Sometimes you can tell instantly when an author has put their heart and soul into writing a book. It’s more to them than simply their book or their story. It becomes a venting tool, a diary, a place to allow inner feelings to emerge. A therapy of sorts.

Has this book won an award? I couldn’t find anything that says it has and I find it very hard to believe that it hasn’t.

Heidi’s story telling is phenomenal. The creativity is outstanding. How can writing with such a spiritual calm incorporate the brutality of life and truths without becoming a confusing conflict?

I had to concentrate hard with the three different characters and the joint narrative that told this story. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it. I needed silence and zero distraction. I wanted to hang onto every word, allowing myself time to digest and ponder this journey. There was no reason to rush.

The Sound Mirror is an education. It’s astonishing how much connection I felt with the characters and how their lives affected me directly and indirectly.

I can’t say much more other than I love Heidi’s writing, I read Wounding last year and that left one hell of an impression. You can read my review here.

Anyway, may I suggest you get yourself a copy and quietly settle into Heidi’s world, she writes for listeners, for thinkers, for ponderers and above all, she writes for herself.

The Sound Mirror by Heidi James is published by Bluemoose Books and you can order your copy direct from them here.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

How do I even start trying to talk about this book? I’ll do my best because today is my turn to shout about it on the blog tour!

Ok, so, I knew it was going to be dark, uncomfortable and immersive, I’d read a fair bit of ‘wow, this book though’ reaction on social media. Little did I know just how much this story was going to get under my skin.

‘Family history, written in our genes is handed down the generations. From Mother to daughter. The good and the bad. We cannot choose what we inherit. We cannot decide what we are. Sometimes we get to be angels.

And sometimes monsters…’

I have a beautiful grown up daughter and I’ll forever be my mothers daughter even though she’s passed. The Push took me down the memory lane of my own childhood and motherhood.

Being a Mum or a Dad to a son or a daughter will magnify the intensity of Audrains story tenfold. I felt such strangeness in my stomach reading this book. I had to put it down and gather myself numerous times.

When I first finished, I was almost 100% sure I wouldn’t be able to review it. It kind of hurt. I laid in bed that night mulling over it’s content, my emotions were muddled.

Did I enjoy it? Was I prepared enough to get through it? Did it dig up some personal stuff?

Not sure. No, I don’t think I was. And categorically yes, it did.

This is a story about society’s expectations of motherhood. How a woman is supposed to have some kind of pre-installed knowledge of how to do things right. Feel things right. To naturally nurture. And perhaps use your own childhood as a template to do a great job and bring up a perfectly rounded, delightful human being.

But what if your childhood was horrific? What do you pass on then? Knowingly or unknowingly. It’s a chilling thought.

So your feelings aren’t quite right. The sleep deprivation is blamed. It’s just your hormones, it’ll pass. The adjustment period gently mentioned by those who ‘do it right’.

But what about paranoia? IS IT paranoia? Darkness. Guilt. Self-loathing. Confusion. Distrust. I could reel off a load.

Come on, be a doting Mummy, it’s such a precious gift. Love every minute of it, they grow up so quickly.

I have to keep too many secrets about Blythe and Fox. Violet and Sam. I’m not giving much away about the story itself or the three generations of women that hold this story together in the worst way possible. It would spoil it.

I am astonished by how this story made me feel. I was hooked the minute I started it. It felt so raw, so real. This may well be psychologically thrilling, but, oh the HORROR.

The Push is absorbing, I was enthralled by how Audrain intertwined the generations with each other. I struggle with multiple timelines usually but I had no difficulty here.

The characters are believable, expertly created and emotionally complex yet so easy to relate to, to have an opinion about.

It’s hard to say I enjoyed reading The Push, how can you possibly enjoy something that makes the hairs on your neck stand up when you’ve read a paragraph that forces you to put the book down.

I could of been reading a true story, and that’s what stunned me most of all.

As I come to the end of talking about one of the THE hardest books I’ve read this year, I’ll say this; that perfect family over there, you know the one, nice home, all smiley, living their idyllic life, Sunday morning football, ballet class, home baking, whatever. If you look hard enough, you might just spot a psychopath beginning to emerge.

An unforgettable five star read.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

YA MUM by Ben Tallon

YA MUM and other stories from the backstreets of Britain

A strange little yellow book full of strange scenarios that every single one of us can relate to in some way.

Ya Mum is short vignette style stories that give a sense of art and deeper thought to everyday occurrences that are always seen but often ignored. 

From dumped shopping trolleys to a lonesome shoe. Social distancing in Morrisons to an unpleasant discovery in a pub toilet. 

Armed with the perils of hangovers and dubiously stained mattresses, author Ben Tallon sees our world a little differently. He sees beyond the basics, he turns the arse-end of British life into something story-worthy. 

I see this book as a ‘loo book’ or stocking filler. A book that you find yourself reading out of morbid curiosity, nodding in agreement and surprise at just how relevant it is. 

It’s a strange little yellow book, and I recommend it for shits and giggles. It offers a perspective of this crappy world with its crappy people that’s nothing quite like yours.

About the author:

Ben Tallon is a writer, illustrator and host of Arrest All Mimics podcast. He grew up laughing at farts in Keighley, West Yorkshire and is fascinated by the dirty underbelly of British culture.

Thank you to author Ben Tallon for sending me a signed copy.