This isn’t a normal review because this isn’t a normal story. I’m saying nothing about the plot or characters. Nothing.
Just read it.
Starve Acre is a book that begs so many questions and creates so many thoughts from start to finish.
Here’s a ‘running commentary’ as it were, of my reading experience..
-oooh hello there beautifully poetic, darkly disturbing writing
-hang on, wait, what’s happening?
-soooo, what happened before then?
-crikey, what’s GOING to happen?
-OMG, WHY is it happening?
-wait, WHAT?! Erm, what on earth did he do?
-WHY did he do it?
-Jeez, why is she like this?
-And why the hell is he like that?
-*Brain explodes* The End.
And all that in under 250 pages!! Unbelievable!
I started off putting post it notes marking notable paragraphs every ten, maybe 15 pages. But really Starve Acre is one big post it note of dark beauty. Every paragraph of every page is post-it note worthy, so I gave up.
Anyway, do yourself a favour, read Starve Acre. I’ve just ordered Hurleys’ other two books, The Loney and Devils Day, because it’s the law.
“What you go searching for and what you find aren’t always the same”.
You know that feeling when you get off the Waltzer at the fair? Your head feels kind of floaty, there’s an excited giddiness, that buzz of adrenaline rushes from toes to fingertips and then back again. You’d like another go but best not, because you’re 47 not 10. Or is that just me?
Anyway, going through the many Doors of Catherine McCarthy’s magical, mystical, and at times, oddly dark and creative mind, gave me quite that kind of ride! It wasn’t a roller coaster, Catherine’s writing is far too gentle and quietly satisfying for that, the Waltzer is my best comparison. You don’t need to scream if you want to go faster because you need that steady pace to be prepared for the “hang on a minute, I did not see THAT coming” moments. And then, there’s the “wait, what?!, no Catherine, nooo!! you can’t possibly end it there!!” moments!
Oh the perils of short stories that suck you right in!!! *sigh*
Door is a collection of dark portal style stories, although set in different times, they have a great deal in common with each other.
From a freaked out shift worker with paranoia about what’s behind a metal door, to unwelcome ‘white ghosts’ in Botany Bay, Australia 1790. From creepy crypts in the Canaries, to a wartime bunker in Sheffield, Catherine has created a treasure trove of mind-bending micro-journeys that whet the appetite with a side order of subtle horror and discomfort. You WILL want to read more from this author. Take it from me.
As with any short story collections, I had my favourites, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single one. I will say a few words about the ones that really stood out to me though.
‘Door’ – the first story, had me reading with such intensity. John, the MC, had successfully landed a job. Doing what, I’m not entirely sure, some kind of secretive knob and dial twiddling for a living, in a strange industrial building. Make of that what you will. As a character, he was weird. The story, even weirder! The ending? You must of heard me when I shouted ‘WHAT?? Don’t do that Catherine!!!’ from my bathtub from where I was reading!
‘Mine’, – the story of young Anna who works as a trapper down the mines. The sheer darkness of the setting and the mystery surrounding the ‘special kind of coal’ certainly pulled me in. It was so full of atmosphere, I could almost smell it.
‘Plague’ – a small village in Southern France, 1347 to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia 18 years prior and then back again to Penne, Southern France. Certainly worlds apart. You’d think.
“When you see a door open, which you did not expect, do not be afraid of passing through – just be careful as to whom else chooses to step beyond its threshold at your side”.
‘Ash’ – Raoul, a Scientist receives a letter from a Priest inviting him to help investigate the underground crypts and caverns in Volcanic Lanzarote. All is not well and some unearthed discoveries give this story quite a macabre and dark tone.
‘Charity’ – a Christmas story, of sorts, set in Hove, UK. “Satan Claws is coming to town!”
Is someone struggling with their spelling there? One things for sure, Karma’s a bitch, whatever the season. *Snorts satisfyingly*
If there’s one thing that all these stories have in common, other that the doorways to get into them, it’s the absolute cracking first few paragraphs of each and every one. Catherine has the knack of getting my attention so quickly. She sets the scene, introduces her character(s) and I’m swiftly swooped away.
Overall, an interesting, mixed collection of mindful, yet, at times, disturbing stories that were entertaining, a bit bizarre, and had Catherine’s unique stamp all over them.
I recommend Catherine’s writing whenever I get the opportunity as although predominantly a horror writer, her stories are made up of various layers which would appeal to readers who are seeking short stories beyond that one genre.
Thank you, Catherine for my gifted copy of Door, I am very grateful for the opportunity to read and review your collection.
Catherine McCarthy grew up in the industrial valleys of South Wales where she went on to teach for almost three decades. She now lives in West Wales with her husband, who is also her illustrator and motivator. Catherine believes that story telling is probably the oldest and wisest art form known to man, though to make it a bit compelling, it needs to be crafted with a bit of magic.
Meet Molly Gray. 25, lovable, intelligent and rather eccentric. Her mind is as organised as her maids trolley, she’s a stickler for routine, order and cleanliness, so working at the five star Regency Grand Hotel is the perfect job for her.
I’m not one for reading cosy mysteries, they can be a bit ‘twee’ for my tastes, but there is so much more to Molly than meets the eye. I got this feeling from reading just the synopsis. When my request was approved on NetGalley, the prologue reinforced my theory that this Molly character really had quite an edge.
“Have I mentioned how much I detest cheaters? Cheaters deserve to be thrown in quicksand and to suffocate in filth”.
I really enjoyed this closed (hotel!) room style murder mystery. Nita Prose created a dazzling hotel, the descriptions and scene settings were so easy to visualise. Inside the hotel, the array of characters were as colourful and as quirky as the hotel decor itself. From kind, gentle and caring, to acerbic, unlikeable and untrustworthy, The Maid had it all.
Molly lived with her Gran, but sadly she passed away, so Molly is left to deal with life and everything that’s thrown at her by herself. She finds interacting with people a little tricky and prefers to be blending in and doing her job rather than being the centre of attention.
Mollys world is tipped on its head in an instant when she discovers the dead body of hotel guest Mr Black, on the bed in one of the hotel rooms, and so the story takes off from there.
Mollys intelligence and unusual way of thinking things through is tip top entertainment from the word go. She maybe JUST a maid, but she’s not daft. Far from it.
“Cheryl may be my boss, but she’s definitely not my superior. There is a difference, you know”.
I enjoyed how Molly and her Grans relationship and their backstories were subtly weaved in throughout the story giving little nuggets of who they are and how they came to be.
“Where shall we travel tonight?” she (Gran) would ask. “To the Amazon with David Attenborough or to Japan with National Geographic?”
Molly went from delightful, model employee to a deep, dark thinker at the drop of a hat.
“…I fantasised about all the things I would do – spray bleach in her face, strangle her with a bathrobe tie…”
This is the main reason I loved this story as much as I did. Me and my dark heart, lapping up those macabre moments. I had lots of questions dancing around in my mind about what kind of person Molly truly was, and I wasn’t disappointed when things began to fall into place. I was rooting for her from the get-go.
The Maid is thoroughly enjoyable, completely believable and above all, a cracking murder mystery. I read that the film rights have been bought for it and an actor chosen already to play the part of Molly. That, I have got to see!!
Thank you so much to the publishers, Harper Collins, for my advance readers e-copy via the NetGalley platform, it was an absolute pleasure to read.
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!!
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.
Thank you Marc for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.