Monday, 23 November 2015

The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings + Giveaway / The Piper's Story by Wendy Isaac Bergin / The Western Lonesome Society by Robert Garner McBrearty

The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Buy the paperback from Waterstones

I received a copy of The Judas Scar directly from Amanda Jennings as a prize via Sophie's Reviewed The Book blog. Sophie wrote such an enthusiastic review that I was keen to read this thriller too, but have had to wait until I could pick it up from Bristol first! Now, as we really don't have room to keep books 'forever' in our caravan and I don't want to just leave this signed edition on some campsite book exchange somewhere, I thought it would be fun to offer the book as a Giveaway to my blog readers - it was read so carefully, it is in practically pristine condition! Details of how you can enter to win it are at the end of the post ... after the Amazon ads.

The Judas Scar is a tense psychological thriller which looks at the aftermath of extreme childhood trauma and the varying ways in which adult lives are dictated by the events of the past. Jennings has created superbly real characters, both male and female, who are very believable - in a couple of cases, frighteningly so! Our 'heroes', Will and Harmony, have been happily married for twenty years. They had agreed to remain childless at Will's insistence and The Judas Scar begins by examining the emotional fallout when Harmony accidentally becomes pregnant - and then loses the baby. She is understandably devastated and bewildered by Will's apparent lack of equal distress. I suspect that readers are supposed to identify with Harmony, however I found my sympathies lay with Will. After two decades of happy marriage, I can't think I would be overjoyed at the news that something I thought was agreed upon had suddenly been completely overturned. It's certainly a thought-provoking storyline.

Jennings' uncovering of Will's paternal reluctance provides the exciting driving force of the thriller story when a blast from the past unexpectedly reappears in his life. Disturbing secrets are uncovered and I enjoyed the unpredictability of this part of the book. Perhaps the ending is too abrupt because I would have liked to have known more about what happens to everyone involved, however the whole story arc is satisfying to read.

The Piper's Story: A Tale of War, Music, and the SupernaturalThe Piper's Story by Wendy Isaac Bergin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of my Top Ten Books of 2015

Buy the ebook from
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

I downloaded a copy of The Piper's Story by Wendy Isaac Bergin when it was featured in a Noisetrade newsletter. This is my ninth book for the Read Scotland Challenge 2015. I liked by the cover art and was intrigued by the premise which struck me as being different from the horror norm. The Piper's Story is quite different and is one of those books which is tough to pigeonhole into a specific genre. There are horror elements, although not graphically gory ones, and an interesting historical storyline. Romance features too, and a wonderful fairy tale sense which I found reminiscent of some of Neil Gaiman's writing and particularly enjoyed. The whole novel certainly has a literary feel to it.

We begin by being swept into the horrors of Second World War battles in France where a young Scottish piper is left for dead and must stagger, blind-mute and alone, towards Dunkirk. He has witnessed unimaginable hatred and violence leaving him haunted by a vision. Decades later his grandson, Neal, starts also having horrific visions, but thousands of miles away and from another time. The family's sixth sense has been passed to him too and Neal must find the source of his nightmare before time runs out for his young son.

Bergin's descriptions of her monstrous creations are perfectly executed to create a truly threatening atmosphere and I found it difficult to set this book aside for just a moment. I had to keep reading! She intertwines romantic scenes and some great humorous moments as Neal fights his attraction to travel shop owner Sarah. And there are some heart-breaking moments as Neal's marriage to fun-loving Vicky begins to implode. I absolutely loved The Piper's Story. Its multi-faceted plots are well-thought through and I would love to read anything further that Bergin writes.

The Western Lonesome Society: A NovelThe Western Lonesome Society by Robert Garner McBrearty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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I received a copy of The Western Lonesome Society from its publisher, Conundrum Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

I was attracted to this novella by its quirky title and by the mentions of similarity to Cormac McCarthy and Kent Haruf - both favourite authors of mine - in the blurb. I really should stop reading blurbs, or at least believing them, as both names were somewhat misleading. McBrearty's previously published books have apparently been short story collections and I found this novella to be more short stories tenuously linked than a narrative in its own right. We swirl around in the possibly disintegrating brain of protagonist Jim, a college lecturer with serious trust and self esteem issues. Jim longs to be a writer telling his family's story so two of the threads are his own kidnap as a child, and a much earlier kidnap of two of his ancestors when they were children. These tall tales are interspersed with others of a young man taking a stripper to Mexico, an extremely unprofessional therapist, a child molester and mentions of an imaginary Ernest Hemingway.

Surprisingly, The Western Lonesome Society is very readable. Its vignettes are often amusing as well as shocking, but it is so jumbled that trying to decide what - if anything - is meant to be the point of the novella turned out to be beyond me.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

So now you've read (or scrolled past!) all three book reviews, let's get to the Giveaway! I am offering one signed paperback copy of The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings. If you would like to win the book, I have chosen five different Ways you can enter. You can complete as many as you like and each Way is worth one entry into the giveaway. You need to complete Both parts of each though so I will have a record of your entry.

I will keep the Giveaway open for Seven Full Days so it will close at midnight (French time) on the 30th November 2015.

Good luck!

1) Comment on this blog post telling me your favourite book so far this year AND let me know how best to contact you if the comment doesn't automatically link to your Google ID.

2) Add me to your circles on Google+ AND tag me in a post mentioning The Judas Scar Giveaway 
(If I am already in your circles, just tag me in a post.)

3) Follow me @Stephanie_Jne on twitter AND send this tweet: I just entered @Stephanie_Jne #giveaway to win #thriller #book The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings
(If you already follow me, just tweet the tweet)

4) Add me as a friend on Goodreads AND message me there mentioning The Judas Scar Giveaway. (Already a friend? Just send the message)

5) Favourite an item in my Etsy shop AND send me a convo there mentioning The Judas Scar Giveaway.

Terms and Conditions
At the end of the seven days, all (any?!) entries will be put in my red felt cloche hat and I will get Dave to pick a winner.
I will contact the winner via the method of their winning entry (ie Etsy convo/Twitter tweet/Goodreads message). The winner Must respond with their preferred postal address within 72 hours. If no response is received within 72 hours, an alternative winner will be chosen.
The Giveaway is open worldwide, however I cannot be held responsible if the parcel takes ages to arrive or gets waylaid in the post. (It is getting close to Xmas after all.)

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