Blog Tour Book Review: In Her Wake, by Amanda Jennings #InHerWake

Publisher:  Orenda Books

Publication date:  10th February 2016 (Kindle)  |  1st April 2016 (Print)

Today, it’s my stop on the incredible #InHerWake blog tour and I’m delighted to share my review with you for this amazing book by Amanda Jennings.

In Her Wake My Review

In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings - CoverBooks of this calibre should be revered until the end of time. You know the ones I mean, don’t you? Those that evoke every emotion, challenge your waking thoughts, their perfect wordage standing out from the crowd, otherwise known as extraordinary.

Featuring arresting descriptions of the Cornish landscape and intensely vivid, desperately unsatisfied characters, this remarkable story of adversity is one to regard with wonder. In Her Wake sees the anatomy of Bella Campbell’s life being picked apart, piece by fragile piece, until nothing will ever be the same again.

Doctor Henry Campbell and his wife, Elaine, struggle to conceive a child causing a disturbing riptide throughout their marriage. His wife’s distress even tempts them toward religious intervention. So when precious Bella arrives, Doctor Campbell’s wife is overjoyed as her prayers have been answered. She is ‘complete’ and dedicates herself to providing care, home-schooling, and friendship for her daughter above everything and anyone else.

For all their neurosis Bella had no reason to feel anything but admiration and love for her overly-protective mother and emotionally distant father. Subsequently, despite adoring her parents and all their foibles, Bella leads a very lonely life, longing for people her own age to talk to. We discover she has an imaginary friend called Tori, whose personality is the complete opposite of Bella, encouraging her to try new and daring things she would never dream of for fear of disappointing her parents who offer her the world – albeit one that is locked behind a door closed to everyone else she is told for her own safety.

The odd attention that had been heaped upon her in her formative years may have been suffocating, but it was comfortingly familiar. Bella was finally given a chance to spread her wings at university and it was there she met a lecturer twenty years her senior called David, who whisked her off her feet to become the next stable figure in her life, where it seems her wings were stealthily being clipped.

Upon learning of the death of her mother, Bella returns to her childhood home to attend the funeral and is accompanied by David’s subtly condescending presence. They discover her father is bewildered, lost – episodes of his distress emanate from the page. As her mother was the eccentric, complicated bedrock she knew best, Bella’s visit entails awkward silences with her Father to eventually reveal a slither of a childhood she didn’t know existed when a letter written by Doctor Campbell drops the bombshell of all bombshells. Who could have predicated that a single day truly would change everything?

As a result, the world has been throw wide open for this young woman and she has no choice but to discover it for herself. Yet she is hindered by crippling anxiety when tasked to have her own thoughts and aspirations, of which there are excruciatingly heart breaking episodes throughout. After being greatly influenced by her mother’s choices and fears, being told the monsters would come for her if she stepped outside, and since being married to a much older, persuasive man, she didn’t quite manage to escape the clutches of a claustrophobic atmosphere – merely replacing the old façade with a newer, more sickeningly charming one. It seems monsters come in all shapes and guises…

For the duration of the story Bella is on a haunting journey of self-discovery. Accompanied only the occasional visit from her imaginary friend, a projection of her inner-self screaming to be released, she takes charge of her destiny the only way she knows how.  As the enigmatic layers are peeled away they reveal how an immense tragedy impacted greatly upon those around her, a tragedy that Bella will soon discover the effects of as she opens the ominous doors of her life and steps out into the world – a world that had been waiting for her, it seems, forever 

Rating: 5/5    ABSOLUTELY AND POSITIVELY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

(My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for providing the most wonderful ARC for review and for saving a space on the tour bus for me once again. Much appreciated.)

In Her Wake Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life. Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family – and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.

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In Her Wake Author Profile

(Author photograph and profile courtesy of publisher)

Amanda Jennings PolaroidAmanda Jennings made her literary début with the internationally bestselling novel Sworn Secret. Her second book, The Judas Scar, was optioned by a film and television production company shortly after release. She is fascinated by the ways people react to trauma and deal with its long-lasting effects, and also the complex relationships within a family unit.

She used to work at the BBC, but now writes full time and looks after her three daughters and a menagerie of animals. She writes a popular blog and is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s Book Club.

She enjoys running writing workshops, is a judge for the Henley Youth Festival creative writing competition, and is involved with the Womentoring Project, which offers free mentoring by professional literary women to talented up and coming female writers who might otherwise not have access to such an opportunity. She is a regular speaker at festivals and book events, combining her childhood love of the stage with her love of writing.

She likes to be active, preferably beside the sea or at the top of a snow covered mountain, and when she isn’t writing she can usually be found walking her dog and enjoying the peace and solitude of the great outdoors.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the #InHerWake blog tour:

Next Blog Stop

Leah, at Reflections of a Reader blog

In Her Wake Bloug Tour Banner

 

Book Review: Beside Myself, by Ann Morgan #BesideMyself

Publisher:  Bloomsbury  |  Publication date:  14th January 2016

Sometimes I think I have made it up. Days come where it feels like the whole thing is a story in my head and there was never any swap and any game.

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan

Beside Myself sees a children’s game turning sour overnight. The laughing stops when no one will believe your version of events, and you’re left having to play along indefinitely until your own mind is staging a mutiny against you.

Helen and Ellie are identical twins whose mother even dresses their hair differently so she can tell them apart easier. But they have other unique features too. Helen’s clothes are neat, she is popular, an achiever and a leader. Ellie’s clothes are practical with a tee-shirt baggy at the neck where she incessantly tugs at it. She is the follower, and not quick to grasp the cruel games that are often played at her expense.

One day Helen suggests they play an extra special game by swapping places. It’ll be a giggle, she tells Ellie. Don’t worry, just do as I do. So, Ellie does as Helen says and all goes to plan. They manage to fool a few people on the way home and it is indeed huge gas, until, that is, they don’t have the time to swap back into the rightful places and are forced to play along for a little while longer. Despite Helen’s protests Ellie doesn’t make any genuine effort to swap places the next day, nor the day after – it seems she quite likes her new role.

Frustration leads to a series of tensions, little ‘accidents’ and tantrums, which tragically see Helen adopting her sister’s ‘Ellieness’, until she risks being ‘branded’ forever Ellie, with all her sister’s odd little traits in tow. The grim reality of the original game continues to have a major impact, as Helen seeks disturbing ways in order to remove herself from the nightmare she unwittingly created all those years ago. Her life is fraught with moments of despair and she experiences countless unfortunate events, and all because she is not herself.

This distorted world makes it difficult for her to fit in. She is given little opportunity to shine. She is labelled, shelved and abandoned. Eventually, real Helen becomes a shadow of herself and is later referred to throughout the story as ‘Smudge’. That’s hardly surprising considering life is not only chipping away at her identity but also her sanity. The opinionated little voices that develop in Smudge’s head are mini characters all of their own, complete with cutting responses and precision timing.

Seeking to explore the darkest of places, the writing allows you to step inside the characters’ minds until you are wholly absorbed by their tortured moments. It was challenging to see them unravelling before my eyes, but also touching to see them trying to build bridges out of the rubble left over from a previous life, where even the truth may not be enough to hold things together anymore.

An absolutely stunning read that took my breath away.

Rating: 5/5

(My thanks to the publisher for providing a proof copy of this title in a recent giveaway they kindly ran on Twitter. I’m so, so grateful to have been given the opportunity to read this marvellous book.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Helen and Ellie are identical twins – like two peas in a pod, everyone says.

The girls know this isn’t true, though: Helen is the leader and Ellie the follower.

Until they decide to swap places: just for fun, and just for one day.

But Ellie refuses to swap back…

And so begins a nightmare from which Helen cannot wake up. Her toys, her clothes, her friends, her glowing record at school, the favour of her mother and the future she had dreamed of are all gone to a sister who blossoms in the approval that used to belong to Helen. And as the years pass, she loses not only her memory of that day but also herself – until eventually only ‘Smudge’ is left.

Twenty-five years later, Smudge receives a call from out of the blue. It threatens to pull her back into her sister’s dangerous orbit, but if this is her only chance to face the past, how can she resist?

Beside Myself is a compulsive and darkly brilliant psychological drama about family and identity – what makes us who we are and how very fragile it can be.

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(Courtesy of publisher’s press release)

Anne Morgan is a freelance writer and editor based in London. Anne’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Independent, the Financial Times, the Australian and the New Internationalist, and she was a finalist in the Guardian’s International Development Journalism Competition 2010. She has also sub-edited for publications including Tatler and Vanity Fair.

Following the success of her project to read a book from every country in 2012, Ann continues to blog about international literature at ayearofreadingtheworld.com. Her first book, Reading the World: Conesssions of a Literary Explorer, was published to great critical acclaim in 2005.

Beside Myself is her first novel.

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Our Endless Numbered Days, by Claire Fuller

Publisher: Fig Tree | Publication date: 26th February 2015 | Version: Hardback (own copy)

“What’s a Hutte?” I asked. “A magical place in the forest,” my father said with a catch in his voice. “Our very own little cabin, with wooden walls, and wooden floors, and wooden shutters at the windows…”

Little Peggy would have quite innocently followed in her father’s footsteps to the end of the world and back again. Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined what that could come to mean…

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller 04.03.15

This is a story that will linger with you, long after you’ve closed the cover…

Her keen survivalist father had allowed her to camp at the bottom of the garden of their house in London, live in a rickety tent and cook over an open fire. He’d even shown her how to live off the land.

With her famous Germanic pianist mother, Ute, away from home, she had left her husband in sole charge of their daughter, which meant that Peggy could enjoy this ‘outdoor’ life even more; not having to bathe, foraging for food and the mock drills in case of dire emergency.

At just ten years old she unwittingly exchanged the comforts of her home in London for a remote and uninviting wilderness, a place her father explained would be a haven for their family and that her mother would be joining them soon.

But their short stay in ‘die Hutte’ stretched into nine long years and differed greatly from the sanctuary her father had promised.

There was just the two of them, as her father cruelly told her that the rest of the world did not exist anymore and that they were the only survivors. Trusting him as she did, she believed every word he spoke, that is until she became mesmerised by a mysterious wild man called Rueben whose name had been etched in their cabin…

Leaving home as a child in 1976 and returning as a young woman in 1985, Peggy has to confront a whole new set of challenges. Even though the story moves backwards and forwards through both time periods it’s seamlessly blended.

This incredible portrayal of Peggy’s difficult journey into adulthood under ‘gut-kicking’ circumstances is written in the most incredible way. Even with its disturbing undercurrent, which started as a trickle being dripped into the chapters, it’s a book I would highly recommend. I just had to keep on reading until I discovered how she arrived home again, if she would be safe and what would happen to her.

It’s one of those books you will read that will hold your attention until the very last page, and will continue to linger in your mind long after you’ve closed its haunting cover.

Rating: 5/5


You can follow the author on Twitter: @ClaireFuller2