The Visitors

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Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.

Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden.

As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side.

The Visitors by Catherine Burns

Publication Date: September 26, 2017 by Gallery/Scout Press

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My Thoughts:

Oh my god, what is there to say about this book other than I absolutely loved it?!

The Visitors is a psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator who is (semi) equal parts sympathetic and not. This is less of a traditional “horror” story and more of a character study which just happens to be more up my alley.

The entire novel is told from the point of view of Marion, a 50-something woman who has never lived anywhere other than her family home. At the time the reader is introduced to her, both of her parents have passed away and she is living with her older brother. Marion has never had a romantic relationship and only failed attempts at friendship throughout her life. It’s difficult to determine if she’s intellectually disabled or just so damaged from her disturbing childhood that she’s come to embody the type of person her mother always told her she was.

Early on, it becomes clear to the reader that Marion is aware of what her brother John is doing in the cellar and her complacency makes it difficult to feel entirely sympathetic for her. Yet, there were still times where my heart broke for the younger Marion and it’s easy at times to understand why Marion never stands up to her brother. In the glimpses we get of her upbringing, John is painted as a sociopath early on without ever being directly implicated in some of the awful things that occur.

The chapters switch back and forth between the present and Marion’s memories of her childhood which slowly begins to put together the pieces for the reader to understand who Marion and John are as adults. Traumatic experiences are told only from Marion’s point of view so it often is left to the reader to make inferences – something that becomes questionable by the end of the novel and left me having doubts about my earlier assumptions about Marion’s character.

For all his faults, John loved her and she loved him. Without him there would be no one. He was there on birthdays and at Christmas. He might only buy her something cheap or forget to buy her a present at all, but at least he was there. Someone to get angry with for not doing the right thing was better than no one at all.

Despite how horrific her brother is, Marion is so frightened of being alone that she often justifies his behavior. It was easy to identify Marion as a victim for much of the book, but yet it was still uncomfortable to know she could have done something to stop him. As the novel progresses, Marion’s innocence becomes questionable as well and a lot of questions are left unanswered by the end of the book – a style that isn’t for all readers, but I happen to love!

The Visitors is a slow-burning story that leaves a lot up to the reader to determine since everything is told solely from Marion’s point of view. I would recommend this book to readers who prefer psychological thrillers that make you think rather than those that are more plot-driven.

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The Massacre of Mankind

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It has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared.

So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat.

He is right.

Thrust into the chaos of a new invasion, a journalist – sister-in-law to Walter Jenkins – must survive, escape and report on the war.

The Massacre of Mankind has begun.

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

Publication Date: August 22, 2017 by Crown Publishing

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My Thoughts:

The Massacre of Mankind is not a “bad” novel – I just wasn’t the right audience for it. It’s intended for those who want an authentic continuation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds in both writing style and plot. The story picks up where Wells’ left off and while I appreciated the female narrative, this read more like a war novel than sci-fi fiction and I started to feel as if I was drowning in the heavily detailed prose.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

First Love

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From “one of Britain’s most original young writers” (The Observer), a blistering account of a marriage in crisis and a portrait of a woman caught between withdrawal and self-assertion, depression and rage.

Neve, the novel’s acutely intelligent narrator, is beset by financial anxiety and isolation, but can’t quite manage to extricate herself from her volatile partner, Edwyn. Told with emotional remove and bracing clarity, First Love is an account of the relationship between two catastrophically ill-suited people walking a precarious line between relative calm and explosive confrontation.

First Love by Gwendoline Riley

Publication Date: 2017 by Granta Books

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My Thoughts:

First Love is a vicious, cerebral little book and apparently exactly what I needed to kick-start my recent reading slump. Reading Riley’s novel feels a bit voyeuristic at times and her use of dialogue really does a fantastic job of playing out the tension as the reader witnesses the day-to-day of Neve and Edwyn’s dysfunctional relationship.

Finding out what you already know. Repeatingly. That’s not sane, is it? And while he might have said that ‘this was how he was’, for me it continued to be frightening, panic-making, to hear the low, pleading sounds I’d start making, whenever he was sharp with me. This wasn’t how I spoke. (Except it was.) This wasn’t me, this crawling, cautious creature. (Except it was.) I defaulted to it very easily. And he let me. Why? I wonder now how much he even noticed, hopped up as he was. No, I don’t believe he did notice. This was the lesson, I think. That none of this was personal.

Despite the entire novel being told from Neve’s point of view, she doesn’t paint a picture of herself being a victim and this makes the novel feel even more threatening since it’s unclear how much she plays a role in their unhealthy dynamic or if she is just unclear herself how much she is to “blame” for Edwyn’s horrible treatment of her. It was gut-wrenching to read through these dialogues and see how easy it can be to become stuck in the continual cycle of an abusive relationship. She may love Edwyn but the reader is never certain of Neve’s recognition that her love for him doesn’t make his treatment of her acceptable or normal.

This is a stunner of a book and I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of Gwendoline Riley’s work!