Book Review: The Photograph by Debbie Rix

A special shout-out to Bookouture and NetGalley for providing me with this copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

Italy, 1958: Rachael is a young widow with a small child. After a lifetime of running for survival, of not knowing who to trust and where to call home, she finds herself in a place of safety. On a sun-drenched Italian island for one carefree summer the troubles of her past fade away and she falls in love. But will Rachael’s new-found happiness bring her further heartache?

England, 2017: Sophie has a handsome husband, a gorgeous house in the English countryside and a successful career as an anthropologist. But the one thing she longs for is a baby of her own. As she struggles to conceive, cracks begin to appear in her marriage. So Sophie throws herself into her work and tries to seek comfort in childhood memories of her beloved grandmother Rachael.

One afternoon, Sophie finds a forgotten letter and an exquisite silk bracelet hidden in Rachael’s old writing desk. Intrigued, she begins to unravel the extraordinary story of her grandmother’s past – and a secret that has the power to change everything…

The Photograph is an utterly beautiful and compelling story of love, loss and a family secret spanning generations.

My Thoughts:

The Photograph is the spell-binding journey of two women, generations apart, and their stories of love, loss and life. The story alternates between Sophie’s life and experiences in the current day, and those of Rachael, almost 60 years ago.

Sophie is dealing with the struggle to conceive, yearning so much for a child that she does not pay much attention to how the people around her are dealing with things. She is a wonderful person at heart, but fails to see how her obsession affects her husband. At the brink of losing her marriage entirely, the husband and wife duo are confronted with a lot of decisions and forced to deal with their emotions. The best part of Sophie’s story is her family, who is her support system, but who also act as voices of reason when required.

More than 60 years ago, Rachael, Sophie’s grandmother loses her own mother, her husband and is forced to flee her home with her father so as not to get caught. In the midst of all this, she finds herself pregnant. As the father-daughter duo’s journey continues west, they end up in England where her father takes up teaching anthropology at the university.

Rachael fills her time and also builds bonds with the owner of the house they are staying at. As time passes, they move to Italy for almost a year so that her father can lead a dig and document the findings. What follows is a life of sun, some laughter and a passionate love that Rachael develops for a local of the island. However, the main part of her story comes from not being able to pursue this relationship and moving back home.

Rachael’s life is filled with a lot of loss and tragedy, but through all this emerges a strong willed woman who raises two children by herself and lives to see her grandchildren grow up. A quiet but dependable presence in their lives, no-one knows that she harbors a strong secret about her life and her son’s.

Sophie, in a bid to connect with her grandmother, while moving her writing desk from the attic to the living room, discovers a false back. This leads to the discovery of a photograph, the very photograph that the title refers to! What follows is a family holiday to Italy where Sophie sets out to discover the truth behind the photograph. This leads Sophie to uncover a deeply hidden truth that would change her mother and uncle’s lives forever.

The story is gripping and will keep the reader hooked until the very end. Set against some amazing backdrops, the authors ensures to describe each place with great detail, it feels as though you are also there. The emotions are many and the reader will experience them all along with the characters. The author brings out the repercussions of keeping secrets but at the same time she shows us the reasoning behind it and how it might have been necessary. Times change, the world changes and so does people’s perception of things. A compelling story, The Photograph is a must read!

Book Review: The Laws of Nature by Ashley Franz Holzmann

About the Book:

Image result for the laws of nature Ashley Franz Holzmann

There is a dark side to human nature that neither can be wished away nor completely mitigated. Ashley Holzmann details just several of these “Laws of Nature” before taking his readers on a journey through the bizarre, the terrifying, and, ultimately, the disturbingly real truths that underlie much of modern American life.

Ashley makes his debut into the horror genre with “The Stump,” a story about an afternoon trot through the woods that quickly becomes a blood bath–and, much as it does for that story’s creature, the scent of fear will only lure veteran horror readers further through the forest. A teenager’s vanity will likely cause his town to be consumed by a roaming swarm of insects that burst forth from his acne-riddled skin in “White Heads;” entire populations vanish into the void of the Alaskan tundra in “Glass Houses;” and superiority takes the form of a murdering, sadistic woman in “Lady Macbeth.”

But Ashley’s best retellings focus less on gore and adrenaline and instead take human psychology as their medium, as demonstrated in “Plastic Glasses,” where readers are brought into a world of disturbing personality and mental disorders. Ashley’s work abounds with stories in this vein, stories which grab a hold of a common failing–such as marital friction in “Hush,” or American male frustration in “Orpheus’s Lot”–and take it to an extreme that is nevertheless not inconceivable for most people.

Coming from the mind of a man who has experienced more than his fair share of humanity, “The Laws of Nature” is, at its finest, a description of universal emotions of loss, nostalgia, anxiety, and soul-penetrating terror. Ashley’s stories elicit empathy from his readers and draw them into worlds where they both acknowledge and cuddle with their fears and which leave them, ultimately, more human.

My Thoughts:

Stemming from real life experiences to stories of fiction, this anthology of short stories explores the human psych and the genre of horror. The stories are diverse and the author focuses on fear as one of the main points of many of his stories. It is difficult to pick up or pin-point any one story as they are all similar and different in many ways. The author writes in an abstract style, sometimes seeming to be impersonal. Many of the stories are in first person and the rest a narration. Murder, hate, suicide, fear, life and finally the human psych are some of the topics explored through the stories.

The author will force the reader to think and experience each of the feelings through the stories and inspire them to think. There is so much food for thought and introspection. As a result of reading this anthology, the reader will come away affected, but much more human, stemming from a realization of sorts. It is difficult to describe this as it will differ from person to person, but it is clear that the reader will experience a vast number of emotions in this collection of stories.

Read this for a rare and interesting experience.

Book Review: Granjy’s Eyes by Matt McAvoy

About the Book:

Granjy's Eyes

Meet Ollie.
Well-educated and spoilt – a rich kid, fun-loving party-goer and brutal sociopath. Ruthlessly arrogant Ollie takes what he wants, when he wants it. But Ollie’s going to learn, the hard way, that for every action there’s a consequence, and for every bounty a price.

Because living with Granjy isn’t the bed of roses he thought it was going to be; the blind old lady sees everything – sees him – and most of all sees the monster he is becoming. It was she that made him rotten-to-the-core, and now his payment is due – Ollie will tear apart his own dark soul, and Granjy will teach him new meaning of the word ‘remorse’.

My Thoughts:

I come away with mixed feelings after reading this book. At the end, I just gave a sigh of relief that it is over. Some parts of the book had me cringing in horror and wonder at the kind of things the protagonist gets up to. More than that, it amazed me to read about his justification and rationalization of various events.

Our protagonist lives with his grandmother for a good number of years after being kicked out of his parents house. The dynamics between Ollie and his grandmother is weird enough to raise eyebrows, but is well portrayed in the book. However, it is sad that even though Granjy knew everything about Ollie, she didn’t have the mental strength to stand up to him and put him right, and in the end it cost her dearly.

Ollie is a self-absorbed, money minded and materialistic human being, used to getting his own way and not being accountable for anything he did. This is re-enforced when his grandmother always stands up for him and seems to always see the good in him. This particular relationship and Ollie’s ideas will be severely tested later on in the story. The author’s style of writing is quite different and it took me some time to get into the book. It feels abrupt and there seems to be a lack of flow between chapters. This isn’t that much of a problem since the plot seems to flow on in a clear direction.

The characters are interesting and developed to some extent, though there could have been some more depth given to Ollie. There are many incidents that are not even described enough but are mentioned quite extensively, seemingly to make the reader imagine additional details by themselves. The author maintains the pace of the story and the atmosphere quite well. The story moves at a steady pace, the destination becoming clearer and clearer as we progress, with a climactic ending that I am sure no-one will see coming.

A decent pick-me up for those who enjoy psychological thrillers which also touch upon horror.