Reviews · Upcoming Books

REVIEW!! Changeling by Matt Wesolowski

ChangelingOn Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there. He talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…

If you’ve followed The Shelf for a while or seen my ravings on Twitter (@shelfofunread) you’ll know I’m a big fan of Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series featuring online investigative journalist Scott King. Matt’s debut, Six Stories, was a deliciously dark thriller that justly deserved its place on my Best Books of 2017 list. It’s sequel, Hydra, built on those foundations with a sinister story for the internet age. And, with his latest book Changeling, Weslowski is, if possible, moving it up another notch with an unsettling tale about a missing boy, a grieving father, and long-buried secrets kept within the depths of an ancient forest.

As with Hydra, Changeling is a completely standalone ‘series’ of Six Stories, Scott King’s online podcast. So whilst I would highly recommend both Six Stories and Hydra to first-time readers (I mentioned they’re both utterly brilliant, right?), there’s no need to have read either book in order to enjoy the story on offer here. Once again we have a complete podcast series comprising of six episodes, each featuring the point of view of someone connected to the disappearance of little Alfie Marsden back in 1988. This time the episodes are interspersed with Scott King’s own narrative, one that often raises more questions than it answers. Who is the mysterious Anne who claims she knows more about the case than she is telling? Why is she speaking out after all this time? And why is Scott trying to solve the disappearance of Alfie Marsden instead of just reporting it? Getting answers is a rollercoaster of a ride and Weslowski keeps the reader guessing right up until the very last page!

As with the previous Six Stories books, Changeling absolutely oozes atmosphere. The eerie silence of Wentshire Forest, with its dark, foreboding paths and sinister, oppressive glades is brilliantly portrayed on the page. Woven into this creepy setting are tales of the supernatural and uncanny, from disembodied knocking to vengeful witches and mischievous fairy folk. There’s a palpable sense of tension, inching up slowly as Scott uncovers each narrative and adds each new perspective to Alfie’s story.

And those narratives are brilliantly conceived, transporting you straight into Scott’s investigation as you learn about Alfie, his family, and his disappearance. What would cause an ordinary little boy to become a difficult, angry child? Why has his mother never involved herself with the search to find him? What caused all of the electrics to fail during the search? As a reader, you find yourself probing, questioning, guessing, and reading between the lines and into the answers of every person involved in the search for the truth. The sense of disquiet ramps up with each turn of the page, taking the reader along on Scott’s journey, investigating alongside him every step of the way.

But what really knocked me for six was the way in which Wesolowski shows how, for all our tales of the sinister and the supernatural, the true monsters in life are much more mundane but equally terrifying. Changeling has a powerful ending, one that I won’t spoil here by saying anything other than it’s definitely one of the best twists I’ve read and that it packs an emotional punch that stays with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

As a fan of the Six Stories series, I knew I was going to enjoy Changeling. What I hadn’t anticipated was how much I would enjoy it. Changeling has jumped straight into my Best Books of 2018 with its brilliant pacing, creeping sense of unease and powerful, chilling story. Matt Wesolowski is a name that deserves to be better known amongst readers so I’d urge any mystery, crime and thriller fans – as well as anyone who loves a great read with a side order of sinister – to check out the Six Stories series and Changeling in particular – this is definitely Matt’s best book yet.

Changeling by Matt Wesolowski is published by Orenda Books and is available now as an ebook. The paperback and audiobook will be released on 15 January 2019, available from all good bookshops and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones and Amazon

 

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Random Bookish Things · Reading Digest · Upcoming Books

A Reading Digest

After a recent run of blog tours, I’ve spent the last week treating myself to some freestyle reading so I thought it might be nice to do chatty round-up post about what I have read, what I’m currently reading and what I’m hoping to read next – a sort of reading digest of my recent bookish life. If you guys like it, I might do them more regularly so do let me know in the comments what you think.

Recent Reads

SevenDeathsIf you follow me on Twitter (@amyinstaffs), you’ll have probably seen me raving about Stuart Turton’s The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which I’ve just finished as part of Simon Savidge’s second Big Book Weekender. It’s a unique novel that defies easy categorisation and, as such, is difficult to summarise without spoiling – the best I’ve been able to come up with so far is Agatha Christie country house mystery meets Quantum Leap body-hopping – but I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Definitely one of my favourite reads of 2018 so far, I shall be doing a full review in due course and wouldn’t be at all surprised if it makes my Books of the Year list.

On the non-fiction front, I’ve also just finished The Time Traveller’s Guide to Restoration England by Ian Mortimer. I made slow progress on this one – not because it wasn’t interesting, but because it was my bedtime book so I was generally only reading a few pages a night before turning the light out. The Restoration has never been one of my favourite historical periods but Ian Mortimer is brilliant at making history relatable and this latest Time Traveller’s Guide is no different – it’s the perfect blend of accessible, interesting and educating, making it perfect for the armchair enthusiast keen to fill gaps in their knowledge of British history.

Currently Reading

The SparrowAfter much gentle cajoling from my best friend (who thinks it’s amazing), I’ve finally picked up The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell which is about – and I kind you not – Jesuits in space. There is, of course, a bit more too it than that – the book involves a doomed scientific mission seeking to establish first contact with an extraterrestrial culture. I’m still pretty early on in the novel (Evelyn Hardcastle a bit took over my life for 3 days) but it’s already apparent that the mission has gone badly wrong so I’m eager to find out what has happened and why.

Following much love for it on Twitter and BookTube, I’ve also just started The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey. I’ve had this medieval mystery story on my shelf since listening to a brilliant interview with the author on the Vintage Books podcast. I’m intending to return to a study of medieval literature when I start my MA in September so the period of the novel – the late 15th century – is of great interest to me, as is the central conceit that examines the certainty of belief amidst an event that causes doubt and mistrust. So far I’m finding the book rather glacial in pace but richly lyrical in tone so I suspect it will be one that rewards patient weekend reading as opposed to snatched chapters on busy weekdays.

On the non-fiction (and bedtime book) front, I’ve now picked up The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards, which is a look at the golden age detective authors and their formation of the illustrious detection club. It’s a library book so I’ll have to crack on in order to get through it’s 500 or so pages during my loan period but, so far, the subject matter is proving interesting and the book is broken down into easily digestible chapters focusing on each author.

On the audiobook front, I’m currently listening to Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer. Subtitled ‘The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship’, this is both a personal and a sociological examination of female friendships in the modern era. I’ve been really enjoying listening to it so far – there’s been so many “that’s me and my girl friends!” moments throughout, plus plenty of touchstones to friendship focused fiction, films and TV shows.

Upcoming Books

ButterflyRanchI’m back on blog tour with a couple of titles next month so will shortly need to get cracking on both Gunnar Staalsen’s Big Sister, a Chandleresque PI novel by one of the fathers of Nordic Noir, and R K Salters Butterfly Ranch, a debut novel set in Belize that examines the aftermath of a popular author’s attempted suicide.

I’m also hoping to finally get round to Charlie Laidlaw’s The Things We Learn When We’re Dead, which I was kindly sent by the author. Aside from the brilliant title, the novel sounds like a lot of fun; with a unique take on heaven as a lost, dysfunctional spaceship. If that sounds like your sort of thing too, Charlie has advised that the novel will be free to download on BookBub for a limited period between 13 and 27 June 2018.

And last, but by no means least, I do really need to read Exit West by Mohsin Hamid as that’s my book club’s next pick. So plenty to keep me busy over the next few weeks!

Do let me know what you’ve been reading lately, what you’re currently reading and what you’re looking forward to reading next – you can say hi in the comments below or over on Twitter @amyinstaffs. I’d really like to know if you’ve read any of the above titles – or if you’re interested in picking them up. In the meantime, I hope you all have an excellent week and, until next time….

Happy Reading! x

 

 

Upcoming Books

Coming Soon!

Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts in the last week or so. I’ve been on hollibobs in the beautiful islands of Orkney so have spent the last week exploring the islands’ fascinating history, eating my own body weight in ice-cream sundaes and fully-loaded hot chocolates and, of course, chilling out with a good book or three. For this, I make no excuses. It was wonderful.

But all good things must come to an end and, several pounds heavier and a good deal more relaxed, I wanted to quickly mention some of the things you can look forward to on The Shelf over the next few months.

I read a couple of really good books on holidays once of which – Amy Liptrot’s ‘The Outrun‘ – felt extra special because of reading it in the place where it is set. It’s got me thinking about the relationship between a piece of writing and its location – and whether this has any impact on the way we read and respond to it. At the moment I’m still grappling with my thoughts but I hope to turn these into a coherent blog post and review very soon.

I have a blog tour coming up on 05 October for P D James’ short story collection ‘Sleep No More‘.

Sleep No More

This will be followed by a visit to The Shelf from Christopher Fowler to chat about his non-fiction collection ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors‘ on 07 October.

Forgotten Authors

Also scheduled for later in the autumn are features on the upcoming CWA Short Story Anthology and some classic Christmas crime from Cyril Hare. I’m also discovering the latest in an ongoing crime series that features crime writer Josephine Tey as its detective.

There’s also another Cosy Reading Night from @laurenthebooks to look forward to on 20 October that I’m hoping to take part in. And, of course, with the festive season looming ever closer, I dare say that a bookish gift guide and some Christmas reading suggestions might appear – I do love an excuse to buy books, especially for other people!

I’m really looking forward to the next few months on the blog. Thank you to everyone who has subscribed to The Shelf since it moved across to WordPress – the migration has gone even better than I’d hoped and I’m really enjoying the process of developing The Shelf in its new home. I hope you’re enjoying the posts – if you have any suggestions for content you’d like to see, or comments about any of the posts, please do drop me a line or say come say hi over on Twitter. I’ll be back with a full post soon but, in the meantime, happy reading! x

Blog Tours · Upcoming Books

Autumn Reading

Ah September, the beginning of autumn. The leaves begin to turn, the nights start to darken and book lovers everywhere prepare to turn on the fire, find their cosiest PJs and hibernate with a pile of books and a supply of comforting hot drinks under their favourite blanket. As thoughts turn towards Christmas, the stars of the publishing world unveil their heavy hitters and there’s a veritable feast of literature to look forward to over the coming months so, in this post, I thought I’d talk about some of the books that I’m hoping to curl up with this autumn.

29758006First up, and the book I’ve just started reading, is Eowyn Ivey’s To the Bright Edge of the World, now out in paperback. I adored Ivey’s debut, The Snow Child, and her second book returns to the wild beauty of Alaska in the Winter of 1885 as Lieutenant Colonel Allan Forrester attempts to navigate the Wolverine River and map the inner portions of the Alaskan frontier. Alternating between Allan’s journals and the diaries of his young, heavily pregnant wife Sophie left behind in the fort, I’m hoping for more of Ivey’s vivid descriptions of the natural world and her meticulous portraits of human relationships.

35508160Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, has been garnering praise from across the literary world. Loosely based on Sophocles’ Antigone and set in contemporary London, Home Fire is the story of two British Muslim families and examines familial love, political ideology and what happens when the two collide. Isma is finally free, studying in the US after years spent raising her twin siblings. But she can’t stop worrying about headstrong, beautiful Aneeka, left back in London, and Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of their father’s dark jihadist legacy. When handsome, privileged Eamonn enters their lives, two families fates becomes inextricably intertwined in what promises to be a compelling story of family and loyalty that feels completely relevant to the world we live in today. I’ve got my reservation in at the library for this one and I’m looking forward to its arrival.

Arriving in October, Phillip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage is the first part 9307699of his much anticipated The Book of Dust and sequel to the acclaimed Northern Lights trilogy. I’ve stayed deliberately ignorant of any plot details for this because I want it to be a complete surprise on reading but I do know that it’s a prequel to the events of Northern Lights set when Lyra is just a baby. In preparation for its release, I intend to finally read the last part of the Northern Lights trilogy, The Amber Spyglass. Quite why I’ve never got around to reading the final part is a mystery even to me – I think maybe I just didn’t ever want the book to end so deliberately deferred reading the final portion. Now that I know more Pullman set in the same universe is on the way, I can read without fear!

34913762Joanne M Harris’ forthcoming A Pocketful of Crows, also due in October, promises to be a modern fairytale with a nameless wild girl at its heart. Again, I know very little about the premise but you only need to say Joanne Harris and fairytale to colour me interested. Plus I’m booked to an event with the author at the wonderful Booka Bookshop at which I look forward to hearing Joanne speak and debating whether my starstruck self is brave enough to ask a question at the end.

33876124Last, but by no means least, I’m taking part in three blog tours this autumn for upcoming titles that I’m happy to sing the praises of. The first, for Sarah Ward’s A Patient Fury, is taking place on Saturday 09 September to tie in with the launch of the third book in her extremely enjoyable DC Connie Childs series of Derbyshire-based crime novels. Combining police procedural with domestic thriller and with a dash of nordic noir, there’s still time to check out Sarah’s first two books – In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw – before picking up the third.

35079533Next up will be the second collection of the late, great P D James’ short fiction, Sleep No More. Published in early October as a companion volume to last year’s The Mistletoe Murder, the collection offers six more tales of murder from a master of the crime short story, all with the dark motive of revenge at their heart.

The Shelf will also be visited by Christopher Fowler, author of the popular Bryant & May series of crime novels, when he releases his intriguing non-fiction foray into the back catalogues and backstories of authors that were once hugely popular but have now disappeared from the shelves of most readers. The Book of Forgotten Authors promises to be an entertaining guide to 34100964some forgotten gems from an enthusiastic and enlightening guide and a real treat for any book lover who enjoys books about books!

Those are just a few of the titles that I hope will be gracing my shelves this autumn. What are you looking forward to in the upcoming months? Do let me know in the comments or by dropping me a line over on Twitter or Goodreads.