Review: The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney

32621113*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Blood Miracles

Author: Lisa McInerney

Publisher: John Murray, a Hachette UK Company

Publication Date: April 6, 2017

ISBN: 9781444798890

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Like all twenty-year-olds, Ryan Cusack is trying to get his head around who he is. This is not a good time for his boss to exploit his dual heritage by opening a new black market route from Italy to Ireland. It is certainly not a good time for his adored girlfriend to decide he’s irreparably corrupted. And he really wishes he hadn’t accidentally caught the eye of an ornery grandmother who fancies herself his saviour. There may be a way clear of the chaos in the business proposals of music promoter Colm and in the attention of the charming, impulsive Natalie. But now that his boss’s ambitions have rattled the city, Ryan is about to find out what he’s made of, and it might be that chaos is in his blood.

From what I’ve seen online, I should have first read McInerney’s Glorious Heresies before reading The Blood Miracles. Many writers seem to be of the opinion that GH is necessary in order to understand the backstory and references throughout this new novel. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, but I disagree with this statement. Without having read GH, I found The Blood Miracles to be a full, easily understood, suspenseful narrative. If there were any blanks, McInerney does an excellent job of filling them in, because I certainly do not feel as though I’ve missed out on anything by not reading her previous novel. Often with sequels, one cannot pick up the second or subsequent books to read on their own, but The Blood Miracles does stand on it’s own two feet. I found it to be incredibly engaging, moving, and well-rounded, with enough backstory that I walked away feeling satisfied that I knew the characters, where they came from, and where they were headed. I think I’m even more inclined now to pick up Glorious Heresies to see how it compares.

I love, love, loved that this book is written with Cork slang. It sucks you right into the story. You can hear the characters in a fully immersive, visceral experience. It brings Ryan to life in a very real way. Ryan is barely a redeemable character. In fact, I hated him in the beginning. And then I began to love him for evoking such conflict in me. He became a character that I loved to hate, yet I was rooting for him all the same. I do not generally read or enjoy stories as hard as this one, so I was very skeptical and a bit resistant to reading it at first. But there’s something about Ryan–a something that the women in this novel also experience–that just draws you in. Through him, I was able to let the story grip me and really take me on a dark adventure.

I now cannot wait to get started on Glorious Heresies. I think I’ll really enjoy it, based on the reviews I’ve seen and the recommendations I’ve received. I hope those who loved GH will keep an open mind about this new novel. From what I understand, this book takes a very different turn and many people seem wary of this change. But I think The Blood Miracles has a lot to offer. I know I, surprisingly, really liked it, and I hope you will too!

Review: Beyond the Wild River

30753746*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Beyond the Wild River

Author: Sarah Maine

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 9781501126956

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre has always done her duty as a daughter, hiding her boredom and resentment behind good manners—so when an innocent friendship with a servant is misinterpreted by her father as an illicit union, Evelyn is appalled. Yet the consequence is a welcome one: she is to accompany her father on a trip to North America, where they’ll visit New York City, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and conclude with a fishing expedition on the Nipigon River in Canada. Now is her chance to escape her cloistered life, see the world, and reconnect with her father. Once they’re on the Nipigon, however, Evelyn is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, the former stable hand and her one-time friend who disappeared from the estate after the shootings of a poacher and a gamekeeper. Many had assumed that James had been responsible, but Evelyn never could believe it. Now, in the wilds of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the truth about that day, James, and her father will be revealed…to stunning consequences.

It’s not often that I pick up a historical novel, so I did feel a little out of my element reading Beyond the Wild River, however I will say that I was actually quite surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It’s a story of a young woman, Evelyn, who is coming to understand her world as she grows up, and doesn’t always like what she sees there. She wants to be a part of something bigger, to make a change, but as a young woman in the late-Nineteenth Century, she faces a lot of restrictions. Along side her growing up, her father is amassing his wealth and building his reputation and is building relationships with men who are expressing their interest in this his daughter. This novel entwines business deals with romance, adventure with ambition, betrayal with intrigue.

What really stuck with me was the second half of the novel. In my opinion, the book gets off to a slow start. I attribute this to my lack of familiarity with reading historical fiction. It’s always a shift and takes some time to get used to. As the novel develops, however, Maine reveals many intricacies about her characters and the plot. Her characters have hidden stories and many secrets. A covered up murder shows that there is more to the story than what meets the eye. People are not who we the reader, nor the characters in the book, expect. There are many twists and turns as the story progresses. I really got sucked into the book as it went along and as the story turns into more of an adventure and found myself eager to keep reading as I neared the end.

Overall, I thought that Beyond the Wild River is a very interesting tale with some unexpected twists. Evelyn is a compelling character who really comes into her own as the story progresses. This book is as much a coming-of-age story for her as it is a suspenseful tale of murder, deceit, and fortune. In the peak of the action, it’s full of heart-stopping moments. I think any lover of turn-of-the-century historical fiction will really like this particular read.

Review: Himself by Jess Kidd

33023729*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Himself

Author: Jess Kidd

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 9781501166099

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Blending strange kindnesses, casual violence and buried secrets: an unforgettable debut from a dark new voice in Irish fiction. When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies. His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one in the village – living or dead – will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony’s certainty that more than one of them has answers. Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence and buried secrets.

Himself is a darkly humorous novel, a murder mystery in a small Irish town filled with wacky characters, restless ghosts, and secrets of a lost childhood. In this debut novel, Kidd builds a fantastical town of mystery and darkness. Everyone knows everyone’s business and characters jump at the chance to involve themselves in the lives of others, whether out of a genuine caring desire or out of a nosey need to meddle in order keep the town’s sense of homeostasis–that is, to keep it’s secrets hidden.

Mahony is an outside who can see the town’s ghosts and who is on the hunt to find out what happened to the mother he never knew. His adventure leads him to the ever humorous and incredibly prying Mrs. Cauley. They two make an unlikely pair. They are brought together by a shared ability to see the dead and a desire to see the town’s mystery solved. Mahoney is this irresistible bad boy type who’s got all the ladies in town wrapped around his finger with his good looks and Dublin charm. Mrs. Crawley has asserted herself as the town’s playwright. With her crazy wig which she only sometimes wears, and her need-to-know attitude, she’s positioned herself as the towns eccentric busybody. Although this story is a murder mystery, and there are many dark things afoot in this little town, these two provide comic relief, filling this tale with humour.

Kidd creates many well developed characters in the town, while some others are left undeveloped, but serve a small purpose to the overall story. Each character, however far along in the development stage, is unique and useful to the story as a whole. There are some more wiley characters that I would have liked to see fleshed out a bit more. Characters like Tadhg, Jack Brophy, Thomas Sweeney, and Annie Farelly, all play important rolls in the story and are essential to the plot, but we don’t get to know them quite in the same way that we get to know Mahony and Mrs. Cauley. I would have like to see more of them and their backstories to understand their actions and motives throughout.

As a whole, this book was very easy to read, the characters were likeable and relatable, the story was funny and intriguing, and the mystery was not easy to solve until the end. It’s a great whodunit kind of story and is overall, a very entertaining read.