Blog Tour Review: House of Spines by Michael J. Malone

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for House of Spines, a most unusual book and quite unlike anything I have ever read before. Many thanks to Orenda books and Michael Malone for letting me have a copy of the book and a space on the tour.

Blurb:  A terrifying psychological thriller cum Gothic mystery, as a young man with mental health issues inherits an isolate mansion, where all is not as it seems…

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror… the reflection of a woman…

A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…


Rating: 5/5

Review: I can honestly say this is the most perplexing story I have read in a long time, possibly ever. It only works because it is exceedingly well-written, if this were attempted by someone less talented it would be nonsense but in Michael Malone’s hands it is a story which seeps into you every time you pick up the book. Every little thought and feeling that Ran has is so well described (without being laboured) that it’s almost as if you are him rather than just someone reading a book. 

There’s not a lot I can say about this book without giving away too much but I can say the majority of it takes place in the house Ran inherits. The house and it’s environment are so skillfully constructed that each time I’ve picked up the book I’ve felt apprehensive and wary, basically the exact feelings Ran has for a large part of the story, and in the times when I haven’t been reading the book has been calling to me, something I have never experienced before. 

I tend not to enjoy books that don’t flow well. For me the act of reading automatically conjures up a movie in my head as I read. Poorly written books are like a movie reel that stutters and so I struggle to read them. Well-written books like this one flow smoothly and without any prompting or thought on my part. This is particularly impressive in the case of this book because it is, as I said, quite perplexing. The main character is constantly confused or doubting himself and the story jumps sometimes from one time or place to a different place or a few hours later without warning. In many books this would be a problem but in this one it isn’t simply because of the skill of the author.  

I already knew how good a storyteller Michael Malone is because I read and reviewed A Suitable Lie last year but this has surpassed even that and I can’t wait to see what he produces next. 


Author bio:

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage.  His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller.  Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

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Blog Tour Review: A Suitable Lie by Michael J. Malone

A Suitable Lie AW.indd

 

Blurb: Some secrets should never be kept…

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match … and she loves his son like he is her own. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems.

Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it. A dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. A brave, deeply moving, page-turning psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s finest crime writers, exploring the lengths people will go to hide their deepest secrets, even if it kills them…

 

My Rating: 4.5/5

Review: Domestic violence is something everyone is aware of.  The most common type is perpetrated by men against women and there is a lot, not enough, but a lot of support out there for female victims of domestic abuse.  However, this support doesn’t really extend to men who are abused by women, partly because this is less common and partly because, I believe, a lot of people either deny it happens or simply refuse to believe it.  I am a firm believer than abuse towards anyone should not happen and there should be support available to anyone affected regardless of gender but this will sadly take a long time to become a reality.

One thing that I believe will help is this book.  It is a well-written and very insightful view into the life and mind of someone affected by domestic abuse, the someone in this case happens to be a man, which I think is unusual in this genre of books.  I believe that and the story itself may make people stop and think about what goes on behind closed doors and the fact that you can never truly understand someone’s life unless you live it with them.  We start off with Andy and his son.  Andy’s first wife tragically died 4 years ago and his brother believes it’s time Andy moves on and finds someone new.  With this in mind he persuades Andy to come out the the pub one night and that’s where he meets Anna.  A few whirlwind weeks later and they are married and only then does Anna’s true character reveal itself.  The rest of the book takes us through a a period of approximately 2-3 years and shows the effect that Anna’s abuse has on Andy; on his self-esteem, his self-worth and his personality.  We see the decisions that Andy makes, the justifications he comes up with to defend Anna’s behaviour and how he feels about himself when he does that.  All along you get an understanding of why he tolerates this and why he stays.

This is not an easy read, but then it shouldn’t be because it’s a very serious subject that everyone needs to do more about.  This is a portrait of real life, someone somewhere will be living through this right now wondering what to do, how they got to this point and if there is ever any way they can escape.  While there are many dark moments in the book there are some light ones too, Andy’s son Pat is a lovely, intelligent child and the scenes with him break up the darker ones.  This stops this book from becoming something that is too dark and depressing to read.  While I found it a little difficult to get into at first, after the first few chapters that changed and I read 2/3 of the book in one night and the rest in one sitting the following day.  All sense of time disappeared as I was reading, no sounds penetrated my consciousness because I was so caught up in the story.  The way this is written is one of the reasons it works so well, I can’t explain how it works but it sort of slowly envelops you till there is nothing left but you and the story and that is something that not many authors can achieve, regardless of the genre they write in.

This is not a book to be taken on lightly, it will probably make you think and reconsider how you view the world, but it is definitely a book that should be read.  I hope that, because this is not a debut novel, it gets a lot of people reading and talking about such an important subject.  Individual actions can change the world and hopefully this book will be one of them.

Many thanks to the author and to Karen Sullivan of Orenda books for letting me have a copy of this book.  This review is my own work.

 

bobmcd18

 

About the author:

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes:

Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

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