The Hellion by Harriet Young – Updates, News and Reviews

The Hellion author Harriet Young

The Hellion will be released on 15th April, and as the publication date gets ever closer, I thought it would be a good idea to share some updates and info.

The Hellion is the story of the Device family, who lived in the shadow of Pendle Hill and were haunted by the whisper of witchcraft. Read the full blurb here. It is being published by Unbound Publishers, and is currently available to preorder from most major bookshops (links below).

News

The launch party is in the planning stages right now! This will be an online party on the 15th April, with details to be announced shortly. It will be open to anyone, and details will be announced on my Instagram (@thesenovelthoughts) and through the blog soon. If you would like to sign up to receive an email invitation, please enter your email address below.

There will also be a short FAQ session as part of the party, so if you have any questions you would like answering (about me, the book, the publishing process, anything!), pop them in the box below and I will answer as many as I can on the day.

The physical launch party will be going ahead as soon as COVID restrictions allow, so stay tuned for updates.

Reviews

“I absolutely loved this book, it had me gripped from the beginning and I could not put it down until I finished it.” Alison – Goodreads

Reviews for The Hellion are starting to trickle through online, and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who takes the time to rate or review The Hellion. Reviews are vital for authors, and every review you leave helps to spread visibility and bookish love. Thank you!

If you would like to leave a review, here are some popular places to do so:

Goodreads – free to set up an account

Amazon – you don’t need to have bought the book from Amazon to leave a review on there

The StoryGraph – an awesome website which will track your reading too

LoveReading – sign up to add books to your bookshelf

Updates

If you’re keen to read The Hellion right now, the audiobook is available to listen to. It’s narrated by Melanie Crawley, and you can find it on scribd, audible, Google play, and many more.

The paperback and ebook are available to preorder from a variety of places including:

Waterstones

W H Smith

Book Depository

Blackwell’s

Wordery

Bookshop.org

Amazon

Unbound

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Ah, now this is exactly the sort of book I love to pick up. A creepy, energetic thriller with just the right balance of horror, intrigue and fantasy.

The beginning of the novel was similar to many haunted house stories – a young woman must visit an old house in the middle of nowhere. When she arrives, she discovers that it is decrepit, mouldy and its occupants decidedly odd. There are silent servants, lecherous men and a cousin who is acting anything but normal.

The protagonist is Noemi, a character that you can’t help rooting for. She is bright and fun and the perfect antithesis to the bleak surroundings, high in the mountains where the mist is a constant companion.

About halfway through, the plot veers away from that of a traditional haunted house tale and becomes something very different. It surprised me, but I loved it. The plot is imaginative and brave, and I am now looking up Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s other books (Gods of Jade and Shadow next, I think!)

You can find Mexican Gothic here.

Still Life by Sarah Winman

Still Life by Sarah Winman

Ah, what a joy this book was to read. I absorbed it slowly, savouring every word and getting to know the sweet characters within.

Still Life is the story of Ulysses, a soldier turned globe maker, and Evelyn, a delightfully witty art historian and lecturer. They are generations apart in age, but their respect for one another is one of the key themes in this book.

Set mostly in Florence, I enjoyed every single one of the hours I spent on an Italian terrace as I made my way through the story. We stay mainly with Ulysses, but also grow to know and love his rag tag group of friends who make the move from London to Italy with him.

The book begins in the Second World War, and spans decades. I eventually adored every character, with all their nuances – there was not one I disliked, and I grieved for them when I closed the last page.

There is great depth to Still Life, with many layers of meaning, but the one that struck me most of all was the fleeting nature of life. Of the snapshots that you remember as time follows its unrelenting path, and the memories and people you treasure along the way. Of the fact that, at the same time, you are tiny and insignificant in this universe and enormous and vital in someone else’s world.

Pick up this book, and fall in love.

You can get a copy here – it’s out on June 10th. Thank you to 4th Estate for sending me an advance review copy.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

When I heard that a new book by Kazuo Ishiguro was being released, I was extremely excited. I love Never Let Me Go (you can read my review of that book here), and had very high hopes for Klara and the Sun. My excitement was just tinged with a hint of concern that perhaps it could not live up to those expectations.

Well, I am delighted to announce that it did. As always, the depth of detail in Ishiguro’s world was incredible. Klara and the Sun focuses on an artificially intelligent being who is sold as a companion to a child. I won’t say much more about the contents, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone wanting to read it, but I was blown away by the insights into how an artificially intelligent robot might think. You are party to the learning process, as she becomes more socially aware following exposure to varying events. There are countless curiosities – what would a solar powered robot think of the sun? How would a robot’s programming affect what it thought about humans, their emotions and the hierarchy of problems they may have?

As with Never Let Me Go, you do not get any more information than Klara herself has. This naturally leaves many questions unanswered at the end of the book – which is frustrating but, equally, perfect.

I found the novel intensely moving, thought provoking and a genuinely delightful way to spend a weekend. Highly recommended.

You can get a copy of Klara and the Sun here.

What I Read This Month – January 2021 Edition

What I Read This Month – January 2021 Edition

Stack of blue classic books with espresso cups and tea cups

One good thing does come from lockdown; reading more books. I thought I’d share with you the books I read in January and what I thought of them. A slight caveat to begin – I have been researching cults for some writing, and this dictated most of my choices! However, if you’re interested in cults then this could well be the reading month for you.

I finished 4 books which I was happy with; I generally try to get through one a week.

Book 1 – In Order to Live – Yeonmi Park

What a great way to start a new year’s reading journey. This book was simply astonishing. It documents the true story of Yeonmi Park’s escape from North Korea, and what happened to her afterwards. This book will stay with me for a very, very long time. The chapters sharing her life as a child in North Korea were awful, but unsurprising- full of hunger, illness and an impossible political system. It was what occurred after she escaped over the border with her mother that truly shocked me. I think, like many, I had heard of North Korean defectors and assumed that, once they were free, they were safe. I was wrong on both counts. Yeonmi Park and her mother were neither free nor safe as undocumented refugees in China. I won’t share what happened to them here, but I urge you to pick up this book and read her harrowing, inspirational journey yourself.

You can find a copy of this book here.

Book 2 – Survivor – Chuck Palahniuk

My second book of the month was Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk. Keeping in with the cult theme, this is a fast-paced and wild yarn about the last survivor of a suicide cult. As you would expect from Palahniuk, this story investigates the darkest corners of the human condition whilst remaining completely character-focused and utterly readable. I enjoyed it, it had some seriously quotable phrases, but I already find it slipping from my memory. It’s not a book that hit me, you know?

You can get this book here.

Book 3 – A Game Of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

Sometimes you need some pure escapism. I’ve watched the series multiple times and enjoy it. My husband gave me the full box set of the books for Christmas and I thought I’d get stuck in. The series follows this first book very faithfully, so it was an easy read. It was lovely (if that is the correct word to describe a book like this…) to revisit these characters and I spent several happy hours in Westeros. I won’t explain what it’s about because, well, I’m sure you already know.

Get yourself a copy here.

Book 4 – Underground – Haruki Murakami

Ok, I was very divided by this one. The book is a series of interviews conducted by Murakami with survivors of the Tokyo underground terrorist attacks in 1995. The interviews themselves were fascinating. The layout, with different people who experienced the same attack and their contradictory memories, was great. Murakami’s input, however, was jarring. In the introduction, he laid out his efforts to contact survivors. He noted that many women declined, and said that this was probably because the men in their families wouldn’t want them to be interviewed. Of course, I found that angering. Then, prior to an interview with a woman, he described (in great detail) her attractiveness, how men would like her and how she was young enough to be his daughter. The men he clearly admired were described in terms of being controlling, in charge of their families. I understand that a lot of time has passed since this book was written, but I found his attitude towards women to be awful, and it completely distracted from the content of the book.

If you still somehow want a copy, you can get one here!

There you are – my January reads! Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them?

Looking ahead to February, I have a few exciting books on my radar, but I may well read less (due to the very exciting fact that my debut novel The Hellion is being released in a few short weeks…!)

Things We Lost In The Fire – Mariana Enriquez

Things We Lost In The Fire – Mariana Enriquez

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“Her body refused to turn around; something was holding her there in the bedroom doorway. But she wasn’t dreaming. You don’t feel pain in dreams.

It is no secret that I am a fan of weird and wonderful short stories (and occasionally enjoy getting my quill out to write some of my own), and the joy of stumbling across a collection which is as good as this one is almost indescribable.

Things We Lost In The Fire is…there’s no other word for it, it’s terrifying. These are modern day, gothic horror stories set in the slums of Buenos Aires. Each is fast-paced, twisting and turning with terror building with each line.

I tend to judge the success of horror stories by the weirdness of my dreams after reading – and based on the disturbed sleep I had, this collection is a winner.

One of my favourites was The Neighbor’s Courtyard, a terrifically creepy yarn which reminded me, with its obsession, of The Yellow Wallpaper. But all of the stories are very good, and all very different.

You know that excitement when you read a book you love, will remember forever, and that you know you won’t stop recommending to people, probably ever? Yep. This is one of them. I’m sad that I can’t experience the joy of reading it for the first time again.

You can find Things We Lost In The Fire here and the book tracker bookmarks here.

Orfeia – Joanne M. Harris

Orfeia – Joanne M. Harris

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My plaid away, my plaid away,

And o’er the hill and far away,

And far away to Norroway,

My plaid shall not be blown away.

Oh, how I love a fairy tale retelling. They are so deeply immersive and, when well-written, pick you up and spirit you away to another world.

Orfeia is a retelling of the Orpheus myth (a quick recap – Orpheus’ wife Eurydice died and Orpheus went to the underworld to beg for her life. The gods allowed her release as long as Orpheus did not look back at her as they travelled back to the land of the living. Unable to do so, Orpheus looked back and Eurydice was gone forever). Orfeia draws on the themes of death and grief, but focuses instead on a mother and her daughter.

As with all of Harris’ work, the story is beautifully told. Magic weaves through it and you question dreams and reality. I rushed through the book in a few sittings, swept away by the enchanting tale, and it would be perfect for a chilly autumn evening- by the fire with a glass of wine.

The book is illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins (who also illustrated A Pocketful of Crows and The Blue Salt Road) and the beautiful drawings bring Harris’ words to life.

Highly recommended!

You can find Orfeia here and the book tracker bookmarks here.

A Thousand Ships- Natalie Haynes

“But this is a women’s war, just as much as it is the men’s, and the poet will look upon their pain – the pain of the women who have always been relegated to the edges of the story, victims of men, survivors of men, slaves of men – and he will tell it, or he will tell nothing at all.

There are good retellings of Greek myths and legends – The Song of Achilles, for example. There are good feminist retellings – Circe and The Penelopiad. And there are (I’m sorry to say it) not so good feminist retellings, such as The Silence of the Girls. With A Thousand Ships, we thankfully have a feminist retelling which falls into good – if not excellent- category.

The book follows a mostly chronological story of the Trojan War and Odysseus’ (and other ‘heroes’) various meanderings afterwards, told solely through the eyes of the women involved. Some are well known to fans of the immensely popular recent novels, others were new to me.

A Thousand Ships flits between many of the women involved in and affected by the war, and I have read several views that suggest the book was the worse because of this. I found the opposite- perhaps it’s down to my lack of focus at the moment but I loved gaining a wider perspective through multiple viewpoints.

I gave this book 9/10. Will it win the Women’s Prize? Probably not. It may not be as in-depth and focused as some people would prefer, but it was the perfect read for me at this time. If you want to escape into the world of Greek myths and legends, this is the book for you. And on that note, if you have any other recommendations for myths and legends retellings, pop them in the comments!

You can find A Thousand Ships here.

The Broken Hearts

A short story by Harriet Young

The broken hearts by Harriet young short story

Blood appears black in the moonlight. Don’t ask me how I know that. There are many things I’ve done and many things I’ve seen that I’d prefer not to tell you. But I suppose, now I’m here, that I should share.

It is freeing, in a way, to be able to tell you anything. To feel like I can tell you anything. I trust you. I haven’t trusted many people in my life, but you – I feel like we have a connection. Don’t you?

So, where to begin? I suppose you want to know everything, don’t you? Perhaps I should start with my childhood. How little there is to tell about that though. I was a loner – I imagine you guessed that already, from how I am now. An only child, distant parents. I can’t pretend that my difficulties, the trials and tribulations I’ve felt during my life, haven’t stemmed from then. In fact, until I found you, I was drifting. I had no anchor, despite my wealth. Oh, how I do now!

No, don’t worry, my parents weren’t cruel. But I can’t say that they showed me love either. They were busy, I felt like an afterthought. I found my own ways to entertain myself. I won’t bore you with them, ordinary childhood things that they were. Games.

I went to University a year early. I always was bright, but numbers come naturally to me. I was confused by how others struggled in those lessons, perhaps that goes some way to explain my lack of friends. I hoped things would be different at Oxford University. Surely there, there would be people like me?

As you know, I was disappointed. They had all of the benefits of a socialised childhood and they gathered in groups that I couldn’t infiltrate. I just didn’t know how – they weren’t like me. Instead, I went from lecture to lecture, head down, books in hand, talking to no one. I was invisible. I kept my eyes on the ground and studied in my room. I spoke to no one and no one spoke to me and that was that.

This may sound like I want your pity. I don’t. You know that since then, my life has become an apparent success. I have friends, fans even. My money. Status. But I’ve always wanted more. I’ve always been hungry for more. Now that we’re together, I’m content. You have changed that side of me, at least.

Yes, I know why we are here, having this conversation. Yes, I can tell what that expression on your face means. You want more. Well. I don’t know whether delving any deeper would be helpful. You already seem disappointed in me. What can I do? It is more difficult than it seems, peeling back the layers. As painful as removing a layer of skin. I’ll try. I’m flattered that you want to learn more about me. I feel there is something I’m missing though, something urgent that you want. You are tense. But you feel as though you can’t ask. Ok, that’s fine. I want you to believe in me.

A heart is like an apple, you know. When it’s healthy and happy it is fresh and juicy and red – filled to bursting. Have you ever bitten into an apple and left it on the side? Straight away it starts to wilt, brown, rot. There’s no healing it. That’s my experience, anyway. Give it an hour or two and there’s nothing you can do to save it, you may as well just toss it in the bin.

You could say that’s been my life’s work.

You don’t get the connection? You look confused, but trust me, it is a good metaphor. I can see your micro expressions now, flitting across your face, you are struggling to understand. It will become clear. I want what you want – I want the two of us to be happy and I want you to know me. I know that’s important for us to move forward.

Shall we move on to your reservations about me? I can see that you have them. People have had reservations about since I was a child. Perhaps it’s something about the way I hold myself. I’m so used to being alone that others sense that they are unnecessary around me, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I need you as much as you need me. I’m sorry that I can’t be different.

Perhaps talking about my career will help. You know that I’m successful and – well, you’ve seen my office. You perhaps don’t know quite how hard I had to work to build my company. From the ground up. Starting with nothing – no loans, just a computer in my bedroom. Am I proud of what I’ve achieved? Yes, of course I am. Wouldn’t you be? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to undermine your own career. I know you work hard. But yes, to get to the bottom of what you want to know, I did trample on people on my way up. To be a success, you have to. Kind people don’t get anywhere in this life. Oh, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but you understand – to make millions, to become a someone, you have to stand on top of a pile of bodies. Excuse my crude phrasing. It was harder for me than those Eton boys with their connections readymade. I had to rely on pure talent and guts. You think I’m cold, and I don’t deny it. But you can see why I would be, with a life like mine.

Now I’m confused because you still seem to want more from me. There are no more relevant things that I can share about my life. I said it was freeing to be able to tell you anything and I stand by that, but your reaction is frankly quite disappointing. You have a strange look on your face. What is that look? If you came closer to me, maybe I would be able to decipher it. As it is, I am drawn to your glinting eyes in this gloomy room.

I see what you want. I understand now. You want to know about my past relationships. Are you alright? I noticed a subtle change in you. This is what you were waiting for. Well, I’m afraid there’s really nothing to tell you. I have never been much of a one for long relationships. They don’t tend to work for me.

I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear.

***

Interview adjourned at 13.49. The accused remains unwilling to disclose the locations of the other bodies.

*

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Glorious Neutral Spines

White books with flowers

Bright, light books should grace everyone’s shelves. These are six of my particular favourites. The Wuthering Heights and Pride & Prejudice are part of the glorious Thomas Nelson Seasons Paper Cut series. These fall under winter – the summer set is available for preorder now. They are some of the most gorgeously intricate designs I’ve ever seen. Also included are my incredibly special Anna Karenina and the Knickerbocker Jules Verne collection.

Here’s where you can find them (starting from the bottom):

Jules Verne – The Ultimate Collection

Anna Karenina

Wuthering Heights

Pride & Prejudice

The Beautiful and Damned

Romeo and Juliet