Thursday, 11 December 2014

SP Book Review: Apple

APPLE by R.A. Black

Verdict: 5 stars

Recommend: Fans of haunted houses and sibling duos, this novel is for you.

Don’t forget you can win a copy! Or show some support and buy it from Amazon.

Enter a gothic story of madness and cruelty, where the bonds of sibling loyalty are tested to the grave and beyond. 

High on the hill, Cavington Hall lurks like a beast surveying its territory. Spoken of in hushed whispers, it is home to Doctor Charles Cavington, last of a family cursed by genius and insanity in equal parts. It has now become home to twelve year old Apple. A run-away, she is forced into the doctor's service as payment for saving her brother's life. 

While Apple struggles to cope with her loneliness and isolation, the mysteries surrounding Doctor Cavington are growing. What exactly is his interest in the two siblings? Is there any truth to his strange tales of Guardians and Reapers, ethereal figures he claims are responsible for dealing with the souls of the dead? 

And what is making that thumping noise in the locked nursery at night?

The Rating Breakdown

Enjoyment:  5  Loved it. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Writing StyleThe writing is spectacularly vivid in some places and full of charm in others. 

Plot:  Could be tighter towards the conflict/resolve, but excellent and tightly knitted elsewhere. 

World & Concepts:  5  Brilliant scene descriptions and details on the era. 

Characters:  I’m not sure whether I love Apple more or Skye. 

Finish:  4  A few typos which should be addressed soon. I’m personally not a fan of the cover. 

Strengths: The characters, the pace, the writing – it’s well-written.

Weakness: A few sections of the ending could be clearer if I need to be picky. 

APPLE is engaging from start to finish. R.A. black uses the right amount of characterization, detail, and conflict from chapter one as straight away we’re introduced to twelve year old Philipa (Apple), her hard life on the farm, and her loving brother who is taken ill and doesn’t look like he’ll survive. Once I picked it up, I was hooked.

I found it hard to pick a favourite character. Apple is endearing. She’s young but brave – not that she doesn’t get scared. She puts her older brother first even when she’s terrified. Usually I have a bit of an issue with young narrators, but this never felt like a young children’s book and it always felt natural and engaging. If anything, it made me feel even more sympathetic to her cause because she’s so young.

Skye is another fantastic character. I thought it was clever how, although he’s older and much stronger than Apple, he’s riddled with illness which gives him a hurdle to overcome and means that both characters have to look out for each other. It’s their strong bond which makes this book special. There’s something about this sibling duo that makes me think Supernatural fans are in for a treat.

I also found the character of Dr Charles Carvington interesting, and well-named for a horror novel. Through Dr Carvington, we see a side of abuse that is very realistic – the abusive aggression followed by a kind side that begs for forgiveness which is seen so often in domestic abuse. The doctor isn’t a one dimensional villain.

The other real strength is the beautiful descriptions. I love the way R.A. Black describes absolutely anything. My favourite description was of the first night where Apple and Skye slept outside. In fact, R.A. Black has even written an article with tips on how to develop your descriptions and I can’t think of a better author to do it. (Coming later this month!)

It’s classed as a novella, but I would have quite happily read more of it. You know a book is good when you get to the end and still crave more!

It could do with the lightest of copy-edits which is astounding seeing as no professional has touched this. It’s the perfect example of how to use writing sites and honest, hard word to ensure top quality writing, and it is not something every author is capable of.

I should warn readers that while it is a gothic, creepy, and dark novel, I wouldn’t call it a strong horror. I felt it was a horror by the nature of the topics, but I read it at night and never felt scared (and I’m a wuss). A good horror book usually gets into my head while I sleep, but this one didn't quite have the fear factor for me. If you’re looking for a scare, it might not be the right novel for you. But if you’re looking for a creepy novel that’s well written with characters that jump off the page, then here’s the book for you.

My only real quibble is over the end part where we learn what Dr Carvington has been up to in the creepy house. It got me into a bit of a tangle at first. I’ll keep the details to myself to avoid spoilers, but the execution of the reveal could be made clearer. That’s a very small segment of the novel and didn’t spoil it one bit.

It’s certainly a tear jerker, too. My favourite books are always the ones that take you on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster and this lays out the tracks for an emotional ride. Endearing characters, dark troubles, and vivid imagery – I can’t recommend it more.

Want to read it? You can show R.A. Black some support by purchasing it from Amazon or you can click here to win a paperback copy.