Adult Fiction

Adult fiction book reviews

The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis

Ava Carson will do anything to save herself. When she finds herself and her ten-year-old son, Toussaint living in a squalid family shelter, she is determined to get out and better their lives.

She plans to head to her estranged mother in Alabama but on reuniting with her former flame, everything changes for the worst.

Ava Carson has been running her entire life. Leaving an abusive marriage, she finds herself and her ten-year-old son Toussaint living in a horrendous family shelter. A place full of squalor, poverty and illicit happenings.

Determined to get out and better their lives, she makes the move for freedom. She plans to return to her childhood home in Bonaparte, Alabama and reunite with her estranged mother, Duchess. However, when reunited with her child’s biological father, Cass, her focus drifts.

Infatuated, she hesitantly welcomes communal living. She continues to follow the dreams of an increasingly maddening Cass, a former Black Panther, rebel and nefarious con man.

Things go from bad to worse as police interest in the property drives further paranoia.

As Ava falls deeper, Toussaint does too. He begins to lose himself and his childhood innocence amidst the unsettled madness.

A mother’s ambition and a son’s destruction

An emotionally charged story, The Unsettled is brimming with turmoil. Though the writing is vivid and descriptive, many characters are unlikable.

I particularly disliked Ava. Never truly satisfied, she’s selfish, weak and delusional. Her own needs come before her son too often, damaging him greatly.

Interestingly, it’s told in multiple narratives from the perspective of three generations. Ava and Toussaint in Philadelphia and Duchess in fictional Bonaparte, Alabama. This is a nice touch, giving a thorough background of generational trauma.

A heavy read, the novel explores difficult themes including poverty, racism, abandonment and abuse.

The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis was released on September 26 2023 via Knopf.

I personally have read The Unsettled. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

The Household by Stacey Halls

The Household by Stacey Halls

An heiress supports a house for fallen women, trying to offer its residents a second chance. Here, they may rehabilitate, learn valuable skills and start afresh.

Each with their demons, these women must fight for change in their lives.

Many people’s worlds collide at Urania Cottage, a home for fallen women in The Household by Stacey Hall.

The cottage is remote and its residents are initially unknown to one another. However, they have one thing in common, each is desperate to change their life.

Angela Burdett-Coutts, a wealthy heiress is a benefactor of this unique venture. She is no stranger to feeling a lack of freedom in life, having been stalked for the last decade.

Among others, Josephine and Martha take refuge and work in the countryside home. They soon become friends in their quest for rehabilitation. However, they’re both looking for someone and the temptation to escape the confinements of the cottage appeals to many.

Mrs Holdsworth manages the home, trying to keep the women content and safe.

As their lives become entwined, the cost of freedom is high and each woman must navigate her circumstances.

A house of fallen women desperate for freedom

The Household by Stacey Halls is a wonderful novel focusing on female characters in Victorian England.

Told from multiple perspectives, the novel slowly explores these main characters and their differing personalities and troubles.

It illustrates contrasts between the social classes and the female experience and is inspired by Dickens’ House for Fallen Women. It features the famed novelist in a cameo alongside the reimagined Angela Burdett-Coutts. It’s fascinating how Halls brings these inspired and complex characters to life.

Among other things, it explores poverty, prison and prostitution and ultimately, the desperation for freedom.

This novel draws you in with interesting female leads and well-researched historical fiction. You cannot help but empathise with these characters’ tumultuous lives and personal woes.

The Household by Stacey Halls is due to be released on April 11 2024 via Manilla Press.

I personally have read The Household. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

House of Open Wounds by Adrian Tchaikovsky

House of Open Wounds by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Palleseen army are dominating the world with their perfectionist doctrine. The injured and dying are brought from the front line to field hospitals where a motley crew attempt to patch them up by any means possible.

Entrusted with saving the damned, the unit work with unauthorised magic, necromancy demonology and banned Gods to save and repurpose souls. If discovered, their unethical actions could lead to harrowing consequences.

The Palleseen army are ravaging the world with war, desperate to correct a perceived imperfect world.

Behind the front lines, field hospital tents attempt to save the damaged and damned by any means possible.

Yasnic, a former priest turned rebel, finds himself stationed within the hospital. Miraculously saved from the gallows, he clings to faith literally, carting around a box of orphaned Gods wherever he goes.

This unorthodox hospital is commanded by the Butcher, a man who has no fear of the horrors of war. The crew deal with unspeakable gore caused by horrific monsters, magical weapons and relentless enemy attacks.

Tasked with saving and reutilising the fallen, they must be mindful to keep their unethical practices under the radar. Practices that include the use of banned magic, necromancy, demonology and ‘false’ Gods. If not, they could face dire consequences.

A gory field hospital comes alive with dark magic

House of Open Wounds by Adrian Tchaikovsky offers spectacular and vivid worldbuilding with beautifully detailed prose that transports you into a gruesome war. It fantastically explores difficult topics including colonialism, politics, fascism, religion, war and poverty.

The story is told from many character’s perspectives with each chapter focused on a different person. At times, this makes it harder to connect and truly get to know them with any true depth.

With all these points of view, the pacing felt slow at times. I often found myself confused as to who was the focus within the narrative and how it was progressing.

Although interesting to have many viewpoints, I do wonder if the cast had been smaller, the novel may have been easier to follow and enjoy.

House of the Open Wounds by Adrian Tchaikovsky was released on December 7 2023 via Head of Zeus.

I personally have read House of Open Wounds. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

Child of the Ruins by Kate Furnivall

Two women are desperate to survive in post-war Berlin. One searches for her son amongst the ruins of the city and the other will play any side in order to get ahead.

Child of the Ruins by Kate Furnivall illustrates the tales of tenacious women desperate to survive after the horror and destruction of WWII.

It’s 1948 and post-war Berlin has been divided into zones, the West controlled by the Allies and the East by the Russians.

The Russian blockade means over two million people rely on American air drops to survive. A plane lands every thirty seconds in West Berlin.

Anna Wolff lives in a confined East Berlin apartment with her mother, Luisa. The area has been devastated by Russians, fearfully commanding with restrictions, raids and rapes.

Anna’s three-year-old son, Felix, is missing and her old Russian flame has returned. Strange things keep happening and as she deepens the search for Felix, the more dangerous her life seems to become.

Ingrid Keller lives within the rubble of her father’s old circus with her husband, Otto. The former group wheel and deal to better their lives, doing anything for money and security. Ingrid risks it all working as a spy between the almighty powers.

The two women’s worlds collide while working at Tempelhof Airport. Both searching for answers, the airport is the ideal place to learn more about the intricacies and secrets of Berlin.

In post-war Berlin, the Soviets were desperate to get the Allies out of Germany altogether. Spies, corruption and kidnap are commonplace and nowhere feels truly safe.

It’s simple, survival relies on cunning and knowledge. In this desperation, the line between right and wrong has become blurred.

Post-war life during the Berlin Airlift

Inspired by the aftermath of the war during the Berlin Airlift, this historical fiction novel explores the lengths people will go to survive.

Told in multiple narratives, this novel brings the trauma and streets of post-war Berlin to life. The families within have been divided by the war, each individual with their own goals and trauma.

The novel is meticulously researched, drawing inspiration from real and extraordinary history. The world is atmospheric, transporting you to the harrowing scenes of the broken city. With shortages of coal, food, medicine and money, people are desperate and bereft of hope.

Orphaned children run riot in the ruins, Soviet soldiers cruelly keep control and everyday folk will do anything to survive the chaos.

Anna and Ingrid lead with their stories. Full of struggle, mystery and espionage, the novel keeps you on your feet at a growing pace with twists and turns. Each must battle their own demons and seek resolution as they navigate ruined Berlin.

Ultimately, this novel draws you in with its incredibly well-researched historical fiction and tenacious female leads.

It’s a spectacular tale of the lengths a woman will go to survive. Love is a powerful force and human will can be at its strongest in desperate times.

Child of the Ruins by Kate Furnivall was released on October 31, 2023, via Hodder & Stoughton.

I personally have read Child of the Ruins. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

The Bone Roots by Gabriela Houston

Vedma Kada and Sladyana both live in fear of the fox. Kada keeps her daughter, Secha, hidden, hoping to keep her safe. Thankful to goddess Zemya for gifting her and vehemently praying and offering to her bone roots. On the other hand, Sladyana has spent the last 15 years searching for her daughter, Luba. Snatched by the fox. Each desperate to protect their child, only one can succeed and only one knows why.

The Bone Roots by Gabriela Houston illustrates the tale of two mothers, both desperate to protect their child.

Vedma Kada lives in constant fear. Her brother was stolen by the fox 40 years ago, and she keeps herself hidden, terrified that her daughter, Secha, may be next.

Kada must keep her daughter close, especially when she starts to exhibit powerful and strange behaviours.

Secha is a product of goddess Zemya’s child-bearing tree, a bestowed gift to Kada. Each year, she gives thanks to Zemya, with an offering via her bone roots. Additionally, in her role as a Vedma, Kada ultimately serves the goddess, as well as the local community.

Sladyana, a rich noblewoman, is mother to Luba. Snatched by the fox, Sladyana has desperately spent 15 years searching for her daughter.

When Kada and Sladyana are reunited, both seek answers that may save their children.

The strength of a mother’s love

Inspired by Slavic folklore, this fantasy novel explores the lengths a mother will go to protect her child.

The focus on motherhood is particularly poignant in this story and it’s predominantly told in a dual narrative. Both Kada and Sladyana are strong and complex characters, with troubles aplenty.

Not only must they fight for their beliefs, they must also balance societal expectations for their own protection.

You will find yourself cheering them on or being disappointed in their actions. Some are understandable, others questioning morality. Ultimately, they are human and flawed – and their predicaments are not easy.

Houston is masterful at her atmospheric descriptions, her beautiful prose brimming with emotion, mythology and lore.

A particular example is witnessing Kada in her role as a Vedma (Moss Witch). Her interactions with the weird and wonderful mythical creatures are fascinating. Whether seeking their favour and/or destruction, each conversation is vividly brought to life.

Ultimately, this novel draws you into the fantasy world of Fiesna alongside the harrowing struggles of its female protagonists. It’s a wonderful tale of motherhood, love, desperation, magic and secrets.

The Bone Roots by Gabriela Houston was released on October 10, 2023, via Angry Robot.

I personally have read The Bone Roots. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal

The Night Side by M.M. DeLuca

The Night Side by M.M. DeLuca Cover

It’s been twenty years since Ruby left Stoneybrook, Montana, having vowed to never return.

Throughout her childhood, her manipulative mother Ida forced her to join her schemes, exploiting Ruby to ravage the local community with false mediumship and psychic scams.

With her mother missing and presumed dead, she’s forced to return to settle her affairs. However, Ruby has her doubts – what really happened to Ida?

The Night Side by M.M. DeLuca is a mystery thriller that focuses on the life of thirty-something Ruby.

On receiving a call from her old flame, Aidan, she must go home to settle her presumed dead mother’s affairs.

It’s been twenty years since Ruby Carlson fled Stoneybrook, Montana, and she vowed to never return.

A teenage runaway, she has lived an idyllic life in England since she was eighteen and enjoys a successful career as an archaeologist.

Now she’s back in a place brimming with disturbing memories and horrific secrets. Here, she must uncover the truth, what really happened to Ida?

Additionally, she also hopes to rekindle her bond with Aidan and then get as far away from Stoneybrook as possible.

Escaping a nightmare childhood

The novel is told from Ruby’s perspective throughout with dual timelines, each chapter offering either a present or past account. This allows the reader to understand the extent of Ida’s manipulation, coercion and control of Ruby in her childhood and the damage it’s caused in adulthood.

Essentially, Ruby must now unravel the truth amidst half-truths, whispers, lies and secrets. DeLuca knows how to keep the reader interested, masterfully revealing snippets of information throughout to guide us through the mystery and keep us hooked.

As we reflect on the chapters set in the past, we see that ultimately, Ruby’s life was very lonely. Her only childhood joy was her friendship and courtship with Aidan. Thankfully, DeLuca weaves a blossoming and charming relationship between them in their youth.

As a teenager and spurred on by Aidan, we see Ruby’s confidence develop. Eventually, rebelling leads to her ultimate goal, freedom.

Uncovering the mystery of Ida’s disappearance

However, on her return to Montana in the present, we can almost sympathise with the community in Stoneybrook. Understandably, feelings haven’t changed toward Ruby and her mother. Ostracised by most, their past contempt is a feeling Ruby remembers all too well.

In turn, this treatment also seems unfair. Essentially, Ida forced a young Ruby into her fraudulent schemes, exploiting her ‘gift’ to ravage the local community, especially those she perceived as vulnerable. DeLuca creates a myriad of complex relationships due to this, which has the reader questioning who is right and wrong.

Despite this disdain, Ruby seemingly had little choice as a child, controlled by the manipulative and narcissistic, Ida.

She must navigate these hostile reactions, unlock difficult memories and deal with current emotions, all charging at full speed. In doing so, a realistic character is crafted, imperfect and complex. One we root for, hoping she gets the answers she seeks.

In order for Ruby to overcome her past she must fully embrace her present situation. She must solve the mystery and untangle her trauma if she hopes to enjoy true freedom in the future.

Overall, The Night Side is a thrilling read. It offers complex characters, well-illustrated environments and twists aplenty throughout its well-paced narrative.

The Night Side by M.M DeLuca is due to be published on 5 December 2023.

I personally have read The Night Side. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book and this post does contain affiliate links.

Read more book reviews on The LDN Gal