BOOK BLOG: Melinda Salisbury

Hello. It is me. Your resident superfan of Melinda Salisbury. You might need a cup of tea and a biscuit to get you through today’s post. I’ll try and keep this as brief as I can, but I can not promise anything. So get comfy, and prepare yourself for an epic review. 

Hold Back the Tide: a slightly terrifying, but incredible, piece of storytelling

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Everyone knows what happened to Alva’s mother, all those years ago. But when dark forces begin to stir in Ormscaula, Alva has to face a very different future – and question everything she thought she knew about her past…

So Mel. Writing a bit of horror are we? Well. I was ready, or at least I THOUGHT I was ready. I don’t think I actually was ready. I’m not a massive reader of the old horror books (I’m a total scaredy cat) but I will read anything Mel writes – superfan here.

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First up: LOOK HOW HAPPY I WAS WHEN IT ARRIVED.
I’ll not tell you that I cried and did a MASSIVE SQUEAL when I opened it though. When it arrived, it PROMPTLY went to the top of my TBR because, let’s be honest, that’s how it was always going to be! (There’s also a hilarious outtake of this picture that I’ve only shared with about 3 people that is my true fangirl spirit coming out). I’ve been waiting a year for this book friends. It was finally time. 

Right. Let’s stop putting off my inability to put into words what I truly thought of this book. Let me preface this review with my usual spiel: when I love a book, I find it harder to review because I always worry that my words will not do justice to how much I loved it. I always worry that it won’t come across what I thought of the book. So just know now that this book was everything I wanted and so much more. 

Hold Back the Tide tells the story of Alva, a young woman who lives with her TERRIFYING father in a cabin in the glorious north of Scotland. Her dad is, we learn in the first chapter, a murderer and Alva lives her life trying to make herself seem useful and/or silent in her father’s wake, so that nothing happens to her. Her father murdered her mother and Alva does everything to make sure that she’s not the next one. We learn quite quickly that Alva is planning to escape her father’s clutch and the place she’s known her whole life for a new life. But when things start going very wrong, Alva has to make a decision between staying and fighting, leaving behind everything and everyone she’s ever known or following her dreams. 

FIRST UP. I have to just say how much of a PUNCH the first chapter gives you. It might be one of the best first chapters I have ever read. It’s Alva’s rules for living with a murderer and it ends with one of those lines in a book that just punch you in face… If you were lucky enough to get a sampler at YALC, you know exactly how much of a banging first chapter it is. I must’ve reread my sampler about 20 times before the book arrived JUST for that first chapter. The rest of the book is JUST as terrifying.

This is going to be hard to write without going SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. So if I’m crypic, please bear with me haha 

You open the book with an incredible first chapter, and so you’re starting in a bit of a tense mood. You’re not sure what’s going to go down. You’re a bit scared; you’re a bit worried; you know Alva is a proper badass. And the book carries on in much the same vein. You get a lot of unexpected goings on. There’s a lot of moments where I was like OMG WHAT NO. There’s so many twists and turns and things I didn’t see coming that I was just engrossed. There were shocks and surprises. There were moments I needed to stop and just take it all in. People came who surprised me. People went who I was glad to see the back of. 

Much like Joey in Friends, there was a moment or two when I wanted to put the book in the freezer. There’s a wonderful kind of tense terrifiying-ness in this book (which for me made it all the more scary). I was on the edge of my seat a lot. I didn’t know what was coming, whcih made me both more scared and more gripped. I’m not a massive horror/scary book fan, but this was one that I needed to get through because I needed to know what was coming. I needed to know what the FRICK was going on. Poor Mel had to put up with a lot of my messages about my theories and predictions – but that’s how you know you’ve got a good book! A book you’re involved in and theorising about is a book that you’re gripped on! 

The setting is wonderfully done too. Something Mel does wonderfully is world building, so I was really looking forward to seeing how she did this different genre. It’s a wonderfully spooky and kind of uninviting setting. It sets the scene so gloriously for what’s going to happen. You get a complete sense of the setting so brilliantly from Mel’s writing. You’ve got this village out in the woods by the loch where the people aren’t too inviting. Alva and her father are out in their house. There’s a lot of isolation. There’s a brilliant bit with Ren’s house (we’ll come to Ren later… *swoon*) that really bloody kicked me in the feels. The settings are all so vividly written without being forced. (Just don’t expect me to go there cause I don’t think I am tough enough ha!)

I’d like to take a moment for you all to enjoy the cover designed by Jamie Gregory. It’s the very best mix of spooky, creepy and ‘WTF is that?’ – just like the book.

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Did you appreciate it? Good. I’m glad. 

I can’t go through this and not talk about the characters. We all know – if you’ve been here a while – that I love a character. You could give me a shit book with brilliant characters and I’d enjoy it. I stan good characters… and let me tell you, BRILLIANT CHARACTERS APLENTY here (which is no surprise to be honest).

Let’s start with Alva. Oh Alva. Brilliant, wonderful, brave Alva. (side note: I bloody love the name Alva). She’s got a kind of strength I’d love to have. She’s got dreams she wants to chase and she’s got a plan. She knows what she wants. She’s secretive and bold with it. She’s a little bit proud. She’s a bloody badass. I mean she’s much braver than me. She does things that she HAS to do. She stands up for herself. She stands up for other people. There’s a gorgeous softness about her too. She pushes on through some HORRIFIC and SCARY things that are going on. She fights against BAD MEN (Giles, I’ll get to you in a second). I just think she’s a brilliant main character. Mel always writes the best female main characters (hello Twylla and Sorrow).

I can’t not go through this and give a massive shout out to Ren. Gorgeous, kind Murren Ross. I just adore him. He’s the kind of friend everyone wants to have. He doesn’t leave Alva’s side, even when she hurts him. He’s got his own crap going on, but he’s always there. He’s just wonderful. He goes through a lot being Alva’s friend. He remains at her side. I love that he’s just so loyal and protective without being smothering. A lot of my converns throughout the book were not for if Alva was hurt (I know that girl can protect herself), but for Ren. I needed him to be protected and OK. I love him with all of my soul. 

This book of course has some baddies. We all love a ruthless baddie in a book. The baddies in Hold Back The Tide are quite psychologically testing. Like Giles. Giles is a BAD BAD MAN. He makes Alva do things which are plain creepy. He does things to Alva that show how terrible a person he is. I would like to use a swear word to describe him, but I’ll not. He just is one of those BAD TO THE CORE men. He’s the kind of character who makes my skin crawl. Mel has always written delicious baddies, but I think Giles might be the worst of them (and that’s saying something cause I HATED Vespus in Sorrow). Friends, I just need you to read this book so I can talk about the bad things he’s doing. 

THE FEELS. PLEASE SEND HELP.

I finished this book 2 weeks ago now and I am STILL scared, triumphant and slightly heartbroken. We all know I cry at all of the books, but I wasn’t expecting to have to cry at this. There’s a lovely scene between Alva and her dad that just made me feel a lot of things. It’s just a small thing, but my god. There’s other moments in this book that just punched at my feels so hard. I went through a lot of this book on the edge of being sheer terrified. It’s a very tense kind of vibe. It’s delicious in that way. 

My Goodreads review:

JUST WHAT. This book was everything I wanted and hoped for from Mel: incredible characters, a spooky setting, wonderful writing and scary. I just went though every emotion… mainly being SCARED. This is a wonderfully atmospheric story set in the wilds of Scotland with an incredible main character and her murderer dad. There’s so much appearances can be deceiving moments here and I was here for all of them. Yes, I cried. I love Ren with all that I am.

Naturally, I finished this book and NEEDED to make a little moodboard. I hope you all like it. For me, this moodboard is this book in like 7 pictures. 

HBTT moodboard

YOU MADE IT TO THE END. Congratulations. 

Thanks for sticking with me. It’s not often I write mammoth posts like this. 

S x