Book Review – ‘The Toymakers’ by Robert Dinsdale ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Do you remember when you believed in magic?

It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment.

The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike; patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into this family business comes young Cathy Wray, running away from a shameful past. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own.

But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own….

 

“Are you lost? Are you afraid? Are you a child at heart?

So are we.”

15-year-old Cathy Wray is hiding a secret, one that threatened to disgrace her family and lead to her running away from home.  She flees to London to apply for a job at Papa Jack’s Emporium,and is immediately set to work. The Emporium is like no toyshop she has laid eyes on before. It is a strange, magical place where some of the toys seem to be alive and others can do impossible things. Run by Papa Jack, a man of bear-like stature, and his two sons Kaspar and Emil, who are all Toymakers, it opens every year at first frost and opening night, the night Cathy arrives, is always one of great fanfare, chaos and large crowds.  Cathy is enchanted by the Emporium and becomes close to Kaspar and Emil, even becoming yet another “thing” for them to do battle over.

For me, part of the joy of this book was being just taken along for the journey and knowing little about how it would unfold. For that reason, I will only tell you that the story follows the life of Cathy and many others who work at the Emporium, reading as the changing world affects them in unimaginable ways.

“..once upon a time, all of us….were little boys and girls, happy with nothing more than bouncing a ball against a wall.”

I had been wanting to read this book for a while but I am so glad I ended up waiting to read it just before Christmas as was the perfect festive read. There was an immediate sense of magic as I started reading and the vivid descriptions brought the magic to life like I’m watching a movie reel. It really did take me back to those halcyon days of my childhood, particularly to the amazement and excitement of Christmas. I also really liked how the author addressed the reader directly in the narration of this book. It made me feel part of the story, like I was actually there on a thrilling adventure, not sat at home reading a book. I really did feel like I was one of the children in the Emporium, looking on in wonder as the toys came to life around me.

This was a mesmerising, heartwarming, unforgettable and magical novel. It is a story of childhood, sibling rivalry, jealousy, love, family, war and of the power of magic. Especially the ordinary kind.  This is a five-star book that everyone should read.

Out Now

Book Review – ‘The Long Song’ by Andrea Levy ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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You do not know me yet. My son Thomas, who is publishing this book, tells me it is customary at this place in a novel to give the reader a little taste of the story that is held within these pages. As your storyteller, I am to convey that this tale is set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followed.

July is a slave girl who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity and it is her life that is the subject of this tale. She was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831, and she was present when slavery was declared no more. My son says I must convey how the story tells also of July’s mama Kitty, of the negros who worked the plantation land, of Caroline Mortimer the white woman who owned the plantation and many more persons besides – far too many for me to list here. But what befalls them all is carefully chronicled upon these pages for you to peruse.

Perhaps, my son suggests, I might write that it is a thrilling journey through that time in the company of the people who lived it. All this he wishes me to pen so the reader can decide if this is a novel they might care to consider. Cha, I tell my son, what fuss-fuss. Come, let them just read it for themselves.

Thank you to Headline, Tinder Press, Netgalley and Andrea Levy for the chance to read and review this novel

This book was witty and riveting from the outset. I loved the banter between mother and son where he was telling her not to include things and she was insisting she will include them and write it her way. The opening of chapter one managed to be full of humour despite depicting an act of violence against Kitty. It is immediately obvious that our storyteller has a no-nonsense attitude and is often unintentionally funny in how she tells her tale.

July is a slave born on a Jamaican sugar plantation named Amity. When she is nine years old the plantation owner’s sister, Caroline Mortimer, takes a liking to her and takes her from her mother to live in The Grand House and be trained as her lady’s maid. Over the years Caroline comes to depend on July, giving her a safe and enviable position amongst the other workers.

This book was not an easy read. There were many vivid descriptions of violence against the workers, the awful conditions they worked and lived in, and the way they were viewed as less than human by their white counterparts. Reading how violence against them was an accepted daily occurrence and the lengths gone to by the white masters to keep them under their control was sickening. It was distressing to remember that even if July herself is fictional, these things really happened to people. I did find it interesting to learn how the Jamaicans themselves viewed colour, seeing darker skin as bad and aspiring to be light and beautiful. The different words they had for the varying mixes of parentage and what it meant for a slave in terms of their rank showed how the white man telling them they were less than him and ugly because of their colour seeped into their psyche and became what they believed of themselves.

I didn’t know anything about the history of slavery in England and its colonies or the Baptist War, I’m ashamed to admit when I think of slavery I think of America, so reading this book was an education I won’t soon forget. In particular, the image of a coffin with July 31,1838 written on it, the date slavery was abolished in Jamaica, and it being lowered into the ground along with the shackles of the slaves, is a powerful scene that will stay with me forever. I wasn’t surprised to find the freed slaves struggled to be treated as free men as sadly a declaration from the King doesn’t change the minds of those who have oppressed them for years.

The Long Song is a story of slavery, struggle, fear, murder, war and brutality. It is also a story of motherhood, childhood, love, freedom and living life against great odds. It is an entertaining and captivating story and I can see why the BBC have picked it up to make a series. The only negative for me was that it was hard to read and confusing at times because of the language.

Out Now

Book Review – ‘Her Pretty Bones: Detective Gina Harte Book 3’ by Carla Kovach ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

She’s just the girl he’s looking for.

A young woman falls from a vehicle speeding down a quiet road. Battered and bruised, she turns her head to the person who comes to her aid. ‘Help her’, she whispers before her eyes close.

Days later, the body of another young girl is found in a shallow grave just a few miles away.   The similarities between the two girls are startling – same age, same frail body, same shocking red hair.

As the town fears there’s a serial killer living amongst them, Detective Gina Harte must put aside her own struggles at home, and catch the killer before he finds another perfect girl.

Thank you to Netgalley, Bookoture and Carla Kovach for the chance to read and review this book.

Her Pretty Bones is the third book in the Detective Gina Harte series and is every bit as exciting and heart stopping as the previous books. Once again it starts out strong, this time with an ominous prologue about two sisters. The older sister has a pale, sickly pallor and strawberry blonde curls and is smaller and weaker from being premature. Her younger sister resents her and punishes her for being the favourite and is adamant that anything the older sister has is hers too.

We then return to the present day where Toby is on his way to his new job early one summer morning when a woman appears to jump out of a white van and land in front of his car. She has a gash to her abdomen, is severely malnourished and her organs are failing. She also has red hair. While Gina and her team attempt to discover the woman’s identity, how she came to be in this state and who was driving the white van, another body is discovered in a shallow grave nearby. This young woman is also undernourished and has red hair. Who is this killer and where will he strike next? Also, who was the first girl referring to when with her final words she pleaded ‘Help her’?

This novel was full of suspense from the start. There were a vast array of characters who seemed unconnected but were expertly linked together as the story went on. There were some hard to read scenes in this book, mostly for me it was the ones that detailed the awful state that the woman being cared for was in. It was heartbreaking reading how such a vulnerable person could be neglected and harmed like that by those who claimed to love her. I was rooting for her to be saved as much as the girl forced to try and care for her night and day. As we raced to the conclusion the tension rose further and I was pulled into the story even more. I loved how the author weaved seemingly unconnected characters and parts of the story together in such a seamless way. There had been a few times I thought I had the culprit or where the story was going figured out only to be surprised and proven wrong.

Gina Harte shows herself time and again to be a fighter for those who can’t fight for themselves, a voice for those who can’t speak and a woman to admire and look to as a modern day heroine. She has a strong sense of right and wrong and is tormented by her failings. She gives her all to her job and the victims who need her, often to the detriment of her personal life. The more books in this series I read, the more I fall in love with this character, and with this author.

Ms. Kovach has a talent for writing captivating, multilayered stories that show both the best and the worst that humankind are capable of. She puts your emotions through the wringer as you read and has you on the edge of your seat as the suspense makes it impossible to put the book down. A riveting psychological thriller, this is a crime series not to be missed and an author who is a must read for sure.

Out January 17th

Book Review – ‘The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock’ – by Imogen Hermes Gowar ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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This voyage is special. It will change everything…..

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door.  One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr. Hancock’s marvel.  It’s arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on…and a courtesan of great accomplishment.  This chance meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, a journey on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost….

What will be the cost of their ambitions? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

In this spellbinding story of curiosity and obsession, Imogen Hermes Gowar has created an unforgettable jewel of a novel, filled to the brim with intelligence, heart and wit.

I started this book full of excitement. I was reading this as my first buddy read with @remembery_tree_reads and @cozyreadbox (their Instagram handles) I love mermaids, and the description sounded like something I’d enjoy. The book itself is exquisite and opening it up to find it looked authentically like a very old book sealed the fact that I was judging this book by it’s cover. But would it live up to my expectations?

Mercer Jonah Hancock’s life is changed forever the night he is disturbed by urgent knocking at the front door and finds one of his ships’ captains there informing him he sold his ship for a “mermaid”.  Jonah is incensed at the money this impetuous frivolity has cost him. But word soon spreads, and with everyone now vying to see his marvel he decides to show the creature at a coffee house. A move that makes his fortunes turn. His life is changed again when high society bawd Mrs.Chappell offers a large sum of money to display the mermaid at her establishment. She throws a lavish party to celebrate and it is there that Jonah meets Angelica Neal, a beautiful courtesan and former protogée of Mrs. Chappell, with whom he is instantly smitten. When Anglica requsts a mermaid of her own Jonah doesn’t hesitate to send out a crew to find and procure what she desires, neither of them knowing that this will have far reaching repercussions for them both and change their lives again in unimaginable ways.

From the start I loved the way this book was written. It is enchanting, beautiful and lyrical, with such attention to detail it no surprise to learn the many years the author had studied the time period in which is was set, worked in a Museum, and that this book started off as her dissertation for her MA in Creative Writing. She brought Georgian London to life with a vivid realism thanks to attention to the most minute and unusual details. Being a story that featured brothels and courtesans there is also some sensuous and erotic storytelling that was at times a little shocking. Many social issues of the time period were highlighted in this book: the hypocrisy, abuses of power, the vulnerability and ownership of women, and how unsteady and unstable someone’s position in that society could be. It was interesting to learn what was viewed as acceptable or proper at the time and the very different expectations and ambitions that existed.

The book was separated into three volumes and at the end of the first volume I was at a loss as to where the story was going and had found the story had got off to a slow start. At that point I thought the characters were interesting and well written, but I didn’t like either of the main characters and preferred a number of the secondary ones, although unusually this didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book. Volume two was my favourite as the pace of the story picked up and  captivated me. It was also where we got to know and understand Jonah and Angelica and began to feel an attachment to them, become invested in their fates and how their story was unfolding. The third volume did a good job of concluding their story but I did think some things were left unfinished and could have been explored further.

One of the things I was most looking forward to about this novel was the mermaid, who was an enigmatic, elusive, haunting and mystifying creature. There were chapters dedicated to her and her magic and mystery was woven throughout them. I read this book with a belief that mermaids exist. The author writes it so that you don’t question that mermaids can be found amongst the seals in our seas and could be captured by a fisherman.

I started read this book anticipating one of wonder, elegance and mystery.  While there were all these things throughout the thoroughly researched and complex story, it’s slow start meant that it didn’t take my breath away and amaze me the way I was hoping. Nevertheless, this book was still a witty, detailed, beautifully written piece of historical fiction that I would recommend.

November Wrap Up

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I can’t believe November is over and December is upon us. I’m so not ready for Christmas and another New Year! It seems crazy that we’re already here again, but I do think every year it comes around faster than the last one. It must be a getting old thing 😆

November has been another great reading month for me with 12 books overall. Seven were from NetGalley and one I was kindly sent by the author and then four others. I read nearly all my planned eight books but didn’t finish ‘The Moonstone’ and was never quite in the mood for ‘Blackberry and Wild Rose’. The latter will be on my December TBR list as I need to read it before it’s January 10th release date.

I have been on a thriller kick this month and seven of the books I’ve read are in this genre. It used to be pretty much all I read and I still find it’s my go-to genre for a quick read or when I’m in a reading slump. I also read eight debut novels this month and my overall favourite book of November was a sensational debut that is released in January. So here’s what I read this past month*:

1. ‘Darkened Light’ by Sabina Langer ⭐⭐⭐.5

This book had been kindly sent to me by the author. It’s a fantasy novel, which is something I don’t often read, but I really enjoyed this fun story about an elven mage, a runaway, a boy who should have been sacrificed and a troublemaker who all have to learn to work together to save their world from destruction by the Dark Lord.   Out now.

2. ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This spectacular debut took my breath away and was easily my favourite book this month. It’s a story about a young girl named Kya, who lives alone on the marsh after being abandoned by her family, and the investigation into the death of local football hero Chase Andrews, who is found lying by the marsh. It takes place in dual timelines, and spans many years as we watch Kya learn to survive and ultimately flourish but unable to shake the label and suspicion of being “The Marsh Girl”. She’s quickly a subject of gossip and accusations relating to Chase’s death and the police struggle to separate fact from fiction. This book took me by surprise in so many ways and is one of those that just gets hold of your soul and never lets go. A book everyone should read.  Out January 10th.

3. ‘Last Lullaby’ by Carol Wyer ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was only my second read by this author but it cemented her a must-read author from this point on. The second in the Detective Natalie Ward series, Last Lullaby sees the team tracking a killer who brutally murders young mothers while their children are shut in a nearby room and leaves a word written in blood on the wall. There were fantastic chapters where the mysterious killer was talking to their psychiatrist that gave me chills as we got a glimpse into his sickening psyche. A crime series not to be missed, I’m now waiting on book 3, which Ms. Wyer assures me is coming soon. Out December 7th.

4. ‘The Liar’s Wife’ by Samantha Hayes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

When Ella wakes after surviving a hit and run she’s told that her loving husband has hardly left her side and will be back soon. The problem is she has never been married. She instantly recognises her “husband” and realises she must do as he says or risk him exposing her long held secret. This intense, addictive and harrowing thriller blew me away. I devoured it in less than 24 hours as I just couldn’t stop reading and Jacob was the most malevolent and vile example of a husband I’ve read.  When all was revealed I was not prepared for it at all and still can’t thinking about one of the best endings I’ve read this year.  Out now.

5. ‘The Next Girl’ by Carla Kovach ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A newborn baby is found abandoned and her DNA shows her mother is Debbie Jenkins, who disappeared without a trace 4 years ago. Now DI Gina Harte and her team are now certain she was abducted and the race is on to find the mother before it’s too late. At the same time Gina is dealing with awful flashbacks and nightmares from her abusive marriage. Can she find the abductor, rescue Debbie and reunite a family despite few clues and while trying to overcome her own trauma. In the summer I had read the second book in this series ‘Her Final Hour’ and instantly bought this book. Both books are gripping, well written thrillers and I’m excited about book three, which is out in the new year.

6. ‘She Lies In Wait’ by Gyth Lodge ⭐⭐⭐.5

In July 1983 seven teenagers go into the New Forest for a night of camping, drinking, drugs, frolics and fun. In the morning one of them, 14-year-old Aurora Jackson, is missing. After an extensive investigation lasting months it becomes a cold case, her fate remaining a mystery that haunts the small town she lived in and those who knew her. Thirty years later a 10-year-old girl is hiding in the woods when she finds a hole that’s the perfect spot. She feels a branch in her back and pulls it away only to discover it is in fact a human finger. Aurora has been found at long last, close by to where she disappeared. Despite her being found in a place it seems only those there that night knew about, the others remain steadfast in their claims of innocence. As the police dig deeper cracks appear, one time loyal friends start to turn and long held secrets begin to be revealed. Unfortunately this book didn’t live up to its claim of being the biggest crime debut of 2019 for me. It was a good thriller book if you take aside that expectation, but it was a little flat and slow at times which is why I didn’t give it 4 stars.  Out March 21st.

7. ‘The Silent Patient’ by Alex Michaelides ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Alicia Berenson is discovered in her lounge covered in blood while the body of her husband Gabriel sits nearby. He had been shot five time with his rifle. Alicia doesn’t protest innocence or claim self defense, in fact she doesn’t say anything and hasn’t in the six years since that night. Psychotherapist Theo Faber is  obsessed with the case and applies for a job at the hospital treating Alicia as he’s sure he is the one who can get her to finally speak. This magnificent debut novel is ingeniously written as with one chapter, a paragraph and finally a short sentence, the writer mercilessly takes your breath away. He transforms thisfrom a great book into a mind-blowing and sensational book with a twist you truly couldn’t have foreseen. THIS is the book I would call the crime debut of 2019.  Out February 7th.

8. ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ by Heather Morris ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is the harrowing and poignant true story about Slovakian Jew, Lale Sokolov, who was detained at Auschwitz-Birceneau and given the unenviable position of Tätowierer. He is someone who tries to look at the positive side of things and immediately begins sharing his extra rations and using his new position to smuggle in food and other items for people, all at great risk to himself. Just a few months after his arrival Lale meets Gita and despite the inhumane and desolate situation they are in, love blossoms and they vow to stay alive and marry after the war. This was a heartbreaking, beautiful and mesmerising book that I will never forget. Out now.

9. ‘Roam’ by C. H. Armstrong ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Roam is a story about a normal family going through familiar problems, and a normal teenager with normal teenage problems. But there’s one thing that isn’t normal: they’re also homeless and currently sleeping in the back of their van and eating free meals at the soup kitchen, all whilst trying to settle into a new town. Living this way makes every little thing that much harder, including starting a new school, as sixteen-year-old Abby finds out. This was a well written novel that really makes you think. You are reminded how being homeless can happen to anyone, the struggles that those in that situation face and there is more good in the world than bad. It was my first book by this author but I know it won’t be my last. Out February 5th.

10. ‘The Promise’ by Teresa Driscoll ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Three girls. One dead.” Three young girls make a terrible promise to never speak of that awful night and what they did. But what did they do? What awful thing could these girls have done that lead to someone dying in a blood-filled room?  When Beth and Sally find out their old boarding school is being torn down they know their secret could be revealed so they hire Private Investigator Matthew Hill to track down their estranged friend Carol so they can decide what to do. But Carol doesn’t want to be found and someone begins making threats towards Beth and her family. Could someone else have seen what they did? And why are they so eager the truth remain a secret? This was a captivating thriller that was full of twists, bombshells and surprises.  Out February 7th.

11. ‘The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock’ by Imogen Hermes Gowar ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I haven’t actually decided if I’m giving this four or five stars yet so this rating may change by the time I write my review. I read this book along with two of my bookstagram friends and it wasn’t at all what I expected, but not necessarily in a bad way. It is the story of Jonah Hancock, a merchant who is surprised by one of his captains telling him he’s sold his ship for what appears to be a mermaid. Gossip soon spreads and Jonah decides to display his mermaid and soon everyone want to see it, including those in high society.  While at a grand party one night he meets Angelica Neal, a courtesan. He instantly thinks she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen and their encounter sets them both on an unexpected path. I did find it was slow at times and rushed at others and that sometimes I was confused by the choices made by the characters and the direction the story took. This book is one of the most beautifully written stories I’ve read and is full of an attention to detail that really makes you believe it’s written many years ago, and not a debut novel from 2018. While not quite the read I expected, it is a fantastic novel and one I recommend to lovers of historical fiction. Out now.

12. ‘An Anonymous Girl’ by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Jessica Farris is living paycheck to paycheck working as a make-up artist in New York, so when she signs up to take part in a Morals and Ethics study she thinks it’s an easy way to help pay her rent that month. The person in charge of the survey, Dr. Shields, thinks Jess is special and proposes expanding the study for more money, to which she agrees. As Jess is instructed to do increasingly bizarre things by Dr. Shields, she starts to question what is really going on. Is this really still a study on morality and ethics or is there another agenda entirely?  As she tries to unravel the truth enigmatic doctor and the study, things begin to happen that make Jess believe she is in danger and has made a big mistake. This was an unputdownable, cryptic and, at times, unnerving book. Dr. Shields was is a glorious villain and the story has a surprising twist and dramatic conclusion that has you on the edge of your seat.   Out February 7th.

So that’s my wrap up for the month. Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on  your TBR list? How many did you read this month? Comment below.

Thank you to Sabina Langer for my copy of her book and to NetGalley and the publishers for my copies of ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’, ‘Last Lullaby’, ‘The Liar’s Wife’, ‘She Lies In Wait’, ‘The Silent Patient’, ‘The Promise’ and ‘An Anonymous Girl’.

*Full reviews for the books mentioned in this wrap up can be found on this blog.

Book Review – ‘An Anonymous Girl’ by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Seeking women aged 18-32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychological study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money and leave.

But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive, and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking….and what she’s hiding.

As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what is real in her life, and what is one of Dr. Shields manipulative experiments.

Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Thank you to NetGalley, Pan Macmillan, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen for the chance to read and review this novel.

“It’s easy to judge other people’s choices”

Jessica Farris is a make-up artist living in New York in her small studio apartment with her dog, Leo. When she overhears a client talking about an appointment she’s going to blow off in the morning as even $500 isn’t worth getting up early on a Saturday for, her interest is piqued. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck that fee would help pay the rent, so Jess notes down the info and, ironically, lies her way into the Morality and Ethics Research Project. After all, it will be easy to sit and answer a few questions. Unbeknown to Jess the person in charge of the study, Dr. Shields, is watching her every move from another room and becoming increasingly convinced that she’s found someone special.  

“It’s remarkable how the simplest of our decisions can create a butterfly effect; how a seemingly inconsequential action can cause a tsunami….”

When Dr. Shields proposes expanding the study Jess is unsure, especially as she’s given little information about what will be expected from her. But Dr. Shields lures her into agreeing by the promise of even higher compensation.  As Jess is instructed to do increasingly bizarre things by Dr. Shields, she starts to question what is really going on. Is this really still a study on morality and ethics or is there another agenda entirely? As she tries to unravel the truth enigmatic doctor and the study, things begin to happen that make Jess believe she is in danger and has made a big mistake….

“..sometimes the people who seem the most accomplished and together are the ones who can hurt you the deepest.”

An Anonymous Girl is an unputdownable, cryptic and, at times, unnerving book.  It is well written with two great main characters. Jess is someone you can relate to: a young woman just trying to make ends meet, loyal to her family, doing her best to make up for past mistakes, and who is still figuring herself, and life, out. Dr. Shields on the other hand is a glorious villain: sinister, obsessive, cunning, malevolent, unstable, twisted and menacing, but also highly intelligent and knows how to use both money and kindness to control Jess. As I read I thought I had certain characters figured out. I was wrong. I sat in surprise and shock as the unexpected twist was revealed. I didn’t see it coming at all. The dramatic conclusion was full of tension and was so well done that I couldn’t guess what would happen and who would triumph. This book was a fantastic and electrifying read that lived up to the hype.

Out February 7th 2019 (UK)

Book Review – ‘The Promise’ by Teresa Driscoll ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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It was their darkest secret. Three schoolgirls made a promise – to take the horrible truth of what they did to the grave.

Thirty years later, Beth and Sally have tried to put the trauma behind them. Though Carol has distanced herself from her former friends, the three are adamant that the truth must never come to light, even if the memory still haunts them.

But when shocking news threatens to unearth their dark secret, Beth enlists the help of Private Investigator Matthew Hill to help her and Sally reconnect with estranged Carol – before the terrible act they committed as teenagers is revealed.

Beth wishes she could take back the vow they made.

But somebody is watching and will stop at nothing to ensure the secret stays buried.  Now, with her beloved family in peril, can Beth still keep the promise?

Thank you to Thomas & Mercer, NetGalley and Teresa Driscoll for the chance to read and review this book.

“Three girls. One dead.”

Three young girls make a terrible promise to never speak of that awful night and what they did. But what did they do?  What awful thing could these girls have done that lead to someone dying in a blood-filled room? Secrets aren’t given up easily or quickly in this intriguing story that is told in two timelines by multiple narrators.

“Who will clear up our mess? That thing we did all those years ago.”

The Convent of St Colman is closing and Beth and Sally receive a letter inviting them to the party to say their goodbyes to their old boarding school. Both women are horrified by the news as it threatens to expose their long held secret. The trio were friends ever since that first day at their new boarding school when three nervous, new outsiders were drawn together in their dormitory by a common situation. Despite Carol’s estrangement Beth and Sally remain loyal to their friendship. Sally is insistent that nothing has changed and they should keep their promise. But Beth disagrees, she wants to find Carol and see what she wants to do. But Carol doesn’t want to be found.

“There’s something not right here…”

Beth hires Private Investigator Matthew Hill to find Carol.  She can’t give him the whole story and he’s suspicious of her claim that she is merely trying to find an old friend because their school is being demolished. However he soon tracks down Carol’s Mum, Deborah, who is shocked when approached by Beth and Sally. She seems nervous to talk and is being evasive. Around this time an anonymous Facebook account sends a warning to leave things alone and other threats are made towards Beth’s family. It is clear someone who knows what happened that day doesn’t want the secret told. Could Carol be behind it? While almost certain their friend would do no such thing, despite their estrangement, Beth and Sally can’t think who else could know about the events that night.  But they must find out who is sending the messages before their is any more risk of harm.

“Drifting to and fro in time is something I can’t stop these days. Flashes of scenes from the past pushing their way into my day.”

While Matthew hunts for whoever is making threats, Beth spirals into a deep depression. She can’t keep the distressing images from her mind and is haunted by flashbacks and a deep sense of guilt. As the party at The Convent draws closer with no leads on who is behind the malicious attacks on her family or where Carol is now, she and Sally argue. Losing the one person she could truly confide in makes it worse but when Adam is hurt, Sally is the first person she calls and the one to rush to be by her side.  Meanwhile it seems Carol is also struggling with severe anxiety and is unable to come to terms with what happened, seeking solace in consulting psychics. However instead of leaning on her friends and family like Beth, Carol runs from them.

“The candles. The girl with the blue lips…”

When their secret was finally revealed I was shocked. I thought I’d figured it out but I was blindsided by the author. The Promise is a captivating psychological thriller. The latter part of the book in particular is full of twists, turns, bombshells and discoveries. I was on the edge of my seat and couldn’t stop reading until the end. I liked that the story addressed how what the girls went through would affect their mental health, even so many years later. I thought these parts of the story were well written and realistic. I think the three main characters were well written, especially how they each dealt with things so differently as their secret seeps insidiously into every facet of their lives. Another great read from Ms Driscoll.

Out February 7th 2019.