Saving Missy by Beth Morrey (Sampler) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

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SYNOPSIS:

A free sampler of Saving Missy, 2020’s most astonishing debut.

Prickly. Stubborn. Terribly lonely.

But everyone deserves a second chance.

Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.

Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home, the sound of the radio in the dark, the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.

Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this, not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter with two very different women opens the door to something new.

Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance, isn’t it?

MY REVIEW:

I have fallen in love…

I’ve been seeing lucky bloggers who’ve received early proofs of this book raving about it so I was elated to find this sampler available on NetGalley and have the chance to read some of it for myself. Like them, I’ve fallen under the spell of this charming story and the cantankerous Missy Carmichael who, despite her hard, bristly exterior was someone I found myself quickly having a soft spot for. 

The story is beautifully written and addictive from the start. I was enthralled by this story and now desperately need the rest of the book so I can find out what Missy did to make her daughter stay away, learn more about her backstory, and to read more of the exploits of Missy, Sylvie and Angela.

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins UK for my copy of this sampler in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: February 6th 2020.

The Wish List of Albie Young by Ruby Hummingbird ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this uplifting story. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and to Bookouture and NetGalley for my copy of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can float to the top.

Maria Birch is seventy years old and, for her, every week is the same.

On Monday, she does her weekly shop. On Tuesday, she goes for a blow-dry. On Wednesday, she visits the laundrette. But Thursday is her favourite day of all- everything hurts less on Thursday.

Every Thursday Maria walks to her local café. Waiting for her at one of the red gingham-topped tables is Albie Young, a charming man with a twinkle in his eye and an impressive collection of tweed flat caps. Every week, the pair share a slice of marble cake and a pot of tea.

Except, one week, Albie doesn’t turn up.

When Maria finds out what has happened, her perfectly ordered life is ripped apart. Suddenly, she is very lonely. Without her Thursday friend – her only friend – she no longer has the energy to circle the TV listings, she has no reason to leave her apartment, no reason to laugh.

Then she discovers that Albie isn’t who she thought he was, and she’s left wondering if she knew her friend at all. But Albie has left behind a legacy – a handwritten list of wishes he never got the chance to complete. 

Maria is resigned to facing the rest of her days heartbroken and alone. But fulfilling Albie’s wishes could hold the key to her happiness – if only she’s able to look past his secret…

This life-affirming and heartfelt tale is for anyone who has ever looked at their life and wanted more. Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Keeper of Lost Things will love this poignant story, which shows us that for the truest loves, the end is never really the end…

MY REVIEW:

Inspirational, heartwarming and uplifting, this delightful debut novel was a joy to read and is one that will linger long after reading.

Seventy-year old Maria Birch lives a solitary life on a rigid routine. The one day she looks forward to, the only day she breaks free of her self-imposed isolation, is Thursdays. On Thursdays, she goes to the local cafe to share a slice of marble cake and a pot of tea with her friend Albie Young. Until the week he doesn’t show. When she learns her beloved friend has passed away Maria is devastated, hiding herself away once more, until she comes across a handwritten note Albie left behind. The note is a wish list of things he wanted to do for others and has some of them ticked off. Maria decides to complete Albie’s wish list to honour her friend and finds herself on a journey of self-discovery she never expected. 

This poignant tale started slowly and sadly and I was beginning to wonder when it would start to be the uplifting story I was promised, but I am glad I persevered, and after a while we follow Maria out of the darkness and into a lighter, life-changing time that was deeply moving. 

When we meet Maria we see she is a lonely figure and that she lives for her Thursdays with Albie. He’s her only friend and we know she shut herself off from life many years ago after an unknown event that haunts her. She’s been overtaken by a crushing sadness leaving her broken, full of regret and feeling unworthy of love and happiness. We get brief glimpses of happier times in her life that slowly reveal the heartbreaking tragedy she endured and help us understand her actions. For me it made Albie’s death becomes all the more devastating in light of all she has already lost and I was fighting back tears. But Albie’s list gives her a new lease of life. In carrying out the acts of kindness she sees that she is loved, finds joy in human connection and realises she still has a life to be lived to the fullest. I loved this character from the start, the sadness and fear radiating from her made me root for her to find a better life for herself and I was invested in her journey every step of the way.

This was a wonderfully written story about love, loss, kindness, fractured people and what can happen when you bring people together. It reminds us not to wait to tell someone we love them, mend a broken bridge, to follow our dreams and live life to the fullest because we never know what tomorrow may bring. It also shows us that we matter even if we think we don’t and that there are people who love us and miss us in our absence and that we can make a greater impact on those around us than we ever imagined.

 

The Wish List of Albie Young is a touching, tender, honest and hopeful story that will leave you feeling determined to live your best life and to share in “The Albie Effect”

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ruby Hummingbird is a novelist based in the English countryside. She loves nothing more than writing uplifting and heartwarming fiction that gets her readers reaching for the tissues. When she isn’t storytelling, she can be found tending to her beloved sunflowers or sipping hazelnut lattes. The Wish List of Albie Young is her debut novel, and it promises to be a real heartbreaker. 

You can find Ruby on Twitter at @HummingbirdRuby, on Facebook at /ruby.hummingbird.58 and on Instagram at rubyhummingbirdauthor.

The Wishlist of Albie Young - Blog Tour

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

1686, ICELAND, AN ISOLATED, WINDSWEPT LAND HAUNTED BY WITCH TRIALS AND STEEPED IN THE ANCIENT SAGAS.

Betrothed unexpectedly to Jón Eiríksson, Rósa is sent join her new husband in the remote village of Stykkishólmur. Here, the villagers are wary of outsiders. 

But Rósa harbours her own suspicions. Her husband buried his first wife alone in the dead of night. He will not talk of it. Instead he gives her a small glass figurine. She does not know what it signifies.

The villagers mistrust them both. Dark threats are whispered. There is an evil here – Rósa can feel it. Is it her husband, the land – or the villagers?

Alone and far from home, Rósa sees the darkness coming. She fears she will be its next victim…

MY REVIEW:

Life in 17th Century Iceland is hard and unforgiving: food is scarce and both the landscape and the sea can be perilous.  Following her father’s death, Rósa and her mother are slowly starving until she marries Jón Eiríksson, the recently widowed chieftain of Stykkishólmur – trading her freedom to save her ailing mother. Jón is a stranger to Rósa and she’s fearful of this large man she must now call husband. She feels the shadow of his first wife, Anna, looming over her. The rumours surrounding her life and death haunt Rósa and she lives in fear that she too will mysteriously vanish overnight at the hands of her husband. Alone in the croft she is haunted by eerie breaths and whispers behind her and the echoes of footsteps. She also hears sounds and scratching coming from the loft that Jón is determined to keep secret. What is he hiding behind that locked door?  

Mesmerising, eerie, claustrophobic, enchanting and remarkable, this was far from the predictable gothic tale I thought it would be. Just as I was certain I knew what was going on the author threw me for a loop with a surprising twist – something she did multiple times over the course of the book. Exquisitely written with beautiful, haunting prose and wonderfully plotted, this novel had me captivated from the first pages. 

It is a story steeped in history, suspicion and tradition, set in a time where Christianity has been ushered in and the traditional gods and runes are frowned upon and only practiced in secret. Rósa is a woman torn between those worlds and with the witch trials a recent memory and the village suspicious of her, she fears she will be the next person to be tried and executed; a fear that emanates from the pages making your heart race with hers.

The characters are engaging and well written. Every one of them brings something important to the story, however small their part. Jón’s first wife Anna may have passed away but she haunts Rósa and there are still whispers about her in the village, making the mysterious woman one of the story’s main characters. I liked Anna and was moved by what she went through. She is a woman who reads and wants independence living in a time women are still expected to be uneducated and have to marry to survive. She is a strong woman but also still a frightened young girl completely alone in her new home. The author uses the bleak and merciless landscape, which feels like a character in its own right, to convey Rósa’s isolation and help us understand her unease and sense of peril. 

Jón was one of the characters I could never quite figure out. Was he a villain or is he misunderstood? As we learned more about his past I did warm to him a little but always had a sense of trepidation about him and felt suspicious of many of his actions. But was this just the difference in our culture and theirs or was it that he was truly someone to be afraid of? I could never decide. HIs apprentice and friend Pétur was another enigma. He would go from seeming like a kind, genuine person to someone who was strange and sinister like the flick of a switch. I did find that I understood these traits more as I learned his backstory but I never knew if he could be trusted. 

In an era where marriage is for convenience and survival rather than happiness,Jón and Rósa face the greater struggle of having a marriage that contains five people – themselves, Anna, Pétur and Páll (Rósa’s cousin). I know it is a time where women are expected to put up and shut up but Rósa seems to not be someone who is able to do that. She’s too curious. Too much of a thinker. It made me worried for her and I spent the whole book convinced that it was her body the men were retrieving from the water in the prologue. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it by telling you if I was right or not.

I absolutely loved this spellbinding novel. I loved being in the dark waiting for all to be revealed so the unpredictability made it all the more exciting. This is a magnificent debut from a wonderful new talent. I can’t wait to read what she does next and can’t recommend this novel highly enough.

Out now

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this breathtaking novel. Thank you to Steven at Hodder & Stoughton for the invitation to take part and for my gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters — the Bronte sisters — learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance. 

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors”. Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives in great peril.

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MY REVIEW:

From the words of Haworth Parsonage, December, 1851, I was transported back in time into the world of Victorian Yorkshire and the escapades of the three infamous Bronte sisters. Steeped in mystery and gothic ambience, this luminous novel was one of the highlights of my reading year. 

A gruesome discovery of a bedroom covered in blood, a missing woman feared murdered and a maid left traumatised are the chilling start to the story giving an immediate air or horror and mystery.  We then go back to Haworth where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte are all living back at the parsonage for the first time in years. They live a quiet life and spend their time together writing stories and poems and reading. Which is exactly what they’re doing when their brother Branwell bursts in telling them about the disappearance and probable murder just a few miles away. The sisters are horrified, yet also intrigued, and after visiting the scene they decide to become “lady detectors”. The will use their intellect and imagination to discover the fate of Elizabeth Chester, second wife of Robert and mother of two young sons.

Their investigations take them far afield and place them in danger but the sisters feel it is their Christian duty to find answers, plus they’re also really enjoying themselves. The sisters’ very different personalities and strengths assist them in their investigation, calling on the assistance of their errant brother Branwell when needed. There are an array of suspects but they follow the clues they seem to find more questions rather than answers, making them wonder if they will ever learn the fate of Elizabeth Chester. But startling and salacious revelations begin to emerge, and the astonishing truth is finally unveiled…

This novel made my heart sing. As soon as I heard about it I knew was one I had to read. A mix of my favourite genres by one of my favourite authors? It sounded like a dream come true. And it was. It is an original look at three of our most famous writers and I delighted in every moment. The author’s love and extensive knowledge of the Brontes radiated from every page and I particularly loved how she included nods to their future stories and fame in their conversations. Her ability to bring Howarth and the moors to life with her vivid imagery made me feel like I was walking on those bleak windswept hills with the sisters. 

I enjoyed reading a Victorian era detective story with female leads. It was a time when women are still considered the property of men and to be lesser beings. They were not encouraged to think and a meek, silent woman who existed almost invisibly was the ideal. This is both a help and hindrance in their detecting as while they are able to go virtually unnoticed, they are also met with opposition, usually men, and found people unwilling to talk with meer women. The sisters are strong, lively, intelligent, enterprising and visionary which makes them ideal for a job that is new and visionary in itself. The sisters each narrated the story allowing us to get to know them as individuals rather than simply being just one of the Bronte sisters and also offered a glimpse into their family dynamic.

The Vanished Bride is a creative, mysterious, witty, compelling and glorious tale. The author writes with elegant prose that is bathed in history and atmosphere, kept me guessing from start to finish and delivered surprises at every turn. I have fallen in love with the Bronte sisters as detector and hope that this is the start of a long running series. 

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bella Ellis is the Brontë inspired pen name for the award winning, Sunday Times bestselling author Rowan Coleman. A Brontë devotee for most of her life, Rowan is the author of fourteen novels including The Memory Book, The Summer of Impossible Things and The Girl at the Window.

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The Child of Auschwitz by Lily Graham ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Publication Day Lily Graham!

I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for this beautiful novel on its release date. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and to NetGalley and Bookouture for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

‘She touched the photograph in its gilt frame that was always on her desk, of a young, thin woman with very short hair and a baby in her arms. She had one last story to tell. Theirs. And it began in hell on earth.’

It is 1942 and Eva Adami has boarded a train to Auschwitz. Barely able to breathe due to the press of bodies and exhausted from standing up for two days, she can think only of her longed-for reunion with her husband Michal, who was sent their six months earlier.

But when Eva arrives at Auschwitz, there is no sign of Michal and the stark reality of the camp comes crashing down upon her. As she lies heartbroken and shivering upon a thin mattress, her head shaved by rough hands, she hears a whisper. Her bunkmate, Sofie, is reaching out her hand.

As the days pass, the two women learn each other’s hopes and dreams – Eva’s is that she will find Michal alive in this terrible place, and Sofie’s is that she will be reunited with her son Tomas, over the border in an orphanage in Austria. Sofie sees the chance to engineer one last meeting between Eva and Michal and knows she must take it even if it means befriending the enemy.

But when Eva realises she is pregnant, she fears she has endangered both their lives. The women promise to protect each other’s children, should the worst occur. For they are determined to hold on to the last flower of hope in the shadows and degradation: their precious children, who they pray will live to tell their story when they no longer can.

A heart-breaking story of survival, where life or death relies on the smallest chance and happiness can be found in the darkest times. Fans of The Choice and The Tattooist of Auschwitz will fall in love with this beautiful novel.

MY REVIEW:

The holocaust is a time in history I’ve always felt drawn to and I’ve read many books, both fact and fiction, about it. You know a book about this subject will always be emotional and this is no exception. Compelling, tender and poignant, this book swallowed me whole. I devoured it quickly, unable to put it down once I’d started reading. It is a story of strength and hope. Of finding light in the darkest times and the kindness that can be found in humanity even amongst the wretchedness and evil.

I hadn’t expected this to be a story mostly about the friendships between women in a death camp but it became my favourite aspect of the story. Seeing how they would help each other survive, offer comfort and words of encouragement was uplifting. Eva and Sofie had a true and loyal friendship and literally put their lives on the line for each other again and again. They were both someone I’d have wanted by my side in that situation and all the women in this book were strong, brave and inspirational. The author uses a past narrative to show us Eva and Sofie’s lives before the camp and show that they were just normal women living their lives until they were caught up in something unimaginable. The love story between Eva and Michal and the pain of Sofie’s separation from her son were vividly described in the flashbacks and made me root for them both to survive and be reunited with their loved ones. As I read I could never be completely sure which of the two women would become pregnant or how and when it would happen. I wondered how a child could possibly survive pregnancy inside a starving mother’s body, let alone the dangers of the camp, and was filled with dread even though we know from the opening pages that the child survives.

This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author but it won’t be the last as her writing was exquisite. I felt like I was transported to hell along with the characters via the author’s visceral and immersive prose that told the unvarnished truth of the holocaust. And though it made for difficult reading at times, it is told with sensitivity, with strands of hope woven through every page as we witness the endurance and resilience of the human spirit and how the miracle of a new life illuminates the darkness and despair.

All the characters in the book are well written and soon got under my skin. The author has a talent for evoking strong emotions towards the characters – be it love, sympathy, joy, despair, heartbreak or hatred. There were some formidable male characters, especially in Auschwitz, and the guards were the essence of the darkness, brutality and evil that lurks in the shadowy corners of humanity.

The Child of Auschwitz is a beautifully written, harrowing but hopeful story that I would highly recommend, especially if you’re someone who enjoys historical fiction.

Out today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lily Graham grew up in South Africa, and is a former journalist. She lives now in the Suffolk coast with her husband and English bulldog, Fudge.

She is the author of six novels, published by Bookouture, including the bestselling, The Paris Secret and The Island Villa. 

Her latest novel The Child of Auschwitz will be out in 2019. 

Welcome

@lilygrahambooks

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Blog Tour Review: The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part, and Simon & Schuster UK and NetGalley for my ARCs of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

Until she knows her husband’s fate, she cannot decide her own…

An epic debut novel of forbidden love, loss, and the shattered hearts left behind in the wake of World War I. 

1921. Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. His considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she begins to search.

Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph grave sites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for his brother. 

And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to the startling truth. An incredibly moving account of an often-forgotten moment in history,The Photographer of the Lost tells the story of the thousands of soldiers who were lost amid the chaos and ruins, and the even greater number of men and women desperate to find them again.

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MY REVIEW:

The Photographer of the Lost is a soulful, poignant, haunting and immersive debut novel. It is a story of sorrow and hope that highlights a part of history rarely remembered; the thousands who simply vanished.

Brothers Francis, Will and Harry all fought together in France during World War I, but Harry was the only one to return home. He carries the guilt of this every day and has never felt able to settle there again. Instead, he travels taking photographs of graves for the families of those killed in action, offering a small crumb of comfort in their time of grief. 

Back in England, Francis’s wife, Edie, has accepted her husband is ‘missing presumed dead’. But when she receives an envelope containing a photograph taken by Francis four years after he was last seen, she has a surge of hope and she decides to go to France to search for answers. 

Also in France, Harry adds Francis’s name to his list, determined to find his brother’s final resting place. But after hearing about the photograph he starts to wonder if Francis could really be alive, and begins an urgent search for the truth. We follow Edie and Harry as they search for Francis, meeting others also touched by the horrors of war along the way. But, as they begin to unravel the truth, it looks like they will be torn further apart. Can they find answers while also repairing the only link to family they both have left?

This novel was truly breathtaking. The author’s portrayal of the harrowing  reality of war, of life in the trenches, how villages and towns were reduced to rubble and left in ruin, and the anguish felt by those who survived, was powerful and profound. But this emotional journey wasn’t just somber, this was also a story about survival, endurance, love and hope. Her writing was full of vivid imagery that made me feel like everything on the page was playing on a movie reel in my mind. The characters each showed optimism and resilience despite all they’ve gone through and illustrated the sheer magnitude of the devastation left behind by war, how everyone you meet will have been touched by some kind of loss. The author wrote with such potency that I felt like I was feeling every trauma they endured and they and their stories will stay with me long after reading.

The Photographer of the Lost is a magnificent and beautifully written piece of historical fiction by an author that is one to watch. A deeply affecting story of love, death, heartbreak and hope, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys this genre. 

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She has a particular interest in the experience of women during the First World War, in the challenges faced by the returning soldier, and in the development of tourism and pilgrimage in the former conflict zones. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in south-west France.

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Blog Tour Review: Bad Seed by Jessica Eames ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for this compelling page-turner. Thank you to Tracey at Compulsive Readers Blog Tours for the invitation to take part, and to Trapeze books and NetGalley for my e-book ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Nicola is going to die. Just like her husband did.

Nicola thought she’d gotten away with it. 

Since her husband’s death, life has been getting back on track. She has a new boyfriend, Phil. A new home, living next door to her brother-in-law, his wife and their children. She is closer than ever with her daughter, Sarah. She even likes her job at the local shop, though she’s had some time off recently with illness. The Doctor says it’s menopause, that it’s nothing to worry about. As if he could know how she’s feeling.

Nicola is finally moving on with her life.

But then she receives the note. Someone knows what she did. They know the secret she doesn’t even think about when she’s alone.

And they want revenge.

A gripping domestic thriller told from the points of view of three women from the same family, each with their own heart-wrenching revelation. 

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MY REVIEW:

Clever, twisty and surprising, I devoured this gripping novel in under twenty-four hours. Told in three parts, a different woman from the Gregory family narrates each one, offering us a glimpse behind the curtain of this seemingly ordinary family as secrets are revealed and lives are shattered irreparably. Opening with an intriguing prologue that left me on tenterhooks, this was a rollercoaster ride that didn’t end until we reached the jaw-dropping final page that sent a shiver down my spine. 

This sinister and unputdownable domestic thriller will have you questioning just how well you know your family and wonder what secrets they might be hiding. Behind the warm smiles of this family is an undercurrent of obsession, lies, betrayal and distrust. Someone is out for vengeance. But who? Everyone was a suspect and my mind was in overdrive trying to untangle the clues. But this book was hard to predict and I was repeatedly blindsided by bombshells as they were unveiled, making me question everything I thought I knew and having to try and figure things out all over again.

One of the things I loved was the author’s use of different narrators for the three parts of the book. It gave the characters a greater depth and illuminated parts of the story that a single narrator couldn’t have. I enjoyed getting to know each of the women and found myself connecting to each of them as I read their part. The plot was pacy and the tension increased with every section, keeping me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.

If you love page-turning thrillers full of twists then you need to read this book. Bad Seed is a brilliant and addictive story that you won’t be able to put down.

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jessica Eames is the pseudonym of a UK publishing industry insider, based in London Twitter- @JessicaEames2