Review: The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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SYNOPSIS:

THE DEUBUT NOVEL FROM THE CREATOR AND WRITER OF HIT TV SHOW THE KILLLING.

As the leaves fall, he’s coming for you…

One October morning in a quiet suburb, the police make a terrible discovery.

A young woman is found brutally murdered with one of her hands missing.

Above her hangs a small doll made of chestnuts.

Examining the doll, Forensics are shocked to find a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, kidnapped and murdered a year ago.

Can a new killer be the key to an old crime?

And will his spree be over when winter arrives – or is he just getting started?

MY REVIEW: 

A chilling, grisly, haunting book that’s brimming with tension, The Chestnut Man is the perfect autumn read. From the opening pages there’s a malevolent atmosphere, like evil is lurking in the shadows just waiting to strike. 

A young mother is found in the children’s playground behind her garden. She’s been savagely tortured, mutilated and murdered while her son slept inside unaware of the horror. It’s like nothing the officers investigating have ever seen before. And there, hanging on a beam above the playhouse, is a chestnut doll that contains a clue with links to the kidnapping and murder of a 12-year-old girl last year that was thought to be solved. 

When another young mother is killed in a similar way, the same chestnut doll at the scene, it becomes clear they are in pursuit of a sadistic killer who’s only just getting started. Now, the urgent chase is on to identify and stop him before more lives are taken – and to discover his connection to the year old murder case.

Not for the faint hearted, this was a warped, gruesome, eerie and riveting thriller. Complex and layered, the writing is sharp and atmospheric with nail-biting tension throughout. I found it impossible to predict and loved how the author slowly strung the pieces together to create the startling final picture. Its starts strong, with the grisly back-to-back murders that had my heart pounding, and I breathed a sigh of relief when there was a pause in them for a while. It felt a little slow in the middle and I did begin to wonder if focusing on so many different characters was a mistake, but he soon pulled it back together and had me on the edge of my seat.

The Chestnut Man is an outstanding debut and I can’t wait to see what the author writes next. 

Out now.

Blog Tour Review: Her Mother’s Lies by Rona Halsall ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this tense and gripping thriller. Thank you to Bookoture for my invitation to take part, and to Bookoture and NetGalley for my e-ARC of the novel in exchange for my honest review. 

SYNOPSIS:

‘She hasn’t told you, has she?’ He squeezed his eyes shut. She watched the muscles of his jaw tense, then his eyes blinked open and he took a deep breath…‘I’m not your father.’

He was there for her first steps, for her first day of school. He helped her with her homework, and took her for ice cream at the weekends. And then, two days before her ninth birthday, Martha’s father walked out. She never knew what went wrong, but she and her mother Fran never saw or heard from him again.

Fifteen years later, frustrated in a life which consists of caring for an increasingly-ill Fran, and heartbroken after the death of a beloved friend, Martha decides she needs some answers, and she knows it’s time to track down the father who left them behind.

Except when she comes face-to-face with him for the first time in fifteen years, he tells her a brutal truth.

He isn’t her father.

Her mother has been telling lies.

And not just about who her real father is.

A page-turning, gripping psychological thriller for fans of Paula Hawkins, Clare Macintosh and C. L. Taylor.

MY REVIEW:

I flew through this taut and twisty thriller. It had me hooked from the first page right until the last, immersing me in Martha’s world as she saw everything she believed to be true crumble and following her in her search for the truth.

Martha and her mother Fran have a difficult relationship. Martha loves her but the twenty-four-year-old craves freedom and resents Fran’s reluctance to untie the apron strings, as well as her financial and practical reliance due to her self-inflicted declining health. She’s torn between following her dreams and enjoying her youth, and being there to help the one person that’s always been there for her. But when Fran is rushed into hospital after a drinking binge triggers a diabetic coma, Martha uncovers a series of lies that shatter her whole world. Turning to the only person she can think of, her friend Izzy, Martha vows to unveil the truths she’s been denied all these years, having no idea that she’s setting down a path that will see her entire life unravel.

I was not prepared for this book. Nothing is as it seems. The author skillfully crafted a deceptive hall of mirrors, luring me into believing I had it all figured out. I didn’t see the bombshell coming until it was on the page. Bravo Rona, Bravo! I was now transfixed and on the edge of my seat, unable to look up until I finished the book.

Her Mother’s Name is layered, complex, emotionally charged, skillfully plotted and sizzling with suspense. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.

Out today.

Rona Halsall new author.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rona is the author of Best Selling psychological thrillers THE HONEYMOON, LOVE YOU GONE and KEEP YOU SAFE. Her fourth book, HER MOTHER’S LIES is out in October 2019.

She lives on the Isle of Man with her husband, two dogs and three guinea pigs. She is an outdoorsy person and loves stomping up a mountain, walking the coastal paths and exploring the wonderful glens and beaches on the Island while she’s plotting how to kill off her next victim. She has three children and two step-children who are now grown up and leading varied and interesting lives, which provides plenty of ideas for new stories!

To find out more about Rona’s novels, go to http://www.facebook.com/RonaHalsallAuthor or follow @RonaHalsallAuth on Twitter or instagram @ronahalsall.

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Review: ‘Seven Days’ by Alex Lake ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

The addictive new psychological thriller from the Sunday Times bestselling author of After Anna and Copycat.

SEVEN DAYS UNTIL HER CHILD IS TAKEN.

SEVEN DAYS TO SAVE HIM.

In seven days, Maggie’s son, Max, turns three. But she’s not planning a party or buying presents or updating his baby book. She’s dreading it. Because in her world, third birthdays are the days on which the unthinkable happens…she loses her child.

For the last twelve years Maggie has been imprisoned in a basement. Abducted aged fifteen, she gave birth to two sons before Max, and on their third birthdays her captor came and took them from her.

She cannot let it happen again. But she has no idea how to stop it. And the clock is ticking…

MY REVIEW:

WHAT. A. RIDE. The adrenaline raced through me as I read this jaw-dropping thriller. This is a book that grabs you by the throat and throws you to the ground speechless when it’s finished with you. Fast-paced and expertly plotted, I tore through this book; I would have read it in one sitting if not for that pesky thing called human interaction with my family. But I knew I’d not be able to sleep without knowing what happened so I stayed up until the early hours to finish. Boy was it worth it for that ending!

Maggie has been held prisoner in the basement for twelve years. In seven days her son Max will turn three and her captor will take him from her, just like her two other sons. She has to save him but has no idea how. We then follow the story in dual timelines and from multiple points of view, with flashbacks that start the day Maggie is kidnapped slowly unveiling the story of the past twelve years. In the present day she is desperately trying to find a way out and save her son, the seven day countdown adding tension and urgency to the subdued atmosphere.

Maggie was a great character. We watch as she not only goes from teenager to woman, but also becomes a mother three times. We see that behind her terror is a formidable woman determined to fight and protect her child. Her strength, courage and tenacity are phenomenal and she’s a character I grew to like, admire and care for. I quickly fell in love with little Max and my heart broke at what possibly awaited him. He was both a light relief in the dark basement and a cause of even greater despair for both the reader and Maggie. 

Maggie’s captor was a sinister and terrifying figure, though it’s his delusions that are most frightening. He is so convinced of them and truly believes that imprisoning her in a basement and raping her is saving her and that he had no choice but to do it. His audacity in many of his actions – which I won’t detail because of spoilers- were infuriating, as was his arrogance that he’d never be caught.  

I think what made the book so harrowing for me was it’s believability, part of which is because of the well written characters. Each is brought vividly to life as they share the narration of the story. Reading how Maggie’s disappearance affected her family brought a deeper sense of anguish, longing, heartbreak and terror to the story. I have a son the same age Maggie is when she’s abducted so I inevitably pictured the torment I’d feel if it were my child that was gone, living every emotion alongside her parents. But I think the hardest story to read was that of her younger brother James and how it ravaged not only his present, but also his future. 

This is the first time I’ve read a book by this author but I can guarantee it won’t be the last. He knows how to captivate his audience, not letting go until the last page. I was gasping out loud and my heart was in my throat as I read the electrifying finale. This is a story that is perfect for the movie screen. 

Highly addictive, heart-stopping, dark, disturbing and hopeful,  this book is a masterclass in suspense. It is one of my favourite books this year and one you don’t want to miss.

Thank you to NetGalley, Harper Collins UK and Alex Lake for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Out now on Kindle.

Out in paperback November 14th.

Blog Tour Review: The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour. Thank you to HQ Stories for the invitation to take part and my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

A town gripped by fear. A woman accused of murder. Who can save Pale Harbour from itself?

1846. Desperate to escape the ghosts of his past, Gabriel Stone takes a position as a minister in the remote Pale Harbour, but not all is as it seems in the sleepy town.

As soon as Gabriel sets foot in the town, he can’t escape the rumours about the mysterious Sophy Carver, a young widow who lives in the eerie Carver Castle: whispers that she killed her husband, mutterings that she might even be a witch.

But as strange, unsettling events escalate into murder, Gabriel finds himself falling under Sophy’s spell. As clues start to point to Sophy as the next  victim, Gabriel realises he must find answers before anyone else turns up dead.

MY REVIEW:

Witchcraft, suspicion and secrets abound in this dark, atmospheric thriller that is a perfect autumn read. 

“He wasn’t sure why he was drawn to the house on the hill, but his feet carried him there as if they knew the answer.”

A reclusive, wealthy widow that is the subject of whispered accusations and rumour, and a transcendentalist minister new to town and in search of redemption, are our narrators in this shadowy tale. As soon as Gabriel Stone, a widower himself, hears the rumours about Sophroina ‘Sophy’ Carver he is fascinated by the curious widow who lives a reclusive life on the hill. From the moment they meet there is a spark between them and the pair find themselves dreaming up ways to see each other.

As the pair become increasingly smitten,  the mystery of the dead animals and birds and the effergies left around the town deepens. The townspeople are still convinced it can only be Sophy and think that she has bewitched Gabriel, but he sees how she is being targeted and, as they try to fight their feelings, they begin to work together in secret to search for answers. But, as things escalate, people are found dead and notes reveal Sophy is in their sights, the search for the culprit takes becomes imperative. 

“Now that she had broken through her wall of fear, the freedom was intoxicating.”

I loved the character of Sophy. She has been damaged by what has happened in her life but seems to glide above it all gracefully. She is misunderstood and maltreated but remains kind, quietly doing what she can to help those she cares for. Gabriel took me some time to warm up to. I didn’t dislike him, but I didn’t really care for him either at first. But as he found the voice to stand against the entire town in defense of Sophy, I began to see his strength and decency shine through. There were some great secondary characters in this novel too. One that stood out for me was Helen, Sophy’s maid and companion. She’s a strange character and I was never quite sure if I trusted her or if I was misinterpreting her over-protectiveness to be something sinister. I like that she wasn’t someone I could figure out, just like I couldn’t shake my suspicions of a number of the others.

“It was not a particularly welcoming place, but now a sense of wrongness took hold of him, as if he were not supposed to be here. As if something did not want him here.”

Part romance and part mystery, this historical, Gothic fiction novel has all the right ingredients for spooky read. The author builds vivid imagery of Pale Harbour as ghostly and unwelcoming from the start. It isn’t a place I’d want to wander through alone at night. Despite this the book started started slower than I would have liked, and for a long time it felt like the love story rather than a gothic novel. But as the author turned up the suspense and built up the eerie and foreboding atmosphere I love in Gothic fiction, I found myself turning the pages as fast as possible and unable to put the book down. I was hooked and on the edge of my seat as we reached the heart-stopping conclusion. 

Publication Date: October 17th

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hester Fox comes to writing from a background in the museum field as a collections maintenance technician.

This job has taken her from historic houses to fine art museums, where she has the privilege of cleaning and caring for collections that range from paintings by old masters, to ancient artefacts, to early American furniture.

She is a keen painter and has a master’s degree in historical archaeology, as well as a background in Medieval studies and art history. Hester lives outside of Boston with her husband and two cats.

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Blog Tour Review: The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this spectacular novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for my invitation to take part and to Simon & Schuster UK for my copy of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

***The epic and long awaited new romance from the author of Letters to the Lost, winner of the RNA award***

  1. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them.

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself. When their worlds collide one summer night, neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of the love affair that they know cannot possibly last. 

But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules. By the end of that summer everything has changed. 

A decade later, nine-year-old Alice is staying at Blackwood Hall with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present, and hope for the future.

MY REVIEW:

Wow! This was my first read by Iona Grey and she left me stunned with this enchanting, poignant and breathtaking novel that is every bit as beautiful on the inside, as it is on the outside. 

Atmospheric, luminous, hedonistic, glittering and affecting, this is a love story, a tragedy and a journey of self-discovery. Moving between the summer of 1925 and the year 1936, we learn the story of the secrets Alice Carew’s mother Selina has kept for over a decade. 

What was at the heart of this novel is love: a love between two people from opposite social classes and the love between a mother and daughter. The two very different love stories that were told were equally moving, compelling and heartbreaking. The author also shows us the many different faces of love throughout the story: sexual love, maternal love, the love between friends, dutiful love, love that is controlling and undying love. We all love in many different ways that vary not only depending on our personality, but the roles different people play in our lives and I loved how many examples of these, as well as the impact they have on our lives, were shown throughout the story.

There were many wonderful characters in this book and I felt like the author vividly brought each of them to life through her exquisite writing. They felt real to me. I could hear their voices and see them like I was watching a movie; which this should definitely be turned into in my opinion. From the start I felt bad for Alice being all alone in that big house with her aloof grandparents and strict governess for company. Thankfully, she has the comfort of her mother’s faithful maid and friend, Polly, and the secret letters from her mother. It’s clear her mother is the only person she’s ever felt loved by so being separated for so long is bound to be difficult. Selina was an ambiguous character that I felt a range of emotions for. She’s integral to the story and watching as she grew from a self-focused young woman into a devoted mother was fascinating. I loved her group of friends and one of them was by far my favourite character. The fabulous Theo was over the top in every way and brightened any scene he was in. 

The Glittering Hours is my favourite book so far this month and is one of my books of the year. Insightful, romantic, heartrending and magnificent, this is also a fun, bawdy romp that transported me into the roaring twenties, giving a lively look at the glamour, glitz and decadence of the era. 

Out October 17th in Paperback.

Out on Kindle and in Hardback now.

Iona Grey Author Picture

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Iona Grey has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters. She tweets @iona_grey

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The Dark Mirror #DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth

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Purple books for #DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth

This is a very personal post that I’ve been considering sharing for about a year.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Twenty years ago today I married a man who turned out to be abusive. There were red flags before I married him but I was very young, just twenty years old when we wed, and I believed his apologies and excuses. I also didn’t see control and emotional and verbal abuse for what it was and thought because he’d “only” hit me a few times and had stopped, that everything was ok. I was wrong. Our marriage was dominated by various forms of violence that would fluctuate.

I found the strength to leave a few months before our 9th wedding anniversary. By that point we had a four-year-old son that this mama bear needed to protect.

A number of years ago I wrote this short story about that time. In honour of spreading awareness and to remind people that they can leave even after many years, I am sharing it today. I’m terrified and am shaking as I write this but I know it’s the right thing to do.

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The Dark Mirror

I’m ready. I’m wearing the ivory embroidered gown covered in lace and sparkling details, with a long train that flows out behind me like a royal robe. A tiara glitters in the mirror and a full length, white veil covers my perfectly made up face and my curled hair that cascades down my back like a waterfall. As I gaze at my reflection feeling excited about the promises I’m about to make and the life ahead something strange happens; the girl looking back begins to change. She still looks like me with the same blue eyes and auburn hair, but something is different. There is a sadness in her eyes and through them I can see her  head and heart are full of harrowing memories and broken dreams. I can see the pain, heartbreak and sorrow. Reflected in them I see the movie of her life start to play : the love and joy following solemn vows, then the anger in his voice, the plates smashing, the girl cowering in fear of his wrath, the jekyll and hyde of his character as he’s loving and adoring one moment, hateful and vicious the next. I see the anguish as she dreams of leaving but still loves him and wants to stay. I glimpse her heart breaking into a thousand pieces as he smashes up the house and tells her she’s worthless, that the child they will have is better without her and she should be dead.  I feel her longing for release so greatly that death seems favourable. She is destroyed from the inside. He’s taken away who she is and what she knows to be true piece by piece until she is nothing but a hollow shell. He’s destroyed her and thinks he’s won. That she is his and will do as he dictates forever. But he’s wrong. Deep down the fire in her is still there and she claws and fights her way back to the surface and she begins to stand up and be counted. Initially she suffers all the more for doing so. I see the hell she calls home until she can finally take no more and packing a few belongings and clutching the small boy’s hand, she flees, leaving the nightmare and all the broken promises and dreams behind. The vision has me fighting back tears, at all the woman has been through and because I know this is my future. I know she’s showing me what my happy ever after will become. I look away, not wanting to see anymore. When I look back she is gone and all that’s left is a discoloured white veil lying discarded on the floor. 

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Blog Tour Review: The Birthday House by Jill Treseder ⭐⭐⭐.5

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for this novella. Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for the invitation to take part, and to Anne and Silverwood Books for my copy of this novella. 

SYNOPSIS:

A friendship. A murder. A life that will never be the same.

The year is 1955, the location picturesque Devon. In a house by the River Dart, schoolgirl Josephine Kennedy posts invitations to her twelfth birthday party – a party that never takes place. Horrific violence is committed that night in the family home, leaving all of its occupants dead.

Based on a disturbing real-life crime, this compelling story explores Josephine’s fate through the prism of friends and family – the victims and survivors who unwittingly influence the events that led up to the tragedy.

Josephine’s best friend, Susan, is haunted by the secrets of the birthday house. Can she ever find a way of making peace with the past?

MY REVIEW:

As a true crime junkie my interest was piqued when I received the email about this book. I had never heard of the crime that it is based on, but I loved the idea of a work of fiction based on true events that explores not only the crime itself, but the effects on those who were left behind to grieve and wonder what they could have done to prevent it happening. 

This novella is a character study of family, friendships, betrayal, grief and mental illness. It was engaging, fascinating and wonderfully written. The beautiful setting of Devon is a striking contrast to the darkness of the murders. Told from multiple points of view that move between dual timelines, we first see the story unfold from the eyes of Susan, Josephine’s best friend, in the present day. Now an adult, she is looking back at what was taken from her and her friend that day, and wondering how different life would be if Josephine was still alive. Susan wasn’t told the truth about how her friend died at first and only learned the extent of what she went through many years later. She ponders on how this has shaped her grieving process and who she is, and looks back at her memories of her best friend while trying to understand what drove an adoring father to kill his family.

Reading the different points of view enabled the reader an understanding that many of those who were left behind never had. All of the Kennedy family narrate chapters that lead us right up until their final moments. Pamela Kennedy is a dutiful wife and loving mother. She tells us about her marriage, what happens behind closed doors, and the things she never dares to say out loud, especially in the months leading to her death. Josephine Kennedy loves her Daddy but not his “monster moods”. She tells us her worries about him, about her best friend Susan and her hopes for the future before her life is cruelly snatched from her. Harold Kennedy was a troubled, angry man who, despite his adoration for his wife and daughter, is someone they fear and tiptoe around. The turmoil he carried inside was overwhelming and these insights into his thoughts made events all the more tragic and heartbreaking for me and his chapter was the most interesting of all. 

The Birthday House offers an intriguing analysis of what motivates a man to kill his entire family and illustrates how we can influence other people and events without realising, sometimes with disastrous results. It is a dark, poignant and heart-rending read that I would recommend to anyone interested in these subjects and crime. 

One last thing: reading the author’s notes at the end of this book is essential. In it she explains more about the real-life crime on which the book is based, and her reasons for writing about it in this way. 

Out now.

Jill Treseder Author Picture

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

(from http://www.jilltresederwriter.com)

I started writing in a red shiny exercise book when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’ activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt able to call myself ‘writer’.

But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of the above.

Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved, but left because I could no longer cope with the system.

This led to a freelance career as an independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.

All these experiences feed into the process of writing fiction, while my non-fiction book ‘The Wise Woman Within’ resulted indirectly from the consultancy work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the University of Bath.

I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in my writing.

Writers’ groups and workshops are a further invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can. I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus and discipline achieved among others in a group.

I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing course to explore this genre in more depth.

I live with my husband in South Devon and enjoy being involved in a lively local community.

Twitter @Jill_Treseder

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