Another month has flown by and it’s time for another wrap up.
July was a great reading month. I read 16 books, took part in one book club readalong and 18 blog tours. Below is a quick summary of what I read this month:
False Witness by Karin Slaughter
Karin Slaughter is one of my favourite crime writers and book she releases is on my must-read list. I was particularly excited about reading False Witness as it was a standalone, and it’s been a while since I read one of those from her. It did not disappoint. Once again she delivered a first-class thriller that was dark, twisted and sinister. Thrillers don’t get better than this. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Carol is another of my go-to crime authors. Her newest series is her darkest yet, and I’m loving it. A Cut For A Cut sees Kate Young once again embroiled in an investigation when she and her son find the body of a young man while diving. It had my totally hooked from the start and didn’t let go. If you are looking for an exhilarating and propulsive thriller, then this is for you. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
The Rule is a readable thriller about family, love, and the lengths a parent will go to to protect their child. I really liked Daniel, the young man at the centre of the story, and the themes of duality the author used throughout. Rating: ✮✮✮✰✰
One of my most anticipated books of the year, I luxuriated in every word of this absolute masterpiece. The second book in her Romanov series follows Tsarevna Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. She is a fascinating historical figure and I loved expanding my knowledge of an era that has long fascinated me. Dazzling, captivating and truly magnificent, this is a joy for history and literature lovers alike. I’m now counting down to book three! Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Just as the tagline says, this is not another novel about a dead girl. In her startling debut, Jacqueline Bublitz has taken the familiar narratives we see in psychological thrillers and given them an original twist. Instead of asking whodunnit, she asks who was the victim? What was her story? And what can we learn from her? She also asks who was the person who discovered the victims broken body? And how did that discovery after them?
Breathtakingly beautiful, hypnotic, mesmerising and unflinching, this book went right to my soul. I’m still thinking about it almost a month after reading. It stands out not only amongst the mystery and thriller books I’ve read this year, but all the ones I’ve ever read. This is a must-read for thriller lovers and the author is a talent to watch. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Songbirds is a beautiful story that gives a voice to the voiceless. In this harrowing and heartbreaking tale, the author explores the world of transient and migrant workers, shining a light on their experiences and the institutionalised racism they face. She also highlights how this racism runs so deep that the authorities won’t search for them if they go missing, claiming they must have just moved on instead. A richly drawn novel full of memorable characters, beautiful imagery and exquisite storytelling, this is a story that needs to be read. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
The Painting is a simple yet enlightening story. A portrait of totalitarianism, immigration, family and self-discovery, it tells the story of Anika, a Hungarian immigrant living in Australia after being forced to flee her oppressively homeland. One of the few possessions she brought with her was a valuable painting. After it is stolen in what appears to be a targeted robbery, Anika is forced to confront uncomfortable questions about her family’s past. This book surprised me as it took a different, but fascinating, turn to what I was expecting. A captivating and moving story that I would recommend. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
An ordinary man on an ordinary street is hiding grim secrets in this dark and sinister thriller. I listened to this book as part of the audiobook blog tour and it chilled me to the bone. I had struggled to get into it at first, but am so glad I stuck with it as this was a gripping and unnerving psychological thriller that I couldn’t stop listening to. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
The Art of Loving You is an exploration of love, grief and the afterlife. It looks at how we find meaning in life when it seems to have become meaningless and what we do with the love we have for someone when they die. Heartbreaking yet hopeful, it follows Libby, who is left devastated after the sudden death of her soulmate Jack. Full of wonderful characters and some truly tender and beautiful moments, I couldn’t put this down. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Mrs England with the Tasting Notes Book Club for July. I am a huge fan of Stacey Halls so I was excited for this book and the online book club meeting. Wonderfully written, atmospheric and compelling, this is one of those books that is even better after you’ve thought about it for a few days and realised that things weren’t what they first appeared. For me, one of the best things about reading a book with others is the way you can read the same book yet see things so differently. This was the best Tasting Notes Book Club yet and I enjoyed the book even more after hearing about it from the author and exploring it with others in greater detail. This is an ideal read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
This warm, witty, slow-burning romance was the perfect summer read to get lost in. Poppy and Alex were fun to read and had a great dynamic. But my favourite thing about the book is the escapism it offered. I loved being able to live vicariously through the characters and travel to different countries from my back garden during a pandemic. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
Girls Who Lie (Forbidden Iceland Book 2) by Eva Björg Aegisdottir
Girls Who Lie is the second book in the Forbidden Iceland series, but was the first one I’ve read. The author quickly catches you up and it was easy to keep up with the characters making it easy to read even without the first book. A harrowing, complex and multilayered thriller, this was another amazing read from Orenda Books. I will definitely be reading the first book in the series and any further installments. Perfect for crime fiction fans. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
The Woman in the Water is a story about a fractured family, tragic death and search for answers. Though it was predictable in places, the author leaves you with enough doubt and unanswered questions that you keep turning the pages, needing to know more. A dark, tense and twisty read that fans of the genre will enjoy. Rating: ✮✮✮.5
Books, murder and mystery. What more could I want? Utterly mesmerising and addictive, I devoured this book. Perfectly plotted, intricately woven and full of tension, this is a masterclass in storytelling. The Secret Life of Writers is a stylish, sharp and suspenseful thriller that is so twisty it will make your head spin. After reading it I understand why Guillaume Musso is known as the French suspense king. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
This is one of those books that’s a bit like an iceberg: what you see at first is only a part of what is actually going on. The author slowly unveils the truth, weaving together the layers to create a complex and intricate thriller. Themes of domestic violence and coercive control are explored in various ways through out the book and it is clear it is well researched. Unnerving and affecting, I would recommend this to fans of the genre. Rating: ✮✮✮.5
Wow! Just, wow! I have been a fan of Gillian McAllister since the first time I read one of her books, but this is her best one yet. Taut, tense and twisty, this riveting thriller had me hooked. A multilayered and complex story, there is so much more to it than meets the eye. Jaw-dropping and unexpected revelations pulled the rug from under me repeatedly and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. That Night is a must read for anyone who enjoys an intelligent, sharp and sensational thriller. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
I swear that it’s getting harder and harder to choose a favourite each month, as there are just so many high-quality books being written. It was really difficult to choose this month and after getting it down to two, I just couldn’t pick between them. Therefore, my books of the month for July are The Tsarina’s Daughter and Before You Knew My Name.
What did you read this month? Did we read any of the same books?
Thanks for reading this month’s wrap up. Seeyou next month Emma xxx
Thank you to the publishers for my gifted proof copies and eBook ARCS.
“1. Monsters I have known monsters and I have known men.I have stoodin their long shadows, propped them up with my own two hands, reached for the inscrutable faces in the dark. They are harder to set apart than you know. Than you will ever know.”
Today’s chilling first lines are taken from Damage, the startling debut from Caitlin Wahrer, that was released this month. This is one of my most highly anticipated debuts this year and I’m even more excited to start it soon after reading these first lines.
Sometimes, the true story is the hardest to believe.
TONY has always looked out for his younger brother, Nick. So when Nick is badly hurt and it looks like he was the victim of sexual assault, Tony’s anger flares.
JULIA is alarmed by her husband Tony’s obsession with Nick’s case. She’s always known Tony has a temper. But does she really know what he’s capable of?
NICK went out for a drink. After that, everything’s a blank. When he woke up he found himself in a world of confusion and pain, and the man who hurt him doesn’t deny doing it. But he says the whole thing was consensual.
Three ordinary people; one life-shattering event. And when the police get involved, this family in crisis might be capable of anything . . .
Set to ignite debate and as gripping as your favourite box-set, Damage is a compulsive drama from an extraordinary new writer.
Published: July 22nd, 2021 Publisher: W&N Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Travel Literature Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this absolute masterpiece. Thank you to Alex Layt at Orion for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.
In 1999, after publishing three cult novels, celebrated author Nathan Fawles announces the end of his writing career and withdraws to Beaumont, a wild and beautiful island off the Mediterranean coast.
Autumn 2018. As Fawles’ novels continue to captivate readers, Mathilde Monney, a young Swiss journalist, arrives on the island, determined to unlock the writer’s secrets and secure his first interview in twenty years.
That same day, a woman’s body is discovered on the beach and the island is cordoned off by the authorities.
And so, begins a dangerous face off between Mathilde and Nathan, in which the line between truth and fiction becomes increasingly blurred…
“I knew that fate had set me on a path towards a story that someone had to tell. A true story, more compelling than any work of fiction, and one which I sensed had only just begun.”
Books, murder and mystery. What more could I want in a novel? As soon as I read the synopsis I knew this was a book I HAD to read. It’s almost like it was written for me. And it was perfect. An absolute masterpiece that was so mesmerising and addictive that I never wanted it to end.
The Secret Life of Writers reads like a book within a book. It starts when Raphael arrives on the Isle of Beaumont hoping to solve the ‘mystery of Nathan Fawles’, the reclusive writer who has isolated himself on the island since suddenly retiring from writing at the peak of his career almost twenty years before. But after the brutal murder of a young woman, the story widens to include a murder investigation and another mystery involving the incredible journey of a lost camera and and unspeakable secret that Fawles is hiding and journalist Mathilde claims to know.
“A noose tightened around my chest. I was shaking all over. When I opened the freezer, I couldn’t hold back a scream. The inside had been repainted. With blood.”
Guillaume Musso is known as the ‘French suspense king’, and after reading this book, I can see why. This novel is a masterclass in storytelling. Expertly written with a dash of finesse, it is hypnotic, and I was under its spell from the first pages. Every word is infused with an air of mystery, and there is a palpable tension that makes your heart race. Perfectly plotted, it is more intricate and complex than it first appears, and every time you think you’ve figured out what’s going on Musso throws in another curveball. He’s so good that you don’t see it coming; expertly luring you into that false sense of security where you think you know what’s next and then pulls the rug from under you.
Told with breathtakingly beautiful imagery and prose, I found myself wanting to annotate almost every other sentence. The author not only does he bring the characters to life, but the place too. His descriptions of the Isle of Beaumont are so evocative that I felt like I could see the Provincial main square, the turquoise water and the colourful houses glinting in the sun. It felt real, just as the story felt like I was reading a true crime novel rather than a work of fiction.
“Books not only break walls down, they build them up too. More often than you’d think, they wound, and shatter, and kill. Books may dazzle and shine, but all that glitters is not gold. “
The characters are richly drawn and compelling. I loved how Nathan and Mathilde are both enigmatic characters and yet Raphael is more open. With Nathan especially you never know if you can trust what he’s telling you, and I enjoyed being kept guessing and the surprises this threw my way. I loved how each of them were writers and the observations the author made about books, reading and writing. He captured so many of my own feelings about the topics which, along with having my favourite subject woven into the plot, made me feel like he had written this just for me.
As the book is translated, I feel I need to also thank the translator for doing such a superb job of making it possible for those of us who don’t speak French to read this phenomenal novel. I can only imagine the amount of time and effort it took. Thank you.
Sharp, stylish, intense, and utterly mind-blowing, this fast-paced thriller is so twisty it will make your head spin. So just hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
From one novel to the next, Guillaume Musso has formed a unique bond with his readers. Born in 1974 in Antibes on the French Riviera, he fell in love with literature at an early age, spending all his free time devouring books at the public library where his mother worked. A short story competition organized by his French teacher led him to discover the joys of writing, and he has never stopped since then.
His studies, his extended trips to the United States, his encounters… All have contributed to enriching his imagination and his writing projects. A graduate in social economics, he became a teacher in the East and then the South of France. He published his first novel, Skidamarink, in 2001, but his next book Et Après…, is the one that truly won the public over. This story of love and suspense with supernatural undertones marked the beginning of a dazzling and unwavering success.
Translated into forty languages and adapted many times for film, each book of his is as hugely successful as the next in both France and around the world. The release of a new novel by Guillaume Musso has become, for his readers, an eagerly awaited rendezvous.
SYNOPSIS: You’ve got no idea what you’re dredging up. You’re going to ruin everything.
The past is not going to stay buried in this unputdownable crime novel, the first in a series featuring Detective Hanna Duncker. Fans of Ragnar Jonasson and Ann Cleeves will be gripped by this moving and atmospheric crime novel, already a bestseller in Sweden.
Hanna Duncker has returned to the remote island she spent her childhood on and to the past that saw her father convicted for murder. In a cruel twist of fate her new boss is the policeman who put him behind bars.
On her first day on the job as the new detective, Hanna is called to a crime scene. The fifteen-year-old son of her former best friend has been found dead and Hanna is thrown into a complex investigation set to stir up old ghosts.
Not everyone is happy to have the daughter of Lars Duncker back in town. Hanna soon realises that she will have to watch her back as she turns over every stone to find the person responsible…
SYNOPSIS: Six friends. One college reunion. One unsolved murder.
Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has planned her triumphant return to her southern, elite Duquette University, down to the envious whispers that are sure to follow in her wake. Everyone is going to see the girl she wants them to see—confident, beautiful, indifferent. Not the girl she was when she left campus, back when Heather Shelby’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she’d been closest to since freshman year.
But not everyone is ready to move on. Not everyone left Duquette ten years ago, and not everyone can let Heather’s murder go unsolved. Someone is determined to trap the real killer, to make the guilty pay. When the six friends are reunited, they will be forced to confront what happened that night—and the years’ worth of secrets each of them would do anything to keep hidden.
Told in racing dual timelines, with a dark campus setting and a darker look at friendship, love, obsession, and ambition, In My Dreams I Hold A Knife is an addictive, propulsive read you won’t be able to put down.
Published: August 4th, 2021 Publisher: Orion Genre: Suspense, Psychological Fiction
SYNOPSIS: Now I’m in charge, the gates are my gates. The rules are my rules.
It’s an incendiary moment for St Oswald’s school. For the first time in its history, a headmistress is in power, the gates opening to girls.
Rebecca Buckfast has spilled blood to reach this position. Barely forty, she is just starting to reap the harvest of her ambition. As the new regime takes on the old guard, the ground shifts. And with it, the remains of a body are discovered.
But Rebecca is here to make her mark. She’ll bury the past so deep it will evade even her own memory, just like she has done before. After all…
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Head of Zeus Genre: Humorous Fiction
SYNOPSIS: If you were offered a chance to cure your child’s disease, would you take it?
The Willows have been through a lot. Louise has devoted her life to caring for her disabled youngest daughter. Pete works abroad, almost never seeing his loved ones. And their eldest, Eliza, is burdened by all the secrets she’s trying to keep from her overloaded family.
Meanwhile, Patience observes the world while trapped in her own body. She laughs, she cries, she has opinions and knows what she wants. But those who love her most – and make every decision about her life – will never know.
Or will they? When the Willows are offered the opportunity for Patience to take part in a new gene therapy trial to cure her Rett syndrome, they face an impossible dilemma. Are the very real risks worth the chance of the reward, no matter how small?
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Michael Joseph Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Biographical Fiction
SYNOPSIS: THE DELICIOUSLY DARK REIMAGINING OF THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HISTORY’S ORIGINAL FEMALE SERIAL KILLER
Bella Sorensen loves men. She loves them to death . . .
Early in life Bella Sorensen discovers the world is made only for men. They own everything: jobs, property, wives. But Bella understands what few others do: where women are concerned, men are weak.
A woman unhampered by scruples can take from them what she wants. And so Bella sets out to prove to the world that a woman can be just as ruthless, black-hearted and single-minded as any man.
Starting with her long suffering husband, Mads, Bella embarks on a killing spree the like of which has never been seen before nor since.
And through it all her kind, older sister Nellie can only watch in horror as Bella’s schemes to enrich herself and cut down the male population come to a glorious, dreadful fruition . . .
Based on the true story of Belle Gunness whose killing spree began in Chicago in 1900, Triflers Need Not Apply is a novelistic tour de force exploring one woman’s determination to pay men back for all they have taken.
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller
SYNOPSIS: He thinks he’s safe up there. But he’ll never be safe from you.
The Heights is a tall, slender apartment building among the warehouses of Tower Bridge, its roof terrace so discreet you wouldn’t know it existed if you weren’t standing at the window of the flat directly opposite. But you are. And that’s when you see a man up there – a man you’d recognize anywhere. He’s older now and his appearance has subtly changed, but it’s definitely him.
Which makes no sense at all since you know he has been dead for over two years. You know this for a fact.
Because you’re the one who killed him. It’s time to confess what we did up there.
‘Kieran Watts has been dead for over two years when I see him standing on the roof of a building in Shad Thames…’
SYNOPSIS: Shirley Jackson meets Ottessa Moshfegh meets My Sister the Serial Killer in a brilliantly unsettling and darkly funny debut novel full of suspense and paranoia
George March’s latest novel is a smash hit. None could be prouder than Mrs. March, his dutiful wife, who revels in his accolades and relishes the lifestyle and status his success brings.
A creature of routine and decorum, Mrs. March lives an exquisitely controlled existence on the Upper East Side. Every morning begins the same way, with a visit to her favourite patisserie to buy a loaf of olive bread, but her latest trip proves to be her last when she suffers an indignity from which she may never recover: an assumption by the shopkeeper that the protagonist in George March’s new book – a pathetic sex worker, more a figure of derision than desire – is based on Mrs. March.
One casual remark robs Mrs. March not only of her beloved olive bread but of the belief that she knew everything about her husband – and herself – sending her on an increasingly paranoid journey, one that starts within the pages of a book but may very well uncover both a killer and the long-buried secrets of Mrs. March’s past.
A razor-sharp exploration of the fragility of identity and the smothering weight of expectations, Mrs. March heralds the arrival of a wicked and wonderful new voice.
SYNOPSIS: In the quiet, wealthy enclave of Brecken Hill, an older couple is brutally murdered hours after a tense Easter dinner with their three adult children. Who, of course, are devastated.
Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you’d know.
SYNOPSIS: Could one rare plant hold the key to a thousand riches?
It’s the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV’s impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower – an event that only occurs once every few decades.
When newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in Edinburgh to live with her late husband’s aunt Clementina, she’s determined to put her unhappy past in London behind her. As she settles into her new home, she becomes fascinated by the beautiful Botanic Garden which borders the grand house and offers her services as an artist to record the rare plant’s impending bloom. In this pursuit, she meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for botany and the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation.
Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest the Garden secret from her new friend. But as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don’t last long in this Enlightenment city . . .
And when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences.
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Picador Genre: Biography, Autobiography, Cookbook
SYNOPSIS: From the indie rockstar Japanese Breakfast, an unflinching, powerful, deeply moving memoir about growing up mixed-race, Korean food, losing her Korean mother, and forging her own identity.
‘As good as everyone says it is and, yes, it will have you in tears. An essential read for anybody who has lost a loved one, as well as those who haven’t.’ Marie–Claire
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humour and heart, she tells of growing up the only Asian-American kid at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the east coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, performing gigs with her fledgling band – and meeting the man who would become her husband – her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Michelle Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: John Blake Genre: True Crime
SYNOPSIS: ‘The whole story is so terrible. You will be disgusted and amazed.’ Graham Young, confessing his crimes to detectives
There are few criminal cases more astonishing yet less well known than that of Graham Young. A quintessentially British crime story set in the post-war London suburbs, it involves two sensational trials, murders both certain and probable, a clutch of forgiving relatives, and scores of surviving victims.
Fourteen in the summer of 1962, Graham stood in the Old Bailey dock charged with poisoning a schoolfriend and family members by adding antimony to their packed lunches, Sunday roast and morning cups of tea. Diagnosed with multiple personality disorders, Graham’s trial resulted in his detainment at Broadmoor, where he was the youngest patient.
But it was on his release from Broadmoor that Graham caused the greatest harm. Finding employment in Hadlands, a photographic supplies firm, his role as junior storeman meant he was expected to make tea and coffee for his colleagues. And very soon, numerous members of staff began experiencing crippling stomach pains…
A psychologically astute insight into the mind of a complex and intriguing individual, A Passion for Poison is true crime at its best.
Published: August 12th, 2021 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Genre: Suspense, Thriller
SYNOPSIS: Carrie wants a normal life. Carrie Lawrence doesn’t need a happily ever after. She’ll just settle for “after.” After a decade of helping her sister hide her victims. After a lifetime of lies. She just wants to be safe, boring, and not trekking through the woods at night with a dead body wrapped in a carpet.
Becca wants to get away with murder. Becca Lawrence doesn’t believe in happily ever after because she’s already happy. She’s gotten away with murder for a decade and has blackmailed her sister into helping her hide the evidence-what more could a girl want?
But first they have to stop a serial killer. When thirteen bodies are discovered in their small town, people are shocked. But not as shocked as Carrie, who thought she knew all the details of Becca’s sordid pastime. When Becca swears she’s not behind the grisly new crimes, they realize the town has a second serial killer who has the sisters in his sights, and what he wants is . . . Carrie.
SYNOPSIS: ONE DEAD BODY. TWELVE SUSPECTS. TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR DARKNESS.
In the most inhospitable environment – cut off from the rest of the world – there’s a killer on the loose.
A&E doctor Kate North has been knocked out of her orbit by a personal tragedy. So when she’s offered the opportunity to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. The previous doctor, Jean-Luc, died in a tragic accident while out on the ice.
The move seems an ideal solution for Kate: no one knows about her past; no one is checking up on her. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t accidental at all.
And the more questions she asks, the more dangerous it becomes . . .
Published: August 19th, 2021 Publisher: Picador Genre: Political Fiction
SYNOPSIS: From the widely acclaimed author of American War, Omar El Akkad, a beautifully written, unrelentingly dramatic and profoundly moving novel that brings the global refugee crisis down to the level of a child’s eyes.
More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another over-filled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too-many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives in their homelands. And only one had made the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who has the good fortune to fall into the hands not of the officials, but of Vänna: a teenage girl, native to the island, who lives inside her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though Vänna and Amir are complete strangers and don’t speak a common language, Vänna determines to do whatever it takes to save him.
In alternating chapters, we learn the story of Amir’s life and of how he came to be on the boat; and we follow the duo as they make their way towards a vision of safety. But as the novel unfurls, we begin to understand that this is not merely the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world. Omar El Akkad’s What Strange Paradise is the story of our collective moment in this time: of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair – and of the way each of those things can blind us to reality, or guide us to a better one.
SYNOPSIS: The case is unexceptional, that is what I know. A house full of stuff left behind by a dead woman, abandoned at the last . . .
When trauma cleaner Essie Pound makes a gruesome discovery in the derelict Edinburgh boarding house she is sent to clean, it brings her into contact with a young policewoman, Emily Noble, who has her own reasons to solve the case.
As the two women embark on a journey into the heart of a forgotten family, the investigation prompts fragmented memories of their own traumatic histories – something Emily has spent a lifetime attempting to bury, and Essie a lifetime trying to lay bare.
Emily Noble’s Disgrace is the third novel from Mary Paulson-Ellis, the bestselling author of The Other Mrs Walker, a Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year.
Published: August 19th, 2021 Publisher: Orenda Books Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Political Fiction, Religious Fiction, Adventure Fiction, Urban Fiction
SYNOPSIS: A young woman defies convention in a small Pakistani village, with devastating results for her and her family. A stunning, immense beautiful novel about courage, family and the meaning of love, when everything seems lost…
In sixteen-year-old Abida’s small Pakistani village, there are age-old rules to live by, and her family’s honour to protect. And, yet, her spirit is defiant and she yearns to make a home with the man she loves.
When the unthinkable happens, Abida faces the same fate as other young girls who have chosen unacceptable alliances – certain, public death. Fired by a fierce determination to resist everything she knows to be wrong about the society into which she was born, and aided by her devoted father, Jamil, who puts his own life on the line to help her, she escapes to Lahore and then disappears.
Jamil goes to Lahore in search of Abida – a city where the prejudices that dominate their village take on a new and horrifying form – and father and daughter are caught in a world from which they may never escape.
Moving from the depths of rural Pakistan, riddled with poverty and religious fervour, to the dangerous streets of over-populated Lahore, No Honour is a story of family, of the indomitable spirit of love in its many forms … a story of courage and resilience, when all seems lost, and the inextinguishable fire that lights one young woman’s battle for change.
SYNOPSIS: No one even knew they were together. Now one of them is dead.
56 DAYS AGO Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin and start dating the same week COVID-19 reaches Irish shores.
35 DAYS AGO When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests they move in together. Ciara sees a unique opportunity for a relationship to flourish without the scrutiny of family and friends. Oliver sees a chance to hide who – and what – he really is.
TODAY Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.
Can they determine what really happened, or has lockdown created an opportunity for someone to commit the perfect crime?
SYNOPSIS: THE STANDALONE THRILLER FROM THE MILLION-COPY BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF RAGDOLL – SOON TO BE A MAJOR TV SERIES
The Women of Troy by Pat Barker
Published: August 26th, 2021 Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Genre: Historical Fiction, War Story
SYNOPSIS: Following her bestselling, critically acclaimed The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker continues her extraordinary retelling of one of our greatest myths.
Troy has fallen. The Greeks have won their bitter war. They can return home as victors – all they need is a good wind to lift their sails. But the wind has vanished, the seas becalmed by vengeful gods, and so the warriors remain in limbo – camped in the shadow of the city they destroyed, kept company by the women they stole from it.
The women of Troy.
Helen – poor Helen. All that beauty, all that grace – and she was just a mouldy old bone for feral dogs to fight over.
Cassandra, who has learned not to be too attached to her own prophecies. They have only ever been believed when she can get a man to deliver them.
Stubborn Amina, with her gaze still fixed on the ruined towers of Troy, determined to avenge the slaughter of her king.
Hecuba, howling and clawing her cheeks on the silent shore, as if she could make her cries heard in the gloomy halls of Hades. As if she could wake the dead.
And Briseis, carrying her future in her womb: the unborn child of the dead hero Achilles. Once again caught up in the disputes of violent men. Once again faced with the chance to shape history.
Masterful and enduringly resonant, ambitious and intimate, The Women of Troy continues Pat Barker’s extraordinary retelling of one of our greatest classical myths, following on from the critically acclaimed The Silence of the Girls.
Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous.
Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn’t mean she’s a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace?
Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.
Look what you started.
THE SCORCHING NEW THRILLER FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN and INTO THE WATER
Happy Publication Day to this fantastic and funny novel. Thank you so much to Hannah Tovey and Piatkus for my gifted copy.
-Employed (you have frequent nightmares about your job) –Single and fabulous (swiping Tinder in your pyjamas while your best friend shops for engagement rings) –Thriving (surviving)
Ivy and Mia have been best friends since the fun, messy, hungover years of their twenties.
Ten years later, Mia has it all – the man, the house, the career. Ivy is skint, single, and scared that she isn’t a ‘hot mess’ any more – she’s a walking disaster.
But one night, Ivy switches her phone off, peels last night’s drunken pizza off the sofa, and makes a list. A list that changes everything . . .
The new Ivy has a proper job. She goes on fancy dates in wine bars. She’s starting to think: maybe ‘faking it till you make it’ is easy?
But then she meets Scott.
Curly-haired, sarcastic Scott.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Hannah Tovey is from South Wales and grew up in Hong Kong. She graduated from the Faber Academy in 2018, where she finished her debut novel, The Education of Ivy Edwards. Hannah lives in East London where she misses Llanelli beach, her mother and cockles. Her second novel, Is This It?, comes out July 2021.
Happy almost-publication day to this outstanding and original book. Thank you to Karen at Orenda for the gifted ARC.
Everything stays the same for the tenants of The Beresford, a grand old apartment building just outside the city … until the doorbell rings… Will Carver returns with an eerie, deliciously and uncomfortably dark standalone thriller.
Just outside the city – any city, every city – is a grand, spacious but affordable apartment building called The Beresford.
There’s a routine at The Beresford.
For Mrs May, every day’s the same: a cup of cold, black coffee in the morning, pruning roses, checking on her tenants, wine, prayer and an afternoon nap. She never leaves the building.
Abe Schwartz also lives at The Beresford. His housemate, Sythe, no longer does. Because Abe just killed him.
In exactly sixty seconds, Blair Conroy will ring the doorbell to her new home and Abe will answer the door. They will become friends. Perhaps lovers.
And, when the time comes for one of them to die, as is always the case at The Beresford, there will be sixty seconds to move the body before the next unknowing soul arrives at the door.
Because nothing changes at The Beresford, until the doorbell rings…
Eerie, dark, superbly twisted and majestically plotted, The Beresford is the stunning standalone thriller from one of crime fiction’s most exciting names.
“The Beresford was old. It was grand. It evolved with the people who inhabited its rooms and apartments. It was dark and elephantine and it breathed with its people. Paint peeled and there were cracks in places. It was bricks and mortar and plaster and wood. And it was alive.”
Will Carver has done it again! The Beresford is another outstanding and original novel from one of the most unique voices in fiction. The striking, eerie and trippy cover matches what’s between it’s pages: a strange, sinister and twisted tale that is both gloriously absurd and totally plausible.
The story opens with a murder. Sixty seconds later the doorbell rings. Thus begins a dark chain of events that many of those involved won’t survive, propelling the reader straight into the action, not letting go until the final page. I devoured this book, unable to put it down once I’d started. I was hypnotised by the dark, claustrophobic and haunting world of The Beresford and its doomed residents.
“We all go a little mad sometimes.”
His characters are ordinary and familiar but also quirky, richly drawn and compelling. Abe Schwartz is an unassuming and unremarkable geek who is lonely and aches to be loved. You can’t help but feel for him despite knowing that beneath his façade of normality is a deeply disturbed individual hiding a dark secret. It’s this juxtaposition that makes him so fascinating and frightening. He really could be anyone and you would never expect him to be a killer.
Blair Conroy is trying to escape her small town life and has come in search of the excitement of the city. It is she who Abe greets just seconds after committing murder, not realising she may have just sealed her fate. I liked Blair and could relate to her in many ways. I even liked her blossoming relationship with Abe and was rooting for her not to end up in the same position as the previous resident.
Then we have Mrs. May, the lady who oversees everything that happens at The Beresford. She is a bit of an enigma, a complex character with many layers that are slowly peeled away as the story progresses. Deeply religious, she has suffered a lot of trauma and seems to genuinely care for her tenants. But she also seems terrified of the house itself. Just what does she know? And what power does this place have over her? I enjoyed trying to figure out this mysterious lady and her secrets and found her surprisingly likeable.
“The Beresford was a halfway house for the disenchanted and disenfranchised, whose focus was to become. To be. To discover and make their impact. The inhabitants were not necessarily the outsiders, but were certainly the ones found on the periphery. The wallflowers at society’s ball.”
The house is a character in itself that feels as if it lives and breathes as much as any of the human characters. It oozes malevolence and foreboding and is hiding secrets so dark and terrifying they will send shivers down your spine. It is a place that changes those who live there, feasting on them from the inside before moving onto another unsuspecting victim.
Will Carver has quickly become one of my favourite authors. His distinctive style is like nothing else out there and when you pick up his books they are instantly recognisable as his. With his sharp, choppy prose that is both tongue in cheek and deadly serious, his bold topics, scathing and unapologetic social commentary and dark humour he creates an atmosphere of mystery and foreboding, a chill that runs through your veins and builds the tension and dread till you are on the edge of your seat with your heart pounding.
The Beresford is one of my favourite books so far this year and my favourite book by the author to date, so it was an easy five stars from me. A seductive and unsettling read that you will love while also questioning why. When it’s over you will wonder what on earth you just read and find it impossible to forget.
Just remember: DON’T RING THE DOORBELL.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series and the critically acclaimed, mind-blowingly original Detective Pace series that includes Good Samaritans (2018), Nothing Important Happened Today (2019) and Hinton Hollow Death Trip (2020), all of which were ebook bestsellers and selected as books of the year in the mainstream international press. Nothing Important Happened Today was longlisted for both the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award 2020 and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. Hinton Hollow Death Trip was longlisted for Guardian‘s Not the Booker Prize. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his children.
Welcome to my review of this gorgeous novel. Thank you HQ for the eBook ARC and invitation to take part.
They were so in love . . . And then life changed forever . . . Will they find happiness again?
Libby and Jack are the happiest they’ve ever been. Thanks to their dear friend, eighty-year-old Sid, they’ve just bought their first house together, and it’s the beginning of the life they’ve always dreamed of.
But the universe has other plans for Libby and Jack and a devastating twist of fate shatters their world.
All of a sudden life is looking very different, and unlikely though it seems, might Sid be the one person who can help Libby and Jack move forward when what they loved the most has been lost?
The Art of Loving You is a beautiful love story for our times. Romantic and uplifting, it will break your heart and then put it back together again. Perfect for fans of Rebecca Serle, Josie Silver and Sophie Cousens.
“The butterfly effect. The delicate flutter of wings. The tiniest change leading to chaos, catastrophe, an ordered life falling apart.”
The Art of Loving You is a different kind of love story. An exploration of love, grief and the afterlife, it looks at what we do with the love we have for someone when they are suddenly gone and asks how we find new meaning when life feels meaningless.
It is narrated by Libby, who has been left heartbroken and adrift after the sudden death of her soulmate Jack. But it isn’t only grief that she is struggling with, Libby is also finding it hard to trust people and the world around her. She is stuck in a tortuous roller-coaster that she can’t seem to get off. Family and friends rally around and do their best, but nothing helps. All she wants is the one thing she can’t have: Jack.
Skillfully written, every page is coated in pain, but there is a hopefulness that creeps in and some funny moments that lighten the mood. But the writing device I enjoyed most of all was how Libby would insert snippets of things that are yet to happen or be revealed, referencing her ignorant bliss before something rocked her world. This happens mostly at the end of a chapter, a cunning ploy by the author to make the book impossible to put down that totally worked on this reader. That devilish hint of foreboding that kept me on the edge of my seat and made me think I’d read just one more chapter; and then another, and another. Before I knew it I’d flown through half the book. Well written and well played, Ms. Henley.
“Enjoy the beer and skittles days.”
There are some wonderful and fascinating characters in the book and I really liked both Libby and Jack, but the one who stole my heart was Sid. Delightful, funny and wise, he brightened up every scene he was in and I could have happily read an entire book just about him. I loved his relationship with Jack and Libby and I feel like I need to write his words of wisdom in a notebook. He is a character that I won’t forget and I think will make an impact on everyone who reads this book.
Uplifting, emotional, heartbreaking and hopeful, The Art of Loving You is an hopelessly romantic tearjerker that also manages to be funny and real. A truly beautiful and captivating story that I highly recommend.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Amelia Henley is a hopeless romantic who has a penchant for exploring the intricacies of relationships through writing heart-breaking, high-concept love stories.
Amelia also writes psychological thrillers under her real name, Louise Jensen. As Louise Jensen she has sold over a million copies of her global number one bestsellers. Her stories have been translated into twenty-five languages and optioned for TV as well as featuring on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestsellers list. Louise’s books have been nominated for multiple awards.
‘The Life We Almost Had’ is the first story she’s written as Amelia Henley and is out now, published by HQ, Harper Collins. ‘The Art of Loving You’ publishes this July.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this phenomenal debut. Thank you to Frankie at Little Brown Book Group for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.
This is not just another novel about a dead girl.
When she arrived in New York on her 18th birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe, an unidentified murder victim.
Ruby Jones is also trying to start over; she travelled halfway around the world only to find herself lonelier than ever. Until she finds Alice Lee’s body by the Hudson River.
From this first, devastating encounter, the two women form an unbreakable bond. Alice is sure that Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her life – and death. And Ruby – struggling to forget what she saw that morning – finds herself unable to let Alice go. Not until she is given the ending she deserves.
Before You Knew My Name doesn’t ask whodunnit. Instead, this powerful, hopeful novel asks: Who was she? And what did she leave behind? The answers might surprise you.
“If I tell you my story. If I let you know what happened to me. Maybe you’ll see who I was. Who I am. Maybe you’ll like the truth of me better, and maybe you’ll wish this for every dead girl from now on. The chance to speak for herself, to be known for more than her ending.”
We are all familiar with the brutal crimes often committed against women and the sadly common stories that accompany them. In this startling debut, Jacqueline Bublitz takes those stories and gives them a twist. Instead of asking whodunnit, she asks who was the victim? What is her story? And what can we learn from her?
Narrated by Alice Lee, the eighteen-year-old girl who moves to New York for a new start and ends up dead just a few weeks later, the story is told directly to the reader as she hovers between this life and the next. She needs us to see her. Remember her. To focus on who she was and how she lived, rather than how she died. This style of narration reminded me of The Lovely Bones, which is one of my favourite books of all time. But while it echoed Susie Salmon, Alice was unique, standing out as an original, bold and memorable voice. Having Alice tell her story directly to the reader also helped me to connect with her and see her as a real person rather than just a dead body. It gives you a sense of her character, feelings, thoughts, dreams and fears. It compounds the tragedy of what happened to her as you grieve for the loss of a life that was just beginning.
“Though we come from very different places, Ruby Jones and I might as well be the same person when it comes to how we landed here in New York City.”
But it isn’t just the story of the victim that the author illuminates in this book. She also shines a light on another familiar person whose voice is rarely heard in these cases: the person who finds the body. We don’t usually know who they are or how the grim discovery reverberates through their life. Bulbitz examines these questions and more, telling the story of Ruby Jones, a thirty-six-year-old Australian who moved to New York for a fresh start. After finding Alice’s brutalised and broken body in the park on that stormy day she is shaken, traumatised and determined to find out the name and the story of Jane Doe.
“You may be gone but your legacy isn’t finished.”
Breathtaking beautiful, hypnotic and mesmerising, Before You Knew My Name is one of those books that goes right to your soul. I was captivated from the first page. It is a story about new beginnings and self-discovery; full of intrigue, promise and hope. But it is also a tragic story of a life extinguished before it has even really begun. This may be a story told by a dead girl, but the author’s masterful storytelling and melodic prose breathe life into every word. I lived every moment alongside Alice and Ruby, feeling a strong bond to these two compelling, fractured yet strong women. They were great characters that I enjoyed reading and I particularly loved how the author entwined their stories. I also loved how the evocative imagery made New York leap from the page like I was watching the story in technicolour on a movie screen. Alice’s feelings about the city were infectious and I found myself falling in love with it too. the city just as Alice did.
“There is no name to be spoken, but I am recognised by each of the women present, clasped around their lifted hands, heavy on their hearts. I am their fears, and their lucky escapes, their anger, and their wariness. I am their caution and their yesterdays, the shadow version of themselves all those nights they have spent looking over their shoulders, or twisting keys between fingers.”
Timely, brave and thought-provoking, this book feels all the more pertinent with the Sarah Everard case fresh in our minds. The author explores the things that as women we have to be aware of each day, the threat we face from the men who lurk in the shadows waiting to strike. She talks about how we feel we have to smile and act a certain way, say the right things, dampen the threat, and how the onus is put on us instead of society asking those men to change. I feel like the tides are turning now though, and that this book will help ignite much-needed discussion.
“I’m ready to tell you a little more now. Stay with me as we take that closer look. But don’t you believe a single thing he said about me.”
Atmospheric, powerful, enthralling and unflinching, the answers unfold slowly in this novel. Alice is unable to speak her secrets at first, the horror of what she suffered affecting her even after she’s left this earth. The reader learns the truth almost in sync with Ruby, keeping me guessing right up until the big reveal.
Before You Knew My Name is a phenomenal debut that stands out amongst the many mystery and thriller books I’ve read over the years. Jacqueline Bublitz is an extraordinary talent and an author to watch. I for one will be reading anything she writes.
READ IT NOW!
TW: Sexual assault, PTSD
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Jacqueline ‘Rock’ Bublitz is a writer, feminist, and arachnophobe, who lives between Melbourne, Australia and her hometown on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
She wrote her debut novel Before You Knew My Name after spending a summer in New York, where she hung around morgues and the dark corners of city parks (and the human psyche) far too often.
She is now working on her second novel, where she continues to explore the grand themes of love, loss and connection.
Welcome to First Lines Friday, where I share the first lines from one of the books on my shelves to try and tempt you to add it to yours.
“Malibu catches fire. It is simply what Malibu does from time to time. Tornadoes take the flatlands of the Midwest. Floods rise in the American South. Hurricanes rage against the Gulf of Mexico. And California burns.”
Today’s first lines are taken from Malibu Rising, which is one of my highly anticipated summer reads.
A lifetime holding it together. One party will bring it crashing down.
Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over-especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.
By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames.
But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.
Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this beautifully told story. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and Manilla Press for the gifted ARC.
She walks unseen through our world. Cares for our children, cleans our homes. She has a story to tell. Will you listen?
Nisha has crossed oceans to give her child a future. By day she cares for Petra’s daughter; at night she mothers her own little girl by the light of a phone.
Nisha’s lover, Yiannis, is a poacher, hunting the tiny songbirds on their way to Africa each winter. His dreams of a new life, and of marrying Nisha, are shattered when she vanishes.
No one cares about the disappearance of a domestic worker, except Petra and Yiannis. As they set out to search for her, they realise how little they know about Nisha. What they uncover will change them all.
‘Isn’t it funny,’ Aliki said, in her most adult voice, ‘that you saw everything but yourself ?’
Songbirds is a beautifully written story that gives a voice to the voiceless. Using her exquisite storytelling, Christy Leferti explores the world of migrant and transient workers, showing why they leave their families, including children, behind and travel thousands of miles to work only to be mistreated and abused. They are also encumbered by huge debts owed to those who facilitate their new jobs. They are unseen and unheard, their own lives and stories of no consequence to anyone but themselves and others like them.
Nisha is a character we only get to know through others, which reinforces the sense of invisibility that surrounds her and women like her. Petra and Yannis are the ones to narrate and reveal her story, and Petra in particular realises that she knows nothing about Nisha, despite the fact this woman has lived in her home for nine years and cares for her daughter. She also shines a light on the institutionalised racism towards these workers that runs so deep that authorities won’t search for them if they go missing, instead simply assuming they have moved on.
‘What they uncover will change them all.’
There are themes of bondage and captivity woven throughout this story in a variety of ways. As we learn more about the exploitative situations Nisha and other domestic workers often end up in, we see that what they believe to be their escape, is actually a bigger prison than they left behind. Yannis is caught in the web of his black market dealings and unable to escape them, and finally Petra is an emotional captive, frozen stagnant after her husband’s death to the detriment of her relationship with her daughter.
Harrowing, heartbreaking and powerful, this is a story that needed to be told and demands to be read. A story that reminds us you can find beauty and joy in the darkest of places. It will move you, anger you, and hopefully spark a greater understanding and empathy for the people whose stories it tells.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Brought up in London, Christy Lefteri is the child of Cypriot refugees. She is a lecturer in creative writing at Brunel University. The Beekeeper of Aleppo was born out of her time working as a volunteer at a Unicef supported refugee centre in Athens.