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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022 Squadpod Book Club Support Debuts

BLOG TOUR: Nobody But Us by Laure van Rensberg

Published: November 10th, 2022~
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psycholgical Thriller
Format: Paperback, Hardback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour celebrating the paperback publication of Nobody But Us. Thank you to Sryia at Michael Joseph for the invitation to take part and gifted paperback copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘READS LIKE A GLOSSY 90s THRILLER. OBSESSED‘ JUNO DAWSON
‘IT GRIPS LIKE A VICE’ WILL DEAN
‘A MUST READ FOR 2022’ 5* READER REVIEW
‘ADDICTIVE AND INTOXICATING’ 5* READER REVIEW
‘NOT ONE TO BE MISSED’ EVENING STANDARD
________

He’s a well-respected college professor. She’s a young and eager-to-please student.

He knows she would do anything for him. She knows his certainty is his weakness

He thinks he’ll get what he wants. She thinks he’ll get exactly what he needs.

Two liars.
One twisted path.
A game of cat and mouse.

BUT WHO IS THE HUNTER? AND WHO IS THE PREY?

********

MY REVIEW:

“Morning will cast a light on all this, shine on the craziness of the situation; this sham won’t survive sunrise, like all other evil it can only thrive in darkness.”

What a wild ride! This is a book that does exactly what it says on the tin and lives up to its tagline that calls Ellie and Steven ‘2022’s most f*cked up couple’. It took me quite some time to recover from this one after reading. It’s that crazy. I thought I knew what was in store but I had no idea just how messed up this was going to get…

The story opens with Ellie and Steven heading off on a three-day trip to celebrate their six month anniversary. They both seem anxious and feel like everything rests on this weekend but the reader is in the dark as to what that is and why. They quickly arrive at their destination: a remote cabin in the forest, surrounded by snow and with no cell phone reception. Right then you would know this is going to be a getaway-gone-wrong even if you’d gone into this book blind. Ominous and claustrophobic, there is an unbearable tension that wreaked havoc on my blood pressure as I tried to guess what would happen next. But I could never have guessed what was coming if I’d had a hundred guesses. It plays its cards extremely close to the vest so I won’t say anything more about the plot so you can discover the craziness for yourself. 

Stylish, sinister, scalpel-sharp and sophisticated, Laure Van Rensburg’s cunningly crafted debut is one you won’t forget. She holds the reader in her vice-like grip, making it impossible to stop reading even when you want to turn away. Ellie and Steven are richly drawn, memorable, unsavoury and unreliable characters, hiding their dysfunction behind a mask of normalcy that once removed will change everything you thought you knew. 

Unpredictable, darkly atmospheric and charged with adrenaline, Nobody But Us is the debut everyone is going to be talking about. Laure Van Rensburg is a spectacular new talent that is one to watch and I for one can’t wait to read what she writes next.

READ THIS BOOK!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

********

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Laure Van Rensburg is a French writer living in the UK and an Ink Academy alumna. Her stories have appeared in online magazines and anthologies such as Litro Magazine, Storgy Magazine, The Real Jazz Baby (2020 Best Anthology, Saboteur Awards 2020), and FIVE:2:ONE. She has also placed in competitions including 2018 & 2019 Bath Short Story Award.

Her debut novel, Nobody But Us, follows Ellie and Steven who take their first trip away together, but what starts as an idyllic weekend soon takes a darker turn, as it quickly becomes apparent that each of them harbour secrets – and that one of those secrets is deadly.

Nobody But Us (originally titled The Downfall) was shortlisted for the 2019 First Novel Prize, 2019 Novel London Competition and 2019 Flash 500 Novel Opening. It will be published by Michael Joseph in April 2022 and has sold in fourteen territories, including Germany, Italy, Norway and the United States.

Laure’s current work in progress, Eden Lost, was longlisted in 2019 Exeter Novel Prize and more recently shortlisted in the 2020 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Squadpod Book Club Uncategorised

SQUADPOD BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Caged Little Birds by Lucy Banks

Published: September 15th, 2022
Publisher: Sandstone Press
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of this superbly sinister novel. Thank you to Sandstone Press for the copy of the book, which is the Squadpod Book Club September pick.

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SYNOPSIS:

The public think Ava’s a monster. Ava thinks she’s blameless.

In prison, they called her Butcher Bird – but Ava’s not in prison any more. Released after 25 years to a new identity and a new home, Ava finally has the quiet life she’s always wanted.

But someone knows who she is. The lies she’s told are about to unravel.

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MY REVIEW:

“He thinks he knows me, that he’s got it all figured out. But really he’s only seeing the tip of what lies above the surface. The rest is hidden, and it will always stay that way.” 

Ava is trying to adjust to life again after spending twenty-five years in prison.  But that isn’t all that’s new, she also has a new identity to protect her from the public who see her as a monster.  Ava thinks they’ve got her wrong and what happens wasn’t her fault.  But there’s someone who’s sure it was and they want to see her pay.  Is her new life about to fall apart?

Dark, harrowing and haunting, this twisted tale is an intimate look inside a fractured mind.  There is an immediate sense of unease and an eerie atmosphere that lingers over the pages.  Ava’s long sentence and ominous nickname – Butcher Bird – hint at a terrible crime but she believes herself to be blameless.  A mere victim of happenstance and other people’s actions. But her subconscious seems to know what she can’t admit to herself and she is haunted by the spectre of those she’s accused of harming.  It is exquisitely written, each word infused with heartache, grief and trauma that pulls at your heartstrings even when you doubt that you should be feeling any kind of empathy for Ava.  The author drops small breadcrumbs that help the reader piece the puzzle together, slowly revealing the full, awful truth of Ava and her crime.  It sent chills down my spine as things built to a shocking and unexpected climax.

Ava is one of the most chilling and unsettling characters I’ve read. Spectacularly written, she is unlikeable and unreliable yet utterly compelling, and there is something about her that makes it impossible not to feel some sympathy for her.  She also seems pretty harmless and pathetic, if not a bit arrogant, and I found myself wondering if she wasn’t as bad as everyone seems to think, yet there was that little voice just stopping me from believing what she said.  As time goes on we begin to see Ava come apart; she is increasingly paranoid and her inner monologue reveals the true darkness harbouring within her that she tries to hide.  

Superbly sinister and tantalisingly twisty, Caged Little Birds is an unnerving thriller that you won’t be able to put down.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Originally from Hertfordshire, Lucy Banks moved to Devon, where she promptly fell in love with the landscape and lifestyle. Author of the Dr Ribero’s Agency of the Supernatural series, and winner of several literary awards and competitions, she lives with her husband, two children, and extremely boisterous cat.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Sandstone Press | Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Join us on Twitter tonight for a chat with the author.

*These purchase links are affiliate links

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Squadpod Squadpod Book Club Squadpod Recommends

REVIEW: Bad Fruit by Ella King

Published: August 18th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of this dark and disturbing debut. Thank you to Harper Collins UK for the gifted copy.

This was the Squadpod Book Club August pick. Tune into our Twitter account at 7.30pm on August 30th for a live chat with the author.

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SYNOPSIS:

LILY IS A GOOD DAUGHTER

Every evening she pours Mama a glass of perfectly spoilt orange juice. She arranges the teddy bears on Mama’s quilt, she puts on her matching pink clothes. Anything to help put out the fire of Mama’s rage.

MAMA IS A GOOD LIAR

But Mama is becoming unpredictable, dangerous. And as she starts to unravel, so do the memories that Lily has kept locked away for so long.
She only wanted to be good, to help piece Mama back together. But as home truths creep out of the shadows, Lily must recast everything: what if her house isn’t a home – but a prison? What if Mama isn’t a protector – but a monster . . .

Gripping and devastating, from a voice that cuts as sharp as a knife, this is an unforgettable story about a family gone bad.

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MY REVIEW:

“Her power falls over the small space. Everyone is thrown into confusion, no one knows whether to look at her or not, to stop talking or continue. They are all in her thrall.”

Eighteen-year-old Lily does everything to please her mother; she carries out her every whim, makes her spoiled juice every night and even dyes her hair and paints her face to look more like the good Chinese daughter she wants.  But it is never enough.  Mama still finds fault with what she does and leaves Lily feeling bereft.  All she wants is to feel loved.  
As long-hidden truths begin to emerge and Lily slowly unlocks the mysteries surrounding Mama, she thinks she’s finally found the way to be the perfect daughter and win Mama’s approval.  But as things become clearer, Lily wonders if Mama is not actually her protector, but a monster….

Wow! What a crazy ride!  Disturbing, dark and twisted, Bad Fruit is a hard-hitting portrayal of a dysfunctional family that also explores themes of identity and self-discovery.  Author Ella King has crafted a multi-layered story filled with richly drawn and nuanced characters that explores difficult topics and asks hard questions.  King had me hooked, but there were also times I had to put the book down and breathe before picking it up again.

At the heart of this book is the mother/daughter relationship.  King strips bare the complexities of both this relationship and toxic families with such realism that it could be hard to read..  My heart ached for Lily.  Subservient to her mother and forced to act as a go-between for her mother and her siblings, her life is pretty bleak.  She tries to escape by locking herself away in her attic bedroom or riding her bike, but she can never escape what’s inside her head.  Her pain and desperation for love and acceptance bled from every page and I wanted to reach into the book and hug her.  

Then there is Mama.  Cruel, callous, cold, scathing and vengeful, she holds her whole family hostage with her emotions.  The author captured the essence of a toxic person so vividly in her that I would shiver every time she came onto the page and felt every bit of Lily’s apprehension and fear.  

Harrowing, unflinching and deeply human, Bad Fruit is a powerful debut from an author to watch.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ella King is a British-Singaporean novelist living in Greenwich, UK. She read Philosophy and Theology at Oxford University, is a graduate of Faber Academy’s novel-writing program, and is an award-winning writer, coming 3rd in the Aurora Prize for Short Fiction 2019 and winning the Blue Pencil Pitch Prize 2019. She’s worked as a corporate lawyer in London and for anti-human trafficking and domestic violence charities. Bad Fruit is her debut novel.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022 Squadpod Squadpod Book Club Squadpod Recommends Support Debuts

That Green-Eyed Girl by Julie Owen-Moylan

Published: May 12th 2022
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Mystery, Historical Mystery, Romance Novel, Lesbian Literature, LGBT Literature
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review for this outstanding debut. Thank you to Jen at Michael Joseph for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

1955: In an apartment on the Lower East Side, school teachers Dovie and Gillian live as lodgers. Dancing behind closed curtains, mixing cocktails for two, they guard their private lives fiercely. Until someone guesses the truth . . .

1975: Twenty years later in the same apartment, Ava Winters is keeping her own secret. Her mother has become erratic, haunted by something Ava doesn’t understand – until one sweltering July morning, she disappears.

Soon after her mother’s departure, Ava receives a parcel. Addressed simply to ‘Apartment 3B’, it contains a photo of a woman with the word ‘LIAR’ scrawled across it. Ava does not know what it means or who sent it. But if she can find out then perhaps she’ll discover the answers she is seeking – and meet the woman at the heart of it all . . .

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MY REVIEW:

That Green-Eyed Girl was not only the Squadpod Book Club pick for May, but one of my most anticipated debuts of 2022.  A dual timeslip novel, it moves between 1955 and 1975 to tell  an unforgettable story that deals with difficult topics such as homophobia, racism, mental illness and neglect alongside everyday issues such as teenage crushes.  

Atmospheric, immersive and utterly compelling, I am in awe that this is a debut.  Julie Owen Moylan is a skilled storyteller whose vivid prose brings the story and characters to life, transporting me to the streets of New York so clearly it was as if I could feel the oppressive summer heat on my skin, hear the noise from the traffic and smell the smoke in the jazz bars. She moves seamlessly between timelines as she slowly converges the two storylines, beginning the connection with the mysterious package and then intricately weaving them together until the full picture emerges.

The book is filled with richly drawn, fascinating characters, including our two narrators: Dovie in 1955 and Ava in 1975.  The author creates a strong connection between them and the reader, allowing us to explore their innermost thoughts, feelings and fears.  I had a particularly strong maternal connection to Ava and longed to jump into the book and be the parent she desperately needed and wanted.  Despite their many differences, Ava and Dovie are actually very similar.  Both are imprisoned in their own ways; caught in a web of shameful secrets and lies that hold them captive and paralysed by the fear of discovery.  An oppressive and claustrophobic air of anguish, humiliation and dread permeates each page, and there is a bite of loneliness and regret that runs through the story as societal values and expectations force Dovie and Ava to live these half-lives in order to conform.  It is heartbreaking, powerful and perfectly written. 

Hauntingly beautiful, poignant and bittersweet, this book was both nothing like I expected and everything I wanted.  It is a truly astonishing debut from an author I predict big things from in the future.  This is one not to be missed. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Julie Owen Moylan is a writer whose short stories and articles have appeared in New Welsh ReviewHorizon Literary Review, and The Voice of Women in Wales Anthology

She has also written and directed several short films as part of her MA in Film. Her graduation short film called ‘BabyCakes’ scooped Best Film awards at the Swansea Film Festival, Ffresh, and the Celtic Media Awards. She also has an MA in Creative Writing, and is an alumna of the Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course. 

Her debut novel THAT GREEN-EYED GIRL will be published by Penguin Michael Joseph on May 12th 2022.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*
*These are affiliate links

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022 Squadpod Book Club Squadpod Recommends Support Debuts

REVIEW: Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg

Published: April 14th 2022
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Romance Novel
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Nobody But Us was April’s SquadPod Book Club pick, and boy was it a good one! Unpredictable and totally crazy, this is a phenomenal debut that everyone needs to read.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the gifted copy of the book.

********

SYNOPSIS:

MEET 2022’S MOST DANGEROUS COUPLE . . .
________

Steven Harding is a handsome, well-respected professor.
Ellie Masterson is a wide-eyed young college student.

Together, they are driving south from New York, for their first holiday: three days in an isolated cabin, far from the city.

Ahead of them, the promise of long, dark nights – and the chance to explore one another’s bodies, away from disapproving eyes.

It should be a perfect, romantic trip for two.

EXCEPT THAT HE’S NOT WHO HE SAYS HE IS.

BUT THEN AGAIN, NEITHER IS SHE . . .

********

MY REVIEW:

“Morning will cast a light on all this, shine on the craziness of the situation; this sham won’t survive sunrise, like all other evil it can only thrive in darkness.” 

What a wild ride!  This is a book that does exactly what it says on the tin and lives up to its tagline that calls Ellie and Steven ‘2022’s most f*cked up couple’.  This one took me quite some time to recover from after reading.  It’s that crazy.  I thought I knew what was in store but I had no idea just how messed up this was going to get…

The story opens with Ellie and Steven heading off on a three-day trip to celebrate their six month anniversary.  They both seem anxious and feel like everything rests on this weekend but the reader is in the dark as to what that is and why.  They quickly arrive at their destination: a remote cabin in the forest, surrounded by snow and with no cell phone reception.  Right then you would know this is going to be a getaway-gone-wrong even if you’d gone into this book blind.  Ominous and claustrophobic, there is an unbearable tension that wreaked havoc on my blood pressure as I tried to guess what would happen next.  But I could never have guessed what was coming if I’d had a hundred guesses.  It plays its cards extremely close to the vest so I won’t say anything more about the plot so you can discover the craziness for yourself. 

Stylish, sinister, scalpel-sharp and sophisticated, Laure Van Rensburg’s cunningly crafted debut is one you won’t forget.  She holds the reader in her vice-like grip, making it impossible to stop reading even when you want to turn away.  Ellie and Steven are richly drawn, memorable, unsavoury and unreliable characters, hiding their dysfunction behind a mask of normalcy that once removed will change everything you thought you knew. 

Unpredictable, darkly atmospheric and charged with adrenaline, Nobody But Us is the debut everyone is going to be talking about.  Laure Van Rensburg is a spectacular new talent that is one to watch and I for one can’t wait to read what she writes next.

READ THIS BOOK!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

********

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Laure Van Rensburg is a French writer living in the UK and an Ink Academy alumna. Her stories have appeared in online magazines and anthologies such as Litro Magazine, Storgy Magazine, The Real Jazz Baby (2020 Best Anthology, Saboteur Awards 2020), and FIVE:2:ONE. She has also placed in competitions including 2018 & 2019 Bath Short Story Award.

Her debut novel, Nobody But Us, follows Ellie and Steven who take their first trip away together, but what starts as an idyllic weekend soon takes a darker turn, as it quickly becomes apparent that each of them harbour secrets – and that one of those secrets is deadly.

Nobody But Us (originally titled The Downfall) was shortlisted for the 2019 First Novel Prize, 2019 Novel London Competition and 2019 Flash 500 Novel Opening. It will be published by Michael Joseph in April 2022 and has sold in fourteen territories, including Germany, Italy, Norway and the United States.

Laure’s current work in progress, Eden Lost, was longlisted in 2019 Exeter Novel Prize and more recently shortlisted in the 2020 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.

********

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org* |
*These are affiliate links

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Squadpod Book Club Squadpod Recommends

SquadPod Book Club Review: The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Published: May 13th, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Greek Mythology
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Better late than never. I’m finally sharing my review for The Wolf Den, the magnificent story that was the first Squadpod Book Club read in the summer. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For now her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara’s spirit is far from broken. By day, she walks the streets with the Wolf Den’s other women, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?

Set in Pompeii’s lupanar, The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels reimagining the lives of women who have long been overlooked. Perfect for fans of Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and Madeline Miller’s Circe.

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MY REVIEW:

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

The Wolf Den is an absolute masterpiece. Lush, atmospheric and mesmerising, it gives a voice to the voiceless women lost to the sands of history. Told by Amara, a young woman sold into slavery after her family fell into poverty and now forced to be one of the she-wolves at Pompeii’s infamous brothel, this is a story of friendship, jealousy, betrayal, revenge and survival.

I luxuriated in the exquisite storytelling of this book. This ancient tale is told with a modern voice, bringing the story to life in a way that is relatable and compelling. The evocative scene setting brought the story alive and transported me back to the doomed city of Pompeii as vividly as if I were walking the dusty streets myself. The brutality and precariousness of life at the time is vividly depicted through a broad spectrum of society, from the seedy to the opulent, reminding us your fortunes could change in an instant, taking you from freedom to slavery. Meticulously researched, the author’s vivid descriptions and attention to detail illustrates her passion for the history of Pompeii and to allow those who were silenced for centuries to finally have their voices heard.

“And you would, wouldn’t you? Tear them all apart.”

The characters are richly drawn, vivacious and charismatic. They have that spark that makes you care and root for them. There is a sisterhood shared by the she-wolves, each one ready to defend the other no matter what. This book was our first Squadpod Book Club read and Clare described the she-wolves as the ‘early Squadpod’, which I thought was perfect. Each of them possess strength, tenacity and vulnerability, as well as a sensuality and wiliness that they rely on to survive. As women and slaves they were especially powerless and I liked that we saw the hard choices they had to make and unpaletable things they are forced to do in order to survive.

“She gets better at pretending, but Amara is never satisfied. The desire to escape takes hold, its roots digging under her skin, breaking her apart.”

I loved Amara and thought she was a great choice for the narrator. Though she is now a slave, she is a doctor’s daughter and an educated woman, something that sets her apart from many of the other women. And while Felix may own her body, he doesn’t own her spirit, the embers of rage burning in her alongside an unquenchable determination. I liked her immediately and found her easy to root for, even when she was unlikable.

Sumptuous, enthralling and unflinching, The Wolf Den is a phenomenal start to an exciting new trilogy. The jaw-dropping ending left me desperate for more and counting down to the release of part two next May. A triumph of historical fiction that fans of the genre shouldn’t miss. Go read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Elodie Harper is a journalist and prize-winning short story writer. Her story ‘Wild Swimming’ won the 2016 Bazaar of Bad Dreams short story competition, which was judged by Stephen King.

She is currently a reporter at ITV News Anglia, and before that worked as a producer for Channel 4 News. Her job as a journalist has seen her join one of the most secretive wings of the Church of Scientology and cover the far right hip hop scene in Berlin, as well as crime reporting in Norfolk where her first two novels were set – The Binding Song and The Death Knock.

Elodie studied Latin poetry both in the original and in translation as part of her English Literature degree at Oxford, instilling a lifelong interest in the ancient world. The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels about the lives of women in ancient Pompeii.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books |Kobo
*These are affiliate links

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx