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.
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 . . .
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 thenintricately 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.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Julie Owen Moylan is a writer whose short stories and articles have appeared in New Welsh Review, Horizon 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.
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.
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 . . .
“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!
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.
Published: October 28th, 2021 Publisher: HQ Genre: Fairy Tale, Fantasy Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Magical Realism, Coming-of-Age Story Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
In the darkness of night, magic awaits…
Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but, as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered – she must marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But, when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in Marietta’s life.
After Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance on Christmas Eve, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own – a magic darker than anyone could imagine. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself transported from her family’s ballroom to a frozen sugar palace, silent with secrets, in a forest of snow-topped fir trees. She must find a way to return home before she’s trapped in Everwood’s enchanting grip forever.
In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…
“Only the most magical things happen at midnight. When mortal folk are dreaming, safe in their beds, it is then that the sprites and goblins creep out and the air crackles with wild magic.”
Nottingham, 1906. Marietta longs to be a ballerina but she is torn between the life she wants and the one her high society family expects her to have.
On Christmas Eve, as she prepares for final performance, Marietta discovers a hidden magical world full of wonder hidden in the scenery built by mysterious new neighbour Dr. Drosselmeir. But this enchanting place holds magic darker than she ever imagined and Marietta soon finds herself fighting to find a way to break free of Everwood’s hold and return home.
I’d saved Midnight in Everwood to read over Christmas and I am so glad I did. I started it on Christmas Eve, which is when most of the magic happens in Everwood, and was so enthralled that I had to force myself to stop reading at 2am so I would be able to function the next day. I was spellbound by this magical tale that I feel sure will become a future Christmas classic.
“… once magic has entered your life, you stay in it’s glittering clutch forever.”
Luminous and enchanting, Midnight in Everwood is a dark fairytale for adults. An air of creeping menace lingers over every page like a silent shadow waiting to strike, making my heart race and sending shivers down my spine. Richly imagined and beautifully told, I was transported to another world as I followed Marietta’s journey. Ms. Kuzniar is a gifted wordsmith, her glorious prose and evocative imagery bringing the stifling rigidity of high society in the early 1900s and the dazzling beauty of Everwood to life as vividly as if I’d stepped inside them myself.
Like Marietta, I was enchanted by Everwood, a wondrous dreamworld with its sugar-spun castle, frozen landscape and magical charms. But beneath the glittering facade is a much darker side. Less of a dream and more of a nightmare. A place ruled by a tyrant who enjoys torture and pain.
“Never dull your sparkle for anyone else, flame fiercely into your own glittering future.”
This is a book filled with spectacular characters. Marietta is a brilliant protagonist who I immediately liked. Feisty and determined, she doesn’t fit the mould expected of her and refuses to acquiesce. I loved this and was rooting for her from the start. That feeling only grew after she’s captured in Everwood and I was cheering her on and hoping she would find a way to escape the king’s clutches. I loved the relationship she had with her brother, Frederick, himself a great character who I could have happily read a lot more of. But it was her friendship with Pirlipata and Dellara I enjoyed most of all. This wonderful trio were a delight to read, Dellara in particular bringing an ebullience to the page that made her captivating. I loved watching their bond grow and cheering them along as they came together to find a way home.
Shimmering, incandescent and haunting, Midnight in Everwood is a mesmerising debut sprinkled with magic. The perfect book to get lost in on a cold winter’s day while snuggled under a cosy blanket, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is one that I will treasure forever.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Maria Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world which inspired her children’s series The Ship of Shadows. Her adult debut novel Midnight in Everwood was inspired by her love of ballet and love of The Nutcracker.
A lyrical and atmospheric homage to the strange and extraordinary, perfect for fans of Angela Carter and Erin Morgenstern.
This is the story of The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived…
Born into a post-war circus family, our nameless star was unwanted and forgotten, abandoned in the shadows of the big top. Until the bright light of Serendipity Wilson threw her into focus.
Now an adult, haunted by an incident in which a child was lost from the circus, our narrator, a tightrope artiste, weaves together her spellbinding tales of circus legends, earthy magic and folklore, all in the hope of finding the child… But will her story be enough to bring the pair together again?
Beautiful and intoxicating, A Girl Made of Air brings the circus to life in all of its grime and glory; Marina, Manu, Serendipity Wilson, Fausto, Big Gen and Mouse will live long in the hearts of readers. As will this story of loss and reconciliation, of storytelling and truth.
“Up until this moment I have lived in sepia, my muddy life devoid of meaning. That is how it always feels, until I see her, once again, bathed in colour and light.”
A Girl Made of Air is one of those rare literary gems where what is on the inside is just as beautiful as the dazzling cover on the outside. It is genuinely one of the most beautiful and captivating stories I have ever read. A truly mesmerising and magical debut, it weaves an enthralling tale that is poignant, sad and dark, yet also filled with hope, colour and wonder. It tells the story of a nameless and unwanted protagonist, following her from the days as a neglected child living in a circus in England then all the way to New York, where she found fame as the greatest Funambulist of all time.
In a book filled with larger than life characters, our protagonist at first feels so small and insignificant. She is born into a life of poverty and neglect; the unwanted child of Marina, a mermaid-esque character who swims with crocodiles, and Manu, a lion tamer. She spends her earliest years invisible, silent and unloved, keeping to the shadows and scrounging for scraps of food. But when she’s seven years old she is taken in by Serendipity Wilson, a flame-haired woman who dazzles all who meet her, and for the first time our protagonist experiences real kindness and love. Now nicknamed Mouse, Serendipity Wilson takes her under her wing and teaches her the art of walking the wire, introducing her to the art that becomes her passion and sees her become the star of the show, performing in the big top and then taking her talent to Coney Island in New York. But there is an underlying heartache that mars any happiness she finds, the rejection and hatred of her mother casting a shadow that never fades, no matter how brightly she shines.
“What happens to all the lost memories; the moments of silent thought, the complicity of long-gone lovers, when our minds are so far gone our still breathing bodies may as well be thrown into some dark oubliette? What happens to a life once lived?”
I am still in awe that this is a debut novel. Nydia Hetherington merges Manx folklore, fairy tales, circus freaks and fiction in this phenomenal tale of the strange and the extraordinary. She takes us behind the shimmering spectacle of the circus, pulling back the curtain to reveal the truth of life in the grubby, bleak encampment. The author’s descriptions are so vivid that I could see and smell the dirt, mud and animals; a rotten stench that the performers can never escape. It is a depressing insight into the poverty they live in despite their incredible talents. But it is also breathtakingly beautiful and intoxicating, the lyrical and evocative prose transporting you to the world the author created and bringing it to life as clearly as if you’re watching it on a movie screen.
“My words are a labyrinth into which we can wander. As I write these tales, I can follow each path, each fallen leaf, in the hope they might take me to the person I seek.”
There were many elements of the writing that I loved, including the author’s use of storytelling throughout the book, both in how she has Mouse narrate the story as she transcribes her memories that she scribbled down in notebooks and journals over the years and as she tells us the Manx Folklore that Serendipity Wilson would tell Mouse. I also enjoyed how contrasts play such a big part of the story, whether that is in the characters and places which are flamboyant and colourful yet shabby and somber, or in the writing itself which manages to be both magical and full of misery. Ms. Hetherington is clearly a born storyteller and writer whose attention to detail is evident on every page. I never wanted it to end and savoured every word.
Spellbinding, luminous and kaleidoscopic, A Girl Made of Air was a joy to read from beginning to end. It is a book that lingers long after reading, where I’ll catch myself thinking about it at random moments. My only frustration is that I allowed it to languish on my shelf unread for so long. So if you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so as soon as possible. And be prepared to fall in love.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
From Leeds — although born on Merseyside and spending the first few years of life on the Isle of Man — Nydia Hetherington moved to London in her early twenties to embark on an acting career. Later she moved to Paris where she created her own theatre company. When she returned to London a decade later, she completed a creative writing degree at Birkbeck, graduating with first class honours.
We aren’t even out of 2021 yet, but 2022 is overflowing with so many exciting books that I have had to create three lists to share the ones I’m most anticipating: Most Anticipated, Most Anticipated Debuts and Next in Series
Following on from my list of most anticipated books, today I’m sharing what debuts I’m particularly looking forward to next year.It feels like each year the debut novels being released just get better and better, forcing me to add yet more authors to my auto-read list.
Here are my most anticipated debuts of 2022:
Wahala by Nikki May
SYNOPSIS: SEX AND THE CITY with a killer edge for fans of QUEENIE, EXPECTATION and MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER
SOON TO BE A MAJOR BBC TV SERIAL
Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London. They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English. Not all of them choose to see it that way.
Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again.
When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.
Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.
Explosive, hilarious and wildly entertaining, this razor-sharp tale of love, race and family will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Fearlessly political about class, colourism and clothes, the spellbinding Wahala is for anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.
SYNOPSIS: POLISHED TO PERFECTION, THE HOTLY-ANTICIPATED DEBUT, COMING JANUARY 2022
I am your maid. I know about your secrets. Your dirty laundry. But what do you know about me?
Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?
But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways of the Regency Grand, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook?
Escapist, charming and introducing a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how everyone deserves to be seen. And how the truth isn’t always black and white – it’s found in the dirtier, grey areas in between . . .
Published January 20th by Harper Collins. Buy here*
The Christie Affairr by Nina De Gramont
SYNOPSIS: In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Only I know the truth of her disappearance. I’m no Hercule Poirot. I’m her husband’s mistress.
Agatha Christie’s world is one of glamorous society parties, country house weekends, and growing literary fame.
Nan O’Dea’s world is something very different. Her attempts to escape a tough London upbringing during the Great War led to a life in Ireland marred by a hidden tragedy.
After fighting her way back to England, she’s set her sights on Agatha. Because Agatha Christie has something Nan wants. And it’s not just her husband.
Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to . . .
The Christie Affair is a stunning novel which reimagines the unexplained eleven-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926 that captivated the world.
Published January 20th by Mantle. Buy here*
Daughter of the Moon Goddess (The Celestial Kingdom Book 1) by Sue Lynn Tan
SYNOPSIS: A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess.
A young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm, setting her on a dangerous path where those she loves are not the only ones at risk…
Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the powerful Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when her magic flares and her existence is discovered, Xingyin is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.
Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to train in the Crown Prince’s service, learning to master archery and magic, despite the passion which flames between her and the emperor’s son.
To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies, across the earth and skies.
But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream ―striking a dangerous bargain, where she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic, of loss and sacrifice ― where love vies with honour, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.
Published January 20th by Harper Voyager. Buy here*
A Fatal Crossing by Tom Hindle
SYNOPSIS: November 1924. The Endeavour sets sail to New York with 2,000 passengers – and a killer – on board . . .
When an elderly gentleman is found dead at the foot of a staircase, ship’s officer Timothy Birch is ready to declare it a tragic accident. But James Temple, a strong-minded Scotland Yard inspector, is certain there is more to this misfortune than meets the eye.
Birch agrees to investigate, and the trail quickly leads to the theft of a priceless painting. Its very existence is known only to its owner . . . and the dead man.
With just days remaining until they reach New York, and even Temple’s purpose on board the Endeavour proving increasingly suspicious, Birch’s search for the culprit is fraught with danger.
And all the while, the passengers continue to roam the ship with a killer in their midst . . .
When Megan discovers photographs of her estranged identical twin sister on her husband’s phone, she wants answers.
Leah already has everything Megan has ever wanted. Fame, fortune, freedom to do what she wants. And when Megan confronts Leah, an argument turns to murder.
The only way Megan can get away with killing her twin is to become her.
But then lockdown hits. How can she continue living two lives? And what happens if someone else knows her secret too?
HER PERFECT TWIN IS THE MOST ADDICTIVE, TWISTY THRILLER YOU’LL READ IN 2022. DON’T MISS THIS WILD RIDE OF A NOVEL.
Published January 20th by Hodder & Stoughton. Buy here*
Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman
SYNOPSIS: ‘Weaves together Ancient Greek myth with suspenseful mystery and beguiling romance…utterly irresistible’ Jennifer Saint, author of Ariadne
A pure pleasure of a novel set in Georgian London, where the discovery of a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets in motion conspiracies, revelations and romance.
Perfect for readers who loved The Binding and The Essex Serpent.
London, 1799. Dora Blake is an aspiring jewellery artist who lives with her uncle in what used to be her parents’ famed shop of antiquities. When a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, Dora is intrigued by her uncle’s suspicious behaviour and enlists the help of Edward Lawrence, a young antiquarian scholar. Edward sees the ancient vase as key to unlocking his academic future. Dora sees it as a chance to restore the shop to its former glory, and to escape her nefarious uncle.
But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has believed about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth she starts to realise that some mysteries are buried, and some doors are locked, for a reason.
Gorgeously atmospheric and deliciously page-turning, Pandora is a story of secrets and deception, love and fulfilment, fate and hope.
Published January 27th by Harvill Secker. Buy here*
The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews
SYNOPSIS: A beguiling tale of superstition, myth and murder, perfect for fans of The Binding, The Essex Serpent and Once Upon a River.
SHE IS AWAKE…
Norfolk, 1643. With civil war tearing England apart, reluctant soldier Thomas Treadwater is summoned home by his sister, who accuses a new servant of improper conduct with their widowed father. By the time Thomas returns home, his father is insensible, felled by a stroke, and their new servant is in prison, facing charges of witchcraft.
Thomas prides himself on being a rational, modern man, but as he unravels the mystery of what has happened, he uncovers not a tale of superstition but something dark and ancient, linked to a shipwreck years before.
Something has awoken, and now it will not rest.
Richly researched, incredibly atmospheric, and deliciously unsettling, The Leviathan is set in England during a time of political and religious turbulence. It is a tale of family and loyalty, superstition and sacrifice, but most of all it is a spellbinding mystery and a story of impossible things.
SYNOPSIS: An expansive epic spanning the turbulent decades of Korea’s fight for independence, perfect for fans of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko
Beasts take many shapes…
It is 1917, and Korea is yet to be divided into north and south. With the threat of famine looming, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school in cosmopolitan Pyongyang, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. But the city’s days as a haven are numbered.
Jade flees to Seoul where she forms a deep friendship with an orphan boy called JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets. As Jade becomes a sought-after performer with unexpected romantic prospects, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence. Soon Jade must decide between following her own ambitions, or risking everything for the one she loves.
From the perfumed chambers of the courtesan school to the glamorous cafes of a modernising Seoul, the unforgettable characters of Beasts of a Little Land unveil a world where friends become enemies and enemies become saviours, where heroes are persecuted and beasts take many shapes.
Published February 3rd by Oneworld Publications. Buy here*
The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield
SYNOPSIS: Brimming with romance, betrayal, and enchantment, The Embroidered Book reveals and reimagines a dazzling period of history as you have never seen it before.
‘Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all’
1768. Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles they rename her Marie Antoinette.
The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless. When they were only children, they discovered a book of spells – spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.
In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take control of their lives.
But every spell requires a sacrifice. And as love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.
Published February 17th by Harper Voyager. Buy here*
A Good Day to Die (Pretty Boy Thriller 1) by Amen Alonge
SYNOPSIS: Meet Pretty Boy. Vengeance is on his mind.
His real name: Unknown
His code of conduct: Don’t be a pawn in someone else’s game. Never underestimate the enemy. Above all, survive. There is no glory in death.
His mission: It’s been ten years since Pretty Boy left the big city – today he’s back. No one knows why, but it’s clear that revenge is on his mind: he is determined to make the person responsible for his exile from the London scene finally pay. But his plans seem derailed when he takes possession of a bracelet, unaware that its original owner has set a high price for its safe return. Suddenly, the hunter becomes the hunted and Pretty Boy will have to find out if it is indeed a ‘good day to die’.
Jam-packed with action, an unforgettable cast of characters and peppered with dry humour, A Good Day to Die marks the arrival of a fresh and exciting new voice in thriller writing.
SYNOPSIS: From debut author Carolyn Tara O’Neil comes a thrilling alternate history set during the Russian Revolution.
Russia, 1918: With the execution of Tsar Nicholas, the empire crumbles and Russia is on the edge of civil war–the poor are devouring the rich. Anna, a bourgeois girl, narrowly escaped the massacre of her entire family in Yekaterinburg. Desperate to get away from the Bolsheviks, she offers a peasant girl a diamond to take her as far south as possible–not realizing that the girl is a communist herself. With her brother in desperate need of a doctor, Evgenia accepts Anna’s offer and suddenly finds herself on the wrong side of the war.
Anna is being hunted by the Bolsheviks, and now–regardless of her loyalties–Evgenia is too.
Daughters of a Dead Empire is a harrowing historical thriller about dangerous ideals, loyalty, and the price we pay for change. An imaginative retelling of the Anastasia story.
Published February 22nd by Roaring Brook Press. Buy here*
Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook
SYNOPSIS: Fortune favours the brave in Lizzie Pook’s mesmerising debut novel, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter.
1886, BANNIN BAY, AUSTRALIA.
The Brightwell family has sailed from England to make their new home in Western Australia. Ten-year-old Eliza knows little of what awaits them on these shores beyond shining pearls and shells like soup plates – the things her father has promised will make their fortune.
Ten years later and Charles Brightwell, now the bay’s most prolific pearler, goes missing from his ship while out at sea. Whispers from the townsfolk suggest mutiny and murder, but headstrong Eliza, convinced there is more to the story, refuses to believe her father is dead, and it falls to her to ask the questions no one else dares consider.
But in a town teeming with corruption, prejudice and blackmail, Eliza soon learns that the truth can cost more than pearls, and she must decide just how much she is willing to pay – and how far she is willing to go – to find it . . .
SYNOPSIS: Hornclaw is a sixty-five-year-old female contract killer who is considering retirement. A fighter who has experienced loss and grief early on in life, she lives in a state of self-imposed isolation, with just her dog, Deadweight, for company.
While on an assassination job for the ‘disease control’ company she works for, Hornclaw makes an uncharacteristic error, causing a sequence of events that brings her past well and truly into the present.
Threatened with sabotage by a young male upstart and battling new desires and urges when she least expects them, Hornclaw steels her resolve, demonstrating that no matter their age, the female of the species is always more deadly than the male.
SYNOPSIS: Ben Harper’s life changed for ever the day his older brother Nick was murdered by two classmates. It was a crime that shocked the nation and catapulted Ben’s family and their idyllic hometown, Haddley, into the spotlight.
Twenty years on, Ben is one of the best true crime journalists in the country and happily settled back in Haddley, thanks to the support of its close-knit community. But when a fresh murder case shines new light on his brother’s death and throws suspicion on those closest to him, Ben’s world is turned upside down once more.
He’s about to discover that Haddley is a town full of secrets. No one is as they seem. Everyone has something to hide.
And someone will go to any length to keep the truth buried . . .
SYNOPSIS: With every misfortune there is a blessing and within every blessing, the seeds of misfortune, and so it goes, until the end of time.
It is 1938 in China, and the Japanese are advancing. A young mother, Meilin, is forced to flee her burning city with her four-year-old son, Renshu, and embark on an epic journey across China. For comfort, they turn to their most treasured possession – a beautifully illustrated hand scroll. Its ancient fables offer solace and wisdom as they travel through their ravaged country, seeking refuge.
Years later, Renshu has settled in America as Henry Dao. His daughter is desperate to understand her heritage, but he refuses to talk about his childhood. How can he keep his family safe in this new land when the weight of his history threatens to drag them down?
Spanning continents and generations, Peach Blossom Spring is a bold and moving look at the history of modern China, told through the story of one family. It’s about the power of our past, the hope for a better future, and the search for a place to call home.
SYNOPSIS: In the aftermath of the First World War, a young woman gets swept into a glittering world filled with illicit magic, romance, blood debts and murder in this lush and decadent debut novel.
On Crow Island, people whispered, real magic lurked just below the surface. But Annie Mason never expected her enigmatic new neighbour to be a witch.
When she witnesses a confrontation between her best friend Bea and the infamous Emmeline Delacroix at one of Emmeline’s extravagantly illicit parties, Annie is drawn into a glittering, haunted world. A world where magic can buy what money cannot; a world where the consequence of a forbidden blood bargain might be death.
Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
SYNOPSIS: THE MOST HOTLY ANTICIPATED DEBUT OF 2022 WITH A HEROINE TO FALL IN LOVE WITH
The Nigerian accent Dictionary Huzband (pronounced auz-band) noun 1. A male partner in a marriage E.g. Yinka’s younger sister, Kemi, is married to Uche 2. A non-existent man in a non-existent marriage whose whereabouts is often questioned, usually by Nigerian mums and aunties to single British Nigerian women E.g. So, Yinka. Tell me. Where is your huzband? Ah, ah. You’re thirty-one now!
Yinka wants to find love. Her mum wants to find it for her.
She also has too many aunties who frequently pray for her delivery from singledom, a preference for chicken and chips over traditional Nigerian food, and a bum she’s sure is far too small as a result. Oh, and the fact that she’s a thirty-one-year-old South-Londoner who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage is a bit of an obstacle too…
When her cousin gets engaged, Yinka commences ‘Operation Find A Date for Rachel’s Wedding’. Armed with a totally flawless, incredibly specific plan, will Yinka find herself a huzband?
What if the thing she really needs to find is herself?
The Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer
SYNOPSIS: Today I might trace the rungs of her larynx or tap at her trachea like the bones of a xylophone . . .
Something gleeful and malevolent is moving in Lia’s body, learning her life from the inside out. A shape-shifter. A disaster tourist. It’s travelling down the banks of her canals. It’s spreading.
When a sudden diagnosis upends Lia’s world, the boundaries between her past and her present begin to collapse. Deeply buried secrets stir awake. As the voice prowling in Lia takes hold of her story, and the landscape around becomes indistinguishable from the one within, Lia and her family are faced with some of the hardest questions of all: how can we move on from the events that have shaped us, when our bodies harbour everything? And what does it mean to die with grace, when you’re simply not ready to let go?
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is a story of coming-of-age at the end of a life. Utterly heart-breaking yet darkly funny, Maddie Mortimer’s astonishing debut is a symphonic journey through one woman’s body: a wild and lyrical celebration of desire, forgiveness, and the darkness within us all.
SYNOPSIS: ‘Your ability to change everything – including yourself – starts here’ ELIZABETH ZOTT
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.
But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.
But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.
Meet the unconventional, uncompromising Elizabeth Zott.
SYNOPSIS: THE AERIALISTS is a rich historical novel based on the true story of Louisa Maud Evans, a fourteen-year old girl who died during the Great Exhibition in Cardiff, 1896, and whose demise – tumbling 8,000 feet into the Bristol Channel – captured the imagination of the city.
Paris, 1891 Laura is living on the streets, far from the American Prairies where she was born. When aerialists Ena and August Gaudron, believing Laura to be English, decide to rescue her, she soon finds herself ensconced in the family hot air balloon business, and offered the chance to learn how to fly.
Cardiff, 1896 The Gaudrons accept an invitation to be part of the Cardiff Fine Art, Industrial and Maritime Exhibition, presenting a show of balloon ascents and parachute descents. Late one night, a young girl, Grace Parry, knocks on the door. She is desperate to fly, whatever the cost.
As Grace’s dreams begin to take wing, can Laura be the one to keep her grounded? Histories real and invented intertwine as the novel explores the many risky ways girls are expected to perform.
Published April 14th by The Borough Press. Buy here*
The Honeybee Emeralds by Amy Tector
SYNOPSIS: Alice Ahmadi has never been certain of where she belongs. When she discovers a famed emerald necklace while interning at a struggling Parisian magazine, she is plunged into a glittering world of diamonds and emeralds, courtesans and spies, and the long-buried secrets surrounding the necklace and its glamorous former owners.
When Alice realizes the mysterious Honeybee Emeralds could be her chance to save the magazine, she recruits her friends Lily and Daphne to form the “Fellowship of the Necklace.” Together, they set out to uncover the romantic history of the gems. Through diaries, letters, and investigations through the winding streets and iconic historic landmarks of Paris, the trio begins to unravel more than just the secrets of the necklace’s obsolete past. Along the way, Lily and Daphne’s relationships are challenged, tempered, and changed. Lily faces her long-standing attraction to a friend, who has achieved the writing success that eluded her. Daphne confronts her failing relationship with her husband, while also facing simmering problems in her friendship with Lily. And, at last, Alice finds her place in the world―although one mystery still remains: how did the Honeybee Emeralds go from the neck of American singer Josephine Baker during the Roaring Twenties to the basement of a Parisian magazine?
Published April 14th by Turner Publishing Company. Buy here*
Theatre of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth
SYNOPSIS: Behind the spectacle there are always secrets.
Unruly crowds descend on Crillick’s Variety Theatre. Young actress, Zillah, is headlining tonight. An orphan from the slums of St Giles, her rise to stardom is her ticket out – to be gawped and gazed at is a price she’s willing to pay.
Rising up the echelons of society is everything Zillah has ever dreamed of. But when a new stage act disappears, Zillah is haunted by a feeling that something is amiss. Is the woman in danger?
Her pursuit of the truth takes her into the underbelly of the city – from gas-lit streets to the sumptuous parlours of Mayfair – as she seeks the help of notorious criminals from her past and finds herself torn between two powerful admirers.
Caught in a labyrinth of dangerous truths, will Zillah face ruin – or will she be the maker of her fate?
A deliciously immersive tale, Theatre of Marvels whisks you on an unforgettable journey across Victorian London in this bold exploration of gothic spectacle.
Ever since she was adopted from an orphanage in Sri Lanka, Paloma has led a privileged Californian life: the best schools, a generous allowance and parents so perfect that Paloma fears she’ll never live up to them.
Now at thirty, Paloma has managed to disappoint her parents so thoroughly that their relationship will never recover. Unemployed and friendless, the only person still talking to her is Arun – the Indian man subletting her spare room. That is until Arun discovers Paloma’s darkest secret, one that could jeopardize her fragile place in this country, and the next day is found face down in a pool of blood.
On finding Arun’s body Paloma flees her apartment. But by the time the police arrive, there’s no body to be found or signs of struggle – and no evidence that Arun ever even existed in the first place.
The police may be quick to dismiss everything, but Paloma knows what she saw. Is this tangled up in her childhood in Sri Lanka and the desperate actions she took to leave so many years ago? And did Paloma’s secret die with Arun or is she now in greater danger than ever before?
SYNOPSIS: Pre-order this immersive, emotionally gripping novel about jealousy, loyalty, and the secrets we keep to protect those we love . . .
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 . . .
SYNOPSIS: Get ready for summer 2022’s biggest historical!
The season is about to begin – and there’s not a minute to lose
Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.
With only twelve weeks until the bailiffs call, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her, and Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.
The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost, especially when it comes to his own brother falling for her charms.
Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one – not even a lord – will stand in her way…
SYNOPSIS: THE BUNKER IS DESIGNED TO KEEP THEM ALL SAFE.
In the end, very few people made it to the bunker. Now they wait there for the outside world to heal. Wolfe is one of the lucky ones. She’s safe and employed as the bunker’s pharmacist, doling out medicine under the watchful eye of their increasingly erratic and paranoid leader.
BUT IS IT THE PLACE OF GREATEST DANGER?
But when the leader starts to ask things of Wolfe, favours she can hardly say no to, it seems her luck is running out. Forming an unlikely alliance with the young Doctor Stirling, her troubled assistant Levitt, and Canavan – a tattooed giant of a man who’s purpose in the bunker is a mystery – Wolfe must navigate the powder keg of life underground where one misstep will light the fuse. The walls that keep her safe also have her trapped.
How much more is Wolfe willing to give to stay alive?
Beautifully written and utterly gripping, The Pharmacist will be a guaranteed conversation starter when it is published.
SYNOPSIS: The wise and gloriously big-hearted debut novel from the much-loved broadcaster, Sara Cox
Becky: a single mum who prides herself on her independence. She knows from painful experience that men are trouble. Louise: a loving husband, gorgeous kids. She ought to feel more grateful. Jameela: all she’s ever done is work hard, and try her best. Why won’t life give her the one thing she really wants? Sheila: the nest is empty, she dreams of escaping to the sun, but her husband seems so distracted.
The inhabitants of the Inventor’s Housing Estate keep themselves to themselves. There are the friendly ‘Hellos’ when commutes coincide and the odd cheeky eye roll when the wine bottles clank in number 7’s wheelie bin, but it’s not exactly Ramsay Street.
The dilapidated community centre is no longer the beating heart of the estate that Becky remembers from her childhood. So the new pottery class she’s helped set up feels like a fresh start. And not just for her.
The assorted neighbours come together to try out a new skill, under the watchful eye of their charismatic teacher, Sasha. And as the soft unremarkable lumps of clay are hesitantly, lovingly moulded into delicate vases and majestic pots, so too are the lives of four women. Concealed passions and heartaches are uncovered, relationships shattered and formed, and the possibility for transformation is revealed.
SYNOPSIS: 1882. North of Edinburgh, on the edge of an isolated loch, lies an institution of crumbling stone, where a strange doctor collects orphans with unusual abilities. In London, two children with such powers are hunted by a figure of darkness – a man made of smoke.
Charlie Ovid discovers a gift for healing himself through a brutal upbringing in Mississippi, while Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight, glows with a strange bluish light. When two grizzled detectives are recruited to escort them north to safety, they are confronted by a sinister, dangerous force that threatens to upend the world as they know it.
What follows is a journey from the gaslit streets of London to the lochs of Scotland, where other gifted children – the Talents – have been gathered at Cairndale Institute, and the realms of the dead and the living collide. As secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities and the nature of the force that is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.
The first in a captivating new historical fantasy series, Ordinary Monsters introduces the Talents with a catastrophic vision of the Victorian world, and the gifted, broken children who must save it.
SYNOPSIS: All that stands between Meredith and the world is her own front door . . . but what will it take for her to open it? ________
Meredith Maggs hasn’t left her house in 1,214 days. But she insists she isn’t alone.
She has her cat Fred. Her friend Sadie visits when she can. There’s her online support group, StrengthInNumbers. She has her jigsaws, favourite recipes, her beloved Emily Dickinson, the internet, the Tesco delivery man and her treacherous memories for company.
But something’s about to change. Whether Meredith likes it or not, the world is coming to her door . . . Does she have the courage to overcome what’s been keeping her inside all this time?
SYNOPSIS: Your fate arrives in a box on your doorstep. Do you open it?
It seems like just another morning.
You make a cup of tea. Check the news. Open the front door.
On your doorstep is a box.
Inside the box is the exact number of years you have left to live.
The same box appears on every doorstep across the world.
Do you open yours?
IT’S THE DECISION OF A LIFETIME.
Published July 7th by The Borough Press. Buy here*
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
SYNOPSIS: This is not a romance, but it is about love
Two kids meet in a hospital gaming room in 1987. One is visiting her sister, the other is recovering from a car crash. The days and months are long there. Their love of video games becomes a shared world — of joy, escape and fierce competition. But all too soon that time is over, fades from view.
When the pair spot each other eight years later in a crowded train station, they are catapulted back to that moment. The spark is immediate, and together they get to work on what they love – making games to delight, challenge and immerse players, finding an intimacy in digital worlds that eludes them in their real lives. Their collaborations make them superstars.
This is the story of the perfect worlds Sadie and Sam build, the imperfect world they live in, and of everything that comes after success: Money. Fame. Duplicity. Tragedy.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow takes us on a dazzling imaginative quest as it examines the nature of identity, creativity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play and, above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love.
SYNOPSIS: A wedding in a small English village attracts a malicious spirit, forcing secrets from the deep past and troubled present out into the open–a hypnotic tale of sisterhood, first love, and hauntings from the acclaimed author of The Quick
As a teenager, Kate found a safe harbor from her parents’ constant fighting in the company of the four Gonne sisters, who lived with their strict grandparents next to Small Angels, a church right on the edge of dense green woods. The first outsider to ever get close to the sisters, Kate eventually learned the family’s secret: The woods are home to a capricious, menacing ghost whom generations of Gonnes had been charged with stopping from venturing into the village itself. But as the sisters grew older, braver, and more independent, and started bucking against the family’s burden, the bulwark began to crack, culminating in a horrifying act of violence that drove a terrible wedge between the sisters and Kate.
Chloe has been planning her dream wedding for months. She has the dress, the flowers, and the perfect venue: Small Angels, a charming old church in the village her fiancé, Sam, and his sister, Kate, grew up in. But, days before the ceremony, she starts to hear unsettling stories about Small Angels. And worse, she begins to see, smell, and hear things that couldn’t possibly be real.
Now, Kate is returning home for the first time in years, for Sam and Chloe’s wedding. But the woods are coming alive again, and Kate must reconnect with Lucia, the most troubled of the sisters and her first love, to protect Chloe, the village, and herself.
An unforgettable novel about the memories that hold us back and the memories that show us the way forward–this is storytelling at its most magical. Enter Small Angels, if you dare.
Published: August 12th, 2021 Publisher: Viking Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction, Political Fiction Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Welcome to my stop on the tour for this powerful debut. Thank you to Viking for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.
‘Rebellion?’ The word is a spark. They can start a fire with it, or smother it in their fingertips. She chooses to start a fire.
You are born high, but marry a traitor’s son. You bear him twelve children, carry his cause and bury his past.
You play the game, against enemies who wish you ashes. Slowly, you rise.
You are Cecily.
But when the king who governs you proves unfit, what then?
Loyalty or treason – death may follow both. The board is set. Time to make your first move.
Told through the eyes of its greatest unknown protagonist, this astonishing debut plunges you into the closed bedchambers and bloody battlefields of the first days of the Wars of the Roses, a war as women fight it.
‘Rebellion?’ The word is a spark. They could light a fire with it, or smother it now in their fingertips. She chooses to start a fire.
Cecily was my 100th read of the year and one of my most anticipated books. I was drawn to it not only by the synopsis, but by its striking cover. But lying beneath that bright, luring jacket, is a dark, grim and savagestory. The author pulls you in immediately, opening the book with the burning at the stake of Joan of Arc, a shocking and atmospheric scene that feels like it’s setting the tone for what is to come.
This is the story of the Wars of the Roses through the eyes of the women who fought from the shadows. It was a brutal time. A time where power is won by blood and playing the game well is the difference between life and death. A cutthroat and ruthless time when your best friend today could be your enemy tomorrow. It is meticulously researched and beautifully written, transporting you back to a time when women were often forgotten and discounted, when they had to use the voices of men to be heard. And without taking away from those things, I feel I must mention that it took me a while to really get into this book. There were times my concentration wandered and the story felt too heavy, disjointed or hard to follow. I found it a little too bogged down in politics and would have liked more emotion and insight into what makes the characters tick. I had to put it down for a few days and come back to it, and when I did I finally got to a place where it felt like Cecily finally came alive, and it was then that I really started to enjoy the book.
“Women have no swords, brother. We do our work by talking.”
Cecily is a forgotten heroine that I am glad is finally having her story told. Feisty, strong, determined and intelligent, she is a force to be reckoned with. Born at a time when women are denied a voice orany real power, she is able to become a woman of influence in politics from the sidelines. A lot of this is down to the relationship she has with her husband, Richard. Their marriage is strong, loving and respectful, and it is clear he values her opinion. Other women gain power through marrying a weak man, which is what her enemy, Marguerite, does. The two women were undoubtedly similar in many ways, but while Marguerite comes off as unlikeable and venomous, Cecily appears resolute and caring. I enjoyed their bitter feud and how both women got stronger as time went on while the men appeared to wither.
I love how many books there have been recently that have taken a familiar story from history and told it from the woman’s perspective, illuminating voices that were silenced and finally revealing to the world the true strength these women possessed and how instrumental the moments that shaped our world today. I can’t help but wonder how many more of these forgotten heroines are out there, still waiting for their chance to shine.
A familiar story with a feminist edge, Ceicily is a powerful debut and brilliant historical read. You will never look at the Wars of the Roses the same again.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Annie Garthwaite grew up in a working class community in the north-east of England.
A schoolgirl interest in medieval history became a lifelong obsession with Cecily Neville, so, at age fifty-five, she enrolled on the Warwick Writing MA programme. Her extraordinary debut novel Cecily is the result. During a thirty-year international business career she frequently found herself the only woman at the table, where she gained valuable insights into how a woman like Cecily might have operated.
Today she lives with her partner – and far too many animals – on the side of a green Shropshire hill close to the Yorkist stronghold of Ludlow.
Published: August 5th, 2021 Publisher: Head of Zeus Genre: Humour, Holiday Fiction Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this phenomenal debut. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and gifted ARC.
If you were offered a chance to cure your child’s disease, would you take it?
‘A thought-provoking, compelling and entertaining read. I could barely put the book down until its equally heart-wrenching and heart-warming ending. A wonderful, smart and funny book – I know readers will absolutely love it’ Louise Fein, bestselling author of People Like Us
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?
Normal doesn’t exist. We are all extraordinary.
Patience is a truly remarkable debut. Heartbreaking, harrowing, honest and hopeful, this
is a thought-provoking, no-holds-barred look at what life is like for those with severe disabilities, how it affects their families, and challenges our concept of what a good life actually looks like.
Thirty-year-old Patience Willow has Rett Syndrome. She is unable to walk or talk and requires twenty-four hour care. When a new gene therapy offers the hope of reversing the condition, her family find themselves in an impossible dilemma. Is the chance of giving Patience the life they dreamed of for her worth the risks? And is it what she would want?
“She realised she had spent almost all of Patience’s life waiting for a miracle.”
The author tells the story from the points of view of each of the Willow family: Louise, Pete, Eliza and Patience. This allows us an intimate glimpse at the ripple effect of disability on those around them. We see the strain it has put on all of their relationships, especially Louise and Pete’s marriage, the financial strain, the pressure Eliza feels to fulfill her parents dreams and be everything her sister can’t, how caring for another person can slowly wear you down and the guilt and anger they all feel.
The decision to give Patience a voice is my favourite part of this book. And what a loud and memorable voice she has! By giving her the voice life has denied her, the author makes Patience visible and reminds the reader that she is a three-dimensional character who is as nuanced and complex as any other person. That she is someone who has her own thoughts, feelings, desires and dreams, despite her inability to communicate them. We get an insight into how she feels having to watch her sister have the things she can never have, how it feels knowing she is the ‘cause’ of her family’s struggles, and what life is really like for her. We are the only ones who get to see the woman she is inside, that she is an intelligent and funny person that understands everything. And I absolutely adored her.
“Over the years I’ve heard many doctors, carers, nurses and social workers debate whether I have a decent quality of life or not. So I’d like to state here, for the record, that I do. I don’t have anything to compare my life to, of course, but then, who does?”
Through this story the author challenges the concept of what a fulfilling and happy life actually is. As someone with a disability myself, albeit a much milder one than Patience, this is something I love and appreciate. Life doesn’t have to look a certain way to be valuable. A life with limits can be happy and meaningful and, as Patience herself observes, being able-bodied does not necessarily equal happiness and contentmentin life. This is what is at the heart of the family’s dilemma over whether to enter Patience into the gene therapy. She seems happy, so is it worth risking that to give her a life they consider more ‘normal’? Personally, I would cure my own illnesses in a heartbeat and would love a better quality of life. But there are some risks I wouldn’t take to achieve that and it doesn’t make my life any less joyful or meaningful as it stands.
“But the thing was, he didn’t see her as broken. He saw her as whole, as a person in her own right, her own special variety of normal.”
Victoria Scott is a spectacular talent. She writes with heart, humour, compassion and raw honesty, managing to educate while also entertaining. I was completely invested in the lives of this family and they felt so real to me, like I could go to Oxford and pay them a visit. The Author’s Note at the end of the book is a must-read as she talks about her inspiration for the story. It was no surprise to learn that she has intimate knowledge of living alongside someone with Rett Syndrome and I believe this book will not only educate people like myself who knew nothing about the illness, but offer comfort to those who have a loved one with the illness.
An extraordinary story about family, love and hope, this is a book that will linger long after reading and hold a special place in my heart. Read this book. I can’t recommend it enough.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Victoria Scott is a British novelist, journalist, lecturer, copywriter and media trainer with two decades of experience working for online, print, TV and radio outlets around the world.
Currently, Victoria is lead tutor of the NCTJ Journalism Diploma at Sutton College, South London, and a lecturer in journalism at Kingston University.
She is also a novelist, represented by agent Hannah Weatherill at Northbank Talent Management. Her debut novel Patience will be published in 2021 by Head of Zeus, and in German translation by Droemer Knaur.
Published: June 24th, 2021 Publisher: Bloomsbury UK Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Today is the paperback publication day of Tsarina, the first in an exciting new trilogy that was also one of my favourite books of 2020. To celebrate, I’m resharing my review.
Thank you Midas PR and Bloomsbury UK for my gifted copies of the book.
The second book in the series, The Tsarina’s Daughter, is out July 8th.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE AUTHOR’S CLUB BEST FIRST NOVEL AWARD
‘It makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme’ – Daisy Goodwin
Lover, mother, murderer, Tsarina
1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta is sold into labour at the age of fifteen – where in desperation she commits a crime that will force her to go on the run. Cheating death at every turn, she is swept into the current of the Great Northern War. Working as a washer woman at a battle camp, she catches the eye of none other than Peter the Great. Passionate and iron-willed, Peter has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire.
With nothing but wits, courage and formidable ambition, Marta will rise from nothing to become Catherine I of Russia. But it comes at a steep price and is tied to the destiny of Russia itself.
“He is dead. My beloved husband, the mighty Tsar of all the Russias, has died – and just in time.”
Tsarina is a story of power, lust, sex, murder and betrayal. Of rags-to-riches. Of Catherine, the first Tsarina of all the Russias.
It begins in February 1725, on the night that Peter the Great, Tsar of All the Russias, dies. Catherine, her children and his advisors try to conceal his death for as long as possible to delay their fate. It is a matter of life and death. The story then moves between that night and flashbacks to Catherine’s life, beginning when she was just thirteen-years-old, still known as Marta and living with her serf family. We then follow her journey from poor peasant girl to Tsarina; a story that would be deemed too far fetched if you tried to sell it to a publisher. But every word of this novel is based in fact, with just a few liberties taken as the details of Catherine’s early life is shrouded in mystery.
I have always had a love for history and ever since studying the fall of the Tsars for my History A Level I have been fascinated with their story. So when I saw this book advertised I knew from just the title that I HAD to read it. After reading the synopsis it became one of my most anticipated books of the year. Thankfully, this magnificent debut surpassed every one of my high expectations. It was an all-encompassing read. A book that I took my time with, taking time to soak in every word, but also one that I couldn’t put down or stop thinking about when I had to do so.
Ellen Alpsten is a new talent to watch. Exquisitely written and wonderfully crafted, her meticulous research shines through on every page, bringing back to life those who lived and died three hundred years ago and making you feel like they are right there beside you with her powerful storytelling. I was hooked from the start and became totally lost in Catherine’s story, living every word of this book while reading it. Every moment of love and joy, every piercing pain of heartbreak and every gut-wrenching horror she witnessed and experienced, I felt along with her.
“Together, we have lived and loved, and together, we ruled.”
After reading this novel it seems unimaginable that Catherine’s story has been forgotten. That such a strong, brave and remarkable woman had been consigned to a footnote in history. At that time life for most of Russia’s people was hard, harsh and bleak. Even those in the upper classes lived in fear of falling out the Tsar’s favour and losing not only their wealth but their lives. Peter had a new vision for Russia and was a ruthless leader who was willing to sacrifice anyone and everything to achieve it. Even as his wife Catherine walked a tightrope knowing she could be stripped of everything and either sent to a convent or killed should the fancy take him. The brutality of life at that time and the lack of rights that were held by even the highest-ranking women is starkly illuminated in Catherine’s story in sobering detail.
Tsarina is a masterpiece of historical fiction. Atmospheric, intoxicating, unsettling, and compelling, this outstanding novel is one that will linger long after you close it’s pages. This gloriously decadent debut is one you don’t want to miss.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, where she dressed up her many pets and forced them to listen to her stories.
Upon graduating from the ‘Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris’, she worked as a news-anchor for Bloomberg TV London. While working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work, a nap and a run. So much for burning midnight oil!
Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint, and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three sons, and a moody fox red Labrador.
‘Tsarina’ is her debut novel in the ‘Tsarina’ series, followed by ‘The Tsarina’s Daughter’.
Published: March 4th, 2021 Publisher: Harper Collins UK Genre: Historical Fiction, Humorous Fiction, Domestic Ficiton, Pensioners in the Pages Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio, Hardcover
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the paperback release of Saving Missy. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part.
Seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?
Missy Carmichael is prickly, stubborn – and terribly lonely. Until a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new. Something wonderful.
Missy was used to her small, solitary existence, listening to her footsteps echoing around the empty house, the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock. After all, she had made her life her way.
Now another life is beckoning to Missy – if she’s brave enough…
“So the day ended as miserably as it began. But I still felt it somewhere — that spark. The beginning of something. Or the end. Who knows?”
Saving Missy is a story exploring loneliness, human connection, letting go and learning to live again. When we meet Missy she is rattling around her big house all alone and has no real connections with anyone other than her emails and skype calls to her son and grandson in Australia. After fainting in the park she is taken under the wing of Sylvie and Angela, two vivacious women who, much to Missy’s surprise, seem to want to be her friend. The pair open up a new world to Missy full of exciting opportunities, friendship and happiness that she isn’t sure she deserves after the things she’s done. Can Missy let go of the past and embrace life?
I first encountered Missy when I read a sampler of the story before its release in early 2020. I quickly fell in love with Missy and the world the author had created and have been frustrated at not being able to find the time to finish reading it ever since. So when the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for the paperback release arose I jumped at the chance, eager to finally enjoy the rest of Missy’s story. And I’m so glad I did.
“The first photo summed me up, mostly, but the second had exposed my other self, the tiny part of me that could laugh like that. I wanted to poke my way into that part… and open it up so that it overwhelmed the stiffness and self-consciousness and all the other weaknesses I despised. To be that relaxed, animated woman, put her on display and leave the other stuffed away.”
Missy Carmichael is a wonderful protagonist. She is a cantankerous old lady who, despite her hard, bristly and defensive exterior, was someone I soon had a soft spot for. She is deeply flawed, awkward, lonely and worries constantly what others think. She has also spent most of her life not saying the things she desperately wanted to and seems to have lived her life for others, mostly her husband Leo who she is now lost without. She has no real relationship with her daughter Melanie since a fight the year before and her adored son Alistair and grandson Arthur live in Australia, something she is deeply bitter about. While her resentment towards her eldest child and daughter in law was hard to stomach at times it made her a more real character. I also liked that she often recognised her flaws, even if she doesn’t always try to change them.
A vital part of understanding Missy comes from the flashbacks that are woven into the narrative. These flashbacks show the reader important moments in her life that have shaped her and help us to understand the different facets of her character. It is in these chapters that the author brings Leo to life, albeit from Missy’s perspective. It is impossible to not be shaped by a relationship that spanned almost six decades so I think this was a critical part of the story that really opened our eyes to why Missy is the woman we meet in the present day.
“The idea that these vibrant, diverting women wanted to spend time with me was as gratifying as the gift of the dog bed. I’d never really had female friends before.”
The supporting cast of characters are just as riveting and richly drawn as Missy and I particularly loved the dynamics of her friendship with Sylvie and Angela. As she slowly allowed them into her heart and home I enjoyed seeing her experience female friendship for the first time in her life and the impact it had on her. We began to see a softer side to her, particularly in her interactions with her adopted dog Bobby and Otis, Angela’s four-year-old son. The author took Missy on a compelling adventure and it was amazing to see the bravery and joy she showed in the latter parts of the story. It is a reminder of how important human connection is in life, that it is never too late to grab life by the horns or to change and make amends for your mistakes.
Charming, thought-provoking, wistful and uplifting, Saving Missy is a wonderful debut. I got lost in its pages as the author took me on an unforgettable journey. In our current climate its message of the importance of human connection couldn’t be more timely and is a great reminder to reach out to others in any way we can. Everyone should read this book.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
I’m a TV producer by trade. For a long time I worked at RDF Television, where I helped create The Secret Life of Four Year Olds series on Channel 4 and devised 100 Year Old Drivers for ITV.
I’ve been trying to write a novel since my early 20s, when I wrote a spin-off from Mary Poppins called Sister Suffragette, which was all about Winifred Banks’ adventures when she wasn’t at home singing. It’s probably for the best that it’s still in a drawer somewhere.
Saving Missy is my first full-length novel, and I wrote it on maternity leave, inspired by the people I met while I was walking my dog in the park.
In my spare time I enjoy running, cooking curries, admiring my dog every day and Christmas once a year.
Hello Bibliophiles! Today is a busy day in the book world with a vast array of amazing books out in Kindle, Hardback, Paperback and Audio Today. This is a last minute post so it is in no way comprehensive, but I’ve put together a list of many of the amazing books out today. Thank you to Publishers for my gifted copies of some of the books pictured above.
SYNOPSIS: The sunniest places hold the darkest secrets . . .
A stunning 1950s set debut mystery brimming with atmosphere and perfect for fans of Tangerine,Small Pleasures and Mad Men. ________
Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .
It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.
While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .
A beguiling, deeply atmospheric debut novel from the cracked heart of the American Dream, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and ultimately under-estimated.
It’s December 2023 and the world as we know it has ended.
The human race has been wiped out by a virus called 6DM (‘Six Days Maximum’ – the longest you’ve got before your body destroys itself).
But somehow, in London, one woman is still alive. A woman who has spent her whole life compromising what she wants, hiding how she feels and desperately trying to fit in. A woman who is entirely unprepared to face a future on her own.
Now, with only an abandoned golden retriever for company, she must travel through burning cities, avoiding rotting corpses and ravenous rats on a final journey to discover if she really is the last surviving person on earth.
And with no one else to live for, who will she become now that she’s completely alone?
SYNOPSIS: In a converted Georgian townhouse in south west London, three families live under one roof.
The large flat that takes up the top two floors is home to the Harlow family: happily married Paul and Steph, and their bubbly teenage daughter Freya. The smaller first floor flat is rented by Emma, who spends most of her time alone, listening to people coming in and out of the building. And the basement flat belongs to Chris, a local driving instructor, who prefers to keep his personal life private from the neighbours.
But their lives are all upended when Freya vanishes. As the police become involved and a frantic Paul and Steph desperately search for answers, they begin to realise that the truth behind their daughter’s disappearance may lie closer to home than they were expecting.
When everyone has something to hide, can you ever really know those closest to you? Or will some secrets be taken to the grave?
SYNOPSIS: AN INTENSELY CREEPY SERIAL KILLER THRILLER DEBUT, FOR FANS OF CHRIS CARTER, M. W. CRAVEN AND THE WHISPER MAN.
Death is an art, and he is the master . . .
Three glass cabinets appear in London’s Trafalgar Square containing a gruesome art installation: the floating corpses of three homeless men. Shock turns to horror when it becomes clear that the bodies are real.
The cabinets are traced to @nonymous – an underground artist shrouded in mystery who makes a chilling promise: MORE WILL FOLLOW.
Eighteen years ago, Detective Inspector Grace Archer escaped a notorious serial killer. Now, she and her caustic DS, Harry Quinn, must hunt down another.
As more bodies appear at London landmarks and murders are livestreamed on social media, their search for @nonymous becomes a desperate race against time. But what Archer doesn’t know is that the killer is watching their every move – and he has his sights firmly set on her . . .
He is creating a masterpiece. And she will be the star of his show.
Genre: New Adult Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Medical Romance Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Publisher: Bantam Press
SYNOPSIS: CAN YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN?
Alice and Alfie are strangers. But they sleep next to each other every night.
Alfie Mack has been in hospital for months recovering from an accident. A new face on the ward is about as exciting as life gets for him right now, so when someone moves into the bed next to him he’s eager to make friends. But it quickly becomes clear that seeing his neighbour’s face won’t happen any time soon.
Alice Gunnersley has been badly burned and can’t even look at herself yet, let alone allow anyone else to see her. She keeps the curtain around her bed firmly closed, but it doesn’t stop Alfie trying to get to know her. And gradually, as he slowly brings Alice out of her shell, might there even be potential for more?
SYNOPSIS: Winner of the 2019 UEA Crime Writing Prize, Lightseekers is the start of a major new crime series introducing investigative psychologist Dr Philip Taiwo.
When three young students are brutally murdered in a Nigerian university town, their killings – and their killers – are caught on social media. The world knows who murdered them; what no one knows is why.
As the legal trial begins, investigative psychologist Philip Taiwo is contacted by the father of one of the boys, desperate for some answers to his son’s murder. But Philip is an expert in crowd behaviour and violence, not a detective, and after travelling to the sleepy university town that bore witness to the killings, he soon feels dramatically out of his depth.
Will he finally be able to uncover the truth of what happened to the Okiri Three?
SYNOPSIS: Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.
The Crow Folk: The Witches of Woodville 1) by Mark Stay
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Adventure Fiction, War Fiction Format: Paperback, Kindle Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
SYNOPSIS: As Spitfires roar overhead and a dark figure stalks the village of Woodville, a young woman will discover her destiny . . .
Faye Bright always felt a little bit different. And today she’s found out why. She’s just stumbled across her late mother’s diary which includes not only a spiffing recipe for jam roly-poly, but spells, incantations, runes and recitations . . . a witch’s notebook.
And Faye has inherited her mother’s abilities.
Just in time, too. The Crow Folk are coming. Led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villagers. Armed with little more than her mum’s words, her trusty bicycle, the grudging help of two bickering old ladies, and some aggressive church bellringing, Faye will find herself on the front lines of a war nobody expected.
For fans of Lev Grossman and Terry Pratchett comes this delightful novel of war, mystery and a little bit of magic . . .
SYNOPSIS: This is a story about taking a leap of faith And believing the unbelievable
They say those we love never truly leave us, and I’ve found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you’d expect.
I’ve been visiting my mother who died when I was eight. And I’m talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here.
Right now, you probably think I’m going mad. Let me explain…
Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother?
Space Hopper is an original and poignant story about mothers, memories and moments that shape life.
SYNOPSIS: What happens when the man she married can’t remember her?
Ellie has the perfect life: a happy marriage, a gorgeous daughter and a baby on the way. But when her husband Max develops amnesia, he forgets everything about the last five years . . . including their relationship.
Now the man she said ‘I do’ to has become a stranger, and she has no idea why. Yet Ellie is determined to reconnect and find her Max again – he has to be in there somewhere, right?
As they get to know one another afresh, Ellie finds herself seeing Max clearly for the first time. But then she discovers that before his memory loss, Max was keeping a huge secret from her. Will their new beginning prove to be a false start, just as it seemed they might fall in love all over again?
SYNOPSIS: A gripping memoir and revelatory investigation into the history of the Foundling Hospital and one girl who grew up in its care – the author’s own mother.
Growing up in a wealthy enclave outside San Francisco, Justine Cowan’s life seems idyllic. But her mother’s unpredictable temper drives Justine from home the moment she is old enough to escape. It is only after her mother dies that she finds herself pulling at the threads of a story half-told – her mother’s upbringing in London’s Foundling Hospital. Haunted by this secret history, Justine travels across the sea and deep into the past to discover the girl her mother once was.
Here, with the vividness of a true storyteller, she pieces together her mother’s childhood alongside the history of the Foundling Hospital: from its idealistic beginnings in the eighteenth century, how it influenced some of England’s greatest creative minds – from Handel to Dickens, its shocking approach to childcare and how it survived the Blitz only to close after the Second World War.
This was the environment that shaped a young girl then known as Dorothy Soames, who was left behind by a mother forced by stigma and shame to give up her child; who withstood years of physical and emotional abuse, dreaming of escape as German bombers circled the skies, unaware all along that her own mother was fighting to get her back.
Waiting For Superman: One Family’s Struggle To Survive – and cure – Chronic Illnessby Tracie White
Genre: Biography Format: Papernack, Kindle Publisher: Allen & Unwin
SYNOPSIS: For the past six years, Whitney Dafoe has been confined to a bedroom in the back of his parents’ home, unable to walk, eat or speak. His diagnosis? The mysterious disease myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) which affects 20 million people around the world who largely suffer in silence because the condition is little known and much misunderstood.
Waiting for Superman follows Whitney’s father, groundbreaking geneticist Ron Davis, as he uncovers new possibilities for treatments and potentially a cure. At its heart, this book is about more than just cutting-edge research or a race to find an answer – it’s about the lengths to which a parent will go to save their child’s life.
SYNOPSIS: ‘An eerie, atmospheric novel that had me completely on the edge of my seat.’ Reese Witherspoon
EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.
An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.
Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.
And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.
But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in . . .
SYNOPSIS: When Amy Ashton’s world fell apart eleven years ago, she started a collection.
Just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been.
Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves – soon there’ll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery, and Amy’s carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she’d lost still be hers for the taking?
Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant and The Keeper of Lost Things, this exquisitely told, uplifting novel shows us that however hopeless things might feel, beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places
Genre: Coming-of-Age Fiction, Holiday Fiction Format: Kindle (Hardcover published March 4th) Publisher: Corvus
Fortune favours the fraud…
When she was thirteen years old, Ada Howell lost not just her father, but the life she felt she was destined to lead. Now, at eighteen, Ada is given a second chance when her wealthy godmother gifts her with an extravagant art history trip to Italy.
In the palazzos of Venice, the cathedrals of Florence and the villas of Rome, she finally finds herself among the kind of people she aspires to be: sophisticated, cultured, privileged. Ada does everything in her power to prove she is one of them. And when a member of the group dies in suspicious circumstances, she seizes the opportunity to permanently bind herself to this gilded set.
But everything hidden must eventually surface, and when it does, Ada discovers she’s been keeping a far darker secret than she could ever have imagined…
SYNOPSIS: If I Can’t Have You by Charlotte Levin is an all-consuming novel about loneliness, obsession and how far we go for the ones we love.
My name is Constance Little. This is my love story. But this isn’t the way it was supposed to end.
After fleeing Manchester for London, Constance attempts to put past tragedies behind her and make a fresh start. When she embarks on a relationship with the new doctor at the medical practice where she works, she’s convinced she’s finally found the love and security she craves.
Then he ends it.
But if life has taught her anything, it’s that if you love someone, you should never let them go.
That’s why for Constance Little, her obsession is only just beginning . . .
SYNOPSIS: One will change your life. One will end it. Who will … FIND YOU FIRST?
It’s a deadly race against time…
Tech billionaire Miles has more money than he can ever spend, and everything he could dream of – except time. Now facing a terminal illness, Miles knows he must seize every minute to put his life in order. And that means taking a long hard look at his past.
Somewhere out there, Miles has children. And they might be about to inherit both the good and bad from him – possibly his fortune, or possibly something more sinister.
So Miles decides to track down his missing children. But a vicious killer is one step ahead of him. One by one, people are vanishing. Not just disappearing, every trace of them is wiped.
Number One Sunday Times bestseller Linwood Barclay returns with his electrifying new thriller, Find You First.
SYNOPSIS: Frances Howard has beauty and a powerful family – and is the most unhappy creature in the world.
Anne Turner has wit and talent – but no stage on which to display them. Little stands between her and the abyss of destitution.
When these two very different women meet in the strangest of circumstances, a powerful friendship is sparked. Frankie sweeps Anne into a world of splendour that exceeds all she imagined: a Court whose foreign king is a stranger to his own subjects; where ancient families fight for power, and where the sovereign’s favourite may rise and rise – so long as he remains in favour.
With the marriage of their talents, Anne and Frankie enter this extravagant, savage hunting ground, seeking a little happiness for themselves. But as they gain notice, they also gain enemies; what began as a search for love and safety leads to desperate acts that could cost them everything.
Based on the true scandal that rocked the court of James I, A Net for Small Fishes is the most gripping novel you’ll read this year: an exhilarating dive into the pitch-dark waters of the Jacobean court.
SYNOPSIS: Italy, 1938. Mussolini is in power and war is not far away . . .
Clara and Pippo are just children: quiet, thoughtful Clara is the older sister; Pippo, the younger brother, is forever chatting. The family has only recently arrived in the city carrying their few possessions.
When Mamma goes missing early one morning, both Clara and Pippo go in search of her. Clara turns right; Pippo left.
As a result of the choices they make that morning, their lives will be changed forever.
Diana Rosie’s Pippo and Clara tells the story of a family and a country divided. But will Clara and Pippo – and their mother – find each other again?
Genre:Thriller, Suspense, Horror Fiction, Medical Fiction Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Publisher: Head of Zeus
SYNOPSIS: Forsake the living. Forget the dead. Fear the children… The brand new chilling page-turner from the master of horror
A TERRIFYING BIRTH A young woman is rushed to the hospital with stabbing pains in her stomach. The chief surgeon delivers a living child with the face of an angel and the body of a tentacled monster. The doctors are unanimous that the baby must die.
AN ESCAPE FROM THE DARK Engineer Gemma is plunged into darkness in a tunnel beneath London. Before she escapes, a strange green light illuminates a cluster of ghostly figures. Gemma is certain they were children.
A SUPERNATURAL THREAT DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel, of Tooting Police, have investigated the occult before – but nothing as strange and horrible as what they must confront in the city sewers. Down here in the dark, where the dead come back to life, witchcraft is the only force strong enough to save you…
Genre: Mystery, Thriller Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Publisher: Head of Zeus
SYNOPSIS: A high concept thriller from the author of The Package, international number one bestseller Sebastian Fitzek.
On average 23 people a year disappear from the world’s cruise ships. They are written off as accidents or suicides. But what if they’re not?
Five years ago Martin Schwarz, a police psychologist, lost his wife and son. They were holidaying on a cruise ship when they simply vanished. A lacklustre investigation was unable to shed any light on what happened – murder-suicide being the coroner’s verdict. It is a verdict that has haunted Martin ever since, blighting his life. But then he is contacted by an elderly woman, a writer, who claims to have information regarding their fate and wants him to come on board The Sultan of the Seas immediately.
She explains that his wife and son are not the only mother and child pair to have disappeared. Only a few months ago another mother and daughter also vanished. She believes there may be a serial killer on board.
But when the missing daughter reappears – carrying the teddy bear of Martin’s missing son – it becomes apparent that the truth could be much, much worse…Sebastian Fitzek is Germany’s most successful author. His books have sold 13 million copies, been translated into more than thirty-six languages and are the basis for international cinema and theatre adaptations. Sebastian Fitzek was the first German author to be awarded the European Prize for Criminal Literature. He lives with his family in Berlin.
SYNOPSIS: The must-read epic fantasy of 2021, as featured on Cosmo, Buzzfeed, BookRiot and Refinery 29. In this West African-inspired world, girls are outcasts by blood and warriors by choice, perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther.
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in Otera, a deeply patriarchal ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is tied to her purity, and she must bleed to prove it. But when Deka bleeds gold – the colour of impurity, of a demon – she faces a consequence worse than death. She is saved by a mysterious woman who tells Deka of her true nature: she is an Alaki, a near-immortal with exceptional gifts. The stranger offers her a choice: fight for the Emperor, with others just like her, or be destroyed…
Genre: Humorous Fiction, Religious Fiction Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Publisher: Picador
SYNOPSIS: Seventh Seltzer has done everything he can to break from the traditions of the past, but in his overbearing, narcissistic mother’s last moments, she whispers in his ear the two words he always knew she would: ‘Eat me’.
This is not unusual, as the Seltzers are Cannibal-Americans, a once proud and thriving ethnic group, but for Seventh, it raises some serious questions. Of practical concern, she’s six-foot-two and weighs over thirty stone – even divided up between Seventh and his eleven brothers, that’s a lot of red meat. Plus, Second keeps kosher, Ninth is vegan and Sixth is dead. To make matters worse, even if he can wrangle his brothers together for a feast, the Can-Am people have assimilated, and the only living Cannibal who knows how to perform the ancient ritual is their Uncle Ishmael, a far from reliable guide.
Beyond the practical, Seventh struggles with the sense of guilt and responsibility he feels – to his mother, to his people and to his unique cultural heritage. His mother always taught him he was a link in a chain, stretching back centuries. But he’s getting tired of chains.
Shalom Auslander’s Mother for Dinner is an outrageously tasty comedy about identity and inheritance, the things we owe our families and the things we owe ourselves.
SYNOPSIS: The BRAND NEW novel from the internationally bestselling author of THE LITTLE COFFEE SHOP OF KABUL
In Morocco, behind the ancient walls of the medina, secrets will be revealed . . .
Amina Bennis has come back to her childhood home in Morocco to attend her sister’s wedding. The time has come for her to confront her strict, traditionalist father with the secret she has kept for more than a year – her American husband Max.
Amina’s best friend Charlie, and Charlie’s feisty grandmother Bea, have come along for moral support, staying with Amina and her family in their palatial riad in Fès, and enjoying all that the city has to offer. But Charlie is also hiding someone from her past – a mystery man from Casablanca.
And then there’s Samira, the Bennis’s devoted housekeeper for many decades. Hers is the biggest secret of all – and the one that strikes at the very heart of the family . . .
From the twisted alleyways of the ancient medina of Fès to a marriage festival high in the Atlas Mountains, Deborah Rodriguez’s entrancing new bestseller is a modern story of forbidden love set in the sensual landscape of North Africa.
SYNOPSIS: Nessa McCormack’s marriage is coming back together again after her husband’s affair. She is excited to be in charge of a retrospective art exhibit for one of Ireland’s most beloved and enigmatic artists, the late sculptor Robert Locke. But the arrival of two outsiders imperils both her personal and professional worlds: a chance encounter with an old friend threatens to expose a betrayal Nessa thought she had long put behind her, and at work, an odd woman comes forward claiming to be the true creator of Robert Locke’s most famous work, The Chalk Sculpture.
As Nessa finds the past intruding on the present, she must decide whether she can continue to live a lie – or whether she’s ready to face the consequences once everything is out in the open. In this gripping debut, Danielle McLaughlin reveals profound truths about love, power, and the secrets that rule us.
SYNOPSIS: Soon to be a Netflix film starring Stranger Things‘ Millie Bobby Brown – this must-read psychological thriller, perfect for fans of One of Us Is Lying, will leave you guessing until the final page.
As an ex con artist, Nora has always got herself out of tricky situations. But the ultimate test lies in wait when she’s taken hostage in a bank heist. And this time, Nora doesn’t have an escape plan …
Meet Nora. Also known as Rebecca, Samantha, Haley, Katie and Ashley – the girls she’s been.
Nora didn’t choose a life of deception – she was born into it. As the daughter of a con artist who targeted criminal men, Nora always had to play a part. But when her mother fell for one of the men instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con herself: escape.
For five years Nora’s been playing at normal – but things are far from it when she finds herself held at gunpoint in the middle of a bank heist, along with Wes (her ex-boyfriend) and Iris (her secret new girlfriend and mutual friend of Wes … awkward). Now it will take all of Nora’s con artistry skills to get them out alive.
Because the gunmen have no idea who she really is – that girl has been in hiding for far too long.
SYNOPSIS: What secrets are hidden within the walls of a desolate farmhouse in a forgotten corner of Lapland?
Early spring has its icy grip on Ödesmark, a small village in northernmost Sweden, abandoned by many of its inhabitants. But Liv Björnlund never left. She lives in a derelict house together with her teenage son, Simon, and her ageing father, Vidar. They make for a peculiar family, and Liv knows that they are cause for gossip among their few remaining neighbours.
Just why has Liv stayed by her domineering father’s side all these years? And is it true that Vidar is sitting on a small fortune? His questionable business decisions have made him many enemies over the years, and in Ödesmark everyone knows everyone, and no one ever forgets.
Now someone wants back what is rightfully theirs. And they will stop at nothing to get it, no matter who stands in their way…
SYNOPSIS: The first time you see them, out for an evening walk on the cliffs, you’ll think they’re the perfect family. You’ll see a wife who looks so happy, strolling peacefully beside her husband in his dark winter coat, holding her daughter’s hand. But you have no idea what’s really happening in their house…
If you come a little closer you might hear the way the man speaks to his wife.
You might notice that the woman doesn’t have any close friends. That sometimes her husband doesn’t want her to leave the house. You might wonder if that’s a scar her beautiful daughter is hiding on her neck.
When you read the local newspaper and hear the news that the wife has fallen from the cliffs, you’ll question whether it was really an accident at all.
And when the husband starts dating someone new – a woman with the same long dark hair and big blue eyes as his wife – will you say something this time?
Because someone has to protect the little girl and stop history from repeating itself. And it may already be too late.
A thrilling and twisty tale, His Hidden Wife will keep you up all night, desperate to race through to its final conclusion. Readers of Gone Girl, The Couple Next Door and Lisa Jewell will be hooked.
SYNOPSIS: Hubert Bird is not alone in being alone. He just needs to realise it.
In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship and fulfilment.
But Hubert Bird is lying.
The truth is day after day drags by without him seeing a single soul.
Until, that is, he receives some good news – good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on.
Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out. Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all . . .
Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows will he ever get to live the life he’s pretended to have for so long?
From bestselling author Mike Gayle, All the Lonely People is by turns a funny and moving meditation on love, race, old age and friendship that will not only charm and uplift, but also remind you of the power of ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Book Series Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
SYNOPISIS: A serial killer who will stop at nothing…
The Killer His most valuable possession has been stolen. Now he must retrieve it, at any cost.
The Girl Angela Wood wanted to teach the man a lesson. It was a bag, just like any other. But when she opens it, the worst nightmare of her life begins.
The Detective A journal ends up on Robert Hunter’s desk. It soon becomes clear that there is a serial killer on the loose. And if Hunter can’t stop him in time, more people will die. Starting with Angela.
SYNOPSIS: Even when you come out of bloodshed and disaster in the end you have got to learn to live.
Winona is a young Lakota orphan adopted by former soldiers Thomas McNulty and John Cole. Living with Thomas and John on the farm they work in 1870s Tennessee, she is educated and loved, forging a life for herself beyond the violence and dispossession of her past. But the fragile harmony of her unlikely family unit, in the aftermath of the Civil War, is soon threatened by a further traumatic event, one which Winona struggles to confront, let alone understand.
Told in Sebastian Barry’s rare and masterly prose, A Thousand Moons is a powerful, moving study of one woman’s journey, of her determination to write her own future, and of the enduring human capacity for love.
SYNOPSIS: Recently out of a devastating love affair and mourning the loss of her beloved mum, Casey is lost. The novel she has been writing for six years isn’t going anywhere, her debt is soaring, and at thirty-one, with all her friends getting married and having kids, she feels too old for things to be this way.
Then she meets Silas. He is kind, handsome, interested. But only a few weeks later, Oscar – older, fascinating, troubled – walks into her life, his two boys in tow. Suddenly Casey finds herself at the point of a love triangle, torn between two very different relationships that promise two very different futures. And she’s still got to write that book…
SYNOPSIS: Meet Patrick Cooper– desperately down on his luck, and head-over-heels in unrequited love with his best friend Bridget. Meet Bridget’s sister, Emma Donovan -eternally single maker-of-cakes for many a happy couple, whilst never making it down the aisle herself.
Emma has four younger sisters, all of whom are married or getting married, and an Italian mother who can’t understand what is ‘wrong’ with her eldest daughter, who seems to be stranded on the shelf. Despairing of her own ability to find a suitable husband, Emma agrees to be part of a compatibility project to get married at first sight.
Meanwhile Cooper is struggling to get over his crush on Bridget and seems destined to stay firmly on the shelf too. Perhaps it’s time his fate was taken out of his hands…
Is happily-ever-after just about daring to take a chance, or do you need some extra magic to make love last?
Join Beth Moran, Cooper and the Donovan sisters on this life-affirming and uplifting tale of love, family, friendship, and risking it all for happiness.
SYNOPSIS: A compelling novel about family secrets and the legacy of trauma, set against the changing fortunes of an English seaside town, from award-winning writer Stella Duffy.
When Lucy discovers the body of her great aunt Kitty, with a puzzling note and empty pill bottles by her bed, she can’t believe that the formidable woman who held her family together is gone – or understand why she has taken her own life.
Lucy is determined to decipher Kitty’s final message. What she finds will overturn everything she thought she knew about her family.
Lullaby Beach takes the reader on a journey through three generations of a complicated, close-knit family whose joys and misfortunes track many of the most pressing conflicts and concerns of post-war Britain, from the promise and hypocrisies of 1950s London to the political divides and risky freedoms of the present day.
Told with the warmth, generosity and fierce passion which has won Stella Duffy so much praise over her career, Lullaby Beach is a brilliant story of loss and love, revenge and redemption.
SYNOPSIS: Tender, moving, heartfelt and warm (and sporadically scandalous and outrageous too), these are the private messages between people in love. Yet they are also correspondence between the rulers of nations.
From Henry VIII’s lovelorn notes to Anne Boleyn and George IV’s impassioned notes to his secret wife, to Queen Victoria’s tender letters to Prince Albert and Edward VIII’s extraordinary correspondence with Wallis Simpson – these letters depict romantic love from its budding passion to the comfort and understanding of a long union (and occasionally beyond to resentment and recrimination), all set against the background of great affairs of state, wars and the strictures of royal duty.
Here is a chance to glimpse behind the pomp and ceremony, the carefully curated images of royal splendour and decorum, to see the passions, hopes, jealousies and loneliness of kings and queens throughout history. By turns tender, moving, heartfelt and warm (and sporadically scandalous and outrageous too), these are the private messages between people in love. Yet they are also correspondence between the rulers of nations, whose actions (and passions) changed the course of history, for good and bad.
This morning I received your dear, dear letter of the 21st. How happy do you make me with your love! Oh! my Angel Albert, I am quite enchanted with it! I do not deserve such love! Never, never did I think I could be loved so much. Queen Victoria to Prince Albert (28 November 1839)