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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Giften by Leyla Suzan

Published: September 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this entertaining debut. Thank you to Pushkin Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

One girl takes on an oppressive system in this electrifying teen dystopia, set in a post-apocalyptic world sapped of natural resources
A BLIGHTED LAND
Ever since The Darkening, survival has been a struggle. The people of the Field toil on parched earth, trying to forge a life amid dwindling resources.

A GIFT
As one of the Giften, Ruthie is a saviour to her isolated community: her hands hold the rare ability to raise food from dead soil. But she is also its greatest danger.

A SINISTER REGIME
In the City lurks a dark army, intent on hunting Giften to harness their power, destroying all who stand in their way. With the threat growing ever stronger, Ruthie and her friends must leave behind all they have ever known and embark on a quest that will pitch them towards the City, and unknowable danger. One way or another, a battle is coming.

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MY REVIEW:

“When our world was destroyed, no thought was given to what might happen to people like us, the survivors.” 

Since The Darkening life has been a constant struggle. A fight to survive that is made even harder by those in power, who insist on taking a share of the food that the isolated communities grow. But nature has provided hope in the Giften: people whose hands hold the rare ability to make food grow from the parched earth. But the Giften are in danger, hunted by an army from the City who snatch them from their homes never to be seen again, leaving behind a trail of whispered rumours about their fate. 

When Ruthie shows signs of being Giften her mother is terrified. She forbids her from using her powers to avoid being betrayed by others in the Field and being taken by the MAGs. But her gift is ultimately revealed, so, along with her friends, Ruthie embarks on a perilous journey to find a place of safety. But will they be able to outrun those who hunt them? And just what is it that they want with the Giften?

“But it was the discovery of the Giften that changed everything —it read like finding out magic was real.”

Giften is an entertaining debut novel. Set in a post-apocalyptic world in the future, things such as an abundance of food, air travel and talking with people around the world are now merely stories of old passed down from previous generations. Unimaginable concepts in the world that the characters now live in. 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this book, but I liked the premise and decided to venture out of my comfort zone by reading it. It took a little while for me to get into, but once the world had been built and the stage set, I found it to be gripping and I sped through the remaining pages in a few short hours. It is a book that is written for young adults, and I think the target audience would enjoy it much more as it felt a little young for me. But I was able to recognise that I’m not the intended demographic and enjoy it for what it was.  

 “I didn’t know that monsters look just like the rest of us.” 

The story is told through the eyes of Ruthie, but we get glimpses of other people’s stories at the start of each chapter in the form of snippets of the stories Logan the Recorder has written down through the years. These help the story to slowly unfold as they give us an insight into the lives of the background characters and clues to parts of the mystery surrounding the Giften. I enjoyed this as it shows the importance and power of stories; how they shape our world and offer us valuable information about the past that we can learn from. 

Ruthie is a young girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders. When we meet her she is still reeling from the disappearance of her father, Dan, two years ago and her mother subsequently replacing him with a step-father, step-brother and half-brother, when her world is turned upside down even further by a violent illness that is actually her transition into Giften. Her life is now in danger and she’s forced to leave her home to survive, her terror, heartache and confusion leapt from the pages and my heart broke for this young girl who has been forced to leave everything she’s ever known. 

“You have no idea what’s coming.”

The author brings the post-apocalyptic world to life with vivid and evocative imagery and storytelling. I could see the barren land and feel the isolation that came together to create a claustrophobic and fearful atmosphere. It is a commentary on global warming and warning of what our world could ultimately look like that manages to deliver its message without becoming preachy. 

Giften is a great start to a new series that has the potential to be a huge hit amongst young adult readers. If you liked The Hunger Games then you will probably enjoy this book. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Leyla Suzan is an editor who has worked in publishing for many years, editing some of our most beloved authors. Now a freelancer, while she’s not writing or editing books, she can be found in her studio making woodcut prints. Giften is her debut novel.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: I Let Him In by Jill Childs

Published: August 17th, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Psychological Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this entertaining thriller. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Last night I dreamt about the past for the first time in years. I thought I was over it. I thought I’d finally learned to block it out. But I’m right back there, all over again, inside the house. The room is dark, the corners black with shadow. Then, the scream…

When Louise Taylor is hit by a car as she cycles home in the rain following a fight with her boyfriend, she’s left hurt, frightened and confused. And worse, something tells her it wasn’t an accident.

Housebound in her cramped apartment while she recovers, flashbacks to her traumatic childhood begin to resurface, threatening her hard-won self-control. Desperate to keep busy and distract herself, she hires Edward – a friend of a friend – to repaint her shabby living room and, hopefully, keep the past at bay.

But when Edward arrives – quiet, considerate and handsome – Lou instantly feels like they’ve met before, that she can trust him. Tired of carrying the guilt alone after all these years, Lou tells Edward her secret. And to her surprise, he doesn’t pull away. He doesn’t gasp, or grimace or preach about what she did. And Lou is so relieved to finally be free of this burden at last.

Until she learns that Edward has a secret of his own. One he’s been waiting a very, very long time to tell…

A gripping domestic drama from a USA Today bestselling author full of twists and turns, and with a very unexpected ending. Fans of Amanda Prowse, Kerry Fisher and Jodi Picoult won’t be able to stop turning the pages.

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MY REVIEW:

Recovering from a nasty hit and run, Louise hires decorator Ed to spruce up her apartment. The two are immediately drawn to one another, something they try to resist, but the connection proves too strong. But what is it that bonds them? Could it be the dark, shameful secrets that they both never speak of? Or something even more sinister…

Intriguing, tense and atmospheric, I Let Him In is an entertaining read. A sense of mystery and dread lingers over the pages as the story is told by Louise in the present day, with flashbacks to Ed’s time serving in the Army in Afghanistan. I liked this as it helps Ed remain an enigma, someone whose true self and motivations you really don’t know, his story slowly unfolding. It keeps suspicions high and tension tight, particularly as the two of them get closer. 

The suspense increases when Louise’s memories of the accident descend into flashbacks of a night twenty years ago when she did something terrible, something she can never take back and doesn’t speak of, and we learn that Ed is hiding his own shameful secret. What are they hiding? Are they who they appear to be or someone completely different? I loved this unpredictability and how we don’t know who to trust, especially with Louise’s ex Toby lingering in the background trying to win her back in all the wrong ways. 

The only qualm I have with this story is the sudden shift it takes at the end. I am still not sure what I think of it, whether it is a stroke of genius or too much of a bolt from the blue. I think it’s a twist that many will love and personally one I just need to sit with for a while. It makes the book a bit of a thinker, and one that definitely sticks in your mind.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. Fast paced, tense and mysterious, it keeps you on your toes right until the final pages. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jill has always loved writing – real and imaginary – and spent 30 years travelling the world as a journalist, living overseas and reporting wherever the news took her. She’s now made her home in London with her husband and twin girls who love stories as much as she does. Although she’s covered everything from earthquakes and floods, riots and wars, she’s found some of the most extraordinary stories right here at home – in the secrets and lies she imagines behind closed doors on ordinary streets, just like yours.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Face at the Window by Ruby Speechley

Published: July 28th, 2021
Publisher: Hera Books
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction, Noir Fiction, Urban Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Kindle

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this tense and twisty thriller. Thank you to Sarah at Books on the Bright Side for the invitation to take part and Hera Books for the gifted eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

They’re in your house.

They want your life.

And now, they have your baby.

To the world, I’m @HappyWife. Online, people only see my picture-perfect home, my handsome husband, Nick, and my beautiful baby, Thomas.

They don’t see the real Gemma Adams. They don’t see my past, the dark secrets I’m hiding in my marriage. They don’t see the fear I live in every single day.

But I know someone is watching me. And now, they’ve taken Thomas.

I just don’t know why.

But I’m going to stop at nothing to get my baby back.

Even if it destroys everything I’ve got to find him.

A compelling thriller, packed with suspense – fans of K.L. Slater and Lisa Jewell won’t be able to put it down.

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MY REVIEW:

“A few nice photos of your house and they think they know you, that you must be living the perfect life. If only they knew.”

TW: Domestic abuse

Gemma and her husband Nick seem to have the ideal life: a happy marriage, picture-perfect home and a beautiful newborn baby. But behind the shiny image they portray to the outside world is something much darker. A life where Gemma lives in fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and Nick has all the control. 

Scarlett and her lover Cole are soulmates. As soon as his divorce is finalised they are going to be together properly. Forever. At least that’s what he’s promised her. So when he suddenly ends their relationship Scarlett is shocked, and determined to win back her man. But as she starts to think that he has in fact lied to her, her thoughts instead turn to revenge. Leading her to take drastic and shocking action to make him pay for what he did. 

This is one of those books that’s a bit like an iceberg: what you see at first is only a part of what is actually going on beneath the surface. Taut, tense and twisty, the author shifts seamlessly between timelines to slowly unveil the layers in the story, weaving them together to craft a complex and intricate thriller. And while there were some things that were easy to predict, there were so many unanswered questions, unexpected revelations and misdirection that it kept you on your toes and avoided feeling predictable. 

Gemma and Scarlett felt like they could be any young woman you know.  They are close in age but their lives couldn’t be more different, a contrast that is compelling. Gemma in particular was very likeable and reading her felt like I could have been reading about myself many years ago. I just wanted to help her break free of Nick’s grasp. Scarlett had her charms, but she also did a lot of messed up things in the name of revenge that disturbed me. But while the author doesn’t make excuses for her, she does show the reader her motivations, helping us to understand her behaviour. I found myself often empathising with her, even if I didn’t agree with what she was doing. Then there’s Nick; a vile, abusive man who made my stomach churn and blood boil. The author got the mix of charm and viciousness down to perfection so you could understand both how Gemma fell in love with him and why she was so scared. 

The author explores the topic of domestic violence and coercive control in a multitude of ways throughout this book. She looks at how people find themselves in these kinds of relationships, what it is like to live in a relationship dominated by escalating abuse and control, and the aftermath of abuse and what that means for those who survived. As a domestic abuse survivor I appreciated the honesty and sensitivity with which she wrote. It is clear that she has done her research and was so realistic that it did bring back memories of my own experience. But it is also a book that educates and makes you think, helping those who don’t have any experience of these kinds of situations to understand how easily anyone can find themselves trapped in that kind of life. I also liked that she showed the many facets of abuse and control and appreciated her note at the end with places to go to for help for those who need it. 

Unnerving, explosive and affecting, this was a gripping thriller that I’d recommend to fans of the genre. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ruby Speechley is the author of four psychological thrillers published by Hera Books. She loves writing about domestic situations with plenty of twists and secrets.

She was born in Portugal but has lived in the UK since she was three months old. She now lives in Cheshire with her husband and two of her three children and two dogs. She has an older son and grandson.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Woman in the Water by Kelly Heard

Published: July 22nd, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Noir Fiction, Gothic Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this atmospheric thriller. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

How do I keep my family safe, when I don’t know why we’re in danger?

When I get the call, the promise I made to myself to never return to Brightwater is shattered in an instant. The police tell me that my sister Holly slipped and drowned near the old boardwalk, that she was found floating in the dark water of the lake. I am now all my little nieces have left and I need to come home right away, to care for them.

But I know Holly would never have gone out on the water by choice.

As I approach the sign to Brightwater, painful memories start to flood back—of former friends, of my first heartbreak, of dangerous secrets I’d rather forget. Because deep down I know Holly’s death wasn’t an accident. It was a warning. A warning directly aimed at me and those I care about.

I always thought it was just me and Holly who knew what happened all those years ago. But it is clear someone else knows. And they want to make us pay.

But what if the little girls are next? I know I have to protect them. But there are secrets out there in the water. And every one of them could tear our family apart…

An absolutely gripping, twisty psychological thrillerthat will keep you turning the pages late into the night. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the TrainThe Woman in the Window and The Silent Patient.

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MY REVIEW:

Felicity Wheeler returns to her hometown after her sister Holly is found drowned in the swamp. The death is ruled an accident but Felicity knows her sister would never be out on that water, especially in a storm. Not after what happened all those years ago. Returning to take care of her nieces, Felicity begins to investigate her sister’s death. But there is someone who doesn’t want her to find out the truth. Someone who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets hidden. 

The Woman in the Water is a story full of secrets and suspicion. A story about a fractured family, tragic death and search for answers. Told in dual timelines we follow as Felicity returns to a hometown full of painful memories to fulfill her sister’s wishes and try to find out what really happened to her the night she died. It is well written, with some beautiful imagery and prose, and there is a ghostly atmosphere at times that I loved, though I would have liked even more. I did find it predictable in places, but the author leaves  you with enough doubt and questions to keep you turning the pages and invested in the story. 

I liked Felicity. She is flawed, layered and relatable. Before Holly’s death she hadn’t been home since leaving under a cloud of rumour and scandal. In the flashbacks the author slowly unveils the traumatic and life-changing events that broke the sisters’ relationship and led to Felicity leaving home so young. The author acutely conveys the torment and pain it causes Felicity to face her past and be back in her hometown. 

Dark, tense and twisty, this was a quick and entertaining read that fans of the genre will enjoy. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kelly Heard is a novelist from Afton, Virginia. She published poetry in literary magazines before signing her debut novel, Before You Go, with Bookouture.

Kelly prefers writing to most other pastimes, but you’ll occasionally find her in the garden, hiking, or exploring antique shops.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Suspects by Lesley Pearse

Published: June 24th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Saga, Thriller, Mystery, Domestic Fiction, Romance Novel, Historical Romance
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this entertaining whodunnit. Thank you to Megan at Midas PR for the invitation to take part and to Michael Joseph for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

What do you do when your dream home becomes your worst nightmare?
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Welcome to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect . . .

On the day Nina and Conrad Best move into their new home in picture-perfect Willow Close, a body is discovered.

Hurrying inside with their belongings, they see horrified neighbours gather around the police cordon – one of the residents has been attacked and brutally killed in the woods.

When police start to interview the residents of the Close, they soon discover each neighbour harbours their own secrets. Because everyone on the Close is far from what they seem.

Nina and Conrad thought they’d found their dream home.

But have they moved into a nightmare . . . ?

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MY REVIEW:

Welcome to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect…

Willow Close is a picture-perfect neighbourhood so idyllic that houses rarely come up for sale. Nina and Conrad feel lucky to have bought their new home on the close that backs onto a lush wooded area. But on the day they move in, the body of a young girl is discovered in the woods.

Thirteen-year-old Chloe Church had lived on Willow Close all her life and the residents are shocked to hear about her brutal murder in the woods that surround their homes. Suspicions quickly flare as neighbour suspects neighbour. And as the police investigate it soon becomes clear that Willow Close is a place full of secrets where many of the residents aren’t what they appear to be and anyone could be the killer…

Suspects is a steadily paced whodunnit with an atmosphere full of suspicion. An ensemble piece told in the third person, it reads like a darker version of Neighbours. The author introduces us to the residents of Willow Close, slowly unveiling the secrets they are hiding behind their picture-perfect facades: dodgy dealings, unhappy lives and crumbling marriages. I genuinely couldn’t pinpoint a suspect, instead being suspicious of everyone.

I admit that I struggled to get into the book at first. Focusing on everyone in the Close felt like it took away the tension and made it hard to connect with any of the characters. But about half way through the tension rises and I felt like I’d got to know the characters enough to care about them. It was at this point I felt like the murder became the focus of the story, rather than the drama of the lives of the residents, which also made it more gripping. 

The residents of Willow Close are a varied cast of characters. We get to know the life and backstory of each one in depth over the course of the book; some of which are wildly entertaining, while others are more mundane and ‘normal’. I loved Conrad and Nina and could have happily read more of the story from their perspective. I also had a soft spot for Janice, who was a warm and genuine character. The author wrote some fantastic villains and I often wanted to slap Trudy, Rose and Dee, with Dee being particularly callous, calculating and vile. 

This was my first foray into this author’s books and I would definitely read more. An entertaining story that explores what makes people tick and what is really going on behind our neighbours’ doors, I would recommend this for those who like their mysteries without the gore. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

International bestselling author Lesley Pearse has lived a life as rich with incidents, setbacks and joys as any found in her novels. After her mother died, Lesley spent three years in an orphanage before she was taken home when her father remarried. Resourceful, determined and willing to have a go at almost anything Lesley left home at sixteen. By the mid Sixties she was living in London, sharing flats, partying hard and married a trumpet player in a Jazz rock band. She has also worked as a nanny, a Playboy bunny and designed and made clothes to sell to boutiques. It was only after having three daughters that Lesley began to write. The hardships, traumas, close friends and lovers from those early years were inspiration for her beloved novels. She published her first book at 49 and has not looked back since. Lesley is still a party girl.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Murder at the Fair (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery Book 6) by Verity Bright

Published: June 15th, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this delightful cosy mystery. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Summer flowers, warm sunshine, a maypole dance and… is that another murder? A tricky case is afoot for Lady Swift!

Summer, 1921Lady Eleanor Swift, the best amateur sleuth in the country, is delighted to be in charge of the prize-giving at her village summer fair. But the traditional homemade raft race takes a tragic turn when the local undertaker, Solemn Jon, turns up dead amongst the ducks. Jon was the life of any party and loved by the entire village. Surely this was simply an awful accident?

But when a spiteful obituary is printed in the local paper, Eleanor realises there may be more to Jon’s death than first thought. Despite handsome Detective Seldon giving her strict instructions not to interfere, Eleanor owes it to Jon’s good name to root out the truth. So with her partner in crime, Gladstone the bulldog, Eleanor starts digging for clues…

When another local dies in a riding accident, the police refuse to believe he was murdered. But a second vindictive death notice convinces Eleanor of foul play. Solemn Jon’s assistant, a bullish banker and a majestic marquess make her suspect list, but it isn’t until she finds a dusty old photograph that she knows the true culprit behind both crimes. Then another obituary appears – her own! Can Eleanor nail the killer before she too turns up dead among the ducks?

An utterly compelling and charming cozy mystery! Pure delight for fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Lee Strauss.

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MY REVIEW:

Summer. 1921. Lady Eleanor Swift is the guest of honour at the village’s annual May Day Fair. But a fun day out soon turns into tragedy when the local undertaker is found dead in the reeds. What at first appears to be an accident, soon takes a more sinister turn after a snide obituary is published in the local paper. Sure that his death was no accident, Solemn Jon’s widow asks Eleanor to find the culprit and bring them to justice.

When another ‘accidental’ death occurs and is followed by another venomous obituary, Eleanor is sure the same person is responsible. But the police refuse to listen, leaving Eleanor and her butler Clifford with another mystery that needs to be solved. 

Witty and compelling, Murder at the Fair is another delightful and entertaining escapade that transports us back to what feels like a simpler time. As soon as I began reading I felt like I was enveloped in the warm and cosy atmosphere of the author’s prose. While this is only my second foray into the series, I look forward to reading them and immersing myself in the warm glow that they emanate. 

Eleanor Swift is a wonderful character. The ametur sleuth is funny, feisty, intelligent and vibrant. I love how she goes against the grain of what is expected of both women and her class at the time, giving the story a modern edge while also feeling authentically historic. I absolutely adore her and Clifford together. They are such an entertaining duo who I would love to solve a mystery with. 

A quick and readable cosy mystery that you can enjoy as either a standalone or part of the series, I loved this fun, sharp and uplifting tale. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Verity Bright is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing partnership that has spanned a quarter of a century. Starting out writing high-end travel articles and books, they published everything from self-improvement to humour, before embarking on their first historical mystery.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Apple Books
*These are affiliate links

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Blast: The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Published: April 27th, 2021
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Romantic Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Happy Publication Day to this beautiful book!

SYNOPSIS:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a sweeping romance rich with love and betrayal, with more than a dash of magic.

‘One of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long time’ MJ Rose, New York Times bestselling author of the Reincarnationalist series

They are the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most notable socialites, and this spring is Nina’s chance to join their ranks, courtesy of her well-connected cousin and his calculating wife. But the Grand Season has just begun and already Nina’s debut has gone disastrously awry. She has always struggled to control her telekinesis: the haphazard manifestations of her powers have long made her the subject of gossip – malicious neighbours even call her the Witch of Oldhouse.

But Nina’s life is about to change, for there is a new arrival in town: Hector Auvray, the renowned entertainer, who has used his own telekinetic talent to perform for admiring audiences around the world. Nina is dazzled by Hector, for he sees her not as a witch, but ripe with magical potential. Under his tutelage, Nina’s talent blossoms – as does her love for the great man.

But great romances are for fairy-tales, and Hector is hiding a secret bitter truth from Nina – and himself – that threatens their courtship.

The Beautiful Ones is a charming tale of love and betrayal and the struggle between conformity and passion, set in a world where scandal is a razor-sharp weapon.

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MY REVIEW:

“Nothing matters more than money to us, the Beautiful Ones who walk down these city streets in pristine gloves and silk-lined garments. You can give yourself the luxury of love because you are not one of us.”

The Beautiful Ones is a story of love, betrayal, society and duty. A love story that is familiar to us all: girl meets boy, girl falls in love, boy is in love with someone else, that someone else doesn’t deserve his love, all set in an Austen-esque era against a backdrop of high society inhabited by the Beautiful Ones, Losail’s elite socialites and the group that everyone wants to be part of.  

I was instantly captured by the book’s beautiful cover and intriguing synopsis, as well as rave reviews of the author’s back catalogue. It lives up to the expectation of beauty; from the glorious cover to the luxurious prose and evocative imagery. The lush, poetic prose washed over me as I read, immersing me in the opulent world of Losail’s high society. It is a world of plenty, where reputation is everything and there are rules they are expected to abide by, where scandals are feared and brandished as weapons in their power games. 

But while I was captured by its beauty, it did feel like there was something missing that prevented me from falling in love with this book. I felt like I was a little mis-sold on the magical elements of this story. It didn’t feel like there was really any fantasy element and while it is the thing that draws Hector and Nina to one another, it seemed like it had no real impact on the story. I was disappointed as I was looking forward to this part of the book, but think it would have been better to either remove it, or focus on it more.

My favourite character was Nina – a sweet, innocent, naive and romantic young girl. She doesn’t accept the boundaries and expectations of society, instead pushing back and being determined to be herself. I loved this about her and it made me root for her from the start. Hector is the first person she has met who not only accepts her for who she is, but also sees her powers as something wonderful to be nurtured. So it is hardly a surprise when she falls head over heels in love with him. I found Hector to be a nuanced character that I had mixed feelings for. But I did like his arc over the course of the book and enjoyed him and Nina together, how she helped him want to be a better person, and the things they taught each other. 

Valerie is the villain of the story. Though outwardly she is described as the most beautiful creature anyone has ever seen, it is quickly apparent that darkness lurks beneath her beauty. Rotten, vicious and vile, she will stop at nothing to get what she wants and takes pleasure in hurting those in her way. She was brilliantly written, as were the rest of this eclectic cast of characters that inhabited Losail. 

An issue at the heart of this book is how the women have no real agency, their families expecting them to acquiesce to their wishes even at the cost of their own happiness. The author explores this through our two main female characters, giving them very different experiences. Valerie was forced to marry someone she didn’t like out of duty to her family, while Nina is given the freedom to choose who she would like to marry. This makes an impact of how they see the world, giving them diverging views on life and shaping their overall character. I found this both fascinating and heart-rending. It was impossible not to feel sad for Valerie at the path she’d been forced to take and the unhappiness it had brought her, though I still feel her villainy was a choice she made. 

Entertaining and dramatic, this is a beautifully written love story that I would recommend if you enjoy historical or romantic fiction. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Rating:  ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, about music and magic, won a Copper Cylinder Award. Gods of Jade and Shadow was the 2020 American Library Association Reading List winner in the Fantasy category and won the 2020 Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Mexican Gothic won a Pacific Northwest Book Award and made many best of the year lists.

She has edited several anthologies, including She Walks in Shadows (World Fantasy Award winner, published in the USA as Cthulhu’s Daughters), and others. Silvia is the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press. She co-edited the horror magazine The Dark with Sean Wallace from 2017 to 2020. She’s a columnist for The Washington Post and reviews books for NPR.

She has an MA in Science and Technology Studies from the University of British Columbia. Her thesis can be read online and is titled “Magna Mater: Women and Eugenic Thought in the Work of H.P. Lovecraft.”

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Thank you to Jo Fletcher Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book. Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Source by Sarah Sultoon

Published: April 15th, 2021
Publisher: Orenda Books
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Political Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

A young TV journalist is forced to revisit her harrowing past when she’s thrust into a sex-trafficking investigation in her hometown. A startling, searing debut thriller by award-winning CNN journalist Sarah Sultoon.
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1996. Essex.
 Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…

2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier…

As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth … and justice.

A riveting, searing and devastatingly dark thriller, The Source is also a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience … an immense, tense and thought-provoking debut that you will never, ever forget.

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MY REVIEW:

The Source is a story of survival and strength, of power, abuse and corruption, and of finally finding justice. It is a story of a cesspit of evil and the nefarious characters that can hide behind a mask of authority and respectability; and a story of the courage and resilience of those who were their prey. 

It is told in three parts and in two timelines: in 1996. 13-year-old Carly is living on an army base with her mum and baby sister. Her world is one of neglect and doing whatever it takes to survive. She begins partying with the squddies in the barracks, turning to drinking, drugs and sex to escape the realities of her life. But things take an even darker turn and Carly finds herself embroiled in something much bigger, scarier and more powerful than she anticipated.  

In 2006, journalist Marie is taking part in her first undercover case. But after she and her team successfully get the evidence they need to a expose sex trafficing case, the Met quashes their story by announcing new evidence in Operation Andromeda: the investigation into sexual abuse in the army a decade earlier. Moving seamlessly between the two narratives, the author weaves the two stories together as secrets are exposed and the fight for long-overdue justice continues. 

Sultoon writes unflinchingly but with sensitivity. While it is horrifically authentic, it is never graphic, focusing instead on the emotions of the characters to tell the story. I was particularly drawn to Carly and her little sister Kayleigh. They are so evocatively written that you can feel their pain as if it’s your own and I wanted to reach in and save them from the neglect and nightmare that was their life. 

Unsettling, raw and close to the bone, this isn’t an easy read. This is a book that will elicit strong emotions: heartbreak, shock, outrage, disgust. If I’m honest, I might not have picked it up if I’d known the subject matter ahead of time, and there was a point I wasn’t sure if I could keep reading, but having finished I’m glad I kept going. 

The Source is a fast-paced, eye-opening and compassionate exploration of some of the darkest aspects of our society by a talented author. A striking debut. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

TW: Sexual abuse, child abuse, eating disorders 

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if … 

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Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in this tour and to Karen at Orenda Books for the eBook ARC. Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Girls from Alexandria by Carol Cooper

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Agora Books
Format: Kindle (Paperback published April 29th)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Crime Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Historical Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this evocative novel. Thank you to Peyton at Agora Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘A compelling, multi-layered read – equal parts funny, frank and sinister’ – Fiona Valpy, author of The Dressmaker’s Gift

Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.

Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.

Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.

Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.

Set against the lush and glamorous backdrop of 20th century Alexandria, Carol Cooper’s third novel is equal parts contemporary mystery and historical fiction: a re-coming of age story about family, identity, and homeland.

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MY REVIEW:

Seventy-year-old Nadia is in a London hospital and not quite sure what’s going on. Her memory isn’t what it used to be, and she keeps getting confused and misremembering. But one thing she’s sure of is that she needs to find her sister Simone, who she hasn’t seen in fifty years. The problem is, no one else believes Simone exists. Well, no one except the lovely nurse Deidre, who tries to help her find her sister before it’s too late.

The author opens the book talking about how her inspiration for the story came from her own memories of growing up in Alexandria and you can really feel that authenticity radiating from the pages. The author offers the reader not only an insight into the cultural and political landscape of Egypt, but also an authentic perspective on how it feels to grow up in Alexandria, its multiculturalism and verve oozing from the pages. It is a fascinating, educational and thought-provoking read, the author touching on a variety of subjects such as family, identity, loss, loneliness and female empowerment. 

Nadia is a character I won’t soon forget. It is impossible not to feel for her lying in hospital distressed, confused and alone. But there is so much more to her.  She is a nuanced, funny, compelling and feisty character who is determined to find her sister by solving the brief, cryptic messages she wrote on decades-old postcards; even learning how to use the internet to search for answers. I enjoyed following her through timelines, countries and cultures as she revisited old memories and searched them for any small clue that might lead her to her beloved sister. 

I will admit that it took me a little while to get into the rhythm of this story. The huge shift between the bleak British hospital where Nadia languishes alone and confused and the striking, sunny backdrop of Alexandria was difficult to follow at first, particularly as the flashbacks don’t follow a chronological order. But once I did I was engrossed, lost in Nadia’s story and fully invested in her search for Simone. 

This novel is unlike anything else I’ve read. Merging historical fiction, mystery and coming-of-age fiction,, the author has crafted a multilayered, evocative and affecting story that will linger long after reading. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Carol graduated in medicine from Cambridge University. She then spent time in different hospital specialities, including orthopaedic surgery and rheumatology, before entering general practice when her first son was born.

Carol’s journalism and broadcasting developed in tandem with GP work, and she is now well-known as a media medic. She writes for The Sun newspaper and other titles, and broadcasts on TV and radio on topical health issues.

Many of Carol’s non-fiction books are on child health and parenting, such as the much-loved guide Twins & Multiple Births, and the titles combine her professional expertise and her personal experience as a mother. As co-author of the book General Practice at a Glance, Carol won a British Medical Association book award in 2013. A companion volume, General Practice Cases at a Glance, appeared later.

Carol’s frivolous side has never been far from the surface. She became a columnist for Punch magazine and her articles can still be read in dentists’ waiting rooms. Her contemporary novels One Night at the Jacaranda and Hampstead Fever are also infused with a sharp wit. Her next novel, The Girls from Alexandriais due to be published in April 2021.

At Imperial College, London, Carol teaches medical students consultation skills, clinical reasoning, and medicine in the media. 

Carol is a Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, a trustee of Action on Pre-Eclampsia, an ambassador for Lucy Air Ambulance for Children, and honorary consultant in family medicine for the Twins Trust (formerly Tamba). She was elected President of the Guild of Health Writers in 2014.

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Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Into The Woods by David Mark

Published: January 21st, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Format: Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller

Happy Publication Day David Mark! Thank you Jade at Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

If you go into the woods, you’re in for a dark surprise.
Thirty years ago, three girls followed a stranger into the woods. Only two returned. The surviving pair have never been able to remember what happened or what the fate of the third girl was. Local rumours talk of hippies and drugs and mystic rituals, but no one has learned the truth.

This story is just what Rowan Blake needs. He’s in debt, his journalistic career is in tatters – as well as his damaged body – and he’s retreated to the Lake District to write. Yet even Rowan isn’t prepared for the evil he is about to unearth, for the secrets that have been buried in that wood for far too long…


MY REVIEW:

“You can weave the most extraordinary tapestry out of lies but one loose thread and it all comes apart.” 

This is a story of decades-old secrets, missing teenagers, corruption, shamans, and maybe even murder…

Thirty years ago, three girls followed  a stranger into the woods. Only two returned. And they can’t remember what happened, only that everyone seems to want them to forget. Now pieces are coming back and one of them decides to search for the truth.

It’s just the story that down on his luck journalist Rowan Blake needs to reverse his fortune. But he is unprepared for the dark secrets he is about to unearth in the woods. Or what others will do to keep them there.

Dark, chilling, sinister and hauntingly atmospheric, this sent shivers down my spine from the start. It has a strangeness that I found fascinating, even if it did get a little too bizarre at times towards the end. The author’s eerie prose and vivid imagery drew me deeper into the story and compelled me to keep reading as I waited on tenterhooks to learn the truth about what happened in the woods thirty years ago.

The story is told in dual timelines: Rowan is our main narrator in the present, while Violet is the main voice we hear in flashbacks that tell the story leading up to the girls’ disappearance. I found both narrators intriguing, but Violet was the one who’s chapters I enjoyed most of all. I thought the author captured the voice of an antagonistic, troubled and angry teenage girl to perfection. We don’t meet Violet in the present day as more than an off-screen character for most of the book which gives her an air of mystery and allows us to really connect with teenage Violet. Rowan is equally unlikable but compelling; a man at his lowest ebb when we meet him. I enjoyed that the author was brave enough to make both main characters quite unlikable. It’s a risk as that can make it hard to enjoy the book, but he did it so well that it made it a more interesting read. 

Absorbing, eerie, twisty and suspenseful, this is a gripping thriller that I would recommend. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5


MEET THE AUTHOR:

David spent more than fifteen years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with the Yorkshire Post – walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels.

His writing is heavily influenced by real life and have been universally praised for their originality, authenticity and heart. Industry bible Kirkus Reviews said that ‘to call David Mark’s novels police procedurals is like calling the Mona Lisa a pretty painting’. He has been championed by such industry luminaries as Val McDermid, Peter James, Mick Herron and Martina Cole.

He has written eight novels in the McAvoy series: Dark Winter, Original Skin, Sorrow Bound, Taking Pity, Dead Pretty, Cruel Mercy, Scorched Earth and Cold Bones as well as two McAvoy novellas, A Bad Death and Fire of Lies, which are available as ebooks. His first historical thriller, The Zealot’s Bones, was a Sunday Times Book of the Year. With publishers Severn House, he has written the critically-acclaimed The Mausoleum, A Rush of Blood, Borrowed Time and Suspicious Minds.

Dark Winter was selected for the Harrogate New Blood panel (where he was Reader in Residence) and was a Richard & Judy pick and a Sunday Times bestseller. Dead Pretty was long-listed for the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger in 2016, as was Cold Bones in 2019.

David’s Radio 4 drama, A Marriage of Inconvenience, aired last year. His first novel was adapted for the stage and was twice a sell-out smash in Hull. He has also written for the stage and has contributed articles and reviews to several national and international publications. He is a regular performer at literary festivals and is a sought-after public speaker. He also teaches creative writing.

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