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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.”

Website |Instagram |Twitter |Facebook

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BUY THE BOOK:

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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

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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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BUY THE BOOK:

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

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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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Her Sister’s Child by Alison James

Published: November 26th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction

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

SYNOPSIS:

She rolls over and reaches for her instinctively: her baby. Her hand hits air and flaps redundantly. She stumbles out of bed and switches on the light. But this only confirms it. The baby is gone. Someone has taken her.

Sixteen years ago, Lizzie Armitage woke to find her newborn baby gone. Just days later, Lizzie was dead.

Her sister Paula swore she would do everything she could to find the child. If she hadn’t promised to keep Lizzie’s pregnancy secret, maybe the baby wouldn’t have disappeared. And maybe Lizzie would still be alive. But, in nearly a decade, Paula’s never found any trace. Until now

When Paula bumps into an old friend from the past, she realises she wasn’t the only one who knew about her sister’s child. Someone knows what happened that day. Someone knows where Lizzie’s baby went.

But can Paula find out the truth before another family is ripped apart?

A twisty, unputdownable psychological thriller that will keep you hooked until the last page. Fans of Behind Closed DoorsFriend Request and The Girl on the Train will love Her Sister’s Child.

MY REVIEW:

“But the baby is gone. Someone has taken her.”

Her Sister’s Child is a domestic thriller told from the point of view of three women – Paula, Charlie and Marian. Moving between timelines, it tells the story of a tragic death and the search to find out the truth about a baby who went missing sixteen years ago.

A quick and easy read, I flew through this book in just a few hours. Though there were some issues with the novel – it felt a little predictable and confusing at times as it shifted between characters and timelines – it captured my attention for the first page and held some surprising twists along the way.

The characters are well written and each of the protagonists are flawed and complex. There were times they’d pull on my heartstrings and others I’d want to shake some sense into them. Their connection might seem obvious, but the full picture of how these women are linked is more intricate than it first appears and there are plenty of shocking revelations as the full picture is slowly unveiled.

A moving, compelling and twisty thriller, this is a great read for anyone who enjoys this genre.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

Trigger Warning: Infant death, infertility, alcoholism

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Born in the Cotswolds, Alison spent most of her formative years abroad. She studied languages at Oxford, then became a journalist and author, returning to university after her two children to take a law degree. After a three-year stint as a criminal paralegal, Alison worked as a commercial copywriter and then a TV storyliner, before coming full circle to write fiction again.

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One By One by Ruth Ware

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller

Happy Publication Day to this entertaining cosy mystery. Thank you to Graeme at Vintage for my gifted copy.

SYNOPSIS:

Snow is falling in the exclusive alpine ski resort of Saint Antoine, as the shareholders and directors of Snoop, the hottest new music app, gather for a make or break corporate retreat to decide the future of the company. At stake is a billion-dollar dot com buyout that could make them all millionaires, or leave some of them out in the cold.

The clock is ticking on the offer, and with the group irrevocably split, tensions are running high. When an avalanche cuts the chalet off from help, and one board member goes missing in the snow, the group is forced to ask – would someone resort to murder, to get what they want?

MY REVIEW:

“Of all the ways I was expecting this week to go, I never imagined this unfolding horror.”

After collecting all the author’s previous books only to have them languish on my shelves unread, I was excited to finally read a Ruth Ware book. Set in the exclusive French ski resort of Saint Antoine, the book opens with a BBC article reporting on the deaths of four Britons after an avalanche traps them in a ‘house of horrors’.

The story then goes back to five days earlier when the shareholders and staff of Snoop, the latest hot music app, arrive for a week-long retreat. But there are hidden agendas and it seems someone will do anything to protect their own interests. As the snow falls, all we can is do is watch as the nightmare unfolds and the guests are picked off one by one…

“She sent her in like a lamb to the slaughter. What she didn’t know was that she was no lamb.”

I’d heard some mixed reviews for this one so I went into it with a little trepidation. But I enjoyed this book, which I’d class as more of a cosy mystery than a thriller. Setting a story in a ski resort during an avalanche adds a great layer of tension and claustrophobia as there is no escape, making everything a possible case of life and death, even without the addition of someone murdering the guests.

I had a few ideas about who the culprit might be, but I think the author did a great job of including some convincing red herrings that avoided making their identity obvious. The characters are exactly who you’d expect to find working for a new techy company and I liked the author’s decision to make two of the characters who didn’t really fit in with that world the narrators. I liked Erin and enjoyed her chapters most of all, though Liz is someone who’s supposed to be a bit of an enigma and that you’re supposed to find hard to warm to.

I’d recommend this to anyone looking for an easy to read and enjoyable mystery.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ruth Ware is an international number one bestseller. Her thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs Westaway and The Turn of the Key have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the Sunday Times and New York Times. Her books have been optioned for both film and TV, and she is published in more than 40 languages. Ruth lives near Brighton with her family. 

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The One Before by Miranda Smith

Published: November 4th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for The One Before which is a little late due to illness. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

I love him. I trust him… But what if I’m wrong?

Whisper Falls is a fresh start for Madison and her fiancé Cooper. The safe, quiet town on the shores of a beautiful lake is the perfect place to spend the rest of their lives.

But then Madison learns that Cooper’s high-school girlfriend Celia disappeared after a party. Three days later, her body was found in the lake.

And the town thinks it wasn’t an accident.

Madison loves Cooper, but she can’t help wondering. She has to know the truth.

But if she starts asking questions, what other secrets will be revealed? Will she meet the same fate as the woman who came before her?

A dark, gripping psychological thriller with a brilliant twist, The One Before is perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter, Gillian Flynn and Rachel Caine.

MY REVIEW:

“I know he killed my daughter, and one day I’m going to make him pay.”

Madison has moved to her fiancé Cooper’s small hometown of Whisper Lake only to find it haunted by the ghost of his high-school girlfriend Celia who was found dead in the lake over a decade ago and full of the suspicions of those who still believe he was to blame. 

Helena is sure that Cooper Douglas murdered her daughter and has spent years biding her time, just waiting for the moment she can take her revenge. Now he’s back in Whisper Lake with his new fiancée, the time has finally come to make him pay. She needs to tell her the truth about what happened to the one before… 

Wow! What a twist! I did not see that coming! 

Told in the present day with flashbacks to the mysterious day that Celia died and Helena’s final memories of her daughter, the author weaves what appears to be a simple tale. Then just past the halfway point, this predictable but entertaining story turned into so much more as the author delivered an astounding twist that left my jaw on the floor. From that moment on I was captivated and unable to put the book down, reading into the early hours as I couldn’t rest without answers.

Madison, Helena and Celia are great focal characters with distinct voices. I particularly liked that Madison was a protagonist who followed the clues and investigated without a blind acceptance of what she was told and how she went in persuit of the truth no matter her fear or the consequences to her own life, which was on track to being perfect. I also liked how the flashbacks to Celia’s final day added a lot of tension and mystery to the story as it slowly unfolded.  

A cleverly crafted, layered and twisty novel, the author lurs the reader into a false sense of security during the slow-burning first half and then keeping them on the edge of their seat for the second half, not letting go until the final pages.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Miranda Smith writes psychological and domestic suspense. She is drawn to stories about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Before completing her first novel, she worked as a newspaper staff writer and a secondary English teacher. She lives in East Tennessee with her husband and three young children.

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The Night Away by Jess Ryder

Published: November 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Psychological Thriller

It’s a little late due to illness, but welcome to my stop on the tour for The Night Away. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

It was just one night away. I had no idea how devastating it would be…

My sister said I deserved a break. She offered to babysit so that my husband and I could have one night away, remember who we used to be before the sleepless nights.

But the next morning my phone rings. My sister is hysterical. Mabel’s cot is empty. My little girl is gone.

I race home with a horrible sick feeling flooding my stomach. The little sleepsuits still hang on the radiator but there is no gurgling or cooing on the baby monitor – just silence.

Now the police are questioning everyone. My sister, my husband, the girls from my baby group.

I want my little girl back more than anything and I will do whatever it takes. But I have a secret… Could the darkness in my past have put my baby at risk?

A truly gripping psychological thriller of manipulation and betrayal from bestselling author Jess Ryder. The Night Away will have you hooked until the final devastating revelation. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train or The Woman in the Window.

MY REVIEW:

“She has no idea that I’m in the park opposite, hiding in plain sight amongst the joggers and dog-walkers, the pram-pushers and duck-feeders. Watching.”

It was one night away just for her. A night to refresh and replenish herself from the stress and strain of new motherhood. But when her baby daughter Mabel is snatched from her cot while the babysitter sleeps, every parent’s nightmare becomes a reality for Amber.

This book jumps straight into the action as someone watches Amber, judging her parenting and calling her daughter ‘my little precious’. There is an immediate air of intrigue and foreboding that fills you with heart-stopping tension as you read helplessly as the mysterious person waits for their chance to strike. The author keeps up that knife-edge tension even after the abduction as we then try to figure out who took Mabel and why.

“Amber has never felt so lonely. She’s standing on an island, surrounded by a treacherous sea of secrets. Nobody can reach her.”

But this cleverly written book isn’t as easy to predict as it first seems. I was confident that I had this figured out early on, only for the author to throw me for a loop with a surprising reveal. But that was ok, I had it with my second guess. I knew the culprit this time. Wrong! With another shocking reveal she pulled the rug from under me. I was left totally clueless and scrambling to figure it out. I loved this as it put me in the same position as Amber, who has no idea who could be behind her daughter’s abduction. It is also clear that Amber is keeping some secrets that she’s terrified of being revealed. Could these secrets hold the key to her daughter’s abduction?

This was my first book by this author and I loved not only the intelligence and tension in her writing, but the emotion too. You feel the raw fear, heartache, anger and desperation radiating from the characters at each turn. I liked that every character was flawed and that they each had something that made you feel for them, even the abductor.

The Night Away is a compelling and twisty thriller that had me hooked from beginning to end. My only complaint is that the ending felt a little anticlimactic after the high tension of the rest of the book.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jess Ryder is the author of five psychological thrillers – ‘The Ex Wife’, ‘Lie to Me’, ‘The Good Sister’, ‘The Dream House’, The Girl You Gave Away’ and her latest, published November 2 2020 – ‘The Night Away’. All titles are published by Bookouture. She also writes as Jan Page. With many years’ experience as a scriptwriter, she loves watching television crime drama. Jess is a passionate reader and particularly enjoys thrillers.

Jess lives with her partner in London, UK and has four grown-up children.

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Gone Before by Sam Hepburn

Published: October 12th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction.

Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook arc.

SYNOPSIS:

‘My name is Phoebe Locklear. I think I’m your daughter.

I rehearse the words as I walk up the path, clutching a faded old photograph of a little girl with thick dark hair.When I knock, the door opens, and there she is: the woman I believe is my mother. The woman whose five-year-old daughter disappeared fifteen years ago.Had I known what would happen next, would I have knocked on that door? Would I take back the lives I’ve destroyed?But now that I’ve started, there’s no going back. I can’t stop until I find out who I really am.Even if the truth could kill me.

Twisty, addictive and utterly unputdownable, Gone Before asks what happens when your whole life turns out to be a lie. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Gone Girl and The Silent Patient.

MY REVIEW:

“Kay and Roz. Two mothers, two enigmas, two damaged women who each lost a child… Phoebe and Maya. Two little girls, both gone before their time.”

When her mother Roz dies, everything Phoebe Locklear has ever believed to be true is shown to be a lie. Faced with the realisation that the woman who raised her did nothing but deceive her, she tracks down Kay Duncan, the woman she’s now told is her real mother. But instead of answers, all Phoebe finds is more questions. So she goes in search of the truth, delving deeper into Roz and Kay’s past and the disappearance of Kay’s daughter Maya in the hope of solving not one, but two mysteries; what really happened to Maya Duncan, and who Phoebe really is.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

“If I’m not Phoebe Locklear and I’m not Maya Duncan, then who the hell am I?”

At the heart of this story is the question of identity. Phoebe is already feeling lost when she discovers that what she’d believed about her birth mother and the reason Roz had raised her was a lie, but when she finds out she isn’t Maya Duncan she is cast further adrift, with no clue whatsoever about her real mother or identity. Who we are is the core of our being, a vital part of our sense of self, and through Phoebe we see the emotional trauma and turmoil that is experienced when someone has lost that part of themselves and examines whether identity is something that is a part of our character or what we are told about ourselves.

Gripping and fast-paced, Gone Before combines mystery with a journey of self discovery that is full of twists, turns and shocking revelations. While parts felt a little predictable, there were also a lot of surprises, the author keeping me on my toes right until the unexpected conclusion.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sam Hepburn read modern languages at Cambridge University and, after a brief spell in advertising, joined the BBC as a General Trainee. She worked as a documentary maker for twenty years and was one of the commissioners for the launch of BBC Four. Since then, she has written several books, including psychological thrillers Gone Before and Her Perfect Life, and novels for young adults and children. She won the 2017 CWA Margery Allingham Short Story award and has been nominated for several other prestigious prizes, including the CILIP Carnegie Medal for her YA thrillers.

Sam has worked and travelled widely in Africa and the Middle East, and is a trustee of the Kenyan’s children’s charity, I Afrika. She now lives in London with her husband and children.

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Dead Woman Crossing (Detective Kimberley King Book 1) by J. R. Adler

Published: September 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Kindle, Audio, Paperback
Genre: Crime Thriller, Crime, Series

Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part in this blog tour and the eBook arc.

SYNOPSIS:

She threw open the door, running to the crib. When she looked inside, she gasped. The world around her went silent. Inside, there was nothing but a small stuffed elephant. Where was her baby?

When young, single mother Hannah is found murdered by the banks of a twisting Oklahoma creek, her one-year-old daughter sleeping in a stroller near her body, the small town of Dead Woman Crossing reels in horror.

Detective Kimberley King, recently relocated from New York to Oklahoma, with her young daughter Jessica, can’t ignore the similarity of Hannah’s death to the case of Katie James, the woman that the town of Dead Woman Crossing is named after. Katie was murdered in front of her small daughter in 1905, on the banks of the same creek, and it seems that someone is drawing inspiration from the crime. Could this killer be a copycat?

But as she interviews suspects, Kimberley is met with blank faces and closed lips. In a small town, people won’t talk and when she pursues a promising lead, her own family turn their back on her. Kimberley isn’t afraid to ask questions, but when she receives a threatening note, she realises that, as a single mother to a young daughter, she might be putting herself dangerously in the killer’s sights …

A gripping, atmospheric crime thriller inspired by true events, about a town on the edge of collapse and a murder that shakes the community. Dead Woman Crossing is perfect for fans of Rachel Caine, Lisa Regan and Jane Harper.

MY REVIEW:

Dead Woman Crossing is the first in a new crime series featuring Detective Kimberley King. 

The story opens with Kimberley and her 16-month-old daughter Jessica moving from New York to small-town Oklahoma. Kimberley is making the move to be closer to her mother and so she can work regular hours and spend more time with her daughter. 

But, just days into her new position, the town of Dead Woman Crossing is rocked when a young woman is found murdered in the same spot as the victim in the infamous unsolved case from which the town got its name. Could they have a copycat on their hands? And was it a stranger passing through or someone they know that killed the young mother? 

This book was a slow burner and nothing much happened for the first third. It plods along steadily, introducing us to the characters and laying the groundwork for the series. But when the young mother’s body is found, the pace quickens and I found myself pulled into the story as I tried to figure out who could have committed such an evil crime. 

From the start the author perfectly captures the claustrophobic, small-town vibe of Dead Woman’s Crossing and I could feel Kimberley’s struggle to adapt to living in a place that’s the polar opposite of New York; where no one is anonymous and everyone knows your business. When she discovers that it aso seeps into her police work, she is left frustrated with small town politics and gossip. 

While she was relatable, I did find Kimberley hard to warm to and found her quite spiky. But as more of her past was revealed, I found I enjoyed her more as a protagonist. She had that classic mix of independence, strength and determination, and a backstory that slowly unveils. Although at first the flashbacks that told her backstory seemed a little choppy, after a while it became clear that she is trying to process some serious trauma. She spent her childhood trying to avoid the wrath of her alcoholic father and is still grappling with her mother’s passive role. In addition, she is plagued by her flashbacks and nightmares of her last case in New York when a brutal serial killer left her taunting messages and evaded capture. It’s this case that gives her an increased determination to catch the person responsible this time around. 

Tense, twisty and intriguing, this is a great start to a new series. I loved that the author kept me guessing about the identity of the killer right up until the end. If you like mysteries that are more steadily paced and character-focused, then this is the book for you. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Originally from Wisconsin, J.R. Adler currently lives in Ithaca, New York with her husband, Drew, and her English Bulldog, Winston. When not writing, you can find her reading, playing board games, travelling, and binge watching The Office for the umpteenth time. 

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