Categories
Year In Review

My 20 Favourites of 2020

I can’t quite believe that 2020 is over! It’s been a strange year and I think we’re all hoping that 2021 brings better things and that we can soon get back to a new normal.

It was my second full year of blogging and once again I read more than I had even hoped to. I had set my Goodreads challenge at 120 and managed to read 177. That’s 27 more than in 2019.

As you can probably imagine, reading so many books made putting together my favourite twenty books of the year a difficult task. That last spot in particular had four other books that I really wanted to include and it was a real struggle to know which should make the final spot.

Here is my list in the order that I read the books:

  1. Firewatching by Russ Thomas
  2. The Foundling by Stacey Halls
  3. Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior
  4. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  5. The Switch by Beth O’Leary
  6. What’s Left Of Me Is Yours by Stephanie Scott
  7. What Lies Between Us by John Marrs
  8. Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten
  9. The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith
  10. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor
  11. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  12. All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle
  13. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
  14. Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons
  15. The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey
  16. The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby
  17. The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor
  18. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside by Jessica Ryn
  19. The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn
  20. The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Out of the final twenty, sixteen are by new to me authors, nine of them debuts. I found that 2020 was a strong year in terms of fantastic debuts, with others such as The Phone Box at the Edge of the World, Pine, The Memory Wood, The Wreckage, The Holdout, If I Can’t Have You, Dear Child, The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon, Shiver, The Push and The Thursday Murder Club standing out in particular.

So what almost made it? Contenders for this list included Three Hours, Pine, The Memory Wood, In Five Years, The Phone Box at the Edge of the World, If I Could Say Goodbye, The Push, Strangers, Dear Child, The Ice Cream Girls, All My Lies Are True and The Thursday Murder Club.

My favourite book of the year was not a difficult choice. Though there were many that were good enough to take the title, What’s Left Of Me Is Yours is the standout book of the year for me. I can honestly say that I’ve thought about this stunning debut every day since I read it in April. Do yourself a favour and read it if you haven’t already. I’m just hoping it’s not too long before I can read another book by the talented Stephanie Scott.

Did we have any of the same favourites? What was your book of the year? Let me know in the comments.

Keep an eye out for a post tomorrow with the top 20 lists of some other bloggers and which 2020 book we recommend most of all.

*Thank you to the tagged publishers for my #gifted ARCs.

Categories
Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Emma’s Anticipated Treasures – January 2021

A new year is about to start. And it’s one filled with fantastic books that I can’t wait to read. January is chock-full of amazing new releases; so much so that getting it down to 18 was incredibly hard.

The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr

Published: January 5th, 2021
Publisher: Quercus
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
In this blinding debut, Robert Jones Jr. blends the lyricism of Toni Morrison with the vivid prose of Zora Neale Hurston to characterise the forceful, enduring bond of love, and what happens when brutality threatens the purest form of serenity.

The Halifax plantation is known as Empty by the slaves who work it under the pitiless gaze of its overseers and its owner, Massa Paul. Two young enslaved men, Samuel and Isaiah dwell among the animals they keep in the barn, helping out in the fields when their day is done. But the barn is their haven, a space of radiance and love – away from the blistering sun and the cruelty of the toubabs – where they can be alone together.

But, Amos – a fellow slave – has begun to direct suspicion towards the two men and their refusal to bend. Their flickering glances, unspoken words and wilful intention, revealing a truth that threatens to rock the stability of the plantation. And preaching the words of Massa Paul’s gospel, he betrays them.

The culminating pages of The Prophets summon a choral voice of those who have suffered in silence, with blistering humanity, as the day of reckoning arrives at the Halifax plantation. Love, in all its permutations, is the discovery at the heart of Robert Jones Jr’s breathtaking debut, The Prophets.
Pre-order here.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Published: January 5th, 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Format: Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Gothic Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Romance, Mash-up Novel

SYNOPSIS:
A girl looking
for love…
When Jane, a broke dog-walker newly arrived in town, meets Eddie Rochester, she can’t believe her luck. Eddie is handsome, rich and lives alone in a beautiful mansion since the tragic death of his beloved wife a year ago.

A man who seems perfect…
Eddie can give Jane everything she’s always wanted: stability, acceptance, and a picture-perfect life.

A wife who just won’t stay buried…
But what Jane doesn’t know is that Eddie is keeping a secret – a big secret. And when the truth comes out, the consequences are far more deadly than anyone could ever have imagined…
Pre-order here.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
‘The women in this family, we’re different . . .’

Blythe Connor doesn’t want history to repeat itself.

Violet is her first child and she will give her daughter all the love she deserves. All the love that her own mother withheld.

But firstborns are never easy. And Violet is demanding and fretful. She never smiles. Soon Blythe believes she can do no right – that something’s very wrong. Either with her daughter, or herself.

Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining it. But Violet’s different with him. And he can’t understand what Blythe suffered as a child. No one can.

Blythe wants to be a good mother. But what if that’s not enough for Violet? Or her marriage? What if she can’t see the darkness coming?

Mother and daughter. Angel or monster?
We don’t get to choose our inheritance – or who we are . .
.
Pre-order here.

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.

The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.

They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.

Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.

You can read my review here and pre-order here.

The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting . . .

Pre-order here.

White Ivy by Susie Yang

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Wildfire
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Coming-of-Age Story

SYNOPSIS:
Ivy Lin was a thief. But you’d never know it to look at her…

Ivy Lin, a Chinese immigrant growing up in a low-income apartment complex outside Boston, is desperate to assimilate with her American peers. Her parents disapprove, berating her for her mediocre grades and what they see as her lazy, entitled attitude. But Ivy has a secret weapon, her grandmother Meifeng, from whom she learns to shoplift to get the things she needs to fit in.

Ivy develops a taste for winning and for wealth. As an adult, she reconnects with the blond-haired golden boy of a prominent political family, and thinks it’s fate. But just as Ivy is about to have everything she’s ever wanted, a ghost from her past resurfaces, threatening the almost-perfect life she’s worked so hard to build.

Filled with surprising twists, and offering sharp insights into the immigrant experience, White Ivy is both a love triangle and a coming-of-age story – as well as a dark glimpse at what can happen when we yearn for success at any cost.

Pre-order here.

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Piakus
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Gothic Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
You are cordially invited to play a game at Raven Hall . . .

When Beth was fourteen, she was invited into Raven Hall, a rambling, isolated manor house in the English countryside. The family who lived there were warm and welcoming, and Beth soon became firm friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even felt like she was truly part of the family . . . But then they asked her to play a very strange game – and nothing was the same again.

Now, after years of abandonment, Raven Hall has been restored to its former glory and is playing host to an evening of murder mystery . . . But why does the tragic past of this imposing house seem to have such a hold on everyone? Is this really just a game, or a murder mystery for real?

The guests are about to find out – with devastating consequences . . .
Pre-order here.

The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, Humorous Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
At nearly ninety, retired nature writer Hattie Bloom prefers the company of birds to people, but when a fall lands her in a nursing home she struggles to cope with the loss of independence and privacy. From the confines of her ‘room with a view’ – of the car park! – she dreams of escape.

Fellow ‘inmate’, the gregarious, would-be comedian Walter Clements also plans on returning home as soon as he is fit and able to take charge of his mobility scooter.

When Hattie and Walter officially meet at The Night Owls, a clandestine club run by Sister Bronwyn and her dog, Queenie, they seem at odds. But when Sister Bronwyn is dismissed over her unconventional approach to aged care, they must join forces – and very slowly, an unlikely, unexpected friendship begins to grow.

Full of wisdom and warmth, The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is a gorgeously poignant, hilarious story showing that it is never too late to laugh – or to love.
Pre-order here.

Victoria Park by Gemma Davies

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Mona and Wolfie have lived on Victoria Park for over fifty years. Now, on the eve of their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, they must decide how to navigate Mona’s declining health. Bookended by the touching exploration of their love, Victoria Park follows the disparate lives of twelve people over the course of a single year. Told from their multiple perspectives in episodes which capture feelings of alienation and connection, the lingering memory of an acid attack in the park sends ripples of unease through the community. By the end of the novel, their carefully interwoven tales create a rich tapestry of resilience, love and loss.

With sharply observed insight into contemporary urban life, and characters we take to our hearts, Gemma Reeves has written a moving, uplifting debut which reflects those universal experiences that connect us all.

Pre-order here.

Hidden Lies by Rachel Ryan

Published: January 14th, 2021
Publisher: Piatkus
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
All children have imaginary friends. It’s perfectly normal.

But when Georgina’s young son Cody tells her about his ‘New Granny’, a mysterious friend from the park, the words send shivers down her spine. Georgina’s beloved mother died only months ago.

Her husband Bren is certain the woman is an invention, Cody’s way of grieving for his grandmother, but there’s something in the way Cody talks about his new friend that feels so real.

Is someone out there, watching Georgina’s family from the shadows?

Is Cody’s imaginary friend not so imaginary after all?

Pre-order here.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Published: January 14th, 2021
Publisher: Viper
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
In a town full of secrets…
Someone was murdered.
Someone went to prison.
And everyone’s a suspect.
Can you uncover the truth?

Dear Reader – enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death.

Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What’s more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.

Throughout the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick’s life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered.

Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?

The standout debut thriller of 2021 that delivers multiple brilliant twists, and will change the way you think about the modern crime novel.
Pre-order here.

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor

Published: January 21st, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Horror Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death
30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace
Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide

Welcome to Chapel Croft.

For Rev Jack Brooks and teenage daughter Flo it’s supposed to be a fresh start. New job, new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn’t easily forgotten.

And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft’s history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome.

Yet right away Jack has more frightening concerns.

Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls?
Who’s sending them sinister, threatening messages?
And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself?

Chapel Croft’s secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn’t touch them if not for Flo – anything to protect Flo.

But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft – and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest . . .

You can read my review here and pre-order the book here.

Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Published: January 21st, 2021
Publisher: Headline
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.

How far would you go to win? Hyper-competitive people, mind games and a dangerous natural environment combine to make the must-read thriller of the year. Fans of Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by spectacular debut novel Shiver.

When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.

The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.

In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light.

You can read my review here and pre-order the book here.

Girl A by Abigail Dean

Published: January 21st, 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Crime Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
‘Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’

Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.

Beautifully written and incredibly powerful, Girl A is a story of redemption, of horror, and of love. If you liked Room, My Dark Vanessa and We Need to Talk About Kevin, you will love this book.
Pre-order here.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Published: January 21st, 2021
Publisher: Scribner
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Political Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A girl walks through the slums of Kolkata holding an armful of books. She returns home smelling of smoke, and checks her most prized possession: a brand-new smartphone, purchased in instalments. On Facebook, there is only one conversation.

#KolabaganTrainAttack

On the small, glowing screen, she types a dangerous thing…

‘ If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean that the government is also a terrorist?’

Set in contemporary India, A Burning is the story of three unforgettable characters, all dreaming of a better future, whose lives are changed for ever when they become caught up in the devastating aftermath of a terrorist attack.  

Jivan – a poor, young, Muslim girl, who dreams of going to college – faces a possible death sentence after being accused of collaborating with the terrorists.
Lovely – an exuberant hijra who longs to be a Bollywood star – holds the alibi that can set Jivan free, but telling the truth will cost her everything she holds dear.
PT Sir – an opportunistic gym teacher who once taught Jivan – becomes involved with Hindu nationalist politics and his own ascent is soon inextricably linked to Jivan’s fall.

Taut, propulsive and electrifying, from its opening lines to its astonishing finale, A Burning confronts issues of class, fate, prejudice and corruption with a Dickensian sense of injustice, and asks us to consider what it means to nurture big ambitions in a country hurtling towards political extremism.

A Burning is a novel for our times and for all time.
Pre-order here.

If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier

Published: January 26th, 2021
Publisher: Constable
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
A small town. Another missing woman. A mystery that needs solving . . .

Sera loves true crime podcasts. The mysteries become an unlikely comfort for her, and then an obsession.

So when Rachel, her favourite podcast host, goes missing from a small rural town in Northern California, Sera decides to act. She heads to the isolated ranch where Rachel disappeared, determined to discover what’s happened to her.

But the more Sera digs into this unfamiliar world, the more off things start to feel.

Because Rachel is not the first woman to vanish from the ranch, and she won’t be the last . . .

Rachel did try to warn her.
Pre-order here.

Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden

Published: January 28th, 2021
Publisher: Canongate
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Mrs Death has had enough. She is exhausted from spending eternity doing her job and now she seeks someone to unburden her conscience to. Wolf Willeford, a troubled young writer, is well acquainted with death, but until now hadn’t met Death in person – a black, working-class woman who shape-shifts and does her work unseen.

Enthralled by her stories, Wolf becomes Mrs Death’s scribe, and begins to write her memoirs. Using their desk as a vessel and conduit, Wolf travels across time and place with Mrs Death to witness deaths of past and present and discuss what the future holds for humanity. As the two reflect on the losses they have experienced – or, in the case of Mrs Death, facilitated – their friendship grows into a surprising affirmation of hope, resilience and love. All the while, despite her world-weariness, Death must continue to hold humans’ fates in her hands, appearing in our lives when we least expect her . . .
Pre-order here.

The Dressmaker of Paris by Georgia Kaufmann

Published: January 28th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Domestic Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
I need to tell you a story, ma chère. My story.

Rosa Kusstatscher has built a global fashion empire upon her ability to find the perfect outfit for any occasion. But tonight, as she prepares for the most important meeting of her life, her usual certainty eludes her.

What brought her to this moment? As she struggles to select her dress and choose the right shade of lipstick, Rosa begins to tell her incredible story. The story of a poor country girl from a village high in the mountains of Italy. Of Nazi occupation and fleeing in the night. Of hope and heartbreak in Switzerland; glamour and love in Paris. Of ambition and devastation in Rio de Janeiro; success and self-discovery in New York.

A life spent running, she sees now. But she will run no longer.
Pre-order here.

Are any of these books on your tbr? Let me know in the comments.

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Humorous Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for the outstanding debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Simon & Schuster UK for the gifted ARC of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

‘I want you to remember something, Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’
 
A compelling story perfect for fans of The Doll FactoryThe Illumination of Ursula Flight and The Familiars.
 
My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.
 
The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.
 
They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.
 
Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.

MY REVIEW:

“It’s been quite a life, the one I’ve had; I was there when they turned the world upside down, and I was there, right at the heart of it all, during the turbulent times that led us down the road to that day. So I got to thinking that I should write it all down, because there’s been a lot said about those times, and not all of it’s right.”

This book is a truly magnificent tale. In her outstanding debut, Frances Quinn takes you on an adventure alongside Nat Davey, a fictional character based on Jeffrey Hudson, court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria. Seamlessly merging fact with fiction, she weaves together historical events and moments from the lives of real people with those of her fictional characters and imagination. It’s so expertly done that I would have believed the entire book to be biographical is it wasn’t for her author’s note saying otherwise. 

This was a glorious novel. Immersive and absorbing, I was lost in Nat’s world and could see it all happening like it was on a movie screen – which it really does belong on, in my opinion. I loved that it is told like Nat is telling the reader his story, with him addressing us at times. It made it feel personal and added to the authentic feel.

“Because the way I look at it now, if we’d been just like other folks, what kind of lives would we have had?”

For a book to be truly memorable, you need memorable characters. And Nat is one of the most memorable characters I’ve come across. It is impossible not to love and root for this pint-sized man. His size alone in a time where being born different made you a freak makes him someone you can’t help but feel for. He faces judgement, ridicule and rejection from birth; even being sold by his father and given to the queen as a human pet. But what is one of the worst things to happen to him ultimately becomes the thing that leads to happiness in his life as he finds a home and even friendship in the queen’s service. His story is unforgettable and will stay with me.

While Nat is undoubtedly the star of the book, the cast of characters around him are equally as fascinating, richly drawn and memorable. There are some beautiful friendships and great life lessons hidden in this story. 

I could wax lyrical about this for a very long time. Instead, I’m going to say: READ THIS BOOK! You won’t regret it. The Smallest Man will be on my list of top reads of 2020 and I have no doubt it is the start of a fantastic career for the talented Ms Quinn. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Frances Quinn read English at Cambridge, and is a journalist and copy-editor. She completed the Curtis Brown Creative Course in 2015. The Smallest Man is her debut novel.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon |Waterstones |Hive |Google Books |Kobo

Categories
Cover Reveal

Cover Reveal: Her Last Holiday

I’m delighted to be working with Avon Books to reveal the cover for C. L. Taylor’s next novel Her Last Holiday.

🚨 The countdown to Her Last Holiday begins now! 🚨

WARNING: May cause addiction! Out April 29th, 2021.

SYNOPSIS:

You come to Soul Shrink to be healed. You don’t expect to die.

Two years ago, Fran’s sister Jenna disappeared on a wellness retreat in Gozo that went terribly wrong.

Tom Wade, the now infamous man behind Soul Shrink Retreats, has just been released from prison after serving his sentence for the deaths of two people. But he has never let on what happened to the third victim: Jenna.

Determined to find out the truth, Fran books herself onto his upcoming retreat – the first since his release – and finds herself face to face with the man who might hold the key to her sister’s disappearance. The only question is, will she escape the retreat alive? Or does someone out there want Jenna’s secrets to stay hidden?

The master of suspense is back. Prepare yourself for the latest heart-in-mouth rollercoaster ride from the Sunday Times bestseller.

You can pre-order the book here.

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor

Published: January 21st, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller, Horror Fiction

Thank you to Michael Joseph for my #gifted copy of this outstanding novel. This is one of my most anticipated books of 2021 and was joint BOTM for October.

SYNOPSIS:

500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death
30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace
Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide

Welcome to Chapel Croft.

For Rev Jack Brooks and teenage daughter Flo it’s supposed to be a fresh start. New job, new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn’t easily forgotten.

And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft’s history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome.

Yet right away Jack has more frightening concerns.

Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls?
Who’s sending them sinister, threatening messages?
And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself?

Chapel Croft’s secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn’t touch them if not for Flo – anything to protect Flo.

But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft – and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest . . .

MY REVIEW:

“If you see the burning girls, something bad will befall you.”

WHAT. A. BOOK! Creepy as hell and absolutely brilliant, this was an easy 5 stars from me.  

Chapel Croft, East Sussex, a small hamlet where everyone knows everyone; or at least they think they do. Rev Jack Brooks and her teenage daughter Flo have moved to the area in search of a fresh start. 

But soon Flo is plagued by visions of burning girls, and someone is sending them threatening messages. Jack realises they’ve come to a place not of solace, but one that is haunted by local legends and dark, sinister secrets. And there are some people who will do anything to keep it that way… 

To my shame, this is my first time reading a C. J. Tudor book despite the fact that I own them all. I am now wondering why I waited so long. I immediately fell in love with her writing style. The way she wove together chilling mystery, tension and humour that had me chuckling away to myself after just a few pages. I also loved the historical feel it had; The strange sights and events that are combined with local folklore make it feel like I was reading something based in fact. 

Spine-chillingly atmospheric, twisty, addictive, and thick with malevolence, The Burning Girls is a fiendishly delicious read. The definition of unputdownable, I devoured this in under a day and had a major book hangover when I was finished. 

An absolute must read. Just don’t turn out the lights… 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories

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Book Features Emma's Anticipated Treasures First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday – Girl in the Walls by A. J. Gnuse

“Listen. We know there are people who hide in our homes. They crawl into attic spaces. Tuck themselves behind yard equipment in garages. Flit between the rooms of the house just outside the reach of sight.
Some of us have found nests tucked in the back of bedroom closets behind hanging clothes. Or in the void space beneath the stairs. In that sliver between a living room sofa and the wall.
We have found half-empty water bottles and candy wrappers and the remains of leftovers of food cooked the day before. I found my own wrinkled clothes pressed flatt to the floor and stinking of someone else’s sweat. Look in the places behind the furniture. The spaces between beds. Every deep crevice of the house. No guarantee that once a space has been checked that someone will not sneak back into it.
You can stay home all day and still not find them. They are clever and patient and they know the insides of your home better than your ever will. But you have to find them.
You have to root them out.”

This week’s eerie first lines come from another of my most anticipated books of 2021, Girl in the Walls by A. J. Gnuse, which I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of this week.

SYNOPSIS:

She doesn’t exist. She can’t exist.

‘A uniquely gothic tale about grief, belonging and hiding in plain sight’ Jess Kidd, author of Things in Jars

’Those who live in the walls must adjust, must twist themselves around in their home,
stretching themselves until they’re as thin as air. Not everyone can do what they can.
But soon enough, they can’t help themselves. Signs of their presence remain in a house.
Eventually, every hidden thing is found.’

Elise knows every inch of the house. She knows which boards will creak. She knows where the gaps are in the walls. She knows which parts can take her in, hide her away. It’s home, after all. The home her parents made for her. And home is where you stay, no matter what.

Eddie calls the same house his home. Eddie is almost a teenager now. He must no longer believe in the girl he sometimes sees from the corner of his eye. He needs her to disappear. But when his older brother senses her, too, they are faced with a question: how do they get rid of someone they aren’t sure even exists?

And, if they cast her out, what other threats might they invite in?

Girl in the Walls is published by Fourth Estate on March 18th, 2021. You can pre-order your copy here.

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Book Features Emma's Anticipated Treasures First Lines Friday Support Debuts

First Lines Friday: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

Welcome to First Lines Friday. This is a tag that was started by Mrs Cooke’s Books on Instagram and I’ve been doing on there for a while. I decided to start posting here too, offering more than just one line and hoping to entice you into reading the books I share.

This week, I’m sharing the first line from one of my highly anticipated books of 2021:


“The bells rang out as they had done for hundreds of years, their sombre music sweeping over London with grace and stillness, bright as the moon which was till and ripe in the sky. Despite the late hour, the city below was restless, tossing and turning in the darkness with lights and buses and cars and people —walking, rushing, working, drinking, dancing, sleeping; none taking any notice of the bells at all.
Within the tower, the sound was deafening. Yet the women did not flinch as they stepped closer, forming a circle, their feet bare on the stone floor and their hair loose against plain robes. They pulled back their hoods, feeling the vibrations of the bells in their bones; feeling the buzz and excitement of the windows; feeling the languages of their own magic rising. The last chime rang out with finality.
Midnight. It was time.”

This first line is from Threadneedle by Cari Thomas. This debut is published on May 27th, 2021 by HarperVoyager. Thank you to them for my gifted ARC.


SYNOPSIS:

Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.
Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.


Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.

It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used, but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.

Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then. Could it?


How amazing does that sound! I can’t wait to read this and am hoping to fit it in before the year ends.

You can pre-order the book here.