book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Book Review: The Asylum by Karen Coles

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Welbeck Publishing Group
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Historical Mystery, Romance


1906: Being a woman is dangerous, being different is deadly.

Maud Lovell has been at Angelton Lunatic Asylum for five years. She is not sure how she came to be there and knows nothing beyond its four walls. She is hysterical, distressed, untrustworthy. Badly unstable and prone to violence. Or so she has been told.

When a new doctor arrives, keen to experiment with the revolutionary practice of medical hypnosis, Maud’s lack of history makes her the perfect case study. But as Doctor Dimmond delves deeper into the past, it becomes clear that confinement and high doses are there to keep her silent.

When Maud finally remembers what has been done to her, and by whom, her mind turns to her past and to revenge.


Maud has been locked in the darkness of Angelton Lunatic Asylum for five years. She doesn’t remember how she got here or what caused her madness. The only thing she remembers is the man in the marsh, an eerie and ghoulish figure that haunts her nightmares. But is he real or a figment of her imagination?

When Dr Dimmond says he wants to help her by exploring her unconscious it seems like someone is finally on Maud’s side. But as the hypnosis awakens her memories, Maud begins to wonder if some things were better off buried and forgotten after all…

WHAT. A. BOOK! It’s no secret that I love historical and gothic fiction, so this book had everything I could want and more. Claustrophobic, haunting and addictive, I couldn’t put this one down. It is exquisitely written, a creeping malice seeping from every page as the author transports you to the bleak, shadowy rooms of the asylum and the anguished recesses of Maud’s mind. 

The depth of Coles’ research is clear in her striking imagery, the descriptions of the practices asylum staff use to treat patients, and in her thought-provoking exploration of topics such as the mistreatment of women and mental health, and the effects of psychological and physical imprisonment. The sense of dread, desperation and sheer helplessness are palpable, coming together to create an atmosphere that has you on the edge of your seat and your heart pounding as you wait for the secrets buried in Maud’s memory to be unlocked. 

Maud is an unreliable narrator. While there is a suspicion early on that she might not be as mad as some of the doctors would like her to think she is, even she doesn’t trust what she tells herself. Reality shifts and cracks around her, echoes of memory stir and haunt her nightmares and hallucinations. She is an enigma to the reader, and herself. A woman fighting to be heard in a place where they want her to be silent.. She is an unlikely heroine, but shows herself to be much braver and stronger than anyone could have imagined at the start of the story. 

The Asylum is a menacing, evocative, lingering and intricately woven novel. An example of storytelling and mystery at its finest, it is one fans of historical and gothic fiction won’t want to miss. Go read this book! 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮



Karen was born in Taplow, Berkshire UK to rather nomadic parents. Countryside walks with her father instilled in her a lifelong love of nature, particularly wild plants, insects and amphibians. Karen is a painter and sculptor. As a child she was a voracious reader of fairy tales, myths and legends, and this led to a fascination with dark, Gothic literature. She now lives in Wales, not far from a town which once had three Victorian asylums. Their history inspired the writing of her novel, The Asylum.

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The pictures above were part of the author’s inspiration when writing The Asylum. They are taken from the author’s Instagram page where she talks about each one in relation to Maud and the book.



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Thank you to Welbeck Publishing for the gifted ARC.

Thanks for reading Bibliphiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside by Jessica Ryn

Published: November 26th, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Uplit, Contemporary Romance, Coming-of-Age Fiction

Today is my stop on the tour for this wonderful debut. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.


She’s not lost. She’s just waiting to be found…

Dawn Elisabeth Brightside has been running from her past for twenty-two years and two months, precisely.

So when she is offered a bed in St Jude’s Hostel for the Homeless, it means so much more than just a roof over her head.

But with St Jude’s threatened with closure, Dawn worries that everything is about to crumble around her all over again.

Perhaps, with a little help from her new friends, she can find a way to save this light in the darkness?

And maybe, just maybe, Dawn will finally have a place to call home….

The utterly charming feel-good debut novel of 2020 to curl up with.


“And if being at St Jude’s has taught me anything, it’s that you need to find your tribe. The rest of the journey’s not designed to be a solo one. Group tickets always offer the best value.”

The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside is a truly special book. The definition of ‘uplit’, it is one of those books that feels like a warm hug or a hot chocolate on a cold day. It will make you laugh and cry. It will steal your heart and make a permanent home in your soul.

I adored the colourful cast of compelling and very real characters. I liked that the author showed their humanity and personality rather than making them a cliché. She makes their experiences leap from the page, transports you into their world and makes you live every moment alongside them.

Dawn is quite the character. She is damaged, flawed and unreliable but also hopeful, joyous and endearing. Despite being down on her luck and going through some very traumatic things, she sees the silver lining – the ‘bright side’ you might say – and encourages others to do the same. She cares deeply about others and becomes a real light in the lives of those around her. She is a character I won’t forget and I challenge anyone not to fall in love with her too.

This was a very nostalgic book for me as my father was a manager for the YMCA and we lived on-site for three years when I was twelve to fifteen. The experience made a huge impact and is a big part of who I am today. The residents became like family and we are still in touch with a number of them even now. All the memories of that time came flooding back while reading and it was clear to me that the author knew her stuff. This felt authentic. So I wasn’t surprised to learn she’d worked with the homeless and had even lived on-site too.

But while this is a very uplifting book, it also addresses serious topics such as mental health, addiction and homelessness. She examines these things on a deeper level, commenting on the perception and judgement of the homeless or with mental health or addiction issues, the underfunding of homeless hostels and the degradation of applying for sickness benefits, something I personally related to as someone unable to work because of chronic illness. But she has a talent for doing all of this without bringing the mood down, balancing gritty realism with a humour and optimism that is reminiscent of Dawn.

Addictive, heartbreaking, hopeful, evocative, entertaining, warm and emotionally resonant, this is a remarkable debut. This book has arrived at the perfect time; Dawn’s kindness and positivity is something we all need more of right now. READ THIS BOOK!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮


Jessica Ryn is a former midwife and homeless resettlement worker. She has recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at CCCU, and her stories have been shortlisted for the Kimberly Chambers’ Kickstarter Award, Wordsmag and the Val Wood Prize for Creative Writing. When she’s not scribbling away, Jessica can be found meandering through the woods, reading stories that pull on the feel-strings and eating yoghurt-covered skittles. Jessica lives in Dover with her husband, two children and their high-spirited springer spaniel. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside is her debut novel.

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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.


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 . . .


“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: ✮✮✮✮✮


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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Blog Tours Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – May 2020

Collage 2020-05-30 17_33_28

Another month is done and I’m writing another wrap up. These seem to come around quicker each month. Does anyone else think the same?

May has been my best reading month in quite some time. I finished sixteen books and took part in fourteen blog tours. The quality of books has again been high with all books being four stars or above.

Here’s what I read in May:

  1. He Started It by Samantha Downing ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  2. Who We Were by B. M. Carroll ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. The Happy Couple by Samantha Hayes ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. The Secrets of Sunshine by Phaedra Patrick ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. One Mistake by Rona Halsall ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. Dear Child by Romy Hausmann ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. What Lies Between Us by John Marrs ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. Her Last Mistake (Detective Gina Harte Book 6) by Carla Kovach ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  11. The Bride by Wendy Clarke ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. The Glass House by Eve Chase ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. His & Hers by Alice Feeney ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
  14. The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson⭐⭐⭐⭐
  15. Water’s Edge (Detective Megan Carpenter Book 2) by Gregg Olsen ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  16. The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 You can read the reviews for all the books by clicking on the title except for The Ice Cream Girls and The Majesties. My reviews for those books will be posted in the coming week.

This month there were two books that stood out as favourites for me. They are very different books and I found it impossible to choose one over the over. Therefore, I have two books of the month: What Lies Between Us and Tsarina. What Lies Between Us is an outstanding thriller that was so twisted I can’t stop thinking about it. John Marrs really outdid himself with this book and I’m hoping it is turned into a series or film soon. Tsarina is the epic story of Catherine, Tsarina of All the Russias. Catherine’s story is one so crazy that you couldn’t make it up. The novel is beautifully written and I was utterly immersed in Catherine’s world while reading. I already had a fascination with the fall of the Tsars but this novel brought about a greater interest in the Tsars reign and Catherine and Peter’s stories in particular. I highly recommend both books.

Are any of these in your tbr? What is your favourite book you’ve read this month?

Next month I have a slightly more relaxed schedule of blog tours which I’m looking forward to as maybe I’ll get to do more free reading soon. I’m very excited about my buddy read of The Phone Box at the Edge of the World with Beth as it’s our first buddy read and the book is one of my most anticipated books of the year.

Thank you to all the tagged publishers for my gifted copies of these books.

Hope you are all staying safe and well,
Emma x

Blog Tours book reviews

The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Bantam Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Today is my spot on the blog tour for this sensational debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Bantam Press for the gifted copy of this book.


Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It’s the only home he’s ever known.

Elissa has only just arrived. And she’ll do everything she can to escape.

When Elijah stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa, in the woods where her abductor is hiding her, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn’t want Elissa to leave.

Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn’t the first girl he’s found inside the Memory Wood.

As her abductor’s behaviour grows more erratic, Elissa realises that outwitting strange, lonely Elijah is her only hope of survival. Their cat-and-mouse game of deception and betrayal will determine both their fates, and whether either of them will ever leave the Memory Wood . . .


This exciting, compelling, daring and clever debut is without a doubt my book of the month. Atmospheric and creepy, it reads like a modern-day Grimm’s fairytale; full of jaw-dropping twists and keeping you on tenterhooks from start to finish.

13-year-old chess prodigy Elissa is abducted from a tournament in Bournemouth, waking to find herself imprisoned in a cellar in the “Memory Wood.”  She is soon visited by Elijah, a strange 12-year-old boy who claims to want to help but won’t go to the police or help her escape. He just wants a friend, and though he unnerves her, Elissa recognises that he could be her only means of escape. Will she be able to convince Elijah to help her return to her family? Or will she suffer the fate of his other friends that once lived below the Memory Wood?

Utterly mind-blowing and brilliant, it seems impossible that this is the author’s first novel. The exquisite, immersive prose and tangled web of intricate twists and turns had me transfixed. Not a single word was wasted and I devoured this book, desperate for answers and to learn the fate of our young narrators. 

Elissa and Elijah couldn’t be more different: Elissa is a warrior; the young prodigy uses her high intelligence, knowledge of the game, love of puzzles and trivia and tremendous courage to try and escape her captors. Though he says he is on her side, she realises she must tread carefully with Elijah and use his innocence and isolated upbringing against him, while also appearing to trust him as her friend. Elijah is a tragic but menacing soul. There’s something off about him from the start, and it’s not just that he doesn’t want to help an abducted girl escape. It’s the little clues he gives to his past, how he hides in the shadows, and how he can change from one moment to the next. I had my suspicions about him that were ultimately proven right, but with an almighty twist that shook me to the core. Running throughout the book is a captivating power struggle between the pair, where each is playing their own game in a bid to win and survive. 

The Memory Wood is an astonishing debut that crackles with tension from start to finish. Addictive, eerie and jaw-dropping, you won’t be able to put this book down. If you pick up just one book I’ve read this month then make sure it’s this one. 

Sam Lloyd Author Pic 2


Sam Lloyd grew up in Hampshire, making up stories and building secret hideaways in his local woods.
These days he lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and a dog that likes to howl. He enjoys craft
beer, strong coffee and (rarely) a little silence. The Memory Wood is his debut thriller.




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FINAL Memory Wood BT Poster