Review: ‘Here To Stay’ by Mark Edwards⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

IMG_20190616_215945.jpg

SYNOPSIS:

A beautiful home. A loving wife. And in-laws to die for.

Gemma Robinson comes into Elliot’s life like a whirlwind, and they marry and settle down into his home. When she asks him if her parents can come to stay for a couple of weeks, he is keen to oblige – he just doesn’t quite know what he’s signing up for. 

The Robinsons arrive with Gemma’s sister, Chloe, a mysterious young woman who refuses to speak or leave her room. Elliot starts to suspect that the Robinsons are hiding a dark secret. And then there are scars on his wife’s body she won’t talk about.

As Elliot’s in-laws become more comfortable in their new home, encroaching on all aspects of his life, it becomes clear they have no intention of moving out. To protect Gemma, and their marriage, Elliot delves into the Robinsons’ past. But is he prepared for the truth?

From the two million copy bestselling author comes a tale about the chilling consequences of  welcoming strangers into your home.

REVIEW:

Another nail-biting, chilling tale of domestic noir from the man that Jennifer Hillier has rightly crowned “The King of domestic horror”.

Elliot Foster and Gemma Robinson meet one summer afternoon. She saves his life after a near-fatal bee sting and they fall hard and fast, marrying just two months later in Vegas. Elliot couldn’t be happier.

A few weeks after their wedding Gemma tells Elliot that her parents are moving back to the UK and asks if they can stay with them for a few weeks?  Wanting to make his new wife happy, and to meet his new in-laws, Elliot agrees. It will be the biggest mistake he ever makes.

This book is AMAZING! It started off slowly and while I was enjoying it, I didn’t foresee just how horrifying, mind-blowing and simply incredible it would become. Though this being Mark Edwards I am also not surprised. Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of this author. Ever since I first read The Retreat last summer , which I loved the nod to in this novel, I haven’t been able to get enough of his books. The Magpies trilogy is considered his greatest work, and it’s antagonist, Lucy Newton, is one of the greatest villains I’ve read. But this story and it’s villains give them both a run for their money.

Do you think you’ve got the in-laws from hell? Well Elliot’s are probably worse. I know I’d happily take my awful ex-mother-in-law over them any day! Jeff and Lizzy Robinson are two of the most despicable, repulsive, noxious, contemptible, foul and vile people I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading about. They turn Elliot’s world upside down and inside out. They seem determined to not only take his home but destroy his entire life. It got me so angry reading how they behaved. 

Elliot is the all-round nice guy. He’s worked hard and made a good life for himself, runs a non-profit working with underprivileged kids, thinks of others, is kind-hearted, and has finally met the woman of his dreams. Then the Robinsons threaten to take it all away. He gives them the benefit of the doubt over again, tell himself his suspicions are crazy and finds rational explanations for things. And every time they then do something even worse. I didn’t judge Elliot for some of his fantasies about what he’d like to do to them. I understood. How could you not loathe such toxic people.

The Robinson siblings are the mysterious characters, especially Chloe who is deathly ill and locks herself away when they first move in. They all seem frightened of their parents are secretive about their childhood and what exactly has happened to make them all so scared. Though Gemma and Elliot are married it was all so fast he barely knows her, or her past, and as the story unfolds he realises just how little he knew before making such a big commitment and inviting her family to stay with them.

I don’t want to give any details away as the shocks add to the escalating horror and brilliance of this book. I highly recommend this edge-of-your-seat thriller; just be warned that it’s a turbulent ride. And another thing…be careful who you invite to stay in your house. They just might never leave…

Thank you to Mark Edwards, Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: September 1st

 

 

‘For the Love of Books’ by Graham Tarrant ⭐⭐⭐. 5

cof

A light-hearted book about books and the people who write them for all lovers of literature.

Do you know:

Which famous author died of caffeine poisoning? Why Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was banned in China? Who was the first British writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature? What superstistions Truman Capote kept whenever he wrote? Who the other Winston Churchill was?

A treasure trove of compelling facts, riveting anecdotes, and extraordinary characters, For the Love of Books is a book about books–and the inside stories about the people who write them. Learn how books evolved, what lies behind some of the greatest tales ever told, and who’s really who in the world of fiction.

From banned books to famous feuding authors, from literary felons to rejected masterpieces, from tips for aspiring writers to stand-out book lists for the readers to catch up on, For the Love of Books is a celebration of the written word and an absolute page-turner for any book lover.

Read all about it!

Thank you to Skyhorse Publishing, Netgalley and Graham Tarrant for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

An interesting, fun and light-hearted book full of facts and trivia any bibliophile will enjoy.

I found the history of books particularly riveting and learned a lot reading this book. There are some great quotes from authors about books and writing in here too. Many of the facts about the authors were new to me and while some weren’t especially riveting, there were others that were witty or fascinating. I enjoyed learning more about authors I like and some that I’d never heard of or knew little about. For example: did you know that Margaret Atwood invented a remote-controlled pen so she can sign books for fans when unable to be there in person?

This was a quick read for me and I admit I did skim some parts that I found a little tedious. Overall this is a book I’d recommend if you fancy something different or if you want to learn more about books and literature.

Publication Day: June 4th 2019

‘The Corset’ by Laura Purcell ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

oznor

Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain?

Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality, and the power of redemption.

Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

This gothic novel had been languishing on my shelves for a while when I decided to pick it up as my fiftieth read of 2019. The Silent Companions was one of my favourite reads last year so I began this full of high expectations. I was not disappointed.

Dorothea  Truelove is attracted to the forbidden and isn’t interested in the life expected of her as a wealthy heiress, but in becoming a better and more useful person. She spends time on charitable work which leads her to Oakgate Prison and Ruth Butterham. Sixteen-year-old Ruth is awaiting trial for murder. She grew up poor and was sold to work as a seamstress to pay of her mother’s debts. It is her talents with a needle and thread that she claims enabled her to kill, saying that she has the ability to sew death into the things she creates.

Dorothea and Ruth are two very different women. Dorothea has known a life of privilege while Ruth has known nothing but poverty. Both have suffered loss but the effect it’s had on their lives is very different. When they meet they have outlooks on life that are also different but find that they come to bond over Ruth’s story. I liked both main characters and the author did a great job of writing their diverse lives in a way that made you understand their actions and beliefs. There were some other great characters in this book too. Some I loved and others I despised.

The author highlights many important issues of the time in this novel. There is an interesting look at mental health and phrenology, women’s roles in society and how workers were sold into slavery with no rights and treated appallingly. In particular, I think Ruth’s life and the struggle of the poor in Victorian times was particularly well written. I could almost smell the rot and decay of their dank, desolate and depressing living conditions and feel their terror at being starved, having no rights and the fear of what their cruel employer might do to them for the slightest reason. There were parts of Ruth’s story so harrowing I’d have to stop reading and take a break for a while.

I am so glad that I finally read this book. Dark, haunting, atmospheric, chilling and raw, this was impossible to put down. The story is exquisitely written and has solidified Ms Purcell as one of my favourite authors whose novels are a must-read. There is so much I loved about this novel: the ambiguity, the magnificent writing and that mindblowing ending that had me sitting there in disbelief at what I was reading. I would vacillate from heartbreak to anger to disgust as I read Ruth’s story. To be honest Dorothea’s chapters almost felt like light relief in comparison.

So is Ruth mad or a murderer? Victim or villain? That is something you’ll have to read and decide for yourself. The Corset is an outstanding piece of gothic noir that I highly recommend.

Out Now

Publication Day – ‘The Evidence Against You’ by Gillian McAllister ⭐⭐⭐⭐

cover155783-medium

It’s the day her father will be released from jail.  Izzy English has every reason to feel conflicted – he’s the man who gave her a childhood filled with happy memories. But he has also just served seventeen years for the murder of her mother.

Now, Izzy’s father sends her a letter. He wants to talk, to defend himself against each piece of evidence from his trial. But should she give him the benefit of the doubt? Or is he guilty as charged an luring her into a trap?

Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and Gillian McAllister for the chance to read and review this novel.

Gillian McAllister has written another riveting character-driven story that I couldn’t put down.I was completely hooked and so desperate to know what happened that I forced my eyelids open and stayed up until 4am to finish it.

Izzy English lives on The Isle of Wight with her husband Nick. Tomorrow her father, Gabriel, will be released from prison after serving seventeen years for killing her mother. His release resurfaces her conflicted feelings about him: her memories of a loving father versus the monstrous murderer. His guilt has always been an indisputable fact, something she wasn’t allowed to question at first and then something she avoided looking at and her mind would repel if she tried.

The day he’s released from prison her father turns up at the restaurant her mother used to run, the one she took over after her death. He wants to come in but Izzy is too scared to do it. He puts a letter through the door protesting his innocence and asking her to go and see his best friend to hear him tell her his side instead. More letters arrive over the next few days until Izzy finally relents and agrees.

Gabe has been unwavering in his claims of innocence since her mother was killed but the evidence was against him, he was convicted so he must have done it, right? Izzy decides it’s time to open pandora’s box despite the myriad of problems and unwanted emotions it means she will face. She has to know the truth about that Halloween night eighteen years ago. So she starts to investigate what happened: looking through long sealed boxes in the attic, talking to everyone she can, trying to discern the truth for herself for the first time. Despite her decision Izzy is plagued with uncertainty and worries he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, luring her in before going for the kill just like they say he did to her mother.

The story is narrated by Izzy with Gabe also narrating once she agrees to listen to his version of events. They do this very differently: Izzy’s narration involves a lot of her private thoughts and memories that she doesn’t speak aloud while Gabriel speaks directly to Izzy. Not giving us a glimpse inside his head means the reader can only take him on face value and judge him on what he claims to be true and the way he acts, just like Izzy. I found that like Izzy I doubted his integrity as not only did she uncover suspicious things in her investigations, but when he told her a part of his story we would immediately get Izzy’s memories of the same events, revealing that Gabe had changed what happened or what was said to paint himself in a better light. How can you believe what someone tells you when you know they speak so many lies? And how can you comprehend loving the man who was convicted of taking one of the most important people in the world away from you? These questions, and Izzy’s attempts to answer them, are woven through the entire book. As a reader I rarely had any doubts of his guilt but understandably Izzy wavered. Her doubts of his guilt a constant whisper in her ear, an inviting chance to have one of her parents back and rebuild some of what she lost.

The Evidence Against you is a complex, multi layered story about love, grief, family, truth, lies, secrecy, pain and betrayal. It is also a story about living life in a prison, though not necessarily one made of bars with guards at the doors, institutionalisation and what happens to the family of victims of a crime and those who are convicted of a crime. It is intelligently written and thought provoking with flawed characters who are the key to the story being so compelling. It is steadily paced and pulls you in so you’re completely immersed in Izzy’s search for the truth. This book has cemented my love for this author’s writing style and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

Out today.

‘I Know Who You Are’ by Alice Feeney ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

cover159841-medium

Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you’ve done. And I am watching you.

When Aimee comes home to discover her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right she is – but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

Thank you to NetGalley, HQ and Alice Feeney for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! This was my first read by Alice Feeney and she absolutely blew me away. Mesmerising from the first page, I loved the way this book was written and devoured it within a day. I just couldn’t stop reading.

Aimee Sinclair is an actress who’s star is rising. But while things are on the up professionally her personal life is flailing as her two year marriage to Ben is on rocky ground. The day after a particularly awful fight Aimee returns home to find Ben missing. Ashamed of things she said and did the night before Aimee isn’t sure how to act, leading the police to become suspicious of her behaviour. But what they think she’s hiding isn’t what she’s actually afraid of being discovered. You see, Aimee has no idea what happened to Ben but is terrified of the lie she’s been living almost all her life being discovered.

Mysterious, atmospheric, unnerving, perplexing and startling, this is a story where you’re never quite sure who the good and bad guys are. Can we trust what Aimee tells us? Can she trust her own memories? Should Aimee have our sympathy or disdain? What really happened to Ben?

Told in the present day with jarring flashbacks to Aimee’s childhood, we slowly learn what it is that Aimee is hiding and the shocking truths of this twisted tale. The final revelations were dark, heinous and mind-blowing. This year I’ve read some fantastic thrillers and this one definitely ranks as one of the best. A must read for anyone who loves psychological thrillers.

Released April 23rd

‘Little’ by Edward Carey ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

cof

The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals, who transforms herself into Madame Tussaud.

In 1761, a tiny odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Switzerland. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors the princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The Revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and…at the wax museum, heads are what they do.

In the tradition of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and Erin Morganstern’s The Night Circus, Edward Carey’s Little is a darkly endearing cavalcade of a novel–a story of art, class, determination, and how we hold on to what we love.

 

This breathtaking book reached into my soul and took up residence there. A magnificent work of historical fiction that I found all-consuming and enjoyed so much that I took my time reading so I could savour it for as long as possible.

When I started this book all I knew about Madame Tussaud was that that it’s the name of the wax museum in London and Blackpool. I had never thought that it was named after a real person or what that person’s life may have been, but the synopsis was intriguing and the cover was such a work of art that I couldn’t resist.

Although this is a fictionalised version of Marie’s life, there are many things in the story that did or were rumoured to have happened. I don’t know a lot about the time in history this was written but I have always loved history and learning more about the past. There were many amusing anecdotes woven into the story that I was surprised to find were facts and not things embellished for histrionic entertainment. I guess it’s like they say, there are some true facts that if you made them up would seem unbelievable. While entertaining us, thee author didn’t shy away from some of the more disturbing realities of the era and vividly described the true horror of the revolution, leaving me with some images I will never forget.

Though we were born over 200 years apart there are some similarities between us that helped me forge an immediate connection to Marie: I was born a similar tiny size, it was predicted I wouldn’t live and our heights are roughly the same. I also get called ‘little’, although for me it’s part of an affectionate nickname and isn’t used instead of my name like in the story. I thought she was feisty, determined, intelligent and compelling person who lived a fascinating life. She seemed to have an air of rebellion about her and often got into trouble for not abiding by society’s rules. Also she didn’t just dream of a life beyond what she was told was befitting of her, but strives to make it happen despite the many obstacles and disappointments.

The author takes this mesmerising book to another level with his remarkable storytelling and the phenomenal illustrations that illuminate the story. I haven’t read an illustrated book since I was a child and it was great to be able to visualise things exactly the way the author intended. I spent a long time just looking at the illustrations in awe.This really was a book you need to buy in print to fully experience its magic.

Filled with anguish, desperation, ambition and triumph, Little is a dark, sardonic and morbid comedy. It is one of those under-hyped books you will be glad you took a chance on. It was the first time I had read anything by this author and I became an instant fan. This is the best book I’ve read so far this year and has taken a place among my all-time favourites. Anytime this author has a new release I’ll be at the front of the queue impatiently waiting for sure. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough.

Out Now

Thank you to Gallic Books for my Little Tote bag.

March Wrap Up

Collage 2019-03-31 19_59_07

I can’t believe we’re a quarter of the way through the year already!

This month I have read 10 books. It is my lowest number since joining bookstagram but the quality is what is actually important and it’s been a month where almost every book I’ve read was amazing.

  1. ‘The Woman Inside’ by E.G Scott ⭐⭐⭐ – This debut thriller about a couple who have it all on the surface but are living a life built on lies and secrets  was sadly a let down for me. I had been highly anticipating this book but found it slow and underwhelming. Even the big twist couldn’t make me interested in how things turned out for the characters in this book.  Published August 8th
  2. ‘Only Daughter’ by Sarah A. Denzil ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This gripping tale of secrets, lies, betrayal and devastating revenge blew me away. It had me on the edge of my seat and reading well past bedtime as I found it impossible to put this book down. I’ve been a fan of this author’s work since I first discovered her last year, but this is her best book yet and one of the best thrillers I’ve read so far this year.
  3. ‘The Evidence Against You’ by Gillian McAllister ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This book was a complex, multi layered story about love, grief, family, truth, lies, secrecy, pain and betrayal. It is also a story about living life in a prison, though not necessarily one made of bars with guards at the doors, institutionalisation and what happens to the family of victims of a crime and those who are convicted of a crime. It is intelligently written and thought provoking with flawed characters who are the key to the story being so compelling. It pulls you in so you’re completely immersed in Izzy’s search for the truth and I was so desperate to know what happened that I forced my eyelids open and stayed up until 4 am to finish it.  Published April 18th.
  4. ‘Beautiful Bad’ by Annie Ward ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This absorbing psychological thriller begins with  a chilling 911 call in which a woman pleads for help to hurry as a child shrieks in the background… In dual timelines we are then told the story of Maddie and her husband Ian’s relationship while she undergoes therapy for anxiety and the clock counts down to The Day Of The Killing.  The eerie ending of this book is one I’m still thinking about.
  5. ‘The Dare’ by Carol Wyer ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 – The third book in the Detective Natalie Ward series, The Dare is another unputdownable thriller. I devoured this book in one sitting, on the edge of my seat as the detective and her team raced to find the person who was kidnapping and killing teenage girls. It is so well written that there was no clear suspect and I was racing to the end to find out who had been terrorising the town. This is a must read for crime fiction and thriller lovers. Published April 25th.
  6. ‘Finding Dorothy’ by Elizabeth Letts ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – As a life long Oz fanatic I loved this magnificent fictional tale of the story behind the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz  from the perspective of Maud Gage Baum, wife of author Frank L. Baum. In dual timelines we see her meet Judy Garland and watch the iconic movie being made while also learning of her life, how the couple met and the story of how Frank was inspired to write the story that is still beloved by millions.
  7. ‘And They You Were Gone’ by R. J. Jacobs ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – What a breathtaking roller-coaster ride! The author has written a compulsive, thrilling and addictive debut novel that is impossible to put down. It was filled with surprising twists and turns and had me on the edge of my seat until the end.
  8. ‘Things In Jars’ by Jessie Kidd  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Bridie Devine is a detective in Victorian London is charged with finding the kidnapped daughter of a baronet that isn’t supposed to exist. Bridie finds herself drawn deeper into the murky world of curiosities, abnormalities, greed and corruption. This mesmerising novel took me completely by surprise. Ms Kidd is a remarkable writer who has woven an emotive and sorrowful tale alongside one full of mystery, charm and suspense. One of the best books I’ve read this year.  Published April 4th
  9. ‘The Vanishing Season’ by Dot Hutchinson   ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 – The fourth book in The Collector series did not disappoint. As the Crimes Against Children investigate the disappearance of eight-year-old Brooklyn Mercer they find evidence linking it to a string of missing young girls going back decades, including that of Agent Brandon Eddison’s sister Faith, who went missing 25 years ago. This was a compelling thriller that I didn’t want to put down, but also didn’t want to finish, as I was enjoying it so much. The tension never waned and surged as they learned their case was even more disturbing than they’d originally believed. A great end to a fantastic series. Published May 21st 
  10. ‘Betray Her’ by Caroline England  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Jo and Kate are two very different women who have been friends ever since their first day at bording school twenty years ago. Told in the present day and flashbacks to the friends’ time at St Lukes and the years since, we learn that all is not quite as it seems. From the start there are hints that their time at the all-girls boarding school was far from happy and that they never discuss it. Gradually, we learn the truth of those tumultuous years, along with other heart stopping revelations that unveil their closely guarded secrets and change their lives forever. From the moment I began reading I was hooked.  The author of this book has found herself a new fan and I would highly recommend this tantalising novel. Published September 24th.

So that is what I read in March. I had hoped to have finished ‘The Stranger Beside Me’, which is the book I’m reading as part of #MurderMonday , but unfortunately that looks like it will be my first book finished in April. Choosing a favourite this months is incredibly hard but I think the title has to go to ‘Finding Dorothy’ because it is not only a fantastic novel, but is about my favourite film.

What did you read in March? Have you read any of these books or are they on your tbr list? Comment below and tell me.

 

*Thank you to NetGalley, Bookoture, Thomas & Mercer, Little, Brown Book Group UK, Crooked Lane Books, Quercus, Canongate Books and the authors for the ARCs.

**All books are available now unless otherwise stated. To read full reviews please see previous posts except for The Evidence Against Me and Finding Dorothy which haven’t yet been published.