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book reviews

REVIEW: The Deception of Harriet Fleet by Helen Scarlett

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Thriller, Mystery
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of The Deception of Harriet Fleet, a book that’s languished on my shelves for too long and I finally read as my first book of November. Thank you to Quercus Books for my copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Dark and brimming with suspense, an atmospheric Victorian chiller set in brooding County Durham for fans of Stacey Halls and Laura Purcell

1871. An age of discovery and progress. But for the Wainwright family, residents of the gloomy Teesbank Hall in County Durham the secrets of the past continue to overshadow their lives.

Harriet would not have taken the job of governess in such a remote place unless she wanted to hide from something or someone. Her charge is Eleanor, the daughter of the house, a fiercely bright eighteen-year-old, tortured by demons and feared by relations and staff alike. But it soon becomes apparent that Harriet is not there to teach Eleanor, but rather to monitor her erratic and dangerous behaviour – to spy on her.

Worn down by Eleanor’s unpredictable hostility, Harriet soon finds herself embroiled in Eleanor’s obsession – the Wainwright’s dark, tragic history. As family secrets are unearthed, Harriet’s own begin to haunt her and she becomes convinced that ghosts from the past are determined to reveal her shameful story.

For Harriet, like Eleanor, is plagued by deception and untruths.

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MY REVIEW:

Teesbank Hall is an isolated place that hides a dark history and terrible secrets.  Secrets that the Wainwright family have forbidden all who work and live there to speak of.  But they can’t disguise the malevolent and unsettling atmosphere that permeates its walls or the ghosts that wander them. 

Harriet arrives at the house to begin her new job as governess, the remote location the perfect place for her to avoid being found by the secrets and people she’s running from. But her new charge, the Wainwright’s daughter Eleanor, is not what she imagined. The young girl is feared by all those in Teesbank Hall and openly hostile of her new governess, something Harriet understands a little more when she learns she is actually there to report on Eleanor’s bizarre behaviour. Yet over time the two develop an unusual relationship that centres on their mutual fascination with the family’s sinister history and work together to try to unveil the truth of a brutal murder decades earlier.

Deliciously dark, haunting and mysterious, The Deception of Harriet Fleet is a gorgeously gothic read. The story is part historical fiction, part mystery, and part ghost story, but there also are much deeper themes explored in its pages. Helen Scarlett explores the harsh treatment of women in the Victorian era, particularly those who are feisty, strong and intelligent. Women had no autonomy, were owned by men and sexual assault was prevelent. We see this in how Eleanor, who refuses to be silenced by her family, is imprisoned by them, has her every move watched and lives with their threats of the asylum looming over her. It is even shown in those who seem to have what others strive for, such as her mother, Susan, who is trapped in a miserable marriage with a philanderer.  

The story is told to the reader by Harriet, who is finally telling the truth about what happened at Teesbank Hall all those years ago. Chillingly written, and evocative, there is a strong sense of place that makes the house feel like a character in its own right.  Harriet often feels there is someone watching when she’s alone and finds herself checking for ghosts in the shadows. Many who live there feel imprisoned, the claustrophobic air permeating every page. 

Atmospheric, eerie and forbidding, this was the perfect book to read during the dark and cold autumn nights.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Taken from Amazon:
Thank you for visiting my Amazon author’s page. ‘The Deception of Harriet Fleet’ is my first novel and is set in the north east of England. I’ve always loved the big, classic novels from the nineteenth century, with lots of governesses and intrigue, and I sometimes wonder whether I was born in the wrong era! Although the Victorian period was a time of huge changes, the inhabitants of Teesbank Hall are trapped in the past by the destructive secrets they hold.

Teesbank Hall itself is fictional but most of the other settings in the novel are real and close to where I live with my husband and two daughters. I teach A Level English and write whenever I can grab a spare moment.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

REVIEW: Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Publisher: November 15th, 2022
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Literary Fiction, Saga, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day Mad Honey! Thank you to Eleni at Hodder & Stoughton for my gifted proof copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Olivia fled her abusive marriage to return to her hometown and take over the family beekeeping business when her son Asher was six. Now, impossibly, her baby is six feet tall and in his last year of high school, a kind, good-looking, popular ice hockey star with a tiny sprite of a new girlfriend.

Lily also knows what it feels like to start over – when she and her mother relocated to New Hampshire it was all about a fresh start. She and Asher couldn’t help falling for each other, and Lily feels happy for the first time. But can she trust him completely?

Then Olivia gets a phone call – Lily is dead, and Asher is arrested on a charge of murder. As the case against him unfolds, she realises he has hidden more than he’s shared with her. And Olivia knows firsthand that the secrets we keep reflect the past we want to leave behind ­­- and that we rarely know the people we love well as we think we do.

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MY REIVEW:

“If you want to understand something, you first need to accept the fact of your own ignorance. And then, you need to talk to people who know more than you do, people who have not just thought about the facts, but lived them.”

First of all, can we take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous cover of this book. Even if I wasn’t a fan of the author, this would be one I’d pick up for the cover alone. Thankfully, what’s between the pages is as mesmerising as what’s on the outside. Mad Honey is a contemporary masterpiece. Complex, layered, and thought-provoking, this is a book that will consume you from the first page until the last and then linger long after reading. There are shocking revelations and, as we’ve come to expect from Ms. Picoult, the story examines some controversial and difficult subjects that are told with sensitivity and compassion, while never shying away from harrowing or painful truths.

Jodi Picoult has been my favourite author ever since I read My Sister’s Keeper almost twenty years ago. Her books are auto-buys for me without even reading the synopsis, but I have to say that this one had me very intrigued because it is co-written with an author I’ve never read. And it’s perfect. Not only does Ms. Picoult once again showcase her ability to illuminate ordinary lives and reveal the secrets that are hidden behind people’s unassuming exteriors, but this is complimented by Ms. Finney Boylan. The duo have crafted a narrative so seamless that it is impossible to know where one ends and the other begins. The prose is at times poetic, others stark or heartrending, and at other times joyous or funny, taking us through every emotion alongside their pitch-perfect characters. And in an added bonus for long-term Picoult fans, this book also features an appearance from a much-loved character, lawyer Jordan McAffee, who has appeared in a number of Jodi’s previous novels.

“You tell yourself this wouldn’t happen in your hometown.
You tell yourself this isn’t anyone you know.
Until it does, and it is.”

Not only is this a story told by dual authors, but it is one of dual timelines and dual narrators: Olivia tells us the story in the present, while Lily narrates past events. The two stories are expertly interwoven to take you through the events following Lily’s death while also slowly revealing what really happened in the months leading up to that fateful day in a masterfully choreographed narrative. The authors transport us into their psyche, making us feel everything they do. There is a real sense of isolation that radiates from both narrators, their personal anguish and trauma making them feel there is no one who understands what they are living. It is tortured and heartbreaking, but oh-so real, with an overwhelming grief that feels cavernous. But it isn’t all doom and gloom. We also feel their joy, which is particularly well portrayed in Lily as we are reminded of how it feels to experience the heady, all-consuming feeling of falling in love, the excitement of discovering each other and the apprehension of opening up your whole self to them.

But what I loved most about Olivia and Lily is how authentic and recognisable they both are. These women could be your family, friend or neighbour; making the story really hit home as you realise these things could happen to anyone. Even you. In fact, one of the things that made this story so hard to read for me was how much I saw myself in Olivia and my eldest child in Asher. Like Olivia I fled an abusive marriage and then raised my son alone for many years, giving us a strong and unbreakable bond. My son is also the same age as Asher is in the current timeline, making it impossible not to bring his face into my mind as I read every word.

“These people, who do not really see me, have no idea what they are missing.”

Powerful, moving and astutely observed, Mad Honey is, quite simply, phenomenal. Not only is this one of my favourite books this year, but it is also one of my favourite Jodi Picoult books ever. It has also helped me discover a new author whose back catalogue I now plan to explore. 

READ IT NOW!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

DM for Trigger Warnings

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MEET THE AUTHORS:

Jodi Picoult is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-eight novels, including Wish You Were Here, The Book of Two Ways, A Spark of Light, Small Great Things, Leaving Time, and My Sister’s Keeper, and, with daughter Samantha van Leer, two young adult novels, Between the Lines and Off the Page. Picoult lives in New Hampshire.

Her next novel, Mad Honey, is co-written with Jennifer Finney Boylan.

Jennifer Finney Boylan is the author of sixteen books, including GOOD BOY: My Life in Seven Dogs. Since 2008 she has been a contributing opinion writer for op/ed page of the New York Times; her column appears on alternate Wednesdays. A member of the board of trustees of PEN America, Jenny was also the chair of the board of GLAAD for many years. She is currently the Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence and Professor of English at Barnard College of Columbia University.

Jenny is a well known advocate for human rights. She has appeared five times on the Oprah Winfrey Show and has also been a guest or a commentator on Larry King Live, Good Morning America, and The Today Show. She is also a member of the faculty of the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference of Middlebury College as well as Sirenland, in Positano, Italy.

She lives in Maine with her wife Deirdre. They have two children.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The Coming Darkness by Greg Mosse

Published: November 10th, 2022
Publsiher: Moonflower Publishing
Genre: Thriller, Legal Thriller, Spy Stories, Dystopian Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this heart-pounding dysopian thriller. Thank you to Sofia at Midas PR for the invitation to take part and to Midas PR and Moonflower Publishing for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

A thrilling debut that has been likened to John Le Carré and Raymond Chandler . . .

Paris, 2037. Alexandre Lamarque of the French external security service is hunting for eco-terrorists. Experience has taught him there is no one he can trust – not his secretive lover Mariam, not even his old mentor, Professor Fayard, the man at the centre of the web. He is ready to give up. But he can’t.

In search of the truth, Alex must follow the trail through an ominous spiral of events, from a string of brutal child murders to a chaotic coup in North Africa. He rapidly finds himself in a heart-thumping race against chaos and destruction. He could be the world’s only hope of preventing THE COMING DARKNESS . . .

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MY REVIEW:

Paris, Summer 2037. Alexandre Lamarque of the French external security service is hunting for eco-terrorists. Experience has taught him to trust no-one – not even his mentor, Professor Fayad or his secret lover, Mariam. He follows the trail of a string of brutal child murders, a chaotic coup in North Africa, and the extraction of its leader while under fire, all against the stressful backdrop of his mother fighting a new virus that threatens her life. As events spiral further out of control, Alex is haunted by the coming darkness he sees looming on the horizon. Can he discover who is trying to once again destabilise climate controls and prevent them from wreaking destruction on the world?

Greg Mosse’s compelling debut is set in a dystopia not too far into our future. References to Covid 19, climate change and other current events make the world he has created feel frighteningly familiar.  Like we are glimpsing a possible future rather than reading fiction. It jumps straight into the action and is filled with an ominous tension and sense of foreboding from beginning to end.  While it is mostly steady or fast-paced, there was a time where I felt it slowed down and the plethora of characters we follow got a little confusing, but this soon changed and I was left on tenterhooks as I read, rooting for Alex as he tries to save the world. He is a great protagonist who is easy to get behind and relate to, even in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

Timely, thought-provoking and intelligent, this is not your average thriller and I’d recommend reading it even if you aren’t usually a fan of dystopian fiction.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From Greg’s Website:
Greg Mosse is currently the founder and leader of the Criterion New Writing script development programme at the Criterion Theatre, London, giving free opportunities in script development to a diverse community of writers, actors and directors.

Since 2015, he has written and produced 25 plays and musicals, often in collaboration. Over the same period, with Lou Doye, Doye Mosse Productions has created and financed an incredible range of traditional, VR and augmented reality story-telling experiences.

During the coronavirus lockdowns, he wrote two-and-a-half novels, of which THE COMING DARKNESS will be the first to be published.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Weather Woman by Sally Gardner

Published: November 10th, 2022
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasty Fiction, Historical Romance, Supernatural Fiction, Regency Romance, Historical Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the enchanting and orignal, The Weather Woman. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

The rich and atmospheric new novel from prize-winning author Sally Gardner, set in the 18th century between the two great Frost Fairs.

Neva Friezland is born into a world of trickery and illusion, where fortunes can be won and lost on the turn of a card.

She is also born with an extraordinary gift. She can predict the weather. In Regency England, where the proper goal for a gentlewoman is marriage and only God knows the weather, this is dangerous. It is also potentially very lucrative.

In order to debate with the men of science and move about freely, Neva adopts a sophisticated male disguise. She foretells the weather from inside an automaton created by her brilliant clockmaker father.

But what will happen when the disguised Neva falls in love with a charismatic young man?

It can be very dangerous to be ahead of your time. Especially as a woman.

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MY REVIEW:

“To see things differently is a gift, Neva. It makes you unique.”

I’m delighted to be opening the tour of The Weather Woman, the story of an extraordinary young woman trying to find her place in a world that has none for those who don’t fit the mould.  

Set in the early 1800s, it centres around a young woman named Neva with an unusual gift. She can predict the weather. But this is Regency England, a place where women are to be seen and not heard.  There is no place for an intelligent and educated woman with a unique talent in the male-dominated world of science. So she adopts a male persona and disguise in order to debate with them, and her father creates an automatron called the Weather Woman as the public face for Neva to make her predictions. But while she is happy to be making predictions and enjoys the freedom her disguises bring, it leaves her feeling even more of an outsider and fearing she will never find her place in the world.  

“I don’t fit the square, I’m too irregular; I’m too angular for the curves. This age is not made for me.” 

The story inside these pages is as lush as its gorgeous cover. Sally Gardner is a skilled storyteller, painting pictures with words as she weaves magical realism into historical fiction and mixes in an irresistible love story. The result is an atmospheric and beautifully descriptive tale that has an almost fairytale quality. The characters are richly drawn and compelling, with Neva being particularly memorable, and there are multiple threads that cleverly tangle together in some unexpected ways. I was captivated from the start, though there was a point I felt the story lost a little momentum and my mind started to wander, but it soon picked up and I lost myself in its pages once again. 

Enchanting, original, and filled with wonder, I’d recommend this book, especially if you enjoy stories with a magical twist.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From Sallly’s website:
I was born in Birmingham, near the Cadbury’s chocolate factory, and I grew up in Gray’s Inn, central London, in Raymond Buildings. My family (my parents, my younger brother and I) lived there because both my parents were lawyers. When I was around age five they separated and later divorced.

I was badly bullied at school because I was different from other children. I had trouble tying my shoes, and coordinating my clothes, and I had no idea what C-A-T spelled once the teacher took away the picture. My brain was said to be a sieve rather than a sponge – I was the child who lost the information rather than retained it.

​I stayed in kindergarten until I was really too old to be there and finally was asked to leave the school. This became a pattern that repeated itself throughout my learning years.

​At eleven I was told I was word-blind. This was before anyone mentioned the un-sayable, un-teachable, un-spellable word dyslexia, which, hey-ho, even to this day I can’t spell!

​I eventually ended up in a school for maladjusted children because there was no other school that would take me. I suppose this was the equivalent of what now would be a school for kids with ASBOs. I had been classified as “unteachable” but at the age of fourteen, when everyone had given up hope, I learned to read.

​The first book I read was “Wuthering Heights” and after that no one could stop me. My mother, bless her cotton socks, said that if I got five O-levels I could go to art school, and much to my teachers’ chagrin, I did just that. At art school I shot from the bottom to the top like a little rocket.

​I left Central St. Martin’s Art School with a First Class Honours degree and then went to Newcastle University Theatre, where I worked as a theatre designer. One of the first shows I worked on was The Good Woman of Szechuan by Bertolt Brecht which transferred to the Royal Court Theatre.

​After that I spent 15 years in the theatre, but gave up working as a set designer because I found my dyslexia to be a problem when drawing up technical plans for the sets. Instead I concentrated on costumes.

​Ironically, when I went into writing, where I assumed my dyslexia would be a true disability, it turned out to be the start of something amazing. I was more than blessed to meet an editor, Judith Elliot, who was to play an important part in my journey to being a writer.

I strongly believe that dyslexia is like a Rubik’s Cube: it takes time to work out how to deal with it but once you do, it can be the most wonderful gift.

​The problem with dyslexia for many young people – and I can identify with this – is that their confidence is so damaged by the negativity of their teachers and their peers that it takes a very strong character to come out of the educational system smiling.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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

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book reviews

REVIEW – Slenderman: A Tragic Story of Online Obsession and Mental Illness by Kathleen Hale

Published: September 1st, 2022
Publisher: Grove Press
Genre: True Crime
Format: Paperback, Kinlde

Welcome to my review of Slenderman. Thank you to Grove Press and Netgalley for the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

The 2014 Slenderman stabbings in Wisconsin, USA, shocked the local community and the world. The violence of Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weiser, the two twelve-year-old girls who attempted to stab their classmate to death, was extreme, but what seemed even more frightening was that they had done so under the influence of an internet meme, the so-called ‘Slenderman’.

Slenderman tells the full story for the very first time. Morgan and Anissa’s friendship could so easily not have taken the turn it did – but Morgan was suffering with early onset schizophrenia. She believed she had been seeing Slenderman for years, and that the only way to stop him killing her family was to bring him a sacrifice. Her victim miraculously survived the attack but was left deeply traumatised, while the severity of their crime meant Morgan and Anissa would be tried as adults.

Slenderman 
is both a page-turning true crime classic and a compelling search for justice.

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MY REVIEW:

“There is a natural tendency, when a child is hurt, as Payton was, to want vengeance. But vengeance isn’t justice—vengeance is an appeal to passion and prejudice, an appeal to ignore the facts and the law.”

The Slenderman stabbings in Waukesha, Wisconsin, USA is a haunting crime that shook the world.  On May 31st 2014, three 12-year-old friends went to play at a local park after a sleepover.  A few hours later one of them is found bloodied and near death after being stabbed nineteen times.  She says her friends are the culprits.  
When Morgan Geyser and Anissa Wieser are apprehended and questioned hours later, the story they tell is one no-one expected.  It’s a story of myth, horror and childhood obsession.  They say they attempted to murder their friend to protect themselves and their families from Slenderman, an internet meme that the girls believed was real.  

I am a devourer of true crime.  I read it, I watch it and I listen to it.  When I first heard of the Slenderman stabbings back in 2014 I was shocked and appalled.  Not only at the ages of the perpetrators, but of the sheer brutality and violence of the attack.  As I learned of the detailed planning of the crime and watched the interview tapes of Morgan and Anissa I was even more disturbed.  My own children were only a few years younger than these three girls and the idea of my sons being on either side of this crime was horrifying.  My instinct was to agree with the decision to charge them as adults and say that the book needed to be thrown at them.  Lock them up for the rest of their lives.  But I didn’t know the whole story.

In her fascinating, illuminating and compelling book, Kathleen Hale reveals the truth behind the headlines; the lesser known details that emerged in the hours, days, months and years following the stabbings.  She explores how mental illness can affect people’s actions and shines a light on how mental illness is treated – or rather untreated – within the justice system.  It is exquisitely written, never sensationalising or glorifying the crime yet not shying away from the truth.  And while she doesn’t focus on the gory details of the attack and life-threatening injuries Payton Lautner suffered, it is detailed and makes for uncomfortable reading.  

But it isn’t this that I think people will find most unnerving and hard to read.  Ms. Hale gives the reader an insight into the minds of Morgan and Anissa, reminding us that these were impressionable children that day.  Children whose brains had not yet fully developed, and with decision making-skills that were immature. And though it is made clear multiple times that Payton was an innocent victim who not only bravely fought for her life that day, but still lives with the physical and mental scars of that day, a lot of the focus is on Morgan and Annisa, exploring what life was like for them following their crime, the illnesses they were later diagnosed with that led to them committing the attack, and asks us to consider morally complex and uncomfortable questions about the desire for justice versus the need for vengeance.  Were Morgan and Anissa two cold-hearted, evil monsters or troubled young girls who needed help?  Can both of these be true?  And what price should they pay for what they did?  

This is a case that is so much more complex and emotionally fraught than I’d realised going into reading this book.  I’d watched the documentaries, interviews and court appearances, and I’d read a number of articles, yet I was still unprepared for the conflicting emotions this book would stir within me.  We learn that Morgan was suffering from early onset schizophrenia and was removed from reality at the time of the stabbings.  Following her crime she completely lost touch with reality until finally being diagnosed and treated for her illness.  Meanwhile, Anissa was eventually also diagnosed with an illness that distorted her perception of reality at the time of the stabbing, making what happened not simply a case of good versus evil.  
As a mother my heart first goes out to the victim, but I couldn’t stop putting myself in the shoes of Morgan and Anissa’s parents, imagining how I’d react and feel if it had been my kids and the pain it must cause when the child you love so much commits such an atrocious act.  I also felt a huge amount of compassion for Morgan suffering from schizophrenia and for some of the things Anissa went through.  I struggled with the question of whether they should have been tried as adults and how long they should serve for their crime.  This is a case with no easy answers and no winners, only losers.

Unflinching, powerful and moving, I think this will become a true crime classic.  It is meticulously researched, balanced and will stay with you long after reading.  There is an overwhelming grief that pervades every page, not only because of Payton and all she suffered, but for the many lives changed that terrible day.  A difficult read that is also hard to put down,  I’d recommend this to anyone who is interested in true crime.

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kathleen Hale is the author of two young adult novels and one essay collection. She has written for Vanity Fair, the Guardian, Hazlitt, and Vice, among other outlets, and is a writer and producer for Outer Banks on Netflix. She was born in Wisconsin and lives in Los Angeles.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2023

REVIEW: End of Story by Louise Swanson

Published: March 23rd, 2023
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Dystopian Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Get ready to meet your new favourite thriller author! End of Story is a heart-pounding masterpiece you won’t want to miss. Thank you to Louise Swanson and Hodder & Stoughton for my gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Too much imagination can be a dangerous thing

It has been five years since writing fiction was banned by the government.

Fern Dostoy is a criminal. Officially, she has retrained in a new job outside of the arts but she still scrawls in a secret notepad in an effort to capture what her life has become: her work on a banned phone line, reading bedtime stories to sleep-starved children; Hunter, the young boy who calls her and has captured her heart; and the dreaded visits from government officials.

But as Fern begins to learn more about Hunter, doubts begin to surface. What are they both hiding?

And who can be trusted?

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MY REVIEW:

If you tell a story well enough, it’s true. 

I knew Lousie Swanson was a master storyteller and anything she writes is on my auto-buy list.  So when she announced End of Story it immediately became my most anticipated book of 2023.  I decided to pick it up last night after struggling to read all week thinking her books are always compelling.  I knew it would be good, but I was unprepared for the sheer tour de force I was about to read.  So addictive it had me on the edge of my seat from the first lines, I devoured it in just a couple of hours; staying up until 3am to finish as it was impossible to put it down and sleep without a conclusion. 

Exquisitely written, this is one of those books that has to be experienced.  You need to pick it up and allow the author to take you on the ride.  And what a ride it is!  Set in 2035, the story is told by Fern, a former author living in a nightmarish future where fiction is banned.  But she is determined to tell her story and begins keeping a secret diary where she not only talks about her innermost feelings and current life, but how fiction came to be outlawed and her own part in that story.  She is a fantastic character who I immediately felt connected to and enjoyed reading, seeing how her story unfolded piece by piece. 

Darkly sinister and suspenseful, this is a book filled to the brim with fear and tension. But it is also a complex, layered and moving story that has so much more depth than you expect.  An inventive and clever story that is like nothing I’ve ever read.  Ms Swanson has outdone herself with this one.  It is easily my book of the year and I feel sure that anyone who reads it will be adding her to their auto-buy lists.  

If I could give this more than five stars I would.  An absolute tour-de-force, End of Story is a heart-pounding masterpiece.  A work of art.  And you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.  Add it to your 2023 lists now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Louise Swanson’s debut End of Story arrives in March 2023. She wrote the book during the final lockdown of 2020, following a family tragedy, finding refuge in the fiction she created. The themes of the book – grief, isolation, love of the arts, the power of storytelling – came from a very real place. Swanson, a mother of two who lives in East Yorkshire with her husband, regularly blogs, talks at events, and is a huge advocate of openly discussing mental health and suicide.

She also writes as Louise Beech. Beech’s eight books have won the Best magazine Book of the Year 2019, shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year, longlisted for the Polari Prize, and been a Clare Mackintosh Book Club Pick. Her memoir, Daffodils, was released in audiobook in 2022.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Keep It In The Family by John Marrs

Published: October 18th, 2022
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Literary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this chilling novel. Thank you to FMcM for the invitation to take part and my copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

In this chilling novel from bestselling author John Marrs, a young couple’s house hides terrible secrets―and not all of them are confined to the past.

Mia and Finn are busy turning a derelict house into their dream home when Mia unexpectedly falls pregnant. But just when they think the house is ready, Mia discovers a chilling message scored into a skirting board: I WILL SAVE THEM FROM THE ATTIC. Following the clue up into the eaves, the couple make a gruesome discovery: their dream home was once a house of horrors.

In the wake of their traumatic discovery, the baby arrives and Mia can’t shake her fixation with the monstrous crimes that happened right above them. Haunted by the terrible things she saw and desperate to find answers, her obsession pulls her ever further from her husband.

Secrecy shrouds the mystery of the attic, but when shards of a dark truth start to emerge, Mia realises the danger is terrifyingly present. She is prepared to do anything to protect her family―but is it already too late?

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MY REVIEW:

“You feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You’re looking into their eyes. A person in that situation is God.”

– Ted Bundy

When a book opens with a quote from a notorious, sadistic serial killer you know it’s going to be a wild ride.  From the first page I had shivers down my spine and was on the edge of my seat, full of anticipation at the promise of such a chilling tale.  

Mia and Finn’s new house is a dilapidated two-storey detached Victorian house on an ordinary street.  It’s a house you’d never really notice but for the young couple this house is a promise of a better future.  But what they don’t yet know is that it is also a place harbouring dark secrets.  Secrets that the person who is quietly watching them knows.  The truth finally begins to emerge after the couple make a gruesome attic in the attic that haunts Mia and leaves her desperate to uncover the truth of what happened in the house.  But someone else will do anything to keep it from being uncovered.  The only question is, which of them will succeed?

“He isn’t the first to be caught in their web and he won’t be the last. Most of them beg for mercy but they are all wasting their time. There will be no change of heart because there never is. No one under this roof believes in compassion. Empathy is an alien emotion here. “

OMG!  What the f#@% did I just read?!  Deliciously dark, marvellously menacing and totally twisted, I am slightly terrified of John Marrs after reading this; though I would love to peek inside his mind to know how he came up with what is his darkest book yet.  I’ve been a big fan of Marrs’ books since I first read The One upon its release in 2017, and with every book he just gets better.  He truly is the king of the twisted psychological thriller.  Everything about his books makes my thriller-loving heart sing as he holds me hostage, my heart pounding as I read with baited breath as he drops clues like breadcrumbs to build the suspense.  Every time you think all the twists have been revealed and you have it all figured out he will pull the rug from under you and turn the world upside down.  It’s a never-ending maze of secrets, lies and murder.  Twist after twist that makes your jaw drop and your head spin.  And I can’t get enough of it. 

This story makes even the most messed-up and crazy family you know seem sane. By giving each of them a voice we are able to really get inside their minds and discover who they are. I felt most drawn to Mia, my heart going out to her in particular after the events at the end of part one.  I also really enjoyed the play on the traditional awful mother-in-law trope. Debbie is detestable for so many reasons and I admit I was team Mia from the start. 

But it is the mystery narrator who I felt was most powerfully written.  Though they are clearly a killer with a warped moral code, they are utterly fascinating. Through flashbacks to their childhood we learn that they are a creation of their horrific experiences, my heart breaking for what they endured and witnessed.  Writing a one-dimensional villain is easy, but it takes true talent such as that possessed by Marrs to craft such a mesmerising yet chilling portrayal of a disturbed individual who is both repulsive yet sympathetic. 

“To some, I’m a saviour, but to others, I’m a monster. I know what my work has been about, all the souls I’ve saved from torment. It’s part of the bargain that I can never share my role with the world. There’d be no hope of them understanding. Blinkered as they are, I could only be a monster. “

But who was our mysterious villain?  I enjoyed trying to piece the clues together to work out the answer but the clever red herrings left by the author led me to also suspect the innocent at times.  Even when I’d guessed correctly I discovered there were yet more crazy antics to come as this person toyed with their victims further and prolonged their torment with glee.  When and how would it end?  I had no idea.  But I don’t think I could have guessed what was in store even with infinite opportunities.  

Keep It In The Family is my new favourite John Marrs book.  And I think it will be yours too after you read this dark, sinister and mind-blowing tale.  Just buckle yourself in and enjoy the ride.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

John Marrs is an author and former journalist based in London and Northamptonshire. After spending his career interviewing celebrities from the worlds of television, film and music for numerous national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time author. His books include No1 bestseller and Netflix series The One, The Passengers, award winning What Lies Between Us and The Good Samaritan.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Call of Cassandra Rose by Sophia Spiers

Published: October 13th, 2022
Publisher: Lume Books
Genre: Suspense, Mystery, Thriller
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Call of Cassandra Rose, a sinister, unnerving and addictive debut. Thank you to Anne from Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Sophia Spiers for the gifted signed ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Annabelle seems to have it all. The perfect house, a successful husband, a darling son. But Annabelle is troubled. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, failing at motherhood, and at odds with her new privileged lifestyle, Annabelle begins to self-harm, a habit resurrected from her traumatic past. When she meets the alluring and charismatic hypnotherapist Cassandra Rose, she is offered a way out. Through hypnosis, Annabelle is encouraged to unearth her painful repressed memories and face her childhood demons. But as the boundaries between her hypnotic trance and reality begin to dissolve, Annabelle becomes increasingly vulnerable to much darker forces. Filled with twists and suspense, The Call of Cassandra Rose is a chilling thriller that examines how trauma shapes our lives and asks whether we can ever really escape our pasts.

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MY REVIEW:

“From the moment she had pulled me out of hypnosis, and I’d opened my eyes, I knew I wanted more. I was hooked. 
She’d done the impossible: she’d helped me to escape.” 

Sinister, dark and unnerving, The Call of Cassandra Rose is a compelling debut that oozes an anxious tension from start to finish.  Hard to predict, it keeps you on your toes with its jaw-dropping twists and turns that hit like bolts out of the blue. New author Sophia Spiers shows that she is a talent to watch as she tackles difficult subjects such as mental health, self-harm, abuse and trauma.  Skillfully and sensitively written, it is also achingly real and so hard to read at times that I had to put it aside and take a break before coming back to it.  

In the story’s narrator, Annabelle, Spiers perfectly captures how it feels to be in the grip of the black hole of anxiety and depression,  the fear, isolation and self-doubt of domestic abuse, the power of trauma and the overwhelming battle to fight the urge to self-harm. Annabelle is wracked with guilt, insecurities and is often naive.  Her world a claustrophobic state of terror that is suffocating and you can feel her increasing desperation to uncover the truth of the buried trauma that plagues her subconscious. She was someone I liked, empathised with and felt a strong connection to.  Someone I wished I could reach into the book and save. 

The eponymous Cassandra Rose is the antithesis to Annabelle.  Magnetic, alluring and enigmatic, the hypnotherapist appears like a much-needed saviour.  Annabelle sees her as her only hope of getting better and believes she’s piecing her back together like no one else can.  But from the start there was something about Cassandra Rose I didn’t trust and I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I certainly never imagined what was to come and was left reading in breathless anticipation as Spiers took me on a crazy ride that left me speechless.. 

Atmospheric, harrowing and addictive, this unique debut left me wondering what the hell I’d just read.  I’m still not sure.  But I would highly recommend you read it and try to find out for yourself. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

TW: Self harm, mental health, domestic abuse 

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sophia, a Londoner of proud Italian and Greek heritage, studied Film and TV at university. In her twenties she worked in TV and post-production before turning her attention to her true passion: writing. In 2019, she graduated from Faber Academy’s Writing A Novel course and has completed her debut novel, The Call of Cassandra Rose. Sophia lives in North London with her husband, two children, two cats and dog named Ripley.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones| Amazon

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

REVIEW: The Toll House by Carly Reagon

Published: October 6th, 2022
Publisher: Sphere
Genre: Ghost Story, Suspense, Thriller, Historical Fiction, Horror Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

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SYNOPSIS:
The spine-tingling ghost story everyone is raving about.

________

The past isn’t always dead and buried.

A house with history. That’s how the estate agent described the old toll house on the edge of the town. For Kelda it’s the perfect rural home for her young son Dylan after a difficult few years.

But when Kelda finds a death mask concealed behind one of the walls, everything changes. Inexplicable things happen in the house, Kelda cannot shake the feeling of being watched and Dylan is plagued by nightmares, convinced he can see figures in his room. As Dylan’s behaviour becomes increasingly challenging, Kelda seeks answers in the house’s mysterious past. But she’s running out of time.

Because something has awoken.

And now it won’t rest . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“There’s something about this house… It feels weird… the house sort of feels alive.”

Kelda moves into the old toll house wth her six-year-old son, Dylan.  The rural home seems like the ideal place for a fresh start after a difficult few years, but when Kelda finds an old death mask hidden in a wall she is no longer so sure.  Then Dylan’s nightmares start, the young boy terrified of the figures he says he sees in his room, Kelda can’t shake the feeling she’s being watched and there are strange smells and a chill that they can’t erase.  Could there be something supernatural in their home?  And if so, what does it want?  Desperate for answers, Kelda begins to look into the mysterious past of the toll house to try and find out before it’s too late…

Unnerving, sinister and mesmerising, The Toll House is an outstanding debut.  I lost myself in its pages, so captivated by the creeping horror that I lost track of time and devoured ¾ of the book in one sitting and then thinking it might not have been the best idea to read such a scary story before heading to bed at 3am.  

“She was drowning in sorrow, in the terror of what had happened here, of whatever was lurking within these four walls.” 

Exquisitely written, the story starts steadily before building to an unbearable tension that sends shivers down your spine.  The characters are richly drawn and compelling, Kelda and Dylan are so easy to like and feel for while Joe is a more mysterious character that I became increasingly unsure of as the story went on.  The narration moves seamlessly between the past and present, its dual timelines adding an extra layer of suspense as the restless spirits of the past slowly reveal themselves, unravelling the truth of what is happening to Kelda and Dylan in the present.  I was on the edge of my seat, reading in breathless anticipation as it headed towards the jaw-dropping finale.  

So if you’re looking for an atmospheric, chilling and unsettling read for the spooky season, this is the book for you.  Nerve-jangling and hypnotic, The Toll House showcases Carly Reagon as a phenomenal new talent and an author to watch.  I’m excited to see what she writes next and will be buying it without hesitation after this magnificent debut.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Carly Reagon is a writer and lecturer in healthcare sciences from Wales. Her work is inspired by her love of history, the rolling Welsh countryside, and all things spooky. In 2017 Carly completed the six month online novel writing course with Curtis Brown Creative and in 2019 she was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. 

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The Wife Next Door by Rona Halsall

Published: October 12th, 2022
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the unsettling and unexpected The Wife Next Door. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

It was meant to be the perfect break-up…

Just because it’s over between us, doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. My ex-husband and I still care for each other a lot, and we are determined to put our sweet little boy, Toby first.

Now we’ve moved into houses right next door to each other, with each of our new partners and their children. We’ve even knocked down the garden fence, so Toby can easily run between our homes.

But it seems not everyone is happy about this big, blended stepfamily. I try to ignore the viciously-worded note in the ‘new home’ card, the red pen scrawled through my divorce paperwork, and the day I find myself locked into my house, all the keys suddenly missing…

But I can’t pretend it’s all in my head when a false accusation is made against me that could destroy my life – and Toby’s – forever.

Someone doesn’t like what’s happening under these two neighbouring roofs.

What they don’t know is that they’re messing with the wrong person. And that hell hath no fury like the wife next door…

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MY REVIEW:

Jess and her ex-husband Rob are determined not to let their break-up stop them from being friends.  In an attempt to put their son, Toby, first they move into new homes next door to each other with their new partners and their children and try to create the perfect blended family.

But it seems someone isn’t happy about the new arrangements: there are threatening messages, strange incidents and malicious accusations.  Jess’s family are concerned she’s paranoid but she’s sure someone is out to get her and tear their new blended family apart…

Taut, tense and filled with surprising twists, this is another first-class domestic thriller from Rona Halsall.  Rona was one of the first authors whose books I reviewed and has become a must-read author for me.  So much so that I don’t even read the synopsis before requesting her books or applying for the blog tour.  She can be relied upon to deliver an intriguing, gripping and entertaining read filled with revelations I never saw coming.  The Wife Next Door certainly lived up to those expectations, keeping me guessing up until the jaw-dropping finale.

Protagonist Jess was a great character.  Halsall puts the reader in her shoes and makes us feel everything she does.  I felt pretty sure she wasn’t paranoid but also couldn’t decide who could be behind what was happening.  My heart went out to her as things spiralled out of control and I helplessly watched her life fall apart.  Would she be able to prove her innocence? Or would Halsall deliver one of her sensational twists to reveal she isn’t who I thought?  

Unsettling, claustrophobic and totally riveting, this is a must-read for any thriller lover.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rona is the author of Best Selling psychological thrillers published by Bookouture. She loves a puzzle to solve, so now she writes them… her challenge is to find domestic storylines with twists that keep her readers guessing right to the end.

She has been a bit of a nomad during her adult life, moving around the north of England. Then she settled in Snowdonia, North Wales where she brought up her family while working as a business mentor. She now lives on the Isle of Man with her husband and two dogs.

She is an outdoorsy person and loves stomping up a mountain, walking the coastal paths and exploring the wonderful glens and beaches on the Island while she’s plotting her next book. She has three children and two step-children who are all grown up and leading varied and interesting lives, which provides plenty of ideas for new stories.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon | Waterstones

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links