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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: Viper Books
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Gothic Fiction, Horror Fiction, Crime Fiction

Thank you to the wonderful Miranda at Viper Books for sending me a gorgeous gifted ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

THE MUST-READ GOTHIC THRILLER OF 2021

‘I haven’t read anything this exciting since Gone Girl’ STEPHEN KING

‘Believe the hype… a masterclass’ KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE

‘Books like this don’t come around too often’ JOANNE HARRIS

This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…

MY REVIEW:

“Don’t let anyone find out what you are.” 

The Last House On Needless Street is a gothic masterpiece. It’s a few months since I read it and yet it still lingers vividly in my mind. Mysterious, unsettling and original, I was mesmerised from the start and completely enrapt by the eerie world the author had created. And the creepier it became, the deeper I fell; lured against my every instinct into the dark and twisted world of a murderer, his cat and the mystery of a missing child.

The story is told from multiple points of view: Ted, Dee, Lauren and Olivia the cat. Yes, the cat is a narrator in this book. Each is vividly drawn, fascinating and memorable, but they may or may not be reliable, adding to the mysterious atmosphere and leaving the reader never quite sure what is and isn’t real in this bizarre tale. 

It takes a talented author to write a story that is both horrifying and funny, something Ward has achieved with flourish with this book. She has crafted a tale unlike anything I’ve read before. One full of beautiful imagery and prose that belies the dark, murky, spine-chilling story it tells. She plays with your mind, cleverly lulling you into a false sense of security where you accept what you’re reading, while using it to mask an entirely different narrative that only becomes visible as you approach the finale. And when you see it, it changes every word you just read. It is a masterclass in storytelling, twists and plotting that blows my mind every time I think about it.

“… if you wait long enough, evil always shows up.” 

One of the things I loved most is how deeply Ward delves into the mind of the killer. I need more books like this! Don’t miss the Afterward for the full, fascinating insight into Ted’s mind. The amount of research that has gone into it is phenomenal and sent me down a fascinating and frightening rabbit hole. 

Striking, inventive and gloriously unhinged, this jaw-dropping thriller is one that doesn’t come around often. It is a truly spectacular and original novel that you won’t be able to shake. One that will haunt you, horrify you and surprise you. Someone needs to call Spielberg or Howard because this is a story that belongs on the big screen.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Catriona Ward was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Her next gothic thriller, The Last House on Needless Street, will be published March 2021 by Viper (Serpents Tail).

Ward’s second novel, Little Eve (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018) won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award and the August Derleth Prize for Best Horror Novel at the 2019 British Fantasy Awards, making her the only woman to have won the prize twice, and was a Guardian best book of 2018. Her debut Rawblood (W&N, 2015) won Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and a WHSmith Fresh Talent title. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. She lives in London and Devon.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles! Until next time, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours

Her Sister’s Child by Alison James

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

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

SYNOPSIS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

Trigger Warning: Infant death, infertility, alcoholism

MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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Blog Tours book reviews

Mother Loves Me by Abby Davies

Published: September 17th, 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Adventure Fiction

I’m thrilled to share my review as part of the tour for this spine-tingling debut. Thank you to Jennifer at Harper Collins for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

The creepiest debut thriller you will read this year!

One little girl.
Mirabelle’s mother loves her. She’s her ‘little doll’. Mother dresses her, paints her face, and plaits her hair. But as Mirabelle grows, the dresses no longer fit quite as well, the face paint no longer looks quite so pretty. And Mother isn’t happy.
 
Two little girls.
On Mirabelle’s 13th birthday, Mother arrives home with a present – a new sister, 5-year-old Clarabelle, who Mother has rescued from the outside world.
 
But Mother only needs one.
As it dawns on Mirabelle that there is a new ‘little doll’ in her house, she also realises that her life isn’t what she thought it was. And that dolls often end up on the scrap heap…

MY REVIEW:

Mother Loves Me is a darkly atmospheric, claustrophobic and sinister debut that sent shivers down my spine. From the opening pages there’s prevailing unease malevolence that hangs in the air, making me read with a breathless anticipation.

Thirteen-year-old Mirabelle’s mother paints her face and dresses her like the doll she has nicknamed her, the windows are boarded up, the doors locked and the young girl has never left the house.

When Mother returns home with another little girl hidden in a bag and tells Mirabelle this is her new sister Clarabelle, she begins to question things she’d always believed, wonders if there are things Mother might be hiding; sparking a series of events that will turn her world upside down.

This is exactly the kind of twisted read I love. The book I’d just finished was one I loved so much that I was worried I’d struggle to read this, but, thankfully, this was so creepily addictive I couldn’t get enough. The author’s prose is beautiful, eerie and immersive, pulling me into Mirabelle’s small world with such vividness that I could see the story playing in my head as I read.

The characters are richly drawn and felt so real, despite their absurd situation. Mirabelle is a great narrator. The author perfectly captured her childish innocence, inquisitiveness and obedience and her fledgling desire for independence. We meet her at an age where she would have both that desperation to please desire to rebel against Mother, which combined with the jealousy that arises upon having to share her mother with Clarabelle, creates a perfect storm that the author mines to perfection.

Mother is one of the most sinister characters I’ve read for a while. She was clearly unhinged, the author capturing every shade of her evil and madness and made it leap from the page, chilling me to my core. I was terrified for both girls in her “care”. Over the course of the story we do learn what happened to make her this way, but I liked that the author didn’t let that make her a sympathetic character, despite Mirabelle’s desire to feel that way about her. It felt right that she remained an abhorrent, evil figure no matter what had happened in her past.

So, if you like a book that sizzles with tension, sends shivers down your spine, and has you on the edge of your seat, then this is the book for you. It’s as good as any chilling horror film and I would love to see it on screen.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

After acquiring a degree in English Literature, Abby taught English in state and private schools, and earned a Creative Writing MA in 2013. She wrote a great deal throughout her twenties and early thirties. To stay motivated, she told herself that even if it took her until 80 to get her work out to readers, she’d do it.

Abby lives in Wiltshire with her husband and daughter. MOTHER LOVES ME is her debut novel.

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah

Published: September 3rd, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Crime Fiction, Legal Thriller, Political Thriller, Domestic Fiction, LGBTQ Literature

Happy Publication Kia Abdullah! I’m thrilled to be one of the bloggers sharing their review for this outstanding thriller on publication day as part of the blog tour. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and my copy of this novel.

SYNOPSIS:

ARE YOU READY TO START THIS CONVERSATION?

Kamran Hadid feels invincible. He attends Hampton school, an elite all-boys boarding school in London, he comes from a wealthy family, and he has a place at Oxford next year. The world is at his feet. And then a night of revelry leads to a drunken encounter and he must ask himself a horrific question.

With the help of assault counsellor, Zara Kaleel, Kamran reports the incident in the hopes that will be the end of it. But it’s only the beginning…

Powerful, explosive and important, Truth Be Told is a contemporary courtroom drama that vividly captures today’s society. You will not stop thinking about it for a long time to come.

MY REVIEW: 

I’m still reeling from this phenomenal thriller. It’s one I devoured, foregoing sleep to read it in one sitting as I found it impossible to put down. 

Zara Kaleel is back and finds herself embroiled in another high profile case when Kamran Hadid comes to her for help. Kamram claims he was raped in his room at a prestigious boarding school after passing out drunk after a party. But his alleged attacker claims it was consensual. Why wouldn’t he say no if he didn’t want it? Why just let him carry on? 

When Kamran decides to persue the case, the question of consent is examined in great detail and leaves both boys attempting to grapple with the truth of what their actions, and inactions, that night meant. Full of shocking twists and turns, when the truth is finally revealed it will leave your jaw on the floor. 

He tried to give shape to the weight of his trauma. He thought of it as a thick bar of florescent light that hummed from throat to groin. Real healing with dim that light, snuff out sections until it grew dark – but how could he heal if he couldn’t remember? Instead, he would push down the pain until it was a sun-bright penny lodged in his gut. That’s where he’d let it burn.”

Truth Be Told examines a topic rarely discussed with truth and sensitivity, highlighting the complex layers of emotion and perception that accompany male rape. The author also addresses the intricacies and blurred lines of consent, and the prejudice faced by gay men in the Muslim community. Like her fantastic debut, it is an intelligent, well-written, powerful and thought-provoking novel that will stay with the reader long after reading the final page. 

Zara is a brilliant character to base a series on because she stands out from the saturated crowd of other protagonists. She is a modern, liberal Asian woman, trying to balance her family’s cultural expectations and traditions with her Western life and personal desires. This pressure has led to a misuse of narcotics that she’s seeking treatment for in this novel, adding another layer to her flawed character. 

The other characters are all equally as compelling and richly drawn. Kamran Hadid was the one who took my heart. Maybe it’s because I have two boys of a similar age that I couldn’t help putting in his shoes, but this kid broke me. The rainbow of emotions he’s feeling lept from the page and went straight to my soul. It was heart-rending to read his journey; the effect the trauma had on every facet of his life, changing him forever. It takes immeasurable strength for any victim to stand up against their attacker, and I had such admiration for Kamram in his refusal to be a silent victim. 

But the author doesn’t make it that easy. She also tells the story from the alleged attacker’s perspective. And while at the start he’s clearly sure it was consensual, there soon becomes hints that he’s hiding something. Though we don’t know what. We also witness his devastation as he faces the fact that Kamran views what happened as rape. That what Finn views as a mistake is a traumatic attack in Kamran’s eyes tears him apart, but he also feels sure that without a clear no it was consensual. I found myself feeling sympathy for what Finn was going through, then felt mad at myself for doing so. After all, whether he meant to or not, he raped someone. Didn’t he?

Fast-paced, hard-hitting and intense, this is not your typical legal thriller. Kia Abdullah has just cemented her place on my list of auto-buy authors. Outstanding and addictive, this is one I can’t recommend highly enough. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:
*From Kia’s Website

Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. Her novel Take It Back was named one of the best thrillers of th year by The Guardian and Telegraph and was selected for an industry-first audio serialisation by HarperCollins and The Pigeonhole. Her follow-up novel, Truth Be Told, is out in September 2020 (HQ/HarperCollins).

Kia has written for The New York TimesThe GuardianThe Telegraph and The Times, and is the founder of Asian Booklist, a non-profit organisation that advocates for diversity in publishing. 

Born in Tower Hamlets in East London, Kia was raised in a family of eight children. As the most stubborn of six daughters, she constantly found herself in trouble for making choices that clashed with her parents’, a habit they came to accept when she became their first and only child to graduate from university – with a degree in Computer Science.

In 2007, Kia left her job in tech to pursue the one thing she had always wanted: a career as a writer, taking a 50% pay cut in the process. She worked as sub-editor and later features editor at Asian Woman Magazine where she interviewed British-Asian luminaries like Riz Ahmed, Meera Syal, Anoushka Shankar and Nitin Sawnhey. 

Kia went on to join global publisher Penguin Random House where she helped grow digital readership at Rough Guides to over a million users per month. In 2014, she quit her day job to found Atlas & Boots, an outdoor travel blog now read by 250,000 people a month. 

Today, she splits her time between London and the Yorkshire Dales town of Richmond, and spends her time writing, hiking, mentoring pupils from Tower Hamlets and visiting far-flung destinations for Atlas & Boots.

Kia loves to travel, hates to cook and periodically highlights that, in actual fact, she is one of nine children (one passed away), making her Seven of Nine… which is cool but only if you’re a Star Trek fan… which she is. But please don’t hold it against her.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Silence by Susan Allott

Published: August 6th, 2020
Publisher: The Borough Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Crime Thriller

Today is my stop on the tour for this riveting debut. Thank you Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and The Borough Press for the gifed copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father, Joe, phoning from Sydney.

30 years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Greens’ next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared. Joe claims he thought she had gone to start a new life; but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla’s father was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and he’s under suspicion of murder.

Back home in Sydney, Isla’s search for the truth takes her back to 1967, when two couples lived side by side on a quiet street by the sea. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?

Deftly exploring the deterioration of relationships and the devastating truths we keep from those we love, The Silence is a stunning debut from a rising literary star.

MY REVIEW:

“This is the community she grew up in. Where people know everything but say nothing.”

Susan Allott is an author to watch. In her debut novel, a dramatic family saga that I couldn’t put down, Allot has captured a sense of time and place so vividly that you can see the outdated wallpaper and feel the acrid heat. It is a mysterious, foreboding, emotional and layered story that takes the reader back to one of the darkest times in Australian history, merging it with the tantalising tale of a woman missing for thirty years and long-held secrets finally being revealed. 

Told using dual narratives, we simultaneously follow neighbouring families the Greens and the Mallories during the summer of 1967. A summer that will leave them inextricably linked after Mandy Mallorie disappears and Joe Green comes under suspicion. In 1997, Isla Green returns home to support her family and tries to get to the bottom of what happened thirty years ago. As Isla delves deeper into the past, shameful secrets resurface that threaten to rock her whole world. Could her father have killed Mandy? And how much does her mother know?

This was a powerful and affecting read. Examining relationships, secrets and lies, the author handles difficult subjects such as domestic abuse and alcoholism in a real but sensitive way. The characters are flawed but intriguing and I couldn’t help but feel invested in their fates.

Atmospheric, haunting, utterly compelling and with a strong emotional resonance, this novel drew me in, transporting me back in time and to the other side of the world. One I would highly recommend, it kept me guessing right until the unforgettable finale. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Susan Allott is a fiction writer whose debut novel THE SILENCE was published in e-book and audio formats on 30th April 2020 by Borough Press (Harper Collins, UK) with the hardback edition due to be published on 6th August 2020. The UK paperback will follow in April 2021.

THE SILENCE was published in North America on 19th May 2020 by William Morrow (Harper Collins, US) with the paperback to follow in May 2021.

In Australia and New Zealand THE SILENCE was published by Harper Collins on 1st May 2020.

Harper Collins will publish THE SILENCE in the rest of its English language territories in August 2020.

In Italy THE SILENCE will be published by Harper Italia and in France by Editions Belfond.

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