Welcome to First Lines Friday where I share the first lines from one of the books on my shelves to try and tempt you to add it to yours.
“Edward Fosca was a murderer. This was a fact. This wasn’t something Mariana knew just on an intellectual level, as an idea. Her body knew it. She felt it in her bones, along with her blood, and deep within every cell. Edward Fosca was guilty.”
Today’s gripping first lines are taken from The Maidens, the new novel by Alex Michaelades that was published yesterday. I don’t know about you, but those lines make me want to abandon my TBR and pick up this book. In fact, if I didn’t have blog tour commitments that is exactly what I’d be doing.
We all keep secrets. Even from ourselves.
St Christopher’s College, Cambridge, is a closed world to most.
For Mariana Andros – a group therapist struggling through her private grief – it’s where she met her late husband. For her niece, Zoe, it’s the tragic scene of her best friend’s murder.
As memory and mystery entangle Mariana, she finds a society full of secrets, which has been shocked to its core by the murder of one of its own.
Because behind its idyllic beauty is a web of jealousy and rage which emanates from an exclusive set of students known only as The Maidens. A group under the sinister influence of the enigmatic professor Edward Fosca.
A man who seems to know more than anyone about the murders – and the victims. And the man who will become the prime suspect in Mariana’s investigation – an obsession which will unravel everything…
The Maidensis a story of love, and of grief – of what makes us who we are, and what makes us kill.
This is one of my most anticipated books of 2021, so I am really excited to pick this up, hopefully later this month. Is The Maidens on your TBR? Let me know in the comments?
Published: April 29th, 2021 Publisher: Two Roads/John Murray Press Genre: Historical Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Contemporary Fantasy Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
I read this book as part of a readalong hosted by the publisher. Thank you Two Roads Books for the gifted copy of this book
Madame Burova – Tarot Reader, Palmist and Clairvoyant is retiring and leaving her booth on the Brighton seafront after fifty years.
Imelda Burova has spent a lifetime keeping other people’s secrets and her silence has come at a price. She has seen the lovers and the liars, the angels and the devils, the dreamers and the fools. Her cards had unmasked them all and her cards never lied. But Madame Burova is weary of other people’s lives, their ghosts from the past and other people’s secrets, she needs rest and a little piece of life for herself. Before that, however, she has to fulfill a promise made a long time ago. She holds two brown envelopes in her hand, and she has to deliver them.
In London, it is time for another woman to make a fresh start. Billie has lost her university job, her marriage, and her place in the world when she discovers something that leaves her very identity in question. Determined to find answers, she must follow a trail which might just lead right to Madame Burova’s door.
In a story spanning over fifty years, Ruth Hogan conjures a magical world of 1970s holiday camps and seaside entertainers, eccentrics, heroes and villains, the lost and the found. Young people, with their lives before them, make choices which echo down the years. And a wall of death rider is part of a love story which will last through time.
“Madame Burova was a woman who knew where the bodies were buried.”
With that breathtaking first line I was hooked. What a way to start! I was ready for a book full of intrigue, suspense and spirits. Madame Burova is a story of two women, a lifetime of secrets and identity. The author moves seamlessly between dual timelines and narrators, slowly unveiling decades-old secrets and piecing together the truth of Billie’s mother’s identity.
This is a story filled with an array of authentic, vibrant, quirky and compelling characters. The women are fierce, feisty, independent and flawed, showing strength but also showing their vulnerable side. I enjoyed the banter between Imelda and her mother, Shunty-Mae, and enjoyed following Billie’s journey as she tried to rebuild her sense of self and discover who she really is after having her world torn apart. The author had me completely invested and unable to turn away. But the character who really stole my heart was young Treasure. I had tears in my eyes for that boy many times as he reminded us of the devastating effects of racism and bullying.
“As she read what was written on the pages it contained, her whole world washed away like the chalked hopscotch squares of her childhood in a sudden downpour of rain.”
This is a very character-driven story. And while I enjoyed that, and loved the characters and mystery elements of the book, I wanted to see more of Imelda’s gift. I was expecting a book full of mysticism and was disappointed that there was relatively little of it featured in the story, particularly in the present day. But that aside, the rest of the book was brilliant and I thought the mystery element was particularly well written as the author kept me guessing right up until the big reveal. As someone who reads a lot of books featuring mysteries, I like when one isn’t easy to guess and keeps me on my toes.
The author really brought the 1970s to life with her evocative imagery, making me feel like I had stepped into the pictures in my parents’ old photo albums. I felt like I could see the people in their flares and platform shoes walking down the street and smell the smoke in the cafe alongside the bacon grease. Speaking of the cafe, I loved how it was the local meeting place and at the core of a lot of the action in that era. It felt true to the time and place and some of my favourite scenes took place there. Another thing that added to the authenticity of the era, were the toxic behaviours that were more acceptable in the 70s that the author skillfully wove into the lighthearted, witty and tender prose. While it was hard to read at times, it was sensitively written and served as an important reminder of how such things were deemed acceptable just a few short years ago.
Uplifting, funny, warm and affecting, Madame Burova is an entertaining story that I would recommend. This was my first foray into Ruth’s books and I’m looking forward to reading more.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
FROM RUTH’S WEBSITE: I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford. My sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me.
As a child, I loved the Brownies but hated the Guides, was obsessed with ponies and read everything I could lay my hands on. Luckily, my mum worked in a bookshop. My favourite reads were The Moomintrolls, A Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets, and gravestones.
I passed enough O and A levels to get a place at Goldsmiths College, University of London, to study English and Drama. It was brilliant and I loved it.
And then I got a proper job.
I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (Human Resources – Recruitment, Diversity and Training). I was a square peg in round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage.
In my early thirties I had a car accident which left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously. I got a part-time job as an osteopath’s receptionist and spent all my spare time writing. It was all going well, but then in 2012 I got Cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing, and the eventual result was THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS.
I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering husband. I spend all my free time writing or thinking about it and have notebooks in every room so that I can write down any ideas before I forget them. I am a magpie; always collecting treasures (or ‘junk’ depending on your point of view) and a huge John Betjeman fan. My favourite word is antimacassar and I still like reading gravestones.
Published: May 27th, 2021 Publisher: Harper Voyager Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Fairy Tale, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy, Horror Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story, Fantasy Series Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this enchanting tale. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Harper Voyager UK for the gorgeous proof.
Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.
‘Magic and love. Love and magic. They destroy everything in the end …’
Anna’s Aunt has always warned her of the dangers of magic. Its twists. Its knots. Its deadly consequences.
Now Anna counts down the days to the ceremony that will bind her magic forever.
Until she meets Effie and Attis.
They open her eyes to a London she never knew existed. A shop that sells memories. A secret library where the librarian feeds off words. A club where revellers lose themselves in a haze of spells.
But as she is swept deeper into this world, Anna begins to wonder if her Aunt was right all along.
Is her magic a gift … or a curse?
“Goddess of Silence and Secrets: Seal our mouths, so we can’t speak. Pierce our eyes, so we can’t seek. Knot our hearts, so we can’t feel. Bind our spells; to you we kneel. What is forgotten, can’t be known. What isn’t planted, can’t be sown. Lock the door and turn the key. We bear our magic silently. – The Binders’ Blessing”
This first installment in the new Language of Magic series tells the story of Anna, an orphaned fifteen-year-old who lives with her Aunt, Vivienne. They are witches, but Aunt believes magic to be dangerous and deadly, and has brought Anna up to fear her powers. When she turns sixteen Anna will undergo the Knotting ceremony and become a Binder like her Aunt, no longer able to use her magic. But when her late mother’s best friend Selene moves back to London with her teenage daughter Effie and Attis, a family friend, Anna’s eyes are opened to a world she’s never known.
Meanwhile, a group of six women are found hanged at Big Ben, sending her Aunt and the Binders into a frenzy. As Anna begins to question the things she has been told about both magic and her past, she starts to wonder if there could be a future out there for her that doesn’t include having her magic bound.
“Whispers divide, in secrets we thrive.”
Before we talk about the book we need to talk about the cover. Both the proof and the finished version are so beautiful that it is impossible to resist their allure. But what about what’s inside?
Threadneedle is a story of secrets, lies and self-discovery interwoven with a hidden magical world. It opens with an eerie and macabre scene that gives the book an air of ominous foreboding and mystery. After that, things slow down a little as the author sets the scene for the reader. But when I got to about a fifth of the way through, the pace picked up and the story was soon sizzling with tension, twists and mischief.
Magic had beckoned its hand and she had followed. It was a beginning — the door was ever so slightly ajar.”
Anna is a very sheltered character. She has been controlled and mistreated by her Aunt all her life, even believing it is wrong to have friends. The author immerses the reader in the indoctrination Anna has been subjected to by starting each chapter with a quote from The Book of the Binders and the teachings are woven into every thread of the story, omnipresent and impossible to escape, enabling you to understand Anna’s feelings of fear and powerlessness. When the outgoing and spirited Effie and Attis come into her life, they are initially unwelcome and a danger to her protected bubble. But once Effie has identified Rowan and Miranda as witches and the four of them come together, things slowly change. For the first time in her life Anna has friends, feels happy, and is making some of her own choices; though she is still terrified of the consequences should her Aunt find out. I enjoyed watching Anna’s journey as she grappled with the lies she’s been told, began to break free of her Aunt’s control and finally blossomed into her own person.
Aunt Vivienne is a truly vile character. She is so well-written that I despised her and wished for her downfall. In fact she was so evil that I felt like if you unzipped her a demon would emerge. The women of the Binders have an equally malevolent and sinister vibe and together they would send shivers down my spine as they subjected poor Anna to yet more trauma.
“This was magic without bounds, without rules, magic fed by something else entirely.”
The magical world that the author has created is so believable that I accepted it without hesitation. I could imagine all of these secret, mystical places hidden in London and the witches moving amongst ordinary humans without detection. There is so much potential in this world and the characters for her future books and I’m excited to see where she takes it.
A magical, mysterious and bewitching story full of serpentine twists, Threadneedle is an enthralling story that I would highly recommend. I can’t wait to read more of this exciting new series.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Cari Thomas grew up in the Wye Valley area of Wales and, after studying English Literature & Creative Writing at Warwick University and Magazine Journalism at the Cardiff School of Journalism, moved to London. She worked as a journalist and at a creative agency, before finally doing what she’d always wanted to do: quit her job and write a book about magic.
The result is Threadneedle, her debut novel and the first in her Language of Magic series. Be introduced to a world of wild, ancient witchcraft hidden within today’s London; where libraries made of books breathe dusty pages beneath the city, where witch clubs serve up magical cocktails and vintage shops sell memories. A world where magic gleams light and very, very dark.
Cari now lives in Bristol with her husband and son.
May has been a fantastic reading month for me. I’ve read 16 books, which is by best monthly total so far this year! But most importantly, I’ve enjoyed reading them and some have been real stand-outs that will likely be on my list of favourite books of 2021 at the end of the year.
Here’s a quick summary of what I read with links to the reviews (unless they are yet to be published):
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
I had been excited about Ariadne for months and was so happy to finally read the book. An absolute masterpiece, Ariadne brings to life many of the familiar Greek myths through a new lens. This time it’s the women telling the story. And boy do they have a story to tell. Lush, evocative and unforgettable, this book lingers long after reading and has sparked a new obsession for me with Greek mythology. Jennifer Saint has just announced her second book, Elektra, and I’m already counting down to its release. Read my review here.
The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary
Beth O’Leary is one of my auto-buy authors and her books always lift my spirits. The Road Trip is another entertaining and readable story about love friendship, betrayal and forgiveness. Review coming soon.
The Other Emily by Dean Koontz
A gripping page-turner that had me guessing from start to finish, The Other Emily was an eerie thriller filled with twists and turns. It was my first time reading Dean Koontz and I can see why everyone raves about his books. Read my review here
The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley
The Cat and the City was a delightful and refreshing read that wasn’t what I expected, but in a good way. This collection of experiences about life in Tokyo was a moving, original, captivating and evocative read that I devoured quickly. One I’d highly recommend if you’re looking for something a bit different. Read my review here
Worst Idea Ever by Jane Fallon
Why has it taken me so long to read Jane Fallon’s books? An entertaining, twisty and sharply observed look at female friendships, jealousy, vengeance and betrayal, this made me an instant fan. Read my review here
Until Next Weekend by Rachel Marks
Until Next Weekend is a story about love, loss and moving on. Wonderfully written, this warm, tender and funny story was a joy to read. While it has a very lighthearted feel, the author skillfully weaves in some deep and difficult subjects in a way that is both honest and sensitively written. This author is two for two on fantastic books that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend and is now an auto-buy author for me. Read my review here
The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter
I have a new crime series to catch up on! The Whole Truth lives up to its advertised ‘impossible to predict’ tagline and had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Cara Hunter twists a familiar story on its head, exploring what happens when a male student accuses a female teacher of abuse in this gripping thriller. This is a must-read for any fans of crime fiction and I can’t wait to read more. Read my review here
You Had It Coming by BM Carroll
You Had It Coming is another tense, twisty and compelling thriller that expertly tackles a difficult subject. As a mother of teenage boys, I’m glad to see more books tackling the issue of consent and the dangers for both sexes that those blurred lines can bring. Thought-provoking and emotionally charged, I would highly recommend this fantastic thriller. Read my review here
Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan~
Madame Burova is the story of two women, a lifetime of secrets and identity. Full of vibrant, quirky and memorable characters that leap from the screen, and evocative imagery that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back into the 1970s, I enjoyed this funny, mysterious and uplifting story. Review coming soon.
Legal Crime by Samiksha Bhattacharjee
This book is quite the accomplishment, having been written by a thirteen-year-old author. While it suffers a little for the the author’s lack of maturity, it is a good book and I’m sure that with maturity the author will become an even better writer. Read my review here
The Hollows by Mark Edwards
My love for Mark Edwards is an open secret at this point, and every book he releases is eagerly anticipated. I was particularly excited for The Hollows as it merges two of my favourite genres: true crime and psychological thriller. Sinister, suspenseful and utterly spectacular, this might be my favourite yet. Keep an eye out for my review nearer to it’s release on July 8th.
The Baby is Mine by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Darkly funny, claustrophobic and readable, this quick read is the first book I’ve read set during the pandemic. It is perfect for anyone looking for a quick and entertaining read. Read my review here
The Pact by Sharon Bolton
Wow! Just, wow! The Pact was my standout thriller in a month filled with amazing thrillers. So that tells you something. This was an absolute tour-de-force, a breathtaking rollercoaster ride that I devoured quickly. If you are a fan of thrillers than you need to read this book! Read my review here
The Couple by Helly Acton
This was a fun twist on the usual romance story. Set in a world where being single is the norm, and those who are in a relationship are looked down upon, I couldn’t get enough of this warm, funny, uplifting and emotional story. A perfect book to lose yourself in. Read my review here
Shadows Over the Spanish Sun by Caroline Montague
A truly beautiful saga of family, love, loss, secrets and betrayal, Shadows Over the Spanish Sun, this book transported me to the stunning vistas of Spain. The perfect book to read in my garden on a sunny day, this is historical fiction at it’s finest; filled with wonderful characters, lush imagery and educating me about a subject I knew nothing about. Read my review here
Strange Tricks: An Essex Witch Museum Mystery by Syd Moore
I loved this witty cozy mystery so much that I’m planning to read the rest of the series. Great writing, brilliant characters and fabulous narration have made this one of my best audiobook experiences yet. I absolutely love Rosie, the protagonist, and can’t wait to listen to more of her adventures. Review to follow on June 1st.
Despite having read so many great books this month, deciding my book of the month was easy. There is one book that stood out even more than any other and deserves a standing ovation for it’s sheer luminous beauty both inside and out: Ariadne. It is so phenomenal that it isn’t only my BOTM, but my favourite book so far this year, and I have no doubt that whatever I read in the next seven months, this will be on my list of favourite books of 2021. I can’t recommend this highly enough.
What books have you read this month? Did we read any of the same books? Let me know in the comments.
As always, thank you to the publishers for my gifted copies of the books.
Thanks for reading this month’s wrap up. See you next month😊 Emma xxx
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Sharon Bolton’s latest breathtaking thriller. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part, and Orion for the gifted eBook ARC.
A golden summer, and six talented friends are looking forward to the brightest of futures – until a daredevil game goes horribly wrong, and a woman and two children are killed.
18-year-old Megan takes the blame, leaving the others free to get on with their lives. In return, they each agree to a ‘favour’, payable on her release from prison.
Twenty years later Megan is free. Let the games begin . . .
Richard & Judy bestseller Sharon Bolton is back, with her twistiest thriller yet.
“That summer was a time of neither hope nor promise but of certainty: they were the chosen ones, to whom the world belonged, and their lives, only just beginning, would be long and golden. How very wrong they were.”
Wow. Just, wow. What a ride! Breathtaking and compulsive, this book literally had my heart racing. It could even be her best book yet. Totally unputdownable, I even missed the Friend’s reunion I’ve been excited about for years as I couldn’t stop reading.
A story of friendship, secrets, sacrifice, betrayal and vengeance, The Pact focuses on a group of six teenage friends whose lives are changed forever when a dare goes tragically wrong. One of the group, Megan, offers to take the blame for what happened, but only on the condition that at any point she can ask any favour of each of the five others. Twenty years later she is released from prison and back to call in the favours. And that is when things start to go terribly wrong.
This book was everything I wanted and more. A nail-biting psychological thriller that was cleverly written, razor-sharp, pacy and twisty. A sinister sense of dread pervades the whole story, particularly after Megan’s return in part two. She is brilliantly written; an enigma whose memories and motivations are unclear, adding to the sense of foreboding that looms. This is an author who knows how to hook her reader, and she held me hostage, unable to turn away or stop reading as the cat and mouse games began and the horrors unfold.
The characters are compelling, flawed and often unlikeable. They make some terrible decisions that have devastating repercussions, but at the start they are young and entitled, so you give them some allowances for that. When we meet them again as adults we find that in their desperation and fear they make yet more terrible decisions and treat Megan atrociously. Especially after all she sacrificed for them to continue their lives untarnished. But despite all of this the author managed to make them enjoyable to read and I even liked them or felt sorry for them at times.
This book is an absolute tour-de-force. A rollercoaster ride full of so many twists and turns you’ll get book whiplash, it left me reeling with my jaw on the floor.
READ THIS BOOK.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Sharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer.
Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.
Welcome to First Lines Friday where I share the first lines from one of the books on my shelves to try and tempt you to add it to yours.
“London, 1931. There is a boy outside her daughter’s window. Wendy feels it, like a trickle of starlight whispering in through a gap, a change in the very pressure and composition of the air. She knows, as sure as her own blood and bones, and the knowledge sends her running. Her hairbrush clatters to the floor in her wake, her bare feet fly over carpeted runners and slap wooden floorboards, past her husband’s room and to her daughter’s door. It is not just any boy. it’s the boy, Peter.”
Today’s exhilarating first lines are taken from Wendy, Darling by A. C. Wise. I received this gorgeous finished copy yesterday and am so excited to start reading, particularly after those opening lines.
A lush, feminist re-imagining on what happened to Wendy after Neverland, for fans of Circe and The Mere Wife.
For those that lived there, Neverland was a children’s paradise. No rules, no adults, only endless adventure and enchanted forests – all led by the charismatic boy who would never grow old.
But Wendy Darling grew up. She left Neverland and became a woman, a mother, a patient, and a survivor. Because Neverland isn’t as perfect as she remembers. There’s darkness at the heart of the island, and now Peter Pan has returned to claim a new Wendy for his lost boys…
As soon as I heard about this one I knew I had to read it. I can’t wait to take a whole new look at this familiar and timeless story.
Thank you Titan Books for my gifted copy. Out June 1st, you can buy it here* *this is an affiliate link
Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. See you next week for more first lines xxx
Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the cover reveal for a new gothic thriller coming your way this autumn.
Did you #HearTheWhispers? 🤫
ow well do you know the woman next door?
When Stina and Jack move to an old rural cottage, they’re hoping for a fresh start. Their new home is run-down compared to their neighbour’s, but generous Mrs Barley quickly becomes a friend.
Until Stina sees a mysterious figure in the widow’s garden, and her happy new life begins to unravel. And when she hears strange noises in the night, she is forced to question if Mrs Barley is what she seems.
Why do the other villagers whisper about her? Why is she so eager to help the couple? And what is she hiding in her picture-perfect home?
A haunting, twisty story about the power of secrets and rumours, perfect for fans of Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key and Lucy Atkins’s Magpie Lane.
How are we almost half way through the year already? Crazy! June is almost upon us and it’s a great month for books. A few of these are ones that are part of my most anticipated books of the year, and I’m really excited to finally own and read them soon.
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and the micro-aggressions, she’s thrilled when Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events cause Nella to become Public Enemy Number One and Hazel, the Office Darling.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realises that there is a lot more at stake than her career.
A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.
Published: June 3rd, 2021 Publisher: Allen & Unwin Genre: Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction
SYNOPSIS: When Gill and Gabe’s elder son drowns overseas, they decide they must hide the truth from their desperately unwell teenaged daughter. But as Gill begins to send letters from her dead son to his sister, the increasingly elaborate lie threatens to prove more dangerous than the truth.
A novel about family, food, grief, and hope, this gripping, lyrical story moves between Tasmania and London, exploring the many ways that a family can break down – and the unexpected ways that it can be put back together.
Published: June 8th, 2021 Publisher: Del Rey Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, High Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Jewish Fiction
SYNOPSIS: In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.
But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman – he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.
As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.
Published: June 10th, 2021 Publisher: Manilla Press Genre: Historical Fiction
SYNOPSIS: From the bestselling author of The Familiars and The Foundling comes Stacey Halls’s most compelling and ambitious novel to date.
‘Something’s not right here.’ I was aware of Mr Booth’s eyes on me, and he seemed to hold his breath. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘In the house. With the family.’
West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England.
Distant and withdrawn, Lilian shows little interest in her children or charming husband, and is far from the ‘angel of the house’ Ruby was expecting. As the warm, vivacious Charles welcomes Ruby into the family, a series of strange events forces her to question everything she thought she knew. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby must face her demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know.
Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric West Yorkshire landscape, Stacey Halls’ third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.
SYNOPSIS: From the author of the global #1 bestselling debut The Silent Patient comes a spellbinding literary thriller which weaves together Greek mythology, psychology, and murder…
St Christopher’s College, Cambridge, is a closed world to most.
For Mariana Andros – a group therapist struggling through her private grief – it’s where she met her late husband. For her niece, Zoe, it’s the tragic scene of her best friend’s murder.As memory and mystery entangle Mariana, she finds a society full of secrets, which has been shocked to its core by the murder of one of its own.
Because behind its idyllic beauty is a web of jealousy and rage which emanates from an exclusive set of students known only as The Maidens. A group under the sinister influence of the enigmatic professor Edward Fosca.A man who seems to know more than anyone about the murders – and the victims. And the man who will become the prime suspect in Mariana’s investigation – an obsession which will unravel everything…
The Maidens is a story of love, and of grief – of what makes us who we are, and what makes us kill.
Published: June 10th, 2021 Publisher: Riverrun Genre: Fairy Tale
SYNOPSIS: Cath is a photographer hoping to go freelance, working in a record shop to pay the rent and eking out her time with her manager Steve. He thinks her photography is detective work, drawing attention to things that would otherwise pass unseen and maybe he’s right . . .
Starting work on her new project – photographing murder houses – she returns to the island where she grew up for the first time since she left for Glasgow when she was just eighteen. The Isle of Bute is embedded in her identity, the draughty house that overlooked the bay, the feeling of being nowhere, the memory of her childhood friend Shirley Craigie and the devastating familicide of her family by the father, John Craigie.
Arriving at the Craigie house, Cath finds that it’s occupied by Financial Analyst Alice Rahman. Her bid to escape the city lifestyle, the anxiety she felt in that world, led her to leave London and settle on the island. The strangeness of the situation brings them closer, leading them to reinvestigate the Craigie murder. Now, within the walls of the Craigie house, Cath can uncover the nefarious truths and curious nature of John Craigie: his hidden obsession with the work of Richard Dadd and the local myths of the fairy folk.
The Good Neighbours is an enquiry into the unknowability of the past and our attempts to make events fit our need to interpret them; the fallibility of recollection; the power of myths in shaping human narratives. Nina Allan skilfully weaves the imagined and the real to create a magically haunting story of memory, obsession and the liminal spaces that our minds frequent to escape trauma.
SYNOPSIS: When Rachel’s baby is stillborn, she becomes obsessed with the idea that saving a stranger s life months earlier is to blame. An unforgettable, heart-wrenching, warm and funny debut.
Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss.
When a misguided well-wisher tells her that ‘everything happens for a reason’, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she s now certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son.
Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, Josephine, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results…
Both a heart-wrenchingly poignant portrait of grief and a gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story of a young woman’s determination, Everything Happens for a Reason is a bittersweet, life- affirming read and, quite simply, unforgettable.
SYNOPSIS: When the mother of an autistic young man hires a call girl to make him happy, three lives collide in unexpected and moving ways … changing everything. A devastatingly beautiful, rich and thought-provoking novel that will warm and break your heart…
Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.
Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.
Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.
When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.
A topical and moving drama about a mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family … to survive … This Is How We Are Human is a searching, rich and thought-provoking novel with an emotional core that will warm and break your heart.
Published: June 10th, 2021 Publisher: Pan Macmillan Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction
SYNOPSIS: Everything she touches breaks . . .
Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong.
So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands.
But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees that he is hiding secrets of his own.
But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easy they can be to break . . .
Fragile is a dark, contemporary psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist from an award-winning and critically acclaimed writer who has been compared to Ruth Rendell, P. D. James and Val McDermid. Rebecca meets The Handmaid’s Tale in Sarah Hilary’s standalone breakout novel.
Published: June 10th, 2021 Publisher: W&N Genre: History, Society and Culture, Gender Studies
SYNOPSIS: ‘We are taught that medicine is the art of solving our body’s mysteries. And as a science, we expect medicine to uphold the principles of evidence and impartiality. We want our doctors to listen to us and care for us as people, but we also need their assessments of our pain and fevers, aches and exhaustion to be free of any prejudice about who we are, our gender, or the colour of our skin. But medicine carries the burden of its own troubling history. The history of medicine, of illness, is a history of people, of their bodies and their lives, not just physicians, surgeons, clinicians and researchers. And medical progress has always reflected the realities of a changing world, and the meanings of being human.’
In Unwell Women Elinor Cleghorn unpacks the roots of the perpetual misunderstanding, mystification and misdiagnosis of women’s bodies, and traces the journey from the ‘wandering womb’ of ancient Greece, the rise of witch trials in Medieval Europe, through the dawn of Hysteria, to modern day understandings of autoimmune diseases, the menopause and conditions like endometriosis. Packed with character studies of women who have suffered, challenged and rewritten medical orthodoxy – and drawing on her own experience of un-diagnosed Lupus disease – this is a ground-breaking and timely exposé of the medical world and woman’s place within it.
Published: June 17th, 2021 Publisher: Doubleday Genre: Historical Fiction
SYNOPSIS: The Salpêtrière asylum, 1885. All of Paris is in thrall to Doctor Charcot and his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad or hysterical, outcasts from society. But the truth is much more complicated – for these women are often simply inconvenient, unwanted wives or strong-willed daughters. Once a year a grand ball is held at the hospital. For the Parisian elite, the Mad Women’s Ball is the highlight of the social season; for the women themselves, it is a rare moment of hope.
Geneviève is a senior nurse. After the childhood death of her sister, she has shunned religion and placed her faith in Doctor Charcot and his new science. But everything begins to change when she meets Eugénie, the 19-year-old daughter of a bourgeois family. Because Eugénie has a secret, and she needs Geneviève’s help. Their fates will collide on the night of the Mad Women’s Ball…
Published: June 24th, 2021 Publisher: Harper Collins UK Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
SYNOPSIS: They thought they’d got away with it … they were wrong.
Leigh and her sister Callie are not bad people – but one night, more than two decades ago, they did something terrible. And the result was a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, devastated by violence.
Years later, Leigh has pushed that night from her mind and become a successful lawyer – but when she is forced to take on a new client against her will, her world begins to spiral out of control.
Because the client knows the truth about what happened twenty-three years ago. He knows what Leigh and Callie did. And unless they stop him, he’s going to tear their lives apart …
Just because you didn’t see the witness … doesn’t mean he wasn’t there.
SYNOPSIS: You can save hundreds of lives. Or the one that matters most . . .
The atmosphere on board the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney is electric. Celebrities are rumoured to be among the passengers in business class, and the world is watching the landmark journey.
Flight attendant Mina is trying to focus on the passengers, instead of her troubled five-year-old daughter back at home – or the cataclysmic problems in her marriage.
But soon after the plane takes off, Mina receives a chilling anonymous note. Someone wants to make sure the plane never reaches its destination. They’re demanding her cooperation . . . and they know exactly how to get it.
It’s twenty hours to landing. A lot can happen in twenty hours . . .
Ruth lives in the heart of the city. Working, drinking, falling in love: the rhythm of her vivid and complicated life is set against a background hum of darkening news reports from which she deliberately turns away.
When a new romance becomes claustrophobic, Ruth chooses to leave behind the failing relationship, but also her beloved friends and family, and travels to the other side of the world in pursuit of her dream life working with whales in New Zealand.
But when Ruth arrives, the news cycle she has been ignoring for so long is now the new reality. Far from home and with no real hope of survival, she finds herself climbing into the mouth of a beached whale alongside a stranger. When she emerges, it is to a landscape that bears no relation to the world they knew before.
When all has been razed to the ground, what does it mean to build a life?
The Stranding is a story about the hope that can remain even when the world is changed beyond recognition.
She loves her daughter, and the two of them is all that matters. But after nearly twenty years, she and Ella are suddenly leaving London for the Isle of Kip, the tiny remote Scottish island where Lorna grew up.
Alice’s world is tiny but full.
She loves the community on Kip, her yoga classes drawing women across the tiny island together. Now Lorna’s arrival might help their family finally mend itself – even if forgiveness means returning to the past…
So with two decades, hundreds of miles and a lifetime’s worth of secrets between Lorna and the island, can coming home mean starting again?
Published: June 24th, 2021 Publisher: Picador Genre: Historical Fiction, Humorous Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
SYNOPSIS: From the author of Sunday Times Bestseller, Dear Mrs Bird, comes a much hoped-for follow up, Yours Cheerfully. Charming, heart-warming and hilarious, Yours Cheerfully is just the tonic we’ve all been waiting for.
London, September, 1941.
Following the departure of the formidable Editor, Henrietta Bird, from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, is still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, but bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It.
When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty, and standing by her friends.
Every bit as funny, heartwarming, and touching as AJ Pearce’s debut, Dear Mrs Bird, Yours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship, a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up, even in the most challenging times.
SYNOPSIS: ‘So that was all it took,’ I thought. ‘That was all it took for me to feel like I had all the power in the world. One morning, one moment, one yellow-haired boy. It wasn’t so much after all.’
Chrissie knows how to steal sweets from the shop without getting caught, the best hiding place for hide-and-seek, the perfect wall for handstands.
Now she has a new secret. It gives her a fizzing, sherbet feeling in her belly. She doesn’t get to feel power like this at home, where food is scarce and attention scarcer.
Fifteen years later, Julia is trying to mother her five-year-old daughter, Molly. She is always worried – about affording food and school shoes, about what the other mothers think of her. Most of all she worries that the social services are about to take Molly away.
That’s when the phone calls begin, which Julia is too afraid to answer, because it’s clear the caller knows the truth about what happened all those years ago.
And it’s time to face the truth: is forgiveness and redemption ever possible for someone who has killed?
Published: June 24th, 2021 Publisher: Post Hill Press Genre: Suspense, Psychological Fiction
SYNOPSIS: Named one of the most riveting books of Spring 2021 by Veranda Magazine!
Like the chilling psychological thriller The Silent Patient, Deborah Goodrich Royce’s Ruby Falls is a nail-biting tale of a fragile young actress, the new husband she barely knows, and her growing suspicion that the secrets he harbors may eclipse her own.
On a brilliantly sunny July day, six-year-old Ruby is abandoned by her father in the suffocating dark of a Tennessee cave. Twenty years later, transformed into soap opera star Eleanor Russell, she is fired under dubious circumstances. Fleeing to Europe, she marries a glamorous stranger named Orlando Montague and keeps her past closely hidden.
Together, Eleanor and Orlando start afresh in LA. Setting up house in a storybook cottage in the Hollywood Hills, Eleanor is cast in a dream role—the lead in a remake of Rebecca. As she immerses herself in that eerie gothic tale, Orlando’s personality changes, ghosts of her past re-emerge, and Eleanor fears she is not the only person in her marriage with a secret.
In this thrilling and twisty homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the story ricochets through the streets of Los Angeles, a dangerous marriage to an exotic stranger, and the mind of a young woman whose past may not release her.
A Cut For A Cut (Detective Kate Young 2) by Carol Wyer
Published: June 29th, 2021 Publisher: Thomas & Mercer Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Crime Series, Police Procedural
SYNOPSIS: DI Kate Young can’t trust anybody. Not even herself.
In the bleak countryside around Blithfield Reservoir, a serial murderer and rapist is leaving a trail of bloodshed. His savage calling card: the word ‘MINE’ carved into each of his victims.
DI Kate Young struggles to get the case moving―even when one of the team’s own investigators is found dead in a dumpster. But Kate is battling her own demons. Obsessed with exposing Superintendent John Dickson and convinced there’s a conspiracy running deep in the force, she no longer knows who to trust. Kate’s crusade has already cost her dearly. What will she lose next?
When her stepsister spills a long-buried secret, Kate realises she’s found the missing link―now she must prove it before the killer strikes again. With enemies closing in on all sides, she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to bring them down. But time is running out, and Kate’s past has pushed her to the very edge. Can she stop herself from falling?
Welcome to First Lines Friday where I share the first lines from one of the books on my shelves to try and tempt you to add it to yours.
“She holds her hands up as if in prayer, steam evaporating from her skin. The water laps at her neck as she lies back into its warmth. Laughter and female voices surround her, a confusion of sound echoing off the stone. She filters it out, focusing on her fingers turning them, watching the water drip down, the steam rise. They could be anybody’s hands, she thinks, they could belong to anybody. But they belong to Felix.”
Today’s first lines are taken from The Wolf’s Den by Elodie Harper, the stunning debut that was published yesterday.
Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…
Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For now her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.
But Amara’s spirit is far from broken. By day, she walks the streets with the Wolf Den’s other women, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?
Set in Pompeii’s lupanar, The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels reimagining the lives of women who have long been overlooked. Perfect for fans of Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and Madeline Miller’s Circe.
This is one of my most anticipated reads this year and I’m so excited to read it, particularly after attending last night’s Zoom event ‘Myths and Legends’ with the author. This book is also our first pick for the SquadPod Book Club, which starts next month. I can’t wait to finally read it alongside fellow book lovers. Click on the social media links below for more information and to join in.
Happy Publication Elizabeth Macneal! I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of this dazzling novel today.
The spellbinding novel from the author of the Sunday Times bestselling The Doll Factory. ‘An absolute triumph. Exquisitely written, intensely satisfying’ – Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars
1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.
But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.
In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?
Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea, Circus of Wonders is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.
“It is as if someone has taken a paintbrush and run it from her cheekbone to her chin, splashed tiny flecks of brown paint across the rest of her face and neck. He should look away, but he can’t. He cannot believe that this quiet village could contain someone so extraordinary.“
Elizabeth Macneal has done it again. Circus of Wonders is an absolute masterpiece. Captivating, illuminating and transportive, Macneal had me in the palm of her hands from beginning to endas I absorbed this marvelous dazzling tale.
When you fall in love with an author and their debut novel there is always some trepidation that accompanies the excitement of reading their second novel. But Macneal has once again crafted something special. Exquisitely written and richly drawn, she paints an evocative picture that spirits you away to a world that has drifted away into history. With great attention to detail she immerses you in the sights and sounds of Victorian life, making you feel like you are right there beside Nell and the others.
“How can she do that, Nell wonders; how can she beat to make a feature of her own difference, to stare the world in the eye?”
This is a book filled with a cast of fabulous and varied characters that are all outcasts, battling inner demons and searching for acceptance. Written with sensitivity and realism, the author draws them so vividly that they dance before your eyes as if you’re watching them on a movie screen. I adored Nell. She is a fantastic protagonist and I loved how the author really builds her character before the circus becomes a big part of the story. Allowing us to get to know her and her backstory straight away builds a rapport between her and the reader, creates empathy for the heartbreak, pain and longing she feels, and helps us to understand her feelings and actions later in the story. Toby is another great character. The relationship between him and his brother Japer – the villain of the story – is mysterious and complex. But through glimpses of their childhood and their time on the battlefield during the Crimean War, we slowly have a greater understanding of their relationship and of them as individuals.
“There’s more than one way to tell a story.”
The author weaves a number of recurring themes throughout the story: love, belonging, self-acceptance, redemption, the power of storytelling and of who controls the narrative, that are explored in a variety of ways. For example, Nell starts out as a pariah who tries to live a life in the shadows unseen. But through the acceptance and friendship of the other wonders at the circus, and the fame she finds as Nellie Moon, she not only begins to accept herself, but she soars. She is a butterfly emerging from her chrysalis, illuminated and spectacular, and discovers there is a power in being different. She also finds that it opens the door to something else she never thought possible: love.
Spellbinding, intoxicating, atmospheric and consuming, this is a story about what it is to be human. I was lost in the world she created and didn’t want to go back to reality when it was finished. It is something truly special.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Elizabeth Macneal was born in Scotland and now lives in East London. She is a writer and potter and works from a small studio at the bottom of her garden. The Doll Factory, Elizabeth’s debut novel, was a Sunday Times bestseller, has been translated into twenty-nine languages and has been optioned for a major television series. It won the Caledonia Novel Award 2018. Circus of Wonders is her second novel.