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The Alibi Girl by C.J. Skuse ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Publisher: HQ
Published: February 6th, 2020
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre:
 Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Dark Comedy, Coming-of-Age Fiction

Welcome to my spot on the blog tour for this fantastic thriller. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of this novel.

SYNOPSIS:

JOANNE HAYNES HAS A SECRET.
THAT IS NOT HER REAL NAME.

And there’s more. Her flat isn’t hers. Her cats aren’t even hers. Even her hair isn’t really hers.

Nor is she any of the other women she pretends to be. Not the bestselling romance novelist who gets her morning snack from the doughnut van on the seafront. Nor the pregnant woman in the dental surgery. Nor the chemo patient in the supermarket for whom the cashier feels every so sorry. They’re all just alibis.

In fact, the only thing that’s real about Joanne is that nobody can know who she really is. 

But someone has got too close. It looks like her alibis have begun to run out…

MY REVIEW:

Absolutely, bloody brilliant! I tore through this book in under a day. The word ‘unputdownable’ couldn’t be more appropriate than when talking about books written by C.J. Skuse. Riveting, addictive and full of Skuse’s trademark dark humour, this was a joyous read despite the subject matter. 

Ellis has a variety of aliases which change depending on who she’s talking to; Genevive who cleans rooms at a local hotel, single mum Joanne living in a dingy flat, doctor Mary who has just given birth to her fifth child with her gorgeous husband, Charlotte the famous novelist, a cancer patient and bride-to-be. No one knows her real name apart from Scants as it’s too dangerous for them to know. But Ellis is sure she’s being followed, that the people she’s running from have found her and her time is running out. 

Skuse has a flare for turning unlikable characters into ones you take to your heart. She did it with Rhiannon in the Sweetpea series, and she has done it again with the protagonist in this book. Ellis is a compulsive liar, the girl who cries wolf. She doesn’t like or trust adults, preferring the company of children and is very child-like in her own behaviour. In dual timelines Ellis’ story is slowly revealed and we learn why she has to hide, why she invents a multitude of identities to live in and why her innocence seems so sad. It’s a harrowing and heartbreaking tale, and by the end of the book I wanted to reach through the pages and give her a big hug. 

I love the raw honesty and dark, cutting humour she brings to her prose. There’s nothing else like it out there and it’s made her one of my must-read authors. The story is intriguing, keeping me guessing throughout, and with plenty of twists to keep you on your toes. I did guess most things right but there were turns the author took I wasn’t expecting but I loved as it increased the mystery and intrigue.  

The Alibi Girl is an entertaining, emotional, complex and refreshing read. It is a perfect mix of mystery, thriller and dark comedy that was just what I needed after some heavy books. I can’t recommend this book, and this author, highly enough.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

C.J. Skuse is the author of the Young Adult novels Pretty Bad Things, Rockoholic, Dead Romantic (Chicken House), Monster and The Deviants. She has recently written the adult crime novels Sweetpea and its sequel for HQ/HarperCollins. C.J. was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England and has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels, lectures in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. 

C.J. loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and graveyards. She hates hard-boiled eggs, going to the dentist and coughing. The movies Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Ruby Sparks were all probably based on her ideas – she just didn’t get to write them down in time. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Tom Hardy present her with the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

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book reviews

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Publisher: Raven
Published: October 5th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Ghost Story, Horror

I read this book at the start of 2019 and I have not got around to posting it until now as it took a long time to do the book justice and then have the space in my calendar to post this.

The Silent Companions was one of my favourite books of not just 2019, but the decade too.

SYNOPSIS:

When newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge, what greets her is far from the life of wealth and privilege she was expecting…

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure — a silent companion — that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition — that is until she notices the figures eyes following her.

A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect — much like the silent companions themselves.

MY REVIEW:

“There is something about these things. Something wrong.” 

Eerie, atmospheric, terrifying and astounding, this magnificent debut instantly became one of my favourite books ever. But despite how amazing as this book was, I have been at a loss as to how to write this review, and it’s taken months, so I’m thrilled to finally be sharing it.

This book more than lived up to the hype. I was so transfixed that I devoured it, my head full of questions that I needed the answer to. Laura Purcell is a masterful storyteller and exceptional talent. It’s a little unnerving the kind of horror that lies inside her mind. 

I loved the characters in this book such as vacant and naive Sarah, impertinent Mabel, haughty Edna, kind and well-meaning Dr Shepherd, and self-conscious, tempered and scared Elsie. Both Sarah and Elsie grow whilst at The Bridge but it is Elsie in particular who we see the biggest changes in over the course of the book. When we meet the youngest version of Elsie she is newly widowed in a strange house so she’s unsure of herself and feeling lost. But as time goes on she finds more confidence and we see a strong and determined woman emerge. In the asylum she is terrified and simply surviving each day any way she can. It was a heartbreaking decline of a character I became particularly fond of. It also meant never knew what to believe – was Elsie was imagining things or were they actually happening? It seemed the further I got into the story, the more questions and uncertainty I had. 

I did not expect this book to be so chilling and have never been so unnerved by a book. I would vacillate between being so captivated I didn’t want to sleep and then being so terrified that I didn’t dare try. There was an eerie atmosphere at The Bridge in particular. It was like there was a sinister infestation that lingered, echoed in the night, and played tricks on those who lived there. There were numerous times I felt like my heart was pounding out of my chest and I had to take a break. As for the companions, they may have been wooden, but they felt anything but lifeless and there was a sinister malevolence to them that sent shivers down my spine. While I had my theories about who or what the companions were and how it might end, I could never have guessed the breathtaking finale and shocking surprises the author had in store. 

The Silent Companions is an unforgettable and deliciously creepy novel about family, secrets, suspicion, tragedy and terror. If you love well-written books, gothic fiction, and don’t mind being scared witless, then you should read this book. Just make sure you read it with the lights on.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs.

Her first novel for Raven Books The Silent Companions won the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award 2018 and featured in both the Zoe Ball and Radio 2 Book Clubs. Other Gothic novels include The Corset (US title The Poison Thread), Bone China and The Shape of Darkness (2020),

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Emma’s Anticipated Treasures – February 2020

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February is even busier than January for books and it was much harder to slim down the ones I’m most excited about. This long list is the smallest I could make it and there were easily at least another six books I could have included. At the time of writing, I have read two of the books on this list – The Foundling and Firewatching – and they more than deserve their places here. 

BEHIND EVERY LIE by Christina McDonald

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Published: February 4th, 2020
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
SYNOPSIS:
If you can’t remember it, how do you prove you didn’t do it?

Eva Hansen wakes in the hospital after being struck by lightning and discovers her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street. She can’t remember what happened but the police are highly suspicious of her.

Determined to clear her name, Eva heads from Seattle to London–Kat’s former home–for answers. But as she unravels her mother’s carefully held secrets, Eva soon realizes that someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. And with violent memories beginning to emerge, Eva doesn’t know who to trust. Least of all herself.

Told in alternating perspectives from Eva’s search for answers and Kat’s mysterious past, Christina McDonald has crafted another “complex, emotionally intense” (Publishers Weekly) domestic thriller. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell’s I Found You and Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her, Behind Every Lie explores the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, family trauma, and the danger behind long-held secrets.

THE FOUNDING by Stacey Halls

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Published: February 6th, 2020|
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction.
SYNOPSIS:
Two women, bound by a child, and a secret that will change everything . . .

London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst, that Clara has died in care, she is astonished when she is told she has already claimed her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why.

Less than a mile from Bess’s lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.

From the bestselling author of The Familiars comes this captivating story of mothers and daughters, class and power, and love against the greatest of odds . . .

SAVING MISSY by Beth Morley

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Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Humourous Fiction.
SYNOPSIS:
Prickly. Stubborn. Terribly lonely.

But everyone deserves a second chance…

A dazzling debut for 2020 – are you ready to meet Missy Carmichael?

Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.

Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.

Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new.

Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?

THE MERCIES by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Picador
Genre: Historical Fiction.
SYNOPSIS:
On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves – the menfolk of Vardø wiped out in an instant.

Vardø is now a place of women.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardø to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place flooded with a terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies is a story about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and a love that may prove as dangerous as it is powerful.

THE SISTER’S GRIMM by Menna van Praag

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Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: Fantasy
SYNOPSIS:
There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of sisters Grimm on Earth.

You may well be one of them, though you might never know it.

This is the story of four sisters Grimm – daughters born to different mothers on the same day, each born out of bright-white wishing and black-edged desire.

They found each other at eight years-old, were separated at thirteen and now, at nearly eighteen, it is imperative that they find each other once again.

In thirty-three days they will meet their father in Everwhere. Only then will they discover who they truly are, and what they can truly do. Then they must fight to save their lives and the lives of the ones they love. Three will live, one will die.

You’ll have to read on to find out who and why . . .

THE ALIBI GIRL by C. J. Skuse

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Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Dark Comedy, Coming-of-Age Fiction.
SYNOPSIS:
JOANNE HAYNES HAS A SECRET.

THAT IS NOT HER REAL NAME.

And there’s more. Her flat isn’t hers. Her cats aren’t hers. Even her hair isn’t really hers.

 Nor is she any of the other women she pretends to be. Not the bestselling romance novelist who gets her morning snack from the doughnut van on the seafront. Nor the pregnant woman in the dental surgery. Nor the chemo patient in the supermarket for whom the cashier feels ever so sorry. They’re all just alibis. 

In fact, the only thing that’s real about Joanne is that nobody can know who she really is.

But someone has got too close. It looks like her alibis have begun to run out….

PERFECT KILL  (DI Callanach Book 6) by Helen Fields

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Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural.
SYNOPSIS:
He had never heard himself scream before. It was terrifying.

Alone, trapped in the darkness and with no way out, Bart Campbell knows that his chances of being found alive are slim.

Drugged and kidnapped, the realisation soon dawns that he’s been locked inside a shipping container far from his Edinburgh home. But what Bart doesn’t yet know is that he’s now heading for France where his unspeakable fate is already sealed…

DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are working on separate cases that soon collide as it becomes clear that the men and women being shipped to France are being traded for women trafficked into Scotland.

With so many lives at stake, they face an impossible task – but there’s no option of failure when Bart and so many others will soon be dead…

GROWN UPS by Marian Keyes

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Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Humourous Fiction.
SYNOPSIS:
They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys.

Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets.

In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?

THE HOUSE OF TRELAWNEY by Hannah Rothschild

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Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Domestic Fiction, Saga, Satire
SYNOPSIS:
The seat of the Trelawney family for over 800 years, Trelawney Castle was once the jewel of the Cornish coast. Each successive Earl spent with abandon, turning the house and grounds into a sprawling, extravagant palimpsest of wings, turrets and follies.

But recent generations have been better at spending than making money. Now living in isolated penury, unable to communicate with each other or the rest of the world, the family are running out of options. Three unexpected events will hasten their demise: the sudden appearance of a new relation, an illegitimate, headstrong, beautiful girl; an unscrupulous American hedge fund manager determined to exact revenge; and the crash of 2008.

A love story and social satire set in the parallel and seemingly unconnected worlds of the British aristocracy and high finance, House of Trelawney is also the story of lost and found friendships between three women. One of them will die; another will discover her vocation; and the third will find love.

BEAST (Six Stories Book 4) – Matt Wesolowski

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Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Horror, Crime Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction.  SYNOPSIS:
Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the legendary local ‘vampire tower’, in another explosive episode of Six Stories… In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old Vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death. Three young men, part of an alleged ‘cult’, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong.’ However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible. Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses people who knew both the victim and the three killers to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, the tragic and chilling legend of the ‘Ergarth Vampire’… Both a compulsive, taut and terrifying thriller, and a bleak and distressing look at modern society’s desperation for attention, Beast will unveil a darkness from which you may never return…

WRECKAGE by Robin Morgan-Bentley

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Published: February 6th 2020
Publisher: Trapeze
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
SYNOPSIS:
Things will never be the same again…

Ben is driving on the motorway, on his usual commute to the school where he works.

A day like any other, except for Adam, who in a last despairing act jumps in front of Ben’s car, and in killing himself, turns the teacher’s world upside down.

Wracked with guilt and desperate to clear his conscience, Ben develops a friendship with Alice, Adam’s widow, and her 7-year-old son Max.

But as he tries to escape the trauma of the wreckage, could Ben go too far in trying to make amends?

Gripping and sinister, The Wreckage is guaranteed to keep you up all night…

STRANGE HOTEL by Eimear McBride

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Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Genre: Literary Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
At the mid-point of her life a woman enters an Avignon hotel room. She’s been here once before – but while the room hasn’t changed, she is a different person now.

Forever caught between check-in and check-out, she will go on to occupy other hotel rooms, from Prague to Oslo, Auckland to Austin, each as anonymous as the last, but bound by rules of her choosing. There, amid the detritus of her travels, the matchbooks, cigarettes, keys and room-service wine, she will negotiate with memory, with the men she sometimes meets, and with what it might mean to return home.

THE FORGOTTEN LETTERS OF ESTHER DURRANT by Kayte Nunn

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Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Domestic Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
A forgotten woman…

1951. Esther Durrant, a young mother, is committed to an isolated mental asylum by her husband. Run by a pioneering psychiatrist, the hospital is at first Esther’s prison but soon becomes her refuge.

A cache of unsent love letters…

2018. When free-spirited marine scientist Rachel Parker is forced to take shelter on a far-flung island off the Cornish Coast during a research posting, she discovers a collection of hidden love letters. Captivated by their passion and tenderness, Rachel is determined to find the intended recipient.

A dangerous secret…

Meanwhile, in London, Eve is helping her grandmother, a renowned mountaineer, write her memoirs. When she is contacted by Rachel, it sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to reveal secrets kept buried for more than sixty years.

THE ANTIDOTE FOR EVERYTHING – Kimmery Martin

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Berkley US
Genre: Medical Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
Urologist Georgia Brown’s sense of self-preservation is kicked into high gear after she’s sexually harassed by a male surgeon at her medical clinic, but her outrage grows when her best doctor friend, Jonah, is dismissed for treating transgender patients. After traveling to Amsterdam to attend a medical conference, Georgia concocts a plan to persuade the board to reverse their decision about Jonah. But when her scheme to teach the hospital administration an important lesson begins to spiral out of control, Georgia worries she’s caused more harm than good. After a medical crisis involving one of her friends, she learns that love and friendship are the antidotes for all the ills in her life.

THE GUEST LIST by Lucy Foley

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Crime Fiction, Domestic Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
On an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater. 

Old friends.
Past grudges.

Happy families.
Hidden jealousies.

Thirteen guests.
One body. 

The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.

All have a secret. All have a motive.

One guest won’t leave this wedding alive . . .

THE HOLDOUT by Graham Moore

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Legal Thriller, Mystery
SYNOPSIS:
One juror changed the verdict. What if she was wrong?

‘Ten years ago we made a decision together…’
Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar fortune, vanishes on her way home from school. Her teacher, Bobby Nock, is the prime suspect. It’s an open and shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed.

Until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, persuades the rest of the jurors to vote not guilty: a controversial decision that will change all of their lives forever.

Ten years later, one of the jurors is found dead, and Maya is the prime suspect.

The real killer could be any of the other ten jurors. Is Maya being forced to pay the price for her decision all those years ago?

GRACE IS GONE by Emily Elgar

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Sphere
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
Meg and her daughter Grace are the most beloved family in Ashford, the lynchpin that holds the community together.

So when Meg is found brutally murdered and her daughter missing, the town is rocked by the crime. Not least because Grace has been sick for years – and may only have days to live.

Who would murder a mother who sacrificed everything, and take a teenager away from the medication that could save her life? Everyone is searching for an answer, but sometimes the truth can kill you . . .

DEAR EDWARD by Ann Napolitano

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Coming-of-Age Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
A luminous, life-affirming novel about a 12-year-old boy who is the sole survivor of a deadly plane crash

One summer morning, a flight takes off from New York to Los Angeles. There are 192 passengers aboard: among them a young woman taking a pregnancy test in the airplane toilet; a Wall Street millionaire flirting with the air hostess; an injured soldier returning from Afghanistan; and two beleaguered parents moving across the country with their adolescent sons, bickering over who gets the window seat. When the plane suddenly crashes in a field in Colorado, the younger of these boys, 12-year-old Edward Adler, is the sole survivor.

Dear Edward depicts Edward’s life in the crash’s aftermath as he struggles to make sense of the meaning of his survival, the strangeness of his sudden fame, and find his place in the world without his family. In his new home with his aunt and uncle, the only solace comes from his friendship with the girl next door, Shay. Together Edward and Shay make a startling discovery: hidden in his uncle’s garage are sacks of letters from the relatives of the other passengers, addressed to Edward.

As Edward comes of age against the backdrop of sudden tragedy, he must confront some of life’s most profound questions: how do we make the most of the time we are given? And what does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

FIREWATCHING – Russ Thomas

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Police Procedural
SYNOPSIS:
ONE WRONG MOVE

A body is found bricked into the walls of a house. From the state of the hands, it’s clear the dead man was buried alive. Soon, the victim is linked to an old missing person’s case and DS Adam Tyler is called.

WILL IGNITE

As the sole representative of South Yorkshire’s Cold Case Review Unit, Tyler recognises his role for what it is – a means of keeping him out of the way following an ‘incident’. When this case falls in his lap, he grabs the opportunity to fix his stagnating career.

THE CITY

And then Tyler discovers he has a connection to the case that hopelessly compromises him. He makes the snap decision not to tell his superiors, certain that he and only he can solve the crime. But now Tyler must move carefully to find out the truth, without destroying the case or himself.

Meanwhile, someone in the city knows exactly what happened to the body. Someone who is watching Adam closely. Someone with an unhealthy affinity with fire. . .

A taut investigative thriller bursting with character and tension, introducing an enigmatic, fresh lead detective unlike any you have met before – Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler – for fans of Adrian McKinty, Tana French, Steve Cavanagh and Sharon Bolton. 

THE MEMORY WOOD by Sam Lloyd

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
SYNOPSIS:
Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It’s the only home he’s ever known.

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

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

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

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

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MIND by Kerry Daynes

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Cassell
Genre: Autobiography, True Crime
SYNOPSIS:
Welcome to the world of the forensic psychologist, where the people you meet are wildly unpredictable and often frightening.

The job: to delve into the psyche of convicted men and women to try to understand what lies behind their often brutal actions.

Following the footsteps of Kerry Daynes, one of the most sought-after forensic psychologists in the business and consultant on major police investigations.

Kerry’s job has taken her to the cells of maximum-security prisons, police interview rooms, the wards of secure hospitals and the witness box of the court room.

Her work has helped solve a cold case, convict the guilty and prevent a vicious attack.

Spending every moment of your life staring into the darker side of life comes with a price. Kerry’s frank memoir gives an unforgettable insight into the personal and professional dangers in store for a female psychologist working with some of the most disturbing men and women.

THE SUN DOWN MOTEL by Simone St James

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Berkley US
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Horror
SYNOPSIS:
Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden there. Upstate NY, 2017. Carly Kirk has always been fascinated by her aunt Viv who disappeared from the Sun Down before Carly was born. Using a small inheritance from when her mom dies, Carly leaves college to go to Fell to figure out what happened to her aunt thirty-five years ago. Soon, Carly is mirroring her aunt’s life, working as the night clerk at the motel, which hasn’t changed since 1982. The guest book is still handwritten, the rooms still have actual keys, and a haunting presence still lingers. Carly discovers that Viv had been trying to unravel mysteries of her own – including a possible serial killer working in Fell. If Carly can find the answers Viv was searching for, she might be able to solve the mystery that has haunted her family for years.

THE TEMPLE HOUSE VANISHING by Rachel Donohue

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Corvus
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Coming-of-Age Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
Power. Jealousy. Desire.

Twenty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic teacher disappeared without trace…

When Louisa arrives at Temple House, an elite catholic boarding school, she quickly finds herself drawn to sophisticated fellow pupil Victoria and their young bohemian art teacher, Mr Lavelle. The three of them form a bond that seems to offer an escape from the repressive regime of the nuns who run the cloistered school. Until Louisa and Mr Lavelle suddenly vanish.

Years later, a journalist with a childhood connection to Louisa determines to resolve the mystery. Her search for the truth will uncover a tragic, mercurial tale of suppressed desire and long-buried secrets. It will shatter lives and lay a lost soul to rest.

The Temple House Vanishing is a stunning, intensely atmospheric novel of unrequited longing, dark obsession and unintended consequences.

DEAD RINGER by Nicola Martin

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Published: February 27th, 2020
Publisher: Contraband
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
SYNOPSIS:
A pair of doppelgängers. A pack of lies.

The idea is simple, vain, exciting. Tap the app, upload a picture of yourself, find your lookalike. Set up a meeting to see whether you have anything else in common. When Ella and Jem meet, the physical resemblance is uncanny, but their lives couldn’t be more different. One is from a tiny island in a deprived Northern community – pretty much the back of beyond – where she has no job, no boyfriend, limited prospects. The other is a London socialite, an aspiring actress living in a multimillion-pound mansion. By all appearances, she’s living a charmed life, but she’s got some serious sh*t to run away from. Both of them have. Can either hide in her double’s skin? And at what cost? Will it solve any of the problems, or merely compound them? This is an all-too-believable, twisty, compelling story that will leave you reeling.

 

 

Categories
book reviews

My Books of the Year.

2019 has been a great reading year for me. I read 150 books, surpassing my goal of 100 by fifty percent. Most of these were rated four stars but there were an incredible forty-four books that I gave a five star rating. Needless to say, all of this made it very hard to choose what I had originally planned to be my top ten books of the year. Instead, I decided to see how many favourites I had, which is how I’ve ended up with a list of twenty books of the year. Here they are in the order I read them:

  • Verity by Colleen Hoover 
  • My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing 
  • Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
  • The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
  • Little by Edward Carey
  • The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald 
  • The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
  • The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
  • Here To Stay by Mark Edwards
  • The Woman Who Wanted More by Vicky Zimmerman
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • The Familiars by Stacey Halls 
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  • I Wanted You To Know by Laura Pearson
  • The Blossom Twins by Carol Wyer
  • Seven Days by Alex Lake 
  • The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis
  • Gone by Leona Deakin
  • The Home by Sarah Stovell
  • The 24-Hour Cafe by Libby Page 

My overall favourite read this year was the phenomenal historical fiction novel The Familiars by Stacey Halls. Coincidentally, this was also my 100th read back in August. The Vanished Bride by Bella Edward is the one I’d say came a close second. 

So which books almost made the cut? Below is a list of books I loved and highly recommend that narrowly missed being in my top books list:

  • The Binding by Bridget Collins
  • Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
  • Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce
  • The Whisper Man by Alex North
  • Columbine by Dave Cullen
  • The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
  • After The End by Clare Macintosh
  • Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
  • Take It Back by Kia Abdullah
  • The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman
  • The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
  • Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay
  • Postscript by Cecelia Ahern
  • The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey
  • The Lost Ones by Anita Frank
  • Hold Your Tongue by Deborah Masson

Are any of these in your top books of the year? What books were your favourite in 2019? Comment below and tell me.

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Blossom Twins by Carol Wyer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the fifth installment in this sensational crime series. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part, and to Bookouture, NetGalley and Carol Wyer for my copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

Their parents thought they were hiding..

One beautiful summer’s evening, thirteen-year-old-twins Ivy and Erin Westmore snuggle down in a tent in their back garden, giggling and sharing secrets.

When their mother goes to wake the girls the next morning, their tent is empty.

The alarm is raised and Detective Natalie Ward is put on the case. When the twins’ bodies are discovered on nearby marshland, covered with deep pink petals, an icy shiver travels down Natalie’s spine. Everything about the girls’ deaths reminds her of a horrifying case she worked on earlier in her career, which saw a killer of the worst kind placed behind bars.

The next day, that feeling is heightened when she receives a chilling note saying ‘I’m back’. Is this killer a copycat or did Natalie put the wrong person in prison all those years ago? In a small town, where no stranger goes unnoticed, what is Natalie missing?

Consumed by the case, determined to prevent more deaths, Natalie misses the fact that it is her attention the killer wants. And to get it, he has his sights set firmly on her precious daughter, Leigh..

Gripping, fast-paced and nail-bitingly tense, this book will keep you flying through the pages long into the night. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott and Karin Slaughter.

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MY REVIEW:

OMG! Carol, you broke me. I felt utterly bereft after the emotional journey from reading this book and it took days to recover. The fifth installment in the Detective Natalie Ward series may have a sweet, floral title but behind it Carol’s most shocking, jaw-dropping and emotional book to date. I quickly devoured it, filled with an urgent need for answers, only to be left wishing I hadn’t found them. This is her best novel yet and shows just why this woman is one of my favourite, must-read crime writers.

When fourteen-year-old Isabella Sharpe disappears during a concert a search soon leads to the discovery of her body. Detective Natalie Ward and her team are called to investigate and the macabre scene immediately reminds her of the first murders she investigated – The Blossom Twins. Those devastating crimes shattered Natalie and the mistakes made haunt her to this day. She tells herself she’s overthinking – the killer was found and died in prison – but she can’t seem to shake her suspicions. 

Twins Ivy and Erin Westmore go missing while camping in their back garden and soon the girls’ bodies are found chillingly posed just like the Blossom Twins. Details that were never made public are identical. Is this the work of a copycat or did Natalie get the wrong man? She and her team race to find answers before more innocent lives are taken.

After four previous books it’s fair to say I’m attached to these characters and they feel like old friends. That made this a hard book to read as Natalie and her husband David are now separated but living in the same house and haven’t told the kids. He’s hoping for a reconciliation, she’s looking forward but is also battling immense guilt over how her children will take the news. This storyline is a big part of the book and Natalie’s emotional turmoil isn’t helped by her new case having disturbing similarities to an old case that haunts her to this day, a new boss that talks to her like she’s imcompitent, or the arrival of a former nemesis charged with helping the team find their killer. 

The addition of John Briggs to the team added an extra dose of tension and drama to the story. He and Natalie worked together on the Blossom Twins case and its clear there’s no love lost between them. He rubs the whole team up the wrong way with his brash, aggressive and insensitive manner and consistently undermines Natalie by going behind her back to their boss questioning her capability to solve the case. I hated him. He was a perfect nemesis for Natalie and though I love how well the team usually work together, it was interesting to see how she reacted to someone who isn’t a team player and was determined to get in her way.

As is usually the case with Carol’s books, my favourite parts were those where we get the killer’s point of view. He’s manipulative, callous, cocky, twisted and sent a chill down my spine. It was terrifying how in control he is and how detailed his plans are. The flashbacks revealed just how far he would go to get what he wanted and how sinister he was. I had some wild theories about who this person was and I went through many different suspects, telling myself I must be wrong with the two I had the most suspicion of. It was a puzzle I couldn’t solve, which is something I love when reading this genre.

So if you want a fast-paced, nail-biting, addictive, heartbreaking and thrilling book then look no further. More than ever I’m desperate to know what is next for Natalie and her team. Though I’m a bit scared of what Carol might do next.

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Winner of The People’s Book Prize Award, Carol Wyer is an award-winning author and stand up comedian who writes feel-good comedies and gripping crime fiction.

A move to the ‘dark side’ in 2017, saw the introduction of popular DI Robyn Carter in LITTLE GIRL LOST, the #2 best-selling book on Amazon, #9 best-selling audiobook on Audible and Top 150 USA Today best-seller.

A second series featuring DI Natalie Ward quickly followed and to date her crime novels have sold over 600,000 copies and been translated for various overseas markets, including Norwegian, Italian, Turkish, Hungarian Slovak, Czech and Polish.

Carol has been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ”Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’ and on BBC Breakfast television. She has had articles published in national magazines ‘Woman’s Weekly’ featured in ‘Take A Break’, ‘Choice’, ‘Yours’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines and the Huffington Post.

She currently lives on a windy hill in rural Staffordshire with her husband Mr Grumpy… who is very, very grumpy.

To learn more about Carol, go to http://www.carolwyer.co.uk or follow Carol on Twitter: @carolewyer.

Carol also blogs at http://www.carolwyer.com

The Blossom Twins - Blog Tour Poster

Categories
book reviews

Her Dark Heart by Carla Kovach ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

Rory is waiting at the door of the pre-school – a painted picture of his mother Susan in his small hand. But Susan isn’t going to see the picture, because she has vanished.

Susan Wheeler is a devoted mother. She would do anything for her three children. She drops them off and picks them up every single day. Until one day when Susan kisses them goodbye and then never comes to pick them up.

Susan’s mother Mary is worried. Susan is recently divorced and has been finding things hard recently, but she loves her kids – she’d never leave them.

Susan’s sister Clare is furious. It’s just like her to go missing. It’s not the first time either. Susan has always been a troublemaker. Always seeking attention. She knows Susan has been lying to the family for years. And she knows that Susan has been sneaking out of her family home for weeks…

As the hours turn into days, even Clare becomes fearful for Susan. And when Mary discovers Susan’s diary, she begins to uncover a dark secret from her childhood. Something no one in the family knew. When the  final diary entry leads the police to a man who is discovered dead in a local park, they’re left wondering if Susan vanished because she is a victim. Or because she is a suspect.

MY REVIEW:

She’s done it again. This is another winning installment in the Detective Gina Harte series. Gripping, tense, thrilling and unputdownable, I flew through it in under a day. 

Susan Wheeler is a devoted mum to her three children. She’s going through an acrimonious divorce but it is out of character when she not only doesn’t turn up to collect her youngest child, two-year-old Rory from pre-school, but also doesn’t come home that night or the next day. Her mother Mary is worried but her sister, Clare, and ex-husband, Ryan, think it’s a bid for attention. Finally, Mary calls the police and Gina and her team are assigned to the case. 

There are few clues but Susan’s diary leads them to a man who was possibly the last person to see her before she disappeared. But he’s found dead, having been brutally beaten and tortured before he was strangled to death. Is Susan a victim or did she have some part in this man’s death? The team keep digging but the missing pieces of the puzzle seem to elude them and Gina gets the sense there’s things the family aren’t telling her. It’s a race against the clock to put the pieces together, get to the truth and find Susan before she or someone else turns up dead. 

Her Dark Heart is the fifth book in this series and it lives up to the high bar that’s been set in the others. While knowledge from the other book does help with things like Gina’s backstory and character relationships it is still possible to read this as a standalone. The author is skilled in writing twisty crime fiction full of relatable characters and bad guys that make your skin crawl. 

Some of my favourite parts were from the chapters narrated by our mystery perpetrator. He was sinister, repulsive, delusional, and is determined to inflict his wrath and revenge for what happened all those years ago; though we don’t yet know what occurred. These chapters revved up the tension and had me on the edge of my seat as I tried to figure things out. There were a plethora of suspects but I couldn’t predict who he was or exactly why he was doing this. I did manage to guess part of it correctly but I was still blindsided by the revelations that came as we reached the jaw-dropping finale.

As with the author’s other books there are deeper themes running through this book than what appears on the surface. This time it’s secrets. Susan and her family are all harbouring various secrets and Gina is facing the emotional consequences of secrets she has kept for decades. While the Collins family’s secrets have led to Susan’s abduction and threaten to tear their family apart, Gina is missing her mother and feeling she has no right to grieve for not being there when she died because of the invisible chains her abusive late husband kept her in and how keeping the abuse secret led to their estrangement. It shows us how secrets can snowball, with devastating and catastrophic results.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys crime fiction and police procedurals. If you haven’t read the previous books in the series then check those out too. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Out today.

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour Review: The Familiars by Stacey Halls ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Today is the first day of the blog tour to celebrate the release of what’s been called “the most spellbinding debut novel of 2019” in paperback and I’m excited to share my thoughts. Thank you to Compulsive Readers Blog Tours for the invitation to take part and to Bonnier Zaffre for my gifted copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all…

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and prove the physician wrong.  

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

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MY REVIEW:

The Familiars is one of those books that is a work of sheer beauty. I was in love before I’d even read a word and could tell that reading it was going to be an experience. And I was right. It was lyrical, atmospheric, addictive, extraordinary and simply breathtaking; the story every bit as beautiful as the book.  I devoured it within a day – living within its pages and drowned in its words. A remarkable and unforgettable debut novel that was a joy to read. 

“The king has muddled wise women with witchcraft.”

Based around the true events of the Pendle Witch Trials, the author has blended fact and fiction to create a masterpiece. Though beautiful, it is also a dark story of prejudice, injustice and misogyny. It reveals how women were penalised for what they knew and helping others through things like midwifery. The men in charge were threatened by this and called what they did witchcraft so they could round them up and charge them with a crime where they’d created the perfect outcome – death whether you were guilty or innocent. The book also explores why so many women charged with witchcraft would confess and the lengths the witch hunters would go to in order to “prove” someone guilty. 

The novel also showcases other realities of life for women of that era. So much was expected so young and at just thirteen Fleetwood was married to her second husband,  without any say in the matter. At seventeen she’s pregnant with her fourth child and worried for her position if she doesn’t provide her husband with an heir. It was a sobering reminder of how little autonomy women had at that time over their bodies and their lives, and that their position was always precarious and dependent on men. I found it fascinating when Fleetwood observed that while she is seen as lucky to me married to a man with money and have her own household, poor women actually have more freedom – they are free to choose a husband out of love and aren’t traded as a way to climb the social ladder. I imagine no one would ever have expected Fleetwood to envy Alice’s position in life and it’s a reminder that things are all about perspective. 

“At four feet and eleven inches, everyone I met was taller than me, though I did not intimidate easily.” 

I loved Fleetwood. She is formidable, fierce and a fighter. I loved that she didn’t let her size stop her and coming in at four feet and nine and a half inches myself, I felt an affinity and solidarity with her from the start. She is a woman ahead of her time in how she sees the witch trials and I admired that she didn’t feel she could sit idly by and not do something; though I do think she finds this strength to act because Alice is her friend and midwife rather than a stranger. My heart broke for her losing three babies before we meet her and for all she had been through at such a young age. It must have been terrifying for her to be pregnant and not really know anything about childbirth except that a lot of women don’t survive. When I learned that she was based on a real person I fell in love with her even more and plan to find out more. 

“I felt the baby move, and was aware at once that while all three of us were here and alive now – Alice, the baby and I – one day very soon we might not be, and there was no way of telling which of us would make it.” 

I really  liked the strange friendship that grew between Fleetwood and Alice. At the beginning of the book, Fleetwood is  lonely and wants nothing more than to have a friend she can confide in, so she found what she needed twofold when she met Alice – a midwife and a friend. Alice is a more mysterious character but we do know she is strong, loyal and kind. I always got the sense she genuinely wanted to help Fleetwood.  Their relationship was the heart of the story and I felt more invested in it than any other relationship in the book. The author had me on tenterhooks time and again as the women put themselves on the line and remained steadfast in their support of one another. 

The Familiars was my 100th read of the year and is definitely in my top ten for the year. I was enchanted by the author’s flawless storytelling and was instantly transfixed. The agony, apprehension, fear, rage and determination dripped from every page. It is a gem of a novel that I urge everyone to read. 

Paperback out September 24th

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She has always been fascinated by the Pendle witches. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also written for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine, where she now works as Deputy Chief Sub Editor. The Familiars is her first novel. You can find her on Instagram @staceyhallsauthor and Twitter @stacey_halls

The Familiars

As part of the media campaign for the paperback release of The Familiars, Stacey has asked people to use the hashtag #FWordsHavePower and share their powerful F words.  Below is an excerpt from her email:

Some of the most powerful words in the English Language begin with ‘F’. My debut novel The Familiars has F-words in abundance! For a start there’s Fleetwood, the main character, who is female and fiery, and her friendship with Alice, who may or may not have a fox familiar. There are themes of feminine fury, fates intertwined, failure . . . you get the idea.

These are the F words she shared to describe the novel: 

She asked us to share our own F words on social media. My F word was almost Fibromyalgia because it colours so much of my life, but instead I chose the word that describes who I’ve been since before I was born: 

fighter

Comment below with your F word (keep it clean lol).

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

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

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for the sensational new novel from Mark Edwards. Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for my invitation to take part and to Amazon Publishing, Thomas & Mercer and Mark Edwards for my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Here To Stay Blog Tour Banner Final

SYNOPSIS:

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

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

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

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

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

Here To Stay Book Jacket

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

Do you think you’ve got the in-laws from hell? Well Elliot’s are probably worse. I know I’d happily take my awful ex-mother-in-law over them any day! Jeff and Lizzy Robinson are two of the most despicable, repulsive, noxious, contemptible, foul and vile people I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading about. They turn Elliot’s world upside down and inside out. They seem determined to not only take his home but destroy his entire life. It got me so angry reading how they behaved. Do you remember how in Roald Dahl’s The Twits it says that if a person has ugly thoughts it begins to show on their face, and they become uglier and uglier until you can no longer stand to look at them? Well that quote sprang to mind while reading about this couple and I imagined them getting uglier as the book went on. They’re such terrible people it seems like it would have to leak out from the inside and show on their faces. 

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

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

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

Publication Date: September 1st. Available to buy from your favourite bookseller.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people.

He has sold more than 2 million books and topped the UK bestseller list eight times.

His titles include The Magpies, Follow You Home and The Retreat. His next book, Here to Stay, will be published on 1 September 2019.

Website: https://www.markedwardsauthor.com/

Facebook: Mark Edwards Books, Instagram:@markedwardsauthor and Twitter: @mredwards

 

Categories
book reviews

Review: ‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ by Sara Collins ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Paperback Publication Day to the lovely Sara Collins and one of my favourite books this year.

SYNOPSIS: 

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, stands trial for their murder.

The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may even be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie has the chance to tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

REVIEW:

“I would never have done what they say I’ve done, to Madame, because I loved her. Yet they say I must be put to death for it, and they want me to confess.But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?” 

This remarkable debut novel is one of those books that reaches into your soul. Forbidden love, secrets, lies, obsession, madness, brutality, rage and murder. This book is filled to the brim with them all and takes you on an unforgettable journey as alleged murderess Frannie Langton tells her story. 

The Mulatta Murderess is what the papers have called her. But her name is Frannie Langton. The former slave is standing trial for the murders of her Master and Mistress, George and Marguerite, but says she couldn’t have done it because she loved her mistress. But that’s all she will say. She offers no evidence of her innocence, nor any defense. Instead, she writes her so-called confessions that tell the story of her life from her beginnings on a Jamaican plantation to the present day as she awaits judgement.

“Reading was the best thing and worst thing that’s happened to me.”

I loved the use of Frannie writing her own story and how it wasn’t chronological. The switches in the timeline skillfully wove the past and present together in a way that felt fresh and compelling. It also increased tension, foreshadowed events, and kept us guessing while also answering some questions in piecemeal. The excerpts of trial testimony sporadically inserted into the book were the perfect way to provide flashes of another perspective while showcasing the many prejudices and uphill battle Frannie was facing in her case.

This story deals with many important and hard to digest issues from the era, such as slavery. Though as a house girl Frannie is spared things such as working in the fields in the searing heat each day, she is still treated as less than human. And when Miss-bella, her Mistress on the plantation, decides to teach Frannie to read and write she feels lucky and doesn’t heed the warnings from Phibbah, another slave, that an educated negro is a threat to the white man. But she soon learns Phibbah was right. Reading the appalling brutalities that Frannie and other slaves are subjected to is hard at times but it is an important and potent part of her narrative. 

“I was all anger. Anger a drumbeat. Anger,  steady as rain on glass. Anger, like a hot spurt of blood from a wound.”

At an author event I attended back in May Sara Collins said, “novels for me come from characters” and talked about how she didn’t have a book until she knew her characters. This is evident for me in what a complex and wonderful character Frannie is. She’s honest, raw and flawed. She’s brave and intelligent. She refuses to be told what her life will be and dreams of more. Perhaps the most prolific part of Frannie’s narrative is anger. She talks about her rage at being looked down on, when she witnesses injustice and at being told she can and will only ever be a slave. She is very self-aware about her anger and there are times she’s ashamed of it, but overall she owns and accepts her rage, even seeming to be fuelled by it. You see it present in varying ways throughout her life and I have a lasting image of her hands cramping into fists by her sides. With all this anger you’re probably thinking she’s obviously guilty, but what I love about this book is it turns so many assumptions on their head. As you read it isn’t so hard to imagine that maybe she didn’t do it. Most of the time I understood her fury and thought I would have felt the same in her shoes. 

The other characters in this novel are all equally well written. While her Masters were very different, they were also both vile, evil men who mistreated her and I despised them both. She had a very different relationship with each of her Mistresses: Miss-bella was someone I loathed but also pitied at times. She taught Frannie to read but knew the danger that brought and she still mistreated her in other ways. Madame Marguerite was the woman Frannie loved and who she claimed was in love with her. She is a selfish and self-indulgent character but other than that I found myself vacillating between many feelings about her over the course of the book as although Frannie is in love with her and clearly worships her, as an outsider you see how she manipulates, uses and even puts Frannie in danger by her actions. 

“My life began with some truly hard things, but my story doesn’t have to, even though nothing draws honesty out of you like suffering.”

Though this is one of my favourite books I’ve read this year, I’ve found this review hard to write. So much happens and it’s hard to know what details to give without spoiling it and to eloquently describe how this book made me feel. But I needed to write this review, to tell others about this incredible story.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton shows us the worst of humanity but also some of its kindness. We see loneliness, hopelessness, desperation, brutality, anger and death, but also strength, hope, love and passion. It’s a haunting, beautiful, somber, eye-opening, emotional and penetrating story that gives a voice to those that have been forced to remain silent and muted. At the time the book is set people of colour were seen as less than human and race is a big part of this story, but for me, this is overwhelmingly a story about what it means to be human. How the differences in our skin don’t change the way we feel, love or dream. And a reminder that how the way we treat others says much more about ourselves than anyone else. 

Sara Collins’ debut novel is a masterpiece and is not only one of my favourite books this year, but ever. She deserves every bit of the accolades and recognition coming her way. It’s been two months since I finished it and I still find myself often thinking about Frannie and her story. I also can’t stop telling people they should read it. I definitely fell a bit in love with the imperfect but wonderful Frannie and her story and am going to be the first in line for a ticket if I get my dream and they make it into a film. 

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Collins studied law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for seventeen years. In 2014 she embarked upon the Creative Writing Masters at Cambridge University, where she won the 2015 Michael Holroyd Prize of Re-creative Writing and was shortlisted for the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Prize for a book inspired by her love of gothic fiction. This turned into her first novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton.

 

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My Sentimental Book Stack

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I was tagged by @diaryofabookmum & @silverliningsandpages on bookstagram to create a #sentimentalstack and enjoyed doing it so much that I decided to post it on here too.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓓𝓸𝓵𝓵 𝓕𝓪𝓬𝓽𝓸𝓻𝔂 & 𝓕𝓻𝓪𝓷𝓷𝓲𝓮 𝓛𝓪𝓷𝓰𝓽𝓸𝓷 – these were the books from the first author event I went to since starting my bookstagram account. It was such a special moment that I’ll never forget.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓸𝓻 𝓟𝓾𝓻𝓹𝓵𝓮 – The first book my other half bought me for my first birthday together. He bought me purple themed gifts and didn’t know I’d always wanted to read this book

𝓜𝔂 𝓢𝓲𝓼𝓽𝓮𝓻’𝓼 𝓚𝓮𝓮𝓹𝓮𝓻 – the first book I read by one of my favourite authors Jodi Picoult.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓦𝓲𝔃𝓪𝓻𝓭 𝓸𝓯 𝓞𝔃 – A favourite childhood book and the start of a lifelong obsession.

𝓜𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓵𝓭𝓪 & 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓑𝓕𝓖 – two of my favourite childhood books that evoke good memories.

𝓘𝓷 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓭 𝓑𝓵𝓸𝓸𝓭 – I read this as part of my English A Level. It was the first true crime book I read, before this it was only magazine articles. It instantly struck a chord and cemented my interest in true crime.

𝓕𝓵𝓸𝔀𝓮𝓻𝓼 𝓲𝓷 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓐𝓽𝓽𝓲𝓬 – I first read this as a teen and have read it many times.

𝓐 𝓣𝓲𝓶𝓮 𝓣𝓸 𝓚𝓲𝓵𝓵 – my first John Grisham book. He’s been a favourite author of mine ever since.

What would be in your sentimental book stack? Comment below.