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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2023

BOOK REVIEW: The Drift by C.J. Tudor

Published: January 19th, 2023
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror Fiction, Suspense, Psychological Ficiton, Psychological Thriller, Noir Fiction, Crime Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Sunday Bibliophiles! Today I’m finally sharing my review of C.J. Tudor’s latest heart-pounding thriller. This is one you don’t want to miss! Thank you to C.J. Tudor for sending me a proof copy of this book and the delicious cookies.

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SYNOPSIS:

THE HEART-POUNDING NEW NOVEL FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE CHALK MAN AND RICHARD & JUDY PICK THE BURNING GIRLS

‘The wildest thriller of the year is three thrillers in one. Buckle up‘ LINWOOD BARCLAY

‘An exceptional thriller. Original, high-octane plot, jaw-dropping twists . . . A writer at the top of her game’ CLAIRE DOUGLAS

‘A truly terrifying, ice-cold chiller from the master of macabre. C.J. Tudor should be on everyone’s must-read list’ CHRIS WHITAKER
_________

Survival can be murder . . .

Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school during a snowstorm, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board.

Carter is gazing out of the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger.

Outside, the storm rages. Inside each group, a killer lurks.

But who?

And will anyone make it out alive? . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“They were trapped. With the dead. And if rescue didn’t come soon, they would be buried with them.”

There is something uniquely terrifying about the idea of being trapped in a place that is cut off from everything else. Add in a harsh, brutal, unrelenting snowstorm and it becomes even more dangerous. Then people begin to disappear or turn up dead. You realise that nowhere is safe and if the elements, thirst or starvation don’t kill you, then one of your fellow companions just might. All of a sudden that picturesque home or resort doesn’t look so inviting. The Drift is all of these things and more, making it exactly the kind of compelling claustrophobic thriller I love.

C. J. Tudor has done it again. Chilling, tense and twisty, this is one f****d-up rollercoaster ride that packs a punch from the first page. A prime example of an author at the top of her game, this Queen of sinister storytelling knows how to hold her reader hostage, making our hearts pound as she chills us to the bone. Expertly written and plotted, she holds the reader in her thrall and we are powerless to resist. It is why every book she releases is a must read for me. I don’t even read the synopsis anymore as I know I’m  a first-class thriller.

“Obviously, everyone here was hiding something. The only difference was the size of the secret and the depth of the lie. ” 

I was on the edge of my seat from those first grisly and ominous pages, reading in breathless anticipation as things spiralled out of control. A ticking timebomb of sheer dread, the overwhelming fear leaping from the pages as the characters fight to survive not only the brutal conditions, but someone who wants to silence them. Told from multiple points of view, there is also a sense of something dark lurking, watching and waiting to strike. A feeling of being hunted that only heightens the sense of danger and ramps up the tension. But who can they trust? Most of the characters are strangers thrown together in the worst of circumstances and they have no idea who is truthful and who is spinning a web of lies.

“The realization unfurled slowly in her stomach, like poisonous tentacles. 
No. No, no, no.” 

I loved unwrapping the layers one by one to see what they revealed, trying to piece to puzzle together. But there were still things I couldn’t work out, and I needed answers. As I sped toward the finale nothing could stop me from flying through the pages, not even sleep threatening to overtake me at 3am. But when that big reveal came I was unprepared, my jaw left on the floor as I tried to comprehend what I’d just learned. It’s been over a week since I finished the book and I’m still thinking about it.

Unsettling, eerie and unbearably tense, The Drift is a nerve-shredding masterpiece that you won’t want to put down. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

C. J. Tudor’s love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.
Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.
C. J. Tudor’s first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in over forty countries. Her second novel, The Taking of Annie Thorne, was also a Sunday Times bestseller as was her third novel, The Other People. All three books are in development for TV. Her fourth novel, The Burning Girls, was a Richard and Judy Book Club selection and has been adapted for television by award-winning screenwriter Hans Rosenfeldt (creator of The Bridge and Marcella). It will debut on Paramount Plus in 2023. The Drift is her fifth novel and has also been optioned for the screen. C.J. Tudor is also the author of A Sliver of Darkness, a collection of short stories.
She lives in Sussex with her family.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon* | Berts Books |Bookshop.org*

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2023

BLOG TOUR: The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

Published: January 19th, 2023
Publisher: Viper
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Episolatry Novel, Police Procedural
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this tantalising and twisty tale. This was my favourie book of December 2022 and I’m so glad to finally be able to share my review with you all. Thank you to Viper for the invitation to take part and the proof copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

*** THE NEW MYSTERY PHENOMENON FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE APPEAL AND THE TWYFORD CODE ***

‘The queen of tricksy crime’ – SUNDAY TIMES
‘An astonishing piece of work’ – IAN MOORE

Open the safe deposit box.
Inside you will find research material for a true crime book.
You must read the documents, then make a decision.
Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?

Everyone knows the sad story of the Alperton Angels: the cult who brainwashed a teenage girl and convinced her that her newborn baby was the anti-Christ. Believing they had a divine mission to kill the infant, they were only stopped when the girl came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than stand trial, while mother and baby disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed; if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong. The truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined. And the story of the Alperton Angels is far from over.

From the bestselling author of The Appeal and The Twyford Code comes a stunning new mystery for fans of Richard Osman and S.J. Bennett. The devil is in the detail…

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MY REVIEW:

You have a key that opens a safe deposit box.
Inside is a bundle of documents, archived research material for a book that has just been published.
You must read it all and make a decision, either:
Replace all the documents and the box, then throw the key where it will never be found…
Or: take everything to the police. 

And so begins The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels. A tantalising, eerie and intriguing story of secrets, lies, delusion, mystery and  murder. 

True-crime author Amanda Bailey is asked to revisit the infamous case of the Alperton Angels, the cult who brainwashed a teenager into believing her baby was the anti-Christ and that God had charged them with sacrificing it in order to save humanity. The girl managed to save her baby, but the Angles sacrificed themselves rather than face trial for their crimes, and the case has been surrounded by whispers of conspiracy and cover-ups ever since.

With the surviving baby about to turn eighteen, the race is on to secure the first interview, and Amanda is determined to get that scoop. But she soon discovers discrepancies in the case and finds there is a wall of secrecy that surrounds the baby and it’s teenage parents, all three of which have not been seen since that night. It seems that everything people think they know about the Alperton Angels is wrong. The truth is something much darker, stranger and more sinister than anyone could ever imagine. And some people will do anything to prevent the truth from being revealed.

“There’s something about this case. It burrows insidiously into your mind, then sets about changing it.” 

I had been in a reading slump for a while when I picked this up, hoping that this might be the magic story to break the curse. And, boy, did it have the desired effect! Tantalising, eerie and intriguing, I couldn’t get enough of this book and devoured it quickly. It haunted my every thought and I’d be thinking about it even when forced to stop reading to do other things. I even dreamed about it when I slept! An absolute masterpiece, this was exactly what I needed to get me out of my slump.

Janice Hallett is a true innovator in crime fiction. She writes exclusively in mixed media, yet somehow you forget that you aren’t reading a traditionally written story. She makes it flow seamlessly and I completely lost myself in the world that she created.  A world that feels so real. I  am not ashamed to admit that I turned to google to check if this was based on a real case. It reads so authentically that it felt unfathomable that it could be purely a work of fiction. Ms. Hallett is a master storyteller who has created a story where nothing is as it seemed. The plot is an intricate maze of secrets, red herrings, duplexities and double crosses that I challenge anyone to predict. It is all so detailed and complex that it made my head spin, pulling me one way, then another, and then back again, like clothes spinning round a washing machine. I have no idea how she manages to come up with it, let alone how she keeps all those balls in the air and plots the clues perfectly. Yet it never feels confusing, which is a testament to her extraordinary skill as a writer.

Dark, curious and forbidding, you will not be able to stop reading this book until you have a resolution to your questions. And as the tension ramps up as you race to the finale, you will find yourself on the edge of your seat holding on for dear life as Ms. Hallett takes you on a wild and twisty ride. An absolute must-read for anyone who enjoys crime fiction. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Janice Hallett studied English at UCL, and spent several years as a magazine editor, winning two awards for journalism. After gaining an MA in Screenwriting at Royal Holloway, she co-wrote the feature film RetreatThe Appeal is inspired by her lifelong interest in amateur dramatics. Her second novel, The Twyford Code, will be published by Viper in 2022. When not indulging her passion for global adventure travel, she is based in West London.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Pain Tourist by Paul Cleave

Published: November 10th, 2022
Publisher: Orenda
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Medical Thriller, Police Procedural
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Pain Tourist. I’m so excited to finally share my review for this jaw-dropping thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Karen at Orenda Book for the gifted proof.

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SYNOPSIS:

A young man wakes from a coma to find himself targeted by the men who killed his parents, while someone is impersonating a notorious New Zealand serial killer … the latest chilling, nerve-shredding, twisty thriller from the author of The Quiet People…
 
‘Paul Cleave is an automatic must-read for me’ Lee Child
 
‘You can’t be a true fan of crime fiction if you’re not reading Cleave’s books’ Tom Wood

‘Uses words as lethal weapons’ New York Times

______________
 
James Garrett was critically injured when he was shot following his parents’ execution, and no one expected him to waken from a deep, traumatic coma. When he does, nine years later, Detective Inspector Rebecca Kent is tasked with closing the case that her now retired colleague, Theodore Tate, failed to solve all those years ago.
 
But between that, and hunting for Copy Joe – a murderer on a spree, who’s imitating Christchurch’s most notorious serial killer – she’s going to need Tate’s help … especially when they learn that James has lived out another life in his nine-year coma, and there are things he couldn’t possibly know, including the fact that Copy Joe isn’t the only serial killer in town…

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MY REVIEW:

“Pain tourists are who we get when the podcasts and true-crime novels and the documentaries aren’t enough. They wonder what it’s like being either killer or victim. They slake that curiosity by visiting places where the terrible things happened, and the next you know they’re going from ‘how did this happen?’ to ‘how can I make this happen?’ ” 

It’s been a few months since I read this book and I still can’t stop thinking about it.  A heart-pounding, jaw-dropping thrill ride that will blow your mind, this book is like nothing I’ve ever read before.  It is one of those books where you think you know where it’s going but you really have no clue, the many twists and turns giving me book whiplash. Complex and layered, author Paul Cleave slowly weaves the many threads together so that the full picture begins to take shape. And it looks nothing like you imagined. And that finale… I was holding my breath in anticipation and did NOT expect the turns it took. 

I was a big fan of Cleave’s last book, The Quiet People, and I feel like he gets better every time. Exquisitely written with gorgeous and evocative imagery, this book really showcases just how damn good he is. An ensemble cast thriller with multiple threads, it manages to avoid getting confusing. Each character is brilliantly written, compelling and memorable, and it felt like there were no real background characters. But it was James and the mysterious killer whose points of view I found most enthralling. The concept of James living an entire life in ‘coma world’ was genius, and the anguish and confusion he felt upon waking was heartbreaking. I loved how the author brought James’ coma world to life for the reader, making it feel as real to us as it did him. As for the killer, well, what can I say except that I’m a sucker for an insight into a dark and twisted mind. 

Imaginative, tense and moving, The Pain Tourist is an absolute triumph. It is one of those books you never want to end but you are also desperate for answers. One of my favourite books this year, if you haven’t read this author yet then do it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Paul is an award winning author who often divides his time between his home city of Christchurch, New Zealand, where most of his novels are set, and Europe. He’s won the New Zealand Ngaio Marsh Award three times, the Saint-Maur book festival’s crime novel of the year award in France, and has been shortlisted for the Edgar and the Barry in the US and the Ned Kelly in Australia. HIs books have been translated into over twenty languages. He’s thrown his Frisbee in over forty countries, plays tennis badly, golf even worse, and has two cats – which is often two too many. The critically acclaimed The Quiet People was published in 2021, with The Pain Tourist to follow in 2022.

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BUY THE BOOK

Orenda Books | Berts Books | Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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

*These links are affiliate links

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

REVIEW: Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

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

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

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SYNOPSIS:

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

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

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

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MY REIVEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ IT NOW!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

DM for Trigger Warnings

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MEET THE AUTHORS:

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

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

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

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

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

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

REVIEW: The Ghost Woods by C. J. Cooke

Published: October 13th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Gothic Ficiton, Fairy Tale, Mystery, Suspense, Supernatural Fiction, Magical Realism, Horror Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

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SYNOPSIS:

In the midst of the woods stands a house called Lichen Hall.

This place is shrouded in folklore – old stories of ghosts, of witches, of a child who is not quite a child.

Now the woods are creeping closer, and something has been unleashed.

Pearl Gorham arrives in 1965, one of a string of young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth. And she soon suspects the proprietors are hiding something.

Then she meets the mysterious mother and young boy who live in the grounds – and together they begin to unpick the secrets of this place.

As the truth comes to the surface and the darkness moves in, Pearl must rethink everything she knew – and risk what she holds most dear.

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MY REVIEW:

Hauntingly atmospheric and eerie, The Ghost Woods was the perfect read for this time of year.  Chilling, mysterious and bursting with folklore, a sense of dread lingers over every page.  I read with my heart in my throat and the light turned on, eager to discover the truth yet also fearful of what was to come.  And don’t even try to get me to go into the woods anytime soon.

I was a big fan of C. J. Cooke’s last two novels so I was anticipating another great read but with its exquisite storytelling, richly drawn characters and evocative imagery, this is my favourite of her books so far.  The strange rumours and eerie folklore surrounding Litchen Hall and the woods cast a sinister shadow, while an atmosphere of isolation and helplessness lingers over every word. 

Gorgeously gothic, claustrophobic and menacing, The Ghost Woods is an addictive tale that will captivate and unnerve you.  Add this spooky story to your TBR now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

CJ Cooke, also known as Carolyn Jess-Cooke, grew up on a council estate in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the height of the Troubles. She started writing at the age of 7 and pestered publishers for many years with manuscripts typed on her grandparents’ old typewriter and cover notes written on pages ripped from school jotters. 

Since then, she has published 15 books in 23 languages and won numerous awards, including an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, a Tyrone Guthrie Prize, a K Blundell Award, and she has won a Northern Writer’s Award three times. In 2011, her debut novel, The Guardian Angel’s Journal, was published by Little, Brown. The novel was an international bestseller. Her second novel, The Boy Who Could See Demons (2012), is a cult classic. Her sixth novel, The Lighthouse Witches, was published in October 2021, and was an Indigo Book of the Month, an international bestseller, a New York Public Library Book of the Year and nominated for both an Edgar Award by Mystery Writers of America and an ITW Thriller Award in 2022. It is soon to be a major TV series produced by StudioCanal and The Picture Company. The Ghost Woods is her latest novel and is published in October 2022.

CJ holds a BA (Hons), MA, and PhD from Queen’s University, Belfast, and commenced her academic career in 2005 as a Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sunderland. Shortly thereafter, she published four academic works in swift succession on Shakespearean Cinema and Film Sequels, before establishing her career as a poet, editor, and novelist.

Now Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, CJ convenes the prestigious MLitt Creative Writing and researches ways that creative writing can help with trauma and mental health. Throughout 2013-18 she directed the Writing Motherhood project, which explored the impact of motherhood on women’s writing. She is also the founder and director of the Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival, which is dedicated to providing people with accessible, inclusive, and eco-friendly ways to access literature.

CJ has four children and lives with her family in Glasgow, Scotland.

(Taken from C. J. Cooke’s website)

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2023

REVIEW: End of Story by Louise Swanson

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

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

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SYNOPSIS:

Too much imagination can be a dangerous thing

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

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

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

And who can be trusted?

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MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

REVIEW: The Toll House by Carly Reagon

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

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

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The past isn’t always dead and buried.

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

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

Because something has awoken.

And now it won’t rest . . .

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MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Butcher and the Wren by Alaina Urquhart

Published: September 13th, 2022
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Medical Thriller, Police Procedural, Horror Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the deliciously dark, menacing and eerie The Butcher and the Wren. Thank you to Michael Joseph for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

THE CHILLING SERIAL KILLER THRILLER FROM THE CO-HOST OF CHART-TOPPING PODCAST MORBID

WREN WAS NEVER AFRAID OF THE DARK. UNTIL SHE LEARNED THAT SOME MONSTERS ARE REAL . . .
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In deep Louisiana, a serial killer with a taste for medical experimentation is completing his most ambitious project yet. The media call him ‘The Butcher’ – and, so far, he’s proved impossible to catch.

With her encyclopaedic knowledge of humanity’s darkest minds, and years of experience examining their victims, forensic pathologist Dr Wren Muller is the best there is. The longer the Butcher’s killing spree continues, the more determined she is to bring him to justice.

And yet, he continues to elude her.

As body after body piles up on Wren’s examination table, her obsession grows. Pressure to put an end to the slaughter mounts. And her enemy becomes more brazen.

How far is Wren willing to go to draw the Butcher into the light . . .?

An addictive read with straight-from-the-morgue details only an autopsy technician could provide, The Butcher and the Wren promises to ensnare all who enter.

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MY REVIEW:

Wren was never afraid of the dark.  Until she learned that some monsters are real…

The Butcher and the Wren is a dark, menacing and forbidding game of cat and mouse that will send shivers down your spine.  This is one of those books best read in the daytime because if you read it in the dark you will never close your eyes…

Forensic pathologist Dr Wren Muller is determined to bring the killer known as ‘The Bayou Butcher’ to justice.  But as the body count rises, she fears she is no closer to finding the brutal murderer with a penchant for experimenting on his victims.  Then one day she notices a clue that changes the game completely.  Now she knows who he is and she is willing to do whatever it takes to stop him. 

“Catch me if you can.” 

Alaina Urquhart wields a scalpel as sharp as her protagonist in this outstanding debut.  Intricately woven, tightly plotted, fast-paced and unbearably tense, it oozed fear from its every pore and had me on the edge of my seat with my heart racing.  Darkly atmospheric and cleverly written, the author uses the power of suggestion to make your imagination go wild, conjuring imagery more horrifying than graphic descriptions could ever portray, though there are some gruesome moments too.  I devoured it quickly, unable to turn away even though I desperately wanted to. 

 “The feeling in this place is dark and ominous, saturated with the evil that has touched it for so long.”

Not only has Urquhart written a chilling story, but she’s created a truly terrifying villain.  Jeremy is particularly frightening because he seems like he could be anyone you know.  He is completely sane and aware of his actions, meticulously plans his every move, and seems so normal that his victims willingly accompany  him to their doom.  He’s the monster that lurks in the shadows or under your bed while also being the person sitting next to you on the bus or who chats to you at a bar.  He is what we don’t want to believe evil is made of.  

Ominous, suspenseful and filled with jaw-dropping twists that will take you by surprise, this is a must-read for any thriller lover.  Urquhart is my new favourite sinister storyteller and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.  Hopefully it will include Wren as I’d love to see her featured in a series. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon*| Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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

*These purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

Published: September 27th, 2022
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

I’m thrilled to be opening the blog tour for this spectacular novel. A huge thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Doubleday books for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.

The notorious queen of this glittering world is Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie’s empire faces threats from without and within. For beneath the dazzle of Soho’s gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost.

With her unique Dickensian flair, Kate Atkinson brings together a glittering cast of characters in a truly mesmeric novel that captures the uncertainty and mutability of life; of a world in which nothing is quite as it seems.

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MY REVIEW:

“There was a reckoning coming for Nellie.  Could she outrun it?” 

Shrines of Gaiety is a fictional insight into the seedy underbelly hiding beneath the glittering nightlife of 1920s London.  It follows Nellie Coker, the scene’s undisputed queen, who has built an empire for herself and her children.  At her clubs aristocrats, royals, stars and foreighn dignitaries mingle with gangsters and pay a shilling at a time to dance with girls. But success comes at a price and Nellie’s enemies are now plotting her downfall and she must fight to keep what she built. Can Nellie triumph once again or will her enemies finally succeed?

What. A. Book.  Mesmerising and exuberant, it is not only a work of art on the outside but between its pages too.  But this is a book where the beauty lives alongside the darkness.  For behind the dancing, drinking, respectability, sparkle and splendour is a cesspit of morality; an intricate and tangled web of deception, lies, debauchery, drugs, murder and sex trafficing.  A gritty and menacing underworld that is actually behind the glittering nightlife patrons enjoy.

“The delinquent Coker empire was a house of cards that Frobisher aimed to topple. The filthy, glittering underbelly of London was converged in its nightclubs, and particularly the Amethyst, the gaudy jewel at the heart of Soho’s nightlife.” 

An example of historical fiction at its finest, Kate Atkinson has once again shown why she is a must-read for any fan of the genre.  A masterclass in storytelling, this exquisitely crafted novel had me transfixed as the roaring twenties, glamorous nightlife and seedy underworld were brought to life in vivid technicolour.  It was impossible to put down and I devoured in just two sittings as Nellie’s world consumed me and the real world surrounding me fell away.

Nellie Coker is an ambitious, strong, powerful, ruthless and notorious character who demands loyalty and is fiercely protective of her family and what she’s built.  She is someone you can’t help having a soft spot for despite the fact that she is actually quite unlikeable.  She has that spark that draws you to her and makes you want to be in her orbit even if you know she’s someone you should stay away from.  It was easy to see why she was so successful. 

“Girls like Freda are meant for the Nellie Coker’s of this world. She devours them.”

But Nellie is not our only narrator and this is a saga told by an ensemble cast of richly drawn and charismatic characters such as Nellie’s six children, spiky Chief Inspector John Frobisher, former librarian Gwendolen Kelling and young Freda Murgatroyd.  Gwendolen was my favourite character while Freda brought out my maternal side as I worried about the vulnerable young runaway falling victim to the nefarious people waiting to pounce on naive young girls. There was also an array of compelling background characters that were equally as well written. 

Dazzling, evocative and consuming, this glorious romp is one of my favourite books this year.  If you enjoy historical fiction then this is an absolute must-read.  Highly recommended.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kate Atkinson is an international bestselling novelist, as well as playwright and short story writer. She is the author of Life After Life; Transcription; Behind the Scenes at the Museum, a Whitbread Book of the Year winner; the story collection Not the End of the World; and five novels in the Jackson Brodie crime series, which was adapted into the BBC TV show Case Histories.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Last Girl To Die by Helen Fields

Published: September 1st, 2022
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Horror Fiction, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this astonishing and unsettling thriller. Thank you to Olivia at Avon for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

In search of a new life, seventeen-year-old Adriana Clark’s family moves to the ancient, ocean-battered Isle of Mull, far off the coast of Scotland. Then she goes missing. Faced with hostile locals and indifferent police, her desperate parents turn to private investigator Sadie Levesque.

Sadie is the best at what she does. But when she finds Adriana’s body in a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head, she knows she’s dealing with something she’s never encountered before.

The deeper she digs into the island’s secrets, the closer danger creeps – and the more urgent her quest to find the killer grows. Because what if Adriana is not the last girl to die?

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MY REVIEW:

All the stars for this truly astonishing and mesmerising novel!  Merging mythology, folklore and superstition with suspicion, mystery and murder in an isolated, claustrophobic and forbidding setting, The Last Girl To Die is a tantalising and unforgettable read.

Set on the Isle of Mull, the story follows Sadie Levesque, a Canadian private investigator and teenage tracking specialist, who has been hired to find missing 17-year-old Adriana Clark.  After days of searching she finds poor Adriana’s body inside a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head in a macabre twist.  Faced with an island of people who distrust outsiders and closely guard their secrets, finding the killer is not going to be easy.  Or without danger.  And the more she uncovers, the more those with secrets will do anything to keep them hidden…

I have been a fan of Helen Fields ever since reading her debut novel and I don’t even read the blurb before adding her books to my TBR anymore.  She always delivers a well written, suspenseful, gritty and visceral thriller filled with compelling characters, but with this book she took things to another level. Sadie is my favourite of her standalone protagonists and I enjoyed the decision to move away from traditional crime fiction by including supernatural and mythological elements as I love a witchy read.  I didn’t want to put this book down and found myself thinking about it every minute I wasn’t reading.  

From the start there is a sense that there is more to this island than they want to tell, a sense of chilling foreboding that you can’t shake. As the ancient folklore and rituals are slowly introduced we understand this place and its people a little more but I found my sense of horror grew with each new shocking twist and surprising revelation. Fields captured the atmosphere of a secluded island perfectly and I felt like I was walking on Mull alongside Sadie, and the animosity, distrust and menace radiating from the pages and cast of characters bringing it to life in vivid technicolour.

Gripping, unpredictable and breathtakingly brilliant, this is Fields’ best book yet.  If you like nerve-shredding thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat and the unsettling aura of the supernatural, then this is for you. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Helen Fields is the author of best-selling crime, thriller and historical fiction books Perfect Remains, Perfect Prey, Perfect Death, Perfect Silence, Perfect Crime, Perfect Kill, These Lost and Broken Things & Degrees of Guilt written as HS Chandler. A former barrister and film producer, her books have been translated into more than 20 languages. 

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links