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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Book Review: The Asylum by Karen Coles

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Welbeck Publishing Group
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Historical Mystery, Romance

SYNOPSIS:

1906: Being a woman is dangerous, being different is deadly.

Maud Lovell has been at Angelton Lunatic Asylum for five years. She is not sure how she came to be there and knows nothing beyond its four walls. She is hysterical, distressed, untrustworthy. Badly unstable and prone to violence. Or so she has been told.

When a new doctor arrives, keen to experiment with the revolutionary practice of medical hypnosis, Maud’s lack of history makes her the perfect case study. But as Doctor Dimmond delves deeper into the past, it becomes clear that confinement and high doses are there to keep her silent.

When Maud finally remembers what has been done to her, and by whom, her mind turns to her past and to revenge.

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Maud has been locked in the darkness of Angelton Lunatic Asylum for five years. She doesn’t remember how she got here or what caused her madness. The only thing she remembers is the man in the marsh, an eerie and ghoulish figure that haunts her nightmares. But is he real or a figment of her imagination?

When Dr Dimmond says he wants to help her by exploring her unconscious it seems like someone is finally on Maud’s side. But as the hypnosis awakens her memories, Maud begins to wonder if some things were better off buried and forgotten after all…

WHAT. A. BOOK! It’s no secret that I love historical and gothic fiction, so this book had everything I could want and more. Claustrophobic, haunting and addictive, I couldn’t put this one down. It is exquisitely written, a creeping malice seeping from every page as the author transports you to the bleak, shadowy rooms of the asylum and the anguished recesses of Maud’s mind. 

The depth of Coles’ research is clear in her striking imagery, the descriptions of the practices asylum staff use to treat patients, and in her thought-provoking exploration of topics such as the mistreatment of women and mental health, and the effects of psychological and physical imprisonment. The sense of dread, desperation and sheer helplessness are palpable, coming together to create an atmosphere that has you on the edge of your seat and your heart pounding as you wait for the secrets buried in Maud’s memory to be unlocked. 

Maud is an unreliable narrator. While there is a suspicion early on that she might not be as mad as some of the doctors would like her to think she is, even she doesn’t trust what she tells herself. Reality shifts and cracks around her, echoes of memory stir and haunt her nightmares and hallucinations. She is an enigma to the reader, and herself. A woman fighting to be heard in a place where they want her to be silent.. She is an unlikely heroine, but shows herself to be much braver and stronger than anyone could have imagined at the start of the story. 

The Asylum is a menacing, evocative, lingering and intricately woven novel. An example of storytelling and mystery at its finest, it is one fans of historical and gothic fiction won’t want to miss. Go read this book! 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Karen was born in Taplow, Berkshire UK to rather nomadic parents. Countryside walks with her father instilled in her a lifelong love of nature, particularly wild plants, insects and amphibians. Karen is a painter and sculptor. As a child she was a voracious reader of fairy tales, myths and legends, and this led to a fascination with dark, Gothic literature. She now lives in Wales, not far from a town which once had three Victorian asylums. Their history inspired the writing of her novel, The Asylum.

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The pictures above were part of the author’s inspiration when writing The Asylum. They are taken from the author’s Instagram page where she talks about each one in relation to Maud and the book.

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Thank you to Welbeck Publishing for the gifted ARC.

Thanks for reading Bibliphiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours Book Features Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Nighthawking by Russ Thomas

Published: April 29th, 2021
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Hardboiled, Police Procedural, Crime Series

SYNOPSIS:

The latest novel by the author of FIREWATCHING, by ‘a bold and brilliant new voice in crime fiction’ 
 
Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens – an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. And then, one morning, a body is found in the Gardens. A young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone just sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up.
 
Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body?
 
In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable… and willing to kill to keep what they find.
 
That which was lost… will always be found again

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MY REVIEW:

He can’t bear to think of her that way, all cold and dead and wasting away in her grave beneath the rose bushes. He’d always pictured her whole, whenever he thought about her. All peaceful and sleeping. The way she’d looked when he buried her.”

On a cold winter night, a nighthawker – a treasure hunter who operates under the cloak of darkness – breaks into Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens to search for treasures buried beneath the flower beds and instead uncovers the arm of a murdered young woman. DS Adam Tyler is called in to investigate, drawing him and his team into the mysterious, tangled web of nighthawkers, hidden treasure, secrets and murder. 

Russ Thomas’ debut thriller, Firewatching, was one of my favourite books of last year, leaving me eagerly awaiting its follow up. But with such excitement comes trepidation. Would Nighthawking live up to the brilliance of Firewatching? The answer is, yes. Like its predecessor, Nighthawking is a heart-pounding thriller that had me on the edge of my seat. 

Being set in my hometown gives this series a special place in my heart, but that isn’t the only reason I love these books. They are exquisitely written, intricate and action-packed, bringing Sheffield to life not only in terms of the vivid imagery, but the atmosphere. When I first heard that this book would be set in the Botanical Gardens I was delighted as it is probably my favourite place in the city. I even went there just last week and loved how clearly I could picture every moment that happened there. It was a fabulous setting that the author has clearly researched extensively and I know that the Gardens will forever be synonymous with this book for me. 

The author has filled this book with a cast of richly drawn, compelling and nuanced characters. The multiple narrators allow him to weave in the human elements of the story and offer us greater insight into their nature, behaviour and motivations, and drawing more empathy from us for certain characters by showing us the trauma and pain they have suffered. I loved being back with Tyler and his team, a realistic bunch who bicker and don’t always work together well. I like that Tyler isn’t your usual affable and charming protagonist. He is someone you warm up to and I think his spiky, zealous nature gives the books a bit of an edge over the ones with a more likeable central character. I was glad to see Mina Rabbani back as she is probably my favourite character. It was great to see her  grow in confidence and come into her own over the course of this book and I’m looking forward to seeing what is in store for her next. 

Complex, twisty, dark and exhilarating, Nighthawking is an addictive page-turner that keeps you guessing. This can be read as a standalone, but I would highly recommend reading them in order because they are simply fantastic thrillers. My only question after that nail-biting finale is how long do I have to wait until book three? 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

RUSS THOMAS was born in Essex, raised in Berkshire and now lives in Sheffield. After a few ‘proper’ jobs (among them: pot-washer, optician’s receptionist, supermarket warehouse operative, call-centre telephonist, and storage salesman) he discovered the joys of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day. Firewatching is his debut novel.

Website| Instagram | Twitter

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Simon & Schuster UK for the gifted ARC. Please check out the reviews from other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

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

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

SYNOPSIS:

THE MUST-READ GOTHIC THRILLER OF 2021

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

‘Believe the hype… a masterclass’ KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE

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

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

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

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

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles! Until next time, Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter

Published: March 16th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder Studio
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Literary Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Welcome to my, slightly late, stop on the blog tour for this remarkable debut. Thank you to Niamh at Hodder Studio for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:
No future, dear reader, can break a woman on its own

A bold and dazzling exploration of fate and female agency in a world where women own the future but not their own bodies.

Like every woman, Celeste Morton holds a map of the future in her skin, every mole and freckle a clue to unlocking what will come to pass. With puberty comes the changeling period – when her final marks will appear and her future is decided.

The possibilities are tantalising enough for Celeste’s excitement to outweigh her fear. Changelings are sought after commodities and abduction is rife as men seek to possess these futures for themselves.

Celeste’s marks have always been closely entwined with her brother, Miles. Her skin holds a future only he, as a gifted interpreter, can read and he has always considered his sister his practice ground. But when Celeste’s marks change she learns a devastating secret about her brother’s future that she must keep to herself – and Miles is keeping a secret of his own. When the lies of brother and sister collide, Celeste determines to create a future that is truly her own.

Body of Stars is an urgent read about what happens when women are objectified and violently stripped of choice – and what happens when they fight back.

MY REVIEW:

“No future, dear reader, can break a woman on its own.” 

What would it be like to know your future? To have the things that will happen to you and those you love mapped out on your body and be powerless to change it? 

Body of Stars is a dazzling and luminous debut that is unlike anything I’ve read before. It is one of those books you know you’re going to love from the start; that seeps right into your soul and lingers long after you’ve finished reading. Exquisitely written with beautiful and almost melodic prose, the author cast a hypnotic spell with the captivating opening lines that lasts until the final pages. I savoured every word, eager to bathe in its splendour for as long as possible.

A multifaceted story about fate, choice, family, secrets, trauma and female agency, the author writes with truth and sensitivity as she examines timely, important issues such as male violence, rape culture, victim blaming, patriarchy and the toxicity they can breed. She also asks how women can empower themselves and come together to make a change, and looks at the positive and negative consequences of knowing your future. 

“All we knew was that our lives were speckled in advance on our skin, as it had been for our mothers, as it was for our sisters, while our brothers and fathers were left in the dark.”

The girls in this world are born marked, but men aren’t. And men are jealous, eager to know their own fates. But despite being the ones with the future on their skin, the women aren’t the ones with the agency. Their bodies aren’t their own and from birth they are read and their markings recorded by government inspectors, they have to sign waivers permitting potential universities or employers access to these records, and upon becoming a changeling they must submit to a humiliating inspection by both their mother and father. And, as changelings, the females are so potent that everyone is drawn to them; the men in particular. Some of whom will do anything to possess them. But the men are seen as powerless against their changeling allure and it is the women who are held responsible for staying safe and not getting abducted. And if they are taken and ruined, the blame is placed solely at their feet. But this isn’t an anti-men book. It is a wider story about the problems of strict gender identities and roles, and we see Celeste’s brother Miles and her father also fall foul of their society’s strict rules and roles for men. 

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that the author included excerpts and illustrations from Mapping the Future, the book used in her fictional world to interpret markings and predict their fates. The intricate detail was phenomenal and added to the sense of realism. There were definitely times I forgot this was all from the author’s wonderful imagination and I wasn’t reading about life in another country. 

It is rare to read a book where you really have no idea what will happen next, and this was one of those books. I found myself reading in breathless anticipation, trying to piece together the clues she’d dropped like breadcrumbs about Celeste and Miles’ fate. 

Mesmerising, soulful, unique and memorable, Body of Stars is an absolute tour de force. An easy five stars from me, I have no doubt this will be among my favourite books of the year. It is a book that resonates strongly and can’t recommend it highly enough. I am in awe that it is a debut novel and can’t wait to see what Ms. Walters writes next after such a phenomenal start. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

TW: sexual assault, trauma

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Laura Maylene Walter is a writer and editor in Cleveland. Her debut novel, Body of Stars, is forthcoming from Dutton. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Poets & WritersKenyon Review, The SunThe Master’s Review, Ninth Letter, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Southeast Review, Chicago Tribune‘s Printers Row, and many other publications.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Published: March 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Legend Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this breathtaking debut. Thank you to Lucy at Legend Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate―and not everyone will survive.

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MY REVIEW:

“But the possibility of the apothecary’s existence, the mystery of it, drew me deeper.” 

The Lost Apothecary is an enthralling and bewitching story of women, self-discovery and the secrets hidden in the shadows. 

In dual timelines we follow the stories of three women: Nella, Eliza and Caroline. The story opens in London in 1791. Nella runs the apothecary shop that once belonged to her mother. But this apothecary isn’t just a place of healing, it is also a place for women who seek something much darker: vengeance and murder. Twelve-year-old Eliza has been sent to the apothecary by her mistress. When Eliza begs for refuge, Nessa reluctantly allows her to stay in the hidden shelter of the apothecary and even begins to teach her some of her secrets. But when a mysterious woman makes a request that goes against everything Nessa stands for, it sparks a chain of events that will threaten everything she has; including her life.

In present day London Caroline is on what should have been her 10th anniversary trip alone after discovering her husband’s betrayal. When she finds a small vial while mudlarking she becomes fascinated by the item and determined to learn the item’s history and comes across a clue connecting the vial to a string of unsolved murders over two hundred years ago.

Past and present collide in this mesmerising tale creating a heady mix of mystery, contemporary and historical fiction that sizzles with suspense. It was a combination I found irresistible and I devoured the book quickly. Deftly written, evocative and clearly well researched, the author spirited me away to the dank, filthy streets of 18th century London where the apothecary is all smoke and mirrors; invisible to the untrained eye but visible for those in need. Shifting between dual timelines the author slowly unveils the secrets hidden in the pages, seamlessly weaving together the women’s stories in exciting and unexpected ways. I was hooked, on the edge of my seat as I desperately waited for her to reveal Nessa and Eliza’s fate. 

Nessa, Eliza and Caroline are a trio of unique voices that come together to create the perfect harmony in the narration of this tale. And while I enjoyed them all, I was definitely most drawn to Nessa and Eliza both as characters and in terms of the story. For me, Nessa was the character at the centre of it all. A solitary soul who is committed to her work, she believes she is empowering women in an era where they were at the mercy of men and their whims or desires. She has clear rules and standards: only men will ever meet death at the hand of her poisons, never women. Whatever they may have done. This dark side of her apothecary is a legacy of the betrayal she suffered at the hands of her lover many years ago, an incident that echoes in every facet of her life and is the reason she casts such a lonely shadow to this day. 

Eliza is a young and fairly innocent girl whose desire to learn and please is both her weakness and her strength. She is fascinated by what Nessa does and refuses to heed the older woman’s warnings about not shouldering the same burden she has all these years. Like Nessa I found myself feeling very maternal towards Eliza and had a real soft spot for her. 

What I liked most about Caroline was the journey of self discovery she took. When we first meet her she’s lost, feeling like her world has been turned upside down, and has no idea what she wants or what her future holds. After discovering the vial her passion for history is reignited and she finally allows her inner historian to resurface after suppressing her for all those years. She begins to see how stifled she has been and wonders if it might be time for a new dream and direction in life. That passion and her determination to solve the mystery of the vial was intoxicating and I enjoyed the friendship it kindled between her and Gaynor. 

Atmospheric, haunting, immersive and brimming with menace, this is a remarkable debut that I highly recommend. I am excited to see what comes next from this talented author and will be first in line to read it upon its release. 

Rating:  ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Penner is the debut author of THE LOST APOTHECARY (March 2021, Park Row Books/HarperCollins), available in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and translated into more than fifteen languages. Sarah and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida with their miniature dachshund, Zoe.

Website |Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Apple Books | Kobo
*These links are affiliate links

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

Thank you for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Picador, Pan Macmillan
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for one of my favourite books of the year so far. Thank you Picador for the invitation to take part and the gorgeous gifted finished edition.

SYNOPSIS:

They say we’ll never know what happened to those men.
They say the sea keeps its secrets . . .
‘A mystery, a love story and a ghost story, all at once. I didn’t want it to end’ S J Watson

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

MY REVIEW:

“This riddle has everything a fiction writer looks for – drama, mystery, peril on the sea. Only it’s real.”

The Lamplighters is the story of the disappearance of three men, their warring widows, ghostly goings-on, and the power and mystery of the sea. Told in dual timelines we follow the men in the days leading up to their disappearance, and their widows twenty years later as they are interviewed by a writer who is hoping to finally find the truth of what happened on that frigid winter day.

First of all, how is this a debut?! This book is an example of storytelling at its finest. The author shifts seamlessly between the two timelines; holding the reader in the palm of her hand as she weaves her mysterious tale. The imagery is so vivid that I can see, feel, hear the waves, smell the salty sea air, and hear the siren song of the sea as she whispers her secrets.

Based on a true story, the author has changed the time, place and people to craft her own world full of secrets, mystery and intrigue. The characters and community she created are captivating, relatable and richly drawn. We are given a first person narrative from multiple characters; in 1992 the widows tell their story, and in 1972 the doomed keepers give details of life in the lighthouse and events leading up their disappearance.

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that it is absolutely drenched in mystery. It seeps from its every pore. There isn’t just the mystery of what happened that day on the Tower, there are other puzzles that we have to piece together so we can get the final, truthful picture of what transpired. But though there were many layers and interwoven storylines, it never felt confusing. It just sent the tension through the roof and made this book impossible to put down. I had to know what happened! In my notes there are many other plot points and aspects of the book that stood out and I would love to talk about, but I won’t because I don’t want to take away from the joy of discovering these engimas for yourself.

The Lamplighters is a truly accomplished debut. It is one of those books that deserves to be huge and I have no doubt everyone will be talking about this year. It is also perfect for the big screen and I am hoping I get to see it there one day.

Atmospheric, haunting, claustrophobic and mesmerising, I found it impossible to put this one down and would have read it in one sitting if not for the pesky need to sleep. If you love an exquisitely written and layered mystery then don’t miss this book.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Emma Stonex is a novelist and The Lamplighters is her debut under her own name; she is the author of several books written under a pseudonym. Before becoming a writer, she worked as an editor at a major publishing house. She lives in Bristol with her husband and two young daughters.

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Pictures taken on our trip to Lands End in 2015.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

Published: February 18th, 2021
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Today is my stop on the tour for this remarkable debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Doubleday for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

An extraordinary friendship. A lifetime of stories. Their last one begins here.

‘This is something special: moving, joyful and life-affirming’ GOOD HOUSEKEEPING Book of the Month

‘Heartwarming, remarkable stories’ BBC BOOKS FOR 2021
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Life is short. No-one knows that better than seventeen-year-old Lenni living on the terminal ward. But as she is about to learn, it’s not only what you make of life that matters, but who you share it with.

Dodging doctor’s orders, she joins an art class where she bumps into fellow patient Margot, a rebel-hearted eight-three-year-old from the next ward. Their bond is instant as they realize that together they have lived an astonishing one hundred years.

To celebrate their shared century, they decide to paint their life stories: of growing old and staying young, of giving joy, of receiving kindness, of losing love, of finding the person who is everything.

As their extraordinary friendship deepens, it becomes vividly clear that life is not done with Lenni and Margot yet.

Fiercely alive, disarmingly funny and brimming with tenderness, THE ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF LENNI AND MARGOT unwraps the extraordinary gift of life even when it is about to be taken away, and revels in our infinite capacity for friendship and love when we need them most.

MY REVIEW:

“Living and dying are both complete mysteries, and you can’t know either until you’ve done both.”

Every once in a while you will come across a book that reaches into your heart and soul and changes you forever. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is such a book. A story of life, death, all the magical moments in between, it is hard to believe that this is a debut. Utterly mesmerising, this is a book that lingers long after reading. 

I loved Lenni. She is smart, sassy, fierce and funny. I loved how she thrived on challenging those around her; everyone from Father Arthur to the exasperated nurses, how she travelled via her imagination each day and the fact that she refused to be held back by the confines of impending death and the hospital ward. She is so alive that it is hard to believe she is dying, leaping from the page straight into my heart. Margot’s impact is a little more subtle, much like the lady herself. She has a dignified and graceful air about her, but from the moment we first meet her you also get a sense of rebellion. As we learn more, it becomes clear she has lived an extraordinary life and I could have read a whole other book about her without getting bored. I love a good multi-generational tale and their friendship is truly special and remarkable and will remain one of my favourites.

Marianne Cronin is a phenomenal new talent and this novel is storytelling at its finest. She immerses you in Lenni’s world, making you feel the helplessness, frustration, loneliness and claustrophobia of being confined to the hospital’s walls and her fear of death as she laments she has so much more she wants to experience. She has also crafted rich, compelling and memorable characters who occupy Lenni’s small world, each one vital to propelling the story forward, just like those in the stories they share through their paintings. 

What makes this book so special is how it makes you feel, which is obviously something you need to experience for yourself. I doubt I have managed to do it justice, but I’ve done my best.  Beautiful, poignant, heart-rending and hypnotic, this is a book everyone needs to read. It will make you laugh, smile, cry, break your heart, and when you close that final page you will not be the same. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Marianne Cronin was born in 1990. She studied English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Birmingham. She now spends most of her time writing, with her newly-adopted rescue cat sleeping under her desk. When she’s not writing, Marianne can be found performing improv in the West Midlands, where she lives. Her debut novel The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is to be published around the world and is being adapted into a feature film by a major Hollywood studio.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thanks for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake

Published: February 18th, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Romance, Erotic Literature, Saga
Format: Hardcover, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this wonderfully outrageous novel. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Ambition can be deadly

Broadcast to millions from its picturesque location off the coast of Jersey, Falcon Bay was once the world’s most popular soap opera. But with ratings at an all-time low, a new network owner, the malevolent Madeline Kane, arrives on the private island determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to the number 1 slot.

Director Farrah, leading lady Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who’ve been trying to hold the production together. But thanks to their handsome but corrupt boss, Jake Monroe, Farrah is losing episodes to male colleagues, seventy-year-old Catherine is terrified of losing the public’s adoration, and Amanda is battling her desire for a forbidden affair with a handsome new employee.

As Madeline’s pressure to revive the show intensifies, she unleashes a true battle of the sexes where the women will do anything to stay in the jobs they love and on the island they call home. Can they team up to bring down their rivals? Or will jealousy, betrayal and revenge rip their friendships apart? As the story reaches its shocking climax, one thing is for certain: only the most ruthless woman will survive…

MY REVIEW:

Sexy, sassy, sharp and spectacular, Ruthless Women is like reading an episode of Dynasty. Gloriously over the top, this reads like a throwback to the days of Jackie Collins. And I’m here for it. 

Falcon Bay was once the biggest soap opera in the world, but its popularity has nosedived and the show is struggling. Thanks to a buy out of the production company it has been offered a lifeline, and the new owners have big plans for the upcoming 40th anniversary on Christmas Day. But the directions they want to take are at odds with what those at the heart of the show know to be best. Both sides are sure they’re right and will stop at nothing to save the show their love. But at what cost?

In this wonderfully written novel the author offers us a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous, of showbiz and all its trappings, pressures and perils. She draws you into the world of Falcon Bay, where the idyllic beauty of St. Augustine, and the glitz and glamour of show business are at odds with the murky, underhanded schemes that go on behind the scenes. Ambition, power, money and sex matter more than friendship, love or loyalty in this warped world. Deceit, jealousy and betrayal are rife, and the only thing you can rely upon is that everyone is out for themselves. Pulsing with drama and adrenaline, I couldn’t tear myself away and would have devoured this in one sitting if not for the pesky need to sleep.

One of the things that stands out most about this book is it’s messages of female empowerment. The author has filled her world with a powerhouse of fierce, strong and ruthless women. They are the ones who shine and propel the plot, and the fictional show, forward. They are complex, nuanced characters who are utterly compelling, even if they aren’t always likeable. These women have had enough of being written out of their own narratives and are determined to take back what is rightfully theirs. 

Now let’s talk about sex. This is the epitome of a bonkbuster. Heat sizzles from the pages as the women enthusiastically enjoy sex and there are plenty of raunchy scenes that made me glad I wasn’t reding this in public. I loved the representation of woman in their forties and above enjoying sex and having active sex lives. Even at seventy. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a racy book that focuses on a group of mature women and it was refreshing to see. 

While some will no doubt write this off as simply a bonkbuster, there is so much more to this novel. Beneath the surface this is a layered story full of depth and social commentary. Not only is there the theme of female empowerment, but the author also addresses the ‘old boys club’ mentality, sexism, misogyny and ageism that is still rife in the entertainment industry. She also examines how society looks at women. How it controls how women are perceived and what is deemed acceptable from us in terms of our appearances and the way we live our lives. It is a powerful reminder of how far we still have to go to reach true equality. 

Steamy, salacious, funny and outrageous, this is a highly entertaining read that you can get lost in. I would love to see this made into a movie or series and recommend it to everyone – so long as you don’t blush easily. With her sophomore novel, Melanie Blake has shown that the magic of The Thunder Girls was not merely a fluke and secured her place on my auto-buy list. I can’t wait to see what she writes next. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Best-selling author Melanie Blake’s own real life Rags to Bitches story reads like the plot of an outrageous drama…

At fifteen years old Melanie Blake was told by her high school career advisors that her decision to do work experience at a local record shop was an ’embarrassment to the school and a clear example that she wouldn’t go far in life or her career’. They were wrong. By twenty-one she was working at the BBC’s iconic Top of the Pops show and by twenty-seven she had built a reputation as one of the UK’s leading music and entertainment managers, with her own agency and roster of award-winning artists who had sold more than 100 million records. During this time she also built up an acting agency from scratch which quickly became the most successful independent boutique agency in the UK where she manages clients from some of the biggest internationally syndicated shows in the world.

Her roster have won Baftas, Emmys and pretty much every best actress award going and Melanie is one of the most successful female agents in the world. In the UK alone – over 25 million people a week currently tune in to watch the very stars Melanie represents in their globally syndicated shows. In 2018 after two decades at the top of her game, Melanie decided to manage a smaller client list and concentrate on her other passion, writing – first as a columnist for a national newspaper, then as a playwright and now as a best-selling novelist.

Her first book The Thunder Girls became a Number 1 Best Seller in the summer of 2019 and the play she adapted from the novel broke box office records for a new work at the prestigious Lowry Theatre.

She still represents a high profile stable of some of the best known faces on British television but is also now enjoying success in her own right as a producer, author and playwright.

Website |Instagram |Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker

Published: February 25th, 2021
Publisher: Viper Books
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

I am thrilled to be one of the bloggers opening the blog tour for this sensational debut. Thank you to Viper Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY

Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…

CALL ME MUMMY. IT’LL BE BETTER IF YOU DO.

MY REVIEW:

“From the moment I clasped my sister’s doll to my chest, I yearned for a child of my own. I knew it would take a miracle. And here she is!” 

A number of days after finishing this book I am still at a loss as to how to write this review and do it justice. I was expecting this book to be fantastic;  I had no doubt that Ms. Baker’s vivacious charisma and hilarity would carry over into her writing. I was not disappointed. In fact, Ms. Baker exceeded my already high expectations to craft a striking, original and accomplished debut that left me excited to read more from the author. 

All Mummy has ever wanted is a child. But by a cruel twist of fate, she has been unable to have a child. So when she sees a beleaguered Kim snapping at her children in the shop it is like a knife to her heart. How can someone like her be blessed with the gift of a child that she doesn’t appreciate when it is all she wants? In an instant, Mummy decides to rescue the poor child. But she is unprepared for Tonya’s resistance and the realities of motherhood and is enraged that her picture-perfect image is not coming to fruition. Meanwhile, Kim is finding herself demonised by the press and public after she refuses to conform to their rules and expectations. She begins to fall apart and lash out at those around her, unable to see anything but her own pain. And then there is little Tonya, a scared, confused child who just wants to go home. 

This story is every parents’ worst nightmare come true. It captures the evil that lurks in the shadows and the nefarious face behind the guise of a beautiful mask. Sharply observed, darkly funny and as subtle as a sledgehammer, this made me feel ALL the  feelings. I loved the short chapters, choppy writing style and how there was a tempo of malevolence and despair that runs through the narrative. The characters and story were so unpredictable that it was impossible to guess what would happen next and my heart was in my throat over and again as I read in breathless anticipation of the next shocking twist. 

“They want the chavs, the scum, lost souls like her, to rip each other apart in the name of entertainment, so observers like her can sit on their high fucking horses, looking down on their godforsaken misfortunes.” 

The story is told from multiple points of view. Our main narrators are Mummy and Kim, with regular short chapters from young Tonya. Each had their own very distinct voice and character that felt vivid and real. At first glance, Mummy and Kim couldn’t be more different; but they are characters rich with nuance and complexities that unveil surprising similarities that would horrify both women. Mummy is menacing, capricious and chilling. Appearances are very important to her and she is very particular about the face and character that she shows people. But underneath the mask she is a woman haunted by the mental and physical scars of past trauma. A powder keg just waiting for that final spark before it blows. Kim is the opposite; she is course, foul-mouthed and has no time for airs or graces or putting on a show. She is unapologetically who she is. And underneath she is also haunted by past traumas, teetering on the edge of a breakdown. 

Like Mummy and Kim, Tonya is wonderfully written. She isn’t your stereotypical pretty, likeable child who is easy to please. Full of personality, but not the kind that Mummy had hoped for, she is a foul-mouthed, sour-faced, fierce and contentious little girl who fights Mummy every step of the way. I loved everything about her and she certainly found a place in my heart. 

Longing, obsession, pain and trauma seep from every pore of this book and its characters, the author holding my heart in her hands as she examines topics such as mental health issues, trauma, infertility, addiction, eating disorders, neglect, and domestic and sexual abuse. She looks at the effects of trauma on the psyche and how it filters down into our very being, affecting how we treat ourselves and others, sometimes with catastrophic effects. The author shows these subjects without any gloss, exposing their dark side and the wounds that can fester from such pain. She also addresses society’s expectations and judgements of mothers, particularly in situations such as a child abduction when many people seem to think they are fair game and use it as an opportunity to break them down even further instead of offering kindness and support. 

Compelling, bold, tense, thought-provoking and unsettling, this twisty page-turner had me on the edge of my seat. This is an astonishing debut that you do not want to miss. READ IT NOW!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

TW: mental health, infertility, eating disorders, neglect, sexual abuse, domestic abuse.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Tina was brought up in a caravan after her mother, a fairground traveller, fell pregnant by a window cleaner. After leaving the bright lights of Coalville, she came to London and worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years. She’s probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, partly inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to have a child. Despite the grief and disappointment of that, she hasn’t stolen one. So far.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org* |Amazon*| Google Books| Kobo
*The links are affiliate links

Please read the reviews from the other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

Blog Tour: The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

Published: February 4th, 2021
Publisher: Manilla Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Fiction, Noir Ficiton

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mesmerising debut novel. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Manilla Press for the ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

The sunniest places hold the darkest secrets . . .

A stunning 1950s set debut mystery brimming with atmosphere and perfect for fans of Tangerine, Small Pleasures and Mad Men.
________

Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .

It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.

While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .

A beguiling, deeply atmospheric debut novel from the cracked heart of the American Dream, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and ultimately under-estimated.

MY REVIEW:

“Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time.”

Sunnylakes, Santa Monica – a town whose radiant name and shimmering skies belies the truth. Look a little closer and you will see what the residents try to hide; a place crawling with deep, dark secrets. Secrets that are slowly unveiled after Joyce Haney disappears from her home in the town one sunny August afternoon, leaving behind a bloodstained kitchen and  two frightened little girls. 

Wow. Just, wow! I can’t believe this mesmerising book is a debut. Inga Vesper is a talented wordsmith who has woven this layered, intricate plot into a work of art. The prose is witty and poetic, transporting me to 50s suburbia and its  sexism, misogyny, and racism. The author also delves deeply into the historical side of the era, examining topics such as the aforementioned sexism and racism, as well as society’s view of women’s roles, civil rights, domestic abuse and mental health. It is a book that would make a perfect film or TV series and the imagery is so vivid that I felt like I could see the bright blue California skies, feel the sun beating down and the sweat forming at every pore. It was so vivid I felt like I was watching it on the screen in front of me; a mash-up of Mad Men and Perry Mason. 

“The world stops. Her breath sticks in her throat. A cocoon rises up around her, drowning out all sound. She can do nothing but stare at what is in her hands. So small and delicate and terrible.”

Stepford wives and fake smiles is what springs to mind when I think of the women of Sunnylake. And it is soon clear that Joyce Hanley didn’t quite fit the mould. We get to know Joyce through the eyes of her husband, friends and maid and from the woman herself, in glimpses of her that fateful August day.  She is an enigma. A presence that lingers on every page. But it’s a chorus of many voices who tell this story, and the author has created a wonderful melody for us. We have Frank, Joyce’s husband who is your typical fifties man. Nancy Ingram, Joyce’s neighbour and best friend. Mick, the detective searching for Joyce. And Ruby, the Hanley’s maid who first raises the alarm about Joyce’s disappearance. Each character, and all of the supporting cast, are richly drawn and compelling, but it was Ruby and Mick I enjoyed reading most of all. 

Atmospheric, beguiling, lush, claustrophobic and evocative, The Long, Long Afternoon is a decadent piece of classic noir. Don’t miss this breathtaking debut from an exciting new author who should be on everyone’s reading list. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

I am a journalist and author of crime fiction. I have an MSc in climate change management and, in my day job, specialise in science journalism with a focus on EU policy, as well as writing about climate change, energy and the Global South. Available for freelance commissions.

I am a member of the National Union of Journalists, the Association of British Science Writers and the Society of Authors. I run the West London Writers, a lively and welcoming fiction writing group in Ealing.

When I am not writing I like to walk, knit and drink copious amounts of tea with sage and honey.

Website |Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Bookshop.org*|Waterstones* | Amazon* |Google Books |Kobo
*Links to Bookshop.org, Waterstones and Amazon are affiliate links

Don’t forget to check out the reviews from the other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xx