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Blog Tour: The Lighthouse Witches by C. J. Cooke

Published: September 30th, 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Horror Fiction, Supernatural Fiction, Fairy Tale
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this gorgeously gothic novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Harper Collins UK for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse.

A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms.

Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation.

Coincidence? Or curse?

Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left.

Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .

But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

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MY REVIEW:

“I wasn’t yet wise enough to be terrified.”

A cold, sparsely populated Scottish Island, a deserted and decrepit lighthouse, strange goings on and tales of witches, curses and wildlings. What could be more perfect to read during October?

Bursting with atmosphere, mythology and folklore, this chilling and mysterious tale had me in it’s grasp from beginning to end. There’s a sense of foreboding that pervades the pages; a haunting aura that lingers over every carefully crafted sentence. I devoured this book, unable to put it down despite the goosebumps that pricked my skin.

“The story of her past is not like other people’s, she thinks. Most people’s past can be viewed like cleaved water left in the wake of a boat. Hers? It’s a tangled weave of spider webs and nightmares, never to make sense.”

The story is told in dual timelines: 1998 when Liv Stay has moved to the isle of Lon Haven with her children Sapphire (Saffy), Luna and Clover after being commissioned to paint a mural in the Longing, and 2021 when a now twenty-nine-year-old Luna is pregnant with her first child and still searching for her mother and sisters, who went missing all those years ago. There are also flashbacks to the witch trials of 1662 in the form of a grimoire that young Saffy finds in the bothy and begins reading. The author seamlessly shifts between the three timelines, giving each a distinctive voice and perfectly capturing the different eras. While you know each timeline must be connected, the author keeps you guessing as to how, slowly and teasingly weaving the threads together until you see the full and intricate picture she has woven. The characters are all evocative and compelling, luring you into their stories so deeply that you can’t leave until you know all the secrets they keep locked inside.

“The Longing. The name conjures such terror, such complex memories.”

Gorgeously gothic, the author makes great use of places to help create an atmosphere that sends shivers down your spine. Lon Haven is a place that conjures feelings of claustrophobia and isolation. In the middle of nowhere, it is inhabited by strange residents who tell crazy tales and there is a feeling of fear whether anyone who goes there can make it out again. And then there’s the Longing, which casts a sinister shadow over the story from the start. An eerie, haunting place that is falling apart, we soon learn that it is a place the locals avoid thanks to a history that involves women accused of witchcraft, curses and death. Liv quickly notices strange occurrences happening there and begins to wonder about the tales Isla and others have told her about the Longing. Could they be true? Could it really be cursed? And if so, what does that mean for her and her daughters? 

Enthralling, immersive and filled with gothic menace, The Lighthouse Witches is the perfect read for spooky season.

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 12 works 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 now a cult classic. Her sixth novel, The Lighthouse Witches, is published in September 2021, and her third poetry collection, We Have to Leave the Earth, is published in October 2021. CJ’s work is concerned with trauma, motherhood, grief, and social justice.

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

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

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Blog Tours Book Features Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

Published: August 19th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Psychological Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this breathtaking thriller. Thank you to Michael Joseph for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

SOME LESSONS CAN BE DEADLY . . .

Teddy Crutcher won Teacher of the Year at the prestigious Belmont Academy. Everyone thinks he’s brilliant.
Only you know the truth.

They all smile when he tells us his wife couldn’t be more proud.
But no-one has seen her in a while.

They’re impressed when he doesn’t let anything distract him – even the tragic death of a school parent.
Even when the whispers start, saying it was murder.

You’re sure Teddy is hiding something about what happened that day.

You’re sure you can prove it.

But you didn’t stop to think that when it comes to catching a killer, there’s no place more dangerous than just one step behind . . .

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MY REVIEW:

Dark academia, deadly secrets and a dash of poison. A teacher who will do anything for his students. Entitled rich kids and their parents who will do whatever it takes to guarantee their success. But it’s all for your own good…

Samantha Downing is one of the freshest and most outstanding voices in thriller fiction today. So when I heard her latest book was dark academia and has been optioned by HBO Max and Robert Downey Jnr, I was there with bells on. As a huge fan of this author, my expectations were high, and she blew them out of the water.

Unnerving, atmospheric and intriguing, For Your Own Good is a Russian doll of a book; so many hidden layers, secrets, twists and turns just waiting to be revealed. And every time you think you have it figured out, you find something else nesting inside. Exquisitely written, cleverly crafted, and deftly told, Ms. Downing just gets better and better. She had me so transfixed that I couldn’t stop thinking about the book and felt desperate to get back to it when I wasn’t reading. 

The story is told from multiple points of view, taking us inside the minds of students and teachers at Belmont Academy, a private prep school full of entitled rich students under pressure to be the best of the best. Only the elite attend. And kids find themselves caught between demanding teachers and parents who will accept nothing but the best from them. It’s for them, they are told. For their futures. So they don’t complain or argue. They endure and survive. 

This is a book filled with deeply flawed characters. Even the most likeable ones are not always what they first appear to be; something darker lurking beneath the surface. They all have their masks they wear to make it through each day: whether it’s Teddy and his perfect teacher mode, Sonia telling herself that “today will be a good day” and talking herself down from her competitiveness, or Zach plastering on a smile and nodding in agreement with his parents or teachers while dying inside. They are all brilliantly written, the author once again using her skill of bringing characters to life to evoke a visceral reaction in the reader. 

Our main protagonist is Teddy Crutcher. Recently crowned Teacher of the Year, Teddy is a petty, bitter man with a superiority complex. He seems to dislike everyone, thinking the worst of them, and delights in doing anything possible to pull them down or take revenge over the smallest perceived slight. But he tells himself he’s helping them, making them better people and teaching them life lessons. And he’s willing to go to extraordinary lengths to do that. Including murder. Teddy is brilliantly written. He’s instantly unlikeable, though the true depths of his villainy are hidden behind a mask of professionalism  and delusion. Cold, callous and calculating, the truly frightening thing about him is that he is totally unapologetic of his actions, even proud of them, and sees himself as these people’s saviour. All while plotting their downfall and demise. 

Deliciously dark, devious and menacing, the tension rises with every shocking twist in this propulsive thriller. It will make your jaw hit the floor and leave you reeling. But the author balances that with moments of dark humour and emotion that enhance the charm of this book. If you love a well-written and atmospheric thriller, then this is for you. Read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Samantha Downing is the author of the bestselling My Lovely Wife, nominated for Edgar, ITW, Macavity, and CWA awards. Amazon Studios and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films have partnered to produce a feature film based on the novel. Her second book, He Started It, was released in 2020 and became an instant international bestseller.

For Your Own Good was released on July 20, 2021. It has been optioned by Robert Downey Jr. and Greg Berlanti for HBO Max.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah

Published: September 2nd, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Legal Thriller, Legal Story, Domestic Fiction, Political Thriller,
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this outstanding legal thriller. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

ON AN ORDINARY WORKING DAY…

Leila Syed receives a call that cleaves her life in two. Her brother-in-law’s voice is filled with panic. His son’s nursery has called to ask where little Max is.

YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE…

Leila was supposed to drop Max off that morning. But she forgot.

Racing to the carpark, she grasps the horror of what she has done.

IS ABOUT TO COME TRUE…

What follows is an explosive, high-profile trial that will tear the family apart. But as the case progresses it becomes clear there’s more to this incident than meets the eye…

A gripping, brave and tense courtroom drama, Next of Kin will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final, heart-stopping page.

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MY REVIEW:

Next of Kin examines a truly devastating tragedy: the accidental death of a child caused by his loving aunt. She claims she forgot he was in the back of the car but the prosecution says she left him there deliberately. Who is telling the truth?

Authors take note, because THIS is how you write a gripping legal thriller. Once again, Abdullah takes a shocking crime and puts a thought-provoking spin on things. This trope is proving to be her signature and forte; executed to perfection each time as she makes you ponder the grey areas of a crime, holds you hostage in breathless anticipation, and throws in some shocking twists. 

The book opens with a normal family get together that quickly gives way to crushing and heartbreaking scenes as three-year-old Max dies after being left in a hot car by his Aunt, Leila. As we learn his fate the pain and anguish is palpable. It is like  you can actually feel their hearts shattering. Tears stung my eyes and my heart ached as I read. The emotions continue to leap from the pages as the family try to deal with Max’s tragic death, Leila’s possible guilt, the impending court case, and an array of family secrets lurking in the shadows. 

Every facet of this book is spectacularly written. The story and characters are nuanced, compelling and full of depth. As with all this author’s books, this is a story that has many layers and deals with a multitude of topics, going beyond simply the crime that took place. At the heart of this book is a family who have been visited by tragedy many times. She explores the effect this has on mental health and how trauma and jealousy can affect our perception of people and events, often clouding our ability to see things clearly. She asks just how much someone can take before they break and examines the complicated threads that can both hold a family together and threaten to tear it apart. 

Another aspect of Ms. Abdullah’s books I admire, is how she uses them as a social commentary, focusing on a different issue in each one. In Next of Kin it is childless women. Leila isn’t a mother, and through this she explores how it feels to be a childless woman in our society. She shows how these women are scorned, viewed as cold and selfish and looked down upon. In Leila’s case, her childlessness is even used against her as a reason she’d want to kill her nephew, adding to the already pervading sense of injustice you feel on her behalf.

Sizzling with tension, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat right until the last page, the author slowly peeling away the layers to reveal the hidden truth. And just when I thought I’d got it all figured out… Holy twist, Batman! In comes a curve ball that hits like a bomb and blows everything I thought I knew into pieces. Days later I’m still reeling from the shock. 

Gritty, hard-hitting and addictive, this is one of the best legal thrillers I’ve ever read. Ms. Abdullah just keeps getting better and better and is now my go-to author recommendation in this genre, overtaking John Grisham, who I’ve been a huge fan of since my mid teens. If you haven’t read her books, then what are you waiting for? Do it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From the author’s website:
Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. Her novel Take It Back was named one of the best thrillers of the year by The Guardian and Telegraph and was selected for an industry-first audio serialisation by HarperCollins and The Pigeonhole. Her follow-up novel, Truth Be Told, is out now (Mar 2021, HarperCollins).

Kia has written for The New York TimesThe GuardianThe FTThe Telegraphthe BBC and The Times, and is the founder of Asian Booklist, a nonprofit that advocates for diversity in publishing. 

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

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

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

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

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

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Hidden Child by Louise Fein

Published: September 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Novel, Domestic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this extraordinary piece of historical fiction. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and the gifted limited edition proof copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

From the outside, Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have the perfect life, but they’re harbouring a secret that threatens to fracture their entire world.

London, 1929.

Eleanor Hamilton is a dutiful mother, a caring sister and an adoring wife to a celebrated war hero. Her husband, Edward, is a pioneer in the eugenics movement. The Hamiltons are on the social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.

When Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face an uncomfortable truth: Mabel has epilepsy – one of the ‘undesirable’ conditions that Edward campaigns against.

Forced to hide their daughter away so as to not jeopardise Edward’s life’s work, the couple must confront the truth of their past – and the secrets that have been buried.

Will Eleanor and Edward be able to fight for their family? Or will the truth destroy them?

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MY REVIEW:

A perfect family is fractured and torn apart when illness invades their lives and not only tests their strength, but makes them question their core beliefs and values in this extraordinary piece of historical fiction. 

Powerful, moving, thought-provoking and illuminating, this book will leave you a different person to the one who began reading. It will break your heart, make you question humanity, and then give you back your hope. Exquisitely crafted, the story is written with heart and compassion, somehow finding beauty in the most ugly of subjects. I won’t pretend this isn’t hard to read in places; characters talk about ideals that are reprehensible, make plans that sickened me and spoke vile words about some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and that is hard to digest. But these things are taken from history. And it is important to remember, recognise and learn from them. It is also a reminder that these things aren’t black and white, but nuanced, and that the best stories and lessons in life are sometimes found in the shades of grey. 

The Hidden Child explores a part of British history that has been swept under the rug for decades. When we think of eugenics most of us will think of it in the context of Nazi Germany and the horrors of the Holocaust. But through this story, which begins eleven years before the start of WW2, the author strips bare the walls of secrecy to highlight our own country’s history with the Eugenics Movement. Something I was completely ignorant of before reading this book. I had no idea that the movement was born in England at the end of the nineteenth century, or how widespread it was in the beginning of the 1900s. It felt particularly poignant for me to be reading this on September 3rd, the 82nd anniversary of the beginning of WW2. To read as characters, some of whom were real people in history, discussing these ideas like they were saving the human race was stomach-churning and sobering. This was ableism at its peak and was terrifying to read, particularly as someone who would have then been dismissed as an ‘undesirable’. The so-called treatments Mabel is subjected to are barbaric and were the hardest scenes for me to read. It made me so grateful for how far we have come in our treatment of epilepsy and mental illness in the past hundred years and serves as a potent reminder that it is not solely monsters who are responsible for the most awful and shocking times in history, but ordinary, and often admired, people too. 

Edward and Eleanor Hamilton lived a charmed life. They are a wealthy, well respected couple with everything going for them. But this begins to fall apart when their five-year-old daughter Mabel begins to suffer fits. Staunch supporters of the Eugenics Movement, this, and her subsequent Epilepsy diagnosis, rocks their world. How can their perfect, healthy daughter be one of the ‘undesirables’ they campaign against? Instinctively, they hide Mabel away and keep her condition secret. This unfolding nightmare takes them on a harrowing and heart-wrenching journey of self discovery. One filled with privilege, moral superiority, uncomfortable truths, reprehensible actions and regret. As they battle her condition and try to keep their lives from falling apart, they find themselves questioning everything they thought they knew to be true. Could what they believed about those who are ‘defective’ be wrong? 

Despite their awful beliefs, it is impossible not to feel empathy for this couple. For me, this is a real testimony to the skill of the author’s writing, as she manages to convey both disgust at their beliefs and some of their actions, and empathy as they watch their daughter suffer and attempt to make sense of what is happening. You feel their utter disbelief and devastation at her diagnosis, their heartbreak as they do what they believe is right. Through their backstories we come to understand how they were drawn to eugenics, though Edward’s past is shrouded in shadows that take much longer to come to light. And by giving them both a voice, the author allows the reader a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings they keep to themselves, revealing a fuller picture and giving us a greater understanding of them.

There is an increasing sense of claustrophobia as the secrets , isolation and fear close in around not only Eleanor and Edward, but young Mabel too.  We never get the story from her perspective, instead the author takes a much more striking, and creative route, giving a voice and persona to the illness itself. This was my favourite element of the book. As someone with multiple chronic illnesses, I related to this on a very personal level. Illnesses do feel like they have their own personalities and unique voices that only you can hear. The author eloquently conveys this through Epilepsy’s enlightening and evocative chapters. It was a powerful and moving master stroke that really makes the book stand out. 

This was my first foray into reading this author’s books and has immediately secured her a place on my must-read list and that of authors I recommend everybody read. The book is meticulously researched and brimming with emotion. I couldn’t put it down. A masterful storyteller, she has merged her own personal knowledge and experience with fiction and historical fact to create a book that is simply breathtaking.

Affecting, immersive, atmospheric and compelling, The Hidden Child is an absolute triumph. A story of love, loss, hope and redemption, it is a  reminder that we must stand up against prejudice and those who promote it. Everyone needs to read this book, including the unmissable author’s note at the end. I would love to see this book added to school reading lists so that the next generation can heed its warnings and learn the lessons on its pages.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Louise writes twentieth century historical fiction, based around unheard voices, or from unusual perspectives.

Her debut novel, PEOPLE LIKE US (entitled DAUGHTER OF THE REICH in the US/Canada edition) and first published in 2020 into 13 territories, is set in 1930’s Leipzig, seen through the eyes of a young girl, Hetty, brainwashed into believing the Nazi dream, until that is, she encounters Walter, a Jew. The book was shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland Prize 2021 and the RNA Historical Novel of the Year Award, 2021.

Louise’s second novel, THE HIDDEN CHILD, will be published in the UK in September 2021 and the US and Canada in October 2021, and is the story of Edward and Eleanor, firm believers in the widely held pseudo-science of Eugenics, who firmly believe in genetic superiority. Their world is shattered, however, when their young daughter, Mabel, develops debilitating seizures.

Louise lives in Surrey with her husband, children, two naughty cats and small dog Bonnie, who is the best writing companion she could ask for. Always at her side when she writes and listens most patiently when Louise needs to talk through a tricky plot problem. She is currently working on her third novel. 

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Last Library by Freya Sampson

Published: September 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Genre: Romance Novel, Contemporary Romance, Humorous Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Happy Publication Day to this spectacular debut. I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for The Last Library on its special day. Thank you Bonnie Zaffre for the invitation to take part and the gorgeous personalised proof copy.

*This book is known as The Last Chance Library in the US

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SYNOPSIS:

You can tell a lot about a person from the library books they borrow

Library assistant June knows a lot about the regulars at Chalcot Library, yet they know very little about her. When her mum – the beloved local librarian – passed away eight years ago, June stepped into her shoes. But despite their shared love of books, shy June has never felt she can live up to the village’s memory of her mum. Instead, she’s retreated into herself and her memories, surviving on Chinese takeaways-for-one and rereading their favourite books at home.

When the library is threatened with closure, a ragtag band of eccentric locals establish the Friends of Chalcot Library campaign. There’s gentlemanly pensioner Stanley, who visits the library for the computers and the crosswords, cantankerous Mrs B, who is yet to find a book she approves of, and teenager Chantal, who just wants a quiet place to study away from home. But can they compel reclusive June to join their cause?

If June wants to save the library, she finally has to make some changes to her life: opening up her heart to friendship, opportunities and maybe even more . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“Libraries are boats
And the books are life jackets.
Without them we’ll drown.”

The Last Library is a truly special book. A bibliophile’s dream and a hug in book form, it has secured a place in my favourite books of all time. Nostalgic, tender and witty, it is a love letter to libraries, literature and community. And when I finally closed it after reading the last sentence I did so with a big smile on my face and a warm glow inside despite feeling sad to say goodbye to the wonderful characters that I’d taken into my heart. 

The story follows a varied bunch of characters as they fight to save their beloved library from closure. It is an impassioned fight. They face an uphill battle, many bumps in the road, and the council attempts to thwart them at every step, but they refuse to give up, proving themselves a stronger adversary than many expected. 

“As a child she used to believe that each book had its own smell, specific to its story, and the smell of a library was the combined smell of thousands of different tales.”

This glorious debut begins with a letter from the author talking about her love for libraries and what inspired her to write this story. I thought this was a great way to open the book as it immediately establishes that a library is so much more than a room full of books; it is a solace, a refuge, and a place of community. It also sparked memories of the many happy hours I’ve spent in libraries over the years in my own reading journey, and those spent with my son as a baby, toddler and child, creating an atmosphere of nostalgia that carries through right until the last page. 

“Every inch of this room was steeped with memories, her mum’s DNA woven into the story rug and well-thumbed books. If the library was lost, June’s mum would be lost again too; and that was something June could never let happen.”

It is impossible not to take these quirky, funny and endearing characters into your heart. Librarian June is a lifelong bookworm. Her whole world is the library. She took over her role after her mother’s death eight years ago and, for her, the walls are filled with not only cherished memories, but her mother’s spirit. The idea of losing that is unimaginable to June. I liked June immediately; how she imagines lives for people and the way she finds solace in books. But I also felt sad for her. She lives a very lonely life, and one of the best parts of the book for me was watching this shy, socially awkward young woman slowly blossom and develop friendships outside of the pages of her books.

We get to know the others through June’s eyes, slowly discovering their secret lives, backstories and personalities as she does. They are an eclectic cast of characters who you’d never usually put together, but they are bonded by their shared love and need for the library. Each of them is wonderfully written, the author creating a rapport between them and the reader, and I’ll admit to having favourites. I loved the friendship between Stanley and June and had a real soft spot for his character. But the author was skilled at giving even the most spiky or ‘unlikeable’ characters a warmth that drew me to them, making it impossible not to love every one of them.

“Libraries are like a net, there to catch those of us in danger of falling through the cracks. That’s what we’re really fighting to protect.”

The Last Library is everything a book lover could want and more. It is a celebration of books and the power of stories, but also a story about community, kindness, friendship, loss and courage. A journey of self-discovery. One of the biggest aspects of the story is how libraries are so much more to a town or village than a room full of books and the author highlights the many ways they are there to help. It made my heart ache thinking of the closures we see in libraries today, especially as they were such a big part of my own childhood and that of my son. It made me determined to start using my local library again so that I can do my part to ensure they are still around for future generations. 

Charming, uplifting and hopeful, this is a book that will stay with me forever. One you don’t want to miss. I urge you to read it as soon as possible.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Freya Sampson works in TV as an executive producer. Her credits include two documentary series for the BBC about the British Royal Family, and a number of factual and entertainment series.

She studied History at Cambridge University and in 2018 was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize.

She lives in London with her husband, two young children and an antisocial cat. The Last Library is her debut novel.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Published: July 29th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder Books
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Horror Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this chilling story. Thank you to Niamh at Hodder for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into a rambling Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a memoir called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon.

Now, Maggie has inherited Baneberry Hall after her father’s death. She was too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist.

But when she returns to Baneberry Hall to prepare it for sale, her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the pages of her father’s book lurk in the shadows, and locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself – a place that hints of dark deeds and unexplained happenings.

As the days pass, Maggie begins to believe that what her father wrote was more fact than fiction. That, either way, someone – or something – doesn’t want her here. And that she might be in danger all over again . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“Every house has a story.
Ours is a ghost story.
It is also a lie.
And now another person has died within these walls, it’s finally time to tell the truth.”

Home Before Dark is a chilling, nerve-shredding novel. From the start there is an air of menace and foreboding, something eerie that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. This is not a book to read at night; you need the sun shining or all of the lights on. Even with doing that I still found myself imagining Mister Shadow under my bed or Mrs Pennyface creeping out of my wardrobe. *Shudders*

Maggie Holt is an interior designer. She looks for the story each house has to tell and attempts to coax it out. And no house has a story that needs to be discovered more than Baneberry Hall, the rambling Victorian Estate that she and her parents lived in twenty-five years ago. A house they fled in the night after just twenty days that are now infamous, thanks to the book her father wrote about the ghostly events that occurred there. Maggie has always believed his story to be an elaborate hoax. So after inheriting the house she decides to go in search of answers. But is she really prepared for what she’ll find?

Riley Sager is an author who has been on my radar ever since I joined bookstagram. I have a few of his books but never got around to reading them, so when the opportunity arose to take part in the blog tour for his latest book, I jumped at the chance. To say I was excited was an understatement. I had high hopes and expectations after hearing so much praise for his books. And not only did Mr. Sager live up to them, he surpassed them. A clever and skillfully written tale infused with terrifying things that go bump in the night, Sager has a deliciously warped mind and I’m here for it. He also knows just how to lure you in and keep you hooked, making it impossible to stop reading even when I was terrified. 

“For us, Baneberry Hall is a house of horrors. One that none of us may dare enter again.”

The story moves between Maggie’s narrative in the present day and extracts from her father’s book, House of Horrors. The Book, as Maggie refers to it, has been a shadow that loomed over her entire life. It has brought her family wealth and fame, but at a cost, also cursing her to live her life unable to trust potential friends or lovers for fear they want to get close because of it. Maggie is a great protagonist. Someone who isn’t always likeable but always feels real. I liked that she had a healthy dose of reality and thought her not buying into the story her parents had sold offered a fascinating perspective, especially when mixed with the guilt she felt at doubting the parents she loved.

I liked the author’s decision to tell earlier events through extracts from the book rather than flashbacks. This helped me to see it as a story that may or may not be true, just as Maggie did, rather than simply accepting what Ewan said as fact. But I found that while my view of Ewan had already been coloured by Maggie’s assertions that it was all a hoax, the book also felt real, especially as more and more strange things began happening in the present day. I found myself wondering if he might have been telling the truth while also searching for what reason he could have to lie. Like Maggie, I needed answers. 

Creeping, sinister and twisty, I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish and did not see that ending coming at all. A spine-chilling thriller that I would highly recommend, just make sure you read it with the light on!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer.

Now a full-time writer, Riley is the author of FINAL GIRLS, an international bestseller that’s been published in 25 languages, and the instant New York Times bestsellers THE LAST TIME I LIED, LOCK EVERY DOOR and HOME BEFORE DARK. His latest book, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, will be available June 29 from Dutton Books.

A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Secret Life of Writers by Guillaume Musso

Published: July 22nd, 2021
Publisher: W&N
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Travel Literature
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this absolute masterpiece. Thank you to Alex Layt at Orion for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPISIS:

In 1999, after publishing three cult novels, celebrated author Nathan Fawles announces the end of his writing career and withdraws to Beaumont, a wild and beautiful island off the Mediterranean coast.

Autumn 2018. As Fawles’ novels continue to captivate readers, Mathilde Monney, a young Swiss journalist, arrives on the island, determined to unlock the writer’s secrets and secure his first interview in twenty years.

That same day, a woman’s body is discovered on the beach and the island is cordoned off by the authorities.

And so, begins a dangerous face off between Mathilde and Nathan, in which the line between truth and fiction becomes increasingly blurred…

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MY REIVEW:

“I knew that fate had set me on a path towards a story that someone had to tell. A true story, more compelling than any work of fiction, and one which I sensed had only just begun.”

Books, murder and mystery. What more could I want in a novel? As soon as I read the synopsis I knew this was a book I HAD to read. It’s almost like it was written for me. And it was perfect. An absolute masterpiece that was so mesmerising and addictive that I never wanted it to end. 

The Secret Life of Writers reads like a book within a book. It starts when Raphael arrives on the Isle of Beaumont hoping to solve the ‘mystery of Nathan Fawles’, the reclusive writer who has isolated himself on the island since suddenly retiring from writing at the peak of his career almost twenty years before. But after the brutal murder of a young woman, the story widens to include a murder investigation and another mystery involving the incredible journey of a lost camera and and unspeakable secret that Fawles is hiding and journalist Mathilde claims to know. 

“A noose tightened around my chest. I was shaking all over. When I opened the freezer, I couldn’t hold back a scream. The inside had been repainted. With blood.” 

Guillaume Musso is known as the ‘French suspense king’, and after reading this book, I can see why. This novel is a masterclass in storytelling. Expertly written with a dash of finesse, it is hypnotic, and I was under its spell from the first pages. Every word is infused with an air of mystery, and there is a palpable tension that makes your heart race. Perfectly plotted, it is more intricate and complex than it first appears, and every time you think you’ve figured out what’s going on Musso throws in another curveball. He’s so good that you don’t see it coming; expertly luring you into that false sense of security where you think you know what’s next and then pulls the rug from under you. 

Told with breathtakingly beautiful imagery and prose, I found myself wanting to annotate almost every other sentence. The author not only does he bring the characters to life, but the place too. His descriptions of the Isle of Beaumont are so evocative that I felt like I could see the Provincial main square, the turquoise water and the colourful houses glinting in the sun. It felt real, just as the story felt like I was reading a true crime novel rather than a work of fiction.

“Books not only break walls down, they build them up too. More often than you’d think, they wound, and shatter, and kill. Books may dazzle and shine, but all that glitters is not gold. “

The characters are richly drawn and compelling. I loved how Nathan and Mathilde are both enigmatic characters and yet Raphael is more open. With Nathan especially you never know if you can trust what he’s telling you, and I enjoyed being kept guessing and the surprises this threw my way.  I loved how each of them were writers and the observations the author made about books, reading and writing. He captured so many of my own feelings about the topics which, along with having my favourite subject woven into the plot, made me feel like he had written this just for me. 

As the book is translated, I feel I need to also thank the translator for doing such a superb job of making it possible for those of us who don’t speak French to read this phenomenal novel. I can only imagine the amount of time and effort it took. Thank you. 

Sharp, stylish, intense, and utterly mind-blowing, this fast-paced thriller is so twisty it will make your head spin. So just hold on tight and enjoy the ride. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From one novel to the next, Guillaume Musso has formed a unique bond with his readers. Born in 1974 in Antibes on the French Riviera, he fell in love with literature at an early age, spending all his free time devouring books at the public library where his mother worked. A short story competition organized by his French teacher led him to discover the joys of writing, and he has never stopped since then.

His studies, his extended trips to the United States, his encounters… All have contributed to enriching his imagination and his writing projects. A graduate in social economics, he became a teacher in the East and then the South of France. He published his first novel, Skidamarink, in 2001, but his next book Et Après…, is the one that truly won the public over. This story of love and suspense with supernatural undertones marked the beginning of a dazzling and unwavering success.

Translated into forty languages and adapted many times for film, each book of his is as hugely successful as the next in both France and around the world. The release of a new novel by Guillaume Musso has become, for his readers, an eagerly awaited rendezvous.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Book Review: The Beresford by Will Carver

Published: July 22nd, 2021
Publisher: Orenda
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Urban Fiction, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Happy almost-publication day to this outstanding and original book. Thank you to Karen at Orenda for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Everything stays the same for the tenants of The Beresford, a grand old apartment building just outside the city … until the doorbell rings… Will Carver returns with an eerie, deliciously and uncomfortably dark standalone thriller.
 
Just outside the city – any city, every city – is a grand, spacious but affordable apartment building called The Beresford.
 
There’s a routine at The Beresford.
 
For Mrs May, every day’s the same: a cup of cold, black coffee in the morning, pruning roses, checking on her tenants, wine, prayer and an afternoon nap. She never leaves the building.
 
Abe Schwartz also lives at The Beresford. His housemate, Sythe, no longer does. Because Abe just killed him. 
 
In exactly sixty seconds, Blair Conroy will ring the doorbell to her new home and Abe will answer the door. They will become friends. Perhaps lovers.
 
And, when the time comes for one of them to die, as is always the case at The Beresford, there will be sixty seconds to move the body before the next unknowing soul arrives at the door.
 
Because nothing changes at The Beresford, until the doorbell rings…
 
Eerie, dark, superbly twisted and majestically plotted, The Beresford is the stunning standalone thriller from one of crime fiction’s most exciting names.

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MY REVIEW:

“The Beresford was old. It was grand. It evolved with the people who inhabited its rooms and apartments. It was dark and elephantine and it breathed with its people. Paint peeled and there were cracks in places. It was bricks and mortar and plaster and wood. And it was alive.”

Will Carver has done it again! The Beresford is another outstanding and original novel from one of the most unique voices in fiction. The striking, eerie and trippy cover matches what’s between it’s pages: a strange, sinister and twisted tale that is both gloriously absurd and totally plausible. 

The story opens with a murder. Sixty seconds later the doorbell rings. Thus begins a dark chain of events that many of those involved won’t survive, propelling the reader straight into the action, not letting go until the final page. I devoured this book, unable to put it down once I’d started. I was hypnotised by the dark, claustrophobic and haunting world of The Beresford and its doomed residents. 

“We all go a little mad sometimes.”

His characters are ordinary and familiar but also quirky, richly drawn and compelling. Abe Schwartz is an unassuming and unremarkable geek who is lonely and aches to be loved. You can’t help but feel for him despite knowing that beneath his façade of normality is a deeply disturbed individual hiding a dark secret. It’s this juxtaposition that makes him so fascinating and frightening. He really could be anyone and you would never expect him to be a killer. 

Blair Conroy is trying to escape her small town life and has come in search of the excitement of the city. It is she who Abe greets just seconds after committing murder, not realising she may have just sealed her fate. I liked Blair and could relate to her in many ways. I even liked her blossoming relationship with Abe and was rooting for her not to end up in the same position as the previous resident. 

Then we have Mrs. May, the lady who oversees everything that happens at The Beresford. She is a bit of an enigma, a complex character with many layers that are slowly peeled away as the story progresses. Deeply religious, she has suffered a lot of trauma and seems to genuinely care for her tenants. But she also seems terrified of the house itself. Just what does she know? And what power does this place have over her? I enjoyed trying to figure out this mysterious lady and her secrets and found her surprisingly likeable. 

“The Beresford was a halfway house for the disenchanted and disenfranchised, whose focus was to become. To be. To discover and make their impact. The inhabitants were not necessarily the outsiders, but were certainly the ones found on the periphery. The wallflowers at society’s ball.”

The house is a character in itself that feels as if it lives and breathes as much as any of the human characters. It oozes malevolence and foreboding and is hiding secrets so dark and terrifying they will send shivers down your spine. It is a place that changes those who live there, feasting on them from the inside before moving onto another unsuspecting victim.

Will Carver has quickly become one of my favourite authors. His distinctive style is like nothing else out there and when you pick up his books they are instantly recognisable as his. With his sharp, choppy prose that is both tongue in cheek and deadly serious, his bold topics, scathing and unapologetic social commentary and dark humour he creates an atmosphere of mystery and foreboding, a chill that runs through your veins and builds the tension and dread till you are on the edge of your seat with your heart pounding. 

The Beresford is one of my favourite books so far this year and my favourite book by the author to date, so it was an easy five stars from me. A seductive and unsettling read that you will love while also questioning why. When it’s over you will wonder what on earth you just read and find it impossible to forget. 

Just remember: DON’T RING THE DOORBELL.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series and the critically acclaimed, mind-blowingly original Detective Pace series that includes Good Samaritans (2018), Nothing Important Happened Today (2019) and Hinton Hollow Death Trip (2020), all of which were ebook bestsellers and selected as books of the year in the mainstream international press. Nothing Important Happened Today was longlisted for both the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award 2020 and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. Hinton Hollow Death Trip was longlisted for Guardian‘s Not the Booker Prize. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his children.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

Published: July 15th, 2021
Publisher: Sphere
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this phenomenal debut. Thank you to Frankie at Little Brown Book Group for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

This is not just another novel about a dead girl.

When she arrived in New York on her 18th birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe, an unidentified murder victim.

Ruby Jones is also trying to start over; she travelled halfway around the world only to find herself lonelier than ever. Until she finds Alice Lee’s body by the Hudson River.

From this first, devastating encounter, the two women form an unbreakable bond. Alice is sure that Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her life – and death. And Ruby – struggling to forget what she saw that morning – finds herself unable to let Alice go. Not until she is given the ending she deserves.

Before You Knew My Name doesn’t ask whodunnit. Instead, this powerful, hopeful novel asks: Who was she? And what did she leave behind? The answers might surprise you.

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MY REVIEW:

“If I tell you my story. If I let you know what happened to me. Maybe you’ll see who I was. Who I am. Maybe you’ll like the truth of me better, and maybe you’ll wish this for every dead girl from now on. The chance to speak for herself, to be known for more than her ending.”

We are all familiar with the brutal crimes often committed against women and the sadly common stories that accompany them. In this startling debut, Jacqueline Bublitz takes those stories and gives them a twist. Instead of asking whodunnit, she asks who was the victim? What is her story? And what can we learn from her?

Narrated by Alice Lee, the eighteen-year-old girl who moves to New York for a new start and ends up dead just a few weeks later, the story is told directly to the reader as she hovers between this life and the next. She needs us to see her. Remember her. To focus on who she was and how she lived, rather than how she died. This style of narration reminded me of The Lovely Bones, which is one of my favourite books of all time. But while it echoed Susie Salmon, Alice was unique, standing out as an original, bold and memorable voice. Having Alice tell her story directly to the reader also helped me to connect with her and see her as a real person rather than just a dead body. It gives you a sense of her character, feelings, thoughts, dreams and fears. It compounds the tragedy of what happened to her as you grieve for the loss of a life that was just beginning.

“Though we come from very different places, Ruby Jones and I might as well be the same person when it comes to how we landed here in New York City.”

But it isn’t just the story of the victim that the author illuminates in this book. She also shines a light on another familiar person whose voice is rarely heard in these cases: the person who finds the body. We don’t usually know who they are or how the grim discovery reverberates through their life. Bulbitz examines these questions and more, telling the story of Ruby Jones,  a thirty-six-year-old Australian who moved to New York for a fresh start. After finding Alice’s brutalised and broken body in the park on that stormy day she is shaken, traumatised and determined to find out the name and the story of Jane Doe. 

“You may be gone but your legacy isn’t finished.”

Breathtaking beautiful, hypnotic and mesmerising, Before You Knew My Name is one of those books that goes right to your soul. I was captivated from the first page. It is a story about new beginnings and self-discovery; full of intrigue, promise and hope. But it is also a tragic story of a life extinguished before it has even really begun. This may be a story told by a dead girl, but the author’s masterful storytelling and melodic prose breathe life into every word. I lived every moment alongside Alice and Ruby, feeling a strong bond to these two compelling, fractured yet strong women. They were great characters that I enjoyed reading and I particularly loved how the author entwined their stories. I also loved how the evocative imagery made New York leap from the page like I was watching the story in technicolour on a movie screen. Alice’s feelings about the city were infectious and I found myself falling in love with it too.  the city just as Alice did.

“There is no name to be spoken, but I am recognised by each of the women present, clasped around their lifted hands, heavy on their hearts. I am their fears, and their lucky escapes, their anger, and their wariness. I am their caution and their yesterdays, the shadow version of themselves all those nights they have spent looking over their shoulders, or twisting keys between fingers.”

Timely, brave and thought-provoking, this book feels all the more pertinent with the Sarah Everard case fresh in our minds. The author explores the things that as women we have to be aware of each day, the threat we face from the men who lurk in the shadows waiting to strike. She talks about how we feel we have to smile and act a certain way, say the right things, dampen the threat, and how the onus is put on us instead of society asking those men to change. I feel like the tides are turning now though, and that this book will help ignite much-needed discussion.

“I’m ready to tell you a little more now. Stay with me as we take that closer look. But don’t you believe a single thing he said about me.”

Atmospheric, powerful, enthralling and unflinching, the answers unfold slowly in this novel. Alice is unable to speak her secrets at first, the horror of what she suffered affecting her even after she’s left this earth. The reader learns the truth almost in sync with Ruby, keeping me guessing right up until the big reveal. 

Before You Knew My Name is a phenomenal debut that stands out amongst the many mystery and thriller books I’ve read over the years. Jacqueline Bublitz is an extraordinary talent and an author to watch. I for one will be reading anything she writes. 

READ IT NOW!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

TW: Sexual assault, PTSD

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jacqueline ‘Rock’ Bublitz is a writer, feminist, and arachnophobe, who lives between Melbourne, Australia and her hometown on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

She wrote her debut novel Before You Knew My Name after spending a summer in New York, where she hung around morgues and the dark corners of city parks (and the human psyche) far too often.

She is now working on her second novel, where she continues to explore the grand themes of love, loss and connection.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten

Published: July 8th, 2021
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction, Book Series
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for this magnificent novel on its publication day. Thank you to Midas PR for the invitation to take part and to them and Bloomsbury UK for the gifted copy and champagne.

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SYNOPSIS:

When they took everything from her, they didn’t count on her fighting to get it back… Born into the House of Romanov to the all-powerful Peter the Great and Catherine I, beautiful Tsarevna Elizabeth is the world’s loveliest Princess and the envy of the Russian empire. Insulated by luxury and as a woman free from the burden of statecraft, Elizabeth is seemingly born to pursue her passions.

However, a dark prophecy predicts her fate as inexorably twined with Russia. When her mother dies, Russia is torn, masks fall, and friends become foes. Elizabeth’s idyllic world is upended. By her twenties she is penniless and powerless, living under constant threat. As times change like quicksand, an all-consuming passion emboldens Elizabeth: she must decide whether to take up her role as Russia’s ruler, and what she’s willing to do for her country – and for love.

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MY REVIEW:

“Everything comes at a price.”

Take a bow, Ellen Alpsten, for you have created another absolute masterpiece.

The Tsarina’s Daughter follows the journey of Tsarevna Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. When the story begins she is a teenager, known for being the world’s most beautiful Princess and awaiting her expected engagement to the King of France. But after her mother’s death her fortunes quickly change and a dark prophecy predicting a turbulent future inexorably linked with her beloved Russia seems to be coming to pass. As Russia is torn apart, so is Elizabeth’s life, and we follow her one a journey of highs and lows, of rags and riches and of life and death.

Tsarina was one of my favourite books of 2020 and put Ellen Alpsten on my list of aut-buy authors. I was elated to learn that it was the first in a series and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the follow up. Expectations were high, and she exceeded them all. The Tsarina’s Daughter is a spectacular novel. Exquisitely written, beautifully crafted and addictive, I luxuriated in every word. Once again the author’s meticulous research leaps from the pages and transports you back in time to the opulence of Imperial Palace and the rule of the Tsars. One of the things I love about historical fiction is when a book educates and entertains you, and this certainly does both of those things flawlessly.

“I had not yet turned twenty but felt weighed down by all I had lived through.”

Elizabeth is a fascinating historical figure. The daughter of not only one of Russia’s greatest Tsars, but its first Tsarina, she is understandably a force to be reckoned with. She lives in an era where everything is a matter of life or death. You have to watch your every word and play the game carefully in order to survive, and I loved watching her grow and learn to master the rules of the game. But Elizabeth was also born during a time of great change, where women took power and had their voices heard for the first time in Russia’s history. At the beginning of her journey, the best she hopes for is to be the wife of a great King, and by the end she is fighting to take her place as Tsarina of All of Russias.

The Tsarina’s Daughter is a dazzling, magnificent and captivating novel that I couldn’t put down. And after that ending I can not wait for book three to see what is next for Elizabeth and the Romanov dynasty. This outstanding series is a must for any history lover.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, where she dressed up her many pets and forced them to listen to her stories.

Upon graduating from the ‘Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris’, she worked as a news-anchor for Bloomberg TV London. While working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work, a nap and a run. So much for burning midnight oil!

Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint, and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three sons, and a moody fox red Labrador.

‘Tsarina’ is her debut novel in the ‘Tsarina’ series, followed by ‘The Tsarina’s Daughter’.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx