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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The Fall by Rachael Blok

Published: April 14th 2022
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Police Procedural, Medical Thriller

It’s a little late due to health problems but welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Fall. Thank you to Sophie at Ransom PR for the invitation to take part and Head of Zeus for the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

The sins of the past echo in the present in the new literary thriller from crime-critic favourite, Rachael Blok.

The bigger the sin, the further the fall…

With Easter approaching, the verger of St Albans Cathedral was supposed to be readying the church. Instead he discovers a man lying dead, fallen from the famous 150-foot-high tower. Did he jump, or was he pushed?

For DCI Maarten Jansen, it’s a simple case of suspected suicide. Until a witness, Willow, prompts a deeper investigation into a long-buried past, involving a psychiatric hospital, a pregnant woman, and fifty years of silence. As Willow’s own family history entwines with the case, Jansen starts to wonder how everything is connected.

The Fall is a haunting literary thriller about loss, trauma, silence, and how our past shapes who we are.

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MY REVIEW:

“Secrets don’t stay buried forever. Even those cast in stone.”

After a long day of travel Willow Eliot finally arrives at St Albans ready to prepare for her exhibition.  But in the darkness she hears a scream and witnesses a body falling from the cathedral in the shadows.  Did he jump or was he pushed?  And are the fall of a young man who works at the cathedral a few days later and the disappearance of Willow’s twin sister connected or simply tragic coincidences? 

A story of sins, secrets and suspicion, this literary thriller hit all the right notes for me.  Taut, tense and intricately woven, it takes us on a twisty journey as past and present merge together and dark truths are slowly revealed.  This book was my introduction to Rachael Blok and I didn’t realise that it is the fourth instalment in a series until I had almost finished reading.  But that means I can tell  you it makes a great standalone as I never felt like I was missing out on anything or confused about what was going on.

Told in three parts from multiple points of view, I loved the very different voices the author chose in which to tell the story.  I found young Alice’s chapters were especially compelling and powerful, drawing into her tragic story.  Many of the characters are keeping secrets, some of them with the power to shatter entire lives, leaving us with a complex puzzle to solve that looks nothing like I thought it would.  

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was that it is rich in history.  But it is an awful history that dates back to the psychiatric hospital, Hill Barnes, a bleak, grim place where people were sent when they didn’t know how to deal with them, often committed for what now seem like trivial reasons.  Behavioural issues, epilepsy, a wife disagreeing with her husband and being a young mother could all see you committed and subjected to barbaric treatments that did more harm than healing.  It is a potent reminder of how we used to treat mental health and those we didn’t understand.  

Dark, twisty and captivating, The Fall is a great read for anyone who enjoys a steadily paced thriller. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rachael Blok is a best-selling author of the UK crime series set in the cathedral city of St Albans. Here, DCI Maarten Jansen struggles against his plain-speaking Dutch upbringing when faced with the seemingly polite world of the picturesque city. Under the Ice, The Scorched Earth and Into The Fire are out now. The Fall is coming April 2022.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Bookshop.org*
*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

BLOG TOUR: Quicksand of Memory by Michael J. Malone

Published: April 14th
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this powerful psychological thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Karen at Orenda Books for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Scarred by their pasts, Jenna and Luke fall in love, brimming with hope for a rosy future. But someone has been watching, with chilling plans for revenge … An emotive, twisty, disturbing new psychological thriller by the critically acclaimed author of A Suitable Lie and In the Absence of Miracles.

Jenna is trying to rebuild her life after a series of disastrous relationships.

Luke is struggling to provide a safe, loving home for his deceased partner’s young son, following a devastating tragedy.

When Jenna and Luke meet and fall in love, they are certain they can achieve the stability and happiness they both desperately need.

And yet, someone is watching.

Someone who has been scarred by past events.

Someone who will stop at nothing to get revenge…

Dark, unsettling and immensely moving, Quicksand of Memory is a chilling reminder that we are not only punished for our sins, but by them, and that memories left to blacken and sharpen over time are the perfect breeding ground for obsession, and murder…

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MY REVIEW:

“Just a hundred yards away, a hooded figure watched. Shadows obscured his face like they were part of his costume. His heartbeat thumped insistently in his neck, and his hands flexed in and out of fists, like lungs drawing in breath.”

Quicksand of Memory is another gripping thriller from Michael J. Malone.  Drenched in atmosphere, charged with adrenaline and sizzling with suspense, there are so many twists I thought I’d get book whiplash.  It’s a ticking time bomb of sheer dread as new couple Luke and Jenna find themselves in the crosshairs of someone with an unquenchable thirst for revenge.  Someone who is watching and waiting for the perfect time to strike…

“Guilt was an ever-present for Luke. It wrapped itself around his heart and mind, weighed down muscle and bone, and invaded his sleep. Every waking moment arrived to him through a filter of shame.” 

A redemption tale that packs a punch, this story will get under your skin and into your heart. A layered, nuanced and complex thriller full of misery, malevolence and misfortune, the richly drawn characters pull you in and there’s a profound sense of loss and sadness that permeates every page.  The story is told by multiple narrators, each of whom is fractured, flawed and trying to break free of the shackles of their past.  But can they ever really manage it?  Malone highlights the importance of positive support and role models in order for us to be able to transcend the negative parts of our lives and succeed in breaking free in the differing levels of success the characters have at overcoming their past.  As the spectres of their past continue to haunt them and the ripple effects continue to mark their lives in present, we see how positive support helps Luke and Jenna to move on and move forward while still feeling the trauma and guilt of their past while Jamie and Amanda, who have had no such support, are stuck in a cycle of anger and bitterness.  I enjoyed each perspective and felt the most empathy for Jamie, despite his terrible actions.  I felt like he truly was a victim of circumstance and he would be a better person with the right encouragement, help and support, whereas Amanda seemed rotten to her core and to delight in causing pain to others.  

“But now the spectre of Danny hung over them. Toxins flowing from his ever-strong memory, poisons that leached into Luke’s every vein, every muscle, tainting every thought, perception and action.”

Michael J. Malone is a talented storyteller who will take you through a range of emotions while reading and is the master of dark thrillers that also hold a deeper, more important message.  In this book he explores a number of harrowing and difficult topics such as dysfunctional families, neglect, trauma, drug use and violence.  He examines the correlation between poverty, violence and drug use and the lack of a father figure, and also asks what drives people to destruction and revenge.  He also poses the question of whether we truly have free will or are our lives  shaped by circumstances and events?

“He felt like there were two people living under his skin. The little boy who craved love and attention. And the one who wanted to set fire to the world.” 

Sinister, suspenseful and compelling, Quicksand of Memory is a powerful and thought-provoking thriller that you don’t want to miss.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan; and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. Since then, he’s written two further thought-provoking, exquisitely written psychological thrillers In the Absence of Miracles and A Song of Isolation, cementing his position as a key proponent of Tartan Noir and an undeniable talent. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Death on a Winter’s Day (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery 8) by Verity Smith

Published: November 24th, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Cozy Mystery, Sherlock Holmes Mystery
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the latest installment in this cosy mystery series. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBok ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Christmas at the castle with holly, handmade gifts, snowflakes and… is that a body under the tree? Someone call Lady Swift!

Winter, 1921Lady Eleanor Swift, amateur sleuth and reluctant lady of the manor, has been invited to spend Christmas in Scotland, at the beautiful castle of her dear friends Baron and Baroness Ashley. Even her favourite companion, master of mischief Gladstone the bulldog, is coming along to share a slice of turkey. As snow begins to fall outside, the rather mismatched group are cozy by the roaring fire, sharing a tipple over a plate of Mrs Trotman’s famous mince pies.

But after what was supposed to be a fun party game, Mr Eugene Randall is found dead at the feast. A somewhat unpopular business associate of the Baron’s from across the pond, it seems Mr Randall has certainly upset somebody. Was it what he said about Scottish whisky?

The killer must be in the castle… and when the Baron is arrested, Baroness Ashley begs Eleanor to investigate. Determined not to let her friend down, Eleanor sets about questioning the remaining partygoers.

All too swiftly, someone else is found dead, having apparently fallen from a high balcony. As if one murder wasn’t enough to put a twist in the tinsel! Eleanor knows she’s skating on thin ice now. And when she discovers a hidden document that points the finger of suspicion at the unlikeliest of suspects, she realises there’s more to the story. Can Eleanor catch the killer before it’s time for Christmas dinner?

The perfect cozy mystery to curl up with this winter! Fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Lee Strauss are in for a festive treat.

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MY REVIEW:

Lady Eleanor Swift saves Christmas and solves a murder in the latest installment of this cosy mystery series.  Eleanor is in Scotland with her friends Baron and Baroness Ashley to celebrate the holidays when what should have been a fun game of Wink turns deadly.  It seems there is a murder in the castle; the ameutur sleuth has another mystery to solve.

This was another fun cosy mystery that I sped through quickly.  It was my first festive read this year and had all the perfect ingredients for the ideal Christmassy book to read by the fire. This series has become a real comfort read for me and always evokes a warm glow when reading.  Verity Bright never disappoints, creating an atmospheric and compelling story every time. 

I loved being back with the familiar characters, particularly Lady Eleanor and her butler Clifford, who can always be counted on to be by her side every step of the way as she investigates.  I love their witty banter, black humour  and the overall dynamic of their relationship.  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of reading their exploits and could enjoy them even if a murder wasn’t invovled as their characters are so entertaining.  

So if you’re looking for a lively and  lighthearted  whodunnit this winter, then this is for you. You don’t have to have read the previous books to enjoy it, but I do recommend them. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Verity Bright is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing partnership that has spanned a quarter of a century. Starting out writing high-end travel articles and books, they published everything from self-improvement to humour, before embarking on their first historical mystery.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon*
*This is an affiliate link

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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

Blog Tour: The Girl in the Maze by Cathy Hayward

Published: October 28th, 2021 in eBook
November 25th, 2021 in paperback
Publisher: Agora Books
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Fiction
Format: Kindle, Paperback

Welcome to my review of this enthralling debut. Thank you to Peyton at Agora Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Traversing three generations of women torn apart by family trauma, The Girl in the Maze explores the complex relationship and challenges involved in both mothering and being mothered.

‘I would caution you against delving into the past. The past is often best left exactly where it is.’

Emma Bowen has never had a close relationship with her mother, barely speaking with her in the last years of her life. But after her mother’s death, Emma finds something that might just explain the distance between them.

Discovering letters between her mother and grandmother, it seems to Emma that her mother has always been difficult.

As she searches for answers about her own childhood, Emma is drawn into the mystery of her mother’s enigmatic life. The more she finds, the more lost she feels, but Emma is determined to uncover her mother’s past, and the secrets held within it, whatever the cost.

An enthralling story of three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy.

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MY REVIEW:

“Some secrets were probably better left untold.” 

The Girl in the Maze is a moving and beautifully told debut that explores generational trauma, family secrets, motherhood, and the complexities of mother and daughter relationships. The pretty, floral cover belies the heart-rending story between its pages as the author shows us the darkest moments of the lives of three women from one family, examining not only how it affects their lives, but the lives of the generations that follow. 

The story seamlessly shifts between timelines and multiple narrators as secrets that have been hidden for decades are unveiled. As the one at the centre of the secrets you would expect Margaret would be one of the narrators, but instead the author opts to tell the story through other members of her family: her daughter, Emma, her mother, Betty, and her step-father, Jack.  At first I didn’t understand this choice, but as I got further into the book I realised what a brilliant decision it was. By giving a voice to everyone except Margaret she remains an enigma. A puzzle for both Emma and the reader to decipher. 

The characters are richly drawn and fascinating, pulling you in and making you care about their story. Emma is a great character and my heart broke for her as I read about the difficult relationship between her and her mother, something that made me even more thankful for the strong bond I have with my own mother.  I felt for her as she struggled to deal with both the grief of Margaret’s death and over the relationship with her that she craved but would never have. But the woman I took deepest into my heart was Betty. That powerful opening chapter hit me right in the feels and created an empathetic bond with Betty that coloured my view of her for the rest of the book. I didn’t see how Margaret could dislike this loving mother who went against not only society, but also her own mother, to keep and raise her daughter. Both of these things helped shape my view of Margaret as the villain, but as the story went on I began to see that there was so much more beneath the surface; hidden layers that peeled away to reveal heartbreaking secrets. This was a reminder of the layers we all have in our characters, that there can be so much more to a person than we know, and that there are sometimes reasons why people behave the way they do. 

“I read an article once about family dysfunction. It described it as rolling down from generation to generation like a fire in the woods, taking down everything in its path. It said that you need one person in one generation to have the courage to face the flames. And that person will be the one to bring peace to their ancestors and spare the children who follow them, and their children.”

One thing I particularly loved about this book is how the author uses the painting referenced in the book’s title as a symbol of so many things. Throughout the book we see it as a representation of Emma’s quest to untangle the mysteries her mother left behind, slowly finding her way out of the maze with each clue she solves. But as we learn more about Margaret the painting begins to take on new meaning; also representing the traumas the women experienced. It was an interesting layer to the narrative that added that little something extra to the storytelling.  

Cathy Hayward is an exciting new talent. She tackles difficult subjects with sensitivity and compassion and writes like her words are the roses amongst the thorns; something beautiful even when what she is writing about is dark, bleak and painful. I was captivated by the story and the characters she created and can’t wait to read what she writes next. 

Powerful, emotive and intriguing, The Girl in the Maze is an enthralling debut that I highly recommend. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

Trigger Warnings: abortion, miscarriage, rape, adoption

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Cathy Hayward trained as a journalist and edited a variety of trade publications, several of which were so niche they were featured on Have I Got News for You. She then moved into the world of PR and set up an award-winning communications agency. Devastated and inspired in equal measure by the death of her parents in quick succession, Cathy completed The Creative Writing Programme with New Writing South out of which emerged her debut novel The Girl in the Maze about the experience of mothering and being mothered. It won Agora Books’ Lost the Plot Work in Progress Prize 2020 and was longlisted for the Grindstone Literary Prize 2020.

When she’s not writing (or reading) in her local library, Cathy loves pottering in second-hand bookshops, hiking and wild camping. She lives in Brighton – sandwiched between the Downs and the sea – with her husband, three children, and two rescue cats – one of whom thinks he’s a dog.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon|
*These are affiliate links

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊Emma xxx