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The Nesting by C. J. Cooke

Published: October 15th, 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Fairy Tale, Mystery, Gothic Fiction, Ghost Story, Suspense, Thriller, Horror Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this creepy gothic thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Harper Collins for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Atmospheric, gothic, spine-chilling… The new thriller from C.J Cooke will haunt you long after you turn the last page…
It was like something out of a fairytale…
The grieving widower.
The motherless daughters.
A beautiful house in the woods.
Deep in a remote Norwegian forest, Lexi has found a new home with architect Tom and his two young daughters. With snow underfoot and the sound of the nearby fjord in her ears, it’s as if Lexi has stepped into a fairy tale

But this family has a history – and this place has a past. Something was destroyed to build their beautiful new house. And those ancient, whispering woods have a long memory.

Lexi begins to hear things, see things that don’t make sense. She used to think this place heavenly, but in the dark, dark woods, a menacing presence lurks.

With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care.

But protect them from what?

MY REVIEW:

All month I’ve been itching to read a creepy, gothic book. The Nesting is both of those things and more. 

Returning to Norway after the recent death of his wife Aurelia, Tom hires Lexi to accompany the family as their Nanny. For him, it’s a chance to honour his wife the house she dreamed of while avoiding his grief, and for Lexi it’s a chance to reinvent herself and start again after a recent suicide attempt. 

But deep in the remote Norwegian forest, there is a threat lurking. But is it human? Are the things Aurelia and Lexi see really hallucinations or are they a real and sinister supernatural force that is out to harm them?

Atmospheric, eerie and haunting, this is the perfect book for this time of year. I’m a big fan of gothic novels, and Cooke executes this one expertly, with just the right amount of spine-tingling terror to keep you hooked and not wanting to turn out the light. 

The writing is simply gorgeous and so vividly descriptive that I felt like I was seeing and feeling everything alongside the characters. I particularly liked how well her description of Lexi’s first month as a Nanny captured the exhaustive nature of children and how she put us inside the mind of a young child so realistically. 

The imagery of Norway made me feel like I was standing in that forest myself and I think that her choice of a remote Norwegian forest in winter was perfect for a Gothic thriller. Beautiful, haunting, dark, chilling and hostile, it sets the scene by simply being itself. The author entwines this with eerie Norwegian folklore and unexplained occurrences,  creating the perfect recipe for this spooky tale.

Dealing with themes of motherhood, mental health and suicide, this isn’t a light-hearted read, but it examines each one with sensitivity and realism. It is clear that mental health and motherhood are subjects that heavily impact and influence the author, as she has woven them into both Lexi and Aurelia’s stories. I loved this, the way the women mirrored each other in so many ways and felt it gave them a deep connection despite the fact that they’d never met. I could personally relate to them both in their mental health struggles and they were definitely the characters I felt closest too. 

All of the characters, even the minor ones, were interesting and well written. I enjoyed the flashbacks as they gave us a chance to get to know Aurelia and gave us possible clues about her death. It also gives the reader the chance to see a clearer picture of Tom, though I found him suspicious and unlikeable all the same. I thought Lexi was a great protagonist who was relatable, flawed and likeable. But the one who really stole my heart was Gaia. How could she not? She broke my heart when she talked about her ‘Mumma’ and definitely creeped me out most of all with all her talk of the Sad Lady. 

An immersive, ethereal and chilling read, The Nesting is the perfect gothic tale for reading while cosy under a blanket this autumn. Just don’t turn out the light! 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

CJ Cooke wrote her first book aged seven. A few decades later, her work is published in 23 languages, has won numerous awards, and has been optioned for film and television.

CJ’s previous works include the novels The Boy Who Could See Demons (2012), which was critically appraised by The New York Times, The Guardian, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and The New York Review of Books, The Guardian Angel’s Journal (2011), which was an international bestseller, and I Know My Name, which was a No. 1 iBooks bestseller and optioned for TV.

Her latest book, a gothic thriller called The Nesting, was awarded funding from the Arts Council of England to carry out research in Norway and is published by Penguin Random House (US) on 29th Sept 2020 and HarperCollins (UK & Commonwealth) on 15 October 2020.

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Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Emma’s Anticipated Treasures – October 2020

October is almost upon us, so it’s time for the books I’m most excited about being released. Thanks to October 1st having even more releases than Fiction the Third, this was another month that was difficult to decide, which is why I’m so late posting this month.

So, without further ado, here are my most anticipated books for October:

The Devil and the Dark Water by Sturart Turton

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Raven Books
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Occult Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A murder on the high seas. A detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist.

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage.

A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered. And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel. Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board…

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
As a big fan of historical fiction and mysteries, this synopsis sings to be. I’ve also heard great things about this author. I’m lucky to have a proof so will be diving in ASAP.
Pre-order here

People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Historical Mystery, Medical Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
He is my husband.
To honour and obey.
Until murder do us part.

London, 1888: Susannah rushes into marriage to a young and wealthy surgeon. After a passionate honeymoon, she returns home with her new husband wrapped around her little finger. But then everything changes. His behaviour becomes increasingly volatile and violent. He stays out all night, returning home bloodied and full of secrets.

Lonely and frustrated, Susannah starts following the gruesome reports of a spate of murders in Whitechapel. But as the killings continue, her mind takes her down the darkest path imaginable. Every time her husband stays out late, another victim is found dead.

Is it coincidence? Or is he the man they call Jack the Ripper?

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Murder, one of my favourite historical eras, medical fiction and based on a true crime that’s one of the most enduring unsolved murder mysteries in history. This ticks all my boxes.
Pre-order here

The First Woman by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Oneworld
Genre: Fairy Tale, Coming-of-Age Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
For one young girl, discovering what it means to become a woman in a family, a community and a country determined to silence her will take all the courage she has.

Growing up in a small Ugandan village, Kirabo is surrounded by powerful women. Her grandmother, her aunts, her friends and cousins are all desperate for her to conform, but Kirabo is inquisitive, headstrong and determined. Up until now, she has been perfectly content with her life at the heart of this prosperous extended family, but as she enters her teenage years, she begins to feel the absence of the mother she has never known. The First Woman follows Kirabo on her journey to becoming a young woman and finding her place in the world, as her country is transformed by the bloody dictatorship of Idi Amin.

Jennifer Makumbi has written a sweeping tale of longing and rebellion, at once epic and deeply personal, steeped in an intoxicating mix of ancient Ugandan folklore and modern feminism, that will linger in the memory long after the final page.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
The striking cover and fascinating synopsis made this an immediate addition to this list. I’ve been seeing great reviews for it too, so I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.
Pre-order here

Mother Mother by Jessica O’Dwyer

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Apprentice House Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A married couple in California grapples with race, betrayal, love, and loss when their son comes home from a Guatemalan orphanage. 

Contemporary art museum curator Julie Cowan achieves her dream of motherhood through adoption, but her life is far from perfect. Her pathologist husband, Mark, is distracted by his gorgeous, young intern, while her hotshot new museum director boss doubts Julie’s curatorial chops. And Julie’s six-year-old son, Jack (born Juan), may never recover from trauma inflicted by early life spent in a Guatemalan orphanage. 

Then Jack suffers a major health crisis, and everything pales next to saving his life. As much as Julie clings to being Jack’s “only” mother, she needs to find his Guatemalan mother to unlock his medical history. Julie hires a professional searcher, and what she learns turns her world upside down. At the same time, Jack’s birth mother, an indigenous Ixil Maya, navigates her own tumultuous path, beginning with surviving a horrific massacre. 

In this gripping tale told from alternating perspectives, both mothers must draw on fierce inner strength to reckon with their life choices.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
This sounds like an emotional read and I was excited to see it was available to ‘read now’ on Netgalley. So of course I broke my self-imposed request ban to download it.
Pre-order here

The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Sumnerscale

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: Biography, True Crime

SYNOPSIS:
London, 1938. In the suburbs of the city, an ordinary young housewife has become the eye in a storm of chaos.

In Alma Fielding’s modest home, china flies off the shelves, eggs fly through the air; stolen jewellery appears on her fingers, white mice crawl out of her handbag, beetles appear from under her gloves; in the middle of a car journey, a terrapin materialises on her lap.

Nandor Fodor – a Jewish-Hungarian refugee and chief ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research – reads of the case, and hastens to the scene of the haunting. But when Fodor starts his scrupulous investigation, he discovers that the case is even stranger than it seems.

By unravelling Alma’s peculiar history, he finds a different and darker type of haunting: trauma, alienation, loss – and the foreshadowing of a nation’s worst fears. As the spectre of Fascism lengthens over Europe, and as Fodor’s obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed.

With rigour, daring and insight, the award-winning pioneer of non-fiction writing Kate Summerscale shadows Fodor’s enquiry, delving into long-hidden archives to find the human story behind a very modern haunting.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
As I’ve already said, I love history and true stories, so this so this immediately jumped out at me.
Pre-order here

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Virago
Genre: Literary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A woman visits a friend who is dying of cancer. Brilliant and stubborn, her friend makes a momentous request. She wishes to end her life on her own terms – and she wants the narrator’s help. Stricken, she agrees. ‘I promise,’ says the friend, ‘to make it as much fun as possible.’

What follows is an extraordinary tale of a friendship put to the greatest test: to witness, unflinching, its end. It is also a portrait of the way we live now, in a world endlessly troubled by crises, and the dramatically changing nature of human relationships in our time.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
As someone living with chronic pain, the question of assisted dying is one that fascinates me. And the idea of examining that issue through not only the eyes of someone who wants to die, but the person they ask to help them, is one I knew I had to read.
Pre-order here.

The Silk House by Kayte Nunn

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Horror

SYNOPSIS:
Weaving. Witchcraft. Wonder.

Present day: Thea Rust arrives at an exclusive boarding school in the British countryside, only to find that she is not only having to look after the first intake of girls in its 150-year history, but that she is to stay with them in Silk House. A converted silk factory from the 18th century, where the shadows hide more mysteries than she could ever imagine…

1700s, Oxleigh: Leaving her village to work in the home of an English silk merchant Rowan Caswell finds herself thrust into a new and dangerous world, where she must hide her secret even more than ever before.

1700s, London: Mary-Louise Stephenson lives amid the clatter of the weaving trade and dreams of becoming a silk designer. Arriving in Oxleigh she brings with her a length of fabric woven with a pattern of deadly plants, that will have far-reaching consequences for all who dwell in the silk house.

Intoxicating, haunting and inspired by the author’s background, The Silk House is the exceptional new gothic mystery by Kayte Nunn.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
This is another book that ticks so many of my favourite boxes. It also helps that I’ve been meaning to read a book by this author for a long time.
Pre-order here.

The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Domestic Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago.Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.
 
Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I loved Louise Jensen’s last novel so as soon as she announced this one I knew it would be on this list.
Pre-order here.

Mr. Cadmus by Peter Ackroyd

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Canongate
Genre: Thriller, Mystery

SYNOPSIS:
Two apparently harmless women reside in cottages one building apart in the idyllic English village of Little Camborne. Miss Finch and Miss Swallow, cousins, have put their pasts behind them and settled into conventional country life. But when a mysterious foreigner, Theodore Cadmus – from Caldera, a Mediterranean island nobody has heard of – moves into the middle cottage, the safe monotony of their lives is shattered.

The fates of the two cousins and Mr Cadmus, and those of Little Camborne and Caldera, become inextricably enmeshed. Long-hidden secrets and long-held grudges threaten to surface, drawing all into a vortex of subterfuge, theft, violence, mayhem . . . and murder.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I’ll admit, it was the gorgeous, purple cover that first caught my attention. But it is the synopsis that had made it one of my most anticipated reads. I’m a sucker for a mystery.
Pre-order here

Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Picador
Genre: Fairy Tale, Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago. Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.
 
Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I’ve been seeing rave reviews for this online. And the combination of fairy tale and an exploration of how they are affected by trauma is intoxicating to me.
Pre-order here

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E Schwab

Published: October 6th, 2020
Publisher: Titan
Genre: Historical Fantasy

SYNOPSIS:
For someone damned to be forgettable, Addie LaRue is a most delightfully unforgettable character, and her story is the most joyous evocation of unlikely immortality. Neil Gaiman
In the vein of The Time Traveler s Wife and Life After LifeThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab s genre-defying tour de force.

When Addie La Rue makes a pact with the devil, she trades her soul for immortality. But there’s always a price – the devil takes away her place in the world, cursing her to be forgotten by everyone.

Addie flees her tiny home town in 18th-Century France, beginning a journey that takes her across the world, learning to live a life where no one remembers her and everything she owns is lost and broken. Existing only as a muse for artists throughout history, she learns to fall in love anew every single day.

Her only companion on this journey is her dark devil with hypnotic green eyes, who visits her each year on the anniversary of their deal. Alone in the world, Addie has no choice but to confront him, to understand him, maybe to beat him.

Until one day, in a second hand bookshop in Manhattan, Addie meets someone who remembers her. Suddenly thrust back into a real, normal life, Addie realises she can’t escape her fate forever.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
The synopsis of this book immediately piqued my interest; but it was when I saw the comparison to The Time Traveller’s Wife – one of my favourite books of all time – I knew I had to read it.
Pre-order here

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan

Published: October 8th, 2020
Publisher: Scribe
Genre: Literary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A bewitching novel set in contemporary Japan about the mysterious suicide of a young woman.

Miwako Sumida is dead.

Now those closest to her try to piece together the fragments of her life. Ryusei, who has always loved her, follows Miwako’s trail to a remote Japanese village. Chie, Miwako’s best friend, was the only person to know her true identity ― but is now the time to reveal it? Meanwhile, Fumi, Ryusei’s sister, is harbouring her own haunting secret.

Together, they realise that the young woman they thought they knew had more going on behind her seemingly perfect façade than they could ever have dreamed.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I’m guilty of another cover-love addition here. But, in my defence, it sounds like a fantastic story. I first saw this recommended on a friend’s Instagram stories and knew that if she loved it, so would I.
Pre-order here

A Time For Mercy by John Grisham

Published: October 13th, 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Legal Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
CAN A KILLER EVER BE ABOVE THE LAW?

Deputy Stuart Kofer is a protected man. Though he’s turned his drunken rages on his girlfriend, Josie, and her children many times before, the police code of silence has always shielded him.

But one night he goes too far, leaving Josie for dead on the floor before passing out. Her son, sixteen-year-old Drew, knows he only has this one chance to save them. He picks up a gun and takes the law into his own hands.

In Clanton, Mississippi, there is no one more hated than a cop killer – but a cop killer’s defence lawyer comes close. Jake Brigance doesn’t want this impossible case but he’s the only one with enough experience to defend the boy.

As the trial begins, it seems there is only one outcome: the gas chamber for Drew. But, as the town of Clanton discovers once again, when Jake Brigance takes on an impossible case, anything is possible.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
John Grisham is one of my favourite authors. I’ve loved his book ever since I read A Time To Kill, my favourite of the many he’s written, over two decades ago. So as soon as the author announced a follow up it became one of my most anticipated books this year.
Pre-order here.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Published: October 13th, 2020
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Alternative Fiction, Occult Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the three Eastwood sisters join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote – and perhaps not even to live – the sisters must delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Gorgeous cover ✔️ Historical Fiction ✔️ Creepy ✔️ This sounds like just the kind of book I will love and a perfect Autumn read.
Pre-order here.

The Nesting by CJ Cooke

Published: October 15th, 2020
Publisher: HarperCollinsUK
Genre: Fairy Tale, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Horror Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
It was like something out of a fairytale…
The grieving widower.
The motherless daughters.
A beautiful house in the woods.

Deep in a remote Norwegian forest, Lexi has found a new home with architect Tom and his two young daughters. With snow underfoot and the sound of the nearby fjord in her ears, it’s as if Lexi has stepped into a fairy tale

But this family has a history – and this place has a past. Something was destroyed to build their beautiful new house. And those ancient, whispering woods have a long memory.

Lexi begins to hear things, see things that don’t make sense. She used to think this place heavenly, but in the dark, dark woods, a menacing presence lurks.

With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care.

But protect them from what?

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Again, this has so many elements I love. I’m lucky to be on the blog tour for this one. My review will be posted on October 26th.
Pre-order here.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

Published: October 15th, 2020
Publisher: Penguin UK
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he’s going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan.

A new relationship couldn’t have come at a better time – her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone’s moving to the suburbs. There’s no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who’s caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.

Dolly Alderton’s debut novel is funny and tender, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships, family, memory, and how we live now.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Dolly Alderson is an author I’ve seen all over bookstagram, and her first fiction novel sounds like a great, lighthearted read.
Pre-order here.

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

Published: October 20th, 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Who would you be, if you hadn’t turned out to be the person you are now?

Dawn is a death doula, and spends her life helping people make the final transition peacefully.

But when the plane she’s on plummets, she finds herself thinking not of the perfect life she has, but the life she was forced to abandon fifteen years ago – when she left behind a career in Egyptology, and a man she loved.

Against the odds, she survives, and the airline offers her a ticket to wherever she needs to get to – but the answer to that question suddenly seems uncertain.

As the path of her life forks in two very different directions, Dawn must confront questions she’s never truly asked: What does a well-lived life look like? What do we leave behind when we go? And do we make our choices, or do our choices make us?

Two possible futures. One impossible choice.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I’m a total Jodi fan-girl and anything she publishes is one of my most anticipated books of that year. I’m taking part in a Tandem Collective readalong for this one, which begins on October 6th.
Pre-order here.

The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby

Published: October 29th, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Romilly lives in a ramshackle house with her eccentric artist father and her cat, Monty. She knows little about her past – but she knows that she is loved.

When her father finds fame with a series of children’s books starring her as the main character, everything changes: exotic foods appear on the table, her father appears on TV, and strangers appear at their door, convinced the books contain a treasure hunt leading to a glittering prize.

But as time passes, Romilly’s father becomes increasingly suspicious of everything around him, until, before her eyes, he begins to disappear altogether.

In her increasingly isolated world, Romilly turns to the secrets her father has hidden in his illustrated books, realising that there is something far darker and more devastating locked within the pages…

The truth.

The Illustrated Child is the unforgettable, beguiling debut from Polly Crosby.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I first heard about this book early this year and it instantly became one I was desperate to read. I’ve unsuccessfully tried to get my hands on a proof but was accepted on the blog tour, so I’ll finally be reading it soon. My review will be published on October 27th.
Pre-order here.

One August Night by Victioria Hislop

Published: October 29th, 2020
Publisher: Headline
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences.

When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister, Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy.

In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past.

Number one bestselling author Victoria Hislop returns to the world and characters she created in The Island – the award-winning novel that remains one of the biggest selling reading group novels of the century. It is finally time to be reunited with Anna, Maria, Manolis and Andreas in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of the island… and beyond.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I only heard about this book a few weeks ago (I know, I must have been living under a rock) and I immediately added it to this list. The Island is a book I fell in love with when I read it many years ago and I can’t wait to see where the author takes the story next.
Pre-order here.

Starve Acre by Andrew Muchael Hurley

Published: October 29th, 2020
Publisher: John Murray Press
Genre: FaHorror, Ghost Story

SYNOPSIS:
The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors, was to be full of life, but is now a haunted place.

Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.

Starve Acre is a devastating new novel by the author of the prize-winning bestseller The Loney. It is a novel about the way in which grief splits the world in two and how, in searching for hope, we can so easily unearth horror.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
This sounds like a fantastic and haunting read. I’ve also heard great things about this author and I’m excited to read his work for myself.
Pre-order here

Are any of these on your tbr or wishlist? What book out next month are you most looking forward to?

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan – The Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist Blog Tour

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Published: October 3rd, 2019
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Genre: Fairy tale, Ghost Story, Horror, Dystopian Fiction

I’m excited to share my review for the first of two books I’ll be reading as part of The Dylan Thomas Prize longlist blog tour. Thank you to Midas PR for the invitation to take part and Harvill Secker for the gifted copy of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

A shocking collection of dark stories, ranging from chilling contemporary fairytales to disturbing supernatural fiction, by a talented writer who has been compared to Angela Carter.

So here we go, into the dark.

Some things can’t be spoken about in the light of day. But we can visit our fears at night, in the dark. We can turn them over and weigh them in our hands and maybe that will protect us from them. But maybe not.

The characters in this collection find their aspirations for happy homes, happy families and happy memories dissected and imbued with shimmering menace. Alone in a remote house in Iceland a woman is unnerved by her isolation; another can only find respite from the clinging ghost that follows her by submerging herself in an overgrown pool. Couples wrestle with a lack of connection to their children; a schoolgirl becomes obsessed with the female anatomical models in a museum; and a cheery account of child’s day out is undercut by chilling footnotes.

These dark tales explore women’s fears with electrifying honesty and invention and speak to one another about female bodies, domestic claustrophobia, desire and violence. From a talented writer who has been compared to Angela Carter, Things We Say in the Dark is a powerful contemporary collection of feminist stories, ranging from vicious fairy tales to disturbing horror and tender ghost stories.

KIRSTY LOGAN WAS SELECTED AS ONE OF BRITAIN’S TEN MOST OUTSTANDING LGBTQ WRITERS by Val McDermid for the International Literature Showcase in 2019

MY REVIEW:

“Some things can’t be spoken about in the light of day. But we can visit our fears at night, in the dark . We can turn them over and weigh them in our hands and maybe that will protect us from them. But maybe not.”

Things We Say in the Dark is a striking, dark, curious and unsettling collection of short stories that explore fear through a creative lens. Each story has a deeper meaning under its surface, the author addressing subjects such as love, loss, longing, relationships, parenthood, sexism, homophobia and abuse.

This was my first time reading anything by this author and I was immediately pulled in by the immersive writing and loved the elements of horror and dark comedy that was infused into the stories. I enjoyed this collection but there were one or two stories that were a little bizarre for my taste. The stories that stood out in my mind were Birds Fell From The Sky and Each One Spoke In Your Voice, My Body Cannot Forget Your Body, Good Good Good, Nice Nice Nice and The Only Thing I Can’t Tell You Is Why. I laughed, I grimaced, my heart was broken and I was full of rage as the author made me feel a variety of emotions over the course of this collection. 

Between each story there is commentary from the author where she talks about her life, her motivations for writing the book and her writing process. These sections seemed to tell another, more personal, story and I enjoyed the glimpse into the author’s mind and feeling like she was almost there with me as I read. 

So if you’re looking for something intelligent, thought-provoking and different, and don’t mind stories that are sinister and creepy, then I would recommend this fascinating collection. I flew through it quickly but it is also ideal for dipping in and out of when you only have a small time to read. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kirsty Logan is a Scottish novelist, poet, performer, literary editor, writing mentor, book reviewer and writer of short fiction. She lives in Glasgow. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on retold fairytales, and her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

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The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

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

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

SYNOPSIS:

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

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

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

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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Pine by Francine Toon ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Publisher: Doubleday
Published: January 23rd, 2020
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Ghost story, Horror

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this alluring debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours and to Doubleday for my gifted copy of the novel. 

SYNOPSIS:

They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men.

Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.

In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago.

Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.

In the shadow of the Highland forest, Francine Toon captures the wildness of rural childhood and the intensity of small-town claustrophobia. In a place that can feel like the edge of the world, she unites the chill of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.

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MY REVIEW:

Ghostly, atmospheric and bewitching, Pine is an unsettling and beautifully written debut. The plot almost feels secondary to the rich, original, nuanced, disjointed prose that haunts you, giving you chills as you read. Unusually, I made very few notes while reading this as I was so deeply immersed in Lauren’s story that I just wanted to soak up every word and enjoy the experience. 

Set in a small and secluded Highland village on the edge of the forest, Pine is told from the point of view of 10-year-old Lauren, who lives there with her father Niall. A decade ago Lauren’s mother, Christine disappeared leaving behind whispers of suspicion and cautious looks that have followed them ever since. NialL won’t talk about her mother or what happened so young Lauren is left longing for answers, trying to find a way to learn more and feeling like she wasn’t enough for her mother to stay. 

The author wastes no time and throws us straight into the eerie mystery that is at the heart of the book. On Halloween night, while Lauren and her father are driving home, a strange, dishevelled woman emerges from the woods. The woman is seen in different locations in the village, interacting with people in different ways, but those who see her forget her as soon as she is out of sight. Except for Lauren who remembers every time. The situation becomes increasingly bizarre as odd things start to happen around Lauren, leaving her both fearful and in desperate need of answers. 

This book is garnering a lot of hype already and I predict that there will be a lot more to come. Original, understated, moving and chilling, Pine has a sense of small-town claustrophobia that contrasts with the mystery at the core of the story; how is it possible no one knows what happened in a place where everybody knows your business? The author also uses the harsh, bleak, setting to add to the eerie, foreboding atmosphere that permeates the book. 

Lauren made the perfect narrator for this story. The author expertly captured the essence of being 10 years old – wanting to fit in, feeling like an outsider, beginning to notice boys, yearning for the mother she’s never had and being on the cusp of adolescence where she still enjoys childish things but wants to experiment and be seen as grown up. Toon also expertly uses Lauren’s child-like innocence to add to the mystery and fear that the reader feels and to move us as she yearns for her mother and tries to feel close to her by wearing her lipstick or reading her book. Niall is not a particularly likeable character; he’s an alcoholic who has never got over his wife’s disappearance and isn’t there for his child. But the skill of Toon’s writing is such that by the end I felt some sympathy for him. 

It’s hard to believe that this is Toon’s debut novel. Her writing is exquisite and I found myself  lost in her words, mesmerised by her imagery, and unable to tear myself away from this book for a moment longer than necessary. She has a talent for making you believe what you’re reading, even the things that seem fanciful, through her authentic characters and their interactions. 

Pine is a sensational debut novel. This gothic tale uses witchcraft, the supernatural and Scottish folklore to tell a story of love, loss and discovery through the eyes of a young girl. You don’t want to miss this book.

Francine Toon Author Picture

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Francine Toon grew up in Sutherland and Fife, Scotland. Her poetry, written as Francine Elena, has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Best British Poetry 2013 and 2015 anthologies (Salt) and Poetry London, among other places. Pine was longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award.

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