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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville

Published: February 3rd 2022
Publisher: Zaffre
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Gothic Fiction, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this unsettling gothic tale. Thanks to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and Zaffre for the ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

A house built on secrets
An old woman haunted by her past
A young woman fighting for her life

For Sara Keane, it was supposed to be a second chance.
A new country. A new house. A new beginning.

Then came the knock on the door.

Elderly Mary Jackson can’t understand why Sara and her husband are living in her home.
She remembers the fire. She remembers the house burning down. But she also remembers the children. The children who need her. The children she must protect.

‘The children will find you,’ she tells Sara, because Mary knows she needs help too. As Sara becomes obsessed with what happened in that house nearly sixty years ago, and the family wiped out in one bloody night, she begins to see things. Things that can’t be real.

In a story that spans six decades, the truth will not stay buried, and the ghosts of the past can never remain in the shadows . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“The children. They’ll find you… They’re hiding. Waiting for me. Waiting for you.”

A fire tears through The Ashes in the dead of night, forcing Mary to flee the only home she’s ever known and reducing it to a shell.  Sara and Damien Keene move in as it is being rebuilt, but strange occurrences leave Sara feeling uneasy.  Then one morning, an old woman turns up, her feet bloodied, demanding to know why Sara is in her house and where the children are.  Who is this woman?  And what children is she talking about?  Unsatisfied with her husband’s explanation, Sara is determined to discover what secrets he and the house is hiding.  The old woman is the key.  But can she get Mary to finally speak the secrets she’s been holding in for decades?

The House of Ashes is a dark, twisted and unsettling gothic novel that you don’t want to read in the dark.  From the first pages I had chills, reading on tenterhooks with an almost unbearable feeling of dread in my stomach.  It isn’t a book for the faint hearted; the author explores dark themes such as abuse that are written with both brutal honesty and heartwarming compassion.  It is in these themes that we see Mary and Sara’s lives mirror each other; both kept prisoner in The Ashes by men who terrify them.  And just as the house kept them captive, the book did the same to me, refusing to let me go until I’d read the final page and its story had been told. 

“People about the town would say she’s mad in the head. Some of the children would call her Scary Mary. And fair enough, she might be a wee bit touched, but who wouldn’t be after what she went through.” 

Told by multiple narrators, the story unfolds in the past and the present.  Sara and Mary are the main narrators and while Sara’s story mostly focuses on the present, Mary tells the story of her past.  She finally speaks the secrets she’s been silent about for sixty years, slowly revealing to the reader the dark secrets that the house holds within its walls and the true horror of that bloody night.  I had a real soft spot for all of the women but felt for Mary most.  She was a young girl who knew nothing but a life within the walls of The Ashes. A life of neglect, abuse and fear that made the house both her misery and her solace.  Seeing the story through her eyes was heartrending and I loved how the author managed to convey such childish innocence alongside her resignation to things no one should ever know.  

“Maybe you shouldn’t know too much about that place. Not if you’re going to live in it.” 

The Ashes is more than just a house. It is like another character that lives and breathes.  A sense of malevolence and foreboding radiating from this chilling place.  But the strange and unnerving occurrences aren’t merely there to torment it’s inhabitants, it is the past returning to try and warn those in the present.  Warnings they must heed in order to survive.  

Darkly atmospheric, harrowing and haunting, The House of Ashes is a chilling gothic tale.  Just make sure you read with the lights on!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Stuart Neville’s debut novel, THE TWELVE (published in the USA as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST), won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was picked as one of the top crime novels of 2009 by both the New York Times and the LA Times. He has been shortlisted for various awards, including the Barry, Macavity, Dilys awards, as well as the Irish Book Awards Crime Novel of the Year. He has since published three critically acclaimed sequels, COLLUSION, STOLEN SOULS and THE FINAL SILENCE.

His first four novels have each been longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and RATLINES was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

Stuart’s novels have been translated into various languages, including German, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, Greek and more. The French edition of The Ghosts of Belfast, Les Fantômes de Belfast, won Le Prix Mystère de la Critique du Meilleur Roman Étranger and Grand Prix du Roman Noir Étranger.

His fourth novel, RATLINES, about Nazis harboured by the Irish state following WWII is currently in development for television.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Bookshop.org*
*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

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

BLOG TOUR: The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown

Published: January 13th 2022
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller, Horror Thriller, Gothic Romance
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mesmerising and beguiling piece of gothic fiction. Thank you to Ellie at Viking for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of this book.

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SYNOPSIS:

THE PAGE-TURNING NEW NOVEL FROM THE AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF THE WITCHFINDER’S SISTER

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I still dream, every night, of Polneath on fire. Smoke unravelling from an upper window, and the terrace bathed in a hectic orange light . . . Now I see that the decision I made at Polneath was the only decision of my life. Everything marred in that one dark minute.

By day, Ivy Boscawen mourns the loss of her son Tim in the Great War. But by night she mourns another boy – one whose death decades ago haunts her still.

For Ivy is sure that there is more to what happened all those years ago: the fire at the Great House, and the terrible events that came after. A truth she must uncover, if she is ever to be free.

But once you open a door to the past, can you ever truly close it again?

From the award-winning author of The Witchfinder’s Sister comes a captivating story of burning secrets and buried shame, and of the loyalty and love that rises from the ashes.

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MY REVIEW:

“I still dream, every night, of Ponleath on fire…”

This is gothic fiction at its finest. Hauntingly beautiful, darkly atmospheric and beguiling, I was captivated from the first page.  A story of secrets, loss and lies filled with mystery and suspense that sends shivers down your spine.  

Moving between dual timelines we follow Ivy Boscawen as she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her son during the Great War, telling the story of her search for the truth about his death, the intense guilt she feels, and how she is still tormented by events that took place thirty years before.  Ivy confesses the secrets she’s kept hidden for decades that still haunt her dreams each night, finally revealing the truth of what happened at Ponleath all those years ago. 

This is an easy five stars from me.  It is my first foray into Beth Underwood’s books and I am kicking myself for allowing her previous book to languish on my shelf unread for so long.  Exquisitely written and intricately plotted, the evocative imagery sets an eerie scene and I felt like I could hear the ghosts whispering their secrets, waiting for their chance to finally be heard.  I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish, my heart aching for these characters, particularly young William Tremain and all he must have gone through on that terrifying night. 

Ivy was a great narrator.  She is a fascinating character and I instantly felt an  emotional connection to her over the death of her only child.  But what could she have done that made not only his death, but marriage to a man she never wanted, to be with the price she deserved to pay for her transgressions?  I never figured it out, the many twists and turns taking me by surprise as she finally lays the spirits of her past to rest with her confessions.  In fact, I found myself so caught up in the story itself I almost forgot there was a mystery surrounding something she’d done as well as the one surrounding who was behind the fire that December night.  What did Ivy know that no one else did? 

Clever, absorbing and utterly mesmerising, The Key in the Lock is an accomplished piece of gothic fiction that keeps you guessing until the very end. Read it now. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Beth Underdown was born in Rochdale in 1987. She studied at the University of York and then the University of Manchester, where she is now a Lecturer in Creative Writing.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is her first novel, and is out with Viking in the UK and Ballantine in the US in Spring 2017. The book is based on the life of the 1640s witch finder Matthew Hopkins, whom she first came across while reading a book about seventeenth-century midwifery. As you do.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| 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

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Book Review: Mrs England by Stacey Halls

Published: June 10th, 2021
Publisher: Manilla Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Mystery
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

I am finally getting around to sharing my review of this spectacular novel. Thank you to Manilla press for the gifted ARC and Jenna at Tasting Notes Book Club for hosting a fantastic readalong and chat.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘Something’s not right here.’
I was aware of Mr Booth’s eyes on me, and he seemed to hold his breath. ‘What do you mean?’
‘In the house. With the family.’

West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England.

Distant and withdrawn, Lilian shows little interest in her children or charming husband, and is far from the ‘angel of the house’ Ruby was expecting. As the warm, vivacious Charles welcomes Ruby into the family, a series of strange events forces her to question everything she thought she knew. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby must face her demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know.

Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric West Yorkshire landscape, Stacey Halls’ third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.

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MY REVIEW:

“I just have a feeling that… That something’s not right here.” 

My love for Stacey Halls is no secret and her debut novel, The Familiars, remains one of my favourite books of all time.  So I had high expectations when this, her third book, was released in June.  She did not disappoint and though it has taken me a long time to get around to sharing this review, Mrs England is one of my favourite books of 2021. 

Atmospheric and eerie, this slow-burning novel sent shivers down my spine.  Though I read it at the height of summer, there is an iciness to it that I felt deep in my bones.  Ms. Halls has said that she immersed herself in the landscape in which she set the novel, living there in complete isolation during the winter of early 2020.  This has certainly shone through in her vivid imagery of the bleak, desolate landscape, and evocative descriptions of the isolation and menace that pervades the halls of Hardcastle House.  Merged with unexpected twists and an air of mystery and foreboding, it comes together to create an irresistible read that I couldn’t put down. 

“I knew about secrets, and I knew, too, how one led to another. I was a fool for thinking she’d have no more.”

As with her previous books, Ms. Halls has taken inspiration from real life and crafted an exquisite work of her own imagination around it.  I won’t tell you about the event that inspired this book as it would spoil one of the biggest twists, but she talks about it in the author’s notes and I loved how it was woven into the story.  In this book she also explores coercive control with an honesty and sensitivity that I appreciated as a survivor of such abuse.  It is clear that she has taken care to research it at length and really helps the reader understand the ways in which both the abusers and those who are abused behave, as well as the ripple effect it has on those around them.

“It was as though I’d stumbled into an upside-down world, where the master has taken the place of the mistress.” 

Ruby May is a fascinating narrator.  Born into an impoverished background, she gained a scholarship to the Norland Institute where she trained as one of it’s prestigious Nurses.  She is clearly still cleaved to her family, not only sending half her wages home, but forced to never be too far away thanks to an invisible chain of guilt forged thanks to mysterious circumstances that are slowly revealed.  Then there is Mrs. Lilian England herself, the antithesis of the stereotypical mistress of the house.  She is an enigma, rarely emerging from her room, and cold and distant to her children.  The strange way in which the whole England household is run perplexes Ruby and because we see the story through her eyes, we are also suspicious of Lilian.  But we soon learn that things aren’t quite what they seem in the England home and I found my view of some of the characters shifted as the truth about this mysterious family unfurled. 

Haunting, evocative, suspenseful and compelling, Stacey Halls has once again shown why she is one of my favourite authors.  Mrs England is a must read for anyone who enjoys well-written historical fiction with a twist.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Stacey Halls was born in Lancashire and worked as a journalist before her debut The Familiars was published in 2019. The Familiars was the bestselling debut hardback novel of that year, won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards’ Debut Book of the Year. The Foundling, her second novel, was also a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Mrs England is her third novel.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles☺️ Emma xxx

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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

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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 Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Shadowing by Rhiannon Ward

Published: September 16th, 2021
Publisher: Trapeze
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Gothic Fiction, Thriller, Ghost Story, Romance Novel
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this haunting gothic mystery. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and Trapeze for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

When well-to-do Hester learns of her sister Mercy’s death at a Nottinghamshire workhouse, she travels to Southwell to find out how her sister ended up at such a place.

Haunted by her sister’s ghost, Hester sets out to uncover the truth, when the official story reported by the workhouse master proves to be untrue. Mercy was pregnant – both her and the baby are said to be dead of cholera, but the workhouse hasn’t had an outbreak for years.

Hester discovers a strange trend in the workhouse of children going missing. One woman tells her about the Pale Lady, a ghostly figure that steals babies in the night. Is this lady a myth or is something more sinister afoot at the Southwell poorhouse?

As Hester investigates, she uncovers a conspiracy, one that someone is determined to keep a secret, no matter the cost…

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MY REVIEW:

“The shadowing had returned.” 

The Shadowing is an atmospheric and absorbing historical gothic mystery overflowing with menace. A story laced with secrets, spirits and sinister happenings, I was drawn in from the first pages right and couldn’t put it down. My mind was full of questions that I needed answers to as desperately as the characters did. And I genuinely had no idea what they were going to be. 

Hester Goodwin lives in Bristol with her wealthy family in a strict Quaker home. Three years ago, her sister Mercy disappeared and none of them have heard from her since, until the day they receive a letter informing them that Mercy has died in Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire. But how did her sister end up in such a place? And how did she die? Searching for answers, Hester travels to Southwell to try and answer their questions, little knowing that she is stepping into a much deeper and darker mystery than she ever imagined. One that involves spectres, missing children and cover ups. 

I’ve been wanting to read Rhiannon Ward’s books since her debut last year so I jumped at the chance when the opportunity to take part in this blog tour arose. My expectations were high and I’m happy to say that she exceeded them with this magnificent novel. Eloquently and evocatively written, it wrenches you out of your own reality and into the one the author created, making you feel like you can feel a ghostly spirit behind you or that you are walking the dank corridors of the workhouse. As the secrets are slowly revealed and Hester brings the women’s plights to light I got goosebumps from the emotion and tension. Their fear was so palpable that I could feel it’s cold claws raking their way down my spine. I was very glad to be reading in the daytime at that point! But, for me, one of the best things about this book is that it genuinely surprised me. I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, so it isn’t often I’m stumped by an author. But Ward had me at a loss, suspicious of everyone and no real idea who was behind it all, and my jaw hit the floor when it was time for the big reveal. 

“Don’t let the angelmaker take my baby. She wants it for her own end. If I see her, it’s already too late. Do you understand?” 

The characters are all richly drawn and compelling, vividly brought to life by the author in such a way that you feel like they are in the room with you. I found Hester to be especially likeable and easy to root for, her naivete giving her an innocent charm that gave her an extra sweetness alongside her courage and determination. The journey to Southwell is a big deal for a woman of her age and standing, and she is both excited and full of trepidation at her task. Her fears only deepen when she arrives at Southwell Workhouse, a gloomy, bleak and eerie place where frightened women tell her stories of ‘the pale lady’ or ‘the angelmaker’, a ghostly figure who takes women’s babies.  Instead of answers about Mercy, she’s left with even more questions about what happened to her beloved sister and vows to keep digging until she uncovers the truth, unaware of just how much danger she’s putting herself in. 

But the pale lady isn’t the only ghostly part of the story. There are also the shadowings, visions of spirits who appear to Hester that she has experienced since childhood. Her father tried to beat them out of her but they return shortly before she learns of her sister Mercy’s death. She is too terrified of further punishments to mention them, and keenly aware that others, not just her father, will see them as the work of the Devil or Witchcraft. So she keeps them to herself, afraid of the consequences of discovery. 

Captivating, dark and haunting, The Shadowing is a sensational gothic mystery with an eerie charm that lingers over every page. Perfect for the cold nights heading our way, this is ideal for reading with a cosy blanket and warm drink by the fire. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rhiannon Ward. As Sarah Ward, I’m the author of the DC Childs crime series set in the Derbyshire Peak District. I’m also the writer of Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.

My gothic thriller, The Quickening, was published by Trapeze as Rhiannon Ward and The Shadowing is coming in September 2021.

Throughout COVID-19, I’ve been talking about all things bookish either online or, more recently, in person. 

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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

Blog Tour: The Woman in the Water by Kelly Heard

Published: July 22nd, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Noir Fiction, Gothic Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle

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

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SYNOPSIS:

How do I keep my family safe, when I don’t know why we’re in danger?

When I get the call, the promise I made to myself to never return to Brightwater is shattered in an instant. The police tell me that my sister Holly slipped and drowned near the old boardwalk, that she was found floating in the dark water of the lake. I am now all my little nieces have left and I need to come home right away, to care for them.

But I know Holly would never have gone out on the water by choice.

As I approach the sign to Brightwater, painful memories start to flood back—of former friends, of my first heartbreak, of dangerous secrets I’d rather forget. Because deep down I know Holly’s death wasn’t an accident. It was a warning. A warning directly aimed at me and those I care about.

I always thought it was just me and Holly who knew what happened all those years ago. But it is clear someone else knows. And they want to make us pay.

But what if the little girls are next? I know I have to protect them. But there are secrets out there in the water. And every one of them could tear our family apart…

An absolutely gripping, twisty psychological thrillerthat will keep you turning the pages late into the night. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the TrainThe Woman in the Window and The Silent Patient.

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MY REVIEW:

Felicity Wheeler returns to her hometown after her sister Holly is found drowned in the swamp. The death is ruled an accident but Felicity knows her sister would never be out on that water, especially in a storm. Not after what happened all those years ago. Returning to take care of her nieces, Felicity begins to investigate her sister’s death. But there is someone who doesn’t want her to find out the truth. Someone who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets hidden. 

The Woman in the Water is a story full of secrets and suspicion. A story about a fractured family, tragic death and search for answers. Told in dual timelines we follow as Felicity returns to a hometown full of painful memories to fulfill her sister’s wishes and try to find out what really happened to her the night she died. It is well written, with some beautiful imagery and prose, and there is a ghostly atmosphere at times that I loved, though I would have liked even more. I did find it predictable in places, but the author leaves  you with enough doubt and questions to keep you turning the pages and invested in the story. 

I liked Felicity. She is flawed, layered and relatable. Before Holly’s death she hadn’t been home since leaving under a cloud of rumour and scandal. In the flashbacks the author slowly unveils the traumatic and life-changing events that broke the sisters’ relationship and led to Felicity leaving home so young. The author acutely conveys the torment and pain it causes Felicity to face her past and be back in her hometown. 

Dark, tense and twisty, this was a quick and entertaining read that fans of the genre will enjoy. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kelly Heard is a novelist from Afton, Virginia. She published poetry in literary magazines before signing her debut novel, Before You Go, with Bookouture.

Kelly prefers writing to most other pastimes, but you’ll occasionally find her in the garden, hiking, or exploring antique shops.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Fragile by Sarah Hilary

In

Published: June 10th, 2021
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction, Gothic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this chilling thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Pan Macmillan for the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Everything she touches breaks . . .

Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong.

So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands.

But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees that he is hiding secrets of his own.

But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easy they can be to break . . .

Fragile is a dark, contemporary psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist from an award-winning and critically acclaimed writer who has been compared to Ruth Rendell, P. D. James and Val McDermid. Rebecca meets The Handmaid’s Tale in Sarah Hilary’s standalone breakout novel.

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MY REVIEW:

“I might wish Meagan in my past, outclassed and outpaced, but she was out there – looking for me. Hunting me, because of what I’d done. Everything I’d done.”

Mysterious, sinister and full of foreboding, Fragile is a story where nothing is quite what it seems. After fleeing her foster home, when Nell finds employment at Starling Villas she hopes she’s found her safe haven. But she soon starts to wonder if her employer is all that he appears to be. But as Nell attempts to unravel the secrets of her new home, her past is catching up with her, threatening to shatter her fragile new-found safety.

Tense, eerie and compelling, this story crackles with suspense. It had me hooked, pulling me under like I was drowning, unable to break free from its hold and reach the surface. The author explores themes of secrets, darkness, shadows, jealousy and vengeance in every facet of the book, using it in both the plot and the characters themselves, skillfully weaving in hidden layers and surprising twists. Using flashbacks she offers the reader pieces of the puzzle, allowing us to try and put it all together. But I found this to be a perplexing tale that was hard to solve and was taken in by many of the perfectly placed red herrings.

“Lyle’s had been held up as an example of how to run a good foster home. Until Little Nell had decided to bring it all crashing down.”

The story is told by two narrators, Nell Ballard and her former foster mother Meagan Flack. Nell’s tough exterior hides a deep vulnerability and pain. Her childhood was far from happy and things didn’t improve when she arrived at her foster home aged eight. Her only real joy were two of the other foster children, but a tragedy that is shrouded in mystery and secrecy has tinged even that with heartache and left her feeling unworthy of happiness. But for all her faults I liked Nell and had a soft spot for her after all she’d been through. Meanwhile Meagan is an immediately unlikeable character. She is a woman consumed by hatred, lacking empathy or compassion. All she wants is revenge on the girl she calls Little Nell for bringing her carefully constructed house of cards crashing down. It broke my heart to think of this person being in charge of the care of such vulnerable and fractured children and the additional damage she will have caused them. 

The other characters were just as well-written, fascinating and full of mystery; particularly Nell’s employer Dr Robin Wilder and his wife Carolyn. The Wilders and their home, Starling Villas, have an ominous and unsettling air about them. Carolyn in particular struck me as a coiled viper just waiting for the right time to strike. There was something calculated, cold and conniving about her and, like Nell, I didn’t like or trust her from the start. Robin was more of an enigma, his true character hidden like the secrets in his boxes.

Chilling, menacing and deftly told, this was a fantastic psychological thriller with a gothic twist. And that ending! Wow. I still have goosebumps. Fans of the genre will love this one for sure. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Hilary’s new standalone Fragile is publishing on 10 June 2021. Mick Herron called it ‘a dark river of a book’ while Erin Kelly said, ‘Timeless, tense and tender, Fragile will worm its way deep into your heart.’

Sarah’s debut Someone Else’s Skin won the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year and was a World Book Night selection and a Richard & Judy Book Club pick. In the US, it was a Silver Falchion and Macavity Award finalist. No Other Darkness was shortlisted for a Barry Award. The sixth in her DI Marnie Rome series Never Be Broken is out now. 

Sarah is one of the Killer Women, a crime writing collective supporting diversity, innovation and inclusion in their industry. She is also part of the team responsible for the St Hilda’s Crime Fiction Weekend in Oxford.

As well as writing, Sarah teaches crime fiction, and mentors its rising stars. Her short stories have won the Cheshire Prize for Literature, the Fish Criminally Short Histories Prize, and the SENSE prize.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*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

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Cover Reveal Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Cover Reveal: Whisper Cottage by Anne Wyn Clark

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the cover reveal for a new gothic thriller coming your way this autumn.

Did you #HearTheWhispers? 🤫

SYNOPSIS:

ow well do you know the woman next door? 

When Stina and Jack move to an old rural cottage, they’re hoping for a fresh start. Their new home is run-down compared to their neighbour’s, but generous Mrs Barley quickly becomes a friend.  
 
Until Stina sees a mysterious figure in the widow’s garden, and her happy new life begins to unravel. And when she hears strange noises in the night, she is forced to question if Mrs Barley is what she seems. 
 
Why do the other villagers whisper about her? Why is she so eager to help the couple? And what is she hiding in her picture-perfect home? 
 
A haunting, twisty story about the power of secrets and rumours, perfect for fans of Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key and Lucy Atkins’s Magpie Lane

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Published September 2nd by Avon Books.

Pre-order the haunting new thriller that will keep you up for hours!
https://amzn.to/3fzirZ7

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Book Review: The Asylum by Karen Coles

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

SYNOPSIS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon*
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Thank you to Welbeck Publishing for the gifted ARC.

Thanks for reading Bibliphiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

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

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

SYNOPSIS:

THE MUST-READ GOTHIC THRILLER OF 2021

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

‘Believe the hype… a masterclass’ KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE

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

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

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

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

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles! Until next time, Emma xxx