Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Foundling by Stacey Halls ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

f3e96ddc

Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Published: February 6th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction 

Today I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for this phenomenal novel. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Bonnier Zaffre for my gifted copy of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

Two women, bound by a child, and a secret that will change everything….

London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst, that Clara has died in care, she is astonished when she is told she has already claimed her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why.

Less than a mile from Bess’s lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart. 

From the bestselling author of The Familiars comes this captivating story of mothers and daughters, class and power, and love against the greatest of odds…

image001

MY REVIEW:

Ms. Halls has once again created a masterpiece. The Foundling is a lush, enthralling and lingering read that left me speechless. It is very different from her debut novel, The Familiars, but again Halls has infused this story with her exquisite, pitch-perfect prose, luring me in slowly until the world outside this novel no longer existed.

The story is narrated by Bess and Alexandra, two very different women from two very different walks of life, and begins on a cold night in November 1747 when Bess, an impoverished shrimp hawker, arrives at the London Foundling Hospital with her newborn daughter, Clara. Unable to raise her she has come for the monthly raffle to try and give her child a chance of survival. When Clara is accepted, Bess vows to one day return and claim back her little girl, leaving behind a token of half a heart made out of whalebone and carved with their initials so she can be identified. Six years later she finally has enough money saved to return but is told that Clara was claimed the day after being left.  And that she was the one who claimed her… 

I don’t want to say much more about the plot as part of the beauty of this book is discovering it as you go along. We know that Clara/Charlotte was taken, so the mystery is why. When the story shifts to Alexandra’s dark, gloomy townhouse that is more like a prison full of fear than a home, we slowly begin unravelling the complex motivations that led to her being taken and discovering if Bess will be reunited with her daughter. 

The two narrators are very different women at opposite ends of the social spectrum.  Both were richly drawn and felt sympathetic and relatable. It was fascinating to read their diverse views on life and motherhood and how differently they dealt with the problems life has thrown their way. Though I wanted Bess to be reunited with her daughter properly, I also could never fully get behind either woman in their battle for the child as they both loved her, wanted what they thought was best and there would be no winners, only losers in this battle. With Clara/Charlotte facing heartache and loss whatever the outcome was. Ultimately the story became more of an exploration of what it really means to be a mother, to want what’s best for your child and what matters most when raising them. 

Halls is a true storyteller who makes reading this book an immersive experience. Her imagery made me feel like I was in The Foundling Hospital with Bess and the other women, in Alexandra’s gloomy townhouse, that I walked the dank, dirty and filthy streets of Georgian London and could smell the decay. I could feel Bess’s anguish as she’s forced to hand over her child, her determination to get her back, Alexandra’s anxieties and fear and was waiting with bated breath as the tension mounted.  She illuminates the huge inequalities between the have and have nots and examines mental health problems at a time they aren’t recognised or understood. 

Utterly magnificent, heart-rending, compelling and cleverly executed, The Foundling is a superior work of gothic fiction. She has created a tender, restrained masterpiece that I have no doubt will have a place in my top 10 books of 2020. This is one you don’t want to miss. READ IT NOW!

Stacey+Halls+new+photo+-+Ollie+Grove+

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also worked as a journalist for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine. TV rights of The Familiars shave been sold to The Bureau production company.

Bought in a nine-way auction, The Familiars was received with much praise and is nominated for an HWA award.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

Website
Instagram
Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon
Waterstones
Book Depository
Kobo
Apple Books
Google Books

Stacey Halls 5.12 (1)

 

Categories
book reviews

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

a8d1030c

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.

Laura+P+author+pic

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),

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:
BUY THE BOOK:
Amazon
Book Depository
Waterstones

Categories
Uncategorised

Emma’s Anticipated Treasures – February 2020

f22413f6

February is even busier than January for books and it was much harder to slim down the ones I’m most excited about. This long list is the smallest I could make it and there were easily at least another six books I could have included. At the time of writing, I have read two of the books on this list – The Foundling and Firewatching – and they more than deserve their places here. 

BEHIND EVERY LIE by Christina McDonald

81odmYF2XUL._AC_UL436_

Published: February 4th, 2020
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
SYNOPSIS:
If you can’t remember it, how do you prove you didn’t do it?

Eva Hansen wakes in the hospital after being struck by lightning and discovers her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street. She can’t remember what happened but the police are highly suspicious of her.

Determined to clear her name, Eva heads from Seattle to London–Kat’s former home–for answers. But as she unravels her mother’s carefully held secrets, Eva soon realizes that someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. And with violent memories beginning to emerge, Eva doesn’t know who to trust. Least of all herself.

Told in alternating perspectives from Eva’s search for answers and Kat’s mysterious past, Christina McDonald has crafted another “complex, emotionally intense” (Publishers Weekly) domestic thriller. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell’s I Found You and Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her, Behind Every Lie explores the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, family trauma, and the danger behind long-held secrets.

THE FOUNDING by Stacey Halls

7187TGCvq6L

Published: February 6th, 2020|
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction.
SYNOPSIS:
Two women, bound by a child, and a secret that will change everything . . .

London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst, that Clara has died in care, she is astonished when she is told she has already claimed her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why.

Less than a mile from Bess’s lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.

From the bestselling author of The Familiars comes this captivating story of mothers and daughters, class and power, and love against the greatest of odds . . .

SAVING MISSY by Beth Morley

cover173029-medium

Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Humourous Fiction.
SYNOPSIS:
Prickly. Stubborn. Terribly lonely.

But everyone deserves a second chance…

A dazzling debut for 2020 – are you ready to meet Missy Carmichael?

Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.

Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.

Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new.

Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?

THE MERCIES by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

cover172574-medium (1)

Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Picador
Genre: Historical Fiction.
SYNOPSIS:
On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves – the menfolk of Vardø wiped out in an instant.

Vardø is now a place of women.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardø to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place flooded with a terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies is a story about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and a love that may prove as dangerous as it is powerful.

THE SISTER’S GRIMM by Menna van Praag

9781787631663

Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: Fantasy
SYNOPSIS:
There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of sisters Grimm on Earth.

You may well be one of them, though you might never know it.

This is the story of four sisters Grimm – daughters born to different mothers on the same day, each born out of bright-white wishing and black-edged desire.

They found each other at eight years-old, were separated at thirteen and now, at nearly eighteen, it is imperative that they find each other once again.

In thirty-three days they will meet their father in Everwhere. Only then will they discover who they truly are, and what they can truly do. Then they must fight to save their lives and the lives of the ones they love. Three will live, one will die.

You’ll have to read on to find out who and why . . .

THE ALIBI GIRL by C. J. Skuse

cover174692-medium

Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Dark Comedy, Coming-of-Age Fiction.
SYNOPSIS:
JOANNE HAYNES HAS A SECRET.

THAT IS NOT HER REAL NAME.

And there’s more. Her flat isn’t hers. Her cats aren’t hers. Even her hair isn’t really hers.

 Nor is she any of the other women she pretends to be. Not the bestselling romance novelist who gets her morning snack from the doughnut van on the seafront. Nor the pregnant woman in the dental surgery. Nor the chemo patient in the supermarket for whom the cashier feels ever so sorry. They’re all just alibis. 

In fact, the only thing that’s real about Joanne is that nobody can know who she really is.

But someone has got too close. It looks like her alibis have begun to run out….

PERFECT KILL  (DI Callanach Book 6) by Helen Fields

cover170254-medium

Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural.
SYNOPSIS:
He had never heard himself scream before. It was terrifying.

Alone, trapped in the darkness and with no way out, Bart Campbell knows that his chances of being found alive are slim.

Drugged and kidnapped, the realisation soon dawns that he’s been locked inside a shipping container far from his Edinburgh home. But what Bart doesn’t yet know is that he’s now heading for France where his unspeakable fate is already sealed…

DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are working on separate cases that soon collide as it becomes clear that the men and women being shipped to France are being traded for women trafficked into Scotland.

With so many lives at stake, they face an impossible task – but there’s no option of failure when Bart and so many others will soon be dead…

GROWN UPS by Marian Keyes

71sUPaebH2L

Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Humourous Fiction.
SYNOPSIS:
They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys.

Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets.

In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?

THE HOUSE OF TRELAWNEY by Hannah Rothschild

919HumIST-L

Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Domestic Fiction, Saga, Satire
SYNOPSIS:
The seat of the Trelawney family for over 800 years, Trelawney Castle was once the jewel of the Cornish coast. Each successive Earl spent with abandon, turning the house and grounds into a sprawling, extravagant palimpsest of wings, turrets and follies.

But recent generations have been better at spending than making money. Now living in isolated penury, unable to communicate with each other or the rest of the world, the family are running out of options. Three unexpected events will hasten their demise: the sudden appearance of a new relation, an illegitimate, headstrong, beautiful girl; an unscrupulous American hedge fund manager determined to exact revenge; and the crash of 2008.

A love story and social satire set in the parallel and seemingly unconnected worlds of the British aristocracy and high finance, House of Trelawney is also the story of lost and found friendships between three women. One of them will die; another will discover her vocation; and the third will find love.

BEAST (Six Stories Book 4) – Matt Wesolowski

41GdniUwF0L

Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Horror, Crime Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction.  SYNOPSIS:
Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the legendary local ‘vampire tower’, in another explosive episode of Six Stories… In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old Vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death. Three young men, part of an alleged ‘cult’, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong.’ However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible. Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses people who knew both the victim and the three killers to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, the tragic and chilling legend of the ‘Ergarth Vampire’… Both a compulsive, taut and terrifying thriller, and a bleak and distressing look at modern society’s desperation for attention, Beast will unveil a darkness from which you may never return…

WRECKAGE by Robin Morgan-Bentley

cover174396-medium

Published: February 6th 2020
Publisher: Trapeze
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
SYNOPSIS:
Things will never be the same again…

Ben is driving on the motorway, on his usual commute to the school where he works.

A day like any other, except for Adam, who in a last despairing act jumps in front of Ben’s car, and in killing himself, turns the teacher’s world upside down.

Wracked with guilt and desperate to clear his conscience, Ben develops a friendship with Alice, Adam’s widow, and her 7-year-old son Max.

But as he tries to escape the trauma of the wreckage, could Ben go too far in trying to make amends?

Gripping and sinister, The Wreckage is guaranteed to keep you up all night…

STRANGE HOTEL by Eimear McBride

31uqDvyBDsL

Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Genre: Literary Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
At the mid-point of her life a woman enters an Avignon hotel room. She’s been here once before – but while the room hasn’t changed, she is a different person now.

Forever caught between check-in and check-out, she will go on to occupy other hotel rooms, from Prague to Oslo, Auckland to Austin, each as anonymous as the last, but bound by rules of her choosing. There, amid the detritus of her travels, the matchbooks, cigarettes, keys and room-service wine, she will negotiate with memory, with the men she sometimes meets, and with what it might mean to return home.

THE FORGOTTEN LETTERS OF ESTHER DURRANT by Kayte Nunn

43605526

Published: February 6th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Domestic Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
A forgotten woman…

1951. Esther Durrant, a young mother, is committed to an isolated mental asylum by her husband. Run by a pioneering psychiatrist, the hospital is at first Esther’s prison but soon becomes her refuge.

A cache of unsent love letters…

2018. When free-spirited marine scientist Rachel Parker is forced to take shelter on a far-flung island off the Cornish Coast during a research posting, she discovers a collection of hidden love letters. Captivated by their passion and tenderness, Rachel is determined to find the intended recipient.

A dangerous secret…

Meanwhile, in London, Eve is helping her grandmother, a renowned mountaineer, write her memoirs. When she is contacted by Rachel, it sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to reveal secrets kept buried for more than sixty years.

THE ANTIDOTE FOR EVERYTHING – Kimmery Martin

517NwDn7RIL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Berkley US
Genre: Medical Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
Urologist Georgia Brown’s sense of self-preservation is kicked into high gear after she’s sexually harassed by a male surgeon at her medical clinic, but her outrage grows when her best doctor friend, Jonah, is dismissed for treating transgender patients. After traveling to Amsterdam to attend a medical conference, Georgia concocts a plan to persuade the board to reverse their decision about Jonah. But when her scheme to teach the hospital administration an important lesson begins to spiral out of control, Georgia worries she’s caused more harm than good. After a medical crisis involving one of her friends, she learns that love and friendship are the antidotes for all the ills in her life.

THE GUEST LIST by Lucy Foley

71vxLTfkLcL

Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Crime Fiction, Domestic Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
On an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater. 

Old friends.
Past grudges.

Happy families.
Hidden jealousies.

Thirteen guests.
One body. 

The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.

All have a secret. All have a motive.

One guest won’t leave this wedding alive . . .

THE HOLDOUT by Graham Moore

48670779._SY475_

Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Legal Thriller, Mystery
SYNOPSIS:
One juror changed the verdict. What if she was wrong?

‘Ten years ago we made a decision together…’
Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar fortune, vanishes on her way home from school. Her teacher, Bobby Nock, is the prime suspect. It’s an open and shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed.

Until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, persuades the rest of the jurors to vote not guilty: a controversial decision that will change all of their lives forever.

Ten years later, one of the jurors is found dead, and Maya is the prime suspect.

The real killer could be any of the other ten jurors. Is Maya being forced to pay the price for her decision all those years ago?

GRACE IS GONE by Emily Elgar

42647723._SY475_

Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Sphere
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
Meg and her daughter Grace are the most beloved family in Ashford, the lynchpin that holds the community together.

So when Meg is found brutally murdered and her daughter missing, the town is rocked by the crime. Not least because Grace has been sick for years – and may only have days to live.

Who would murder a mother who sacrificed everything, and take a teenager away from the medication that could save her life? Everyone is searching for an answer, but sometimes the truth can kill you . . .

DEAR EDWARD by Ann Napolitano

45837015._SY475_

Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Coming-of-Age Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
A luminous, life-affirming novel about a 12-year-old boy who is the sole survivor of a deadly plane crash

One summer morning, a flight takes off from New York to Los Angeles. There are 192 passengers aboard: among them a young woman taking a pregnancy test in the airplane toilet; a Wall Street millionaire flirting with the air hostess; an injured soldier returning from Afghanistan; and two beleaguered parents moving across the country with their adolescent sons, bickering over who gets the window seat. When the plane suddenly crashes in a field in Colorado, the younger of these boys, 12-year-old Edward Adler, is the sole survivor.

Dear Edward depicts Edward’s life in the crash’s aftermath as he struggles to make sense of the meaning of his survival, the strangeness of his sudden fame, and find his place in the world without his family. In his new home with his aunt and uncle, the only solace comes from his friendship with the girl next door, Shay. Together Edward and Shay make a startling discovery: hidden in his uncle’s garage are sacks of letters from the relatives of the other passengers, addressed to Edward.

As Edward comes of age against the backdrop of sudden tragedy, he must confront some of life’s most profound questions: how do we make the most of the time we are given? And what does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

FIREWATCHING – Russ Thomas

Firewatching Cover

Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Police Procedural
SYNOPSIS:
ONE WRONG MOVE

A body is found bricked into the walls of a house. From the state of the hands, it’s clear the dead man was buried alive. Soon, the victim is linked to an old missing person’s case and DS Adam Tyler is called.

WILL IGNITE

As the sole representative of South Yorkshire’s Cold Case Review Unit, Tyler recognises his role for what it is – a means of keeping him out of the way following an ‘incident’. When this case falls in his lap, he grabs the opportunity to fix his stagnating career.

THE CITY

And then Tyler discovers he has a connection to the case that hopelessly compromises him. He makes the snap decision not to tell his superiors, certain that he and only he can solve the crime. But now Tyler must move carefully to find out the truth, without destroying the case or himself.

Meanwhile, someone in the city knows exactly what happened to the body. Someone who is watching Adam closely. Someone with an unhealthy affinity with fire. . .

A taut investigative thriller bursting with character and tension, introducing an enigmatic, fresh lead detective unlike any you have met before – Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler – for fans of Adrian McKinty, Tana French, Steve Cavanagh and Sharon Bolton. 

THE MEMORY WOOD by Sam Lloyd

The Memory Wood Cover

Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
SYNOPSIS:
Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It’s the only home he’s ever known.

Elissa has only just arrived. And she’ll do everything she can to escape.

When Elijah stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa, in the woods where her abductor is hiding her, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn’t want Elissa to leave.

Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn’t the first girl he’s found inside the Memory Wood.

As her abductor’s behaviour grows more erratic, Elissa realises that outwitting strange, lonely Elijah is her only hope of survival. Their cat-and-mouse game of deception and betrayal will determine both their fates, and whether either of them will ever leave the Memory Wood . . .

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MIND by Kerry Daynes

41D2y76jkmL

Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Cassell
Genre: Autobiography, True Crime
SYNOPSIS:
Welcome to the world of the forensic psychologist, where the people you meet are wildly unpredictable and often frightening.

The job: to delve into the psyche of convicted men and women to try to understand what lies behind their often brutal actions.

Following the footsteps of Kerry Daynes, one of the most sought-after forensic psychologists in the business and consultant on major police investigations.

Kerry’s job has taken her to the cells of maximum-security prisons, police interview rooms, the wards of secure hospitals and the witness box of the court room.

Her work has helped solve a cold case, convict the guilty and prevent a vicious attack.

Spending every moment of your life staring into the darker side of life comes with a price. Kerry’s frank memoir gives an unforgettable insight into the personal and professional dangers in store for a female psychologist working with some of the most disturbing men and women.

THE SUN DOWN MOTEL by Simone St James

45885644

Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Berkley US
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Horror
SYNOPSIS:
Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden there. Upstate NY, 2017. Carly Kirk has always been fascinated by her aunt Viv who disappeared from the Sun Down before Carly was born. Using a small inheritance from when her mom dies, Carly leaves college to go to Fell to figure out what happened to her aunt thirty-five years ago. Soon, Carly is mirroring her aunt’s life, working as the night clerk at the motel, which hasn’t changed since 1982. The guest book is still handwritten, the rooms still have actual keys, and a haunting presence still lingers. Carly discovers that Viv had been trying to unravel mysteries of her own – including a possible serial killer working in Fell. If Carly can find the answers Viv was searching for, she might be able to solve the mystery that has haunted her family for years.

THE TEMPLE HOUSE VANISHING by Rachel Donohue

cover172811-medium (1)

Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Corvus
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Coming-of-Age Fiction
SYNOPSIS:
Power. Jealousy. Desire.

Twenty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic teacher disappeared without trace…

When Louisa arrives at Temple House, an elite catholic boarding school, she quickly finds herself drawn to sophisticated fellow pupil Victoria and their young bohemian art teacher, Mr Lavelle. The three of them form a bond that seems to offer an escape from the repressive regime of the nuns who run the cloistered school. Until Louisa and Mr Lavelle suddenly vanish.

Years later, a journalist with a childhood connection to Louisa determines to resolve the mystery. Her search for the truth will uncover a tragic, mercurial tale of suppressed desire and long-buried secrets. It will shatter lives and lay a lost soul to rest.

The Temple House Vanishing is a stunning, intensely atmospheric novel of unrequited longing, dark obsession and unintended consequences.

DEAD RINGER by Nicola Martin

48672039._UY2339_SS2339_

Published: February 27th, 2020
Publisher: Contraband
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
SYNOPSIS:
A pair of doppelgängers. A pack of lies.

The idea is simple, vain, exciting. Tap the app, upload a picture of yourself, find your lookalike. Set up a meeting to see whether you have anything else in common. When Ella and Jem meet, the physical resemblance is uncanny, but their lives couldn’t be more different. One is from a tiny island in a deprived Northern community – pretty much the back of beyond – where she has no job, no boyfriend, limited prospects. The other is a London socialite, an aspiring actress living in a multimillion-pound mansion. By all appearances, she’s living a charmed life, but she’s got some serious sh*t to run away from. Both of them have. Can either hide in her double’s skin? And at what cost? Will it solve any of the problems, or merely compound them? This is an all-too-believable, twisty, compelling story that will leave you reeling.

 

 

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Pine by Francine Toon ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

59dc31ff

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.

00140006-324x400

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.

Twitter
Instagram

BUY THE BOOK

Amazon
Book Depository
Waterstones

Pine BT Poster

Categories
book reviews

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea ⭐⭐⭐⭐

IMG_20191113_220022

SYNOPSIS:

1686, ICELAND, AN ISOLATED, WINDSWEPT LAND HAUNTED BY WITCH TRIALS AND STEEPED IN THE ANCIENT SAGAS.

Betrothed unexpectedly to Jón Eiríksson, Rósa is sent join her new husband in the remote village of Stykkishólmur. Here, the villagers are wary of outsiders. 

But Rósa harbours her own suspicions. Her husband buried his first wife alone in the dead of night. He will not talk of it. Instead he gives her a small glass figurine. She does not know what it signifies.

The villagers mistrust them both. Dark threats are whispered. There is an evil here – Rósa can feel it. Is it her husband, the land – or the villagers?

Alone and far from home, Rósa sees the darkness coming. She fears she will be its next victim…

MY REVIEW:

Life in 17th Century Iceland is hard and unforgiving: food is scarce and both the landscape and the sea can be perilous.  Following her father’s death, Rósa and her mother are slowly starving until she marries Jón Eiríksson, the recently widowed chieftain of Stykkishólmur – trading her freedom to save her ailing mother. Jón is a stranger to Rósa and she’s fearful of this large man she must now call husband. She feels the shadow of his first wife, Anna, looming over her. The rumours surrounding her life and death haunt Rósa and she lives in fear that she too will mysteriously vanish overnight at the hands of her husband. Alone in the croft she is haunted by eerie breaths and whispers behind her and the echoes of footsteps. She also hears sounds and scratching coming from the loft that Jón is determined to keep secret. What is he hiding behind that locked door?  

Mesmerising, eerie, claustrophobic, enchanting and remarkable, this was far from the predictable gothic tale I thought it would be. Just as I was certain I knew what was going on the author threw me for a loop with a surprising twist – something she did multiple times over the course of the book. Exquisitely written with beautiful, haunting prose and wonderfully plotted, this novel had me captivated from the first pages. 

It is a story steeped in history, suspicion and tradition, set in a time where Christianity has been ushered in and the traditional gods and runes are frowned upon and only practiced in secret. Rósa is a woman torn between those worlds and with the witch trials a recent memory and the village suspicious of her, she fears she will be the next person to be tried and executed; a fear that emanates from the pages making your heart race with hers.

The characters are engaging and well written. Every one of them brings something important to the story, however small their part. Jón’s first wife Anna may have passed away but she haunts Rósa and there are still whispers about her in the village, making the mysterious woman one of the story’s main characters. I liked Anna and was moved by what she went through. She is a woman who reads and wants independence living in a time women are still expected to be uneducated and have to marry to survive. She is a strong woman but also still a frightened young girl completely alone in her new home. The author uses the bleak and merciless landscape, which feels like a character in its own right, to convey Rósa’s isolation and help us understand her unease and sense of peril. 

Jón was one of the characters I could never quite figure out. Was he a villain or is he misunderstood? As we learned more about his past I did warm to him a little but always had a sense of trepidation about him and felt suspicious of many of his actions. But was this just the difference in our culture and theirs or was it that he was truly someone to be afraid of? I could never decide. HIs apprentice and friend Pétur was another enigma. He would go from seeming like a kind, genuine person to someone who was strange and sinister like the flick of a switch. I did find that I understood these traits more as I learned his backstory but I never knew if he could be trusted. 

In an era where marriage is for convenience and survival rather than happiness,Jón and Rósa face the greater struggle of having a marriage that contains five people – themselves, Anna, Pétur and Páll (Rósa’s cousin). I know it is a time where women are expected to put up and shut up but Rósa seems to not be someone who is able to do that. She’s too curious. Too much of a thinker. It made me worried for her and I spent the whole book convinced that it was her body the men were retrieving from the water in the prologue. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it by telling you if I was right or not.

I absolutely loved this spellbinding novel. I loved being in the dark waiting for all to be revealed so the unpredictability made it all the more exciting. This is a magnificent debut from a wonderful new talent. I can’t wait to read what she does next and can’t recommend this novel highly enough.

Out now

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

IMG_20191109_001139

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this breathtaking novel. Thank you to Steven at Hodder & Stoughton for the invitation to take part and for my gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters — the Bronte sisters — learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance. 

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors”. Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives in great peril.

BronteSisters

MY REVIEW:

From the words of Haworth Parsonage, December, 1851, I was transported back in time into the world of Victorian Yorkshire and the escapades of the three infamous Bronte sisters. Steeped in mystery and gothic ambience, this luminous novel was one of the highlights of my reading year. 

A gruesome discovery of a bedroom covered in blood, a missing woman feared murdered and a maid left traumatised are the chilling start to the story giving an immediate air or horror and mystery.  We then go back to Haworth where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte are all living back at the parsonage for the first time in years. They live a quiet life and spend their time together writing stories and poems and reading. Which is exactly what they’re doing when their brother Branwell bursts in telling them about the disappearance and probable murder just a few miles away. The sisters are horrified, yet also intrigued, and after visiting the scene they decide to become “lady detectors”. The will use their intellect and imagination to discover the fate of Elizabeth Chester, second wife of Robert and mother of two young sons.

Their investigations take them far afield and place them in danger but the sisters feel it is their Christian duty to find answers, plus they’re also really enjoying themselves. The sisters’ very different personalities and strengths assist them in their investigation, calling on the assistance of their errant brother Branwell when needed. There are an array of suspects but they follow the clues they seem to find more questions rather than answers, making them wonder if they will ever learn the fate of Elizabeth Chester. But startling and salacious revelations begin to emerge, and the astonishing truth is finally unveiled…

This novel made my heart sing. As soon as I heard about it I knew was one I had to read. A mix of my favourite genres by one of my favourite authors? It sounded like a dream come true. And it was. It is an original look at three of our most famous writers and I delighted in every moment. The author’s love and extensive knowledge of the Brontes radiated from every page and I particularly loved how she included nods to their future stories and fame in their conversations. Her ability to bring Howarth and the moors to life with her vivid imagery made me feel like I was walking on those bleak windswept hills with the sisters. 

I enjoyed reading a Victorian era detective story with female leads. It was a time when women are still considered the property of men and to be lesser beings. They were not encouraged to think and a meek, silent woman who existed almost invisibly was the ideal. This is both a help and hindrance in their detecting as while they are able to go virtually unnoticed, they are also met with opposition, usually men, and found people unwilling to talk with meer women. The sisters are strong, lively, intelligent, enterprising and visionary which makes them ideal for a job that is new and visionary in itself. The sisters each narrated the story allowing us to get to know them as individuals rather than simply being just one of the Bronte sisters and also offered a glimpse into their family dynamic.

The Vanished Bride is a creative, mysterious, witty, compelling and glorious tale. The author writes with elegant prose that is bathed in history and atmosphere, kept me guessing from start to finish and delivered surprises at every turn. I have fallen in love with the Bronte sisters as detector and hope that this is the start of a long running series. 

Out now.

2199518

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bella Ellis is the Brontë inspired pen name for the award winning, Sunday Times bestselling author Rowan Coleman. A Brontë devotee for most of her life, Rowan is the author of fourteen novels including The Memory Book, The Summer of Impossible Things and The Girl at the Window.

TVB_BlogTour_2-02

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour Review: The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox ⭐⭐⭐⭐

a8c7618c

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour. Thank you to HQ Stories for the invitation to take part and my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

A town gripped by fear. A woman accused of murder. Who can save Pale Harbour from itself?

1846. Desperate to escape the ghosts of his past, Gabriel Stone takes a position as a minister in the remote Pale Harbour, but not all is as it seems in the sleepy town.

As soon as Gabriel sets foot in the town, he can’t escape the rumours about the mysterious Sophy Carver, a young widow who lives in the eerie Carver Castle: whispers that she killed her husband, mutterings that she might even be a witch.

But as strange, unsettling events escalate into murder, Gabriel finds himself falling under Sophy’s spell. As clues start to point to Sophy as the next  victim, Gabriel realises he must find answers before anyone else turns up dead.

MY REVIEW:

Witchcraft, suspicion and secrets abound in this dark, atmospheric thriller that is a perfect autumn read. 

“He wasn’t sure why he was drawn to the house on the hill, but his feet carried him there as if they knew the answer.”

A reclusive, wealthy widow that is the subject of whispered accusations and rumour, and a transcendentalist minister new to town and in search of redemption, are our narrators in this shadowy tale. As soon as Gabriel Stone, a widower himself, hears the rumours about Sophroina ‘Sophy’ Carver he is fascinated by the curious widow who lives a reclusive life on the hill. From the moment they meet there is a spark between them and the pair find themselves dreaming up ways to see each other.

As the pair become increasingly smitten,  the mystery of the dead animals and birds and the effergies left around the town deepens. The townspeople are still convinced it can only be Sophy and think that she has bewitched Gabriel, but he sees how she is being targeted and, as they try to fight their feelings, they begin to work together in secret to search for answers. But, as things escalate, people are found dead and notes reveal Sophy is in their sights, the search for the culprit takes becomes imperative. 

“Now that she had broken through her wall of fear, the freedom was intoxicating.”

I loved the character of Sophy. She has been damaged by what has happened in her life but seems to glide above it all gracefully. She is misunderstood and maltreated but remains kind, quietly doing what she can to help those she cares for. Gabriel took me some time to warm up to. I didn’t dislike him, but I didn’t really care for him either at first. But as he found the voice to stand against the entire town in defense of Sophy, I began to see his strength and decency shine through. There were some great secondary characters in this novel too. One that stood out for me was Helen, Sophy’s maid and companion. She’s a strange character and I was never quite sure if I trusted her or if I was misinterpreting her over-protectiveness to be something sinister. I like that she wasn’t someone I could figure out, just like I couldn’t shake my suspicions of a number of the others.

“It was not a particularly welcoming place, but now a sense of wrongness took hold of him, as if he were not supposed to be here. As if something did not want him here.”

Part romance and part mystery, this historical, Gothic fiction novel has all the right ingredients for spooky read. The author builds vivid imagery of Pale Harbour as ghostly and unwelcoming from the start. It isn’t a place I’d want to wander through alone at night. Despite this the book started started slower than I would have liked, and for a long time it felt like the love story rather than a gothic novel. But as the author turned up the suspense and built up the eerie and foreboding atmosphere I love in Gothic fiction, I found myself turning the pages as fast as possible and unable to put the book down. I was hooked and on the edge of my seat as we reached the heart-stopping conclusion. 

Publication Date: October 17th

HesterFox

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hester Fox comes to writing from a background in the museum field as a collections maintenance technician.

This job has taken her from historic houses to fine art museums, where she has the privilege of cleaning and caring for collections that range from paintings by old masters, to ancient artefacts, to early American furniture.

She is a keen painter and has a master’s degree in historical archaeology, as well as a background in Medieval studies and art history. Hester lives outside of Boston with her husband and two cats.

The Widow of Pale Harbour Blog Banner

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour Review: The Familiars by Stacey Halls ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

QuotePhoto64511b2d

Today is the first day of the blog tour to celebrate the release of what’s been called “the most spellbinding debut novel of 2019” in paperback and I’m excited to share my thoughts. Thank you to Compulsive Readers Blog Tours for the invitation to take part and to Bonnier Zaffre for my gifted copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all…

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and prove the physician wrong.  

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

IMG_20190818_122958_815

MY REVIEW:

The Familiars is one of those books that is a work of sheer beauty. I was in love before I’d even read a word and could tell that reading it was going to be an experience. And I was right. It was lyrical, atmospheric, addictive, extraordinary and simply breathtaking; the story every bit as beautiful as the book.  I devoured it within a day – living within its pages and drowned in its words. A remarkable and unforgettable debut novel that was a joy to read. 

“The king has muddled wise women with witchcraft.”

Based around the true events of the Pendle Witch Trials, the author has blended fact and fiction to create a masterpiece. Though beautiful, it is also a dark story of prejudice, injustice and misogyny. It reveals how women were penalised for what they knew and helping others through things like midwifery. The men in charge were threatened by this and called what they did witchcraft so they could round them up and charge them with a crime where they’d created the perfect outcome – death whether you were guilty or innocent. The book also explores why so many women charged with witchcraft would confess and the lengths the witch hunters would go to in order to “prove” someone guilty. 

The novel also showcases other realities of life for women of that era. So much was expected so young and at just thirteen Fleetwood was married to her second husband,  without any say in the matter. At seventeen she’s pregnant with her fourth child and worried for her position if she doesn’t provide her husband with an heir. It was a sobering reminder of how little autonomy women had at that time over their bodies and their lives, and that their position was always precarious and dependent on men. I found it fascinating when Fleetwood observed that while she is seen as lucky to me married to a man with money and have her own household, poor women actually have more freedom – they are free to choose a husband out of love and aren’t traded as a way to climb the social ladder. I imagine no one would ever have expected Fleetwood to envy Alice’s position in life and it’s a reminder that things are all about perspective. 

“At four feet and eleven inches, everyone I met was taller than me, though I did not intimidate easily.” 

I loved Fleetwood. She is formidable, fierce and a fighter. I loved that she didn’t let her size stop her and coming in at four feet and nine and a half inches myself, I felt an affinity and solidarity with her from the start. She is a woman ahead of her time in how she sees the witch trials and I admired that she didn’t feel she could sit idly by and not do something; though I do think she finds this strength to act because Alice is her friend and midwife rather than a stranger. My heart broke for her losing three babies before we meet her and for all she had been through at such a young age. It must have been terrifying for her to be pregnant and not really know anything about childbirth except that a lot of women don’t survive. When I learned that she was based on a real person I fell in love with her even more and plan to find out more. 

“I felt the baby move, and was aware at once that while all three of us were here and alive now – Alice, the baby and I – one day very soon we might not be, and there was no way of telling which of us would make it.” 

I really  liked the strange friendship that grew between Fleetwood and Alice. At the beginning of the book, Fleetwood is  lonely and wants nothing more than to have a friend she can confide in, so she found what she needed twofold when she met Alice – a midwife and a friend. Alice is a more mysterious character but we do know she is strong, loyal and kind. I always got the sense she genuinely wanted to help Fleetwood.  Their relationship was the heart of the story and I felt more invested in it than any other relationship in the book. The author had me on tenterhooks time and again as the women put themselves on the line and remained steadfast in their support of one another. 

The Familiars was my 100th read of the year and is definitely in my top ten for the year. I was enchanted by the author’s flawless storytelling and was instantly transfixed. The agony, apprehension, fear, rage and determination dripped from every page. It is a gem of a novel that I urge everyone to read. 

Paperback out September 24th

staceyhalls

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She has always been fascinated by the Pendle witches. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at Stylist.co.uk, and has also written for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine, where she now works as Deputy Chief Sub Editor. The Familiars is her first novel. You can find her on Instagram @staceyhallsauthor and Twitter @stacey_halls

The Familiars

As part of the media campaign for the paperback release of The Familiars, Stacey has asked people to use the hashtag #FWordsHavePower and share their powerful F words.  Below is an excerpt from her email:

Some of the most powerful words in the English Language begin with ‘F’. My debut novel The Familiars has F-words in abundance! For a start there’s Fleetwood, the main character, who is female and fiery, and her friendship with Alice, who may or may not have a fox familiar. There are themes of feminine fury, fates intertwined, failure . . . you get the idea.

These are the F words she shared to describe the novel: 

She asked us to share our own F words on social media. My F word was almost Fibromyalgia because it colours so much of my life, but instead I chose the word that describes who I’ve been since before I was born: 

fighter

Comment below with your F word (keep it clean lol).

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour Review: A Shadow on the Lens by Sam Hurcom ⭐⭐⭐⭐

QuotePhotob72a7ac9

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this debut novel. Thank you to Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and to Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for my ARC copies of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

The Postmaster looked over my shoulder. As I turned to look I saw a flicker of movement from across the street. I felt unseen eyes peer at me. He walked away without another word. I watched as he climbed on his bicycle and sped away down the street. I turned back and looked over my shoulder.

Someone had been watching us.

1904 . Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, is called to the sleepy and remote Welsh village of Dinas Powys, several miles down the coast from the thriving port of Cardiff. A young girl by the name of Betsan Tilny has been found murdered in the woodland – her body bound and horribly burnt. But the crime scene appears to have been staged, and worst still, the locals are reluctant to help.

As the strange case unfolds, Thomas senses a growing presence watching him, and try as he may, the villagers seem intent on keeping their secret. Then one night, in the grip of a fever, he develops the photographic plates from the crime scene in a makeshift darkroom in the cellar of his lodgings. There, he finds a face dimly visible in the photographs,  a face hovering around the body of the dead girl – the face of Betsan Tilny.

ASOTL

MY REVIEW:

“He never left, he still remains. The demon of this village.”

Murder mystery meets supernatural thriller and gothic fiction in this chilling tale. Thomas Bexley is writing his story a decade after the events take place, using his diary entries for reference and we see extracts at various points in the book. He begins with a note addressing the reader directly and I loved the promises of the chilling, dark and sinister things to come. This is the first time he’s really spoken about what happened during that strange case and he admits to feeling concerned about how he will be viewed once he reveals the truth of all that transpired. 

Forensic photography is still in its infancy and Bexley, known in the field for his eye for detail and his gift for putting the evidence together, is a specialised investigator who is sent to assist with serious crime cases across the country. When Betsan Tilny is brutally murdered in the isolated Welsh village of Dinas Powys, Bexley is called to help solve the crime. But on his arrival he’s dismayed to find that those in charge seem to resent his presence. They’ve made up their mind who committed the crime and see Thomas as an unnecessary complication stirring up trouble and not understanding how they do things. 

Soon after his arrival Bexley has a sense of being watched, which only increases over time. He also comes down with a fever that inhibits his ability to work and forces him to take to his bed. And is it this fever that is making him imagine seeing the ghost of Betsan Tilny? He’s a man of science and doesn’t believe in such nonsense and decides that it is a manifestation of his fever.  But he can’t shake the fear that what he’s seeing is all too real and the victim trying to tell him something. Impeding his investigation is the unwillingness of the villagers to assist in the investigation. They’re hiding something, maybe even harbouring a killer, and Bexley is determined to get to the bottom of it.

Bexley is a serious, focused man who has no time to make friends or laze about. He’s there to do an important job in a thorough manner and will not let anything get in his way, not even being so sick he can barely stand. He was a great protagonist and I liked that unlike most others he saw no correlation between Betsan’s rumoured promiscuity and her death, reminding people repeatedly that nothing gives anyone the right to rape or kill another and nothing someone does mean they deserve such things happening to them. I was glad she had Thomas in her corner, fighting to find the truth and bring her killer to justice when others were glad of an easy way out and eager to brush the whole thing under the carpet. 

Councilman Robert Cummings is a loathsome character. He is the polar opposite of Thomas and seems completely uninterested in solving the crime. He makes no secret of the fact that he doesn’t want Thomas there, his repulsion of the victim, or that he’s made up his mind about who killed Betsan no matter what the evidence shows. He goes out of his way to prevent a real investigation and Thomas wonders if Cummings is the reason everyone is reluctant to talk to him. Like Thomas I was suspicious of what he really knew and what he didn’t want him to unearth. 

As truths were slowly revealed and the secrets of the village begin to be brought to light, the book became increasingly hard to put down. I was gripped and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. A brilliant debut that is a superb mix of some of my favourite genres and one I would recommend. The atmospheric prose made me feel fully immersed in the story and there was an eeriness throughout. This is one of those books you need to read with the lights on. 

Publication Date: September 5th.

Sam-Hurcom-634x900

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sam Hurcom was born in Dinas Powys, South Wales in 1991. He studied Philosophy at Cardiff University, attaining both an undergraduate and master’s degree. He has since had several short stories published and has written and illustrated a number of children’s books. Sam currently lives in the village he was raised in, close to the woodlands that have always inspired his writing.

A Shadow on the Lens is Sam’s debut novel.

SOTL Blog Asset

Categories
book reviews

Review: ‘The Girl at the Window’ by Rowen Coleman ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

IMG_20190828_152708

SYNOPSIS:

A house full of history is bound to have secrets…

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead. 

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of  lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

A hauntingly beautiful story of love and hope, from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Memory Book and The Summer of Impossible Things.

MY REVIEW:

Rowan Coleman blends fact and fiction to create a breathtaking novel that captivated my soul. A story that is part non fiction, part gothic fiction, part historical fiction and part family saga, the writing is atmospheric, eloquent, lyrical and poetic with just the right amount of goosebump-inducing terror.

Told by multiple narrators over three timelines, this is the story of Ponden Hall and some of the many people who have occupied its walls. Built by the Heatons in 1540, the family have lived there ever since. It is also the place that Emily Bronte would come to use the library and where she wrote her classic novel, Wuthering Heights. The infamous house felt like a character in its own right, and it when it spoke it gave me chills. 

Trudy has always been fascinated with her ancestral home and with the Brontes – Emily in particular. As a young girl she would whisper her secrets to her, imagining her walking the halls as she did. Though Trudy is reluctant to live with her estranged mother Mariah, she is happy to be back at Ponden Hall as its always been home. She immediately feels a peace upon returning and, once again, speaks to it like an old friend. One day, Trudy makes a startling discovery – two pages of writing bound in leather, one of which she instantly recognises as being written by none other than Emily Bronte. The other was written by a girl named Agnes who says she used to live in the house two hundred years before Emily visited. What is Agnes’ story? And could this lead Trudy to the infamous and elusive second manuscript of Emily Bronte? 

This is the second novel I’ve read by this author. I fell in love with Rowan’s writing style when I read The Summer of Impossible things last year and after reading this book I know that it wasn’t a one off. Her prose is a joy to lose myself in every page is filled with heart and emotion. In this book there was the addition of the stunning scene setting – everything from the descriptions of the house and landscape to her mother’s appearance was vivid and immersive. 

The author’s love of Ponden Hall, Wuthering Heights, and the Brontes shines through every page of this novel. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never got around to reading Wuthering Heights but have since bought it, as well as another based on Heathcliff, and can’t wait to read them and learn more. Her passion is contagious.

Having three narrators from different timeline was a choice I loved. I really liked each of them and thought each woman brought something important to the story. Though each was born hundreds of years apart and lived very different lives, they were also similar in many ways. Both of the older timelines were well researched and felt authentic. I felt like I was actually reading things that Emily Bronte and a girl from the 1600s had written and experienced. The supporting characters were all just as well written as the narrators. I loved young Will particularly and enjoyed the honesty he brought to the story in a way that only a child of that age can. He was unafraid to ask difficult questions or say things adults avoided and never doubted that the things he saw and experienced were real. He gave Trudy a reason to carry on after Abe’s death and a reason to return to Ponden Hall. Without these things she may never have made her discoveries.

I also really enjoyed the flashbacks that told Trudy and Abe’s love story. I liked the fact that Abe was a real character we got to know and not just Trudy’s late husband or Will’s late father. Those stories also gave us greater insight into who Trudy is, why she hadn’t returned to Ponden Hall in so many years, and why she and her mother are estranged. I have wondered about the author’s inspiration for how they fell in love as it was so romantic, wistful and funny. 

In The Girl at the Window the author has blended fact with fiction to create a haunting and enchanting story. It was a book where I relished every word and never wanted it to end. I don’t think I can do more to describe how much I love this book or how exquisitely written it is, so I’m going to finish by saying that you should go read this book now! Just be prepared to fall in love. 

Thank you to Ebury Press and Penguin UK for my gifted copy of this book.

Out now.  

RowanColeman.jpg

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family. She longs to live at Ponden Hall.

She is the bestselling author of THE MEMORY BOOK, WE ARE ALL MADE OF STARS and the critically acclaimed THE SUMMER OF IMPOSSIBLE THINGS. 

Find out more about Rowan at http://www.rowancoleman.co.uk, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter: @rowancoleman.