I can’t quite believe that I’m doing my June wrap up and that we’re half way through the year already. One of the hardest things I had to do this month was to decide my list of favourite reads so far, so look out for that post coming soon. It was another great reading month for me and I read a total of 15 books. I enjoyed them all and most of them were four stars or above.
Threadneedle by Cari Thomas
Threadneedle was one of my most anticipated books this year. The first book in the exciting new Language of Magic Series, it is a story of secrets, lies and self-discovery interwoven with a hidden magical world. It is a magical and bewitching story that slowly hooks the reader in as the author introduces us to the characters and the hidden magical world around us. I loved the world building and following Anna on her journey and can’t wait to see what the author has in store for book two. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5 Read my review here Buy the book*
One Last Time by Helga Flatland
Beautiful, moving and heartfelt, One Last Time is a portrait of an ordinary family dealing with the realities of terminal illness. This was my first foray into Helga Flatland’s books, and I was struck by the beauty, warmth and compassion with which she writes. She skillfully created a book centred around terminal illness that manages to be elegant, poignant and funny that I would highly recommend. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book
The Forever Home by Sue Watson
Taut tense and twisty, this gripping thriller that had me hooked. It was my first time reading this author and I enjoyed her compelling characters and how she kept me guessing. I will definitely be reading more of her books. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book*
The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
The Wolf Den was another of my most anticipated books this year and I was also excited as it was the first read with the SquadPod Book Club. It did not disappoint. I am yet to post my review as I am struggling to do the book justice. It is an absolute masterpiece. Lush, evocative and enthralling, I couldn’t get enough of Amara and the women who worked at the Wolf Den. It felt like I had been transported back in time and was walking on Pompeii’s dusty streets alongside them. And that ending. Omg! I am so relieved that this is a trilogy as I have to know what is next for Amara and the others. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Keep an eye out for my review soon Buy the book*
Fragile by Sarah Hilary
Nothing was what it seemed in this mysterious and sinister thriller that had a chilling gothic twist. The suspense crackled on every page and the author had me in the palm of her hand. It was a perplexing tale full of red herrings that kept me guessing right until the end. Fans of the genre will love this book. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book*
Everything Happens For A Reason by Katie Allen
I am still shook that this extraordinary novel is a debut. It seeped into my heart and soul and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The author bravely draws on her own experiences of grief and losing a child to tell Rachel’s story, injecting an authenticity into the book that is searing. It took me through a kaleidoscope of emotions, including tears, but this book is far from depressing. Sharp, witty, sarcastic and full of dark humour, you will laugh as often as you cry. Maybe more. Everything Happens For A Reason is a powerful, moving and unforgettable story that everyone should read. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book
The Stranding by Kate Sawyer
This glorious debut was nothing like I was expecting. It was better. Captivating, imaginative and original, The Stranding is a richly imagined and evocative tale about the end of the world. It follows two survivors, Ruth and Nik, as they attempt to navigate this new existence alongside a complete stranger. An absolute triumph, this swept me away. This is a debut you don’t want to miss. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book*
Murder at the Fair by Verity Bright
This was another witty, fun and compelling cozy mystery in the Lady Eleanor Swift series. I love the combination of historical fiction and mystery and even after just two books, this feels like putting on a cosy cardigan and sitting by the fire. Great as a standalone or part of the series. Rating: ✮✮✮.5 Read my review here Buy the book*
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
I’ve been listening to the fifth book in the Harry Potter series on audio for a few months now. I often listen at night as I fall asleep, which is why it’s taken so long to get through it. I love the Harry Potter films and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios was one of my favourite parts of our 2016 visit to Florida, but I’d never finished reading the books. I decided to start where I left off reading in audio as I knew that sitting down with one of the books is something I’m not as likely to do. I loved Stephen Fry’s narration and thought it was a fantastic adaptation that was entertaining and compelling. I’ve downloaded the next book in the series and am looking forward to listening to that next. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Buy the book*
Suspects by Lesley Pearse
Suspects is an ensemble piece told in the third person, all of the residents of the idyllic Willow Close narrate the story, slowly unveiling the secrets they are hiding behind their picture-perfect facades as the police try to solve the murder of thirteen-year-old Chloe Church, who lived on the close. This was an entertaining and steadily paced whodunnit I’d recommend for those who like their mysteries without gore. Rating: ✮✮✮.5 Read my review here Buy the book*
Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza
I read Shadow Sands as part of a buddy read organised by the Tandem Collective and devoured this fast-paced and addictive thriller. I really enjoyed the first installment in this series, so I had high hopes for book two. Thankfully, the author delivered once again and I couldn’t put it down. My review will be posted soon, but I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys tense and twisty thrillers. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Buy the book*
The Beresford by Will Carver
Wow. Just wow. Will Carver is a twisted genius, and The Beresford is another outstanding and original novel from one of the most unique voices in Fiction and his best book yet. I’ve never read anything like this and it’s taking me some time to put into words what I thought of this book, so the full review will probably be up closer to publication day, which is July 22nd. What I can tell you, is that you need to read this book! Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Buy the book
One Child Alive by Ellery Kane
I didn’t need anther crime series when I read the first installment of the Rockwell and Decker series, but I’m so glad I started it. This is a compelling series with great characters, back stories and plots that are readable, tense and twisty. One Child Alive is an exciting, fast-paced thriller that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys the genre. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book*
Truth or Dare by M. J. Arlidge
The DI Helen Grace series has been a favourite of mine ever since I read the first book and anything the author writes is a must read for me. Truth or Dare is the tenth book in the series and sees Helen under pressure like never before. Not only is there an unprecedented crime wave sweeping the city, but she’s facing mounting tension in her personal life and fighting for her career and reputation. Once again, M. J. Arlidge has written a dark and cunningly crafted novel that weaves multiple plot lines together in unexpected ways. An unmissable read for anyone who loves crime fiction. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book*
This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech
This Is How We Are Human is a truly astonishing novel that explores the nuances and complexities of being human. Full of heart, warmth and wisdom, this beautiful story is one you will never forget. I really can’t say much in a short paragraph about this book, it needs so much more, so please go and read my full review. But I can tell you that this is a story that needed to be told and one that needs to be read. It is one I believe will help create more awareness and compassion for those who are neuro-diverse and I am so grateful to Ms Beech for writing it. It is quite simply one of the best books I have ever read. Go and read it. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book
With so many five-star reads that made it onto my favourite books that were also some of my favourites this year, choosing a book of the month was no easy task. I had five contenders: The Wolf Den, The Beresford, The Stranding, Everything Happens For A Reason and This Is How We Are Human. After a lot of consideration, I narrowed it down to two and chose The Wolf Den and This Is How We Are Human as my books of the month.
What did you read in June? Did we read any of the same books? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading this month’s wrap up. Seeyou next month😊 Emma xxx
Thank you to the publishers for my gifted proof copies and eBook ARCS.
Published: May 27th, 2021 Publisher: Harper Voyager Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Fairy Tale, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy, Horror Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story, Fantasy Series Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this enchanting tale. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Harper Voyager UK for the gorgeous proof.
Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.
‘Magic and love. Love and magic. They destroy everything in the end …’
Anna’s Aunt has always warned her of the dangers of magic. Its twists. Its knots. Its deadly consequences.
Now Anna counts down the days to the ceremony that will bind her magic forever.
Until she meets Effie and Attis.
They open her eyes to a London she never knew existed. A shop that sells memories. A secret library where the librarian feeds off words. A club where revellers lose themselves in a haze of spells.
But as she is swept deeper into this world, Anna begins to wonder if her Aunt was right all along.
Is her magic a gift … or a curse?
“Goddess of Silence and Secrets: Seal our mouths, so we can’t speak. Pierce our eyes, so we can’t seek. Knot our hearts, so we can’t feel. Bind our spells; to you we kneel. What is forgotten, can’t be known. What isn’t planted, can’t be sown. Lock the door and turn the key. We bear our magic silently. – The Binders’ Blessing”
This first installment in the new Language of Magic series tells the story of Anna, an orphaned fifteen-year-old who lives with her Aunt, Vivienne. They are witches, but Aunt believes magic to be dangerous and deadly, and has brought Anna up to fear her powers. When she turns sixteen Anna will undergo the Knotting ceremony and become a Binder like her Aunt, no longer able to use her magic. But when her late mother’s best friend Selene moves back to London with her teenage daughter Effie and Attis, a family friend, Anna’s eyes are opened to a world she’s never known.
Meanwhile, a group of six women are found hanged at Big Ben, sending her Aunt and the Binders into a frenzy. As Anna begins to question the things she has been told about both magic and her past, she starts to wonder if there could be a future out there for her that doesn’t include having her magic bound.
“Whispers divide, in secrets we thrive.”
Before we talk about the book we need to talk about the cover. Both the proof and the finished version are so beautiful that it is impossible to resist their allure. But what about what’s inside?
Threadneedle is a story of secrets, lies and self-discovery interwoven with a hidden magical world. It opens with an eerie and macabre scene that gives the book an air of ominous foreboding and mystery. After that, things slow down a little as the author sets the scene for the reader. But when I got to about a fifth of the way through, the pace picked up and the story was soon sizzling with tension, twists and mischief.
Magic had beckoned its hand and she had followed. It was a beginning — the door was ever so slightly ajar.”
Anna is a very sheltered character. She has been controlled and mistreated by her Aunt all her life, even believing it is wrong to have friends. The author immerses the reader in the indoctrination Anna has been subjected to by starting each chapter with a quote from The Book of the Binders and the teachings are woven into every thread of the story, omnipresent and impossible to escape, enabling you to understand Anna’s feelings of fear and powerlessness. When the outgoing and spirited Effie and Attis come into her life, they are initially unwelcome and a danger to her protected bubble. But once Effie has identified Rowan and Miranda as witches and the four of them come together, things slowly change. For the first time in her life Anna has friends, feels happy, and is making some of her own choices; though she is still terrified of the consequences should her Aunt find out. I enjoyed watching Anna’s journey as she grappled with the lies she’s been told, began to break free of her Aunt’s control and finally blossomed into her own person.
Aunt Vivienne is a truly vile character. She is so well-written that I despised her and wished for her downfall. In fact she was so evil that I felt like if you unzipped her a demon would emerge. The women of the Binders have an equally malevolent and sinister vibe and together they would send shivers down my spine as they subjected poor Anna to yet more trauma.
“This was magic without bounds, without rules, magic fed by something else entirely.”
The magical world that the author has created is so believable that I accepted it without hesitation. I could imagine all of these secret, mystical places hidden in London and the witches moving amongst ordinary humans without detection. There is so much potential in this world and the characters for her future books and I’m excited to see where she takes it.
A magical, mysterious and bewitching story full of serpentine twists, Threadneedle is an enthralling story that I would highly recommend. I can’t wait to read more of this exciting new series.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Cari Thomas grew up in the Wye Valley area of Wales and, after studying English Literature & Creative Writing at Warwick University and Magazine Journalism at the Cardiff School of Journalism, moved to London. She worked as a journalist and at a creative agency, before finally doing what she’d always wanted to do: quit her job and write a book about magic.
The result is Threadneedle, her debut novel and the first in her Language of Magic series. Be introduced to a world of wild, ancient witchcraft hidden within today’s London; where libraries made of books breathe dusty pages beneath the city, where witch clubs serve up magical cocktails and vintage shops sell memories. A world where magic gleams light and very, very dark.
Cari now lives in Bristol with her husband and son.
May is another exciting month full of fantastic books. Some of my most anticipated books this year – Circus of Wonders, Madam, The Wolf Den, Threadneedle, The Pact and Malibu Rising – are released this month, along with many others I’m looking forward to reading. Thankfully it isn’t as busy as April, so there are seventeen on this list.
Are any of these on your tbr? Let me know in the comments.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Published: May 4th, 2021 Publisher: Viper Genre: Suspense, Domestic Fiction
SYNOPSIS: IT WAS THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME: PROTECT HER
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his new wife, Hannah: protect her. Hannah knows exactly who Owen needs her to protect – his sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. And who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As her increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, his boss is arrested for fraud and the police start questioning her, Hannah realises that her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey might hold the key to discovering Owen’s true identity, and why he disappeared. Together they set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realise that their lives will never be the same again…
A beautiful and thrilling mystery, perfect for readers of Lianne Moriarty and Celeste Ng.
SYNOPSIS: When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this fierce, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse myth.
Angrboda’s story begins where most witch tales end: with being burnt. A punishment from Odin for sharing her visions of the future with the wrong people, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the furthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be the trickster god Loki, and her initial distrust of him—and any of his kind—grows reluctantly into a deep and abiding love.
Their union produces the most important things in her long life: a trio of peculiar children, each with a secret destiny, whom she is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.
Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family—or rise to remake it.
Published: May 6th, 2021 Publisher: Corvus Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
SYNOPSIS: Foresight is not always a gift…
The summer Natasha Rothwell turns fifteen, strange dancing lights appear in the sky above her small town, lights that she interprets as portents of doom.
Natasha leads a sheltered life with her beautiful, bohemian mother in a crumbling house by the sea. As news of the lights spreads, more and more visitors arrive in the town, creating a feverish atmosphere of anticipation and dread. And the arrival of a new lodger, the handsome Mr Bowen, threatens to upset the delicate equilibrium between mother and daughter.
Then Natasha’s fears seem to be realized when a local teenager goes missing, and she is called on to help. But her actions over that long, hot summer will have unforeseen and ultimately tragic consequences that will cast a shadow for many years to come…
Published: May 11th, 2021 Publisher: William Morrow & Company Genre: Domestic Fiction
SYNOPSIS: What if you gave birth to someone else’s child? An emotional family drama about two couples, one baby, and an unimaginable choice. Inspired by a real-life case of an IVF laboratory mix-up.
Grace and Dan Arden are in their forties and have been on the IVF treadmill since the day they got married. Six attempts have yielded no results, and with each failure a little piece of their hope dies.
Priya Laghari and her husband Nick Archer are being treated at the same fertility clinic, and while they don’t face the same time pressure as the Ardens, the younger couple have their own problems.
On the same day that Priya is booked for her next IVF cycle, Grace goes in for her final, last-chance embryo transfer. Two weeks later, both women get their results.
A year on, angry and heartbroken, one of the women learns her embryo was implanted in the other’s uterus and must make a devastating choice: live a childless life knowing her son is being raised by strangers or seek custody of a baby who has been nurtured and loved by another couple.
Published: May 13th, 2021 Publisher: Picador Genre: Historical Fiction
SYNOPSIS: 1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.
But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.
In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?
Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea, Circus of Wonders is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.
Published: May 13th, 2021 Publisher: Quercus Genre: Gothic Fiction, Suspense
SYNOPSIS: For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises that its pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’.
Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher and new head of department. Rose is overwhelmed by the institution: its arcane traditions, unrivalled prestige, and terrifyingly cool, vindictive students. Her classroom becomes her haven, where the stories of fearless women from ancient Greek and Roman history ignite the curiosity of the girls she teaches and, unknowingly, the suspicions of the powers that be.
But as Rose uncovers the darkness that beats at the very heart of Caldonbrae, the lines between myth and reality grow ever more blurred. It will be up to Rose – and the fierce young women she has come to love – to find a way to escape the fate the school has in store for them, before it is too late.
Perfect for fans of Margaret Atwood and Madeline Miller, Madam is a darkly feminist tale with an electrifying cast of heroines you won’t soon forget.
Published: May 13th, 2021 Publisher: Head of Zeus Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Novel, Historical Romance
SYNOPSIS: Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…
Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For now her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.
But Amara’s spirit is far from broken. By day, she walks the streets with the Wolf Den’s other women, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?
Set in Pompeii’s lupanar, The Wolf Den is the first in a trilogy of novels reimagining the lives of women who have long been overlooked. Perfect for fans of Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and Madeline Miller’s Circe.
SYNOPSIS: They wanted the perfect family picture. She wanted their perfect life.
Delta Dawn may have come from humble beginnings, but she has been photographing children’s parties for Manhattan’s elite for several years. She moves unnoticed through the luxurious homes of her clients, carefully observing their beautiful clothes, their furniture and art. The parties themselves are often far from perfect, full of spoiled, crying children, but Delta can always alter the images afterwards to make sure the parents only see the party they wanted. The realities of life can be forgotten with a little airbrushing or filter.
But when she is hired to photograph Natalie Straub’s 11th birthday party, Delta finds herself irresistibly attracted. This time, she imagines she is in the pictures with them – she would fit there so perfectly, wouldn’t she, in their gorgeous home, their elegant life? Delta begins by babysitting for Natalie, slowly befriending Amelia, finding opportunities to listen to Fritz; soon she’s bathing in the master bathtub, reading private documents, drinking their expensive wine, and eyeing the beautifully finished garden apartment – if only the current occupant could be made to leave …
And then Delta discovers the one thing Amelia Straub wants most is also the perfect way to ensure she will always stay part of the family.
Combining pin-sharp storytelling with a tantalising build of menace, and a dangerously magnetic lead character, The Photographer heralds the arrival of a brilliant new crime writer for fans of Caroline Kepnes and Gillian Flynn.
Published: May 13th, 2021 Publisher: Harper Teen Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Young Adult, Cozy Mystery
SYNOPSIS: Perfect for fans of the Lady Janies and Stalking Jack the Ripper, the first book in the Jane Austen Murder Mysteries series is a clever retelling of Pride and Prejudice that reimagines the iconic settings, characters, and romances in a thrilling and high-stakes whodunit.
When a scandalous murder shocks London high society, seventeen-year-old aspiring lawyer Lizzie Bennet seizes the opportunity to prove herself, despite the interference of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the stern young heir to the prestigious firm Pemberley Associates.
Convinced the authorities have imprisoned the wrong person, Lizzie vows to solve the murder on her own. But as the case—and her feelings for Darcy—become more complicated, Lizzie discovers that her dream job could make her happy, but it might also get her killed.
SYNOPSIS: The Hunting Wives share more than target practice, martinis, and bad behavior in this novel of obsession, seduction, and murder.
Sophie O’Neill left behind an envy-inspiring career and the stressful, competitive life of big-city Chicago to settle down with her husband and young son in a small Texas town. It seems like the perfect life with a beautiful home in an idyllic rural community. But Sophie soon realizes that life is now too quiet, and she’s feeling bored and restless.
Then she meets Margot Banks, an alluring socialite who is part of an elite clique secretly known as the Hunting Wives. Sophie finds herself completely drawn to Margot and swept into her mysterious world of late-night target practice and dangerous partying. As Sophie’s curiosity gives way to full-blown obsession, she slips farther away from the safety of her family and deeper into this nest of vipers.
When the body of a teenage girl is discovered in the woods where the Hunting Wives meet, Sophie finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and her life spiraling out of control.
SYNOPSIS: In its heyday, The Golden Hotel was the crown jewel of the hotter-than-hot Catskills vacation scene. For more than sixty years, the Goldman and Weingold families – best friends and business partners – have presided over this glamorous resort which served as a second home for well-heeled guests and celebrities. But the Catskills are not what they used to be – and neither is the relationship between the Goldmans and the Weingolds. As the facilities and management begin to fall apart, a tempting offer to sell forces the two families together again to make a heart-wrenching decision. Can they save their beloved Golden or is it too late? Long-buried secrets emerge, new dramas and financial scandal erupt, and everyone from the traditional grandparents to the millennial grandchildren wants a say in the hotel’s future. Business and pleasure clash in this fast-paced, hilarious, nostalgia-filled story, where the hotel owners rediscover the magic of a bygone era of nonstop fun even as they grapple with what may be their last resort.
Published: May 27th, 2021 Publisher: Hutchinson Genre: Literary Fiction, Saga
SYNOPSIS: A lifetime holding it together. One party will bring it crashing down.
Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over-especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.
By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames.
But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.
Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.
Published: March 18th, 2021 Publisher: HarperVoyager Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre: Fairy Tale, Dark Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Gaslamp Fantasy
Today, I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Shadow in the Glass, and sharing an extract from this retelling of Cinderella.
If anyone caught her, Eleanor would be dismissed on the spot. The house clicked and creaked as it settled into sleep, the heat of the last days of August quietly slipping into the night. Eleanor was the only one awake. On silent feet, she was as insubstantial as a flame. She could drift past cold fireplaces and dust sheets looming like glaciers and all she would leave behind was the faintest stirring in the air.
Candlelight shimmered on the walls as she crept into the library. The dark spines of the books were rows of windows, waiting for the shutters to be pulled back. Open one, and she would know the secrets of Ottoman palaces; open another, and she would gaze across deserts. Granborough House would fade away. Eleanor smiled. Some things were worth risking dismissal for, especially with the master out of the house for the evening.
Eleanor set down her candle and surveyed her subjects. Damp equatorial rainforests, steaming in the heat. Versailles, glittering in the dark like an Earthbound star. Verona – Juliet on her balcony, sighing into the darkness. It was a perfect night for poetry: she could stretch out her legs and whisper sonnets into the slow, hot silence. But she would cry, and Mrs Fielding would be able to tell the next morning. Better to keep her face blank, in case the housekeeper grew curious. Eleanor locked the door, slipping the library key back up her sleeve. She’d stolen the key from Mrs Pembroke’s house- keeping chatelaine. Even though the mistress of the house had been dead for more than three years, shame still crawled under Eleanor’s skin when she went through Mrs Pembroke’s things. Not that Mrs Pembroke would have minded. She had spent the last few months of her life propped up on pillows, telling Eleanor how to care for everything she would inherit from Mrs Pembroke’s will.
The weight of the key against Eleanor’s forearm felt like shackles. Mrs Pembroke never would have wanted Eleanor to creep around the house like a thief, just for something to read. The lady of the house had not wanted Eleanor to be a housemaid at all. Versailles, Verona, perhaps even the rainforest – these were all places Eleanor might have visited, if only Mrs Pembroke had lived. A lump crawled into Eleanor’s throat. Mrs Pembroke had been planning to take her on a tour of Europe when Eleanor was old enough to enter Society. Suddenly it seemed cruel to have so many travelogues spread out in front of her, when she’d once been so close to seeing the places all these men had written of.
Eleanor gave herself a little shake. She’d told herself not to get upset.
She lifted The Fairy Ring off the shelves and felt better the moment it was in her hand. Her own fingerprints from years ago marked the table of contents – smaller, of course, than they were now – the corner of the back cover was fraying slightly, from all the times she’d plucked at it as she read.
Settling into her favourite chair with that book in her hands, the lump in her throat melted away. At seventeen, she knew she ought to have grown out of such things, but it was difficult to set aside a world where trees grew delicate gold and silver branches and strange creatures lurked in cool, clear water. She lost herself on narrow paths twisting through dark woods, yearned to spin straw into gold, and envied the twelve brothers who had been changed into swans. It seemed like a fine thing to be a clean white bird that might fly anywhere it liked.
She put the book back when the clock struck midnight, making sure to replace it exactly where she found it. The chimes were quiet, but the sound dropped through to the pit of Eleanor’s stomach like a leaden weight. An old memory struggled to the surface of her thoughts – she was nine years old and curled into a ball, back pressed against the leg of an iron bed as a cheaper, harsher clock tolled midnight – but she shook it off. It wouldn’t do to think of her own mother now, she’d make herself upset again. Somewhere outside a hansom cab rattled over the cobblestones; she flinched, heart pounding, and almost knocked her candle over. Mr Pembroke was supposed to be dining at his club tonight. What if he’d changed his mind and come back early?
Eleanor listened at the door, forcing her nerves into submission. Nothing from downstairs. If she was quick, no one would even guess that she’d left her room. She crept back up the servants’ staircase and slipped into her little room, trying not to wilt at the sight of the bare boards, the skeletal iron bedframe, her useless scrap of curtain hanging limp over the window. She crawled into bed, ignoring the smell of mildew from the blankets and holding the memory of the fairy stories like hands cupped around a tiny flame. When she slept, she dreamed of vast wings carrying her away, and she could not tell if they were her own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
JJA Harwood is an author, editor and blogger. She grew up in Norfolk, read History at the University of Warwick and eventually found her way to London, which is still something of a shock for somebody used to so many fields.
When not writing, she can be found learning languages, cooking with more enthusiasm than skill, wandering off into clearly haunted houses and making friends with stray cats. THE SHADOW IN THE GLASS is her debut novel.
Welcome to my second post of my most anticipated books of 2021. Today I’m sharing the twenty-one debut novels being released this year that I’m most excited about. Once again, this was a very difficult list to narrow down as there were many more I’m looking forward to and have on my tbr.
SYNOPSIS: In this blinding debut, Robert Jones Jr. blends the lyricism of Toni Morrison with the vivid prose of Zora Neale Hurston to characterise the forceful, enduring bond of love, and what happens when brutality threatens the purest form of serenity.
The Halifax plantation is known as Empty by the slaves who work it under the pitiless gaze of its overseers and its owner, Massa Paul. Two young enslaved men, Samuel and Isaiah dwell among the animals they keep in the barn, helping out in the fields when their day is done. But the barn is their haven, a space of radiance and love – away from the blistering sun and the cruelty of the toubabs – where they can be alone together.
But, Amos – a fellow slave – has begun to direct suspicion towards the two men and their refusal to bend. Their flickering glances, unspoken words and wilful intention, revealing a truth that threatens to rock the stability of the plantation. And preaching the words of Massa Paul’s gospel, he betrays them.
The culminating pages of The Prophets summon a choral voice of those who have suffered in silence, with blistering humanity, as the day of reckoning arrives at the Halifax plantation. Love, in all its permutations, is the discovery at the heart of Robert Jones Jr’s breathtaking debut, The Prophets. Pre-order here.
The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn
Published: January 7th, 2021 Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre: Historical Fiction
SYNOPSIS: ‘I want you to remember something, Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’
My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.
The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.
They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.
Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together. Pre-order here.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
Published: January 7th, 2021 Publisher: Michael Joseph Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Domestic Fiction
SYNOPSIS: ‘I will never forget her eyes in that moment – I couldn’t look away from them. But I knew what happened as soon as I heard it.
‘I think she pushed him,’ I said to you quietly. ‘I think she pushed him…’ ___
The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn’t right.
I had always known that the women in my family aren’t meant to be mothers.
My husband Fox says I’m imagining it. He tells me I’m nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.
But she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong.
Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I? ___
The Push is an unsettling, breathtaking and powerful read about obsession and our deepest fears that will stay with you long after you turn the final page. Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.
How far would you go to win? Hyper-competitive people, mind games and a dangerous natural environment combine to make the must-read thriller of the year. Fans of Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by spectacular debut novel Shiver.
When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.
The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.
In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light. Pre-order here.
Girl A by Abigail Dean
Published: January 21st, 2021 Publisher: Harper Collins UK Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre:
SYNOPSIS: THE BOOK THAT WILL DEFINE A DECADE
SOON TO BE A TV SHOW DIRECTED BY JOHAN RENCK (Chernobyl)
‘Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’
Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.
Beautifully written and incredibly powerful, Girl A is a story of redemption, of horror, and of love. Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: The sunniest places hold the darkest secrets . . . ________
Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .
It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.
While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .
A beguiling, deeply atmospheric debut novel from the cracked heart of the American Dream, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and ultimately under-estimated.
SYNOPSIS: ‘Rebecca meets The Secret History. Gloriously dark, gloriously gothic’ SARA COLLINS, Costa First Novel Award-winning author of The Confessions of Frannie Langton
For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises that its pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’. Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher and new head of department. Rose is overwhelmed by the institution: its arcane traditions, unrivalled prestige, and terrifyingly cool, vindictive students. Her classroom becomes her haven, where the stories of fearless women from ancient Greek and Roman history ignite the curiosity of the girls she teaches and, unknowingly, the suspicions of the powers that be. But as Rose uncovers the darkness that beats at the very heart of Caldonbrae, the lines between myth and reality grow ever more blurred. It will be up to Rose – and the fierce young women she has come to love – to find a way to escape the fate the school has in store for them, before it is too late. Perfect for fans of Margaret Atwood and Madeline Miller, Madam is a darkly feminist tale with an electrifying cast of heroines you won’t soon forget. Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.
An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.
Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.
And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.
But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in . . . Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY
Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.
As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.
Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…
’Those who live in the walls must adjust, must twist themselves around in their home, stretching themselves until they’re as thin as air. Not everyone can do what they can. But soon enough, they can’t help themselves. Signs of their presence remain in a house. Eventually, every hidden thing is found.’
Elise knows every inch of the house. She knows which boards will creak. She knows where the gaps are in the walls. She knows which parts can take her in, hide her away. It’s home, after all. The home her parents made for her. And home is where you stay, no matter what.
Eddie calls the same house his home. Eddie is almost a teenager now. He must no longer believe in the girl he sometimes sees from the corner of his eye. He needs her to disappear. But when his older brother senses her, too, they are faced with a question: how do they get rid of someone they aren’t sure even exists?
And, if they cast her out, what other threats might they invite in? Pre-order here.
London, 1665. Hidden within a growing pile of corpses, one victim of the pestilence stands out: a young woman with a shorn head and pieces of twine delicately tied around each ankle.
Symon Patrick, rector of St. Paul’s Covent Garden, cannot say exactly why this corpse amongst the many in his churchyard should give him pause. Longing to do good, he joins a group of medical men who have gathered to find a cure for the plague, each man more peculiar and splenetic than the next. But there is another, unknown to The Society for the Prevention and Cure of Plague, who is performing his own terrible experiments upon unwilling plague-ridden subjects.
It is Penelope – Symon’s unwanted yet unremovable addition to his household – who may yet shed light on the matter. Far more than what she appears, she is already on the hunt. But the dark presence that enters the houses of the sick will not stop, and has no mercy…
This hugely atmospheric and entertaining historical thriller will transport readers to the palaces and alleyways of seventeenth-century London. Perfect for fans of Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Andrew Taylor and C.J. Sansom.
SYNOPSIS: When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.
Abi’s disappearance cracks open the façade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him.
Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones…. Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: Daniel is the perfect husband. Rory is the perfect brother. Serena is the perfect sister-in-law.
And Rachel? Rachel is the perfect nightmare.
When Helen, finally pregnant after years of tragedy, attends her first antenatal class, she is expecting her loving architect husband to arrive soon after, along with her confident, charming brother Rory and his pregnant wife, the effortlessly beautiful Serena. What she is not expecting is Rachel.
Extroverted, brash, unsettling single mother-to-be Rachel, who just wants to be Helen’s friend. Who just wants to get know Helen and her friends and her family. Who just wants to know everything about them. Every little secret… Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: In 1901, the word bondmaid was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.
Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary.
Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutter to the floor unclaimed.
Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words. Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: A bewitching debut from a magnetic new voice in historical fiction. CUNNING WOMEN is sure to be loved by fans of The Essex Serpent and The Mercies.
They only want a kindness, but beware, for if you have no coin, they will curse you black and blue.
1620s, Lancashire. Away from the village lies a small hamlet, abandoned since the Plague, where only one family dwell amongst its ruins. Young Sarah Haworth, her mother, brother and little sister Annie are a family of outcasts by day and the recipients of visitors by night. They are cunning folk, the villagers will always need them, quick with a healing balm or more, should your needs require. They can keep secrets too, because no one would believe them anyway.
When Sarah spies a young man taming a wild horse, she risks being caught to watch him calm the animal. And when Daniel sees Sarah he does not just see a strange, dirty thing, he sees her for who she really is, a strong creature about to come into her own. But can something as fragile as love blossom between these two in such a place as this?
And when a new magistrate arrives to rid out those behind the strange ends that keep befalling the villagers, he has his eye on one family alone. And a torch in his hand.
Cunning Women is the powerful reckoning of a young woman with her wildness, a heartbreaking tale of young love and a shattering story of the intolerance that reigned during the long shadow of the Pendle Witch Trials when those who did not conform found persecution at every door.
Published: April 29th, 2021 Publisher: Wildfire Format: Hardcover, Kindle Genre: Historical Fiction, Fairy Tale
SYNOPSIS: A mesmerising retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Perfect for fans of CIRCE, A SONG OF ACHILLES, and THE SILENCE OF THE GIRLS.
As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.
When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.
In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?
Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel.
SYNOPSIS: Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of book publishing.
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and the micro-aggressions, she’s thrilled when Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events cause Nella to become Public Enemy Number One and Hazel, the Office Darling.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realises that there is a lot more at stake than her career.
A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.
SYNOPSIS: When Rachel’s baby is stillborn, she becomes obsessed with the idea that saving a stranger s life months earlier is to blame. An unforgettable, heart-wrenching, warm and funny debut.
Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss.
When a misguided well-wisher tells her that ‘everything happens for a reason’, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she s now certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son.
Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, Josephine, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results…
Both a heart-wrenchingly poignant portrait of grief and a gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story of a young woman’s determination, Everything Happens for a Reason is a bittersweet, life- affirming read and, quite simply, unforgettable. Pre-order here.
Midnight in Everwood by M. A . Kuzniar
Published: October 28th, 2021 Publisher: HQ Format: Hardcover, Kindle Genre: Fairy Tale, Magical Realism, Fantasy Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Historical Fantasy
SYNOPSIS: In the darkness of night, magic awaits…
The Nutcracker for adults, perfect for fans of Robert Dinsdale’s The Toymakers, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Stephanie Garber’s Caraval
’It was a rainy day that the magic came, and once magic has entered your life, you stay in its glittering clutch forever’
Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered. At the wishes of her family, she will be obligated to marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But when a mysterious new neighbour, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in her life. Although Drosselmeier’s magic is darker than Marietta could have imagined…
When he constructs an elaborate set for her final ballet performance, she discovers it carries a magic all of its own. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself walking through a land of snow-topped fir trees leading to a frozen sugar palace silent with secrets.
In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…
Welcome to First Lines Friday. This is a tag that was started by Mrs Cooke’s Books on Instagram and I’ve been doing on there for a while. I decided to start posting here too, offering more than just one line and hoping to entice you into reading the books I share.
This week, I’m sharing the first line from one of my highly anticipated books of 2021:
“The bells rang out as they had done for hundreds of years, their sombre music sweeping over London with grace and stillness, bright as the moon which was till and ripe in the sky. Despite the late hour, the city below was restless, tossing and turning in the darkness with lights and buses and cars and people —walking, rushing, working, drinking, dancing, sleeping; none taking any notice of the bells at all. Within the tower, the sound was deafening. Yet the women did not flinch as they stepped closer, forming a circle, their feet bare on the stone floor and their hair loose against plain robes. They pulled back their hoods, feeling the vibrations of the bells in their bones; feeling the buzz and excitement of the windows; feeling the languages of their own magic rising. The last chime rang out with finality. Midnight. It was time.”
This first line is from Threadneedle by Cari Thomas. This debut is published on May 27th, 2021 by HarperVoyager. Thank you to them for my gifted ARC.
Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic. Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.
Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.
It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used, but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.
Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then. Could it?
How amazing does that sound! I can’t wait to read this and am hoping to fit it in before the year ends.