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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

REVIEW: The Ghost Woods by C. J. Cooke

Published: October 13th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Gothic Ficiton, Fairy Tale, Mystery, Suspense, Supernatural Fiction, Magical Realism, Horror Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

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SYNOPSIS:

In the midst of the woods stands a house called Lichen Hall.

This place is shrouded in folklore – old stories of ghosts, of witches, of a child who is not quite a child.

Now the woods are creeping closer, and something has been unleashed.

Pearl Gorham arrives in 1965, one of a string of young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth. And she soon suspects the proprietors are hiding something.

Then she meets the mysterious mother and young boy who live in the grounds – and together they begin to unpick the secrets of this place.

As the truth comes to the surface and the darkness moves in, Pearl must rethink everything she knew – and risk what she holds most dear.

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MY REVIEW:

Hauntingly atmospheric and eerie, The Ghost Woods was the perfect read for this time of year.  Chilling, mysterious and bursting with folklore, a sense of dread lingers over every page.  I read with my heart in my throat and the light turned on, eager to discover the truth yet also fearful of what was to come.  And don’t even try to get me to go into the woods anytime soon.

I was a big fan of C. J. Cooke’s last two novels so I was anticipating another great read but with its exquisite storytelling, richly drawn characters and evocative imagery, this is my favourite of her books so far.  The strange rumours and eerie folklore surrounding Litchen Hall and the woods cast a sinister shadow, while an atmosphere of isolation and helplessness lingers over every word. 

Gorgeously gothic, claustrophobic and menacing, The Ghost Woods is an addictive tale that will captivate and unnerve you.  Add this spooky story to your TBR now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

CJ Cooke, also known as Carolyn Jess-Cooke, grew up on a council estate in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the height of the Troubles. She started writing at the age of 7 and pestered publishers for many years with manuscripts typed on her grandparents’ old typewriter and cover notes written on pages ripped from school jotters. 

Since then, she has published 15 books in 23 languages and won numerous awards, including an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, a Tyrone Guthrie Prize, a K Blundell Award, and she has won a Northern Writer’s Award three times. In 2011, her debut novel, The Guardian Angel’s Journal, was published by Little, Brown. The novel was an international bestseller. Her second novel, The Boy Who Could See Demons (2012), is a cult classic. Her sixth novel, The Lighthouse Witches, was published in October 2021, and was an Indigo Book of the Month, an international bestseller, a New York Public Library Book of the Year and nominated for both an Edgar Award by Mystery Writers of America and an ITW Thriller Award in 2022. It is soon to be a major TV series produced by StudioCanal and The Picture Company. The Ghost Woods is her latest novel and is published in October 2022.

CJ holds a BA (Hons), MA, and PhD from Queen’s University, Belfast, and commenced her academic career in 2005 as a Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sunderland. Shortly thereafter, she published four academic works in swift succession on Shakespearean Cinema and Film Sequels, before establishing her career as a poet, editor, and novelist.

Now Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, CJ convenes the prestigious MLitt Creative Writing and researches ways that creative writing can help with trauma and mental health. Throughout 2013-18 she directed the Writing Motherhood project, which explored the impact of motherhood on women’s writing. She is also the founder and director of the Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival, which is dedicated to providing people with accessible, inclusive, and eco-friendly ways to access literature.

CJ has four children and lives with her family in Glasgow, Scotland.

(Taken from C. J. Cooke’s website)

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REVIEW: The Toll House by Carly Reagon

Published: October 6th, 2022
Publisher: Sphere
Genre: Ghost Story, Suspense, Thriller, Historical Fiction, Horror Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

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SYNOPSIS:
The spine-tingling ghost story everyone is raving about.

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The past isn’t always dead and buried.

A house with history. That’s how the estate agent described the old toll house on the edge of the town. For Kelda it’s the perfect rural home for her young son Dylan after a difficult few years.

But when Kelda finds a death mask concealed behind one of the walls, everything changes. Inexplicable things happen in the house, Kelda cannot shake the feeling of being watched and Dylan is plagued by nightmares, convinced he can see figures in his room. As Dylan’s behaviour becomes increasingly challenging, Kelda seeks answers in the house’s mysterious past. But she’s running out of time.

Because something has awoken.

And now it won’t rest . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“There’s something about this house… It feels weird… the house sort of feels alive.”

Kelda moves into the old toll house wth her six-year-old son, Dylan.  The rural home seems like the ideal place for a fresh start after a difficult few years, but when Kelda finds an old death mask hidden in a wall she is no longer so sure.  Then Dylan’s nightmares start, the young boy terrified of the figures he says he sees in his room, Kelda can’t shake the feeling she’s being watched and there are strange smells and a chill that they can’t erase.  Could there be something supernatural in their home?  And if so, what does it want?  Desperate for answers, Kelda begins to look into the mysterious past of the toll house to try and find out before it’s too late…

Unnerving, sinister and mesmerising, The Toll House is an outstanding debut.  I lost myself in its pages, so captivated by the creeping horror that I lost track of time and devoured ¾ of the book in one sitting and then thinking it might not have been the best idea to read such a scary story before heading to bed at 3am.  

“She was drowning in sorrow, in the terror of what had happened here, of whatever was lurking within these four walls.” 

Exquisitely written, the story starts steadily before building to an unbearable tension that sends shivers down your spine.  The characters are richly drawn and compelling, Kelda and Dylan are so easy to like and feel for while Joe is a more mysterious character that I became increasingly unsure of as the story went on.  The narration moves seamlessly between the past and present, its dual timelines adding an extra layer of suspense as the restless spirits of the past slowly reveal themselves, unravelling the truth of what is happening to Kelda and Dylan in the present.  I was on the edge of my seat, reading in breathless anticipation as it headed towards the jaw-dropping finale.  

So if you’re looking for an atmospheric, chilling and unsettling read for the spooky season, this is the book for you.  Nerve-jangling and hypnotic, The Toll House showcases Carly Reagon as a phenomenal new talent and an author to watch.  I’m excited to see what she writes next and will be buying it without hesitation after this magnificent debut.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Carly Reagon is a writer and lecturer in healthcare sciences from Wales. Her work is inspired by her love of history, the rolling Welsh countryside, and all things spooky. In 2017 Carly completed the six month online novel writing course with Curtis Brown Creative and in 2019 she was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. 

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: The Butcher and the Wren by Alaina Urquhart

Published: September 13th, 2022
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Medical Thriller, Police Procedural, Horror Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the deliciously dark, menacing and eerie The Butcher and the Wren. Thank you to Michael Joseph for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

THE CHILLING SERIAL KILLER THRILLER FROM THE CO-HOST OF CHART-TOPPING PODCAST MORBID

WREN WAS NEVER AFRAID OF THE DARK. UNTIL SHE LEARNED THAT SOME MONSTERS ARE REAL . . .
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In deep Louisiana, a serial killer with a taste for medical experimentation is completing his most ambitious project yet. The media call him ‘The Butcher’ – and, so far, he’s proved impossible to catch.

With her encyclopaedic knowledge of humanity’s darkest minds, and years of experience examining their victims, forensic pathologist Dr Wren Muller is the best there is. The longer the Butcher’s killing spree continues, the more determined she is to bring him to justice.

And yet, he continues to elude her.

As body after body piles up on Wren’s examination table, her obsession grows. Pressure to put an end to the slaughter mounts. And her enemy becomes more brazen.

How far is Wren willing to go to draw the Butcher into the light . . .?

An addictive read with straight-from-the-morgue details only an autopsy technician could provide, The Butcher and the Wren promises to ensnare all who enter.

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MY REVIEW:

Wren was never afraid of the dark.  Until she learned that some monsters are real…

The Butcher and the Wren is a dark, menacing and forbidding game of cat and mouse that will send shivers down your spine.  This is one of those books best read in the daytime because if you read it in the dark you will never close your eyes…

Forensic pathologist Dr Wren Muller is determined to bring the killer known as ‘The Bayou Butcher’ to justice.  But as the body count rises, she fears she is no closer to finding the brutal murderer with a penchant for experimenting on his victims.  Then one day she notices a clue that changes the game completely.  Now she knows who he is and she is willing to do whatever it takes to stop him. 

“Catch me if you can.” 

Alaina Urquhart wields a scalpel as sharp as her protagonist in this outstanding debut.  Intricately woven, tightly plotted, fast-paced and unbearably tense, it oozed fear from its every pore and had me on the edge of my seat with my heart racing.  Darkly atmospheric and cleverly written, the author uses the power of suggestion to make your imagination go wild, conjuring imagery more horrifying than graphic descriptions could ever portray, though there are some gruesome moments too.  I devoured it quickly, unable to turn away even though I desperately wanted to. 

 “The feeling in this place is dark and ominous, saturated with the evil that has touched it for so long.”

Not only has Urquhart written a chilling story, but she’s created a truly terrifying villain.  Jeremy is particularly frightening because he seems like he could be anyone you know.  He is completely sane and aware of his actions, meticulously plans his every move, and seems so normal that his victims willingly accompany  him to their doom.  He’s the monster that lurks in the shadows or under your bed while also being the person sitting next to you on the bus or who chats to you at a bar.  He is what we don’t want to believe evil is made of.  

Ominous, suspenseful and filled with jaw-dropping twists that will take you by surprise, this is a must-read for any thriller lover.  Urquhart is my new favourite sinister storyteller and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.  Hopefully it will include Wren as I’d love to see her featured in a series. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon*| Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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

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BLOG TOUR: The Last Girl To Die by Helen Fields

Published: September 1st, 2022
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Horror Fiction, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this astonishing and unsettling thriller. Thank you to Olivia at Avon for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

In search of a new life, seventeen-year-old Adriana Clark’s family moves to the ancient, ocean-battered Isle of Mull, far off the coast of Scotland. Then she goes missing. Faced with hostile locals and indifferent police, her desperate parents turn to private investigator Sadie Levesque.

Sadie is the best at what she does. But when she finds Adriana’s body in a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head, she knows she’s dealing with something she’s never encountered before.

The deeper she digs into the island’s secrets, the closer danger creeps – and the more urgent her quest to find the killer grows. Because what if Adriana is not the last girl to die?

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MY REVIEW:

All the stars for this truly astonishing and mesmerising novel!  Merging mythology, folklore and superstition with suspicion, mystery and murder in an isolated, claustrophobic and forbidding setting, The Last Girl To Die is a tantalising and unforgettable read.

Set on the Isle of Mull, the story follows Sadie Levesque, a Canadian private investigator and teenage tracking specialist, who has been hired to find missing 17-year-old Adriana Clark.  After days of searching she finds poor Adriana’s body inside a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head in a macabre twist.  Faced with an island of people who distrust outsiders and closely guard their secrets, finding the killer is not going to be easy.  Or without danger.  And the more she uncovers, the more those with secrets will do anything to keep them hidden…

I have been a fan of Helen Fields ever since reading her debut novel and I don’t even read the blurb before adding her books to my TBR anymore.  She always delivers a well written, suspenseful, gritty and visceral thriller filled with compelling characters, but with this book she took things to another level. Sadie is my favourite of her standalone protagonists and I enjoyed the decision to move away from traditional crime fiction by including supernatural and mythological elements as I love a witchy read.  I didn’t want to put this book down and found myself thinking about it every minute I wasn’t reading.  

From the start there is a sense that there is more to this island than they want to tell, a sense of chilling foreboding that you can’t shake. As the ancient folklore and rituals are slowly introduced we understand this place and its people a little more but I found my sense of horror grew with each new shocking twist and surprising revelation. Fields captured the atmosphere of a secluded island perfectly and I felt like I was walking on Mull alongside Sadie, and the animosity, distrust and menace radiating from the pages and cast of characters bringing it to life in vivid technicolour.

Gripping, unpredictable and breathtakingly brilliant, this is Fields’ best book yet.  If you like nerve-shredding thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat and the unsettling aura of the supernatural, then this is for you. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Helen Fields is the author of best-selling crime, thriller and historical fiction books Perfect Remains, Perfect Prey, Perfect Death, Perfect Silence, Perfect Crime, Perfect Kill, These Lost and Broken Things & Degrees of Guilt written as HS Chandler. A former barrister and film producer, her books have been translated into more than 20 languages. 

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xx

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

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BLOG TOUR: The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Published: August 18th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Fairy Tale, Horror Fiction, Contemporary Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day Sunyi Dean! I am delighted to be sharing my review for this darkly delicious debut on its book birthday. Thank you to Sasha at Pride Book Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to Sunyi Dean and Harper Voyager UK for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

A gorgeous new fantasy horror – a book about stories and fairy tales with family and love at its dark heart…

Perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, and Let the Right One In

Hidden across England and Scotland live six old Book Eater families.

The last of their lines, they exist on the fringes of society and subsist on a diet of stories and legends.

Children are rare and their numbers have dwindled, so when Devon Fairweather’s second child is born a dreaded Mind Eater – a perversion of her own kind, who consumes not stories but the minds and souls of humans – she flees before he can be turned into a weapon for the family… or worse.

Living among humans and finding prey for her son, Devon seeks a cure for his hunger. But time is running out – for her family want her back, and with every soul her son consumes he loses a little more of himself…

This is a story of escape, a savage mother’s devotion and a queer love that will electrify readers looking for something beguiling, thrilling, strange and new.

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MY REVIEW:

“We consume written knowledge, her aunts and uncles had said so many times. We consume and store and collect all forms of paper flesh as the Collector created us to do, clothed as we are in the skin of human-kind.  But we do not read, and we cannot write. “

Wow.  Just, wow.  

The Book Eaters is a darkly delicious debut that you will get lost in.  This was a highly anticipated book for me from the moment I saw the magnificent cover and read the synopsis, but I was unprepared for just how special it would be or how I would fall deeper in love with every page.  I luxuriated in it, wanting to devour it quickly but choosing instead to take my time and savour every word as I never wanted it to end.  It is truly something special and I think I may have found my favourite book of the year so far.

The story explores a secret society hidden within the human world.  They wear our skin as their disguise but feast on books, are forbidden to read and cannot write.  They live in seclusion among one of the Six Families throughout the UK but their numbers are rapidly dwindling as daughters are extremely rare. 
Devon Fairweather no longer lives with her kind.  Instead she is hiding among humans in order to protect her five-year-old son, Cai who is a mind-eater – a rare genetic mutation that means he must feast on the brains and souls of humans to survive.  The Families would turn him into a weapon, so she must hide him while also searching the country for the one thing that can cure his hunger. But time is running out. Will she be able to find the cure before it’s too late?

“Like the other Families, the Fairweathers had libraries with a flavor all their own: vintage books stitched from carefully aged leather — the darker the better—with textured, embossed covers.”

This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before.  Sinister, atmospheric, hypnotic and ambitious, this is a clever twist on the usual fantasy novel.  There are characters who aren’t human and feast on books, a lesbian herione, asexual best friend, and even though they live in a patriarchal society, girls are highly desired and valued while boys are expendable.  There are even creative spins on the usual princesses, knights and dragons we see in fantasy books.  It is all so bizarre yet totally believable and I didn’t question it for one moment.  

Sunyi Dean is an exceptional talent who has crafted a story that is like a work of art.  From the first lines she draws you into the rich world she has created, the cinematic imagery bringing everything to life in vivid technicolour and immersing you in the story with her pitch perfect writing.  Before I’d even finished the first chapter I was utterly captivated and enthralled.  It is a book that fuels the imagination, almost as if I was devouring the book as hungrily as one of the book eaters to digest and experience every perfectly-written word.  I was also impressed that despite all of the world building and backstories that were told, the book never lost momentum or tension for a moment, keeping my heart racing until the very last page.  

“There were so many things to remember when she was out and around humans. Feigning cold was one of them…. having to feign a fear she never felt, but which should have ruled her.  Solitary human women walked with caution in the night. 
In short, Devon had to act like prey, and not like the predator she had become. “

The story is told over five acts that move smoothly between past and present.  It is narrated by Devon, who was easy to like and root for.  Despite not being human, I felt an immediate bond with her and loved everything about this strong, complex and tenacious rebel.  But I think it is her ferocity as a mother that I loved most of all.  In a society where mothers are separated from their children after a few years, Devon refuses to accept this from the start and risks everything to be a more traditional mother.  She proves just how far she’s willing to go for her children when she goes on the run with Cai instead of simply accepting the fate the Families have for him.  Cai should be a terrifying and abominable creation who turns our stomachs yet Ms. Dean manages to humanise him so that all we see is an innocent child who is forced to do terrible things to survive.  I found myself feeling more sadness for him than his victims, which surprised me and is a testament to Ms. Dean’s skills as an author.   

An astonishing and imaginative debut, The Book Eaters has everything the bibliophile fantasy-lover could want and more.  It made my mind come alive and I will never be able to look at my book collection the same way again.  I am hoping that the author turns this into a series as I am hungry for more stories from these characters, especially after that sensational ending.  

Sink your teeth into this moreish read ASAP.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ 

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sunyi Dean (sun-yee deen) is an autistic author of fantasy fiction. Originally born in the States and raised in Hong Kong, she now lives in Yorkshire with her children. When not reading, running, falling over in yoga, or rolling d20s, she sometimes escapes the city to wildswim in lonely dales.

Her short stories have featured in The Best of British Scifi Anthology, Prole, FFO, Tor Dot Com, etc., and her debut novel, THE BOOK EATERS, will be published 2 Aug 2022 by Tor (USA), and 18 Aug 2022 by Harper Voyager (UK). Available at all good bookstores, in ebook, hardback, and audio.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Are you planning to read this book? Let me know in the comments below.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

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

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

Published: July 7th, 2022
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Horror Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this unexpected, darkly atmospheric thriller. Thank you to Ollie at Hodder & Stoughton for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

The master of genre-bending suspense is back with a brand new edge-of-your-seat thriller.

Recently widowed actress Casey Fletcher has escaped to her family’s lake house for peace and quiet. She’s been happily losing herself in her thoughts and several bottles of bourbon, until the glamorous couple across the lake catch her attention. They look so perfect – just like Casey and her husband used to be.
But is anyone what they seem?

Casey has a detective sat at her kitchen table.

She has a man bound and gagged upstairs.

Casey will uncover dark truths so life-changing that nothing will ever be the same again.

International bestselling sensation Riley Sager is back with his most ambitious thriller yet. With his trademark blend of sharp characters, psychological suspense and gasp-worthy twists, The House Across the Lake will shock readers from the first page to the last.

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MY REVIEW:

“The last thought I have before spiralling into unconsciousness is a memory of the sound that woke me up. With it comes recognition. 
I now know what I heard. 
It was a scream.” 

Wow. What on earth did I just read?  Riveting, unexpected and surprising, this was a wild and crazy ride that I couldn’t put down.  Punchy, sharp and oozing with foreboding, the writing is compelling.  Moving between dual timelines, I loved how we would get a short, sharp and ominous ‘Now’ section that ended on a cliffhanger before jumping to a longer ‘Before’ section, notching up the tension and leaving us on the edge of our seats.  

This was my second time reading a Riley Sager book but I was an instant fan and couldn’t wait to read more. This book had a different feel to his last book, more of a traditional thriller.  While I was enjoying it, it seemed predictable and I thought I had it all figured out.  Then, bam!  With one twist he takes the story from zero to sixty, turning everything on its head and changing everything you thought you knew.  It instantly became all the more tantalising and I couldn’t read fast enough.  One of my favourite things about thrillers is when an author shocks you with something completely unexpected and seemingly out of left field but when you look back you can see the clues carefully hidden on the pages, which in this case are small hints of the paranormal.  In the hands of another author it could have been a ridiculous turn, and I think it will be a bit of a marmite book because of this, but I thought Sager pulled it off expertly and made the unbelievable feel possible.

“The lake is darker than a coffin with the lid shut.

That’s what Marnie used to say, back when we were children and she was constantly trying to scare me. It’s an exaggeration, to be sure. But not by much. Lake Greene’s water is dark, even with the light trickling through it.
A coffin with the lid cracked. “

I love an unreliable narrator and Casey certainly fits that bill  Flawed and tortured, she’s drinking herself into oblivion each day to numb the pain of her husband’s death and being back at the place that haunts her, where his death happened, is far from helping.  She craves an escape, and alcohol offers that.  I liked her and enjoyed her drunken and paranoid musings, even though she obviously needed to get sober and stop watching and obsessing over the Royces.  The other characters are equally as compelling and unreliable, leaving the reader constantly second guessing themselves and adding to the suspense. 

Atmospheric, unnerving, twisty and completely over the top, this is perfect for anyone who enjoys a thriller that is a little bit different.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Riley Sager is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, most recently Home Before Dark and Survive the Night. His first novel, Final Girls, has been published in 30 countries and won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel. His latest book, The House Across the Lake, will be published in 2022 by Dutton Books.

A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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

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BLOG TOUR: Demon (Six Stories Book 6) by Matt Wesolowski

Published: January 20th 2022
Publisher: Orenda
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fairy Tale, Horror Fiction, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story, Biographical Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my first blog tour of 2022. And I’m delighted that it is for one of my favourite series that is published by one of my favourite publishers. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in this tour and to Karen at Orenda for the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Scott King’s podcast investigates the 1995 cold case of a demon possession in a rural Yorkshire village, where a 12-year-old boy was murdered in cold blood by two children. Book six in the chilling, award-winning Six Stories series.

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In 1995, the picture-perfect village of Ussalthwaite was the site of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, in a case that shocked the world.

Twelve-year-old Sidney Parsons was savagely murdered by two boys his own age. No reason was ever given for this terrible crime, and the ‘Demonic Duo’ who killed him were imprisoned until their release in 2002, when they were given new identities and lifetime anonymity.

Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the lead-up and aftermath of the killing, uncovering dark stories of demonic possession, and encountering a village torn apart by this unspeakable act.

And, as episodes of his Six Stories podcast begin to air, and King himself becomes a target of media scrutiny and the public’s ire, it becomes clear that whatever drove those two boys to kill is still there, lurking, and the campaign of horror has just begun…

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MY REVIEW:

“A horror. There’s no other word for it. Horror upon horror.”

Scott King is back with his Six Stories Podcast, a show that investigates old crimes from six different perspectives to try to get to the truth of what happened. He specialises in the strange and mysterious. Cases that are surrounded by rumours of the supernatural and the occult. This time it is the brutal, senseless murder of a child by other children, two outcast boys mired in trauma and grief, the Usslethwaite kilns with their magnetic pull and the strange folklore that surrounds them and rumours of witchcraft and demons. Can he unravel the truth of what happened that day in 1995?

What a way to start the year! Unsettling, dark and haunting, this atmospheric story had me hooked. The sixth book in the Six Stories series sees Podcaster Scott King is investigating the 1995 murder of twelve-year-old Sidney Parsons by two of his classmates. It was a brutal murder with no apparent motive that took place in a small North Yorkshire village where superstition and suspicion of those who are different was and is rife.

It is a disturbing case, and while there are inevitably stomach-churning and spine-chilling moments, this goes much deeper, humanising the boys that the media dubbed the ‘Demonic Duo’ and exploring what could have led two troubled boys to escalate from acting up in class and playing pranks to terrorising the village and savagely killing one of their peers. Through the interviews with six people with very different perspectives, news articles and letters from one of the boys to his late mother that he wrote in the months and days leading up to the crime, we get an insight into who these boys were and how they arrived at the moment where they killed another child without any apparent motive.

“The answer to this case lies somewhere in the strange hinterland between pity and condemnation. It’s a rocky and treacherous place to stand.”

The story also examines topics such as the lingering effects of the crime, offender rehabilitation, the bestowing of new identities and lifetime anonymity upon the most vilified offenders, vigilante justice and online commentary. It makes you think, stirs up uncomfortable emotions and makes you reflect on your own reactions to a crime such as this. When a crime seems particularly heinous and unforgivable, it is easy to demonise the perpetrators rather than taking a real look at the very human reasons this could have happened. We need to believe only real evil can do such a thing in order to separate ourselves from the people who commit such unspeakable acts.

For me, it conjured up memories of the tragic murder of James Bulger; the horror and disbelief that two children could commit such a terrible act, the outrage at what they did, and how the pair were immediately demonised with the entire country calling for justice. I don’t know if the Bulger case or its aftermath inspired this book, but I feel like it echoed a lot of what I remember happening in the media and my own conversations with people about the crime even to this day.

When I pick up one of Matt Wesolowski’s books I know what I’m getting, a book that is bold, mysterious, thought-provoking, eerie and addictive. Demon delivers all of those things and more in what I think is the best of his books I’ve read yet. But it isn’t for the faint hearted. In fact, the book opens with warnings about the content which I appreciated as it means readers can make an informed decision before deciding to proceed.

Expertly written, deftly told and filled with fascinating characters, Demon is a chilling tale you won’t forget.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

TW: Violence against children and animals.

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care.

‘Six Stories’ was published by Orenda Books in the spring of 2016 with follow-up ‘Hydra’ published in the winter of 2017, ‘Changeling’ in 2018, ‘Beast’ in 2019 and ‘Deity’ in 2020.

‘Six Stories’ has been optioned by a major Hollywood studio and the third book in the series, ‘Changeling’ was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Award for Best Thriller and Best Independent Voice.

‘Beast’ won the Amazon publishing award for Best Independent voice in 2020.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Orenda Books | Waterstones*| Amazon*
*There are affiliate links

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Book Review: The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell

Published: October 13th, 2021
Publisher: Embla Books
Genre: Horror Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Format: Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day to this chilling thriller. Thank you Embla Books for the gifted eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

From number one bestselling author Caroline Mitchell, comes the first chilling Slayton thriller for fans of C. J. Tudor and Stephen King.

If you open your door to the Midnight Man, hide with a candle wherever you can. Try not to scream as he draws near, because one of you won’t be leaving here…

On Halloween night in Slayton, five girls go to Blackhall Manor to play the Midnight Game. They write their names on a piece of paper and prick their fingers to soak it in blood. At exactly midnight they knock on the door twenty-two times – they have invited the Midnight Man in.

It was supposed to be a game, but only four girls come home.

Detective Sarah Noble has just returned to the force, and no one knows more about Blackhall Manor than her. It’s a case that will take Sarah back to everything she’s been running from, and shake her to the core.

Will she be ready to meet the Midnight Man?

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MY REVIEW:

“If you tell, you’ll go to hell.”

Five girls go to Blackhall Manor to play the Midnight Game on Halloween night. Only four of them return. Detective Sarah Noble is called in to investigate and finds herself immersed in the folklore, rumours and suspicions that have haunted Blackhall Manor ever since that Halloween Night in 1994. Is she ready to meet the Midnight Man? And can she stop him claiming more victims?

Tense, eerie, atmospheric and addictive, The Midnight Man is perfect for the spooky season. The story takes lots of unexpected twists and turns and was actually quite different to what I was expecting. But I loved the direction the author took instead, keeping me guessing the whole time with her multilayered and intricately woven tale. Expertly written, she held me hostage from beginning to end. I couldn’t stop reading and inhaled it like it was oxygen. It was my first foray into Caroline Mitchell’s books and I can’t wait to read more from her, including returning to the community she created for this novel.

Told by multiple narrators, this book is bursting with great characters who are richly drawn and memorable. Sometimes having a lot of narrators can be confusing or take away from the atmosphere of a book, but Ms. Mitchell does it so well that they add to the mystery and suspense. Each one is so compelling that you don’t question why she needed to give them a voice and I loved getting to know them all.

One of my favourite tropes is when the antagonist is a narrator, so I loved the elusive Midnight Man’s chapters in this book; his murderous intentions chillingly laid bare while his victims remained unaware. It cranked up the tension and had me looking for clues as to his identity in every sentence. I liked Sarah and thought the author represented the effects of trauma and PTSD really well through her character. She was easy to connect with and a great choice for the main protagonist. But it was Elliott, the sweet young psychic boy, who was my favourite of all the characters. He stole my heart, and any scene he was in. I challenge anyone who reads this book not to fall in love with him.

Blackhall Manor was also like a character in it’s own right. Eerily looming behind the gates and casting a shadow over all of Slayton since the murders that occured on Halloween 1994. Talk of it being haunted, rumours of the Midnight Man and kids playing the midnight game all play into the atmosphere that surrounds the dilapidated house. But what was the truth? I loved how the author was able to keep me guessing right up until the big reveal and surprised me despite all my hypotheses. 

So if you’re looking for a book that will send shivers down your spine and make your heart race then this is for you. Just make sure you read it with the lights on. 

Are YOU ready to meet the Midnight Man?

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post and International #1 Bestselling Author. Shortlisted by the International Thriller Awards for best ebook 2017 and the Killer Nashville Best Police Procedural 2018. Over 1.3 million books sold.

Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family in a village on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, she has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. She now writes full time.

Caroline writes psychological and crime thrillers. Her stand alone thriller Silent Victim reached No.1 in the Amazon charts in the UK, USA and Australia and was the winner of the Reader’s Favourite Awards in the psychological thriller category. It has been described as ‘brilliantly gripping and deliciously creepy’.

The first in her Amy Winter series, Truth And Lies, has been optioned for TV.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Lighthouse Witches by C. J. Cooke

Published: September 30th, 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Horror Fiction, Supernatural Fiction, Fairy Tale
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this gorgeously gothic novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Harper Collins UK for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse.

A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms.

Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation.

Coincidence? Or curse?

Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left.

Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .

But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

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MY REVIEW:

“I wasn’t yet wise enough to be terrified.”

A cold, sparsely populated Scottish Island, a deserted and decrepit lighthouse, strange goings on and tales of witches, curses and wildlings. What could be more perfect to read during October?

Bursting with atmosphere, mythology and folklore, this chilling and mysterious tale had me in it’s grasp from beginning to end. There’s a sense of foreboding that pervades the pages; a haunting aura that lingers over every carefully crafted sentence. I devoured this book, unable to put it down despite the goosebumps that pricked my skin.

“The story of her past is not like other people’s, she thinks. Most people’s past can be viewed like cleaved water left in the wake of a boat. Hers? It’s a tangled weave of spider webs and nightmares, never to make sense.”

The story is told in dual timelines: 1998 when Liv Stay has moved to the isle of Lon Haven with her children Sapphire (Saffy), Luna and Clover after being commissioned to paint a mural in the Longing, and 2021 when a now twenty-nine-year-old Luna is pregnant with her first child and still searching for her mother and sisters, who went missing all those years ago. There are also flashbacks to the witch trials of 1662 in the form of a grimoire that young Saffy finds in the bothy and begins reading. The author seamlessly shifts between the three timelines, giving each a distinctive voice and perfectly capturing the different eras. While you know each timeline must be connected, the author keeps you guessing as to how, slowly and teasingly weaving the threads together until you see the full and intricate picture she has woven. The characters are all evocative and compelling, luring you into their stories so deeply that you can’t leave until you know all the secrets they keep locked inside.

“The Longing. The name conjures such terror, such complex memories.”

Gorgeously gothic, the author makes great use of places to help create an atmosphere that sends shivers down your spine. Lon Haven is a place that conjures feelings of claustrophobia and isolation. In the middle of nowhere, it is inhabited by strange residents who tell crazy tales and there is a feeling of fear whether anyone who goes there can make it out again. And then there’s the Longing, which casts a sinister shadow over the story from the start. An eerie, haunting place that is falling apart, we soon learn that it is a place the locals avoid thanks to a history that involves women accused of witchcraft, curses and death. Liv quickly notices strange occurrences happening there and begins to wonder about the tales Isla and others have told her about the Longing. Could they be true? Could it really be cursed? And if so, what does that mean for her and her daughters? 

Enthralling, immersive and filled with gothic menace, The Lighthouse Witches is the perfect read for spooky season.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

CJ Cooke, also known as Carolyn Jess-Cooke, grew up on a council estate in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the height of the Troubles. She started writing at the age of 7 and pestered publishers for many years with manuscripts typed on her grandparents’ old typewriter and cover notes written on pages ripped from school jotters. 

Since then, she has published 12 works in 23 languages and won numerous awards, including an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, a Tyrone Guthrie Prize, a K Blundell Award, and she has won a Northern Writer’s Award three times. In 2011, her debut novel, The Guardian Angel’s Journal, was published by Little, Brown. The novel was an international bestseller. Her second novel, The Boy Who Could See Demons (2012), is now a cult classic. Her sixth novel, The Lighthouse Witches, is published in September 2021, and her third poetry collection, We Have to Leave the Earth, is published in October 2021. CJ’s work is concerned with trauma, motherhood, grief, and social justice.

CJ holds a BA (Hons), MA, and PhD from Queen’s University, Belfast, and commenced her academic career in 2005 as a Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sunderland. Shortly thereafter, she published four academic works in swift succession on Shakespearean Cinema and Film Sequels, before establishing her career as a poet, editor, and novelist. Now Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, CJ convenes the prestigious MLitt Creative Writing and researches ways that creative writing can help with trauma and mental health. She is also the founder and director of the Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival, which is dedicated to providing people with accessible, inclusive, and eco-friendly ways to access literature. She has four children and lives with her family in Glasgow, Scotland.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Published: July 29th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder Books
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Horror Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this chilling story. Thank you to Niamh at Hodder for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into a rambling Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a memoir called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon.

Now, Maggie has inherited Baneberry Hall after her father’s death. She was too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist.

But when she returns to Baneberry Hall to prepare it for sale, her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the pages of her father’s book lurk in the shadows, and locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself – a place that hints of dark deeds and unexplained happenings.

As the days pass, Maggie begins to believe that what her father wrote was more fact than fiction. That, either way, someone – or something – doesn’t want her here. And that she might be in danger all over again . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“Every house has a story.
Ours is a ghost story.
It is also a lie.
And now another person has died within these walls, it’s finally time to tell the truth.”

Home Before Dark is a chilling, nerve-shredding novel. From the start there is an air of menace and foreboding, something eerie that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. This is not a book to read at night; you need the sun shining or all of the lights on. Even with doing that I still found myself imagining Mister Shadow under my bed or Mrs Pennyface creeping out of my wardrobe. *Shudders*

Maggie Holt is an interior designer. She looks for the story each house has to tell and attempts to coax it out. And no house has a story that needs to be discovered more than Baneberry Hall, the rambling Victorian Estate that she and her parents lived in twenty-five years ago. A house they fled in the night after just twenty days that are now infamous, thanks to the book her father wrote about the ghostly events that occurred there. Maggie has always believed his story to be an elaborate hoax. So after inheriting the house she decides to go in search of answers. But is she really prepared for what she’ll find?

Riley Sager is an author who has been on my radar ever since I joined bookstagram. I have a few of his books but never got around to reading them, so when the opportunity arose to take part in the blog tour for his latest book, I jumped at the chance. To say I was excited was an understatement. I had high hopes and expectations after hearing so much praise for his books. And not only did Mr. Sager live up to them, he surpassed them. A clever and skillfully written tale infused with terrifying things that go bump in the night, Sager has a deliciously warped mind and I’m here for it. He also knows just how to lure you in and keep you hooked, making it impossible to stop reading even when I was terrified. 

“For us, Baneberry Hall is a house of horrors. One that none of us may dare enter again.”

The story moves between Maggie’s narrative in the present day and extracts from her father’s book, House of Horrors. The Book, as Maggie refers to it, has been a shadow that loomed over her entire life. It has brought her family wealth and fame, but at a cost, also cursing her to live her life unable to trust potential friends or lovers for fear they want to get close because of it. Maggie is a great protagonist. Someone who isn’t always likeable but always feels real. I liked that she had a healthy dose of reality and thought her not buying into the story her parents had sold offered a fascinating perspective, especially when mixed with the guilt she felt at doubting the parents she loved.

I liked the author’s decision to tell earlier events through extracts from the book rather than flashbacks. This helped me to see it as a story that may or may not be true, just as Maggie did, rather than simply accepting what Ewan said as fact. But I found that while my view of Ewan had already been coloured by Maggie’s assertions that it was all a hoax, the book also felt real, especially as more and more strange things began happening in the present day. I found myself wondering if he might have been telling the truth while also searching for what reason he could have to lie. Like Maggie, I needed answers. 

Creeping, sinister and twisty, I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish and did not see that ending coming at all. A spine-chilling thriller that I would highly recommend, just make sure you read it with the light on!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer.

Now a full-time writer, Riley is the author of FINAL GIRLS, an international bestseller that’s been published in 25 languages, and the instant New York Times bestsellers THE LAST TIME I LIED, LOCK EVERY DOOR and HOME BEFORE DARK. His latest book, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, will be available June 29 from Dutton Books.

A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx