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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

REIVEW: A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting by Sophie Irwin

Published: May 12th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Novel, Regency Romance
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review for this sassy, outrageous and bingeable debut. Thank you to Harper Fiction for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Read summer 2022’s biggest historical debut!

The season is about to begin – and there’s not a minute to lose…

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune.

Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.

With just twelve weeks until Kitty and her sisters are made homeless, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her. And Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.

The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost.

Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one – not even a lord – will stand in her way…

Sophie Irwin’s book ‘A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting’ was a Sunday Times bestseller w/c 09-05-2022.

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MY REVIEW:

“And there is not a day to lose – the Season is about to begin.” 

As soon as I heard about A Lady’s Guide To Fortune Hunting I was desperate to read it. My two beautiful editions sat taunting me from my shelves for months, so this was an obvious choice to put on my 12 backlists books to read in 2023. I couldn’t wait to finally read it. 

The year is 1818 and Kitty Talbot is in need of a fortune. Or rather she needs a husband who has one. And with just twelve weeks until she and her sisters are made homeless, there is no time to waste, so she heads to London to find a suitor. It is there that she meets Lord Radcliffe, a man equally as determined to thwart Kitty’s plans as she is to make them succeed. Will he win this battle of wits or will Kitty triumph and capture her prize?

Sassy, spirited and simply swoon-worthy,  A Lady’s Guide To Fortune-Hunting feels like Jane Austen with a dynamic and modern flare. My only regret about this bingeable debut is that I didn’t read it sooner. Debut author Sophie Irwin is a magnificent new talent who I’m adding straight to my auto-buy list. From the first page I was in love and wrenched out of my own reality and into the world she created. And what a world it is! Richly drawn, evocative and full of ebullient, colourful and multifaceted characters who leap from the page, it was like stepping into an episode of Bridgerton. 

“Becoming a gentlewoman, Kitty soon began to appreciate, was to contain one’s self so tightly that one could not breathe – your whole body had to become a corset, with indelicacies, gracelessness and character kept strictly within.” 

One of the things that make this book so special is its fabulous heroine, Kitty Talbot. Feisty, gutsy and bright, it was easy to root for her as she takes on polite society in her pursuit of a rich husband. I loved that she was a complex and layered character, rather than simply an airhead looking for a fortune. It certainly made her more relatable and compelling to read. She and Lord Radcliffe were formidable opponents and I loved their dynamic. The banter was sharp and witty, and it was entertaining to watch as plotted and schemed to try and outsmart each other. Lord Radcliffe himself was a great character that I found myself warming to more as the story went on and the layers to his character were revealed.

Witty, outrageous and utterly glorious, I have no doubt that this will be one of my top reads this year. I was bereft at saying goodbye to the characters so I was delighted to learn that this is going to be the first in a new series. I’m already counting down to book two this summer. Fans of historical fiction or romance need to read this one ASAP. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sophie has spent years immersed in the study of historical fiction, from a dissertation on why Georgette Heyer helped win World War Two, to time spent in dusty stacks and old tomes doing detailed period research when writing this book. Her love and passion for historical fiction bring a breath of fresh air and a contemporary energy to the genre. Sophie hopes to transport readers to Regency London, where ballrooms are more like battlegrounds.

A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting is Sophie’s debut novel and it has already sold in twenty territories worldwide.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

*All purchase links are afiiliate links

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Book Features book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

Review: Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

Published: April 14th, 2022
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: Historical Fiction, Political Fiction, Spiritual and Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of this powerful and moving debut.

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SYNOPSIS:

WINNER OF THE AN POST IRISH BOOK AWARDS NOVEL OF THE YEAR 2022
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WATERSTONES DEBUT FICTION PRIZE 2022
AN OBSERVER BEST DEBUT NOVELIST OF 2022
A BBC RADIO 4 BOOK AT BEDTIME
A 2022 BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR: THE TIMES * SUNDAY TIMES * GUARDIAN * TELEGRAPH * NEW STATESMAN * DAILY MAIL * IRISH TIMES IRISH INDEPENDENT * BELFAST TELEGRAPH

‘Like Sally Rooney mixed with a political thriller’ RUSSELL KANE
‘Intense, unflinchingly honest, it broke my heart a million times’ MARIAN KEYES
‘Absolutely loved it’ MAX PORTER
‘A beautiful, devastating novel’ NICK HORNBY

One by one, she undid each event, each decision, each choice.
If Davy had remembered to put on a coat.
If Seamie McGeown had not found himself alone on a dark street.
If Michael Agnew had not walked through the door of the pub on a quiet night in February in his white shirt.

There is nothing special about the day Cushla meets Michael, a married man from Belfast, in the pub owned by her family. But here, love is never far from violence, and this encounter will change both of their lives forever.

As people get up each morning and go to work, school, church or the pub, the daily news rolls in of another car bomb exploded, another man beaten, killed or left for dead. In the class Cushla teaches, the vocabulary of seven-year-old children now includes phrases like ‘petrol bomb’ and ‘rubber bullets’. And as she is forced to tread lines she never thought she would cross, tensions in the town are escalating, threatening to destroy all she is working to hold together.

Tender and shocking, Trespasses is an unforgettable debut of people trying to live ordinary lives in extraordinary times.

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MY REVIEW:

“I love Ireland. I just don’t think it’s worth killing anyone over it.”

A young catholic school-teacher and an older Protestant barrister from very different backgrounds shouldn’t fall in love. Especially not in Belfast at the height of the troubles. But that is exactly what happens after Michael walks into Cushla’s family pub in this story of mismatched and forbidden love. It is a love that must be kept secret; filled with clandestine dates and snatched moments. Can it last or will they be caught in the crossfire of the war that wages around them?

Belfast is a place that’s always felt like a part of my life. My Dad was stationed there in the Army during the troubles. I’ve grown up with his tales of what it was like there in the seventies and a love of all-things Irish remains in him to this day. Ireland became an even bigger part of my life in 2021 when my partner began working there for two weeks out of every month. Last May I accompanied him for two weeks while he worked in Belfast, and it was there that we got engaged. So, as you can imagine, it has a special place in my heart and I knew I had to read this book as soon as I first heard about it. 

Powerful, moving, and heartbreaking, this is a story that will stay with me. I listened to Trespasses on audiobook, and the narrator was fantastic, not only transporting me back in time but bringing the story and characters to life so vividly that I could smell the cigarette smoke, taste the Guiness and see the soldiers on the streets. Debut author Louise Kennedy has skillfully written a story bursting with emotion on every page. It gets to the heart of how it felt to be an ordinary person living in a war zone and is a jarring reminder of the reality and dangers of their everyday lives. You can feel their fear of the soldiers and bombs, and of having to be so careful about who you are seen with and what you say. The side you were born into controlled every facet of their lives, and there was no escape. And having so recently been to the city and walked its streets, drank in The Crown pub, and even stayed at the Europa Hotel, which Cushla tells us was then known as the “hardboard hotel” because it was the most bombed hotel in Europe, I felt a real connection to this story, the city, and the characters.

The relationship between Michael and Cushla is used by the author not only as a love story but as a clever tool to help highlight the realities of everyday life for people in the troubles, as well as to help humanise the people on both sides of the conflict rather than focusing solely on Cushla’s Catholic perspective. But theirs isn’t the only complex relationship featured in this book. It is filled with many complicated relationships and characters that are richly drawn, compelling, and relatable. But my favourite character was young Davey, a little boy from one of Cushla’s classes from a deprived background. He went straight to my heart, and I loved the relationship between him and Cushla.

Gritty, unflinching, hopeful and transportive, Trespasses is an outstanding debut from an author that’s one to watch. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Louise Kennedy grew up in Holywood, Co. Down. Her short story collection, The End of the World is a Cut de Sac (Bloomsbury/ Riverhead US 2021) won the John McGahern Prize. Her debut novel, Trespasses (Bloomsbury/ Riverhead US 2022) won Eason’s Novel of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards, and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize and Barnes and Noble Discover Prize. Before she started writing, she spent nearly thirty years working as a chef. She lives in Sligo.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Dirt by Sarah Sultoon

Published: Janaury 19th, 2023
Publisher: Orenda
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Political Thriller, Political Fiction, War Story
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this compelling thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part, and Karen at Orenda for the ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

A compulsive, searing political thriller set on a kibbutz in Northern Israel, where the discovery of the body of an Israeli-Arab worker sets off a devastating chain of events…


‘A first-class political thriller’ Steve Cavanagh
 
‘A bitingly sharp, pacy thriller. Devilishly good. I inhaled it’ Freya Berry 
 
‘A powerful political thriller that brims with authentic detail. Clever, compulsive and achingly atmospheric’ Kia Abdullah 
 
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This is no utopia…

1996. Northern Israel. Lola leaves an unhappy home life in England for the fabled utopian life of a kibbutz, but this heavily guarded farming community on the Arab-Israeli border isn’t the idyll it seems, and tensions are festering.

Hundreds of miles away, in the Jerusalem offices of the International Tribune newspaper, all eyes are on Israel’s response to a spate of rocket attacks from Lebanon, until cub reporter Jonny Murphy gets a tip from a mysterious source that sends him straight into the danger zone.

When the body of an Arab worker is discovered in the dirt of the kibbutz chicken house, it triggers a series of events that puts Lola and the whole community in jeopardy, and Jonny begins to uncover a series of secrets that put everything at risk, as he begins to realise just how far some people will go to belong…

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MY REIVEW

“The body steamed gently in the heat as the birds pecked their way around it, the fetid smell of chicken feed mingling with the sulphurous whiff of smashed eggs. The pecking became indecorous as the hardest-working chicken, a champion amongst fowl, found an eyeball. Then another.”

When a thriller opens with lines like that you know you’re in for a great read. And Dirt did not disappoint. There is a sense of foreboding that hovers over the pages from the start, something ominous in the air that we are yet to discover. And there is a lot to discover in the complex, layered and twisty political thriller filled with secrets, tension and cover-ups.

1996 is a nostalgic year for me. I was 17-years-old and it was the year I felt I found a sense of freedom and adventure among my peers, so I instantly connected with Lola who is experiencing that on a much bigger scale in this story. Lola has left behind her unhappy home life in England for an adventure in Northern Israel alongside her Jewish best friend, Sam. The two are working as volunteers on a kibbutz, a fabled utopian farming community located on the Arab-Israeli border. There is a real sense of family living and working alongside these people every day. But when a body is found in the heavily guarded community all signs point to murder, and it seems Lola doesn’t know these people as well as she thought.

Meanwhile, our other narrator, Jonny, is hundreds of miles away in Jerusalem. Jonny has also come to the country to find himself, a quest to learn more about his heritage after his Jewish mother was disowned by her family for falling in love with his Irish father. A reporter for the International Tribune, a source alerts him to the body discovered on the kibbutz. Unable to resist the lure of a story, he travels there to investigate, not realising the dangerous chain of events he is about to ignite.

“You have no idea what you’ve stumbled into. Everyone thinks that it is simple – both sides hate the other and will fight to the death until one of them wins. Nothing’s ever that simple though is it?” 

Sarah Sultoon isn’t afraid to tackle a difficult subject. Her debut, The Source, was a hard-hitting read and this one is just as unflinching. Alongside her examination of the Arab-Israeli conflict is an exploration of identity that also touches on subjects such as prejudice and sexual assault. While there are occasional gruesome scenes, it is never graphic and she instead focuses on the emotions of the characters to tell her story, making the reader feel everything alongside Lola and Jonny. The writing is so evocative that I was transported and it was almost like I could feel the heat of the sun bearing down on me in the kibbutz or feel the terror as rockets flew overhead during an air raid. It gave me a real connection not only to the characters, but to the setting itself, something that is very important in this book.

A clever, intriguing and intricate thriller that I’d highly recommend.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if… Sarah lives in London with her family, and she’s currently working on her second thriller

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BUY THE BOOK:

Orenda | Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xx

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 Most Anticipated 2023

BLOG TOUR: Becoming Ted by Matt Cain

Published: January 19th, 2023
Publisher: Headline Review
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day to Becoming Ted! I’m delighted to be sharing my review today for this uplifting novel. Thank you to Joe at Headline for the invitation to take part and proof copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

A charming, joyful and surprising story about love, friendship and learning to be true to yourself, Becoming Ted will steal your heart.

Ted Ainsworth has always worked at his family’s ice-cream business in the quiet Lancashire town of St Luke’s-on-Sea.

But the truth is, he’s never wanted to work for the family firm – he doesn’t even like ice-cream, though he’s never told his parents that. When Ted’s husband suddenly leaves him, the bottom falls out of his world.

But what if this could be an opportunity to put what he wants first? This could be the chance to finally follow his secret dream: something Ted has never told anyone …

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MY REVIEW:

“I’ve dimmed my light for decades – now it’s time to turn it up to the max!” 

Oh, my heart. A story that will strike a resonant chord with many of us, it pulled on my heartstrings, made me laugh out loud and gave me life. I loved every minute of reading it and now want everyone else to experience that same joy. 

43-year-old Ted Ainsworth is happily married to his husband, Giles, of twenty years. They live in the small Lancashire town of St Luke’s-on-Sea where Ted works for the family ice cream business. It’s a good life. One he’s happy with. Or so he thinks.
When Giles announces he’s leaving Ted out of the blue one Sunday morning, Ted’s whole world is rocked. He has lost his anchor, his future, his everything. As he picks up the broken pieces of his heart, Ted begins to reflect on not only his relationship, but his entire life, and rediscovers a long-forgotten dream that he has kept secret all of his life. Maybe now it’s finally time to become who he was always meant to be…

“Bursting to life in front of them is a colourful chaos of non-conformity.” 

I’d heard a lot of great things about Matt Cain’s previous book, The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, so I was looking forward to discovering his writing for myself. And let me tell you, it was everything I’d hoped for and more. Beautifully written and compelling, I was completely immersed in Ted’s story from the start. I’m a big fan of slice of life books that allow us to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, to feel their struggles, heartache and joy. Ted’s journey to find the best version of himself is interspersed with memories of his childhood and his relationship with Giles, giving the reader a greater understanding of how Ted became the man he is, as well as giving glimpses at who he wants to be. So much of this story is recognisable and relatable, from its characters inspired by everyday people, to the themes of heartbreak, self-discovery and friendship, to how it perfectly captures life in a small, northern seaside town. The last part was a particularly enjoyable nostalgia-fest for me. 

“In just a few minutes the dull, unremarkable, barely noticeable Ted Ainsworth had blossomed into a glamorous, fierce-looking, powerful queen.”

The eponymous Ted is a marvellous and magnetic character who I fell in love with immediately. His story is one that will strike a resonant chord in many of us, including this 43-year-old straight woman. So many times I felt like I was seeing myself on the page as I read Ted’s story, many times I had been exactly where he was and I wanted to jump into the book so I could hug him. The author’s portrayal of how it feels when your marriage or long-term relationship ends was devastatingly real. I felt like my own heart broke along with Ted’s as he was filled with overwhelming grief and began to question everything he thought he knew. But after every storm, a rainbow appears, and watching as Ted transformed into his best self was emotional, courageous and inspiring. I wanted to shout ‘Yesss Queen’ as this butterfly emerged from its cocoon and lit up the world. 

Loud, proud and utterly fabulous, Becoming Ted is a reminder that it is never too late to follow our dreams and become who we are meant to be. Heartwarming, hopeful and uplifting, I think everyone should read this book and meet Ted. I promise you won’t regret it.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Matt Cain is a writer, broadcaster, and a leading commentator on LGBT+ issues.

He was Channel 4’s first Culture Editor, Editor-In-Chief of Attitude magazine, has written for all the major national newspapers, and presented the flagship discussion show on Virgin Radio Pride. He’s also an ambassador for Manchester Pride and the Albert Kennedy Trust, plus a patron of LGBT+ History Month.

Matt’s first two novels, Shot Through the Heart and Nothing But Trouble, were published by Pan Macmillan. His third, The Madonna Of Bolton, became Unbound’s fastest crowdfunded novel ever before its publication in 2018. His latest, The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, was published by Headline Review in May 2021 and Becoming Ted will follow in January 2023.

Born in Bury and brought up in Bolton, Matt now lives in London with his partner, Harry, and their cat, Nelly.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2023

BLOG TOUR: The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

Published: January 19th, 2023
Publisher: Viper
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Episolatry Novel, Police Procedural
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this tantalising and twisty tale. This was my favourie book of December 2022 and I’m so glad to finally be able to share my review with you all. Thank you to Viper for the invitation to take part and the proof copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

*** THE NEW MYSTERY PHENOMENON FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE APPEAL AND THE TWYFORD CODE ***

‘The queen of tricksy crime’ – SUNDAY TIMES
‘An astonishing piece of work’ – IAN MOORE

Open the safe deposit box.
Inside you will find research material for a true crime book.
You must read the documents, then make a decision.
Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?

Everyone knows the sad story of the Alperton Angels: the cult who brainwashed a teenage girl and convinced her that her newborn baby was the anti-Christ. Believing they had a divine mission to kill the infant, they were only stopped when the girl came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than stand trial, while mother and baby disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed; if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong. The truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined. And the story of the Alperton Angels is far from over.

From the bestselling author of The Appeal and The Twyford Code comes a stunning new mystery for fans of Richard Osman and S.J. Bennett. The devil is in the detail…

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MY REVIEW:

You have a key that opens a safe deposit box.
Inside is a bundle of documents, archived research material for a book that has just been published.
You must read it all and make a decision, either:
Replace all the documents and the box, then throw the key where it will never be found…
Or: take everything to the police. 

And so begins The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels. A tantalising, eerie and intriguing story of secrets, lies, delusion, mystery and  murder. 

True-crime author Amanda Bailey is asked to revisit the infamous case of the Alperton Angels, the cult who brainwashed a teenager into believing her baby was the anti-Christ and that God had charged them with sacrificing it in order to save humanity. The girl managed to save her baby, but the Angles sacrificed themselves rather than face trial for their crimes, and the case has been surrounded by whispers of conspiracy and cover-ups ever since.

With the surviving baby about to turn eighteen, the race is on to secure the first interview, and Amanda is determined to get that scoop. But she soon discovers discrepancies in the case and finds there is a wall of secrecy that surrounds the baby and it’s teenage parents, all three of which have not been seen since that night. It seems that everything people think they know about the Alperton Angels is wrong. The truth is something much darker, stranger and more sinister than anyone could ever imagine. And some people will do anything to prevent the truth from being revealed.

“There’s something about this case. It burrows insidiously into your mind, then sets about changing it.” 

I had been in a reading slump for a while when I picked this up, hoping that this might be the magic story to break the curse. And, boy, did it have the desired effect! Tantalising, eerie and intriguing, I couldn’t get enough of this book and devoured it quickly. It haunted my every thought and I’d be thinking about it even when forced to stop reading to do other things. I even dreamed about it when I slept! An absolute masterpiece, this was exactly what I needed to get me out of my slump.

Janice Hallett is a true innovator in crime fiction. She writes exclusively in mixed media, yet somehow you forget that you aren’t reading a traditionally written story. She makes it flow seamlessly and I completely lost myself in the world that she created.  A world that feels so real. I  am not ashamed to admit that I turned to google to check if this was based on a real case. It reads so authentically that it felt unfathomable that it could be purely a work of fiction. Ms. Hallett is a master storyteller who has created a story where nothing is as it seemed. The plot is an intricate maze of secrets, red herrings, duplexities and double crosses that I challenge anyone to predict. It is all so detailed and complex that it made my head spin, pulling me one way, then another, and then back again, like clothes spinning round a washing machine. I have no idea how she manages to come up with it, let alone how she keeps all those balls in the air and plots the clues perfectly. Yet it never feels confusing, which is a testament to her extraordinary skill as a writer.

Dark, curious and forbidding, you will not be able to stop reading this book until you have a resolution to your questions. And as the tension ramps up as you race to the finale, you will find yourself on the edge of your seat holding on for dear life as Ms. Hallett takes you on a wild and twisty ride. An absolute must-read for anyone who enjoys crime fiction. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Janice Hallett studied English at UCL, and spent several years as a magazine editor, winning two awards for journalism. After gaining an MA in Screenwriting at Royal Holloway, she co-wrote the feature film RetreatThe Appeal is inspired by her lifelong interest in amateur dramatics. Her second novel, The Twyford Code, will be published by Viper in 2022. When not indulging her passion for global adventure travel, she is based in West London.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: Only Girl Alive by Holly S. Roberts

Published: January 13th, 2023
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Noir Fiction, Police Procedural, Crime Fiction, Crime Series
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day to this compelling thriller! Thank you to Noelle at Bookouture for the invitation to take part and gifted eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

As day breaks over the Tanner family home, the house is deadly silent and the door is firmly closed. Upstairs, the whole family lie cold and lifeless in their beds. All with the same look of fear in their unblinking eyes…

Detective Eve Bennet takes a steadying breath as she enters the main bedroom of the Tanners’ modest home in the tight-knit town of Hilldale, Utah. Mrs Tanner’s high-collared nightgown and her long plaited blonde hair are soaked in blood. Next to her, Mr Tanner’s hands are clasped together in a final prayer.

Filled with dread, Eve forces herself towards the children’s rooms. But instead of two children, she only finds one. Where is the youngest daughter, Hannah? And why are there long scratches across the walls?

Eve tracks Hannah down to her uncle’s house nearby. But he won’t let her step foot in the house. Eve knows what it’s like to be held captive by a family member, and fears for Hannah’s safety. What is he terrified Hannah might reveal?

Back at the Tanner home, Eve makes a shocking discovery in the dust covered attic. Mr Tanner was hiding a dark secret from the rest of the community—the kind of secret someone would kill for.

Realizing another family could be in danger, Eve runs from the house and stumbles into the path of the one man she spent years trying to forget— and he won’t let her get away this time. Can Eve escape the evil that has haunted her whole life? And will she catch the killer before another innocent family is murdered?

Fans of Melinda Leigh, Kendra Elliot and Lisa Regan will be absolutely gripped by this explosive and totally unputdownable crime thriller from a USA Today bestselling author.

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MY REIVEW:

“The killer lightly inhaled and exhaled into the silence, awaiting God’s next command… Sinners waited for salvation in the next rooms”

The bodies of four members of the Tanner family are found lifeless in their beds. An entire family, wiped out as they slept. Or so it first appears. There is actually a survivor. One child that is still alive who may hold the key to solving this violent and unthinkable crime. But her uncle won’t allow the police to speak with her and the entire community seems determined to keep the ten-year-old hidden. What are they so scared she might reveal?
As Detective Eve Bennett and her team investigate, they make a shocking discovery in the attic of the Tanner’s home that leads to even darker revelations. Now they must race against the clock to catch the brutal killer before they strike again.

Did I need a new crime series on my already overflowing TBR? Not at all. But despite this, and the fact I’d sworn to cut right back on blog tours in the last few months leading up to my wedding, I was unable to resist reading Only Girl Alive and joining the blog tour. Noelle Holten, I blame you. But I also have to thank you, because this book had me hooked and I’ve found a fantastic new series to follow. 

“The evil that permeated this community was the history that she unsuccessfully tried to escape.”

Only Girl Alive introduces us to a new star in crime fiction. Detective Eve Bennett works for Utah’s special investigative squad, a unit committed to helping find justice for the victims of the polygamist sect of the Mormon Church. Her motives are personal as Eve was raised in the sect before escaping as a young teenager. Her fundamentalist past still haunts her, the trauma and indoctrination a daily battle she must wage. I really liked the author’s choice to give Eve a fundie background as it not only gives the reader an added insight into the community she is investigating, but also makes for complex dynamics and interesting plot points such as working against her own family when investigating crimes. She is a fascinating character who was a joy to read. I also really enjoyed the characters who made up Eve’s team. I loved their dynamic and how they handled the tricky obstacles they faced from the community as they investigated. The hint of blossoming romance was also fun to read and I’m hoping to see that develop in book two. 

There aren’t many fiction books that focus on fundamentalism so setting a new series around a fundie community is something that immediately makes it stand out from the crowd. And as someone who has long been interested in fundamentalism and its consequences, it made me even more invested in this book and its characters. The author skillfully portrays what it is like to live with such an indoctrinated mindset, something that is shown particularly well when we read the opening chapter, which is written from the killer’s point of view. This chapter chilled me to my core as it is clear that they are a deeply disturbed person who is so indoctrinated that they genuinely believe they are carrying out God’s judgement and helping their victims atone for their sins. Seriously creepy but sadly understandable with all they are taught.

“An evil corruption that twisted the hearts and minds of over ten thousand people waited to stop Eve’s team from discovering the truth. What secret were they willing to kill for? “

Holly S. Roberts’ biography tells us that she is a retired homicide detective, something that totally makes sense after reading this book. Exquisitely written, evocative and utterly compelling, it also includes lots of little details about the inner workings of investigating a crime that felt authentic. I now know why. As someone who reads a lot of thrillers, it isn’t often I can genuinely say that I did not see a twist coming. But that is what happened with this book. There are a lot of surprising revelations along the way, but the big reveal totally blindsided me. My jaw was on the floor and I suddenly had to question everything I thought I knew. How did I miss it?! Well played, Ms. Roberts. Well played. 

Tense, twisty and gripping, Only Girl Alive is a fantastic thriller from what promises to be an exciting new series. Thriller lovers, add this to your TBR now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

TW: Religious indoctrination, religious trauma, sexual abuse

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Holly Roberts began writing to alleviate stress in her day job, that of a homicide and sex crimes detective. Romance was her go to genre because she required a happy ending. She also touched on cozy mysteries and added six books to her forty book romance repertoire. Now that she’s retired and her mind at peace, she decided to delve into crime thrillers using her background and thirst for research to write the Eve Bennet series.

Holly has two movie/television options under her belt for her amazing life story. Part of the reason is Holly became a police officer at age 45 and led two high profile cases, one involving a serial killer. Now she enjoys the excitement of writing about crime while sitting at home with her two dogs, laptop, and a cup of hot tea close by.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon* | Apple | Audible US

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: So Pretty by Ronnie Turner

Published: January 19th, 2023
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Gothic Fiction, Psychological Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this dark, hypnotic and unnerving debut. This was a fantastic start to my reading year and I’m thrilled to be sharing my review with you all today.
Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Karen at Orenda for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

A young man arrives in a small town, hoping to leave his past behind him, but everything changes when he takes a job in a peculiar old shop, and meets a lonely single mother … A chillingly hypnotic gothic thriller and a Mesmerising study of identity and obsession.
 
‘This chilling gothic tale explores the dark corners of identity … beautifully written and a real page-turner’ C J Cooke
 
‘Dark, lyrical and intriguing’ Fiona Cummins
 
‘Like Stephen King on crack … the most accomplished book I’ve read this year. Dark, gothic as hell, and genuinely scary, Turner has managed to portray loneliness, obsession, and monster-worship in one neat little package. I dare you to open it’ M W Craven
 
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Fear blisters through this town like a fever…

When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end. 

Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.

Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely, and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.

As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife edge.

Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it has always found him before. And before long, it will find Ada too.

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MY REVIEW:

‘It’s a curious box and a box of curiosities. We don’t go inside Berry & Vincent,’ they said. 
‘Why?’ 
Don’t go inside Berry & Vincent,’ they said. ‘There’s a devil inside that place.’

Teddy arrives in Rye hoping to make a fresh start and leave the ghosts of his past far behind. He answers an ad for an assistant at Berry & Vincent, a peculiar old shop that the residents avoid and refuse to even speak of. What is it they are so afraid of? And why do they keep telling Teddy to leave before it’s too late?
As Teddy tries to uncover the secrets of this strange place he meets single mother Ada, who has lived in Rye for two years but never managed to fit in. The pair bond over being outsiders and attempt to unravel the mystery of Berry & Vincent. But there is a darkness lurking and secrets that have been hidden for decades will soon be revealed.

Wow! This book needs to come with a warning label! Dark, haunting and malevolent, it chilled me to the bone, made my heart race and left my jaw on the floor. I finished reading it late last night, unable to go to bed until I had the answers to my many questions, and I’m still reeling, the adrenaline coursing through me even now. When you read this book, be prepared to be taken on one of the darkest, most twisted rides you’ve ever experienced. And be prepared to love every minute. 

“They were afraid. They were all afraid.” 

It is no secret that Orenda is not only my favourite indie publisher, but one of my favourite publishers overall. Anytime you read one of their books you know you’re guaranteed a magnificent story told by a skilled storyteller, so my hopes were high before even starting this book. But So Pretty took all of those expectations and blew them out of the water. Hypnotic and unnerving, it is cleverly choreographed, intricately layered and twisty, with the perfect balance of sinister suspense and edge-of-your-seat tension.  The imagery is evocative and chilling, making even the buildings feel alive with an evil that seeps into your pores as you read. There’s a sense of dread that pervades every page and I knew intrinsically that something was very wrong, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that no one would come out of this unscathed. I wanted to turn away and run. But I couldn’t. I was hooked.

Ronnie Turner may be a debut author, but she writes like a veteran beyond her years. A masterful sinister storyteller, she knows how to captivate her audience and blow their minds. I was putty in her hands as she took me down a rabbit hole of twists and turns, elevated the tension, and slowly revealed all the pieces so that the full, horrifying picture took shape. She is an author to watch and I can’t wait to see what she writes next. I’ll be first in line to buy it for sure!

“It takes twice as long to be mended than it does to be broken. If ever.”

Humans are the scariest of monsters, something that is explored throughout this book as it delves into the darkness that lurks inside the crevices of a twisted mind and illuminates the dark recesses of identity, and obsession. It is also a commentary on abuse, violence against women, and the lasting impact of trauma, showcasing how our pain can trickle down through generations to damage those we try to protect and reminding us that just because we know why someone acts a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it’s right or acceptable. The characters are all fractured, flawed, compelling, the author drawing you deeper inside their world and creating a bond between them and the reader. My heart ached for Teddy and Ada as they tried to escape the trauma of their pasts, and I rejoiced as they found friendship and solace from their lonely existence. But through it all I could never shake that growing disquiet. The sense of inherent darkness and danger coiled like a viper waiting to strike. And when it struck, it floored me completely and filled my heart with fear.

A buffet of dark delights, So Pretty is an unsettling, eerie and mesmerising gothic thriller. If you enjoy uncomfortable, claustrophobic and seriously creepy novels that will haunt your subconscious long after reading, then this one’s for you. An easy five stars, this was a phenomenal start to the reading year. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature. She now works as a Senior Waterstones Bookseller and barista. Ronnie lives in the South West with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and taking long walks on the coast.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Orenda | Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers that are taking part the blog tour.

*These purchase links are from affiliate links