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Emma's Anticipated Treasures First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday – The Split by Sharon Bolton

Welcome to First Lines Friday. This is a tag that was started by mrscookesbooks on Instagram and I’ve been doing on there for a while. I decided to start posting here too, offering more than just one line and hoping to entice you into reading the books I share.

This week, I’m sharing the first line from a book I reviewed earlier this year that came out in paperback yesterday:

“It’s not a ship. It’s an iceberg. Oh, thank Christ. She drops her binoculars and feels a thudding in her chest that might be her heart starting to beat again. There’s no smoking allowed in the island, but she pulls out her cigarettes all the same, because if she can subdue the shaking hands for long enough to light one then she might feel like she’s in control again. The wind, though. Won’t let the flame catch.”

This first line is from The Split by Sharon Bolton, which I read and reviewed for the blog tour back in June.

SYNOPSIS:

SHE’LL NEVER STOP RUNNING.
BUT HE’LL NEVER STOP LOOKING.

A year ago Felicity Lloyd fled England to South Georgia, one of the most remote islands in the world, escaping her past and the man she once loved. Can she keep running her whole life?

Freddie Lloyd has served time for murder – and now he wants her back. Wherever she is, he won’t stop until he finds her. Will he be able to track her to the ends of the earth?

TOGETHER THEY’LL FIND THEMSELVES TRAPPED ON THE ICE AND IN DANGER. WHO WILL SURVIVE?

You can read my full review here.

Buy the book here

*Thank you to Orion for my gifted copy of the book.

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Blog Tours book reviews

All Fall Down (DI Helen Grace 9) by M. J. Arlidge

78c4a0fcPublished: June 11th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Series

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the latest installment in my favourite crime series and one of my most anticipated books this year. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and Orion for the gifted copy of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

“You have one hour to live.”

Those are the only words on the phone call. Then they hang up. Surely, a prank? A mistake? A wrong number? Anything but the chilling truth… That someone is watching, waiting, working to take your life in one hour.

But why?

The job of finding out falls to DI Helen Grace: a woman with a track record in hunting killers. However, this is A case where the killer seems to always be one step ahead of the police and the victims.

With no motive, no leads, no clues – nothing but pure fear – an hour can last a lifetime…

MY REVIEW:

D.I. Helen Grace and her team are back in another gripping installment of my favourite crime series. I had been eagerly anticipating this one for months and it was worth the wait. 

There is a killer lurking in the shadows, stalking their prey. Their targets are the survivors of a group of schoolchildren who were abducted by Daniel King eight years ago. All but one of them got away but the killer was never caught and has been an illusive phantom ever since with no definitive sightings despite rumours over the years. Could he be back and looking to finish what he started all those years ago? And are the survivors telling the full story about what happened in that farmhouse? Are there secrets still waiting to be revealed?

M. J. Arlidge has done it again. I was hooked from the first page and immersed in the world he’s created, one that feels so familiar after eight previous books with Helen Grace and her team. The narrative uses multiple points of view and extracts from a book written by one of the survivors to slowly reveal the shocking truth about the killer they are hunting and the events eight years ago. 

Arlidge has a knack for writing characters that feel real and jump from the pages. The ones in this book felt so real that I had to go back and check his previous books as it felt like I’d read the story of the kids in the farmhouse before. I hadn’t, he’s just that good at immersing you in their world. Helen is the kind of flawed, complex and compelling character I love and I’ve enjoyed following her journey over the course of this series. This time Arlidge explores the politics of policing through the lens of interpersonal relationships, with Helen and her colleague Joseph Hudson in a fledgling relationship when the story opens. Their dynamic shifts as the story progresses and I am excited to see where he takes things next for them after how the book ended. 

Skillfully and cunningly crafted, Arlidge has once again written a dark, twisty, layered and tantalising thriller. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for this series in book ten. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✫

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

M. J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last twenty years, specializing in high-end drama production, including prime-time crime serials Silent Witness, Torn, The Little House and, most recently, the hit ITV show Innocent. In 2015 his audiobook exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a number-one bestseller. His debut thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014. It was followed by the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel, The Doll’s House, Liar Liar, Little Boy Blue, Hide and Seek and Love Me Not. Down to the Woods is the eighth DI Helen Grace thriller. In 2019 he published a standalone thriller, A Gift for Dying.

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The July Girls by Phoebe Locke

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Published: June 25th, 2020
Publisher: Headline
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this gripping thriller . Thank you to Antonia at Headline for the invitation to take part and my gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Every year, on the same night in July, a woman is taken from the streets of London; snatched by a killer who moves through the city like a ghost.

Addie has a secret. On the morning of her tenth birthday, four bombs were detonated across the capital. That night her dad came home covered in blood. She thought he was hurt in the attacks – but then her sister Jessie found a missing woman’s purse hidden in his room.

Jessie says they mustn’t tell. She says there’s nothing to worry about. But when she takes a job looking after the woman’s baby daughter, Addie starts to realise that her big sister doesn’t always tell her the whole story. And that the secrets they’re keeping may start costing lives . . .

MY REVIEW:

“There is a moment with each of them. A look in their eyes when they know it’s over. He likes to watch that realisation finally dawn, see them accept that there is no escape. The feeling of it is electric.”

“Soon he begins to look forward to the day when he can take the next.”

 

Every year, on the same night in July, a killer takes a woman from the streets of London. He is invisible, moving through the city in the shadows. On the same night one year, Addie’s father comes home covered in blood. At first she assumes the blood is from being caught up in the bombs that exploded in the city that morning, but when she and her older sister find a missing woman’s purse hidden behind his bed, she begins to wonder what really happened.

Mysterious and compelling, this had me hooked from beginning to end. The story is told from the perspective of Addie, following her and older sister Jessie over the course of twelve years as they navigate life under the shadow of their father’s suspected involvement in a series of murders. 

I loved how this book was written. From the start there was an unsettling feeling and throughout the book I got a sense of something else lurking beneath the surface, something with the potential to shatter everything we thought we knew. These feelings were only heightened as the story went on and I read with baited breath, wondering if my suspicions would be proved right or it was a clever ploy by the author to throw me off track. The best part of the writing for me was the author’s inclusion of real events that shook London, such as the 7/7 bombings and the shooting of Mark Duggan, along with the extracts from a book about the case, that gave the novel a true crime feel that was so authentic I often forgot I was reading a work of fiction. I also loved the menacing voice of the killer that is included in short, sporadic chapters. Each time we would hear from his perspective the hairs on the back of my neck would stand on end and I would get chills; exactly what you want when you read the voice of evil. 

Addie was a compelling and sympathetic protagonist. As the life of her dysfunctional family became increasingly shrouded in secrets and lies, we see her barely holding on by a thread. As she desperately tries to uncover the truth, becoming increasingly haunted and anxious, even developing OCD tendencies. Her relationship with Jessie, which should be her solace, is also riddled with secrets and lies, leaving her feeling unmoored and lost. The author made me feel like I was right there beside her every step of the way and as eager as she was to learn the truth about her family and the murders.

Tense, twisty and engaging, this had me on the edge of my seat and guessing right until the final pages. The July Girls is a fantastic thriller that will leave you breathless.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Phoebe Locke is a full-time writer, part-time doer of odd jobs. These jobs have included Christmas Elf, cocktail waitress, and childminder. Her first novel (written as Nicci Cloke), Someday Find Me, was published in 2012 and her second, Lay Me Down, in 2015. She has also written three novels for young adults: Follow Me Back (2016), Close Your Eyes (2017) and Toxic (2018).

She lives and writes in Cambridgeshire, and her debut psychological thriller is The Tall Man.

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Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly

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Photo Credit: Agora Books

Published: July 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Agora Books
Format: Kindle, Paperback
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse

Welcome to my spot on the blog tour for this compelling debut. Thank  you to Peyton at Agora Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

Over a decade ago, Heidi was the victim of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, her younger sister missing, and her best friend dead. But Heidi doesn’t remember any of that. She’s lived her life since then with little memory of her friends and family and no recollection of the crime.

Now, it’s all starting to come back.

As Heidi begins retracing the events that lead to the assault, she is forced to confront the pain and guilt she’s long kept buried. But Heidi isn’t the only one digging up the past, and the closer she gets to remembering the truth, the more danger she’s in.

When the truth is worse than fiction, is the past worth reliving?

An addictive thriller about a case gone cold and the dangers lurking on our doorsteps, Monstrous Souls will have you gripped to the very end.

MY REVIEW:

“It had been a policewoman who had eventually discovered them – not on an illicit camp-out as they had assumed, but a devastating scene of death.” 

At thirteen-years-old Heidi was the lone survivor of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, her little sister missing and her best friend dead. She has no memories of that day or her life leading up to it. Now, just over a decade later, small fragments of memories are beginning to reappear. As Heidi tries to put the pieces of her past together she finds herself in danger from those who want to keep the truth about that night hidden. But she is determined to find out what happened. Whatever the cost.

“I don’t like the way the memories come, like a letter bomb on the doormat. I don’t like the way they are tagged to feelings of grief and rage and self-recrimination. I am never prepared.”

Monstrous Souls is a pacy, gripping and layered thriller that was hard to put down. The story moves between the dual timelines and multiple narrators as we are given glimpses of events leading up to the night Heidi was attacked and follow her fifteen years later as she begins to regain her memories. As terrible truths are slowly unveiled it is soon clear that there is much more to the events of that night than anyone first imagined.

In this novel the author doesn’t shy away from the exploration of deep and difficult subject matters. She examines our psychology, the things we hide from the world, our deepest secrets and fears, and the effects they have on our actions and relationships with others. She also tackles the difficult subject of abuse with sensitivity, avoiding graphic descriptions while still managing to convey the full horror and depravity. She also shines a light on the reasons victims stay quiet, the guilt they feel and the long-lasting effects of abuse exploring if there are fates that can be worse than death.

“I don’t want to think about these places, about this other life she has to endure… what I have seen in the photograph seeps through me like a toxin.” 

For me the characters are a vital part of any book and the characters this author created were authentic and compelling. I found Heidi to be a very sympathetic and likeable character with an interesting character arc as her memories returned. We witness a seemingly fragile woman emerge into someone with great strength. In the flashbacks we witness the usual teenage angst and squabbles with her best friend become something much more serious when Nina confides in her. Heidi is filled with turmoil as she’s torn between the solace and security of her home and wanting to help her friend escape her private hell. We watch her anguish over how to help and if she should betray her friend’s confidence to do so. Nina is definitely the character I had a soft spot for. Between her awful homelife, the horrors she endures and the knowledge that she is brutally murdered so young, I desperately wished I could save her. Her sorrow, anguish and desolation lept from the page and left me heartbroken.

While I enjoyed all the different perspectives, the mysterious and sinister person stalking Heidi provides some of the best narration of the whole book and his story arc was probably the most nuanced of them all. When his identity was revealed I learned that all my predictions were wrong and my jaw hit the floor.

Monstrous Souls is a sensational, twisty and riveting debut that will have you hooked from start to finish.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

Rebecca Kelly Author Photo

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rebecca Kelly was brought up with books but denied the pleasure of a television. Although she hated this at the time, she now considers it to have contributed to a life-long passion for reading and writing.

After a misspent education, Rebecca had a variety of jobs. She’s spent the last years raising her children but has lately returned to her first love – writing.

Rebecca lives in the UK with her husband and youngest son and an over-enthusiastic black Labrador, who gives her writing tips.

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The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

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Published: July 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Scribner UK
Format: Kindle, Paperback, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Humour

Welcome to my spot on the tour for this spectacular debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Scribner UK for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

July, 1962

Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. But what kind of a woman will she become?

The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother, the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.

If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off then maybe she can move on with her own life and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.

Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire since Wensleydale cheese.

MY REVIEW:

“I am Evie, sixteen and a half, as wise as a tree, as tall as time, the fastest milk bottle in East Yorkshire, hurtling towards Womanhood.
This is all really strange.”

Witty, uplifting and simply irresistible, I devoured this book in almost one sitting; staying up until 3am to finish it. As a proud Yorkshirewoman I admit that it was the setting of this novel along with the brilliant cover that drew me to this book, but it is the delightful story between the pages and the fabulous characters that will make it linger in my heart long after reading.

1962. Evie Epworth,, sixteen-and-a-half, is on the brink of womanhood. But she has no idea what kind of woman she wants to be or what she wants to do next. She lives on a small farm in Yorkshire with her dad, Arthur, and Christine, the gold-digging housekeeper. This novel follows Evie over the course of one summer as she tries to figure out womanhood, the future, and how to help her dad escape Christine’s evil clutches.

“I don’t think I’m ready to be an Adult.
It’s all far too complicated and messy. Not to mention unfair. And cruel. In fact being an adult is so far proving pretty unpropitious (adjective – disappointing, not very promising). It’s not at all what I thought it would be like.
They don’t tell you this part of being an adult in Bunty or on the telly, about having your world torn asunder and being thrown into a world of enforced coiffured labour, wicked stepmothers and grisly water features.”

I love Evie Epworth. From the moment I opened the book and she leapt from the page I adored her. Feisty, funny, quirky, intelligent and caring, Evie is easy to like and root for and is someone I would love being around in real life. I loved how she would randomly  give the reader the definition of a word she’d read in the dictionary they kept in the downstairs loo. I think she could be one of  my favourite comic heroines of all time.

There is a lively cast of compelling and memorable characters in the book but the only one I hated was Christine. Christine was the epitome of the evil stepmother:  narcissistic, cruel, vapid and greedy. She is a wonderfully written villain and I loved her dynamic with Evie that was ripe for conflict, which the author exploits to perfection. 

Matson Taylor is a comedy master. He had me hooked from the first page with his witty, offbeat prose and he clearly has a talent for uproarious characters you won’t soon forget. Using richly drawn imagery he brought the Yorkshire countryside of the 1960s and the community he’d created to life as  vividly as any movie screen. 

Fresh, wry, and laugh-out-loud funny, this addictive debut  was like a hot cup of Yorkshire Tea on a cold day. It evoked a real sense of home for me and was a joy to read from beginning to end. Mastson Taylor is sensational new talent and I am excited to see what he writes next. 

I do have one small complaint about this book before I finish. And that is that the  many mentions of Bettys made me hungry and I started browsing online for their cakes. I’m still craving them days later! 

All jokes aside, I highly recommend this book if you need a pick-me-up, or are just wanting something fun to read.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

Matson Taylor Author Pic

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire but now lives in London. He is a design historian and works at the V&A museum, where he teaches on the History of Design programme and spends a lot of time trying to convince people that the luxury goods industry helped win the Second World War.

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The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina

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Published: June 25th, 2020
Publisher: Manilla Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Literary Fiction

Thank you to Manilla Press for the gifted copy of this novel .

SYNOPSIS:

We all have something to tell those we have lost . . .

When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she wonders how she will ever carry on. Yet, in the face of this unthinkable loss, life must somehow continue.

Then one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone box in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone box spreads, people travel to it from miles around.

Soon Yui makes her own pilgrimage to the phone box, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Then she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of their loss.

What happens next will warm your heart, even when it feels as though it is breaking.

When you’ve lost everything, what can you find . . ?

MY REVIEW:

 “Grief, Yui had once told him, is something you ingest everyday, like a sandwich cut into small pieces, gently chewed and then calmly swallowed. Digestion was slow. And so, Takeshi thought, joy must work in the same way”

The Phone Box at the Edge of the World is an extraordinary novel. A soulful, moving and uplifting study of grief and honouring the spirits of those we have lost.

In Belle Garcia, Japan there is a phone box that isn’t connected to anywhere. Known as the ‘wind phone’, it is a place for the broken and lost. A place people come to spend time in the adjacent garden and to talk to the people they have loved and lost and hear their words carried out onto the wind.  This is the story of Yui and Takeshi. Of their journey through grief, to the phone box and to find happiness once again.

I truly believe there are times a novel will come to you at exactly the time you need it . And that is what happened for me with this book. Being in the early stages of grief after losing a close friend I was anxious about reading it but could not have chosen a better book to read. I am thankful that I read this as a buddy read with one of my closest book friends as it was great to be able to discuss our thoughts and feelings while reading such a moving story. 

Wonderfully constructed with delicate, lyrical prose, reading this novel was like a balm for the soul. Powerful, poignant, heartwarming and hopeful, it also doesn’t shy away from the raw pain grief leaves behind. I loved the author’s use of  little interludes filled with facts to break up the narrator’s chapters, which acted as a kind of palate refresher for your emotions.

Yui and Takeshi are both great characters. I loved how they brought out a better side to each other and taught each other it was okay to be happy again without it dishonouring those they had lost.  Their story could have so easily been cheesy but instead it felt authentic and natural.

Wholly immersive and breathtakingly beautiful, I can’t recommend this novel highly enough. The Important Note and Acknowledgements are vital reading at the end as they offer more information about the real phone box and story this novel is based on and the author’s intentions for writing it. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

 

Website for the real phone of the wind

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Laura Imai Messina has been living in Japan for the last 15 years and works between Tokyo and Kamakura, where she lives with her Japanese husband and two children. She took a Masters in Literature at the International Christian University of Tokyo and a PhD in Comparative Literature at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. The Phone Box at the Edge of the World has been sold in 21 territories.

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The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith

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Published: July 9th, 2020
Publisher: Orenda
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Adventure Fiction, Science Fiction, Urban Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this outstanding and timely thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Orenda for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Decades of spiralling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. Ordinary infections are untreatable, and a scratch from a pet can kill. A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms’ … hospitals where no one ever gets well.

Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything. Because Kate is not the only secret that her mother is hiding. Someone else is looking for her, too.

Sweeping from an all-too-real modern Britain to a pre-crisis South Africa, The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.

MY REVIEW:

“No one touches each other’s hands anymore. Not unless they’re intimate.” 

When I first heard about this book at the beginning of the year it sounded like a Sci-Fi movie; something that felt both imaginable and unimaginable. Wearing masks and gloves and being unable to touch. Illness that is untreatable and deadly. That sounded like something from the Victorian era or a third world country where they can’t afford the medicine we have.  Fast forward a few months and reading it during the current pandemic felt like getting a glimpse into our future. This book was suddenly a lot scarier and incredibly timely. 

“Do you have any idea what it’s like growing up in this ‘safe world’ of yours? How fucking suffocating it is? Nothing left to chance, endless checks and scans?

… I’ve seen the films: people rolled into bed with complete strangers! No body scans. No STD checks. No profile searches. I can’t even hug a friend without asking!”

Multilayered, exquisitely told and tightly plotted, the novel weaves through different timelines to tell the story of the Crisis and our three narrators. As long-buried secrets are slowly unearthed, the full picture emerges to a shocking conclusion. The characters are richly drawn and I have to say that I had a soft spot for Lily. I can’t imagine how awful it must be to approach an age knowing that something treatable will likely kill you as you are deemed disposable and unworthy of treatment. My own grandmother has recently beat Covid-19 at the age of 93 thanks in part to antibiotics and all I kept thinking how awful it would have been knowing she simply wasn’t getting that help because of her age. 

It is clear that the author has done a lot of research on antibiotic resistance from how intelligently written this novel is.  Even without the current pandemic this would read as something that could actually happen and it certainly made me think about things such as how we farm out animals. At the end of the book she writes about how she got her inspiration for the novel after reading frightening data about antibiotic resistance and has posted more information for readers on her website. 

The Waiting Rooms is a captivating and thrilling debut that is both topical and timely. I highly recommend this thriller and can’t wait to read more from this author.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

Eve Smith Author pic

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Eve Smith’s debut novel The Waiting Rooms was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize First Novel Award. Eve writes speculative fiction, mainly about the things that scare her. She attributes her love of all things dark and dystopian to a childhood watching Tales of the Unexpected and black-and-white Edgar Allen Poe double bills.

Eve’s flash fiction has been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and highly commended for The Brighton Prize. In this world of questionable facts, stats and news, she believes storytelling is more important than ever to engage people in real life issues.
Eve’s previous job as COO of an environmental charity took her to research projects across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and she has an ongoing passion for wild creatures, wild science and far-flung places. A Modern Languages graduate from Oxford, she returned to Oxfordshire fifteen years ago to set up home with her husband.
When she’s not writing, she’s chasing across fields after her dog, attempting to organise herself and her family or off exploring somewhere new.

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The Colours by Juliet Bates

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Published: April 9th, 2020
Publisher: Fleet
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Domestic Fiction, War Story, Coming-of-Age Story

Today I’m thrilled to be opening the blog tour for this beautiful novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Fleet for the gifted copy of the book .

SYNOPSIS:

Ellen sees the world differently from everyone else, but living in a tiny town in the north-east of England, in a world on the cusp of war, no one has time for an orphaned girl who seems a little strange. When she is taken in to look after a rich, elderly widow all seems to be going better, despite the musty curtains and her aging employer completely out of touch with the world. But pregnancy out of wedlock spoils all this, and Ellen is unable to cope. How will Jack, her son, survive – alone in the world as his mother was? Can they eventually find their way back to each other?

The Colours is a sweeping novel of how we can lose ourselves, and our loved ones, for fans of Kate Atkinson and Virginia Baily.

MY REVIEW:

Told through the eyes of Ellen and her son Jack, the narrative of this beautifully written novel moves between timelines and points of view to tell the story of one family over the course of almost seventy years.

The Pearson family goes through a lot in this book. Loss, abandonment and mental illness are addressed in an authentic and heart-rending manner and we see Ellen and Jack both go through life-changing trauma at a young age – Ellen becoming an orphan and being sent to a convent and Jack being left with a stepfather he doesn’t get on with after his mother is sent to an asylum – and see the ripple effect of these issues. The reminder of how stigmatised and poorly treated mental illness stood out in particular to me and left me feeling very thankful for the advancements that have been made, however imperfect they may be.

As well as being the title of the book, colour is a theme that runs through the heart of this novel. Ellen has synesthesia, which means everything she sees and hears has a colour, while Jack is an artist, which combined with the lyrical and descriptive prose make this an evocative read which enables you to see the world through the narrators’ eyes.

I enjoyed this novel but did find it felt a bit slow at times. I think that part of this was because I found Ellen to be a more engaging character who I instantly connected with, while I struggled to connect with Jack. It picked up about half way through and I was enjoying his sections more.

Wonderfully written and elegant, The Colours is a moving story about family, loss and healing.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✫

Juliet Bates

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Juliet Bates studied art and art history in Bristol, Birmingham and Strasbourg, and has since lectured at graduate and post graduate levels. She moved to France in 2000 to a post as professeur at the Ecole régionale des beaux-arts Caen la mer. She has published a number of short stories in British and Canadian literary journals.

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Unbroken by Madeline Black

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Published: April 4th, 2017
Publisher: John Blake Publishing Ltd
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Autobiography

Trigger Warning: Rape

Today is my spot on the blog tour for this powerful story. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Madeline Black for the gifted copy.

SYNOPSIS:

For many years after that night, my memories of what happened after he held the blade to my throat and threatened my life were fragmented… difficult to piece together. It was too extreme, too violent for me to understand.

Violently gang-raped when she was thirteen years old, and raped three more times before the age of eighteen, Madeleine has experienced more trauma in her life than most ever will.

Living in a state of shock and self-loathing, it took her years of struggle to confront the buried memories of that first attack and begin to undo the damage it wrought, as men continued to take advantage of her fragility in the worst possible way.

Yet, after growing up with a burden no teenager should ever have to shoulder, she found the heart to carry out the best revenge plan of all: leading a fulfilling and happy life. But the road to piecing her life back together was long and painful. For Madeleine, forgiveness was the key. True forgiveness takes genuine effort. It takes a real desire to understand those who have done us so much harm. It is the ultimate act of courage.

In Unbroken, Madeleine tells her deeply moving and empowering story, as she discovers that life is about how a person chooses to recover from adversity. We are not defined by what knocks us down – we are defined by how we get back up.

MY REVIEW:

“For many years after that night, my memories of what happened after he held the blade to my throat and threatened my life were fragmented, difficult to piece together and distant to non-existent. It was too extreme, too violent to understand.”

A harrowing, moving and powerful story of survival. 

At just thirteen-years-old Madeline Black was brutally raped and tortured by two men. Too terrified to tell anyone after her life is threatened, and filled with shame and guilt, she internalises and buries the ordeal. But it seeps out in other ways and she begins to act out, take drugs and act promiscuously. Every time her parents try to warn her that something bad might happen, the truth that it already has gets stuck in her throat, filled with words she feels unable to speak. Before she turns eighteen Madeline is raped on three more occasions and spends time in a psychiatric hosptial after attempting suicide. She had endured more in her short life than most of us ever will. 

“In that moment, I declared to myself that my best revenge on those who assaulted me would be to lead a good and happy life.” 

But this is a story that is so much more than the horrors she endured. This is the story of how she recognised her trauma, faced it and took the ultimate revenge on her attackers by thriving and going on to lead a happy and fulfilled life. 

Understandably this was not an easy book to read. I fought back tears and nausea and even had to put the book down a few times as the scenes depicting what she was subjected to were so horrifying. While that part of her story is necessary, the prevailing memory and message of this story is one of hope, bravery and survival. A reminder that you can survive a traumatic experience and turn it into something good, which Madeline does by not only living a happy life, but also working with the Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis and training as a psychologist. 

“I didn’t think my journey was so extraordinary, but the more I opened up to people, the more evidence I received to show me it was.”

Madeline is an incredible woman. To endure all she has and still thrive is remarkable and I am so glad that she felt able to share her story. I am filled with admiration for the strength and bravery she has shown and in her ability to find a path to forgiveness. 

Unbroken is an inspiring and empowering story that you won’t forget. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✫

Madeleine Black

MEET THE AUTHOR:

The sharing of her story on The Forgiveness Project’s website in September 2014, opened many doors for Madeleine in ways she never imagined and the invitations started to pour in.

She has taken part in both TV and radio interviews and has been invited to share her story at conferences, events and schools.

She recognises that she was a victim of a crime that left her silent for many years, but has now found her voice and intends to use it. Not just for her, but for so many who can’t find theirs yet.

She is married and lives in Glasgow with her husband, three daughters, her cat, Suki, and dog, Alfie.

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I Know Your Secret by Ruth Heald

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Published: June 10th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Kindle, Paperback
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Domestic Fiction, Noir Fiction

Trigger Warnings: Mental Health, Self Harm

Happy Publication Day to this gripping thriller. Thank you Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

You’re not who you say you are. Neither is she.

She thinks she knows me.

She believes my marriage is falling apart at the seams, that my husband can barely look me in the eyes. She thinks I’m desperate for a baby, that my longing for a family keeps me up at night. As much as I hate to admit it, all of this is true.

She thinks I listen to her advice, that I care about her opinion. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Because she has no idea who I am. She has no clue that I know everything.

I know her secret. I know that she did the unforgivable. I know how many lives she ruined.

I know exactly what she did. And I’m here for her.

An utterly gripping, addictive and shocking read about the dark secrets we’re ashamed to admit, and the lengths people go to for revenge. Fans of K.L. Slater, My Lovely Wife and The Wife Between Us will be racing through the pages, gasping at the twists, and reeling from the explosive ending of this unmissable page-turner.

MY REVIEW:

Nothing is what it seems at first in this exciting and gripping thriller. Danielle tells therapist Beth that she needs help saving her marriage. While it may be true that she and husband Peter have problems, the real reason for Danielle being there lies beneath years of secrets. Danielle knows what she did and won’t stop until Beth has paid the price.

Wow! What a ride! An undercurrent of danger and foreshadowing runs through this multi-layered and fast-paced thriller. The story opens with an unknown arsonist starting a fire and fleeing the scene leaving us to try and decipher the clues to figure out who they were, if they got away with it, and who was the person they heard screaming as they left. As truths are slowly unveiled, I found that every time I thought I had things figured out the author would pull the rug from under me and take things in an entirely new direction.

Danielle and Beth are unreliable narrators, which I liked as it made them and the story harder to figure out. Beth is a newly single mum to four-year-old Charlie and is trying to come to terms with the end of her marriage when we meet her and I instantly related to her due to similarities in our stories. Danielle was harder to like. Even in situations where I had empathy for her I didn’t trust her and felt she was calculating and manipulating things, though I couldn’t be sure just how much. One big thing that Beth and Danielle have in common is their struggles with their mental health. The author examines how mental health can be affected when we go through something life-changing and traumatic. It felt like a timely subject to be reading about during PTSD Awareness Month and I liked that the author showed two very different, but real, ways of coping as we see how one character sought help while the other uses unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with their pain.

I Know Your Secret is a cleverly written, twisty and riveting thriller that had me on the edge of my seat. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a well-written and exciting psychological thriller.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ruth Heald is a psychological thriller writer from a suburban Buckinghamshire town. She studied Economics at Oxford and then worked in an eclectic mix of sectors from nuclear decommissioning to management consulting.

Seeking a more creative environment, she found a role at the BBC and worked there for nine years before leaving to write full time. Ruth is fascinated by psychology and finding out what drives people to violence, destruction and revenge. She’s married with one daughter and her novels explore our greatest fears in otherwise ordinary, domestic lives.

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