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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Broken Ones (Detective Gina Harte Book 8) by Carla Kovach

Published: March 1st, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Police Procedural, Crime Fiction, Crime Series

Welcome to my stop on the tour for The Broken Ones. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Amber applies a dash of red lipstick and checks herself out in the mirror before heading out on a date. ‘Don’t wait up!’ she calls to her housemates as she leaves. But Amber never returns home that night. Amber Slater is never seen again.

The last person to see Amber was her housemate. He remembers everything she was wearing that night. He watched her leave. He listened to every word of her phone conversation with her friend before she left. He knows more about Amber’s movements than anyone.

At university, she is well-liked by her fellow students and teachers. Her tutor’s voice shakes when he is questioned by the police. Some say he and Amber were very close. Too close. Some say his wife had just found out about their relationship.

The manager at the restaurant where Amber was supposed to eat that night says she didn’t show up. Yet the chef at the restaurant is overly chatty about her. He wasn’t working that night. He wasn’t answering his phone. Nobody knows where he was when Amber went missing.

Rumours begin to circulate about Amber, it seems that everyone has a story to tell. But when the young girl’s lifeless body is found in a local park, with her blue lips glued shut, the gossip suddenly goes quiet. As the police trace the last few hours of Amber’s life, it seems that the girl simply vanished on her way to catch her bus. And when another woman goes missing in the dead of night, it’s a race against time to find her before she too is silenced forever.

MY REVIEW:

“She’s out there and if she won’t come willingly, I will take her and I will transform her, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.”

Detective Gina Harte and her team are back. This time they are investigating the kidnapping and murder of Amber Slater after her body was found in a local park with her lips glued shut. As they interview those who knew her they begin to suspect the killer might have used a dating app to target and track his victim. And when he snatches another young girl, the team finds themselves up against the clock in a race to find their culprit before he can silence her too forever.  

This series was one of my first new discoveries after joining NetGalley and Bookstagram and I always look forward to coming back to these books. It’s like catching up with an old friend, just with a side order of murder. And after a week of being unable to read due to illness, this book was just what I needed to get my mojo back.

One of my favourite things is when a thriller tells you the story from the killer’s point of view and, once again, the author has done this perfectly; crafting a disturbing, sinister and eerie antagonist who I would definitely want to avoid on the street. Reading as he hunted for his perfect woman and then stalked her, all while she was completely unaware that he was about to pounce, made the suspense soar. I liked that the author toyed with us and brought Gina and her team into the fray as potential victims. The tension couldn’t have been higher and I was on the edge of my seat hoping that she wouldn’t kill off a much-loved character. 

The author keeps the reader on their toes through an abundance of suspects, curve balls and red herrings that make it impossible to predict what will happen next and who is behind the kidnappings. The scenes from the adductor and his victim’s perspective ramped up the tension and Gina’s frustration and fear was palpable as she worried they wouldn’t identify the culprit in time to save his latest victim.

Captivating, addictive and sizzling with tension, this crime series shows no signs of slowing down. Carla knocks it out of the park with every book and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Carla Kovach is a crime and horror author from Worcestershire. Her most popular work, the DI Gina Harte series is published by Bookouture. As well as books, she also writes stage and screenplays.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

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Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

Categories
Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Emma’s Anticipated Treasures – March 2021

Welcome to the March edition of Emma’s Anticipated Treasures. It is another great month full of fabulous being released next month and even after shaving it down I’ve ended up with twenty two books on my list. Authors and publishers really are making it impossible to keep up with all the amazing books that are out there!

Are any of my most anticipated books on your list? Let me know…

The Broken Ones (Detective Gina Harte Book 8) by Carla Kovach

Published: March 1st, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Police Procedural, Crime Fiction, Crime Series

SYNOPSIS:
Amber applies a dash of red lipstick and checks herself out in the mirror before heading out on a date. ‘Don’t wait up!’ she calls to her housemates as she leaves. But Amber never returns home that night. Amber Slater is never seen again.

The last person to see Amber was her housemate. He remembers everything she was wearing that night. He watched her leave. He listened to every word of her phone conversation with her friend before she left. He knows more about Amber’s movements than anyone.

At university, she is well-liked by her fellow students and teachers. Her tutor’s voice shakes when he is questioned by the police. Some say he and Amber were very close. Too close. Some say his wife had just found out about their relationship.

The manager at the restaurant where Amber was supposed to eat that night says she didn’t show up. Yet the chef at the restaurant is overly chatty about her. He wasn’t working that night. He wasn’t answering his phone. Nobody knows where he was when Amber went missing.

Rumours begin to circulate about Amber, it seems that everyone has a story to tell. But when the young girl’s lifeless body is found in a local park, with her blue lips glued shut, the gossip suddenly goes quiet. As the police trace the last few hours of Amber’s life, it seems that the girl simply vanished on her way to catch her bus. And when another woman goes missing in the dead of night, it’s a race against time to find her before she too is silenced forever.

Fans of crime books from Angela Marsons, Cara Hunter and Clare Mackintosh will love The Broken Ones.

Buy the book*

The Fear-Fighter Manual: Lessons from a Professional Troublemaker by Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Published: March 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Self-help book

SYNOPSIS:
‘You could spend a lifetime and fortune finding the perfect therapist, mentor, minister, career coach, and girlfriend – or you could just spend a day reading PROFESSIONAL TROUBLEMAKER.’ Glennon Doyle, author of #1 NYT Bestseller Untamed

From the New York Times bestselling author of I’m Judging You, a hilarious and transformational book about how to tackle fear – that everlasting hater – and audaciously step into lives, careers, and legacies that go beyond even our wildest dreams.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones is known for her trademark wit, warm voice, and exceptional integrity. But even she’s been challenged by the enemy of progress known as fear. She was once afraid to call herself a writer because she was afraid of the title. She nearly skipped out on doing a TED talk that changed her life because of imposter syndrome. And, as she shares in The Fear-Fighter Manual: Lessons from a Professional Troublemaker, she’s not alone.

We’re all afraid. We’re afraid of asking for what we want because we’re afraid of hearing “no.” We’re afraid of being different, of being too much or not enough. We’re afraid of leaving behind the known for the unknown. But in order to do the things that will truly, meaningfully change our lives, we have to become professional troublemakers: people who are committed to not letting fear talk them out of the things they need to do or say to live free.

With humor and honesty, and guided by the influence of her professional troublemaking Nigerian grandmother, Funmilayo Faloyin, Luvvie walks us through what we must get right within ourselves before we can do the things that scare us; how to use our voice for a greater good; and how to put movement to the voice we’ve been silencing-because truth-telling is a muscle.

The point is not to be fearless, but to know we are afraid and charge forward regardless. It is to recognize that the things we must do are more significant than our fears. This book is about how to live boldly in spite of all the reasons we have to cower. Let’s go!

Buy the book*

The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

Published: March 2nd, 20021
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Biography, True Crime

SYNOPSIS:
Named Most Anticipated Crime Book of the Year by CrimeReads

A chilling true story–part memoir, part crime investigation–reminiscent of Ann Rule’s classic The Stranger Beside Me, about a little girl longing for love and how she found friendship with her charismatic babysitter–who was also a vicious serial killer.

Growing up on Cape Cod in the 1960s, Liza Rodman was a lonely little girl. During the summers, while her mother worked days in a local motel and danced most nights in the Provincetown bars, her babysitter–the kind, handsome handyman at the motel where her mother worked–took her and her sister on adventures in his truck. He bought them popsicles and together, they visited his “secret garden” in the Truro woods. To Liza, he was one of the few kind and understanding adults in her life. Everyone thought he was just a “great guy.”

But there was one thing she didn’t know; their babysitter was a serial killer.

Some of his victims were buried–in pieces–right there, in his garden in the woods. Though Tony Costa’s gruesome case made screaming headlines in 1969 and beyond, Liza never made the connection between her friendly babysitter and the infamous killer of numerous women, including four in Massachusetts, until decades later.

Haunted by nightmares and horrified by what she learned, Liza became obsessed with the case. Now, she and cowriter Jennifer Jordan reveal the chilling and unforgettable true story of a charming but brutal psychopath through the eyes of a young girl who once called him her friend.

Buy the book*

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Published: March 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Legend Press
Genre: Historical Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But the apothecary’s fate is jeopardized when her newest patron, a precocious twelve-year-old, makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries.

Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate–and not everyone will survive.

With crackling suspense, unforgettable characters and searing insight, The Lost Apothecary is a subversive and intoxicating debut novel of secrets, vengeance and the remarkable ways women can save each other despite the barrier of time.

Buy the book*

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Published: March 4th , 2021
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
They say we’ll never know what happened to those men.
They say the sea keeps its secrets . . .

‘A mystery, a love story and a ghost story, all at once. I didn’t want it to end’ – S J Watson

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

Buy the book*

The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Alexa Wú is a brilliant yet darkly self-aware young woman whose life is manipulated and controlled by a series of alternate personalities.

One woman, many personas. But which one is telling the truth?

Only three people know the truth.

HER THERAPIST
HER BEST FRIEND
HER STEPMOTHER

When her best friend is plunged into danger, Alexa is soon drawn into London’s cruel underbelly to save her.

But will the truth lead to self-discovery, or to self-destruction?

AN UNSETTLING AND PROVOCATIVE THRILLER ABOUT MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES, WRITTEN BY A PRACTISING PSYCHOANALYTIC THERAPIST

Buy the book*

Silence is a Sense by Layla AlAmmar

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: The Borough Press
Genre: Literary Fiction, Political Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A young woman spends her days watching the neighbours through their windows. She is a refugee, who has seen the failure of the Arab Spring in her homeland and who has been traumatized into silence by her brutal journey from Syria to Britain. 

As an outsider, a mute voyeur, she sees everything, she hears everything: the love, the fighting, the families, the secrets, the lies, the sex, the shame.  Slowly drawn into the community that surrounds her, she begins to come to terms with all she has lost. After a brutal attack on the local mosque, she realises she is the only witness to the truth behind the violence. But will she finally speak of all she’s seen? 

Rear Window meets Exit West, this beautifully written novel tells the powerful story of one woman’s trauma and her gradual healing.

Buy the book*

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Psychological Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
As a child Gifty would ask her parents to tell the story of their journey from Ghana to Alabama, seeking escape in myths of heroism and romance. When her father and brother succumb to the hard reality of immigrant life in the American South, their family of four becomes two – and the life Gifty dreamed of slips away.

Years later, desperate to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed her brother’s life, she turns to science for answers. But when her mother comes to stay, Gifty soon learns that the roots of their tangled traumas reach farther than she ever thought. Tracing her family’s story through continents and generations will take her deep into the dark heart of modern America.

Transcendent Kingdom is a searing story story of love, loss and redemption, and the myriad ways we try to rebuild our lives from the rubble of our collective pasts.

Buy the book*

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: The Borough Press
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Horror Fiction, Humour, LGBTQ Literature

SYNOPSIS:
As a ‘It’s a terrible story and one way to tell it is this: two girls in love and a fog of wasps cursed the place forever after…’

BROOKHANTS SCHOOL FOR GIRLS: Infamous site of a series of tragic deaths over a hundred years ago. Soon to be the subject of a controversial horror movie about the rumoured ‘Brookhants curse’:

In the early 1900’s, Brookhants students Flo and Clara fell madly in love, brought together by their obsession for a scandalous memoir.

A few months later they were found dead in the woods, after a horrific wasp attack, the book lying next to their intertwined bodies.

Three more grisly deaths followed before the school was forced to close.

Now, the school’s doors are open once more. But as the crew of glamorous young actresses assemble to start filming, past and present begin to blur. And soon it’s impossible to tell quite where the curse ends and Hollywood begins…

Buy the book*

Dangerous Women by Hope Adam

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Thriller, Mystery

SYNOPSIS:
London, 1841.

The Rajah sails for Australia.

On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to start a new life half way across the world.

Daughters, sisters, mothers – they’ll never see home or family again. Despised and damned, all they have now is each other.

Until the murder.

As the fearful hunt for a killer begins, everyone on board is a suspect.

The investigation risks tearing their friendships apart . . .

But if the killer isn’t found, could it cost them their last chance of freedom?

Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous Women is a sweeping tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.

Buy the book*

Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Being Tommy’s mother is too much for Sonya.

Too much love, too much fear, too much longing for the cool wine she gulps from the bottle each night. Because Sonya is burning the fish fingers, and driving too fast, and swimming too far from the shore, and Tommy’s life is in her hands.

Once there was the thrill of a London stage, a glowing acting career, fast cars, handsome men. But now there are blackouts and bare cupboards, and her estranged father showing up uninvited. There is Mrs O’Malley spying from across the road. There is the risk of losing Tommy – forever.

Buy the book*

The Talk of Pram Town by Joanna Nadin

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Mantle
Genre: Coming-of-Age Fiction, Domestic Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
For fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel, comes a story about mothers, daughters and second chances . . .

It’s 1981. Eleven-year-old Sadie adores her beautiful and vibrant mother, Connie, whose dreams of making it big as a singer fill their tiny house in Leeds. It’s always been just the two of them. Until the unthinkable happens.

Jean hasn’t seen her good-for-nothing daughter Connie since she ran away from the family home in Harlow – or Pram Town as its inhabitants affectionately call it – aged seventeen and pregnant.

But in the wake of the Royal Wedding, Jean gets a life-changing call: could she please come and collect the granddaughter she’s never met?

We all know how Charles and Diana turned out, and Jean and Sadie are hardly a match made in heaven – but is there hope of a happy ending for them?

Written in Joanna Nadin’s trademark dazzling prose, The Talk of Pram Town tells the story of three generations of Earnshaws and asks whether it always has to be like mother, like daughter . . .

Buy the book*

Dog Days by Ericka Waller

Published: March 11th, 2021
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Humorous Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
George is very angry. His wife has upped and died on him, and all he wants to do is sit in his underpants and shout at the cricket. The last thing he needs is his cake-baking neighbour Betty trying to rescue him. And then there’s the dog, a dachshund puppy called Poppy. George doesn’t want a dog – he wants a fight.

Dan is a counsellor with OCD who is great at helping other people – if only he were better at helping himself. His most meaningful relationship so far is with his labrador Fitz. But then comes a therapy session that will change his life.

Lizzie is living in a women’s refuge with her son Lenny. Her body is covered in scars and she has shut herself off from everyone around her. But when she is forced to walk the refuge’s fat terrier, Maud, a new life beckons – if she can keep her secret just a while longer…

Dog Days is a novel about those small but life-changing moments that only come when we pause to let the light in. It is about three people learning to make connections and find joy in living life off the leash.

Buy the book*

Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter

Published: March 16th 2021
Publisher: Hodder Studios
Genre: Dystopian Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
No future, dear reader, can break a woman on its own

A bold and dazzling exploration of fate and female agency in a world where women own the future but not their own bodies.

Like every woman, Celeste Morton holds a map of the future in her skin, every mole and freckle a clue to unlocking what will come to pass. With puberty comes the changeling period – when her final marks will appear and her future is decided.

The possibilities are tantalising enough for Celeste’s excitement to outweigh her fear. Changelings are sought after commodities and abduction is rife as men seek to possess these futures for themselves.

Celeste’s marks have always been closely entwined with her brother, Miles. Her skin holds a future only he, as a gifted interpreter, can read and he has always considered his sister his practice ground. But when Celeste’s marks change she learns a devastating secret about her brother’s future that she must keep to herself – and Miles is keeping a secret of his own. When the lies of brother and sister collide, Celeste determines to create a future that is truly her own.

Body of Stars is an urgent read about what happens when women are objectified and violently stripped of choice – and what happens when they fight back.

Buy the book*

The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: Viper Books
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Horror Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…

Buy the book*

Future Perfect by Felicia Yap

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: Wildfire
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Science Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
What if today was your last day…

A bomb has exploded during a fashion show, killing a beautiful model on the catwalk. The murderer is still at large… and he may strike again. Yet this is the least of Police Commissioner Christian Verger’s worries. His fiancée Viola has left him. He has to keep his tumultuous past a secret. To make things worse, his voice assistant Alexa is 99.74% sure he will die tomorrow.

Moving from snowy 1980s Montana to chic 1990s Manhattan to a drone-filled 2030s Britain, FUTURE PERFECT is an electrifying race to solve a murder before it’s too late. Yet it is also a love story, a riveting portrait of a couple torn apart by secrets, grief and guilt. A twisted tale of how the past can haunt a person’s future and be used to predict if he will die… or kill.

Buy the book*

The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, High Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy

SYNOPSIS:
Taryn Cornick barely remembers the family library. Since her sister was murdered, she’s forgotten so much.

Now it’s all coming back. The fire. The thief. The scroll box. People are asking questions about the library. Questions that might relate to her sister’s murder.

And something called The Absolute Book.

A book in which secrets are written – and which everyone believes only she can find. They insist Taryn be the hunter. But she knows the truth.

She is the hunted . . .

The Absolute Book is a tale of sisters, ancient blood, a forgotten library, murder, revenge and a book that might just have the answer to everything.

Buy the book*

The Split by Laura Kay

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Literary Fiction, Romance Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A brilliant, heart-warming and intensely funny story of love, heartache, friendship and family. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Beth O’Leary.

Brutally dumped by her girlfriend, Ally is homeless, friendless and jobless… but at least she has Malcolm. Wounded and betrayed, Ally has made off with the one thing she thinks might soothe the pain: Emily’s cat.

After a long train journey she arrives home to her dad in Sheffield, ready to fold herself up in her duvet and remain on the sofa for the foreseeable. Her dad has other ideas. A phone call later, and Ally is reunited with her first ever beard and friend of old, Jeremy. He too is broken-hearted and living at home again.

In an inspired effort to hold each other up, the pair decide to sign up for the local half marathon in a bid to impress their exes with their commitment and athleticism.

Given neither of them can run, they enlist the support of athletic, not to mention beautiful, Jo. But will she have them running for the hills… or will their ridiculous plan pay off…?

Buy the book*

Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
A HANDSOME PSYCHOTHERAPIST, HIS LONELY WIFE, AND IN HIS HOME OFFICE, A CEILING VENT. . . YOU’D LISTEN TOO, WOULDN’T YOU?

Newlyweds, Sam Statler and Annie Potter are ready to begin their lives together in a small town in upstate New York. Whilst Annie spends most of her time alone, Sam, her therapist husband, works long hours in his home office, tending to the egos of his mostly female clientele.

Little does Sam know that through a vent in the ceiling, every word of his sessions can be heard from the room upstairs. The pharmacist’s wife, contemplating a divorce. The well-known painter whose boyfriend doesn’t satisfy her in bed. Who could resist eavesdropping?

Everything is fine until the French girl in the green Mini Cooper shows up, and Sam disappears into thin air, throwing a wrench into Sam and Annie’s happily ever after.

This is a brilliant story of a whirlwind marriage in which untold secrets and games threaten to destroy them both.

Buy the book*

The Hellion by Harriet Young

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: Unbound
Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Saga

SYNOPSIS:
Whalley, 1537: On a day like any other, a devastating fire changes the lives of two young girls. 

What happens next triggers a series of events leading inexplicably to the cells of Lancaster Gaol.

Lancashire, 1612:The most notorious witchcraft trials in England are taking place.

Among the accused, three generations of the same family. A family rooted in Pendle, tied to the infamous Malkin Towers and always followed by a whisper of evil. A family destroyed by the evidence given by a nine year old girl

Buy the book*

The Castaways by Lucy Clarke

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: Harper CollinsUK
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
A SECRET BEACH.
A HOLIDAY OF A LIFETIME.
WISH YOU WERE HERE?

THINK AGAIN…

It should be like any other holiday.

Beautiful beaches.
Golden sunsets.
Nothing for miles.

You’ll never want to leave.
Until you can’t…

Gripping, twisty and full of sun-soaked atmosphere, THE CASTAWAYS will whisk you far away to the island – and never let you go.

Buy the book*

Unsettled Ground by Clare Fuller

Published: March 25th, 2021
Publisher: Fig Tree
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant?

What would you do to get it back?

Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.

But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother’s secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.

Unsettled Ground is a heart-stopping novel of betrayal and resilience, love and survival. It is a portrait of life on the fringes of society that explores with dazzling emotional power how we can build our lives on broken foundations, and spin light from darkness.

Buy the book*

What books being released in March are you most excited about? Are any on this list? Let me know in the comments.

Thank you for reading. Until next time Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews

Keeper by Jessica Moor ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: March 19th, 2020
Publisher: Viking
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural
Trigger Warnings: Domestic Abuse and Rape.

SYNOPSIS:

He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes.
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

An addictive literary page-turner about a crime as shocking as it is commonplace, KEEPER will leave you reeling long after the final page is turned.

MY REVIEW:

“The trick was to never let the bruises heal, to never remember what life was like without them. Then it didn’t seem too much to bear.”

Keeper is a story about the dark side of love. It takes us to the depths of darkness in humanity and the horrors visited on those they abuse. 

It has taken me a while to write this review because it hit so close to home and triggered painful memories that can still cause anxiety and nightmares over a decade later. Reading this was a visceral experience. It made me angry, made me sick to my stomach and broke my heart while also reminding me of the strength of those of us who have known that “life”. 

A murder investigation is the springboard for a much deeper novel as the author takes a look at the truth of abusive relationships. It highlights the danger of these relationships, the stark reality that these women are in more danger when they leave that when they stay, rape in a relationship (ie marital rape but she’s not married) and also looks at its affect on mental health. Though it is a startling honest book, the author is never gratuitous and deals with the issues in a sensitive and compassionate way. She focuses on the women’s quiet bravery throughout their ordeals and offers an insight into the psyche of an abused woman. 

“She learns to name the demon. To understand that, just as cities can fall without a shot being fired, a woman can relinquish herself, piece by piece.” 

This book was filled with richly developed characters. I’ll talk about the ones I loved first of all, which was the strong female characters. They were so much more than mere victims cowering in a corner. They each had their own stories and nuances that shaped their decisions. Even if they didn’t see it, their strength the reader could recognise it, but at the same time the author showed how hard it is to break away from the control of an unhealthy relationship; especially when it’s all you’ve known or they’ve destroyed you from within. 

One of the hardest things for me was recognising my abuser in some of the men in this story. Jamie and DC Daniel Whitworth were the two where I saw him most of all. Watching Katie and Jamie’s relationship play out in the flashbacks as it slowly became toxic and unhealthy was hard. Early on I recognised the love bombing, distancing you from your friends and the gaslighting. The author did a great job of accurately portraying how they play you and make you believe they love you before slowly starting to strip away your self esteem and controlling you. DC Whitworth is initially portrayed as a caring and sensitive man, but the veneer is quickly stripped away and the misogynistic dinosaur who blames abused women for their position and is ignorant and dismissive of mental health is revealed. I would get so angry reading scenes with him, more so than with Jamie as there was no attempt to charm or gloss over the awful things he said and thought. He really was a bad fit for investigating a suicide of an abused woman with mental health issues.

Keeper is a tragic, unsettling and important novel that everyone should read. It is a powerful, heart-rending, thought-provoking and outstanding debut from a superb new talent. The author doesn’t just write about abused women, she really sees them. I don’t think I’ve read a book where I recognised myself and my past so utterly and I think a lot of others will feel the same. This is one to read in 2020 and I think it will make a great impact.

Thank you to Viking books for my gifted copy of this novel.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jessica Moor is a writer from London. Her debut novel, Keeper, was published by Penguin Viking in 2020. She divides her time between Berlin and London.

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Published: March 31st 2020
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Psychological Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Sexual abuse

SYNOPSIS:

An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher

ALL HE DID WAS FALL IN LOVE WITH ME AND THE WORLD TURNED HIM INTO A MONSTER

Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.

Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues of our age.

MY REVIEW:

My Dark Vanessa is the harrowing tale of fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye’s relationship with her forty-five-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane, and the lasting impact it has on her life. It also examines themes of consent, coercion and manipulation, and asks what is it that makes someone a victim. It also forces the reader to look at their own preconceptions and the prejudices that are often found when these situations come to light.

The story is told from Vanessa’s perspective, both as an adult and teenager. In both timelines she is under Strane’s spell and believes it was a great love affair rather than abuse. But when another of Strane’s former students claims he abused her, Vanessa is forced to reconsider if it was really love and whether she was a willing participant in a loving relationship or a victim of abuse. 

Kate Elizabeth Russell has written a novel that is powerful, compelling, timely and thought-provoking. Eighteen years in the making, it feels like this story has come at the perfect time with the rise of the #MeToo movement and the increasing number of victims who are finding the strength to vocalise their experiences. She addresses the nuances of this movement, the pressure put on victims to come forward even if they aren’t ready, and the way the tide can turn so quickly in how they are portrayed. 

This isn’t an easy read. The book contained some graphic, nauseating and unsettling scenes of what I consider to be abuse and a number of times I had to put down the book and stop reading for a while. After one particularly distressing scene, I was left feeling utterly broken with tears running down my face. At these times I was especially glad that I was reading this as a buddy read as I was able to talk through my feelings with my reading buddy. 

It has been said that Vanessa is an unlikeable character, and it’s true, she’s not particularly warm or bubbly, but I think the decision to make her so complex made the story all the more compelling and real. Victims of any kind of abuse often don’t see what is happening for a long time, if at all, and Vanessa wouldn’t have begun her affair with Strane if it had been obvious to her. Reading her desperation to be noticed and loved by him as she was unwittingly groomed was heartbreaking. In her adult years we see the immense damage he has done to her psyche, her unwillingness to see the truth and tear down the house of straw she’s built in her mind and heart. I couldn’t help but wonder if she would ever be able to heal.

The real unlikeable character was the manipulative, predatory, and vile Strane. But even he has layers to his character and has an awareness that what he wants and does is wrong. He tells himself it’s true love, that they are soulmates, that she is in control and sets himself boundaries. These are all designed to negate the wrong he is doing and reassure himself that he can’t help it and that he is being ‘good’. The tragic part about Strane is that I think he truly believes these things; even when he’s saying the most awful things to scare her into complying or saying it to another girl, I think in his mind it’s actually all true. This made him someone I detested but also, as much as it pains me to say this, pitied very slightly. He was a sad and pathetic man but also a loathsome predator and there were so many times I wanted to reach into the book and do him actual physical harm for what he did to Vanessa.

My Dark Vanessa is the most dark and disturbing fiction book I have ever read. But it is also a well-written story that offers an insight on the intricacies of the dynamic between an abuser and their victim and on the #MeToo movement, filled with characters, situations and emotions that many will recognise. Just be prepared for a distressing read.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kate Elizabeth Russell is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. Her debut novel, My Dark Vanessa, is forthcoming from William Morrow (US), 4th Estate (UK), and will be translated into over twenty languages. Originally from eastern Maine, she earned an MFA from Indiana University and a PhD from the University of Kansas.

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The Secret Admirer by Carol Wyer (Detective Natalie Ward Book 6) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Publisher: Bookouture
Published: April 2nd, 2020
Format: Kindle
Genre: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Thriller

Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC of this novel .

SYNOPSIS:

‘I tried to talk to you today but you snubbed me and walked away. It wasn’t wise to give me the brush-off, Gemma. I can be a truly good friend but I also make the perfect enemy.’

Sasha’s eighteen-year-old daughter Gemma was all she had in the world. Sasha fell pregnant with Gemma when she was still at school, and the two are as close as sisters. So when Gemma’s burned and broken body is found, Sasha’s world ends. What kind of person would want her beautiful daughter dead?

Leading the case is Detective Natalie Ward, scarred by her own recent tragedy. When she finds a note in Gemma’s diary from ‘a secret admirer’, she moves quickly, determined to un-mask them. But interviews with Gemma’s devastated ex-boyfriend, and her charismatic teacher, who has been seen embracing his student far away from the classroom, don’t give Natalie the answers she’d hoped for…

And then the case takes a devastating, personal twist. CCTV footage reveals Natalie’s estranged husband David followed Gemma home every evening the week before she died.

Natalie is forced to put personal feelings aside and follow procedure, even though she can’t believe David could be guilty. But when Gemma’s housemate is found murdered, Natalie thinks the killer could still be at large. Is she right to trust her instincts about David and can she discover the truth before another precious life is taken?

MY REVIEW:

The Secret Admirer is another fantastic and gripping installment in one of my favourite series. Once again Carol has written a tense, electrifying and emotional read that had me hooked from the first page.

After 19-year-old Gemma Barnes is killed in an acid attack, Detective Natalie Ward and her team are called in to investigate. It is Natalie’s first day back since a personal tragedy and she is still struggling with her guilt and grief. There are few clues and when Gemma’s housemates start to disappear, the race is on to find who is behind the murders.

Natalie and the team are back investigating a complex case filled with a multitude of characters and suspects. I loved that there wasn’t a clear culprit and that you feel like it could be anyone, giving a sense of frustration that matches what is felt by the team. You can feel the pressure mounting as the numerous motives, clues, red herrings and twists keep both the reader and the team on their toes right until the very end.

The letters from the secret admirer were the key to the case, and the mystery of who was behind them was the biggest of all. Including letters or chapters from the mysterious culprit is one of my favourite tropes in this genre and this author always executes it to perfection. I enjoyed the glimpse into the mind, feelings and perspective of such a twisted individual and how you could see them losing control as the letters went on and they began to become threatening.

Each time I read an installment in this series I love the author even more. Her writing is always brilliant and full of the perfect mixture of suspense and sentiment. In this book, there is a lot of focus on Natalie coming to terms with losing someone close and the end of her marriage. Just reading about the aftermath of the events of the last book had me in pieces all over again. As someone currently undergoing trauma therapy, I found Natalie’s trauma to be sensitively and expertly written. It was clear it was well researched and felt very real, my heart breaking for Natalie as she battles to move on with life after such a devastating tragedy. However, I was ready to be mad and bereft all over again when Natalie’s ex-husband David came into the frame as a suspect in this case. How could you do this to us and Natalie after all she’s been through? It had me on the edge of my seat praying that he wasn’t the culprit. You’ll have to read it to find out if Natalie’s world is broken even more by the events of this book.

The Secret Admirer is a riveting, compelling and heart-rending thriller that is perfect for anyone who enjoys this genre. You can read it as a stand-alone but I would highly recommend reading the whole series, not only because it’s fantastic, but because it gives you an insight and connection to the main characters. Now I just have to wait impatiently for book seven!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Carol Wyer garnered a loyal following as an author of romantic comedies, and won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015). In 2017 she stepped from comedy to the “dark side” and embarked on a series of thrillers, featuring the popular DI Robyn Carter, which earned her recognition as a crime writer.

The Staffordshire-based writer now has more crime novels in the pipeline, although she can still sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.

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Dark Corners by Darren O’Sullivan ⭐⭐⭐.5

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Published: April 2nd, 2020
Pubisher: HQ
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Welcome to my spot on the blog tour for this absorbing thriller. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

You thought you’d escaped your past

It’s been twenty years since Neve’s best friend Chloe went missing. Neve has never recovered and promised herself she’d never go back to that place.

But secrets can come back to haunt you

When Neve receives news that her first boyfriend Jamie has gone missing, she’s forced to return. Jamie has vanished without a trace in a disappearance that echoes the events of all those years ago. Somebody is watching and will stop at nothing until the truth about what took place that night is revealed …

MY REVIEW:

“One way or another, secrets were debts that had to be paid.”

Dark Corners is an eerie, mysterious and gripping thriller that had me hooked from the first page. It is a story about friendships, secrets, lies and revenge. How we can run from the past but it will always catch up with you.

Neve Chambers left the small mining village where she was born and raised after the disappearance of her best friend, Chloe, and has tried not to look back. But when an old friend gets in touch to tell her that Jamie, her first love, is now missing, she feels she has no choice but to go back. Returning to the claustrophobic village, she immediately feels everyone’s eyes on her and the whispered rumours resume. As she reconnects with the friends she left behind and searches for Jamie the evidence seems to suggest that his disappearance is connected to Chloe’s, forcing Neve to confront the part she played in events twenty-one years ago.

The story is told in dual timelines. In flashbacks we go back to the summer of 1998, when Neve and her six friends are hanging out and celebrating the end of their exams, unaware that before the summer ends one of them will vanish and the rest of them will see their lives changed forever. The flashbacks made the book feel part coming-of-age story, which I enjoyed, and felt authentic, bringing back memories of my own teenage years with friends in the late nineties, when we would hang out with just a curfew and there were no mobile phones and social media. I loved that these flashbacks gave  the reader a sense of why Neve was so anxious about returning to the village while also providing a dual sense of mystery alongside what had happened to Jamie.

In the present day we follow Neve as she returns to the village and searches for Jamie, finding herself embroiled deeper in mystery and danger than she’d anticipated as it seems The Drifter, a mysterious man the friends saw near the mine when Chloe vanished, is back and taking his revenge on those who saw him all those years ago. The author did a great job of keeping the reader guessing and I was totally at a loss as to who The Drifter might be or what had happened to Chloe and Jamie. 

The atmospheric, chilling, ghostly and claustrophobic small mining village was the perfect setting for the story, adding extra layers to the mystery and foreboding and casting its shadow over all who live there. The dual disappearances and timelines were easy to follow and as the tension was raised in the flashbacks, you could feel it increasing in the present day too as like Neve you became suspicious of everyone and didn’t know who to trust. 

Dark Corners is a twisty, intriguing and cryptic thriller that I devoured in just a few hours. Cleverly written, it is filled with twists and turns that keep you guessing right up until the jaw-dropping finale. A great read for anyone who enjoys this genre. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Darren O’Sullivan is the author of #1 bestsellers, Our Little Secrets, Close Your Eyes and Closer Than You Think. His latest, Dark Corners is coming April 2020.

When Darren isn’t writing, he is usually rolling around on the floor, pretending to be a pirate with his 4 year old.

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The Twin by Natasha Preston ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: March 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult Fiction

Thank you to Darkroom Tours for the invitation to take part in this blog tour and to Delacorte Press for the gifted copy of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

In this twisty psychological thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of THE CELLAR, Ivy finds out that her twin sister, Iris, is trying to push her out of her own life–and might be responsible for their mother’s death.

After their parents divorced, 10-year-old twins Ivy and Iris were split up–Ivy lived with Dad, Iris with Mom. Now, after a tragic accident takes their mom’s life, the twins are reunited and Iris moves in with Ivy and their dad. Devastated over Mom’s death, Iris spends the first few weeks in almost total silence–the only person she will speak to is Ivy. Iris feels her life is over and she doesn’t know what to do. Emmy promises her twin that she can share her life now. After all, they’re sisters. Twins.

It’s a promise that Iris takes seriously. And before long, Ivy’s friends, her life at school, and her boyfriend, Tyler, fall under Iris’s spell. Slowly, Ivy realizes she’s being pushed out of her own life. But she’s just being paranoid, right? And Mom’s accident was . . . just an accident. Right? It’s not like she–or Dad–or Tyler–are in any danger. . . .

MY REVIEW:

Sixteen-year-old twins Ivy and Iris haven’t lived together since their parents divorced when they were ten. But after their mother’s death in a tragic accident Iris is now moving in with Ivy and their dad. The two have always been different and are more like strangers than sisters. But Ivy is  determined to rebuild her relationship with her twin and promises she can share her life. 

It’s a promise she comes to regret. Iris seems to not be satisfied with sharing Ivy’s life and appears to want to take it from her. Slowly, Ivy’s life begins to spiral out of control and everyone is turning away from her. Things get increasingly sinister and she knows that Iris is behind it. But everybody else is charmed by her, even their father. How can she prove that her sister is out to steal her life?

I find that YA can be hit or miss for me but I absolutely loved this one. The story and characters were well written and I liked that the protagonist and antagonist were twins. It added extra tension as Ivy couldn’t just cut ties with the person she’s sure is out to get her, she has to live with her too. It meant there was so much more at stake and made it a more personal. My favourite scenes were as the book was heading towards it’s dramatic ending. The tension had my heart racing and I couldn’t guess what was going to happen. When it ended I literally went back to see if I missed something as it was so abrupt and sitting there in a fury that the author had ended it that way. But, after thinking about it, I love how it ended and think it was a clever way for the author to finish the book. 

The story is told from Ivy’s point of view so Iris remains an enigma, with the reader wondering if what they think they see is real or if it’s Ivy’s skewed perspective and paranoia. Though I think this added more suspense to the book at times, there is part of me that would have liked to read from Iris’ perspective, maybe short paragraphs peppered between some chapters to have us see her plans and games from another side and maybe to even throw us off course a bit. We don’t know Iris’ true colours until near the end; is she sinister and conniving or is she misunderstood and Ivy just paranoid? You’ll have to read the book to find out. 

The Twin is an exciting, intriguing and gripping novel. I’ve wanted to read this author’s books for a while and I’m now a fan. I will definitely be reading her other books.  I’d recommend this book if you enjoy mysteries and thrillers even if you don’t usually read young adult fiction.

Natasha P Author photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

My name is Natasha, but most people call me Tash or Tasha. I don’t mind either. I was born in England and have lived in small towns and villages out in the countryside ever since.

My husband, Joseph, is the most supportive person in my life. Without his love, help and patience I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m a proud mummy to two amazing little boys who are my whole world.

At school I drifted through, achieving average grades. I fell into administration and receptionist jobs, thinking that I couldn’t really do anything else.

In 2010 I stumbled into writing completely by accident. I was searching the ‘app store’ and came across Wattpad – an amateur writing site. For the first few months I just read, but then I decided to type out some of the ideas swirling around in my head. I’m so glad I did because I love creating new stories.

Writing gave me an escape and Wattpad gave me the confidence I lacked.

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The Operator by Gretchen Berg ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: March 10th, 2020
Publisher: Headline
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this atmospheric novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Headline for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

It’s 1952. The switchboard operators in Wooster, Ohio, love nothing more than to eavesdrop on their neighbours’ conversations, and gossip about what they learn. Vivian Dalton is no different (despite her teenage daughter’s disapproval), and always longs to hear something scandalous. But on the night of December 15th, she wishes she hadn’t. The secret that’s shared by a stranger on the line threatens to rip the rug of Vivian’s life from under her.

Vivian may be mortified, but she’s not going to take this lying down. She wants the truth, no matter how painful it may be. But one secret tends to lead to another . . .

This moving, heart-felt and ultimately uplifting novel brilliantly weaves together an irresistible portrayal of a town buzzing with scandal, and an unforgettable story of marriage, motherhood and the unbreakable ties of family.

MY REVIEW:

The Operator is a character study about life in a small town. We take a peek behind the bright smiles and perfect family images of its residents, discovering the secrets and lies they hide when the town is rocked by scandal. 

Vivian Dalton is a switchboard girl at Ohio Bell. They aren’t supposed to listen in when they connect the calls but everybody does it. And who wouldn’t take the chance to discover the juicy gossip about their friends and neighbours? But Vivian’s eavesdropping comes back to bite her when she overhears some scandalous gossip about her own family that shatters her world. Worst of all, the information is in the hands of the town’s biggest gossip  Betty Miller. 

Mortified, Vivian tries to think of a way to stop the town from hearing the rumour and her family being humiliated. She soon learns that they aren’t the only ones harbouring a scandalous secret and there are others with far bigger skeletons in their closets waiting to be revealed. 

This marvellously written debut was a joy to read. It drew me in from the first pages, the authentic language and vivid imagery transporting me to small-town 50s America and the glossy facade of the lives of its residents. I thought I knew what I was getting, but the author created a rich tapestry, woven from the myriad of seemingly insignificant threads of information, that looked nothing like what I had imagined. It was hard to predict and I loved not knowing where it was going or what would happen next. I enjoyed the various literary styles the author used to tell the story by peppering it with things such as word descriptions and recipes and giving the reader an in-depth look at Vivian’s history. 

The story boasts a multitude of rich characters but centres around two women – Vivian and Betty – who are more competitors than friends. Though they despise each other, the women are more alike than they think: they both like to be in control, good appearances are important to them above all else and struggle with anger and use techniques to calm it – Vivian bakes and Betty strokes her angel charm on her watch. Neither character was particularly likeable, but Vivian did have a charm that drew me to her. 

The Operator is a wonderful, witty, intriguing and heart-felt novel. I enjoyed watching it morph into something unexpected and that even after the story ends the author’s note shines a different light on the story. I would recommend this delightful, understated and readable book to anyone who enjoys historical or literary fiction. 

Gretchen Berg Author Pic

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gretchen Berg is a writer with a Bachelor’s degree in something completely unrelated to writing. Both parents encouraged her to write, but she waited until she heard “you are a writer” from more trustworthy advisors: a London psychic and a taxicab driver in Athens, Greece. The taxicab driver also said they had been lovers in a previous life, though, so, everything with a grain of salt. Gretchen is a Cancer, with Scorpio rising, who was born and raised. She loves when people dress up.

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This Lovely City by Louise Hare ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: March 12th, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Urban Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

The drinks are flowing.
The music is playing.
But the party can’t last.

With the Blitz over and London reeling from war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for help. Fresh off the Empire Windrush, he’s taken a tiny room in south London lodgings, and has fallen in love with the girl next door.

Touring Soho’s music halls by night, pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until, one morning, he makes a terrible discovery.

As the local community rallies, fingers of blame are pointed at those who had recently been welcomed with open arms. And, before long, the newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which threatens to tear the city apart.

Atmospheric, poignant and compelling, Louise Hare’s debut shows that new arrivals have always been the prime suspects. But, also, that there is always hope.

MY REVIEW:

This fabulous debut is not only great between the pages but it has a cover that just screams “read me.” Part love story, part coming-of-age and part crime novel, this fictional story also has a true story running through its pages; the story of the Jamaican men who travelled to England on the Windrush in the Summer of 1948 and their battle for acceptance and equality. 

Told in dual timelines this is the story of immigrant Lawrie Matthews and Evie Coleridge, the girl next door that he’s in love with and also happens to be the only mixed race girl in the area. The pair are headed for marriage and, other than the daily racism they must navigate, life is good. But after Lawrie finds the body of a baby girl in the pond on Clapham Common everything changes. Lawrie finds himself the prime suspect in the case and trouble soon begins to seep into all areas of his life. As the press and public demand justice for the little girl, the city is divided, racial tensions rise and Lawrie and his friends find themselves more vulnerable than ever in the place they were told was their new home. Meanwhile, Lawrie’s discovery also threatens to uncover shameful secrets that were never meant to be revealed and could shatter their lives even further.

I’m a big fan of both historical and crime fiction so as soon as I read the synopsis I knew I had to read this book. Though the crime is introduced into the story early on, it didn’t feel like there was a lot of tension or suspense until later on and most of the time the story concentrated more on how being under suspicion, or being close to someone under suspicion, affected the characters in all areas of their lives. I liked this and felt that it gave the book a lot of heart that might have otherwise been missing. It also enabled important issues to be more visible in the story, rather than fading into the background. 

The author’s wonderful storytelling and vivid imagery transported me to London in the late forties and early fifties. I could almost smell the smoke and hear the jazz band playing. I could see the grimy streets and feel the fear and loathing in the air. But what I loved most was the characters and community that the author created. Their authenticity immersed me in their world and helped me to feel connected to situations I never have or will experience. Lawrie was a kind, honest man who I quickly fell in love with. His good character added to the sense of injustice at what he went through after finding the baby as you really did get the sense he was the last person on earth who could do such a thing. He was the opposite of Rathborne, the racist and vile policeman in charge of the case, who was easily my least favourite character. Evie was a sweet, innocent young woman who longed to break free of her overbearing mother. I thought a lot about how hard it must have been for her being the only mixed race person, not knowing anyone else like herself and never really fitting in anywhere. I found myself furious at her mother for how she treated her and contributed to her pain at being different, thankful she’d found Lawrie and hoping they would overcome the obstacles and get their happy-ever-after. 

This Lovely City is an atmospheric, affecting and thought-provoking debut. Deftly told, the story is steadily paced, building to a gradual crescendo as we approach the finale. I loved that there were things I found impossible to predict and I was certain I had the rest figured out. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The storylines cleverly dovetailed and my jaw hit the floor as all was revealed. I would recommend this book and am excited to see what the author writes next.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Louise Hare is a London based author. Her debut novel This Lovely City is due to be published by HQ (Harper Collins) on March 12th 2020 and House of Anansi (N. America) on April 7th 2020. She has an MA in Creative Writing (Distinction) from Birkbeck, University of London.

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Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan – The Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist Blog Tour

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Published: October 3rd, 2019
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Genre: Fairy tale, Ghost Story, Horror, Dystopian Fiction

I’m excited to share my review for the first of two books I’ll be reading as part of The Dylan Thomas Prize longlist blog tour. Thank you to Midas PR for the invitation to take part and Harvill Secker for the gifted copy of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

A shocking collection of dark stories, ranging from chilling contemporary fairytales to disturbing supernatural fiction, by a talented writer who has been compared to Angela Carter.

So here we go, into the dark.

Some things can’t be spoken about in the light of day. But we can visit our fears at night, in the dark. We can turn them over and weigh them in our hands and maybe that will protect us from them. But maybe not.

The characters in this collection find their aspirations for happy homes, happy families and happy memories dissected and imbued with shimmering menace. Alone in a remote house in Iceland a woman is unnerved by her isolation; another can only find respite from the clinging ghost that follows her by submerging herself in an overgrown pool. Couples wrestle with a lack of connection to their children; a schoolgirl becomes obsessed with the female anatomical models in a museum; and a cheery account of child’s day out is undercut by chilling footnotes.

These dark tales explore women’s fears with electrifying honesty and invention and speak to one another about female bodies, domestic claustrophobia, desire and violence. From a talented writer who has been compared to Angela Carter, Things We Say in the Dark is a powerful contemporary collection of feminist stories, ranging from vicious fairy tales to disturbing horror and tender ghost stories.

KIRSTY LOGAN WAS SELECTED AS ONE OF BRITAIN’S TEN MOST OUTSTANDING LGBTQ WRITERS by Val McDermid for the International Literature Showcase in 2019

MY REVIEW:

“Some things can’t be spoken about in the light of day. But we can visit our fears at night, in the dark . We can turn them over and weigh them in our hands and maybe that will protect us from them. But maybe not.”

Things We Say in the Dark is a striking, dark, curious and unsettling collection of short stories that explore fear through a creative lens. Each story has a deeper meaning under its surface, the author addressing subjects such as love, loss, longing, relationships, parenthood, sexism, homophobia and abuse.

This was my first time reading anything by this author and I was immediately pulled in by the immersive writing and loved the elements of horror and dark comedy that was infused into the stories. I enjoyed this collection but there were one or two stories that were a little bizarre for my taste. The stories that stood out in my mind were Birds Fell From The Sky and Each One Spoke In Your Voice, My Body Cannot Forget Your Body, Good Good Good, Nice Nice Nice and The Only Thing I Can’t Tell You Is Why. I laughed, I grimaced, my heart was broken and I was full of rage as the author made me feel a variety of emotions over the course of this collection. 

Between each story there is commentary from the author where she talks about her life, her motivations for writing the book and her writing process. These sections seemed to tell another, more personal, story and I enjoyed the glimpse into the author’s mind and feeling like she was almost there with me as I read. 

So if you’re looking for something intelligent, thought-provoking and different, and don’t mind stories that are sinister and creepy, then I would recommend this fascinating collection. I flew through it quickly but it is also ideal for dipping in and out of when you only have a small time to read. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kirsty Logan is a Scottish novelist, poet, performer, literary editor, writing mentor, book reviewer and writer of short fiction. She lives in Glasgow. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on retold fairytales, and her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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