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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor

Published: January 21st, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller, Horror Fiction

Thank you to Michael Joseph for my #gifted copy of this outstanding novel. This is one of my most anticipated books of 2021 and was joint BOTM for October.

SYNOPSIS:

500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death
30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace
Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide

Welcome to Chapel Croft.

For Rev Jack Brooks and teenage daughter Flo it’s supposed to be a fresh start. New job, new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn’t easily forgotten.

And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft’s history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome.

Yet right away Jack has more frightening concerns.

Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls?
Who’s sending them sinister, threatening messages?
And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself?

Chapel Croft’s secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn’t touch them if not for Flo – anything to protect Flo.

But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft – and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest . . .

MY REVIEW:

“If you see the burning girls, something bad will befall you.”

WHAT. A. BOOK! Creepy as hell and absolutely brilliant, this was an easy 5 stars from me.  

Chapel Croft, East Sussex, a small hamlet where everyone knows everyone; or at least they think they do. Rev Jack Brooks and her teenage daughter Flo have moved to the area in search of a fresh start. 

But soon Flo is plagued by visions of burning girls, and someone is sending them threatening messages. Jack realises they’ve come to a place not of solace, but one that is haunted by local legends and dark, sinister secrets. And there are some people who will do anything to keep it that way… 

To my shame, this is my first time reading a C. J. Tudor book despite the fact that I own them all. I am now wondering why I waited so long. I immediately fell in love with her writing style. The way she wove together chilling mystery, tension and humour that had me chuckling away to myself after just a few pages. I also loved the historical feel it had; The strange sights and events that are combined with local folklore make it feel like I was reading something based in fact. 

Spine-chillingly atmospheric, twisty, addictive, and thick with malevolence, The Burning Girls is a fiendishly delicious read. The definition of unputdownable, I devoured this in under a day and had a major book hangover when I was finished. 

An absolute must read. Just don’t turn out the lights… 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Company Daughters by Samantha Rajaram

Published: October 30th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Biographical Fiction, Lesbian Literature

I’m delighted to finally be able to share my review for this poignant novel. It’s late because of illness, but was worth the wait to read. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Wanted: Company Daughters. Virtuous young ladies to become the brides of industrious settlers in a foreign land. The Company will pay the cost of the lady’s dowry and travel. Returns not permitted, orphans preferred.

Amsterdam, 1620. Jana Beil has learned that life rarely provides moments of joy. Having run away from a violent father, her days are spent searching for work in an effort to stay out of the city brothels, where desperate women trade their bodies for a mouthful of bread. But when Jana is hired as a servant for the wealthy and kind Master Reynst and his beautiful daughter Sontje, Jana’s future begins to look brighter.

But then Master Reynst loses his fortune on a bad investment, and everything changes. The house is sold to creditors, leaving Jana back on the street and Sontje without a future.

With no other choice, Jana and Sontje are forced to sign with the East India Company as Company Daughters: sailing to a colonial Dutch outpost to become the brides of male settlers they know nothing about. With fear in their hearts, the girls begin their journey – but what awaits them on the other side of the world is nothing like what they’ve been promised…

Based on true history, this is a beautiful and sensual historical novel, perfect for fans of The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Miniaturist and The Indigo Girl.

MY REVIEW:

“But having lived through so much upheaval, I doubt I will ever know the full taste of safety. I’m forever assuming some future disaster. Reading myself to flee.”

Jana Beil has not had an easy or happy life. She’s fought to survive, escaping violence and neglect only to find herself homeless and starving on the streets of Amsterdam in the late 17th century. She is grateful to find employment in the home of Master Reynst and his daughter, Sontje, but tragedy strikes when Reynst loses everything after a bad investment and Jana faces uncertainty once more. Sontje is faced with just one option; to travel to Batavia as one of the Company Daughters, a bride for one of the VOC settlers on the Dutch colony. When Sontje asks Jana to accompany her she agrees, eager to both escape her life in Amsterdam and to find a way to keep close to Sontje.

I am a big fan of historical fiction, especially when it’s based in fact, so I was instantly drawn to this book which is based on the true stories of Dutch women who were shipped to the other side of the world to become brides for strangers. It was a long and arduous ten month journey where they face increasing hunger and illness that threatens to end their voyage before they reach their destination. It is clear that the author has done a lot of research which she blends with fiction and vivid scene setting to transport you to another time and place, immersing you in this poignant tale.

“I ignore the fear rooting in me and feel triumph in this. Even in our captivity, we’ve found each other. Seized at whatever joy we can find.”

The characters are well written and richly drawn. I loved the protagonist, Jana. She’s easy to like and root for, a strong and determined character who isn’t typical of the women of the day. We follow her as she goes on a compelling journey that is both literal and figurative, her life marred by tragedy; where every time she feels like things are finally going well something comes along to pull the rug from under her feet once again. She isn’t someone who wishes to conform to what society expects of her, and over the course of the book her rebellious streak becomes increasingly evident as she is determined to carve her own path.

“I can’t help but feel bitterness—the fact of my body’s ownership passing from hand to hand—my father’s pummelling, the other men with their pawing and leering, as though I existed only for their gaze.”

The author also examines the lack of freedom, rights and choice available to women of the day. They are owned by men their whole lives and at their mercy. They can only hope for a father, husband or master who is kind and doesn’t beat or rape them. It’s a bleak existence and they have no way to independently make their way in the world; even a widowed woman is looked upon with suspicion if she doesn’t quickly remarry.

Atmospheric, harrowing, moving and hopeful, this was an easy and entertaining read that I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Samantha Rajaram spent most of her childhood in Gillette, Wyoming, where she and her family were the first Indian-Americans to live in the community. As a law student, she focused on social justice and international human rights law with a focus on female sex trafficking.

She is now an educator, and currently teaches composition at Chabot College in Hayward, California. She lives in the California Bay Area with her three
children.

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Emma's Anticipated Treasures Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – October 2020

I can’t quite believe we’re in the start of November and in just a few weeks we’ll putting together our best books of the year! But the clocks have gone back, the weather is cold and wet and October is over. This means it’s time for another wrap-up.

October was a fantastic month for me. I read a total of 19 books and discovered some that will have a place in my favourites of 2020. I took part in twenty-one blog tours, three readalongs and managed to squeeze in some much-needed mood reading at the end of the month. The latter was so refreshing and reinforced my decision to take on less blog tours next year.

So, let’s look at what I read this month:

  1. The Meaning of Mariah Carey ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  2. A Court of Frost and Starlight ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. The Ex-Boyfriend ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. Where The Edge Is ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. Betrayal ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. Watch Her Vanish ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. When Life Gives You Mangoes ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. The Book of Two Ways (unrated)
  9. All Your Little Lies ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. The Princess and the Prick ⭐⭐⭐
  11. Gone Before ⭐⭐⭐💫
  12. Dangerous To Know ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫
  13. The Exiles ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  14. The Housewarming ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫
  15. Dead Perfect ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  16. The Nesting ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  17. The Illustrated Child ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  18. The Shape of Darkness ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫
  19. The Burning Girls ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Choosing a favourite has been tricky as the last three books I read in October were each outstanding enough to take the title. In addition, The Meaning of Mariah Carey was a sensational memoir that I had thought was a shoe-in for my favourite book all month. After some thought I have decided to give two books the title of BOTM: The Illustrated Child and The Burning Girls. In the end I just couldn’t choose between the two.

Did we read any of the same books this month? What was your favourite read of October?

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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 Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby

Published: October 29th, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age

Today is my stop on the tour for this spectacular debut. Thank you HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

A picture paints a thousand lies…

Romilly lives in a ramshackle house with her eccentric artist father and her cat, Monty. She knows little about her past – but she knows that she is loved.

When her father finds fame with a series of children’s books starring her as the main character, everything changes: exotic foods appear on the table, her father appears on TV, and strangers appear at their door, convinced the books contain a treasure hunt leading to a glittering prize.

But as time passes, Romilly’s father becomes increasingly suspicious of everything around him, until, before her eyes, he begins to disappear altogether.

In her increasingly isolated world, Romilly turns to the secrets her father has hidden in his illustrated books, realising that there is something far darker and more devastating locked within the pages…

The truth.

The Illustrated Child is the unforgettable, beguiling debut from Polly Crosby.

MY REVIEW:

This book is one of my most anticipated books of 2020. I’ve been green with envy at others receiving the gorgeous proofs and am so glad I’ve finally had the chance to read it. 

From the title and cover I had imagined a lighthearted and uplifting read, but thankfully I’d read a few reviews and been warned that it is a darker book than you expect. That being said, it’s one that’s best read blind so I’m not going to reveal much about the plot. 

I absolutely adored this book. I was immediately captivated by the beautiful prose and lost in Romilly’s strange world. The author has crafted an intricate, layered novel that has so much hidden beneath its surface. She holds the reader captive as she slowly unveils the truths waiting to be discovered, like the rumoured clues to the hidden treasure in Tobias’ stories. 

I loved Romilly. She is a fantastic and fascinating heroine who is a paradox in the way many children are: independent but vulnerable, strong but weak, daring but afraid. She hasn’t had the easiest life and I couldn’t help but feel for her, especially as the story went on. From the start I felt an affinity with her as I also had a part-siamese cat with a kink in its tail when I was younger, though he didn’t have a name nearly as important. 

This story consumed me. I didn’t want to put it down, not even to go to sleep, I was so immersed in its pages. Emotionally resonant, there wasn’t a feeling it didn’t make me feel as I lived every moment with Romilly. I needed to know what her future held, where she ended up, if my predictions were right. 

Evocative, dark, haunting and mesmerising, this is one of my favourite books this year. A sensational debut from an extraordinary new talent that you don’t want to miss. 

READ. THIS. BOOK. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

After a whirlwind of a year which saw Polly receive writing scholarships from both Curtis Brown Creative and The University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, she went on to be runner up in the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel.

Polly’s novel was snapped up by HarperCollins HQ in the UK and Commonwealth in a 48 hour pre-empt, and a few days later by HarperCollins Park Row Books in North America.

Polly grew up on the Suffolk coast, and now lives in the heart of Norfolk with her husband and son, and her very loud and much loved rescue Oriental cat, Dali.

The Illustrated Child is her first novel.

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Nesting by C. J. Cooke

Published: October 15th, 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Fairy Tale, Mystery, Gothic Fiction, Ghost Story, Suspense, Thriller, Horror Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this creepy gothic thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Harper Collins for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Atmospheric, gothic, spine-chilling… The new thriller from C.J Cooke will haunt you long after you turn the last page…
It was like something out of a fairytale…
The grieving widower.
The motherless daughters.
A beautiful house in the woods.
Deep in a remote Norwegian forest, Lexi has found a new home with architect Tom and his two young daughters. With snow underfoot and the sound of the nearby fjord in her ears, it’s as if Lexi has stepped into a fairy tale

But this family has a history – and this place has a past. Something was destroyed to build their beautiful new house. And those ancient, whispering woods have a long memory.

Lexi begins to hear things, see things that don’t make sense. She used to think this place heavenly, but in the dark, dark woods, a menacing presence lurks.

With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care.

But protect them from what?

MY REVIEW:

All month I’ve been itching to read a creepy, gothic book. The Nesting is both of those things and more. 

Returning to Norway after the recent death of his wife Aurelia, Tom hires Lexi to accompany the family as their Nanny. For him, it’s a chance to honour his wife the house she dreamed of while avoiding his grief, and for Lexi it’s a chance to reinvent herself and start again after a recent suicide attempt. 

But deep in the remote Norwegian forest, there is a threat lurking. But is it human? Are the things Aurelia and Lexi see really hallucinations or are they a real and sinister supernatural force that is out to harm them?

Atmospheric, eerie and haunting, this is the perfect book for this time of year. I’m a big fan of gothic novels, and Cooke executes this one expertly, with just the right amount of spine-tingling terror to keep you hooked and not wanting to turn out the light. 

The writing is simply gorgeous and so vividly descriptive that I felt like I was seeing and feeling everything alongside the characters. I particularly liked how well her description of Lexi’s first month as a Nanny captured the exhaustive nature of children and how she put us inside the mind of a young child so realistically. 

The imagery of Norway made me feel like I was standing in that forest myself and I think that her choice of a remote Norwegian forest in winter was perfect for a Gothic thriller. Beautiful, haunting, dark, chilling and hostile, it sets the scene by simply being itself. The author entwines this with eerie Norwegian folklore and unexplained occurrences,  creating the perfect recipe for this spooky tale.

Dealing with themes of motherhood, mental health and suicide, this isn’t a light-hearted read, but it examines each one with sensitivity and realism. It is clear that mental health and motherhood are subjects that heavily impact and influence the author, as she has woven them into both Lexi and Aurelia’s stories. I loved this, the way the women mirrored each other in so many ways and felt it gave them a deep connection despite the fact that they’d never met. I could personally relate to them both in their mental health struggles and they were definitely the characters I felt closest too. 

All of the characters, even the minor ones, were interesting and well written. I enjoyed the flashbacks as they gave us a chance to get to know Aurelia and gave us possible clues about her death. It also gives the reader the chance to see a clearer picture of Tom, though I found him suspicious and unlikeable all the same. I thought Lexi was a great protagonist who was relatable, flawed and likeable. But the one who really stole my heart was Gaia. How could she not? She broke my heart when she talked about her ‘Mumma’ and definitely creeped me out most of all with all her talk of the Sad Lady. 

An immersive, ethereal and chilling read, The Nesting is the perfect gothic tale for reading while cosy under a blanket this autumn. Just don’t turn out the light! 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

CJ Cooke wrote her first book aged seven. A few decades later, her work is published in 23 languages, has won numerous awards, and has been optioned for film and television.

CJ’s previous works include the novels The Boy Who Could See Demons (2012), which was critically appraised by The New York Times, The Guardian, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and The New York Review of Books, The Guardian Angel’s Journal (2011), which was an international bestseller, and I Know My Name, which was a No. 1 iBooks bestseller and optioned for TV.

Her latest book, a gothic thriller called The Nesting, was awarded funding from the Arts Council of England to carry out research in Norway and is published by Penguin Random House (US) on 29th Sept 2020 and HarperCollins (UK & Commonwealth) on 15 October 2020.

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Blog Tours book reviews

Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten

Published: October 16th, 2020
Publisher: One More Chapter
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction, Crime Series, Hardboiled, Police Procedural

Thank you to Sarah at BOTBS Publicity for the invitation to take part and One More Chapter for the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

A murdered woman…

When the body of a young woman is found in a local park, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she’s dealing with no ordinary killer.  The murder victim has been disfigured; her outfit changed to resemble someone else.  Someone Maggie knows all too well…her close friend Dr Kate Moloney.

A determined detective…

Maggie is determined to keep her friend safe, but with Kate already struggling with a threatening stalker, Maggie now fears Kate’s life is in real danger.  Who else would want to harm Kate and why else would the killer be turning his victims into exact replicas – his living dolls? 

Can Maggie find the depraved killer?  Or will Kate become his next living doll?

MY REVIEW:

“Practice makes perfect.”

Dead Perfect is the third installment in the DC Maggie Jamieson series; and it’s the best one yet. 

Maggie and her team face their most challenging case yet when they must track a killer who’s altering the appearance of his victims to resemble someone they know. They have few clues and no obvious suspects. But when a second body is found, it is clear they are in a race against the clock to identify and find their killer before he takes another victim. Can Maggie overcome her personal fears to find him before it’s too late?

“He’d been watching her for a while now. She was perfect. Or she would be.”

Holten has a talent for the sinister and macabre, delivering the kind of tense and twisted thriller that I love. Once again she uses one of my favourite tropes of writing from the killer’s perspective, which heightens all the creep factor. This is one sick guy. But it isn’t just the way he incapacitates and mutilates his victims that makes him so scary, or even his obsessive delusion; it’s how patient, organised and methodical he is. The idea that he could do the preparation he does without being caught is frightening, and feels very real. 

I’ve read the previous books in this series so I knew the characters. But if you haven’t you can still read this book as the author quickly catches you up on past events. All the characters are relatable, real and well written, and I like Maggie more with every installment. I liked how vulnerable she was in this book and how we see her battle a new challenge when her friend is at risk. She jumps straight into the action and never slows down for a minute. And while you end the book exhausted after an arduous journey, you are also left desperate for more as it perfectly sets the scene for book four. 

Dark, menacing and compelling, any thriller lover should read this book.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at http://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.

Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Housewarming by S. E. Lynes

Published: October 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Mystery, Thriller

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this sensational thriller. Thank you Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Everyone is going to the housewarming party.

All the same people who lived on the street the day Abi vanished…

Will her mother finally learn the truth?

Ava only left her daughter in the pushchair for five minutes. The buckle was fastened, and she was sure it was safe. But when she came downstairs, the door was open and Abi was gone – she walked down the road, past the Lovegoods’ house, and was never seen again.

A year later, the Lovegoods are planning their long-anticipated housewarming party. Ava doesn’t want to go. She can’t bear to look down that end of the road, to see the place where Abi vanished, and she doesn’t want to spend time with people who don’t share her grief. Her husband Matt persuades her: he’s worried about her. A night out might do her good.

But as her friends and neighbours chat, and the drink and gossip flows, Ava learns something new about the day she has re-lived a thousand times. A throwaway comment which could change everything.

Ava thought she knew every last detail of that day.

She’s about to find out she was wrong

MY REVIEW:

“I am a woman who has a daughter. I am a woman who had a daughter. Both these things are true. I live in the past; I survive in the present.” 

Ava only left Abi alone for a few moments. But that was all it took for the two-year-old to wander off and vanish. She didn’t realise she’d left the front door open or that she could unbuckle herself from her pushchair. She didn’t know she would never see her again. 

A year later Ava is struggling to accept her daughter’s death and to live with the guilt she carries. When their neighbours invite them to their housewarming party, her husband Matt convinces her to go, saying it is time they start to rebuild their lives. But that night, Ava discovers something that changes everything she thought she knew about the day Abi disappeared, and makes her look at those around her in a new light. 

Could the truth about her daughter’s disappearance actually be more sinister than she believed?

“Second by second. Beat by beat. A metronome keeps time for the frantic melody of my life’s unravelling. I watch myself from above. I shout out the things I should have done, places I should have looked, the order in which I should have done it all.” 

This was one of those books that I knew I was going to love immediately. The author drew me in from the first pages with her melodic prose that oozes with panic, fear and despair as she recalls the moment she found Abi was missing and frantically searched for her. She looks back scathingly at the decisions she made and the mistakes she sees as costing her daughter’s life. 

After that night at the party, the tension rises as Ava notices the inconsistencies and begins to doubt the things she believed about Abi’s disappearance. A cloud of suspicion now hangs over those she never suspected as small details begin to reveal a dark and horrifying picture. As I approached the jaw-dropping finale, my heart was in my throat and I got book whiplash from all the twists and turns.

“It is simply that the party has pulled the plug on the weird, stagnant pond of our lives, has drained the water from details half submerged, which lie now in the shallows, exposed.”

Compelling, heartbreaking and harrowing, this was impossible to put down. Lynes is a master of stories that have you on the edge of your seat but also full of heart. 

Don’t miss this sensational thriller. 

Rating : ✮✮✮✮. 5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Former BBC Producer, S.E. Lynes is the Amazon best selling author of ‘intelligent and haunting’, ‘beautifully written’ psychological thrillers, VALENTINA, MOTHER, THE PACT, THE PROPOSAL, THE WOMEN, THE LIES WE HIDE, CAN YOU SEE HER? and her latest novel, THE HOUSEWARMING, available for pre-order NOW.

After completing her MA, Lynes taught creative writing at Richmond Adult Community College for over ten years. She now combines writing, mentoring and lecturing.

She has also published three children’s books in Italy: IL LEOPARDO LAMPO, LA COCCODRILLA INGAMBA, and the bilingual LA SCIMMIA SPIRITOSA/THE FUNNY MONKEY, all available at Amazon.it

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book reviews

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

Published: October 22nd, 2020
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Happy Publication Day to this outstanding novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Allison & Busby for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

London, 1840. Evangeline, pregnant and falsely accused of stealing, has languished in Newgate prison for months. Ahead now lies the journey to Australia on a prison ship. On board, Evangeline befriends Hazel, sentenced to seven years’ transport for theft. Soon Hazel’s path will cross with an orphaned indigenous girl. Mathinna is ‘adopted’ by the new governor of Tasmania where the family treat her more like a curiosity than a child. Amid hardships and cruelties, new life will take root in stolen soil, friendships will define lives, and some will find their place in a new society in the land beyond the seas.

MY REVIEW:

“Maybe she would always be alone and apart. Always in transition, on her way to someplace else, never quite belonging. She knew both too much and too little of the world. But what she knew, she carried in her bones.” 

The Exiles is a beautifully written, layered and nuanced piece of historical fiction. Set in London and Australia in the 1840s, it is a story about women, survival and redemption. It is a story about our need to belong, about love, loss and how we carry those we love inside us wherever we go.

The voices of three very different female characters tell their stories, which entwine as the novel progresses. Mathinna is an orphaned eight-year-old Aboriginal girl who is taken from her home by Lady Jane Franklin, an explorer who likes to collect anything to do with native people and wants to see if the child can be educated and ‘tamed’. Evangeline is a naïve young woman from a small village working as a governess who finds herself pregnant and alone on a transport ship to Australia after allowing her rage to get the better of her when she is falsely accused of theft. And, finally, there is Hazel, a seventeen-year-old girl who is on the transport ship with Evangeline after being forced to steal by her mother. 

“Here she was, torn from her family and everyone she knew at the whim of a lady in satin slippers who boiled the skulls of her relatives and displayed them as curiosities.”

Each woman has a character that is rich and compelling, a spark that draws you to them and makes you root for her and care about her story. And while their lives and stories may be different, they also have similarities. Each of them have been exiled from their home and those they love and all face the harsh reality of being female in a time and place where that is hostile and unforgiving towards women. They all navigate these obstacles with strength, resilience and determination. 

This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author, and I was struck by her exquisite storytelling and how she seamlessly wove fact and fiction together to create this lush and atmospheric tale. Her imagery makes you feel like you’re there and I could see so clearly the bleak, grim and squalid conditions of the prisons, slave ship and orphanage and could almost feel the heat of the sun bearing down on me in the Australian bush. She writes every character, however big or small, with authenticity, and the research that has gone into the novel leaps from its pages. I will definitely be buying her back catalogue and devouring it as soon as possible. 

“She’d learnt that she could withstand contempt and humiliation — and that she could find moments of grace in the midst of bedlam. She’d learnt she was strong.”

A powerful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking book, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Christina Baker Kline is the author of seven novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train. Her other novels include Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water, as well as Orphan Train Girl, a middle-grade adaptation of Orphan Train. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Money, More, and Psychology Today, among other publications. She lives in New York City and on the coast of Maine.

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Q&A with Tammye Huf

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A More Perfect Union. I’m delighted to be sharing a Q&A with the book’s author, Tammye Huf.

Q- Where did your inspiration for the book come from?
It came from the story of my great great grandparents. He was from Ireland and she was a slave. When they met and fell in love, he bought her freedom to marry her.

Q- What research did you do?
So, so much! A lot of reading. I especially invested time in reading first-hand accounts. Famine reports. Slave narratives. Political arguments. Laws. The laws a society passes say so much about that society and who and what they value.

Q-What is your creative process?
First comes the idea of the story, and then I like to flesh it out before I jump in and really get writing. I’ve done it the other way around before where you get a story idea or find a character and just start writing, seeing where the story leads you, but I’ve found that my story thread gets a bit tangled that way. I like to know where I’m going and then have creative freedom in how to get there.

Q- What were your biggest challenges when writing the book?
Knowing where to start, where to finish, and the events that should happen in between. I realise that sounds like everything but it’s not. For instance, knowing how characters would respond to a given challenge wasn’t nearly as hard for me as deciding on the challenge.

Q- Which character did you enjoy writing most?
All of them. Definitely all of them.

Q – Is there anything that didn’t make the final edit of the book that you wish you could have included?
There is so much more research that went into the book than you see on the page. It would have been nice to be able to include more of it, but it wouldn’t have been right for the story.

Q- Is there anything in particular you hope readers will take away from the book?
We are living at a time when racial tensions are at the highest they have been in decades. It can make us start to think that human beings are just this way. I hope that a story like A More Perfect Union could help to remind us that this isn’t true, and that individuals have always found a way to see past the things that divide us and come together, even during far greater periods of strife than what we’re dealing with now. Even though there are some hard realities in the book, I hope that on balance it is seen as hopeful.

Q- Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. The practicality of earning a living or raising a family means, for most of us, that writing is something you have to scratch out time to do. I’m fortunate that lately I’ve been at a place in my life where I can devote more time and energy to it, but it took quite a while to get here.

Q- What books you’ve read have had the most impact on you?
This is impossible to answer. Different books have impacted me at different stages of my life and in different ways. For me, the questions isn’t so much what book is most impactful, but what is the cumulative effect of the many impactful books and authors I’ve been exposed to.

Q- What have you been reading in quarantine?
My current reads are The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka and Here is the Beehive by Sarah Crossen.

Q- What are your go-to book recommendations?
The book I’ve probably recommended the most is The God of Small Things by Arundhathi Roy. The books I’ve recommended most recently include Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, The Long Song by Andrea Levy, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Some questions for fun –

Q- If you could have a magic typewriter or coffee cup that’s never empty, which would you choose?
A typewriter that magically transcribes my thoughts. That would be something.

Q- If you could go anywhere when you blink your eyes, where would you go?
Where wouldn’t I go? Could I also time travel with my magic teleporting blink? I’m afraid I’d spend my life blinking!


Q- What 5 celebrities – alive or dead – would make up your ideal dinner party and why?
I couldn’t possibly resist a chance to invite past authors who blazed a trail. The list is long but if it has to be five, then perhaps Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Octavia Butler.

Q- Lastly, what’s next?
I’m plotting out a new book, but at this stage of the process, I’m not yet ready to talk about it.

Thank you Tammye for answering my question and Emma at Myriad Editions for arranging the interview.

You can buy a copy of A More Perfect Union here.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Tammye Huf is a former teacher, and now works as a translator and copywriter. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, including Diverse Voices Quarterly and The Penmen Review. She was runner-up in the 2018 London Magazine Short Story Prize.

Originally from the USA, she moved first to Germany and then to the UK with her
husband and three children.