Published: April 15th, 2021 Publisher: Orenda Books Format: Paperback, Kindle Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Political Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction
A young TV journalist is forced to revisit her harrowing past when she’s thrust into a sex-trafficking investigation in her hometown. A startling, searing debut thriller by award-winning CNN journalist Sarah Sultoon. ––––––––––––––––––––––––
1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…
2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier…
As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth … and justice.
A riveting, searing and devastatingly dark thriller, The Source is also a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience … an immense, tense and thought-provoking debut that you will never, ever forget.
The Source is a story of survival and strength, of power, abuse and corruption, and of finally finding justice. It is a story of a cesspit of evil and the nefarious characters that can hide behind a mask of authority and respectability; and a story of the courage and resilience of those who were their prey.
It is told in three parts and in two timelines: in 1996. 13-year-old Carly is living on an army base with her mum and baby sister. Her world is one of neglect and doing whatever it takes to survive. She begins partying with the squddies in the barracks, turning to drinking, drugs and sex to escape the realities of her life. But things take an even darker turn and Carly finds herself embroiled in something much bigger, scarier and more powerful than she anticipated.
In 2006, journalist Marie is taking part in her first undercover case. But after she and her team successfully get the evidence they need to a expose sex trafficing case, the Met quashes their story by announcing new evidence in Operation Andromeda: the investigation into sexual abuse in the army a decade earlier. Moving seamlessly between the two narratives, the author weaves the two stories together as secrets are exposed and the fight for long-overdue justice continues.
Sultoon writes unflinchingly but with sensitivity. While it is horrifically authentic, it is never graphic, focusing instead on the emotions of the characters to tell the story. I was particularly drawn to Carly and her little sister Kayleigh. They are so evocatively written that you can feel their pain as if it’s your own and I wanted to reach in and save them from the neglect and nightmare that was their life.
Unsettling, raw and close to the bone, this isn’t an easy read. This is a book that will elicit strong emotions: heartbreak, shock, outrage, disgust. If I’m honest, I might not have picked it up if I’d known the subject matter ahead of time, and there was a point I wasn’t sure if I could keep reading, but having finished I’m glad I kept going.
The Source is a fast-paced, eye-opening and compassionate exploration of some of the darkest aspects of our society by a talented author. A striking debut.
TW: Sexual abuse, child abuse, eating disorders
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if …
Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in this tour and to Karen at Orenda Books for the eBook ARC. Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.
Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx
I’m a little late posting this due to ill health, but here is my review for the fifth installment in Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Karen at Orenda Books for the gifted ebook ARC.
A shamed pop star A devastating fire Six witnesses Six stories Which one is true?
When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.
Online journalist, Scott King, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rake over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge: Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Are reports of a haunting really true? Why was he never officially charged?
Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…
“This journey feels like it’s just begun — pulling apart a myth bit by bit to see what lies within.”
The fifth installment in Matt Wesolwski’s Six Stories series offers what we’ve come to expect: an eerie, mysterious and exhilarating novel exploring a fictional cold case over six episodes of the fictional podcast. This time presenter Scott King is trying to get answers about the life of music superstar Zach Crystal, a controversial, enigmatic and eccentric figure who perished in a fire in 2019.
As always, we jump straight into the action, with a chilling and sinister opening that will leave you both desperate for more and terrified to turn the page. I don’t want to talk too much about the details of the plot as the beauty of these stories is the journey of discovery, the mystery and surprises that unfold. What I will say is that once again Wesolwski has knocked it out of the park.
Wesolowski’s books are always highly anticipated in the blogging and book community; and for good reason. You will never read anything else like it. He has a style that is instantly recognisable as his and has crafted a series that is compelling, memorable and unique. Wesolowski isn’t a man afraid of taking risks or writing about the dark side. And his books aren’t for the faint hearted. They will send shivers down your spine, make you question the world around you and see monsters where there were none before. He is a genius. And I am yet to meet anyone who has read his books that doesn’t agree. I was late to discover this series and I’m still playing catch-up with the earlier books. But what is so good about them is while you will want to, and should, read every one, you can dip in at any point as each one is about a completely new case with all new characters bar the presenter.
Hypnotic, thrilling, innovative and simply brilliant, Deity is an unmissable book by one of the greatest voices in fiction.
Trigger Warnings: sexual abuse
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care.
‘Six Stories’ was published by Orenda Books in the spring of 2016 with follow-up ‘Hydra’ published in the winter of 2017, ‘Changeling’ in 2018, ‘Beast’ in 2019 and ‘Deity’ in 2020.
‘Six Stories’ has been optioned by a major Hollywood studio and the third book in the series, ‘Changeling’ was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Award for Best Thriller and Best Independent Voice. ‘Beast’ won the Amazon publishing award for Best Independent voice in 2020.
Welcome to my second post of my most anticipated books of 2021. Today I’m sharing the twenty-one debut novels being released this year that I’m most excited about. Once again, this was a very difficult list to narrow down as there were many more I’m looking forward to and have on my tbr.
SYNOPSIS: In this blinding debut, Robert Jones Jr. blends the lyricism of Toni Morrison with the vivid prose of Zora Neale Hurston to characterise the forceful, enduring bond of love, and what happens when brutality threatens the purest form of serenity.
The Halifax plantation is known as Empty by the slaves who work it under the pitiless gaze of its overseers and its owner, Massa Paul. Two young enslaved men, Samuel and Isaiah dwell among the animals they keep in the barn, helping out in the fields when their day is done. But the barn is their haven, a space of radiance and love – away from the blistering sun and the cruelty of the toubabs – where they can be alone together.
But, Amos – a fellow slave – has begun to direct suspicion towards the two men and their refusal to bend. Their flickering glances, unspoken words and wilful intention, revealing a truth that threatens to rock the stability of the plantation. And preaching the words of Massa Paul’s gospel, he betrays them.
The culminating pages of The Prophets summon a choral voice of those who have suffered in silence, with blistering humanity, as the day of reckoning arrives at the Halifax plantation. Love, in all its permutations, is the discovery at the heart of Robert Jones Jr’s breathtaking debut, The Prophets. Pre-order here.
The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn
Published: January 7th, 2021 Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre: Historical Fiction
SYNOPSIS: ‘I want you to remember something, Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’
My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.
The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.
They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.
Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together. Pre-order here.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
Published: January 7th, 2021 Publisher: Michael Joseph Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Domestic Fiction
SYNOPSIS: ‘I will never forget her eyes in that moment – I couldn’t look away from them. But I knew what happened as soon as I heard it.
‘I think she pushed him,’ I said to you quietly. ‘I think she pushed him…’ ___
The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn’t right.
I had always known that the women in my family aren’t meant to be mothers.
My husband Fox says I’m imagining it. He tells me I’m nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.
But she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong.
Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I? ___
The Push is an unsettling, breathtaking and powerful read about obsession and our deepest fears that will stay with you long after you turn the final page. Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.
How far would you go to win? Hyper-competitive people, mind games and a dangerous natural environment combine to make the must-read thriller of the year. Fans of Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by spectacular debut novel Shiver.
When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.
The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.
In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light. Pre-order here.
Girl A by Abigail Dean
Published: January 21st, 2021 Publisher: Harper Collins UK Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio Genre:
SYNOPSIS: THE BOOK THAT WILL DEFINE A DECADE
SOON TO BE A TV SHOW DIRECTED BY JOHAN RENCK (Chernobyl)
‘Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’
Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.
Beautifully written and incredibly powerful, Girl A is a story of redemption, of horror, and of love. Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: The sunniest places hold the darkest secrets . . . ________
Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .
It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.
While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .
A beguiling, deeply atmospheric debut novel from the cracked heart of the American Dream, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and ultimately under-estimated.
SYNOPSIS: ‘Rebecca meets The Secret History. Gloriously dark, gloriously gothic’ SARA COLLINS, Costa First Novel Award-winning author of The Confessions of Frannie Langton
For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises that its pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’. Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher and new head of department. Rose is overwhelmed by the institution: its arcane traditions, unrivalled prestige, and terrifyingly cool, vindictive students. Her classroom becomes her haven, where the stories of fearless women from ancient Greek and Roman history ignite the curiosity of the girls she teaches and, unknowingly, the suspicions of the powers that be. But as Rose uncovers the darkness that beats at the very heart of Caldonbrae, the lines between myth and reality grow ever more blurred. It will be up to Rose – and the fierce young women she has come to love – to find a way to escape the fate the school has in store for them, before it is too late. Perfect for fans of Margaret Atwood and Madeline Miller, Madam is a darkly feminist tale with an electrifying cast of heroines you won’t soon forget. Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.
An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.
Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.
And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.
But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in . . . Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY
Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.
As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.
Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…
’Those who live in the walls must adjust, must twist themselves around in their home, stretching themselves until they’re as thin as air. Not everyone can do what they can. But soon enough, they can’t help themselves. Signs of their presence remain in a house. Eventually, every hidden thing is found.’
Elise knows every inch of the house. She knows which boards will creak. She knows where the gaps are in the walls. She knows which parts can take her in, hide her away. It’s home, after all. The home her parents made for her. And home is where you stay, no matter what.
Eddie calls the same house his home. Eddie is almost a teenager now. He must no longer believe in the girl he sometimes sees from the corner of his eye. He needs her to disappear. But when his older brother senses her, too, they are faced with a question: how do they get rid of someone they aren’t sure even exists?
And, if they cast her out, what other threats might they invite in? Pre-order here.
London, 1665. Hidden within a growing pile of corpses, one victim of the pestilence stands out: a young woman with a shorn head and pieces of twine delicately tied around each ankle.
Symon Patrick, rector of St. Paul’s Covent Garden, cannot say exactly why this corpse amongst the many in his churchyard should give him pause. Longing to do good, he joins a group of medical men who have gathered to find a cure for the plague, each man more peculiar and splenetic than the next. But there is another, unknown to The Society for the Prevention and Cure of Plague, who is performing his own terrible experiments upon unwilling plague-ridden subjects.
It is Penelope – Symon’s unwanted yet unremovable addition to his household – who may yet shed light on the matter. Far more than what she appears, she is already on the hunt. But the dark presence that enters the houses of the sick will not stop, and has no mercy…
This hugely atmospheric and entertaining historical thriller will transport readers to the palaces and alleyways of seventeenth-century London. Perfect for fans of Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Andrew Taylor and C.J. Sansom.
SYNOPSIS: When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.
Abi’s disappearance cracks open the façade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him.
Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones…. Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: Daniel is the perfect husband. Rory is the perfect brother. Serena is the perfect sister-in-law.
And Rachel? Rachel is the perfect nightmare.
When Helen, finally pregnant after years of tragedy, attends her first antenatal class, she is expecting her loving architect husband to arrive soon after, along with her confident, charming brother Rory and his pregnant wife, the effortlessly beautiful Serena. What she is not expecting is Rachel.
Extroverted, brash, unsettling single mother-to-be Rachel, who just wants to be Helen’s friend. Who just wants to get know Helen and her friends and her family. Who just wants to know everything about them. Every little secret… Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: In 1901, the word bondmaid was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.
Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary.
Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutter to the floor unclaimed.
Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words. Pre-order here.
SYNOPSIS: A bewitching debut from a magnetic new voice in historical fiction. CUNNING WOMEN is sure to be loved by fans of The Essex Serpent and The Mercies.
They only want a kindness, but beware, for if you have no coin, they will curse you black and blue.
1620s, Lancashire. Away from the village lies a small hamlet, abandoned since the Plague, where only one family dwell amongst its ruins. Young Sarah Haworth, her mother, brother and little sister Annie are a family of outcasts by day and the recipients of visitors by night. They are cunning folk, the villagers will always need them, quick with a healing balm or more, should your needs require. They can keep secrets too, because no one would believe them anyway.
When Sarah spies a young man taming a wild horse, she risks being caught to watch him calm the animal. And when Daniel sees Sarah he does not just see a strange, dirty thing, he sees her for who she really is, a strong creature about to come into her own. But can something as fragile as love blossom between these two in such a place as this?
And when a new magistrate arrives to rid out those behind the strange ends that keep befalling the villagers, he has his eye on one family alone. And a torch in his hand.
Cunning Women is the powerful reckoning of a young woman with her wildness, a heartbreaking tale of young love and a shattering story of the intolerance that reigned during the long shadow of the Pendle Witch Trials when those who did not conform found persecution at every door.
Published: April 29th, 2021 Publisher: Wildfire Format: Hardcover, Kindle Genre: Historical Fiction, Fairy Tale
SYNOPSIS: A mesmerising retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Perfect for fans of CIRCE, A SONG OF ACHILLES, and THE SILENCE OF THE GIRLS.
As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.
When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.
In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?
Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel.
SYNOPSIS: Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of book publishing.
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and the micro-aggressions, she’s thrilled when Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events cause Nella to become Public Enemy Number One and Hazel, the Office Darling.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realises that there is a lot more at stake than her career.
A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.
SYNOPSIS: When Rachel’s baby is stillborn, she becomes obsessed with the idea that saving a stranger s life months earlier is to blame. An unforgettable, heart-wrenching, warm and funny debut.
Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss.
When a misguided well-wisher tells her that ‘everything happens for a reason’, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she s now certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son.
Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, Josephine, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results…
Both a heart-wrenchingly poignant portrait of grief and a gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story of a young woman’s determination, Everything Happens for a Reason is a bittersweet, life- affirming read and, quite simply, unforgettable. Pre-order here.
Midnight in Everwood by M. A . Kuzniar
Published: October 28th, 2021 Publisher: HQ Format: Hardcover, Kindle Genre: Fairy Tale, Magical Realism, Fantasy Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Historical Fantasy
SYNOPSIS: In the darkness of night, magic awaits…
The Nutcracker for adults, perfect for fans of Robert Dinsdale’s The Toymakers, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Stephanie Garber’s Caraval
’It was a rainy day that the magic came, and once magic has entered your life, you stay in its glittering clutch forever’
Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered. At the wishes of her family, she will be obligated to marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But when a mysterious new neighbour, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in her life. Although Drosselmeier’s magic is darker than Marietta could have imagined…
When he constructs an elaborate set for her final ballet performance, she discovers it carries a magic all of its own. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself walking through a land of snow-topped fir trees leading to a frozen sugar palace silent with secrets.
In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…
I can’t quite believe that 2020 is over! It’s been a strange year and I think we’re all hoping that 2021 brings better things and that we can soon get back to a new normal.
It was my second full year of blogging and once again I read more than I had even hoped to. I had set my Goodreads challenge at 120 and managed to read 177. That’s 27 more than in 2019.
As you can probably imagine, reading so many books made putting together my favourite twenty books of the year a difficult task. That last spot in particular had four other books that I really wanted to include and it was a real struggle to know which should make the final spot.
Here is my list in the order that I read the books:
The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward
Out of the final twenty, sixteen are by new to me authors, nine of them debuts. I found that 2020 was a strong year in terms of fantastic debuts, with others such as The Phone Box at the Edge of the World, Pine, The Memory Wood, The Wreckage, The Holdout, If I Can’t Have You, Dear Child, The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon, Shiver, The Push and The Thursday Murder Club standing out in particular.
So what almost made it? Contenders for this list included Three Hours, Pine, The Memory Wood, In Five Years, The Phone Box at the Edge of the World, If I Could Say Goodbye, The Push, Strangers, Dear Child, The Ice Cream Girls, All My Lies Are True and The Thursday Murder Club.
My favourite book of the year was not a difficult choice. Though there were many that were good enough to take the title, What’s Left Of Me Is Yours is the standout book of the year for me. I can honestly say that I’ve thought about this stunning debut every day since I read it in April. Do yourself a favour and read it if you haven’t already. I’m just hoping it’s not too long before I can read another book by the talented Stephanie Scott.
Did we have any of the same favourites? What was your book of the year? Let me know in the comments.
Keep an eye out for a post tomorrow with the top 20 lists of some other bloggers and which 2020 book we recommend most of all.
*Thank you to the tagged publishers for my #gifted ARCs.
The last month of 2020 is almost upon us and my mind is full of what to include in my favourite books of the year. But before that, there’s this month’s reading wrap up and a month of reading more books to do.
November has been a slower month for me as this time of year always brings with it the worsening of my chronic health conditions. I didn’t manage to read all the ones I’d started either and am in the middle of 3 others (one paperback, one kindle and one audio).
So, what did I manage to do? I read thirteen books, took part in thirteen blog tours, two readalongs and one watchalong. One of those readalongs was a bit different as we made cocktails using the new Peaky Blinders Cocktail Book. It was also fun taking part in the Shirley watchalong. It’s made me want to finally read Shirley Jackson’s books and more about her fascinating life.
I read some great books this month. The Diabolical Bones and The Package were standout reads that were contenders for BOTM for a while. But when I read The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside there was no question that this would be my BOTM. EVERYONE needs to read this book! It is one of my favourites this year for sure. You can read the review for it, and the other books I’ve read this month, by clicking the link in their title in the list above.
In December I’m looking forward to a more relaxed month. I’ve only taken on three blog tours and will be doing more mood reading. I can’t wait!
Thank you to the tagged publishers who sent gifted copies.
Did we read any of the same books this month? What was your favourite book in November? Let me know in the comments.
Published: November 12th, 2020 Publisher: Orenda Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio Genre: Nordic Noir, Mystery, Thriller, Book Series
Welcome to my stop on the tour for this gripping piece of Nordic Noir. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Karen at Orenda for the gifted ARC.
Ever-dogged Bergen PI Varg Veum is forced to dig deep into his own past as he investigates the murder of a former classmate. Vintage, classic Nordic Noir from international bestselling author Gunnar Staalesen.
***Now a major TV series starring Trond Espen Seim*** ________________
Exploring his own dark memories may be the only way to find a killer
When Bergen PI Varg Veum finds himself at the funeral of a former classmate on a sleet-grey December afternoon, he’s unexpectedly reunited with his old friend Jakob guitarist of the once-famous 1960s rock band The Harpers and his estranged wife, Rebecca, Veum’s first love.
Their rekindled friendship is thrown into jeopardy by the discovery of a horrific murder, and Veum is forced to dig deep into his own adolescence and his darkest memories, to find a motive and a killer.
Tense, vivid and deeply unsettling, Fallen Angels is the spellbinding, award-winning thriller that secured Gunnar Staalesen’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost crime writers
“On the stairs going down it struck me that actually there was something I had omitted to mention: the fact that of the four men who had constituted The Harpers rock band from 1959 to 1975 only one was still alive…”
After a former classmate is murdered, Private Investigator Varg Veum must delve deep into his past and that of his childhood friends. But he’s unprepared for the dark and murky secrets that will finally be revealed in this classic Nordic Noir.
As with any book published by Orenda, I went into this one with high hopes. It was my first time reading a book by this author and I hadn’t read any of the previous books in the series, but I didn’t feel like that put me at any kind of disadvantage.
“Opening a photograph album is like being captured by the past.”
Set in 1986, this was a fun trip down memory lane to a simpler time without mobile phones or social media. I think that setting the story in this time period added to the mystery as people genuinely lost contact and didn’t instantly hear about current events. It allowed for an element of surprise in the investigation that wouldn’t have been there in the present day.
I liked the author’s writing style, particularly his use of metaphors. This was a steadily-paced novel rather than a quick page-turner, and it wasn’t until almost half-way through that the murder actually occurs. For the first half of the book Varg is investigating the whereabouts of his school friend Jakob’s wife Rebecca, who also happens to be the one that got away. While it is a compelling story overall, there were times I felt like it got bogged down in Varg’s walk down memory lane and daydreams of Rebecca. But once the murder had occurred the tension began to increase, building to a crescendo as we approached finale and its shocking revelations.
Fallen Angels is a darkly atmospheric, layered and gripping thriller that keeps you guessing right until the last pages. It is particularly perfect for those who like a dark tale without the blood and gore.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour) and Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sister was shortlisted in 2019. He lives with his wife in Bergen.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this outstanding piece of Icelandic Noir. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in and Orenda for the eBook ARC.
When aid worker Úrsulareturns to Iceland for a new job, she’s drawn into the dangerous worlds of politics, corruption and misogyny … a powerful, relevant, fast-paced standalone thriller.
Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.
But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And why has the death of her father in police custody so many years earlier reared its head again?
As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch-like cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…
Oops, they did it again. With this exciting new thriller Orenda once again prove they only publish the best and most original fiction. This is why they’re one of my top publishers and I’m always eager to read an Orenda book.
Ursula, a former aid worker, has returned to her native Iceland after being traumatised and burned out by the horrors she has seen. When she starts a new job as a minister, she hopes it will finally help her to find her place at home and that she’ll be able to continue to help others without having to leave her family or experience further trauma.
On her first day she promises to help a mother who begs for her help in getting justice for her daughter, saying the fifteen-year-old was raped by a police officer the year before but the investigation has stalled. But she finds she’s met with resistance at every turn and can’t help but wonder if there is something more going on. Why does no one seem to want to investigate the accusations? And is Ursula’s sense that she’s a pawn in a game that she’s not privy to just her imagination, or really happening?
This gripping thriller was a roller-coaster ride, full of so many twists and turns I got book whiplash. I loved the short, sharply written chapters, multiple points of view and the intricate, tangled web the author wove. I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. But every time I thought I’d untangled the clues the story would take another turn and I’d have to try and figure it out all over again.
Though this was an easy and quick read for me, it is far from an easy plot. Complex and richly drawn, our protagonists must navigate the sexist halls of politics while trying to figure out what game they are playing, dealing with threatening messages, and being stalked by a homeless man who says he knows her and claims to be trying to warn her of some danger only he can see. It’s unclear how it all fits together, but I loved how the author slowly unveiled the truth, taking the reader on a journey that examines topics such as the dark side of politics, misogyny, police corruption, mental health and betrayal.
Like the story, the characters are all well written and readable, but it is Ursula who is the star of this story. She’s a strong, determined and fiesty who is also flawed. Over the course of the book we follow her journey to accept and come to terms with some of those flaws, including PTSD from her time doing charity work and the deep, dark trauma from her childhood: her father’s murder. She is a gutsy and fascinating character who I loved reading, even if I didn’t always agree with her actions.
Atmospheric, harrowing and very real, Betrayal is an immersive page-turner. This is Icelandic Noir at its best. I highly recommend this book to any thriller lover and can’t wait to read more by this talented author.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Lilja Sigurðardóttir is an Icelandic crime-writer born in 1972. She is the author of novels, stage plays and screenplays.
Her novels have been published in Norwegian, Danish, Czech, Macedonian, Polish, French and English and film rights to the Reykjavík Noir Trilogy (Snare, Trap and Cage) have been sold to Palomar Pictures.
The weather has cooled and the nights are drawing in. Summer is officially over and autumn has arrived. Another month is also over, which means it’s time for another wrap up.
It’s been a fantastic month. I’ve read 17 books in total, which includes one audiobook, and I’m part way through two other audiobooks. I’ve read some outstanding books and discovered some new authors I’ll definitely read again.
I also took part in 14 blog tours, 4 readalongs and the Tasting Notes Book Club. I was excited to take part in my first author Q&As. The first was a private Zoom with Cecelia Ahern and other bloggers, and the other was my first over Instagram Live. Courtesy of One More Chapter I took part in a Q&A with Annie Lyons. I’m so grateful to have these opportunities and still can’t believe I’m able to talk with authors I’ve loved for years.
With so many great books, it’s not easy to choose a favourite. But Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You was such a standout read that it ended up making the choice easy. I loved it so much that it is even a contender for book of the year.
If you want to read my reviews for what I read in September, then click on the title and it will take you to my review (unless it’s one of the ones I’ve not written yet lol).
Did we read any of the same books this month? What was your favourite book in September? Let me know in the comments.
*Thank you to the publushers for my gifted copies of the books.
Today is my stop on the tour for this riveting thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Orenda for the gifted copy of the book.
In this breathtakingly brutal and intensely topical psychological thriller, a man is accused of child sexual abuse, and his life and that of his actress girlfriend are thrown into turmoil
Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job. The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?
Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses to denounce him, the press witch hunt quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country.
While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is isolated a child trying to make sense of an adult world.
Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives in an instant.
“How can a normal day turn into a nightmare so quickly?”
Movie star Amelie Hart is living a quiet life with her boyfriend Dave Robbins after retiring from the limelight following a traumatic experience with a stalker. But her quiet idle is shattered when Dave is accused of abusing their neighbours’ eleven-year-old daughter.
Dave protests his innocence and Amelie believes him, but the court of public opinion has him convicted even before the trial begins and they judge Amelie guilty too, saying she ‘must have known’ what was happening.
“He felt shame bubble on his veins until it lay over his mind and heart and soul like a tombstone slab. He was better than that. He was a good guy, wasn’t he? “
Michael J. Malone is a truly gifted writer. This isn’t a story you can write without exploring the dark side and Malone manages to examine the dark and difficult topics in this book with honesty and sensitivity. Instead of taking sides he allows the reader to make up their own mind about the truth of the allegations. We know that Dave believes he did nothing wrong and that Damaris believes her story, and the author makes it clear they are both victims who have been living in a nightmare ever since that day. There is a real sense of helplessness and vulnerability in both characters. Whatever the outcome there will be no winners in this story.
The decision to have multiple narrators is one I liked as it offered not only more pieces of the puzzle, but showed the ripple effect of such allegations and its different effects on the lives of all those involved. He makes the characters leap from the page and immerses you so completely that you are drawn into their world and invested in what happens to them. At times the author evoked such a visceral reaction in me that I wanted to scream and shout as I witnessed the agony, heartache, injustice and manipulation that was suffered.
“Although she’d managed to rebuild and get on with her life with little impediment, it dismayed her that the terror that man caused her had never really left.”
As someone with PTSD I particularly appreciated the accuracy with which the author portrayed Amelie in the book, showing how the accusations against Dave trigger her memories and the feelings from her earlier trauma, and caused a resurgence of habits and emotions she believed she was over. From my own experience I know that it’s easy to think we’re over a situation only for the smallest thing to trigger it coming back and that another large trauma leads to devastating feelings that are hard to work through. Poor Amelie has the added pressure of being a celebrity, allowing the author to look at the darker side of fame and the media’s hunger for any gossip on those in the public eye.
Dave meanwhile never once wavers about his innocence, but goes through an incredibly dark time. He feels like he doesn’t know who he is anymore and is forced to examine every interaction he’s ever had not only with Damaris, but all women. He can’t believe anyone could think him able to do such an evil thing or that by being kind to a lonely child he would see his whole life destroyed. Life in prison is frightening and he’s in real danger but there is nothing he can do but ride it out and hope he survives. But he has no idea what will be waiting for him when he leaves and fears his whole future has been taken from him.
While I obviously felt for what Amelie and Dave were going through, from the start, the character I felt most moved by was Damaris, the child at the heart of the allegations. She is lonely, afraid and confused. She can’t remember being hurt but believes that must be her mind protecting herself from the trauma. You get the sense early on that this little girl is just a pawn in her parent’s game and how she feels or is affected matters little to them. I was so angry at how she was being treated. If she was abused then they were not giving her adequate support in her biggest time of need. And if she wasn’t, then they’ve planted the seed of something that will psychologically damage their daughter forever.
Powerful, raw, moving, twisty and darkly atmospheric, A Song of Isolation is a riveting and affecting novel that I highly recommend. I am so glad that I finally read a book by this author and I’m looking forward to reading his back catalogue.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.
So, the summer is over. September is upon us and, in the UK at least, life is finding a new normal that merges with the life we knew pre-pandemic and the kids are going back to school! In our household this also heralds a change: our eldest got his G.C.S.E results this past month and is going to college and our youngest is our only child in school. It’s also his final year so it feels very strange knowing we’re only a year away from having no children is school! It also means that by the end of the month I’ll be having to get used to an empty house most days a week after six months of everyone, or at least the kids, being here with me. Is anyone else feeling really emotional about this? OK, that’s enough of me talking about my personal life. Lets get to books!
August was a month filled with some fantastic books and the discovery of an author that I am regretting taking so damn long to read! I took part in fourteen blog tours, three readalongs (one of which I’m currently reading), two zoom Q&A’s with authors and one murder mystery evening. I also read fourteen books:
You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
The Heatwave by Kate Riordan
You can read my review for the books listed by clicking on the title with the exception of All The Lonely People, You Are Not Alone and The Heatwave, which are coming soon. Thank you to the tagged publishers and authors for my gifted copies.
All of the books I read rated at four stars and above this month and are ones I would recommend. With so many amazing books, some that will be favourites of the year, it was hard to choose my book of the month. But, after a lot of deliberation, I have to give the title to The Midnight Library, a phenomenal and throughout-proving book that is just truly special. Coming close were All The Lonely People and Hinton Hollow Death Trip and I would highly recommend adding all three to your tbr.
Did we read any of the same books this month? What was your favourite book you read in August?