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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Squadpod Book Club Uncategorised

SQUADPOD BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Caged Little Birds by Lucy Banks

Published: September 15th, 2022
Publisher: Sandstone Press
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of this superbly sinister novel. Thank you to Sandstone Press for the copy of the book, which is the Squadpod Book Club September pick.

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SYNOPSIS:

The public think Ava’s a monster. Ava thinks she’s blameless.

In prison, they called her Butcher Bird – but Ava’s not in prison any more. Released after 25 years to a new identity and a new home, Ava finally has the quiet life she’s always wanted.

But someone knows who she is. The lies she’s told are about to unravel.

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MY REVIEW:

“He thinks he knows me, that he’s got it all figured out. But really he’s only seeing the tip of what lies above the surface. The rest is hidden, and it will always stay that way.” 

Ava is trying to adjust to life again after spending twenty-five years in prison.  But that isn’t all that’s new, she also has a new identity to protect her from the public who see her as a monster.  Ava thinks they’ve got her wrong and what happens wasn’t her fault.  But there’s someone who’s sure it was and they want to see her pay.  Is her new life about to fall apart?

Dark, harrowing and haunting, this twisted tale is an intimate look inside a fractured mind.  There is an immediate sense of unease and an eerie atmosphere that lingers over the pages.  Ava’s long sentence and ominous nickname – Butcher Bird – hint at a terrible crime but she believes herself to be blameless.  A mere victim of happenstance and other people’s actions. But her subconscious seems to know what she can’t admit to herself and she is haunted by the spectre of those she’s accused of harming.  It is exquisitely written, each word infused with heartache, grief and trauma that pulls at your heartstrings even when you doubt that you should be feeling any kind of empathy for Ava.  The author drops small breadcrumbs that help the reader piece the puzzle together, slowly revealing the full, awful truth of Ava and her crime.  It sent chills down my spine as things built to a shocking and unexpected climax.

Ava is one of the most chilling and unsettling characters I’ve read. Spectacularly written, she is unlikeable and unreliable yet utterly compelling, and there is something about her that makes it impossible not to feel some sympathy for her.  She also seems pretty harmless and pathetic, if not a bit arrogant, and I found myself wondering if she wasn’t as bad as everyone seems to think, yet there was that little voice just stopping me from believing what she said.  As time goes on we begin to see Ava come apart; she is increasingly paranoid and her inner monologue reveals the true darkness harbouring within her that she tries to hide.  

Superbly sinister and tantalisingly twisty, Caged Little Birds is an unnerving thriller that you won’t be able to put down.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Originally from Hertfordshire, Lucy Banks moved to Devon, where she promptly fell in love with the landscape and lifestyle. Author of the Dr Ribero’s Agency of the Supernatural series, and winner of several literary awards and competitions, she lives with her husband, two children, and extremely boisterous cat.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Sandstone Press | Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Join us on Twitter tonight for a chat with the author.

*These purchase links are affiliate links

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Squadpod Squadpod Book Club Squadpod Recommends

REVIEW: Bad Fruit by Ella King

Published: August 18th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of this dark and disturbing debut. Thank you to Harper Collins UK for the gifted copy.

This was the Squadpod Book Club August pick. Tune into our Twitter account at 7.30pm on August 30th for a live chat with the author.

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SYNOPSIS:

LILY IS A GOOD DAUGHTER

Every evening she pours Mama a glass of perfectly spoilt orange juice. She arranges the teddy bears on Mama’s quilt, she puts on her matching pink clothes. Anything to help put out the fire of Mama’s rage.

MAMA IS A GOOD LIAR

But Mama is becoming unpredictable, dangerous. And as she starts to unravel, so do the memories that Lily has kept locked away for so long.
She only wanted to be good, to help piece Mama back together. But as home truths creep out of the shadows, Lily must recast everything: what if her house isn’t a home – but a prison? What if Mama isn’t a protector – but a monster . . .

Gripping and devastating, from a voice that cuts as sharp as a knife, this is an unforgettable story about a family gone bad.

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MY REVIEW:

“Her power falls over the small space. Everyone is thrown into confusion, no one knows whether to look at her or not, to stop talking or continue. They are all in her thrall.”

Eighteen-year-old Lily does everything to please her mother; she carries out her every whim, makes her spoiled juice every night and even dyes her hair and paints her face to look more like the good Chinese daughter she wants.  But it is never enough.  Mama still finds fault with what she does and leaves Lily feeling bereft.  All she wants is to feel loved.  
As long-hidden truths begin to emerge and Lily slowly unlocks the mysteries surrounding Mama, she thinks she’s finally found the way to be the perfect daughter and win Mama’s approval.  But as things become clearer, Lily wonders if Mama is not actually her protector, but a monster….

Wow! What a crazy ride!  Disturbing, dark and twisted, Bad Fruit is a hard-hitting portrayal of a dysfunctional family that also explores themes of identity and self-discovery.  Author Ella King has crafted a multi-layered story filled with richly drawn and nuanced characters that explores difficult topics and asks hard questions.  King had me hooked, but there were also times I had to put the book down and breathe before picking it up again.

At the heart of this book is the mother/daughter relationship.  King strips bare the complexities of both this relationship and toxic families with such realism that it could be hard to read..  My heart ached for Lily.  Subservient to her mother and forced to act as a go-between for her mother and her siblings, her life is pretty bleak.  She tries to escape by locking herself away in her attic bedroom or riding her bike, but she can never escape what’s inside her head.  Her pain and desperation for love and acceptance bled from every page and I wanted to reach into the book and hug her.  

Then there is Mama.  Cruel, callous, cold, scathing and vengeful, she holds her whole family hostage with her emotions.  The author captured the essence of a toxic person so vividly in her that I would shiver every time she came onto the page and felt every bit of Lily’s apprehension and fear.  

Harrowing, unflinching and deeply human, Bad Fruit is a powerful debut from an author to watch.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ella King is a British-Singaporean novelist living in Greenwich, UK. She read Philosophy and Theology at Oxford University, is a graduate of Faber Academy’s novel-writing program, and is an award-winning writer, coming 3rd in the Aurora Prize for Short Fiction 2019 and winning the Blue Pencil Pitch Prize 2019. She’s worked as a corporate lawyer in London and for anti-human trafficking and domestic violence charities. Bad Fruit is her debut novel.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The Phone Call by A. J. Campbell

Published: June 26th, 2022
Publisher: Code Grey Publishers
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Today is also my stop on the tour for The Phone Call. Thank you to A. J. Campbell for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Sometimes the guilty are innocent

Joey Clarke was just fifteen when his dad died, leaving him to raise his much younger siblings as his mum dealt with the trauma of bereavement and her failing health. Ten years on, Joey’s only pleasure is spending time with his friend Becca, the love of his life. It’s the one escape from his dead-end job, his ever-increasing debts, and the fear that enforcement agents will knock on his front door any day.

So when a phone call brings Joey the chance to ease the burdens of his life, he grabs the opportunity, even though he knows things are not entirely as they should be. He justifies it to himself as a way to get back on his feet. But when he finds himself party to a crime involving Becca, he panics.

As Joey tries to find a way out, he becomes further embroiled in a web of secrets, lies, and deceit. At risk of losing everything and everyone he holds dear, Joey must consider the unthinkable.

A psychological suspense thriller, full of twists and turns, perfect for readers of Lisa Jewell, Frieda McFadden, Shari Lapena, Adele Parks, Miranda Rijks, Jackie Kabler, Lucy Foley, Sally Hepworth, and Daniel Hurst.

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MY REVIEW:

Joey Clarke receives a phone call from a friend that offers the chance to make some easy money.  With the bills piling up and debt collectors about to knock on his door he feels he has little other option but to take the opportunity.  

All he has to do is deliver two packages.  The first delivery goes fine, but when he goes to deliver the second package things go wrong and he finds himself an accessory to a shocking crime.  Even worse, the crime is linked to people he knows.  Should he confess or keep quiet and hope his secret is never discovered?

A tangled web of secrets, lies and desperation that simmers with suspense, The Phone Call is a tense and twisty psychological thriller.  I’ve read all of A. J. Campbell’s books and this one had the most intense atmosphere yet as Joey’s desperation and despair leap from the page.  He is drowning in hopelessness with no life raft to save him, though I wished I could throw him one.  It was painful to read as he struggles to bear the part he played in what happens and wrestles with his conscience while trying to decide what he should do.  It feels like an impossible dilemma, particularly when combined with the threats of what would happen to him and his family if he dared to go to the police hanging over him.  Campbell has a skill for writing characters who are relatable and real, something that shines in this book as they pull you in and make you feel for them.  The combination of this with familiar life struggles, drama and sinister secrets, raise the tension and make this a book that will have you on the edge of your seat. 

On the subject of characters, I want to take this opportunity to thank the author.  Joey’s mum has Fibromyalgia, a condition I also live with.  To see someone with this condition written in a realistic way that doesn’t contain the usual cliches about painkiller addiction, hypochondria or laziness was refreshing.  This is the kind of representation of chronic illness we need in literature and it was wonderful to see. 

Fast-paced, suspenseful and twisty, this intense thriller is a quick and compelling read that I’d recommend. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

AJ CAMPBELL is the author of the Amazon bestselling debut novel Leave Well Alone. She writes in the psychological suspense genre and promises stories full of twists, turns and torment. Her fourth book The Phone Call was released in July 2022. AJ draws inspiration for her novels from seemingly unbelievable situations in which ordinary people find themselves. She creates compelling characters that resonate with her readers. AJ lives in the UK on the Essex / Hertfordshire border with her husband, sons, and cocker spaniel, Max. A dog lover, Netflix junkie, wine and Asian food enthusiast, either reading or writing, AJ enjoys nothing more than getting stuck into a twisty book!

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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

*All purchase links are affiliate links

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

REVIEW: No Place To Run by Mark Edwards

Published: June 21st, 2022
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Thank you to Mark Edwards and Netgalley for the eBook ARC of this book.

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SYNOPSIS:

In this exhilarating thriller from four million copy bestselling author Mark Edwards, Aidan’s spent years looking for his sister. Will he ever find her?

Two years ago, on a trip to Seattle to visit her brother Aidan, fifteen-year-old Scarlett vanished into thin air. After years of false leads and dead ends, Aidan has almost given up hope. But then a woman sees a girl running for her life across a forest clearing in Northern California. She is convinced the girl is the missing Scarlett. But could it really be her?

Heading south, Aidan finds a fire-ravaged town covered in missing-teenager posters. The locals seem afraid, the police won’t answer any questions and it looks like another dead end―until a chance meeting with returned local Lana gives Aidan his first clue. But as they piece together what happened, Lana and Aidan make deadly enemies. Enemies willing to do anything to silence them.

Only one thing matters now: finding Scarlett―even if it kills him.

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MY REVIEW:

Scarlett Faith disappeared two years ago while visiting her older brother Aiden in Seattle.  He has been searching for her ever since, plagued by guilt that she vanished on his watch.  There has been nothing but false leads and dead ends, until a woman says she is sure she saw Scarlett fleeing a pursuer in a forest clearing in Northern California.  It seems fantastical, but could it be the lead Aiden has been waiting for?  

Deciding to follow the lead, Aiden heads to California and finds himself in a town ravaged by fire, covered in missing posters and filled with secrets they will do anything to keep. 

A new book by Mark Edwards is always an event for me and he can be relied upon to deliver an intriguing, suspenseful and twist-filled thriller where ordinary people find themselves in terrifying situations.  And he’s done it again, this time taking a very timely topic and merging it with something much more sinister that makes you think twice about who you trust and what you get involved in.  There is a lot of action but I will admit that it wasn’t my favourite of his books as I prefer his darker stories. 

The book is filled with a cast of fascinating and well developed characters.  There are siblings desperate for answers, naive young women, a mysterious woman with a mission, brutal security men and corrupt officials.  Aiden is at the centre of it all.  He is likeable and easy to root for; an innocent bystander who just wants to find his sister, he gets caught up in a web of dangerous secrets that makes him enemies who will do anything to silence him.  There are also some great villains who have that sadistic streak you commonly see in Edwards’ books.  Told from multiple points of view with flashbacks to the time leading up to Scarlett’s disappearance, it isn’t immediately clear how all of the different characters and threads are connected.  But Edwards slowly weaves them together until the full, surprising picture emerges. 

Menacing, tense and twisty, No Place To Run is an entertaining thriller that I’d recommend to those who like their thrillers on the quirky side.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people. He has sold more than three million copies of his books and topped the bestseller lists numerous times since his first solo novel was published in 2013.

His novels include What You Wish For, Because She Loves Me, Follow You Home, The Devil’s Work, The Lucky Ones, The Retreat, In Her Shadow, Here To Stay and The House Guest. He has also published two short sequels to The Magpies, A Murder of Magpies and Last of The Magpies, and six books co-authored with Louise Voss.

Many of his books have been translated into foreign languages including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Estonian, Thai, Lithuanian, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish and Russian. In 2019 Mark won The Cat and Mouse Award for Most Elusive Villain at the Dead Good Reader Awards for Last of the Magpies.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon* | Waterstones* | Bookshop.org*
*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊Emma xxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

REVIEW: Do No Harm by Jack Jordan

Published: May 26th 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Medical Thriller, Medical Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Police Procedural

I’m finally getting around to sharing my review for this nerve-shredding thriller. Thank you to The Likely Suspects and Simon and Schuster UK for the gifted proof copies of this book.

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SYNOPSIS:

MY CHILD HAS BEEN TAKEN.
AND I’VE BEEN GIVEN A CHOICE . . .
KILL A PATIENT ON THE OPERATING TABLE
OR LOSE MY SON FOREVER.


The man lies on the table in front of me.
As a surgeon, it’s my job to save him.
As a mother, I know I must kill him.
You might think that I’m a monster.
But there really is only one choice.
I must get away with murder.
Or I will never see my son again.

I’VE SAVED MANY LIVES.
WOULD YOU TRUST ME WITH YOURS?

DON’T MISS THE HEART-STOPPING THRILLER OF 2022
#DONOHARM

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MY REVIEW:

“Either I abide by my oath, and kill my son. 
Or I save Zack, and kill an innocent man.” 

Renowned cardiothoracic surgeon Anna Jones is being forced to make a horrendous choice: the life of her patient or the life of her son.  Eight-year-old Zack has been abducted and the kidnappers will only give him back if she kills a prestigious patient on the operating table and gets away with it.  As parents we always say we’d do anything for our children.  But does that include murder?

“We are all so blind, thinking that we know who we truly are. It is only pain like this that reveals what we are really capable of.” 

Do No Harm is a book that just screams ‘read me’. I mean, look at that cover!  And this nerve-shredding thriller was everything I hoped and more.  The premise is every parent’s worst nightmare, blurring the lines of morality as the author examines the question of just how far a parent would go to save their child.  It is an impossible dilemma, where whatever you choose you will lose, and the paralysing suspense and outright dread is omnipresent, making you feel everything Anna does.  It is unbearably tense at times, particularly in the operating room, as you are kept on a knife-edge, waiting to see what Anna will do and if Zack can be saved.  

I have long been a fan of Jack Jordan and will automatically read and buy anything he writes.  His magnificent storytelling, perfect plotting and sizzling suspense always blow me away, and he is a must-read author for any thriller lover.  But with Do No Harm Jordan has taken things to another level, crafting a dynamic thriller that is now one of my favourites of all time. It would make a fantastic movie or TV show so I hope someone snaps it up soon.  The hype is real and this is going to be huge.

“I never used to think of myself as an angry person, but these men have clawed a rabid animal out of me. I want to kill them, slowly, painstakingly, until they are begging for their mothers.”

One of my favourite things about this book is that it’s so intricate and multilayered.  As well as the moral dilemma there is a strong theme of motherhood woven into this book.  Through each of the three narrators we explore different stages of motherhood and opposing arguments to the dilemma, making you confront the many shades of grey and exposing the motivations and biases of each of the characters.  Each of them are deeply flawed and I liked that Jordan wasn’t scared to make even Anna unlikeable at times, instead focusing on making the characters complex, nuanced and layered.  And while they are all richly drawn and compelling, Anna is the one that stood out strongest to me.  I loved the dichotomy of her character: a Doctor who has taken the Hippocratic Oath and vowed to do no harm but also a mother who will do anything to keep her child safe.  It is the kind of agonising choice that you would never want to be faced with but is so fascinating to read.  

Nail-bitingly intense, and bingeable, Do No Harm is an absolute must-read.  Just make sure that when you pick it up you’ve got nothing else to do as it will hold you captive from the first page until the last. 

READ IT NOW. 

Rating: 💉💉💉💉💉

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jack Jordan is the global number one bestselling author of Anything for Her (2015), My Girl (2016), A Woman Scorned (2018), Before Her Eyes (2018) and Night by Night (2019).

His latest thriller Do No Harm has been coined the thriller of the summer for 2022, described as “relentlessly tense” by Sunday Times Bestseller Lesley Kara, and “Chilling and perfectly paced” by New York Times Bestseller Sarah Pearse.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

*These are affiliate links

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: One Girl Missing by Carla Kovach (Detective Gina Harte Book 11)

Published: March 9th 2022
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Psychological Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Noir Fiction, Crime Series
Format: Kindle, Paperback, Audiobook

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this gripping thriller. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Five-year-old Cally waits in her pretty pink bedroom for the sound of the front door opening and her mother’s sweet voice in the hall. But when the doorbell finally rings, and Cally creeps out of bed to peer through the banister, a large man in uniform is all she sees. Her mother is missing…

Teacher Annabel Braddock was last seen drinking at the local pub with her best friend, Jennifer. Witnesses saw tears running down her cheeks, and friends say she was having problems with a colleague at work, and that her marriage had broken down.

But as the two women hugged goodbye, neither noticed the car speeding towards them. As the dust settled, Jennifer lay unconscious on the ground and Annabel was nowhere to be seen. She’d never abandon her little girl, so did someone snatch her?

As family crowd around Jennifer’s hospital bed, hoping she’ll wake up, police visit Annabel’s home and her inconsolable daughter, Cally, tells them she had seen a man outside staring into her room as she climbed into bed that evening. Was it her childish imagination, or had someone been watching Annabel’s home?

When Jennifer finally opens her eyes and tells the police what happened that night, it’s clear there are plenty of people with a reason to harm Annabel. With an unpredictable husband, a colleague who denies harassing her and a neighbour who seems to know her every move, could she be in imminent danger? As the hours turn to days, will little Cally ever see her precious mother again? Or will she be next?

If you love fast-paced, gripping crime thrillers that keep you up all night, you’ll be completely addicted to One Girl Missing. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Cara Hunter and Clare Mackintosh.

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MY REVIEW:

Best friends Annabel and Jennifer are hugging each other goodbye at the end of a girls night out when a car speeds towards them.  Jennifer is left unconscious on the ground and Annabel is nowhere to be seen, only her bag and spots of her blood left behind.  Detective Gina Harte and her team are called in and as they investigate it soon becomes clear that there are multiple people who might want to harm Annabel.  But can they figure it out and find Annabel before it’s too late?

The eleventh instalment in Carla Kovach’s Gina Harte series is another compelling thriller. There are numerous suspects in this case, each with a valid motive, and they are all on the run: a cheating husband, his young girlfriend who was also the family childminder, an angry father, a teenage pupil with a crush, a colleague she was rumoured to be seeing and a friendly neighbour.  But who took Annabel?  I was sure it was each of them at one point or another and even wondered if some of them were working together.  It is a tangled web of suspicion that is full of so many twists and turns I thought I’d get book whiplash!  But was my final choice the real culprit?  Or had Ms. Kovach duped me again with her red herrings? 

One of the things I love most about reading a series is coming back to the familiar, much-loved characters and I was glad to be back with Gina and her team.  Gina is dealing with emotional turmoil after seeing  Briggs out with another woman.  Is this the end of her relationship?  And the whole team face heartache as they wait to learn if one of their own will survive, Jacob being particularly tortured as he hopes the love of his life pulls through.  
The new characters were well written as always.  I felt a real bond with Annabel and could feel her terror as she’s held captive and wonders if she will ever see her young daughter, Cally, again.  And it was Cally, along with teenage student Omar, who went right to my heart in this book.  They were such great characters who it was impossible not to feel for.  I was rooting for them, especially as young Omar takes it upon himself to save Annabel himself in order to keep her secrets.  

Dark, suspenseful, gripping and action-packed, One Girl Missing is another riveting thriller from Ms. Kovach.  Fans of this genre will love not only this book, but the whole series and I recommend them both highly.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Carla started writing more seriously ten years ago after having flirted with musical theatre and occasional writing in her youth.

Since then she has written & produced several stage plays, has four self-published books, has acted in several independent films and is currently in the final stages of production of her feature horror film, Penny for the Guy.

She now writes full time as well as co-owning a film, photography & video production company located in the heart of Redditch town centre.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Bookshop.org*
*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Marsh House by Zoe Somerville

Published: March 3rd 2022
Publisher: Apollo
Genre: Historical Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Historical Romance, Psychological Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mesmerising and haunting tale. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Part ghost story, part novel of suspense The Marsh House is the haunting second novel from the author of The Night of the Flood where two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by one, mysterious house on the North Norfolk coast.

December, 1962. Desperate to create a happy Christmas for her young daughter, Franny, after a disastrous year, Malorie rents a remote house on the Norfolk coast. But once there, the strained silence between them feels louder than ever. As Malorie digs for decorations in the attic, she comes across the notebooks of the teenaged Rosemary, who lived in the house thirty years before. Trapped inside by a blizzard, and with long days and nights ahead of her, Malorie begins to read. Though she knows she needs to focus on the present, she finds herself inexorably drawn into the past…

July, 1931. Rosemary lives in the Marsh House with her austere father, surrounded by unspoken truths and rumours. So when the glamorous Lafferty family moves to the village, she succumbs easily to their charm. Dazzled by the beautiful Hilda and her dashing brother, Franklin, Rosemary fails to see the danger that lurks beneath their bright façades…

As Malorie reads Rosemary’s diary, past and present begin to merge in this moving story of mothers and daughters, family obligation and deeply buried secrets.

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MY REVIEW:

“No-one had lived in the house for years afore they arrived last winter. Not since all that fuss in thirty-four… I weren’t surprised to see her though.  Oh, no, it was her all right. We’d been waiting for her.”

OMG. This book! I expected it to be good after hearing so much praise for Zoe Somerville’s debut novel, but I was unprepared for the chilling gothic masterpiece that lurked between these pages.  I inhaled this book in one sitting, staying up until 3am in a desperate need for answers.  It was totally worth it and I have no doubt that this will make it into my top books of the year when December rolls around.

December 1962.  Malorie has rented a remote house on the Norfolk coast hoping to create a magical and memorable Christmas for her daughter Franny after a difficult year.  Known as The Marsh House, its eerie atmosphere looms over them from the moment they cross the threshold.  While looking for Christmas decorations in the attic they come across an old suitcase filled with papers and notebooks.  Upon closer inspection, Malorie discovers that the notebooks are the diaries of Rosemary Wright, a teenage girl who lived at the house thirty years earlier.  Curiosity taking over, Malorie begins to read and becomes fixated on the mysterious past of this young girl.  But what secrets are waiting to be uncovered inside Rosemary’s diaries?

“I knew she’d found something and what she’d be looking for.  She wanted evidence.  Proof.  Facts.  As if it would all be there for her and she could lay it all out and it would make sense.  But it’s never as simple as that.  The graves are elsewhere.  The bones are dust.  It’s not graves that tell you a history, a story of a life. That’s much harder to find, but if you know where to look, you can find it.  It will reveal itself.”

The Marsh House is literary gothic fiction at its best.  The perfect combination of lyrical prose, page turning plot, chilling atmosphere and gripping tension, this haunting tale had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.  Creepily claustrophobic and almost dreamlike in places, there is a sense of the otherworldly about it.  The snow storm adds to the sense of isolation and increases the fear when strange and inexplicable occurrences begin to make Marlorie question her own sanity.  
Zoe Somerivlle is a gifted storyteller and the style of this book was spot on for me.  I loved the short, cryptic chapters from an unknown narrator who is watching Malorie and Franny and Rosemary’s diary was an inspired choice that brought Rosemary alive and allowed us to connect with her.  Just like Malorie I was enthralled and desperate to know what happened next in her story.   The story moves between the two timelines smoothly, punctuated by the short chapters from the mysterious narrator that sent shivers down my spine each time they appeared.  There was no chance of me putting this book down until I had all the answers. 

Malorie and Rosemary are great narrators who capture the imagination and hold you in the palm of their hand as the story unfolds.  They are fascinating, flawed and real, a whole world of heartbreak, fear, regret and guilt to be found in these women.  And their internal conflict and pain is told so vividly that I could feel it in my own soul.  From the start we know Malorie believes there to be a connection between her father and Marsh House so I spent the book looking for clues and trying to guess how he might be connected.  I had my theories, one of which was correct, but what I loved is how the author creates just enough doubt to make you second guess and not feel sure until the moment just before the big reveal, adding to the mystery and suspense.  

“There was something rotten that had been hiding in front of her and it was revealing itself.”

Mesmerising, chilling and immersive, this is a clear your schedule and read it in one sitting kind of book.  An easy five stars from me, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  I will be reading Zoe’s first book as soon as possible and am excited to watch this talented author’s star undoubtedly rise. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Zoë Somerville is originally from Norfolk, but has settled with her husband and children in the West Country. She works as an English teacher. Zoë began her debut novel, The Night of the Flood on the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA in 2016. It was published in September 2020. Her second novel, The Marsh House, a ghost story and mystery is published in March 2022. She is currently writing her third novel.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Bookshop.org*
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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

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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The Baby Shower by S. E. Lynes

Publisher: March 1st 2022
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction
Format: Kindle, Audiobook

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

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SYNOPSIS:

She doesn’t know I’m there, watching her in the mirror. She slides her hand under her blouse. And then I see something impossible. She isn’t pregnant…

She bursts into my life like a storm, and nothing is the same again. She seems so perfect, with her lilting laugh and her beautiful face. One by one, I watch as my friends fall under her spell.

Only I seem to suspect something. Only I see that her smiles don’t reach her cold, furious eyes. And when I’m accused of things I didn’t do, when my home is vandalized, I know she’s behind it. But she only lets her mask slip when no one is looking, so if I say anything, I’ll look crazy.

So when the baby shower comes around I’m there, sitting on a velvet sofa in a posh hotel room, surrounded by balloons. We share gifts, we pour small glasses of champagne, and she beams, her bump just visible under her bright red shirt.

But that afternoon, I finally learn the unbelievable truth.

There is no baby…

A stunningly twisty story of toxic female friendships, guilt and lies from S.E. Lynes, author of the no.1 bestseller The Housewarming. If you like Lisa Jewell, Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins, you’ll be glued to The Baby Shower.

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MY REVIEW:

WHAT. A. BOOK!   S.E. Lynes has proven herself to be the psychological thriller master with this tense, mind-blowing and crazy book.  It was so addictive that I read half of it in one sitting and would have read the whole thing if it hadn’t have been 2am and my eyes were betraying me. 

It begins with a woman waking up in hospital after a car accident.  Though in pain she is full of rage towards another woman who she needs to find before the woman finds her.  Only one of them can leave the hospital alive and she’s determined it will be her.  I was full of questions: who is this other woman?  What did she do?  And why does one of them have to die?  From there the story moves between timelines, shifting from the hospital to events leading up to the crash, telling a story of lies, betrayal and toxic female friendship that will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

The story is told by multiple narrators but it was Jane who resonated most with me.  Over the course of the story we see her whole world get turned upside down and it all begins when Lexie Lane is brought into her close friendship group by Jane’s best friend, Sophie.  Sophie thinks Lexie is golden and doesn’t see the callous and spiteful things she does to push her and Jane apart, instead choosing to believe her lies and turn away from the person she’s been closest to for years.  Jane’s heartache through all of this is palpable.  She is shocked that her best friend doesn’t believe her and that another grown woman seems intent on wrecking her life for no apparent reason.  You feel her internal struggle to believe it is even happening herself and her pain as she wonders why.  Her heartache is compounded by her early menopause and infertility, especially in the face of Sophie and Lexie’s pregnancies.  Having been through infertility myself, I know that pain of longing for something so much that it hurts and being happy yet also jealous when it happens for those you love.  It is powerfully but sensitively written and really pulls you close to Jane while wondering what on earth Sophie is thinking. 

Lexie is a fantastic villain who is brilliantly written.  She is friendly and charming when she chooses, a facade that masks her true character, which is sly, calculating, cruel and manipulative.  The game she’s playing is so obvious to the reader and I immediately sided with Jane, yet I could also see why Sophie liked her and found it hard to believe she was doing such terrible things.  But I think it ultimately says more about Sophie when she refused to listen to Jane’s side of things than it did about Lexie.  After all, you can’t turn a true friend against someone with lies.  I think this will resonate with so many of us as I think most of us have unfortunately experienced these toxic kinds of female friendships at some point in our lives and will recognise someone we knew in Lexie’s character.  

Brimming with tension and foreboding, The Baby Shower is a compelling, twisty and surprising psychological thriller that will make you feel all the feelings.  Trust me when I tell you this is a book not to be missed. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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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.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon*
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Check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊Emma xxxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville

Published: February 3rd 2022
Publisher: Zaffre
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Gothic Fiction, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this unsettling gothic tale. Thanks to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and Zaffre for the ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

A house built on secrets
An old woman haunted by her past
A young woman fighting for her life

For Sara Keane, it was supposed to be a second chance.
A new country. A new house. A new beginning.

Then came the knock on the door.

Elderly Mary Jackson can’t understand why Sara and her husband are living in her home.
She remembers the fire. She remembers the house burning down. But she also remembers the children. The children who need her. The children she must protect.

‘The children will find you,’ she tells Sara, because Mary knows she needs help too. As Sara becomes obsessed with what happened in that house nearly sixty years ago, and the family wiped out in one bloody night, she begins to see things. Things that can’t be real.

In a story that spans six decades, the truth will not stay buried, and the ghosts of the past can never remain in the shadows . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“The children. They’ll find you… They’re hiding. Waiting for me. Waiting for you.”

A fire tears through The Ashes in the dead of night, forcing Mary to flee the only home she’s ever known and reducing it to a shell.  Sara and Damien Keene move in as it is being rebuilt, but strange occurrences leave Sara feeling uneasy.  Then one morning, an old woman turns up, her feet bloodied, demanding to know why Sara is in her house and where the children are.  Who is this woman?  And what children is she talking about?  Unsatisfied with her husband’s explanation, Sara is determined to discover what secrets he and the house is hiding.  The old woman is the key.  But can she get Mary to finally speak the secrets she’s been holding in for decades?

The House of Ashes is a dark, twisted and unsettling gothic novel that you don’t want to read in the dark.  From the first pages I had chills, reading on tenterhooks with an almost unbearable feeling of dread in my stomach.  It isn’t a book for the faint hearted; the author explores dark themes such as abuse that are written with both brutal honesty and heartwarming compassion.  It is in these themes that we see Mary and Sara’s lives mirror each other; both kept prisoner in The Ashes by men who terrify them.  And just as the house kept them captive, the book did the same to me, refusing to let me go until I’d read the final page and its story had been told. 

“People about the town would say she’s mad in the head. Some of the children would call her Scary Mary. And fair enough, she might be a wee bit touched, but who wouldn’t be after what she went through.” 

Told by multiple narrators, the story unfolds in the past and the present.  Sara and Mary are the main narrators and while Sara’s story mostly focuses on the present, Mary tells the story of her past.  She finally speaks the secrets she’s been silent about for sixty years, slowly revealing to the reader the dark secrets that the house holds within its walls and the true horror of that bloody night.  I had a real soft spot for all of the women but felt for Mary most.  She was a young girl who knew nothing but a life within the walls of The Ashes. A life of neglect, abuse and fear that made the house both her misery and her solace.  Seeing the story through her eyes was heartrending and I loved how the author managed to convey such childish innocence alongside her resignation to things no one should ever know.  

“Maybe you shouldn’t know too much about that place. Not if you’re going to live in it.” 

The Ashes is more than just a house. It is like another character that lives and breathes.  A sense of malevolence and foreboding radiating from this chilling place.  But the strange and unnerving occurrences aren’t merely there to torment it’s inhabitants, it is the past returning to try and warn those in the present.  Warnings they must heed in order to survive.  

Darkly atmospheric, harrowing and haunting, The House of Ashes is a chilling gothic tale.  Just make sure you read with the lights on!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Stuart Neville’s debut novel, THE TWELVE (published in the USA as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST), won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was picked as one of the top crime novels of 2009 by both the New York Times and the LA Times. He has been shortlisted for various awards, including the Barry, Macavity, Dilys awards, as well as the Irish Book Awards Crime Novel of the Year. He has since published three critically acclaimed sequels, COLLUSION, STOLEN SOULS and THE FINAL SILENCE.

His first four novels have each been longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and RATLINES was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

Stuart’s novels have been translated into various languages, including German, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, Greek and more. The French edition of The Ghosts of Belfast, Les Fantômes de Belfast, won Le Prix Mystère de la Critique du Meilleur Roman Étranger and Grand Prix du Roman Noir Étranger.

His fourth novel, RATLINES, about Nazis harboured by the Irish state following WWII is currently in development for television.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Bookshop.org*
*These are affiliate links

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

BLOG TOUR: Wahala by Nikki May

Published: January 6th 2022
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Psychological Fiction, Crime Fiction, Contemporary Novel, Domestic Fiction, Urban Fiction, Political Fiction, Romance Novel
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this sensational debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to Doubleday for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

SEX AND THE CITY with a killer edge for fans of QUEENIE, EXPECTATION and MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER

SOON TO BE A MAJOR BBC TV SERIAL

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Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London.
They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English.
Not all of them choose to see it that way.

Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again.

When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.

Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.

Explosive, hilarious and wildly entertaining, this razor-sharp tale of love, race and family will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Fearlessly political about class, colourism and clothes, the spellbinding Wahala is for anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.

PICKED AS ONE OF STYLIST MAGAZINE’S ‘FICTION BOOKS YOU CAN’T MISS OF 2022’

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MY REVIEW:

Wahala is a Nigerian Pidgin word meaning ‘trouble’, and there is trouble aplenty in this exciting debut. 

A story of friendship, family, identity, race and secrets, Wahala is narrated by three friends: Ronke, Simi and Boo.  Now living in London, the trio met at university in Bristol and bonded over being of Nigerian and English descent.  Their shared dual heritage made them outsiders and created a connection that they thought was unbreakable.  But when Isobel, a childhood friend of Simi from Lagos, comes into their lives, cracks in their friendships soon begin to appear and  soon all four women are forced to confront their darkest secrets and deepest vulnerabilities.  Will their friendships survive?

Wow!  What a sensational debut.  This book has a great vibe from the start and is full of humour, warmth, chaos and tension, it pulled me in immediately and didn’t let go until the final page.  Nikki May brings her characters and their world to life in vivid technicolour, educating the reader on life in Nigeria and exploring how it feels to be mixed race while also making you laugh and feel entertained.  And the food.  I was so happy to find there are recipes for some of the traditional Nigerian cuisine that is mentioned as it made my mouth water and stomach rumble reading about it. 

A book like this is nothing without great characters and Ms. May has created an enthralling group of flawed, fascinating and fabulous women.  Ronke is a dentist who just wants to find Mr. Right and have babies.  She loves cooking, especially Nigerian food, and seems to be the heart of the group.  Simi is the glamorous one, at least until Isobel arrives.  She likes the finer things in life and cares about what others think of her, always keen to project a picture perfect image of her life even if it’s falling apart at the seams.  Boo is unsatisfied with her life and feels like the grass is always greener.  She loves her husband and child but feels stifled by them and wants something more.  And then there’s Isobel, newly divorced, vivacious and exuding confidence.  I liked her at first but it didn’t take long for me to realise that this woman was a sniper from the side.  I could see her calculating to come between these three friends but couldn’t figure out why or what she wanted.  And I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure it out.  They were all such fun to read and I loved how the author portrays many facets of womanhood and female friendship through these women. There is something that we can all relate to in some way.  

Entertaining and explosive, Wahala is the debut that everyone is going to be talking about.  I was thrilled to learn that it has already been picked up for TV because it is utterly bingeable.  Read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Born in Bristol, raised in Lagos, I’m proud to be Anglo-Nigerian. I ran a successful ad agency before turning to writing and now live in Dorset with my husband, two standard schnauzers, and way too many books.

My debut novel WAHALA was inspired by a long (and loud) lunch with friends. It will be published around the world in January 2022 and is being adapted into a major BBC TV drama.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon*
*These are affiliate links

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️Emma xxx