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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Lost Hours by Susan Lewis

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

SYNOPSIS:

A perfect marriage…

Golden couple Annie and David Crayce have it all. A loving marriage, three beautiful children and a thriving family business. Life couldn’t be better. Until the unthinkable happens…   

A perfect crime? 

A piece of damning DNA evidence has arisen, placing David as the prime suspect of a murder committed twenty-years ago. Annie is sure her David is innocent. But if he isn’t guilty, then either his father or brother must be. 

As the police investigate the cold case, so does Annie. Trawling through her old diaries, she begins desperately looking for answers. But it all comes down to a few lost hours she can’t solve.

And Annie begins to doubt the one person she thought she knew best… Her husband.

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MY REVIEW:

“The perfect family… until you scratch the surface and out come all the bugs.”

The Lost Hours is the story of a picture-perfect family who seem to have it all until a damning piece of DNA evidence shows there is a killer lurking among them. Is it David; the police’s prime suspect in the twenty-year-old case who swears his innocence? Or his father or brother; who also claim to know nothing about the death of the local teenager. The police and the family are all searching for answers in this compelling and emotional page-turner. 

This story is every family’s worst nightmare: DNA evidence proves that someone in your family is linked to a murder but everyone swears they are innocent, and you don’t want to believe that someone you love, that you thought you knew, could have murdered a 17-year-old girl and then kept it hidden for twenty years. Told by dual narrators in dual timelines, it moves seamlessly between them to tell the story as it unfolds in the present day while also detailing events leading up to and immediately after Karen’s murder. 

The author starts the story with the unearthing of Karen’s body not long after her disappearance and then jumps forward twenty years, immersing us in the world of the Cayce family. We get to know the family, and while they may be a little too perfect, a little too twee, and the children a little spoiled, I did like them. It is cleverly written, as allowing us to build this rapport with them before the shock of the DNA evidence leaves you with the same sense of disbelief Annie has that anyone in this family could be hiding such a dark secret. Combined with her evocative writing this makes it one of those books you really feel while reading; feeling all of the pain, confusion and torment that Annie and the others are going through. 

For me, it was this emotional side of the story that I found most compelling. Seeing the mystery from that angle and watching as the family’s perfect world crumbled around them was what got my blood pumping and had me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t really vibe with Natalie, the detective investigating the murder. I found her annoying and it felt like she was allowing her own past to influence her investigation. I could have happily read the book without her point of view and think this would have been a five star read for me if the second narrator had instead been the mysterious murderer rather than Natalie. 

The Lost Hours is a taut, twisty, atmospheric and heart-rending family drama with a mysterious twist that keeps you guessing. I would recommend this book, and this author, and look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Susan Lewis is the internationally bestselling author of over forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense and crime, including One Minute Later, My Lies, Your Lies and Forgive Me. Susan’s novels have sold nearly three million copies in the UK alone. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s.

Susan has previously worked as a secretary in news and current affairs before training as a production assistant working on light entertainment and drama. She’s lived in Hollywood and the South of France, but now resides in Gloucestershire with husband James, two stepsons and dogs.

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Website |Instagram |Twitter |Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and to Harper Collins UK for the gifted copy of the book. Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Source by Sarah Sultoon

Published: April 15th, 2021
Publisher: Orenda Books
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Political Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

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.
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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.

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MY REVIEW:

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. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

TW: Sexual abuse, child abuse, eating disorders 

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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 … 

Twitter

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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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

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Blog Tours Extract

Blog Tour – Extract: The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Fairy Tale, Dark Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Gaslamp Fantasy

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Today, I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Shadow in the Glass, and sharing an extract from this retelling of Cinderella.

EXTRACT:

If anyone caught her, Eleanor would be dismissed on the spot. The house clicked and creaked as it settled into sleep, the heat of the last days of August quietly slipping into the night. Eleanor was the only one awake. On silent feet, she was as insubstantial as a flame. She could drift past cold fireplaces and dust sheets looming like glaciers and all she would leave behind was the faintest stirring in the air.

Candlelight shimmered on the walls as she crept into the library. The dark spines of the books were rows of windows, waiting for the shutters to be pulled back. Open one, and she would know the secrets of Ottoman palaces; open another, and she would gaze across deserts. Granborough House would fade away. Eleanor smiled. Some things were worth risking dismissal for, especially with the master out of the house for the evening.

Eleanor set down her candle and surveyed her subjects. Damp equatorial rainforests, steaming in the heat. Versailles, glittering in the dark like an Earthbound star. Verona – Juliet on her balcony, sighing into the darkness. It was a perfect night for poetry: she could stretch out her legs and whisper sonnets into the slow, hot silence. But she would cry, and Mrs Fielding would be able to tell the next morning. Better to keep her face blank, in case the housekeeper grew curious. Eleanor locked the door, slipping the library key back up her sleeve. She’d stolen the key from Mrs Pembroke’s house- keeping chatelaine. Even though the mistress of the house had been dead for more than three years, shame still crawled under Eleanor’s skin when she went through Mrs Pembroke’s things. Not that Mrs Pembroke would have minded. She had spent the last few months of her life propped up on pillows, telling Eleanor how to care for everything she would inherit from Mrs Pembroke’s will.

The weight of the key against Eleanor’s forearm felt like shackles. Mrs Pembroke never would have wanted Eleanor to creep around the house like a thief, just for something to read. The lady of the house had not wanted Eleanor to be a housemaid at all. Versailles, Verona, perhaps even the rainforest – these were all places Eleanor might have visited, if only Mrs Pembroke had lived. A lump crawled into Eleanor’s throat. Mrs Pembroke had been planning to take her on a tour of Europe when Eleanor was old enough to enter Society.
Suddenly it seemed cruel to have so many travelogues spread out in front of her, when she’d once been so close to seeing the places all these men had written of.

Eleanor gave herself a little shake. She’d told herself not to get upset.

She lifted The Fairy Ring off the shelves and felt better the moment it was in her hand. Her own fingerprints from years ago marked the table of contents – smaller, of course, than they were now – the corner of the back cover was fraying slightly, from all the times she’d plucked at it as she read.


Settling into her favourite chair with that book in her hands, the lump in her throat melted away. At seventeen, she knew she ought to have grown out of such things, but it was difficult to set aside a world where trees grew delicate gold and silver branches and strange creatures lurked in cool, clear water. She lost herself on narrow paths twisting through dark woods, yearned to spin straw into gold, and envied the twelve brothers who had been changed into swans. It seemed like a fine thing to be a clean white bird that might fly anywhere it liked.

She put the book back when the clock struck midnight, making sure to replace it exactly where she found it. The chimes were quiet, but the sound dropped through to the pit of Eleanor’s stomach like a leaden weight. An old memory struggled to the surface of her thoughts – she was nine years old and curled into a ball, back pressed against the leg of an iron bed as a cheaper, harsher clock tolled midnight – but she shook it off. It wouldn’t do to think of her own mother now, she’d make herself upset again. Somewhere outside a hansom cab rattled over the cobblestones; she flinched, heart pounding, and almost knocked her candle over. Mr Pembroke was supposed to be dining at his club tonight. What if he’d changed his mind and come back early?

Eleanor listened at the door, forcing her nerves into submission. Nothing from downstairs. If she was quick, no one would even guess that she’d left her room. She crept back up the servants’ staircase and slipped into her little room, trying not to wilt at the sight of the bare boards, the skeletal iron bedframe, her useless scrap of curtain hanging limp over the window. She crawled into bed, ignoring the smell of mildew from the blankets and holding the memory of the fairy stories like hands cupped around a tiny flame. When she slept, she dreamed of vast wings carrying her away, and she could not tell if they were her own.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

JJA Harwood is an author, editor and blogger. She grew up in Norfolk, read History at the University of Warwick and eventually found her way to London, which is still something of a shock for somebody used to so many fields.

When not writing, she can be found learning languages, cooking with more enthusiasm than skill, wandering off into clearly haunted houses and making friends with stray cats. THE SHADOW IN THE GLASS is her debut novel.

Twitter | Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to JJA Harwood and HarperVoyager for the extract.

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

Thanks for reading. Until next time, Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

Blog Tour: Saving Missy by Beth Morrey

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Historical Fiction, Humorous Fiction, Domestic Ficiton, Pensioners in the Pages
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio, Hardcover

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the paperback release of Saving Missy. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part.

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SYNOPSIS:

Seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?

Missy Carmichael is prickly, stubborn – and terribly lonely. Until a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new. Something wonderful.

Missy was used to her small, solitary existence, listening to her footsteps echoing around the empty house, the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock. After all, she had made her life her way.

Now another life is beckoning to Missy – if she’s brave enough…

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MY REVIEW:

“So the day ended as miserably as it began. But I still felt it somewhere — that spark. The beginning of something. Or the end. Who knows?” 

Saving Missy is a story exploring loneliness, human connection, letting go and learning to live again. When we meet Missy she is rattling around her big house all alone and has no real connections with anyone other than her emails and skype calls to her son and grandson in Australia. After fainting in the park she is taken under the wing of Sylvie and Angela, two vivacious women who, much to Missy’s surprise, seem to want to be her friend. The pair open up a new world to Missy full of exciting opportunities, friendship and happiness that she isn’t sure she deserves after the things she’s done. Can Missy let go of the past and embrace life?

I first encountered Missy when I read a sampler of the story before its release in early 2020. I quickly fell in love with Missy and the world the author had created and have been frustrated at not being able to find the time to finish reading it ever since. So when the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for the paperback release arose I jumped at the chance, eager to finally enjoy the rest of Missy’s story. And I’m so glad I did. 

“The first photo summed me up, mostly, but the second had exposed my other self, the tiny part of me that could laugh like that. I wanted to poke my way into that part… and open it up so that it overwhelmed the stiffness and self-consciousness and all the other weaknesses I despised. To be that relaxed, animated woman, put her on display and leave the other stuffed away.”

Missy Carmichael is a wonderful protagonist. She is a cantankerous old lady who, despite her hard, bristly and defensive exterior, was someone I soon had a soft spot for. She is deeply flawed, awkward, lonely and worries constantly what others think. She has also spent most of her life not saying the things she desperately wanted to and seems to have lived her life for others, mostly her husband Leo who she is now lost without. She has no real relationship with her daughter Melanie since a fight the year before and her adored son Alistair and grandson Arthur live in Australia, something she is deeply bitter about. While her resentment towards her eldest child and daughter in law was hard to stomach at times it made her a more real character. I also liked that she often recognised her flaws, even if she doesn’t always try to change them.

A vital part of understanding Missy comes from the flashbacks that are woven into the narrative. These flashbacks show the reader important moments in her life that have shaped her and help us to understand the different facets of her character. It is in these chapters that the author brings Leo to life, albeit from Missy’s perspective. It is impossible to not be shaped by a relationship that spanned almost six decades so I think this was a critical part of the story that really opened our eyes to why Missy is the woman we meet in the present day.

“The idea that these vibrant, diverting women wanted to spend time with me was as gratifying as the gift of the dog bed. I’d never really had female friends before.”

The supporting cast of characters are just as riveting and richly drawn as Missy and I particularly loved the dynamics of her friendship with Sylvie and Angela. As she slowly allowed them into her heart and home I enjoyed seeing her experience female friendship for the first time in her life and the impact it had on her. We began to see a softer side to her, particularly in her interactions with her adopted dog Bobby and Otis, Angela’s four-year-old son. The author took Missy on a compelling adventure and it was amazing to see the bravery and joy she showed in the latter parts of the story. It is a reminder of how important human connection is in life, that it is never too late to grab life by the horns or to change and make amends for your mistakes. 

Charming, thought-provoking, wistful and uplifting, Saving Missy is a wonderful debut. I got lost in its pages as the author took me on an unforgettable journey. In our current climate its message of the importance of human connection couldn’t be more timely and is a great reminder to reach out to others in any way we can. Everyone should read this book. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

I’m a TV producer by trade. For a long time I worked at RDF Television, where I helped create The Secret Life of Four Year Olds series on Channel 4 and devised 100 Year Old Drivers for ITV.

I’ve been trying to write a novel since my early 20s, when I wrote a spin-off from Mary Poppins called Sister Suffragette, which was all about Winifred Banks’ adventures when she wasn’t at home singing. It’s probably for the best that it’s still in a drawer somewhere.

Saving Missy is my first full-length novel, and I wrote it on maternity leave, inspired by the people I met while I was walking my dog in the park.

In my spare time I enjoy running, cooking curries, admiring my dog every day and Christmas once a year.

Website | Instagram | Twitter |Facebook

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon*| Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These links are affiliate links

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

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

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Headline Review
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction

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

SYNOPSIS:

On a platform in occupied Paris, a mother whispers goodbye.
It is the end.
But also the beginning.

Santa Cruz 1953. Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door.

Paris 1944. A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope.

On a darkened platform two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined.

Beginning on an ordinary day and ending on an extraordinary one, WHILE PARIS SLEPT is an unforgettable read.

MY REIVEW:

Santa Cruz, 1953. Jean-Luc and Charlotte Beauchamp are living the American dream with their son Sam after fleeing Nazi occupation almost a decade ago. They have put the past behind them. Until the day a knock at their door resurfaces the everything they have tried to forget and the secret they have tried to bury since that fateful day at a Paris train station in 1944.

This book called out to me the moment I saw the cover. I love historical fiction and one of my favourite time periods is World War Two, so this was right up my street. Moving between dual timelines and multiple narrators, we are transported to Nazi-occupied France, the horrors of Auschwitz and post-war France and America to tell this story of love, loss, survival and forgiveness. 

Druart highlights the torment faced by those living under German occupation; their fear palpable as they go about their days starved from rationing, terrified of being taken away for the smallest violation and fearing for the lives of those that have vanished in an instant. She also examines the dilemma and guilt that haunts them: do they say nothing and survive? Or stand up for what is right and risk their lives? A similar question torments the Jews as they try to decide if they should comply with Nazi orders, whether it be to wear a star on their clothing or to do what they are told in the camps, even at the expense of the lives of others around them. Survival is a basic human instinct and the anguish radiates from the pages. 

Druart also looks at the PTSD experienced by survivors after the war and how they struggle with disbelief at what was done to them, wrestle with feeling like they should have done more or question why they were the ones to survive. There is also a profound sense of loss running through the story that takes many forms. Everyone has lost something because of the war. They have been altered by their experiences and the shape of their lives has changed because of them. It makes for difficult reading at time but conveys the true horror of war and its aftermath. 

But what is at the heart of this story is love. More specifically, it’s the love of a parent for their child. Samuel is the light in the darkness and the reason to survive for both couples. By asking someone to protect him when they were being taken to Auschwitz, Sarah put her son before herself and Samuel became the one thing keeping her and David going during their days in hell. For nine years they searched, missing their child and wondering if he was alive. Meanwhile Jean-Luc and Charlotte risked their lives to save this little boy. A stranger’s child. They trekked through France, over the Pyrenees and through Europe before finally entering America knowing they could be arrested and killed if they were discovered. Love for this child is at the core of their existence for both couples. Druart asks if the actions of the Beauchamps and the Laffittes were right, even if they were made from a place of love. She doesn’t judge, simply examines the effects of these decisions on everyone involved and invites the reader to decide for themselves.

While I felt for both couples, the person who I felt for most of all was young Samuel. This boy broke my heart. It was utterly heartbreaking to read as he was ripped from the only home and family he’s ever known, drugged, and taken to a foreign country where he didn’t speak the language to live with people he’s never met. They may be his biological parents but they are strangers to him. All of his emotional attachment and safety rests with the people he’s taken from and told he must never again have contact with. I just wanted to reach into the book and hug him. It is clear that everyone involved wanted what is best for him, but there are no winners in the tug-of-war for this child. Especially not him. 

Atmospheric, poignant, powerful and heartrending, While Paris Slept is a remarkable piece of historical fiction with a cinematic quality that makes it feel perfect for the big screen. Beautifully written and well researched, I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the genre or the time period. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ruth Druart grew up on the Isle of Wight, moving away at the age of eighteen to study psychology at Leicester University. She has lived in Paris since 1993, where she has followed a career in teaching. She has recently taken a sabbatical, so that she can follow her dream of writing full-time.

Website| Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon*| Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Deity by Matt Wesolowski

Published: February 18th, 2021
Publisher: Orenda
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Horror Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Urban Fiction

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.

SYNOPSIS:

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…

MY REVIEW:

“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.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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.

Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

Bookshop.org* | Waterstones* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*Links to Bookshop.org, Waterstones and Amazon are affiliate links

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

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

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Blog Tours Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton

Published: February 4th, 2021
Publisher: Bantam Press
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: New Adult Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Medical Romance

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this uplifting debut. Thank you Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Bantam Press for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

CAN YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN?

Alice and Alfie are strangers. But they sleep next to each other every night.

Alfie Mack has been in hospital for months recovering from an accident. A new face on the ward is about as exciting as life gets for him right now, so when someone moves into the bed next to him he’s eager to make friends. But it quickly becomes clear that seeing his neighbour’s face won’t happen any time soon.

Alice Gunnersley has been badly burned and can’t even look at herself yet, let alone allow anyone else to see her. She keeps the curtain around her bed firmly closed, but it doesn’t stop Alfie trying to get to know her. And gradually, as he slowly brings Alice out of her shell, might there even be potential for more?

MY REVIEW:

“Our scars are simply the marks of our stories. They show we’ve lived our life, and most of all that we have survived it. Don’t hide your story away in the shadows.”

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never seen? Not even a picture? Just what is it that makes us fall in love with someone? Those are the questions explored in this wonderful debut. A sheer delight from beginning to end, I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this book but was unprepared for how much it would reach into my heart and soul. This is a book that makes you feel a rainbow of emotions, giving you a warm glow inside like porridge on a cold day

The story is told by Alice and Alfie, each taking alternating chapters. These are characters I cared about tremendously; both individually and as a couple. I was rooting for them. And while I loved both characters, there was something just a little special about Alfie. I can’t imagine anyone disliking him (even though Alice did try). He is one of those people who has a spark about them, brings joy, and makes life better for everyone he meets. He sees all strangers as a friend he just hasn’t met yet and can’t bear to see anyone suffer, so when the silent, stoic Alice arrives and initially resists his charms he is determined to find a way to help her. I loved how they were polar opposites and reading as he tried to slowly coax her out of her shell while she battles to resist. 

But it isn’t just the two main characters who are so richly drawn, compelling and memorable. It’s every character. No matter how small their part, they leap from the page. Nurse Angels and Mr Peterson each have a particular place in my heart and lit up the page every time they were featured. I know I would have loved a nurse like Nurse Angles when I was in hospital for six weeks as a child. The only nurse I have any real memory of from my time there is a mean one who seemed to go out of her way to make sure we were all as miserable as she was.

Both Alfie and Alice suffered traumatic events that led them to be on the Moira Gladstone Ward and are still dealing with the harrowing physical and psychological aftermath of what happened. The author handles these issues in a raw, realistic way, but also with sensitivity and I was moved to tears a few times. But she balances this with joy, love and humour in abundance, including the sharp, witty dialogue that makes this feel so authentic.  

Charming, uplifting and pure escapism, this fantastic debut would make the perfect romantic movie. I highly recommend this one. Just don’t forget the tissues. My one tiny niggle with it was how it ended so abruptly. I needed more to the story after investing so much. I have seen NetGalley reviewers talk about an epilogue that wasn’t included in my ARC so I am hopeful that including that creates the perfect end to the story. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Emily Houghton is an ex digital specialist and full-time creative writer. She originally comes from Essex but has been living in London for the past 8 years. Emily is a trained yoga and spin teacher, completely obsessed with dogs and has dreamt of being an author ever since she could hold a pen..

Houghton’s debut novel, BEFORE I SAW YOU, is a commercial love story and will be published by Transworld in the UK in January 2021 and by Simon & Schuster in the US.

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Please read the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Happy reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Humorous Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for the outstanding debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Simon & Schuster UK for the gifted ARC of the book.

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.’
 
A compelling story perfect for fans of The Doll FactoryThe Illumination of Ursula Flight and The Familiars.
 
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.

MY REVIEW:

“It’s been quite a life, the one I’ve had; I was there when they turned the world upside down, and I was there, right at the heart of it all, during the turbulent times that led us down the road to that day. So I got to thinking that I should write it all down, because there’s been a lot said about those times, and not all of it’s right.”

This book is a truly magnificent tale. In her outstanding debut, Frances Quinn takes you on an adventure alongside Nat Davey, a fictional character based on Jeffrey Hudson, court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria. Seamlessly merging fact with fiction, she weaves together historical events and moments from the lives of real people with those of her fictional characters and imagination. It’s so expertly done that I would have believed the entire book to be biographical is it wasn’t for her author’s note saying otherwise. 

This was a glorious novel. Immersive and absorbing, I was lost in Nat’s world and could see it all happening like it was on a movie screen – which it really does belong on, in my opinion. I loved that it is told like Nat is telling the reader his story, with him addressing us at times. It made it feel personal and added to the authentic feel.

“Because the way I look at it now, if we’d been just like other folks, what kind of lives would we have had?”

For a book to be truly memorable, you need memorable characters. And Nat is one of the most memorable characters I’ve come across. It is impossible not to love and root for this pint-sized man. His size alone in a time where being born different made you a freak makes him someone you can’t help but feel for. He faces judgement, ridicule and rejection from birth; even being sold by his father and given to the queen as a human pet. But what is one of the worst things to happen to him ultimately becomes the thing that leads to happiness in his life as he finds a home and even friendship in the queen’s service. His story is unforgettable and will stay with me.

While Nat is undoubtedly the star of the book, the cast of characters around him are equally as fascinating, richly drawn and memorable. There are some beautiful friendships and great life lessons hidden in this story. 

I could wax lyrical about this for a very long time. Instead, I’m going to say: READ THIS BOOK! You won’t regret it. The Smallest Man will be on my list of top reads of 2020 and I have no doubt it is the start of a fantastic career for the talented Ms Quinn. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Frances Quinn read English at Cambridge, and is a journalist and copy-editor. She completed the Curtis Brown Creative Course in 2015. The Smallest Man is her debut novel.

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Emma's Anticipated Treasures Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – November 2020

Well that was a fast month!

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.

Here is what I read in November:

  1. The Night Away ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  2. The One Before ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  3. The Diabolical Bones ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. One By One ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  5. The Package ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. The Company Daughters ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. Fallen Angels ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. How To Belong ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. Body Language ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  11. Her Sister’s Child ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  12. Dead Girl Walking ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. Bright Lies ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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.

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Bright Lies by A. A. Abbott

Published: November 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Perfect City Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Psychological Thriller

Trigger Warning: Sexual and physical abuse

Today is my stop on the tour for Bright Lies. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to A. A. Abbott for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

She’s learned too much, too young. Can she break free?

Emily’s dreams come true when her mother marries wealthy painter, David. Thanks to him, Emily’s artistic talents shine. Then he starts teaching her things a 14-year-old shouldn’t know. When Emily escapes from David’s luxury mansion, she’s penniless and forced to sleep in a rat-infested alley.

Bad boy Jack has turned his life around. Working as a DJ with ambitions to open a club, he rescues Emily from the streets when he sees a woman in trouble. He doesn’t know she’s still only 15 – and trapped in a dark web of secrets and lies.

David must find Emily and silence her. As he closes in, Jack faces the hardest choice of all. If he saves Emily, he’ll kiss goodbye to his future…

What would you sacrifice for love?

MY REVIEW:

“I’m technically an adult now, but I had to grow up a long time ago.”

Bright Lies is a story of heartache, abuse, survival and hope. It’s a difficult book to read at times – particularly the grooming and abuse Emily suffers at the hands of her stepfather – but beneath the darkness is a sliver of light. We see that there is still kindness to be found even in the bleakest of times and to keep hope of better things to come.

“Who knows if you can stick a girl like Emily together again, after a man like that has broken her?”

At the heart of this book is fantastic characterisation. Emily and Jack were both very real characters that are likable characters and easy to get behind. It broke my heart the things they knew and had suffered that no one should, particularly at such a young age. I liked how protective Jack was of Emily as despite his flaws he’s one of the good ones. Without him her life after running away could have been even bleaker. That being said, I found reading about their life on the streets difficult as I have children of a similar age, and the idea of them being alone in the world, trying to survive, is unimaginable. My heart broke for them, and for Emily’s mum, who is an innocent victim in all of this too. I wanted to tell Emily to just talk to her mum and reassure her it would be ok. 

There are some vile characters in this book that are so well written they made my skin crawl. But none so much as David. The way he grooms and abuses Emily is practiced and all too familiar. I hated him and wanted to hurt him in every way possible for what he was doing. I just hope that books like this are able to serve as a warning and can help potential victims identify such behaviour from predators before it’s too late.  

Bright Lies is a compelling, thought-provoking and moving read.  I wasn’t sure what to make of the ending at first, but after a few days of pondering on it, I like the direction the author took and thought it was the right way to end Emily and Jack’s stories. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

From the author’s website: Who doesn’t love a cracking crime story, full of twists?

I’m British crime thriller writer A.A. Abbott – known to friends as Helen – and I believe a good read is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

I write fast-paced suspense thrillers set in the British cities of London, Bristol and Birmingham. As a city girl, I’ve lived and worked in all of them. I also know the beautiful countryside of North Somerset well, and that’s where my latest story begins. By far my darkest book yet, psychological thriller ‘Bright Lies’ follows runaway teenager Emily from a country mansion to a city squat, as she flees the stepfather who’s gotten too close.

In contrast, the 5 book Trail series focuses on a vodka business – and what happens when the two families running it fall out with each other and with a London gangster. The Bride’s Trail leads from London to the secret tunnels below Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter. The trail continues with a kidnap in the former Soviet Union in The Vodka Trail, an ill-starred venture with a marijuana farmer in The Grass Trail and a killer on the loose in The Revenge Trail. At the very end, The Final Trail serves up a heady cocktail of betrayal, revenge and reconciliation.

Like 10% of us, many of my family are dyslexic. While I’m not, I want my books to be enjoyed by readers with dyslexia and visual impairment too. That’s why I publish my thrillers in a LARGE PRINT dyslexia-friendly edition as well as the standard paperback and Kindle versions. Don’t forget, you can also adjust the font on your Kindle to suit your needs.

I like speaking to book groups, business networks and social circles, and reading my thrillers and short stories at live fiction events and on Zoom. If you’re a book blogger, litfest organiser, reviewer or simply adore books, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, Bristol Fiction Writers’ Group, and Birmingham’s New Street Authors.

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