The Visitors by Catherine Burns #bookreview

thevisitors2

THE BLURB

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.

Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden.

As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side

Amazon UK

Hive.co.uk – buy online and support your local bookstore

Book Depository

MY REVIEW

My obsession for reading all things dark and twisted continues, and this ‘experience’ was one of the twisted , unnverving and creepiest I’ve ever had the pleasure (!) to embark on!! If you’re looking for a book full of fluffy, heart melting moments then this is NOT the book for you! But if you’re looking for a book to give you chills, repulse you and be completely disturbing then BUY THIS BOOK!!

The story focuses on Marion who is one of those characters you don’t know whether to feel outright sympathy for, or just lose patience with! Her life has been a hard one living amongst a completely dysfunctional family who treated her like dirt, and there was no escape from her lousy upbringing at school, where she was teased by pupils and teachers alike. But Marion seemed to accept her fate, and found her refuge in her attic bedroom amongst her cuddly toys who were her friends and always there for her.

Since the death of her mother, she has lived in the 6 bedroom home with her domineering, freak of a brother who she is in complete fear of due to his strange and violent behaviour – and is under strict control never to go in the cellar where John keeps ‘the visitors’. This is the start of the chilling side of the story as Marion often hears cries from the cellar but ignores them!! As you do!! I’m so glad I don’t have a cellar

As the story develops, Marion starts to slowly come out of her shell, even with just walking around the town she lives, revisiting an Aunts’ house that she finds up for sale which brings back worrying memories and constructing fantasy lives for herself based on people she meets. But things begin to change more when John has a heart attack and she has to confront her fears in the cellar – it is fascinating how she reacts when she has been so put upon her whole life and now she has an insight into her brothers’ hidden life..

I find it a little disturbing that I enjoyed this book so much!! The characters were strange creatures, and as you looked into their past you could begin to understand how they turned out the way they did!! The Visitors don’t really feature in the book until well past halfway, so that means you get more time delving into Marion and Johns’ upbringing and their outlook on life and people. There are also some fascinating email messages in between certain chapters, which don’t begin to make any sense until towards the end!

A fabulously dark and twisted debut from an author who I will definitely be following for future releases!!

thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the advanced readers copy in return for a fair and honest review.

An Unlikely Agent by Jane Menczer #bookreview

THE BLURB

London, 1905. Margaret Trant lives with her ailing, irascible mother in a dreary boarding house in St John’s Wood. The pair have fallen on hard times, with only Margaret’s meagre salary from a ramshackle import-export company keeping them afloat.

When a stranger on the tram hands her a newspaper open at the recruitment page, Margaret spots an advertisement that promises to ‘open new horizons beyond your wildest dreams!’. After a gruelling interview, she finds herself in a new position as a secretary in a dingy backstreet shop.

But all is not as it seems; she is in fact working for a highly secret branch of the intelligence service, Bureau 8, whose mission is to track down and neutralise a ruthless band of anarchists known as the Scorpions.

Margaret’s voracious reading of detective fiction has scarcely prepared her for the reality of true criminality. Her journey of self-discovery forms the heart of this remarkable novel, as she discovers in herself resourcefulness, courage, independence and the first stirrings of love.

Menczer conveys the fog and grime of Edwardian London in an espionage thriller that evokes the humdrum dinginess of spywork as it alternates with thrilling danger, in a manner characteristic of John le Carré. Margaret Trant is a heroine to remember.

Out Now!

Publishers Polygon Books

Amazon UK  £8.99 paperback

Hive.co.uk – buy online and support your local bookstores £7.95 paperback

MY REVIEW

After reading a glowing review on Nudge Books I brought myself a copy of this – the striking cover helped seal the deal too! And it has been a really enjoyable experience reading this. It wasn’t a book that I raced through, but I think the way the story is told and the way it evolves you get a better experience if you take your time over it!

We are introduced to the rather fabulous character of Margaret Trant. She lives with her rather overbearing mother and they are struggling to get by in London in 1905. But she is seemingly handed a way out, when a newspaper is handed to her at the recruitment page and a certain advert takes her eye. This leads her to working at Bureau 8 and appearances are very deceptive there!

I loved the way the character blossomed as she set about working at Bureau 8 and gets involved in the intelligence service. I found her to be very like ‘Agent Peggy Carter’ from The Marvel Series, in the set up as she overcomes the stigma of just being a woman, to be very much relied on in the investigations especially when they delve so close to home. There’s lots of mystery, subterfuge and secrets and it often proved difficult to know who to trust or where the story would lead to next.

Really hope there’ll be more from this author and character as I feel it has many options in progressing and creating an enjoyable series!

The Shifting Pools by Zoe Duncan – my review

THE BLURB

Fleeing war and the death of her family, Eve has carefully constructed a new life for herself in London.

Yet she is troubled by vivid, disturbing dreams, symptoms of her traumatic past, which intrude increasingly on her daily life. As she is drawn further into her dream world, she finds herself caught up in a fresh battle for survival.

Set between London and an imagined setting of Enanti, The Shifting Pools sees Eve confronting what she has avoided all her adult life – confronting the Shadow Beast that haunts her nightmares. Her energies have been devoted to shutting away the dark events of her past – barricading her into the superficially successful world. Now those walls are crumbling.  She must choose whether to reinforce them, or face the elements again, stand in the wind and rediscover the heart of herself.

Lyrical and insightful, charged throughout with a sense of the beautiful urgency of life, The Shifting Pools offers a unique way of looking at the wounds of war, the act of remembering, the fragmentation of self, the inexplorable seeping of the past into our present, and finding a way home.

Published by Lightning Books

July 2017

Paperback –  350 pages 

Amazon UK

MY REVIEW

I found this book to be a seriously stunning debut that took me as a reader on a haunting and spiritual journey, following the story of Eve as she faces her nightmares.  I adored this book!!

It is beautifully written and cleverly split into sections as we see her now in London coming to terms with her past as those nightmares are now consuming her daytime. We get to look back at what she faced as a child and how that severely impacted her and explains why she feels so lost and alone now. And it also introduces a fantasy world element where she escapes to and becomes more aware of how she has hidden too much away and that is why she is struggling in the present.

It really delves into the blurred lines between reality and fantasy and how we all put up barriers to hide our true selves, and that sometimes the nightmares we face are often the key to understanding how to move on.

Eve is such a fascinating character – going from the carefree, happy childhood she shared with her family, through the horrors of war and how that ripped her heart apart, and then how she moved to London to be with her aunt and uncle who weren’t big on sharing their feelings which made her feel closed off and why she now feels the need to see a psychotherapist to try and shed light on the meaning of the nightmares, and her behaviour and her craving for nothingness as she lives life in limbo.

The fantasy world element of Enanti, was one I wasn’t expecting to embrace but it worked so well in this context. It felt surreal but grounded and spoke to me as a reader with its’ messages of how you deal with tragedy in your life, how we all ‘hide in plain sight’ through tougher times and that feeling of letting go and not trying to control every emotion. The fantasy element was part of her coping mechanism and allowed her to see things more clearly and really added emotional depth to the story.

This was a haunting, thoughtful and powerful story that I devoured in one sitting as I just couldn’t tear myself away from Eve and her journey. The imagery really popped off the page too which brought the story to life. A truly memorable reading experience and one I won’t forget for a long while. Highly recommended!!

Thank you to Nudge and the publishers for my copy in return for a fair and honest review

The Witch Finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown – book review

THE BLURB

‘VIVID AND TERRIFYING’ Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train

The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six… 

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

‘A richly told and utterly compelling tale, with shades of Hilary Mantel‘ Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat

Anyone who liked Cecilia Ekback’s Wolf Winter is going to love this‘ Natasha Pulley, author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Beth Underdown grips us from the outset and won’t let go…at once a feminist parable and an old-fashioned, check-twice-under-the-bed thriller’ Patrick Gale, author of Notes from an Exhibition

‘A tense, surprising and elegantly-crafted novel‘ Ian McGuire, author of The North Water

‘Beth Underdown cleverly creates a compelling atmosphere of dread and claustrophobia… Even from the distance of nearly four hundred years, her Matthew Hopkins is a genuinely frightening monster’ Kate Riordan

Publication Date 2nd March 2017

Amazon UK

Hive.co.uk – buy online and support your local bookstore

MY REVIEW

As an Essex girl, born and bred, I’m always intrigued to read books set in the county so that got me interest in reading the blurb of this, along with the fact that it is loosely based on the real life character of  Matthew Hopkins ‘The Witchfinder General’ who is famous for his role in the killing of women in the 17th century around the region of Manningtree, who were thought to be witches. The fact that the evidence against those women – rumoured to be about 300 women in just under 3 years that were killed – was based mostly on rumours amongst villagers or even the fact that woman had a birthmark or mole – evidence enough for the witchfinders to condemn the women to hang.

In this book we follow the story of Alice, his sister, who in 1645 moved back to Manningtree to see her brother after the death of her husband. Her brother had always been strange and seen as different from a child, as he was badly burned in a fire as a child, but when Alice returns she notices a much darker side to his personality and learns of his life now as a witch finder and that he is killing women, but legally!.

Alice as a character in herself, is also an extremely interesting woman as she has dealt with much trauma in her life and her attempts to keep her brother from his quest is a brave one but a reckless one. He takes her out on his witch hunts to help with the ‘interrogation’ and it is quite harrowing to read of what he makes her do, and what the women under suspicion have to endure. She also begins to learn more of her recently deceased mother, and her father too which adds more depth to the story and shines some light on their troubled childhoods.

I really loved the pace of this book – it is a little slow at times, but that really helps the characters build and gives you a great insight to life at the time and in the surrounding areas which are wonderfully brought to life as his quest to hunt out more witches picks up pace. It never goes over the top and deals with subject matter in a calm and understated way.

It is fascinating to take a person from history and create a story around someone who there isn’t much known about his persona or personal life, and I think it works so well in this book to create an imagined storyline – it cleverly feels very real as the story picks up pace towards the end and I am now also inspired to read more about the Witch Trials and how this sad period of history was allowed to gather such pace.

A fascinating and well written debut and I look forward to reading more from the author in the future!  I will definitely be buying a copy of the beautiful hardback version to have on my bookshelves!

I received a copy of this via NetGalley and the publishers in return for a fair and honest review

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai – book review

THE BLURB

When Tom loses the love of his life, time travel seems like the only answer. . . what could possibly go wrong?

Elan Mastai’s breakthrough novel brings a whole new dimension to a classic love story

So, the thing is, I come from the world we were supposed to have.

That means nothing to you, obviously, because you live here, in the crappy world we do have.

But it never should’ve turned out like this. And it’s all my fault – well, me and to a lesser extent my father.

And, yeah, I guess a little bit Penelope.

In both worlds, she’s the love of my life. But only a single version of her can exist.

I have one impossible chance to fix history’s greatest mistake and save this broken world.

Except it means saving one Penelope and losing the other forever – and I have absolutely no idea which to choose . . .
Praise for All Our Wrong Todays

‘A thrilling tale of time travel and alternate timelines with a refreshingly optimistic view of humanity’s future’
Andy Weir, author of international bestseller The Martian

‘A novel about time travel has no right to be this engaging. A novel this engaging has no right to be this smart. And a novel this smart has no right to be this funny. Or insightful. Or immersive. Basically, this novel has no right to exist.”
Jonathan TropperNew York Times bestselling author of This Is Where I Leave You and One Last Thing Before I Go

‘Elan Mastai has conjured up a witty and freewheeling time-traveling romance that packs an emotional wallop.All Our Wrong Todays is a page-turning delight’
Maria Semple, author of Today Will Be Different and Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Amazon UK – Kindle edition out now.  Hardback release date 2nd March 2017

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

“All Our Wrong Todays” is my first novel, but I’ve been working for the past 15 years as a screenwriter. I’ve written movies for both independent production companies and the Hollywood studios, including scripts for Fox, Sony, Warner Brothers, and Paramount. My most recent film is “What If”—also known as “The F Word”—a comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis, Megan Park, and Rafe Spall, directed by Michael Dowse. I was fortunate to win the Canadian Academy Award and the Writers Guild of Canada Award for my screenplay. I was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia and currently live in Toronto, Ontario with my wife and kids and an Australian Shepherd named Ruby Slippers.

MY REVIEW

Wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started this! I don’t read that much sci-fi and seeing the time travel element of this story had me a little worried as to what was in store for me as a reader – I just wish I could send myself back in a time-machine now and start reading this all again so I can savour it all once more!! Loved it!

Tom Barren lives in 2016 – but a 2016 unlike ours! It is full of automated life, decisions made for you – a world where everything is perfect. Sounds idyllic?! Not for Tom and he’s nostalgic for the real world of good and bad experiences. Tom is the perfect character to be the narrator of this story as he’s the idiot to his genius father – never seemingly good enough and missing his beloved mother. So we get to enjoy and share his every thought and action as he tries to live up to something he isn’t – he’s not quite sure what he’s supposed to be so when a chance to achieve some respect from his father by travelling back in time to witness the moment in time that changed the world as we know it – Lionel Goettreider invented the future in 1965 and he is the most famous man in the alternate 2016 timeline as his vision became their reality.

So what happens if the impossible happens and we could travel back in time to witness those moments in time that we all know so much about? Tom is about to find out and things aren’t all as he imagined – the genius plan had some pretty big flaws! And then what happens when you return from that moment and your version of 2016 has changed beyond recognition?! Full of people you know, but don’t know at all?!

This is more than a sci-fi/time travel novel as it features a lot of human emotion as he deals with love, grief and all those self doubts that we as humans often feel. And it is also very funny!   It is written in a really punchy way and never gets bogged down in too much ‘geeky’ detail and that is what kept me engrossed from start to finish. I loved the Tom character along with Penelope too who had her own dreams but her destiny was also changed by a quirk of fate and, like life, leads on to new experiences and dreams to unfold.

This exceeded my expectations so I can highly recommend it for those of you looking for something a little out of the ordinary!

One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis – book review

THE BLURB

Vicky Seagrave is blessed: three beautiful children, a successful, doting husband, great friends and a job she loves. She should be perfectly happy.

When she risks everything she holds dear on a whim, there’s only person she trusts enough to turn to.

But Vicky is about to learn that one mistake is all it takes; that if you’re careless with those you love, you don’t deserve to keep them . . . 

‘A tense and utterly engrossing story’ Tammy Cohen, author of WHEN SHE WAS BAD and THE BROKEN


‘A compelling page-turner which kept me reading well into the night.This book will make any woman look at her best friend with more than a touch of suspicion . . .’ Jane Corry, author of MY HUSBAND’S WIFE


‘A page-turner that explores how friendship, mothering, marriage, and events in the past can collide in unexpected andtumultuous ways’ Beth Miller, author of THE GOOD NEIGHBOUR and WHEN WE WERE SISTERS


‘A brilliant, gripping read. I couldn’t put it down’ Claire Douglas, author of THE SISTERS and LOCAL GIRL MISSING


Release Date – 23rd February 2017


Amazon UK  £2.99 Kindle edition



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Emma Curtis was born in Brighton and brought up in London.  Her fascination with the darker side of domestic life inspired her to write One Little Mistake, her first psychological suspense. She has two children and lives in Richmond with her husband.


Find her on Twitter @emmacurtisbooks



MY REVIEW


Another thought provoking  thriller to enjoy if you love this genre!!  Kept me intrigued from start to finish and is full of twists that most will fail to predict!


As we follow the story of Vicky we soon see that those we think that have it all are often thinking they don’t and that the grass is always greener on the other side.  When Vicky begins to take her family for granted it sets in motion a chain of events that see her whole life turned upside down.


Another major part of this storyline is the issue of trust. Vicky thought she could trust her best friend, Amber, but armed with every insight into her friends’ life it soon turns out that knowledge is power and can be used against you – if that friend isn’t all she says she is!  The green eyed monster rears  its’ ugly head many a time and definitely makes you think twice about trusting those closest to you!!


It is told over 2 timelines – 2010 and 1992 – and this works so well in building up a picture of events over the years and just how someone elses past can destroy your future!


It brings the question of responsibility clearly into focus and how a split second decision can change things forever – is it always worth the risk?!


None of the characters come out of this story very well with their behaviour and their selfish acts but it an insight into what makes people tick and that isn’t always a pleasant thing and is written so cleverly that you find yourself imagining what would you do that in those situations!  Hopefully not with the same consequences!!


Thoroughly enjoyed the ride this page turner took me on so will be looking out for more from this author in the future!



Thank you to Emma Curtis and Rosie Margesson at Pengiun Random House for the advance copy in exchange for my review 

Kill The Father by Sandrone Dazieri

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THE BLURB

In this fascinatingly complex thriller, two people, each shattered by their past, team to solve a series of killings and abductions…

When a woman is beheaded in a park outside Rome and her six-year-old son goes missing, the police unit assigned to the case sees an easy solution: they arrest the woman’s husband and await his confession. But the Chief of Rome’s  Major Crimes unit doubts things are so simple. Secretly, he lures to the case two of Italy’s top analytical minds: Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli, a fierce, warrior-like detective still reeling from having survived a bloody catastrophe, and Dante Torre, a man who spent his childhood trapped inside a concrete silo. Fed through the gloved hand of a masked kidnapper who called himself “The Father,” Dante emerged from his ordeal with crippling claustrophobia but, also, with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and hyper-observant capacities.

All evidence suggests that the Father is back and active after being dormant for decades. Indeed, he has left tell-tale signs that signal he’s looking forward to a reunion with Dante. But when Columba and Dante begin following the ever-more-bizarre trail of clues, they grasp that what’s really going on is darker than they ever imagined.
Expected publication: February 9th 2017 by Simon & Schuster UK
Hive.co.uk – buy online and support your local bookstore

Amazon UK

MY REVIEW

 

If you are looking to find an outstanding new crime / thriller series to sink your teeth into, then look no further!! This beast of a book (almost 500 pages) has kept me thoroughly transfixed from start to finish.

The main characters are Colomba and Dante and they are called in to help solve the murder of a mother who was found beheaded, whilst her son has disappeared. The immediate suspect is the husband but soon similarities to other unsolved cases begin to appear, bringing the case a little closer to home for Dante especially.

The author cleverly has introduced us to two strong main characters who are flawed due to their troubled pasts, and the ‘now’ story is cleverly interjected with links to the past and, often in gruesome detail, brings their previous terrors to life. These flaws make them such interesting people to read about and seems to make them work together as a team much better.

I found this story had a great pace and never seemed to pause for breath. It also never goes OTT with the details or complexities of criminal proceedures, which can often bog some crime stories down. In Columba it also introduces us to a really strong female character who isn’t afraid of bending the rules and tries not to let the past rule her present.

‘The Father’ is also a great character, in a fabulously evil way, as he always seems to be one step ahead of them and seems to justify his behaviour as more details are uncovered of his choice of victims.

The quest to track him down is an exhilarating rollercoaster ride and I cannot wait for more in this series!! A terrific debut!!
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan – book review

The Blurb

A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.

Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.

Bone china cup and saucer-Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.

Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.

Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?

Full of character, wit, and wisdom, The Keeper of Lost Things is a heartwarming tale that will enchant fans of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Hive.co.uk – buy online from your local bookstore

Amazon UK

My Review

This was an absolute delight of a read! Found it to be charming, emotional, insightful and fun! Not often that a story can mix all those qualities so well!

We follow the story of Anthony Peardew who finds himself collecting up items he finds on his travels – be that on a train, or by a park bench. These items are all catalogued and kept in his study which is off limits to his housekeeper Laura, who is intrigued but respects the privacy he demands.

We also see the story through the eyes of Laura who has her own tales of a troubled personal life, but all seems brighter when she started working for Anthony, but she knows he isn’t getting any younger and finds herself worried for the future. It is a really touching relationship between the two and upon his death she finds that she inherits his home, her sanctuary, and all that is inside – and that includes the Lost Things which he wants her to try and find their rightful owners.

Throughout the story we also hear the story of Eunice during the 1970’s and on, and you do wonder about the significance of this storyline but it is cleverly woven in and provides another insight and interesting storyline.

One of my major loves of this book as the character of Sunshine. She is a wonderful breath of fresh air with her innocence and outlook and she seems to have an extraordinary gift for picking up on the emotions behind the Lost Things.  And she understands the healing powers of a good cup of tea!

I really loved the flow of this story – it is full of poignant stories that has you thinking about the stories attached to random items as they must have meant something to somewhere sometime! As Laura, Sunshine and Freddy the gardener begin their quest to reunite items the significance of the task that Anthony set them becomes clearer and re-awakens some old ghosts.

Beautiful debut and will definitely be looking out for future Ruth Hogan books!