#20BooksOfSummer2022 Books 3, 4 & 5! #BookReviews #MiniBookReviews

Had a little burst of 20 Books reading over the past couple of weekends so thought I’d do a quick review catch up in one post!

ANY HUMAN HEART by WILLIAM BOYD

This is book 3 of my 20 books of summer 2022.

A rather epic and captivating ‘diary’ of a man throughout the 20th century. The name dropping, the social events, moments in history all captured in this story of Logan Mountstuart and the way it is written makes it so easy to pick up and get addicted to! It feels like you’re reading the diary of a real person and you watch as the story takes you from his childhood to adulthood and this is a man who has a story to tell!!

his travels take him all over the world, in to the orbit of the great and the good, all while dealing with the failings of being a human with weaknesses. And I think that’s what makes this such an epic read – there are many good times but there are also those darker moments where life isn’t treating him so well and it makes for some heartbreaking reading at times! Absolutely brilliant!

★★★★★

FACES ON THE TIP OF MY TONGUE by EMMANUELLE PAGANO

This is book 4 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022.

This was a nice little short story collection, linked by the characters being those on the edge of society. The forgotten, the quiet but their experiences of life made for some fascinating reading as it describes the little snapshots of humanity that make such a big impact on peoples’ lives.

From a tree in the neighbourhood impacting on a family, to lots of mentions of ‘blind spots’ which fit quite nicely with the ‘invisible’ feeling of some of the characters and how they felt. The stories are often short and snappy but with just enough detail to grab you quickly and pull you in to the essence of the character and situation.

My absolute favourite was the last story ‘Glitter’, which was all about a love of books and reading – a story I could really resonate with and would happily have read a whole book about that character on its’ own!!

★★★

ISABEL’S SKIN by PETER BENSON

This is book 5 of my 20 books of summer 2022.

Hello dark and twisted tale!! A gothic treat for you if you pick this one up and I’m so glad I have had the pleasure of picking this one up!

It all starts very quietly with the story of David, a solitary man who lives a very quiet life working as a book valuer, sticking to routines and shunning social situations But his quiet life in London is about to change with a trip to Somerset to value the collection of the late Lord Orpington. There he encounters a housekeeper, and the locals warn him of strange goings on in that house. He also meets the very strange Prof Hunt and the darkness level begins to ramp up!!

In the midst of his Somerset experiences, we get flashbacks to David’s youth, losing his mother at a young age, and the friend he made at University which explains a lot about the way he is now

Isabel is the young woman who becomes his focus and causes a big change in his outlook as he begins to take care of her, and dealing with the consequences of helping her escape her ‘prison’. This is one of those weird and wonderful stories that I lap up and the darkness was just perfect!! Not over the top, but dark enough to give you the chills!!

★★★★

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#BookReview THE GIFT by RA WILLIAMS @wearewhitefox @BlackCrow_PR


ABOUT THE BOOK


A lush historical adventure that’s equal parts Gothic horror as it is tale of lost love, this first book in THE GIFT trilogy follows an optimistic yet cautious American ethnologist on her journey from St Dunstan’s Prep in Michigan, to the warm tropical shallows off the coast of Honduras, and the tors of Germany’s Externsteine, uncovering clues to the identity of the man who saved her from the Crimen one fateful night. All clues lead to Folkestone, England where she is reunited with the man she has sought for nearly three decades. But, is their reunion the end, or merely the end of the beginning?

The North Atlantic, 14 April 1912.

Amid the chaos of the sinking Titanic, a young Eleanor Annenberg meets the eyes of a stranger and is immediately captivated. As the ship buckles around them, she follows him down into the hold and finds him leaning over an open sarcophagus, surrounded by mutilated bodies. She catches but a glimpse of what lies within before she’s sucked into a maelstrom of freezing brine and half-devoured corpses.

Elle is pulled out of the water, but the stranger – and the secrets she stumbled upon – are lost. Unintentionally, however, he leaves her a gift; one so compelling that Elle embarks on a journey that pulls her into a world of ancient evils, vicious hunters and human prey to find the man who saved her that fateful night.

From trench warfare at Cape Helles in 1915 to a shipwreck in the tropical shallows off the Honduran coast, from a lost mine beneath the towering Externsteine in a Germany on the verge of war to the gothic crypts of Highgate Cemetery in London, Elle gets closer to a truth she has sought for most of her life. But at what cost? Gifts, after all, are seldom free.


PUBLISHED BY WHITEFOX PUBLISHING


PURCHASE LINK


AMAZON

MY REVIEW


I love reading books that are a little bit different, and that’s definitely what you get with this one! It’s part historical, part gothic horror and full on adventure!! Ooh and it has maps!! Always a big plus with a big sprawling kind of story!

The story starts aboard the Titanic, where Eleanor is captivated by a stranger. What she finds beneath the decks when she follows him down there is the stuff of horror – and the fun and games begin with the author taking the reader on an epic journey across the globe, over many years and you’re always guessing as to what role Eleanor has to play and what she saw that night has in store for her as she moves forward with her life.

She is one of those characters that definitely grows on you as you get to know more about her. She isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers and there’s always that sense that some want her stopped as she may be interfering in things! And this is what sets up the story nicely for the rest of the trilogy to come and I look forward to seeing what adventures the author takes us on next in this raw, mysterious and dark journey!


★★★★

#BookReview SIXTEEN HORSES by GREG BUCHANAN #Audiobook



ABOUT THE BOOK


Sixteen horses dead. Each buried with a single eye facing the sun . . .

In the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, the heads of sixteen horses are found buried in circles, with only their eyes exposed to the light of the low winter sun. The local police call upon forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen to assist with this uniquely disturbing case.

In the weeks that follow, investigators uncover evidence of a chain of crimes in this community: disappearances, arson, and mutilations, all culminating in the reveal of something deadly lurking in the ground itself. And as the town panics, not everything in Ilmarsh is as it seems. . . Dark days follow, then Cooper finds herself working with local police detective Alec Nichols to uncover a frightening mystery.

A literary thriller from a stunning new talent, Sixteen Horses is about enduring guilt, trauma and punishment, set in a small seaside community the rest of the world has left behind.


PUBLISHED BY MANTLE


PURCHASE LINK


Amazon

MY REVIEW

I listened to the audio version of this book.

This is one of those books that is going to be very difficult to review! It’s a story that has a little bit of everything, and a lot of darkness ! And for a debut, it’s pretty astonishing! I did find myself more invested in the first half of the book which I lapped up at speed, but then either the story lost its’ way or my brain just couldn’t cope anymore with the changing timelines and narratives, and it disappointingly, for me, just fell away and I lost track. Maybe it’s one of those I need to go back to and read again for it all to fall in to place properly!

At the heart of the story is the mysterious discovery of 16 horse heads buried and Cooper and Alec are brought in to investigate the significance, if any, and they stumble across some very dark goings on in the past that are still haunting the locals and leads to more questions than answers. These characters are intriguing in themselves as they appear very insular and guarded so watching them slowly reveal little parts of their past is fascinating. And the whole bleakness of the community also adds to the atmosphere and it just feels like everyone has been walking around in a nightmare for many years.

This is a uniquely original kind of story and, despite the bleakness, it absorbs you as a reader as you try and unravel the mysteries and significance of the crimes as they unfold.


★★★★

#BookReview THE KEY IN THE LOCK by BETH UNDERDOWN



ABOUT THE BOOK


I still dream, every night, of Polneath on fire. Smoke unfurling out of an upper window and a hectic orange light cascading across the terrace.

By day, Ivy Boscawen mourns the loss of her son Tim in the Great War. But by night she mourns another boy – one whose death decades ago haunts her still.

For Ivy is sure that there is more to what happened all those years ago: the fire at the Great House, and the terrible events that came after. A truth she must uncover, if she is ever to be free.

Brimming with secrets, this lyrical haunting historical thriller is perfect for fans of Elizabeth Macneal, Sarah Waters and Diane Setterfield


PUBLISHED BY VIKING

PUBLICATION DATE – 13TH JANUARY 2022

PRE-ORDER LINK
Amazon

MY REVIEW


If you are looking for an atmospheric gothic mystery, then look no further! I found this to be one of those stories that keeps you guessing, and gets you emotionally involved with the characters as secrets begin to reveal a shocking past!

Told over 2 time periods – 1918 and 1888 – we are following the story of Ivy who is struggling to come to terms with the loss of her son Tim 10 months earlier. She’s going through the motions and trying to make sense of it all and hearing stories back from the war makes her want to know more of what exactly led to his death.

But it also triggers memories of 30 years ago when another boy died in traumatic circumstances, and she’s been left haunted by his death ever since. The story flits between the 2 timelines seamlessly and both are full of mystery, deception and tragedy.

As both storylines play out, the mysteries hanging over the deaths start to reveal themselves and I loved the way it’s all revealed and the emotions of the main characters are explored. There’s mysteries for Ivy to uncover, all while trying to balance her emotions and find comfort or distraction in her quest to uncover the truth. A really absorbing story.


★★★★★

#BookReview Bone China by Laura Purcell @BloomsburyRaven #BoneChina

ABOUT THE BOOK

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last. 

PUBLISHED by RAVEN BOOKS

Publication Date  – 19th September 2019

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Amazon UK  £10.53

hive.co.uk  £9.39

whsmith  £8.99

Goldsboro Books – signed first edition £12.99

MY REVIEW

Gloriously gothic and deliciously dark – it’s fair to say that I loved reading this and I will never look at a piece of willow patterned china the same way ever again!!

Bone China is a story set over 2 timelines and it’s a fascinating mix of history, folklore, obsession, madness and superstition.  There are many threads throughout that I found so absorbing and I loved how the story went backwards and forwards to give you different glimpses of the characters and to watch it all come together at the end was extremely satisfying!

We start with Hester Why as she travels to Cornwall to take up a position looking after Louise Pinecroft who is confined to her home and rarely speaks.  Hester is obviously trying to escape her past for whatever reason, but she soon finds that her present may be just as dangerous as what she left behind.

If she’s looking for isolation then the home of Louise Pinecroft might be just the place for her!  There’s chatter amongst the staff at Morvoren House and she has warning of who to avoid and also the folklore that outsiders may dismiss as nonsense but those living there are more wary.  With the almost mute Louise spending the majority of her time staring at the bone china colllection in her room, Hester finds the past playing more and more on her mind and her reliance of self medicating becomes the only way to get through each day.

The story then looks back on Louise in the past, living at the house with her father who was a Doctor, and he sets out on a revolutionary way of treating patients with consumption.  It’s a fascinating look at life of a different time, and using prisoners at his ‘guineapigs’ was the only way he could get permission to try his methods out.   Having lost his family to the disease he was driven to the point of obsession to try and eradicate it.

And with Hester we get to see her life before her move, and her devotion to her mistress Lady Rose, new wife of Sir Arthur Windrop, whose mother ruled the roost and Lady Rose found herself becoming more reliant on Hester as nothing she ever did was good enough for his mother.  Hester was smitten and found herself giving more advice to Lady Rose that others didn’t appreciate so much and wanted to find a way to ease her out of the picture – and Hester took to alcohol there too to numb the pain and sadness she felt when things didn’t go her way.

As Hester settles into life looking after Louise, a number of other stories open up not least the strange things that are happening around the room of Louise and the influence that certain staff have on the daily goings on at the house.  It all felt very unsettling and it was brilliantly played out with every new twist and turn.

It seemed to me that the author had so much fun with these characters and settings!  Her imagination ran wild with the folklore elements and it was equally exciting and terrifying as to where the story was going to go!  

This is a  book that chilled and thrilled me and I loved every single minute!  Fabulous!!

★★★★★

#BookReview Things In Jars by Jess Kidd

About the book

London, 1863. Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age, is taking on her toughest case yet. Reeling from her last job and with her reputation in tatters, a remarkable puzzle has come her way. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped. But Christabel is no ordinary child. She is not supposed to exist.

As Bridie fights to recover the stolen child she enters a world of fanatical anatomists, crooked surgeons and mercenary showmen. Anomalies are in fashion, curiosities are the thing, and fortunes are won and lost in the name of entertainment. The public love a spectacle and Christabel may well prove the most remarkable spectacle London has ever seen.

Things in Jars is an enchanting Victorian detective novel that explores what it is to be human in inhumane times.

Published by Canongate Books

Publication Date – 4th April 2019

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Goldsboro Books  – signed first edition £14.99

hive.co.uk  £10.99

waterstones  £14.99

MY REVIEW

Move over Sherlock, Bridie Devine is the new super sleuth in town and I adore her! Jess Kidd has created another dark and wonderful tale set in Victorian times that explores the disturbing disappearance of a young girl, who has been kept hidden away because she’s ‘different’ – she feeds on snails, has an unusual appearance and is also said to possess powers.  The family she is stolen from are never too forthcoming with details about her, so it’s left to Bridie to uncover the dark story behind young Christabel, and that leads Bridie to look back on her own childhood too.

She isn’t alone on her quest as she is joined by the rather wonderful   Ruby, a ghost-boxer who appears in Bridie’s life at a seemingly random time! Is there more to his story than meets the eye?! He adds many lighter moments throughout with his comments and observations but also shows sensitivities which are very touching.

As she confronts many repulsive characters on the search for Christabel, the look back on her own earlier life is also a fascinating glimpse into why she feels so connected to this poor girl and why she is determined to try and save her.  

And while there is much love for Bridie and her quest, the evilness of many characters throughout is another success of this book! The levels of depravity that some of them sink to is eye-wateringly shocking and I just found myself wishing for karma to deal with them as soon as possible – in a very unpleasant way!!

I was utterly riveted by this story! And switching the story from the now timeline to Bridie’s past added more as she also had a very unconventional upbringing which explained her outlook on life – and death – now!  The more she uncovers about various characters, the more you left to be staggered by the goings on and I found that I had my heart in my mouth with the dramatic ending.

  I would love to say more about this book but am sure I would include a spoiler or three, so I’m just going to have to say if you love your stories dark, dramatic, mysterious, macabre, weird, wonderful, tense and thrilling then look no further!!

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#BookReview The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

About the book

A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?

A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Wilkie Collins and MR James meet Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers… 

Published by Quercus

Purchase Links

hive.co.uk

book depository

waterstones

MY REVIEW

I found this to be a very clever, dark and compelling mystery and, being my first read from this author, I’m now eager to go back and read more from Elly Griffiths as I found her way of storytelling really enjoyable!

As a diary writer myself, the fact that Clare finds extra messages written in her diary after the murder of her close friend, Ella, made for creepy reading and set the tone as the hunt for this killer picked up the pace and could be one of many! I liked the way the different points of view – Clare, the detective Harbinder Kaur, and Clares’ daughter Georgia – really helped the story develop with the different personalities and backgrounds.

With Clare teaching English and featuring the ghost stories of R.M Holland, whom she is also researching, that also added an extra creepy element to the story. Tales of the building being haunted had been told for many years, and you really felt the edginess when Clare or others were alone in the building and wondering what they might hear or see next.

When the body count increases that is when the tension and pace picks up quite considerably and once the pieces start falling into place it isn’t too long before the killer is identified – if only I’d picked up on the clues earlier!

The perfect autumn/winter read to keep you thrilled and chilled!

My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the e-copy in return for a fair and honest review.

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#BookReview Domini Mortum by Paul Holbrook

About the book

Paddington, London 1883

Samuel Weaver is a tabloid illustrator and reporter for The Illustrated Police News, whose sensationalist style makes him both popular with the public and hated by the authorities. Obsessed with an infamous murderer, Sibelius Darke, he will let nothing get in the way of finding the truth behind the stories.

Meanwhile another set of ghastly murders has begun, linked to Darke’s reign of terror six years earlier.

Perhaps Darke was not the terrifying killer that he was made out to be? Perhaps the real murderers are still at large in London society? And perhaps, in order to prove this, Samuel Weaver will pay the ultimate price for his obsession

Published by Unbound

Purchase Links

hive.co.uk

waterstones

unbound – ebook edition

MY REVIEW

I read this via The Pigeonhole app which made the reading experience even more interesting as you got to share your immediate thoughts daily with other readers and the author himself – and he seemed to enjoy the range of responses – mostly shock and horror! -that Domini Mortum brought out in us all!

I haven’t read Memento Mori – but will be rectifying that as soon as I can! – but I found the darkness of this story so instantly entrancing! There were many times I found myself not knowing where the story was going to lead to, a cast of characters who one minute you’re on their side, the next they betray you, and full of darkness in a grizzly murderous kind of way!

Sam Weaver is at the centre of the story. His talent is for drawing and he uses it to portray crime scenes for the local press. And the scenes he gets to witness never seem to turn his stomach, although they turned mine as a reader when described in this book! He becomes obsessed by these crimes that all seem to be linked, but is constantly met with people at the top trying to hush things up.

He meets some very interesting characters along the way – some help, many hinder his investigations – and you also get to find out more about Sam and his past proving that darkness can be found everywhere!!

I loved the ride that this book too me on and the shocking ending has left things nicely poised for more!

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#BookReview The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements #ripxiii

About the book

The Coffin Path is an eerie and compelling seventeenth-century ghost story set on the dark wilds of the Yorkshire moors. For fans of Michelle Paver and Sarah Waters, this gothic tale will weave its way into your imagination and chill you to the bone.

Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil.

Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.

When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.

Published by Headline Review

Purchase Links

Hive.co.uk

Waterstones

Book Depository

MY REVIEW

Creepy, chilling and compelling! That’s how I’d sum up this dark tale from Katherine Clements!

You can’t get a better setting than an old house set on the moors and that is where you’ll find Scarcross Hall, which is home to Mercy and her father. The moors are all she’s ever known and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her family there despite the hostile surroundings, and when lambs from their flock start being found horrifically slaughtered the rumours begin again that dark times are set to follow, as they had done many years earlier to a previous family.

Things begin to go missing from her home, there are strange noises, ghostly figures watching over her – is she losing her mind or are these things really happening? With the arrival of a stranger, Ellis, he joins the family to help work on the land and this doesn’t go down too well with those already working there. He is an enigmatic character but proves his worth when times turn darker.

There are so many interesting characters to follow in this story – Mercy is a strong female who thinks she can face everything alone and doesn’t like to be proved wrong, but shows her softer side when dealing with young Sam who has his own tragic past. Her father is not a well man and has many secrets, his housekeeper Agnes doing her best to keep the household together, and the mysterious Ellis. I loved how the story flowed – the horrific slaughter of the lambs happened so randomly but the rumours of the dark past of the moors quickly filled the villagers with fear and Mercy is left to try and figure out why this is happening – is it something she’s done? Is the land cursed?

I really enjoyed this despite the unsettling feeling you got to share along with Mercy and the others. It’s full of folklore and amidst the bleak setting of the moors it really sets the story up as one where you can’t turn the pages quick enough to find out what will happen next!! A perfect halloween read!!

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#BookReview Melmoth by Sarah Perry #fivestarreads

about the book

For centuries, the mysterious dark-robed figure has roamed the globe, searching for those whose complicity and cowardice have fed into the rapids of history’s darkest waters—and now, in Sarah Perry’s breathtaking follow-up to The Essex Serpent, it is heading in our direction.

It has been years since Helen Franklin left England. In Prague, working as a translator, she has found a home of sorts—or, at least, refuge. That changes when her friend Karel discovers a mysterious letter in the library, a strange confession and a curious warning that speaks of Melmoth the Witness, a dark legend found in obscure fairy tales and antique village lore. As such superstition has it, Melmoth travels through the ages, dooming those she persuades to join her to a damnation of timeless, itinerant solitude. To Helen it all seems the stuff of unenlightened fantasy.

But, unaware, as she wanders the cobblestone streets Helen is being watched. And then Karel disappears. . . .

Published by Serpents Tail

Purchase links

hive.co.uk  £12.29

waterstones – signed edition  £14.99

book depository  £11.04

MY REVIEW

Wow!! Since loving The Essex Serpent, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of Melmoth, so the moment I got my hands on a copy I just had to start reading it and it has exceeded my expectations!! In some ways I found it more captivating at times than TES, as it’s a much less complex tale and just allows the reader to focus on the legend of Melmoth through a series of documents, and from those who are going through their own dark times.

Do you ever have that feeling that you’re being watched? Well if you don’t, you will do after reading this book! I will never look at an empty chair left in a random place the same again, and if I smell the scent of lilies out of nowhere ….. eeekk!!

Set in Prague, we follow the story of Helen Franklin. Something is haunting her and she seems to live each day to punish herself for whatever happened in the past. She lives a very basic life, often denying herself food,avoiding social contact, has very few possessions and doesn’t even like to hear music. No matter what is around her, she seems to find the world a very ugly place. Her childhood was quite regimented, parents didn’t like to draw attention to themselves and she always had that feeling that she was being watched, even though there was never anyone there.

Her time in Prague had led her to become friends with Karel who she met in a cafe, and when he insists she reads some documents he found she just can’t understand his complete obsession with the character of ‘Melmoth’ that he has read so much about. It almost drives him to insanity – the more she starts to read, the more she begins to understand the pull of this dark creature that has been around for so many centuries.

Melmoth is said to hide alone in the shadows, ready to search out those who are most distressed and wicked, and through the documents found we get to see a number of stories of people and their connection with Melmoth. The dark times that drove Melmoth to seek them out and the legend that followed her around through stories told to children.

This book is told in 3 parts and each part has the perfect level of story building. Your interest is engaged throughout as new facts are drip fed to you of the past, alongside Helen and her struggles to free herself from the past that just won’t let her go. When she goes to dinner with her neighbour and 2 friends, their confessions of sins is a staggering read and beautifully told. It explores the overwhelming wickedness of humanity in an astonishing way. The story of Josef was definitely the most revealing and horrifyingly captivating – why do people do the things they do? What’s the right thing to do as a human when you’re faced with stark choices and a conflicted mind?

I was completely mesmerized by the whole story and it is definitely one of my favourite books of 2018. Go read it!!!

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