Friday, 17 November 2017

The Foster Child @JennyBlackhurst @headlinepeg



 
About The Foster Child

When child psychologist Imogen Reid takes on the case of 11-year-old Ellie Atkinson, she refuses to listen to warnings that the girl is dangerous.

Ellie was the only survivor of a fire that killed her family. Imogen is convinced she's just a sad and angry child struggling to cope with her loss.

But Ellie's foster parents and teachers are starting to fear her. When she gets upset, bad things seem to happen. And as Imogen gets closer to Ellie, she may be putting herself in danger...

 
My review of The Foster Child
 
 


The Foster Child is a gripping and disturbing read and I devoured it in a few short sittings. It's fast paced, packed with short and punchy chapters that took my breath away. I found myself completely immersed in this unsettling story about a young girl who nobody quite seems to understand. 

Imogen Reid is a child psychologist who together with her husband, finds herself back in the town where she grew up, and living in her deceased mother's house. From the very offset the scene is set for an unsettling and quite creepy read. The shocking prologue brilliantly draws you in and then the descriptions of the town and its inhabitants most certainly have a disturbing and unnatural vibe.

This book's blurb is very vague, and with good reason, so I won't go into plot specifics. It's just enough to say that Imogen in her role as child psychologist, finds herself working with Ellie, the eleven year old girl who was the only survived of a house fire that killed her family. 

Throughout the book we hear from both Imogen and Ellie, and this gave real insight into what had happened in the past. What I most particularly enjoyed was their conversations and interaction. Here is a little girl who has lost everything and who it appears, has been shunned by the local community. Why is this? What are they all afraid of ? Why can't they see the frightened and alone girl that Imogen sees?

This is such a clever read, as it is so difficult to know who to believe. Is Imogen 's version of an afraid and misunderstood little girl, correct? Or should everyone really be afraid of this little girl? While reading, my judgement kept shifting. I think that as a mother you cannot help but side with Ellie. I was on her side, but it was also hard to admit to myself that she made me feel uneasy. And as for the ending...well...just brilliant!

The Foster Child is a stunning read. It's all consuming, eerie, unsettling and it made me question the little girl before me on the page. It's a psychological thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat. It's an amazing book. 

With thanks to the publisher and Bookbridgr for an Advanced paperback copy.

The Foster Child was published by Headline on 16 November. It can be found on Amazon here.


 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin @HodderBooks



About The Wicked Cometh

'We have no need to protect ourselves from the bad sort
because we ARE the bad sort . . .'

'This newspaper has taken note that the past month has been remarkable for the prevalence of cases where men, women and children are declared missing. Scarcely a week passes without the occurrence of an incident of this type' - The Morning Herald, Tuesday 13 September 1831

Down the murky alleyways of London, acts of unspeakable wickedness are taking place and the city's vulnerable poor are disappearing from the streets. Out of these shadows comes Hester White, a bright young woman who is desperate to escape the slums by any means possible.

When Hester is thrust into the world of the aristocratic Brock family, she leaps at the chance to improve her station in life under the tutelage of the fiercely intelligent and mysterious Rebekah Brock.

But whispers from her past slowly begin to poison her new life and both she and Rebekah are lured into the most sinister of investigations, dragging them into the blackest heart of a city where something more depraved than either of them could ever imagine is lurking. . .



My review of The Wicked Cometh

The Wicked Cometh is a deliciously dark historical novel that is very much a refreshing and modern read. It's a story about survival, hope, friendship, and kindness in the most darkest of times. It's a lovely book. 

Set in the grime and the heart of London, The Wicked Cometh is set during Victorian times when only the strongest and most quick witted survive. The novel revolves around the disappearances of several children in central London. What and who is behind this mystery? The novel for me worked because it was so authentic. I felt like I was wandering around the inner city streets, amongst the most deprived in the city, and then, due to a life changing event, finding myself alongside Hester as she is transported into the warmth of the Brock family. 

This book is part historical novel, part mystery and ultimately it is a love story. There are many multilayered events to this novel that make it hard to define as simply one genre. It's just enough to say that it is a highly enjoyable read. 

So, we have Hester, born to privilege, an educated young woman who through the death of her parents finds herself thrust into poverty, as she relocates to London while living with her old gardener and his wife. It is only through a chance encounter with the gentleman Mr Brock, that Hester's life path is changed forever.

This novel is refreshing as it focuses upon two very strong and inspiring female characters. Rebekah and Hester. Both women are from different backgrounds, different lives, and although Rebekah's role is to give Hester an education as part of a social experiment, it is actually Hester who inspires and teaches Rebekah. The two women complement each other and I loved the dialogue and interaction between them. 

This Wicked Cometh is beautifully written, it's deliciously slow paced which I found pleasantly surprising in contest to today's fast paced thrillers. The slow pace suited the narrative as we slowly followed Rebekah and Hester in their quest to solve the mystery of the missing children. Nothing is ever easy though, and the book proves this with several unexpected but delightful twists. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this dark, historical and mystery novel with its captivating characters and exquisite writing. It's a remarkable debut novel. 

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader Copy

The Wicked Cometh is published by Hodder & Stoughton on 8 Feb. 2018. It can be found on Amazon here.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Dark Chapter @winniemli @Legend_Press #BlogTour




About Dark Chapter

Vivian is a cosmopolitan Taiwanese-American tourist who often escapes her busy life in London through adventure and travel. Johnny is a 15-year-old Irish teenager, living a neglected life on the margins of society.

On a bright spring afternoon in West Belfast, their paths collide during a horrifying act of violence.

In the aftermath, each is forced to confront the chain of events that led to the attack.

Inspired by true events, this is a story of the dark chapters and chance encounters that can irrevocably determine the shape of our lives.


My review of Dark Chapter

Dark Chapter by Winnie Li is about the brutal rape of a young Taiwanese-American woman who is a tourist in West Belfast. Her attack happens in broad daylight while enjoying a day's hike. Her rapist is Johnny, a 15-year old boy. The book is based upon the author's own experience of rape.

I'll start by saying that I tried several times to write a concise review of this novel, but that each time I found it difficult to find the correct words. I will say that this book is hugely important, it gives a voice to women who have been abused, repressed and attacked in such a brutal and animalistic way. More importantly, it gave a voice to this author, a way to share her story through the narrative of fiction. This is a story of survival, and I hope that it is ok to use that term, as I am acutely aware that words are important when talking about women who have been victims of this type of horrific crime. So for this review I am going to talk mainly about how this book made me feel, and why I think that it is an important book.

From the very beginning we know that this young woman is raped and who the rapist is, so this is not a who done it type of read. That's not the purpose of this book. I found this book to be an exploration into the mind of the rapist, but more importantly, how the attack impacted Vivian, both psychologically and mentally. That's what this book is all about. All too often we hear about rape, but we don't get to fully understand how women are affected in every aspect of their daily lives. This book tackles this head on, from the actual rape, through to, and then after, the court case. Which leads me onto the actual rape scene. It is graphic, and I found very difficult to read, but I knew that this was the intention. To fully understand what happens to Vivian, we need to read about how she was abused sexually, and so the depiction of rape is needed. I'll be honest and say that I read the scene quickly, wishing it to be over, and afterwards I needed to have a break of a few days as the writing really shook me up, it got under my skin. 

I really did feel as if I was walking alongside Vivian, just after the rape and in the weeks and months that followed it. What she describes is authentic, and I knew that this was because the author was writing from her own viewpoint. The scene in which she needs to be photographed is incredibly poignant, as is the scene in the hospital, with what appears to be uncaring or indifferent staff. My heart went out to this woman. A woman who had been abused in the most horrific way, but that life just carried on around her. The only reference point that I could grasp at was that of a close bereavement, but of course, she had been violated in such a degrading way, and even though I felt I understood her feelings, I couldn't fully feel how she was feeling, I only think that this is possible if you have also been raped.

This book is hugely important as it openly discusses rape from the victim's point of view. It gives women who have been raped a voice, a voice which many will not have. This book now seems even more relevant with the recent #MeToo campaign.

Dark Chapter is, as the name suggests, dark. But I also feel that Dark Chapter is about hope and new beginnings. It is one chapter in this woman's life. Winnie Li writes with such brutal honesty, courage and emotion, that she made me weep. I wept for this young woman who was raped, whose life changed so dramatically at the hands of a 15-year-old boy. I'm glad that Winnie found her voice, and that she allowed us into her Dark Chapter. Thank you for writing such an important and powerful book about the strength of women.  

With thanks to the publisher for the copy of Dark Chapter and for inviting me on  the Blog Tour.

Dark Chapter recently wo the Guardian's Not The Booker Prize.

Dark Chapter was published in paperback on 1st November and can be found on Amazon here





About the author




Winnie M. Li is a writer and producer, who has worked in the creative industries on three continents. A Harvard graduate, she has written for travel guide books, produced independent feature films, programmed for film festivals, and developed eco-tourism projects. After graduating with Distinction in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths (where she was shortlisted for the Pat Kavanagh Prize 2015), she now currently writes across a range of media (including a column for The Huffington Post), runs arts festivals, and is a PhD researcher in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. She was Highly Commended for the CWA Debut Dagger 2015 and also shortlisted for the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize. She lives in London yet is somewhat addicted to travel. Dark Chapter is her first novel.

Follow Winnie online at winniemli.com or on Twitter @winniemli

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Saturday, 11 November 2017

Class Murder @LeighRussell @noexitpress




About Class Murder


With so many potential victims to choose from, there would be many deaths. He was spoiled for choice, really, but he was determined to take his time and select his targets carefully. Only by controlling his feelings could he maintain his success. He smiled to himself. If he was clever, he would never have to stop. And he was clever. He was very clever. Far too clever to be caught.

Geraldine Steel is reunited with her former sergeant, Ian Peterson.

When two people are murdered, their only connection lies buried in the past. As police search for the elusive killer, another body is discovered. Pursuing her first investigation in York, Geraldine Steel struggles to solve the baffling case. How can she expose the killer, and rescue her shattered reputation, when all the witnesses are being murdered?




My review of Class Murder

Class Murder is the tenth instalment in the Geraldine Steel police series, but it's the first book that I have read by this author, and I loved it. I can also add that this book worked for me as a stand alone novel, although I now desperately want to go back and read the previous novels in the series.

This really is a gripping serial killer read that hooked me in from the very first chapter. Geraldine Steel is now living and working in York and has been demoted to a DS. She finds herself investigating the brutal murder of a young woman who was alone in her flat, and then the murder of a young man, both of whom went to the same school, and who were in the same class, many years previously. Geraldine finds herself, together with DI Ian Peterson, in a race against time to catch the killer, before they kill again.

This book is told from several viewpoints, including the killer, and I especially enjoyed reading these chapters that gave a snapshot into the mind of someone who kills. The depiction of the killer is cleverly done, with subtlety and clear insight into why they want to kill. Most importantly the killer is utterly believable.

I really enjoyed getting to know Geraldine and her back story. She is very much the new member of staff in this story and as well as having to get used to her new working environment, colleagues and York, she is also having to deal with her own personal changes, in terms of finding herself alone in a new city, miles away from her friends and family.

This is an absorbing and compelling serial killer read that explores the mind and motive of a killer, and how the police work to track down that killer. There are a few twists that I didn't see coming, but for me, this book worked because I liked Geraldine. I liked her work ethic, her vulnerability, and the fact that she is far from perfect. She was 'real' to me, and I can't wait to read more books in this series.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader Copy.

Class Murder is published by No Exit Press on December 7 and can be found on Amazon here.



Thursday, 9 November 2017

Yuki Means Happiness @A_J_Lester @johnmurrays




About Yuki Means Happiness


Diana is young and uneasy in a new relationship when she leaves America and moves halfway around the world to Tokyo seeking adventure. In Japan she takes a job as a nanny to two-year-old Yuki Yoshimura and sets about adapting to a routine of English practice, ballet and swimming lessons, and Japanese cooking.

But as Diana becomes increasingly attached to Yuki she also becomes aware that everything in the Yoshimura household isn't as it first seemed. Before long, she must ask herself if she is brave enough to put everything on the line for the child under her care, confronting her own demons at every step of the way.

Yuki Means Happiness is a rich and powerfully illuminating portrait of the intense relationship between a young woman and her small charge, as well as one woman's journey to discover her true self.


My review of Yuki Means Happiness
 
 

Yuki Means Happiness is such a beautiful book to read. This book explores Japanese culture, a differing culture, and is an interwoven mystery with two central love stories, that for a child, and for the young man Porter who is waiting patiently for Diana to come home to America. I adored this book for so many reasons and devoured it in a few days. 

The book revolves around Diana, an American nurse who many years before helped Emi, a Japanese woman, who had given birth to Yuki Yoshimura. Diana helped her attend to the baby in the month following the birth. It is then two years later that she meets the husband, Naoki, once again, and agrees to become a nanny to Yuki following the couple's separation, as it appears that Emi has left Yuki to start a new life. But to begin with Diana only hears Naoki's point of view.

So I instantly found myself thrust into Japanese life, as did Diana, and I absolutely loved the colourful descriptions, the Japanese language and characters that we stumbled upon. I have always wanted to go to Japan, and in particular Tokyo, (I love the film Lost in Translation) so I gobbled up all the Japanese culture, food and general way of life. 

The bones of this book is about the relationship between Yuki and Diana, and I particularly enjoyed the passages of the book that featured only the two of them, that helped to show me as a reader their special bond. Here is a young woman, a nurse, who takes on the role of mother and protector, and I admired her for this. 

We also have the evolving relationship between Diana and Porter (oh I loved Porter) and of how Diana gained perspective on her relationship with him because of the distance between them. This really is a story about how this young woman finds out who she is and where her life should be heading. It is also about her dealing with issues from her past that then help to shape her future. 

Yuki Means Happiness is a deceptively clever read, as nothing is as it first seems, and the cracks within the Yoshimura household soon begin to appear. The real joy is in the observing the blossoming relationship between Diana and Yuki, how Diana grows in strength and how she begins to find her place in the world. Part romance, part mystery (as to why Emi left her daughter) this really is a most beautiful and enjoyable novel that is deliciously slow paced. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

With thanks to the publisher and Bookbridgr for providing a hardback copy of the book for review purposes.

Yuki Means Happiness was published by John Murray in hardback on 27 July 2017. It can be found on Amazon here.




 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Birthday Girl @suefortin1 @HarperImpulse




About The Birthday Girl

Dear Carys, Zoe and Andrea

Come and join me for my fortieth birthday adventure weekend, full of mysteries and surprises
the like of which you can’t imagine.

When Joanne’s friends reluctantly accept an invitation to her birthday party, it quickly becomes clear that there is more to this weekend than they are expecting.

One of them is hiding a secret.

And Joanne is planning to reveal it…

A weekend away in a cottage in the woods sounds like fun – until no one can hear your cries for help.
Four friends.
A party to die for.
Who will survive?


My review of The Birthday Girl



The Birthday Girl is a fast paced thriller that resolves around Carys and her three friends. Joanne, Zoe, and Andrea. From the very beginning I was hooked and was very aware that these four women shared something much darker than merely friendship. This instantly piqued my interest as I wanted to know what bound these four women together. I was not disappointed.

The Birthday Girl has an ominous start and the tension gradually builds as the women leave the comfort of their own homes to go to an unknown destination, a cottage in some deep, dark woods.  It is soon evident that Joanne has organised the so called party to reveal secrets, and to gain revenge. The setting of the remote woods, away from civilisation, helps to create this feeling of foreboding and I read,  thinking to myself that nothing good was going to come from this weekend.

As the blurb suggests, many questions ae raised including who will survive? I wondered throughout what would happen to the women, and as I gradually learned more about their past and relationship with each other, the more insight I gained into each of these characters. All of them very different and with their onw unique take on what happened.The pivoting theme is that of trust. Who can Carys trust? Do we believe her version of events? What about her so called friends? It's a complex plot and nothing is as it really seems. I did have to suspend belief a few times, but I just went along with the very enjoyable plot.

The Birthday Girl is an enjoyable read. It explores female friendship in a refreshing new way. What was interesting was that although I didn't really bond with any of these women, nor really like them, they did interest me from a psychological point of view. All four are very different, and it was interesting to read how they interacted with each other.

The Birthday Girl is an enjoyable psychological thriller that had me constantly shifting my loyalties throughout the book. It's a clever read that explores the intimacies of female friendships and the extremes that we go to seek out the truth. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy.

The Birthday Girl is published by HarperImpulse on 30 November and can be found on Amazon here.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard




About A Lifetime Burning


A complex family drama spanning the 20th century from the author of Kindle bestseller, HOUSE OF SILENCE.

“There has been much love in this family – some would say too much – and not a little hate."

Looking back over a turbulent lifetime, Flora Dunbar recalls an eccentric childhood lived in the shadow of her twin, Rory, a musical prodigy; then early marriage to Hugh, a handsome clergyman twice her age. Motherhood brought her Theo, the son she couldn't love, but in middle age she finally found brief happiness in a scandalous affair with her nephew, Colin.

Now Flora Dunbar is dead. But it isn’t over.

The spectre at the funeral is Flora herself, unobserved by her grieving family and the four men who loved her...

My review of A Lifetime Burning
 
 

A Lifetime Burning is an unsettling, haunting and emotional read about the different types of love within a close knit family. I will just say that due to the sensitive themes within the book, that it will not be for everyone, and to be honest, if I hadn't already read other books by Linda Gillard, I would have thought twice about reading this book. What we read is simply a woman's story about the men who played such powerful roles within her life, and who shaped the woman that she was to become. It is a beautiful story handled with great sensitivity.

We meet Flora Dunbar at the beginning of the book, as a spectre at her own funeral, and this instantly grabbed my attention. As a character, she truly captivated me, and I wanted to know what had happened to her in life, and the reason for her death. Her life was shaped by four men, her twin brother, her husband, her son, and the young nephew whom she had a brief affair with. Throughout the book, that stems from her early childhood that was somewhat eccentric and unorthodox, right through to the moment of her death, we learn why Flora is who she is. 

Every single character is important within this novel. All impacted greatly upon Flora's life, all are flawed, and all unique. We have Rory, the twin brother, a talented musician who learned to play before he could talk. Flora is forever in his shadow. Here is a man whom I couldn't get to like, no matter how hard I tried, but who stayed with me long after I had finished reading the book. Then we have Flora's marriage to Hugh, a clergyman who is much older than her. She was very young when she married him, a widower, and from the very offset it is clear that the marriage is doomed. The exploration of Flora's relationship with her brother is what shapes every other single relationship that she has. I don't think I have ever read another book that explores the twin relationship in so much detail and intensity as this book. It is quite extraordinary to read. At its heart though is a tangled love story. Of a woman who was loved and who had much love to give. 

But this is also a book that explores the relationship between women, of mother and daughter, and in particular that of Flora and Grace, her sister-in -aw. This relationship was fascinating to read. Both women are bound together because of Rory, a forced bond that is exquisitely explored. 

Flora though is the starring role. I felt great empathy towards this woman whose life was pretty much mapped out from birth. The descriptions of her life as a young mother to Theo were incredibly difficult for me to read. Here was a woman who clearly struggled with motherhood, who struggled to bond with her child, and my heart went out to her. 

A Lifetime Burning is one of those books that tackles the darker realities of life with compassion, understanding and great sensitivity. What should be a somewhat difficult read is made to be a consuming and thought provoking one because of the great skill of this writer. It's an emotional read that fully engaged me. Flora and Rory will stay with me for a long time. 

With thanks to the author who provided a paperback copy for review purposes. 

A Lifetime Burning can be found on Amazon here.