Posted in Netgalley

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

I was absolutely gripped by this incredible thriller! Emma is nearing her fortieth birthday and she can’t sleep. Her insomnia is triggering anxiety about her Mum and the reappearance of her sister Phoebe isn’t helping. Both girls were taken into foster care on the night of their Mum’s fortieth birthday, when she’d had a breakdown – could the same thing be happening to Emma? Her Mum always said she had inherited the bad blood in the family. As the days pass and irritability, paranoia, fear and the hallucinations start to kick in Emma starts to wonder. Is she going mad or is someone out to ruin her life? Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you.

This was a great read and I’ll be shouting about it until publication day. The way Emma disintegrates over the course of a few days is shocking, but believable as every relationship in her life is touched by this ‘madness’, until there’s really nothing left. Emma has always prided herself on being a competent solicitor, very organised and together. I was desperate to find out what happened in their childhood and why her sister Phoebe has popped up in her life right now. I felt there was an element of Emma not processing her childhood trauma. She’s locked it away in the back of her mind, but Phoebe’s appearance, and advice that she should visit their mother, seems like the trigger that unlocks these memories. It’s very common for people to set great store by the ages of their parents when trauma occurs – such as thinking you’ll have a heart attack before your 60th birthday because your Dad did. The worry and stress this causes can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What the author does, very cleverly, is muddy the waters; just when I was starting to think she was having a breakdown, other things start happening. Her young son keeps creating a strange macabre drawing of a terrible memory that haunts Emma. How could he know? Who has told him this happened? It can’t be anyone in the home, because they don’t know. Her dictated letters have turned into a mumbled series of numbers when her secretary plays back the dictaphone. Added to these strange and inexplicable events the author also throws in a number of stressors that would make anyone struggle with their mental health. At work she is trying to avoid the advances of a very unpleasant client, not only that but his ex-wife confronts Emma over losing custody of their boys. Emma’s tyres are slashed among other nuisance acts that start to pile up over the week, particularly affecting Emma’s job. It becomes hard for the reader to see which events can be explained away, which events are incredibly strange and what are normal daily obstacles made worse by Emma’s severe sleep deprivation. I was never fully sure what to attribute to who, what is real and what is imagined, and who is to blame?

This novel kept me on my toes right up till the end. I felt stressed and paranoid alongside Emma, and could really feel her sense of panic and powerlessness as her carefully constructed life unravels. There are some jump scares here and there that really did give me a jolt! The way the author drew me in was brilliant and I was firmly on Emma’s side, while constantly worrying that she might be an unreliable narrator after all. The ending was unexpected with final scenes that had me on the edge of my seat, glued to the action until the early hours. This really will be an addictive and thrilling film or TV series. Insomnia is a psychologically complex novel, intelligent and exciting till the last page. Pre-order your copy, because this is a cracking read.

Published byHarper Collins 31stMarch 2022.

Meet The Author.

Sarah Pinborough is a New York Times bestselling and Sunday Times Number one and Internationally bestselling author who is published in over 30 territories worldwide. Having published more than 25 novels across various genres, her recent books include Behind Her Eyes, now a smash hit Netflix limited series, Dead To Her, now in development with Amazon Studios, and 13 Minutes and The Death House in development with Compelling Pictures.

Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story and also the 2010 and 2014 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novella, and she has four times been short-listed for Best Novel and was shortlisted for the British Book Award for best Thriller.

Sarah lives in the historic town of Stony Stratford, the home of the Cock and Bull story, with her dog Ted.

You can follow her on Twitter @sarahpinborough

Posted in Publisher Proof

Flamingo by Rachel Elliot.

We bloggers like lists. Every year we list our favourites, then we list the books we most anticipate for the following year and to an extent that can dictate what we read. When we leave ourselves some gaps in the TBR to have a breathing space, browse and pick up what we fancy we can find unexpected gems. That’s what happened with Flamingo, the latest novel from Rachel Elliot and it really is a gem. I don’t know if I can find the right words to express how much I loved this book and why. I knew, just a few pages in, that it was going to be a joy to read. In split time frames, narrated mainly by Eve and Daniel we hear the story of two families who once lived next door to each other. Eve, and her six year old son Daniel, move in next door to Leslie and Sherry who have two daughters Rae and Pauline, and some ornamental flamingoes on their front lawn. Eve isn’t used to making friends because she and Daniel move around a lot, but for some reason Eve feels compelled to make an effort. She goes to a specialist off-licence to find just the right bottle of sherry as a witty present to take to her new neighbour. Sherry is delighted and immediately welcomes the wandering pair into her home. That summer is the happiest Eve and Daniel have ever had, as they are enveloped by this wild, eccentric and loud family – Eve uses the word rambunctious to describe them. Then Eve and Daniel leave and all the colours seem to bleach out of the world. We then meet Daniel as an adult, wandering and broken. Deeply affected by some kind words and affection from a woman in a public library, he decides to return to where he was happiest. He stands at Sherry’s door and it feels like coming home, but where is Eve and what is the real story underneath the fragments Daniel knows.

It’s disconcerting to read a character’s narration, and feel as though the author has opened up your head and borrowed your thoughts. That’s how I felt when reading Eve’s sections of the novel. I have a jumble of thoughts and ideas all at once, and I’ve learned that I need periods of quiet to counteract the amount of stimulation I have. If I go to London for the day and see a show, its exhausting and it can take a couple of days to quiet the jumble of sights, sounds, and inspiration. In fact it was using journal writing to process these thoughts that inspired me to use writing therapy in my practice as a counsellor. For years I thought everyone had my ‘busy brain’. When Eve visits the off—licence and meets the owner, Franklin, they have a shot of rum togther and she’s intoxicated by his shop, the coloured glass, the smells, the guitar playing and the wall of paintings in a back room. Eve notices all these things in seconds and Franklin asks if she likes the place.

“She tells him she likes it. It’s sort of hypnotic, like being in a chemists and a bar and a gallery all at once, and also sort of like being in church somehow, not that she ever goes to church, not that she’s religious, not that she ever goes to church, but a tiny old church in France maybe, not that she’s ever been to France”.

I loved the way the author expresses the speed of Eve’s thoughts and speech, where they come out too quickly for punctuation and you know she would have to take a deep breath at the end. I recognised it straight away, because it was me when I get enthusiastic and excited about something. In fact I sounded similar when telling my partner how much I loved the book. I know when I’m doing it, because it usually makes people smile. We learn so much about who Eve is from that one quote. I loved her enthusiasm, her eye for colour and her ability to make things. Sherry marvels when she mends Rae’s cords, by sewing a patch of Wonder Woman underneath the tear. Rae’s reaction is pure joy and Sherry is astounded that Eve has thought of such a thing, but to Eve it’s normal. She simply knew the cords needed mending and she had remembered that Rae loved Wonder Woman. It’s these little bursts of creativity and thoughtfulness that make her so endearing as a character. It probably stood out to me because I have just embroidered denim jackets for my stepdaughter’s birthdays – one of Frida Kahlo and one of Alice in Wonderland. What’s so special to Rae is that Eve has seen her, listened, and created something she would love.

These parts of the novel, where the characters connect, are its strength and it was no surprise to find out the author is also a psychotherapist. Rae is an introvert and Eve has seen and understood. She knows from Rae’s shining face that she loves the cords but understands the that Rae doesn’t want to be effusive about it, because it just isn’t her.

‘It’s her way to play things down; she is naturally reserved, understated or so it seems. Her mother, who expresses every emotion with intense theatricality, who takes up all the space, calls her eldest daughter the quiet one, as if this quietness is a kind of fragility – not a powerful act of disobedience and unruliness’.

Sometimes, in a house of very loud voices, whispering is the only way to be heard. Rae’s head is crammed with thoughts and it takes an awful lot of effort to keep them in sometimes and Eve has seen a kindred spirit in her.

Daniel is also a fascinating and the dynamic between him and his mum, suggests there’s more to their back story than meets the eye. He has an anxiety around people that concerns Eve and she is protective. Before they go to Sherry’s house for the first time, she prepares him for the social interaction. She wants to prepare him, but she also wants to be careful and avoid her own anxiety rubbing off on him. She explains that this is a thing people do, take a gift to their new neighbours and introduce themselves properly. At Sherry’s door she stands back with a reassuring hand on Daniel’s shoulder and talks about the ornamental flamingoes on the lawn. She tells him their collective noun is a flamboyance of flamingoes, a little game they play together. Eve is so surprised when Sherry opens the door and her boy walks straight in – ‘shy little Daniel stepping towards a stranger.’ Eve doesn’t seem to realise that Daniel is struggling with the impermanence of their lives; they have moved every year since Daniel was born. This was another thing I could identify with since we moved six times before I was in secondary school. I know how difficult it was to walk into a new classroom and see thirty pairs of eyes looking at you. Eve has a map on the kitchen wall and from time to time would simply close her eyes and pop a pin in it to choose their next destination. When she gives Daniel the chance to choose, it’s too much and his imagination runs haywire: what if there are monsters where he chooses? What if its horrible? What happens to their home? Will strangers take their things?

‘Trouble was she hadn’t left it up to chance. She had left it up to a six year old boy, who already hated that map on the wall. In some homes a map would evoke an atmosphere of learning, open-mindedness; lets be aware of the world, there are more places than home. But for Daniel it triggered fear and a sense of transience; always on the go, never know when’.

There are so many touching moments in the book I can’t possibly list them all, but the budding relationship between the boy Daniel and Sherry’s husband Leslie is just so moving. The confidence he gets from time spent with Leslie (who is not a girl) playing cards and learning to swim is obvious. When Leslie leaves the broken fence down so Daniel can appear from his garden and scare them at the window it feels different from other places they’ve been. Daniel blooms with this unconventional extended family and describes it to his Aunty as like having two homes. I was dreading the map coming out again. We meet adult Daniel at a crossroads in life physically and emotionally. As their tenancy ends on their flat, Daniel’s girlfriend Erica decides this is a good time to reassess their relationship and leaves. Instead of picking himself up, Daniel seems unable to cope with this double loss and ends up walking the streets with a rucksack and only a ceramic sheep for company. When he turns up at Sherry’s door she is blown away by the man he’s become, like a ‘matryoshka’ where she can see the boy inside the man and the woman inside the boy. I loved this description because it beautifully describes the ever changing selves inside us, but also the effect of previous generations and incarnations of who we are. Daniel is carrying so much more than his rucksack, but also the baggage of being left behind by the women in his life, the loss of this family where he felt at home and the original secret, the one that always compelled Eve to move them on, from place to place. Can this family, once again, give Daniel the space to heal and process a lifetime of hurt?

This is a slow burn novel, told in fragments like half forgotten memories and with such beauty it could be a poem. The writer conveys perfectly how certain people can hold space for and heal wounds in each other. Even if they’re only with us for a short time. In light of recent events it’s important to remember that to live fully we must connect with each other. The book shows humans in their best light and at their most powerful, when showing love and accepting others for who they are. When Daniel is a child he is taught that flamingoes are not actually born pink, but attain their colour through their diet. Their beauty comes from what’s put into them and humans are the same – we are the sum of what we are fed from parents and caregivers right through to a kind woman in a library acknowledging Daniel’s suffering. Through Daniel, and Rae to an extent, there’s an acknowledgment of how painful this life can be, but that healing and change is possible. I was enchanted by this story and it will keep a special place in my heart.

In the garden, there were three flamingos. Not real flamingos, but real emblems, real gateways to a time when life was impossibly good. They were mascots, symbols of hope. Something for a boy to confide in.

Meet The Author


Rachel Elliott is the author of WHISPERS THROUGH A MEGAPHONE (2015, Pushkin Press, longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016) and DO NOT FEED THE BEAR (2019, Tinder Press). Her third novel, FLAMINGO, was published on 3 Feb 2022 by Tinder Press and is out now in hardback, ebook & audiobook. She is also a psychotherapist.

Out now from Tinder Press

Posted in Monthly Wrap Up

Books of the Month! January 2022

It’s been a busy month in book world and I’ve found my resolution to read more of my own choices and say no to blog tours severely tested. The emails land in my inbox like a siren song and I have to force myself to swipe them into the bin! I’m always scared that I’ll miss a fantastic read, perhaps a book from an small Indie publisher that I haven’t heard about before. I want to be careful I’m not just reading those books that have a huge publicity campaign behind them. It’s lovely to be able to read books that people haven’t heard about and really sing their praises. From everything I’ve read this month these were my favourite reads, some of which I’ve reviewed and some I’ll be reviewing next month, but want to start shouting about now.

The Maid by Nita Prose

Published by Harper Collins 20th Jan 2022.

I loved The Maid and I think it’s an incredible debut for Nita Prose. It’s a thriller novel, but with a huge heart. Molly is such a loveable character and as the novel begins she is truly alone in the world, after the death of her grandmother. Molly is a maid in the Regency Grand Hotel, someone completely invisible as far as the guests are concerned, but vital to the smooth running of the hotel. When she finds regular guest Mr Black dead in his suite, she becomes embroiled in a murder case. Yet, maybe she has a super power when it comes to investigating crime. When no one notices you and you clear away everyone’s mess, what might you notice that no one else does? I loved Molly as a narrator and her unique way of seeing the world. It’s rare for a thriller to leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling, but The Maid is definitely the most uplifting thriller I’ve come across.

Demon by Matt Wesolowski.

Published by Orenda Books 20th January 2022

Demon is my favourite so far of Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series, where Scott King creates a podcast covering an historical crime. This may be an unsolved cold case, a crime where there are unanswered questions or a case so controversial it can still stir up public opinion. This case is the latter, the murder of a young boy called Sidney Parsons by two boys his own age in the village of Usslethwaite in the 1990’s. As with all his podcasts, King gathers six people either related to the crime or who have a new and distinct perspective on the case. The story has parallels with the James Bulger case, something that had huge resonance for me because of my family connections to Liverpool, but also because I was an older teenager in the 1990’s so I remember it vividly. Wesolowski covers some of the same controversies: the brutality of the crime; the age of the perpetrators; balancing justice and rehabilitation. Added to this is the haunting atmosphere of the village, the caves that loom in the landscape and over the crime scene; the first hand accounts of supernatural events around the time of the crime. I found the different perspectives fascinating and the horror elements unnerving, especially when reading late at night. This was a brilliant horror/crime combination.

The Unravelling by Polly Crosby

Published by HQ 6th Jan 2022

On the island of Dohallund, Miss Marianne Stourbridge is from a long line of island guardians and lives alone in the family home ardently studying her collections. When she advertises for help in her endeavours she encounters Tartelin Brown and offers her a job hunting butterflies for her research. However, as she travels around the island she discovers something more interesting. There’s the island’s history as a place annexed by the military and uninhabited until recently. There’s the mystery of what happened to the Stourbridge family and how Marianne came to be a wheelchair user. There’s the strange run down or unfinished follies dotted around. Most importantly, there are the strange encounters with the islands fauna, which are not always what they seem. In a dual timeline we explore the island of Marianne’s teenage years, as well as the strange present day, to answer the many questions the reader starts to have about the Stourbridge family and past events. I found this story magical, mysterious and ultimately very moving. Polly Crosby is fast becoming one of my favourite writers.

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

Published by Harper Collins 30th March 2022

This is an early heads up about a novel being published at the end of March. As Emma approaches her fortieth birthday she can’t sleep. She finds herself lured into obsessive behaviours, a steady nightly routine of checking the children, checking the doors and windows, standing in darkness observing the garden outside for movement. She opens the under stairs cupboard, looking for goodness knows what. Her uneasy behaviour is being noticed by her husband and her children. What keeps going round and round in her mind is that her own mother descended into mental illness just before she was forty. Is the same thing happening to her? I read this over the Christmas and New Year break and it was impossible to put down. It really is a master class in thriller writing. Look out for my review just before publication next month.

The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Published by Scribner U.K. 6th Jan 2022

I’m sure regular readers will feel like I’ve been banging on about this book for months, mainly because I love Alice Hoffman but also because I had such early access to the novel. Originally pencilled in for publication last autumn, I’d read the book and reviewed it for October only for publication to be moved to early 2022. No matter, because this is a book worth talking about, especially if you love the Practical Magic novels. I have always maintained that Jet is the most interesting of the Owens women and she features prominently in this final novel of the series. Set after the events of Practical Magic we meet three generations of Owens from Jet and Franny, the elderly aunts, to Gillian and Sally, and down to Sally’s daughters. The focus is on the Owens curse, brought to bear on the family by Maria Owens who had been deceived and heart broken. It states that no member of the family can be in love without grave consequences befalling them. Each woman has tried to circumvent the curse in their own way. Sally embraced love but lost her husband only a few years later and is scarred by the experience. Gillian is married, but doesn’t live with her husband. Jet meets her lover in a hotel for interludes and never looks for more. Kylie’s best friend is the most important person in her life, but they have never used the word love. Until now. The curse strikes and as Kylie lies in a hospital bed, deep in a coma, the women and Uncle Vincent must find a way to end the curse for future generations. As Jet hears the death watch beetle ticking away in the timbers of the house, she also knows that time is running out. A fitting and magical end to this much loved series.

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

Published by Mantle 20th Jan 2022

I absolutely loved this novel based around the disappearance of the crime novelist Agatha Christie in 1926. She disappeared for eleven days and nobody knew her whereabouts. Here the author weaves a tale narrated by Nan, the mistress of Agatha’s husband. There is a showdown between husband and wife as he explains he is leaving her for Nan. Then Christie’s car is found abandoned by the side of the road, but there is no sign of Agatha. The author takes us back from Nan’s growing up in Ireland, to her meeting the Christies. Her life has been one of hardships and heartbreak until now and we begin to realise that Nan wants more from Agatha than just her husband. Meanwhile, Agatha is resting at a spa hotel in Harrogate under an assumed name, when a murder occurs. She doesn’t know it, but detectives have been sent out to look for her and one of them may be closer than she thinks. This was a stylish and genre defying novel, being part love story, part crime novel, and historical fiction all at once. It definitely felt like a story of incredible, resilient and resourceful women.

The Impulse Purchase by Veronica Henry

Published by Orion 3rd Feb 2022.

This book was an absolute ray of sunshine and pure escapism at the end of the month after some heavy reads. My full review will appear as part of the blog tour in February but I can tell you a little bit about the story. The author gives us four generations of interesting and intelligent women. Just before her great-grandmother dies, Rose brings a fourth generation into the world. Gertie is the centre of her family’s world and mother Rose is trying to move into work by volunteering at a local charity helping people who are homeless. Maggie is Rose’s mother, she is feisty and intelligent and loves running her food PR business. Grandmother Cherry is a warm and nurturing woman, trying to process the death of her mother and the selling of the large family home that holds so many memories. The village she grew up in is dear to her heart, so when she hears that local pub The Swan is going to be closed down she makes a huge impulse purchase. Another catalyst in this decision was seeing husband Mike’s indiscretion with a beautiful young painter, at the retirement party Cherry meticulously planned for him. Now she’s going to grab something for herself and The Swan is the ultimate project. So three generations of women tackle the pub and settle into village life in a boathouse at the back of the pub. Has this purchase been an expensive folly, or can these women pull off the ideal country pub? This is an uplifting family drama, packed full of wonderful descriptions of decor and food.

Other books I read this month…

The Second Woman by Louise Mey

Bitter Flowers by Gunnar Staalesen

Cut Out by Michèle Roberts

The Secret by Debbie Howells

The Family by Naomi Krupitsky

Daughter of the Sea by Elizabeth J. Hobbes

Posted in Netgalley, Publisher Proof

The Unravelling by Polly Crosby

When Tartelin Brown accepts a job with the reclusive Marianne Stourbridge, she finds herself on a wild island with a mysterious history. Tartelin is tasked with hunting butterflies for Marianne’s research. But she quickly uncovers something far more intriguing than the curious creatures that inhabit the landscape. Because the island and Marianne share a remarkable history, and what happened all those years ago has left its scars, and some terrible secrets. As Tartelin pieces together Marianne’s connection to the island, she must confront her own reasons for being there. Can the two women finally face up to the painful memories that bind them so tightly to the past?

I found the last chapter of this new novel incredibly moving and I was smiling through tears as I closed the book.

Polly Crosby you ruined me for other books, for at least a couple of days!

Marianne’s memories of the island take us back to the years between WW1 and WW2, when she lived in the same family home with her mother and father. The Stourbridges were the guardians of the island, through her mother’s side of the family. However, it was Marianne’s father who had taken control of the island and it’s resources. Her family were rich, relying on herrings and pearls to keep their fortunes buoyant and providing work for the islanders. Under Mr Stourbridge’s control the businesses were losing money so he needed to diversify, and settled on silk-making as a way out of difficulty. Mulberry trees and silkworms arrived on the island and Marianne was researching to find out how to produce the best silk thread, but didn’t know that her father had hired a silk girl to come and start things. Nan came to live in their house and although the girls built a friendship, Marianne missed time with her father which was now being sacrificed for Nan and the silk worms. I had so many thoughts and questions in my head by this point. How had the family’s fortunes changed so drastically? How sad it must be for Marianne’s mother to watch her family businesses taken from her and mismanaged simply because she was a woman. Who was Nan and why was she dominating so much of Mr Stourbridge’s time? The author drip feeds these memories into the present day story, answering some questions but leaving others so I was always waiting for the next memory to know what happened next. There was a growing tension in the house that led me to believe an explosion was coming, something that would change Marianne”s life forever. Each section shed light on something in the present day, but I wanted the whole story of why Marianne was so alone in her old age, when did her family leave the island but most of all why was the island requisitioned?

I loved the sense of the uncanny that the author created; a feeling that life on the island was like real life, but not quite. There are strange, unfinished or half destroyed buildings, eroded cliffs and houses that have been literally swallowed up by the sea. Tartelin’s island has a feel of dilapidated grandeur in it’s buildings. They must have once been extravagant and beautiful, like the pavilion where Tartelin meets the peacock, but slowly being broken down and reclaimed by the sea. This is a strong theme throughout the novel, the idea that nature will always find a way, like a flower growing from a tiny crack in the pavement. I found Marianne a fascinating character with the manner of someone very intelligent and far too busy to be bothered with trifles. Her exterior as this grumpy old woman probably brushes most people off, but Tartelin is more persistent than most. Watching these two women slowly learning to trust and understand one another was a joy. Marianne’s story, as it is revealed, moved me beyond words. Even though there’s a fantastical, dream-like quality to her recollections the emotions ring true and are devastating to witness. However, I also felt an incredible sense of joy over the ending too. This novel is evocative and bittersweet, full of rich detail and interesting women. I have no hesitation in recommending all of Polly Crosby’s writing, but this is extraordinary and will stay with me forever.

Published by HQ on 6th Jan 2022

Meet The Author

Polly Crosby grew up on the Suffolk coast, and now lives with her husband and son in the heart of Norfolk. Her debut novel, The Illustrated Child (The Book of Hidden Wonders in the US and Australia) is out now. Polly’s second novel, The Unravelling will be published in January ‘22.

In 2018, Polly won Curtis Brown Creative’s Yesterday Scholarship, which enabled her to finish her novel. Later the same year, The Illustrated Child was awarded runner-up in the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel. Polly received the Annabel Abbs Creative Writing Scholarship at the University of East Anglia, and is currently working on her third novel.

Twitter: @WriterPolly

Instagram: @polly_crosby

Website: pollycrosby.com

Posted in Netgalley

The Secret by Debbie Howells.

The village of Abingworth is a rather exclusive area to live, with large houses placed in countryside gardens, surrounded with wooded areas and plenty of privacy. This is a village where the residents don’t have a huge sense of community or honest, real friendships. This is one of those areas where keeping up appearances is everything and for those with a social standing, it’s most important of all. Of course there’s so much more going on than anyone would admit too. Troubled teen Hollie has gone missing. Just beforehand, she briefly visits her friend Niamh and tells her a secret. Niamh swears to keep it safe. However, as detectives arrive and start to ask difficult questions, can Niamh tell this is thuja secret to help find her friend? Or is it something so terrible that only by keeping quiet, can she keep her friend and herself safe?

This was an entertaining domestic thriller with some fairly dark themes too. The story is told through two narrators, Elise who is Niamh’s mum and Jo who is the detective on the missing person’s case. Elise is a flight attendant, working unusual hours on mainly short haul flights. In the first few pages as Elise drives a short distance home from the airport she has a lot on her mind. She is quite matter of fact in about her husband Andrew’s serial infidelity and muses on who it could be this time. Early on, the author takes us on a night out with Elise and Andrew, who is the local GP. This is not so much a relaxed evening out, as it is a show. They must present their most united front in the local, so that everyone they meet must be sure of their relationship and their respectability. The truth is much different.

This book brilliantly portrays coercion and how domestic abuse develops, slow and insidious, until you almost don’t recognise yourself. There are plenty of twists and turns here that keep you guessing, but one revelation jarred a bit and it felt weird that it hadn’t been mentioned sooner. It turns out that this picturesque village has some terrible secrets, all centring on a mansion where Hollie liked to trespass and explore. Elise wants to find out what happened to her, but also protect her daughter Niamh – the last person to talk to Hollie. Does she know more than she’s letting on? I was hooked till the end, as I usually am with this author. I hate false situations where people are putting on a front constantly, the question here is are they doing this to fit in or do they have something to hide? This is another entertaining thriller from this author and will keep you guessing.

Published by Avon 6th Jan 2022

Meet The Author

Having previously worked as cabin crew, a flying instructor and a wedding florist, Debbie turned to writing during her busiest summer of weddings. After self-publishing three women’s commercial fiction novels, she wrote The Bones of You, her first psychological thriller. It was a Sunday Times bestseller and picked for the Richard and Judy book club. Three more have been published by Pan Macmillan: The Beauty of The End, The Death of Her and Her Sister’s Lie. Her fifth, The Vow, was published by Avon in 2020 and was a #1 ebook bestseller. It will be followed by The Secret, out in January 2022. Alongside her thrillers, Debbie has returned to writing women’s fiction novels and The Life You Left Behind will be published in February 2022 by Boldwood. Debbie writes full time, inspired by the peacefulness of the countryside she lives in with her partner Martin and Bean the rescued cat.

You can visit her website at http://www.debbiehowells.co.uk or blog at http://www.howellshenson.com. 

Follow her on Instagram @_debbiehowells, on Facebook @debbiehowellswriter or on Twitter @debbie__howells.

Posted in Domestic Thriller, Publisher Proof

The Second Woman by Louise Mey.

I was truly gripped and unsettled by this domestic thriller, and it’s themes of control and coercion. The author truly understands this type of relationship and the psychological trauma that slowly trickles down to the rest of the family. Sandrine is our main character, a discreet, gentle and loving woman who doesn’t want much. She just wants a loving husband, someone who wants to go to bed with her every night and wake up with her every morning. She wants someone who shows his affection and holds her hand in front of others. She’s so concentrated in looking for this, that when Mr Langois appears on the horizon, he is going to be her ‘one’. Mr Langois does offer her some of what she wants. She now has a beautiful place to live and is close to his son, which does show an element of trust. Yet, she can’t forget that this is a house where a woman went missing. His first wife was there and then she disappeared. In fact, she is presumed dead, and Sandrine, who is discreet, loving and oh so grateful, slips into the void left behind. She has been doing her best to bring back a smile to the grieving husband and little Mathias. However, he will never really be her son, and Mr Langois is not really her man. In the back of her mind, she feels the woman who was there before, the one who made this house a home and belonged here in this family, Then suddenly the woman who’s been haunting Sandrine reappears. Alive. Sandrine’s world crumbles and falls apart.

This book is both compelling to read, but also intelligent and profoundly disturbing. Whereas the first half is largely setting the scene, the second part becomes more and more chilling. We are treated to all the twists and turns related to the disappearance of the first wife while she infiltrates Sandrine’s life; what follows is so insidious and feels evil. It’s very well written, with a brilliant depiction of Sandrine’s personality change, from a woman who only wanted to have her own man to love and feel loved back, to an obsessive. The obsession is borne of her low self-esteem and could lead her from jealousy into being a full-blown monster. The story is written with waves of the worst tension, and this never lets up, especially once Mr Langois’ first wife returns and begins manipulating. The author manages to scare us without a need for physical violence, something which doesn’t surprise me as I am a survivor of coercive control. By the time I’d found the strength to leave, I didn’t really know who I was anymore. It took so long to try and put myself back together. This book has that strange quality of being fascinating yet repulsive at the same tune. I sort of felt the way I do when watching nature documentaries. It’s incredible to watch the ability of the beautiful creature at the top of the food chain, but also dreadful to watch the pain and fear of the animal being hunted. It’s horrible, but you can’t turn away. This is such an immersive read, you’ll look up from the page and wonder where you are.

Published 2nd September 2021 by Pushkin Vertigo

LOUISE MEY is a Paris-based author of contemporary noir novels dealing with themes of domestic and sexual violence, and harassment, often with a feminist slant. The Second Woman is her fourth novel, and the first to be translated into English. LOUISE ROGERS LALAURIE is a writer and translator from French, including Frederic Dard’s The King of Fools and The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths by Olivier Barde-Cabucon, both published by Pushkin Vertigo. Her work has been shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award, the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature and the Crime Writers Association International Dagger.

Posted in Back of the Shelf

Books At The Back Of My Shelf

One of my book shelves.

As I go through other blogger’s fantastic end of year book lists, it strikes me how many brilliant books I haven’t had time to read. That’s not because I’m one of life’s busy people – I don’t work, the girls are only with us part-time, I’m still semi-shielding, and I have a carer/cleaner – I’m hardly plagued with Virginia Woolf’s worries and yes, I do have a room of my own. I could be reading more, but mainly I could be making better choices. The problem is I become distracted. I’m distracted by the same things a lot of other book bloggers are: should I be on Tik-Tok? Should I be chasing this year’s hottest release? Do I have enough Twitter followers? Is a photograph better than a review? How do I stay relevant? Is anyone even reading this? It’s so easy to spend half your day on Twitter or Instagram looking at other people’s beautiful and creative content and thinking ‘should I be doing that too?’

The only answer is to do what you love. I’m never going to be a major book influencer with followers in the millions, merchandise and a whole new income stream. So I have to think, what is it I enjoy about book blogging? Well, I love the Book Twitter community, the bloggers, blog tour organisers, the publishing assistants and other writers. By talking to writers over the last few years I’ve had so much encouragement and advice about my own writing, that I could see myself actually finishing my own book. People have been generous and kind with their time and their tips on how to be a book blogger. I love reading, discovering new authors and broadening my reading choices. I love writing about characters, their stories, their psychology and really championing those books that make my heart sing. I can do all of these things without putting myself under pressure, without chasing every new book, without joining every blog tour or buying every special edition. I can do this without pressuring or challenging myself even more than last year.

My village book exchange

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate those who take stunning Insta photos, or know a flat lay from a stack, because I do. Some people are absolute artists! I also admire those who worked hard to remain up to date and relevant, but it’s not always me. It takes me a long time to understand and adopt new apps and methods of getting the book love across. So in short, I’m going to worry less and read more of the books I already have. Stress less and enjoy this more. I’m going to spend more time writing my own work, putting new books into our village book exchange, and reaching to the back of the shelf for those books I didn’t get to this year. I’m going to write about those back of the shelf books and celebrate what I have as much as the new. I can’t believe I haven’t yet read The Appeal by Janice Hallet or Still Life by Sarah Winman, but they are both tucked away on the shelf. I’m going to look forward to those books I’ve highlighted for 2022, but not worry if I don’t get to them all. I’m also including my NetGalley shelf in this, which I’m afraid to say, is cluttered with forgotten gems and new books due to be published as far away as next summer!

It’s easy to forget why we do this. I need to remember those reasons, to simply enjoy being part of this great book community. To relax and celebrate the journey, rather than stress and strain towards an unknown goal. Here’s wishing you all a deliciously bookish 2022 and I look forward to chatting and sharing with you all this coming year. ❤️📚

Posted in Netgalley, Publisher Proof

The Book Of Magic by Alice Hoffman

This has been one of my most anticipated novels for this year, then it’s publication date was changed to January 2022 and I was going to have to wait a bit longer. I finally snagged a copy on NetGalley last week, and its no surprise that I started to read it straightaway. Was it worth the wait?

This is the fourth and final book in Hoffman’s Practical Magic series and it really does come full circle. We have three generations of Owen’s sisters in this tale: Franny and Jet, Gillian and Sally, and finally Sally’s daughters Kylie and Antonia. In fact this really does take us full circle, rather like the symbol of the Ourobos, a snake swallowing its own tail which is, rather aptly, the symbol of dark magic. So, here we have those Owenses who have dabbled as practitioners of the dark arts, such as Franny and Jet’s brother Vincent. Could one of the younger members of the family be heading down that dark route and what would call them there?

Regular readers will know that the curse of the Owens family is lodged in the love part of their lives. This was a curse placed by Maria Owens who knew the truth of how women might become undone by men. The various family members have found their own ways of circumventing the worst of the curse, after Jet lost her true love as a teenager. Gillian is married, but she doesn’t live with Ben or wear a wedding ring. Sally has lived with a man but lost him very young and the heartache has closed her to that part of life. Now all she cares for are books. Antonia is married to her work as a doctor, but is having a baby with her gay best friend. However, for their youngest, Kylie, love has been part of her life for a long time. She is inseparable from her best friend Gideon but they have never spoken of their love for each other. Till now. Two losses happen to Kylie at once. The death watch beetle is clacking in the walls of the house on Magnolia Street where Sally, Kylie and both elderly aunts reside still. They have barely said their goodbyes, when Kylie’s Gideon is in a terrible accident and is so badly injured he is in a coma.

Kylie takes matters into her own hands and is drawn to a hidden Grimoire in the Owens Library. A Grimoire is a witches personal journal and book of magic. Kylie believes this book has the answer to ending the Owen’s curse, but the final pages are stuck together and she can’t enact the spell. Kylie returns to where the Owens story starts, in the original Essex county in England. Here she hopes to find the secret to opening the last pages of the book, but there are two warnings attached to her quest. She mustn’t trust the wrong person and if she is the one to overturn the curse, she must be prepared to lose everything. However, when Kylie is in danger, it will take Franny, Sally and her uncle Vincent to join the quest. Which one of them is the key to end the curse? And what price will they need to pay?

I struggled with the first few chapters of the book, but that might have more to do with me trying to read it Christmas week, when having a prolonged time to sit and read is impossible. Once I could spend some time with the story I really started to enjoy it. I welcomed the cross generational aspect to the story, and those reminders of everything that had gone before. From Levi Willard’s teenage love for Jet, Vincent’s years in NYC as a musician and all the way back to Maria Owens and her difficulties accepting the love of Samuel several centuries earlier. There are seeds of hope, as new life comes into the family, as Antonia’s love for Ariel takes her by surprise and new familiars seek out their human counterparts. Sally has always been interesting to me and her continued tightrope walk between the magic that is her birth right and her need to stay under the radar and keep her girl’s safe. The women are always treading a line between the future they are born with, shown on the right palm and the future they choose, shown on the left. I loved how her story ended, it felt satisfying and even full of hope, given the heartache that went before.

What stood out loud and clear was, that despite being cursed in love, the love the women have for each other is a blessing. In particular, Franny and Jet’s love for Sally and Gillian. Brought to the crooked house as small orphans, the aunts loved their nieces as their own and taught them everything they needed to be safe and understand the magic they were born with. Any trouble or danger brought both aunts running to help and protect them, even into their old age and especially in this story. This love stands out stronger than any other in all four books and never dies. Everything I love about Hoffman is there, her wonderful descriptions of nature and the women’s links to the natural world. Her descriptions of spells and their effects are fantastical and so vivid, especially the menacing red rain poisoning a whole community. I love that the books celebrate strong women, who support each other and their right to be individuals. This is a fitting end to a series that begins chronologically with persecution, betrayal and death. It ends with a sense of the Owens family being part of a community, playing a bigger part in the world and learning how to utilise their magic in harmony with the world.

Published by Scribner U.K. 6th Jan 2022.

Meet The Author.

Alice Hoffman is the author of thirty works of fiction, including Practical Magic, The Red Garden, The Dovekeepers and, most recently,The Museum of Extraordinary Things. She lives in Boston. Visit her website: http://www.alicehoffman.com

Posted in Fiction Preview 2022

New Books 2022! Part Four.

Waiting for Sunshine by Jane Sanderson.

I was offered this proof just before Christmas, probably because I loved Sanderson’s novel Mix Tape. I loved it’s combination of love story, the gritty Sheffield setting and sense what might have been.

‘Who would name a child Sunshine, then give her away?’

Chrissie has always wanted to be a mother. After months of trying to adopt, she and her husband Stuart finally get the news that a little girl named Sunshine is waiting for them. The child comes to them without a history, and it feels like a fresh start for all of them. But when fragments from Sunshine’s previous life start to intrude on her new one, the little girl’s mysterious past quickly becomes Chrissie’s greatest fear ..

Beautiful and compelling, this is a story of hope and love, about finding the perfect family and fighting to keep it, perfect for fans of Dawn French and Ruth Jones.

Published by Bantam Press 9th June 2022.

Mother’s Boy by Patrick Gale.

I can’t explain how much I love Patrick Gale’s writing. I started reading his work when his novel, Notes from an Exhibition, was published. I was impressed by his understanding of mental illness and the effect it has on a family, as well as his beautiful descriptions of Cornwall. I wrote earlier this year about how moving I found his novel A Place Called Winter and I’m always eagerly anticipating more. In this new novel, Laura, an impoverished Cornish girl, meets her husband when they are both in service in Teignmouth in 1916. They have a baby, Charles, but Laura’s husband returns home from the trenches a damaged man, already ill with the tuberculosis that will soon leave her a widow. In a small, class-obsessed town she raises her boy alone, working as a laundress, and gradually becomes aware that he is some kind of genius. As an intensely private young man, Charles signs up for the navy with the new rank of coder. His escape from the tight, gossipy confines of Launceston to the colour and violence of war sees him blossom as he experiences not only the possibility of death, but the constant danger of a love that is as clandestine as his work. MOTHER’S BOY is the story of a man who is among, yet apart from his fellows, in thrall to, yet at a distance from his own mother; a man being shaped for a long, remarkable and revered life spent hiding in plain sight. But it is equally the story of the dauntless mother who will continue to shield him long after the dangers of war are past.

Published by Tinder Press 1st March 2022

The Gifts by Liz Hyder.

When a book is recommended by the likes of Stacey Halls and Elizabeth MacNeal I sit up and take notice. This is Hyder’s first adult novel, having had success in the YA market.

The luminous debut adult novel from the Waterstones Prize Winner, perfect for fans of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, The Essex Serpent and The Doll Factory

In an age defined by men, it will take something extraordinary to show four women who they truly are. October 1840. A young woman staggers alone through a forest in Shropshire as a huge pair of impossible wings rip themselves from her shoulders. Meanwhile, when rumours of a ‘fallen angel’ cause a frenzy across London, a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune finds himself in the grips of a dangerous obsession, one that will place the women he seeks in the most terrible danger. THE GIFTS is the astonishing debut adult novel from the lauded author Liz Hyder. A gripping and ambitious book told through five different perspectives and set against the luminous backdrop of nineteenth century London, it explores science, nature and religion, enlightenment, the role of women in society and the dark danger of ambition.

Published by Manilla Press 17th Feb 2022.

I must admit that I was charmed by the stunning cover of this debut novel and who wouldn’t be? This is a captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess. A young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm, setting her on a dangerous path where those she loves are not the only ones at risk. Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the powerful Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when her magic flares and her existence is discovered, Xingyin is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to train in the Crown Prince’s service, learning to master archery and magic, despite the passion which flames between her and the emperor’s son. To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies, across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream —striking a dangerous bargain, where she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic, of loss and sacrifice — where love vies with honour, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.

Published by Harper Voyager 20th January 2022

The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley.

I am very fond of the Outlander series and I could see some parallels between this and Diana Gabaldon’s books. I’m a huge reader of historical fiction so when I was asked to help with the cover reveal I jumped at the chance. There are many who believe they know what happened, but they do not know the whole of it. The rumours spread, and grow, and take their hold, and so to end them I have been persuaded now to take my pen in hand and tell the story as it should be told…

Autumn, 1707. Old enemies from the Highlands to the Borders are finding common ground as they join to protest the new Union with England, the French are preparing to launch an invasion to carry the young exiled Jacobite king back to Scotland to reclaim his throne, and in Edinburgh the streets are filled with discontent and danger. Queen Anne’s commissioners, seeking to calm the situation, have begun settling the losses and wages owed to those Scots who took part in the disastrous Darien expedition eight years earlier. When Lily, the young widow of a Darien sailor, comes forward to collect her husband’s wages, her claim is challenged, and one of the men who’s assigned to examine her has only days to decide if she’s honest, or if his own feelings are making him blind to the truth, and if he’s being used as a pawn in an even more treacherous game. A story of intrigue, adventure, endurance, romance…and the courage to hope.

Published by Simon and Schuster U.K. 28th April 2022.

The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield.

‘Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all’

1768. Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles they rename her Marie Antoinette. The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless. When they were only children, they discovered a book of spells – spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take control of their lives. But every spell requires a sacrifice. And as love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution. I have this on my NetGalley shelf and I’m very excited to start reading it.

Published by Harper Voyager 17th Feb 2022.

The Seawomen by Chloe Timms.

Just look at that stunning cover! This one sounds like an incredible read and it isn’t published till the summer, so I’ll be hunting an ARC in the New Year. Esta has known nothing but Eden’s Isle her whole life. Raised by her grandmother, after a fire claimed her parents and scarred her face as a child, Esta faces a life of piety and dread, bound to a religious society who cut themselves off from the mainland in the name of salvation. The island is governed by a fear of the outside world and the corrupting evil, lurking deep in the water known as the Seawomen. They fear the water, and the only way to remain virtuous is never to enter the sea, to follow God’s word, but curious Esta longs for more.

Women on the island are controlled, married off and must conceive a child within the twelve months of their appointed motheryear. If she doesn’t bear a child in that year, she is marked as cursed, and cast back into the sea as a sacrifice, in an act called the Untethering.When Esta witnesses a woman Untethered before her eyes she sees a future to fear. Her fate awaits, a loveless marriage, her motheryear declared. But before long, Esta gets a taste of freedom and the insular world she knows begins to unravel.

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 14th June 2022.

Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander.

This really is the hot debut of the summer, already gathering lots of attention on BookTwitter and Bookstagram and giving off Eleanor Oliphant vibes.

All that stands between Meredith and the world is her own front door . . . but what will it take for her to open it? 
________

Meredith Maggs hasn’t left her house in 1,214 days. But she insists she isn’t alone.She has her cat Fred. Her friend Sadie visits when she can. There’s her online support group, StrengthInNumbers. She has her jigsaws, favourite recipes, her beloved Emily Dickinson, the internet, the Tesco delivery man and her treacherous memories for company.But something’s about to change. Whether Meredith likes it or not, the world is coming to her door . . . Does she have the courage to overcome what’s been keeping her inside all this time?

Published by Penguin 9th June 2022.

The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill by C.S. Robertson.

Everybody who follows me knows how much I love Doug Johnstone and his Skelf family series of novels, so when he’s recommending a read, I’m listening.

‘A brilliantly original thriller, dark and brooding, with a real emotional punch’ DOUG JOHNSTONE

Death is not the end. For Grace McGill, it’s only the beginning.

When people die alone and undiscovered, it’s her job to clean up what’s left behind – whether it’s clutter, bodily remains or dark secrets. When an old man lies undetected in his flat for months, it seems an unremarkable life and an unnoticed death. But Grace knows that everyone has a story and that all deaths mean something more.

A STAND-OUT NOVEL WITH A UNIQUE NARRATIVE VOICE AND AN UNGUESSABLE MYSTERY, YOU ARE GUARANTEED TO REMEMBER GRACE McGILL.

Reader praise for The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill:

‘A twisted story of undiscovered deaths and twisted minds, of people of little or no morality and Grace right in the thick of it, setting records straight and doing good in her own inimitable way

‘Wow! What an absolute stunner of a book. This was so different to a lot of the books out there at the moment. Totally gripping and thrilling and I couldn’t stop reading it although I really didn’t want to finish it!’

‘A premise that, gratifyingly, delivers the goods in spades and does so with a superbly well drawn cast of characters and a rather unique, well written, often dark narrative. Compelling and wholly engaging reading. Top notch

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 20th Jan 2022.

Posted in Fiction Preview 2022

New Books 2022! Part Three.

This is the penultimate list of books I’m looking forward to in 2022. This is by no means an exhaustive list because even as I’m writing publicists are posting new reads on social media and NetGalley shelves are groaning with possibilities. Making life even more difficult I’ve injured my wrist and I’m struggling to spend any time writing, with at least half the day now spent in a wrist splint. So this final post has taken days, but I hope it whets your appetite for more books in the coming year.

The Physician’s Daughter by Martha Conway.

A compelling novel of female perseverance and the role of women in society set in the aftermath of the American Civil War. For readers of Tracey Chevalier and The Second Mrs Thistlewood

In a world made for men, can one pioneering woman break freefrom tradition and walk a new path?

It is 1865, the American Civil War has just ended, and 18-year old Vita Tenney is determined to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a country doctor like her father. But when her father tells her she must get married instead, Vita explores every means of escape – and finds one in the person of war veteran Jacob Culhane. Damaged by what he’s seen in battle and with all his family gone, Jacob is seeking investors for a fledgling business. Then he meets Vita – and together they hatch a plan that should satisfy both their desires. Months later, Vita seemingly has everything she ever wanted. But alone in a big city and haunted by the mistakes of her past, she wonders if the life she always thought she wanted was too good to be true. When love starts to compete with ambition, what will come out on top? I’ve just taken part in the cover reveal for this fascinating book and I have everything crossed for a review copy!

Published by Zaffre 3rd March 2022

Ghost Lover by Lisa Taddeo.

Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women was an incredible success and this is something new from this talented writer. Ghost Lover is an electrifying collection of masterful and fearless short stories.

Behind anonymous screens, an army of cool and beautiful girls manage the dating service Ghost Lover, a forwarding system for text messages that promises to spare you the anguish of trying to stay composed while communicating with your crush. At a star-studded political fundraiser in a Los Angeles mansion, a trio of women compete to win the heart of the slick guest of honor. An inseparable pair of hard-partying friends crash into life’s responsibilities, but the magic of their glory days comes alive again at the moment they least expect it. In these nine riveting stories, two of which have been awarded the Pushcart Prize, Lisa Taddeo brings to life the fever of obsession, the blindness of love, and the mania of grief. Featuring Taddeo’s arresting prose that continues to thrill her legions of fans, Ghost Lover dares you to look away.

Published by Simon and Schuster U.K/ Avid Reader Press 14th June 2022.

Something Wicked by Laura Purcell.

From the Sunday Times bestselling author comes a gripping tale of obsession, superstition and ambition, set against the atmospheric backdrop of Victorian London. Be careful what you wish for… it may just come true.

By the pricking of my thumbs…

At The Mercury Theatre in London’s West End, rumours are circulating of a curse. It is said that the lead actress Lilith has made a pact with Melpomene, the tragic muse of Greek mythology, to become the greatest actress to ever grace the stage. Suspicious of Lilith, the jealous wife of the theatre owner sends dresser Jenny to spy on her, and desperate for the money to help her family, Jenny agrees. What Jenny finds is a woman as astonishing in her performance as she is provocative in nature. On stage, it’s as though Lilith is possessed by the characters she plays, yet off stage she is as tragic as the Muse who inspires her, and Jenny, sorry for her, befriends the troubled actress. But when strange events begin to take place around the theatre, Jenny wonders if the rumours are true, and fears that when the Muse comes calling for payment, the cost will be too high. …Something Wicked this way comes. I love Purcell’s work, it has that perfect mix of historical setting and gothic storyline. This one sounds amazing and I’ll be haunting NetGalley for an ARC next year.

Published Raven Books 22nd Aug 2022.

A Tidy Ending by Joanne Cannon.

A NICE, NORMAL HOUSE

Linda has lived around here ever since she fled the dark events of her childhood in Wales. Now she sits in her kitchen, wondering if this is all there is – pushing the Hoover round and cooking fish fingers for tea is a far cry from the glamorous lifestyle she sees in the glossy catalogues coming through the door for the house’s previous occupant.

A NICE, NORMAL HUSBAND

Terry isn’t perfect – he picks his teeth, tracks dirt through the house and spends most of his time in front of the TV. But that seems fairly standard – until he starts keeping odd hours at work, at around the same time young women start to go missing in the neighbourhood.

A NICE, NORMAL LIFE…

If Linda could just track down Rebecca, who lived in the house before them, maybe some of that perfection would rub off on her. But the grass isn’t always greener: you can’t change who you really are, and there’s something nasty lurking behind the net curtains on Cavendish Avenue… I love Joanna Cannon’s writing so I’m really looking forward to this and I expect to be reading it soon.

Published by The Borough Press 28th April 2022.

Idol by Louise O’Neill.

This novel has great early reviews from Marian Keyes and Sarah Perry and came to my notice because I read her powerful novel After the Silence last year. I love the premise of this, the idea of memory being subjective and whose version of events is the truth in this confessional society. We may take the advice ‘Follow your heart and speak your truth’, but are we prepared to hear other people’s truth about us? For Samantha Miller’s young fans – her ‘girls’ – she’s everything they want to be. She’s an oracle, telling them how to live their lives, how to be happy, how to find and honour their ‘truth’. And her career is booming: she’s just hit three million followers, her new book Chaste has gone straight to the top of the bestseller lists and she’s appearing at sell-out events. Determined to speak her truth and bare all to her adoring fans, she’s written an essay about her sexual awakening as a teenager, with her female best friend, Lisa. She’s never told a soul but now she’s telling the world. The essay goes viral. But then – years since they last spoke – Lisa gets in touch to say that she doesn’t remember it that way at all. Her memory of that night is far darker. It’s Sam’s word against Lisa’s – so who gets to tell the story? Whose ‘truth’ is really a lie?

‘You put yourself on that pedestal, Samantha. You only have yourself to blame.’

Riveting, compulsive and bold, IDOL interrogates our relationship with our heroes and explores the world of online influencers, asking how well we can ever really know those whose carefully curated profiles we follow online. And it asks us to consider how two memories of the same event can differ, and how effortlessly we choose which stories to believe.

Published by Bantam Press 12th May 2022.

The Maid by Nita Prose.

I can’t tell you how much I love this novel! It’s an incredible debut from the author with an absolutely compelling narrator.

I am your maid.
I know about your secrets. Your dirty laundry.
But what do you know about me?

Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?
But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways of the Regency Grand, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook? Escapist, charming and introducing a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how everyone deserves to be seen. And how the truth isn’t always black and white – it’s found in the dirtier, grey areas in between. This was one of those novels you can’t put down and I stayed up late to finish it. I can see this being one of my favourite books of the year.

Published by Harper Collins 20th Jan 2022.

Theatre of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth.

I tend to gravitate towards any book that has a sniff of the circus, theatre or magic, so this caught my eye months ago and I love this beautiful cover. Unruly crowds descend on Crillick’s Variety Theatre. Young actress, Zillah, is headlining tonight. An orphan from the slums of St Giles, her rise to stardom is her ticket out – to be gawped and gazed at is a price she’s willing to pay.Rising up the echelons of society is everything Zillah has ever dreamed of. But when a new stage act disappears, Zillah is haunted by a feeling that something is amiss. Is the woman in danger?Her pursuit of the truth takes her into the underbelly of the city – from gas-lit streets to the sumptuous parlours of Mayfair – as she seeks the help of notorious criminals from her past and finds herself torn between two powerful admirers. Caught in a labyrinth of dangerous truths, will Zillah face ruin – or will she be the maker of her fate?

A deliciously immersive tale, Theatre of Marvels whisks you on an unforgettable journey across Victorian London in this bold exploration of gothic spectacle.

Published by Penguin 28th April 2022.

Devotion by Hannah Kent.

Hannah Kent’s novel Burial Rites was incredible and since then she’s been one of those authors whose books I would buy without reading a review or recommendation first. So this is already on pre-order and I snagged it on NetGalley too.

1836, Prussia. Hanne is nearly fifteen and the domestic world of womanhood is quickly closing in on her. A child of nature, she yearns instead for the rush of the river, the wind dancing around her. Hanne finds little comfort in the local girls and friendship doesn’t come easily, until she meets Thea and she finds in her a kindred spirit and finally, acceptance. Hanne’s family are Old Lutherans, and in her small village hushed worship is done secretly – this is a community under threat. But when they are granted safe passage to Australia, the community rejoices: at last a place they can pray without fear, a permanent home. Freedom. It’s a promise of freedom that will have devastating consequences for Hanne and Thea, but, on that long and brutal journey, their bond proves too strong for even nature to break . . .

From the bestselling author of Burial Rites and The Good People, Devotion is a stunning story of girlhood and friendship, faith and suspicion, and the impossible lengths we go to for the ones we love.

Published by Picador 3rd Feb 2022.

The Marsh House by Zoe Somerville.

Zoe Somerville’s last novel The Night of the Flood was extraordinary and very highly regarded by my fellow bloggers and particularly my fellow ‘Squadettes’ whose opinion I value most. I love her mix of historical detail, complex relationships and the tense thriller aspect to the story. Part ghost story, part novel of suspense The Marsh House is the haunting second novel from the author of The Night of the Floodwhere two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by one, mysterious house on the North Norfolk coast.

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

July, 1931. Rosemary lives in the Marsh House with her austere father, surrounded by unspoken truths and rumours. So when the glamorous Lafferty family move to the village, she succumbs easily to their charm. Dazzled by the beautiful Hilda and her dashing brother, Franklin, Rosemary fails to see the danger that lurks beneath their bright façades… As Malorie reads Rosemary’s diary, past and present begin to merge in this moving story of mothers and daughters, family obligation and deeply buried secrets.

Published by Apollo 3rd March 2022.

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett.

This author had a smash hit on her hands in 2021 with The Appeal. It was one of those books that, for some strange reason, I didn’t get time to read. I think I missed the blog tour and then got caught up with so many other books. It’s been there on the pile waiting for a moment and I hope to read it over the Christmas break. Then I can read this new novel, which sounds fascinating.

It’s time to solve the murder of the century…

Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. Wanting to know more, he took it to his English teacher Miss Iles, not realising the chain of events that he was setting in motion. Miss Iles became convinced that the book was the key to solving a puzzle, and that a message in secret code ran through all Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Iles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven has no memory of what happened to her. Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Iles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today? Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Iles, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn’t the only one trying to solve it…

Published by Viper 13th Jan 2022.

That’s it for the third part of my 2022 preview. Amazingly I have another ten books that I’m looking forward to and I’ll be sharing those with you at the end of the week.