Charlie Wynwood and Silas Nash have been best friends since they could walk. They’ve been in love since the age of fourteen. But as of this morning… they are complete strangers. Their first kiss, their first fight, the moment they fell in love… every memory has vanished. Now Charlie and Silas must work together to uncover the truth about what happened to them and why. But the more they learn about the couple they used to be… the more they question why they were ever together to begin with.
Forgetting is terrifying but remembering may be worse…
The Number One Sunday Times bestselling author of It Ends with Us joins forces with the New York Times bestselling author of The Wives for a gripping, twisty, romantic mystery unlike any other.
A crash. Books fall to the speckled linoleum floor. They skid a few feet, whirling in circles, and stop near feet. My feet. I don’t recognize the black sandals, or the red toenails, but they move when I tell them to, so they must be mine. Right? A bell rings. Shrill. I jump, my heart racing. My eyes move left to right as I scope out my environment, trying not to give myself away. What kind of bell was that? Where am I? Kids with backpacks walk briskly into the room, talking and laughing. A school bell. They slide into desks, their voices competing in volume. I see movement at my feet and jerk in surprise. Someone is bent over, gathering up books on the floor; a red-faced girl with glasses. Before she stands up, she looks at me with something like fear and then scurries off. People are laughing. When I look around I think they’re laughing at me, but it’s the girl with glasses they’re looking at. “Charlie!” someone calls. “Didn’t you see that?” And then, “Charlie…what’s your problem…hello…?” My heart is beating fast, so fast. Where is this? Why can’t I remember? “Charlie!” someone hisses. I look around. Who is Charlie? Which one is Charlie? There are so many kids; blond hair, ratty hair, brown hair, glasses, no glasses… A man walks in carrying a briefcase. He sets it on the desk. The teacher. I am in a classroom, and that is the teacher. High school or college? I wonder. I stand up suddenly. I’m in the wrong place. Everyone is sitting, but I’m standing…walking. “Where are you going, Miss Wynwood?” The teacher is looking at me over the rim of his glasses as he riffles through a pile of papers. He slaps them down hard on the desk and I jump. I must be Miss Wynwood. “She has cramps!” someone calls out. People snicker. I feel a chill creep up my back and crawl across the tops of my arms. They’re laughing at me, except I don’t know who these people are. I hear a girl’s voice say, “Shut up, Michael.” “I don’t know,” I say, hearing my voice for the first time. It’s too high. I clear my throat and try again. “I don’t know. I’m not supposed to be here.” There is more laughing. I glance around at the posters on the wall, the faces of presidents animated with dates beneath them. History class? High school. The man—the teacher—tilts his head to the side like I’ve said the dumbest thing. “And where else are you supposed to be on test day?” “I… I don’t know.”
“Sit down,” he says. I don’t know where I’d go if I left. I turn around to go back. The girl with the glasses glances up at me as I pass her. She looks away almost as quickly. As soon as I’m sitting, the teacher starts handing out papers. He walks between desks, his voice a flat drone as he tells us what percentage of our final grade the test will be. When he reaches my desk he pauses, a deep crease between his eyebrows. “I don’t know what you’re trying to pull.” He presses the tip of a fat pointer finger on my desk. “Whatever it is, I’m sick of it. One more stunt and I’m sending you to the principal’s office.” He slaps the test down in front of me and moves down the line. I don’t nod, I don’t do anything. I’m trying to decide what to do. Announce to the whole room that I have no idea who and where I am—or pull him aside and tell him quietly. He said no more stunts. My eyes move to the paper in front of me. People are already bent over their tests, pencils scratching. Fourth Period History Mr. Dulcott There is a space for a name. I’m supposed to write my name, but I don’t know what my name is. Miss Wynwood, he called me. Why don’t I recognize my own name? Or where I am? Or what I am? Every head is bent over their papers except mine. So I sit and stare, straight ahead. Mr. Dulcott glares at me from his desk. The longer I sit, the redder his face becomes. Time passes and yet my world has stopped. Eventually, Mr. Dulcott stands up, his mouth open to say something to me when the bell rings. “Put your papers on my desk on the way out,” he says, his eyes still on my face. Everyone is filing out of the door. I stand up and follow them because I don’t know what else to do. I keep my eyes on the floor, but I can feel his rage. I don’t understand why he’s so angry with me. I am in a hallway now, lined on either side by blue lockers. “Charlie!” someone calls. “Charlie, wait up!” A second later, an arm loops through mine. I expect it to be the girl with the glasses; I don’t know why. It’s not. But, I know now that I am Charlie. Charlie Wynwood. “You forgot your bag,” she says, handing over a white backpack. I take it from her, wondering if there’s a wallet with a driver’s license inside. She keeps her arm looped through mine as we walk. She’s shorter than me, with long, dark hair and dewy brown eyes that take up half her face. She is startling and beautiful. “Why were you acting so weird in there?” she asks. “You knocked the shrimp’s books on the floor and then spaced out.” I can smell her perfume; it’s familiar and too sweet, like a million flowers competing for attention. I think of the girl with the glasses, the look on her face as she bent to scoop up her books. If I did that, why don’t I remember? “I—”
“It’s lunch, why are you walking that way?” She pulls me down a different corridor, past more students. They all look at me…little glances. I wonder if they know me, and why I don’t know me. I don’t know why I don’t tell her, tell Mr. Dulcott, grab someone random and tell them that I don’t know who or where I am. By the time I’m seriously entertaining the idea, we’re through a set of double doors in the cafeteria. Noise and color; bodies that all have a unique smell, bright fluorescent lights that make everything look ugly. Oh, God. I clutch at my shirt. The girl on my arm is babbling. Andrew this, Marcy that. She likes Andrew and hates Marcy. I don’t know who either of them is. She corrals me to the food line. We get salad and Diet Cokes. Then we are sliding our trays on a table. There are already people sitting there: four boys, two girls. I realize we are completing a group with even numbers. All the girls are matched with a guy. Everyone looks up at me expectantly, like I’m supposed to say something, do something. The only place left to sit is next to a guy with dark hair. I sit slowly, both hands flat on the table. His eyes dart toward me and then he bends over his tray of food. I can see the finest beads of sweat on his forehead, just below his hairline. “You two are so awkward sometimes,” says a new girl, blonde, across from me. She’s looking from me to the guy I’m sitting next to. He looks up from his macaroni and I realize he’s just moving things around on his plate. He hasn’t taken a bite, despite how busy he looks. He looks at me and I look at him, then we both look back at the blonde girl. “Did something happen that we should know about?” she asks. “No,” we say in unison. He’s my boyfriend. I know by the way they’re treating us. He suddenly smiles at me with his brilliantly white teeth and reaches to put an arm around my shoulders. “We’re all good,” he says, squeezing my arm. I automatically stiffen, but when I see the six sets of eyes on my face, I lean in and play along. It’s frightening not knowing who you are—even more frightening thinking you’ll get it wrong. I’m scared now, really scared. It’s gone too far. If I say something now I’ll look…crazy. His affection seems to make everyone relax. Everyone except…him. They go back to talking, but all the words blend together: football, a party, more football. The guy sitting next to me laughs and joins in with their conversation, his arm never straying from my shoulders. They call him Silas. They call me Charlie. The dark-haired girl with the big eyes is Annika. I forget everyone else’s names in the noise. Lunch is finally over and we all get up. I walk next to Silas, or rather he walks next to me. I have no idea where I’m going. Annika flanks my free side, winding her arms through mine and chatting about cheerleading practice. She’s making me feel claustrophobic. When we reach an annex in the hallway, I lean over and speak to her so only she can hear. “Can you walk me to my next class?” Her face becomes serious. She breaks away to say something to her boyfriend, and then our arms are looped again. I turn to Silas. “Annika is going to walk me to my next class.” “Okay,” he says. He looks relieved. “I’ll see you…later.” He heads off in the opposite direction. Annika turns to me as soon as he’s out of sight. “Where’s he going?” I shrug. “To class.” She shakes her head like she’s confused. “I don’t get you guys. One day you’re all over each other, the next you’re acting like you can’t stand to be in the same room. You really need to make a decision about him, Charlie.”
She stops outside a doorway. “This is me…” I say, to see if she’ll protest. She doesn’t. “Call me later,” she says. “I want to know about last night.” I nod. When she disappears into the sea of faces, I step into the classroom. I don’t know where to sit, so I wander to the back row and slide into a seat by the window. I’m early, so I open my backpack. There’s a wallet wedged between a couple of notebooks and a makeup bag. I pull it out and flip it open to reveal a driver’s license with a picture of a beaming, dark-haired girl. Me. Charlize Margaret Wynwood 2417 Holcourt Way New Orleans, LA I’m seventeen. My birthday is March twenty-first. I live in Louisiana. I study the picture in the top left corner and I don’t recognize the face. It’s my face, but I’ve never seen it. I’m…pretty. I only have twenty-eight dollars. The seats are filling up. The one beside me stays empty, almost like everyone is too afraid to sit there. I’m in Spanish class. The teacher is pretty and young; her name is Mrs. Cardona. She doesn’t look at me like she hates me, like so many other people are looking at me. We start with tenses. I have no past. I have no past. Five minutes into class the door opens. Silas walks in, his eyes downcast. I think he’s here to tell me something, or to bring me something. I brace myself, ready to pretend, but Mrs. Cardona comments jokingly about his lateness. He takes the only available seat next to me and stares straight ahead. I stare at him. I don’t stop staring at him until finally, he turns his head to look at me. A line of sweat rolls down the side of his face. His eyes are wide. Wide…just like mine.
Oh my goodness 2023 is looking delicious when it comes to new releases and there were so many I’ve been lucky enough to either read in the last month, or that are still waiting on my TBR that I’ve had to do this in two parts. I wanted to tell you about all of them. This is a combination of proofs I’ve been lucky enough to receive, NetGalley ARC’s, and others I’ve got on pre-order for their release date. Some are for blog tours, others I’ve been given through working with the Squad Pod Collective. It’s going to be a busy year for me and I’m hoping to go to a few more events this year and meet some of the lovely people who support me or who send me books, hoping that I’m going to love them. So, without further rambling, these are the books on my radar for the first part of 2023.
I’m so grateful that Viper Books sent me a copy of this beautiful book when I was too unwell to go to their showcase event. Slated as perfect for readers of Jessie Burton, Stacey Halls and Laura Purcell and recommended by the amazing Essie Fox, this might as well have ‘written for Hayley Baxter written across the cover! We’re in Victorian gothic territory as Many would find much to fear in Fyneshade’s dark and crumbling corridors, its unseen master and silent servants. But not I. For they have far more to fear from me… On the day of her grandmother’s funeral, Marta discovers that she is to be sent to be governess at Fyneshade, her charge the young daughter of the owner, Sir William Pritchard. All is not well at Fyneshade. Sir William is mysteriously absent, and his son and heir Vaughan is forbidden to enter the house. Marta finds herself drawn to him, despite the warnings of the housekeeper that Vaughan is a danger to all around him. But Marta is no innocent to be preyed upon. Guided by the dark gift taught to her by her grandmother, she has made her own plans. It will take more than a family riven by murderous secrets to stop her.
Published 18th May 2023 by Profile Books
Expectant is the latest novel in Vanda Symon’s Detective Sam Shephard series and I finished this late last night so I can reveal it’s brilliant and full of tension as the countdown to catch a murderer coincides with the last weeks of Sam’s pregnancy. This great series, set in Dunedin New Zealand, never lets me down. Sam is a fantastic character, who I’d happily go for a drink with. She’s professional and has one of those faces that people trust immediately, meaning she can elicit new leads and confessions from the unlikeliest criminal. She’s stubborn and outspoken, very ballsy and, although she tries her best not to use it, has an incredible swearing vocabulary. She and partner Paul are expecting their first child and she’s working up to two weeks before her due date. They haven’t found time to organise their endless piles of baby kit into a nursery when a case comes in that Sam can’t help but be drawn into. A group of kids who are hoping to tag the wall down a quiet side street find a woman covered in blood, only one of them has the conscience to stay and ring an ambulance. He’s willing to face the music for the graffiti if he can save her. At first it’s thought to be a stabbing, but it soon becomes clear this is something more sinister. A pregnant woman has been subjected to a rudimentary Caesarian and left for dead, even worse there’s no sign of the baby. This must be someone with a certain amount of medical skill. For Sam, who’s at her most vulnerable, it’s scary to think this might have been someone the victim trusted and it makes her more determined to catch her killer.
Published 18th May 2023 by Orenda Books
I received a beautiful copy of this book because I’m taking part in the blog tour with Random Things Tours. This is a heartbreaking memoir about the power of stories with beautiful illustrations from Anna Walker.
Let me tell you a story…
When Chloe Hooper’s partner is diagnosed with a rare and aggressive illness, she has to find a way to tell their two young sons. By instinct, she turns to the bookshelf. Can the news be broken as a bedtime tale? Is there a perfect book to prepare children for loss? Hooper embarks on a quest to find what practical lessons children’s literature—with its innocent orphans and evil adults, magic, monsters and anthropomorphic animals—can teach about grief and resilience in real life. As she discovers, ‘the right words are an incantation, a spell of hope for the future.’ From the Brothers Grimm to Frances Hodgson Burnett and Tolkien and Dahl—all of whom suffered childhood bereavements—she follows the breadcrumbs of the world’s favourite authors, searching for the deep wisdom in their books and lives. Both memoir and manual, Bedtime Story is stunningly illustrated by the New York Times award-winning Anna Walker. In an age of worldwide uncertainty, here is a profound and moving exploration of the dark and light of storytelling.
Out now from Scribner U.K.
Grace has the incredible power to grab hold of you, immerse you in her world and have you firmly on her side all the way through. It’s possibly way too early to start picking candidates for favourite books of 2023, but I think this book is certainly going to be in contention. I found myself fantasising about having cocktails with her, already knowing we’d have the best time. Grace is stuck in traffic, it’s a boiling hot day and she’s melting. All she wants to do is get to the bakery and pick up the cake for her daughter’s birthday. This is one hell of a birthday cake: it’s a Love Island cake; it has to say that Grace cares; that she’s sorry; that she loves Lotte and hasn’t given up on their relationship. It’s shaping up to be the day from hell and as Grace sits in her tin can of a car on boiling hot tarmac, something snaps. She decides to get out of the car and walk, leaving her vehicle stranded and pissing off everyone now blocked by a car parked in the middle of a busy road. So, despite the fact her trainers aren’t broken in, she sets off walking towards the bakery and a reunion with Lotte. There are just a few obstacles in the way, but Grace can see the cake and Lotte’s face when she opens the box. As she walks she recounts everything that has happened to bring her to where she is now. The deep delves into the past slowly recount how Grace’s life imploded and created a permanent before and after. This book is a stunning debut and should be on your reading list.
Published on 19th January 2023 by Michael Joseph.
Touted as perfect for fans of Eve Chase, Kate Morton and Kate Mosse – all of whom take up space on my forever shelves – this is the third novel from Polly Crosby and on the strength of her first two I would pre-order this without question. In a time slip structure we meet two women, Lady Vita Goldsborough and Eve Blakeney. In 1938 Vita lives in the shadow of her controlling older brother, Aubrey. Trapped and isolated on the East Anglian coast, Vita takes solace in watching the birds that fly over the marshes. But then she meets local artist Dodie Blakeney. The two women form a close bond, and Vita finally glimpses a chance to escape Aubrey’s grasp and be as free as the birds she loves. Decades later in the 1990’s and in the wake of her mother’s death, Eve Blakeney returns to the coast where she spent childhood summers with her beloved grandmother, Dodie. Eve hopes the visit will help make sense of her grief. The last thing she expects to find is a bundle of letters that hint at the heart-breaking story of Dodie’s relationship with a woman named Vita. Eve and Vita’s stories are linked by a shattering secret that echoes through the decades, and when Eve discovers the truth, it will overturn everything she thought she knew about her family – and change her life forever. It shows how much I rate Polly Crosby that this isn’t out until the end of May 2023 and I’m already anticipating publication day.
Published 25th May 2023 by HQ
I’ve been lucky enough to receive a special proof copy of this romantic book with special spredges, which I’m always a sucker for. This isn’t one love story. It’s two.
Becca Calloway is calling it: she’s ready for Mr Right, and she’s ready now. She even goes as far as to hold a manifestation ceremony for him – and when she receives a text from her ex five minutes later, she knows it’s a sign. The problem is, she doesn’t know which way it’s pointing…
Should Becca reply and reignite things with her old flame Mike? Or delete and block, moving forward with the new man in her life? Becca has one choice, with two ways this could go. And in Lovestruck, you’re about to see them both.
Published by Penguin 8th June 2023.
THEY TRIED TO CAGE US.
BUT A WEYWARD WOMAN BELONGS TO THE WILD.
WE CANNOT BE TAMED.
Kate, 2019 Kate flees London – abandoning everything – for Cumbria and Weyward Cottage, inherited from her great-aunt. There, a secret lurks in the bones of the house, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.
Violet, 1942 Violet is more interested in collecting insects and climbing trees than in becoming a proper young lady. Until a chain of shocking events changes her life forever.
Altha, 1619 Altha is on trial for witchcraft, accused of killing a local man. Known for her uncanny connection with nature and animals, she is a threat that must be eliminated.
But Weyward women belong to the wild. And they cannot be tamed…
I couldn’t be more excited about this debut. Weaving together the stories of three women across five centuries, Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.
Published 2nd February 2023 by Borough Press.
1852. Margaret Lennox, a young widow, is offered a position as governess at Hartwood Hall. She quickly accepts, hoping this isolated country house will allow her to leave the past behind.
Margaret soon feels there’s something odd about Hartwood: strange figures in the dark, tensions between servants and an abandoned east wing.
Margaret is certain that everyone here has something to hide, and as her own past threatens to catch up with her, she must learn to trust her instincts before it’s too late… this is another Gothic treasure that I can’t wait to open.
Published by 30th March 2023
I loved the psychological detail in Liz Nugent’s last novel about family dynamics and the fact that no two children have the same parent. I’m hoping for similar in this new novel. Sally Diamond cannot understand why what she did was so strange. She was only doing what her father told her to do, to put him out with the rubbish when he died.
Now Sally is the centre of attention, not only from the hungry media and police detectives, but also a sinister voice from a past she cannot remember. As she begins to discover the horrors of her childhood, Sally steps into the world for the first time, making new friends and big decisions, and learning that people don’t always mean what they say.
But who is the man observing Sally from the other side of the world? And why does her neighbour seem to be obsessed with her? Sally’s trust issues are about to be severely challenged . . .
Published 2nd March 2023 by Sandycove Publishing
‘All of you are cursed, you hear me? An ugly death for the ones with whom you fall in love’
For generations, the Montrose women have lived alone with their secrets, their delicate peace depending on the unspoken bond that underpins their family life – Voodoo and hoodoo magic, and a decades-old curse that will kill anyone they fall for. When seventeen-year-old Nickie Montrose brings home a boy for the first time, this careful balance is thrown into disarray. For the other women have been keeping the curse from Nickie, and revealing it means that they must reckon with their own choices and mistakes.
As new truths emerge, the Montrose women are set on a collision course that echoes back to New Orleans’ French Quarter, where a crumbling book of spells may hold the answers that all of them have been looking for… Rich in its sense of character and place, Black Candle Womenis a haunting and magical debut from a talented new storyteller.
Published 28th February 2023 by Headline
Power. History. Love. Hate. Vengeance.
She will be Queen. Whatever it takes…
Daughter of an ousted king, descendant of ancient druids, as a child it is prophesied that one day Gruoch will be queen of Alba.
When she is betrothed to Duncan, heir elect, this appears to confirm the prophecy. She leaves behind her home, her family and her close friend MacBethad, and travels to the royal seat at Scone to embrace her new position.
But nothing is as Gruoch anticipates. Duncan’s court is filled with sly words and unfriendly faces, women desperate to usurp her position, and others whose motives are shrouded in mystery. As her coronation approaches, a deadly turn of events forces Gruoch to flee Duncan and the capital, finding herself alone, vulnerable and at the mercy of an old enemy. Her hope of becoming Queen all but lost, Gruoch does what she must to survive, vowing that one day she will fulfill her destiny and take up the future owed to her. Whatever it may take.
Published 2nd March 2023 by Raven Books
In New York City, two rival witch families fight for the upper hand.
The Antonova sisters are beautiful, cunning and ruthless, and their mother – known only as Baba Yaga – is the elusive supplier of premium intoxicants. Their adversaries, the influential Fedorov brothers, serve their crime boss father. Named Koschei the Deathless, his enterprise dominates the shadows of magical Manhattan.
For twelve years, the families have maintained a fraught stalemate. Then everything is thrown into disarray. Bad blood carries them to the brink of disaster, even as fate draws together a brother and sister from either side. Yet the siblings still struggle for power, and internal conflicts could destroy each family from within. That is, if the enmity between empires doesn’t destroy both sides first. I’m totally new to this author, but have seen such great reviews for her last novel The Atlas Six and five star previews for this one too. I’m excited to discover an author that’s new to me but has a back catalogue to read my way through.
Published by Tor, 6th April 2023.
For someone who spent time studying the Gothic, Grotesque and Monstrous at university, this cover would have screamed out to me in any bookshop even if I wasn’t a book blogger. gothic adventure story, a classic tale with a feminist twist, a story of ambition and obsession, forbidden love and sabotage…
‘It is not the monster you must fear, but the monster it makes of men…’
Mary is the great-niece of Victor Frankenstein. She knows her great uncle disappeared in mysterious circumstances in the Arctic but she doesn’t know why or how…
The 1850s is a time of discovery and London is ablaze with the latest scientific theories and debates, especially when a spectacular new exhibition of dinosaur sculptures opens at the Crystal Palace. Mary, with a sharp mind and a sharper tongue, is keen to make her name in this world of science, alongside her geologist husband Henry, but without wealth and connections, their options are limited.
But when Mary discovers some old family papers that allude to the shocking truth behind her great-uncle’s past, she thinks she may have found the key to securing their future… Their quest takes them to the wilds of Scotland, to Henry’s intriguing but reclusive sister Maisie, and to a deadly chase with a rival who is out to steal their secret. Our Hideous Progeny is a sumptuous tale of ambition and obsession, of forbidden love and sabotage; an adventure story that blends classic, immersive storytelling with contemporary themes.
Published by Doubleday 4th May 2023
This is a book I’ll be reading along with the rest of my Squad Pod Collective and I’m looking forward to the discussions coming up. I’ve seen preview comments from other authors and it’s recommended by Erin Kelly, Catriona Ward and one of my favourite authors Will Dean, so it must be good. Plus it’s a book about books and what do we book bloggers like more than that? It’s billed as the debut thriller of 2023 and much as I usually avoid hype, this one has tempted me.
Roach – bookseller, loner and true crime obsessive – is not interested in making friends. She has all the company she needs in her serial killer books, murder podcasts and her pet snail, Bleep. That is, until Laura joins the bookshop. Smelling of roses, with her cute literary tote bags (oh I do love a tote bag) and beautiful poetry, she’s everyone’s new favourite bookseller. But beneath the shiny veneer, Roach senses a darkness within Laura, the same darkness Roach possesses. As Roach’s curiosity blooms into morbid obsession, it becomes clear that she is prepared to infiltrate Laura’s life at any cost.
Published by Hodder and Stoughton 28th April 2023
I heard the words ‘Edwardian heist novel’ and ‘Ocean’s 8 meets Fingersmith’ and I was hooked by this novel.
Mayfair, 1905. The grandest house on Park Lane has just dismissed its housekeeper. All manner of treasures lie behind the pillared doors – and scandalous secrets too. With the event of the season looming, nothing must go wrong. But what no one knows is that Mrs King will be back at Park Lane on the night of the ball. She has an audacious plan in mind… and knows just who to recruit to help her clean up.
Housekeeper. Sewing maid. Kitchen girl. Thief.
Never underestimate the women downstairs.
IT’S YOUR HOUSE. BUT IT’S THEIR RULES.
Dazzling, stylish and wildly entertaining, The Housekeepers lets loose an outlandish alliance of women you’ll never forget.
Published by Headline Review 6th July 2023.
Kate Sawyer’s debut novel The Stranding was my favourite novel of 2021 so I have high hopes for this second novel and have been the luckiest blogger in the world to receive this early copy.
It is my dearest wish, that after so long apart, I am able to bring this family together for my wedding day.
This house. This family.
Mary has raised a family in this house. Watched her children play and laugh and bicker in this house. Today she is getting married in this house, with all her family in attendance. The wedding celebrations have brought fractured family together for the first time in years: there’s Phoebe and her husband Michael, children in tow. The young and sensitive Rosie, with her new partner. Irene, Mary’s ex-mother-in-law. Even Emma, Mary’s eldest, is back for the wedding – despite being at odds with everyone else. Set over the course of an English summer’s day but punctuated with memories from the past forty years of love and loss, hope and joy, heartbreak and grief, this is the story of a family. Told by a chorus of characters, it is an exploration of the small moments that bring us to where we are, the changes that are brought about by time, and what, despite everything, stays the same. This sounds like my perfect mix of reminiscences and recriminations, with a fractured family dynamic there can be a dozen interpretations of the past and I’m looking forward to making sense of them.
Published 11th May 2023 by Coronet.
In the name of the Father, not a word of this. Her letters are forbidden.
Beatrice is the convent’s librarian. For years, she has shunned the company of her sisters, finding solace only with her manuscripts.
Then, one carnival night, two women, bleeding and stricken, are abandoned outside the convent’s walls. Moments from death, one of them presses something into Beatrice’s hands: a bewitching book whose pages have a dangerous life of their own.
But men of the faith want the book destroyed, and a zealous preacher has tracked it to her door. Her sisters’ lives – or her obsession. Beatrice must decide.
The book’s voice is growing stronger. An ancient power uncoils. Will she dare to listen?
Published 2nd March 2023 by Wildfire.
My final pick for this post is The Walled Garden, which again has a stunning cover and is a debut novel. The aftermath of war is something I’ve been deeply interested in, although my reading covered the post- WW1 period. This past year I’ve read a couple of books set post WW2 and I learned so much about prisoners of war and how long it took communities, both those occupied and those of the occupier, to recover. No one survives war unscathed. But even in the darkest days, seeds of hope can grow.
It is 1946 and in the village of Oakbourne the men are home from the war. Their bodies are healing but their psychological wounds run deep. Everyone is scarred – those who fought and those left behind.
Alice Rayne is married to Stephen, heir to crumbling Oakbourne Hall. Once a sweet, gentle man, he has returned a bitter and angry stranger, destroyed by what he has seen and done, tormented by secrets Alice can only guess at. Lonely and increasingly afraid of the man her husband has become, Alice must try to pick up the pieces of her marriage and save Oakbourne Hall from total collapse. She begins with the walled garden and, as it starts to bear fruit, she finds herself drawn into a new, forbidden love. Set in the Suffolk countryside as it moves from winter to spring, The Walled Garden is a captivating love story and a timeless, moving exploration of trauma and the miracle of human resilience.
Published 16th March by Manila Press.
Tomorrow I’ll be musing on more new books from the coming year. ❤️📚
Along with many others, particularly my Squad Pod Collective ladies and the lovely Danielle and Kelly who devised the challenge for Bookstagram, I have been following the Orentober Challenge. Today’s has been a struggle because picking a favourite prologue from all the books I’ve read is a touch difficult. So today, I’ve turned my usual photograph into a blog post where I’m featuring two of my favourite prologues. I’ve also chosen my prologues from a couple of older titles that some newer readers might not have come across before.
I dreamt vividly the night she died. I’ve had this dream before. In it I am running. Always running. My heart thumps in my ears. My breath comes in short, painful gasps. It is dark and cold and the trees reach out to grab at me, as if they are alive, as if they are trying to capture me with their long, twiggy fingers. Their roots are thick and hiddenand I trip repeatedly. I think my feet must hurt. I look down to see that I am wearing only one slipper. When did I lose the other?
Fear has taken hold of me now. A rising panic fills me and I begin to struggle for breath. My chest is tight, like a giant’s hand is squeezing and squeezing, making each gasp impossible. It is getting darker. I must keep running. And then, just when I think it’s all over, there it is, a glorious sunrise appears ahead and forces back the darkness. She is sitting, as she always does, in the pool of light on the forest floor. A little girl in a white nightie, soft, golden curls framing her pale face. I run to her and she lifts her head. When she sees me, she smiles. I wave and she waves back and then I laugh because she is wearing my other slipper. We both have one bare foot and one slipper. How funny! As soon as I laugh, the light begins to fade and so does she. I scream so loudly my lungs feel as if they might split open. I have to reach her before she melts away. But it’s always too late. As I stretch my fingers out to touch her, she vanishes. My hand grasps at nothing, like catching smoke.
Published by Orenda Books 2016.
I love this prologue because it grips me from the first sentence. I know something terrible has happened and this is our narrator’s dream, an otherworldly response from her subconscious. We don’t know how it happened, but we get so much of the narrator’s emotions – the panic, desperation, the sense of a struggle between the evil darkness and the light. The strange detail of the slipper, showing a connection between the narrator and the little girl. Is it a subconscious version of herself that she’s trying to return to? Or is this a real life girl, someone that’s part of her? Her little sister. Maybe her daughter. There’s a hint of Rebecca to the style of this prologue; ‘last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’. I think that connection also sets the reader at the centre of a mysterious story, something the narrator is relating to us after the event. It’s so compelling and odd, that I automatically wanted to devour this story and now that I’ve picked it up to quote here, I want to read it again.That’s what a great prologue does.
‘Certain dank gardens cry aloud for a murder; certain old houses demand to be haunted… Within these ivied walls, behind these old green shutters, some further business smoulders, waiting for it’s hour’. Robert Louis Stephenson
‘There’s an unfamiliar smell in the air today. Something like wet pine cones and mulched earth. A hint of old sweat, something sweet, like a lily, and the sticky ripeness that comes with unwashed bodies. The Family like to tease me with my overactive imagination and my exaggerated sense of smell. I like to think I have a mild and unusual form of synaesthesia- certain smells triggering sounds and feeding my mind with wild possibilities. As for the imagination, it might be overactive or it might just be that I’ve attuned my senses to pick up things others choose to ignore. I can hear Cyril, tapping his walking stick on a fence post from the other end of the flower garden, but perhaps it’s the still air that’s making the sound travel. Usually I can hear the birds nesting in the trees down by the entrance to the long drive-way. Blackbirds or ChiffChaffs with their distinctive melodic tweets; and sometimes squirrels as they patter through the undergrowth, in the hedgerows that border the vegetable patches. But today there is silence, apart from Cyril’s stick. And the air is filled with smells, not noise. I breathe it in, waiting, realising I am the only one here, in the grounds, awaiting their arrival. Wondering who they are and why it is they have managed to secure a place here without any of us meeting them before, without them learning about any of our rules and ways.
Again, this is an incredible opening that makes me want to dive right into the first chapter and damn the housework. There are enough clues to put us on edge, even before the Prologue! That cover with the looming building and it’s gothic architecture, eerily reminiscent of the Dakota Building in NYC where John Lennon lived and was murdered. The title leaves a strange feeling, ‘lingering’ usually referring to something that’s stayed past its welcome whether it’s a visitor or an unpleasant smell. If we wanted a guest to remain we tend to say they stayed, not they ‘lingered’. Then those incredible lines from Robert Louis Stevenson, from his essay The Lantern Bearers, are all about setting the scene. A lantern bearer goes before others, shining their light into darkness and seeing what lies ahead. Here the lines quoted do just that – they signal to the reader what lies ahead, something unusual, unsettling, something that has caused our narrator to go out searching. Something has triggered her senses, her unusual senses; she can taste what she sees and pick up clues from what she smells. We get the sense our narrator is in an institution or sanctuary of some kind. Somewhere run by rules and agreement from all parties that live there. Whatever is coming this morning is not agreed. It comes with no warning, were it not for our narrator’s amazing senses. She can smell danger coming. I’m now dying to read on and I hope you are too.
Published by Orenda Books 2018.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for allowing me to use the prologues quoted in this blog.
There are so many great books this autumn, but I’ve narrowed it down to those I have and I’m looking forward to reading the most. It’s all here, from spooky Halloween reads to feel-good fiction, thrillers to historical fiction and a splash of horror. Here’s a little preview of these great books.
In the midst of the woods stands a house called Lichen Hall. This place is shrouded in folklore – old stories of ghosts, of witches, of a child who is not quite a child. Now the woods are creeping closer, and something has been unleashed.
Pearl Gorham arrives in 1965, one of a string of young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth. And she soon suspects the proprietors are hiding something. Then she meets the mysterious mother and young boy who live in the grounds – and together they begin to unpick the secrets of this place. As the truth comes to the surface and the darkness moves in, Pearl must rethink everything she knew – and risk what she holds most dear. I loved this author’s previous book The Lighthouse Witches and I can’t wait to get stuck into this one.
Published on 13th October 2022 by HarperCollins
I loved Caroline’s first two novels, both set in the aftermath of WW1 and full of historical detail, characters to empathise with and that chaos that seems to thrive in war’s aftermath. Between the two World Wars the country was in a state of flux, with huge changes in class structure, gender and the finances, both public and personal. This book is set in England, 1932, when the country was in the grip of the Great Depression. To lift the spirits of the nation, Stella Douglas is tasked with writing a history of food in England. It’s to be quintessentially English and will remind English housewives of the old ways, and English men of the glory of their country. The only problem is –much of English food is really from, well, elsewhere and can one cookbook really manoeuvre people back into those pre-war roles?
Stella sets about unearthing recipes from all corners of the country, in the hope of finding a hidden culinary gem. But what she discovers is rissoles, gravy, stewed prunes and lots of oatcakes. Longing for something more thrilling, she heads off to speak to the nation’s housewives. But when her car breaks down and the dashing and charismatic Freddie springs to her rescue, she is led in a very different direction . . . Full of wit and vim, Good Taste is a story of discovery, of English nostalgia, change and challenge, and one woman’s desire to make her own way as a modern woman.
Published on 13th October 2022 by Simon and Schuster U.K.
Rachel Joyce is one of those authors I’ve had lick to meet twice, at book signings, where I’ve been one of the last people to queue with my old books under my arm and her latest in my hand. Her last book Miss Benson’s Beetle was an incredible read about extraordinary women. Now she reverts to a series of books that have celebrated very ordinary people doing extraordinary things and Mrs Fry is no exception. Ten years ago, Harold Fry set off on his epic journey on foot to save a friend. But the story doesn’t end there. Now his wife, Maureen, has her own pilgrimage to make.
Maureen Fry has settled into the quiet life she now shares with her husband Harold after his iconic walk across England. Now, ten years later, an unexpected message from the North disturbs her equilibrium again, and this time it is Maureen’s turn to make her own journey. But Maureen is not like Harold. She struggles to bond with strangers, and the landscape she crosses has changed radically. She has little sense of what she’ll find at the end of the road. All she knows is that she must get there. Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North is a deeply felt, lyrical and powerful novel, full of warmth and kindness, about love, loss, and how we come to terms with the past in order to understand ourselves and our lives a little better. Short, exquisite, while it stands in its own right, it is also the moving finale to a trilogy that began with the phenomenal bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and continued with The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.
This is a slender book but it has all the power and weight of a classic.
Published by Doubleday 20th Oct 2022. Kindle Edition available from 5th October.
I have already started this book and had a nightmare of epic proportions the very first night. I’m suggestible and have a wild imagination, but I think the opening to this book is strangely unsettling. I felt uneasy, even though the chapters I read didn’t have any particularly terrifying events. It’s the strangeness that creeps up on you.
Superstitions only survive if people believe in them… Renowned academic Dr Sparling seeks help with his project on a remote Irish village. Historical researchers Ben and Chloe are thrilled to be chosen – until they arrive. The village is isolated and forgotten. There is no record of its history, its stories. There is no friendliness from the locals, only wary looks and whispers. The villagers lock down their homes at sundown. It seems a nameless fear stalks the streets, but nobody will talk – nobody except one little girl. Her words strike dread into the hearts of the newcomers. Three times you see him. Each night he comes closer… That night, Ben and Chloe see a sinister figure watching them. He is the Creeper. He is the nameless fear in the night. Stories keep him alive. And nothing will keep him away..
Published by Head of Zeus/ Aries 15th September 2022.
I’m a sucker for historical fiction with a gothic edge, so this really captured my imagination as soon as I read the blurb. Obviously my counsellor brain is always ready for tales of supposed madness and hysteria too.
I must pull myself together. I had to find Dr Rastrick and demand my immediate release. My stomach knotted at the prospect, but I knew I was perfectly sane and that he must see reason.
In 1886, a respectable young woman must acquire a husband. But Violet Pring does not want to marry. She longs to be a professional artist and live on her own terms. When her scheming mother secures a desirable marriage proposal from an eligible Brighton gentleman for her, Violet protests. Her family believes she is deranged and deluded, so she is locked away in Hillwood Grange Lunatic Asylum against her will.In her new cage, Violet faces an even greater challenge: she must escape the clutches of a sinister and formidable doctor and set herself free. This tantalizing Gothic novel from Noel O’Reilly tells a thrilling story of duty and desire, madness and sanity, truth and delusion from within a Victorian asylum.
Published by HQ 8th December 2022
Spring 1937: Teresa is evacuated to London in the wake of the Guernica bombing. She thinks she’s found safety in the soothing arms of Mary Davidson and the lofty halls of Rochester Place, but trouble pursues her wherever she goes.
Autumn 2020: Corrine, an emergency dispatcher, receives a call from a distressed woman named Mary. But when the ambulance arrives at the address, Mary is nowhere to be found. Intrigued, Corinne investigates and, in doing so, disturbs secrets that have long-dwelt in Rochester Place’s crumbling walls. Secrets that, once revealed, will change her life for ever . . .
Who is Mary Davidson? And what happened at Rochester Place all those years ago? Set between the dusty halls of Rochester Place and the bustling streets of modern-day Tooting, this emotive, intricately layered mystery tells the spellbinding story of two people, separated by time, yet mysteriously connected through an enchanting Georgian house and the secrets within its walls.
Published by Penguin 8th Dec 2022
I always look forward to an Orenda book, because I know I’m going to great a fantastic and often thought provoking read. I’m on the blog tour for this in November and I’m looking forward to this one. James Garrett was critically injured when he was shot following his parents’ execution, and no one expected him to waken from a deep, traumatic coma. When he does, nine years later, Detective Inspector Rebecca Kent is tasked with closing the case that her now retired colleague, Theodore Tate, failed to solve all those years ago.
But between that, and hunting for Copy Joe – a murderer on a spree, who’s imitating Christchurch’s most notorious serial killer – she’s going to need Tate’s help … especially when they learn that James has lived out another life in his nine-year coma, and there are things he couldn’t possibly know, including the fact that Copy Joe isn’t the only serial killer in town…
Published by Orenda Books Nov 10th 2022
In between the serial killers, ghostly apparitions and terrifying ‘creepers’ I need some light relief. I was looking for something warm and uplifting and this could be it. Newly installed at All Souls Lutheran, Mallory “Pastor Pete” Peterson soon realizes that her church isn’t merely going through turbulent waters, but is a sinking ship. With the help of five loyal members of the Naomi Circle, the young, bold minister brainstorms fundraising ideas. They all agree that the usual recipe book won’t add much to the parish coffers, but maybe one with all the ingredients on how to heat up relationships rather than casseroles will…
Pastor Pete has her doubts about the project, but it turns out the group of postmenopausal women has a lot to say on the subject of romance. While Charlene, the youngest member at fifty-two, struggles with the assignment, baker-extraordinaire Marlys, elegantly bohemian Bunny, I’m-always-right Velda, and ebullient Edie take up their contributions enthusiastically. After all, their book is really about cooking up love in all its forms. But not everyone in the congregation is on board with this “scandalous” project. As the voices of opposition grow louder, Pastor Pete and these intrepid women will have to decide how hard they’re willing to fight for this book and the powerful stories within—stories of discovery, softened hearts, and changed lives.
Published by Lake Union 6th December 2022
Although this book is already out I’m saving it for the autumn, because it’s one of my Squad Pod’s Book Club reads. I loved Quinn’s debut novel The Smallest Man so I’ve had my eye on this for a while. I also love unusually named heroines, ever since Mary Webb’s Precious Bane, and Endurance Proudfoot is a brilliant invention. It’s usual, they say, for a young person coming to London for the first time to arrive with a head full of dreams. Well, Endurance Proudfoot did not. When she stepped off the coach from Sussex, on a warm and sticky afternoon in the summer of 1757, it never occurred to her that the city would be the place where she’d make her fortune; she was just very annoyed to be arriving there at all.
Meet Endurance Proudfoot, the bonesetter’s daughter: clumsy as a carthorse, with a tactless tongue and a face she’s sure only a mother could love. Durie only wants one thing in life – to follow her father and grandfather into the family business of bonesetting. It’s a physically demanding job, requiring strength, nerves of steel and discretion – and not the job for a woman. But Durie isn’t like other women. She’s strong and stubborn and determined to get her own way. And she finds that she has a talent at bonesetting – her big hands and lack of grace have finally found their natural calling. So, when she is banished to London with her sister, who is pretty, delicate and exactly the opposite to Durie in every way, Durie will not let it stop her realising her dreams. And while her sister will become one of the first ever Georgian celebrities, Durie will become England’s first and most celebrated female bonesetter. But what goes up must come down, and Durie’s elevated status may well become her undoing…
Published by Simon and Schuster 21st July 2022.
There are a few formidable women in my autumn reading and this is another brilliant historical fiction novel for the list. This is billed as a ‘rich and atmospheric’ new novel from prize-winning author Sally Gardner, set in the 18th century between the two great Frost Fairs. Neva Friezland is born into a world of trickery and illusion, where fortunes can be won and lost on the turn of a card. She is also born with an extraordinary gift. She can predict the weather. In Regency England, where the proper goal for a gentlewoman is marriage and only God knows the weather, this is dangerous. It is also potentially very lucrative.
In order to debate with the men of science and move about freely, Neva adopts a sophisticated male disguise. She foretells the weather from inside an automaton created by her brilliant clockmaker father. But what will happen when the disguised Neva falls in love with a charismatic young man?
It can be very dangerous to be ahead of your time. Especially as a woman.
Published by Apollo 10th November 2022.
Will Carver is an incredible writer and his imagination knows no bounds. His books are always so completely original.
Eli Hagin can’t finish anything. He hates his job, but can’t seem to quit. He doesn’t want to be with his girlfriend, but doesn’t know how end things with her, either. Eli wants to write a novel, but he’s never taken a story beyond the first chapter. Eli also has trouble separating reality from fiction.
When his best friend kills himself, Eli is motivated, for the first time in his life, to finally end something himself, just as Mike did… Except sessions with his therapist suggest that Eli’s most recent ‘first chapters’ are not as fictitious as he had intended … and a series of text messages that Mike received before his death point to something much, much darker…
Published by Orenda Books 24th November 2022.
This book sounds like a very dark fairy tale and aren’t they the best ones? An ancient, mercurial spirit is trapped inside Elspeth Spindle’s head – she calls him the Nightmare. He protects her. He keeps her secrets. But nothing comes for free, especially magic.
When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, she is thrust into a world of shadow and deception. Together, they embark on a dangerous quest to cure the town of Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. As the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly, darkly, taking over her mind. And she might not be able to fight it. This is a gothic fantasy romance about a maiden who must unleash the monster within to save her kingdom.
Published by Orbit 29th September
Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old.
Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.
Our Missing Hearts is an old story made new, of the ways supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact. This sounds absolutely epic and I’m so excited to have been granted a copy on NetGalley, so I’ll keep you all informed.
Published 4th October 2022 by Penguin Press
1643: A small group of Parliamentarian soldiers are ambushed in an isolated part of Northern England. Their only hope for survival is to flee into the nearby Moresby Wood… unwise though that may seem. For Moresby Wood is known to be an unnatural place, the realm of witchcraft and shadows, where the devil is said to go walking by moonlight. Seventeen men enter the wood. Only two are ever seen again, and the stories they tell of what happened make no sense. Stories of shifting landscapes, of trees that appear and disappear at will… and of something else. Something dark. Something hungry.
Today, five women are headed into Moresby Wood to discover, once and for all, what happened to that unfortunate group of soldiers. Led by Dr Alice Christopher, an historian who has devoted her entire academic career to uncovering the secrets of Moresby Wood. Armed with metal detectors, GPS units, mobile phones and the most recent map of the area (which is nearly 50 years old), Dr Christopher’s group enters the wood ready for anything. Or so they think. I love the mix of historical fiction and a touch of the supernatural so this one is a definite title for the TBR.
Published on 13th October by S
If someone says gothic, paranormal, romance to me, I’m there with bells on! As a lifelong fan of Wuthering Heights it’s very much my sort of thing. 1813. Lizzie’s beloved older sister Esme is sold in marriage to the aging Lord Blountford to settle their father’s debts. One year later, Esme is dead, and Lizzie is sent to take her place as Lord Blountford’s next wife.
Arriving at Ambletye Manor, Lizzie uncovers a twisted web of secrets, not least that she is to be the fifth mistress of this house. Marisa. Anne. Pansy. Esme. What happened to the four wives who came before her? In possession of a unique gift, only Lizzie can hear their stories, and try to find a way to save herself from sharing the same fate. This sounds to me like a Bluebeard type tale and perfect for a cozy autumn afternoon in front of the log burner.
Published 24th November 2022 by Penguin.
Three women Three eras One extraordinary mystery…
1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.
1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.
2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.
Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love. I’m so excited about this one I’ve ordered a special copy from Goldsboro Books it’s simply stunning and I’m dying to read it.
Published by Orenda Book on 15th September 2022
Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths
Another stunning cover here. From the author of the Ruth Galloway crime series this is a propulsive new thriller set in London featuring Detective Harbinder Kaur. A murderer hides in plain sight – in the police. DS Cassie Fitzherbert has a secret – but it’s one she’s deleted from her memory. In the 1990s when she was at school, she and her friends killed a fellow pupil. Thirty years later, Cassie is happily married and loves her job as a police officer.
One day her husband persuades her to go to a school reunion and another ex-pupil, Garfield Rice, is found dead, supposedly from a drug overdose. As Garfield was an eminent MP and the investigation is high profile, it’s headed by Cassie’s new boss, DI Harbinder Kaur. The trouble is, Cassie can’t shake the feeling that one of her old friends has killed again. Is Cassie right, or was Garfield murdered by one of his political cronies? It’s in Cassie’s interest to skew the investigation so that it looks like the latter and she seems to be succeeding.
Until someone else is killed…
Published on 29th September 2022 by Quercus
And I can’t believe I forgot…..
I possibly forgot this one because I’ve already read and reviewed it for NetGalley and it really is a cracker. After going in a slightly different direction with her last two novels, Jodi Picoult is back in her usual territory here. After teaming up with author Jennifer Finney Boylan, from a Twitter conversation, Picoult is back to tackling a controversial issue with a tense legal case at the centre of the drama.
Olivia fled her abusive marriage to return to her hometown and take over the family beekeeping business when her son Asher was six. Now, impossibly, her baby is six feet tall and in his last year of high school, a kind, good-looking, popular ice hockey star with a tiny sprite of a new girlfriend. Lily also knows what it feels like to start over – when she and her mother relocated to New Hampshire it was all about a fresh start. She and Asher couldn’t help falling for each other, and Lily feels happy for the first time. But can she trust him completely? Then Olivia gets a phone call – Lily is dead, and Asher is arrested on a charge of murder. As the case against him unfolds, she realises he has hidden more than he’s shared with her. And Olivia knows firsthand that the secrets we keep reflect the past we want to leave behind - and that we rarely know the people we love well as we think we do. Each author has written the story from a different character’s perspective, sometimes taking us back in time to understand their experiences. I don’t want to ruin your enjoyment so I won’t give you any more of the plot, but I will say it’s a belter of a novel that will make you question your own prejudices.
Published on 15th November 2022 by Hodder & Stoughton
It’s seems hardly possible that summer is well underway and we are only a matter of weeks away from autumn. It’s been an absolutely book filled summer and I’ve been lucky enough to read and review some of the best. In fact it’s been so busy that a couple of my choices here are published in August, but I won’t get to them until long afterwards. There’s just so much to look forward to though, including new novels from four of my favourite authors: Maggie O’Farrell, Kate Atkinson, Emma Donoghue and Jodi Picoult. As well as this we have the next instalments of three of my favourite crime and mystery series.
I look forward to the publication of these authors every time they come around. These are the authors I pre-order without reading reviews, blurb or hype. I already know I want to read them.
Emma Donoghue’s last novel The Pull of the Stars blew me away with it’s medical and historical detail. It gave me a glimpse into the realities of being a woman and a mother in WW1 Ireland, where birth control is a sin and the so-called Spanish flu is ripping through the hospital wards. Haven takes us back even further to the Ireland of the 7th Century and three men vow to leave the world behind them and start anew. Artt is a priest and a scholar, when he has a dream telling him to leave the sinful world behind he takes it literally . So, taking two monks – young Trian and old Cormac – he travels down the river Shannon in search of an isolated spot on which to found a monastery. As they drift out into the Atlantic, the men find an impossibly steep, bare island inhabited by tens of thousands of birds, and claim it for God. They call their extraordinary landing spot Skellig Michael. But in such a place, far from all other humanity, what will survival mean?
‘Haunting, moving and vividly told, Haven displays Emma Donoghue’s trademark world-building and psychological intensity – but this tale is like nothing she has ever written before’ says the blurb. With Maggie O’Farrell commenting that Donoghue is at ‘her strange, unsettling, best’ I know I’m in for a great read.
Maggie O’Farrell has her own book coming on 30th August and I’ve planned a quiet September to read it and restart my MA study. Hamnet was one of the best books of the last five years, possibly even longer, so I’ve been eager to see what she does next. Her new novel is called The Marriage Portrait and takes us back to the Italian Renaissance, Winter, 1561. Our main character is Lucrezia, thr Duchess of Ferrara, who is taken on an unexpected visit to a country villa by her husband, Alfonso. As they sit down to dinner it occurs to Lucrezia that Alfonso has a sinister purpose in bringing her here. He intends to kill her. Lucrezia is only sixteen years old, and has led a sheltered life locked away within the walls of Florence’s grandest palazzo. Now, in this remote villa, she is entirely at the mercy of her increasingly erratic husband.
What is Lucrezia to do with this sudden knowledge? What chance does she have against Alfonso, ruler of a province, and a trained soldier? How can she ensure her survival? With buzz from authors like Marian Keyes, I know I’m going to want this book, but I know there will be gorgeous special editions and I’m still deciding which to go for.
Headlined as compelling and challenging, Jodi Picoult’s new book looks at how well we really know the people we love. Olivia left her abusive marriage to return to her hometown and take over the family beekeeping business when her son Asher was only six. Now, impossibly, her baby is six feet tall and in his last year of high school. He’s a kind, good-looking, popular ice hockey star with a tiny sprite of a new girlfriend. Lily also knows what it feels like to start over – when she and her mother relocated to New Hampshire it was all about a fresh start. She and Asher couldn’t help falling for each other, and Lily feels happy for the first time. But can she trust him completely?
Then Olivia gets a phone call – Lily is dead, and Asher is arrested on a charge of murder. As the case against him unfolds, she realises he has hidden more than he’s shared with her. Olivia knows firsthand that the secrets we keep, hide a past we want to leave behind.
Finally there’s Kate Atkinson and her new novel Shrines of Gaiety. I love Kate Atkinson’s writing, from Behind the Scenes at the Museum, through the Jackson Brodie series and into Life After Life and it’s sequel, I have never been disappointed with her novels. I’ve been challenged and surprised though, so I can’t wait to see what this novel will bring.
It’s 1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time. The notorious queen of this glittering world is Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie’s empire faces threats from without and within. For beneath the dazzle of Soho’s gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost. With her unique Dickensian flair, Kate Atkinson brings together a glittering cast of characters in a truly mesmeric novel that captures the uncertainty and mutability of life; of a world in which nothing is quite as it seems. With a blurb like that it’s not surprising that I’ve engineered a quiet few weeks so that when it arrives I can hopefully dive straight in.
The Next in the Series
There’s always a slightly bittersweet moment when I receive the next book in a much loved series. I’m excited to have new adventures with my favourite characters, but always worry that it may be the last. We’ve all seen those series, in book form or TV, where they’ve run out of ideas. For me a sure sign a series should be over is the dreaded musical episode! So, I’m looking forward to these books with a side order of trepidation.
I bang on about The Skelfs series so much on Twitter that it’s possible even Doug Johnstone is fed up of hearing it! With Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books we coined the term #SkelfaholicsAnonymous and have agreed that when the series ends we will commiserate and celebrate the series with a great bottle of whiskey at an observatory or a funeral home, depending on who is more accommodating. This is the fourth, and possibly the penultimate, book following the Skelf women, three generations of an Edinburgh family who run a funeral home and a private investigation business. Grandmother Dorothy is in her 70’s and still actively involved in both businesses, as well as teaching drums in her spare time. She also has a police detective lover twenty years her junior. Jenny is the mum, struggling mentally after killing her ex-husband in self-defence. Hannah is the daughter, now married to Indy, doing her PhD, and startled to find she has a stalker. New and unusual cases come to the door, such as a widower convinced his wife’s spirit is attacking him in the night. Meanwhile, old demons still emerge, with Jenny’s psycho ex-husband (Hannah’s father) still haunting their lives from beyond the grave. Johnstone meanders through these events whilst pondering on the meaning of life through spiritual avenues, but also through astrophysics and ancient philosophy. Utterly brilliant!
As some of you will know, Cormoran Strike is my literary crush. It’s the dark, brooding and damaged hero thing. He’s vulnerable, but prickly. Despite all of that I know I would feel completely safe with him. Anyway, enough of my literary fantasies, I genuinely think it’s the incredible chemistry between Strike and his business partner Robin that helps to sell this series and her last instalment left us on the edge. Could something happen between them? Of course the other winning component is the case they’re working on. There are always those bread and butter cases: watching someone’s partner, because of a suspicion of infidelity; finding birth parents; locating people who owe money. The author usually throws in a humorous case too, last time it was discovering a businessman paying to dress as a baby! However, the main case is always meaty and full of twists. This time our damsel in distress is Edie Ledwell who appears in the office begging to speak to Robin, who doesn’t know quite what to make of the situation. Edie is co-creator of a popular cartoon, The Ink Black Heart, and is being persecuted by a mysterious online figure who goes by the pseudonym of Anomie. Edie wants to uncover Anomie’s true identity. Robin decides the agency can’t help with this – and thinks nothing more of it until a few days later, when she reads the shocking news that Edie has been tasered and then murdered in Highgate Cemetery, the location of The Ink Black Heart. Now, Robin and her business partner Cormoran Strike become drawn into the quest to uncover Anomie’s true identity. But with a complex web of online aliases, business interests and family conflicts to navigate, Strike and Robin find themselves embroiled in a case that stretches their powers of deduction to the limits – and which threatens them in new and horrifying ways. I’ve pre-ordered this one so I’ll be receiving this on publication day and I won’t be available for 48 hours.
A couple of years ago I had the great fortune of coming across one of Peter James’s Roy Grace books in a holiday cottage. I then had one of those blissful moments when I realised, not only had I found a new author I really enjoyed, there was a whole back catalogue to get through! I was greedy and read them in a week back to back so now I wait for each new instalment and grab it, devour it in a day and wish I’d taken my time. I’m now watching the TV series with great interest to see what how they interpret the books and who plays the characters.
In this latest novel we meet Harry and Freya, an ordinary couple, who dreamed for years of finding something priceless buried amongst the tat in a car boot sale. It was a dream they knew in their hearts would never come true – until the day it did. They buy a drab portrait for a few pounds, for its beautiful frame, planning to cut the painting out. Then studying it back at home there seems to be another picture beneath, of a stunning landscape. Could it be a long-lost masterpiece from 1770? If genuine, it could be worth millions. One collector is certain it is genuine. Someone who uses any method he can to get want he wants and will stop at nothing. So, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace finds himself plunged into an unfamiliar and rarefied world of fine art. Outwardly it appears respectable, gentlemanly, and above reproach. But beneath the veneer, Roy rapidly finds that greed, deception and violence walk hand-in-hand. Harry and Freya Kipling are about to discover that their dream is turning into their worst nightmare.
Next Sunday I’ll be looking at fantasy and historical fiction.
So I’m having a book blogger’s dilemma. The arrival of this book through the door made me do a little Snoopy dance! There are a few books I’ve earmarked as my most anticipated summer reads, but this is right up there as my mostest anticipated novel. I know, we bloggers do love to throw out superlatives here and there, but I’ve honestly been waiting for this book ever since I finished The Misadventures of Evie Epworth two summers ago. Now I’m in an awful quandary. I want to devour it in one go, but once I do, the moment will have passed and Evie is gone again. I don’t know whether Evie’s story ends this time, or whether there’s more to come, so I’m trying to hang on for a little while, at least until my fellow Squadettes are reading so we can talk about it.
If you haven’t read Matson Taylor’s first novel then where have you been? I think this is one book where reading the previous instalment of Evie’s adventures is really helpful. You have a whole new literary heroine to meet and I think knowing where Evie comes from is vital in understanding her. I’m not going to use spoilers so it’s safe to read on. In book one we met Evie in the 1960’s, the summer after O’Levels and before A Levels. Her only plans for the summer are reading, helping their elderly neighbour with her baking and, most importantly, getting rid of her dad’s girlfriend who would like to see Evie working through her summer at the local salon. Christine has moved in and is slowly trying to erase everything Evie loves about the farmhouse, including her Adam Faith wall clock and that won’t do. Evie and her dad would like things to stay as they were when her Mum was alive. They love their Aga and old country kitchen, but Christine wants Formica and a new cooker that’s easier to clean. Her wardrobes are wall to wall pink, synthetic fabrics and she colonises the kitchen with her Mum and lumpen friend, who’re usually in tow. Her dad can’t seem to see that his girlfriend and daughter don’t get along, there’s quite a lot of avoidance practised here, he’s often got his head in the newspaper or listening to the cricket scores, or just popping out for a pint. Whatever the tactic, it means he hasn’t heard anything. This problem needs another woman to solve it. So, when her neighbour has an accident and her daughter Caroline arrives to look after her, the three women put their heads together to deal with the problem, just in time for the village fete and baking competition.
All About Evie starts ten years on from the previous novel with Evie settled in London and working at the BBC. She has all the things a 70’s girl could wish for – including an Ozzie Clark poncho. Then disaster hits. An incident with Princess Anne and a Hornsea Pottery mug means she must have a rethink about her future. So what can she do next? Will she be too old to do it? Most importantly, will it involve cork soled sandals? I have no qualms in saying this is my most anticipated book of the summer. I think I’ll have to compromise and as soon as I have a two week gap from blog tours I’ll be delving in to find out what happens next….
I don’t often do cover reveals or previews, but there are just so many books to look forward to I might start. I think it’s the only way I can tell show you the novels I’m excited about. Otherwise I have to wait till I’ve read and review them all and that can take a while! Sometimes just the blurb and the cover is enough to whet my appetite. Other times it’s the first page that I’ve been reading while stood up in the queue at the bookshop. Sometimes I’ve been granted the book on NetGalley and couldn’t resist peeking at the first chapter. Or it could be I’ve read the author’s first book and I’ve been waiting impatiently for that difficult second book, just knowing it will be great.
Today I’m talking about Freya Sampson’s new book The Girl on the 88 Bus. I loved reading her debut novel The Last Library last year because it was like a warm hug in a book. By the looks of early reviews this book has that same magical feel. Here’s the blurb:
When Libby Nicholls arrives in London, broken-hearted and with her life in tatters, the first person she meets on the bus is elderly pensioner Frank. He tells her about the time in 1962 he met a girl on the number 88 bus with beautiful red hair just like her own. They made plans for a date, but Frank lost the ticket with her number written on it. For the past sixty years, he’s ridden the same bus trying to find her.
More than anything, Libby wants Frank to see his lost love one more time. But their quest also shows Libby just how important it is to embrace her own chance for happiness – before it’s too late.
A beautifully uplifting novel about how one chance meeting can change the course of your life forever
Published in June 2022 by Zaffre Publishing. I can’t wait. Can you?
Meet The Author
Freya Sampson works in TV and was the executive producer of Channel 4’s Four in a Bed and Gogglesprogs. She studied History at Cambridge University and in 2018 was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize. She lives in London with her husband, two young children and an antisocial cat
It’s my pleasure on today’s blog to reveal the gorgeous cover for Emma Brodie’s new novel Songs in Ursa Major, coming from Harper Collins on 24th June 2021. Partly inspired by the relationship between Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, we’re publishing to coincide with the 50th anniversary for Joni Mitchell’s classic album, Blue – the soundtrack to my 1970s childhood! That’s two copies sold right there to me and my mum.
Full of atmosphere, sun-soaked hedonism, rock ‘n’ roll and an electric love story, Ursa Major is the perfect escapist read for summer 2021. Fans of The Girls by Emma Cline & Daisy Jones and the Six will be captivated.
This is the gorgeous new cover for Alison O’Leary’s new novel Country Cat Blues. I’m so excited for the second instalment in Aubrey’s life as a feline Sherlock Holmes. I’m glad to be on this month’s blog tour. I’m beginning to wonder what my two cats, Baggins and Hugo Agogo, might get up to as we move into the country next week.
When former rescue cat Aubrey moves to the picturesque village of Fallowfield with his owners and their foster son Carlos, he is keen to explore the delights of the English countryside. However, all is not as it seems among the villagers. The idyllic peace is shattered when a gruesome murder takes place at the village fete. Tensions run high as spectres from the past begin to emerge, and Aubrey is particularly upset when suspicion falls on Morris, who may be almost permanently drunk, but is also a good friend to the local cat population…
Can Aubrey restore the peace in the village and help clear Morris’s name?
About the Author:
I was born in London and spent my teenage years in Hertfordshire where I spent large amounts of time reading novels, watching daytime television and avoiding school. Failing to gain any qualifications in science whatsoever, the dream of being a forensic scientist collided with reality when a careers teacher suggested that I might like to work in a shop. I don’t think she meant Harrods. Later studying law, I decided to teach rather than go into practice and have spent many years teaching mainly criminal law and criminology to young people and adults.
I enjoy reading crime novels, doing crosswords, and drinking wine. Not necessarily in that order
The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex. Pan Macmillan. 4th March 2021
They say we’ll never know what happened to those men. They say the sea keeps its secrets . . .
Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week. What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves? Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface. Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.
For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises that its pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’. Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher and new head of department. Rose is overwhelmed by the institution: its arcane traditions, unrivalled prestige, and terrifyingly cool, vindictive students. Her classroom becomes her haven, where the stories of fearless women from ancient Greek and Roman history ignite the curiosity of the girls she teaches and, unknowingly, the suspicions of the powers that be. But as Rose uncovers the darkness that beats at the very heart of Caldonbrae, the lines between myth and reality grow ever more blurred. It will be up to Rose – and the fierce young women she has come to love – to find a way to escape the fate the school has in store for them, before it is too late.
The Split by Laura Kaye. Quercus. 18th March 2021.
Brutally dumped by her girlfriend, Ally is homeless, friendless and jobless… but at least she has Malcolm. Wounded and betrayed, Ally has made off with the one thing she thinks might soothe the pain: Emily’s cat.
After a long train journey she arrives home to her dad in Sheffield, ready to fold herself up in her duvet and remain on the sofa for the foreseeable. Her dad has other ideas. A phone call later, and Ally is reunited with her first ever beard and friend of old, Jeremy. He too is broken-hearted and living at home again. In an inspired effort to hold each other up, the pair decide to sign up for the local half marathon in a bid to impress their exes with their commitment and athleticism. Given neither of them can run, they enlist the support of athletic, not to mention beautiful, Jo. But will she have them running for the hills… or will their ridiculous plan pay off…? I’ve seen this described as ‘humour, kindness, cake and a cat’ – sounds like the perfect day to me. My full review will be out soon.
Everything Happens For A Reason by Katie Allen. Orenda Books. 10th June 2021.
Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss. When a misguided well-wisher tells her that ‘everything happens for a reason’, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she s now certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son. Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, Josephine, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results… Both a heart-wrenchingly poignant portrait of grief and a gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story of a young woman’s determination, Everything Happens for a Reasonis a bittersweet, life- affirming read and, quite simply, unforgettable.
While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart. Headline. 4th March 2021.
On a platform in occupied Paris, a mother whispers goodbye. It is the end. But also the beginning.
Paris 1944 A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope.
Santa Cruz 1953 Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi Occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door. On a darkened platform, two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined.
Unwell Women by Elinor Cleghorn. Weidenfeld and Nicholson. 10th June 2021.
See my very personal preview of this exciting book here:
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward. Serpent’s Tail/Viper. 18th March 2021.
I have been excited about this book for months now and was so excited to receive an ARC on NetGalley! It’s now at the top of my TBR pile and I’m looking forward to getting started this week. Why so excited? When I read that Stephen King had said ‘I haven’t read anything this exciting since Gone Girl’ I started to take notice. Another favourite author of mine, Joanne Harris, agreed that ‘Books like this don’t come around too often’ . This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street. All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies. You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think… Based on the reviews I’ve read, I would pre- order now ( I’ve already got my hardback on order because this is one of those ARC’s I need a real copy of). Review coming soon.
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin. Doubleday/ Random House UK. 18th Feb 2021.
Everything I’ve read about this novel tells me it’s made for me. I’ve had a pending request for it on NetGalley for a while, but not long to wait until I can pop to the local bookshop for it. We all need something to keep our hopes alive, especially at the moment and this book seems to uplift people. It’s about an extraordinary friendship. A lifetime of stories. Their last one begins here. Life is short – no one knows that better than seventeen year-old Lenni Petterssen. On the Terminal Ward, the nurses are offering their condolences already, but Lenni still has plenty of living to do. When she meets 83-year-old Margot Macrae, a fellow patient offering new friendship and enviable artistic skills, Lenni’s life begins to soar in ways she’d never imagined. As their bond deepens, a world of stories opens up: of wartime love and loss, of misunderstanding and reconciliation, of courage, kindness and joy. Stories that have led Lenni and Margot to the end of their days.
The One Hundred Years is a celebration of life, hope and kindness. The perfect read to shine a light on dark days.
The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley. Bloomsbury. 27th May 2021.
Such are the problems of a book bloggers world – I’ve had this proof for a couple of months but have such a pile of proofs I need to wait till we’re a bit closer to publication. It’s calling to me though, because I became a die-hard fan of Natasha Pulley’s writing in 2016 when I fell in love with a clockwork octopus and a lonely Japanese watchmaker. This promises to be another imaginative mash-up of history and fantasy.
Come home, if you remember.
The postcard has been held at the sorting office for ninety-one years, waiting to be delivered to Joe Tournier. On the front is a lighthouse – Eilean Mor, in the Outer Hebrides. Joe has never left England, never even left London. He is a British slave, one of thousands throughout the French Empire. He has a job, a wife, a baby daughter. But he also has flashes of a life he cannot remember and of a world that never existed – a world where English is spoken in England, and not French. And now he has a postcard of a lighthouse built just six months ago, that was first written nearly one hundred years ago, by a stranger who seems to know him very well. Joe’s journey to unravel the truth will take him from French-occupied London to a remote Scottish island, and back through time itself as he battles for his life – and for a very different future.
These are just a few of the releases I’m looking forward to in the first part of this year. Look out for part 2 later in the week, but be prepared for your wish list to grow even longer. Happy Reading!