Blog Tour: The Lost Ones – Anita Frank

Blog Tour: The Lost Ones – Anita Frank

Release Date: October 31st 2019
Publisher: HQ Stories
Pages: 464
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917

Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

In the classic tradition of The Woman in Black, Anita Frank weaves a spell-binding debut of family tragedy, loss and redemption.

Review

Copy of book cover (78)This debut novel completely swept me up in it’s beautiful story of family and loss. It’s stunningly written and I could not put this book down.

The story follows Stella, a young widow dealing with the death of her fiancee. She goes to stay with her sister who is struggling with being pregnant. Madeline stays in a remote countryside mansion, known as Greyswick and as Stella spends more time there strange things begin to happen and she begins to uncover the dark history of Greyswick.

I honestly completely fell in love with this book. It was everything you could want from a Halloween/Autumn read. It has this dark, imposing setting that really came to life in Frank’s writing. It was full to the brim with atmosphere and I was constantly trying to squeeze in another chapters because I was so desperate to know more.

One of the things I loved most about this story was the characters. Stella and Annie are brilliantly fleshed out, and though the two are completely different I loved seeing them come together in an attempt to uncover the mysteries of the house. The story is well paced, with the latter half of the book having quite a few surprise reveals that I definitely didn’t see coming.

The Lost Ones is definitely a gripping read, with plenty of eerie, supernatural moments to send a shiver up your spine. It put me in mind of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions, so if you’re a fan of Gothic historical fiction with a touch of the supernatural, this will be right up your street.
4 stars
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Blog Tour: A House of Ghosts – W. C. Ryan

Blog Tour: A House of Ghosts – W. C. Ryan

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Release Date:
October 4th 2018
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Pages: 419
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.
At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.
For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . .
An unrelentingly gripping mystery packed with twists and turns, A House of Ghosts is the perfect chilling read next winter.

Review

As we get to the last few months of the year I find myself reaching more and more for dark and chilling reads that will have me on the edge of my seat. I had pretty high expectations going into this one, I had heard lots of brilliant buzz and hype around it, and I’m so happy to say it delivered. Chilling, mysterious and featuring a brilliant setting.

The story is set in a remote, isolated house on an island off the Devon coast. I completely fell in love with this setting, it was the perfect place to make attempts to contact the dead, and it definitely helped to heighten the tension as we try to figure out the secrets surrounding the guests. I really liked the characters too, we are given two POVs in this story and I really enjoyed both Donovan and Kate’s perspectives as they tried to uncover the mysteries in Blackwater Abbey.

The story is full of plot twists and plenty of surprise moments to keep you hooked. I really enjoyed Ryan’s writing style, and felt the pacing was just perfect to give you that chill up your spine. I also really enjoyed the Wartime setting of this book, it’s not something I read often and loved that extra layer it brought to the story. If you’re looking for something eerie and dark with a real claustrophobic feel, this should definitely be on your wish list.  A House of Ghosts is perfect Halloween reading, and I can’t wait to try more from this author.
4 stars

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Book Review: See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

Book Review: See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

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Release Date:
May 2nd 2017
Publisher: Tinder Press
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden – thirty two years old and still living at home – immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.

Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie’s unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to take care of a problem.

This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.

Review

Copy of book cover (38)There are no words to describe how good this book is. Dark, atmospheric and chilling, this book is an intense read, and one amazing debut. There are so many things I want to say about this book. It’s exquisitely written, the claustrophobic setting, the uncomfortable feelings you get all the way through the story. This is one book that has stuck with me long after I’ve finished reading it, and I’ve recommended it to just about everyone I know.

The novel is based on the real life story of Lizzie Borden, a young women who was accused of murdering her father and step-mother. Her case went to trial but she was acquitted due to lack of evidence. The story mixes the facts of the case with a narrative that switches between before the murders occurred, and the aftermath.

The book differs in point of view between that of Lizzie, her sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget and a stranger named Benjamin. The different perspectives are really fascinating because they give such differing views of the messed up Borden family. Each scene in the book is laced with familial tension, and Schmidt’s writing oozes with a sense of dark heat and atmosphere.

The thing that stands out most is the writing style of this book. Schmidt writes in such a fascinating way, often slightly poetic, every word adds another layer and the readers senses are continually assaulted by the descriptions of the tastes and smells of the Borden household. The story is certainly a vivid one, and it is completely unlike anything I have ever read. I think I read See What I Have Done in maybe two sittings, purely because I was completely sucked into the story.

I knew very little about Lizzie Borden prior to reading this book, bar of course the famous rhyme:

‘Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.’

But after finishing the book I found myself spending a large time googling Lizzie and the case, it’s such a fascinating story. The family being sick the day before the murders, Lizzie’s contradicting story and lack of remorse over the whole thing. Did she murder her father and step-mother? We’ll never know. I loved this book from start to finish. The characters were well constructed and fleshed out, the writing impeccable and the story probably one of the best I have ever read. This is easily my favourite book of 2017. I cannot wait to see what Sarah Schmidt writes next.
5 stars

Book Review: Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book Review: Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Release Date:
March 7th 2019
Publisher: Hutchinson
Pages: 368
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this in Sainsburys
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

For a while, Daisy Jones & The Six were everywhere. Their albums were on every turntable, they sold out arenas from coast to coast, their sound defined an era. And then, on 12 July 1979, they split. Nobody ever knew why. Until now. They were lovers and friends and brothers and rivals. They couldn’t believe their luck, until it ran out. This is their story of the early days and the wild nights, but everyone remembers the truth differently. The only thing they all know for sure is that from the moment Daisy Jones walked barefoot onstage at the Whisky, their lives were irrevocably changed. Making music is never just about the music. And sometimes it can be hard to tell where the sound stops and the feelings begin.

Review

40554141Daisy Jones and the Six tells the tale of world famous Daisy Jones and the Six, a rock band that took the world by storm in the 60s. After a hit record and sell out shows – the band suddenly disbanded and no one knows why. Now years later, the band recount the tale of what led to them breaking up.

Now I’m going to point out straight away that this is completely not the kind of book I would normally read. The majority of the books I read are Science Fiction and Fantasy, so this is completely outside of my comfort zone. I picked this up because of all the hype for this and another of Reid’s novels – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – and thought it might be quite an interesting read. What I didn’t expect was to be absolutely blown away by this book, and have it be one of my new all-time favourites.

Daisy Jones and the Six is told in a really fascinating way, the book unfolds as a series of interviews – with the band recounting their time recording music and touring. The story is exclusively dialogue, there’s not really anything in the way of scenery descriptions or anything of that nature. Despite that the story completely came alive for me and I felt like Daisy and the band were real people – in fact by the time I was finished I wanted to google the band to learn more about them. The story really makes you feel like these people were real, and brings to life the sights and sounds of life in the 60s.

Daisy Jones and the Six holds nothing back and there’s plenty of drink, drugs and the difficulty of dealing with fame. It’s a fascinating tale and you get the sense early on that it’s going to end badly, yet you absolutely cannot look away.

The story is emotional and heart breaking in the best possible way and I honestly struggled not to bawl my eyes out at it on the way home from work. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like Daisy Jones and the Six, and it’s definitely a book I keep thinking about despite finishing it a while ago.

I’m so glad I took the jump and tried something out of my comfort zone, because this is absolutely a new favourite. I’m incredibly keen to try more from this author and if you’ve seen the buzz around Daisy Jones and thought that the book isn’t your cup of tea I’d definitely suggest giving it a go – you might just find a new favourite.

5 stars

Book Review: The Wages of Sin – Kaite Welsh

Book Review: The Wages of Sin – Kaite Welsh

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Series:
Sarah Gilchrist #1
Release Date: June 1st 2017
Publisher: Tinder Press
Pages: 309
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh’s medical school in 1892, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and—perhaps worst of all—her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city’s ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St Giles’ Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patient’s, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh’s dank alleyways, bawdy houses and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

Review

book cover - 2019-04-29T121734.477I loved this book from start to finish. Sarah Gilchrist is such a fascinating character. Forced to leave London in disgrace, Sarah is part of the first group of female medical students at Edinburgh University. She’s determined to become a doctor and help those in need. However those around her are not so thrilled at the idea of having female doctors, and there are those in her family who would much prefer she let the idea of doctoring go and get married.

I’m not really sure where to begin with reviewing The Wages of Sin. I loved it so much, and there’s just so much going on in this complex and addictive story. The first thing I adored about this book was the setting. I love historical fiction, and so when I heard about this book set in Victorian Edinburgh, I was absolutely dying to read it. Not only that, I did my undergraduate degree in Edinburgh, and at the time of reading the book I was interning just off the royal mile. It’s very rare you’re actually in a place where a book is set, and the fantastic depictions of Victorian Edinburgh really made the story come alive for me. I often spent my lunch break in cafe comparing the Royal Mile of today to the dark and eerie Royal Mile of the story.The descriptions of the medical procedures and events in the infirmary are also very visually depicted, bringing alive the stench and sounds of the medical world.

I also adored the characters, they’re so wonderfully depicted, and there’s such a range of interesting characters. Sarah is dismissed from society, yet she’s still determined to see her dream of becoming a doctor through. She’s strong and she fights for what she believes is right. I also loved Elizabeth, Sarah’s only real friend that she confides and finds solace in. Elizabeth appears as the perfect depiction of a good wife who stays at home, but she’s so much more. Professor Merchiston too is a fascinating character he’s both Sarah’s lecturer and some how tied up in the mysterious death of her patient.

The Wages of Sin is such a fascinating exploration into how women were treated in Victorian times, but enveloped in a dark murder mystery. The back drop of women being ridiculed and shunned for studying medicine, as well as obstructing them from getting the vote, makes for a really interesting and complex story. This book kept me guessing, and kept me wanting more. The book is incredibly well researched, and is definitely one of my favourite historical fictions ever. It’s full of darkness and corruption, This is a completely engaging book, and I hope this isn’t the last we see of Sarah Gilchrist.
5 stars

Blog Tour: The Devil Aspect – Craig Russell

Blog Tour: The Devil Aspect – Craig Russell

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Release Date:
March 7th 2019
Publisher: Constable
Pages: 496
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis

A terrifying novel set in Czechoslovakia in 1935, in which a brilliant young psychiatrist takes his new post at an asylum for the criminally insane that houses only six inmates–the country’s most depraved murderers–while, in Prague, a detective struggles to understand a brutal serial killer who has spread fear through the city, and who may have ties to the asylum 

In 1935, Viktor Kosarek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country’s six most treacherous killers–known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon–and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth.

Meanwhile, in Prague, fear grips the city as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier–London’s Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum.
Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this stylishly written, tightly coiled, richly imagined novel is propulsively entertaining, and impossible to put down.

Review

“I will return,” the voice hissed in Viktor’s ear. “I will return and show you the truth and you will be blinded by it. I will show you such horror and fear that you will be burned by its beauty and its clarity.”book cover - 2019-04-19T094103.467

This is my first time reading a book by Craig Russell and I can tell you right away that it definitely won’t be my last. The Devil Aspect follows a young and ambitious psychiatrist named Viktor Kosarek who begins work at an institute for the most criminally insane people of Czechoslovakia. Victor is determined to prove that the six murderers housed here are evidence of the devil aspect. Also occurring in the story is a serial killer loose in Prague, striking fear into the cities residents. As police investigator Lukas Smolak attempts to uncover who’s behind the murders, he discovers there may be a connection to the inmates of the infamous asylum.

I honestly couldn’t put this book down. This story is so tense and gripping, it will definitely have you reading long past bedtime. The story kept me guessing at every turn and I really enjoyed the two different story arcs and the way that they weaved together. I really liked the characters, they were well developed and Viktor and Lukas made for really fascinating protagonists. The story blended murder mystery with supernatural horror incredibly well and the whole way through I was questioning what was real and what wasn’t.

The story in this book is really superb but thing that really made this a five star read for me was the atmosphere. It was so dark and chilling, it made me feel like I was right there in the story. Russell really brings to life this dark and creepy asylum and the freezing foggy streets of Prague. This Gothic horror tale is an addictive roller coaster ride that doesn’t let you off till the very last page. If you’re looking for a new favourite read, I can’t recommend this enough.
5 stars
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Blog Tour: The Lives Before Us – Juliet Conlin

Blog Tour: The Lives Before Us – Juliet Conlin

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Release Date:
March 28th 2019
Publisher: Black and White
Pages: 400
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

A beautifully written, sweeping story of survival, community and love…

It it April 1939, and, in Berlin and Vienna, Esther and Kitty face a brutal choice. Flee Europe, or face the ghetto, incarceration, death.

Shanghai… They’ve heard it whispered that Shanghai might offer refuge. And so, on a crowded ocean liner, these women encounter each other for the first time.

Kitty has been lured to the other side of the world with promises of luxury, love and marriage. But when her Russian fiancé reveals his hand, she’s left to scratch a vulnerable living in Shanghai’s nightclubs and dark corners. Meanwhile, Esther and her daughter shelter in a house of widows until Aaron, a hot-headed former lover, brings fresh hope of survival.

Then, as the Japanese army enters the fray and violence mounts, the women are thrown together in Shanghai’s most desperate times. Together they must fight a future for the lives that will follow theirs.

Review

book cover - 2019-04-09T224206.829I absolutely adored Juliet Conlin’s The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days so I was incredibly excited to pick up her newest release, The Lives Before Us. Set in 1939 the story follows three characters – Esther, Kitty and Yì as they attempt to escape from the violence and death that is spreading across the world at this dark moment in history. It is a powerful and emotional story that I found difficult to put down.

This is definitely the kind of story that sticks with you long after you’re finished reading. The story is told from the differing perspectives of the three characters who are each dealing with their own issues and struggles. They experience the horrors and hardships of a world at war but the story also focuses very much on the ideas of friendship and family at a time when so many are being persecuted.

I really liked all three characters – Kitty who is going to meet a fiance whom she discovers is already married, Yì is a young Chinese boy who has been badly treated all his life and Esther who is trying to escape persecution and protect her daughter. Each character brought a really unique perspective and they blended well to create a compelling tale.

I really enjoyed Conlin’s writing style in her previous novel and if possible I loved it even more in this book. It was so easy to sink into the book and be swept along in the story of these characters. The book was well paced and definitely gave me the opportunity to gain more knowledge about life during that time period. I also really liked the setting for this story – Shanghai – Conlin’s writing really brought it to life and it was fascinating reading about a place I know so little about.

The Lives Before Us is a gorgeously written, touching tale that fans of historical fiction will absolutely adore. If you’ve read The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner, you’re definitely going to love this too.
4 stars
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