The Other People by C.J. Tudor | @cjtudor @MichaelJBooks | #recommended

Happy publication day to the fabulous C.J. Tudor for her outstanding third book, The Other People!

Author : C.J. Tudor
Title : The Other People
Pages : 416
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : January 23, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

She sleeps, a pale girl in a white room . . .

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window.

She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’

It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them.

Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up with her and Alice.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Warning : possibility of awkward love-fest ahead.

Hell is other people

For the longest time, whenever someone would ask me who my favourite author was, I didn’t even have to think about the answer. (For those who haven’t been keeping up, that’d be Karin Slaughter). But ever since I read The Chalk Man, the answer is coming just that little bit slower and now, on having read C.J. Tudor’s latest book, The Other People, the time may have come to utter the words “move over, Karin!”. So sorry, Karin, it’s not you, it’s me.

The Other People was easily my most anticipated book of the year. I had such high expectations that I was convinced before it even arrived in the post, that I would absolutely love it and no matter how much I tried to temper down that feeling, worrying that I was setting myself up to be disappointed, I couldn’t do it. So obviously I was ecstatic when I realised my expectations were being exceeded. As far as I’m concerned, C.J. Tudor can write me a shopping list and I’ll read it and love it and tell you all to read it too until I’m blue in the face.

First of all, there’s the writing. I can’t even begin to explain why it draws me in as it does. It’s almost magical and completely mesmerising. Some of it is so immensely deep and insightful (come talk to me again when you’ve read about “hope”) and I often find myself nodding as I’m reading along because yes, hitting the nail on the head right there in a way I’m clearly incapable of myself. But the writing is also natural and not conceited in any way. It feels comfortable. It feels as if C.J. Tudor is right here on my sofa, telling me a story and I’m hanging onto every single word. Sometimes I even chuckle, although I’m not entirely sure I’m supposed to (I have an odd sense of humour) but I’d like to think that it’s the author’s way of releasing some of the tension by adding a slightly witty remark or observation.

I’m not going to mention anything about the plot. All you need is in the book description and I won’t add another word to it because I don’t want to give anything away. From the minute I picked up this book though, I knew I wasn’t going to put it down again until I had flipped that final page. The Other People takes “addictive” and “being glued to the pages” to a completely different level. I just HAD to keep reading. Various points-of-view kept me utterly enthralled and while I had a tiny inkling about something, the whole picture completely evaded me. I couldn’t at all even begin to try and figure out how the various storylines were supposed to fit together until C.J. Tudor revealed it to me.

What to say about the characters? Gabe. Gah. My heart broke for him numerous times and his pain, his sense of loss is so intensely palpable. Fran was somewhat more difficult to get my head around but I think that was the point. However, she’s clearly on the run from something or someone and every time panic struck, I was right there with her, heart pounding, hands getting clammy, ready to run.

Atmospheric? Check! Bit of a supernatural vibe? Also, check! Although maybe not as prevalent as in the previous books but it’s there, in the background, in a creepy, chilling kind of way. A mystery to solve? You bet your shiny arse there is. And then let’s add all those other words people are getting tired of hearing : gripping, compelling, engrossing, a page-turner, addictive, impossible to put down (IT REALLY IS!) …. all that and so, so much more! Sometimes quite sad, mostly full of suspense and questions. So many questions. Did I mention impossible to put down? (Just checking)

Dare I say it? You know what? Yes. I’m going to say it. This is C.J. Tudor’s BEST book yet and it is without a doubt a huge contender for my book of the year. Right now, it has caused a massive book hangover. I loved everything about it, in case you hadn’t noticed, and I’m sad this thrilling ride is over.

By the way, my hardback copy has a teaser chapter of C.J. Tudor’s next book (out next year) and I already can’t wait! It promises to be another absolute belter but for now, do yourself a favour, pick up a copy of The Other People because I promise you, C.J. Tudor is the real deal.

To recap, I’d like to borrow a tiny part from my review for The Taking of Annie Thorne, which is just as apt here :

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! x infinity (😉)

The Other People is available to buy!

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

This Week in Books (January 22)

Hosted by Lipsy Lost and Found, my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I’m reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words.

| LAST BOOK I FINISHED READING |

She sleeps, a pale girl in a white room . . .

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window.

She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’

It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them.

Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up with her and Alice.

[C.J. Tudor strikes again and this is right up there as a contender for my book of the year. Fa-bu-lous!]

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

It’s Livia’s 40th birthday and she’s having the party of a lifetime to make up for the wedding she never had. Everyone she loves will be there except her daughter Marnie, who’s studying abroad. But although Livia loves Marnie, she’s secretly glad she won’t be at the party. She needs to tell Adam something about their daughter but she’s waiting until the party is over so they can have this last happy time together.

Adam wants everything to be perfect for Livia so he’s secretly arranged for Marnie to come home and surprise her on her birthday. During the day, he hears some terrible news. He needs to tell Livia, because how can the party go on? But she’s so happy, so excited – and the guests are about to arrive.

The Dilemma – how far would you go to give someone you love a last few hours of happiness?

One day that will change a family forever. 

[About halfway through this one and it’s immensely gripping. Yet I can’t help but feel I may need to reach for a tissue at some point 🤔]

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

Oslo, 2018. Former long-distance runner Sonja Nordstrøm never shows at the launch of her controversial autobiography, Always Number One. When celebrity blogger Emma Ramm visits Nordstrøm’s home later that day, she finds the door unlocked and signs of a struggle inside. A bib with the number ‘one’ has been pinned to the TV.

Police officer Alexander Blix is appointed to head up the missing-persons investigation, but he still bears the emotional scars of a hostage situation nineteen years earlier, when he killed the father of a five-year-old girl. Traces of Nordstrøm soon show up at different locations, but the appearance of the clues appear to be carefully calculated … evidence of a bigger picture that he’s just not seeing…

Blix and Ramm soon join forces, determined to find and stop a merciless killer with a flare for the dramatic, and thirst for attention.

Trouble is, he’s just got his first taste of it.

[May just be a teensie-weensie excited about this one]

And that’s my week in books. What does your week look like? Do let me know in the comments! Happy reading! xx

#GuestPost : Five Things I Learned From Writing A Series with Robert Crouch | @robertcrouchuk

I’m delighted to welcome Robert Crouch to the blog today! Robert is the author of a cosy crime mystery series featuring environmental health officer Kent Fisher. As book 5 in the series was published last week, I’ll be telling you a bit more about that below and it also seemed like a good time to ask Robert about the things he’s learned from writing a series.

Author : Robert Crouch
Title : No Mercy
Series : Kent Fisher Mysteries #5
Pages : 250
Publisher : n/a
Publication date : January 16, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

WOULD YOU KILL IF JUSTICE FAILED YOU?

Highways Inspector, Derek Forster, couldn’t go on after the death of his wife. Even though he had a secret lover, he took his own life. Or did he?

Samson Capote, the restaurateur from hell, brutally attacked and left to die in a deep freezer. Did he antagonise too many people? Was he sharing Forster’s secret lover?

Millionaire entrepreneur, Clive Chesterton, falls from his yacht and drowns in Sovereign Harbour. Why did he have Forster’s missing journals in his cabin?

When Kent Fisher becomes a murder suspect, he realises he could be the next victim of a killer who shows no mercy.

Can Kent connect the deaths and solve the mystery before the killer gets to him?

Amazon US | Amazon UK

| GUEST POST |

Five things I’ve learned from writing a series

When I came up with the idea of Kent Fisher, an environmental health officer (EHO) who solves murders, it was fresh and different from everything else in crime fiction. As far as I know, it still is.

But would the idea work? Would readers be interested?

I hope so because the novels are rooted in the classic whodunit and traditional murder mysteries of authors like Agatha Christie, only modern and irreverent, dealing with today’s issues.

With the release of the fifth book in the series, No Mercy, I thought I’d catch my breath and look back at what I’ve learned along the way.

1. I can write more than one novel

It may sound obvious with the release of the fifth book, but publishers and agents weren’t interested in the first Kent Fisher novel. One agent read the whole story, but didn’t take me on. Rejections breed doubt, which drives you to analyse and find the faults rather than the things you need to work on.

I also realised that my environmental health officer went straight into solving murders. If you know the work EHOs do, protecting public health, making sure food and the places that serve food are safe and hygienic, and making sure employees are safe at work, it’s hardly murder.

You wouldn’t visit your local council and report a murder to the environmental health officer.

So, I wrote a prequel, where Kent Fisher investigated a fatal work accident, which was really a murder. It was more difficult to write as it had to dovetail into the novel I’d already written, but it showed me I could write more than one story – even if I wrote them back to front.

2. It’s not easy to keep things fresh

Somewhere on my computer I have a folder filled with story ideas. Most are subjects and themes I want to tackle or subjects that matter to me like injustice. Most of the ideas are about the motives for murder, the issues that drive people to kill.

From time to time, I check this folder. Any fresh ideas, which usually come to me when I’m shaving in the morning, are added to the folder.

Yet none of these ideas are in the third, fourth and fifth novels in the series.

Unlike the police, who solve murders as a matter of routine, EHOs like me inspect restaurant and pub kitchens. That restricts what I can do, meaning I have to find ways for Kent Fisher to be drawn into murders other than family or friends.

Then there’s the backstory – the characters and setting that form Kent’s life, his work, friends and problematic love life. All the novels have a strong backstory, which affects the murder investigations and the people close to him.

Before I can start a new novel, I need to know how much time has elapsed. What’s changed? What loose ends are there from the previous story? What’s happening at work, at the animal sanctuary he owns and runs?

The backstory presents a continuity challenge. It affects the next story. The relationships and conflicts of the support cast can be more absorbing than the murders, especially in the early stages. The backstory must also stay fresh and dynamic.

3. Readers love your characters as much as you do

Just like someone you meet, you get to learn more about the people in your novels with each book. Readers have grown to love this supporting cast, often making comments about them. Kent’s love life is the source of debate and discussion. Readers want him to fall in love with a particular character. Other readers want him to dump that character.

It’s music to my ears because readers are engaged. They care about the characters I’ve created, the situations they have to deal with. I have as much fun wondering what’s going to happen to these characters in each story. And as you’ll discover in a moment, they can surprise me as much as the readers.

And I couldn’t leave this section without mentioning the one character everyone seems to love. Columbo is Kent’s West Highland white terrier, inspired by my own Westie, Harvey. You can also work out who my favourite TV detective is, and how he inspires Kent Fisher to carry out his investigations. 

[Hi, Harvey! Who’s a cute doggie? 😍]

4. Your characters will always surprise you

People who know me often look perplexed when I tell them my characters constantly surprise me, usually by behaving out of character.

How can that happen when I’m the one in control, writing the story?

The characters may be fictional products of my imagination, but they come alive when I write. They live and breathe. Readers feel like they know them. Like me, readers get to learn and understand more about the characters with each book.

That’s the beauty of having a series – you can watch the characters change and develop with each new book.

In the fourth novel, No More Lies, Kent Fisher surprised me twice. With the second surprise, his actions wrecked ideas I had for the next three novels in the series. I could have brought Kent into line, but it was more exciting to give him free rein and see where he went.

The story was much better as a result. I’ve had to come up with some new ideas for the sixth novel, but it’s a fair trade.

[The idea that characters do their own thing without an author’s say-so is absolutely fascinating to me.]

5. It’s so easy to forget details

I once had the privilege to have a conversation on Facebook Messenger with my favourite author, Sue Grafton, who wrote the Alphabet Murder series, featuring Kinsey Millhone. I think Sue had written 22 novels in the series at this point.

I asked her if it was difficult to keep track of everything that had happened over the years. Indeed it was. In one of the books, Kinsey’s neighbour and landlord, Henry, who was also a good friend, was married, even though he was single in all the rest.

There were plenty of other little discrepancies, despite the notes she kept. She was worried about repeating plots she’d used in previous books and kept detailed records to avoid this.

I use a spreadsheet to record the characters in my stories, usually in the chapters they first appear. Birthdays, relationships, places of work are also noted for future reference. Main events are noted in case I need to refer back, along with physical characteristics, such as hair and eye colour, or anything distinctive.

It doesn’t stop me having to check back many times as I’m writing. It’s easy to get names wrong. It’s easy to have similar sounding names like Jenny, Gemma and Emma or Adrian and Adam. In one novel, I had three female characters with names beginning with the same letter. Despite the spreadsheet I didn’t spot this until the third edit.

At some point I may need to write more detailed notes, but as I only look one book ahead now, never sure how Kent’s going to behave, I hope the stories will remain fresh, interesting and free from repetition and bloopers.

[I can’t even begin to imagine how to keep track of all these things, spreadsheets or not!]

Thank you so much, Robert, for stopping by and giving us this insight. I wish you continued success with the Kent Fisher Mysteries!

Amazon US | Amazon UK

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Robert Crouch writes the kind of books he loves to read. Books ranging from the classic whodunit by authors like Agatha Christie, the feisty private eye novels of Sue Grafton, thrillers by Dick Francis, and the modern crime fiction of Peter James and LJ Ross.

He created Kent Fisher as an ordinary person, drawn into solving murders. He’s an underdog battling superior forces and minds, seeking justice and fair play in a cruel world. These are the values and motivations that underpinned Robert’s long career as an environmental health officer.

He now writes full time from his home in East Sussex. When not writing, he’s often find walking on the South Downs with his West Highland white terrier, Harvey, taking photographs and researching the settings for future Kent Fisher mysteries.

Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | Website

All The Rage by Cara Hunter | @CaraHunterBooks @VikingBooksUK | #recommended

Author : Cara Hunter
Title : All The Rage
Series : DI Adam Fawley #4
Pages : 440
Publisher : Penguin UK
Publication date : January 23, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

A teenage girl is found wandering the outskirts of Oxford, dazed and distressed. The story she tells is terrifying. Grabbed off the street, a plastic bag pulled over her face, then driven to an isolated location where she was subjected to what sounds like an assault. Yet she refuses to press charges.

DI Fawley investigates, but there’s little he can do without the girl’s co-operation. Is she hiding something, and if so, what? And why does Fawley keep getting the feeling he’s seen a case like this before?

And then another girl disappears, and Adam no longer has a choice: he has to face up to his past. Because unless he does, this victim may not be coming back.

| MY THOUGHTS |

It has been pointed out to me that I’ve been doing an awful lot of judging lately and I’m here to tell you that if you’re not reading this series, I’ll be doing it again! I’ll even add in some shaking of the fist. *shakes fist*

Set in Oxford, All The Rage is the fourth instalment in the DI Adam Fawley series and here is something else I say quite a lot : it’s the best one yet! That’s saying a lot because this series has been remarkably outstanding from the get-go and I don’t know how Cara Hunter manages to raise the bar every single time but she does. Now, I know there are a truckload of crime fiction series out there but there is something about this series right here that somehow makes it stand out from the crowd. I wish I could explain it better but I can’t. It’s that certain “je ne sais quoi”, that thing you just can’t quite put your finger on.

A teenage girl is found wandering the streets. It’s obvious she’s been the victim of a brutal assault, yet she refuses to press charges. But why? Without her cooperation, there is little police can do. But then another girl disappears and DI Adam Fawley’s past is suddenly hot on his heels. Hasn’t he seen this kind of case before?

In case it wasn’t yet clear, I absolutely love this series and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into this latest one. I personally don’t feel this can be read as a stand-alone. Not only are changes in DI Fawley’s team quite important to keep track of with respect to team dynamics, his personal life has a huge impact on the cases he works on. Especially when they involve children.

Prepare yourself for one of the most addictive stories I’ve ever read. This plot, you guys! Like whoa! All The Rage is so incredibly twisty, I almost ended up with whiplash. This is a book to devour in one glorious reading session, if you can. Once I picked it up, it became absolutely impossible to put it back down again. I couldn’t at all figure out what had happened and the story ended up going into a completely different direction than what I had been expecting. The shocking revelations just kept on coming and I loved every single one of them. A compelling and gripping investigation, believable characters, a dreamy DI and a fast-paced intricate plot that will keep you guessing until the end …. what more could you possibly want?

All The Rage is a corker of a book in a truly corker of a series! If you’re a fan of crime fiction and police procedurals, this series HAS to be on your shelves! Bring on the next one, I say!

All The Rage will be published on January 23rd.

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

This Week in Books (January 15)

Hosted by Lipsy Lost and Found, my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I’m reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words.

| LAST BOOK I FINISHED READING |

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

[review to follow soon but here’s a clue … ❤️]

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

Alice Teale walked out of school at the end of a bright spring day.

She’s not been seen since.

Alice was popular and well-liked, and her boyfriend, friends and family are desperate to find her.

But soon it’s clear that everyone in her life has something to hide.

Then the police receive a disturbing package.

Pages from Alice’s precious diary.

Who could have sent them? And what have they done with Alice?

[By currently, I mean I’m about to start it. Any second now. Honestly.]

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

It’s the most disturbing crime scene DCI Matilda Darke has ever seen…

The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.

Forensics point to a burglar on the run across the country. But cracks are starting to appear in Matilda’s team, someone is playing games with the evidence – and the killer might be closer to home than they thought…

[Another one of my favourite series so I’m really looking forward to this!]

And that’s my week! With a dash of Stephen King thrown in at some point. What are you reading this week? Do let me know! Happy reading! xx

Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza | @RobertBryndza @TheCrimeVault | #NineElms

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza. My thanks to Kirsteen at Little Brown for the opportunity to join and for the review copy!

Author : Robert Bryndza
Title : Nine Elms
Series : Kate Marshall #1
Pages : 400
Publisher : Sphere
Publication date : January 9, 2020 (hardcover)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Sixteen years ago, Kate Marshall was a rising star in the London Metropolitan police force. Young, ambitious and driven, with a talent for getting into the minds of criminals, she solved several high-profile murder cases.

But when Kate was tasked with tracking down a vicious serial killer, even her instinct and ability to immerse herself in violent worlds couldn’t help her find him – until he found her.

Now, years after her narrow escape, Kate lives a quiet life on the English coast, though her years with the police are still with her. And when one day she receives a letter from someone in her past, she is pulled back into the twisted mind of a murderer she knows only too well – and into a case only she can solve.

| MY THOUGHTS |

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Robert Bryndza and his crime fiction series featuring Erika Foster. But now he’s back with a brand-new series and an equally brand-new exciting female protagonist.

Sixteen years ago, Kate Marshall was a detective working for the London Metropolitan Police. Kate ended up on the wrong side of a serial killer case. With her career and reputation in tatters, she relocated to the English coast, where she now works in academia. But the past is about to catch up with her.

Back in 1995, there was a spate of brutal murders. And now, it looks as if someone is trying to recreate that sequence of events. There is no doubt the “Nine Elms” serial killer is behind bars and investigators are dealing with a copycat. But who and why? And what is their end game?

As far as introducing the reader to a new series goes, this is right up there. There is so much going on in this first instalment and the intriguing premise of Kate’s past pulled me in from the get-go. Not only are we faced with a copycat killer but there is an unsolved missing persons case which may just tie in with the original Nine Elms serial killer. And throughout it all, the reader gets to know the character of Kate Marshall as she is forced to confront her past. Kate quite quickly proves herself to be a determined woman who, despite having left the force all those years ago, has never been able to shake off her “copper’s nose” and with her assistant Tristan by her side, we immediately get an exciting new investigative team. Albeit it with a different spin to it as obviously Kate doesn’t have a badge or access to various spiffy databases. All she has is experience, knowledge and her instincts.

Did I mention these murders are particularly brutal and gruesome? I’m not of the squeamish variety most of the time, especially not while reading, but good grief … let’s just say I often muttered the words “ugh, eww”. Yet, I felt those details were important to drive home how despicable the Nine Elms serial killer and his copycat are. Underneath it all is a fascinating insight into mother and son relationships, even if they’re leaning towards a whole new level of dysfunctional, and that always thrilling topic of nature versus nurture.

The Erika Foster series was hugely successful for Robert Bryndza and I have no doubt this new series featuring Kate Marshall will be equally so. The compelling Nine Elms is an amazing way to kick it off and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Kate and Tristan.

Nine Elms is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Robert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestselling Detective Erika Foster series. Robert’s books have sold over 3 million copies and have been translated into 28 languages. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

Beast by Matt Wesolowski | @ConcreteKraken @OrendaBooks | #recommended

Author : Matt Wesolowski
Title : Beast
Series : Six Stories #4
Pages : 242
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : February 6, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

In the wake of the “Beast from the East” cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old vlogger Elizabeth Barton had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as “The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged “cult,” were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a “prank gone wrong.” However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses—people who knew both the victim and the three killers—to peer beneath the surface of the case.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Goodness gracious me. What do they put in Matt Wesolowski’s food?!

Another year, another episode in the absolutely brilliant Six Stories series. If you’re not reading this series, I’m judging you like you wouldn’t believe. And if this fourth book in the series doesn’t get under your skin and make you think about the truly warped-up world we live in these days, there is something really wrong with you.

Scott King, our not-so-much-elusive-anymore online podcaster, travels to the, quite frankly, utterly miserable town or Ergarth to delve in to the case of Elizabeth Barton’s death. Elizabeth was twenty-four years old and a successful and popular vlogger when she was found murdered inside, what locals refer to as, The Vampire Tower. Three young men were found guilty of her murder. The “who” seems to have been solved, but what about the “why”?

Murder, a vampire legend and a young dead woman at the centre of it all. It has all the ingredients of a gripping thriller right there, doesn’t it? But there is so much more to it than meets the eye. Beast is a story of hidden truths, of secrets, of labels and masks and more than anything, of the most horrific manipulation and Matt Wesolowski once again manages to prove that the monsters we all fear are sadly very much real. It brings to the fore the power some people are able to exert over others, the power of social media and the growing dangers of modern society’s almost unhealthy obsession with “likes” and “followers”, while all the while showing that most people will only see what they want to see.

Obviously I don’t want to give anything away but there is something to be said for an author who somehow makes a reader feel compassion for those who at first glance don’t seem to deserve it. Beast is immensely compelling and a true page-turner with each of the six stories and points-of-view giving the reader an opportunity to try and figure out for themselves what went on in the tower that night and why. I had a bit of an inkling but the truth ended up being far more devastating than I could ever have imagined and at the end of this thrilling ride, what I was left with the most, was this overwhelming feeling of sadness.

This is one of those series that just keeps getting better and better. With impeccable writing, believable characters and folklore combined with a modern scenario, there is so much to love about Beast. Dark, disturbing and thought-provoking, Beast is an impressive addition to the series; a must-read like its predecessors, and you’d better believe you’ll be seeing this book on my list of “books of the year” in December. Just outstanding! Way to kick off my year in style, Mr. Wesolowski. I can’t wait for more!

My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my fabulous review copy!

Beast is available to buy in ebook format. The UK paperback will be published in February.

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts | @QuercusBooks @ellakroftpatel | #recommended

Today is paperback publication day for the wonderful Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts so I thought I’d re-share my review from April last year. This is one of those novels that just captured my heart from the first page and unsurprisingly, it made my list of “books of the year”.

Author : Elizabeth Letts
Title : Finding Dorothy
Pages : 368
Publisher : Quercus
Publication date : January 9, 2020 (paperback)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Maud Gage Baum, widow of the author of the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, met Judy Garland, the young actress playing the role of Dorothy on the set of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. At the time, Maud was seventy-eight and Judy was sixteen. In spite of their age difference, Maud immediately connected to Judy–especially when Maud heard her sing “Over the Rainbow,” a song whose yearning brought to mind the tough years in South Dakota when Maud and her husband struggled to make a living–until Frank Baum’s book became a national sensation.

This wonderfully evocative two-stranded story recreates Maud’s youth as the rebellious daughter of a leading suffragette, and the prairie years of Maud and Frank’s early days when they lived among the people–especially young Dorothy–who would inspire Frank’s masterpiece. Woven into this past story is one set in 1939, describing the high-pressured days on The Wizard of Oz film set where Judy is being badgered by the director, producer, and her ambitious stage mother to lose weight, bind her breasts, and laugh, cry, and act terrified on command. As Maud had promised to protect the original Dorothy back in Aberdeen, she now takes on the job of protecting young Judy.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Sometimes you pick up a book and like magic, everything seems to fall into place. For me, Finding Dorothy is one of those books. It’s extremely hard for me to put into words exactly why that is but I completely fell in love with everything about it. The era, the characters, the writing itself … it all came together and created such a wonderful reading experience.

1939, Hollywood. Filming has started on The Wizard of Oz, based on the book by L. Frank Baum. His seventy-eight year old widow, Maud, feels fiercely protective of her husband’s story. After all, she knows all its secrets and she’s determined to make the sure the film will do her husband’s story justice. But she soon realises she may need to protect the film’s star Judy Garland as well.

Maud’s story is a fascinating one. Growing up as the daughter of Matilda Joslyn Gage, it seemed her life had been entirely planned out. Matilda was a fierce and determined woman who battled for women’s right to vote and for girls to be allowed a higher education. Maud ends up being one of the first female coeds at Cornell University. But her mother’s shadow follows her everywhere and Maud never really quite finds her place there. Then she meets Frank. An actor, a weaver of stories and words, a dreamer and he completely sweeps her off her feet. And me right alongside with it.

Both Maud and Frank captured my heart from the moment I met them. From traveling throughout the country with theatre shows, to living in the harsh prairies of the Dakota Territory where they struggled to make a living, to that moment where the stars align and Frank creates his masterpiece, I became utterly invested and engrossed. 

Even though Frank, who’s incredibly fickle and apparently unable to settle down, got on my nerves sometimes; even though I sometimes felt Maud needed a bit more of a backbone; and even though at times I much more enjoyed the chapters about their lives than the ones set in 1939, I found this novel immensely immersive. At some points it even brought a lump to my throat and throughout it all there’s Maud, this energetic and passionate woman whom I absolutely adored.

“Magic isn’t things materializing out of nowhere. Magic is when a lot of people all believe in the same thing at the same time, and somehow we all escape ourselves a little bit and we meet up somewhere, and just for a moment, we taste the sublime.”

This quote sums up my reading experience entirely. I have tasted the sublime. This review doesn’t do this novel justice at all but I hope it does bring across how much I love it and that you decide to give it a go and hopefully have the same enchanting and magical experience I had.

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

This Week in Books (January 8)

Hosted by Lipsy Lost and Found, my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I’m reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words.

| LAST BOOK I FINISHED READING |

Sixteen years ago, Kate Marshall was a rising star in the London Metropolitan police force. Young, ambitious and driven, with a talent for getting into the minds of criminals, she solved several high-profile murder cases.

But when Kate was tasked with tracking down a vicious serial killer, even her instinct and ability to immerse herself in violent worlds couldn’t help her find him – until he found her.

Now, years after her narrow escape, Kate lives a quiet life on the English coast, though her years with the police are still with her. And when one day she receives a letter from someone in her past, she is pulled back into the twisted mind of a murderer she knows only too well – and into a case only she can solve.

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

A teenage girl is found wandering the outskirts of Oxford, dazed and distressed. The story she tells is terrifying. Grabbed off the street, a plastic bag pulled over her face, then driven to an isolated location where she was subjected to what sounds like an assault. Yet she refuses to press charges.

DI Fawley investigates, but there’s little he can do without the girl’s co-operation. Is she hiding something, and if so, what? And why does Fawley keep getting the feeling he’s seen a case like this before?

And then another girl disappears, and Adam no longer has a choice: he has to face up to his past. Because unless he does, this victim may not be coming back.

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

What are you reading this week? Let me know and let’s talk books! Happy reading! xx

My Top 20 Favourite Books of 2019

What a year! This list has been nearly impossible to put together. I’ve read so many incredibly brilliant books in 2019 and it’s been a real battle trying to narrow it down to 20. I do so apologise to the authors whose books I had to drop from the list (not that you know who you are 😂) but lines must be drawn somewhere and I’ve had to be utterly ruthless.

Note : These were all published this year.

So, without further ado, in random order except for the top 4, here are my Top 20 Favourite Books of 2019.

John Marrs – The Passengers [my review]
Phoebe Locke – The July Girls [my review]
Jo Spain – Dirty Little Secrets [my review]
Taylor Jenkins-Reid – Daisy Jones and the Six [my review]

Kia Abdullah – Take It Back [no review]
James Delargy – 55 [my review]
Søren Sveistrup – The Chestnut Man [my review]

Anita Frank – The Lost Ones [no review]
Stacey Halls – The Familiars [no review]
Elizabeth Letts – Finding Dorothy [my review]

The Orenda Collection 😂

Sarah Stovell – The Home [my review]
Will Carver – Nothing Important Happened Today [my review]
Doug Johnstone – Breakers [my review]
Helen Fitzgerald – Worst Case Scenario [my review]
Louise Beech – Call Me Star Girl [my review]
Thomas Enger – Inborn [my review]

4. Ruth Ware – The Turn Of The Key [my review]
3. Rowan Coleman – The Girl at the Window [my review]
2. C.J. Tudor – The Taking of Annie Thorne [my review]

| And Novel Deelight’s Book of the Year award goes to ….. |

If you read my review back when I posted it, this will not really come as a surprise. I have to say The Taking of Annie Thorne (!!!!!! infinity) and The Girl at the Window came incredibly close and I almost had to resort to drawing straws to pick a winner. Such a hard choice to make but The Whisper Man just had that little bit of an edge. [my review]

So, there you have it. Thoughts? Suggestions? Criticism? 😂

As 2019 is coming to an end, I want to say a huge thank you to all the fabulous authors and publishers for an absolutely outstanding bookish year! Thank you to YOU, my lovely fellow bloggers and readers for your enthusiasm, your support, your comments and for sharing the book love. ❤️

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and I’ll see you on the other side when I’ll be taking a look at what 2020 has in store for the book world. Until then, stay safe, be merry and keep reading. xx