Weekly Wrap-Up (December 15)

Diiiiiiiid ya miss me? 🤣

Technically, I suppose this is more of a monthly wrap-up because it’s been a while. That pesky socialising crap got in the way of writing up these posts. That would have been somewhat okay if the weekends of socialising had actually been the best time ever but no such luck.

One I spent struggling through a migraine, which meant painkillers and no wine and really, being around people without alcohol to drown out the stupidity is tough. The second one ended with blisters on both feet, resulting in yours truly not being able to walk properly for three days and telling those who asked about the odd limping thing that I had sprained my ankle because that sounded infinitely cooler. The third one was spent with … kids. I don’t have any. To be honest, I’m not even particularly fond of them. Yet they seem to gravitate towards me like magnets. On a good day, I can handle these two I’m talking about just fine. But that day, they were proper little germ factories, tad whiny, puking all over. I mean, hey, fun! *facepalm*. Last but not least, weekend of socialising number four. That didn’t start out so well as we arrived to a party quite late and everyone was drunk. Some drunk people are fun. Here though, one couldn’t stop crying because my dog has died and it was really hard not to join in with her. Her husband has wandering hands and I spent most of the evening trying to bat those away. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I despise that kind of behaviour. At least I was in charge of the music so I was just sort of having my own wee party on the sidelines 😂

In the midst of all of that, the other half hired some decorators to paint our downstairs ceiling and walls. No hassle for him since he was at work all day. For me though? I spent three days upstairs in my bedroom because obviously our furniture was covered in plastic sheets and I couldn’t actually sit anywhere! And at the end of those really long three days, I realised I didn’t like the colours we picked. 😳

Anyway! To the books because yes, I have actually been reading! My competitive self refuses to fail at the annual Goodreads challenge. If I make it, I will have read 50 books less than last year and a 100 less than the year before that. I’m stunned. I know my reading mojo was as hormonal as it gets but struggling to get to 200 books in the middle of December is utterly shocking for me.

| WHAT I HAVE BEEN READING |

I’m still (only) averaging about four books per week but I’ll take it. After all, it’s way better than nothing, right? I’m quite enjoying not reviewing most of them too. Bad blogger 😉. Bar one or two, these were all fantastic books and you might just be seeing some of them again at some point.

| WHAT I HAVE BOUGHT |

That’s quite a low number for me. These were all bought in the last two weeks as well. I was close to putting out an alert for the return of my book buying mojo 😂

I’m totally in love with those special Agatha Christie editions and just had to have them. As for Stephen King, apparently I’m supposed to read more of his books. A very wise person said so. 😜

| BOOK POST WHAT LANDED ON MY DOORSTEP |

As a thank you for helping out with the cover reveal, the lovely people at Headline sent me a proof copy of Heatstroke.

| AS FOR THE BLOG |

Hm. Well, I’ve been quite good at keeping up with the “This Week in Books” posts every Wednesday but other than that, it’s been a tad quiet around here. I’m pretty sure that the reviews I’ve posted in the last month or so can be counted on one hand. To be honest, I don’t see that changing any time soon because I am really enjoying grabbing a book from my shelves and just reading it for pleasure. I do have one review coming up before Christmas but that’s it.

Next week, I will be sharing my top 20 favourite stand-alone books of the year. And at some point, I’ll be sharing my most anticipated ones for next year but that list keeps growing on a daily basis and I may need to split it up into parts. If you thought 2019 was a fabulous bookish year, just you wait for next year! It’s going to be awesome! (with regard to books anyway, let’s not even think about all the other shit). I apologise upfront for your out-of-control wish lists 😂

That’s a wrap for this week! I have just realised it’s only ten days until Christmas (how the hell did that happen?!) and I haven’t written a single card yet so I suppose I should get on that right away.

Wishing you all a fabulous week and lots of happy reading! xx

Top 15 Favourite Series of 2019

It’s that time of year again, when I look back on all the brilliant books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. December seems to be coming around faster and faster. As predicted, 2019 was a fantastic year for books and putting these end-of-year lists together was tough!

Like last year, I’ve split my favourite books of the year up into two different posts. Today, the focus lies on additions to series. I seem to have read less of them this year, hence the slightly odd number of 15. But they’re all corkers!

So here we go, in random order : my 15 favourite series of 2019.

| Victoria Jenkins – Detectives King & Lane |

The fourth and final book in the King & Lane series. Back when I picked up the first book, The Girls in the Water, I just knew I was in for something special. There was something about Victoria Jenkins’ writing, the incredible plotting and the absolutely fantastic main female characters that got my pulse racing. Every book since then just got better and better and now here we are, at the end. It’s been an incredibly thrilling ride and if this is the end, then it’s a fabulous way to go.

| Rachel Abbott – DCI Tom Douglas |

The Shape of Lies is book 8 and another fantastic addition to the DCI Tom Douglas series. Full of suspense and intrigue, it makes for one gripping and tense read. I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with Tom and Becky again and I hope to see them back again soon. In the meantime, you have time to get caught up if you haven’t done so already because this truly is a fantastic crime series that should be on everyone’s radar and Rachel Abbott is an author who should most definitely be on your bookshelf.

| David Jackson – DS Nathan Cody |

Your Deepest Fear is dark, disturbing and insanely tense. It’s so fast paced, it almost felt relentless at times and left me in desperate need of a breather. My heart was pounding, my hands were clammy and I was trying extremely hard to figure out how it would all end. What an incredible addition to an already outstanding series! I dare say this is even the best one yet and I urge you all to read this series, if you’re not doing so already. I highly recommend it.

| Helen Fields – DI Luc Callanach |

Honestly, if you’re not reading this series, I am judging you like a big, bad judging thing! This is one of the best crime fiction series out there and you are sorely missing out! And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

| Angela Marsons – DI Kim Stone |

The writing machine that is Angela Marsons struck again in 2019 with no less than THREE additions to the brilliant DI Kim Stone series. Still going strong, still insanely gripping and addictive and now with the added bonus of a prequel to find out where it all began.

| Stephanie Broadribb – Lori Anderson |

This series has been a total blast from the very first book and Deep Dirty Truth is without a doubt THE BEST ONE YET! Oh yes! I said it! Fast-paced, with characters to get invested in and root for and edge-of-your-seat action galore, this is sheer entertainment of the highest level! Stock up on snacks and maybe an oxygen tank and enjoy the rollercoaster ride! Your legs may feel like jelly at the end of it, but it’ll be worth it!

| Karin Slaughter – Will Trent |

If there’s a Karin Slaughter book, you’d better believe it will make my list. It’s been quite the wait for a new addition to the Will Trent series but it was worth it. Karin Slaughter firmly cemented her spot as my favourite author and The Last Widow is taught, sharp and with a focus on hard-hitting and tough topics.

| Cara Hunter – DI Adam Fawley |

If you’re sitting there wondering if you need another crime fiction series in your life, the answer is “yes” and this right here is that series. I highly recommend you add this one to your shelves. It is one of the best crime fiction series out there and a definite must-read! Just so you know, book four is published in January and available for preorder. I have no doubt you’ll be seeing it here at some point.

| Matt Wesolowski – Six Stories |

Changeling was one of my most anticipated releases this year and it did not disappoint! If you’re not familiar with the Six Stories series (OMG WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!), it’s centred around a true crime podcast in which Scott King investigates cold cases. Changeling is book 3 in the Six Stories series and it is one of those stories that worms its way under your skin, one that will just not let you go. Dark, disturbing and chilling, Changeling had my heartbeat racing throughout and I was gripping the pages so tightly that my knuckles turned white! This tremendously addictive page-turner is insanely thought-provoking and also absolutely terrifying, though possibly not in the way you might expect.

| Will Dean – Tuva Moodyson |

Nothing is quite what it seems in Red Snow. With intriguing and complex characters and a deliciously intricate plot, this novel had me staying up way too late in a desperate attempt to finish it. But I just had to know what was going on. I didn’t count on Will Dean’s devious mind though, which meant that the final pages came at me like a knockout punch to the gut that left me winded but also caused so much adrenaline to course right through me, I felt like I could have gone out and run a marathon! I can’t wait for Tuva 3, out in March!

| Sarah Hilary – DI Marnie Rome |

Please tell me you are reading this series. It’s been absolutely outstanding from the very beginning and I don’t know how she does it, but Sarah Hilary manages to outdo herself time and time again, bringing each book in this series to a whole other level. At the risk of repeating myself, because I’m pretty sure I say this every time, this is the best one in the series yet and Sarah Hilary is an author who deserves all the praise. She continues to impress me with her remarkable storylines, utterly brilliant character development and fantastic writing. There are so many lines I could quote but I won’t because I’d be here all day and obviously you just need to read this book (and the rest of the series) for yourself.

| Bella Ellis – The Brontë Mysteries |

The Vanished Bride is the first book in a brand-new series by Bella Ellis, which is a pen name for the incredibly amazing Rowan Coleman. I knew the minute I started reading this book that it would make my list. I absolutely can’t wait to hang out with these three delightful characters again.

| Johana Gustawsson – Roy & Castells |

Few crime fiction series leave me feeling like I’ve been punched in the gut numerous times, wanting to curl up into a tiny ball under my duvet, but Johana Gustawsson manages it every single time. Johana Gustawsson is a remarkable talent and I continue to be absolutely impressed by the way she manages to combine modern crime fiction with some of history’s most shocking eras and the atrocious things humans are capable of. I can’t recommend this powerful read, and this entire series, enough and I absolutely can’t wait for more! 

| Joseph Knox – Aidan Waits |

This series is one I’ve been with from the beginning. In fact, Sirens was the book that first made me start thinking about blogging because I needed a place to shout about its awesomeness. Since then, Joseph Knox has been raising the bar, with each book being even stronger than the previous one. Like its predecessors, The Sleepwalker is masterfully plotted, immensely dark, extremely gritty and completely engrossing from start to finish. Joseph Knox is an incredible talent and the Aidan Waits series is absolutely outstanding. Every single one of these books has caused a massive book hangover and The Sleepwalker is no different. I can’t recommend these books enough! They NEED to be on any crime fiction fan’s bookshelf. I promise you, you will not regret it for one second!

| M.W. Craven – Washington Poe & Tilly Bradshaw |

How can someone be both dead and alive at the same time? This intriguing question is for Poe and Tilly to find out in Black Summer, the incredible follow-up to The Puppet Show. It doesn’t matter whether your Team Poe or Team Tilly but you should most definitely be Team Craven. A truly gripping, addictive page-turner, Black Summer is sure to leave you wanting more and as luck will have it, book 3 will be out next year. I, for one, can’t wait!

And there you have it. The series that made my heart beat that little faster, made my hands go clammy and that left such an impression on me that adding them to this list was a total no-brainer.

Now is your chance to kick my bum (virtually, thank you) and tell me which series I’ve left out. Are there some you don’t agree with? Are there any you can’t wait to read? 

Hope you find something you like here and I’ve given you some ideas. Next week, I’ll be sharing my list of favourite stand-alones of 2019. Until then, I wish you lots of happy reading! xx

This Week in Books (December 11)

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 |

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations. 

[I can’t believe it took me this long to finally read A Man Called Ove. Absolutely loved it and if it had been published this year, it undoubtedly would have made my list of top books.]

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

Charles Dickens should be looking forward to Christmas. But when his latest book, Martin Chuzzlewit, is a flop, his publishers give him an ultimatum. Either he writes a Christmas book in a month or they will call in his debts and he could lose everything. Dickens has no choice but to grudgingly accept…

[This is about as Christmassy as things will get at Casa Novel Deelights 😄]

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

Everyone has a secret in Tall Oaks . . .

When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town. Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.

Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.

Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake.

Photographer Jerry, who’s determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.

And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own.

[I wouldn’t at all be surprised if I mentioned this one before. Every time I try to pick it up, some other book demands my immediate attention. We’ll see what happens but if I were you, I wouldn’t be too shocked if it’s not on the list next week 😂]

Still trying to reach my Goodreads challenge goal. Eight to go. Anyone want to place any bets? (No, Kelly! There are no prizes 😜)

What are you reading this week? Do let me know! Happy reading! xx

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis | @brontemysteries @HodderBooks | #recommended

Author : Bella Ellis
Title : The Vanished Bride
Series : Bronte Mysteries #1
Pages : 337
Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date : November 7, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril.

| MY THOUGHTS |

For those of who you do not know, Bella Ellis is a pen name for author Rowan Coleman and I’m getting to that stage where I’m beginning to think she can just write me a shopping list and I’ll read it and love every word of it.

A young mother disappears from her home, leaving only a big pile of blood in her bedroom but no clue as to her whereabouts. When word of this mystery reaches the home of the Brontë sisters, they take it upon themselves to go out and try to solve what happened to this young woman.

I was a little wary at first to have these three pretty iconic characters fictionalised as “lady detectors”, investigating a possible crime. But the warmth with which Bella Ellis brings these sisters to life won me over from the get-go. It is abundantly clear from reading this first instalment in the Brontë Mysteries that Bella Ellis deeply loves Charlotte, Emily and Anne and that a lot of research went into this. I soon found myself pulled along in their enthusiasm trying to solve the case of the vanished bride.

But The Vanished Bride is more than just a mystery. It highlights the plight of women in those days; how they were seen as property; how they weren’t allowed their own opinions or were definitely not allowed to voice them; how their place was at home, raising children and most definitely not running wild across the countryside. Some of these women truly suffered but they had no means to escape some of the brutal events they had to endure. These circumstances stand in sharp contrast with the peaceful lives of the sisters.

Beautifully written, hugely atmospheric and with engaging characters, The Vanished Bride made me wish I could run across the fields and the moors along with the Brontë sisters. Each sister has a distinctive voice and with each one of them getting their own point-of-view, it truly allows the reader to get to know them better. Throughout the story, I leaned more towards Emily but at the end, through all the squabbles and disagreements, rivalry and slight jealousy, giggles and love, I realised I adored all three equally. I absolutely loved The Vanished Bride and I can’t wait to spend more time with these three characters, solving the next mystery they are sure to stumble upon.

The Vanished Bride is available to buy!

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

Black Summer by M.W. Craven | @MWCravenUK @TheCrimeVault @bethwright26| #blogtour #BlackSummer

One of my books of the summer (and of the year, but that’s a story for another day) will be published in paperback next week with a shiny, and quite bloody, new cover. Black Summer is the follow-up to The Puppet Show and I insist you read this series … or else 😉. Anyway, I’m re-sharing my review as part of the paperback blog tour and I hope you’ll all be convinced that you really need to meet Tilly and Poe!

Author : M.W. Craven
Title : Black Summer
Series : Washington Poe #2
Pages : 388
Publisher : Constable / Little Brown UK
Publication date : December 12, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.

So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.

Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?

And then Elizabeth goes missing again – and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Black Summer is the second book in the Washington Poe series and I’ll say right now that it’s even better than its predecessor. I never reviewed The Puppet Show on my blog because the sheer awesomeness blew me away and I couldn’t find the words to describe all the feels, as the youngsters would say. Ever since I finished reading that one, I’ve been impatiently awaiting its follow-up and here it is. This time, I’m determined to get some half-decent sentences on paper and try to convince you that, yes, you DO absolutely need a new series in your life.

Celebrated chef Jared Keaton is serving a life sentence for the murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. But Elizabeth’s body was never found. So when a young woman walks into a remote police station declaring she is Elizabeth, it looks like Jared will be released. Washington Poe suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of the investigation. Determined to find out the truth, he enlists the help of the only person he trusts, the absolutely fabulous Tilly Bradshaw. The question they need to answer is a real conundrum. How can someone be both alive and dead at the same time?

Fair warning. Black Summer kicks off with a rather gruesome event at a restaurant. It’s not a brutal murder scene, in case you wondered. It’s a dish that is served, which made me gag. I also made the horrible mistake of googling to see if it was a real thing. Stupid me. It’s things like that, that give me nightmares, people! Shudder.

Anywho! From that opening scene, we go back in time, when two weeks prior Elizabeth reappears. And just like that, we’re off on a ridiculously tense and gripping journey with a manipulative psychopath at the helm. I couldn’t at all figure out what was going on. While I had some theories, I just couldn’t make them stick, which was rather apt because that was also Poe’s problem. He’s quite convinced he knows the score, he just can’t seem to find the proof he so desperately needs.

A fascinating investigation to keep you hooked from start to finish but what really makes this series stand out is the truly delightful relationship between Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw. Tilly herself is a joy but it’s her interactions with Poe and others that really make her shine and allow for some comic relief in between all the gore, murder and mayhem.

I don’t know about being Team Poe or Team Tilly, the decision is too hard, but I am most definitely Team Craven! Black Summer is immensely compelling, a delicious page-turner and it’s undoubtedly left me wanting more. Make some room on your shelves for this one! You won’t regret it!

Black Summer is available to buy! And while you’re checking that one out, do have a look at book 3, The Curator, which you can (and should!) preorder.

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

This Week in Books (December 4)

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 |

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…

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

The Victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses four boys of something unthinkable. 

The Defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.

Someone is lying. 

Former barrister Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds, takes up Jodie Wolfe’s case; she believes her, even if those closest to Jodie do not.

Jodie and Zara become the centre of the most explosive criminal trial of the year, in which ugly divisions within British society are exposed. As everything around Zara begins to unravel she becomes even more determined to get Jodie the justice she’s looking for. But at what price?

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. 

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

What are you reading this week? Do let me know! Happy reading! xx

**Cover reveal** Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth | @BarkworthHazel @headlinepg @JoLidds | #HeatstrokeBook

Welcome to this exciting cover reveal for Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth. Heatstroke is an intoxicating story of obsession over one hot summer, which will be published on May 28th, 2020. Before I show you the cover, here is some more information about the book.

Author : Hazel Barkworth
Title : Heatstroke
Pages : 320
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : May 28, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

The summer burns with secrets…

It is too hot to sleep. To work. To be questioned time and again by the police. 

At the beginning of a stifling, sultry summer, everything shifts irrevocably when Lily doesn’t come home one afternoon.

Rachel is Lily’s teacher. Her daughter Mia is Lily’s best friend. The girls are fifteen – almost women, still children. 

As Rachel becomes increasingly fixated on Lily’s absence, she finds herself breaking fragile trusts and confronting impossible choices she never thought she’d face. 

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

Intrigued? I know I am!

Here’s what other people are saying about Heatstroke.

‘Pulls you into its sweaty interior and keeps you gripped’ 
RENEE KNIGHT

‘I couldn’t tear myself away’
ERIN KELLY

‘A scorching tale of obsession, betrayal and the wounds that mothers and daughters inflict on each other in the name of love’ 
TAMMY COHEN

Yep! That definitely sold it to me. Now, let’s take a look at that cover!

I don’t know about you but that definitely screams hot summers and sleepless nights to me.

Heatstroke will be published on May 28th, 2020 but you can already preorder it right now!

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

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Hazel grew up in Stirlingshire and North Yorkshire before studying English at Oxford. She then moved to London where she spent her days working as a cultural consultant, and her nights dancing in a pop band at glam rock clubs. Hazel is a graduate of both the Oxford University MSt in Creative Writing and the Curtis Brown Creative Novel-Writing course. She now works in Oxford, where she lives with her partner. Heatstroke is her first novel.

This Week in Books (November 27)

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 |

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.

Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

Leah Hamilton is looking for a new life following the tragic deaths of her husband and son. Determined to bury her grief in hard work, and desperate to escape Christmas and the pitying looks of her colleagues, she rushes through the purchase of a run-down Yorkshire farmhouse, arriving just as the snow shrouds her new home.

It may look like a Christmas card, but it’s soon clear it’s not just the house needing renovation; the land is in bad heart too. And Leah’s mind starts playing tricks on her: she hears a child playing in the snow, but although there are snowballs, there are no footprints. Is this the ghost of her son, returned to her? She starts having visions of the farm’s former occupants – the young widow and her son, the cousin who’s wooing her, the maid who shares her secrets and the handsome labourer who’s hanged for the murder of a child, a murder he didn’t commit.

Is Leah strong enough to lay the increasingly malevolent ghosts and find a way to move on? Or will her ashes end up scattered over the now-covered fields?

What do you think of my reading week? Do let me know what you’re reading. I’m always looking for recommendations! Happy reading! xx

The Guardians by John Grisham

Author : John Grisham
Title : The Guardians
Pages : 368
Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date : October 15, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

He was framed for murder.
Now he needs a miracle. 

22 years ago Quincy Miller was sentenced to life without parole. He was accused of killing Keith Russo, a lawyer in a small Florida town. But there were no reliable witnesses and little motive. Just the fact that Russo had botched Quincy’s divorce case, that Quincy was black in a largely all-white town and that a blood-splattered torch was found in the boot of Quincy’s car. A torch he swore was planted. A torch that was conveniently destroyed in a fire just before his trial.

The lack of evidence made no difference to judge or jury. In the eyes of the law Quincy was guilty and, no matter how often he protested his innocence, his punishment was life in prison.

Finally, after 22 years, comes Quincy’s one and only chance of freedom. An innocence lawyer and minister, Cullen Post, takes on his case. Post has exonerated eight men in the last ten years. He intends to make Quincy the next.

But there were powerful and ruthless people behind Russo’s murder. They prefer that an innocent man dies in jail rather than one of them. There’s one way to guarantee that. They killed one lawyer 22 years ago, and they’ll kill another without a second thought.

| MY THOUGHTS |

As a longtime John Grisham fan, I am always eagerly awaiting a new book by him. Even though, I must admit that some of his work in recent years has been awfully hit or miss with me. So it was with a small sense of apprehension that I decided to pick up The Guardians.

After spending 22 years in prison, Quincy Miller catches the attention of a project called The Guardians and a lawyer/minister by the name of Cullen Post. The Guardians are convinced of Miller’s innocence in the murder of a local lawyer and are determined to fight for his release. In the last ten years, this innocence project has managed to get eight innocent people out of prison but Miller’s case is a tough nut to crack. Twenty-two years is a long time. Judges, members of the law enforcement and prosecutors have retired or are dead. Witnesses are spread far and wide across the country, some unwilling to talk or trying very hard not to be found. Evidence has gone missing. On top of that, powerful and ruthless people are perfectly okay with having an innocent man in prison. So where do you even begin?

It hasn’t happened in a while with John Grisham’s books, but from the very first page I had a good feeling about The Guardians. John Grisham remains one of the most excellent storytellers out there and with Cullen Post, he has created a fascinating and engaging character who deftly guides us through a cleverly and well-written plot of murder, miscarriages of justice and corruption. Cullen Post is an easy character to like. Fierce, determined, willing to go that extra mile (sometimes even literally) and all of this, combined with where he started, puts you firmly on his side.

The Guardians turned out to be quite the addictive page-turner for me and I felt John Grisham really brought home how much of the success of these cases depends on which judge is sitting in front of you, who’s willing to listen and keep an open mind and sadly also, the political games that are always going on behind the scenes. Quincy Miller’s circumstances are realistic and believable and because you know these things unfortunately happen (way more often than they should), it’s not that hard to feel angry and frustrated. Do also make sure you read the author’s note at the end of the book.

Is this Grisham at his best? Well, no. But he’s getting mighty close and after some of the recent disappointments, that’s already saying quite a lot and I can honestly say I really enjoyed this one. Truth be told, I’ll be right there at the front of the line when he publishes his next book anyway but I’ll never give up hoping for another absolute corker like “A Time To Kill” was, for instance.

The Guardians is available to buy!

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The Home by Sarah Stovell | @sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks | #recommended

Author : Sarah Stovell
Title : The Home
Pages : 303
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : November 28, 2019 (ebook)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

When the body of pregnant, 15-year-old Hope Lacey is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away. 

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking revelations and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Oh …. goodness gracious me. Devastating doesn’t even begin to cover it. Wow!

It’s been a while since Sarah Stovell’s last offering, Exquisite, and while I thoroughly enjoyed that one when I read it, I’m just going to go right ahead and say that The Home is on a completely different level and most definitely worth the wait!

On Christmas morning, the body of a fifteen year old girl is discovered in a churchyard. Hope was a resident at The Home, a place where three young girls lived. Three girls who have been severely affected by violent and disturbing pasts. But what happened to Hope?

I wasn’t at all able to figure out what happened to Hope and to be honest, I wasn’t even really trying. I became so utterly absorbed by these girls’ lives that solving that particular mystery almost became secondary. Despite knowing what happened to Hope, I oddly found myself wishing for a happy ending throughout, which is a credit to Sarah Stovell’s amazing writing.

This incredibly powerful story about the lives of Hope, Annie and Lara will get under your skin and will be impossible to forget. These three girls are so realistic and believable, they almost jump from the pages and you want to reach in and help them in any way you can. It was abundantly clear to me from the very first pages that this book would leave me completely and utterly broken and it did. It is so extremely dark, brutal and raw that I often couldn’t decide if I should keep reading or maybe take a break, have a breather and trawl YouTube for some funny clips.

It should almost go without saying that this is one incredibly uncomfortable book to read. It’s harrowing, it is insanely disturbing, it is shocking. It’s positively heartbreaking but also immensely gripping and compelling. It hurts, people. It’s really, really painful in that way where it feels someone has reached into the very core of you, pulled out your heart and stomped all over it. And yet there is also a sliver of hope and love throughout, amidst all this darkness.

The Home will draw you in from the start and not let go. It will haunt you and linger in your mind for eternity. It will leave you with a lump in your throat and it will make you admire Sarah Stovell for tackling such hard topics in the most exquisite (see what I did there?) way possible.

I have no more words left. Completely and utterly broken. 😭

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

The Home will be available to buy in ebook format next week. The UK paperback will be published in January.

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