Adult Fiction, Ghost Stories, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

There is something rather wonderful about reading ghost stories during the time between Halloween and the New Year, and oh how I do like a good creepy read. I love nothing more than curling up with an atmospheric, spine-chilling novel whilst the wind howls outside and the lights flicker inside. It therefore gives me great pleasure to join in with the Halloween takeover for the very wonderful, very creepy The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

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.

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My thoughts

I have had this book sitting on on my tbr pile for a few weeks now but I was due be away from home for a few nights, sleeping alone, and I just knew I would never have been able to sleep whilst reading it. How right I was! Once back in th safety of my own bed opened the first page and was immediately swept away. This is a delicously creepy, gripping novel, one that whispered into my thoughts even when I wasn’t reading it. At times I literally found myself holding my breath as I read.

Set in 1917 in the gentle english countryside at a time when the country is shrouded in the darkness of the First World War. So many mourn the loss of loved ones and Stella Marcham is still reeling from the death of her beloved fiancee Gerald. In an effort to distract herself from her sadness she travels to visit her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at Greyswick, an imposing country mansion where Madeleine’s husband spent his childhood. When Stella arrives at the house Madeleine is withdrawn and not herself. There is something deeply unsettling about the house that Stella can’t quite put her finger on. Strange things start to happen and these, alongside the ghostly noises and sobbing in the night, lead Stella to try and uncover the truth hidden in Greyswick’s past and the family who live there. There is much unexplained about this life and what happens next and sometimes secrets are best left undisturbed…just like the ghosts waiting in the shadows of the attic.

I can hardly believe that this is a debut. It’s wonderfully constructed and filled with all the ingredients of a nail biting gothic thriller. The atmosphere Anita creates is tangible. I could feel the chill of the room, hear the footsteps on the stair. I was completely absorbed and terrified as I disappeared into the pages. I absolutely adored it and having recently read Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black and Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger can absolutely say that Anita Frank is way up there with those brilliant authors of such calibre. Thoroughly recommended. This is sure to be a great success and would make the perfect read for the long, winter evenings ahead of us.

Thank you so much to the lovely team at HQstories for inviting me to read and review this novel as part of the amazing Halloween take over.

About the author

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A farmer’s daughter from Shropshire, Anita studied English and American History at the University of East Anglia before moving to London to work in media analysis and communications.

She left paid employment to become a stay-at-home mum when she had the first of her three children. Sadly, Anita‘s youngest child developed a rare form of epilepsy in infancy which has left him severely mentally disabled and she is now his full-time-carer, but she has begun snatching what time she can to pursue her lifelong ambition of writing historical fiction.

Anita now lives in Berkshire with her husband, her two lovely girls and her gorgeous boy, a fluffy cat with an attitude, and a bonkers Welsh Springer Spaniel.

You can follow Anita on Twitter at @Ajes74

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Relationship Stories, Review, Romance

Coming Home To Winter Island by Jo Thomas

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Coming Home To Winter Island by Jo Thomas.

Synopsis

Do you need to find out where you’ve come from before you can know what the future holds?

Ruby’s singing career is on the verge of hitting the big time, when her voice breaks. Fearing her career is over, she signs up for a retreat in Tenerife to recover. But an unexpected call from a stranger on a remote Scottish island takes her on a short trip to sort out some family business. It’s time to go and see the grandfather she’s never met.

City girl Ruby knows she will be happy to leave the windswept beaches behind as quickly as she can, especially as a years-old family rift means she knows she won’t be welcome at Teach Mhor. But as she arrives at the big house overlooking the bay, she finds things are not as straightforward as she might have thought. There’s an unexpected guest in the house and he’s not planning on going anywhere any time soon …

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My thoughts

This is an absolutely gorgeous read that will warm the cockles of your heart and remind you that happiness can be found in the most unlikely of places.

I haven’t read any of Jo’s previous novels but I can honestly say that I absolutely adored Coming Home To Winter IslandIt has all the ingredients of a warmhearted, uplifting read that will take you away from the doom and gloom of everyday life.

Ruby Mac is on the verge of having everything she ever dreamed of fall into place.  A recording contract is within her grasp and once she has signed on the dotted line she and her boyfiend Joe will finally be able to make their relationship more official and move in together.  He is her greatest supporter after all and wants only what’s best for her career. Unfortunately just as she’s about to perform the most important gig of her career her voice deserts her. Unable to sing she is sent away on a retreat for rest and recovery in the hope that her voice will come back. Things don’t go quite as planned though and before she knows it she’s on a remote scottish island visiting a grandfather she’s never met in an effort to try and sort out his long term care after he becomes unable to continue living alone.  What should have been a short visit to sign the relevant paperwork to sell the house and get him into a care home soon becomes riddled with complications including an unwanted house guest who just won’t leave. There is unfinished business waiting for Ruby at Teach Mhor and she soon begins to realise that her life is not quite as idyllic as it seems and that happiness may just lie in a very different place to what she previously thought.

This is such a delicious novel.  I loved everything about it.  Ruby is a very engaging, likable character and I really enjoyed watching her journey as she finally came to understand the truth that lies in her family’s past. Jo’s wonderful setting made me wistfully dream of living in such a location amongst a tight knit community,  a place to put down roots and build memories.  Wonderfully escapist storytelling that will whisk you away and leave you with a warm feeling in your heart.

Thank you to the lovely Ann Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Headline Review for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.  I abolutely loved it and look forward to discovering Jo’s previous novels.  LOVE discovering a new author. 🙂

About the author

1-2Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award.  Her follow-up novels, The Olive Branch, Late Summer in the Vineyard, The Honey Farm on the Hill, Sunset Over the Cherry Orchard, A Winter Beneath the Stars and My lemon Grove Summer are also highly acclaimed. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.

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Film talk, Review

One night with ‘Judy’

Just over a week ago I went to see the film Judy, a film about the iconic film star Judy Garland. It is set in the winter of 1968 when Judy arrives in London to perform for a sold-out run of concerts. These would prove to be her last and I found it an incredibly moving biopic of the star. The next morning I wrote the following which I’d like to share with you now.

Judy is not an accurate, historical depiction of the last few months of the life of Judy Garland. There are aspects of it that are of course but this is a lifetime rolled into a few months. Flash backs to the set of The Wizard of Oz, pills given to a young teenager just to make sure she was up when she needed to be and down when not, and then of course, when the drugs started to have no effect whatsoever. This wonderful, beautiful lady. She spent her life being wanted for her voice and the way it made others feel. Yet her self-esteem was low. There was always someone prettier and slimmer just waiting to take her place, or so she was told. People basked in her spotlight and yet it seems that the times when she met rock bottom they could be so unforgiving. The alcohol and addictions a byproduct of her childhood, how could she ever hope to overcome them? How could a lifetime of abuse ever not leave lasting damage?

Stunningly acted by Renée Zelwegger, Judy is, although heartbreakingly sad, a celebration of the person behind the voice. Her compassion, her fierce love for her children and her desire for normality. What I think the film had succeeded in, is to capture the essence of her life in just these last few months. The abuse, the loneliness, the loss of money, and much of it through no fault of her own, but she ultimately shouldered the responsibility.

Afterwards I delved deeper to see which elements of the film were added for ‘artistic licence’ and of course there is quite a bit. Perhaps if you are a stickler for historical accuracy then this may not be the film for you. It most certainly isn’t a documentary. Scenes and moments have been added as an expression of who she was and what she endured. I won’t be too specific so as not to spoil it but the portrayal works well to capture the love and adoration she received, her compassion and sense of connection with those who were considered a little different (such as the LQBT community at that time) and the persecution of it. Her highs when she found love and the hope of someone who she thought loved and needed her, and the crashing lows as it all came falling down. How the audience could be cruel if she wasn’t on her game (who throws rolls and boos someone til they run off stage?) and how they all wanted to be a part of it when she was on top. Of course she loved that audience and the adoration that she received but what this film shows is the sacrifice she made for it. From a very early age she was told she wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t thin enough, how she would be forgotten in an instant if it wasn’t for her voice. In that respect she was doomed from the beginning, perhaps never actually feeling loved and accepted for herself.

The final scenes where Judy is performing her final London performance is wonderful, it shows her at her best, pulling in the crowd, making them feel, making them love her. Yet it also shows her at her most vulnerable, showing just how much the business took from her and how, ultimately, there was nothing left to give. Renée’s performance here was particularly moving.

For me this is a film that encapsulates a life lived. A life of extreme highs but also many lows. There are moments of such tenderness that took my breath away along with my resolve to not cry along with it. Please don’t expect this to be historical accurate in every detail but understand that it is still Judy laid out before us.

It made me wonder about this actress who has always had a small part in my own life from the moment I watched The Wizard of Oz as a young child. Yes, the rainbow is slightly tainted now but it will never stop me enjoying the wonder of that incredible film that must have proved so magical when it first hit cinema screens. I remember saying to my son once as we sat watching the screen turn from black and white to colour. ‘Imagine that! Imagine seeing that beautiful colourful landscape up on the big screen for the first time’. Those magical ruby slippers that would eventually take Dorothy home. Judy Garland, I wonder, must have found it much more difficult to get there.

Judy Garland has never stopped touching people’s lives, she is still in the thoughts and hearts of many people. Only a few weeks ago I read and reviewed My Judy Garland Life by Susie Boyt. As well as my own personal interest in the star reading this book os one of the reasons I was so keen to see the film. I was intrigued by this star who sill had such a hold over people.

There is still so much that I don’t know about Judy Garland but one thing that I am sure about is that she will always be remembered and will never stop moving people. Long after the body is gone the song still remains.

*The film cover image is from the imbd website where there is further information about the film.

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Historical Fiction, Literary

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the wonderful novel by Iona Grey, The Glittering Hour.

Synopsis

1925. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them. Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself.

When their worlds collide one summer night, neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of a love affair that they know cannot possibly last.
But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules. By the end of that summer everything has changed.

A decade later, nine year old Alice is staying at Blackwood Hall with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present, and hope for the future.

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My thoughts

Expertly crafted with a dual time setting The Glittering Hour firstly begins in early 1926, in the days soon after the Great War when the horrors of the past sit in the shadows and life is for living again. Then we move on ten years later and it is 1936, nine-year-old Alice is sent to stay with her cold and distant grandparents at Blackwood Park, the large country estate where her mother grew up.

Alice is missing her mother, Selina, desperately in the unwelcoming house. Her only comfort can found in the letters that her mother sends her. Through these letters a treasure hunt begins in which Selina tells Alice exactly where she comes from and so unfolds a story of love, passion and heartbreak.

This novel is a multi-faceted joy. It takes us back to a time in history where the world changed forever. The years after the First World War when loss was still raw and the ghosts of those who never came home are all around. A new age was dawning with the hedonistic lifestyle of the Bright Young Things rebelling against the suppression of the past.

I adored the treasure hunt theme flowing through. The anticipation of secrets being unearthed between mother and daughter. Selina and Alice have a wonderful relationship and Iona has written them perfectly. So much love, it is hard not to feel the pain of their separation.

Back in 1926, Lawrence, the struggling artist, is a wonderful expression of the time, his desire to create art through photography indicative of the changes occurring in the early 20th Century. He begins to capture moments and feelings. The now traditional method of processing printed images as they would magically appear, holding moments frozen in time. He and Selina are worlds apart in so many way and yet find comfort from the pain of the past together. How can their love survive in this world that is changing in so many ways but still held tight to the past?

Yet still nearly a decade later Alice is still feeling the ties and expectations of her time but finds allies in the old house with Polly and the gardener, the lovely Mr Patterson. But what secrets will she unearth as she follows her mother’s treasure hunt? What skeletons will be brought out into the open?

The Glittering Hour is a beautifully written, deeply moving piece of historical fiction. This is an absolutely stunning novel in so many ways. It is a story about love, holding tight to what’s dear and of living with the freedom to be true to ourselves.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to the lovely people at Simon and Schuster for my review copy. This was a truly wonderful read. Pure escapism. 🙂

About the author

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Iona Grey has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters.

You can follow her on Twitter at @iona_grey.

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9+, Children's Fiction, Eva Reads Books!, Fiction, Tales Before Bedtime Juniors

The Closest Thing To Flying by Gill Lewis – reviewed by Eva

I adore children’s books, it makes so happy to be able to share my thoughts with you but sometimes I think it’s good to hear just how wonderful they are straight from the horses mouth so… wonderful Eva is back with another cracking review. This time she’s chatting about The Closet Thing to Flying by Gill Lewis. Over to Eva…

Synopsis

Present day: Semira doesn’t know where to call home. She and her mother came to England when she was four years old, brought across the desert and the sea by a man who has complete control. Always moving on, always afraid of being caught, she longs for freedom.

1891: Hen knows exactly where to call home. Her stifling mother makes sure of that. But her Aunt Kitty is opening her eyes to a whole new world. A world of animal rights, and votes for women, and riding bicycles! Trapped in a life of behaving like a lady, she longs for freedom.

When Semira discovers Hen’s diary, she finds the inspiration to be brave, to fight for her place in the world, and maybe even to uncover the secrets of her own past.
Gill Lewis is the multi-award-winning and best-selling author of novels including Sky Hawk, White Dolphin, and A Story Like the Wind. This is her unforgettable tale of friendship, hope, and finding the courage to fight for what you believe in.

Eva’s thoughts

This review is on a book called The Closest Thing To Flying by Gill Lewis.

Semira has two worlds – her own and Hens. Hen’s world is one hundred years ago when women weren’t allowed to vote, have a job or ride a bike! It was Hen’s aunt who tried to change that and that’s when everything went wrong. Back to Semira’s world where Robel is. Robel is a powerful man who beats her mama and stops her from doing anything she likes. Then one day she met Patrick. Everyone called him a freak, but Semira finds that he went through a similar thing to her. They become friends and that’s when Semira becomes suspicious about her own past and notices her love of cycling.

This book shows how women were treated in the past and today. Women still are being treated terribly but this book has inspired me to write my own stories and hopefully you too.

I loved this book because it shows that you need courage to stick up for yourself, and friends to support and believe you. It is a heartwarming story and it brings a tear to the eye. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I loved how it was a fiction story based on real events. The only bad thing I can say about it was that it ended. I can’t wait to see what the author writes about next.

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Thank you so much Eva for your amazing review!

You can find out more about author Gill Lewis by visiting her website here

You can follow Gill Lewis on Twitter at @gill_lewis

The Closest Thing To Flying is published by OUP children’s books and is available from all good book shops.

Thank you so much to the lovely people at OUP for inviting us to review this book. Both Eva and I think it is wonderful.

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour

The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker

Today I delighted to share details of The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker as part of the Random Things Tours blog tour. This deliciously beautiful looking novel drew my attention the moment I read the synopsis. Read on below…

Synopsis

In Zagreb is an unusual museum: it displays mementos of broken relationships. Each exhibit describes a unique story of a broken heart, of love gone awry.

When Katia and Goran visit the museum, Goran stumbles upon an exhibit that seems to be addressed to him, from a girl he met in a Sarajevo refugee camp at age fourteen. A reminder of two days spent together while he and his mother and brother waited anxiously for visas to America to escape the war.

Encouraged by Katia, a therapist, to reconnect with his lost past, Goran confronts the youth he lost during the Yugoslav Wars. Similarly Katia, adopted by Americans at one week old after her birth mother was murdered in a gangland killing in Brazil, heads back to Brazil to uncover her own family history.

Meanwhile Tyler, a military veteran and one of Katia’s patients, attempts to put the Afghan war behind him, and finds love in unexpected circumstances.

Drawing upon his own experiences working in conflict zones, Gary Barker’s powerful novels dive deep into human love and longing. Crossing continents, and set against backdrops of war, deprivation, and violence, The Museum of Lost Love is a soulful testament to the resilience of the human heart.

About the author

GARY BARKER is an author, researcher, and human rights activist. He is founder and director of Promundo, an international organization that works with men and boys in more than 25 countries to achieve gender equality and end violence against women. He has been awarded an Ashoka Fellowship and an Open Society Fellowship for his work in conflict zones. His previous novels include Luisa’s Last Words, Mary of Kivu, and The Afghan Vampires Book Club (co-written with Michael Kaufman). Barker lives in Washington, DC. Visit his website at https://garytbarker.com/

The Museum of Lost Love was published on the 1st of October and is available in both paperback and kindle.

Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this of tour.

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Debut, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

This Little Dark Place by A.S. Hatch

 

Synopsis

How well do you know your wife?

How well do you know your lover?

How well do you know yourself?

Daniel and Victoria are married. They’re trying for a baby. Ruby is in prison, convicted of assault on an abusive partner.

But when Daniel joins a pen pal program for prisoners, he and Ruby make contact. At first the messages are polite, neutral – but soon they find themselves revealing more and more about themselves. Their deepest fears, their darkest desires.

And then, one day, Ruby comes to find Daniel. And now he must decide who to choose – and who to trust.

My thoughts

I started reading This Little Dark Place first thing on a Sunday morning and was finished by lunchtime. I absolutely couldn’t put it down. There is an underlying sense of unease from the beginning. A story told from the viewpoint of Daniel, we see everything through his eyes from start to finish. Writing to the mysterious Lucy, he admits that he has, until now, been reluctant to tell his version of events and yet for her he is willing to divulge all. But what story is unfolding before us? Who is the victim here? Who the monster? Two women in his life. Victoria his wife, they’ve shared difficult times and yet he tried to be strong for her, tried to make her happy. Then Ruby, a women he reached out to when he was feeling lost, in an effort to support her during her time in prison by giving her hope via the pen pal programme. Reckless? Perhaps, but sometimes we make foolish choices to try and fill the void. Can our own vulnerabilities make us reveal too much ourselves? How well can we ever know anyone, especially someone we’ve only met via email.

A S Hatch has written a debut filled with suspense. We’re not quite sure who to trust and as Daniel shares his experience we begin to wonder where this will end. Ruby is always a shadowy character, her story shared by Daniel and when she finally arrives uninvited at his front door, he begins to doubt everything she has told him.

This is a super debut novel, chilling and wonderfully plotted I was completely drawn into the story. It was an intense ride and there was a moment where I had to pause to take a breathe. I knew that something terrible was on the horizon, I could feel it coming, gradually building to the crescendo and that moment when I thought “oh no! I didn’t see that coming.’

This novel explores the darker side of the psyche and makes us question how well we can ever really know even those closest to us and just what they might be capable of.

Thank you so much to the lovely people at Serpent’s Tail for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. This was a fantastic read and one I very much enjoyed. I look forward to reading more from A S Hatch in the future. Highly recommended.

About the author

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A.S. Hatch grew up in Lancashire in the 90s, and has lived in Taipei and Melbourne. Now he lives in London and writes fiction in his living room-slash-office-slash-gym in the early hours of the morning before going to work in political communications

You can follow him on Twitter at @andrewshatch

You can follow Serpent’s Tail on Twitter at @serpentstail