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Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Blog Tour and my Review - The Changeling - Matt Wesolowski - chilling

Blog tour - The Changeling by Matt Wesolowski.

I'm delighted to have been invited along on the blog tour for the latest in the Six Stories series by Matt Wesolowski and in my opinion even better than it's predecessors, Six Stories and Hydra. 




My Review:

Being near the tail end of the blog tour, I've had to exercise a higher than usual amount of self-discipline and resist reading too many other reviews in case they influenced my review.

I have, however, seen lots of social media posts saying how fabulous this book is and I concur. It is scary and chilling and has a real twist in the tail I didn't see coming, in fact, it swiped me sideways and left me reeling and my ears are still ringing.

It is an emotive read, any book about a child who goes, and remains missing is sure to tug at anyone's heartstrings. It is menacing, coercive and really, REALLY, eerie and dark. 

Little Alfie Marsden goes missing in the spooky and legend-ridden Wentshire Forest whilst on a journey with his father Sorrel. When Dad stops to check the car engine, Alfie is on the back seat, when he gets back in the car the little lad is no longer there, he has disappeared, leaving no trace and few clues to where he may have gone. That was back in 1988 and despite recurring searches of the forest he has never turned up and back in 1995 Alfie was declared dead. But the mystery remains.

The story fascinates Six Stories podcaster Scott King and he decides it will make a great addition to his podcast which investigates unsolved mysteries by providing insights from 6 witnesses to an event, but he fears he may have bitten off more than he can chew with this mystery as it begins to suck him deeper and ever deeper. 

He interviews many different people involved, some of whom tell terrifying tales which have haunted the forest for years and seem to point to frightening occurrences involving the supernatural. Witches, fairies and creatures of the forest have been talked about and spooky events experienced by many and as the stories tumble forth from the interviewees the tension builds, subtly and imperturbably and as I realised my jaw was clenched as I was reading it so does Scott begin to feel he may be getting too close for comfort. As he tries to do the job he does so well and reveal what happened to little Alfie, he uncovers some brutal and terrifying facts as word by word and interview by interview he draws closer to revealing where Alfie really went.

Peopled by possibly unreliable witnesses - a team of builders scared out of their wits, an alcoholic Mum addicted to numbing her pain with alcohol, people who knew Alfie at school, he even interviews the enigmatic and charming Sorrel and we meet many more truly phenomenal characters throughout this very disquieting book.

Changeling took me by the hand and steered me off down an eerie path through the woods, until I was so wound up and involved that a mere tapping noise close by nearly made had me wetting myself! I'm feeling breathless just writing this and recalling the way it made me feel. After all isn't that what every great should do - make you FEEL the story not just read it

Even though I thought I knew where I was being led, I ended up somewhere even more disturbing! The Changeling is a very clever, manipulative, contemporary tale which captivated and enthralled me. It explores some sinister themes and is thoroughly perplexing throughout. 



The Blurb and some quotes:

On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there. He talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…

Intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought provoking, Changeling is an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, taking you to places you will never, ever forget.


‘Bold, clever and genuinely chilling with a terrific twist that provides an explosive final punch’ Deidre O’Brien, Sunday Mirror

‘A genuine genre-bending debut’ Carla McKay, Daily Mail

‘Impeccably crafted and gripping from start to finish’ Doug Johnstone, The Big Issue


‘With a unique structure, an ingenious plot and so much suspense you can’t put it down, this is the very epitome of a must-read’ Heat

The Changeling is published by the wonderful Orenda Books who provided my copy.

You can order one from Amazon and good book stores.



The Author - Matt Wesolowski

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops in association with New Writing North. 


Wesolowski started his writing career in horror and was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at 'Bloody Scotland'; Crime Writing Festival 2015. 


Saturday, 26 January 2019

Review - The Almanack - Martine Bailey - luscious historical mystery

The Almanack by Martine Bailey



My Review

The Almanack is a luscious and vibrant journey into the past via the predictions and riddles of an almanack.

One of the first things I notice when I sink blissfully into a Martine Bailey book, is how quickly she transports me to another era and how evident it is that she has deeply researched everything to do with the era she is writing about. Which, in this case, is the mid 1700s.

The whole book is cleverly constructed around an Almanack of the very year in which the book is set and is so authentically woven I can only surmise that the Author had such a real document in her hands at the time of writing. 

An Almanack is a printed yearbook containing dates and events for the coming year, more detailed than a calendar or a diary it would contain notable festival dates, sunrise and sunset times, tide tables and other information invaluable, especially to country folk, farmers and the like. Some are still printed every year to this very day, for example Whitakers Almanack. As relevant now as ever, in those dark days before mobile phones, the internet and tv and radio, how else could one keep track of dates, events and timings? The Almanack in question must have been treasured by those lucky enough to get hold of one, as it sought also to entertain and amuse, by predicting weather and featuring some really clever riddles.

Our heroine Tabitha Hart seems at first appearances to be no better than she should be, a flibbertigibbet, a prostitute, who wakens to find the punter she spent the night with has absconded with her belongings, her money, even her outdoor garments! But never mind she in turn fleeced him and has in her possession a very distinctive and unique pocket watch in the shape of a grinning skull.

This doesn’t really help much now though as she continues her journey back from London to her rural home in the small village of Netherlea to visit her Mother, who has sent an urgent appeal for her to come home quickly. The money she had in hand was owed to her Mother and the clothes she has lost were her veneer of respectability. She arrives in her home village of Netherlea, bedraggled, penniless and dishevelled, indecently clad in little more than a petticoat. To her horror and regret she finds she is too late, her Mother is dead!
Tabitha suspects foul play and vows to discover who was watching her Mother and who was behind many cryptic messages pointing to the identity of whoever may have murdered her but she gets embroiled in all manner of intrigue. She aligns herself with budding writer and man of mystery Nat Starling. But as deaths continue, many with suspicion surrounding them she gets ever deeper embroiled in danger and crime.

I don’t want to give away too much of this absolutely delightful, original and unique historical thriller which ticks every single box to be a firm favourite for me. Great historical detail, wonderful richly painted characters, tons of mystery and intrigue, masses of twists and a narrator who you know is hiding something and whom you aren’t sure whether to despise or love (clue - I ended up loving Tabitha) 

A rich, beguiling tapestry of 18th century suspicion and mistrust, overlaid with a touch of romance and a few murders and you have the perfect novel to while away any rainy weekend.

Overlaid with tons of cunning riddles, each chapter begins with one and you don’t get the answers until the end of the book, I predict The Almanack will delight and enrapture many a reader.

Available at the end of January from good booksellers.

The Blurb

The philosophy of time, destiny and the stars pervade this intricate historical mystery in which a young woman determines to avenge her mother’s death. 1752, Midsummer. 

Following a desperate summons from her mother, Tabitha Hart departs London for her home village of Netherlea – only to discover that her mother has drowned. Determined to discover the truth about the Widow Hart’s death, Tabitha consults her almanack and uncovers a series of cryptic notes describing her mother’s terror of someone she names only as ‘D’. 

Teaming up with young writer Nat Starling, Tabitha begins a race against time to unmask ‘D’ before more deaths follow. But as the summer draws to a close and the snow sets in, cutting off Netherlea from the outside world, Tabitha and Nat are forced to face the darkest hours of their lives. With the year predicted to meet a ‘violent, bloody end’’ will Tabitha survive long enough to bring her mother’s killer to justice?



Saturday, 19 January 2019

Ideal Angels - blog tour and Extract

Ideal Angels - blog tour and Extract:

Today I am part of the blog tour for the new book by Robert Welbourn - Ideal Angels.



BLURB  

Is it possible to keep secrets in the age of social media? 
When someone lives their entire life in the spotlight, what could they possibly hide from you? 
Ideal Angels explores just that. It s the story of one man, one woman, one week. 
They meet, fall in love, and never look back. 
Eloise's phone is never far away, furiously cataloguing their ups and downs. But there are always shadows, lurking just out of reach. 
The moments after the camera flashes, unseen, uncaptured. 
The threat of an inescapable doom. 
How much can one person change you? 
How much can one person be your downfall?


Robert Welbourn


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Robert Welbourn is Yorkshire born and bred - he's lived there almost all his life, and now written a book set there. He’s had a passion for books as long as he can remember, and has been writing his whole life. 
His favourite authors are Bret Easton Ellis and Stephen King, and he cites Ellis as his number one influence.
He studied English Literature at Salford University, and this confirmed that he wanted to spend his life working with books. He currently works in marketing, but is hoping to spend his life telling stories.
Twitter @r_welbourn

Now here's an extract to whet your appetite:

That familiar burn, the sting in your nostrils, the supreme energy and
confidence, you haven’t felt this in a long time. It isn’t long before the
coke talk begins, and though it’s usually bullshit, this time it’s actually
interesting, you’re actually listening. And listening is all you’re
doing, because she’s practically ranting. Yeah so you’re probably wondering
about the hotel well my parents own it well not own it it’s sort of like franchised nothing official but basically they put a lot of money into it
and take a lot of the profits and they’ve done this all over the world and the
penthouse is owned by them but I don’t think they’ve ever been here except
maybe once just after they first got it. She breathes. And yeah so I come
here a lot it’s technically where I live well it’s one of my homes I guess my
official home is in the States with my parents but I don’t really like it there
it’s too hot and the people are all annoying so I have most of my stuff here
but really I spend all my time in my other place near the art school I’m going
to near where we met. She stops talking briefly, another massive line,
then more words, she’s like a waterfall. So yeah that’s the hotel and that
explains the car too and why I don’t go to art school very often I mean I
know I should but it’s hard to see a point in it you know to me the point is
looking good, feeling good, people knowing you look and feel good and that’s
why I’m always photographing you and me and stuff and that’s why the
drugs too I love my parents don’t get me wrong at least I think I do, well I
know I should anyway but they’re never around and it makes me feel pretty
shitty but with this stuff, she indicates the bag, with this stuff it kind of
doesn’t really matter so yeah do you know what I mean?
You’re sort of blown away, you’ve been pacing to try to dissipate
some of the energy but it’s not really done anything, you’re
ridiculously high considering how early it is in the afternoon, and
you stop pacing but only for a second to look at her, and you
know she wants an answer but none comes to mind, and so you
grab her arm and pull her to her feet, to you, and kiss her hard,
probably too hard but you’re both so coked up it seems the right
thing to do. You can feel your erection but this isn’t the time,
not now, so you let her back down to the floor and take the note
from her and do a massive line yourself.
The late afternoon and early evening sort of pass in a haze and
before you know it you’re out, in the town, wearing the same
clothes you’ve had on all day and you’re unshowered since this
morning but you don’t care, you’ve got pure confidence in your
veins and so the two of you are walking, practically strutting
down the street, you have a cigarette but you’re not paying it
much attention, except to make sure none of the ash goes on your clothes. You come to a bar, The Oyster Bar, not the most fashionable
but reasonably discreet, and soon you each have a largely
ignored drink in front of you, and while she sits and texts and
makes the occasional call you just sit, look around, wanting to
go outside, breathe the air, expend some energy, but not wanting
to not be by her side. She says some of her friends are coming,
she hopes you don’t mind, and you say it’s chill, it’ll be nice to
meet some of the people in her life, and because of the drugs she
laughs but you actually mean it, you don’t want to let this one
go, you want to get your hooks into her. You know that’s an
awful way of phrasing it to yourself but you also know it’s true,
and so when her friends arrive you pretend not to be high, which
you’re not really much anymore anyway, you’ve purposefully not
been bumping in order to not make a bad impression. Her friends
are just like her: slim, beautiful, phones out, drinks out, but from
the looks of them they’re not currently reading Ulysses; in fact
you wonder if they can read at all.
You let them talk, it’s mostly about you, Eloise’s friends interrogating
her about you, but she’s ducking questions, trying to
avoid the fact she doesn’t actually know much about you, and by
now the coke has worn off and so you drink your drink, then
drink another, and soon you’re pretty buzzed off the alcohol. A
couple of her friends look familiar, you feel like you’ve seen them
before, but you chalk this up to the alcohol. That sense of familiarity
a slight buzz often brings. Is it the alcohol? Do you care?
You sense Eloise is buzzed too from the way she’s looking at
you, lust tinged with desperation, but regardless her phone is out
and her friends’ phones are out and it’s all selfies, group photos,
you’re dragged into photos by people whose names you don’t
even know, faces you won’t remember, and you’re thinking it’s
all so cheap, this is all so vague and unnecessary, but you let it
happen anyway. You know Eloise is like this, you’re just glad it’s
not as much as her friends are.
Soon Eloise is taking your hand and you’re outside, leaving the
bar, moving on to the next. You light a cigarette for the walk
and give one to Eloise but soon all her friends are asking, begging cigarettes from you, and it just seems easier to give them all
one and so you do, and they’re coughing and looking unsure but
they’re all so proud of themselves, this small act of drunken rebellion
making them feel like better people, even though you know
if anything it’s the opposite. The next bar is Footage, you’ve not
been here for a while, but nothing much has changed. This bar
is more crowded, and despite being drunk you practically beg
Eloise and she takes you into the disabled toilet and you do a
bump each, two, and once you’re back in the room everything
seems much easier to handle, it’s given a perspective that means
something to you, or at least feels like it might. Her friends have
attracted a lot of attention but you and Eloise stay on the periphery,
not wanting to be antisocial, but not wanting to be involved.
Drinks are ordered and drunk, bumps are discreetly done, and
soon it’s the early hours and you’re tired, your nose hurts, your
head is spinning, you’re dreading tomorrow, dreading your exposure
to the world under the influence of such solicitous inebriants.
But in reality you’re back in the penthouse and it’s just you
and Eloise, you’ve managed to kick out her friends, and their new
friends, and it’s just the two of you and you go to the toilet, to
actually use the toilet for a change, and when you come back
Eloise has left the living room. You head for the bedroom and
find her standing in a pile of clothes, wearing only her pants, and
this time she does actually pounce on you.


Available on Amazon, click here for more details


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Review - Wakenhyrst - Michelle Paver

Wakenhyrst - Michelle Paver

My thoughts:

Here's a lovely gothic style historical novel to tempt you to stay up late reading under the covers. It's not a horror story as such but a creepy tale of madness and loneliness.


I find the cover quite enticing with the silhouette of a Magpie (Oh, Chatterpie!!) and are those drops of blood?

Wakenhyrst is the story of a young woman Maud, brought up by her bullying father in a large old house around the turn of the 20th century, after the death of her mother in bloody childbirth. Maud is a very lonely young woman, forced to grow up quickly, she has few real friends. An intelligent young woman, when intelligence is the province of the male members of a family line, this does her few favours, apart from earning her a little grudging respect from the unpleasant and unpredictable father she nevertheless longs to impress.

He "allows" her the doubtful privilege of transcribing his historical research into local lore and a book about a woman thought to be possessed he becomes fixated on after finding part of an old painting belonging to the local church known as a doom.

He grows fixated and fearful and Maud in turn begins to fear for his sanity and possibly her own. Her only companions are the household servants, (one of whom she longs to be closer to and one who betrays her) and a bird she rescues and grows to love. She is forced to witness her Father growing increasingly more unpredictable and when she discovers his journal what she reads there makes her blood run cold.

It's a creepingly sinister tale, with a real twist in the tail I didn't see coming and a haunting sadness that had a lump in my throat. The story is told retrospectively by a researcher who comes to interview Maud in her old age and in this it reminded me of The Thirteenth Tale somewhat, it also has overtones of The Essex Serpent.

If you liked either of these books you will most probably enjoy Wakenhryst immensely as did I. It's a very credible and atmospheric coming of age story with a very dark core. I was rooting for Maud all the way, loathed her father and loved the watery fenland location its set in.

The Blurb

1906: A large manor house, Wake's End, sits on the edge of a bleak Fen, just outside the town of Wakenhyrst. It is the home of Edmund Stearn and his family – a historian, scholar and land-owner, he's an upstanding member of the local community. But all is not well at Wake's End. Edmund dominates his family tyrannically, in particular daughter Maud. When Maud's mother dies in childbirth and she's left alone with her strict, disciplinarian father, Maud's isolation drives her to her father's study, where she happens upon his diary.

During a walk through the local church yard, Edmund spots an eye in the undergrowth. His terror is only briefly abated when he discovers its actually a painting, a 'doom', taken from the church. It's horrifying in its depiction of hell, and Edmund wants nothing more to do with it despite his historical significance. But the doom keeps returning to his mind. The stench of the Fen permeates the house, even with the windows closed. And when he lies awake at night, he hears a scratching sound – like claws on the wooden floor...

Wakenhyrst is a terrifying ghost story, an atmospheric slice of gothic, a brilliant exploration of the boundaries between the real and the supernatural, and a descent into the mind of a psychopath.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Blackberry and Wild Rose - Sonia Velton - Review and Blog Tour

Blog Tour - Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton




Blackberry and Wild Rose was one of those books which could have been written just for me. I read the advance copy I felt so privileged to receive last in 2018 and immediately needed to shout aloud just how much I LOVED it. In fact it made it on to my top ten reads of 2018.

I was therefore delighted to be invited along on this blog tour to help promote and raise awareness of this book, which is great as I want EVERYONE to get their own copy and love it as much as I did.

Here's my review, again, and I urge you to read it too.

My Review

Anyone who knows me, even the tiniest bit, will know, as surely as I did the minute I saw the cover of this book, that it is exactly the kind of book I fall head over heels in love with.

And I did. For several reasons...





(1) I swooned when I saw the absolutely gorgeous cover art. I am loving the current trend for historical novels to have a rich tapestry of all-over design and this one is covered with a lavish illustration of the woven floral silks which wind their way through the story.

(2) it is highly recommended by one of my very favourite authors the sublimely talented Laura Purcell whose book The Corset also made it on my top ten reads. (If she told me I'd enjoy reading the labels on sauce bottles, you wouldn't be able to get in my kitchen for ketchup and pickles)

(3) It is set in England, Spitalfields, London to be precise, in the late 18th century - Mmmmm it's piqued my interest.

(4) it is peopled with strong, willful women, who are all utterly believable and their stories individually are compelling. When they begin to overlap and weave together, the chemistry ignites causing an explosive tale of betrayal, deceit, ambition and politics that had me reeling.

(5) It is a luscious, competent and exciting debut brimming with the promise of so much more to come, from this author, who is a wonderful discovery.

So, you will gather, I liked it! I hope you'll be intrigued enough to put this book on your 2019 wishlist. Let me tell you a bit about it to whet your appetites:

It is the 1760s and we are in the city of London where Spitalfields, an area filled with merchants houses occupied by Huguenot weavers, jostles side by side with less wholesome neighbours, including brothels and pubs and a bustling marketplace.

Into this area arrives innocent young woman Sara, fresh from the countryside, smarting from what she sees as rejection by her Mother, just wanting someone to care for, brimming with hope for a new life and ready to seize any opportunity which comes her way.

But before the dust even settles she is "helped" by a wily old madam and inveigled into living and working at a notorious brothel.

Esther's life is very different, a respectable married woman living in one of the tall merchants houses with her Huguenot silk weaver husband, although her marriage lacks in love she hopes her husband will understand her desire to be involved in his world and reveals her ambition to be a designer of silks by showing him the delicate floral designs she has drawn. When he scorns and belittles her aspirations, she resolves to make her way despite him not because of him.

A foray into philanthropy sees Esther trying to help their less fortunate neighbours, and whilst distributing Bibles in the poorer quarters of Spitalfields she comes across Sara being bullied by her Madam and takes a chance on offering the girl employment as a maid.

Sara finds attending to the mercurial merchants' wife little less tiresome than lying down for a living, but she manages to make the best of what she's offered and a tentative friendship of sorts, begins between the two women.

But men, as they always do, disrupt the womens lives as they become embroiled in sinister and dastardly doings in the world of silk weaving and still Esther harbours her passion to create her own designs. 

There is very much a sense of who is using whom and why. Everyone has ulterior motives, nobody is perfect and those with minor imperfections meet the deeply flawed head on as we are treated to a whirling and writhing tale of dishonesty, abandonment, determination and recklessness.

It follows therefore that I am urging you to read this book because I ADORED it and if you follow my blog and like similar books to those I enjoy you will love it. It is clever and cunning, literary without being preachy, lush and lavish and never prosaic and it lulls you into several senses of false security before leaving you reeling.


Marvellous.

The Blurb:

When Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.

Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.


It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.

If you don't want to take my word for it here is what other people have said about Sonia Veltons novel:

For fans of Jessie Burton and Tracy Chevalier, a rich historical debut set among the Huguenot silk weavers of Spitalfields in the late 18th century

'Sumptuous and moving. Velton weaves her tale with the threads of betrayal, thwarted dreams and good intentions gone awry' Laura Purcell

'A richly imagined and brilliantly twisty tale' Anna Mazzola

'A plot as finely detailed as Spitalfields silk' Stacey Halls

About the Author:

Sonia Velton grew up between the Bahamas and the UK. 
After graduating from university with a first class law degree, she qualified as a solicitor at an international law firm, later going on to specialise in discrimination law. Sonia relocated to the Middle East in 2006. Eight years and three children later she returned to the UK and now lives in Kent. 
Blackberry and Wild Rose, inspired by real characters and historical events, was short-listed for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress, was longlisted for the Mslexia novel competition, and is Sonia's first novel.

The book is published by Quercus and you can find it here or order it here



Monday, 7 January 2019

Blog Tour and my Review - The Story Keeper - Anna Mazzola

Review and blog tour The Story keeper Anna Mazzola




I’m delighted to be helping kick-start the Blog Tour for The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola, author of the superb novel The Unseeing which I read and reviewed last year for my blog.

Both are historical novels based around factual events and the author demonstrates her penchant for detailed research and well-honed writing skills in both of these seductively intriguing books.




The Story Keeper begins in 1857 with the protagonist, Audrey Hart on a ferry to the Isle of Skye where she is headed to take up a job offering her the only chance of a little freedom, she is to be an assistant to a wealthy woman who is researching folk tales, myths and legends around the island.

Following the recent Highland clearances local folk are wary of strangers and reluctant to trust anyone, but they are also keen to pass on superstitions and Anna has family links to the island as her late mother was a Skye lassie so maybe she is not as much a stranger to the lives of these country folk as her boss is. As stories emerge of several missing girls, Audrey determines to unravel the mystery, which bears parallels to the disappearance of her own mother many years ago.

What she begins to reveal will test her to the limits as she tries to work out whether the old legends bear any truth or if there is something even more sinister at work.

I loved the setting on the Isle of Skye, the historical details following the Highland clearances, an appalling true event, the wealth of richly painted characters and the themes of folklore, fairy stories and myth. 

The main character of Audrey, a determined young woman whom I could admire and empathise with, this likeable heroine soon had me rooting for her. 

The location of Skye and descriptions are highly evocative, the story has enough hints of the supernatural to lend a shiver whilst reading it and the mystery is compelling and quite awful enough to be scary as well as gripping.

A wonderful read, especially for anyone who loves a well-researched and superbly written historical mystery in a great setting.

My thanks go to Anne at RandomThings Tours for inviting me along on this virtual book tour.

Find it on Amazon and other good bookshops.

The Blurb

From the author of THE UNSEEING comes a sizzling, period novel of folk tales, disappearances and injustice set on the Isle of Skye, sure to appeal to readers of Hannah Kent's BURIAL RITES or Beth Underdown's THE WITCH FINDER'S SISTER ( I also reviewed this you can read my review here).

'A wonderful combination of a thrilling mystery and a perfectly depicted period piece' Sunday Mirror


Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the word-of-mouth folk tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857, the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and the crofters are suspicious and hostile, claiming they no longer know their stories. Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters tell her that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl has disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the spirits of the unforgiven dead. Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but then she is reminded of her own mother, a Skye woman who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. It seems there is a link to be explored, and Audrey may uncover just what her family have been hiding from her all these years.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

The Doll Factory - Elizabeth Macneal - scarily good

Review - The Doll Factory - Elizabeth Macneal.



Two sisters Iris and Rose work together making dolls. It is the mid 19th century and whilst nearby the great exhibition is being planned, their days are long and repetitive, working for a hard taskmistress the girls dream of escaping to a more congenial life, Rose wants her own genteel little shop and Iris dreams of learning to paint. But both girls bear the scars of living in an era where medical care wasn't great. Rose has lost her beauty to the scarring of smallpox whilst Iris has a hunched shoulder, due to a break in her collarbone at birth.and both girls fear no man will even look at them now.

Iris's beauty, however, attracts the attention of two very different men. She is approached by artist Louis Frost, a member of the burgeoning pre Raphaelite brotherhood who begs her to model for his painting for which she barters art lessons in return. 

Whilst in the shadows of the grimiest rookeries of old London, lurks lonely Silas, a taxidermist who admires Iris from afar and whilst his shyness prevents him voicing his admiration for her, he remains on the periphery of her world fantasising about when they eventually meet, sure she will eventually love him as he adores her.

As we move between the courts and shops of Victorian London, we glimpse everyday life at its most brutal the descriptions are superb and I felt as though I was one step behind Iris throughout her journey. The reader meets several wonderful characters and young Albie, a street urchin who longs only for some false teeth to replace the one worn stump of a tooth which is all that remains of his gnashers, earned a place in my heart.

As Iris begins to shake off her shackles, Rose remains in the doll factory, modelling tiny faces and fitting miniature gowns to dolls for rich little girls. Iris grows further apart from her sister and whilst she does begin to feel love for one of the men in her life, in the other, builds an unhealthy obsession.

As she falls in love, she also becomes the object of a dangerous obsession.

This is a wonderfully atmospheric historical novel, woven around a world of art and creativity with lots of details about pre-raphaelite artists, and a tense thriller and mystery which will have you on the edge of your seat. Its a creeper, beginning slowly until you are immersed in it ad it just won't let go. I loved it and feel the characters will stay with me for a long time.

#TheGiverofStars - Jojo Moyes my #Review #historical #histfic

The Giver of Stars by JojoMoyes My Review Recently I was asked the question who is your go-to author? Whose books I'd read regardl...