A House of Ghosts – W. C. Ryan

40789530It’s 1914, and Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering on his island off the coast of Devon in order to try to contact his two sons who were lost in the war. However, his guests each have their own agendas and, with the arrival of a storm, find themselves trapped on the island with the ghosts, their own secrets, and a killer.

The surface appearance of this book is that it is a ghost story. The title and cover are a little but misleading, because it is, in reality, it’s a murder mystery novel with themes of espionage, most easily compared to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It is a bunch of different characters, bought together for a weekend of seances and spiritual contact, trapped on an isolated island when a murder takes place. With the exception of Donovan and Kate – our two detectives sent to the island on a mission by the military – every character has a motive, so every character is a suspect. There’s plenty of tension and red-herrings to keep the story interesting.

I liked Kate and Donovan and their budding romance. They made a good team and I would be interested in more books following them on future missions. I also really liked Count Orlov, but some of the other characters were a bit weaker and not so well developed throughout the book (Madame Feda and Captain Miller-White, in particular).

Despite not exactly being a key feature of the story, the ghostly elements do add a lot of atmosphere and really pad out the plot which was, at times, quite weak. I enjoyed this book, but I found it a bit too long and I did get lost occasionally trying to work out the point of every direction the plot went in.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Narrows – Travis M. Riddle

42348486Oliver, Sophie and Davontae have returned to their home town of Shumard, Texas for the funeral of their friend, Noah. Each are dealing with the shock and loss in their own way, but things take an unexpected turn when Oliver gets a glimpse of a world parallel to their own. Visited by a dark being known as the Knave, Oliver soon finds himself dragged into a chilling adventure and questioning what really happened to Noah.

First things first, I have to say I adore the cover of this book. It’s a beautiful piece of artwork and it represents the story very well. I also adore Travis’ writing, and this one certainly did not disappoint. The Narrows bears some close similarities to Stranger Things with it’s dark, mysterious ‘other’ world (and I have to admit, I was a little bit sceptical about this shared theme when I started reading) but it’s such a different story and actually very original.

Although it is, essentially, a horror story, this book also contains a lovely story of friendship, with fantastic and realistic relationships between the group. It also deals – very sensitively, I thought – with the aftermath of suicide and the way people process the loss of a friend to suicide. The Narrows is a book filled with heart, alongside the creepiness and gore.

Oliver was a great character. He, of course, does the typical lead-character thing of heading off into the danger alone, which is usually something that really frustrates me, but his reasons for not including his friends are properly explained and completely understandable. Plus, he does go to them for help eventually. My personal favourite character, however, was the Knave. He’s super creepy and evil, and just generally fabulous.

One of the characters, Sophie, is transgender and this element was pulled of incredibly well. It was great to see the representation, and it wasn’t forced at all (as these things can often be). The fact that Sophie used to be a boy is mentioned only for context and fitted in perfectly without becoming a focal point for the story.

I actually can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about this book. Read it.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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The Folcroft Ghosts – Darcy Coates

33840674.jpgWhen their mother is hospitalised, Tara and Kyle are sent to live with their estranged grandparents in their isolated country house. At first, May and Peter Folcroft seem like the perfect grandparents: doting, generous and charming. But strange things start happening. The house seems to be haunted and, after a storm cuts the phone lines, May and Peter start acting weird too. Tara and Kyle are forced to play happy families as their suspicions towards their grandparents grow.

I love ghost stories, scary or not. The Folcroft Ghosts has as much atmosphere as any spooky story needs, although it did feel at times as though the plot was being forced along a little, and it was never really genuinely creepy.  It’s a short book, so it gets to the point fairly quickly, with spooky activity beginning very early on. This builds into a pretty good plot-twist and, the only genuinely unsettling part of the book, a very spine-tingling ending.

My only real issue with this book is that it isn’t really about the ghosts, or a haunting. I won’t say any more on this because I don’t want to give spoilers, but looking at the title and the cover, I expected the ghostly theme to play a much bigger part.

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The Corset – Laura Purcell

39691481Determined to learn more about phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can determine whether or not they will commit a crime, Dorothea Truelove regularly visits prisoners at Oakgate Prison. Ruth Butterham is the youngest murderess Dorothea has visited, who offers an alternative theory: She claims her crimes are caused by a supernatural power in her sewing. Is Ruth mad, or a murderer?

The Corset is undoubtedly dark, but not a horror like The Silent Companions. Instead, it is more of a murder mystery story with supernatural vibes. The narrative is told through the perspective of both Dorothea and Ruth, as Ruth explains her story and Dorothea tries to get to the bottom of things. The two women come from very different backgrounds, with very different outlooks, and complement each other exceptionally well. The writing is a joy to read, with each woman’s voice clearly distinct and well-developed.

I found this book compelling, original and unpredictable, but not particularly creepy (which would be totally fine, if it wasn’t marketed as “chilling”). It also felt slightly too long at times. I’m not sure that I could pull out specific parts of the story and label them as unnecessary, but there were moments where things started to drag and I felt myself rushing to reach the end.

I have seen other readers complain that The Corset includes too many characters, but I personally didn’t fell that this was a problem. Yes, there is a reasonably large cast, but Dorothea and Ruth really hold the story and the rest, even those who play a big role, fade into the background a little. That could sound like a criticism, but it isn’t. I found this book incredibly easy to read and didn’t find myself worrying about other characters in the slightest.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Wives – Lauren Weisberger

40183012The Wives, from The Devil Wears Prada series, focuses on Emily Charlton (Miranda Priestly’s ex-assistant) in her life after Runway. Following the decline of her image consultant business, Emily finds herself in the suburbs with her oldest friend, Miriam. Then, when Miriam’s friend, Karolina, is publicly dumped and shamed by her husband, Emily finds herself a new purpose: clearing Karolina’s name, getting her son back and restoring her superstar image.

First things first, this book is filled with truly ghastly characters. Our lead three (Emily, Miriam and Karolina) aren’t too bad most of the time, but every single other character is just awful. Karolina’s husband, Graham, is clearly evil, while the side-characters mainly consist of dreadful, middle-aged, suburban mums. On the whole, the book wasn’t particularly enjoyable because I just hated everyone.

The Wives’ saving grace was the relationship between the three women. They have very different views and personalities but are able to come together and support each other without falling out or tearing each other down. It is, I suppose, supposed to be a story of female empowerment, but it was a bit boring on the whole.

Chick-lit, it seems, is still not for me.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Pretty Little Things – T.M.E. Walsh

38091257.jpgAfter miraculously surviving a horrific car accident six months ago, Charlotte is determined to keep her daughter, Elle, safe. When local girls of a similar age to Elle start going missing, it’s Charlotte’s worst nightmare. On top of worrying about her daughter, Charlotte has to deal with her marriage falling apart, threats and forgetfulness. Things take a turn for the worst when the girls are found and the search turns into a murder investigation.

This book was a struggle to read because of the characters. I didn’t like a single one except Madeleine, who was more of a side-character. Charlotte is one of those lead characters that inexplicably doesn’t ask for help even though she obviously needs it. Iain, her husband, comes across as selfish and creepy. Elle is a judgemental teenager, which is fair enough, but I still didn’t like her. And Savannah seems to be the worst friend ever, apparently trying to steal her mate’s husband. Charlotte’s memory loss is mentioned as being a result of her accident, confirmed by her doctors and completely not her fault. However, Elle and Iain both absolutely drag her for it which means they either don’t know about it (which would be weird because they’re her family and why would she not tell them?) or they just don’t care (which would be completely unfair). It just doesn’t make sense.

The story started out quite well and gradually ramped up in excitement and intensity, as you’d expect from a thriller novel. The writing is generally good and the plot twists were genuinely rather shocking. However, the big ‘whodunit’ reveal was problematic and pretty far-fetched. I can’t say more on that without giving away spoilers.

Overall, the story was suitably surprising and thrilling, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it and I wouldn’t read it again.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Blackwing – Ed McDonald

36402955.jpgThe republic faces total annihilation at the hands of the Deep Kings. With Nall’s Engine failing, the only thing standing between the people of the Range and certain death is an unpredictable no-man’s land called the Misery. Tasked with the protection of a powerful spinner named Ezabeth Tanza, Captain Ryhalt Galharrow finds himself wrapped up in a world of conspiracy, secrets and treason.

Blackwing is a piece of truly excellent fantasy fiction. It has everything you could possibly want (magic, adventure, epic battles), without any of the usual tropes or clichés. The plot is multi-layered, with the surface story of Galharrow and Ezabeth and the overarching fight between the Deep Kings and the Nameless. This two-tiered style of story-telling was excellently pulled off, without one overshadowing the other.

Galharrow is a brilliant lead character. He’s grumpy, gritty and determined; battle-hardened and flawed, in no way irritating or infuriating. I also really liked his mismatched team of soldiers, especially Nenn.

I liked the fast-paced and gritty nature of Blackwing. There is a romantic element in the book which, in my opinion, didn’t add much to the story but didn’t take anything away either. It is, frankly, shockingly good for a debut novel and an absolute must-read for fans of fantasy and adventure.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Blog Tour: The Caged Queen – Kristen Ciccarelli

Welcome to my stop on a tour that I have been very excited about: The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli. I hope you enjoy my review, and do remember to check out the other stops on the tour (which you can find details of at the bottom of this post).


40873495.jpgIn the second instalment of the Iskari series, Roa and Dax are the new queen and king of Firgaard. Far from home and married to a weak king who doesn’t keep his promises and was responsible for the death of Essie, her beloved sister, Roa feels alone and frustrated. Trapped in bird-form for years, Essie’s time is finally running out and Roa will do anything she can to bring her back; even kill the king.

I love this series. The world and the characters are fantastic, and I enjoyed reading from a new perspective. However, I did find Roa quite annoying with how indecisive she was and I didn’t enjoy reading about her as much as I did with Aasha in The Last Namsara. Dax, on the other hand, was a fantastic character. He was much deeper and more layered than romantic side-characters usually are, which really added something to the story.

The plot contained multiple love triangles which usually wind me up, but the story and the writing were good enough that I was able to get past these easily. The romance between Roa and Dax was very organic and lovely to read.

As in the first book, there are short chapters inserted throughout the story describing a mixture of past events and folklore which were probably my favourite parts of this book. It’s such an effective way to include background information without interrupting the narrative.

Final comment: There weren’t enough dragons.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

33654875During the American Civil War, President Lincoln’s beloved son, Willie, died. Newspapers report that Lincoln returned to his son’s crypt alone to grieve for his boy. Using this seed of history, George Saunders weaves a supernatural story of familial loss. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm known as the bardo, while other trapped spirits try to encourage him to move on and squabble amongst themselves over the best way to make this happen. Told over the course of a single night, this story describes the monumental struggle Willie faces following his death, and explores grief among both the living and the dead.

The narrative style of this book is unique. The majority is told through the voices of the characters (very similar to a play-script), with some chapters built from excerpts of historical texts. This style took some getting used to and often took the story on rambling tangents, but was a very effective way of telling the story.

I loved the characters. Willie meets lots of different ghosts in the bardo, who all have their own stories and kooky personalities. There are some bizarre features (like Hans Vollman’s giant member) which I didn’t really understand the point of but they certainly helped to enhance the eccentric, unconventional vibe of this book.

I would recommend Lincoln in the Bardo, not because it’s an excellent story, but simply for the experience of reading it. It is unusual, with a unique style and a good enough plot. A modern classic, definitely deserving of its Man-Booker Prize win.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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