Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Gifts by Liz Hyder

Happy Thursday! Today I'm a stop on the Compulsive Readers tour for Liz Hyder's adult debut, The Gifts

In Victorian London, the story of the Angel of the Thames isn't a new one. But when rumors begin to circulate about an actual angel being pulled from the river, everything changes. 

Edward Meake is one of the few who knows the truth. He was lucky enough to be called for when the body was recovered and he paid to take it home to his basement lab. After careful study he has determined that the angel was in fact real. Such a discovery would not only make his career, but he feels it is a sign from God himself. And yet, he keeps his artist wife, Annie, and everyone else completely in the dark. 

Mary may not be a formal journalist—it is not yet a career open to women—but when she hears of the angel, she thinks there could be more to it than just rumor. And she's lucky enough to stumble upon just the right source for key information. But is it a farce and a waste of her time? Or is there truth to the rumor after all?

Hyder's novel is one of magic and wonder, but it's also one of pain and sadness. And it highlights the treatment of women and the poor in Victorian London. 

There are a lot of characters to wrap your head around in this one. In addition to Edward, Annie and Mary, chapters alternate between a bevy of additional POV characters including: Richard, a journalist and close friend of Mary's family; Natalya, a woman kicked out of her own community and traveling to London to meet her cousin in hopes of a new start; Etta, a botanist whose brother has kicked her out of her childhood home; and a few additional side characters along the way as well. 

The Gifts is a slow burn and it takes a while before the angel appears. But it is incredibly engaging and atmospheric. In no small part because so much time is spent letting the reader get to know each individual character. 

It's the women in particular who drive the story. Etta, Natalya, Mary, and Annie. 

Etta comes from a comfortable background and lucky enough to be taken in, raised, and educated by her father after her mother died. And yet, after her father passes away, her own half brother has little love for her. She's relegated to a ramshackle cottage on the estate's grounds and given an allowance but little else. In fact, she has to sneak into her father's home to borrow books from the expansive library! Her passion is botany and she spends her time collecting seeds and cataloging plants with her faithful dog, Scout, by her side. 

Natalya is a storyteller, a gift she learned from her grandmother. She's exiled from her home, an island off the coast, and is determined to make a new start in London. She's saved money by doing small jobs along the way and means to connect with her cousin who moved there years ago. But when she arrives, she finds her cousin died in a workhouse. With nothing and no one, she has to decide whether to try and make a life in London or leave. And luck is not with her. 

Mary and her Uncle Jos are barely scraping by after the death of her Uncle George. But the return of their family friend and Jos's one time protege, Richard, is reason for excitement. And when he begins to offer her writing jobs—real writing jobs of her own, not just finishing her uncle's papers when he's too inebriated to do so himself—things are truly looking up. But it's precarious considering there are few jobs open to women at this time. And journalism certainly isn't one of them!

Annie loves her husband, Edward. But after three years, they have yet to be blessed by the children she longs for. And Edward has been increasingly losing himself in his work. Work he keeps hidden in their basement and secret from his wife. But Annie trained as an artist and has decided to throw herself back into painting as a way to pass the time and keep herself from worrying about her husband's spending habits. She believes, wholeheartedly, that things will work out in the end. 

And then there's the angel situation. There is never any real explanation as to why women start sprouting wings. And there's certainly no explanation as to why the particular women who do grow wings grow them in the first place. They do ponder over this themselves, wondering if it's the fact that they're "wild" women with an appreciation of the natural world, but ultimately it's left to the reader to decide. 

The Gifts is one of those reads that straddles the borders of fantasy and historical fiction, making it perfect for fans of both genres (and book clubs especially). Hyder's writing is excellent as a whole but it's her characters that make this a truly special read! I am glad to have read their story and that the kept me company during yet another bout of super fun insomnia :)

Monday, February 21, 2022

Deep Into the Dark by P.J. Tracy

Sam was only trying to help when he offered Melody his couch after her boyfriend hit her. But the next day, the man is found dead and Melody and Sam are the prime suspects. 

Margaret Nolan sympathizes with Sam. As a vet whose story is well known, Sam has had more than his fair share of troubles. And Margaret comes from a long line of career military. Her own brother was recently killed in action. That Margaret chose to be a cop instead of joining up makes her a bit of a black sheep in her family. 

So yes, maybe she's a little too close to Sam even though she's only just met him. But he doesn't seem to her like a killer. Until another body is discovered. 

With a killer very clearly stalking them and the police determined to pin multiple murders on one or both of them, Sam and Melody are forced to untangle the clues in order to clear their names and stay alive!

This is the start of a brand new series by P.J. Tracy and it is fabulous!

(A quick note about the author: P.J. Tracy used to be a mother daughter writing team. Unfortunately, P.J. passed away and her daughter has continued writing solo under the pen name.)

If you're at all familiar with P.J. Tracy's Monkeewrench series, then you know that series focused on a whole cast of characters and it's much the same with this new series. 

Detective Margaret Nolan is an up-and-coming detective. She's paired with the older, more experienced Al Crawford. She's also crushing on another detective, Remy Beaudreau, who is neck deep in a serial killer case when Margaret's case begins. 

Sam is a vet working in a bar in LA and he's a mess. The scarred face may be obvious to those who see him, but being the only survivor of his unit means guilt and nightmares that have all but ruined his marriage. 

He has a very protective streak when it comes to friends. And he considers Melody a friend. 

Melody is an ex musician and recovering addict trying to finish her degree. Initially she thought she was lucky to end up with a rich boyfriend she didn't have to hide her identity from. But his controlling nature and jealousy rear their ugly heads just before he's murdered. And of course Melody has an undeniable motive. 

It's clear that Tracy has plans for these characters. Each one is built and developed extremely well, but there's also definite room for them to grow as the series continues. 

And like any successful series, Nolan and Sam in particular are the kinds of characters you want to follow through multiple books!

I devoured this first in the series and am only embarrassed that it took me a year to get to it—but I did dive immediately into the second book as soon as I finished!

If you're a fan of the Monkeewrench series, you're going to love Deep Into the Dark! It's available now from Minotaur. 

Order a copy from your favorite india via Bookshop!

Friday, February 18, 2022

Music of the Night ed by Martin Edwards

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for the new Crime Writers' Association anthology, Music of the Night

I love a great anthology! Especially one with plenty of new-to-me authors and favorites alike. This particular anthology had three specifications: of course it's all crime fiction, the theme is music, and the contributors are members of the Crime Writers' Association. 

From camp songs to classical and crimes of passion to vengeance, Music of the Night spans a broad range of styles both in writing and music. And though the stories are arranged in alphabetical order (by author's first name), Edwards has put together a collection that reads like a great mix tape of mysteries! 

Each of the stories is original to the anthology. I should point out, too, that I really appreciated Edwards's note that a number of the authors who contributed to this collection have not yet been featured in a CWA collection!

Here's the full Table of Contents:

Be Prepared by Abi Silver
A Sharp Thorn by Alison Joseph
Wrong Notes by Andrew Taylor
The Melody of Murder by Antony M. Brown
Love Me or Leave Me: A Fugue in G Minor by Art Taylor
The Scent of an Ending by Brian Price
Mix Tape by Cath Staincliffe
The Last Green Bottle by Catherine Aird
Taxi! by Chris Simms
Some Other Dracula by Christine Poulson
Violin - CE by David Stuart Davies
The Sound and the Fury by Dea Parkin
A Vulture Sang in Berkeley Square by Jason Monaghan
Not a Note by Kate Ellis
His Greatest Hit by L.C. Tyler
Requiem by Leo McNair
The Crazy Cries of Love by Martin Edwards
Waiting for Cornelia by Maxim Jakubowski
The Watch Room by Neil Daws
The Ghosts of Peace by Paul Charles
No More 'I Love You's' by Paul Gitsham
And the Band Played On by Peter Lovesey
4 x 3.3 by Ragnar Jónasson
A Death in Four Parts by Shawn Reilly Simmons
Bombay Blues by Vaseem Khan

Fans of crime fiction and short stories, this is an excellent one to add to your TBR! Each story is an absolute treat—and I'll be adding some new names to my must read list now as well :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Door-Man by Peter M. Wheelwright

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Peter M. Wheelwright's The Door-Man. 

You'll have to forgive me today, I'm going to default to the description on the TLC tour page for the about the book:

In 1917, during the construction of a large reservoir in the Catskill hamlet of Gilboa, New York, a young paleontologist named Winifred Goldring identified fossils from an ancient forest flooded millions of years ago when the earth’s botanical explosion of oxygen opened a path for the evolution of humankind. However, the reservoir water was needed for NYC, and the fossils were buried once again during the flooding of the doomed town.

A mix of fact and fiction, The Door-Man follows three generations of interwoven families who share a deep wound from Gilboa’s last days. The story is told by Winifred’s grandson, a disaffected NYC doorman working near the Central Park Reservoir during its decommissioning in 1993.

The brief and provisional nature of one’s life on earth – and the nested histories of the places, people and events that give it meaning – engender a reckoning within the tangled roots and fragile bonds of family.

Before this book, I'd never heard of Gilboa. But I have come across stories about flooded towns and I found the premise of this one intriguing. 

So in 1926, the original Gilboa was flooded to form a reservoir and the town effectively moved north. As in the book, the remains of some of the "oldest known trees on earth" were found there. And in spite of that discovery, plans for the reservoir moved forward. And it's this very real event that inspires the story in The Door-Man

The story shifts throughout time, alternating from 1993 to 1917 and years in between, as Wheelwright follows three generations and how those families' stories intersects with Gilboa's. 

This is a thoughtful book and also a bit of a quiet read. And since it's based in part in truth, it is also a fascinating read that explores a great sense of place and nature and how we and it affect one another. 

I'll admit that I generally gravitate to more fast paced, plot-driven narratives, but sometimes slowing down is a nice change of pace :) 

The Door-Man is a perfect book for fans of Richard Powers. It's also a great pick for book clubs!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here

For more on the author and his work you can visit his website here. You can also follow him on Instagram and Twitter

Purchase Links: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Monday, February 14, 2022

Unhinged by Thomas Enger and Jørn Lier Horst

Happy Valentine's Day! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for Thomas Enger and Jørn Lier Horst's latest Blix and Ramm installment, Unhinged!

Just days after losing a friend and colleague, Alexander Blix and Emma Ramm find themselves under interrogation in the aftermath of a fatal shooting. 

Sofia Kovic was murdered in her own apartment. No one knows why and no one knows who is responsible. But Blix's daughter, Iselin, Kovic's roommate, narrowly escaped. Unfortunately for her, it seems she's has become a target herself when she's kidnapped the very next day. 

Blix and Ramm follow the only clues left behind and not only find Iselin but kill her kidnapper as well. 

And that's only the beginning of the story. 

Blix finds himself suspended and unsure what to do next while Ramm is determined to solve Kovic's murder and find out why Iselin was kidnapped. She's certain it has to be tied to Kovic's latest case, but without her primary resource she's not sure who she can trust. 

Meanwhile, Blix is doing his own off books investigating. But it increasingly appears that Kovic may have been suspicious of one of their own. Which means Blix has no one else to turn to for help in one of the most important cases of his life. 

Ok, first off: you're killing me guys!!!

This book has left me with the ultimate book hangover. First, they went somewhere I really thought for sure they would not go with this book. 

Second, the ending!

I have devoured each book in this series so far and each one has left me suuuuper anxious for the next installment. And this is no exception to the rule. I need more Blix and Ramm!!!

The book begins with Blix and Ramm being interrogated. Blix for a fatal shooting. Ramm for her role in the whole thing. And then, before we get too comfortable, it pops back to the day before where Blix is giving a talk for those who have lived through violent crime. Survivors like Emma herself, who has now been contracted to write a book about the subject. 

Blix ends his talk, finally able to check his phone, which has been blowing up the entire time. And his heart sinks when he realizes his own daughter has called multiple times. He finally connects, only to learn that she's on the run from a shooter who just killed her roommate, Blix's colleague Sofia Kovic. 

It's an explosive beginning to a book that I promise you will not be able to set down until you find out how it all will end. Which is exactly what I did—I read through in one afternoon (sorry, authors, I know it took a lot longer to write!). 

I should have savored it considering how badly I want to read another one. But I didn't. I couldn't! I was sucked in and I just had to know what was going to happen! And now...of course I'm dying to read more! 

I am just one of many who will tell you how great this series is! It is an absolute must read for crime fans and it just gets better and better with each book because we know and love the characters so much more with each new story!

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Cherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow

Happy Book Birthday Week to Bethany C. Morrow whose latest, Cherish Farrah, released yesterday!

As a Black girl, Farrah knows everything is about control. And she prides herself on her level of it. She's even bested her mom, her most worthy foe. Which is why she's living with her best friend's family after her home was foreclosed on.

It was always supposed to be temporary in her parents' minds. But living with Cherish is what Farrah wants. It's what Cherish wants. And, thanks to Farrah's work, it's what Cherish's parents want as well 

Cherish is what Farrah calls "white girl spoiled." Her parents are white but Cherish is Black. And yet, she's never lived exactly the kind of life Farrah has. She'll never be in danger of losing her house. Her parents have fallbacks if something happens to one of their jobs. 

But still, Cherish is Black. And when she and Farrah meet, it means neither of them is the only Black girl anymore. They have each other and, as far as Farrah is concerned, that's all they need.

But things aren't as perfect at the Whitman home as they seem to be on the outside. Farrah has been sick almost since she arrived. And while she's sick, she overhears things she can't be sure are real at all. What's more, Farrah isn't certain that she's fully in control of the situation anymore. And control is the one thing she cannot lose. 

This is a super voice-y character driven mean story! And by that I mean, it is definitely horror and it is definitely adult but it's more subversive and quiet than you might suspect going in. 

And there's a really telling part that sets you up for everything else to come that would be so spoilery if I were to reveal it, that I will keep my big mouth shut!

So Farrah has lived a comfortable middle class life. She attends a private school, she has a middlish sized house with a swimming pool—definitely not as big as the Whitman home, but respectable enough that it exists in the same neighborhood. And it's a real shock to Farrah to learn that her parents have been living so close to the edge of their means that when her mom loses her job and doesn't find a new one quickly enough, they lose their home. 

And it's jarring for her to say the least. She actually sort of demands that her parents fix it and get their house back! And when they can't, she's fully ready to let herself basically be adopted by the Whitmans.

Even more interesting, the Whitmans seem open to it. Farrah is convinced that they've started to see her as their own daughter. That she and Cherish can be sisters in a real and formal sense!

But there's a thread of nastiness that runs through the story. Farrah herself is very manipulative. She aims to get exactly what she wants at any cost. And Cherish is the person she loves the most, so that means she'll do anything for Cherish—and to keep Cherish—as well.

Cherish Farrah is a clever book that gets under your skin. With Farrah as the narrator, you're completely in her head, experiencing the story every step of the way alongside her. And it makes for a really immersive and fast read!

And boy, when you have the dawning sense of where this book is actually going...it becomes a really wild ride!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Off Target by Eve Smith

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for Eve Smith's latest, Off Target

In the near future, almost everyone has to rely on IVF to get pregnant. The added bonus is that early testing can also reveal if your child will suffer from a number of now corrective issues. 

Genetic manipulation is legal, to an extent, in the UK. And many have benefited greatly by it and IVF. But even though Susan and her husband have been trying to get pregnant for years, he is adamantly against IVF. 

But then Susan gets pregnant. And the father isn't her husband. Desperate to make things right, Susan agrees to undergo a highly experimental procedure that replaces the biological father's DNA with that of her own husband's, making him, for all intents and purposes, the father. 

Over a decade later, Susan's daughter Zurel is healthy but not thriving. She hasn't spoken a word for quite some time and there appears to be no medical reason for it. At the same time, there are an increasing number of cases of genetically modified children suffering horrible mental health issues that are believed to be linked to DNA tweaking. Protestors are rallying and the names of people like Susan, who have gone outside of the country and the law, are in danger of being exposed. 

For Susan, nothing is more important than her daughter. But how far will she have to go to ensure her daughter's safety?

This latest from Eve Smith tackles some really hard hitting questions. First and foremost, if you could, would you have your child's DNA altered? How far would you go? 

We already know that genetic modification is really happening. CRISPR has yet to be used, as far as we know, in human genetic manipulation, but it's only a matter of time. 

As a parent, this story hits close to home for a number of reasons. And it's a weird thing to think about. Especially since I myself was diagnosed with a genetic disorder while I was pregnant. 

For Susan, though, it's more than just health. She and her husband have both been tested and nothing seems to be out of order. But they still can't conceive. And thanks to things that happened with his ex, her husband won't even consider IVF, much less genetic modifications. 

But then almost all of Susan's dreams come true when she finds out she's pregnant. Unfortunately, she quickly realizes the baby is not her husbands. Which is where the experimental treatment comes in. And she absolutely elects to do it, even having known health issues eliminated at the same time. 

Keeping it secret, though, that's the real issue. And when she becomes concerned that her choice may have hurt her daughter...

This is a really frightening premise! And an explosive page turner perfect for people looking for an intense but quick read. And equally perfect for people looking for a meaty topic to chew on. (In other words, great for book clubs!)

Off Target is out now in e format and releases next week in paperback from the fabulous folks at Orenda!

Monday, February 7, 2022

The Undesired by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

1974: Aldís swears her job at Krókur, a group home for delinquent boys, is only temporary. In fact, she’s counting the days until she’s saved enough to move to the city. But until then, she bides her time cleaning and doing pretty much any job asked of her by the home’s unpleasant owners. 

When a new boy arrives who doesn’t quite fit the mold of the home’s other residents, they strike up a tenuous friendship. And it comes as something of a relief, considering their remote location. But Aldís has grown more and more uncomfortable at the home, especially as odd noises and occurrences start to become more commonplace.

Present day: After the death of his ex, Ódinn has become solely responsible for his eleven-year-old daughter. Which means he’s had to leave some of his bachelor life behind, including his demanding job working for his brother. 

He doesn’t enjoy office life, but the agency he works for has been tasked with investigating the histories of various care homes to determine whether their residents were mistreated. When a colleague passes away in the midst of investigating Krókur, Ódinn is given the assignment. 

Unlike others, the home doesn’t have a history of complaints, though it has been closed for some time. And though two boys did die while in care there, the incident was deemed an accident at the time. Ódinn is excited about the added responsibility and something he can focus some energy on. But as his investigation goes on, he becomes more certain that things weren’t right at Krókur. And while he’d consider himself a level-headed person, ever since taking over the case, he’s heard—and even seen—increasingly strange things. 

One of the things I have always loved about Yrsa Sigurdardóttir‘s work is her way of weaving strange and possibly supernatural events into stories that have otherwise logical explanations. It something that adds a really fabulous and eerie undertone to her fiction. It’s a hallmark of her first series and it’s prevalent in The Undesired.

The story is told in two separate timelines—1974 and present day—with narrators Aldís and Ódinn. 

Aldís has left her home and is living on her own, trying to save for better days. Ódinn has new responsibilities as a single father after his ex dies suddenly in a tragic fall. Their connection is Krókur, a home for boys that operated in the 70s. 

Krókur is located in a fairly remote area. Aldís and the others rely on the owner if they want transportation into town (unless they want to spend the day walking). Any inclement weather leaves them essentially cut off. Aside from the boys, the home’s only other residents are the owners, Aldís, and four men who can’t get work elsewhere. So it’s a pretty lonely existence. Especially for a young woman with no one to call a friend. 

In his own way, Ódinn is also cut off. Many of his friends have fallen away and his free time is spent with his daughter, who is still grieving the loss of her mother. Ódinn is at a loss, considering he’s never had to be much more than a weekend dad and he has no clue how to help with his daughter’s emotional state. 

And she seems fine, most of the time. But she swears her mother’s spirit is angry. 

As Ódinn digs further into Krókur, he becomes all too aware of how cut off he and his daughter are. Strange noises plague their home, a condo building with just one other resident. But is it connected to the investigation? Or the death of his wife? Or is it all his imagination?

As Aldís’s story unfolds and Ódinn’s look into the home progresses, the real truth about the goings on at Krókur draw closer and closer to being revealed. 

The Undesired is perfect reading for a late and chilly night! Just the right amount of suspense and mystery. And an added bonus of creepy undertones!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop! (Note, I do have the UK edition. The Undesired was released in the States from Minotaur in 2018.)

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Woman Last Seen by Adele Parks—Excerpt

It is, as my son says, the freaking weekend! And I am really excited to be sharing an excerpt of Adele Parks's latest thriller, Woman Last Seen!

But first, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:


Leigh Fletcher: happily married stepmum to two gorgeous boys goes missing on Monday. Her husband Mark says he knows nothing of her whereabouts. She simply went to work and just never came home. Their family is shattered.

Kai Janssen: married to wealthy Dutch businessman, Daan, vanishes the same week. Kai left their luxurious penthouse and glamourous world without a backward glance. She seemingly evaporated into thin air. Daan is distraught.

DC Clements knows that people disappear all the time – far too frequently. Most run away from things, some run towards, others are taken but find their way back. A sad few never return. These two women are from very different worlds, their disappearances are unlikely to be connected. And yet, at a gut level, the DC believes they might be.

How could these women walk away from their families, husbands and homes willingly? Clements is determined to unearth the truth, no matter how shocking and devastating it may be.

As any of my readers can tell, I do adore a great thriller and Adele Parks delivers! 

And now, the promised excerpt to whet your reading appetite :)


Tuesday, 17th March

I am engulfed in emptiness. I’m not in my bed. I am not in any bed.

In the instant my eyes flutter open I know there is some-thing wrong. Seriously wrong. It’s dark. I’m suspended in a threatening, airless blackness. I’m lying down but am dis-orientated because I’m on a cold concrete floor. A floor that looks as though it’s waiting to be tiled, but something immediately suggests to me it never will be. My mind is lazy and unable to process why I think this. I can’t remember when I last slept on a floor, a million years ago when I was a student and would bunk in on another student’s room if I was too drunk to get home. I try to sit up; my limbs feel heavy, my head sore. I try to stand up but as I do so, I am yanked back down, my left hand is tethered. Chained. I hear the rattle of the chain at the same time as I feel the cold tug. Am I dreaming? My head pulses, swells and then bursts, I close my eyes again, my lids are like sandpaper scratching, I open them for a second time, giving them a chance to adjust to the darkness. Is it my dizziness that’s leaving everything unfamiliar? Shaky? I feel slow, behind myself.

How much did I have to drink last night? I try to remember. I can’t. And then—this is terrifying—I realize I can’t remember last night at all. I feel sick. I can smell vomit, suggesting I have already been sick. I should not be waking to the smell of vomit. Where is the smell of my husband’s early morning breath? There is no smell of toast from the kitchen, no traces of the Jo Malone Lime Basil and Mandarin room spray that I sometimes wake to. I’m somewhere dusty, not damp, a little overwarm. Am I in a hospital? No. What sort of hospital makes patients lie on the floor, chains them? There are no sounds. My boys are not arguing in the kitchen, the TV is not blaring, no doors opening, slamming, no demands, “Mum, where are my football shorts?” I wait, sometimes I wake to something more serene. Sometimes it is Radio 4 and the smell of coffee.


Alarm and horror flood through my body. My organs and limbs turn to liquid and I can’t coordinate my movements. None of us are that naive anymore. The news doesn’t always enlighten or inform, often it terrifies. My foggy mind realizes I must have been drugged. I have been abducted. The terrible thing that you read about that happens to someone else—someone other—has happened to me.

Panicked, I tug hard at the chain, there’s no give. I scramble about in the darkness. Trying to understand my environment. I can’t move far because of the chain, which is attached to a radiator at one end and through a zip tie that is tight around my wrist on the other. The chain is about a meter long. As my eyes adjust, I see that I am in a room that is about three meters long by just over two, like a standard guest room. The walls are manila. It is clean and bare. I am not in a derelict warehouse or abandoned cottage. It’s bland to the state of anonymous. I imagine that is the point. I could be anywhere. There’s no furniture in the room. None at all. Not a bed, a mattress, a lamp. Nothing to soften or comfort. Just a plastic bucket. I realize what this is intended for and my stomach heaves. I can see the outline of a door and a boarded-up window. I can’t reach the door as it’s in the far corner, or the window as that’s at the end of the wall opposite the one with the radiator I am chained to.

I go to check the time, but my Fitbit has been removed. Not knowing what time it is, or even what day it is for sure, sends spikes of isolation and confusion through my body. Still, I have my voice. I can shout and maybe attract attention. I fleetingly consider that shouting will attract the attention of whoever it is that brought me here. He could do a lot worse to me that chain me up, but I have no choice.

“Help! Help me! Help!” My voice shatters the dead unnatural silence. I yell over and over again until I become hoarse. The pain in my tender head intensifies.

No one comes.

No one responds.

The silence stretches. I stop yelling and listen. Hoping to hear something, cars in the distance, people in the street, bird-song, as the light has started to eke around the boarded window. A new day, but which day is it? Nothing. It’s like I’m in a vacuum. Then, I hear footsteps coming toward the door.

“Please, please let me out,” I whimper. I’m crying now. I’m not sure when I started crying. Tears and mucus pour down my face. I don’t want to be weak. I want to be strong, brave, resistant. That’s what you imagine you’ll be in a situation like this but it’s beyond me. It’s a ludicrous fantasy. I am just terrified. I will beg, plead, implore. Anything to stay safe. Any-thing. “Please, please don’t hurt me. Please.”

Then I hear the distinct sound of the keystrokes of an old-fashioned typewriter being pounded. A sort of shuffling rat-tat-tat. Slow, precise. Like a hostile countdown. Next, the hurried juddering whirl of paper being forcefully pulled out of the machine’s roller. It is incongruous, this passé sound is the domain of busy newspaper rooms in decades gone by. Who has a typewriter anymore? There is rustling, as the piece of paper is pushed beneath the door. I stretch to reach it, but it is tantalizingly out of my grasp. I lie on the floor and carefully, oh so slowly, edge it nearer with my toes until I can drag it close enough to snatch it up.

I am not the villain here.

Excerpted from Woman Last Seen by Adele Parks, Copyright © 2022 by Adele Parks. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

About the author: Adele Parks was born in Teesside, North-East England. Her first novel, Playing Away, was published in 2000 and since then she's had 20 international bestsellers, translated into twenty-six languages. She's been an Ambassador for The Reading Agency and a judge for the Costa. She's lived in Italy, Botswana and London, and is now settled in Guildford, Surrey, with her husband, teenage son and cat.

Whew! I can't wait to dive further into this one!

Huge thanks to the publisher for providing the excerpt today. Woman Last Seen is out on shelves now!

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fun

Camp Forevermore, an overnight camp meant to be a growing and bonding experience for young girls. It even boasts an overnight kayaking and camping trip on a remote island. 

But what starts out as a fun adventure ends with five girls stranded and fending for themselves. 

Years later, the experience may be behind them but all of the women are fundamentally changed by what happened. 

I will say that my expectations of this one were not quite met. Although, it is all my own fault. I went into this with the unfortunate timing of having become completely obsessed with Yellowjackets!

I quite enjoyed the camp story. 

The girls, none of them really friends from the start, set off with their leader, Jan, a former counselor at the camp, and make such good time that they decide to camp further out. Which means that when tragedy occurs, no one knows where they are!

Nita, Andee, Isabel, Dina, and Siobhan’s stories unfold in their own chapters, sandwiched between chapters outlining the camping trip itself. It makes for a much more character-driven story than I usually choose. 

Many of the women aren’t obviously scarred by what happened, but, as with much trauma, they are nonetheless affected. The events follow and haunt them for years!

And they’ve all taken very different paths. Nita is married with kids. A former doctor who seems to feel her greatest accomplishment was helping the other girls get through it all. 

Andee isn’t actually the main character in her chapter. Instead, it’s her sister, who was left behind after Andee won a place at the camp. The two of them live together for years, orbiting each other like two planets rather than supportive sisters. 

Isabel’s story is the one that I was most drawn to. Her first real connection is one that also ends in tragedy. She’s also the only one that ends up with any connection to the others after everything is said and done. 

Dina, sadly, is the most obviously marked by the events. She also doesn’t have a great relationship with her mother, which is part of her journey. 

Finally, there’s Siobhan, who narrates the camp story. But while it would seem she’s given the most screen time, I was disappointed not to get more from her. 

Fu, whose upcoming short story collection runs the gamut of genres, is an exceptional writer, taking even the smallest moments in a person’s life and using them to show how the events of the past never do truly leave us. 

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today I’m a stop on the Compulsive Readers tour for Stuart Neville’s latest, The House of Ashes!

Sara Keane and her husband Damien have only lived in their new house for a short time. It’s to be a new start for them after the incident. But the house, named The Ashes for the trees that grow outside, has a dark history. A history Sara is unaware of until an old woman arrives, banging on their door in the early morning hours.

The woman insists the house is hers. What’s more, she says the children need her. 

Curious about the woman, and with literally nothing to occupy her time, Sara begins to dig into the story of The Ashes and learns that it was the site of a horrific crime. As she discovers more, she also gets to know Mary, the old woman. And it’s this that finally gives her the strength she needs to change her own life.

Stuart Neville is well known as a master of Irish crime fiction. This latest standalone is crime fiction but also so much more. It’s the story of two women, tied to one another by location and circumstance. 

The book alternates, mostly, between Sara, present day, and Mary as she recounts her time living at The Ashes. 

Sara is closed off thanks to her domineering husband. And his family has a history in the area. Her father-in-law is in property development—it was he who bought the house for Sara and Damien and he’s had a crew working to fix it up and add an addition. But Francie Keane is also well known because of his stint in prison. And Sara isn’t too clear on exactly why he was there. 

For over a decade, Mary never knew anything outside of The Ashes. She lived there with Mummy Joy, Mummy Noreen, and the daddies. The daddies were always angry. There were others. Other women and even other children occasionally. But mostly it was Mary, Joy, and Noreen. 

Until one day when everything changed. 

Throughout, the book is peppered with pieces that set the tone and scene for the happenings in Northern Ireland. But that’s not the focus of the book by any means. Instead, it’s Mary and Sara. And a house that both women have theorized has never seen anything but tragedy. 

I know it sounds like this is a heavy read. And it is, but it’s also got the atmosphere and propulsion of a crime novel. It’s literally compulsively readable! So much so that I finished it in just a matter of hours!

House of Ashes is out now in both the UK and the US.