Anne Bonny #BookReview & #Extract The Secret by @jenwellswriter 5* Genius #Saga #NewRelease @Aria_Fiction #DualTimeline #HistoricalFiction #TheSecret

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The Secret by Jennifer Wells
Review Copy
Synopsis:

A tightly woven story full of secrets and lies with a breathtaking finale.

London 1920 – Troubled young dancer, Lily, is invited to remote Elmridge House, home of the wealthy theatre benefactor Dr Cuthbertson to escape her troubled past. An isolated guest room and a surprise pregnancy leave her longing to return to the stage and her London life. She soon discovers that Elmridge House is not all that it seems – the house holds secrets which make it difficult for her to leave.

Missensham 1942 – Young nurse Ivy Watts is called out to a patient at Elmridge House, home of the aloof Mrs Cuthbertson and reclusive Dr Cuthbertson. Ivy is entranced by the opulence of the house and its glamorous past, but when she tells her mother about Mrs Cuthbertson, her mother becomes fearful and forbids her from returning to the house. What secrets does Elmridge House hold? And why does Lily’s mother live in fear of the mysterious Mrs Cuthbertson?

My Review:

I have previously read and reviewed The Murderess by Jennifer Wells, which I found to be perfect for a Sunday afternoons reading. With The Secret, I personally think the author has really stepped up her game, in carving out her name within the saga genre.
I was absolutely gripped throughout and found both historical era’s to be fascinating. From the 1920s ballet scene, to the district nursing in a humble village in the 1940s.
The author has managed to create drama that lures you to both timeframes.

The novel opens in 1943, with Ivy living in fear but from what or whom we are not sure. Then the novel jumps back to September 1942 and begins to tell the tale of what lead to Ivy’s fear. We learn of her first acquaintance with Mrs Cuthbertson!
Ivy is a local nurse, but she works specifically within the area of adoption and often in the upper most secrecy, given the era. I got the impression Ivy’s heart was always in the right place. She just simply never had enough life experience to know any different. Ivy has grown up in poverty and taking care of her ailing mother, who has suffered childhood polio. They scrape by with the help of their good friend Sadie. The midwife that also brought Ivy into the world.

Mrs Cuthbertson comes across at first as a cantankerous old battle axe. Especially, when she first meets Ivy demanding un-prescribed medication for her son. Why does she want the medication? And what is it that made her so set in her horrid ways?

‘There was something not right with her mind’ 

Ivy makes friends with fellow nurse Bridget, whom is brash and gossipy. Also quiet local assistant Violet. The three form the team at the Missensham Cottage Hospital. But it is when Ivy begins snooping into Mrs Cuthbertson’s need for medication, that she uncovers a world of secrets that will shake her to the core…

Past secrets come to life and we uncover a wealth of knowledge about Ivy and everyone she knows. It is a clash of culture, class structure and life choices made, that brings all the characters together in their shared past deeds.

I love that women’s issues lay at the heart of the story. The dual timeline of 1920s/1940s works exceptionally well, given that these era’s generated so much change for women of the future. There is a shocking showdown at the end and one I NEVER saw coming at all! With extra side note ‘THAT LAST PAGE!!!!5* Genius 

Jennifer Wells
Jennifer Wells
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Extract:

I thought nothing more of Mrs Cuthbertson for almost a week. It turned out that she was Bridget’s problem and I was glad of it. Even when I walked in on Bridget fumbling through the medicine cabinet, her hands full and her face guilty, I said nothing and turned on my heel. Over the week, however, I did notice some changes in Bridget; she had a new coat from Partridge’s, had lightened her hair from its original chestnut to a shade that was almost blonde, and when I borrowed one of her textbooks, I found six new pound notes which sprang into tight curls when I opened the pages.
But Bridget’s luck did not last and she was called back to her family home in Fulham on Friday morning as an unexploded bomb had been found at the back of her parents’ garden, leaving them shocked and in need of their daughter. It was customary for a nurse to have twenty-four hours off for a family emergency and I wondered how I would cope without Bridget, but between us, Violet and I managed to tend to all the patients, changing dressings and administering medicines as if we had been doing it for years.
It was not until I came off shift on Sunday morning that I felt I could really relax. I left the hospital and went straight to the nurses’ house, putting the kettle on before slumping down in the armchair by the stove without even changing out of my uniform. An hour had passed since Bridget had called the main hospital from a telephone box outside Parsons Green tube station with the news that she was on her way back to Missensham and, although she missed the doctor’s rounds, I was relieved to know that she was returning.
When the phone in the hallway rang, I answered, expecting Violet’s voice on the hospital line with a request for help on the ward or a notification about more patients transferring in from London. But when I took the call, I knew instantly that it was not Violet.
‘Nurse, are you there?’ Despite the crackle on the line, the woman’s voice was unmistakable and as I heard the words, I could imagine them on the lips of the night visitor, the woman who had sat opposite me at the kitchen table and demanded medicine that had not been prescribed.
I glanced at the clock, the hand clicking on to the hour as I did so. It was ten o’clock. This was the call that Bridget usually took from the woman known in the book as Mrs Cuthbertson and as she spoke her name, I remembered how I had heard it on Bridget’s lips exactly one week ago when she had stood in the hallway and answered the telephone just as I was now. As I had suspected, the woman who had visited me in the kitchen and the woman Bridget listed in the book were the same.
‘With whom am I speaking?’ she said, but the words had a tone to them which made me unsure whether she wanted an answer or just to know that someone was listening and ready to take orders.
‘This is Nurse Watts at the Missensham Cottage Hospital Nurses’ House,’ I said, but my greeting seemed to be a detail that did not matter to her.
‘I need someone up at Elmridge House today,’ she said. ‘As soon as you can, for I must attend a church service and my son cannot be left alone for long.’
Her voice was sharp and somehow I felt as if I was being scolded for breaking an engagement I did not know I had agreed to. I took a deep breath. ‘I am afraid that there are no nurses working at this time,’ I said. ‘If you have a medical emergency, I can telephone a doctor or ambulance for you, but if you require a routine visit from a nurse, you may telephone Dr Crawford at the surgery on the green and he can get you added to the rounds of the district nurse…’ but my last words were lost under her own as if they did not matter.
‘I cannot wait for the district nurse,’ she said. ‘This is a private appointment and I will pay you directly. I understood that a nurse would be free from duties at this time. I assume you are not on duty as you have answered this number.’
‘Well, I…’ I glanced at the clock again, but it told me only that it was a few minutes past the hour and not what time Bridget would arrive back. ‘All right,’ I said, reluctant to let down Bridget’s patient. ‘A nurse can come out to you this morning, but it will not be Nurse Bradshaw, for she has been called away unexpectedly. It will be me, Nurse Watts, and I—’
‘I shall need to leave Elmridge House on the half hour,’ she said, ‘so be prompt. It is on the Oxworth Road. I need you at half past ten, it will only take you half an hour, so you have sufficient notice, and don’t come smelling like a brothel this time.’
‘Please,’ I said. ‘I am not the nurse who—’
‘Oh, and be sure to bring the medicine.’
‘Which medicine?’ I said. ‘For I cannot bring anything that has not been prescribed by—’
But the line was already dead.
I put the receiver down and stared at my reflection in the mirror above the telephone table. I took off my cap and smoothed my hair back into a bun, then I removed my apron and belt, leaving just my blue dress. We were forbidden from wearing our uniform off duty, but the plain blue dress was the only thing I could imagine a private nurse wearing and I remembered how I had seen Bridget leave the nurses’ house without her cap and apron the previous Sunday. I sat on the floor next to my nursing bag. I checked the contents – everything was clean and replenished, but it was just the usual array of metal instruments, tubing and jars, and I did not know what else to take. Then I remembered the little bottle of Luminal and the caller’s insistence that I bring ‘the medicine’. Maybe now she had a prescription to show me – I would take some just to be sure.
I ran across the lawn and through the trees to the back of the hospital, passing a startled Violet as I barged through the back door. In the sluice room I found the key to the medicine cabinet under the kidney bowl and rummaged for the little glass bottle with the blue label among the packets and jars. I found the Luminal near the back. There were a few bottles and I fancied that one would not be missed and thought that I could always sign it out later if Mrs Cuthbertson did have a prescription to show me after all. Then I ran back to the nurses’ house to collect my bag and burst in through the kitchen door.
‘Nurse?’
A girl perched on the chair by the fire. She was barely bigger than a child and wore a floral print pinafore and a cardigan which seemed two sizes too big for her. By her feet was an old-fashioned wicker basket lined with straw and as many real eggs as I would usually see in a whole month.
Her face was not one that I had seen before and something about her made me think of an evacuee, although since the bombs had started to fall on the outskirts of London, Missensham was no longer considered a safe area and most evacuees had returned, which made me wonder if she had anywhere left to call home.
‘Can I help you?’ I asked impatiently. ‘For I must go out to a patient.’
‘I heard that you can do things for ladies in trouble,’ she said in a voice with more depth than I expected and I realised her a woman, but only just.
‘Oh!’ I said. ‘Yes, of course,’ but could manage nothing more. To see such a girl sat where I had seen so many others was a shock to me. I was more used to dealing with middle aged women who could not afford another mouth to feed, farmers’ wives fearing they had no strength left to carry another and women who were having flings with soldiers. That someone like her would come to me asking for help was something that I could not quite understand. Somehow she was in the same situation as these women, yet she was so unlike them.
‘Is this not the right place?’ she said. ‘For I heard that—’
‘Yes, yes,’ I said quickly. ‘Yes, this is the place, but surely it can’t be for yourself…’
She nodded. ‘There was this gentleman,’ she said, ‘and now I am late.’

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Anne Bonny #BookReview & #Extract Halfway by @bevjoneswriting 4* #Psychological #SerialKiller #Thriller #WinterReads

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Halfway by B.E. Jones
Review Copy
Synopsis:

If everyone is lying, who can you trust?

The Halfway Inn is closed to customers, side-lined by a bypass and hidden deep in inhospitable countryside. One winter’s night, two women end up knocking on the door, seeking refuge as a blizzard takes hold.

But why is the landlord less than pleased to see them? And what is his elderly father trying so hard to tell them?

At the local police station PC Lissa Lloyd is holding the fort while the rest of her team share in the rare excitement of a brutal murder at an isolated farmhouse. A dangerous fugitive is on the run – but how can Lissa make a name for herself if she’s stuck at her desk? When a call comes in saying the local district nurse is missing, she jumps at the chance to investigate her disappearance.

The strangers at Halfway wait out the storm, but soon realise they might have been safer on the road. It seems not all the travellers will make it home for Christmas . . .

My Review:

The prologue opens on 22nd December 2017, we are aware of an armed and frightened female. Then the novel cuts away to the present moment, of a hitchhiker stranded in a snowy isolated Welsh scene…

‘There will be noise and fury. There will be damage. There will be casualties’

The novel spans around various characters and their current circumstances. Which includes the local law enforcement. We become aware there is a crime scene at a farmhouse and the majority of the police have dispatched there. Leaving PC Lisa Lloyd (6 months out of probation) and soon to be retired Jim Price.

There are little snippets of information cleverly woven into the plot. Such as, we know the hitchhiker is making their way home and to a farmhouse. We also get the scene of an old man caring for his son Brian and bed bound wife Rose. The three main perspectives are from the old man, local cops and the hitchhiker, who has now been picked up by a district nurse.

As the plot develops, I never felt I could trust any of the individual characters. But when all the characters collide at a closed pub The Star, nicknamed Halfway… ALL will be revealed!!!! This title is a psychological thriller, perfect for the winter months! 4*

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B.E. Jones
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Extract:

Excerpt 1 – Prologue

When she sees the hatchet in his hand she knows it’s going to happen, right here, right now. It’s been coming for hours, longer probably, since before the storm howling and keening around the eaves began its slow creep across the countryside, before the car was abandoned at the side of the snowbound road.
This moment was waiting even before she raised her hand and knocked on the door of this godforsaken place, squatting below its slipping slates and bowing brickwork, beneath the low iron sky, under the weight of winter.
So here they are.
She’s glad now that she’d had the foresight to arm herself, downstairs, when the unpleasant ticking started in her chest, when she’d finally realized the answers to the questions plaguing her since her arrival: Who are these people? And why are they lying?
She’d been sure that something was very wrong for hours. She just hadn’t been able to gather the quiet nudges in the back of her brain into a single, clearly defined thought until now, now it’s punching itself to the fore, bullying her into the realization she’d have been safer out in the storm.
But it’s too late to leave, now that there are only three of them left alive, assembled under the twinkly Christmas star: a hitchhiker, a nurse, a landlord, , everyone, everything, bending itself into this moment, before the weight of what has been and what is to come. How could she have imagined for even one moment that she was the only one with anything to hide?
She knows it’s her own fault for allowing herself to be caught off guard, first back on the road and then over and over again until she stepped into this room. It happened so easily because this is the sort of place that’s supposed to be safe and steady, a quiet, nothing-ever-happens-kind of village where people look out for each other, still leave their doors unlocked and never, ever try to kill you.
Trouble is, you should never read only the surface signs and signals of anywhere or anyone, she knows that. There’s a lesson here, never assume you’re the biggest, baddest thing in the woods unless you’re prepared to prove it.
So this is it.
That bloody balding donkey understands, his red and white trimmed Santa leaning at a jaunty angle as he gives her that look again, as if he’s thinking what she’s thinking, knows what she knows – not all of them will leave this room alive. He may be happy to wait passively for the outcome but she isn’t, so she readies herself, plants her feet firmly apart on the floorboards, aware of every inch of her body, every twitch of muscle fibre and sinew, careful not to show that her hands are waiting and ready to move.
The ticking in her chest tells her it’s too late to stop the countdown, there’s no way back, the explosion is overdue. There will be noise and fury. There will be damage. There will be casualties.
So here they go!

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Anne Bonny #BookReview Too Far by Jason Starr @JasonStarrBooks 5* #Psychological #Noir @noexitpress #TooFarBook

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Too Far by Jason Starr
Review Copy
Synopsis:

One night. One date. What have you got to lose?

Jack Harper isn’t a bad man, but he’s stuck in a loveless marriage with a mediocre job just trying to keep sober. The only good thing in his life is his son. When an old college friend introduces him to a new extramarital dating website, he tentatively reaches out to find a distraction from his misery. But when he goes to meet up with his steamy online date, he quickly realises it was a dire choice.

Soon, Jack finds himself desperately trying to prove his innocence for crimes he did not commit, and the life he once had – unhappy as it was – is nothing but a dream. Now, he’s living his worst nightmare. . .

My Review:

The novel surrounds Jack Harper, trapped in a loveless marriage, with a boring and unhappy career in real estate. He reconnects with an old friend from 20yrs ago Rob McEvoy. Rob appears to have it all, wealthy lifestyle, huge ego and not to mention he openly boasts of cheating on his wife to ease his boredom.
Now, before the little feminist within me got riled, I decided it would be very intriguing to see how this fictional situation carried out before my eyes…

‘Sex has always been risky’

Jack’s wife Maria and young son Jonah are blissfully unaware of his shady late nights on the illicit dating site. But what starts out as just a bit of fun, soon takes a much sinister turn and before Jack knows it, he has lost everything he holds dear…

I don’t want to go into too much detail of the intricate themes. But this novel is far from seedy and much more a sinister psychological thriller. I was absolutely HOOKED! Oh how the other half live, indeed!!!!
I found this novel to be gripping and completely addictive, I read it straight through in just 3 hours!!!!! I couldn’t put it down at all. I HAD to know how it ended and the ending was phenomenal!!!! I was completely blown away! 5*

Huge respect to the author for this clever and addictive thriller. I have since bought Cold Caller and Hard Feelings. Which I shall leave the details of at the end of this post.

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HF
Hard Feelings by Jason Starr
Synopsis:

Richie Segal’s prospects are pretty miserable and, what’s more humiliating, his wife’s career is on the up. Richie knows he is a good salesman, but he just can’t seem to land an account. He’s starting to drink again and worry about whether Paula is seeing that old high school flame or maybe someone new. At thirty-four, he’s a little young for a mid-life crisis, but that’s what it feels like. And then there are those unwelcome memories of the neighbourhood bully, Michael Rudnick, and what he did to Richie when he was eleven…

Just when Richie is about as low as he can get, he runs into Rudnick on the street and knows exactly what he needs to do. Suddenly things seem to be going much better. That is until they get much, much worse.

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Cold Caller by Jason Starr
Synopsis:

Once a rising VP at a topflight ad agency, Bill Moss now works as a ‘cold caller’ at a telemarketing firm in the Times Square area. He’s got a bad case of the urban blues, and when a pink slip rather than promotion comes through, Bill snaps.

Now he’s got a dead supervisor on his hands and problems no career counsellor can help him with…

JS
Jason Starr
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Anne Bonny #BookReview Slender Man 4* #Horror #SlenderMan #Occult #Ghosts @HarperVoyagerUK

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Slender Man
My Own Copy
Synopsis:

LAUREN BAILEY HAS DISAPPEARED.

As her friends and the police search for answers, Matt Barker begins to dream of trees and black skies and something drawing closer.

Through fragments of journals, blog posts and messages, a sinister, slender figure emerges and all divisions between fiction and delusion, between nightmare and reality, begin to fall.

The urban legend of the Slender Man has inspired short fiction, viral videos, and a feature film. Gathered from online
whispers, Matt’s story reveals the true power of the internet’s most terrifying creation.

My Review:

Slender Man is marketed as within the horror genre, but I actually found it to also be very much in the YA genre. It focuses solely on the story of two teenagers Matthew Barker and Lauren Bailey. The novel focuses around the disappearance of Lauren and Matthew’s personal investigation.

The novel is made up of a series of diary extracts, interview transcripts, recordings, therapy sessions and texts.
Which personally I really enjoyed and I think will have a great appeal to readers of YA novels. However, I am aware it is very much unique and may discourage some readers.

The disappearance not only the missing Lauren but the many people involved with the case. Detective Mia Ramirez from the NYPD leading the case. Lauren’s ex-boyfriend Steven Allison, whom enjoys the new found fame. Also Lauren’s parents of which there is numerous malicious rumours and speculation.

Matthew believes that via his use of technology and Lauren herself, he can stay one step ahead of the police and bring Lauren home.
And then the nightmares and strange occurrences begin…

Slender Man kept me gripped and held my intrigue throughout. But it failed to truly ‘scare’ me and for that reason, it may suit those who prefer a tamer horror read! 4*

Anne Bonny #BookReview Edna’s Death Café by @AngelenaBoden 5* @matadorbooks #NewRelease #Mystery @BOTBSPublicity

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Edna’s Death Café Talking About Death, Celebrating Life by Angelena Boden
Review Copy
Synopsis:

As in life, death is not without its agenda. This is something seventy-nine year old Edna Reid finds out when her partner, Ted, suddenly dies.

To cope with her loss, she sets up a Death Cafe to break down the taboo around death and to encourage other members of the community to discuss it openly. Over tea and cake, the participants hide their fears behind a veil of dark humour.

Religious fanaticism clashes with Victorian spiritualism as Edna’s meetings trigger lively conversations on the fragility of life, anxiety over dying, cost of funerals, and making sure long-lost greedy relatives don’t benefit from inheritances.

Soon, a series of events begin to unfold which threaten to undermine Edna’s livelihood and the Death Cafe meetings. These events just happen to coincide with the arrival of a mysterious stranger into the village.

Who is she and why is she so hostile to Edna?

My Review:

“Doing the right thing is very liberating”

Edna’s Death Café, is a quirky and unique read! Perfect for cosying up with in the long winter nights. It is set in Hope Valley, Derbyshire and focuses on many current modern day themes such as loneliness and isolation in the older community.
The novel opens following the death of Edna’s partner Ted Eyre, with Edna struggling with her new identity as a widow. This leads her to begin a series of ‘death cafe’ evenings at the Happy Oatcake Café.

The novel has lots of quirky characters and I loved getting to know their individual stories. You get a real sense of the small town community and gossiping locals. The Derbyshire humour is present throughout, despite the serious nature of the themes within.

“Promises to the dying were often driven by duty to stop them fretting”

The novel discusses the themes of grief/loss in both the aftermath and prior to death. Yet this is not done in a morbid way at all. It is thought-provoking and moving, making it perfect for book groups and debate.
After all, all cultures have a different outlook and approach towards death and living. Which means individuals in communities hold differing opinions, yet it has become a taboo subject to be openly talked about.
Personally, I found the themes very interesting and wondered myself, if I could have attended a death café after the loss of my mothers at 21ys old. Would it have changed my views and helped with my bereavement?

As we come to know the various characters, we learn that they are all effected by death/loss in some way. Ruth in particular was a character that struck at my heartstrings. Ruth is in a deep state of grief over the loss of her daughter. I rooted for Ruth and her husband Patrick my entire way through the story. It is a sub-plot that really moves the reader.

However, with all great stories not everything is what it seems and someone is keeping an exceptionally close eye on Edna and her death café; waiting for their moment to strike. Edna is a tough 80yr old Derbyshire woman, she makes it clear from the get go, she is nobodies victim. What will happen when Edna and her foe come face to face?
Then the local psychics issue Edna with a stark warning!!!!!

Edan’s Death Café is the perfect read, for someone looking for something a bit different and unusual. I have actually been stuck in a reading slump this month and this title brought back my reading mojo.
After I finished Edna, I read two other novels, in one day! 5* 

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