Anne Bonny #BookReview Ever This Day by @scribblemum Helen Moorhouse #Ireland #HistoricalFiction #Psychological #Thriller #Mystery @PoolbegBooks ‘Beautiful writing and Irish historical fiction at its finest. 5* genius’

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Ever This Day by Helen Moorhouse
My own copy via Kindle TBR mountain
Synopsis:

Little Frances slams the doors, and runs around the upstairs floors.
She’ll steal your pen or touch your hair, when you’re sure there’s no one there.
The nuns are meant to keep her safe, but she gets out of her own grave.
So pull your covers over your head, Little Frances isn’t dead …

On a bright spring day in London, Ria Driver sees a face she never thought she’d see again. Coincidence? Or her past coming back to haunt her? Suddenly, Ria is plunged back almost thirty years, to the time she spent as Supervisor at the Convent of Maria Goretti, a rural Irish boarding school. And although she has tried her best to forget, the memories come flooding back. Cold, darkness, isolation, loss … fear. Fear of the sadistic Mother Benedicta and her cruel punishments. And fear of the noises … the humming, the footsteps, the knocking …What was the cause of the sounds from the attic? And who was the child who should not have been there?

As events unfold, Ria realises that she can leave the past behind no longer, that her story needs an ending. And to find it, she must go back to where she swore she’d never go again.

My Review:

This novel is a cross-over of several genre’s. It has elements of historical fiction with the setting of 1942/1980s Ireland. It has a huge mystery surrounding the convent and discovered remains. It also has a real horror-creepy feel to it. I tried reading it alone at night by the light of my kindle and was seriously freaking out! The writing is stunning, despite the tough themes the author has challenged.
Envy, fear and rage this novel has it all!

What are the fabulous people at Poolbeg Books feeding their authors? This is the second novel I have reviewed this year under this publisher and both have been clear 5* Genius and added to my favourites of the year so far!

The novel opens in Ballykeeran August 1942, with a child seeking her sister Frances who is hiding. The child returns home alone. What seems quite simple, will soon become sinister as the book develops its various threads.

London 2015, Ria is a divorced, single teacher in her 50s. She has a daughter Emma now grown and flown the nest and a set of lovely friends. After a chance encounter on a London street and a related current news story, leaves Ria rattled. She begins to confide in best friend Jess and so her story begins. . .

‘That day that started the end of the story’

In 1987 Dublin, a young Ria dreams of a new life in Boston, America. But she is not within the means to afford the ticket. Jobs are hard to come by in 1980s Ireland when she spots an ad for a live-in teacher/guardian at a convent. Sitting in her bed-sit in Rathmines orphaned and penniless. The job at St Theresa’s all girls secondary school beckons. Ria is a newly qualified teacher and desperate for both money and a chance to prove herself. She considers it ‘step one of the plan’.

When she arrives at the convent, Ria is struck by the peaceful countryside and old building. She is greeted by Sister Ruth and taken to meet the mother superior Mother Benedicta. Ria is shown to her cell-like room, with a crucifix hanging above the bed and she instantly begins to regret her decision. With lights, out at 10pm and nowhere else to go. Ria will have to swallow her pride and make it work at the convent.

During her meeting with Mother Benedicta she is informed of her duties and hours. Her day will begin at 7:30am and end at 10:30pm. It is a long day packed full of order, discipline, physical activity and most of all silence. . .

‘When the mouth is closed, the mind and the heart are open to Jesus’ –
Mother Benedicta

She is given a duties pamphlet and reminded that idleness is unacceptable in both herself and the girls she will chaperone.
‘We strive for purity’ – Mother Benedicta

The novel also has the point of view of Lydia. One of the young boarding students at the convent. She describes the prison-like conditions herself. Electronic devices such as a walk-man are banned, and life is dull. Lydia only has 9 months left, until she reaches the end of her last year. Through Lydia we learn that the convent used to house younger girls in what they call the ‘baby dorm’ which is now sealed off. Strange noises are often heard to come from the room.
It is through this haunting, that a friendship will form between Lydia and Ria.

In the convent, day students and boarders are purposely separated. There are 64 boarders when Ria arrives. Teachers and nuns do not mix and with 7/8 teaching nuns, it becomes a lonely existence for Ria. When her romance with boyfriend Leonard dissolves into nothing, Ria is left more alone and deserted than ever before. When the autumn approaches, strange things begin to happen, and Ria becomes terrified of the convent in which she lives.

‘There was so much bad stuff to come – I just didn’t know it’ – Ria

With the flashbacks to 1942, we learn about the missing young girls Frances. How her mother and father are heartbroken, and the mother turns on the remaining daughter. Branded the ‘devil’s child’ the remaining sister suffers severe emotional and mental abuse and anguish.

We learn Lydia’s backstory and how she came to be living at the convent. Her familial history is similar to Ria’s and you can see how the two could form a strong bond.

Ria meets Mr Flynn (Matthew) who is hired every year to create a musical performance. The performance offers a much-needed distraction to Ria and Lydia.
The introduction of Matthew also brings Ria a friend.

When Lydia is caught with a walk-man we see the voracious pent-up rage inside of Mother Benedicta. She is a formidable woman and has every on the edge,
petrified of her temper.

“The devil is a hard worker” – Mother Agnes

Ria fears being sacked from her position and financial ruin. Which will in-turn see her turn a blind eye to emotionally abusive practices. Until one day, something so bad happens Ria vows to leave and never return. . .

‘This place is poison – I have to get away from here’ – Ria

I can’t fully express how much I enjoyed this novel for fear of leaving spoilers. But it has so many various themes and really keeps you on your toes. You become absorbed by Ria’s story and hang onto every scene that she is in.

The various themes make this novel perfect for book groups. The danger of obedience to positions of power. The women oppressed by long-held traditional values. The extremist Catholic views that are blind to the pain and suffering they cause. Lydia’s coming of age as an orphan in unforgiving times. Are all fabulous talking points. I only wish the novel came with an added extra of reading group topics.

Beautiful writing and Irish historical fiction at its finest.
5* genius

HM
Helen Moorhouse
Website
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Ever This Day is available via Kindle Unlimited

Currently on the TBR pile:
smts
Sing Me To Sleep by Helen Moorhouse
Also available via Kindle Unlimited
Synopsis:

Some love is neverending. First love. A mother’s love for her child. This, Jenny Mycroft learns when she finds herself unable to leave her husband, Ed and her daughter Bee, despite the fact she has died in a tragic car accident.

But no matter how strong, how enduring, her love, Jenny learns that life goes on and that for the living there is still time for new love, for fresh heartbreak.

Through a series of snapshots spanning over 30 years, Sing Me To Sleep looks at the lives of three women who love, and are loved, by one man. Through heartbreak, joy and hope to the eventual dramatic events that bring all three women together.

Sing Me To Sleep is the story of how we are driven by love, even after death. A tale of what might have been, what should have been, and what was.

Anne Bonny #BookReview Cross Her Heart by @SarahPinborough 5* Genius #Psychological #Thriller #NewRelease @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam #CrossHerHeart

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Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
Review Copy
Synopsis:

SOMEONE IS LIVING A LIE… BUT WHO?

Is it Lisa?
Haunted by a tragic past, all Lisa wants is a quiet life with her daughter, Ava. And when she meets a new man, things seem to be falling into place. But Lisa is hiding a secret so momentous it could shatter her entire world…

Is it Ava?
When sixteen-year-old Ava saves a young boy’s life, she becomes a local hero. But never in a million years could she have anticipated the fallout of her actions…

Is it Marilyn?
Marilyn has the perfect life. Her husband, her job, her house—she seems to have it all. But she could never admit to her best friend Lisa the lies she tells herself to get through the day…

One moment will change these three women’s lives forever.
And the secrets they’ve been keeping could destroy them all.

My Review:

This novel, ticks all the boxes of an ‘award winner’.
So, straight off the bat, I am calling that one (on 21st January!).
After I finished the novel, I just sat there thinking
‘how do you even learn to write like that?’.
The novel is jam packed full of twists and turns. You never really know if you’re coming or going, making the novel unpredictable and insanely gripping. The twists are planted early on, literally from page 30 onwards.
When I reached the last 100 pages, I don’t think I dared move or breathe……

The novel opens with a note ‘Don’t try and find us’ being left for an angry volatile man. At this point all we are aware of, is a sinister man in the background. The novel quickly introduces Lisa, Ava and Marilyn, with chapters told from each perspective. I found the mother and daughter relationship between Lisa and teen Ava fascinating. They have the usual, over protective mother and desperation to be and adult scenario.
Which all play out well, until small daily occurrences, start to set off Lisa and she doesn’t know who she can trust!

“In any gaggle of women, there’s always one you have to watch” – Marilyn

Marilyn has created the ‘perfect life’  which is far from perfect. Ava is trying hard to prove she can make adult choices, putting herself at serious risk. Lisa is trying to hold it all together. But they all have secrets, only some are more treacherous than others….

‘She is not the person she was then’

The complex mother and daughter stand-off, continually develops. Then one-day Ava saves a young boys life, leading to media attention and a plot explosion I never saw coming. It is at this point that the novel timeline changes and we get to see everyone’s secrets laid bare. By 150 pages in, I was absolutely engrossed in the plot and the characters. Sarah Pinborough really has excelled herself, yet again!

There are themes of jealousy, secrets, childhood trauma, revenge, scheming and rejection. The little twists build and build, keeping you constantly guessing and increasing the suspense with every page.
You’ll never guess the ending, that I can promise you, cross my heart…….
5* Genius

Trust Sarah Pinborough. Don’t trust her books.

SP
Sarah Pinborough
Website
Twitter

***Cross Her Heart is released on 14th May in Ebook and Hardback and is available for pre-order*** – Go on! Treat yourself!
My Q&A with Sarah

Anne Bonny #BookReview Panic Room by Robert Goddard 5* #Psychological #Thriller #CrimeFiction #NewRelease @TransworldBooks ‘Goddard takes the crime fiction genre to a whole other level, with his outstanding ending!’

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Panic Room by Robert Goddard
My own copy from my tbr pile
Synopsis:

Sometimes the danger is on the inside . . .

High on a Cornish cliff sits a vast uninhabited mansion. Uninhabited except for Blake, a young woman of dubious background, secretive and alone, currently acting as housesitter.

The house has a panic room. Cunningly concealed, steel lined, impregnable – and apparently closed from within. Even Blake doesn’t know it’s there. She’s too busy being on the run from life, from a story she thinks she’s escaped.

But her remote existence is going to be invaded when people come looking for the house’s owner, missing rogue pharma entrepreneur, Jack Harkness. Suddenly the whole world wants to know where his money has gone. Soon people are going to come knocking on the door, people with motives and secrets of their own, who will be asking Blake the sort of questions she can’t – or won’t – want to answer.

And will the panic room ever give up its secrets?

PANIC ROOM is Robert Goddard at his nerve-shredding best. A sliver of a mystery kicks off a juggernaut of a thriller. Layers of secrets, half truths and lies must be peeled back to reveal what really lies within.

My Review:

Panic Room has a catchy synopsis and a cover to die for!!!! Seriously, that cover is intense! It really sets the scene for a psychological/thriller type novel.
Whilst this novel is a psychological thriller and will have you screaming ‘What or who is in the damn panic room?’. It is so much more than I first thought! A twisty ending that almost beat Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough, yep it is that twisty! Obviously of a different style. I wouldn’t leave whopping spoilers in my reviews! But it is expertly done, similar to Pinborough!

At the tranquil location of Wortalleth West, a Cornish coastal home is Blake. She only shares the property with Glenys the gardener or Andy the pool man on the odd day they attend. She is therefore, able to swim, walk, run and full enjoy the peaceful surroundings. That is until Don arrives. . .

The owner of the property is Mona Jackson, wife to the notoriously secretive Jack Harkness. She wishes to sell the property and enlists the services of Fran Revell. In-turn Fran hires her ex-husband Don Challenor. Don is instructed to go to the property and carry out a valuation. As part and parcel of the divorce settlement and also as Harkness is under the scrutiny of the US government.
Unbeknown to Don, he is being followed. . .

‘He had just become a marked man’

When Don arrives at the property he is startled by finding a naked Blake in the pool. There is confusion over the ownership of the property. Blake believes Harness owns the property and she is there under his say-so. Whilst Don is instructed to evict Blake. Immediately. Through conversations and snippets of the press, we learn that US prosecutors seeking to try Harkness on multiple counts of fraud, bribery and embezzlement. But this is now simple case, at all.
Why would one of the worlds richest men, need to steal further millions of dollars?
Don and Blake believe they may have stumbled upon something when they discover a secret panic room, sealed from the inside.

‘I don’t feel safe anymore’ – Blake

Don agrees to stay at the property, whilst they attempt to unravel the mystery and basically discover what/who is behind the door.

In the background of the novel are some dubious characters who would love to bring Harness down for their own individual reasons.
They lurk around the house and follow Don and Blake’s every move.

The novel has various spin-off stories that fully enhance the reading. What/who is inside the panic room soon dominates your thoughts. I found myself itching to get back to the book and discover more secrets.
There are themes of wealth, greed and corruption. But finally, Goddard takes the crime fiction genre to a whole other level, with his outstanding ending! 5*

RG
Robert Goddard
Website via Penguin
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Retreat by @mredwards Mark Edwards #CrimeFiction meets #Horror #NewRelease @midaspr A missing child. A desperate mother. And a house full of secrets #TheRetreat

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The Retreat by Mark Edwards
Review Copy
Synopsis:

A missing child. A desperate mother. And a house full of secrets.

Two years ago, Julia lost her family in a tragic accident. Her husband drowned trying to save their daughter, Lily, in the river near their rural home. But the little girl’s body was never found—and Julia believes Lily is somehow still alive.

Alone and broke, Julia opens her house as a writers’ retreat. One of the first guests is Lucas, a horror novelist, who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Lily. But within days of his arrival, the peace of the retreat is shattered by a series of eerie events.

When Lucas’s investigation leads him and Julia into the woods, they discover a dark secret—a secret that someone will do anything to protect…

What really happened that day by the river? Why was Lily never found? And who, or what, is haunting the retreat?

My Review:

The Retreat is without a doubt a psychological thriller. It has elements of folklore and mythology scattered throughout. But ultimately it is the ‘whodunit’ or ‘whatdunit’ that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The synopsis is perfect and gives just enough information to gather a reader’s interest. A missing girl, a mother in grief, a tormented author and local legends. A recipe for success.

The prologue opens from the perspective of Lily on the fateful day she disappeared. It is eerie, and you know from the onset that the author has many more eerie scenes waiting to be unleashed upon the reader. . .

‘Mum’s cries faded into the distance as those strong arms carried her away’

Lucas Radcliffe arrives in his hometown of Beddmawr, Wales. He is headed to Nyth Bran, a writer’s retreat. He is looking forward to the quiet pace of life, seclusion and scenery. He is also hoping to find some inspiration for his next novel. His debut novel Sweetmeat was a breakout success and he has developed a case of writer’s block.
It would appear LJ Radcliffe has come to just the right place. . . .

Upon arriving at the retreat, he is quickly introduced to Julia. The other guests are at the local pub and so Lucas doesn’t meet them until much later. He states he would like at least a month stay, possibly more. He marvels at what a beautiful setting the retreat is and tells Julia of his background. Julia appears disinterested, yet Lucas is quite taken with her nonchalant approach to him.

Later on, the other guests arrive. They are quite the bunch of characters. There is Max lake, literary author and booky snob. Suzi Hastings, an aspiring debut novelist. Karen Holden, a mature lady, who is self-published. Over drinks they inform Lucas of the retreats do’s and don’ts. Whilst also telling him the wi-fi is next to useless and mobile signal non-existent.

Lucas is still itching to know more about Julia herself and through various acquaintances during his stay, he begins to understand her traumatic past. How her husband died trying to save their only child. How her daughter is still missing and how Julia is convinced she is still alive. What he learns via gossip, he keeps to himself. Not sharing with Julia what he has come to know.

We also learn that Lucas himself has known his own share of heartbreak, pain and grief. His backstory is detailed, and I found it actually made him much more believable and likable. From that moment on, I knew his interest in Julia was genuine and trustful,
or is it?

‘You’re not welcome here’

There are several incidents in the night hours, that lead the group to believe that the retreat maybe haunted. They all admit they are rational and logical people. Yet, quickly the succumb to believing in ghost stories and ancient myths.
Lucas remains level headed throughout.

Julia’s daughter’s disappearance disturbs Lucas so much, he asks a PI to investigate the case. To see if there are potentially any leads on Lily’s whereabouts. But with 2yrs having passed, it has little chance of coming to fruition.
But Lucas simply can’t get the case out of his head!

As the plot unravels more and more details are revealed. All of the town’s secrets shall be unearthed and many have secrets they would rather take to the grave. It did occur to be throughout that, everything and everyone Lucas comes into contact with mysterious circumstances occur. Had I been too quick to trust Lucas?
What do we the reader, really know about Lucas?

There are lots of twists and no one you can really trust. I became quite obsessed with Lucas myself, he just attracts trouble and problems wherever he goes. But for all intents and purposes, he makes an amazing protagonist for this very reason.

Folklore, urban legends and myths are huge right now in the psychological and thriller genre and this is definitely not one to be missed. 4*

ME
Mark Edwards
Website
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The Retreat is released on 10th May in Ebook & paperback and it is available for pre-order!

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
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Anne Bonny #BookReview Our Kind Of Cruelty by Araminta Hall @AramintaHall 5* #Psychological #Thriller @arrowpublishing @fsgbooks The relationship is over. The game has just begun. #WhatIsYourVerdict #TheCrave

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Our Kind Of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
Review Copy – proof
Synopsis:

Mike and Verity have a special game. The Crave.

They play it to prove what they already know: that Verity loves Mike. That she needs Mike.

Even though she’s marrying another man.

Now Mike knows that the stakes of their private game are rising.

This time, someone has to die…

My Review:

‘You should never trust people who yearn to be something other than who they are’

WOW! Where to start with this cracking psychological thriller? This novel gets inside your mind and you become as obsessed with reading the novel, as the protagonist Mike is with telling the narrative. I found the opening very unusual compared to most new release’s in the genre. I didn’t feel drawn to the characters Mike and Verity at all. In fact, I actually found them rather repulsive, but the infatuation, mystery and voice draw you in. Mike can’t be trusted, but can Verity be trusted either?

The novel opens with Mike sat in a prison cell with his cell-mate ‘Fat Terry’. He nonchalantly informs the readers that he is in prison on a murder charge. That his reason for writing his story, is in itself a way of unravelling all the details, so he might grasp a better concept of what he has done. I didn’t like Mike at all.
But I wanted to listen in on his thoughts.

‘In a way she was right, as the American incident proved. I did become a monster’

He tells his story in reflection, recalling the events and his interpretation of them. The timeline is mixed ever so slightly to allow for the many twists and turns.

Upon receiving an invitation to Verity’s upcoming wedding to Angus Metcalf. Something snaps within Mike and he feels compelled to control the past, present, future and what others think of him. But in life you can’t possibly control how others think and feel towards you and so the story flows. . .

Mike and Verity used to date, they had quite a long relationship. Which was tainted by Mikes inability to control and fully dominate Verity at all times.
As healthy relationships go, this one is far from rosy.

Mike and Verity both hold quite prestigious professional roles in their working life. They appear to have ample wealth. But if one thing is for certain, money doesn’t buy you love.
Mike is offered a new opportunity in the states and Verity is unable to accompany him. Mike finds himself thousands of miles away from the woman he so desperately loves. This in turn leads to the breakdown in their relationship, a breakdown Mike is refusing to accept.

The relationship is far from perfect. They both come across as people who enjoy a feeling of superiority over others. This is evidenced in their ‘game’ the crave. I personally found the idea of the crave quite distasteful and immature. I could see, it would only cause further problems as Mike’s inner psychology struggled to separate the game from reality.

‘Some would see that as the basest level of cruelty, others as an act of love. Ultimately, that is what to crave means’

Mike has a deeply troubled past, it goes some way in to explaining why he presents as he does. On the outside, I could easily see why others would envy Mike. His wealth, status and beautiful girlfriend. But deep inside Mike is a broken little boy, a little boy that never felt love, warmth or comfort.
At this point I began to pity Mike. I would say that sympathy is a step too far. But I could empathise with background and why he must struggle with low self-esteem, doubt and a demand to be loved. Mike is a complex and unreliable narrator of the plot, but he is the only one we have. His refusal to let Verity go, began to make me question Verity’s actions and motives. Why would you invite your stalker to your wedding? Is it so easy to judge? Haven’t we all been fooled by the alleged harmless actions of another?
Who is telling the truth Mike or Verity?

There’s a series of emails and Mike’s interactions with others who know and love Verity, such as her snobby mother. These incidents made me sure that it was Mike who was at fault. He was clearly delusional, and Verity was his victim. But there was something about Verity, that I just couldn’t get to grips with.

Looking back, I’m not sure whether I failed to connect with Verity as she failed to fit my view of a victim or because this was a cleverly crafted psychological novel and I should trust no one. Either way, these are fictional characters and therefore it opens the novel up to healthy debate. I could easily see some heated debates in book groups. As not only do the characters get under your skin. It is a powerful theme, which invokes emotions within the reader. Do we blame female victims for the crimes committed against them? If so why? Why are women villainised in high-profile court cases? Does this enable the perpetrator to get an easier sentence?

There are so many themes open for debate the pitfalls of Mikes personality. One moment he is arrogant and confident, the next weak and needy. Is this due to his past or is he cunningly evil? The theme of male entitlement, when dating or pursuing a relationship. Mike’s toxic personality, is he using his childhood vulnerability as a weapon or defence strategy? The power of obsession and its psychological hold on the abuser.

Mike’s emotions and the narrative of the plot become contoured due to his mental health problems and unwillingness to accept reality. He makes the narrative a difficult read in places. Yet I was absolutely hooked on the story from the open pages to the impending court case. Mike’s story reads right up to the very last page. I will be very intrigued to read the reviews of other bloggers and their thoughts on Mike and Verity.
#WhatsYourVerdict? 5*

AH
Araminta Hall
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Our Kind Of Cruelty is released today in hardback & currently just 99p on Ebook
Happy publication day Araminta Hall