Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent

Will, Brian and Luke grow up competing for their mother’s unequal love. As men, the competition continues – for status, money, fame, women …
They each betray each other, over and over, until one of them is dead.
But which brother killed him?

Our little Cruelties

The book is divided into four distinct parts plus an intro. It starts with the funeral of one of the brothers but you don’t know which one. Then each of the three brothers tells his version of the events leading up to the death. Finally you have the coming together of the whole story. My God these are three ghastly people! Probably even ghastlier than their ghastly mother – a self-centred singer and actress. First it’s the turn of William, an ass-grabbing misogynist who thinks it’s OK to sleep with women and offer to further their careers in exchange. Even after he is married to long-suffering Susan. Remind you of anyone? He is so awful I wasn’t sure if I wanted to carry on reading. Then it’s Luke. A fading pop star with a drink and drug habit who is (I think) a paranoid schizophrenic who rarely takes his meds. As a child he was obsessed with religion and even turned up at a Halloween party dressed as Jesus with real self-inflicted stigmata. I tried to sympathise with his mental health but the drink and drugs tipped me over. Then finally it’s middle brother Brian. Probably the least worst of the three apart from being mean with money, ripping of his brother Luke and some dodgy social media stuff for money which comes later. I can’t say I enjoyed it until the final part when it all starts to become clear. Why does Luke’s mother dislike him so much? How does it all affect Daisy?

Anyway stick with it. It is brilliantly written but distasteful to the point of ditching it many times. Many thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

His and Hers by Alice Feeney

There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, His & Hers. Which means someone is always lying.

Anna Andrews finally has what she wants. Almost. She’s worked hard to become the main TV presenter of the BBC’s lunchtime news, putting work before friends, family, and her now ex-husband. So, when someone threatens to take her dream job away, she’ll do almost anything to keep it.

When asked to cover a murder in Blackdown–the sleepy countryside village where she grew up–Anna is reluctant to go. But when the victim turns out to be one of her childhood friends, she can’t leave. It soon becomes clear that Anna isn’t just covering the story, she’s at the heart of it.

DCI Jack Harper left London for a reason, but never thought he’d end up working in a place like Blackdown. When the body of a young woman is discovered, Jack decides not to tell anyone that he knew the victim, until he begins to realise he is a suspect in his own murder investigation.

One of them knows more than they are letting on. Someone isn’t telling the truth. Alternating between Anna’s and Jack’s points of view, His & Hers is a fast-paced, complex, and dark puzzle that will keep listeners guessing until the very end.

His and Hers

Alice Feeney has a style of writing all her own. I really love her books. However the Him And Her chapters I found a bit confusing as they are supposed to be the voices of Jack and Anna yet sometimes they seem to be spoken by other people. It didn’t stop me enjoying the book though and the constant twists and turns and not knowing who is lying are breath-taking. I am still not sure who was lying. Alice is the master of twisty story-telling and has found her own voice in a genre where there are so many new authors but she is amongst the best.

Her characters are often horrible but compelling. Some deserve everything they get – some you feel sorry for. Anna is not always likeable. Rachel and Zoe are truly wicked. Helen almost as bad while you feel sorry for Catherine Kelly. Jack is a good detective but Priya is better. You can’t pull the wool over her eyes. She’s like Colombo with the bit between her teeth. The questions just keep coming.

A great read. Many thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the author of The Hunting Party.

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

The Guest List

Another excellent book from Lucy Foley. Similar format to The Hunting Party. Lots of horrible guests at a remote location – this time though for a wedding. Old friends from a dreadful public school, a plus one and a couple of others who are on the fringe as far as the posh boys are concerned. A body, but you don’t know who it is and a killer still to be caught. I would have given it five stars only it did ramble slightly in the middle. But the last quarter really speeded up, the suspense galloping along like a horse on crack to finish with more twists than I could shake a stick at and a truly unexpected ending. Excellent character portrayals – you really hate the lot of them!

Many thanks to NetGalley for my ARC and to the Pigeonhole for giving me the opportunity to read along with my fellow Pigeons and the author.

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

The story of a solitary green notebook that brings together six strangers and leads to unexpected friendship, and even love

Julian Jessop, an eccentric, lonely artist and septuagenarian believes that most people aren’t really honest with each other. But what if they were? And so he writes–in a plain, green journal–the truth about his own life and leaves it in his local café. It’s run by the incredibly tidy and efficient Monica, who furtively adds her own entry and leaves the book in the wine bar across the street. Before long, the others who find the green notebook add the truths about their own deepest selves–and soon find each other In Real Life at Monica’s Café.

The Authenticity Project’s cast of characters–including Hazard, the charming addict who makes a vow to get sober; Alice, the fabulous mommy Instagrammer whose real life is a lot less perfect than it looks online; and their other new friends–is by turns quirky and funny, heart-breakingly sad and painfully true-to-life. It’s a story about being brave and putting your real self forward–and finding out that it’s not as scary as it seems. In fact, it looks a lot like happiness.

Authenticity project

This is so not my genre. The type of stuff that usually makes me cringe but I LOVED this book. I loved almost all the characters from tidiness freak and uptight Monica, ageing artist and philanderer Julian, beautiful airhead Riley (OK he’s not really an airhead but people think he is) and poor Alice, struggling with baby Bunty, her Instagram ‘other’ life and selfish husband Max. The jury is still out on Hazard (even the name makes me cringe). But the story is a wonderful tale of sadness, happiness, loneliness and friendship with lots of great peripheral characters like Mrs Wu and Lizzie and of course Keiths one and two. So much humour and pathos and some totally unexpected twists and turns. I hope there is a sequel.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole for giving me the opportunity to read something I would never have chosen for myself, to my fellow Pigeons and to Clare for popping in to join us.

The Devil’s Bride by Emma S. Jackson

#BookReview #BlogTour (@ESJackson1) @darkstrokedark @crookedcatbooks @RNATweets #PNR #paranormalromance #romance #TheDevilsBride

Emma Jackson book cover

England, 1670

No one goes near Edburton Manor – not since the night in 1668, when demons rose from the ground to drag Lord Bookham’s new bride to a fiery death. Or so the locals say.

That’s what makes it the perfect hideout for the gang of highwaymen Jamie Lorde runs with.

Ghost stories have never frightened her. The living are a far more dangerous prospect, particularly to a woman in disguise as a man. A woman who can see spirits in a time when witches are hanged and who is working hard to gain the trust of the most ruthless, vicious man she has ever known because she intends to ruin and kill him.

But when the gang discovers Matthew, Lord Bookham’s illegitimate brother, who has been trapped by a curse at the Manor ever since the doomed wedding, all Jamie’s carefully laid plans are sent spiralling out of control.

The Devil’s Bride by newcomer Emma S Jackson is a mix of fantasy and historical fiction. While I am not the biggest fantasy fan (other than Neil Gaiman) I do love a bit of historical fiction combined with the supernatural. So as soon as I saw ‘a woman who can see spirits’ plus ‘witchcraft’ I thought this sounds right up my street.

It’s 1670 and Jamie Lorde is a woman disguised as a man, running with a ruthless group of highwaymen so she can infiltrate her way into the heart and mind of the evil Rowel and kill him. OK. A woman disguised as a man? You may have to suspend disbelief here as I know what you are thinking. Hairless face, no Adam’s Apple, strapped up bust etc. But Shakespeare did it all the time and he got away with it.

The gang are looking for somewhere to hide out when they stumble across Edburton Manor – so haunted and terrifying that no-one goes near. All the better as none of the locals will dare look for them there so they can move in and stay as long as they need. But they are not alone. Matthew, Lord Bookham’s bastard half-brother, lives there, unable to leave because of a curse that prevents him crossing the perimeter of the estate. He too has a power, but unlike Jamie who can see spirits with her sixth sense (‘I see dead people’), Matthew can read people’s minds and knows what they are thinking, including Jamie’s. He knows straight away that she’s a woman. Seemingly none of the others suspect.

This is a great story full of suspense and spooky goings on. I love Jamie as the main protagonist in spite of the fact that she has done some terrible things in pursuit of her goal, including murder. But even though Rowel is Jamie’s main enemy, it’s the loathsome Dennis that I really disliked. And he just gets worse as the tale progresses. He’s a well-written, ghastly character who is just waiting for his comeuppance. Then there’s the mysterious and enigmatic Fielding. We know so little about him but want to know more.

When I started reading I didn’t realise this was the first in a series and I can’t wait to read the next instalment. We need more good fantasy series on TV – there aren’t many apart from His Dark Materials and Good Omens and I love trying to cast them. So who could play Jamie and Matthew? I’m thinking…

The Devil’s Bride is out now in paperback and e-book and you can buy a copy here…

And make sure you follow the blog tour for more reviews:

Emma Jackson blog tour

About the Author

Emma Jackson

Emma Jackson is the best-selling author of A MISTLETOE MIRACLE, published by Orion Dash. A devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old, she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association on their New Writers’ Scheme at the beginning of 2019, determined to focus on her writing. Her debut novel was published in November 2019. When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. THE DEVIL’S BRIDE is her second novel, published by DarkStroke as Emma S Jackson. She hopes to continue working across sub-genres of romance, as she believes variety is the spice of life.

To follow Emma click on the links below

Twitter

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Website www.esjackson.co.uk

The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag

“Once upon a time, a demon who desired earthly domination fathered an army of dark daughters to help him corrupt humanity . . .

“As children, Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea dreamed of a strange otherworld: a nightscape of mists and fog, perpetually falling leaves and hungry ivy, lit by an unwavering moon. Here, in this shadowland of Everwhere, the four girls, half-sisters connected by blood and magic, began to nurture their elemental powers together. But at thirteen, the sisters were ripped from Everwhere and separated. Now, five years later, they search for one another and yearn to rediscover their unique and supernatural strengths.”

Grimm

Everyone seems to have a favourite sister. I love Scarlet, but I am probably biased. My eldest granddaughter is called Scarlett (with an extra ‘t’) so it’s no doubt favouritism by association. She’s only five and a half, doesn’t have red hair and can’t shoot fire from her fingertips (yet) but I think of her when reading. No-one likes Bea much, which is a shame because she is misunderstood and misdirected and the only true-blood Grimm. Goldie should be my favourite but she isn’t only by default – see Scarlet above – and Liyana is up there with Goldie. But in reality, I love them all, including Leo.

I’m not sure why some people found the POVs confusing or the timelines. They are clearly marked in the headings and each character’s voice is unique, whether written in the first person (Goldie) or third. I know the jumping back and forth from when they are young to now is confusing in some books but the author has done it so well that I never forgot where we were. I almost gave it five stars as the writing is so beautiful and lyrical but I thought it was a bit overlong and the ending was not to my taste but that’s all I can say due to no spoilers. I have read four of the author’s other books but The House At The End of Hope Street is still my favourite. A fabulous read though and highly recommended for lovers of fantasy and magical realism.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and the other Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read and to the author for popping in to ‘read’ with us.

The 24-Hour Cafe by Libby Page

Welcome to the café that never sleeps. Day and night Stella’s Café opens its doors for the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It is many things to many people but most of all it is a place where life can wait at the door. A place of small kindnesses. A place where anyone can be whoever they want, where everyone is always welcome.

Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They work at Stella’s but they dream of more, of leaving the café behind and making their own way in life.

Come inside and spend twenty-four hours at Stella’s Café; a day when Hannah and Mona’s friendship will be tested, when the community will come together and when lives will be changed…

24 hour cafe

The Lido was one of my favourite books of 2018 so I wanted to love this just as much. While I did love it, it didn’t resonate in quite the same way, but I think that says more about me than about the story. I love the premise of a cafe that never shuts and the people who come and go. They all have their stories (a bit like in Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things where each lost item has a personal story). My only issue was with the two main characters – Hannah who wants to make her living as a singer and Mona who is a dancer. They have both passed the grand old age of 30 and doubt that it will ever happen, but still they dream while working in Stella’s cafe, popping off to auditions in between. I did love Mona – though Hannah not quite as much as she could be quite irritating – but I couldn’t identify with either of them. I also didn’t find their lives that interesting but maybe that’s the point. I think perhaps this book is aimed more at the Millennial generation and not at me (a baby boomer). I would probably have loved it 30 years ago when Thirtysomething was my favourite TV programme. However, the characters are beautifully written and Libby’s powers of observation are unparalleled – she is my favourite ‘people-watcher’ of all time!

When I read The Lido I sobbed throughout most of the final part (in a good way) – this one took a lot longer, but I still needed the hankies near the end. A lovely, gentle read, that as someone already mentioned, you can dip in and out of. Highly recommended and I look forward to Libby’s next book.

Our Dark Secret by Jenny Quintana

From the author of The Missing Girl, Jenny Quintana’s gripping novel, Our Dark Secret, tells the story of two girls, two deaths and two decades of silence . . .

The crazy girls, they called them – or at least, Elizabeth liked to think they did. As a teenager in the late 1970s, she was clever, overweight and a perfect victim for the bullies. Then Rachel and her family arrived in town and, for Elizabeth, it was as if a light had been switched on. She was drawn to the bright and beautiful Rachel like a moth to a flame.

Rachel had her own reasons for wanting Elizabeth as a friend, and although their relationship was far from equal, Elizabeth would do anything for Rachel.

Then the first body was discovered.

Twenty years on, Elizabeth wants nothing more than to keep the secrets of her teenage years where they belong: in the past. But another body has been found, and she can’t keep running from what happened.

dark secret

Elizabeth Valentine is the school misfit. Unattractive, overweight, spotty, with limp hair, she is every bully’s dream victim. She is also clever but she hides that light under a bushel as it would only make things worse. Then she meets Rachel, her opposite in every way. Beautiful with flowing long hair and a way of lighting up the room every time she walks in. But Rachel is troubled and deeply unhappy. And Elizabeth is obsessed. They both have family issues which become entwined and Elizabeth and Rachel become friends out of need. Then two bodies are found over a period of 20 years but are they linked and how do they link to the girls?

I just loved this book. I hung on every word. In spite of two murders this is a slow burn that is so beautifully written you won’t want it to end. Elizabeth is a strange main protagonist. We see everything from her point of view but is she an unreliable narrator or is her take on things just skewed?

Please read this book. Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons and also to Jenny for making this such a fantastic read.

The Last Sister by Kendra Elliott

Yesterday I was unlucky enough – or should that be lucky enough – to be unwell (not at death’s door I hasten to add) so I took the opportunity of a day off work to read this book in almost one go. I only put it down to nap. Wow what a read! What started out as a routine murder-suicide became something very sinister and terrifying in small town ‘Bartonville’, Oregon. Not exactly the murder capital of the US.

The Bartons live in a crumbling mansion. Two sisters Emily and Madison and three eccentric aunts who always wear the same colour jumpers as each other on a given day. There were three sisters but twenty years ago their father was found murdered and hanged from a tree. 10 year old Emily saw him swinging from the tree and also saw older sister Tara running away. Tara swore she was at a friend’s all night and wasn’t there. A few days later their mother committed suicide and sister Tara disappeared. They never heard from her again. The killer was caught and brought to justice.

Back to today. Emily’s family own the diner in the town where everyone meets and eats. On this fateful morning waitress Lyndsay fails to turn up for work so Emily goes to check she’s OK. What she finds is a gruesome discovery. Lyndsay has been stabbed to death and her husband Sean is hanging from a tree outside. For Emily the shock of another hanging is overwhelming.

Enter Zander and Ava from the FBI. And that’s all I’m going to say about the plot! Why the FBI you ask? Well that’s for me to know and you to find out. Utterly compelling, this is an intricately woven tale of murder, secrets, race, hatred and romance. I just loved it.

Thanks to NetGalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Killing Beauties by Peter Langman

Ten years from now if someone asks me if I have read this book I may not remember the characters or the plot or who did what but I’ll be able to say, ‘Oh that’s the book where she-intelligencer Diana Jennings pees into an ale mug under her skirts in the inn.’ I think it will live with me forever. Of course that was at the beginning. There are more references to urinating in public places, from very un-private privies to alleyways and buckets. For someone of my genteel sensitivities this shocked me more than the beheading of the king. What no Andrex?

But I digress. What a fantastic read. This is a period of history I know a little about but not much and I had never heard of she-intelligencers. I had never heard of John Thurloe either, the Spymaster and Postmaster, the latter meaning that he and his cronies opened everyone’s letters looking for secret messages and information. Not to mention torture by burning matches under the fingernails if suspected. Ouch. Basically Thurloe is a supporter of Oliver Cromwell and they are seeking out those who wish to overthrow his government and bring back the exiled Charles Stuart (Charles II) and install him on the throne. No history lesson intended. Thurloe was a real person as were most of the characters so it’s no good thinking ‘I hope the so-and-so gets his comeuppance at the hands (or daggers) of whoever,’ because a bit of research on Google will be full of spoilers as to who does and who doesn’t. The three main female protagonists – the aforementioned Diana, Susan Hyde and Molly – are strong women with a just cause (republicans may disagree here). Men’s chauvinism and misogyny went in the women’s favour because the men just could not believe women capable of such deeds. Little did they know.

There are lots of things to please spy fans – letter locking (Google it – it’s fascinating stuff), invisible ink, women dressed as men – very Shakespearean – and such like.

It is at times a bit confusing. There is so much background to absorb that it does get a little convoluted in the middle, but if you love historical fiction – and even if you don’t – this is a thrilling ride by anyone’s standards.

Congratulations to Peter Langman for giving us such an entertaining read and to the Pigeonhole, Peter and my fellow Pigeons for their wonderful comments and involvement.

Right Behind You by Rachel Abbott

I first discovered Rachel Abbott (and DCI Tom Douglas) a couple of years ago. Right Behind You is my sixth of her novels and in my humble opinion the best and most exciting. We have been following Tom for a long time now and his backstory has moved forwards a lot. His teenage daughter lives with him and Louisa – the latter of whom is heavily pregnant. His ex-wife Kate (a right cow) is about to marry someone she met five minutes ago and drag them all off to Australia. And then there’s brother Jack. We all thought he was dead for ages (including Tom). In fact he’s in hiding with his family because of his involvement in tracking down a criminal gang though his involvement was a bit dodgy – and illegal. I missed the book where this happens so don’t know much more.

But now to the main story. Jo is happily at home with wonderful, perfect doctor husband Ash (the love of her life) and beloved daughter Molly. All is tickety-boo until there is a knock at the door. Ash is arrested by two police officers and taken away in handcuffs for abusing his step-daughter. Forgot to mention he’s not her real father. Then a man and a woman arrive and say they are from Social Services and need to take Molly to a place of safety to question her about the abuse. Jo can’t go with them. Suspicious I hear you say. They will bring her back very soon but of course they don’t and the nightmare begins. Jo goes to the police and Tom and sidekick Becky become involved. In the meantime a gang boss is murdered in prison. Is there a connection? Jo starts to doubt her perfect husband. In the words of the just departed Terry Jones of Monty Python fame Ash ‘…is not the Messiah – (in fact) he’s a very naughty boy’. (Sorry couldn’t resist – RIP Terry.) But does that make Ash an abuser? No spoilers here. Just read it. I read it in two sittings. I just couldn’t put it down. You can read it as a standalone as Rachel explains bits of the background as we go along but it’s obviously better if you have read some of the others at least.

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

The invitation to the luxurious Oriental Hotel a mile from Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of nearby Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamour of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything…even murder.

Extravagant, intoxicating and thumping with suspense, bestselling Nancy Bilyeau’s magnificent Dreamland is a story of corruption, class and dangerous obsession

Dreamland

I just loved this book. It’s 1911 and Peggy Battenberg works in the Moonrise Bookstore in New York. But Peggy is no ordinary shop girl. She’s an heiress belonging to one of the countries richest Jewish families. Then one day, while making martinis for an eminent – if rather salacious author – and his agent, Peggy is dragged away by her Uncle David to spend the summer in New York’s illustrious and hedonistic Coney Island with her extended family.

But this will be far from a jolly holiday. They will be accompanied by her younger sister Lydia’s betrothed – Henry Taul – and his mother so they can all ‘bond’. And so the mystery and murder begin. Peggy meets and falls for impoverished artist Stefan, who shows his Futurist paintings at a tiny Gallery inside Dreamland. Stefan is Serbian and therefore hated by everyone who believes him to be an anarchist and trouble-maker.

Dreamland is one of three funfairs on Coney Island and probably the most famous. It really existed. Look it up. I read about it first in Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Peggy is the most wonderful hero. Naive to the point of simplicity, her eyes are opened during this ‘holiday’ to just how unfair life can be when you are not rich or entitled. Let alone an ‘alien’. I don’t think she realises that even though her family are fabulously wealthy that they will always be persona non grata amongst old money because they are Jewish. I enjoyed The Blue – my first book by Nancy Bilyeau – but this one was way more exciting and the character of Peggy will stay with me forever.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole for giving me the opportunity to read along with my fellow Pigeons.