Thursday, 14 October 2021

The Sanitorium by Sarah Pearse

The Sanatorium (Detective Elin Warner, #1)The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 3 days

Pages - 384

Publisher - Bantam Press

Source - Bought

Blurb from Goodreads

You won’t want to leave. . . until you can’t.

Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.

An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancĂ©e, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in. . .

My Review

A sanatorium being transformed into a fabulous remote hotel, we open with the early stages of renovation and something dark happens, fast forward five years later to present day. The hotel is up and running and detective Elin Warner is on her way there with her o/h, invited by her brother, celebrating his engagement. Her relationship with her brother Isaac is strained to say the least, she is distrustful, suspicious and when Isaac's fiancé disappears things kick up a notch.

I feel like this would have had a book before this one, Elin has PTSD from an incident, she isn't sure she is going to go back. She is indecisive about moving forward in her relationship, there is a huge issue with her brother. The story does slowly tease out some of the details but I feel we could have done with a bit more on Elin's backstory. Maybe this will be revisited if this becomes a series? I dunno I just felt Elin was a bit hard to settle to. She does come to her own a bit once everything kicks off at the hotel.

The book does manage to keep a feeling of tension throughout, there is enough to keep you interested but I felt myself drifting a bit when reading this. To be fair to the author, I feel a lot of this was about me, we have a lot going on just now and my reading mojo is a bit off.

The story has a fair bit going for it, murder, stalking, unresolved family issues/dramas, relationship issues (more than a few), isolation, police investigation, it has a whole lot going on. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it, maybe a different time I would have received it better, 3/5 for me.

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Saturday, 9 October 2021

The Housemaid by Sarah A. Denzil

The HousemaidThe Housemaid by Sarah A. Denzil
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 2 days

Pages - 296

Publisher - Indie

Source - Review copy

Blurb from Goodreads

Housemaid wanted.
Skills required: Discretion, and the willingness to go the extra mile.

It seems like the perfect job. Great wages, accommodation provided, and all located within the walls of Highwood Hall, a stunning stately home owned by the Howard family. Not many little girls dream of becoming a maid, but this is an opportunity for me to get back on my feet. And for me to revisit my past...

But I soon realise I've made a mistake. The strict housekeeper, Mrs Huxley, watches my every move, emerging from the shadows when least expected. Lord Howard's son, Alex, takes an interest in me, and as a former addict, I find myself drawn to him because I know he's bad for me.

There's a general atmosphere of unease at Highwood Hall, from the narrow tunnels laced throughout the sprawling house, to the abandoned north wing, rumoured to be haunted. It's easy to imagine the secrets hidden within these walls, like the secrets I hold close.

On my first day, I receive a mysterious package. I open up the pretty gift box to find a miniature doll version of me trapped inside a dollhouse. In this scene I'm dead, lying in a pool of red paint at the bottom of the perfectly recreated staircase. Someone sent this threatening diorama to me, but who even knows I work at the hall? And what do they want?

I know only one truth: my perfect job is turning into my perfect nightmare.

My Review

This is my second read by this author, they couldn't be more different although both have creepy eerie vibes! Applying for the housemaid position in a rich affluent area the housemaid NEEDS this job. Getting over her own troubles, addictions she encounters the terrifying Mrs Huxley for her interview. If she scores the job she gets live in, good wages and who wouldn't want to work in Highwood Hall in Yorkshire. Mrs Huxley has worked there for a billion years, she is strict, cold and runs a tight ship, she will be the least of the new housemaids worries!

A dream job or so she thought but the housemaid has her own reasons for wanting to work there and not long after she receives a package that is clearly a threat but by who, why - noone knows her. As she learns the job more and more unsettling things happen and the reader sees what it is like to be "The Housemaid". She is nameless - it highlights just how bad (at times) the help are treated, confidants one moment, used/abused/unseen at others so I think this works well to show that and how something as small as using someone's name can be so big. We walk through the story with her in first person mode, from first day nerves to getting to know the family members, the other hired help. Forming relationships, learning the routines and then it starts getting weird/creepy.

Denzil has a great way of taking a normal situation, job, environment and bringing in the creep/eek. We all have secrets, some more than others, some worse than others and each character has something, a quirk, a secret, a need. I love when a book draws you in, dislikable characters, ones you root for and a story a bit like an onion, peeling "layers" before giving up its secrets. As I said this is my second by this author, it won't be my last, 4/5 for me this time.

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Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The Score by Kerry Kaya

The Score: A gritty, gripping gangland thriller from Kerry Kaya for 2021The Score: A gritty, gripping gangland thriller from Kerry Kaya for 2021 by Kerry Kaya
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 2 days

Pages - 394

Publisher - Boldwood Books

Source - NetGalley

Blurb from Goodreads

Twenty years ago, Fletch avenged the gangland killing of his younger brother, Spencer and accepted his guilt. But his actions meant he had to leave his precious children, Austin and Kitty to fend for themselves. He thought they would be looked after...

Served his time…

Now a free man, Fletch returns to find his family in chaos, devastated by his prolonged incarceration. Kit is married to notorious gangster Rosco Taylor, while Austin seems hell bent on doing everything he can to create a turf war.

Fletch knows he has to do something to get his kids under control, but he also knows that the seeds of this disaster were planted long ago by his own reckless actions.

Now Fletch is back and it’s time to settle the score.

My Review

I have loved gangland/gangster type books for years but have never read Kaya before, until this one. I am currently struggling with my reading mojo, personal life stuff, but this managed to yank me out for a bit. Fletch done his crime (avenged his wee brother) and now he is out, he left behind his mrs and two young kids, a boy and a girl. A twenty year stretch is a long time but he left plenty to ensure his family would be set. His girl moved on and his kids grew up, Fletch has no idea what has went down in his absence and not everyone is happy Fletch is out.

Oooft if you don't like swearing, violence and shady characters (what do you expect from gangland fiction) then these type of books aren't for you. We open with a brutal torture and quickly get a feel for the characters. Kit and Austin, Fletch's grown up kids are in the life Fletch wanted them to be clear of. His best mate Stevie has kept so much from him, protected him, and now Fletch is out he is finding out just how deep in the life his "kids" are.

Family drama, drugs, murder, violence, love, lies - add a bit of spice - welcome to "The Score". There is a lot of family drama, Kit and Austin react very differently to their dad being out, there are some very shady characters and the drama keeps on coming.

I really needed something like this, just pure escapism from my life into others. Underworld, drugs, shade, like walking into a different world. Gritty, dangerous, noone is safe, everyone is out for themselves in this type of world but for some, family is everything, 4.5/5 for me. This was my first dance with this author, it won't be my last, will defo be checking out her back catalogue. The Score is out the 28th of this month but you can pre-order on Amazon UK now.

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Saturday, 2 October 2021

Off Season by Jack Ketchum

Off Season (Dead River, #1)Off Season by Jack Ketchum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1 day

Pages - 308

Publisher - 47 North

Source - Bought

Blurb from Goodreads

September. A beautiful New York editor retreats to a lonely cabin on a hill in the quiet Maine beach town of Dead River—off season—awaiting her sister and friends. Nearby, a savage human family with a taste for flesh lurks in the darkening woods, watching, waiting for the moon to rise and night to fall...

And before too many hours pass, five civilized, sophisticated people and one tired old country sheriff will learn just how primitive we all are beneath the surface...and that there are no limits at all to the will to survive.

My Review

Think Wrong Turn meets The Hill Have Eyes meets House of 1000 Corpses, a pinch of each and you get the vibes for Off Season. This is NOT for the faint hearted or easily offended and this version is "The Author's Uncut, Uncensored Version so if you have read the other version this has more bokey OMGness. Carla has rented a wee cabin, out the way of town on a hill next to a beach type town, off season. Her sister, lover and pals are coming up to join her, she has no idea she i being watched by savage killers, killers who murder for joy, pleasure and food!

The opening chapter gives a taster for what is coming, a women is brutalised by weans of this group and it really kicks off from there. We get to know the city folk who come to the cabin for some fun and then all hell breaks loose and it is just murder, carnage, blood drenching, stomach turning horror.

The killers are actual savages, they live in the wild, other living beings are for their use, pleasure, consumption. The descriptions are graphic, gorey and manky in some parts, again think of the three movies I mentioned and you know what you are in for. Torture, abuse (sexual and the violent), animal abuse/deaths, human torture, I think the book hits just about everything on the list.

For the other movies I wanted a police presence and or more if they were in it, this book offers a bit of that. This is only my second book by this author, again he is not for the faint hearted from what I have read. If you like your horror shocking, bloody, dodgy depraved killers ooft this is your book. I grew up on horror but even parts of this made me wince, he paints very vivid pictures, probably best not to eat whilst reading this one, 4/5 for me.

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Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Lights Out Liverpool by Maureen Lee

Lights Out LiverpoolLights Out Liverpool by Maureen Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 3 days

Pages - 496

Publisher - Orion

Source - Bought (I think ABE books )

Blurb from Goodreads

The first of the Liverpool Pearl Street novels set against the backdrop of the Second World War.

As Britain stands alone against a monstrous enemy, the inhabitants of Pearl Street face hardship and heartbreak with courage and humour.

The war touches each of them in a different way: for Annie Poulson, a widow, it means never-ending worry when her twin boys are called up and sent to France; Sheila Reilly's husband, Cal, faces the terror of U-Boat attacks; Eileen Costello is liberated from a bitter, loveless marriage when her husband is sent to Egypt and she goes to work in a munitions factory - and falls in love. And Jessica Fleming, down on her luck, is forced to return to the street she'd hoped never to see again.

My Review

Book one in the Liverpool Pearl Street series, I hadn't read (nor heard) of this author before but it was a bulk buy job. I got eight books for a bargain deal and just realised none of them are the next in the series lol, typical!

Set in Pearl Street we meet the families living there, Eileen and Sheila, sisters and both married, Eileen to Frank, Sheila to Cal. Their marriages could not be more different although on the surface it all looks fine. Set pre and just kicking off, World War Two we see the community as they are, gossiping, pulling together, judging all the usual in small communities. Some of the relationships are not what they seem and no matter how bad things are, a woman, especially a catholic one, must stand by her man, right?

I really like Eileen, she is strong and quite opinionated in a time when women were thought to be seen and not heard or only just to serve their men and have babies. Eileen has a strong personality and we see this throughout her personal choices and helping out with her family and friends. A good start to a trilogy and of course I will need to buy the others to see what is coming next for our people.

A different range of characters and issues, poverty, class divisions, grief, loss, violence, war, relationships, family, societal expectations, alcoholism and how things change as the war kicks off. 3.5/5 for me this time, hopefully not too long before I buy and get to read the next one.

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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

A Mother's Secret by Kitty Neale Blog tour

Today is my stop on the blog tour for A Mother's Secret by Kitty Neale. Please check out the other stops on the blog tour as we offer different content.

For my stop I have my review, enjoy. The book is available to buy NOW on AMAZON UK.

A Mother's Secret: The Battersea Tavern Series (Book 1) (Battersea Tavern 1)A Mother's Secret: The Battersea Tavern Series (Book 1) by Kitty Neale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - in and out over 3 days

Pages - 305

Publisher - Orion

Source - Review copy

Blurb from Amazon

Can she put right the secrets of the past?

London, 1939. Winnie Berry has been the landlady of the Battersea Tavern for nearly twenty-five years, and the pub is like home to her - a place of tears and laughter, full of customers that feel like family. A place where she's learned to avoid the quick fists of her husband, and where she's raised her beloved son, David.

He's inherited his father's lazy streak and can't seem to hold down a job, but when war is declared Winnie is determined to keep her son safe. She's still haunted by the choice she made years ago as a desperate young woman, and she won't make the same mistake of letting her family be taken from her...

But when a young woman crosses her path, the secrets of Winnie's past threaten to turn her world upside down. There's nothing stronger than a mother's love - but can it ever have a second chance?

The first book in The Battersea Tavern series

My Review

This is my first ever Kitty Neale book, set just before world war two we meet Winnie, she runs the Battersea Tavern. Her aggressive and known to be violent husband stays behind the scenes letting Winnie do all the hard graft. She dotes on her only son, David, an attractive (and he knows it) spoilt man child who thinks nothing of using his looks and mothers good nature to skate by in life. Rachel is her dab hand barmaid who works hard, is respectable and has her own family nightmare, her sister Hilda, sober she is the sweetest and kindest, drunk she opens her mouth and embarrasses and hurts poor Rachel with her bile. We also meet sweet Jan as she starts up an innocent relationship with one of the regulars in the Tavern. As the story develops we get to meet the characters and more of their lives, belt up and prefer for an emotive ride.

Aw you guys, Winnie is a wee soul, wholesome, she has such a kind heart and always wants to do for others, her goodness is emphasized by the shady characters around her. We see the community in the build up to the war, the disbelief it will come to be and how it affects those in and around Winnie's life. A chance encounter sees Winnie have to face the past and the ripples it creates in her present day life, secrets have a habit of always coming out and it isn't just Winnie who has secrets!

This book pulls you in the pretty much the beginning! There are so many themes touched upon and Neale captures that time period and gives it an authentic voice/feel. I wanted to reach in and slap a few of the characters, honestly the best and worst sides of humanity. An emotive ride for sure, I think depending on your background and life experiences you will find some of the storylines resonate more than others yet all you can either relate to or absorb.

I am finding reading quite hard just now, reading is my go time when times are tough and yet just now my concentration is out the window. I think had this been normal times for me I would have gotten through this in one sitting. Neale creates a world of characters that lets you step outside of your own and enter theirs. Horrific sides of humanity and some of the best, a great blend for an absorbing read, 4.5/5 for me this time. As I said this is my first time reading this author, book two in this series is not out nor a date given, I will be very much watching for it. I will absolutely be checking out her other books!

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Monday, 13 September 2021

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

The End of MenThe End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 3 days

Pages - 416

Publisher - Doubleday

Source - Netgalley

Blurb from Goodreads

Set in a world where a virus stalks our male population, The End of Men is an electrifying and unforgettable debut from a remarkable new talent that asks: what would life truly look like without men?

Only men are affected by the virus; only women have the power to save us all.

The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland--a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic--and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien--a women's world.

What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus's consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the male plague; intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal--the loss of husbands and sons--to the political--the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.

In The End of Men, Christina Sweeney-Baird creates an unforgettable tale of loss, resilience and hope.

My Review

I do like a book where we start at the beginning, the plague such as it is, we see the patient in A&E going from flu to at deaths door in under 4 hours. How the doctors review to see what they missed because patients don't deteriorate like that without warning (usually) and the doctor flagging the plague and being ignored.

I liked that you can see how easy something like this could happen and bizarre how she started this before covid kicked off yet you can relate to so much. We flip between characters, families, people dying, losing their loved ones. The governments responses, how people react/respond, it is really dark and dire in some places but also great shows of strength and I love how strong the women become. In a world where men are dropping like flies we need women to step up, quickly train and take the reins.

It took a bit to settle when the story jumped from different people and view points but it was interesting to see such far reach. Couples, the doctor, how the losses impact on relationships and individuals, the route to working on the vaccine. How scary it would be to loose so many specialised trained males and scrambling to get their replacements, women or the little surviving men, up to speed.

It gives you a lot to think about, I know for some it may be too close to the current pandemic but I think it highlights how much worse things could be and insane how there are similarities! 3.5/5 for me this time. It certainly doesn't read like a debut, it is very well rounded, I look forward to this authors next offering.

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