Book Review: Abigale Hall, by Lauren A. Forry

Publisher:   Black and White Publishing

Publication date:  April 2016

Abigale Hall - My Review

Abigale Hall by Lauren Forry - CoverThe narrative of Abigale Hall possesses a progressive foreboding with snatches of nightmares for the inhabitants who are unfortunate enough to be offered employment there.

Notorious to the locals and virtually anonymous to outsiders, Thornycroft, an imposing house with a corridor named Abigale Hall, has been the cause of much concern over the years, and not because the edge of its deep quarry is obscured by fog either.

There’s an oppressive environment which allows all manner of strangeness to thrive; the master with nasty, hacking cough, the housekeeper and her vicious ways, the portrait gallery whose faces sneer at onlookers, and the library devoid of books all signal something isn’t quite right.

Its existence is as yet unknown to two sisters orphaned by the war. They reside with their aunt Bess who tolerates their presence out of duty. One of the sisters, Rebecca, has a few issues and has experienced difficulties since the death of their father. She repetitively counts in times of stress, and you’ll discover why as you read the story. The elder sibling, Eliza, has a boyfriend called Peter and a job at the Palladium, but also skivvies for her ungrateful relative who enjoys her own free time, leaving Rebecca’s care to anyone else so long as it doesn’t involve her. Needless to say when certain circumstances permit and employment is swiftly arranged at Thornycroft, aunt Bess welcomes the benefits it will bring. But the arrangement is not agreeable with everybody…

What follows is a series of mysterious edginess as the sisters’ existing lives are gradually erased. They are to observe obedience with no questions asked. The upheaval signals subtle shifts in Rebecca’s behaviour leaving Eliza feeling isolated with only the rattle of the old walls for company and to contemplate if any one would miss them; their parents are dead, their aunt wishes they were, and Peter has no way of knowing where to locate them if he wanted to – that poor bloke doesn’t know the half of it.

While there’s not an overly complicated storyline I did lose my thread a couple of times as  an eerie division of reality took hold momentarily. This certainly added to the ominous atmosphere presiding over the girls’ fate, but I did find myself back-tracking to confirm my thoughts before continuing once or twice. The second half of the book picked up pace to allow the pieces to fall into place, and it worked up to quite the unexpected crescendo!

Without a doubt Abigale Hall is cloaked with an unnerving surrealness. There’s also the bonus of some terrifically sinister characters to question the motives of, much spittle to let fly from decrepit lips, and many, many bowls of congealed porridge that will remain forever undigested. Yep, I quite liked this one.

Rating:  4/5

(Source: My own copy, purchased for Kindle)

Abigale Hall - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Two orphaned sisters in a house of secrets…

On a foggy evening in 1947, seventeen-year-old Eliza and her troubled little sister Rebecca are banished by their aunt and sent to work at an isolated Welsh mansion. But there are rumours of missing maidservants and a ghost that stalks the deserted halls… Wandering through the mansion’s dusty rooms, Eliza finds blood-spattered books, crumpled photographs and portraits of a mysterious woman – clues to a terrible past that might just become Eliza’s future.

As Eliza unravels a mystery that has endured for decades, Rebecca falls under the spell of cruel housekeeper Mrs Pollard, who will stop at nothing to keep the house’s secrets. But can the sisters uncover the truth and escape back to London before they meet a dreadful fate?

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Abigale Hall - Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Lauren A. Forry was brought up in the woods of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA where her FBI agent father and book-loving mother raised her on a diet of The X-Files and RL Stine. After earning her BA in Cinema Studies from New York University, she moved to London where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. There she was awarded the Faber and Faber Creative Writing MA Prize for her dissertation, which would become her debut novel, Abigale Hall. Her short stories have since appeared in multiple sci-fi and horror anthologies. She currently resides in the woods.

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Book Review: Trust me I Lie, by Louise Marley

Publication date: 20th June 2016

Trust Me I Lie - My Review

Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley - CoverFirst things first, that cover looks all lovely and innocent, doesn’t it? Well that’s the first deceit right there, as beneath it lies a twisty little bleeder of a plot that’s constantly trying to evade you! There are so many intricacies to it that are loosely based on what is perceived to be the truth, what is proven fact (ha! You think?!), and what you can only put down to a vague tingly gut feeling. How to keep up with the constant shifting sands when practically every character is hiding something is quite something!

In the present day and in the first few pages an unlikely detective, Ben (Benedict) Taylor, is off duty, bombing down the lane to his cottage and casually seething about his domestic situation, when he hits a pedestrian standing in the middle of the road.

The unlucky victim, who you would expect should be in a county air ambulance right now, gets up and gives him more grief than his ex-wife. Even on this first encounter he knows he’s being played. The lies are already pouring from this regular little Pinnochio who calls herself Milla Graham, yet he invites her back to his home to get cleaned up. He predicted she’d disappear during the night, but grows increasingly concerned when she starts unintentionally cropping up at various intervals during his line of work.

We soon discover that Milla is not who she claims to be. In fact, her identity has already been claimed by two people so far 1) by a child who perished in a blaze some eighteen years ago at the residence of the Grahams, a wealthy publishing family and 2) by a corpse that was recently found in one of the Graham’s derelict properties along with the personal effects of, you guessed it, Camila Graham. Considering the Graham family publish fairy tales it’s apt that this story just gets curiouser and curiouser…

Despite wearing their best stiff upper lip and living in their very own ‘Graham bubble’, the family feign a reluctant interest in this Milla character and soon their twisted history is unveiled, along with a few of their odd ball traits. All of them engage in some pretty devilish and sinister behaviour until I wasn’t sure which one of THEM was telling porkies either!

Milla keeps her agenda close to her chest. I seriously couldn’t work out the riddle of whether she telling the truth or if she was simply a delusional con-artist working the crowd gathering around her. Her random antics certainly keep you on your toes wondering whether anyone can be trusted. All I can say is that everyone has a motive for something, and nothing is quite what it seems!

Heck, even the police start to appear decidedly dodgy after a while. Despite leading a predictably quiet life Ben Taylor has a few secrets of his own that he’d rather forget relating to his own shady family background, and breathing down his neck are his colleagues who are either deliberately trying to trip him up, or find his new selective policing routine annoying, as Milla Graham is usually the cause of it. The difficulty is that he’s not doing himself any favours professionally.

There’s some cracking banter between ALL of the characters allowing their utterly wonderful and equally wacky personalities to shine through. Sometimes their affronted thought processes are written in italics right before they chose to share a politer verbal response in the dialogue.

Trust me I Lie invites you through a series of doors that are opened just a crack, only to be snatched shut before you can step inside. It creates the most expertly deceitful read where the truth may be a very dangerous thing. If you’re looking for something different on the suspense and twistiness scale, with a sprinkle of amusement in just the right places, then I’d seriously recommend giving this a download.

Rating: 4.5/5

(My thanks to the author for kindly providing a digital copy of her book in exchange for an unbiased review, with my sincere thanks.)

Trust Me I Lie - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Author)

When Milla Graham arrives in the picture-perfect village of Buckley she tells everyone she’s investigating the murder of her mother, who died eighteen years ago. But there’s already one Milla Graham buried in the churchyard and another about to be found dead in the derelict family mansion.

Obviously she’s lying.

Detective Inspector Ben Taylor has no life outside the police force. Even his own colleagues think he’s a boring stick-in-the-mud. But now he’s met Milla and his safe, comfortable life has been turned upside down. She’s crashed his car, emptied his wallet and is about to get him fired.

He knows she’s a liar because she cheerfully told him so.

Unless she’s lying about that too …

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Trust Me I Lie - Author Profile

(Courtesy of Author)

Louise Marley Author Photo

Louise Marley writes murder mysteries and romantic comedies. She lives in Wales, surrounded by fields of sheep, and has a beautiful view of Snowdon from her window.

Her first published novel was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, which was a finalist in Poolbeg’s ‘Write a Bestseller’ competition. She has also written articles for the Irish press and short stories for UK women’s magazines such as Take a Break and My Weekly.

Her latest novel is Trust Me I Lie.

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Book Review: The Insect Farm, by Stuart Prebble

Publisher: Alma Books   |   Publication date:  15th March 2015

The Insect Farm My Review

The Insect Farm Kindle CoverConsidering I finished this book in just a few hours you can safely say I was absorbed by the McGuires’ story. It’s fascinatingly engineered, although I would say it’s more of an intriguing read than a thrilling one.

You will learn of the ending at the beginning. Yes, that’s right. The prologue states that the authorities have made a rather grim discovery on an allotment, a thought that hangs in the air with creeping suspense. This is the driving force throughout, as nothing is revealed until the bitter end and even then it’s not handed to you on a plate.

It’s up to Jonathan McGuire to narrate his family’s story. Only by traveling full circle through their lives until you revisit the gruesome destination again will you have an understanding of that initial opening scene.

Jonathan candidly shares the routines of his life and the relationship with his older brother, Roger, who has learning difficulties. To occupy Roger’s time their parents invest in an ant farm. The introduction of bug life to the garden shed leads to more and more exotic species arriving in the post to quench the thirst of this new hobby. Roger thrives on his new obsession for all things creepy-crawly, observing the behaviour of these creations in their human-controlled environment of which he is in sole charge. The topic of his insect farm allows Roger a rare time to shine, as he can hold court with complete strangers about environments and life cycles. Yet when he is away from The Insect Farm he retreats from the world again, back into a routine of marmite on toast before he sees his mate Terry on the bus for their daily art and craft activities.

While Roger is consumed by his brave new world, Jonathan leaves for Newcastle University. He gets married to Harriet and life seems good. That is, until his parents perish in a house fire and the authorities are unable to discover the cause of the blaze.

As Roger is now alone, Jonathan voluntarily returns from University leaving his wife to continue her studies, ever supportive of his new role as sole carer for his brother. The couple continue to have a long distance relationship but an unsettling jealousy, fuelled by the revelation of a noxious secret, risks upsetting the harmonious balance they all enjoy.

The story stealthily explores the unpredictable waves that can knock life off course. It’s a kind of fly-on-the-wall documentary of a close family unit occupying their own unique habitat, not dissimilar to the observations of an insect farm. The only difference being was Roger could intervene to control the residents of his world when they became unruly. He could easily rehouse, restock, and restore the equilibrium. If only life could be as simple as that…

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to Alma Books for the copy of this book, which I was lucky enough to win in a generous giveaway they ran.)

The Insect Farm Draft Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A cleverly plotted mystery of love, jealousy and suspense, Stuart Prebble’s eagerly awaited new novel – The Insect Farm – will linger long in the mind of its readers. Brothers Jonathan and Roger Maguire each has an obsession. For Jonathan, it is his beautiful and talented girlfriend Harriet. For Roger, it is the elaborate universe he has constructed in a shed in their parents’ garden, populated by millions of tiny insects. But Roger lives in an impenetrable world of his own and, after the mysterious death of their parents, his brother Jonathan is forced to give up his studies to take care of him. This obligation forces Jonathan to live apart from Harriet — further fuelling his already jealous nature.

Their lives are abruptly shattered by a sudden and violent death, and Jonathan is drawn into a cat-and-mouse game with the police. Does Roger know more than he is letting on? A cleverly plotted mystery with a shock ending, The Insect Farm — Stuart Prebble’s awaited new novel — will linger long in the mind of its readers.

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The Insect Farm Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Stuart Prebble is a former television executive and CEO of the UK television network ITV. “The Insect Farm” is his first novel to be published in the United States. He is currently a producer and director at StoryVault Films. He lives in London.

THE INSECT FARM won the Polarlens prize for crime fiction, awarded by the jury in Lens, Pas-de-Calais.

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Book Review: Beneath The Surface, by Heidi Perks

Publisher: Red Door Books   |   Publication date: 24th March 2016

Beneath the Surface my review

Beneath the Surface

Beneath The Surface plays its cards incredibly close to its chest as it poses disastrous dilemmas for one family under the microscope.

Step into the shoes of a seventeen year old girl with a whole lot to say for herself, who left the house one morning only to return to an empty one. Her mother and her two year old sisters weren’t home, and as time went on it appeared they had no intention of ever coming back.

Unfortunately, this stuff of nightmares happened to Abigail. At first she didn’t could quite understand the bizarre situation she found herself in. She knew she had a difficult relationship with her mother, but surely this was a punishment too far? Surely she couldn’t hate her so much to up and leave without telling her?

When realism finally kicked in Abigail called the authorities and reported her family missing.  The only assistance she received was from her narcissistic grandmother who arrived on the scene to take control, just like she with everything else.

Her future became dominated by that day. As a young girl without stability or guidance and only her grandmother throwing money at her, she was condemned to make one bad decision after another. Over the course of fourteen years Abi carried the burden for the loss of those she cared for. She couldn’t even tell all of the facts to her husband, Adam, placing their own relationship under a significant strain.

As she struggles to piece together the puzzle of her life her therapist, Maggie, suggests she put pen to paper and vent her emotions by writing a letter to Adam. This may bring clarity to her life, even though both he and her family are not currently part of it.  The letter carefully reveals tiny snippets of Abi’s past and increases the suspense at a perfect pace. You just can’t help being intrigued as to what on earth transpired, compelling you to read on!

The remaining story is told from scenes that are happening in an obscure seaside village, where there’s a family facing a few trials of their own and the suspense is steadily rising. But more significantly there’s an elaborate lie that’s so huge it’ll smack you right between the eyes – heck, my reader radar didn’t see that one coming! There were a few moments that left me, well, pretty gobsmacked if I’m honest!

The entire story revolves around the choices we make and how they affect others, even if we can’t see it at the time.  With unimaginable spite emanating from a matriarchal shrew, the placating reactions of those tip-toeing around her, and the ignorance toward the subtle hints of mental illness, the drama is SO well played.  The constant state of wondering whether Abi will ever find the answers she’s looking for keeps the tremendous tension simmering throughout. Yep, it’s very well played indeed.

Rating: 4.5/5

(Huge thanks to the author for generously providing a digital copy of her book for review.)

Beneath the Surface book summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

I donʼt know where you are…
I donʼt know what Iʼve done…

Teenager Abigail Ryder is devastated when she gets home from school to find her family gone.

Nothing makes sense. Things are missing from the house and her stepsistersʼ room is completely empty. But the police think sheʼs trouble, and when grandmother Eleanor tells her to forget them all and move on, there’s no choice other than face the future – alone.

Fourteen years on, Abi and Adam are a happy couple on the verge of parenthood. But when the past comes back to haunt Abi, the only way forward is to go back and uncover the truth – and reveal the dreadful secrets a mother has been hiding all these years.

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Beneath the Surface author profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK / Photo used with author’s permission)

Heidi Perks PolaroidHeidi Perks was born in 1973. She lives by the sea in Bournemouth with her husband and two children.

Heidi graduated from Bournemouth University in 1997 with a BA (Hons) in Retail Management, and then enjoyed a career in Marketing before leaving in 2012 to focus on both bringing up her family and writing.

Heidi successfully applied for a place on the inaugural Curtis Brown Creative online Novel Writing Course and after that dedicated her time to completing her first novel, Beneath The Surface.

She has a huge interest in what makes people tick and loves to write about family relationships, especially where some of the characters are slightly dysfunctional.

Heidi is now writing her second novel.

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Book Review: After The Crash, by Michel Bussi

Publisher: WN Books  |  Publication date: 12th March 2015  |  Edition: Hardback (Review copy) – Now out in paperback: 27th August 2015

“The Airbus 5403, travelling from Istanbul to Paris, crashed into Mont Terri, on the Franco-Swiss border, last night. Of the 169 passengers and flight crew aboard, 168 were killed upon impact or perished in the flames. The sole survivor was a baby, three months old, thrown from the plane when it collided with the mountainside, before the cabin was consumed by fire…”

After The Crash My Review

After The Crash by Michel BussiWith that dragonfly suspiciously gracing the cover this book not only looks sinister, it IS sinister. 

Quite simply, After The Crash embraces tension and suspense with relish. It latched onto me from the off and was utterly, utterly magnificent until the very end. This is a story of unimaginable loss, a desperate bond of love and the lengths people are prepared to go to for their own selfish gain irrespective of the consequences.

In 1980, a baby’s identity is questioned as it is claimed by two families following an aeroplane crash, in which there were no other survivors. For a three month old child to be thrown from the fuselage and live was nothing short of a miracle, and this is how it was reported in the local media at the time: “The Miracle of Mount Terrible”. The journalists manipulated the location of Mont Terri where the collision happened to create a more sensational headline for a tragedy that no one could ever forget anyway.

There were two babies aboard the fatal flight: Lyse-Rose de Carville and Emilie Vitral. Only one child was unharmed. What happened next is a battle of the grandparents; they had each lost their children to the crash and could not face losing a grandchild too. Polar opposites is an understatement: The Vitrals were down to earth yet struggling for money, the de Carvilles had far too much of it, not really giving a damn about anyone else. As their swords are drawn, we get to see their true colours.

Regardless of what these couples believe in their hearts, it was a judge who would award custody of the child to its guardians, based on the evidence of the day. But without DNA matching at the time, how can anyone guarantee the right decision will be made? No one would ever know the truth until much, much later.

A Private Detective, Crudule Grand-Duc, had been hired to work the case from the beginning and was instructed to leave no stone unturned. The PI had compiled a journal of his thoughts and findings covering the gruelling, eighteen year old investigation into the child’s true identity. After drawing a blank, he wrote the last words he was ever planning to pen in true showmanship style (whoever read the journal would be suitable impressed by it) and his next step was to commit suicide to close the chapter on this whole ordeal. That was until he spots something on his desk in his final moments, which has it’s literally been staring him in the face all those years.

The dossier finds its way into the grown child’s hands on her eighteenth birthday, as that was Grand-Duc’s intention. A couple of days later a body is discovered. A shot had been fired from his gun, but clearly it wasn’t suicide. Yet Grand-Duc continues to communicate with us throughout the duration of the book, as passages of his journal are narrated to us via the reader of it at the time.

An abundance of doubt that overshadowed a young life continues to plague her still. Pure desperation mounts as the truth leads to consequences that no one could have predicted. After learning of the contents of the journal piece by piece I too had to brace myself some seriously wicked wrong-doings until I wasn’t sure of anyone’s motives!

With just enough bait to taunt you at the end of each chapter you will be compelled to follow this incredible story where the past converges with present and an almighty revelation is waiting.

Now, it seems there are some mixed reviews surrounding this book.  For pure entertainment value I found it hugely rewarding, plus there’s a few characters you’re not going to forget in a hurry (imagine Wednesday Adams in adult form for one). Personally, I loved it.

Rating: 5/5

(My sincere thanks to the publisher and Rebecca Grey for providing a hardback copy of this magnificent book for review. It’s truly appreciated.)

After The Crash Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘Riveting! Bussi spins psychological suspense at its finest with this consuming tale of one child, two families, and the dark secrets that define us all. Clear your schedule; this book is worth it!’ Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of Crash & Burn and Find Her

On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?

Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Crédule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl’s hands. But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything – then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone . . .

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BOOK TOUR + REVIEW: Follow You Home, By Mark Edwards

follow_you_home-blogtour

Publisher: Thomas Mercer  |  Publication date: 30th June 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (review copy)

Follow You Home is an intense mind-messing thriller with attitude – one so compelling and oh, so dark.

Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

What goes on in the woods, stays in the woods. Not if it ‘Follows You Home’, by Mark Edwards.

It lulls you into a false sense of security before launching unexpected twists at you; first you’re paddling on the edge, then you’re wading, and the farther in you go you realise just how incredibly well plotted (and sub plotted) it is.

So, if you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise – and there’s an understatement, if ever there was one.

Daniel Sullivan and Laura Mackenzie. A fairly unremarkable couple, making plans to get married, start a family. They decided to throw caution to the wind and embark on a ‘Grand Tour’ before they settle down. And it’s all mapped out. Travelling through Europe, France, Spain, Italy, Greece…finally to Russia, and then, aaah, home-sweet-home.

They’ve been skipping about like little lambs until they reach Romania by train, when their journey is terrifyingly interrupted. After their hideous experience they travel home to London as quickly as the authorities will let them. But the trauma of the trip proves too great a strain to simply allow them settle back into their routine lives. Normality is now something that other people encounter.

As the book blurb states, they vow never to talk about ‘the woods’ with anyone, and this is where Mark Edwards succeeds in giving new definition to the phrase ‘lingering suspense’. He cruelly taunts you with little snippets of the couple’s time abroad, carefully teasing out the truth until the finale. My instinct had been clinging to the wrong scent due to the sheer number of vultures circling the scene.

I hesitate to use the term ‘psychological thriller’, as it just won’t cut it on this occasion. That would be categorising this book in the same league as many, many others. No, I couldn’t do that. This is ‘look-over-your-shoulder-whilst-reading’ worthy.

Twisted? Certainly.  Disturbing? Absolutely.  Why, you ask?  Well, what goes on in the woods, stays in the woods…or does it?  Sometimes, it just might Follow You Home.

~ WICKEDLY RECOMMENDED ~

Rating: 5/5

(My sincere thanks to both the author, Mark Edwards, and our tour organiser, Liz Barnsley, for THE most excellent review copy and allowing me to be part of this tour x)


Author Links Mark Edwards

Photo Mark Earthy www.earthyphotography.co.uk This image is protected by Copyright

Twitter: You can follow the author on Twitter (not home): @mredwards

Website: Want to know more about Mark Edwards?  Visit his website

Where to buy: Would you like to purchase Follow You Home?  Buy, my pretties, buy:  Amazon UK


 Book Summary Mark Edwards

(Extract taken from Amazon UK)

The page-turning psychological thriller from the author of #1 bestsellers The Magpies and Because She Loves Me.

It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down. But after a perfect start, an encounter with a young couple on a night train forces Daniel and Laura to cut their dream trip short and flee home.

Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow never to talk about what happened that night. But as they try to fit into their old lives again, they realise they are in terrible danger—and that their nightmare is just beginning…