#NGEW2019, Women's Fiction-Interests

A Life of Their Own by Pauline Tait

I am a huge fan of Pauline Tait’s series for children, The Fairy in the Kettle, and I could not wait to read her first “adult” book, A Life of Their Own.

Kate is on the run from an abusive husband. She and her two kids are quietly leaving him and moving across the country to place she had only dreamed of – Colorado. She has no plan, no idea how they will survive but she knows she has to get herself and the kids away from the abuse. She arrives at a guest home run by an older couple who treats them as family instead of guests. It is the first sign of kindness in a very long time for Kate. She also runs into an old flame who never stopped loving her. Soon, she is working for him and living on his ranch. But will Kate ever truly get over the abuse and the scars it has left on her.

A Life of Their Own is a sweet, very short book about hope and the healing power of love. I enjoyed reading it and the story itself kept my attention until the end. However, there were a few concerns that I had. The language is very dated. If this had been a piece of historical fiction or set in a different country other than the US, I might have understood. But Americans no longer speak in this stilted, very formal style of English. For example, I cannot remember the last time – if ever – a mother has referred to her kids as children. They’re kids as in “hey kids, let’s go” not “children we must leave.” There were multiple examples of British phrases used that are not used in the US. I had to look up what a “fleece” was because the mother bought two of them for the kids. (It’s a type of jacket) and, while I know what “tuck in” means in the UK, if you told an American sitting at a table to “tuck in,” they would get up and go to bed. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE British writers but if a book is going to be set in the US then it would be great if the author knew a bit more about American lifestyles and slang.

The bottom line is that A Life of Their Own is very sweet romance and if you can turn off that inner questioning voice, you will enjoy it. I did enjoy it. I just saw the flaws as well.

I received my copy of A Life of Their Own from #Netgalley

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#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Noir, Crime and Dark Endeavors, Thriller

The Woman in the Park @teresasorkin @tullanh

A married woman meets a handsome stranger – In The Park. When the handsome stranger’s wife turns up dead, the only suspect is the married woman….

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The Woman in the Park is the exciting debut from the writing pair Teresa Sorkin and Tullan Holmqvist. A woman, Sarah Rock, is determined that her husband is having an affair with his young associate. Sarah, who has been under care for depression in the past, has weekly or twice weekly sessions with her psychologist through which we, the reader, learn more about Sarah, her family, her loneliness after her children leave for boarding school and, quite frankly, this appeared to be more of sad tale about mid-life rather than a suspenseful mystery. When Sarah meets Laurence in the park, however, things begin to change. Her life, formerly heartbreaking, appears to be filled with new life and energy – until the police show up at her door. There has been a murder in the park, a woman, and Sarah is their primary suspect. As Sarah’s world unravels, we go on a desperate journey with her to discover the truth, if the truth is capable of being found.

The Woman in the Park is a very short, extremely taut, marvelously written story that had me enthralled from beginning to the end. I literally read it in one afternoon never stopping once! While we know that Sarah is an unreliable narrator, the last section of the book is so surprising, so amazing that I never suspected until the very end. I was speechless!! Yes, The Woman in the Park really is that good!

Have you watched or do you remember The Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis when, at the very end, you sit there with your mouth hanging open and your head shaking in disbelief? That is exactly what I felt like at the end of The Woman in the Park. If you haven’t see that movie – you need to. If you haven’t read The Woman in the Park, you absolutely must! If this is their debut, I cannot wait to see all of the great books that will come from this writing pair!

Thank you #Edelweiss, the authors and @BeaufortBooks for my copy of this amazing book!

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Crime, Dectective, Fiction, TBR Tuesdays

#TwoforTuesday #TheRunaway #OneLittleSecret

Riveting and captivating mysteries is the genre to which I always find myself returning. The Runaway by Ali Harper and One Little Secret by Cate Holahan are two marvelous books that exemplify this genre so well.

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The Runway is the second book in a series revolving around two young, female private investigators who run an agency specifically searching for missing persons. The gals from No Stone Unturned have, so far, only has solved one case but soon they find themselves with two complicated jobs – a missing boyfriend and a cold case involving a woman who never was identified. Each of these cases leads the women into areas they never have gone before, from flats for the extremely wealthy and well-known, to freestyle “raves” in open fields. As the evidence begins to mount, they soon discover that neither case is at all what it appeared to be and that discovery can, and does, lead to dangerous conclusions.

The Runaway is very “in the now” book. This is not your stodgy old mystery novel but rather a very current, realistic one with characters that are flawed, young and extremely capable. The vernacular is edgy, the characters are young and feisty as hell. You know I love books with strong female leads and Jo and Lee are about as strong and urbane as they come.

“Women aren’t taught to fight; they aren’t taught to stand their ground. Women are taught…. to run.”

These women do NOT run, they are not afraid and they definitely stand their ground. I loved them! I loved the book! While this is the second in the series, it reads as a stand alone quite well. I read it before I read the first in the series and, while I understand more about the women, I never felt lost while reading The Runaway. If you like mysteries with strong female leads the I cannot recommend The Runaway highly enough!

ONE LITTLE SECRET by Cate Holahan

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Over the summer I fell into a reading slump. I was behind in everything – reading, reviewing, commenting – and I truly felt as though I needed to throw in the towel as a blogger and reviewer. And then I read One Little Secret. It completely turned everything around for me! I read the entire book within hours and immediately went on a search for all of Cate Holahan’s books. I downloaded them and read them all as well. I was a fan! I was also out of my slump. Do I need to say more!?

Fine. One Little Secret is a marvelous “locked-room mystery.” Susan wanted nothing more than a peaceful get-away at the beach. She invited a few other couples to join her and her husband at a beach house rental. Susan thought it would be a dream vacation for them, a time of fun and games and a way to reconnect with one another. She thought wrong – deadly wrong. A night of drinking leads to diminished inhibitions, secrets are revealed and the next morning one of them is found dead on the beach. Who wanted this person dead and why, more importantly how?

One Little Secret is well written, suspenseful to the end and is one of the best “locked room” mysteries I’ve read in a while. It very easily could have slipped into campy but the craftily worded plot never allows it to go there. While many have called this a “summer beach read” because it set at a holiday house at the beach, this is a mystery that will be a good read any time of the year. When you’re finished with this one, go find Holahan’s other books. You will enjoy them as well!

Thank you #Netgalley, @CrookedLaneBooks, and @HarperImpulseandKillerReads for my copy of these terrific books.

 

Book Reviews, Children's Reads, Fiction, Sunday Morning for Kids

Sunday Morning for the Kids #TheFairyin the KettleGetsMagical and #TheArtistWhoLovedCats #MothersDaywithSnowmanPaul

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It’s Sunday, and here at Macsbooks that can only mean one thing – Children’s Books! I have greatly missed posting about all of the marvelous children’s books that have been published. My inner child loves reading them almost as much as kids do! This week I have three marvelous books to share with you!

THE ARTIST WHO LOVED CATS: The Inspiring Tale of Theophile Alexandre Steinlen by Susan Schaefer Bernardo, illustrations by Coutenay Fletcher

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I’m sure we’re all familiar with the famous painting Le Chat Noir, the black cat from Paris, but few know who the artist is behind the painting: Theophile Alexandre Steinlen. The Artist Who Loved Cats is the delightful story of this man and his love of cats. The story line is set in an antiquities shop in Paris. Antoinette sees something in the window that catches her and, once inside, meets the proprietor who knows the stories behind each and every object in the store. Through beautiful, rhythmic prose, he begins to tell her of the man who loved cats – Steinlen. Steinlen was in Paris in the 1800s to study fabric and design. He created hundreds of illustrations about the industry but he always came back to painting what he loved most: cats. In this delightful tale, children not only learn about this incredible illustrator/artist, but they will be fascinated by the details of Paris in the height of the artisan age, the golden age of Paris.

The Artist Who Loved Cats is wonderfully written and the illustration are simply stunning. I can only hope that this is the beginning of series featuring more artists from this era. I think kids – as well as adults – would be thrilled by it. I have to share my favorite quote from the book with you because it’s actually one that I live by here in my Victorian home: “Each thing has a past, each place has a history.” Isn’t that just so incredibly true? I do hope you will read this marvelous book and share it far and wide with the children in your lives.

THE FAIRY IN THE KETTLE GETS MAGICAL by Pauline Tait

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If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time then you know that one of my favorite series is The Fairy in the Kettle. I became enamored with the fairy kingdom of Fairy Glen and with Lenora, the adorable and spunky fairy who lives in a kettle. The Fairy in the Kettle Gets Magical, by Pauline Tait, is the latest addition to the series.

The fairies of Willow Glen are horrified to discover that the fairy dust of Willow Glen is becoming scarce. Unsure of what to do, they decide to leave the glen in search of more magic. Their adventures are perilousย  and the fairies find that the only way to succeed in their mission is to work together. As always, the story is both entertaining as well as subtly adding a moral within, a key to any good, clever children’s book. It is, however, the illustrations that are most captivating. They are striking watercolors that will capture the imagination and attention of children of all ages. While the books are geared toward ages 4-8, I suspect younger children will love the rhythm and colors of the story if it is read to them. It is gorgeous book that would make a great addition to any library.

MOTHERS DAY WITH SNOWMAN PAUL by Yossi Lapid

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A few months ago, I had the pleasure of being gifted a beautiful book for a new series, Yara’s Rain Forest. You can read my review HERE.ย  The author, Yossi Lapid, is well known for his Snowman Paul series that is a favorite of children all over the world. In May (!) I was asked to read Mother’s Day with Snowman Paul but, you know, life interrupted my blogging and I was unable to post a review until now which is a shame because it is one fantastic children’s book!

The story is simply told, beautifully illustrated but carries a far deeper message than just “mother’s day.” Snowman Paul explores the concept of mothers of all types, especially Mother Earth. It is an amazing tribute to mothers – human, animal and environmental. I absolutely loved this and, more importantly, so did all of the children I have shared it with. The direction of Lapid’s books toward environmental education is one that I find sorely lacking in children’s books today. When my kids were younger that is all that they read and they have grown to be acutely aware of the destruction we are causing the planet, so much so, that my daughter is now with the US State Department in their climate office and was one of the authors of the Paris Agreement. This is due, in part, to the love of our earth that she received from books just like Lapid’s. I want this love of nature, our earth, our environment for all children which is why this book and the Rain Forest series are so very dear to me and I hope they will be to you and your family as well. I would give all of Lapid’s books TEN STARS if I had five more available to me!

Many thanks to #Netgalley, #InnerFlowerChildBooks, #SilverWoodBooks,the authors, and especially to Yossi Lapid for allowing me to read these beautiful books.


		
#historical fiction, #NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Drama-Dysfunctional Families, Fiction, Recent Reads, Rapid Reviews, Thriller

Saturday Shorts: #Bethlehem #SixthWickedChild#HerSistersSecret

Recent and Rapid

In my attempt to catch up on all of the reviews I missed while out sick (months ago, I’m good now) I’m writing some rather brief reviews of the books I read/listened to while away. Okay, they’re brief in comparison to what I normally write, recognizing that for some, they still are full reviews.

BETHLEHEM by Karen Kelly

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Honestly, I would love to have that cover in a frame in my Victorian house. I think it’s gorgeous! That also sums up my thoughts about the book – beautiful! As you know, this is the favorite era in US history – the Gilded Age as industry and new inventions are just beginning to flourish but the mass corruption hasn’t quite taken hold. The novel, however, has a dual timeline as it spans the multi-generational story of a family in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the second of which is the 1960s. Bethlehem is a tale of family secrets, heartbreak, survival and, most of all, love. Kelly has created characters that truly represent a generation as a whole and families in general. Most of all, it is a story of forgiveness and is one from which I think many readers and their families might benefit.

Bethlehem is shelved as “historical fiction,” and it is that but so much more. I’ve read where others have suggested that it be classified solely as “women’s fiction,” but that is selling the book short. Not every historical novel has to deal with major, monumental events in history, nor should they. It is the basic human story that has to be told or else we, as a people, tend to gloss over our past. Families are history. Every day mundane tasks are history. It is how we learn from the past so that we may do better in the future and to that end, Kelly has given us a marvelous example, a wonderful read. This is a must-own book for my shelves and I hope it will be a “must-read” for each of you.

THE SIXTH WICKED CHILD by J.D.Barker

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The Sixth Wicked Child is the action packed conclusion to JD Barker’s 4MK trilogy. If you have not read The Fourth Monkey and The Fifth to Die, do not read this one until you have done so. There is absolutely no way to fully understand the plot or the characters without reading the entire series. Unfortunately, I wish I had stopped at The Fourth Monkey. I thought it was one of the best books I ever had read. Not just thriller or horror or fiction, but one of the best in general. The characters were witting, biting, mysterious and thrilling. I loved the dialogue, the intelligence that went into the writing. Simply stated, I loved The Fourth Monkey! I was sorely disappointed with The Fifth to Die and, had The Sixth Wicked Child not been the conclusion, I would have passed on it entirely. The wit, the marvelous dialogue, the humor and the intellect were missing from the second and third installments.

In The Sixth Wicked Child, we pick up exactly at the cliffhanger of the second book. As it progresses we – and they – are presented with “facts” that show both Detective Porter and Anson Bishop as the possible serial killer. In addition, the girls who were rescued at the end of The Fifth to Die were injected with what is believed to be deadly contagion. Half of Porter’s team is in lock-down at the hospital and the other half, including the FBI, are on a manhunt for Porter. If this sounds confusing and conflicting that is because it is! There was so much information stuffed into this novel and so many questions to be answered that adding the contagion seemed like too many pieces of pie after a huge holiday meal. By the end of the book, I just wanted it to end, to give me the answers I needed to feel satisfied with the series, but no, it just kept going. The ending finally came with a “surprising twist!” Two surprises actually. Both of which were so incredibly unbelievable that I just shook my head in sadness. All that I had come to know and love about J.D.Barker’s writing was undone by the last chapters of the book. I detest twists that you know are just there for shock purposes. I also detest vigilante justice. That’s all I will say. If you like this series then I know you’ll read the conclusion. If you haven’t read the series – stop after the first. You will be glad you did.

HER SISTER’S SECRET by E.V. Seymour

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Her Sister’s Secret by E.V.Seymour begins with a woman killed in a car crash. We read her emotions, thoughts, fears and anguish as the car careens into another. We suspect, and eventually so do the police, that this was no accident and the driver intentionally killed herself via the fatal crash. But that is just the beginning to the twists, secrets and questions that we encounter within.

There are three Napier siblings – one is perfect and adored, one struggles to live up the image her sister has set while never quite achieving that goal in the eyes of their parents. The third doesn’t even try to meet the parental expectations and is now a recovering addict. When the perfect sibling dies in this car crash, one sibling withdraws back into their addiction and the other, Molly, goes on a quest to learn the truth. Why would her perfect sister with a perfect husband and perfect life kill herself – and did she intentionally attempt to kill the other driver as well? As Molly searches for the truth, she discovers more questions and secrets than anyone, including herself, are prepared to answer.

Everything about Her Sister’s Secret was interesting: the characters were complex, the writing was exceptional and the plot was riviting. There were plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing how the ending would play out. I had my own suspicions, but the nuances of the story line kept me intrigued to the very end. This is exactly how thrillers and suspense should be written. If you haven’t picked up Her Sister’s Secret yet, then I highly encourage you to do so.

And those are my “shorts for Saturday.” Have you read these three, one or all? What did you think about them? Let me know. As always, I’m appreciative to #Netgalley for my copies of these books and to @StMartinsPress and @HarperImpulse as well as to the authors who make it all possible. Happy Reading!

 

#historical fiction, Fiction, Recent Reads, Rapid Reviews, Thriller

RecentReads and RapidReviews

Recent and Rapidย I have two quick reviews for you today. Let me know if you’ve read them and what you thought about them.

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I actually read two books within a week of each other involving an “escape room” and I could have sworn that I reviewed both. Wrong. Luckily, the review today is for the one that I enjoyed most: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin.

The setting is Wall Street in a brokerage firm that either is everyone’s worst nightmare working environment or is dead-on regarding the cut throat nature of Wall Street. The book is told in present day and through flashbacks of one its workers, Sara, who was a brilliant recent graduate in need of a break. When she is hired at Stanhope and Sons, she believes that all of her dreams have been fulfilled and her problems are over. She could not have been more wrong. In the present, four fellow workers of Sara’s – the most successful team at Stanhope – are summoned to a late night meeting in what appears to be an abandoned building. After entering the elevator, the four discover that they are part of an escape room puzzle that goes horribly and terrifyingly wrong. As the team solves more of the puzzles’ clues, they realize that it is not a game, unless it’s a game to the death.

There were parts of the story line that were questionable and took a little suspension of belief, however, I absolutely loved this book. The characters are developed so well and so thoroughly that I despised each of the four in the elevator. By the end of the book, I was actually hoping they all would die. Seriously. They are bad people. At the same time, the background story of Sara was fascinating and realistically well told. I read this one in one night without stopping. If you like thrilling thrillers and despicable characters, then this is a must-read book for you!

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Laura Lippman is a “hit or miss” author for me, more often hit than miss. Lady in the Lake demonstrates why I keep coming back to her work. It is a stellar mystery set in the perfect era. She manages to capture the frustration of women in the 1960s, the racial tension of then and now and lays out an incredible mystery that keeps readers guessing until the very end. That she does all of this with a very likeable and witty character is “icing on the cake.”

Lady in the Lake is actually inspired by a true story of the unsolved murder of Shirley Parker in Baltimore. Although that case remains unsolved, Lippman’s indomitable character, Maddie, is on a mission to prove that she has what it takes to be an ace reporter and solve the mysterious death of Cleo aka The Woman in the Lake. The story is told from multiple points of view but Lippman seamlessly transitions through each of them as she makes each of their voices clear and understood. Lippman’s past as a reporter shows in her astute descriptions of the newsroom. Add to that the nuances of racial tension that was simmering throughout America at this time and you have a winner of book. To say that this was one of my favorite books of the summer is an understatement. I loved the characters, the era and the writing immensely.

Thank you to the publishers, #Netgalley, #MeganGoldin and #LauraLippman for my copies of #LadyintheLake and #TheEscapeRoom.

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Fiction, Tags and Challenges, Thriller

29 Seconds @tmlogan

I fell in love with TM Logan after reading “Lies,” and now I’m absolutely addicted to his writing! 29 Seconds is more than a thriller, it is a story about choices. If you could make one person disappear without a trace forever, would you do it? That is the choice that Sarah has after rescuing a young girl from an abductor. Sarah has been harassed by her boss for years, as have other women. Now she has a chance to do something about “the monster,” but will she be able to make the call.

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The writing was gripping, the story line believable and the twist was perfect – not melodramatic and totally unforeseeable. I absolutely love 20 Seconds and highly recommend it to lovers of women’s fiction, suspense and thrillers.

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Horror

Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly

She didnโ€™t run from her dark past. She moved in with it…

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Theme Music was one of the most hauntingly bizarre tales that I’ve read in a very long time. There is a paranormal element to it that adds to the horror aspect of the story but the story line itself is macabre enough to frighten off those with weak constitutions. Never-the-less, I couldn’t put this book down!

Dixie was the sole survivor of a family massacre that occurred when she was two. The official story is that her father murdered the family with an axe before slitting his own throat, leaving only Dixie alive in her high chair. Dixie, who was raised by her aunt and uncle, has grown up with the stigma that surrounded her family as a result; so when the house – THE house – is put on the market, Dixie decides to buy it and move in. Not only that, but she gathers all of the old furniture and belongings that have been in storage and creates the house as near to the original as possible. Talk about a bit “off,” or perhaps just slightly obsessed. Of course, once inside the house, all hell breaks loose for Dixie. The problem for the reader is that we never are clear if Dixie is as crazy as her father allegedly was or if there is more to the story that Dixie – or us – even suspect.

Admittedly the story was brilliant until the midway point and then I found myself hurriedly reading through to the end to find out what was going on with the characters – all of them. I think there could have been a bit more editing, especially toward the end of the story. However, even with that in mind, Theme Music is a terrific book, frightening, suspenseful and definitely horrifying.

Thanks to #Edelweiss, the author and #PenguinPublishingGroup #Dutton for my copy of this book.

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Fiction, Noir, Crime and Dark Endeavors, Tags and Challenges, Thriller

Two for Thursday? The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchinson

I know, I know… it’s supposed to be Two for Tuesday but since I’m so behind I have to keep going with these reviews and I definitely didn’t want to forget this one by one of my favorite authors: the final installment in the Collector Series by Dot Hutchison.

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We were first introduced to this series with The Butterfly Garden, a book that horrified and traumatized many readers several years ago. It continued with The Roses of May and last years bestseller, The Summer Children. (You can read my review of that book HERE) Each book has built on the development of the team members who originally found girls in the Butterfly Garden and their work within a special unit of the FBI. Now a child has been abducted, their specialty, but the case is eerily similar to kidnapping of Eddison’s sister years earlier. As the team members deal with their own haunting demons from past cases, they also must search through clues to see how and why this case may be linked to the cold cases from old before it is too late to save the missing child.

Let me state up front that absolutely is not a “stand alone” book. I read The Summer Children last year and only slightly fell through the cracks a few times. After that, I promptly went back and read the first two books in the series. All of these books are top notch, horrifyingly marvelous thrillers. This one, however, is the end of the story. For those of us invested in these characters it is a book that ties up all of the loose ends, answers questions from the past and allows us and the author to move on to new topics. It is a must -read for followers of Hutchison’s work, but I don’t recommend starting here. I do, however, recommend reading every single one of the books in the series. They are absolutely fantastic! Hutchison is a masterful storyteller whose tales you will not want to miss.

#historical fiction, #NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Fiction, Tags and Challenges

The Poison Thread @laurapurcell

When I was a teenager I read Victorian gothic young adult books from sun up to sun down. I simply could not get enough of that genre. As I entered university, my tastes changed and I switched to more “grown up” British Literature but a part of me always yearned for the thrill of the gothic tale. Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe are two of my favorite writers because of their dark, macabre imagination. It comes as no surprise, then, that I have fallen in love with Laura Purcell’s writing. Last year, The Silent Companions, took readers by a storm and now she has given us a new intriguing gothic noir tale, The Poison Thread.

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At first glance, this appeared to be an ordinary Victorian book about a young socialite, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, with far too much time on her hands yet no interest in the usual coquetries of society. She was studying phrenology, a popular belief at the time that the skull could predict behavior and be re-shaped to alter such. Although we may sneer at this now, it was the precursor of modern behavioral science. As part of her “studies” and her desire for good works, also a very Victorian endeavor, she visits women in jail, listens to the woes of their crimes and examines their skulls. But one prisoner is unlike the rest: Ruth. This woman weaves a sinister tale about poison, and sewing and garments that can harm their owners. Is she mad? Does she belong is an institution or is she simply playing at being crazy in order to escape hanging? How can one know for sure.

Purcell alternates the chapters between the two women, the present and the past, and as she does so we, the reader, become as entwined into the threads of the story as the victims of Ruth’s garments became ensnared in hers. From the moment I began reading there was no stopping. I had to know how it ended and now, weeks after I finished, I cannot stop thinking about Ruth and her needles, her life and that of those around her. Purcell does an amazing job of bring to life Victorian England – the horrors, the poverty, the wretchedness of the poor, those in debt and, in contrast, those with money and their fineries. She also hints at the problems during this time between those who remained Catholic versus those who, of course, chose the Church of England. It was a strange and misguided time in England’s history – the age of coming knowledge combined with the ignorance of the darkness just left behind and Purcell does an commendable job of conveying all of that in The Poison Thread. This is gothic Victorian at its best and I highly recommend it for those who like this era, horror, magical realism, mystery and British literature. You will find all of that within this fabulous book.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #LauraPurcell and @PenguinPub for my copy of #ThePoisonThread