A Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland #BookReview

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Esther Solar’s family is . . . unusual. Her father hasn’t left the basement in six years. Her brother is terrified of darkness.

Esther isn’t afraid of anything – because she avoids pretty much everything. Elevators are off limits, as are open spaces, crowds, family pets, birds, needles, haircuts, dolls and mirrors.

But when Esther is pickpocketed by her cocky old classmate Jonah Walker, Esther and Jonah become surprising friends. Jonah sets a challenge: every week they must work their way through the world’s fifty most common phobias. Skydiving, horse riding, beekeeping, public speaking, reptilehouses – they plan to do it all.

Soon their weekly foray into fear becomes the only thing that keeps them tethered to reality, and to each other. But each is keeping a secret from the other, a secret that threatens to rip them apart.

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P.19 (a description of the three friends Hephzibah, Eugene and Esther): “A ghost who couldn’t speak, a boy who hated the dark and a girl who dressed as someone else everywhere she went.”

Who the hell tapes all the light switches and lamps in a house in the on-position, or dresses like she’s on her way to a costume party every single day? What did I start reading? Quirky novels and me, we don’t always (usually) gel well and I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be such a novel but the characters were too endearing from the start to let them go and so this novel is the exception on the rule. There’s also just something about knowing someone’s vulnerability, being allowed to read about their fears, it’s just impossible not to feel for them.

Even when it’s all part of a made-up world – too unreal because there’s just too many fears and quirkiness to truly believe it – I’m sure there are people who are afraid of the dark and who see black cats as an omen. The author magnified this only a thousand times. At first sight it only seems like a crazy, bizarre and funny read with Esther tackling her bucket list of fears, but it’s definitely not all it is.

There’s also a little bit of magical realism in the story that was pulled off really well and it kept me wondering throughout the novel if Death really was a person or not. Esther thinks to know for sure as she sees how The Curse spoken to her grandfather by Death himself during the war holds her entire family in a grip. He told them they would all die from their biggest fear or phobia and so far it all came true. She doesn’t want to become like them though, so she’s trying to lure Death to her by confronting her fears instead of avoiding them like she’s done for so many years. I loved following her challenges, they start easy and are funny enough but become more serious further down the list. There are even a few I’d pass up on myself.

It doesn’t take long though to understand there are many layers beneath the bizarre spectacle, some obvious and others harder to see through. The novel has some deep messages about mental health issues, depression, loss, but also personal growth, being yourself and seeking help when you need it. The funny quirky characters help to keep it light enough so it has exactly the right amount of balance. And Jonah was the perfect person to bring out the best in Esther, he’s so creative and attentive and I wish and hope we can all have a Jonah in our lives.

Overall a very enjoyable debut novel that makes me wonder what else she has in store. I can recommend this novel to bookworms who read or are interested in reading Turtles All The Way Down.

I received a free copy from this novel through a giveaway. This is my honest opinion.

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Daddy’s Girls by Sarah Flint #BlogTour #Extract @SarahFlint19 @aria_fiction

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Welcome to my stop for Daddy’s Girls by Sarah Flint. Thanks so much to Aria Fiction for the invitation to join this blog tour! I have an extract to share with you today but first check out how wonderful this novel sounds.

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He wasn’t always a killer. At first, he just wanted to talk.

D.C. Charlie Stafford has an odd case on her hands. And it may be her toughest one yet.

A burglar who isn’t interested in valuables, the subject of Operation Greystream is a strange but smooth operator. In the dead of the night, gloved and masked, he visits the elderly. He doesn’t hurt them and, if they beg, he won’t take anything of real value. All he wants is conversation… and they’re powerless to refuse him.

But then 87-year-old Florence Briarly is found by her friend, cold to the touch and neatly, too neatly, tucked into bed. And Charlie realises this case has taken a sinister, urgent turn. Now this stealthy burglar has had a taste of murder, it’s only a matter of time until he craves it again…

Purchase

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Author

With a Metropolitan Police career spanning 35 years Sarah has spent her adulthood surrounded by victims, criminals and police officers. She continues to work and lives in London with her partner and has three older daughters.

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Extract

It was dark when the man returned.

The man liked darkness. He liked the anonymity it provided. He had worked in darkness many times in the early years of his career and was at home in its obscurity. On one occasion, many years before, he had heard a politician being described on the TV as ‘having something of the night’ about him and the phrase had stuck in his head. It fitted him. It was him. There had always been something dark inside him that he had never been able to truly control. At times it had emerged, unbidden, but he had never been able to allow it free rein… until more recently.

He slipped into the bushes, retracing his previous route along the footpaths of the common until he came to a small, cramped spot of flattened foliage, right opposite the old woman’s house. It was perfect. In fact, the whole area was perfect. Streatham Common was a well-known location for the anonymous liaisons of gay men, so it was criss-crossed by walkways, some wide, some only lightly trodden, with small, circular patches where the shrubs had been compressed flat by the weekends’ illicit activities. Tonight, however, being a Monday, the common was quiet, as were the residential streets that bordered it, few cars other than those belonging to residents requiring access.

With gloved hands, the man carefully unfolded a square of waterproof sheeting, spread it out on top of the trodden leaves and crouched down on it, watching and listening at all times – but nothing stirred. Idly, he ran his fingers through his rucksack, double-checking that all his tools were in their correct places, cleaned and sharpened, ready to cut wires, score through putty, slip locks; if necessary keep control. He couldn’t risk making any mistakes. He was too good for that.

The old woman’s details were already seared into his memory. She was called Florence Briarly; he’d seen it on discarded correspondence. She was eighty-two years of age, subscribed to several charities and on the whole wasn’t taken in by junk mail, most being thrown away unopened. He knew all of this because he’d been there before, during daylight hours, as well as under cover of darkness, scoping out her house, checking the bins and memorising her night-time rituals.

She was a typical pensioner: she entertained only a handful of daytime visitors and spent evenings alone with just her TV for company. She got up at the same time every morning and she went to bed at the same time every night. She tended to shop and complete her chores in the mornings, took a short nap after lunch and entertained most visitors in the afternoon, before having tea at around 6 p.m. She chose not to drive, so if not being picked up would usually catch a bus. She did not appear to have a mobile phone and had little use for technology. A landline and TV were clearly all she needed, and that was all she had.

He allowed himself a smile of anticipation. She was perfect for what he wanted – and what he really wanted was conversation, a chance to get to know the real Florence Briarly. He loved the elderly. They held memories he loved to hear.

A light still shone from the downstairs window but soon it would begin its movement upwards, the meagre glow lighting her way up the stairs, onto the landing and into her bedroom. Old people were slaves to routine and Florence Briarly was no exception.

He checked his watch and made himself more comfortable, lying on the waterproof sheet and pulling the hood of his jacket tighter around his head, leaving only a small hole through which to peer. Even though the sun had been warm, now it was night, the chill dampness of the woodland seeped into his bones – but he didn’t care. He had spent many an hour rooted unmoving to a single spot in his youth. Doing so again only served to heighten the experience.

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The Book Fairy Box #Unboxing @the_bookfairies #bookfairybox

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Hi lovelies! For the third year in a row I have purchased a one-off subscription box. It’s my birthday soon after all and I want books for my birthday! That’s not so strange is it? Every year it’s a quest to find a box that:

a) ships internationally,
b) isn’t exorbitant in (shipping) price,
c) can be ordered just one time, and
d) delivers books that I actually want to read.

It looks easy – there are a lot of book boxes – but surprisingly, not many tick all these boxes (excuse the pun).

So this year I found the Book Fairy BoxWhat’s in a name huh? I loved it already (and no it’s not a fantasy box)! Check out their lovely website to find out more.

To make it easier, I’ll already tell you what they have to offer in every box:

  • Book fairy exclusives
  • A new book and a second-hand book, to encourage the idea of reusing
  • At least one item that supports a greener lifestyle
  • SO MANY OTHER GOODIES!!!!
  • We promise no one-use plastic or any unnecessary plastic packaging

The boxes will be shipped as orders come in!

So here’s the box when it arrived, shipping was super quick too btw. Now it’s only a brown box, nothing special about it so I haven’t taken a pic of the closed box, but when I opened it, the look of the content really made up for the plain exterior.

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First of all there’s a little Book Fairy Survival Kit. There are little cards that you can leave in books if you want to let them fly in the wild and some cute little pins.

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Next up was the package with all the goodies, wrapped up in delicate paper. The first thing I found was a sachet to make ice tea. You just pour it in a glass and add ice and water. I’m certainly going to try this out!

Next item was a special book fairy cookie cutter from etsy shop Petit Craft. I’m not a great cook but I’m sure I’m going to try that one in the future. It’s a stupid question, I know, but how do you make THE BEST cookie dough? If I start googling I’ll find a hundred different recipes with other measurements that I won’t know which one to use probably.

Then I found this cute little trinket. It’s a little locket from etsy shop Locket Library in the shape of a book, how cute! I already checked out the shop, I’ve never heard of them but they’re a great discovery :-)!

And another package to open from Literary Emporium 

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I found this little booklet where you can note which book you lent to who and on what date. There are no more excuses to forget who you lent a book to. I like it but I only lend my books to one person and one at a time so it won’t be useful right away but I’m sure I’ll make someone happy with it sooner or later :-).

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And then there were also… a new bookmark and a handcrafted bookplate

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And last but not least of the goodies (7 in total!): a reusable beeswax wrap to take my lunch to work with 🙂 from Eco-Habit Their product is hand made using Oeko-100 certified textiles and 100% natural British Beeswax. 

The wrap is airtight, malleable, reusable and when the time comes – biodegradable. I’m happy I can do something good by simply using this. In case you’re wondering, you can clean it by using a cloth and cold water. 

I haven’t used it yet but I’m going to try this out real soon. I’ll be the hippest one at the office and they’ll all know it!

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And then the books of course… one second-hand and a new one. Now I already knew what the new one was going to be (this actually did help me decide to take the plunge and order the box). I’m quite happy with the other novel, Still Dark as well. It has good ratings on Goodreads and an author I didn’t know so that’s wonderful.

There’s also a lovely little card from a mini book fairy in one of the books. It’s official now #ibelieveinbookfairies 🙂

Here’s the full box:

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I really love this box, I was happy with the goodies and the books, and I could see myself ordering this one again!

So what do you think? Would you be happy with the box (it’s ok if you don’t agree with me)? Have you read one of the books, or both? Let me know in the comments! If you know any recommended boxes for next year, also let me know, it would save me a lot of trouble researching 🙂

PS: Here are my reviews of the subscription boxes in the past:

The Bookworm Box
Page Habit
Blind Date With A Book

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney #BookReview

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My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me.

1. I’m in a coma

2. My husband doesn’t love me any more

3. Sometimes I lie

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

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I purchased an ecopy of this novel at the release because many blogfriends recommended it to me. Of course I needed the publication (and purchase) of the second novel by Alice Feeney to finally bump it up my readlist. I’m happy I finally got round to reading this because I really enjoyed it.

There are no less than 3 plotlines in this novel but this was never confusing and I actually like it when there’s a lot going on as was the case here, it keeps me turning those pages. One of the plotlines follows Amber when she’s 11 years old, another one follows her in the present a few days before she finds herself in the hospital and the last one is the one with Amber in a coma. Well she isn’t actually in a coma, she can hear perfectly fine what is going on around her, she just can’t react in any way. As if that’s not enough, she also can’t remember what happened to her. It’s all rather terrifying and her paranoia towards her husband and sister really rubbed off on me :-). It’s not easy to figure out who to trust when you can’t ask any questions. Someone did this to her and I was ready to crucify them myself!

It made sense that there’s a plotline leading up to ‘the event’ but it was puzzling what the plot about her younger self had to do with the story and how she ended up there. It focused largely on her family situation and her friendship with a girl named Taylor when she was a young girl and I had no doubt there was a meaningfulness that totally escaped me; Taylor wasn’t mentioned in the present at all.

The author built up the tension in the days and hours towards her hospital admission and surprised me with a major twist of category 5 (I know, I just decided to have my own rating for twists and this one is of the same order as being told the earth is flat). So many things are actually connected but invisible to see at first sight. The past did have an effect on the present and to understand the present you have to know about the past. I might sound as if I’m talking in riddles but you just have to read it for yourselves if you want the full detail! I’m impressed with this author’s clever writing and I seriously had to wrap my head around that twist.

In conclusion: a wonderful debut that will keep you guessing for a very long time. Read it, it’ll keep you very entertained! 

I purchased an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Bad Place by M.K. Hill #BlogTour #Extract #Giveaway @markhillwriter @HoZ_Books

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Hi booklovers! Welcome to my stop for Bad Place by M.K. Hill. Thanks so much to Vicky of Head of Zeus for the invitation to join this blog tour! Scroll down for book + author info, an exclusive excerpt and the chance to win a ecopy of this book for yourselves!

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The newspapers called it The Bad Place. A remote farm out on the Thames estuary, where six children were held captive for two weeks. Five of them got out alive.

That was twenty years ago. Now adults, they meet up annually to hold a candlelit vigil for their friend who died. The only rule is that no-one can talk about what happened the night they escaped. But at this year’s event, one of them witnesses a kidnapping. A young girl, Sammi, is bundled into a van in front of their eyes.

Is history repeating itself? Is one of them responsible? Or is someone sending them a twisted message?

DI Sasha Dawson, of Essex Police, is certain that the key to finding Sammi lies in finding out the truth about The Bad Place. But she also knows that with every second she spends trying to unlock the past, the clock ticks down for the missing girl…

Purchase

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Author

Hill, M.K

I’ve been a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer. I worked for about five minutes in PR. But I write the Drake and Crowley thriller series now, which is just as well, because I love writing. It’s my dream job.

If you enjoyed His First Lie or It Was Her, do get in touch. There are plenty of ways to do it!

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Extract

The bell rang – ‘All change!’ – and Ajay stood. ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘Have a nice evening.’

When he walked to the next table, she picked up the pencil to give him a score, but thought better of it.

Then the man in the Hawaiian shirt dropped into the chair, swinging one tattooed arm over the back, opening his legs wide – manspreading, she believed was the term – and favouring Sasha with an excellent view of his groin. Middle-aged, thickset, hair slicked back by lots of product.

‘Now you look interesting.’ Sasha leaned forward. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Darren.’ The man’s legs opened and closed like a pair of elevator doors. ‘Call me         Daz.’

‘Hello, Daz, I’m Sasha. Tell me about yourself.’

He grinned. ‘I’d rather we talked about us.’

Sasha gasped. It was an audacious start.

‘I’ll be honest with you, Sasha.’ His knees snapped together so that he could swing closer to the table. ‘You’re not my usual type, you’re probably a decade older than I’m used to.’

Sasha smiled sadly. ‘Devastated.’

‘But when I saw you earlier, I knew immediately, I said to myself, Daz, there’s something about that woman. She’s got a…’ He wiggled fingers heavy with jewellery in front of his face, trying to conjure the exact word. ‘A twinkle.’

Sasha listened gravely. ‘Do I really?’

‘You got a way about you. A mystery. Despite the…’ He grimaced at her unexpected shock of long white hair.

‘Go on,’ she said.

‘Wanna know what I’m thinking?’ Darren gestured around the pub. ‘This whole event is a big fat waste of time. It’s a charade.’
Sasha blinked. ‘Is it?’

He jerked his head, come closer, and Sasha leaned in. Darren picked up the sheet of paper and tossed it over his shoulder.

‘You don’t need to mark a stupid scorecard, because our attraction is obvious. We’re like the two ends of a magnet, me and you, compelled to attract. I see the desire in your eyes.’ His hands framed her face in the air. ‘Your beautiful eyes, which are like two hazel windows to your soul.’

‘Oh, Daz.’ Sasha swallowed. ‘And what do you see in my windows?’

‘I see a sensitive, sophisticated woman with womanly needs and appetites. You’ve got a thing for me.’ His eyes fastened on hers, his tongue slid slowly along the length of his top teeth. ‘And, no bullshit, I’ve a serious thing for you. So let’s get out of here, go somewhere more… intimate.’

‘I’d love to talk to you more. I know just the place we can go.’

Darren gave a satisfied grunt. ‘Now we’re talking.’ His hand crept across the table, but she coyly moved hers into her lap.

‘Let’s go to the station,’ she said.

‘The Station.’ Darren narrowed his eyes. ‘That a trendy new bar, is it?’

‘Oh, Daz, you’ve been to the police station many times.’ The bell dinged and Sasha made a sad face. ‘Time’s up, I’m afraid.’

Giveaway

If you want to read this novel, here’s your chance! I’m going to make it really easy this time, all you have to do is comment below that you want to win an ecopy of this novel (if you read the reviews of Shalini and Grace J Reviewerlady already you’ll know that they rate this one highly).

I will give each entry a consecutive number and will use a number generator to pick one lucky winner!

This giveaway is open for everyone and will close next Monday, which gives you plenty of time to enter :-). I’ll contact and announce the winner on Tuesday :-).

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The Bad Place Blog 1                The Bad Place Blog 2    The Bad Place Blog 3

 

Degrees of Guilt by HS Chandler #BlogTour #BookReview @HSCinkpen @Tr4cyF3nt0n @OrionBooks

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Welcome to my stop for Degrees of Guilt by HS Chandler. Thanks so much to tour organiser Tracy Fenton and publisher Orion Books for the invitation to join this blog tour! I already published my review in May on the blog but in case you missed it I’m posting it again today. This novel is so amazing, I can’t recommend it enough and I will tell everybody again and again!

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When you read this book, you will think you know every twist in the tale.

Maria is on trial for attempted murder.

She has confessed to the crime and wanted her husband dead.

Lottie is on the jury, trying to decide her fate.

She embarks on an illicit affair with a stranger, and her husband can never find out.

You will think you know who is guilty and who is innocent.

You will be wrong.

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I enjoy stories that involve morals and put you on the spot. I adore novels that provoke a reader and make you question the side you’re on. I love novels that secretly make you want to cheer the bad guy on..  it’s wrong to do so and you feel guilty but ok not all that much because sometimes, you know, it just can’t be helped. Degrees of Guilt is exactly this kind of brilliant novel, it hits all the high notes. In hindsight, I have to admit the title kind of gives it away but I was still very much unaware of it when I started reading this novel. I was ready to judge and condemn but I’ve never felt so torn.

The novel did start chillingly, with a woman, cold and rational, standing beside her dead husband. She also admits to the crime right away. How could this court case go then, it’s all rather clear cut, right? Awful crime, no remorse, big sentence to be expected. Well you might be mistaken there. There was a lot of background story that explains her current predicament. The novel massively challenged me to take mitigating circumstances into consideration. How much can be excused and can you ever understand why someone would murder someone else? I don’t know if I could say it out loud but eh deep down I understood why she did it for one hundred percent. What the outcome, the verdict would be was a big mystery though, and what I wanted it to be and how the jury saw it and if we were on the same page at all, I can’t say.

At first there wasn’t a bone in my body that made me consider her innocent but as the days progressed it was obvious that she was a victim too, trapped in a loveless marriage. I have read plenty novels with disturbing content and domestic abuse before but the author detailed her daily horrors so perfectly, it was such a quiet venom that poured from the pages, it would melt the coldest of hearts. A big tipping point and a scene that had a big impact on me was when I read about the tampons. I don’t know why that stood out but I think it’s something that is just completely our (a woman’s) business and everyone else should keep out of it.

Even though I knew what she had done and saw the damage together with the jury, I couldn’t help sympathise with Maria almost from the beginning. I believed her, I wanted to believe her, although I didn’t really know why she felt the need to lie about parts of her story. Why would she do that? A tiny part of me did feel a moment’s hesitation there about her. I didn’t know what to think.

Degrees of guilt is a domestic drama mixed with fantastic scenes in the courtroom and let’s not forget the sizzles between Lottie and hottie Cameron. Gawd there’s electricity crackling in the air! Their game was tantalising to watch unfold and he was sooo hot I could feel my own cheeks burn ;-). I found it a bit odd to insert this into such a novel but then it did help to lighten up the story a little and in the end it just worked out brilliantly.

Degrees of Guilt is definitely one of the best releases of the year for me. The novel demands to take a stance about the justice in this case and what you think is fair, it is so heartfelt, you just can’t not think about it when you’re not reading it. What would you do if you were on the jury? I can tell you it’s a difficult one because our heart and our head speak a different language when reading this novel! I can’t believe this is the first novel by HS Chandler / Helen Fields I read but it most definitely won’t be the last.

I received a free ecopy via Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson (Roy & Castells Book 3) #BlogTour #BookReview @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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Welcome to my stop for Blood Song by Johana Gustawson. Thanks so much to Orenda Books and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join this blog tour! Before you read my review, check out how wonderful this novel sounds first:

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The action swings from London to Sweden, and then back into the past, to Franco’s Spain, as Roy & Castells hunt a monstrous killer … in the lastest instalment of Johana Gustawsson’s award-winning series

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

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Author

Johana Gustawsson

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

She drew on her own experience of fertility clinics and IVF to write Blood Song and is happy to speak and write pieces about this.

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I’ve been putting off writing this review… dear god no, not because I didn’t like this novel, it’s more because this one’s making it hard to find the right words without sounding like a crazy fan. You see I’ve been with this series since the first novel and each one is so special. I’m not an historical reader but this author really made me one. Gustawsson entangles crime and historical facts like none other and creates a unique reading experience. If you ask me this is a collector’s item you want to have in your library.

Block 46 took me to WW2 and the author won me over with that one easily. Book 2, Keeper, took me to the era of Jack The Ripper, and I knew then that I’d follow her writing wherever she took me. Blood Song sent me to new territory. I’m almost ashamed to say that I knew little to nothing about the dictatorship under Franco in Spain. The descriptions – based on what was really happening at that time – in prison and the orphanage were harsh and brutal but lent itself well to tell this murder mystery.

Johana Gustawsson plays with time and my mind, and those pages just wouldn’t stop turning themselves. She let me visit Spain in 1937 as well as Sweden in 2016. How both timelines could ever be aligned is something that seemed impossible but she manages to accomplish just that. I’m not getting into the plotlines this time at all, it’s too big and deep to cover, but I can tell you that there were staggering twists in this novel that are sure to startle everyone and it is all tied up brilliantly. Teresa, Gordi, Lados… their story will stay with me for a long time.

I can 100% recommend this novel to every crime loving reader who isn’t afraid of a dark but fascinating read.

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