Blog Tour: Snow Sisters by @carollovekin @honno #GuestPost

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Meredith discovers a dusty sewing box in a disused attic. Once open the box releases the ghost of Angharad, a Victorian child-woman with a horrific secret she must share. Angharad slowly reveals her story to Meredith who fails to convince her more pragmatic sister of the visitations, until Verity sees Angharad for herself on the eve of an unseasonal April snowstorm. Forced by her flighty mother to abandon Gull House for London, Meredith struggles to settle, still haunted by Angharad and her little red flannel hearts. This time, Verity is not sure she will be able to save her…

My first thought when I was reading this book was that I wished it was winter and I had a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate with me. Because guys, this is the ideal book to cozy up with. I haven’t felt this with any other book this year and I don’t think I will. Snow Sisters is a truly magical and evocative story.

Snow Sisters is a perfect blend of contemporary, historical fiction, magical realism, gothic story, and family drama. If you like any of those genres, you will surely love this book. This is not a fast-paced book where the plot is more important than the characters. This is the kind of story that needs to be savoured and enjoyed slowly. And every now and then, we all need that kind of book in our lives.

The relationship between Verity and Meredith was my absolute favorite part of the book. Their closeness felt believable and authentic, and I rooted for them to defy their mother and live their own lives. In a book where there are only a few characters, it is extremely important that you warm up to the protagonists. And Carol excels at that. She has crafted a heart-breaking story that deals with several themes like family and kindness.

Carol Lovekin is such an amazing writer. Her descriptions were vivid and evocative and I could picture myself living in the Hull house, becoming a Pryce sister myself. Her writing is gorgeous and poetic and I’d surely love to have her skills with words.

Snow Sisters is a beautiful novel about women and sisterly love. And a ghost!

ARC, Honno, 2017

The Nature of Glimmerings & the Unanswerable Question by Carol Lovekin

If I could choose a genre in which to place my books, it would be Quirky. Since authors aren’t allowed to pick and choose let’s call mine ‘contemporary fiction’ with hints of magical realism. (Which isn’t at all the same as fantasy, let’s be clear.) My stories are firmly rooted in reality. I explore possibilities: the fine line between the everyday and the world of enchantment.

I’m a feminist and my stories reflect this too. I explore family relationships: how people, women in particular, respond to loss and how they survive. My books have ghosts, although there are no clanking chains or blood-chilling wails. All it takes to embrace my ghosts, and the magic I conjure, is a temporary suspension of disbelief.

Enter my loyal reader, with her penchant for a quirky ghost story and a liking for strong women. And her question: ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

Until I began writing seriously I would have claimed my ideas came out of ‘nowhere’ which is of course nonsensical. Ideas, however obscure, have to come from somewhere. And yet, paradoxically, the notion that a story must stem from a single concept is absurd.

It’s the word ‘idea’ itself I find problematical. It posits the notion that the genesis of a novel lies in an idea per se: a definable moment the writer can recall.

The origin of most stories is, for me at any rate, a random gathering of scattered thoughts; glimmerings as slender and obscure as a line in a poem or novel triggering a sideways digression. As I forget most of my night dreams the moment I wake up, I’ve never dreamed a story into existence. And as any I do recall are rarely logical – and I don’t write fantasy remember – my dreams are unlikely to serve me on any level whatsoever. Day dreaming however is another thing entirely: it’s where glimmerings evolve, the ‘what if’ moments and barely discernible fragments that come out of left field.

Singular words have always appealed to me. I collect them: words like cwtch which is Welsh for hug. And more often than not, a single word can entice me and suggest a theme for a scene, or present me with an unexpected tangent.

My study overlooks trees and low hills. Some mornings the mist lies as heavy as sleep and it’s like living on an island. I like to imagine the Avalon barge emerging between the mists to collect me. It never does, and chewing my pencil I sigh, scan a sky full of birds and watch instead for the ones I call my word birds. They circle a tall beech tree, ignored by a big bossy crow – my hunched, feathery muse. (I kid myself it’s the same one every day – shouting kraa from the topmost branch, urging me to stop lollygagging and get on with my work.)

These word birds are my writing familiars; they drop their glimmerings onto my windowsill; leave words and phrases in the edges of my hair. I gather up these offerings and it’s anyone’s guess what they will become. Not all the words make it onto the page and many get away. Or I put them away, because no sensible writer ever throws anything out.

The glimmerings may not at first gift me entire plots or even vague outlines. What they do is hover in a ghost location in my imagination. The place where I wave my pencil wand and cast my story spells; listen for my word birds, in case they have more enchantment for me.

My loyal reader is a gem and I love her. The fact remains, next time she asks me where my ideas come from, I shall have no choice but to answer, ‘I have no idea…’

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Hingston’s Box (Decima Blake)


31673313Since investigating the disappearance of fifteen-year-old twin boys, Hingston – a young, talented Detective Sergeant, has been tormented by night terrors. On waking, he remembers a vast, golden meadow that glows with warmth and carries the sound of rapid footfalls and trouser legs pushing through grasses. A curly haired boy runs tirelessly through the meadow. The promise of adventure is lost when the sickening ache of death seeps into Hingston’s bones. Feeling suffocated and tortured, melodic chimes calm him and his panic subsides. Signed off and leaving the office, a key inexplicably falls from Hingston’s investigation file. Intrigued, he takes it with him, escaping London for Dartmouth where his investigative race begins. Stalked by a challenging elderly woman and hindered by his boss, his determination to solve the case draws him into the supernatural world that connects a murderous past to the present.

Hingston’s Box is Decima Blake’s debut and it was also a very special book in terms of genre. Why? Because it was both a police procedural and a supernatural story. How many times we’ve read novels about crimes in the present that are connected to other crimes in the past? And you know how much I love those.

This time, though, the connection was not the usual one. DS Jason Hingston is tormented by the disappearance of two teenage boys, so he’s asked to take a leave and rest. While visiting his uncle Zack in Devon, Jason meets a mysterious woman who seems to know something about the crime… And then he discovers that he has a key that magically opens a musical box he’s just found in an old store. This musical box used to belong to a family whose twin teenage boys also disappeared many years ago…

I don’t think you need to love fantasy or supernatural strorylines in order to enjoy Hingston’s Box, given that this detail doesn’t make it less of a crime novel. The most important aspect of the book is following Hingston’s investigation and trying to help him decipher the enigmatic musical box. To whom did it belong? What does it mean? Can this past crime help Jason solve the current one? You’ll see…

What I liked the most
This was a short read and Decima Blake’s writing was wonderful. Despite the supernatural part, the crime aspect of the book felt realistic and Jason was clearly a very sympathetic character: kind, smart and loyal. I loved how he never gave up and insisted on following his instincts.

What I didn’t like that much
I’m afraid I couldn’t connect much with this story. I thought it lacked a bit of “passion” and the criminal case wasn’t one that I will remember for a long time. I wished we could’ve seen Jason’s relationship with more of his colleagues. I felt sad that he was so lonely, as he seemed to be a really nice guy and a great detective.

A special mix between mystery and supernatural for those who love present cases that connect back to past crimes.

Similar books:
Every Dead Thing
Close Your Eyes

Other reviews:
Dorset Book Detective

Pegasus Publishers, 2016 – From author

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The Witches Of New York (Ami McKay)

30233919.jpgThe year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (‘Moth’ from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and “gardien de sorts” (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients. All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits…

Ever since I joined Goodreads, I’ve always wanted to read a book by Ami McKay. Her two novels (The Birth House and The Virgin Cure) seemed so exotic and special. Historical, women’s issues… They definitely caught my attention. When I found out that she was releasing a new book about witches, I jumped at the chance to review it. I don’t usually read fantasy, but I thought this would be more “magical realism” (which I really like). Turns out, it was a bit of both.

After finishing the novel, I can say that while I loved Ami McKay’s writing, this was one of those books where I enjoyed the setting and the characters more than the story itself. I thought New York’s characterization was wonderful and we had three interesting main characters here: Adelaide, Eleanor and Beatrice (I’m in love with Adelaide, by the way). Even though I found them captivating, it still took me a while to connect with the story and once again, the blurb spoiled something that only happened in the last section of the book. I really hate when they do that (Don’t worry, I removed it here).

The “action” takes part almost exclusively at the end, so the first part of the book moved rather slowly because of that. At first, I didn’t mind because I was delighted to get to know our lovely witches and their peculiar shop better. However, I believe the story dragged out a bit and I wished it had been a shorter book. I believe I would’ve enjoyed it way more.

The book edition was beautiful and it’s definitely one I’d recommend reading in physical format. It featured handwritten letters, drawings, newspaper stories and other amazing surprises and it was one of the most special books I’ve encountered lately.

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What I liked the most
The world Ami McKay created here was compelling and fascinating. The historical part was a pleasure to read and I loved how strong these women were. This is a truly feminist book and makes New York seem so magical and special!

What I didn’t like that much
As I previously mentioned, I would’ve wanted a stronger storyline. I usually don’t mind reading quiet books, but this was a bit different and I really think it had the potential to be even more memorable novel.

The Witches Of New York is a strange and alluring novel that I liked but didn’t manage to love as much as I expected at first.

Other reviews:
What’s Better Than Books
Ola Reads Books

Orion Books, 2016 – Copy from publishers

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A Murder In Time (Julie McElwain)

25790952Beautiful and brilliant, Kendra Donovan is a rising star at the FBI. Yet her path to professional success hits a speed bump during a disastrous raid where half her team is murdered, a mole in the FBI is uncovered and she herself is severely wounded. As soon as she recovers, she goes rogue and travels to England to assassinate the man responsible for the deaths of her teammates. While fleeing from an unexpected assassin herself, Kendra escapes into a stairwell that promises sanctuary but when she stumbles out again, she is in the same place – Aldrich Castle – but in a different time: 1815, to be exact. Mistaken for a lady’s maid hired to help with weekend guests, Kendra is forced to quickly adapt to the time period until she can figure out how she got there; and, more importantly, how to get back home. However, after the body of a young girl is found on the extensive grounds of the county estate, she starts to feel there’s some purpose to her bizarre circumstances. Stripped of her twenty-first century tools, Kendra must use her wits alone in order to unmask a cunning madman.

I think this is going to be one of my favorite reviews ever. Mainly because I absolutely adored this book, but also because I disagree with lots of the other reviews I read (especially on Goodreads) and I want to declare my  love for this book!

After falling in love with its stunning cover (I could look at it for ages), I read what this was about and knew that I had to read it. I’m loving time-travel books more every day and AMIT had an FBI agent traveling back to 1815. What’s not to like? After deciding that I’d read it, I started checking out other reviews and I felt immediately disappointed. There were tons of people saying that they had DNF’d the book and others who criticized its lack of realism. The main character got a lot of hate, too. I was afraid. Would this story focus only on love/sex like Outlander? (I really don’t like that book). My expectations were low.

As soon as I started reading, I realized I was having a lot of fun. The story was unique. The mystery was compelling. I liked Kendra very much. The supporting characters were great as well. I even laughed out loud several times! It’s true, I thought this book was hilarious at certain parts. Imagine that you’re an FBI agent, a professional profiler, who happens to travel in time to 1815 and ends up working as a maid. Imagine trying to convince the posh ladies and lords that there’s a serial killer out there. Saying things like: “The unsub is a white male, aged 20 to 35, probably has mother issues”. The reactions were priceless. Kendra was smart, fierce and brave and I loved how she kept trying to solve the crime even if she wasn’t always taken seriously.

The more I read, the more I kept thinking: When will it get boring? When will I start hating Kendra? The answer is simple: it never happened. Besides, I found the lack of realism endearing, as it wouldn’t have been so fun if she hadn’t been able to help with the investigation. Suspension of disbelief? Sure, but I didn’t care at all.

In fact, and some might say I’m crazy, but A Murder In Time reminded me a bit of Agatha Christie’s novels. You know, Poirot, with his strong personality, his weird theories and everyone thinking he must be crazy? That’s exactly how this felt. The humourous tone was definitely similar.

In addition, the “love story” was only like 5% of the book, something which definitely surprised me (in a good way). The rest of the book felt like a classic murder mystery, a traditional whodunnit where all the main characters are in the same location and everyone could be guilty. I loved it and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Can’t wait to continue with Kendra’s adventures.

Similar recommendations:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Agatha Christie)
11/22/63 (Stephen King)

Other reviews:

A Bookaholic Swede
The Book Lover’s Boudoir

 Pegasus Books, 2016 – Copy from publishers

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The Deviants (CJ Skuse)

518q1tsobdlGrowing up in the sleepy English seaside town of Brynston, the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her. Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level. When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?

Before The Deviants, I hadn’t read a YA book in a very looooong time. To be honest, I wasn’t so sure about diving into this, especially since I didn’t like my last at all. However, The Deviants looked awesome and the cover was so stunning that I requested it on a whim, hoping it wouldn’t disappoint. Fortunately, it didn’t: it was pretty amazing.

This is the story of the famous five: Ella, Max, Fallon, Corey and Zane. They used to be inseparable, but something happened and they pretty much lost all contact with each other. Except for Ella and Max, who have been dating for many years, although their relationship isn’t as good as it seems. But why? And then Corey’s cat suddenly disappears and Ella and Max decide to help him, reuniting with Fallon again. And the summer of revenge begins…

This is one of those novels where the less you know about it, the better, and that’s why I won’t give more details about the plot. I wasn’t sure at first (okay, so what this is even about?) but The Deviants simply got better and better with every page. I especially love when that happens, because the final feeling is always much more gratifying than when a book starts off really well but quickly goes downhill.

After a slow and fairly weird start, the middle of the book was incredibly thrilling and engaging and the final part simply had me on the verge of tears. I loved how even though the theme was dark and dramatic, the novel still managed to present a beautiful ending. One of the most powerful ones I’ve read in quite some time.

Chapters were short but poignant and I particularly liked how the author finished them with a question. I was confused at first, but it all got answered at the end. I found this an extremely satisfying read, a book where all genres were perfectly mixed: mystery, revenge coming of age, romance, friendship…

The Deviants somehow reminded me of We Were Liars, but in my humble opinion, this one is far better. I saw the twist coming in that one and found the writing a bit too flowery for my taste. On the other hand, The Deviants was the perfect YA book, deep and meaningful, entertaining and emotional at the same time. I still prefer reading adult fiction, but I certainly hope my next YA is as good as this one.

Mira Ink,2016

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I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.