Daughters of the Lake by Wendy Webb #bookreview

After the end of her marriage, Kate Granger has retreated to her parents’ home on Lake Superior to pull herself together—only to discover the body of a murdered woman washed into the shallows. Tucked in the folds of the woman’s curiously vintage gown is an infant, as cold and at peace as its mother. No one can identify the woman. Except for Kate. She’s seen her before. In her dreams…

One hundred years ago, a love story ended in tragedy, its mysteries left unsolved. It’s time for the lake to give up its secrets. As each mystery unravels, it pulls Kate deeper into the eddy of a haunting folktale that has been handed down in whispers over generations. Now, it’s Kate’s turn to listen.

As the drowned woman reaches out from the grave, Kate reaches back. They must come together, if only in dreams, to right the sinister wrongs of the past.

My thoughts on Daughters of the Lake

Forgotten Bones by Vivian Barz #bookreview

An unlikely pair teams up to investigate a brutal murder in a haunting thriller that walks the line between reality and impossibility.

When small-town police officers discover the grave of a young boy, they’re quick to pin the crime on a convicted criminal who lives nearby. But when it comes to murder, Officer Susan Marlan never trusts a simple explanation, so she’s just getting started.

Meanwhile, college professor Eric Evans hallucinates a young boy in overalls: a symptom of his schizophrenia—or so he thinks. But when more bodies turn up, Eric has more visions, and they mirror details of the murder case. As the investigation continues, the police stick with their original conclusion, but Susan’s instincts tell her something is off. The higher-ups keep stonewalling her, and the FBI’s closing in.

Desperate for answers, Susan goes rogue and turns to Eric for help. Together they take an unorthodox approach to the case as the evidence keeps getting stranger. With Eric’s hallucinations intensifying and the body count rising, can the pair separate truth from illusion long enough to catch a monster?

My thoughts on Forgotten Bones…

I’m not a huge fan of books with a supernatural element. Every now and then, though, I read one and am surprised. So when I see one with good reviews, I sometimes think “why not?” That was the case Forgotten Bones, and I can see why people like it. Susan and Eric are interesting and likeable and the plot has some good twists and turns and an ending I almost didn’t seem coming,

However, for me, it didn’t quite hit the mark. There’s a couple of reasons for this. One is hard to explain without spoilers so I’ll just say Susan makes a decision early on that I didn’t understand and kept bugging me because it I didn’t think the type of cop she was then described would have done the same thing, the second was the FBI. They turn up and don’t seem to do much but make coffee and ignore the local police. I could have done without them to be honest.

In reality, these are small gripes that probably wouldn’t bother anyone else. They’ve just left me not able to go the full four stars I would give it otherwise (on Amazon as I don’t rate on the blog).

Emma x

Strangers by C.L. Taylor #bookreview

Strangers by C L Taylor

Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them is used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

 

My thoughts on Strangers by C. L. Taylor

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson #BookReview

Rules for Perfect Murder Peter SwansonEight classic murders. One killer thriller fan…

The gripping new thriller from the master of psychological suspense.

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?

My thoughts on Rules for Perfect Murders

Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine #bookreview

About the book…

She can’t ignore a cry for help. But in this remote hunting town, it’s open season.

Gwen Proctor escaped her serial-killer husband and saved her family. What she can’t seem to outrun is his notoriety. Or the sick internet vigilantes still seeking to avenge his crimes. For Gwen, hiding isn’t an option. Not when her only mission is to create a normal life for her kids.

But now, a threatened woman has reached out. Marlene Crockett, from the remote town of Wolfhunter, is panicked for herself and her daughter. When Gwen arrives in the small, isolated rural community, Marlene is already dead—her own daughter blamed for the murder. Except that’s not the person Marlene feared at all. And Gwen isn’t leaving until she finds out who that was.

But it may already be too late. A trap has been set. And it’s poised to snap shut on everyone Gwen loves. Her stalkers are closing in. And in a town as dark as Wolfhunter, it’s so easy for them to hide…

My thoughts…

This is the third book in the Stillhouse Lake series and the third I’ve read and, while the first one will probably always be my favourite because it felt new and fresh, I have to say from a writing and plotting point of view, this one is probably the best yet.  It takes the story of Gwen in a new direction (in the first two books she’d been on the run from a psychotic ex-husband), with women in similar situations to her own reaching out to her and asking her for help.

One of these calls comes at just the right time as a camera crew arrives in Stillhouse Lake determined to dig up her past and that of her husbands. There isn’t a better time to get away, though there are probably better places that Wolfhunter River which is full of people who seem to want Gwen dead more than her ex-husband did.  In the middle of all this, is a young girl that Gwen is determined to help. The question is, can she and keep her own family safe at the same time.

For the answer, you’ll need to read the book, which I can highly recommend if you’re a fan of crime fiction. It’s fast-paced, well written and has great characters that I – for one – connect with, even if they aren’t perfect.

Enjoy!

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feels, and opinions are my own.

 

The Tragic Daughters of Charles I by Sarah-Beth Watkins #bookreview

About the book…

Mary, Elizabeth and Henrietta Anne, the daughters of King Charles I and his queen, Henrietta Maria, would be brought up against the background of the English Civil War. Mary would marry William, Prince of Orange, and be sent to live in the Netherlands. Elizabeth would remain in England under Parliamentary control. Henrietta Anne would escape to France and be the darling of the French Court. Yet none of the Stuart princesses would live to reach thirty. The Tragic Daughters of Charles I is their story.

My thoughts…

If the description for this book seems a little short, that’s probably because there isn’t a lot you can say about the daughers of Charles I.  None of them would live for long, and none of them would ever truly escape the political turmoil brough about by the execution of their father (and subsequent Republic under Oliver Cromwell). This doesn’t mean there lives weren’t interesting – they were – it’s just you get the feeling they could have been so much more hand history not played them such a rubbish hand.

I didn’t know much about the Stuart monarchy, and knew even less about Charles I, when I started reading this book, but now feel like I’ve had a great introduction to a truly chaotic era.  By focusing on Charles’ daughters, I don’t feel like I was overwhelmed with facts, figures and dates I won’t be able to remember, making it a great way to start learning  more about this period in my countries history.

This was aided by Sarah-Beth Watkins’ writing style, which I’m a big fan of.  She makes history easy to read and engaging and has a great way of bringing female characters to life, even when she obviously as limited material to work with (history was, after all written by men who thought women weren’t worth much more than to a good marriage).  I can’t recommend her books enough and woudl put this near the top of the list.

Emma

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Anne of Cleves by Sarah-Beth Watkins #bookreview

About the Book…

Anne of Cleves left her homeland in 1539 to marry the king of England. She was not brought up to be a queen, yet out of many possible choices, she was the bride Henry VIII chose as his fourth wife. But, from their first meeting, the king decided he liked her not and sought an immediate divorce. After just six months their marriage was annulled, leaving Anne one of the wealthiest women in England. This is the story of Anne’s marriage to Henry, how the daughter of Cleves survived him and her life afterwards.

My thoughts…

While she might not have the name recognition of Anne Boleyn or Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves has always been one of my favourites when it comes to the six wives of Henry VII.  Part of me feels sorry for her, for the way Henry treated her – deciding as soon as he saw her that he didn’t (and couldn’t) love her.  Part of me is slightly in awe of how she handled herself once Henry decided he didn’t want her for a wife, navigating as she did the difficult and often deadly life in the Tudor Court to outlive not just Henry but the rest of his wives too.

Probably because of her lack of star power when it comes to Henry’s wives, I haven’t ever been able to find much about her in the history books – her marriage and subsequent life always seems to be rushed in favour of the wife number five (Katerine Howard, who cheated on Henry and was executed as a result).  Thankfully, this has now been rectified by Sarah-Beth Watkins who breathes life into a somewhat forgotten queen.

She paints a picture of a shy girl, struggling to get to grips with a world where courtly love was more important than propriety at times and where not being able to speak the language was a huge hindrance for her and her understanding of the world in which she found herself.  She also tells the story of a woman who found her own way in the world and her own voice, which was a powerful one (well, as powerful as a woman’s voice could be at the time).  I liked seeing her growth as a person.

My only criticism is that the book felt too short to me: it’s only 176 pages.  I got to the end and didn’t think I had learned enough.  Still, it was more than enough to fill the gaps in my knowledge of Henry VII’s forgotten queen – though now I want to know more.

Emma x

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Henry VIII by Tracy Borman #bookreview

About the book…

Henry VIII is best known in history for his tempestuous marriages and the fates of his six wives. However, as acclaimed historian Tracy Borman makes clear in her illuminating new chronicle of Henry’s life, his reign and reputation were hugely influenced by the men who surrounded and interacted with him as companions and confidants, servants and ministers, and occasionally as rivals—many of whom have been underplayed in previous biographies.

These relationships offer a fresh, often surprising perspective on the legendary king, revealing the contradictions in his beliefs, behavior, and character in a nuanced light. They show him capable of fierce but seldom abiding loyalty, of raising men up only to destroy them later. He loved to be attended by boisterous young men, the likes of his intimate friend Charles Brandon, who shared his passion for sport, but could also be diverted by men of intellect, culture, and wit, as his longstanding interplay with Cardinal Wolsey and his reluctant abandonment of Thomas More attest. Eager to escape the shadow of his father, Henry VII, he was often trusting and easily led by male attendants and advisors early in his reign (his coronation was just shy of his 18th birthday in 1509); in time, though, he matured into a profoundly suspicious and paranoid king whose ruthlessness would be ever more apparent, as Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and uncle to two of Henry’s wives, discovered to his great discomfort, and as Eustace Chapuys, the ambassador of Charles V of Spain, often reported.

Recounting the great Tudor’s life and signal moments through the lens of his male relationships, Tracy Borman’s new biography reveals Henry’s personality in all its multi-faceted, contradictory glory, and sheds fresh light on his reign for anyone fascinated by the Tudor era and its legacy

Hush Hush by Mel Sherratt #bookreview

About the book…

A killer is on the loose, attacking people in places they feel most safe: their workplaces, their homes. It’s up to DS Grace Allendale to stop the murders and prove herself to her new team.

All clues lead to local crime family the Steeles, but that’s where things get complicated. Because the Steeles aren’t just any family, they’re Grace’s family. Two brothers and two sisters, connected by the violent father only Grace and her mother escaped.

To catch the killer, Grace will have to choose between her team and her blood. But who do you trust, when both sides are out to get you?

What I thought about it…

I’m a big fan of Mel Sherratt and feel somewhat guilty that it’s taken me this long to get a review of Hush Hush up here on the (though as anyone who’s been following me a while knows all my reviews have been going up way too late lately thanks to the pressures of everyday life).  Why the guilt? Because I really enjoyed the book.  It was great to be back in Stafford, a place I used to spend a lot of time in for work, even if the city is a lot more violent than in my experience.  I love the place and the people and Sherratt does a great job of bringing both to life.

She also does a great job with the central character in Hush Hush, Grace, a woman who has returned home to get over the loss of her husband and to confront a painful childhood, one where she was the daughter of a local gangster.  Her father is dead by the start of the book, but her half-brothers and sisters are still around and continuing the family business.  It’s something Grace wants to stay as far away from as possible.  Unfortunately, as a police officer, she can’t help but be dragged into their lives when the first case that falls on her desk involves one of their (legitimate) employees ending up dead in the car park of the gym they run.

I enjoyed getting to know Grace, and her family too if I’m honest, even if they were a bad lot.  It meant there was plenty going on and plenty of people to like, dislike, trust and think were up to no good…I was wrong on more than one occasion, which is always a good thing with this type of book I think.  There were plenty of twists and turns here to keep me interested and wondering just who did it (I was right, then wrong, then right again – go me!) and more than enough in Grace and her team to see how this could turn into a great series.  

And, while books of this type do have a style and follow a pattern to a degree, this still felt fresh and interesting enough to make me want to come back for the next book when it’s released. 

Emma x

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Pure Skin Care: Nourishing Recipes for Vibrant Skin & Natural Beauty by Stephanie L. Tourles

Over the last few years, I have been trying to change how I think about health and beauty, moving to a more natural way of living.  This includes starting to make my own beauty products, which has been a bit hit and miss when it comes to my successes here.  That’s why Pure Skin Care appealed to me so much, it promised plenty of natural recipes for me to try out.

The book itself is written by a licensed holistic esthetician and certified aromatherapists who has been creating natural skin care products for over two decade.  I felt that experience in Pure Skin Care, a level of knowledge that gave me confidence in the recipes I was about to try.

Pure Skin Care is broken down into sections including how to care for your skin, the tools you’ll need, how to store products and techniques for creating recipes.  Then it goes onto the recipes themselves. It covers masks, steams, scrubs, moisturisers, conditioners, feet and hands, with recommendations based on your skin type and lots of tips and ‘good to know’s’ such as why good food can equal good looks.

I really enjoyed reading it and felt I learnt something beyond the recipes, most of which seemed easy for a novice like me and – of the ones I’ve tried – have all worked pretty well so far.  My main problem is I can’t easily access all the ingredients because of where I live so there was some internet shopping needed.  There’s also the issue that, starting out, I had to buy a lot from scratch so it wasn’t always cheap.

Saying that, now I have some of the ingredients, I can make more of the products I like pretty cheaply, and I am all for things not costing the earth – figuratively or literally.  I’m also for using products that do less harm, and that is definitely the case here.  I feel better using natural ingredients and was happy to find my skin didn’t seem to mind either.  This book was well worth the read and is well worth buying.

Enjoy!

Emma

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