Book Review · Books

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden [BOOK REVIEW]

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden [BOOK REVIEW]

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden captured my attention from the very beginning. The errieness of the forbidden part of the house made for a spooky atmosphere. It’s the perfect read for Halloween!

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden [BOOK REVIEW]

Pages: 388

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Format I read it in: Uncorrected Paperback

Rating: ★★★★

My Thoughts:

Margaret Lennox is a young widow and she’s offered a position as governess at Hartwood Hall. She is eager to start, hoping that this new place and work will bring her a healthy distraction from her reality. It’s 1852 and references are extremely important to secure a job. Although Margaret is afraid her hearing loss will prevent her from getting this job, she is soon proven wrong. Mrs. Eversham gives her the job to teach her son, Louis.

Despite Louis being a great pupil, Margaret feels quite uneasy in the house. There are strange figures in the dark and a forbidden east wing of the house. Also, the servants keep whispering and Margaret feels like they are keeping things from her. The town doesn’t trust Mrs. Eversham and they think the house is haunted and cursed. Margaret also starts a forbidden affair with Paul, the gardener, and inevitably starts to tangle herself in a lot of situations. As her past is trying to catch up with her, she now has current secrets also to try and keep.

I quite enjoyed reading this book!

It was so easy to keep the pages turning and dive into Margaret’s life. As we learn more about her, I admired her search for freedom, despite the curveballs that life has thrown at her. Her marriage was not one from love and she was being owned by a man who claimed to know what’s best for her. Imagine not being allowed to work if you wished so, to not be allowed to read your preferred genre, to engage with your friends. When Margaret becomes a widow, she’s rightfully excited to start teaching again.

On the other side of the story, we have Hartwood Hall and its residents.

Mrs. Eversham is a lady that keeps to herself and often travels away. Louis is a boy that doesn’t say much, but is hiding a big pain in his heart. Everyone is hiding something in this house, even the servants, especially the servants. The house screams of secrets and eeriness. On top of this, spooky things do happen, especially during the night. Food missing from the cupboards, footsteps that keep erasing themselves, candles placed in odd places and being moved… The servants don’t seem to know how to mind their own business, and Margaret ends up getting herself in the middle of a blackmail situationship.

“Of course I did not believe the house was cursed – but when people feared a place, there was usually a reason.”

The ending was somewhat unexpected, but not as exciting.

It explained everything and tied up the story very neatly, leaving nothing unresolved. I just didn’t feel that wow factor when closing the book in the end. However, despite that, this book really impressed me. It was the battle for freedom, in a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable to do so that did it for me in the end. In the search for true happiness and standing up for love, for friendship, for loyalty. When a loss can cause us heartbreak, even though we know it’s the best thing for us. And when a loss can also ultimately secure our freedom and give us the relief we needed to be happy again.

The Secret of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden is coming out in March 2023 and I strongly recommend you give it a chance.

About The Author:

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden [BOOK REVIEW]

Katie Lumsden is a twenty-eight-year-old novelist and short story writer from London. She has been reading Victorian literature avidly since she was thirteen years old, and it is her love of literature and history that inspires her to write. After a degree in English literature and history, she studied for an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University, before embarking on a career in the publishing industry. Her short stories have been shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize and the Bridport Prize, and have been published in various literary magazines, including Litro and Brittle Star.

Katie has a Youtube channel, Books and Things, where she reviews and recommends books, focusing on classics and historical fiction.

Her first novel, The Secrets of Hartwood Hall, will be published by Michael Joseph in March 2023.

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Book Review · Books

The Guilty Wife by Nina Manning [BOOK REVIEW]

The Guilty Wife by Nina Manning [BOOK REVIEW]

The Guilty Wife (also known as Her Darkest Fear) by Nina Manning was an interesting and mysterious read. I just feel that it didn’t do quite enough to really impress me.

The Guilty Wife by Nina Manning [BOOK REVIEW]

Pages: 334

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Format I read it in: Paperback

Rating: ★★★

My Thoughts:

Frankie Keegan lost her brother 20 years ago. And every year around that date, the memories start creeping into her life. Her life at home with her husband and kids is on the rocks and she’s trying to be successful in her new job. And as if that isn’t enough, it appears that someone else also remembers the date, and they will make sure to let Frankie know this…

Even though the Guilty Wife kept me intrigued whilst reading it, I never felt that heart-stopping, wow moment. It’s quite hard to choose between 3 and 4 stars, but I’m going with a 3-star rating for a couple of reasons. There were a lot of things that remained a mystery and never got revealed, unless I missed the reveal somehow. Nothing was said about the nanny’s weird behaviour. Also, there was a certain number being mentioned throughout the book that held some meaning, but we never understand the meaning. The last 20 pages were where the big reveal happened. And to me, these pages were an info dump of everything that happened in the past. As soon as I started reading it, I knew exactly what person was involved. But at the same time, I couldn’t have guessed it because not enough clues were revealed before the reveal. 

And finally, I couldn’t agree with Frankie’s decisions in the end. I personally didn’t enjoy the epilogue stages of the book.

Aside from the negatives, The Guilty Wife kept me intrigued from the very first page until the very end. I enjoyed the mystery and the constant change of potential culprits, until it got ruined by the reveal. I would still recommend this book if you want to go on a journey of grief, friendships, old loves lost and a sprinkle of mystery!

About The Author:

Nina Manning began her career in the catering industry. She has worked as a private chef cooking for royalty and TV personalities.

She has a degree in Psychology and has three books published with Boldwood: The Daughter In Law, The Guilty Wife and The House Mate.
Her fourth Psychological thriller is published in Spring 2021.

Nina is a voracious reader of many genres, is the founding member of a long standing book club and the founder and co-host of a book podcast called Sniffing The Pages.

She is a mother to three young children so when she is not writing or reading she can usually be found scaling a soft play tower or romping in the woods with the family and her chocolate Labrador.

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Book Review · Books

This Book Kills by Ravena Guron [BOOK REVIEW]

This Book Kills by Ravena Guron [BOOK REVIEW]

I could not recommend it enough! “This Book Kills” deserves all the hype in the world!

About The Book:

This Book Kills by Ravena Guron [BOOK REVIEW]

Pages: 394

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Usborne YA

Format I read it in: Uncorrected Proof / Paperback

Rating: ★★★★★

My Thoughts:

I can’t remember the last time I was so immersed in a book, that I spent a full all-nighter finishing it, gasped at every hint and literally jumped (all the while dropping the book in excitement) when I correctly guessed who’d done it! 

The most popular and rich kid in Heybuckle School, Hugh Henry Van Boren, has been found dead. And as soon as the news arrive, the student body is very keen to find the murderer. Our main character, Jess, is a student in this school. Not being rich, she is working hard to keep her grades good and her record clean so she doesn’t lose her scholarship. 

However, she finds herself at the centre of the investigation when it’s revealed that Hugh died in the exact same way as a character in a short story that she wrote. On top of this, Jess receives an anonymous tip, thanking her for the inspiration, and sending a threat her way.

Jess needs to solve this murder urgently, as time is running out. She may not only lose her scholarship, but she may end up also losing her life!

I greatly enjoyed “This Book Kills” and rooted for Jess from the very beginning.

We are instantly introduced to this posh high-school, where Jess feels an instant disadvantage being “the scholarship girl”. We can feel this through her interactions with the other students and teachers. 

It also doesn’t help that the school has an anonymous secret club called the Regia Club, where students are asked to pull dangerous pranks on each other. And the adults know this is happening and yet decide to not act upon it, due to reputation. 

“Just because things are easy for you, doesn’t mean they’re easy. Just because people are good to you, doesn’t mean they’re good. You can’t close your eyes and then claim ignorance – people who let bad stuff happen are just as bad as the people who do bad stuff.”

I wouldn’t say this is the deadliest thriller of 2023, but it’s for sure the most intriguing YA thriller I have read so far. It kept me on the edge of my seat; the clues, the drama, the plot twists just kept coming. I ended up predicting the culprit, but I don’t think it was very predictable. I loved the fact that the book stops at a certain point and tells you to make a prediction, because a reveal is about to happen. As soon as I got the reveal, I was beyond happy that I guessed it right. This interaction with the book made me completely forget whether my prediction was predictable or not. 

I am certain that this book will take the reader community by storm in the new year. Jess is a heroine that we will want to be friends with, although we’d rather not be in her shoes. If you’re about to pick any YA thriller in the new year, let it be this one. As This Book Kills. 

About The Author:

This Book Kills by Ravena Guron [BOOK REVIEW]

A born and bred Londoner, Ravena writes MG and YA, usually featuring antiheroines or snarky narrators. Growing up she always read the last page of books first, but discovering Agatha Christie in her early teens stopped that habit, igniting a love of twisty murder-mysteries with jaw-dropping endings the reader never saw coming. Ravena is a lawyer with a degree in biochemistry, and hopes to use the knowledge gained from her experiences to plot the perfect murder (for a book, of course!).

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Book Review · Books

You by Caroline Kepnes [BOOK REVIEW]

You by Caroline Kepnes [BOOK REVIEW]

About You by Caroline Kepnes

You by Caroline Kepnes [BOOK REVIEW]

Pages: 422

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Format I read it in: Paperback

Rating: ★★★

My Thoughts:

You… How do I start writing a review about you? You had all the potential to be something special… A thriller with a psychologically unstable character, a person that becomes so obsessive about another person. We were almost there, me and you, You. But you ruined it with the cliche ending and unsurprising reveals. At the end I even started resenting the way you are written in second person. 

I’m not going to lie, I have had this book on my TBR since forever and I always found the synopsis so gripping. It’s not every day that you can enter the mind of a stalker who falls in love with “the girl next door”. I’ve always been captivated by twisted characters and this time was no different. But Joe kind of disappointed me. It wasn’t anything special, just a guy who goes really over the top about people he loves. Badshit crazy over the top, but predictable. 

I expected him to do everything he went on to do.

In fact, I was surprised by Beck. She was a real bitch actually. Obviously, she never deserved what happened to her, but she was brutal with her lying and cheating. If I was Joe, I’d be a bit upset too. Not as upset, I mean, the guy is bonkers… 

“The only thing cruller than a cage so small that a bird can’t fly is a cage so large that a bird thinks it can fly. Only a monster would lock a bird in here and call himself an animal lover.”

I am not sure what exactly I was expecting, but the book didn’t have it. That wow factor maybe. Or I was maybe missing the tension about someone figuring out who / what Joe is. Maybe it was Beck’s perspective I was missing, to understand her better. I never knew if I could trust the girl. And this is where the masterpiece comes – this is where we realise how genius the author is. The writing made me root for Joe. Made me root for the crazy guy without a single doubt in my mind. This book is so twisted and clever that I liked Joe as a character, despite him being a proper psychopath. I knew he was the bad guy, and yet his excuses made sense – which prompted me to double question myself after numerous chapters. 

I was lacking some tension and action. The book kept me gripped with its twistiness in characters, but it didn’t impress me. I was waiting for the big finale that never happened and the ending was underwhelming to me. However, I’m still planning to read the rest of the series because I’m curious to find out what is next for Joe.

About The Author:

You by Caroline Kepnes [BOOK REVIEW]

Caroline Kepnes is the New York Times bestselling author of You, Hidden Bodies, Providence and…

You Love Me. Publishing in the US on April 6, 2021

Her work has been translated into a multitude of languages and inspired a television series adaptation of You, currently on Netflix. Kepnes graduated from Brown University and then worked as a pop culture journalist for Entertainment Weekly and a TV writer for 7th Heaven and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. She grew up on Cape Cod, and now lives in Los Angeles.

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Book Review · Books

Bad Things Happen Here by Rebecca Barrow [BOOK REVIEW]

Bad Things Happen Here by Rebecca Barrow [BOOK REVIEW]

Bad Things Happen Here is a beautiful story with a lot of lessons to give. It has a little bit of everything and just enough to keep you intrigued and melt your heart!

About The Book:

Bad Things Happen Here by Rebecca Barrow [BOOK REVIEW]

Pages: 352

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Format I read it in: Uncorrected Proof / Paperback

Rating: ★★★★

My Thoughts:

Luca Laine Thomas has lived in Parris Island all her life. And one year ago, she lost Polly, her best friend. Now there’s a new girl that moved into Polly’s house and the curse that surrounds this island strikes again. 

Young women keep being murdered and the cases remain unsolved. Now it’s Luca’s turn to do some investigating on her own and figure out what the hell is wrong with this island. 

Luca is such a refreshing character.

She is mixed-race, queer and plus sized, but most importantly, she’s hilarious, smart, and not afraid to stand up for herself. I was glad to see her embrace her mental health journey and show us how she is dealing with grief. She is not afraid to open about her feelings – and thank God for that – we need more Luca’s in our lives and on our pages, so that people start realising that talking about emotions is okay. 

The story is intriguing and captivating. Meeting a log of characters and having those parties on the island gave me some “We Were Liars” vibes. The chapters are short and the way they end prompts you to continue. I stayed up until 2am, finishing this book. 

“People lie about where they were when they don’t want anyone to know what they were doing and where they were doing it.”

I liked the mystery elements, although I think there were some flaws. Luca relied on just one source to give her clues, and if that source ceased for some reason, she wouldn’t have been able to reveal anything. Additionally, I think in real life, that person would never reveal anything at all, because of how it relates to them and the connection, in my opinion. And even though we get one reveal in the end, we don’t get answers to the old cases at all. There was supposed to be some connection between all the murders, and it was never entertained afterwards. It left me slightly disappointed from that point of view.

I liked the romantic connection Luca had, and how real it all was. Especially towards the end. It proves to show that you can love and care for someone so deeply, but still cannot forgive or forget if they hurt you bad enough. We don’t always get the happy ever afters. And maybe time will heal their wounds and destiny will guide them to each other again. We’ll never know, and we can only hope, and that’s the beauty of it. 

About The Author:

Bad Things Happen Here by Rebecca Barrow [BOOK REVIEW]

Rebecca Barrow is the critically acclaimed author of Bad Things Happen Here, Interview with the Vixen, This Is What It Feels Like, and You Don’t Know Me But I Know You. She is a lover of sunshine, Old Hollywood icons, and all things high femme. She lives and writes in England. Visit her at www.rebecca-barrow.com

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