Monday 30 October 2023

Starvation Heights by Gregg Olsen #StarvationHeights @Gregg_Olsen @threadbooks_ #NonFiction #BookReview


The shocking true-crime story of two orphaned sisters who arrived at a health retreat as patients - but only one would ever make it out alive... An extraordinary and gripping account of the starvation doctor from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of If You Tell.

In 1911 two British heiresses, Claire and Dora Williamson, read a brochure about a revolutionary fasting treatment that promised a lifetime of good health. The sanatorium in the village of Olalla, west of Seattle, was surrounded by a beautiful forest, sparkling waters and fresh air. The sisters agreed it sounded perfect and exactly the restorative holiday they needed.

But within a month of arriving, under the supervision of Doctor Linda Burfield Hazzard, Claire and Dora began to realise the frightening truth - they were not patients but prisoners at the isolated sanitorium.

Starved and on the edge of death, the sisters made several desperate attempts to escape. But only one would ever make it out alive.

Chilling and harrowing, Starvation Heights is a story of two vulnerable sisters, and how they were manipulated by a cunning and dangerous doctor into believing that her monstrous treatments would 'cure' them. Will totally hook fans of The Five and The Devil in the White City.

Starvation Heights by Gregg Olsen was published in paperback on 19 January 2023 by Thread. My copy was gifted to me by a friend. 

I'd not heard of Doctor Linda Burfield Hazzard before beginning to read Starvation Heights, so was totally unprepared for the depths of her wickedness and the breadth of her crimes. It's all too easy for us nowadays to assume that scammers are a new thing, we blame the internet, and social media when people are manipulated and made fools of.  It is very clear that cuckoo doctors, fake medicines and outright scams are not a new thing at all, we just hear more about them these days. 

Gregg Olsen's writing style is almost novelistic in style, he not only recounts exactly what Linda Hazzard put her victims through, he does it in great depth, never fusty, as though one is reading a text book, but always intriguing, leaving the reader wanting more. 

The author begins the book in 1911. Two wealthy British sisters; Claire and Dora Williamson read a pamphlet written by Linda Hazzard. In it, she claims to be able to cure all illnesses with a simple fasting technique, and she will carry out this treatment in her sanatorium in the beautiful area of Olalla, near Seattle in the US. Claire and Dora are orphans, they have a lot of money to spend. They enjoy travel and discovering new things and they are eager to undergo treatment with the Doctor. Both of them suffer with ill health, however, it's quite obvious that they are also totally consumed by health matters, most of which are neither life threatening or dangerous. 

It only takes a few weeks for the sisters to realise that Doctor Hazzard regards them not as patients, but as prisoners, and that she takes an unhealthy interest in their financial affairs. Eventually, the sister's former nurse Margaret Conway becomes aware of the situation and makes her way to the States with the intention of getting the girls out. 

Tragedy strikes and after a long, hard fight, Linda Hazzard is charged, the details of her trial are astonishing to read. 

The author takes a look at Hazzard's earlier life, and that of her husband too. He paints a picture of a determined woman who will stop at nothing to increase her own wealth. It is strange how well respected the Hazzards were in the neighbourhood, despite the local people having sight of the patients from the clinic. Seeing the starved bodies, hearing their cries. Hazzard was a manipulative woman who created an image and a world for herself, she believed her own world, and many others did too. 

The results of the trial are startling, totally unexpected and hard to fathom.

This is a huge book, at over 500 pages, but one that intrigued me so much. I enjoyed the author's style of writing and will certainly look out more by Gregg Olsen. 

A #1 New York Times, Amazon Charts, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling
author, Gregg Olsen has written nine nonfiction books, seventeen novels, a novella, and contributed a short story to a collection edited by Lee Child.

The award-winning author has been a guest on dozens of national and local television shows, including educational programs for the History Channel, Learning Channel, and Discovery Channel.

The Deep Dark was named Idaho Book of the Year by the ILA and Starvation Heights was honoured by Washington’s Secretary of State for the book’s contribution to Washington state history and culture.

Olsen, a Seattle native, lives in Olalla, Washington with his wife, twin daughters, three chickens, Milo (an obedience school dropout cocker) and Suri (a mini dachshund so spoiled she wears a sweater).

X / Twitter @Gregg_Olsen

Instagram @greggolsen

Friday 27 October 2023

The Whispers by Ashley Audrain #TheWhispers @audrain @MichaelJBooks #BookReview


The whispers started long before the accident on Harlow Street . . .

Was it at the party, when Whitney screamed blue murder at her son?

Or after neighbour Blair started prowling Whitney's house, uninvited?

Or once Rebecca and Ben's childlessness finally puts a crack in their marriage?

But on the terrible night of the accident, the whispers grow louder, more insistent.

Neighbours gather round. Questions are asked. Secrets are spilled. And the gloss on everything begins to rub off. Everyone is drawn into the darkness.

Because there's no smoke without fire.

No friendship without envy.

And no lie that does not conceal a devastating truth . . .

The Whispers by Ashley Audrain was published on 20 July 2023 by Michael Joseph. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

In November 2020 I read Ashley Audrain's debut novel, The Push. That book has stayed with me ever since. I found it emotionally challenging, yet incredibly compelling. It is a story that I have never forgotten. 

I began to read The Whispers with great anticipation, I was travelling around the eastern cities of Canada whilst reading, and had plenty of time to immerse myself fully in the story. And, what a story it is! Once again, this clever author has stunned me with her incredible insight into the complicated and sometimes unfathomable mind of the female. With the emphasis on motherhood and family, this is a novel that is utterly addictive. 

The novel features four main female characters; Whitney, Rebecca, Blair and Mara. They all live in the same neighbourhood, and it is that fact that connects them. They probably wouldn't be friends otherwise. Except, Mara is not their friend, she's just an old lady who has lived in the area for years, the other women don't take a great deal of notice of her, or her husband, but Mara spends a great deal of time noticing just what goes on in the street. 

The pivotal event for the plot is a small party in Whitney's back yard. The neighbours are all there, and they all hear how Whitney screams at her son Xavier. This episode puts a bit of a downer on things, and then, a few months later, when Xavier falls from his bedroom window and is left in a coma, memories are ignited and the whispers begin. Was he pushed? Remember that day when Whitney screamed at him?

Audrain pulls her readers into the heart of this neighbourhood, with each woman explicitly explored and dissected, chapter by chapter. We learn about Rebecca's desperate attempts to become a mother and how on-the-surface perfect Blair is crazed by paranoid thoughts about her husband. We also learn more about Mara, her history, her marriage and her grief.

At times it is so emotionally challenging, there is no let up from the darkness, and the suspicion and the tension. However, it is written with such flair and filled with such suspense that there's no choice, you have to read more. 

Another triumph from this exceedingly talented author.  Oh, and the final line of the book - be prepared! 

Highly recommended. 

ASHLEY AUDRAIN's debut novel THE PUSH is a New York Times, Sunday Times and #1 international bestseller, and a Good Morning America book club pick. 

It's been translated into 38 languages, and a limited television series is currently in development. 

Ashley previously worked as publicity director of Penguin Books Canada, and prior to that, worked in public relations. 

She lives in Toronto, where she and her partner are raising their two young children. 

THE WHISPERS is her second novel.

Twitter / X @audrain

Instagram @ashleyaudrain

Thursday 26 October 2023

The Drowning Place by S W Kane BLOG TOUR #TheDrowningPlace @kinkstah #DetectiveKirby @RandomTTours #BookReview


Murder on an abandoned housing development―and a web of dark secrets stretching back decades…

Looking for clues about her sister’s death amid the crumbling decay of a derelict and near-deserted London neighbourhood, urban explorer Connie Darke makes a terrifying discovery: William Stark, the estate’s architect and long-time resident, is hanging from the church’s vaulted ceiling.

For DI Lew Kirby, there’s no doubt that Stark was lured to his death―but who wanted him dead, and why? As Connie begins a covert investigation, desperate to find a connection to her sister, Kirby soon discovers that the remaining residents have something to hide.

Could there be a connection between Stark’s death and the unsolved case of Kevin Shires, a boy who went missing from the estate decades ago? And with Kirby and Connie both digging into the long-buried history of the estate’s darkest corners, what other secrets will be unearthed from the ruins of Grasmere?

The Drowning Place by S W Kane was published on 18 October 2023 by Thomas and Mercer and is the second in the Detective Lew Kirby series. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour. 

I have been so impressed with The Drowning Place by S W Kane, it's a story that is packed with atmosphere and tension, with the author slowly and surely revealing more to the reader. 

The Drowning Place is the second book to feature Detective Lew Kirby. The first, The Bone Jar, was published in 2020. Whilst I do have a copy of The Bone Jar, it is still waiting to be read!  However, this takes nothing away from the reading experience of The Drowning Place.  It reads well as a stand alone, with the author carefully adding any back story as needed, and she does that very well, it's not overwhelming at all.

Connie Darke is determined to find out more about her sister's death, and her quest has led her to the derelict Grasmere Estate in London. Connie is an urban explorer and well used to spending time in old, crumbling buildings, but what she finds at Grasmere is horrific.  Hanging from the ceiling in the estate church is William Stark. Stark was the architect that designed the estate, and one of the few residents still living there. 

Enter Detective Lew Kirby, who soon begins to realise that this must be murder. But who wants Stark dead, and why?

S W Kane takes her readers on a journey that is so well imagined and filled with characters who often appear to be more than a little strange. Grasmere itself is a major character in this tale, and the descriptive language whilst describing the estate adds so much to the tension in the plot. 

The author also manages to interweave Connie and Lew's own back stories which adds to both of their characters, making them appear human and so realistic.

An intriguing mystery story, written so well and encompassing such a vivid sense of place. Recommended by me. 

S W Kane has a degree in History of Design and worked at the Royal Institute of British Architects before taking on a series of totally unrelated jobs in radio and the music industry. 

She has an MA in Creative (Crime) Writing from City University. 

She began reading crime fiction at an early age and developed an obsession with crime set in cold places. 
A chance encounter with a derelict fort in rural Pembrokeshire led to a fascination with urban exploration, which in turn became the inspiration for her crime novels. 

She lives in London.

X / Twitter @kinkstah

Instagram @s.w.kane

Wednesday 25 October 2023

The Beaver Theory by Antti Tuomainen BLOG TOUR t. David Hackston #TheBeaverTheory @antti_tuomainen @OrendaBooks #BookReview


Henri Koskinen, intrepid insurance mathematician and adventure-park entrepreneur, firmly believes in the power of common sense and order. That is until he moves in with painter Laura Helanto and her daughter…

As Henri realises he has inadvertently become part of a group of local dads, a competing adventure park is seeking to expand their operations, not always sticking to the law in the process…

Is it possible to combine the increasingly dangerous world of the adventure-park business with the unpredictability of life in a blended family? At first glance, the two appear to have only one thing in common: neither deals particularly well with a mounting body count.

In order to solve this seemingly impossible conundrum, Henri is forced to step far beyond the mathematical precision of his comfort zone … and the stakes have never been higher…

Warmly funny, quirky, touching, and a nail-biting triumph of a thriller, The Beaver Theory is the final instalment in the award-winning Rabbit Factor Trilogy, as Henri encounters the biggest challenge of his career, with hair-raising results…

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Steve Carell

The Beaver Theory by Antti Tuomainen was published in hardback on 12 October 2023 by Orenda Books and is the final part of 'The Rabbit Factor' trilogy. It was translated by David Hackston. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour. 

I have really really enjoyed this magnificent series of books from author Antti Tuomainen. Beginning with The Rabbit Factor, followed by The Moose Paradox, and finishing dramatically, and hilariously (as always) with this gem of a read; The Beaver Theory. 

The whole series of books span just nine months in the life of Henri Koskinen, formally a quite boring and rigid insurance actuary, and now the proud, if incredibly stressed owner of an adventure park called YouMeFun, inherited from his brother. 

Over the course of the books, the reader has come to know and love Henri so very well, along with his supporting cast of characters; made up of the staff of the adventure park. Henri has had quite a few adventures along the way, but in The Beaver Theory he comes up against some devilish characters who will stop at nothing to put him out of business.

Henri and artist Laura have recently moved in together. They live in a flat with Laura's daughter, and Henri's cat. Henri finds it quite difficult to contemplate that he is now part of a family, this is a happy time for him, but will be marred by the antics of the owners of rival park Somerset City, whilst also dealing with becoming part of a local 'fathers' group. All so new to him, but Henri deals with it in is own special fashion. 

I think it took about 7 minutes before I laughed out loud!  Tuomainen's dry wit shines through this story, and whilst there are crimes a plenty, some violence, and an eye-watering scene of nudity and a horse whip, there are never ending laughs as Henri strives to make everything right in his world, whilst also protecting his new family, and his staff at YouMeFun. 

It could be called slapstick, but I think it's far cleverer than that. It's a crime novel, for sure, but it is populated with warm and wonderfully created characters with a plot that leads the reader around a maze of puzzles, and this is what makes this author so special. 

Needless to say, I will miss Henri and his strange little ways. I will also miss the camaraderie of the staff group, and the emerging craziness of the fathers group. I hope Henri and Laura find peace and live happily ever after. Maybe one day Antti Tuomainen will allow his readers to re-visit them, just to find out.
Highly recommended. 

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later, in 2013, they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published.

With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finland (2018) was an immense success, with The Times calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’, and Little Siberia (2019) was shortlisted for the Capital Crime/Amazon Publishing Readers Awards, the Last Laugh Award and the CWA International Dagger, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel. The Rabbit Factor is the first book in Antti’s first-ever series. The Rabbit Factor is also in development to become an Amazon Studios film starring Steve Carell.

Follow Antti on Twitter @antti_tuomainen, or on Facebook:

Tuesday 24 October 2023

A Game of Lies by Clare Mackintosh #AGameofLies @ClareMackint0sh @BooksSphere #DCFfionMorgan #BookReview


They say the camera never lies.
But on this show, you can't trust anything you see.

Stranded in the Welsh mountains, seven reality show contestants have no idea what they've signed up for.

Each of these strangers has a secret. If another player can guess the truth, they won't just be eliminated - they'll be exposed live on air. The stakes are higher than they'd ever imagined, and they're trapped.

The disappearance of a contestant wasn't supposed to be part of the drama. Detective Ffion Morgan has to put aside what she's watched on screen, and find out who these people really are - knowing she can't trust any of them.

And when a murderer strikes, Ffion knows every one of her suspects has an alibi . . . and a secret worth killing for.

A Game of Lies by Clare Mackintosh was published on 20 July 2023 by Sphere and is the second in the DC Ffion Morgan series. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I read and reviewed the first in this series; The Last Party, back in August 2022 and loved it so much. I've been waiting for the next episode and read this one when I was away on holiday in Canada last month. 

A Game of Lies is even better than book one! I don't really know who she does it, but this author has such a skill in character development. DC Ffion Morgan is sublime, she's flawed in character, with an intriguing history and the potential for much more to come. I especially enjoy her relationship with work colleague Leo, it's one of those 'will they, won't they' pairings and adds depth to the novel.

Exposure is the latest reality show, and it's being filmed not far from where Ffion lives and works, in fact, she knows one of the contestants, and also one of the crew. She's not really interested in the show, but has watched a few episodes with her Mum and sister, who she lives with. 

The contestants of Exposure were expecting to take part in a 'survival of the fitness' type challenge. However, on day one of the show, the producer drops his ace. This is not about fitness, this is about secrets and each one of the contestants have a secret that they want to keep. The rules are pretty simple; if they wish to stay in the show, they need to expose the secret of one of their fellow contestants. If their own secret is revealed, they are out. 

Ffion and her team get involved when a contestant goes missing, and it soon becomes clear that this may be a murder case when a body is discovered.

I am intrigued by reality programmes, I often wonder just why people are prepared to expose themselves so much, when it often leads to pain and rarely to long-term fame. Clare Mackintosh excels in creating characters, some of them are pretty vile, some of them seem more human, but all of them fit perfectly into this tense and intriguing mystery story. 

Ffion is the real star of the novel though. She's feisty, and often funny. She and her dog Dave are a wicked double act, and the titbits we are fed about her history add so much to her character. 

Once again, Clare Mackintosh has delivered a story that gripped me from beginning to end. Ffion is developing so well and I am eager to know what is in store for her next. Highly recommended. 

Clare Mackintosh is a police officer turned crime writer, and the multi-award-winning
author of six Sunday Times bestselling novels. 

Translated into forty languages, her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide and have spent a combined total of sixty-eight weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller chart. 
Clare lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

For more information visit Clare's website or find her at or on Twitter / X @ClareMackint0sh

Monday 23 October 2023

The Babysitter by Emma Curtis BLOG TOUR #TheBabysitter @emmacurtisbooks @CorvusBooks @RandomTTours #BookReview


Three women. Three secrets.

Claudia's life imploded ten years ago when she was convicted of the murder of her child. Now she has done the unthinkable and confessed to manslaughter in order to be granted parole - her only hope of finding out what really happened to Tilly.

Sara is married to Joe, Claudia's ex-husband, and they have a young child together. She finally has everything she ever wanted, but Claudia's release threatens the perfect life she has created.

Anna was the babysitter who let Claudia and Joe down on day their daughter disappeared. Married with a child of her own, Claudia's reappearance in her quiet cul-de-sac is an unwelcome surprise.

These three women are tied together in more ways than they realize. But only one of them is capable of killing.

The Babysitter by Emma Curtis was published on 12 October 2023 by Corvus Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour 

Not only is The Babysitter a damn good thriller, with multiple voices; none of whom seem to be very trustworthy, it is also a delicate and intricate look at mental health, and how the deterioration of the mind can impact on how one is viewed. 

Ten year ago Claudia was sent to prison for the murder of her baby daughter Tilly. Tilly's body was never found and Claudia has always claimed that the little girl was snatched by an unknown woman pretending to be the expected agency babysitter.  Finally, Claudia has admitted that she was responsible, however, she's only done that to secure her release from prison. Once out, she intends to find out the truth, she will not rest until she does.

Meanwhile, Claudia's ex-husband Joe has married again. He and his new wife Sara have a baby daughter of their own. Still living nearby, and now married and a mother herself, is Anna, the girl who was originally booked to babysit Tilly on that dreadful night. Anna claimed to be ill that night, and that's why an agency sitter was booked. 

Claudia has clearly suffered with serious mental health issues for many years. Lots of people claimed that it was because she had stopped her medication that she had killed Tilly. After spending ten years behind bars, it is clear that Claudia still suffers with fragile mental health. Living in her mother's house, alone, and constantly abused and attacked by both the media and the neighbours, she appears frail and fraught.

This is a story that ties the reader in knots. I felt myself constantly doubting all of the characters, the three women and Joe himself all appear to contradict themselves on many occasions, and we, as readers have the luxury of knowing their innermost thoughts, and not just seeing their outer persona.

Throughout the story, my favoured suspect changed constantly, and this is the beauty of this book. Emma Curtis does a fine job of engaging her reader, yet keeping the pace and plot perfectly aligned. 

As various things are revealed, we begin to see the full story of what happened many years ago, and also of the various relationships within the novel, and it's a complex and cleverly woven tale of guilt, betrayal, lies and cover ups. 

It's not a short novel, but it's a very satisfying read. The characters are deliciously devilish at times, and also incredibly human. Recommended. 

Emma Curtis was born in Brighton and now lives in London with her husband. 

After raising two children and working various jobs, her fascination with the darker side of domestic life inspired her to start writing psychological suspense thrillers. 

She has published five previous titles with Transworld:  One Little Mistake, When I Find You, The Night You Left, Keep Her Quiet and Invite Me In. 

X / Twitter @emmacurtisbooks

Thursday 19 October 2023

The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson #TheSquareOfSevens @LauraSRobinson @MantleBooks @panmacmillan #BookReview #HistoricalFiction


A girl known only as Red, the daughter of a Cornish fortune-teller, travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient method: the Square of Sevens. When her father suddenly dies, Red becomes the ward of a gentleman scholar.

Now raised as a lady amidst the Georgian splendour of Bath, her fortune-telling is a delight to high society. But she cannot ignore the questions that gnaw at her soul: who was her mother? How did she die? And who are the mysterious enemies her father was always terrified would find him?

The pursuit of these mysteries takes her from Cornwall and Bath to London and Devon, from the rough ribaldry of the Bartholomew Fair to the grand houses of two of the most powerful families in England. And while Red's quest brings her the possibility of great reward, it also leads her into grave danger . . .

The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson was published in hardback on 22 June 2023 by Mantle/Pan Macmillan. The paperback will be published in March 2024. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. I also treated myself to the special-edition, signed copy from Waterstone's.

I absolutely adored Laura Shepherd-Robinson's previous two novels and had been looking forward to The Square of Sevens for a long time. Time ran away with itself, and I didn't get a chance to read it until recently. I made great use of a seven hour flight to Canada recently and totally immersed myself into the story on the plane. 

Once again, this author has delivered a novel that is rich in historical detail, the breadth of her research is overwhelming, and the reader really does feel transported back to mid-eighteenth century Bath and London.

We meet lead character Red as she travels the countryside with her father; a fortune-teller from Cornwall. They attend country fairs and tell fortunes using an ancient method known as the Square of Sevens. They are loving and close father/daughter partnership, relying on each other constantly. When Red's father suddenly and tragically dies, it seems that she will have to be taken into the care of the local poorhouse. However, she is saved by a gentleman called Robert Antrobus and soon finds herself living as a lady, mixing with the elite and high society in the city of Bath. 

Despite the wealth and apparently gentile society, this community are also intrigued by fortune telling and Red continues to tell the fortunes of those that she meets. However, her main aim is to discover more about her mother. Red is convinced that her mother was a lady. Another misfortune finds Red in London, alone and having to deal with people who have a vested interest in the Square of Sevens, whilst still searching for the truth about her heritage. 

This is a colourful, rich novel, filled with characters who burst from the pages. There is magic, and wickedness throughout the tale. Readers are treated to visions of fine dining rooms, incredible wealth and also the darker side of humanity. 

Red is an incredible character, heading up a vast cast in a story that will delight fans of historical fiction. Once more, this author has delivered a rich and revelatory novel, dealing with social issues and throwing twists along the way. Highly recommended. 

Laura Shepherd-Robinson worked in politics for nearly twenty years before re-enteringnormal life to complete an MA in Creative Writing. 
Her debut novel, Blood & Sugar, was a Waterstones Thriller of the Month and won the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown and the Specsavers/Crimefest Best Debut Novel prize. 
Her second novel, Daughters of Night, was shortlisted for the Theakstons Crime Book of the Year, the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award, and the HWA Gold Crown. 
The Square of Sevens is her third novel. 
She lives in London with her husband Adrian.

X / Twitter @LauraSRobinson

Wednesday 18 October 2023

The Rituals by Rebecca Roberts BLOG TOUR #TheRituals #RebeccaRoberts @honno @RandomTTours #BookReview


Gwawr, secular celebrant, single and in her thirties, knows all too well how life can change in an instant. Well practiced at keeping her composure, she keeps on smiling, even though her own life is falling apart behind the scenes. A victim of online sabotage, an unknown perpetrator is trying to destroy Gwawr and her business. Prone to unwise relationships, we follow her as she becomes hopelessly embroiled with an attractive client, thwarts the advances of another, and tries to survive as her business dries up and her money runs out. All while finding a way to acknowledge her own, very private, grief.

This is a tale of friendship, love, unbearable loss and how we overcome the dark depths to find the light again. We all carry secrets and sometimes only solidarity and the trust of another will unlock them.

A heartfelt novel exploring what it means to be human when we are at our most vulnerable.

The Rituals by Rebecca Roberts was published on 28 September 2023 by Honno Welsh Women's Press. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour

I am delighted that Rebecca Roberts has published this wonderful novel in English. I don't speak Welsh, and if she and the publisher, Honno, had not made the decision to publish in English, I would have missed such a treat.

The Rituals is Gwawr's story. She's a Welsh, secular celebrant. Working freelance, conducting marriages, naming ceremonies and funerals. Single and in her late thirties, Gwawr is a complex character. The author cleverly and slowly, builds the character, exposing her flaws, revealing her humour and allowing the reader to become aware of her innermost thoughts and feelings. 

The opening paragraph of this book really resonated with me. I have read it multiple times, and it really feels as though it were written just for me. Having lost two people over the past few years who were so dear to me; my Mum, who was eighty, and my forty-seven year old best friend, Rebecca Roberts' words in that first paragraph were perfect. I have grieved so differently for those two special women, and those few lines, written at the start of a fiction story have helped me to understand my own mixed reactions. 

Back to the book!  It's a beautifully written story that not only follows Gwawr and her career. It also lays bare the effects of grief on various people and who someone like Gwawr, who has her own burden to carry can offer help, guidance and support, whilst also going through a healing process herself. 

It is certainly not all doom and gloom. There's a lot of humour in this book, there are happy and exciting events, not just funerals, and there's a touch of mystery throughout too as Gwawr's business is threatened by some mean and nasty tricks played on her. 

Gwawr's vulnerability is exposed throughout. Her decision making could sometimes be questioned, but always understood. It's a story of hope and about humankind and friendship and community. It's a novel of lasting love, about being betrayed and about loss.

Wonderful, and highly recommended by me. 

Rebecca Roberts has worked as a teacher, development officer and translator. 
She grew up near the sea in Prestatyn and still lives there with her husband and two children. 
She writes in Welsh and English, and is the author of seven novels. 
She won the Children and Young People category in the Book of the Year Award 2021 and the Tir na n-Óg Award 2021 with her first novel for young people, #Helynt. 
This is her first English language novel with Honno Press.