Thursday 30 September 2021

Book Review | The Spirit Engineer by A. J. West | prettylittlewriter

An eerie, complex and brilliantly written historical ghost story.

Two years after the sinking of the titanic, high society has become obsessed with spiritualism. In Belfast, Ireland, William Crawford is a man of science and a sceptic, but one night with everyone sat around the circle of a séance, something happens that places doubt in his heart and a seed of obsession in his mind.

Are spirits really trying to communicate with him? Or is it just a load of parlour tricks?'
Only after I finished this novel did I realise that this was based on a true story! 

This novel had everything you could want in a ghost story, from terrifying descriptions of the ghosts (and the humans), to the uncertainty of whether Crawford was even really seeing these ghosts, if it was in his head, or if he was being hoaxed.

I was so impressed with AJ's writing, it was complex in places, but I could vividly picture each character and the places he described, and it was also incredibly intense in some places, especially in the third part of the novel. I also found it comedic in some places, with some brilliant one-liners from both Crawford himself, as well as other characters, such as Blithe.

I found that William was a very unlikeable character from the offset, he treats  both his wife and children unkindly, and sees himself higher up the social hierarchy than his peers, due to his engineering role and that he is a soon-to-be published author. My dislike of him took nothing away from the story however, it simply made it even more interesting to find out what would happen to Crawford.

Without going into too much detail as I do not wish to spoil the story, I was completely taken by surprise by the huge twist at the end. Awestruck and dumbfounded, I thought it was absolutely brilliant! Did not expect it all all, and thoroughly impressed!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I will recommend it to anyone that loves a a spooky story! 

5/5 stars

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Book Review | The Appeal by Janice Hallett | prettylittlewriter

An incredibly interesting read with some well-developed characters.

'Dear Reader-enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death.

Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What's more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.

Throughout the Fiaryway Players' staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick's life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered.'

I went into this novel so confident that I would solve it and it would be a piece of cake. Boy was I wrong!

Janice has written an incredibly clever novel, allowing us as the reader, to try and solve the murder of a resident in Lockwood. There are two characters within, Femi and Charlotte, that have been tasked with solving the murder themselves by their boss, the solicitor for the person that has been wrongly committed of said murder. Everything that we read, is the correspondence between residents of the town that Femi and Charlotte have been given, so we get to solve it alongside them.

The novel is well set out, with clear headers for whom the correspondence was from and to, along with dates. I also liked that we got little snippets of What's App conversations from Femi and Charlotte, as they discussed what they/we had read, as these conversations are what give you hints as to what to look for within the correspondence to solve it.

It is quite a complex plot, with numerous characters and timescales that you have to get used to as you read, and a lot of the characters are actually quite unlikeable. I took an immediate dislike to Isabel, as I found her annoying and self-absorbed. Constantly trying to force herself on others to create friendships, which they clearly didn't want.
It is incredibly well written, with interesting and well-developed characters, which is a feat in itself as it is all done via emails/texts.
I also found it very clever how there were certain characters that weren't who we believed them to be, or even be at all.

There were some very solemn parts within the novel, especially surrounding Poppy and her illness. Cancer is a tough subject under normal circumstances, never mind when fraud/family drama is also brought into it.

The novel clearly showcases the issues of social hierarchy and how in a lot of tight knit communities, there will be an 'alpha' family; one that the rest will do anything to please. 

Janice threw us some misdirection's within the book, which is why I found it difficult myself to actually figure out who had committed the crime. I ended up not trying to solve it myself, and just going with the flow of it, looking forward to seeing how Femi and Charlotte came to their conclusions.

Overall, I found this novel compelling, complex and highly original, something I haven't seen done before, so I am thoroughly impressed!

4/5 stars

Sunday 26 September 2021

Book Review | All Down The Line by Andrew Field | prettylittlewriter

 Thank you to Boomslang Books for my copy.


‘MANCHESTER: Cain Bell thought he had closure over his daughter’s hit and run death after Ted Blake confessed he was behind the wheel just before he died.

Fast forward twenty years and Cain’s fiancée claims the driver was lying. Before she can say more, a savage attack leaves her in a coma fighting for her life. To make sense of the assault, Cain must discover why four friends swore blind to never reveal the tragic truth about the circumstances surrounding the killing of his daughter.

He can only succeed if he persuades Manchester’s most terrifying gangster to talk. But Billy McGinty is in no mood to break his own wall of silence.

Somehow Cain must convince him to spill the beans, even if it means putting his own life on the line.’

This is one of those novels that can put you off finishing if you struggle with the writing style. To me, Field has a very clipped and erratic writing style, which I found difficult to get into, as it felt a bit all over the place. There are a lot of different characters to get to know, and occasionally I found myself unsure as to who was actually speaking.


The characters themselves were very well developed. I felt like I knew exactly the type of people they were, especially through the way they spoke. The Mancunian accent was prominent throughout. I don’t think we were supposed to like any of the characters besides Cain, which was definitely how I felt.


I’m not very familiar with Manchester myself as I’ve only visited a couple of times when I was younger, however, the way it is described is very vivid and I’m sure if you were more familiar with the area, it would be a great ode to the city.


I felt so incredibly sorry for Cain. He had been through so much already after losing his daughter, to then potentially losing his soon-to-be wife on the night of their engagement. And to top it off, there was a huge secret she was keeping from him that she was about to tell him before she went into a coma that he was desperate to find out, as it related to his daughter.


Once I’d gotten into the rhythm of Field’s writing, the storyline starting opening up and became increasingly interesting, along with some twists and turns that I did not expect! However, I did figure out who really killed his daughter quite near the beginning of the novel, as that seemed to be where it was heading.


Overall, I enjoyed the storyline and the ending of the novel, however, I did struggle with the writing, and found myself not necessarily looking forward to reading it because of this. I wouldn't say it's a bad book, I just didn't enjoy it as much as I have other crime novels.


3/5 stars

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Book Review | The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman | prettylittlewriter

 Mr Osman has outdone himself with The Man Who Died Twice. I was thoroughly impressed with his debut novel, The Thursday Murder Club, as I thought it was an incredibly unique idea, with some very interesting characters. But dare I say it; his second novel is even better.


‘Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He's made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn't that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn't bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?’


Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin UK for giving me the opportunity to read this novel before publication date (although my review is a few days later!).


After the first novel introduced us well to each of the eccentric and witty characters, we dive straight back into Coopers Chase from Joyce’s initial perspective, with a curious letter that Elizabeth has received from an old friend. Turns out, this old friend is actually an ex-husband, whom she used to work with at MI5, and he’s gotten himself into a spot of bother with some stolen diamonds.

The murder club springs into action, with some hilarious and remarkable scenarios along the way.


I absolutely adore each and every character in this novel (besides the obvious baddies). Joyce is sassy and a little self-absorbed, Elizabeth is badass, Ibrahim is a sweetheart that needs protecting, and Ron is a hardman, with an exterior of steel but a softie on the inside. Each of them are unique and cleverly written, and it genuinely feels like each character is speaking to you as a reader.

I also love the character of Bogdan, who drops everything to help our murder club out, and also to keep Elizabeth’s husband company.


You were kept in suspense throughout, with so many twists and turns that leave you guessing until the very end as to whodunit. The characters are also very unreliable due to the first person narrative, so you cannot be sure to believe them until it is proven to be true.

I cannot recommend this novel enough, there were so many laugh out loud moments, moments of heartbreak and anger, that helped me finish the book in just two days. I would even say you don’t necessarily need to read the first novel to enjoy it, but you do get a better sense of the characters by doing so.


Even though the scenarios within this novel are very wild and probably not something that would happen in real life (Would police officers really help elderly people frame someone for drug trafficking?), it doesn’t take away from any of the enjoyment of it. It is pure fictional hilarity.


I am looking forward to reading more from the Thursday Murder Club, and may they continue to be just as hilarious!


5/5 stars

ps. How STUNNING is this special edition with stencilled edges by Goldsboro?!

Thursday 16 September 2021

Book Review | The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton | prettylittlewriter

 Thank you so much to Rosie from Headline for sending me an advanced readers copy for review (even though I’ve only managed to read it after the publication date, whoops!)

This is the first crime novel that I’ve read where it is based primarily on board a boat, with multiple trips to different Caribbean islands. It is unique, clever, and picturesque with a killer twist.



‘Charlotte Wilson didn't choose a life of crime. It chose her. Once introduced to the world of wealthy clients and easy money by her ex-husband on board cruise ships, Charlotte was hooked. However, complacency and greed led to a slip-up with devastating consequences. Her ex winds up dead and Charlotte is threatened with exposure.

Attending a wedding party on-board a luxury cruise liner gives Charlotte the perfect guise to return to the scene of her original crimes on a Caribbean island, in order to retrieve hidden evidence. However, trapped out at sea, Charlotte realises that the person threatening her must also be on board. But who?

Upon discovering the link between a past victim and her current tormentor, a horrified Charlotte finds the roles reversed - because it turns out that it really does take one to know one - unless she can pull off her biggest con yet by persuading them of her innocence.’

I really felt a sense of escapism within this novel due to the locations throughout, I could vividly picture the gorgeous sun-kissed island vibes and also the stunning clothes that Charlotte would always wear. There were so many characters throughout, and a lot of them you were seemingly expected to dislike, however, I found that many of them had their flaws but were still quite likeable (I actually disliked both Charlotte and Sam more than anyone else!).


Charlotte and Sam’s relationship seemed perfect to begin with, young and so in-love, and only as the novel progresses throughout each chapter (Karen separated the ‘Then’ from the ‘Now’) do we slowly see the relationship coming apart, scam by scam.

I really liked that the chapters were split between the past and the present, as we got to see how Charlotte’s relationship, and how she herself, evolved, and what led to her current situation.

The pace of the novel is brilliant; I was eager to keep reading to find out who was tormenting Charlotte.

You are also kept guessing who the killer is throughout, a kind of murder-mystery vibe, with all of the guests on-board the present cruise ship being suspects. About halfway through the novel, I had my suspicions of who the killer was, and these were proven correct at the very end of the novel, which I was quite proud of.


Living in Devon myself, it was also lovely having the mention of a gorgeous house on the seafront, giving that little bit of familiarity to me.


I enjoyed this novel immensely, and was very impressed with Karen’s writing, and I’m now looking forward to getting my hands on her first two novels!


4/5 stars

Book Review | Hold My Place by Cassondra Windwalker | prettylittlewriter

'When librarian Sigrun falls head-over-heels for the sophisticated and very married Edgar Leyward, she never expects to find herself in his bed—or his heart. Nevertheless, when his enigmatic wife Octavia dies from a sudden illness, Sigrun finds herself caught up in a whirlwind romance worthy of the most lurid novels on her bookshelves. Sigrun soon discovers Octavia wasn't Edgar's first lost love, or even his second. Three women Edgar has loved met early deaths. As she delves into her beloved's past through a trove of discovered letters, the edges of Sigrun identity begin to disappear, fading into the women of the past.

Sigrun tells herself it's impossible for any dark magic to be at play—that the dead can't possibly inhabit the bodies of the living—but something shadowy stalks the halls of the Leyward house and the lines between the love of the present and the obsessions of the past become increasingly blurred—and bloody.’

I managed to squeeze this novel in as my last one of August, as its only 280 pages long, and I read it in a couple of days.  I went into it knowing it was going to be a thriller, but didn’t actually realise there was supernatural element to it until the novel was coming to a close. It was a great surprise, and the twist was very clever.


However, I did not enjoy this novel as much as I’d hoped. I found Sigrun’s character quite annoying at times, and I often had no sympathy for her, especially as she complained about Edgar’s wife Octavia, as she knew full well he was married when they met.

Parts of Sigrun’s personality becomes clearer as the novel progresses, as you realise that it’s not necessarily her own free will that is causing her to act this way, but I still had a bit of an issue with how she treated her friend that she worked with in the library.


I actually did like the character of Edgar, he seemed to be a very kind man, and I think he did care for Sigrun in his own way, even if there was more to it than met the eye. What he did for love, was very sweet, and he was incredibly devoted.


The twist at the end was definitely the best part, it was very clever and unexpected, and something I hadn’t seen before, which is why I am giving this a slightly higher rating than I would for the rest of the novel!

Overall a very interesting concept and story, just let down by it's unlikeable main character.


3.5/5 stars

Publication date; 25th January 2022

Wednesday 8 September 2021

Book Tour | Fury Of A Demon by Brian Naslund | prettylittlewriter

Today I am participating in the blog tour for Fury Of A Demon by Brian Naslund. 

This is actually the first fantasy novel that I have read in a long time, and I only had 3 days to read it in time for this blog post (it's over 400 pages long!) so I was a little scared initially as there are SO many different names and places to remember! However, I needn't of worried, as the book was so good that I was drawn in from the start. 

'The war against Osyrus Ward goes poorly for Bershad and Ashlyn. They are pinned in the Dainwood by monstrous alchemical creations and a relentless army of mercenaries, and running out of both options and allies.

The Witch Queen struggles with her new powers, knowing that the secret of unlocking her dragon cord is key to stopping Ward's army, she pushes forward with her experiments.

Meanwhile, with every wound Bershad suffers, he gets closer to losing his humanity forever, and as the war rages, the exile turned assassin turned hero isn't even sure if being human is something he wants.'
 This is the third and final instalment of the Dragons of Terra series, and I was kindly gifted this copy by Tor Books via Black Crow PR, thank you Stephen!

I haven't actually read the first two books in the series, which I think would be beneficial, however, not actually required for you to read and enjoy this book! Brian does a brilliant job of introducing the characters to you again, and you soon pick up on who's who and who you should be rooting for. 

I loved the character of Bershad, the main protagonist with a clear hero persona, and I really liked the interaction he has with his dragon, Smokey. I also adored the character of Ashlyn, his love interest, and 'witch' of the novel. 

The plot itself is incredibly magical and pretty epic, with some very clever links between characters and a clear enemy that creates a divide. There is also very vivid imagery throughout, which helps keep you focused and dedicated to getting through the novel. The magic throughout is quite unique, with Ashlyn's use of lodestones and the incredible machines and 'creatures' that Osyrus Ward creates. 
It is also very action-packed and gory in parts, with some very brilliant battle scenes.

The interactions between the characters were also very clever and humorous; it added some lightness to an otherwise very dark story.

Overall, I would HIGHLY recommend this novel to any fantasy fan, it has all the aspects that you could need to create the perfect unique world with some great characters. 

I'm definitely going to be purchasing the first two novels so I can see how their stories began!

5/5 stars

Fury Of A Demon is out now, so go and grab yourselves a copy, and the first two also if you haven't read them yet!

Thursday 2 September 2021

Book Review | Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis | prettylittlewriter

 This YA thriller had me hooked until the very end. 


‘Lindsey Gillett is missing.
And she’s not the first girl at Waverly High to vanish without a trace.

To help cope with the tragedy, new history teacher Aubrey LaRoux organizes a student investigation team. But when the project’s key members start turning up dead across campus, Aubrey suspects there’s more going on than anyone is willing to admit.

The murdered students all had something in common with Lindsey. They shared a secret. And what they uncovered could threaten the future of the historic school.’

First of all, thank you so much to Vesuvian Books and Black Crow PR for sending me this absolutely gorgeous ARC copy of the novel, with a matt finish that felt so soft to the touch, I think it is my favourite ARC I’ve ever received. It even has a stunning illustration for each chapter header, which I love.


Secondly, this is the first novel by Alexandrea Weis that I have read, and I can honestly say, it will not be my last. Her writing style is brilliant, she keeps you invested in each character and the story, with an increasing sense of danger as the novel progresses.

Think teen slasher set in an elite boarding school; a murder mystery filled with passion, drama and a whole lot of murder. If you know me at all, you’ll know how much I love a horror movie or crime/thriller novel.


The main character, Aubrey LaRoux, is a very likeable and relatable character. The bullying she endured during her school years, at the hands of one of the girls that previously went missing, resonated with me, and I really did feel for her immensely.

I felt pride in her ability to teach at the school, and the way she handled herself with the students, she really is a brilliantly well-developed character.

At one point in the novel, I did suspect that Aubrey could have been involved with the disappearances, but it soon became clear that she was as desperate to help figure out what had happened to the missing girls as the students were.

Aubrey is also not afraid to say what she really thinks most of the time, especially with Headmaster Probst, who runs the school in a way that Aubrey does not agree with. When the authorities start having to get involved with each new disappearance creating more danger, Probst no longer seems up to the job.

There was also a little bit of romance towards the end of the novel, with the introduction of Sherriff Mason, who is dreamy AF.  


The students that Aubrey teams up with, Lindsey’s friends, are your typical high school students, lots of drama revolving around them, with lots of secrets and lies. I do think that they each had their hearts in the right place however, as they all just wanted to find their friend, Lindsey.


Although I would characterise this novel as a YA one, there were some very gruesome parts throughout! I genuinely couldn’t believe how horrific some of the scenes played out, with one in particular involving a scythe; I think I’ve said enough!


I did have a slight inkling about the plot twists that happen towards the end of the novel, but it wasn’t a case of it being obvious in the writing, as Weis throws a couple of spanners in the works, and there were some parts that I did NOT expect at all.


All in all, I enjoyed this novel IMMENSELY, and I hope that Weis has a sequel lined up!


5/5 stars!