Thursday, 23 December 2021

Book Review: FALLEN MOUNTAINS by Kimi Cunningham Grant



Author:  Kimi Cunningham Grant

Read: December 2021

My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!


Book Description:


When Transom Shultz goes missing shortly after returning to his sleepy hometown of Fallen Mountains, Pennsylvania, his secrets are not the only ones that threaten to emerge. Red, the sheriff, is haunted by the possibility that a crime Transom was involved in seventeen years earlier—a crime Red secretly helped cover up—may somehow be linked to his disappearance. Possum, the victim of that crime, wants revenge. Laney will do anything to keep Transom quiet about the careless mistake they made that could jeopardize her budding relationship. And Chase, once a close friend, reels from Transom’s betrayal of buying his family’s farm under false pretenses and ruthlessly logging it and leasing the mineral rights to Marcellus shale frackers.

As the search for Transom Shultz heats up and the inhabitants’ dark and tangled histories unfold, each one must decide whether to live under the brutal weight of the past or try to move beyond it.

What attracted me to this book:


I loved Kimi Cunningham Grant’s book THESE SILENT WOODS, so I had to rush out and read her previous novel FALLEN MOUNTAINS straight away – and I’m so glad I did!


 My musings:


Fallen Mountains, Pennsylvania, is a sleepy, one-sheriff town set among farmland and forest that is gradually being taken over by logging and fracking companies since people can no longer make a living from farming alone. After Chase’s grandparents die, he is faced with losing the land his family have farmed for almost 200 years, because of the debts his grandfather has accrued trying to stay afloat. So when his best friend Transom Shultz, the son of the most affluent and influential family in town, offers to buy the farm and let Chase continue to live there, he jumps at the chance. But their life-long friendship is compromised when Transom starts selling out to the logging and oil companies and Chase witnesses the destruction of his beloved forests. So when Transom goes missing, he is the prime suspect. Until Sheriff Red starts investigating and finds that there are quite a few people in town who had reasons to dislike the charming but ruthless young man Transom Shultz has become ...


I loved everything about this book. From the small town setting, to the rich descriptions of Chase’s beloved woods, to the characters who were so real to me that I miss their presence now that I have finished the book. As with THESE SILENT WOODS, here the setting is as much a character as the people, and I loved reading about the forests surrounding Chase’s grandparents’ farm (which ultimately also broke my heart).


In fact, I have the biggest book hangover right now! As the story went along, I felt so solidly invested in the mystery that I simply could not stop reading. I am in awe of the author’s skill to present us with characters so richly drawn and complex that exploring them was like forging a new friendship. Even though I came to thoroughly dislike Transom in the course of the book, in the end I felt a slight sense of empathy even for him.





Words simply cannot do justice to the way this story captured my heart and my imagination. I was so sad when the story ended, knowing that a book like this doesn’t come around very often. FALLEN MOUNTAINS is a definite favourite for me, and one I am very happy to finish the year with. I cannot wait to read more from this talented author in future!

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Book Review: THE MAID by Nita Prose



Author:  Nita Prose

Publisher:  Harper Collins Australia

Read: December 2021

Expected publication: 20 January 2022

My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2


Book Description:



Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?
But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways of the Regency Grand, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook?

What attracted me to this book:


I read some fantastic reviews about Nita Prose’s debut novel THE MAID, so of course I couldn’t resist, even though “cozies” are not usually a genre I read very often.

My musings:



Molly Gray is a socially awkward twenty-five year old woman who has been living with her grandmother until she passed away from cancer a few months ago. She is still feeling her absence and misses her guidance dearly, and barely makes ends meet as a maid at The Grand Regency Hotel, a job Molly loves because she feels a lot of satisfaction in creating order.  One day she finds a dead guest in one of the rooms she regularly cleans, and her life is turned upside down.


THE MAID was a light, borderline humorous read with some deeper themes of loss, grief, friendship and finding your way in the world. Molly was a quirky if slightly naive character, and I kept picturing her as a kind of female Forrest Gump – kind-hearted and honest but always slightly behind the eight ball.  Unfortunately I never quite connected to Molly as much as most readers whose glowing five star reviews can be found everywhere on Goodreads and social media.


Unpopular opinion: I found Molly to be an inconsistent character, totally naive one moment and quite streetsmart the next. I also found the plot quite predictable and not very original, but perhaps that is the characteristic of a cozy mystery and I am simply not the right reader for the genre. I much preferred the snarky honesty of Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant, the original protagonist who seems to have sparked an avalanche of books with neurodivergent characters. All side characters felt like wooden caricatures to me, their relationship to Molly only ever skimming the surface without real background or depth. If I am totally honest, I struggled to finish the book because I did not feel invested in any of the characters. However, I think that this book would make a perfect screenplay / TV series!





All in all, THE MAID has received high praise by countless readers on social media and will appeal to people who appreciate a gentler, less snarky version of Eleanor Oliphant. Personally, I found it a bit slow and predictable, and wanted more character development, even though it ticked the boxes for a light, slightly humorous read.




Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Friday, 17 December 2021

Book Review: THESE SILENT WOODS by Kimi Cunningham Grant



Author:  Kimi Cunningham Grant

Read: December 2021

Expected publication: out now

My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2


Book Description:


No electricity, no family, no connection to the outside world. For eight years, Cooper and his young daughter, Finch, have lived in isolation in a remote cabin in the northern Appalachian woods. And that's exactly the way Cooper wants it, because he's got a lot to hide. Finch has been raised on the books filling the cabin’s shelves and the beautiful but brutal code of life in the wilderness. But she’s starting to push back against the sheltered life Cooper has created for her—and he’s still haunted by the painful truth of what it took to get them there.

The only people who know they exist are a mysterious local hermit named Scotland, and Cooper's old friend, Jake, who visits each winter to bring them food and supplies. But this year, Jake doesn't show up, setting off an irreversible chain of events that reveals just how precarious their situation really is. Suddenly, the boundaries of their safe haven have blurred—and when a stranger wanders into their woods, Finch’s growing obsession with her could put them all in danger. After a shocking disappearance threatens to upend the only life Finch has ever known, Cooper is forced to decide whether to keep hiding—or finally face the sins of his past.

Vividly atmospheric and masterfully tense, These Silent Woods is a poignant story of survival, sacrifice, and how far a father will go when faced with losing it all.


My musings:


Do you love books that break your heart and yet reinstate your faith in humanity? THESE SILENT WOODS  did that for me. Initially I was drawn to it by the promise of a remote wilderness setting, but I hadn’t counted on the way Cooper and Finch would highjack my heart and draw me into their world. What would compel a father to retreat from the world and bring up his child in a remote cabin in the woods, far away from civilisation and friends and family? Finch has grown up here for eight years, and she has never set foot in a store or had any other human contact apart from their equally as reclusive neighbour Scotland and Cooper’s best friend and army mate Jake, who visits once a year just before Christmas to deliver supplies for the harsh winter ahead. What would such a life be like?


Once details from Cooper’s past are revealed, their circumstances become very clear and I felt torn between the beauty of their natural environment, and its isolation (and loneliness). Both Cooper and Finch are wonderfully drawn and appeared to me vividly as flesh-and-blood characters, utterly captivating my heart. I don’t cry easily, but by the end I was blubbing like a little baby, utterly heartbroken. I loved to witness the bond between father and daughter, and the sacrifices Cooper has made to keep them together. As a slow character study, this was as good as it gets, with the natural environment as a perfect backdrop. And unlike other novels with similar themes and backdrops, this one never ventured into the realm of disbelief or the over-the-top melodramatic. Even in its most dramatic moments, the characters stayed true to themselves and remained utterly relatable. This is not an easy balance to achieve and shows the author’s skill as a writer.




All in all, THESE SILENT WOODS  was one of my favourite novels of 2021. Atmospheric and compelling, it pulled on my heartstrings and utterly captivated me.



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Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Book Review: DEVOTION by Hannah Kent



Author:  Hannah Kent

Publisher:  Pan Macmillan Australia

Read: November 2021

Expected publication: out now

My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2


Book Description:


Prussia, 1836

Hanne Nussbaum is a child of nature - she would rather run wild in the forest than conform to the limitations of womanhood. In her village of Kay, Hanne is friendless and considered an oddity...until she meets Thea.

Ocean, 1838

The Nussbaums are Old Lutherans, bound by God's law and at odds with their King's order for reform. Forced to flee religious persecution the families of Kay board a crowded, disease-riddled ship bound for the new colony of South Australia. In the face of brutal hardship, the beauty of whale song enters Hanne's heart, along with the miracle of her love for Thea. Theirs is a bond that nothing can break.

The whale passed. The music faded.

South Australia, 1838

A new start in an old land. God, society and nature itself decree Hanne and Thea cannot be together. But within the devotion.


My musings:


After reading Kent's previous books BURIAL RITES and THE GOOD PEOPLE, I knew that she has a special skill in bringing the past to life with vivid imagery of her words. The story of Hanne and Thea, two young Lutheran girls embarking on a journey to the colonies of South Australia to start a new life, sounded interesting. Little did I realise though that it was not a straightforward, ordinary piece of historical fiction. Though inspired by the real life characters and the origins of the settlement that is now Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, Kent has a few surprises in store for her readers.


As Hanne and Thea's friendship blossoms into a forbidden romance, I was wondering about what the future would hold for these two young women, considering the ultra religious and conservative environment that entraps them. I could never have guessed the turn the story took at its half way mark, and I admit that I was a bit taken aback initially. However, Kent's lyrical prose lent the story an almost dreamlike quality that fitted in well with this "twist", for the lack of a better term without giving too much away. It also allowed for a broader perspective of the lives of the new community established in the colony, and a resolution that was unusual to say the least.


This turn of events probably won't be for everyone but I urge you to give it a chance, because the rest of the journey was worth it. I particularly enjoyed Kent's descriptions of nature and the slightly supernatural air that marked the later part of the book. Kent also doesn't shy away from exposing the darker side of European settlement and the treatment of the Peramangk people, the original custodians of the land. Overall, the story turned out to be less of a historical account, but an emotionally charged tale of love, longing and grief that rapidly got me under its spell. It was both beautiful and sad, with many topics to reflect on. DEVOTION is one of those books that will stick in my mind with its timeless quality and characters.



Thank you to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Monday, 13 December 2021

Book Review: THE LIGHTHOUSE by Fran Dorricott



Author:  Fran Dorricott

Publisher:  Avon Books UK

Read: December 2021

Expected publication: 3 February 2022



Book Description:


Six friends travel to a remote island north of the Scottish Highlands for an old school reunion. They’ve rented The Lighthouse – a stunning, now abandoned building that was once notorious for deaths at sea.

On the first evening, someone goes missing. The group search all through the night to no avail. But when the five remaining friends return to the lighthouse early the next morning, they are shocked to find James inside. He’s looks terrified – but won’t say a word about where he’s been.

The party vow to put the strange night behind them and enjoy the rest of their stay, but when more unexplained things begin to occur, tensions escalate. It’s clear James knows something, but nothing will persuade him to give up the secrets of the island. Is he protecting his friends from a terrible truth, or leading them into more danger?

A chilling, gripping and powerfully atmospheric suspense novel with a gothic edge.


My musings:


Fancy a spooky story set in an old lighthouse? Oh yes, please! I love spooky, and I love lighthouses, so as soon as I read the description of this book I had to have it. Don't be fooled by the innocuous title because this story will soon raise goosebumps. I made the mistake of reading it at night whilst on a camping trip near an actual lighthouse and was terrified to venture out after dark.

Here we have a fantastic atmospheric setting on a small Scottish island dominated by an old majestic lighthouse and keeper's cottage  that have been turned into an exclusive holiday resort. Without phone or internet reception, it makes for a perfect escape from the modern world. Kira, a travel writer, has been offered a free stay and thinks it would make a great location for an annual reunion with four of her closest friends from university. Packed with lots of food and alcohol, the group set out on the boat trip to this spectacular location.

The author knows how to set the scene and the island initially sounds like heaven. Remote, windswept and buffeted by the waves, the landscape appears serene and beautiful to the friends as they settle in for a weekend of fun and relaxation. Soon, however, the atmosphere changes. Things disappear and everyone denies having taken them. Shadows appear in corners when there is noone there. And what lies behind the only locked door in the lighthouse? Suddenly the isolation becomes claustrophobic as the friends realise they are stranded here without a way off the island, with something that doesn't want them here.

How perfect is this premise? Despite my growing unease, I read it in almost one sitting because I had to get answers. As the weather closed in and darkness fell, I knew I was in for a spooky treat. I loved the hinting at a supernatural element that made me wonder if there was something ghostly going on or if there would be a rational explanation, which made the story even creepier for me without ever feeling unbelievable.

My only quibble was that the ending appeared a bit rushed and could have exploited the eerie background a bit longer. I was at the 95% mark when I thought that there wasn’t enough time to wrap up all the threads and ultimately felt that a few very good elements were left hanging. Seeing how the beginning of the book was slow, character driven and atmospheric, I felt that the rush to the conclusion let the book down a bit.




All in all, THE LIGHTHOUSE is the type of atmospheric, claustrophobic story that makes for a perfect escape. With a hint of a supernatural element, it managed to spook me enough to keep the lights on and read late into the night to get all the answers. Despite the rushed ending, I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to read more from this author in future.



Thank you to Netgalley and Avon Books UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Book Review: WATCH HER FALL by Erin Kelly



Author:  Erin Kelly

Read: November 2021

Expected publication: out now

My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the mind-bending stars!


Book Description:


Swan Lake is divided into the black acts and the white acts. The Prince is on stage for most of the ballet, but it's the swans audiences flock to see. In early productions, Odette and Odile were performed by two different dancers. These days, it is usual for the same dancer to play both roles. Because of the faultless ballet technique required to master the steps, and the emotional range needed to perform both the virginal Odette and the dark, seductive Odile, this challenging dual role is one of the most coveted in all ballet. Dancers would kill for the part.

Ava Kirilova has reached the very top of her profession. After years and years of hard graft, pain and sacrifice as part of the London Russian Ballet Company, allowing nothing else to distract her, she is finally the poster girl for Swan Lake. Even Mr K - her father, and the intense, terrifying director of the company - can find no fault. Ava has pushed herself ahead of countless other talented, hardworking girls, and they are all watching her now.

But there is someone who really wants to see Ava fall ... 


My musings:


Just when I thought that thriller couldn’t surprise me any more – along comes Erin Kelly’s latest book WATCH HER FALL. Set in the world of professional ballet (who knew that behind the beauty of dance hides such brutality?) it seemed very different from any of Kelly’s previous books and I remember thinking: “Is this really a mystery?” Well, eat humble pie you distrusting reader, because once the stage was set, the first unexpected plot development sent me tumbling head over heels over the edge of the stage like a drunken ballerina in a death twirl. Wow, I did not see that coming!


Let’s rewind a bit. The book’s background of a famous Russian ballet company performing the famous Swan Lake was fascinating. I never imagined that professional dancers would have an easy life, their toned bodies and graceful moves speaking of years of gruelling workouts and harsh discipline. On top of that, there was the competition among the dancers, each vying for the lead role and the attentions of their ballet master, the infamous Nikolai Kirilov (Mr K). We first hear from the POV of Ava Kirilova, Mr K’s daughter, who is the stars of the show, performing the coveted roles of Odette and Odile. She is also facing one of a dancer’s worst fears: of her career winding down due to the ageing process. Every day she is confronted with fresh, younger dancers who are dreaming of the day they will take over the leading role. HER role. I loved the way Kelly presented Ava, her fears, her strict discipline, her almost slavish affection for her father, who has full control over her. I admit I was totally in the dark as to where this would all lead.


For fear of spoilers, I will not give any more away. Let’s just say that the story took a turn I had not expected, and it was around the 80% mark that I knew I had been totally blindsided. And if that wasn’t enough, the surprises just kept coming until the very end, and I still had no idea where Kelly was leading me. It’s been a while since a thriller managed to totally wow and surprise me, and I loved it! There was absolutely nothing predictable in this novel, nor did it follow any of the popular (and often overused) thriller tropes that mark a lot of contemporary novels out there today. I applaud the author for giving us one of a kind, a book that will take you out of your own world into the unknown. It was all so brilliantly carried out!




In summary: to those readers who are a bit jaded with popular thriller tropes and predictable twists, this one is for you! It starts off as a bit of a slow burn as you get into each character’s  mind, which worked well when it came to the moment I knew I had been duped. Loving an immersive character study, especially one that messes with my mind, I was in my element here. Cleverly constructed, multi-layered and intriguing, the book was a stand-out thriller for me and cements Erin Kelly even more firmly on my favourite authors list. Highly recommended to anyone who has been feeling disenchanted with overused thriller tropes.

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Book Review: I AM THE SEA by Matt Stanley



Author:  Matt Stanley

Publisher:  Legend Press

Read: December 2021

Expected publication: out now

My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!


Book Description:


1870. Apprentice lighthouseman James Meakes joins two others at the remote offshore rock of Ripshaw Reef - replacement for a keeper whose death there remains unexplained.Meakes' suspicions grow as he accustoms himself to his new vertical world. He finds clues, obscure messages and signs that a fourth occupant may be sharing the space, slipping unseen between staircases.

With winter approaching, the keepers become isolated utterly from shore. Sea and wind rage against the tower. Danger is part of the life. Death is not uncommon. And yet as the storm builds, the elements pale against a threat more wild and terrifying than any of them could have imagined. 

My musings:


Phew, what a crazy ride this book was! If you have had any ill-conceived romantic notions about the life of a lighthouse keeper, then this book will soon set you straight. It started innocently enough: young James Meakes arrives at the remote Ripsaw Reef Lighthouse to commence his six months term as trainee lighthouse keeper under the supervision of Principle Bartholomew and Assistant Keeper Adamson. On the same day, the body of another lighthouse keeper, Spencer, is taken away from the island for autopsy, as he has passed away in suspicious circumstances, a fact that will come to haunt James during his traineeship. Straight away, we learn of James’ fascination with the lighthouse and life within it, which he shares freely with the reader. I can never resist books about lighthouses, so was most intrigued to hear details of its construction and workings, as well as the regimented lives and power structure of the men living in its confines.


It soon becomes obvious that all is not well in the lighthouse. Assistant keeper Adamson never exchanges a civil word with the head keeper, and also gives James a hard time, playing multiple pranks on him as he is starting out in his apprenticeship. James becomes convinced that Adamson has a dark past and that he may pose a danger to him, especially once he discovers eerie writings on walls and in hidden cupboards, as well as a message in a bottle warning him of danger. Did the unlucky assistant keeper Spencer write these as a warning prior to his death? And whilst James is able to district himself with the strict routine of his work, things start going wrong when an inspector arrives from the mainland and upsets the delicate balance ...


Stanley sure knows how to set a scene. Whilst the lighthouse initially presented a fascinating and interesting backdrop of fine engineering and workmanship, it soon took on a sinister countenance as the weather closed in and young James began to suspect that all was not well in its confines. The claustrophobia slowly increased until it had dispelled the last vestiges of any romantic or cosy notions I may ever have entertained about life in a lighthouse. But like the birds attracted to its beacon and crashing against its solid walls to their certain death, I was equally compelled to read on, even as the atmosphere became decidedly sinister and eerie. Stanley’s writing, which initially progressed in an orderly, almost scientific fashion reflecting young James’ fascination with his new home and detailed descriptions of the lighthouse, became more frantic and disjointed as James becomes fearful for his own life.


I am impressed by the way the author pledges the lighthouse itself as a character in the story, from solid foundation to dangerous foe, as if it had turned against the men manning it. Such a deliciously claustrophobic atmosphere is something I always seek out but not often find in novels, and it was masterfully crafted here. From early on, in the back of my mind, a suspicion was growing, ultimately consuming me throughout the reading experience. And despite several misdirections and my hope to be proven wrong, I found that in the end my worst fears were confirmed in an action packed finale so dramatic and horrific that it will probably stay in my mind forever, whenever I lay eyes on a lighthouse. Some imagery would befit a Hitchcock movie, such as the scores of birds committing suicide by throwing themselves against the lighthouse windows attracted by the light. Others are a stark contrast in their beauty, such as the aurora borealis as glimpsed from the top of the tower. And some are made from your worst nightmares, not to be described here because I am not about to spoil the experience for you by giving too much away.




All in all, I AM THE SEA is one of those dark, claustrophobic and highly atmospheric books that comes around only rarely. Written in the first person, it will make you question everything, from the reliability of the narrator to the unravelling of the mind as the isolation takes its toll. And whilst the fascinating facts about the engineering of the lighthouse and the regimen controlling the lives of its keepers was most interesting, the lighthouse and the surrounding hostile sea soon became an evil force that made me shiver. Or was the evil within its walls? Culminating in an action packed, violent and vicious finale, this is a book that should be on your must-read list if you love an eerie, claustrophobic setting and characters who all have something to hide. Cleverly crafted, this book really got under my skin and its images will haunt me for some time to come. Highly recommended.




Thank you to Netgalley and Legend Press for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.