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#BookReview: The Maid’s Room by Fiona Mitchell #MPBooks

The Maid's Room book coverTitle: The Maid’s Room

Author: Fiona Mitchell

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Contemporary

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Description: ‘This is where she sleeps. A cupboard. A bedroom. A windowless box.’
Sisters Dolly and Tala have never felt further from home. In the blistering heat of Singapore, they spend their days enabling ex-pats to have lives they could never afford for themselves.
Even though she has little freedom, Dolly can just about live with her job if it means she’s able to support her beloved young daughter back in the Philippines. One day – if she’s lucky – Dolly may even be able to go back and see her.
Tala, however, just can’t keep her mouth shut about the restrictive, archaic rules maids are forced to abide by on pain of deportation. She risks everything to help her fellow maids, who have struggled to have their voices heard for far too long.
In a world where domestic workers are treated so poorly, The Maid’s Room explores how women can come together to change each other’s lives, and be the architects of their own futures.

My Review: Oh wow, this book! Set in modern day Singapore it follows the stories of three women, two of them maids from the Philippines, and shows the reality of daily life for domestic workers in a country where their human rights are often ignored. I was really blown away with this novel that’s both heart breaking at times and so through provoking.

The book begins with a short prologue and then starts with the story of Jules, a British expat who’s moved to Singapore with her husband David. The story immediately shows you the lives from the point of those who employ the maids as Jules visits a party of one her neighbours. The following chapters all alternate between Jules, Dolly who is a maid to the woman who hosted the party and Tala, her older sister who cleans for others. Each of the chapters is cleverly marked at the start with a symbol which shows you whose story we’re now going to follow, for example a small plane denotes it’s Jules’s story.

As the chapters alternate you get a real sense of what life is like for these maids and how they are treated. When the chapters are from Dolly or Tala’s points of view the text refers to their employers as Ma’am and you feel the tension and often dislike or dismissal of them by the employers. In contrast Jules is treated respectfully by her neighbours who become friends however, unlike the others she sees the idea of the maids and the way they act as something alien. Jules’s perspective is very much how most of us would see the life of these Filipina maids and it was good to have this alternate perspective among all the women who treated their maids unfairly.

A lot happens in this novel and I never knew what was coming next. In fact it became more and more gripping the further I read on. I was soon hooked and I just couldn’t put this book down! Jules’s story continues and is a heart breaking one as her and her husband try desperately to conceive during their third round of IVF. Although I enjoyed reading Jules’s story, it’s really Dolly and Tala’s tales that interested me most. There were some funny moments as well as some truly sad and heart breaking ones. Dolly’s treatment in particular really got to me. There were moments you loved reading about her closeness with the children and yet the way she is treated by not only her immediate employer but also by others made me feel both emotional as well as disgusted. I don’t want to reveal any of the plot but even her treatment, right to the end of the novel is shocking. Tala’s story was an interesting one and I enjoyed the way she is so different from her sister. I especially loved the funny moments where, on more than one occasion, her feet or cooking skills were mentioned!

I really enjoyed this novel, the ending is a really satisfying one and made me want to cry happy tears but the reality of the way the domestic workers are treated in Singapore is heart breaking. In this day and age the rights of these poor women, living in bomb shelters (which act as their room) where there are no windows and often no hot water to wash themselves is just appalling. What makes this book all the more shocking and I believe necessary for all to read, is because this is actually happening in today’s Singapore!

The book contains some swearing, use of the f and s words as well as some sex though this isn’t throughout the novel, because of this I wouldn’t recommend this to young teens but mature teens and older. At the back of the novel there are author’s notes and I’d recommend everyone read them after finishing the book as you’ll be surprised with how much the story is based in reality, much of it being the author’s own experience.

This is such a powerful and heart wrenching novel, it takes you on such an emotional journey, and I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve always loved books with cultural issues but this one has really touched me and I think everyone should read it.
-Thanks to Bookbridgr and the publisher for a free proof copy.

Do you enjoy reading books about cultural issues?  What about this book?  Have you read it before?  did you know of the plight of domestic workers in Singapore?  Please let me know all your thoughts I’d love to hear from you. 

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#BookReview: The Christmas Guest by Daisy Bell #MPBooks

The Christmas Guest book coverTitle: The Christmas Guest

Author: Daisy Bell

Publisher: Quercus

Genre: Contemporary, Christmas,

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Description:  When Teddy runs away from home a week before Christmas, he is confronted by a cold, scary and oh, so big world.
Then he finds the Woods family.  With their kind hearts and cosy cottage, Teddy forms a special bond with Claire and Ben, but it’s in little Emily that he finds the best friend he needs.
But Emily is ill, and raising a puppy is hardly a priority for her stressed parents.  If only he can prove to them how much happier he can make them all, Teddy might just find his forever home this Christmas…

My Review:  I love this book!! It’s like the perfect tale for Christmas, and reminds me of all those heart warming Christmas movies! A puppy finds himself alone in the cold countryside just a week before Christmas. He decided to run away from home, to have a great adventure, but now he feels terrible, cold and lonely, until he meets the Woods family.

This book has such a heart warming story that it’s perfect for any age to read it. Told in the first person with the puppy being the narrator it begins with a quick prologue of the puppy being all alone and beginning to regret its decision to run away. This is then followed by the first chapter, titled ‘Eight Days Until Christmas’, every chapter after that is another day before Christmas. The whole story takes place over the course of just one week but every day is filled with so much happening.

Teddy, as the puppy later becomes known, is a very cute little puppy but is also untrained and doesn’t understand the human world that well. He finds himself on the doorstep of the Woods family home and desperately wants to be a part of their family, but the family have problems of their own and he can’t help but create all sorts of trouble in the way that puppies do. There is something really fun and unique about the story being told from the point of view of the dog and it’s this that really makes the book a fun read. It also puts an interesting perspective on the way humans do things and our interactions with pets and in particular dogs.

As the story progresses you learn about Emily, the Woods’ daughter and how sick she is. Teddy knows he is supposed to be the family dog, but with Emily’s illness the family find it hard enough to take care of their daughter and Teddy has an uphill struggle to convince the family that he is meant to be their dog. I won’t reveal more of the plot but the way the story plays out is just lovely and also very engrossing. Not only does Teddy have to deal with getting the family to accept him but there are also moments with other animals, especially a cat named Martha which led to some funny things happening in the story. There is a lovely backstory to Teddy’s previous life in the first chapter which makes you laugh but also feel for this poor puppy who just wants to be loved and accepted.

I loved reading this story right until it’s lovely end, the fact that so much happens in just one day really drove me on to continue reading and although I wasn’t sure I was going to be that into the book when I started reading it, I soon found I couldn’t put it down, desperately wanting to know what would happen next. The story has some lovely and funny moments, especially when Teddy observes things that humans do or say without understanding them. There are also some tenser, sadder moments which keep you reading until the end to see if things do work out the way you hope.

Although the ending is predictably happy, I really didn’t mind with this book and there are still moments when you don’t know what will happen. The overall story is such an uplifting one though, it’s like the perfect Christmas tale. It not only puts a smile on your face but also makes you tear up at the end too. The book is perfect for any age to read as there’s nothing at all offensive and I think many ages will enjoy this story. Part of me wishes it would be turned into a film just so I could see the cute puppy and the lovely tale unfold!

At the back of the book there’s a Christmas interview with the author, with Christmas related questions, along with recipes not only for human Christmas treats but dog ones too, and how to make a dog toy which is just a wonderful extra to get before Christmas! There is also an added piece of text talking about the history and comeback of the Christmas jumper which I have to say I found interesting as it’s fascinated me how they are popular again after being laughed at when I was young.

I would recommend to anyone who wants the perfect book to read for Christmas. There is nothing bad I can say about this book, it’s a funny, cosy and a heart warming read and perfect for anyone but especially those that love animals. It’s also one of those sort of ‘Christmas miracle’ type stories which make you smile and with a tale told from the point of view of the puppy, it’s just such an amazing and lovely read! Plus the cover is just too cute!!!
-Thanks to Bookbridgr and the publisher for a free copy.

Do you love the cover? 😀

Do you enjoy books with animals in them?  How about books with Christmas?  Would you like to read this book?  Please let me know your thoughts I’d love to hear from you 🙂 

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#BookReview: The Pets at Primrose Cottage: Part One A Place to Hide by Sheila Norton #MPBooks

The Pets at Primrose Cottage part oneTitle: The Pets at Primrose Cottage: Part One A Place to Hide

Author: Sheila Norton

Publisher: Ebury Digital

Genre: Contemporary

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Description:  Emma Nightingale needs a place to hide away. Pursued by the demons left by her ex-boyfriend, she takes refuge in quiet Crickleford, a sleepy town in Dartmoor, where she can lay low.
Life in Crickleford is quiet and peaceful, but it won’t be for long if people discover the truth about Emma’s past. Not wanting to make too much of a fuss, she ends up lying about why she’s there – she’s looking after some cats, she says – then suddenly the town’s new ‘pet-sitter’ is in high demand!
While looking after an Alsatian, Emma finds all attention is on her, and the handsome young reporter from the local paper takes an interest in her story…

My Review:  I really enjoyed getting into this story. ‘The Pets at Primrose Cottage’ is a lighthearted contemporary book that will be released whole in a few months but at the moment has been split into four parts with ‘Part one: A Place to Hide’ being a great introduction to the tale. Emma needs a place to get away from her old life and heads into the small town of Crickleford where she hopes to start a new life, away from anyone who might know her. But in a small town where people talk, can she really leave her old life behind?

I really enjoyed the last serialised book I read by Sheila Norton which was ‘The Vets at Hope Green’ so I was more than happy when the publisher asked me if I’d like to read this one. It was easy to get into the story right away with Emma narrating her tale. I enjoyed reading about the small town atmosphere and what it was like to be a new person there and I immediately warmed to Emma’s character as I could see myself feeling out of place in a small sleepy town too.

Once Emma settles in as a lodger with a family it’s not long before she is asked to take care of some animals. Through doing this we’re introduced to more characters and I love how much focus there was on some of the pets. A particular alsatian was really well portrayed and I loved the way Sheila Norton’s books can focus so much on the animals and yet still be about the human characters too. All of the human characters are well thought out, just like the setting, I could instantly see everything in my mind and really enjoyed getting into this story.

This first part is only a snapshot of what is happening in the story but it ends in a brilliant way that keeps you eager to read more. I’ll definitely be reading all four parts and can’t wait for the next one already which will be ‘Part two: New Beginnings’. If you don’t enjoy having to wait for all four parts to be released or prefer them all in one book then you’ll have to wait until February/March to get your hands on the full story but I can certainly recommend this series already based on what I’ve read.

As I said, I enjoyed Norton’s ‘The Vets at Hope Green’ already, but in this book, there’s something about the mystery surrounding Emma’s past and her being an outsider to a small town that makes this book even more appealing, to me, than ‘The Vets at Hope Green’. Although this book already has an air of predictability to it, being a lighthearted romantic contemporary story, this didn’t bother me as there’s still so much of Emma’s past to be revealed and I can’t wait to see what else will happen with the animals in the next part of the story!

-Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy.

What do you think of this introductory part to the novel?  Have you read any books by Sheila Norton before?  Let me know I’d love to hear what you think 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: Yuki Means Happiness by Alison Jean Lester #MPBooks

Yuki Means HappinessTitle: Yuki Means Happiness

Author: Alison Jean Lester

Publisher: John Murray

Genre: Contemporary, Cultural

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Description: Diana is young and uneasy in a new relationship when she leaves America and moves halfway around the world to Tokyo seeking adventure. In Japan she takes a job as a nanny to two-year-old Yuki Yoshimura and sets about adapting to a routine of English practice, ballet and swimming lessons, and Japanese cooking.

But as Diana becomes increasingly attached to Yuki she also becomes aware that everything in the Yoshimura household isn’t as it first seemed. Before long, she must ask herself if she is brave enough to put everything on the line for the child under her care, confronting her own demons at every step of the way.

Yuki Means Happiness is a rich and powerfully illuminating portrait of the intense relationship between a young woman and her small charge, as well as one woman’s journey to discover her true self.

My Review:  This book is a surprisingly emotional read, filled with both heartwarming moments and many darker moments too. Diana is a nurse and having previously helped a Japanese couple with their newborn baby when they were staying in America, she jumps at the chance to travel to Japan and become a nanny for the same couple a few years later. But while there, Diana realises that things are no longer as they were with the couple and worries about Yuki, the little girl she’s promised to look after.

The story is written in the first person and takes place in the nineties with Diana recounting the story of her time with Yuki. I’ll be honest in saying I wasn’t sure I’d get into the book at first, although I had high hopes having read the description, but this is definitely a book that gets better the further you read on. Diana’s story of her time in Japan appears simple at first. She instantly gets attached to Yuki and loves looking after her while getting to know the Japanese culture. But as time goes on the story starts to take a darker edge and it’s at this point that I really began to enjoy this book.

I loved the way the story unfolded, everything seemed fine but then certain circumstances changed all of a sudden and the atmosphere of the story changed too. As Diana learns more about Yuki’s family, the darker the story becomes. Along with dealing with looking after Yuki and the issues surrounding the family, the story of Diana’s own personal experiences both in the past and in Japan, especially the Japanese culture and the more unpleasant aspects of being a woman in modern Japan take on an interesting edge and influence how she feels about her job as a nanny. At times Diana is brutally honest about her past and it gave her character more depth which was good.

The book has a lot about Japanese culture and I loved reading these parts as it really gave me a sense of what it would be like to go to Japan, something I’ve wanted to do for years now. A lot of the ‘tourist’ side of Japan is included but I also loved the more in depth and honest accounts of what Japan is really like in areas where tourists don’t go, and what day to day life is like. The book really had me absorbed in the modern culture of Japan and it left me with mixed feelings about the place, particularly when it comes to women and legal issues.

The ending is very satisfying and made me a little emotional, but in a good way. There is very little use of any swearing, but the f and s words have been used. While there is nothing really offensive in the book, no actual sex or anything violent, Diana is honest about things like sexuality and sex and there are other moments that make you feel a little shocked too.

I’d recommend this book, although it took me a bit of time to really enjoy it, I really got into the story towards the end and the honesty around Japanese culture and things Diana goes through with the Yuki’s family are a very insightful and interesting read.
-Thanks to Bookbridgr and the publisher for a free copy.

Does this sound like a book you’d like to read?  Do you enjoy books wit cultural themes?  Please let me know I’d love to hear from you 🙂  You can also soon find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch #MPBooks

Love & Gelato book coverTitle: Love & Gelato

Author: Jenna Evans Welch

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: YA, Romance, Contemporary

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Description: Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, fulfilling her mother’s dying wish that she should get to know her father.  With the help of her mother’s journal, Lina uncovers a magical world of secret romance, art and hidden bakeries.  People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

My Review:  I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this book! ‘Love & Gelato’ is a YA romance/contemporary novel with a feel-good story. Lina’s mother tells her she wants her to move to Florence to be with her father, Howard, but Lina doesn’t know Howard, her mother never even mentioned him until now.

The story is told in the first person and after a brief prologue where Lina’s mother explains her wish to her, the story begins with Lina arriving in Florence and getting to know her new surroundings. The tale quickly moves forward when Lina finds out about her mother’s journal, the one she kept when she had been in Florence herself, before Lina was born. The rest of the book is a combination of both Lina’s story and her mother’s journal entries, which act like a second story.

I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this. I’m not a big reader of romance novels but this one is just so heartwarming. I felt compelled to keep reading even though there’s not a lot that initially happens compared to some books I’m used to. Although Lina’s story, her situation with Howard and getting to know new people and Florence was exciting to read, I really enjoyed her mother’s journal entries much more. It was like reading two stories at once and the questions that came from every entry just made it more and more compelling. The way Florence is described is amazing. There’s not long paragraphs of description but it’s enough to really make you feel like you’re there and although I’ve never been there myself, this book made me want to visit.

Although the book is a little predictable in parts, I did guess what was happening to Lina’s mother far earlier than Lina did at the start of the book, it was still a compelling read.  There were enough twists with the story to really keep me reading on and I found myself engrossed in the tale, especially in the second half when Lina’s mother’s journal entries start to reveal some hidden truths.

The book is both a romance and contemporary novel.  I loved the romance in both Lina’s story and her mother’s but there was an equally good almost mystery sort of story about finding out the truth of what happened in Florence all those years ago.  That’s why I’d say it’s a good contemporary novel too.  I really loved the ending,  where everything was so well wrapped up.  It was both a very satisfying ending and also one that left a big smile on my face.

There is nothing at all offensive in this book. If you speak Italian you may find one word that’s not exactly swearing but not so nice (if I can put it that way) but there was nothing about this book that is offensive and it’s just a really good, feel-good story.

I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in a summer feel-good read, whether you’re into romance stories or not.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

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#BookReview: Tell it to the Moon by Siobhan Curham #MPBooks

Tell it to the Moon book coverTitle: Tell it to the Moon

Author: Siobhan Curham

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

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Description: What happens when a dream is impossible to achieve – or even figure out?  Amber, Maali, Rose and Sky are the Monlight Dreamers, an unlikely group of friends who give one another the courage to be themselves and pursue their dreams.

As they discover, life may not always turn out as planned, but sometimes the unexpected can be even better. A celebration of friendship and finding your place in the world.

My Review: This is such an amazing and inspiring novel.  ‘Tell it to the Moon’ is the sequel to ‘The Moonlight Dreamers’ a book which I loved reading and which itself was inspiring and heartwarming.  You don’t need to have read the first novel though to enjoy this one but if you’ve read ‘The Moonlight Dreamers’ you’ll understand the characters far better.

Set several months after the previous book, it’s Christmas Eve and a lot has happened for all four girls.  Amber’s struggling to know who she is and where she comes from, Sky feels terrible about her school situation, Maali’s family are having some problems and Rose has some big news to tell everyone.  As soon as I started reading this I felt compelled to read on.  All four girls face typical situations and emotions that any teenager would feel, and I think this is why the book is so appealing to read.

The story is told from the point of view of all four girls, though always in third person.  The tale switches between the different girls very often but there’s never any confusion in the plot, in fact it only engages you more as you read about a situation from one girl’s perspective and then switch to another to see what she is thinking and feeling.  I really enjoyed all four girls individual stories and how they all came together to help each other overcome their problems, but Sky’s story about school and Amber’s need to find her way resonated with me the most.  Having been through similar emotions and problems myself when I was younger, I would have loved to have read this book when I was at school.

The book has very occasional use of the s swear word but nothing else offensive.  The ending is really uplifting and heartwarming and the whole story just feels so inspiring and a little emotional too.  Although some of the plot was a little predictable for me, at times as I’ve read a lot of YA in the past, it didn’t bother me as there were many moments where I didn’t know what would happen and the way the Moonlight Dreamers came together was what really kept me reading this story.

It’s the perfect book for anyone to read but I think teens who feel like they are different from others or scared to dream big will really love this novel as it has such an inspiring message that it makes me want to pursue my own dreams, no matter what they are.  I’d definitely recommend this book to others and if you plan on reading this then try ‘The Moonlight Dreamers’ first as the story’s so much more engrossing if you know what happens in the first book too.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

Have you read The Moonlight Dreamers novels?  Or any other books that have inspired you?  What do you think of this book?  Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you 🙂

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#BookReview: The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne #MPBooks

The Upstairs Room book coverTitle: The Upstairs Room

Author: Kate Murray-Browne

Publisher: Picador

Genre: Supernatural thriller/mystery/contemporary (I don’t really know what genre this is!)

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Description: Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners – including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.

My Review: I’m not sure what to say about this book, it had such a great premise and a great start but it just wasn’t the book I had thought it was going to be.  ‘The Upstairs Room’ sounds like an interesting read, a cross between a spooky/supernatural thriller and a mystery, but the book is more contemporary than either mystery or thriller which is why I’ve had a hard time deciding which genre it should really be in.

The story begins with a brief chapter about Eleanor and Richard viewing the new Victorian property and its strange room upstairs before moving on to after they have bought the place and been living there a short time.  The start really held my attention, the strange room upstairs was what drew me into reading this book and I thought that it would be the main focus of the entire plot, but soon after Zoe moves in as their lodger the story goes off-track and starts to read more like a standard contemporary novel.

Despite Eleanor’s increasing sickness with the house and the occasional spooky happenings that occur, which really are creepy and well written, the rest of the story focuses on the characters personal lives and there are a lot of back stories.  I didn’t mind the back story element at first, I thought it was a great insight into their lives and would lead to something later on, but they don’t.  The story shifts view points between Eleanor, Zoe and Richard although always written in the third person perspective.
I liked Eleanor’s story as it was focused most on the house and finding out what strange things were happening and why.  Richard’s tale was a strange one especially as his backstory about a certain character he meets seemed to have no relevance to the main plot.  I thought it might lead somewhere but it didn’t and didn’t seem to add anything to his character. I don’t want to give away spoilers which makes it hard to really talk about why I disliked his tale so much but I’m left feeling that rather than redeeming his character the book left me feeling uneasy about him.
Zoe’s story kept my attention although her tale was very separate from the others and I thought it would come together in a grand ending of some kind but by the end of this book I’m left feeling that her story was added in to bulk up the whole plot and she could have easily been taken out of the book without really harming the overall plot.

The ending of the book wasn’t satisfying which is rare when I read a book.  I really liked the supernatural edge the later pages took as the story was heading to its end.  I thought there would be something very dramatic and although there was a great moment when some really weird things happened, the overall ending was a disappointment.  The story was never really resolved and any answers as to the history of the place or the real reasons for things happening were never answered.  I’ll have to admit I was also quite annoyed at how the book ends the characters stories, especially Eleanor’s story which seemed to be heading to a powerful ending but then didn’t.  After finishing this book I’m left wondering why the characters didn’t move on/change and it felt like a cheated ending when so much more could have happened.

There is some swearing in the book, mostly during Zoe’s story which sometimes felt a bit harsh and out of place given the overall tone of the writing.  There’s some use of the s and f words and be warned there’s several uses of the c word too.  There’s also some brief sex described which may not be to everybody’s taste.

Although I’ve said a lot of bad things about this book I really thought it was a great supernatural story and it’s just a shame that more of the plot didn’t focus on that.  I really thought I’d be reading a mysterious supernatural thriller when I picked up this book but instead it’s a strange contemporary novel with a supernatural twist which while enjoyable just didn’t end how I hoped it would.  I think those who haven’t read many supernatural novels or those with a keen interest in contemporary fiction would love this far more than those of us who are into the spooky, scary novels,  Overall an interesting and entertaining read but beware the ending might disappoint.
-Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy.

Have you read this book?  Enjoyed it or not?  Would you want to read this book or this strange genre?  Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.  You can find me in in these places too:

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