Dot Scribbles

16.1.18

BOOK REVIEW: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband's crumbling country estate, The Bridge.
With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband's awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home is a locked room and beyond its door lies a two-hundred year old diary hinting at the house's dark past, and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure- a silent companion- that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself...

Publisher: Raven Books
Pages: 364

What a fantastic start to my reading year, The Silent Companions is seriously creepy but fantastic. The book begins in 1866 where we meet Elsie who is currently residing in St. Joseph's hospital  which is an asylum for the insane. It becomes clear that she has been accused of murder but is so disturbed by events that she is unable to speak. Dr Shepherd wants to help her as he does not believe her a murderess as others are saying. He asks her to write down her story on a chalk board and this is how the reader learns of Elsie's terrifying ordeal. Widowed and heavily pregnant, Elsie is sent to her late husband's country estate, The Bridge, to rest and have her baby. She has her husband's cousin Sarah for company but neither are prepared for what awaits them at the house. No-one in the village will work in the house as they believe it cursed so the staff is tiny and the house in a bad way. It is the perfect Gothic haunted house- crumbling facade, rooms full of dust sheets and plenty of dark corners. On hearing strange noises in the night, Elsie and Sarah discover a locked garret and on forcing their way in, she and Sarah find a diary from the house's previous mistress and recounts the house's tragic past. Along with the diary they find a silent companion. It is a life-size wooden cut-out in the shape of a person who looks weirdly like Elsie. On reading the diary, they discover where the silent companion came from and the events that took place once it and others were in the house. Elsie and Sarah are unsettled but fascinated and take the companions out of the locked room, this when events spiral out of control. The silent companions multiply and more appear around the house and they themselves move between rooms without any help. Elsie is scared for her life, is she going mad or has she released something evil into the house that she cannot control?
The Silent Companions is beautifully written. I love Gothic fiction and Laura Purcell does it brilliantly. I would put her straight up there with Daphne Du Maurier and Susan Hill. Her descriptions and use of language are just stunning. I could vividly picture The Bridge and the companions. I marvelled at how she managed to make a piece of wood so creepy and malevolent; The Silent Companions takes a hold of your imagination in the same way they take over the house within the book.
The style and pace of the book make it a truly compelling read, even when I was a little freaked out, I could not stop reading. Elsie is an excellent creation, we see the events through her eyes but she brings so much more to the book; her past is just as tragic as her present and I felt so protective of her by the end.
I cannot recommend The Silent Companions enough, it s is a scary read but it's worth a couple of sleepless nights, I think Laura Purcell has written a future classic.

9.1.18

BOOK REVIEW: Everything is Lies by Helen Callaghan

No-one is who you think they are. 
Sophia's parents lead quiet, unremarkable lives. At least that is what she's always believed.
Everyone has secrets.
Until the day she arrives at her childhood home to find a house ringing with silence. Her mother is hanging from a tree. Her father is lying in a pool of his own blood, near to death.
Especially those closest to you. 
The police are convinced it is an attempted murder-suicide. But Sophia is sure that the woman who brought her up isn't a killer. As her father is too ill to talk it is up to Sophia to clear her mother's name. And to do this she needs to delve deep into her family's past- a past full of dark secrets she never suspected were there.

Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 400
Publication Date: 22nd February 2018

Wow, I completely loved this book! At 400 pages it's quite long but I read it in just under two days as I couldn't put it down; I was hooked from the very beginning.
I very much enjoyed Helen Callaghan's book Dear Amy but in my opinion Everything is Lies is even better.
Sophia returns home after a fraught telephone call from her mother. When she gets home the house is weirdly quiet and she finds her mother hanging from a tree in the garden and her father wounded but alive next to her. Sophia can't quite believe what is happening, her parents Nina and Jared are quiet, unassuming people who run a small cafe and nursery business. They would not be involved in a murder-suicide pact as the police are suggesting. With Jared in hospital and unable to speak, Sophia must seek the truth. She is led to some notebooks of her mother's but she is in no way
prepared for the contents. Her mother writes of a cult that she was part of in the 80's, an enigmatic leader called Aaron Kessler and a murder. Nina was convinced these people wanted to silence her; is Sophia's mother completely mad and making all these events up or has all of Sophia's past been a lie?
Helen Callaghan has written a tense, psychological thriller. The book flits between Sophia's present situation and her mother's life in 1989 where it seems she became caught up in a cult led by Aaron Kessler who she met at university. I was so intrigued by Kessler- I could totally see how Nina was taken in by him. The chapters taken from Nina's notebooks were my favourite, it was so interesting to see how Nina was drawn into this group of people she barely knew.
Everything is Lies was a fascinating read, the pace and plotting were both excellent and I think it is a book that will get many people talking.

Many thanks to Penguin for sending me a copy of this book to review. 

6.1.18

BLOG TOUR: Close to Home by Cara Hunter

I'm very excited to be part of the blog tour for Cara Hunter's book, Close to Home, it's the first in a new series which I think readers are going to love!

Someone took Daisy Mason. Someone you know. Last night, 8 year old Daisy Mason disappeared from her parents' summer party. No one in the quite suburban street saw anything or at least that's what they're saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it's someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy's time is running out...
Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives. Close to Home is a pulse-pounding race against time and a penetrating examination of what happens to a community when a shocking crime is committed by one of its own.

Publisher: Penguin


This book packs a real punch! Daisy Mason goes missing from her own back garden whilst her parents are throwing a summer BBQ. DI Adam Fawley takes up the case, he knows his chances of finding Daisy alive are slim and that it is most likely somebody she knew who took her.
This book is a great start to a new crime series, DI Adam Fawley was a very interesting character and I felt like we barely scratched the surface in this book. He is young and determined and has also faced great tragedy in his own past. I think all great police detectives are flawed but I do get annoyed with the many cliches which Cara Hunter seems to cleverly avoid in this book
The pace is fast and I was extremely impressed by the number of twists and turns. There were so many times where I thought I had it all worked out- only to have it all come undone again in the next few pages. The twist at the end is just fantastic and took this book to another level for me.
Cara Hunter intersperses the narrative with extracts from social media and newspaper articles. This was brilliant, it showed the power of the media and how they help to create and shape people's opinions of others. It is so relevant to the world we live in today and the nature of 24 hour news. It also highlighted how hard it is for the police to control the media and how it can often have a negative impact on the case.
Close to Home is fantastic and I am excited to have a new crime series to follow.

Many thanks to Penguin for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, please check out the other posts throughout January! 

2.1.18

BOOK REVIEW: The Woolly Hat Knitting Club Poppy Dolan

Finding happiness one stitch at a time.
When Dee Blackthorn's brother, JP, breaks both wrists, not only is he in need of a helping hand-or-two but the knitting shop he owns can't function. Sisterly duties take Dee away from her demanding job, and she is unceremoniously fired amidst rumours of inappropriate behaviour. Dee is certain that her hot-shot nemesis Ben, is behind it all but has no proof.
When Dee bumps into an old friend who is a new mum to a premature baby she convinces JP to enlist his knitting pals to make lots of tiny woolly hats. Then Ben turns up denying involvement in Dee's sacking and she ropes him into helping the knitting cause. But before long Dee's good intentions backfire and she risks losing her friends, her family and Ben, who's turned out to be not so bad after all...

Publisher: Canelo
Pages: 264

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club is a delight! Dee's brother JP manages to break both of his wrists and his wool shop in which Dee is a silent partner, is not going to run itself so Dee has to step up to the plate. But in doing so she takes her eye off the ball at work and finds herself sacked and someone is also spreading rumours about how unreliable Dee is. She is devastated, Dee has worked so hard to achieve her success and now someone has set out to sabotage it. 
JP's shop is in the village where Dee grew up and she quickly reconnects with her old friend Becky; she is the frazzled new mother of a premature baby. Becky explains how premature babies need small woolly hats to maintain their body temperature; Dee wastes no time in roping in JP to help make some hats and he then sees a bigger opportunity to help and Dee can't help but see the benefits to the business. But maybe this is where she has been going wrong, not everything has to be business related, has she lost sight of how to simply be happy?
This book was a very enjoyable read, I found Dee a little annoying at times but the good thing was that she gradually became aware that she was over-stepping the mark. I loved her relationship with Ben and the way in which she changed over the book. 
The Woolly Hat Knitting Club is funny and entertaining plus it inspired me to dust off the knitting needles again so that's good! 

Many thanks to the publisher for asking me to review this book via Netgalley. 

1.1.18

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year! Hope you all had a lovely Christmas! I have to apologise for the lack of posts recently, work and life seem to have got in the way but the good news is that I have loads of reviews to share with you as I've still been reading. I ended up reading 45 books in 2017 which didn't seem like very many so shall have to up my game in  2018. I'm very pleased with what I read though, I tried to take myself out of my comfort zone and try authors and genres that I wouldn't normally choose. I have read a lot more literary fiction this year and very much enjoyed it. I joined a book group which has been fantastic; there is quite a lot of alcohol involved but it's lovely to get together with a group of people and talk about books.
So I am hoping to read more in 2018 and I'm looking forward to sharing my reviews with you. Thank you so much to all the lovely publishers who continue to work with me; other book bloggers who offer encouragement and readers who take the time to leave a comment. Happy reading to you all in 2018!

16.11.17

BOOK REVIEW: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Lib Wright, a young English nurse, arrives in an impoverished Irish village on a strange mission. Eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell is said to have eaten nothing for months but appears to be thriving miraculously. Lib's job role is simple: to watch the girl and uncover the truth.
An educated sceptic, Lib expects to expose the fast as a hoax right away. But as she gets to know the girl she becomes more and more unsure: is Anna a fraud, or a 'living wonder?' or is something more sinister unfolding right before Lib's eyes? Written with all the propulsive tension that transported readers of Room, The Wonder asks what length we would go to for the love of a child. 

Publisher: Picador
Pages: 347

It's taken me ages to sit down and write this review as I'm still not too sure what I think! I was blown away by Emma Donoghue's book Room so I had very high expectations for this one. I am not saying that they weren't met but The Wonder is just so different. It's almost like it's not the same author. But then I've been thinking about this and I think Room was so well received because it was such a different, stand-out idea for a book so realistically the author was not going to be able to write something of a similar nature. Sorry for rambling but I'm just trying to explain why I've found it so hard to write my review.
The Wonder has a very beautiful, Gothic feel to it which I really enjoyed. The rural Irish setting brings an almost 'other world' feel to the book, Lib enters an entirely different world to her own, she is very much an alien in this setting, she has little understanding of the culture, religion and daily struggles faced by Anna's family. Her job is purely to observe Anna, an eleven year-old-girl who can apparently live without eating any food. Lib is sceptical from the very beginning and she struggles to merely observe without passing judgement or developing emotions about her young charge. Lib's job as a nurse is to care and make her patient's health her priority so she finds being in Anna's presence extremely frustrating. The girl is deteriorating in front of her and Lib feels powerless to prevent the inevitable. 
Emma Donoghue raises many questions about religion in this book. The pressures placed on people by religion and the huge amount of guilt often involved. The people around Anna want to believe that she is a miracle but their actions are selfish, it is as though they have lost sight of the fact that she is a child and therefore their responsibility. I felt that the author highlighted how many religious texts are open to many different interpretations, this is explored by Anna and Lib's numerous discussions as to what God would want and how he would want Lib to behave.
Emma Donoghue's writing is superb, in some ways not a huge amount happens in the book but I still couldn't put it down, there is a definite element of suspense running throughout. Like with Room, the author creates a very intense situation in which to explore human nature and behaviour. Lib and Anna spend long periods of time together in a small room, there is no where for either of them to hide. The Wonder was quite a surprising read and I really enjoyed it. I had to dismiss my previous experience of this author. Having had time to think about it, I think this book is moving, dramatic and thought-provoking. I'm going to give it a re-read in the future as I know there is probably even more that I could have taken from it.

5.11.17

DOT AND DARCEY REVIEW: The Usborne Big Book of Bugs

Usborne are one of my favourite children's books publishers so I was so, so excited when Victoria contacted me to ask if she could send Darcey a book. Victoria is an Independent Usborne Organiser and she is fantastic! She asked me a little bit about Darcey, her age and what she likes/dislikes and then she told me that she had thought of a good book and would be popping it in the post. A huge envelope arrived- Darcey was so excited to open it and find The Usborne Big Book of Bugs inside- Victoria could not have chosen a better book, my five year old is fascinated by anything to do with creepy crawlies- the hairier the better!
We have looked at this stunning book so many times- I have included some photos but they don't really do it justice. The illustrations are so detailed and beautiful, there is just enough information on each page without a young reader feeling bombarded. Darcey and I both agreed that our favourite feature of the book were the 4 giant fold outs- they open up to the equivalent of 4 pages of the book each and bring a lovely element of fun. The language and vocabulary used is pitched just right for this age range, it is not patronising but not so technical that a young reader may lose interest.
Usborne do not solely publish non-fiction books, we have a number of their fictional titles too but personally I think they excel in the non-fiction arena. Their books are well made and sturdy, bright and inviting. We have a few of their lift the flap question books (the dinosaur one is Darcey's favourite) and they are brilliant- I think at this age children still like a bit of interaction and Darcey loves deciding which flap we will lift next and what questions we will find the answers to.


I think that Victoria's role as an Independent Usborne Organiser is so important; she is a teacher and a mum of young twins so she is in a great position to use her experience and knowledge to make recommendations. You don't get that from Amazon! I know you can go to a book shop (which I definitely advocate doing) but sometimes as a busy mum, I simply don't have time and so having access to someone who can help make age and reading ability recommendations is so helpful. Victoria is based in Birmingham but she will happily post out books within the UK so check out her  Facebook page, The Word Worms. She has a fantastic loyalty scheme where you buy 5 books and then get 20% off the next one and she has some very lovely ideas for Christmas, including putting together individual packages containing books, sweets and even a soft toy to suit your child's interests. I am still adding to my list to order before Christmas- I love buying books as gifts for children and I have been spoilt for choice when looking through Usborne's catalogue- plus Darcey keeps circling all the ones she wants too! 

Many thanks to Victoria for sending Darcey such a wonderful book and introducing us to a different and personalised way to shop. I have popped her details below if you want to find out more about Usborne or to start your Christmas book shopping! 

Victoria Willams
Phone/Text: 07753 728 389
Email: Victoria.lwilliams@yahoo.co.uk

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