It is my spot on the blog tour for Sanctuary by VV James which releases in paperback tomorrow (2nd April 2020).
About the book
Sanctuary. It’s the perfect town. . . to hide a secret.
The star quarterback’s death was a tragic accident.
Those rumours about his ex-girlfriend? Local gossip.
Detective Maggie Knight thinks she has it all figured out.
The small town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback. Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend, Harper, was there when he died.
Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?
As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching.
About the author
V.V. James is the author (as Vic James) of the contemporary fantasy trilogy Gilded Cage, Tarnished City, and Bright Ruin. Gilded Cage is a 2018 World Book Night pick and a Radio 2 Book Club selection. V.V. worked as an investigative producer for Channel 4 News and now directs documentaries for BBC1 and BBC2.
What I Thought
I had been really struggling with reading since the covid crisis so I put aside plenty of time to read this for the blog tour, but thankfully I ended up whipping through it.
The chapters were generally short and pacy which really helped but the premise was so good and the characters and plot intriguing. If you have any interest in the Salem witch trials and/or crime fiction you are going to want to read this.
Told in multiple points of view mainly from 3 adult women. Abigail – mother of the deceased, Sarah – town witch and mother of the accused and Maggie – detective.
In this world after the witch trials, witches were embedded into the fabric of America but under strict social control, having to register, banned from performing certain spells or using certain texts. The use of magic in a crime increases the severity of the punishment and evidence gained from magical means is inadmissible in trial.
The idea of a coven being between one witch and other non magical women who can loan their energy was fresh and added an extra layer to the uncertainty about what had happened. The secrets and lies between the women begin to unravel not only their friendship but society as a whole. The small town setting added to the claustrophobic atmosphere with everyone interconnected. The relationships were complex and nuanced.
There is an uneasy acceptance of witches in society, hate crime against witches being outlawed but clearly bubbling below. Trust is easily broken and fear stoked up and fuelled by the sorrow of losing a high school quarterback. Football being it’s own religion in certain quarters.
At its heart this was a murder mystery, a who or what done it and why, and I managed to guess at some aspects but not the whole. And this made it a hugely satisfying pay off. The gradual hints at and unfurling of a prior mystery were also so intricately plotted and made this a compelling page turner.
There was so much incidental diversity included. It was a breath of fresh air when a non binary character was introduced who was initially mis-pronouned. But once the character was corrected they simply used the correct pronouns without it being an issue at all.
Ironically towards the end of the book the town gets put into a quarantine because of a “sickness”. But don’t let that parallel with what’s going on in the world put you off. This is a clever and insightful take on a number of contemporary issues. I’ll leave you to learn the lessons of the witches. Something given for something gotten.
For fans of The Crucible, Practical Magic, Witches of East End and Asking For It. Trigger warning for rape and some grotesque moments. Adult.
Thanks to Orion for the paperback copy for the purposes of an honest review. The hardback edition came in Illumicrate. Do check out the rest of the stops on the tour.
Sometimes you need to risk everything…
To find your something
All Andrew wants is to be normal. He has the perfect wife and 2.4 children waiting at home for him after a long day. At least, that’s what he’s told people.
The truth is, his life isn’t exactly as people think and his little white lie is about to catch up with him.
Because in all Andrew’s efforts to fit in, he’s forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it’s about time for him to start.
Trigger warnings – Death and Suicide
Richard Roper lives in London. This is his first novel, inspired by a newspaper article about the council workers who deal with situations when someone dies alone.
What I Thought
Excuse me whilst I just wipe away a tear or two and compose myself.
This is a story of loneliness, and hope too, with a strong cast of characters. I can totally see why the TV rights have sold.
Our protagonist Andrew is in his early forties and lives alone surrounded by model trains. He works for the local council inspecting the properties of people that have died alone to try and find their next of kin and enough money to pay for their funeral. He writes their obituaries and, although not part of the job, he attends their funerals, usually just with the vicar. Throughout there is a hint that he might be in danger of the same happening to him one day.
The massive lie he has kept going is both a source of comfort and anxiety to him and throughout the story there is a gradual mystery that unfolds.
I got completely swept away by Andrew’s life and laughed and cried along with this charming novel. In reality he’d probably be the source of ridicule but that’s what I love about stories, they allow you to step into someone’s skin and see beyond the surface. This book reminds us to take the time to listen to people’s stories and rely less on snap judgements.
I love how that each person him and his work partner Peggy find is given a name, a story and due care and consideration. There is one person’s tale that Peggy and Andrew get caught up in and there was one line in reference to this that bought a lump to my throat.
Of course things happen that mean Andrew’s world is about to be shaken but if that helps him “Find His Something” surely things can settle again? Can’t they?
Family, Friendship, Love and Humanity is all explored with humour and pathos by debut author Richard Roper and as well as a tear or three this book should also leave you with a smile and a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart.
Just one negative. I’m not sure I’ll be able to forgive the missed opportunity to make a subtle Platform 9 3/4 Hogwarts Express reference!!! 😉
Thanks to Tracy at Compulsive Readers and Orion for the gifted copy for the purposes of honest review.
Do check out the rest of the blog tour stops below.
Based on Sophie Tanner’s true story comes a fresh twist on the traditional love story.
Chloe Usher has just broken up with the love of her life. All her friends urge her to find another man before she disappears down the slippery slope to spinsterhood. After a particularly messy date and several gins, she decides that she doesn’t need an ‘other half’ to complete her and announces that she is going to marry herself. The news goes viral and, in the sober light of day, Chloe finds herself thrust firmly into the public eye to the embarrassment of her friends and family. Planning her wedding solo takes Chloe on a bumpy journey of self-discovery, as she realises why wish away your life waiting for ‘the one’ when YOU are, in fact, the one?
About the Author
Sophie Tanner writes fiction as well as working as a digital PR and content consultant. She lives in sunny Brighton with her bumptious Labrador, Ella, a more romp away from the beach. She loved spending time outdoors in nature and is also a bit of a culture vulture; lapping up the buzzing arts scene. Eternally studious, Sophie enjoys meeting people and having new experiences; she’ll try anything… at least once. Instagram: @thesologamist, website: http://www.imarriedme.co.uk
This novel has a strong personal story, as it was inspired by the author’s own sologamist wedding in 2015! For Sophie, realising that she didn’t need a soul mate in order to be truly happy was her biggest life lesson. She learnt that treating herself with self-compassion and realising that she was enough, just as she was, has made her infinitely happier!
What I Thought
This was a really fun read with an important and empowering message. Whilst I am not likely to commit to marrying myself in a big ceremony (the cost!!) I am definitely on board with the principles behind it – self-compassion and self-love.
The characters felt real and were well observed. I loved the Brighton setting. I also enjoy being a step ahead of the main character and did guess a few things before she worked them out. Just a word of warning always check out abbreviations on online dating sites!!!
As you can expect poor Chloe doesn’t get 100% support behind her venture and the online trolls are matched by some real life ones too. Media attention and a film crew bring additional complications.
As well as the fun there is some serious stuff too and the communication between Chloe and one blog reader was very emotive.
The character Muriel, the older lady Chloe befriends as part of a work’s community charitable engagement was one of my favourites.
This is written in first person and it’s very engaging. Chloe comes across as likeable and very sane in a world where single women are still seen as spinsters and crazy cat ladies.
This is a book fans of Holly Bourne’s Spinster Club series can move on to enjoy. I highly recommend it. It’s a feel good feminist read, with great social commentary on a number of issues.
Thanks to Alex from Orion for my gifted copy for the purposes of an honest review. Published by Trapeze today – 16/5/19.