The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open!

It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical.

~Do you remember when you believed in magic?~

I have no idea how to begin my review, I have thought about this all day, how do you capture all the beauty caught between the pages of The Toymakers within a few paragraphs? How can I write about the wonderment, enchantment and Magic without revealing any spoilers? Easily, I will tell you how the book made me feel. I read The Toymakers purely after reading another blogger’s review, there was no talk of the story which made me want to read it all the more. I wanted to be enlightened.

As discussed in my latest #Bookchat post I mentioned my love of magic themed books, those that spin a fairytale around my consciousness and drag me deep into the world created by the pen of talented minds and, after reading a few in my 38 years, sadly there are very few that hit the mark. The Toymakers, however, will reside in memory palace for the rest of my days.

This is a book of such a tale that you feel you have lived a thousand years by the final sentence.

Emotionally drained was an understatement for I sat in public spaces with tear filled eyes and a constant large lump obstructing my throat as I tried to keep myself contained reminding myself I was only reading a story after all, this wasn’t my reality and didn’t affect me. Not that my reasoning with myself did any good you must understand I was far too involved with the characters and invested too much time for them not to be flickering on the edge of my thoughts when I was going about my daily (real) life.

The Toymakers was a deeply layered novel, stitched together by time and the complexity of characters, a tale of other worlds, harrowing times, hardship and despair but foremost strong unconditional love, rich deep detail and emotive writing to hold your attention, cover you in goosebumps and a really thought provoking read. This was a story of a journey a new world adventure.

I often found myself speed reading, I was impatient for the next step of the journey

I want you to read this book because you want to feel the magic, experience the elation and join the journey yourself.

I don’t want to tell you about the characters, I want you to discover them yourself

If you are chasing a heart warming story you will find it here, not without the darker times, which adds so much depth the the tale. If you want an investment into complex characters, expressive language, and remnisient writing pushing the boundaries of your imagination then this should be the next book on your pile. (just ensure you have a handy pack of tissues with you at all times)

You have to want to believe, to enjoy The Toymakers, it is a beautiful nostalgic read that rekindles childhood pastimes and play.

This story shares the solidarity behind joining forces and making the best of what you have and even when you feel wrung out and don’t want to read another word I beg of you to continue because the story is not final until the very last full stop.

I resurfaced into my reality emotionally drained yet satisfied, I had been on such a journey and had the pleasure of Robert Dinsdales company, I salute such a talented author and anticipate more of his work.

The imagination of Robert Dinsdale is outstanding and should be celebrated. Enjoy your journey into the Emporium.


The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

~ The Comb ~ The Bone ~ The Feather ~

If you want something a little kooky, off the wall and thought-provoking then The Hazel Wood is the one for you. The modern world of today and the gritty edgy world of Hinterland merge together to form a matter of fact fairytale with a plucky yet stubborn heroine and her super fan of a sidekick.

Alice is a fantastic character that lives by her own rules, follows her own path and creates her own destiny. Her mother is her only true constant in her life, one filled with travel, restlessness and bad karma. The bond between mother and daughter is the strength throughout the entire story.

The Hazel Wood was a coming of age novel from a completely new perspective

Alice was searching for herself, discovering the very meaning of her existence and at the same time trying to trust her eccentric companion Finch when she is not too sure if she would rather go it alone. The companions make a good team, and as readers, we witness the relationship flourish and the friendship grow.

Finch was a strong character for me, although evidently this was the story of Alice I found Finch played a large part in her journey, he was her grounding and support she needed when she had no idea she needed it. His personality was warm and easy-going with an interest in Alice that was heartwarming. His superfan persona was an asset to the friendship and his knowledge valuable, yet there were those moments when he appeared to be in awe of Alice, HInterland and the magic behind it all which led me to question his motives.

I enjoyed the darker edge given to the tales written by Althea, just as fairy tales were originally made to be

Relishing in the way the stories flickered in the shadows and capturing the atmospheric suspense  as we watched Alice on her journey of discovery trying to rewrite herself as she knew it rescuing her missing mother in the mix, and just maybe meeting the ‘dead’ grandmother.

If you are a fan of A R Kahler you will really enjoy this one. Not as fanciful as I anticipated it to be but a great read nonetheless.


The House – Simon Lelic

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

Instantly I was hooked into the story of Jack and Syd. I loved the way as a couple they narrated their way through the story, so individually told allowing the reader to witness their personalities and character traits defining each of their stories and displaying just how different from each other they were.

This tale is told in stages, flitting back and forth between people, situations, the present and the past, slowly building the full story piece by piece, drip feeding to the reader creating intrigue and suspense.

First we are introduced to Jack, the character who was bold of heart, a great character with the sole aim to be needed, the fixer and the pleaser. Jack was emotional yet genuine. A sturdy and solid character and the Protector, for the woman he adored, his woman.

Sydney’s character is portrayed as more frantic and chaotic with quite a volatile personality, as we soon learn. Jack is her anchor on normality, a new life and a whole fresh start.

I read in disbelief as Sydney shared slight glimpses of her history, writing and relaying the trauma behind the younger years of her life.

These passages  were uncomfortable to read with me struggling to fathom why a parent could or would even contemplate being so cruel.

The fear that followed Sydney around was harrowing and relentless with Lelic’s astute writing emotionally binding the reader to Sydney’s journey, the relationship now formed between reader and character it was hard to not feel her fear. This very same relationship manifested between Sydney and Elsie, the young teenager so akin to Sydney who so isolated wanted the protection took it into her own hands to begin a tragic set of events that would affect them all.

The House very quickly became the backdrop for something far more sinister at play.

The setting was the stage for the performance, the beginning, the interval and the final scene. All the characters were simple props in the story entering  on cue all leading to the finale. Once the curtain closed, and only then, did we as the reader question exactly what had happened and most importantly why.

This was the first introduction to Simon Lelic. I really enjoyed the fast paced novel and would certainly enjoy reading more of his work. This earns a 4 Stars from me and I would recommend to others.

One of Us is Lying – Karen McManus

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide. 
Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. 
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident.

On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? 

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.”

This was a very strong contender for Book of the Year for me. I devoured this read adoring it all the way.

The whole storyline, setting, scene, plot and characters screamed Breakfast Club

which I just loved and found really easy to relate to. The book was a switch your head off and enjoy read, like watching an easygoing film.

I personally found this a fantastic read and brilliant story and all go from the outset. I have recommended this several times this year and would be interested in reading more from McManus.

Good Me Bad Me – Ali Land

‘NEW N A M E .
S H I N Y.
ME . ‘

Annie’s mother is a serial killer.

The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.

But out of sight is not out of mind.

As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly.

A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be.

But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.

Good me, bad me.

She is, after all, her mother’s daughter…

This book was certainly one of the best I have read this year being such a good story.

Although we never conversed with Annie’s mum I felt we knew her well, the constant narrative running through Annie’s head was written in such detail that as readers this helped us piece together the history of the life before Annie became Milly.

Throughout the story I always held my thoughts on Milly in reserve

I wasn’t surprised with how her relationships developed and the way things shifted within the book. I wasn’t surprised by the final outcome but felt it was written incredibly well. There was always the feeling of something is just not right but without pin pointing exactly was it was keeps the reader in a unknowing state until the end of the book.

This is one of those books I highly recommend and found really enjoyable to read

Daisy In Chains – Sharon Bolton

Famous killers have fan clubs.

Hamish Wolfe is no different. Locked up for the rest of his life for the abduction and murder of three young women, he gets countless adoring letters every day. He’s handsome, charismatic and very persuasive. His admirers are convinced he’s innocent, and that he’s the man of their dreams.

Who would join such a club?

Maggie Rose is different. Reclusive and enigmatic; a successful lawyer and bestselling true-crime writer, she only takes on cases that she can win.

Hamish wants her as his lawyer, he wants her to change his fate. She thinks she’s immune to the charms of a man like this. But maybe not this time . . .

Would you?

This book, for me, was just something else. It was dark and twisted yet beautiful, emotive and addictive.

Feeling hypnotised from start to finish, Bolton held me under her spell of dark twisted addictive wanton. I just couldn’t wait for the next chapter, the next ‘incident’ or letter. The need for a new instalment

A story full of complications, guarded emotions and deceit, even though it was written as a thriller it felt almost fanciful and delicate as segment by segment the reader is drip fed further information.

Bolton has a way of writing that captures the darker side of beauty, showing the reader how beautiful our demons can be, talented creative writing right there

The characters were the story, bringing the words in the book to life, sharing hidden secrets, individual quirky ways which often left the reader wondering  and all those very important minute tiny details. A story capturing a complex pool of characters at their very best, working in harmony with and against each other, and that magnetic draw creating intensive relationships and highly charged emotions tumbling through the chapters.

Beautifully written, delicately put together with an electrifying undercurrent and explosive finale that, I never saw coming at all

Highly recommended and I will certainly be reading more of Bolton’s very well crafted work. An author I am glad I have finally found.


Emma In The Night – Wendy Walker

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night five years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

Emma In The Night is a tormented read with harrowing realities and emotional draw, yet breathtakingly beautiful and delicately spun yarn by silken yarn

Never doubting that Walker had written another stunning read. I was not to be disappointed as I read her latest novel word to word, sentence to sentence and chapter to chapter. Walker writes with a beautiful presence, her characters fully formed in complexity displaying an exceptional strength of imagery.

This is a story of love, loss and revenge with a side of tension and a competitive streak thrown in the mix. A wholesome novel with a satisfying conclusion

Not every writer can hold my attention, presenting script that feels flat and bland, without the delicacy of emotive scribblings and musings from within. Walker, for me, writes with everything I need from a novel, with an understanding of each character and a depth so deep they too walk from the page and for those few days become part of the daily life and routine. Maybe I just crave a more articulate verse than most? but I praise the writing style that evokes emotion and feeling grabbing my attention and most importantly holding it firmly in place.

Walkers words lift from the page in silken strands that wrap intricately around the all consumed reader

Whilst the characters seem to all be fighting for attention within the story, Dr Winter was the character for me, she was the strength and the soul of the story becoming the saviour who helps bring this tragic tale to a close. Her side of the story slides under skin wrapping its way around the reader, tightening the binds until the anticipation is too intense, only to fall away to an amazing conclusion and outstanding finale.

I thoroughly adored her debut novel All Is Not Forgotten. I find myself living within her books, absorbed deep in the centre, too enthralled to put them down. This, is everything I need from a book.