Rizzoli & Isles #13: Listen to Me – Tess Gerritsen

“Did I mention a homicide?” “No, but you’re Detective Rizzoli. Everyone knows who you are.”

Can you believe this is the first Rizzoli & Isles book published since 2017? That was pre-pandemic, so by my calculations it’s been 142 years since I read the twelfth book, give or take.

I’ve missed Jane and Maura so much and I loved being able to catch up with them again. Even though it’s been so long since I was able to tag along during one of their investigations, it took no time at all to reacquaint myself with them.

I was able to read from Angela’s perspective for the first time and if you know Angela, you know she’s going to be spending a considerable amount of time getting into someone’s business. And their business and maybe theirs as well… She absolutely delighted me as I followed her around her neighbourhood.

“I’ve lived on this street for forty years and I try to keep an eye on it, that’s all. You can’t prevent bad things from happening if no one notices those things.”

Angela spends her time investigating the mystery of why the new couple renting number 2533 aren’t being neighbourly and the case of a missing teenager, all while facing off against her archenemy and checking out the man across the street. Basic what I’m saying here is that Angela did more than enough to convince me she needs her own spin-off series.

I’m guessing all of my training with Rizzoli over the years has started paying off as I figured out one of the mysteries straight away and got another one half right.

Something I’ve always loved about the Rizzoli & Isles books is how all of the puzzle pieces end up fitting together, even when some of them originally look like they belong in separate pictures. This was the case here as well.

Some books in the series have more of a focus on Jane and others spend more time with Maura. With more page time dedicated to Jane this time, I’m hoping next time I’ll get to hang out in the morgue some more, “reading the language of death” with Maura.

I feel like I’ve just caught up with some old friends I haven’t seen in years and I’m tempted to reread the entire series and binge the TV series (again) while I wait to be invited to join their next investigation.

Bonus points for the ringtone allocated to Angela on Jane’s phone and the reveal of Maura’s secret talent.

Content warnings include domestic abuse and mention of sexual assault.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, Random House UK, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Mothers know best … But who will listen?

Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles are newly plagued by what seems like a completely senseless murder. Sofia Suarez, a widow and nurse who was universally liked by her neighbours, lies bludgeoned to death in her own home. But anything can happen behind closed doors, and Sofia seemed to have plenty of secrets in her last days, making covert phone calls to traceless burner phones. When Jane finally makes a connection between Sofia and the victim of a hit-and-run from months earlier, the case only grows more blurry. What exactly was Sofia involved in? One thing is clear: The killer will do anything it takes to keep their secret safe. 

Meanwhile, Angela Rizzoli hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in all the years since her daughter became a homicide detective. Maybe the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree: Nothing in Angela’s neighbourhood gets by her – not the gossip about a runaway teenager down the block and definitely not the strange neighbours who have just moved in across the street. Angela’s sure there’s no such thing as coincidence in her sleepy suburb. If only Jane would listen – instead she writes off Angela’s concerns as the result of an overactive imagination. But Angela’s convinced there’s a real wolf in her vicinity, and her cries might now fall on deaf ears. 

With so much happening on the Sofia case, Jane and Maura already struggle to see the forest for the trees, but will they lose sight of something sinister happening much closer to home?

The Stranger Times #2: This Charming Man – C.K. McDonnell

On her first day, Hannah’s boss shot himself in the foot. It’s now been three months since Hannah joined The Stranger Times as assistant editor and she’s just returned from two week’s leave (divorce holidays aren’t especially fun), only to have a close encounter with the office toilet. It escaped the building via an upper window. Never a dull moment. 

‘Rumour has it the sun’s come out and people are losing their minds.’ 

Her boss, Vincent Bancroft, editor at large, remains “‘challenging’, in the way a cat sanctuary might use the word to describe a moggy that attempted to rip your face off while you slept.”

Banecroft, Stella, the paper’s purple haired intern, and Manny, their printer, are all currently living at the office. And let’s not forget the spirit that cohabits with Manny. Rounding out the team are Grace, the office manager, Ox, the ufologist, and Reggie, the paper’s paranormal consultant.

So, having been introduced to all of the “woo-woo nonsense” that’s hidden in plain sight in Manchester in the first book, what delights does this sequel contain? Vampires. 

‘They don’t exist.’ 

Sure, tell that to the people who never signed up to be blood donors.

In the course of their investigation, we meet Cogs 

‘Would it kill you to lie?’
‘Actually, dear lady, it would.’ 

and the dog that regularly puts him in his place. The dog quickly became my favourite character.

Because this is The Stranger Times, there’s more to the investigation than meets the eye. Which eye, I hear you ask? Touché. If you didn’t ask, I’d suggest you read the first book for the inside scoop.

I love this dysfunctional team and their investigations. The case of the non-sparkly vampires does have a resolution but that doesn’t mean the vampires are all going the way of their reflection in a mirror. I’m almost certain more blood will be spilled when we catch up with the strangeness in the next book. If not, though, there’s plenty of territory left to cover in this series, from questions about individual team members to the conspiracy theories I’m formulating about the Founders.

With more farts than your average book, a smelly gun and inexplicable Spam, you’ll be grateful this read isn’t presented in Smell-O-Pages. I was delighted to learn how to swear by number and I definitely need to hear more about the woman who was chased by the spectral dinosaur. 

I’m already looking forward to the third book.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be at the Spoonful of Sugar with Stanley.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, Penguin Random House UK, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Vampires do not exist. Everyone knows this. So it’s particularly annoying when they start popping up around Manchester… 

Nobody is pleased about it. Not the Founders, the secret organisation for whom vampires were invented as an allegory, nor the Folk, the magical people hidden in plain sight who only want a quiet life. And definitely not the people of Manchester, because there is nothing more irksome than being murdered by an allegory run amok. Somebody needs to sort this out fast before all Hell really breaks loose – step forward the staff of The Stranger Times.

It’s not like they don’t have enough to be dealing with. Assistant Editor Hannah has come back from getting messily divorced to discover that someone is trying to kidnap a member of their staff and while editor Vincent Banecroft would be delighted to see the back of any of his team, he doesn’t like people touching his stuff – it’s the principle of the thing. 

Throw in a precarious plumbing situation, gambling debts, an entirely new way of swearing, and a certain detective inspector with what could be kindly referred to as ‘a lot of baggage’ and it all adds up to another hectic week in the life of the newspaper committed to reporting the truth that nobody else will touch.

The Sisters Grimm #2: Night of Demons and Saints – Menna van Praag

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

You think you’re ordinary. You never suspect that you’re stronger than you seem, braver than you feel or greater than you imagine. 

It’s been three years since we last spent time with the Sisters Grimm. We catch up with them in the lead up to their 21st birthday. 

‘Tonight we’re stronger than we’ll ever be again.’ 

Goldie’s adorable younger brother, Teddy, isn’t quite as adorable anymore; he’s found some attitude since we last saw him. Goldie is still reeling from loss. Liyana is increasingly worried about her aunt, Nyasha. She’s also missing her girlfriend, Kumiko, who is away studying. Scarlet suspects Eli of keeping secrets. I can’t provide an update about Bea because that would involve spoilers.

We visit Everwhere, which remains magical and beautiful, but is not without its shadows.

This is a story of love, hope and hopelessness, of longing and loneliness, of losing others and yourself.

Goldie’s stories, co-written by Vicky van Praag, are scattered throughout the book, as they were in The Sisters Grimm. My favourite was The Good Girl

‘Not to worry, your voice has been long drowned out by the voices of others. But it’s never too late to listen to your own.’ 

I may have missed something but I found it confusing that Leo could “barely see five miles in any direction”, yet he can’t see Goldie when she’s right in front of him.

There are fewer Alastair Meikle’s illustrations in this book but they were still wonderful. 

I would definitely recommend reading this series in order. If you attempted this book without having already read The Sisters Grimm, you’d be in for some major spoilers and confusion. 

‘There’s a storm coming, child, and you’re the only one who can contain it.’ 

Content warnings include death by suicide, death of an animal, mental health, mention of abortion and miscarriage, sexual assault, suicide attempt and suicidal ideation.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, Penguin Random House UK, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

And then there were three …

Three years ago, the sisters confronted their demon father in that strange other-world called Everwhere. It was a battle that ended in a devastating loss, and the scars they carry seem to have slowly pushed the sisters apart

One sister, still raw with grief, is now a near recluse but determined to use her powers to resurrect what she has lost.

Another has made the journey to learn more of her family, her culture and her roots.

And another seems to have turned her back on what she is and opted to lead a more normal life.

But now the sisters are about to be brought together once more. Because when the clock strikes midnight, when October ticks into November, when autumn wilts into winter, when All Hallows’ Eve becomes All Saints’ Day, the sisters Grimm will turn twenty-one and reach the zenith of their powers.

And on this night, at this time, in this place called Everwhere, anything is possible …

The Stranger Times – C.K. McDonnell

Hannah’s new boss shot himself in the foot during her job interview and that’s not even the weirdest thing that’s happened this week. She’s just joined The Stranger Times, a newspaper that reports “the weird and wonderful from around the world ‘and beyond’”. Think Fortean Times.

‘You’d be surprised what I’d believe. It’s been a hell of a week.’

Hannah is the new Tina, AKA, assistant editor. Her boss (the guy with the new hole in his foot), Vincent Banecroft, is “foul-smelling, foul-mouthed and foul-tempered”. Banecroft lives in the office, as does Manny (clothing optional), who’s in charge of the paper’s printing department.

Grace, the office manager, spends much of her time managing Banecroft’s mouth. Stella, whose job title I’m still unsure of, lives with Grace and may be my favourite character. Reggie is the paper’s paranormal consultant and Ox is their ufologist and “general paranoid”. The paper is owned by Mrs Harnforth.

Then there’s Simon, who desperately wants to work for The Stranger Times but is having trouble getting past their No Simon policy.

Meanwhile, the police are attempting to investigate some events that aren’t exactly in their jurisdiction, events that are definitely strange enough for The Stranger Times.

‘Right,’ said Banecroft, ‘let’s kick off this parade of inadequacy, then, shall we?’

This book was so much more fun than I’d expected. I got sucked straight in and was entertained the entire time. I enjoyed getting to know Hannah and her new colleagues. There was a Big Bad doing Big Bad things and a whole bunch of goings on that regular people aren’t aware of.

While I was introduced to various ‘Types’ and magical bits and pieces, I don’t really have my head around this part of the world yet. I’m hoping the gaps in my knowledge will be filled in more when I read the sequel.

I really enjoyed the newspaper clippings scattered throughout the book; my favourite was Homework Eats Dog. I would definitely subscribe to this newspaper. There’s an article about a haunted toilet in Falkirk!

‘It’s in a pub. People claim that it speaks – issuing death threats, ominous predictions and …’


‘Shortbread recipes.’

There was a bit of a disjointed feel to some of the chapters. Sometimes it took me a page or two to figure out which part of the story I was reading about, especially when a new character or plot line was introduced. It all came together in the end though.

Some questions were answered in this book but there were a bunch that are being held over for the sequel. I expect I’ll be rereading this book a little closer to the sequel’s publication date.

The employees at The Stranger Times are a bunch of oddballs but they’re my kind of oddballs. I think I’d fit right in with this team.

‘The world is not what you thought it to be.’

Bonus content: If you sign up for the newsletter at https://thestrangertimes.co.uk you’ll snag In Other News, a free ebook.

Content warnings include mention of alcoholism, death by suicide, drug addiction and homophobic and racist slurs. I didn’t feel like the homophobic and racist slurs added anything to the story and, although they were challenged, I wondered what the point was of including them in the first place.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but mostly the weird), it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable.

At least that’s their pitch. The reality is rather less auspicious. Their editor is a drunken, foul-tempered and foul-mouthed husk of a man who thinks little of the publication he edits. His staff are a ragtag group of misfits. And as for the assistant editor … well, that job is a revolving door – and it has just revolved to reveal Hannah Willis, who’s got problems of her own.

When tragedy strikes in her first week on the job The Stranger Times is forced to do some serious investigating. What they discover leads to a shocking realisation: some of the stories they’d previously dismissed as nonsense are in fact terrifyingly real. Soon they come face-to-face with darker forces than they could ever have imagined.

The Year of the Witching – Alexis Henderson

Spoilers Ahead!

“You never go into those woods, you hear? There’s evil in them.”

Immanuelle is a shepherdess who lives in Bethel with her family. She was raised by her grandparents, Abram and Martha, having never known her parents. Also living in the home are Anna, Abram’s second wife, and their two children, Glory and Honor.

The Moore family follow the Prophet and the Holy Scriptures faithfully, although their fellow Bethelans will never forget what Immanuelle’s mother, Miriam, did. Her sin continues to cast a shadow over her entire family.

Bethel is a community where polygamy is the norm, the Prophet’s power is absolute and indiscretions, actual or perceived, can be punished by pyre. Men have taken and abused their power, but some of the women are also complicit. Faith is polluted by fear and repression.

Bordering Bethel is the Darkwood, the home of Lilith and her coven of witches, a place to be feared and avoided at all costs. Except the Darkwood is calling Immanuelle and if she heeds the call she will be putting both her life and soul on the line.

Even now, their ghosts still haunted the Darkwood, hungry for the souls of those who dared to enter their realm.

Or so the stories said.

There will be blood.

Once upon a time I spent several years studying the Bible and one of the things that fascinated me at the time was discovering the original meaning of specific words I was reading. Sometimes it wouldn’t make a difference but there were also times where the entire meaning of a passage could change once I knew one word’s origin. Why am I telling you this in the middle of my review? Well, I’m glad you asked.

As I was reading I kept noticing specific names whose etymology seemed perfectly matched to their characters and while I could be wrong, it felt intentional. I won’t go into all of the connections by brain made while I was reading here but I will mention a couple that stood out to me.

Bethel may mean ‘house of God’ but the current Prophet is anything but godly. In a sea of biblical names, the current Prophet’s name is Grant. Revered by his followers, this Prophet claims to speak for the Father. Visions of the Prophet are treated as gospel and given how isolated Bethel is, there aren’t outside influences challenging the status quo.

Given his predilections, perversion of power and the I want to punch that guy urges I experienced as I got to know him, it felt right that Grant wasn’t named after someone in the Bible, or anything associated with biblical teachings, like Glory and Honor.

Ezra, the name of the Prophet’s son and successor, means help or helper.

In what was quite possibly my favourite association, Immanuelle stepping foot in the Darkwood was Judas’ fault. Naturally.

Now, I acknowledge I could be seeing things here that were not intended but I also noticed that, prologue and epilogue aside, this book contained forty chapters. Forty in the Bible usually denotes a period of testing, trial or probation.

Blood. Blight. Darkness. Slaughter.

I really enjoyed this book but, although I was sure I was becoming emotionally invested in the characters as I was getting to know them, I don’t think I really did. Although the characters experience a lot of high stress situations I never felt the urgency. I didn’t worry about them when they were in danger and when they experienced something that could have triggered an ugly cry I was left unaffected.

There were accused witches, girls and women who broke some arbitrary rule set forth by man and/or religion, and those that maybe didn’t break a rule at all but were accused of a crime.

To be a woman is to be a sacrifice.

From the writings of Teman, the first wife of the third Prophet, Omaar

Then there were the actual witches, the characters I was most looking forward to getting to know, whose dark presence casts a shadow on the apparent light of this religious community. The Unholy Four make an impact when they appear but they didn’t get nearly as much page time as I had hoped they would. I didn’t feel I got to know them at all.

This book nudged up against one of my pet peeves, where someone who has recently obtained new powers doesn’t need to spend weeks, months or years in training learning how to wield them. While the character I’m referencing here doesn’t entirely violate this pet peeve, there was definitely some instinctual knowing how to use them involved.

I wondered why the events that activated the final two plagues were different than the first two. I may have missed something or not have thought about it enough but it seemed to me that the first two were forming a pattern.

Why did the forest call to her?

I’ll be look out for this author’s future releases.

Content warnings include animal sacrifice, grooming, immolation, paedophilia, physical abuse, racism, scarification and sexual assault. Readers with emetophobia may struggle with some scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, Penguin Random House, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Born on the fringes of Bethel, Immanuelle does her best to obey the Church and follow Holy Protocol. For it was in Bethel that the first Prophet pursued and killed four powerful witches, and so cleansed the land.

And then a chance encounter lures her into the Darkwood that surrounds Bethel.

It is a forbidden place, haunted by the spirits of the witches who bestow an extraordinary gift on Immanuelle. The diary of her dead mother …

Fascinated by and fearful of the secrets the diary reveals, Immanuelle begins to understand why her mother once consorted with witches. And as the truth about the Prophets, the Church and their history is revealed, so Immanuelle understands what must be done. For the real threat to Bethel is its own darkness.

Bethel must change. And that change will begin with her …

You Let Me In – Camilla Bruce

‘Fiction is sometimes better than reality, don’t you think?’

Romance novelist Cassandra Tipp has been missing for a year and as per her Last Will and Testament, her considerable estate is to be shared by her niece and nephew. The only catch is, in order to make the claim, they need to go to Cassandra’s home and find the password hidden somewhere in the manuscript she left for them.

You’re standing in my study, holding this story in your hands – the last one I’ll ever tell.

In doing so they will learn about Cassandra’s life, from her early childhood onwards, and the versions of the truth that continue to haunt their family.

‘Maybe the past came back to haunt her. She has a history here’

The feedback on this book seems fairly divisive so far. You’ve got the ‘I loved this book!’ people on one side and the ‘What the hell did I just read?!’ people on the other. As I’ve come to expect, I’m a bit of an anomaly. My initial response to this book was ‘What the hell did I just read?! That was so good!’

It’s been over three weeks since I finished reading and I’ve spent plenty of time since then trying to figure out a way of talking about it without wandering into spoiler territory. I also haven’t been able to get Cassandra’s story out of my head.

And things weren’t quite as they seemed.

I’ve gone back and forth countless times, trying to decide one way or another what I truly believe and while that would usually frustrate me, here it has only added to my appreciation of the story. You could see it purely as the ramblings of an elderly woman with a history of unresolved trauma and inadequately treated mental illness. That’s what Dr. Martin, Cassandra’s psychiatrist, would say. And he did. In fact, he wrote an entire book about her.

Or you could believe in Pepper-Man’s existence and know in your heart that what Cassandra says is true.

I’m still not entirely sure exactly which parts of the story I attribute to mental illness and/or trauma and which I believe Pepper-Man is responsible for, but because this is a story I think I can get away with what I still consider cheating. I believe both to be true. How on earth can I hold that position?

I think there were certain traumatic events in Cassandra’s childhood that contributed to genuine mental illness. Whether she would have been mentally ill without these experiences, I cannot say for sure but I suspect she would have been, to a certain extent. I believe that these traumatic experiences caused her to need coping mechanisms and one of these was the creation of Pepper-Man. Now, this is where reality and book world diverge a little: in my heart I want to believe that Pepper-Man truly existed, that somehow this young girl’s trauma physically manifested a protector. An unconventional protector, sure, but a protector nonetheless.

‘Can’t both stories be true?’ I asked. ‘Why is it that only because one thing is true, the other thing is not? Why do we always have to decide?’

I’m definitely interested in learning what other readers believe and if the author ever answers this question in an interview and you don’t think I know of its existence, please, please send me the link.

I wanted someone to know, you see. To know my truth, now that I am gone. How everything and none of it happened.

I’m not usually a ‘Have you considered adding more pink?’ kind of person but definitely feel like an opportunity was missed when the covers were designed for this book. Cassandra, the main character, is an author whose books all feature pink covers so it would have been perfect if this book’s cover had been a creepy Pepper-Man design in various shades of pink. Usually when I buy a book I make sure I choose my favourite cover image, even if it costs more. Unfortunately I don’t have a favourite here.

‘She would have us believe she’s off with the faeries’

While you probably need to know upfront that this is a strange story and it may not be for you, I don’t want you to not attempt it at all. If you’re intrigued and want a sneak peek, you can currently download a digital preview of the first 34 pages here.

Content warnings include mention of abortion, alcoholism, bullying, child abuse, death by suicide, mental illness, murder, self harm and sexual assault.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, Penguin Random House UK, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Everyone knew bestselling novelist Cassandra Tipp had twice got away with murder. 

Even her family were convinced of her guilt. 

So when she disappears, leaving only a long letter behind, they can but suspect that her conscience finally killed her. 

But the letter is not what anyone expected. It tells two chilling, darkly disturbing stories. One is a story of bloody nights and magical gifts, of children lost to the woods, of husbands made from twigs and leaves and feathers and bones …

The other is the story of a little girl who was cruelly treated and grew up crooked in the shadows …

But which story is true? And where is Cassie now?

The Sisters Grimm – Menna van Praag

Every daughter is born of an element, infused with its own particular powers. Some are born of earth: fertile as soil, strong as stone, steady as the ancient oak. Others of fire: explosive as gunpowder, seductive as light, fierce as an unbound flame. Others of water: calm as a lake, relentless as a wave, unfathomable as an ocean. The Sisters Grimm are daughters of air, born of dreams and prayer, faith and imagination, bright-white wishing and black-edged desire.

Each girl in The Sisters Grimm represents an element and a fairytale character. Goldi (Goldilocks) is earth, Bea (Beauty) is air, Liyana (I read somewhere that she represents Snow White but I cannot confirm this) is water and Scarlet (Red Riding Hood) is fire. Some of the comparisons between the characters and their fairytale equivalent were more obvious than others. While the Grimm connections will likely add to the book’s appeal for a lot of readers I would have been equally invested in the story had this not been included.

Goldie, whose perspective is the only one told in first person, is the sole caregiver for Teddy, her ten year old brother. She cleans rooms at a fancy hotel, liberating items from its rich guests to help support him. Her boss is sleazy and she’s experienced significant trauma in her childhood.

I’ve been a thief for as long as I can remember, a liar too. I might even be a murderer, though you’ll have to make up your own mind about that.

Bea was raised in various foster homes while her mother was being treated at St Dymphna’s Psychiatric Hospital. Bea studies philosophy and feels most alive when she’s soaring through the air in a glider.

For nearly eighteen years her mother has encouraged her to act audaciously and, although Bea relishes nothing more than reckless behaviour, she’s damned if she’ll give her mother the satisfaction of knowing it.

Liyana (Ana) was on track to be an Olympian before an injury derailed her plans but she remains at home in the water. Ana and her mother moved to London from Ghana when she was a child. Ana is an artist. Her girlfriend, Kumiko, hasn’t met her aunt Nyasha yet.

At the sight of a blackbird Liyana feels that, ultimately, all is right with the world, no matter how hopeless it might seem at the time.

Scarlet lives with her grandmother, Esme, whose health is declining. Scarlet now runs the café owned by her family. She lost both her mother, Ruby, and her home a decade ago as a result of fire.

Strangely, Scarlet finds she wants to immerse her hand in the flame, wants to feel the scorch on her skin. She believes, impossibly, that the fire will be kind to her.

I saw myself in all of the girls to a certain extent and, although I’d never heard of this author prior to this book and they certainly couldn’t pick me out of a lineup, I am almost always awake at 3:33am so I’m claiming this part of the dedication as my own. I knew from the blurb that one of the four would not survive but I liked them all and hoped against hope that the blurb was faulty. It was not.

This book reminded me of two important bookish things:

  1. Why I should not pay too much attention to a book’s star ratings and reviews before I finish reading it myself, and
  2. Why I should always give a book a little more time after deciding it’s not for me.

I had really been looking forward to this book so when I saw some unflattering reviews I admit that I allowed them to dampen my enthusiasm and even shuffled my TBR pile, moving a couple up the queue, as the thought of needing to drag myself through so many pages was unappealing. As soon as I began reading I realised the error of my ways – until I began reading from Leo’s perspective. He’s a what? From where? Seriously?

My initial failure to connect with Leo’s character, along with my impatience with the multiple perspectives that changed so frequently I had trouble keeping up for a while, caused me to very nearly write this book off as a DNF. Each sister‘s story is told from two perspectives (now and a decade ago). There are also varying amounts of time dedicated to Leo, Nyasha, Esme and their father. Then there are descriptions of Everwhere.

It’s a nocturnal place, a place crafted from thoughts and dreams, hope and desire.

If you count the descriptions of Everwhere as a perspective, which I did, you wind up with a baker’s dozen.

Thankfully I persevered just a little bit longer than I had planned before abandoning the book altogether and I’m so glad I did because I wound up entirely sucked in to this world and these sisters’ lives. I even got used to the rapid changes in perspective, although I still think I’d benefit from a reread to pick up connections I likely missed the first time through. I think this is the first time a potential DNF has suddenly morphed into an I love this book! for me and I can’t wait to reread it, soaking up the enjoyment I obviously missed early on.

There’s always this childlike delight that wells up inside of me when I discover illustrations in a book I don’t expect to find them in. I absolutely fell in love with Alastair Meikle’s illustrations and had so much trouble choosing a favourite to share with you here. I’ve chosen the first one, mostly because it invokes the same sense of wonder every time I look at it.

Although I’m not usually interested in Tarot, the descriptions of the cards throughout the book made me want to send a wish to the book’s marketing team in the hope that they’ll commission a set of Tarot cards, illustrated by Alastair Meikle, that have a similar feel to the style used in the book.

The descriptions of Everwhere enchanted me so much I wanted to visit. I yearned to learn everything I could about each of the four sisters. I wondered what element and powers I would most want, if I had the ability to choose. I didn’t want this story to end and it wouldn’t surprise me if this book comes to mind when I think about my favourite reads of the year. I need to inhale more of this author’s words.

There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of Sisters Grimm on Earth and in Everwhere. You may well be one of them, though you might never know it. You think you’re ordinary. You never suspect that you’re stronger than you seem, braver than you feel or greater than you imagine.

If anyone needs me I’ll be stalking the internet to see if I can buy a signed copy of this book. My bookcase desperately needs one!

Content warnings include child abuse, mental health, self harm, sexual assault and suicidal ideation.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, Penguin Random House UK, for the opportunity to read this book.

UPDATE: My day just got awesome! I found signed copies of this book at Goldsboro Books. I’ve ordered my copy and can’t wait for it to arrive. Happy book day to me!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of sisters Grimm on Earth.

You may well be one of them, though you might never know it. 

You think you’re ordinary. 

You never suspect that you’re stronger than you seem, braver than you feel or greater than you imagine. 

But I hope that by the time you finish this tale, you’ll start listening to the whispers that speak of unknown things, the signs that point in unseen directions and the nudges that suggest unimagined possibilities. 

I hope too that you’ll discover your own magnificence, your own magic …

This is the story of four sisters Grimm – daughters born to different mothers on the same day, each born out of bright-white wishing and black-edged desire. They found each other at eight years-old, were separated at thirteen and now, at nearly eighteen, it is imperative that they find each other once again.

In thirty-three days they will meet their father in Everwhere. Only then will they discover who they truly are, and what they can truly do. Then they must fight to save their lives and the lives of the ones they love. Three will live, one will die. You’ll have to read on to find out who and why …

The Shape of Night – Tess Gerritsen

Spoilers Ahead!

The prologue sets this book up as something with the potential to be deliciously creepy so I was eager to continue reading. I absolutely fell in love with Tess’ Rizzoli & Isles series (both book and TV versions) but have only read one of her standalone books prior to this one, Playing with Fire.

I read a couple of early reviews prior to beginning this book that mentioned ghost erotica. I thought, ‘Nah, it’s Tess. She wouldn’t go there, surely.’ Yeah, so I was wrong. If someone told me that I’d been punked, that some other miscellaneous author wrote this, it would make much more sense to me than it really being Tess. I wouldn’t have requested this book for review had the blurb even hinted at this content, but here we are.

Running from a secret shame and seeking oblivion at the bottom of a bottle (or, more accurately, many bottles), Ava escapes to Brodie’s Watch, a hilltop mansion overlooking the sea.

I’d hoped for a serene place to write, a place to hide. A place to heal.

Ava is a food writer who needs to work on her very overdue next book and a gorgeous, somewhat isolated house that was formerly owned by a sea captain seems like the perfect location. It isn’t long before Ava becomes aware of the home’s unsettling past and some more recent mysteries that the residents of Tucker Cove aren’t especially forthcoming about.

To the casual visitor, Tucker Cove seems quaint and picturesque, but it’s also a village that guards its secrets and protects its own.

I’d already ordered this book from the library for my mother before I began reading it and since neither of us have ever voluntarily read anything that could be confused with erotica before, I’ve warned her of what’s in store. (Now, that’s an interesting conversation to have with your Mum.) If you’re into 50 Shades of Spectral BDSM you’ll probably enjoy those scenes but when I was reading some of the more graphic bits I was a bit like:

As soon as I suspected this ghost’s intentions I was ready to call my Winchester boys so they could deal with him. I personally would have taken this book much more seriously if there hadn’t been sex with a ghost/demon. Sorry, Tess, but whenever I stumbled upon snippets like I want him to light the match and set me on fire, to prove that the living can satisfy me the way the dead do I ended up getting the giggles. It wasn’t supposed to be funny but it struck me as so absurd I couldn’t help finding humour in it.

Because it’s still a Tess book (it is; I double checked the title page) there’s got to be a dead body. Even though our main character is a food writer, not a police officer or medical examiner, I expected there to be some mystery surrounding this person’s identity. As soon as the body was found I thought there was only one person it could be, and sadly I was right.

Artists create, they don’t destroy. They don’t kill.

I won’t tell you if an artist is the culprit or not but obviously Ava isn’t acquainted with Dennis Rockmond from his two Season 3 Rizzoli & Isles episodes, ‘This Is How a Heart Breaks’ and ‘Melt My Heart to Stone’, if she doesn’t at least consider the possibility.

I expect a challenge where Tess’ stories are concerned, oftentimes not knowing who did it or why until just before (or when) it’s finally revealed. This time I knew who the big bad was as soon as I met them. I also figured out early on what Ava’s shameful secret was, so wasn’t surprised by anything (other than the whole BDSM thing).

“You are the one I’ve been waiting for.”

I’m unsure if this is a real inconsistency or if I missed something but when Ava first encounters the sea captain she winds up with bruising, yet no subsequent encounters leave a lasting mark on her. It infuriated me that it’s not challenged when the sea captain refers to Ava as his possession and even more so when she was okay with that!

I have to believe that with a cat called Hannibal, the main character drinking Chianti at one point had to be a deliberate choice by the author, one that I very much appreciated.

I’m not interested in pigeonholing writers. I usually enjoy it when authors write outside the lines of what I’ve come to expect of them. I think there are going to be a lot of surprised Tess fans out there where this book is concerned though, besides myself and my still pretty much unsuspecting Mum.

About the cover: There is no way that cat in the cover image is anywhere near the 26 pounds that Hannibal, Ava’s cat, is supposed to be in the book. It seems poor Hannibal had to diet before he was allowed to pose for his big moment. For comparison, this is what a 30 pound Maine Coon looks like. Meet Omar from Australia.

So, where to from here? I will definitely be reading any future Rizzoli & Isles books, no questions asked. However, after not loving two standalone books by this author in a row, I think I will be holding off to read some early reviews before deciding if their next standalone is for me or not.

Content warnings include mention of suicide, BDSM and stalking.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, Random House UK, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

We’ve all done things we’re ashamed of …

When Ava arrives at Brodie’s Watch, she thinks she has found the perfect place to hide from her past. Something terrible happened, something she is deeply ashamed of, and all she wants is to forget.

But the old house on the hill both welcomes and repels her and Ava quickly begins to suspect she is not alone. Either that or she is losing her mind.

The house is full of secrets, but is the creeping sense of danger coming from within its walls, or from somewhere else entirely?

Rizzoli & Isles #12: I Know a Secret – Tess Gerritsen

I adore the Rizzoli & Isles TV show and have watched every episode at least once and sometimes about five times. I love the friendship between Jane and Maura. I love the stories about their families and the crime scenes they attend and the murders they solve. I love that I get to observe Maura doing the job that should have been mine.

I adore Rizzoli & Isles books even more. You’d think after 12 books, the whole Rizzoli & Isles things would be stale. I’m delighted to tell you it’s not! I’ve been waiting so long for this book and now begins the wait for Rizzoli & Isles book 13. After not being completely overjoyed by the last Tess book I read, Playing with Fire (please forgive me Tess), I was approaching I Know a Secret with some trepidation. However I needn’t have worried as this book instantly reminded me of the Tess whose writing I fell in love with, admittedly after I’d already fallen in love with her TV characters.

I don’t want to discuss the plot for fear of accidentally giving something away but I couldn’t wait to find out how it was all going to unravel. I’m pleased to report that I got some of the big reveal correct but I’m equally pleased that I was completely wrong about some of it too. I hate books where the ending is telegraphed from about page 6 but I’ve never encountered that problem with a Tess book.

The only person I know who’s about to read this book is my mother (also a huge Tess fan) but she’s got half a book to go before she starts this one and I may well explode before I get to discuss it with her and find out what she thought about the things that surprised me and what didn’t, and all the things I loved about this book.

So, here’s the information you need to remember. If I’m found as an icky, explodey jumble of splatter in the next couple of days, please tell Maura when she does my autopsy that I couldn’t hold in my excitement about this book any longer and accidentally detonated myself, and I’m very sorry about the mess.

Bring on book 13!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In the twelfth gripping novel featuring Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, the crime-solving duo — featured in the smash-hit TNT series Rizzoli & Isles — are faced with the gruesomely staged murder of a horror film producer.

The crime scene is unlike any that Detective Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles have ever before encountered. The woman lies in apparently peaceful repose on her bed, and Maura finds no apparent cause of death, but there is no doubt the woman is indeed dead. The victim’s eyes have been removed and placed in the palm of her hand, a gesture that echoes the terrifying films she produces. Is a crazed movie fan reenacting scenes from those disturbing films?

When another victim is found, again with no apparent cause of death, again with a grotesquely staged crime scene, Jane and Maura realize the killer has widened his circle of targets. He’s chosen one particular woman for his next victim, and she knows he’s coming for her next. She’s the only one who can help Jane and Maura catch the killer.

But she knows a secret. And it’s a secret she’ll never tell.