#BlogTour House of Spines by Michael J. Malone @michaelJmalone1 @OrendaBooks

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Today is my stop on the HOUSE OF SPINES blog tour, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share my thoughts about this outstanding book.

Ranald McGhie is a financially-challenged writer who comes into an unexpected windfall when he inherits his Great-Uncle Alexander’s home—Newton Hall—and everything in it, including a vast library of books. Divorced and doing his best to cope with mental health issues that coincided with the death of his parents, Ranald is both overwhelmed and grateful for the chance to make a fresh start in his new home. But the moment he arrives, he gets a strange vibe from the house, particularly when he’s near the locked door of the lift. His dreams are filled with images of a mysterious woman who calls to him from within the mirror in the lift—a mirror he can’t see within the lift itself—but he knows it there, just as he knows she is there… waiting for him.

I love the spine-tingling chills caused by a creepy Gothic novel, and Malone provides them throughout with his masterful prose. I felt as uneasy as Ranald as he slowly explores different parts of the house, particularly the older areas with its old-fashioned furnishing that look frozen in time. As much as I wanted him to hurry up and investigate more rooms, it brought a delicious shudder to think about the secrets these rooms might hold and I was reluctant to end my speculations.

Ranald’s mental illness makes him an unreliable narrator at times, though I didn’t realize this right away. When I did, it made me wonder how much of what Ranald perceived as true events actually happened… and if they did, whether or not things happened as he thought that did. I loved the uncertainty this created within the story, and was keen to find clues that might indicate the reality (or not) of the given situation. Ranald isn’t the only unreliable character in the story, either… and that’s all I’ll say about that.

Glimpses of the past provide insight into what happened with Ranald’s parents, and in time, we learn about Alexander’s motivation in leaving Newton Hall to him.  We also get to learn more about previous occupants of the house—which include Ranald’s mother and grandmother, among others—adding new layers to the mystery surrounding Newton Hall.

Other characters include the married housekeeper and gardener, Ranald’s cousins, his ex-wife and (slightly psychic) former neighbor, and select people from the nearby village. The crisp characterizations of each one was fantastic, and made an already great book that much better. I either loved them, or felt suspicious of them instantly, depending on which character it was—and I was fooled into complacency by more than one of them, thinking I had them all figured out. Nope! Not even close, regarding certain ones.

There aren’t enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe how much I loved the ending. It was absolutely NOT what I was expecting to happen at all! What a way to wrap up a book! It was pure perfection.

To put it simply, Michael J. Malone has found a brand new fan in me. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next, because HOUSE OF SPINES was an amazing read. If you haven’t read it yet, trust me when I say you should. You won’t be sorry!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Orenda Books.

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Author: Michael J. Malone

Title: House of Spines

Genre: Gothic, Psychological Thriller

Published: August 16th, 2017 by Orenda Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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About the Book

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who appears to have been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, he finds that Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman …

A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…


About the Author

Michael Malone Photo
Author Michael J. Malone

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In- Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

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Review: Le Chateau by Sarah Ridout

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What really happened at the chateau?

When Charlotte regains consciousness after an accident, she finds herself living a stranger’s life. The previous five years are a blank, and her husband, Henri, and daughter, Ada, are strangers. Arriving at their family chateau in southern France, she hopes to regain her memories. Instead she feels isolated and unsettled. Strange events hint at underlying darkness and menace. Charlotte doesn’t know who to trust.

Did she really have an affair with their charming Irish neighbour, as her enigmatic mother-in-law suggests? And what of Henri? He seems loving and kind, a good parent, but Charlotte is wary. Then there is Ada, a little girl who just wants her mother back.

With the help of her friend and fellow Australian Susannah, Charlotte starts to piece together events, but her newfound confidence is shaken with news that puts a deadline on her quest…

Le Chateau is a suspenseful gothic tale that will appeal to readers of Daphne du Maurier and Kate Morton.


I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Echo Publishing.

Imagine having a terrible accident that leaves you with amnesia and wipes out memories of the last five years of your life. Your husband is a stranger, you don’t remember giving birth to your daughter, your home is an immense chateau in France that’s more than a little creepy that your family shares with your mysterious mother-in-law. This is Charlotte de Chastenet’s reality. Her husband, Henri, longs for her memory to be restored, but Charlotte suspects he is hiding things from her. Madame, as her mother-in-law is called, insinuates Charlotte had an affair with a neighbor, but rather than being upset about it, she often encourages Charlotte to go see the man. Her daughter, Ada, is sweet and happy to her mother home again, but she is sad and hurt when she notices Charlotte’s lack of memory about her—making Charlotte feel guilt on top of everything else.

The one person Charlotte knows she can trust is her old friend Susanna, whom she remembers clearly. Susanna comes to the chateau often, trying to help Charlotte with her memory as well as trying to solve the twin enigmas of Madame and the man with whom Charlotte may or may not have had an affair. Complicating matters further are the weird—and sometimes frightening—things Charlotte sees around the chateau and vineyards. Odd, ritualistic celebrations and Madame’s increasingly curious behavior have Charlotte on edge. She needs her memory back—and fast—because time is running out.

Sarah Ridout’s debut novel was a very enjoyable read. The chateau had just enough creepiness to give me a little shiver of unease whenever Charlotte was walking through it. Except Ada and Susanna, I suspected almost everyone Charlotte interacted with of hiding secrets or having ulterior motives. Discovering the answers to my many questions was never disappointing, and at times the answers were truly shocking.

I also like the way the cover ties into the theme of the story. The woman is blurred, unclear… you can only see the suggestion of her face, but not enough to make out any definite details, and her surroundings are equally obscured. It perfectly illustrates someone trying to remember their forgotten past based only on vague glimpses of moments they lived. The answers are so close, but deeply shrouded in shadows, and just out of reach.

I’ll be watching for news about this author… I’d like to read more of her work in the future.

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Author: Sarah Ridout

Title:  Le Chateau

Genre:  Gothic Suspense

Published: September 1st 2016 by Echo Publishing

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐