Friday, 19 January 2018

Book Review: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn.

Product details:
Publisher: William Morrow.
Hardcover, 448 pages.
Release date: January 2nd 2018.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: Adult.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.
Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.
But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

 A typical day in the life of Dr. Anna Fox is spent watching old movies while drinking merlot, learning French and playing chess, all in the company of her cat. Now, you might be thinking that this is, in fact, not a bad way to spend a day, and you’d be right. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch old movies while enjoying a glass of wine, right? But this is not a day in Anna’s life. This is her life. As for that wine, Anna doesn’t drink her merlot by the glass, she drinks it by the crate. Save for her cat and the tenant who lives downstairs, Anna, who suffers from agoraphobia, lives alone. Anna’s husband left ten months ago, taking her daughter with him. Now, Anna sits at her window and watches the world go by without her in it. She also likes to sit at her window and observe her neighbours; witnessing the mundanities of their daily lives along with their fights, their affairs and their marriage breakdowns. This all serves to keep Anna entertained, until one day she hears a scream. Following this scream, Anna sees something she was ever meant to see…

One of the buzzed-about titles of 2018 with a movie already in the works, The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, wears its love of film noir on its sleeve, taking inspiration from Hitchcock’s Rear Window and  Fritz Lang’s 1944 noir The Woman in the Window, from which it takes its title.  While A.J. Finn’s debut is a gripping page-turner of love, lies, murder and possible descent into madness, the real beauty of The Woman in the Window lies in its elegant prose and effortless turn-of-phrase, which is a cut above many other books in this genre. Truth be told, while The Woman in the Window kept me turning the pages late into the night, I found this story mostly predictable, guessing many of its plot twists long before they were revealed on the page. That’s not to say The Woman in the Window is poorly plotted, quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just that I have read so many psychological thrillers over the past few years that is it really, really difficult to surprise me nowadays. I wish things were different. If I had read this book five years ago, I’m sure I would be telling a whole other story. 

The Woman in the Window is not simply a case of solving a murder most wicked, it is also the story of Dr. Anna Fox, the woman who had it all and lost it all. So, what happened to Anna? At first it seems as though Anna has given up on life, spending her days in an alcohol and drug induced haze, where she puts down her wine glass only to feed her cat or speak to her husband and daughter on the phone. It soon transpires, though, that Anna does care. That, in her own way, she is trying to get back to living. She also cares enough to help other agoraphobia sufferers in a professional capacity via an online forum. And she cares enough to venture outside when she witnesses a horrific crime. Anna even cares enough that she’s willing to put her own safety on the line to help solve a murder. But how can Anna solve this crime when nobody, not even the police – especially not the police – believes a word that she says?

A winning debut, A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window is a noirish thriller that will appeal to fans of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and The Kind Worth Killing.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Book Reviews: My Little Eye by Stephanie Marland & Close to Home by Cara Hunter.

As a bit of a True-Crime-Podcast fanatic (currently listening to Beyond Reasonable Doubt? – check it out!) I knew that My Little Eye by Stephanie Marland, which follows a group of true crime fanatics as they attempt to hunt down a serial killer known as ‘The Lover,’ was sure to be right up my street.  Spoiler alert: I was right. This one is a total page-turner!

As someone with a whole lot of secrets and a very dark past, Clementine Starke doesn’t let people into her life all that easily. She also knows it’s probably not a good idea to join a group of online true crime fanatics in their quest to uncover the identity of ‘The Lover’ before the police do. Clementine is not comfortable with revealing her location (required for participation in the group). She’s not all that comfortable with IRL meet-ups either (ditto). But she needs in with the group. Why? Well, that’s got something to do with that dark past of hers…

DI Dominic Bell is in a race against time to catch the killer the tabloids have christened ‘The Lover.’  The pressure mounts as the body count increases – yet Bell is no closer to uncovering the identity of the killer. It could be that ‘The Lover’ is meticulous in leaving no trace evidence behind. It could also be that Bell is distracted. An internal investigation into a botched police operation has raised some doubts in Bell’s mind - doubts that lead him down a dangerous path of police corruption and dirty cops.

Will Bell catch the killer before he strikes again? What on earth was Clementine thinking when she offered up details of her location to a man who goes by the internet moniker ‘Death Stalker?’ Could he be the killer? Could Clementine be next?!

Read My Little Eye if you like: Serial and/or Line of Duty (As the Starke & Bell series progresses I have a feeling it could deal in police corruption that goes all the way to the very top!)

Four Stars -- Very good read. Liked it a lot. Recommended.
Published November 2nd 2017 by Trapeze


Tasked with investigating the disappearance of Daisy Mason, an eight-year-old who vanished without a trace from her parents’ summer barbeque, DI Adam Fawley knows that he faces a race against time if he is to find Daisy alive. He also knows that it’s very likely that Daisy was taken by someone known to her. How else could this girl, who reads as intelligent and wise beyond her years, have vanished without a trace, without a sound, from a garden party where she was surrounded by friends and family? Something’s not adding up. Then, there’s Daisy’s family: far from being eager to bring their daughter home, Daisy’s father is reluctant to make a televised appeal for her return while her mother, a cold-as-ice woman who is more interested in her appearance than her missing daughter, refuses to let the police conduct a search of their house. Strange behaviour indeed.

Compelling and multi-layered, Close to Home is one of those books I enjoyed pretty much all the way through, only to be left disappointed right at the end. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? Actually, I find this happens quite a lot in crime fiction and psychological thrillers. I guess a satisfying ending is a very difficult thing to get right. Also, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. This will work for many, I’m sure. However, it didn’t work for me. I want my crime fiction to be twisty and unpredictable, of course, but I want it to be believable too. That’s not the case here.

A book about lost children, not just Daisy Mason, but all the children who are lost through neglect, illness and death, and the effect of these losses on those left behind, Close to Home is an ultimately worthwhile read with an ending that will surely divide readers.

3.5 Stars -- Good read. I enjoyed it pretty much. Worth checking out.
Published December 28th 2017 by Viking
Received for review


Monday, 1 January 2018

New Books on my Radar!


Here are just some of the titles on my already-huge 2018 wish list.

Added any must-read books to your wish list lately?

Let me know in comments


Young Adult Fiction

Clean by Juno Dawson || Release date: April 2018

A razor-sharp, adrenaline rush of a novel from award-winning author Juno Dawson, Clean is Gossip Girl meets Girl, Interrupted.

'I can feel it swimming through my veins like glitter ... it's liquid gold.'

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she's hit rock bottom.

She's wrong. Rock bottom is when she's forced into an exclusive rehab facility.

From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady.

As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all ... 

It's a dirty business getting clean ...

Addiction and redemption, love and despair. Clean will have you hooked from the first page.


I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman || Release date: April 2018

Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from home to find the boy that he loves, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City after a family tragedy leaves him isolated on the outskirts of Washington state. After the three of them collide in Central Park, they slowly reveal the parts of their past that they haven't been able to confront, and together, they find their way back to who they're supposed to be.

Told over the course of a single day from three different perspectives, Gayle Forman's newest novel is about the power of friendship and being true to who you are.


9 Days and 9 Nights by Katie Cotugno || Release date: May 2018

The irresistible sequel to the bestselling 99 Days.

Molly Barlow isn’t that girl anymore. A business major at her college in Boston, she’s reinvented herself after everything that went down a year ago . . . after all the people she hurt and the family she tore apart.

Slowly, life is getting back to normal. Molly has just said “I love you” to her new boyfriend, Ian, and they are off on a romantic European vacation together, starting with scenic London. But there on a Tube platform, the past catches up to her in the form of Gabe, her ex, traveling on his own parallel vacation with new girlfriend Sadie.

After comparing itineraries, Ian ends up extending an invite for Gabe and Sadie to join them on the next leg of their trip, to Ireland. Sadie, who’s dying to go there, jumps at the prospect. And Molly and Gabe can’t bring themselves to tell the truth about who they once were to each other to their new significant others.

Now Molly has to spend nine days and nine nights with the boy she once loved, the boy whose heart she shredded, without Ian knowing. Will she make it through as new, improved Molly, or will everything that happened between her and Gabe come rushing back?


Save the Date by Morgan Matson || Release date: June 2018

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.


Adult Fiction

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin || Release date: January 2018

An intimate portrait of the close friendship and powerful creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars: Frances Marion and Mary Pickford. An enchanting new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife.

Hollywood, 1914. Frances Marion, a young writer desperate for a break, meets “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford, already making a name for herself both on and off the screen with her golden curls and lively spirit. Together, these two women will take the movie business by storm.

Mary Pickford becomes known as the “Queen of the Movies”—the first actor to have her name on a movie marquee, and the first to become a truly international celebrity. Mary and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, were America’s first Royal Couple, living in a home more famous that Buckingham Palace. Mary won the first Academy Award for Best Actress in a Talkie and was the first to put her hand and footprints in Grauman’s theater sidewalk. Her annual salary in 1919 was $625,000—at a time when women’s salaries peaked at $10 a week. Frances Marion is widely considered one of the most important female screenwriters of the 20th century, and was the first writer to win multiple Academy Awards. The close personal friendship between the two stars was closely linked to their professional collaboration and success.

This is a novel about power: the power of women during the exhilarating early years of Hollywood, and the power of forgiveness. It’s also about the imbalance of power, then and now, and the sacrifices and compromises women must make in order to succeed. And at its heart, it’s a novel about the power of female friendship.


Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin || Release date: April 2018

A gripping thriller about a man who may or may not have dementia—and who may or may not be a serial killer—from a master of twists and turns, in the tradition of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn

An obsessive young woman has been waiting half her life—since she was twelve years old—for this moment. She has planned. Researched. Trained. Imagined every scenario. Now she is almost certain the man who kidnapped and murdered her sister sits in the passenger seat beside her.

Carl Louis Feldman is a documentary photographer. The young woman claims to be his long-lost daughter. He doesn’t believe her. He claims no memory of murdering girls across Texas, in a string of places where he shot eerie pictures. She doesn’t believe him.

Determined to find the truth, she lures him out of a halfway house and proposes a dangerous idea: a ten-day road trip, just the two of them, to examine cold cases linked to his haunting photographs.

Is he a liar or a broken old man? Is he a pathological con artist? Or is she? Julia Heaberlin once again swerves the serial killer genre in a new direction. With taut, captivating prose, Heaberlin deftly explores the ghosts that live in our minds—and the ones that stare back from photographs. You won’t see the final, terrifying twist spinning your way until the very last mile.


The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll || Release date: May 2018

When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…

Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her cast mates.

Kelly, Brett’s older sister and business partner, is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.

Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.

Lauren, the start-up world’s darling whose drinking has gotten out of control, is Goal Diggers’ recovery narrative—everyone loves a comeback story.

And Jen, made rich and famous through her cultishly popular vegan food line plays a holistic hippie for the cameras, but is perhaps the most ruthless of them all when the cameras are off.


Friday, 22 December 2017

My Top Reads of 2017!

I didn't realise until now that almost all my favourite books from this year fall into the adult fiction category - with just one YA title making my list. I guess that's just how it goes sometimes!

Here are five of my favourite reads from 2017, listed in order of preference.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to wish all readers of the blog a very Merry Christmas!

See you back here in the New Year!


A literary thriller with huge commercial appeal, Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall is a master class mystery of secrets and suspense that plays alongside a social commentary that is timely, clever and knowing. 


Highly imaginative in a totally-twisted very off-the-wall sort of way, Behind Her Eyes is the must-read thriller of 2017.

Up next from Sarah Pinborough: Cross Her Heart releases May 2018.


If you’re anything like me you’ll be crossing your heart and fingers and toes for Lara Jean, Peter K. and a happy ever in Always and Forever, Lara Jean.  


Immersive, engaging and superbly well-written, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favourite reads of summer 2017 and a must-read for fans of Old Hollywood.  


 A darkly evocative tale of sisters and secrets, The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde, a multi-layered, decades-spanning mystery told in the gothic tradition, will keep readers hooked from start to finish.


Thursday, 21 December 2017

Book Review: The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase.

Product details:
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Hardcover, 336 pages
Release date: July 13th 2017
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Ages: Adult.
Source: Purchased.

When fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959, they expect a quiet English country summer. Instead, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before. As the sisters become divided by new tensions when two handsome neighbors drop by, Margot finds herself drawn into the life Audrey left behind. When the summer takes a deadly turn, the girls must unite behind an unthinkable choice or find themselves torn apart forever.

Fifty years later, Jesse is desperate to move her family out of their London home, where signs of her widower husband’s previous wife are around every corner. Gorgeous Applecote Manor, nestled in the English countryside, seems the perfect solution. But Jesse finds herself increasingly isolated in their new sprawling home, at odds with her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and haunted by the strange rumors that surround the manor.

 A darkly evocative tale of sisters and secrets, The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde, a multi-layered, decades-spanning mystery told in the gothic tradition, will keep readers hooked from start to finish.

Jesse Tucker knows she should be happy with her lot. After all, she’s got it all: the house, the husband and the adorable baby girl. Trouble is, Jesse’s house, along with her husband, used to belong to someone else, a fact her step-daughter Bella, who views Jesse as nothing more than an insult to her mother’s memory, reminds her of Every. Single. Day.  It’s not only that: lately the hectic pace of London life Jesse used to so love as a twenty-something singleton has been getting her down.  As a new mum, Jesse is tired: tired of the constant buzz, not to mention the increasing crime rates, of city life; tired of time spent alone while Will is increasingly stuck in the office; tired of Bella and the fact that her grief has worryingly begun to manifest itself in violent outbursts. Jesse knows that her family needs a change of pace and a change of scenery. Deciding that a move to the countryside will do everyone the world of good, Jesse begins the search for the perfect rural idyll. 

Jesse finds that rural idyll in Applecote Manor. Well, that’s stretching things a bit: Applecote Manor is anything but idyllic, rather it is a slightly dilapidated and extremely draughty old pile, but for Jesse, it is everything she ever wanted. Jesse soon discovers that Applecote Manor also has something of a dark past – but that’s something Jesse would rather ignore. However, when Bella hears of the story of Audrey Wilde, a twelve-year-old girl who went missing from the house over fifty years before, she’s all ears, if only because the very mention of the disappearance of Audrey Wilde seems to make her step-mother uncomfortable. As Bella sets about investigating Audrey’s disappearance, she unearths a heart-shaped button, of the type often found on dresses worn by girls of Audrey’s age.  Then, there’s the mysterious old woman often seen lurking around the grounds of the old house. Could it be that Applecote Manor holds the answers to the mysterious disappearance of Audrey Wilde? 

Back in the summer of 1959,  Margot and her sisters have been sent to stay with their aunt and uncle at Applecote Manor, where they haven’t visited since the disappearance of their cousin, Audrey, several years before. Since then, Audrey’s parents have buried themselves in grief, so much so that their Aunt Sybil barely ever leaves the house. However, the arrival of fifteen-year-old Margot, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her cousin Audrey, sparks something in Sybil, who soon singles Margot out for special treatment. At first, Margot, who has lived her whole life in the shadow of her beautiful older sister Flora, is happy to play along as her aunt dresses her in replicas of Audrey’s clothes. This wears thin after a while, and Margot begins to find her aunt’s behaviour slightly unsettling. She may look like Audrey, but surely Aunt Sybil knows that Margot isn’t a replacement for her missing daughter. After all, Margot has a mother of her own, though strangely she hasn’t heard from her in a while…

As Bella searches for clues in the present day, Margot and her sisters find they are distracted by the arrival of two boys, one of whom can’t take his eyes off Margot, even though he claims to be smitten with her sister, Flora. As tensions rise and rivalry flares between the sisters, past secrets come to light in a night that will change Margot’s life forever.

A wonderfully woven coming-of-age mystery with sparkling prose throughout, The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde is the kind of book that begs to be read by an open fire on a cold winter’s night. A wholly absorbing read, this one is perfect for fans of Kate Morton’s novels and Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale.

Published as The Wildling Sisters in the US

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