Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Book Review: ALL THE BEAUTIFUL LIES by Peter Swanson

Author: Peter Swanson
William Morrow
January 2018
Expected publication: 3 April 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟

It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.

Book Description:

Harry Ackerson has always considered his step-mother Alice to be sexy and beautiful, in an “other worldly” way. She has always been kind and attentive, if a little aloof in the last few years.

Days before his college graduation, Alice calls with shocking news. His father is dead and the police think it’s suicide. Devastated, he returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help one another pick up of the pieces of their lives and uncover what happened to his father.

Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way.

Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous—even deadly—secrets . . . and that neither one is telling the truth.

My musings:

Ever since reading The Kind Worth Killing and Her Every Fear, Peter Swanson has been on my list of authors whose books are must-reads before they have even been written. Imagine my happy-dance when I found out that I had been granted and ARC of All The Beautiful Lies, one of my most anticipated new releases in 2018 (thank you to Edelweiss)!

Swanson’s engaging writing style sucked me in immediately, and I contently settled into what I hoped would be an all-night read-a-thon with thrills and chills galore. This certainly is a dark, dark book! I love the way this author presents his villains in a detached, no-nonsense manner, like peering at them through the glass cover of a specimen jar, turning them over and around to inspect their sociopathic tendencies from all angles in an almost scientific manner. And be warned, because each and every character in this novel is deeply flawed, and not ashamed to present their darker sides to the reader. But where I had a soft spot for Lily, the calculating and somewhat cold-hearted protagonist of A Kind Worth Killing, I struggled to find an endearing quality in Alice, his latest creation. Although her dispassionate reasoning matches that of Lily, and Swanson endows her with a solid background that provides the origin of her sociopathic tendencies, I thought Alice lacked the emotional depth I found in his earlier creations.

The story is set in two different time-frames, “then” and “now”, one part focusing on Alice’s childhood and growing up, the other from the moment Harry finds out that his father has fallen to his death on a lonely coastal cliff path in Maine. It soon becomes obvious that there may be more to Bill’s death than an accident, and this is where the story becomes interesting, with several flawed characters becoming the suspects in what was potentially a brutal murder of a well-liked man. Like me, you will probably have your main suspect pegged very early on, and may find that Swanson has totally blindsighted you – or perhaps other readers make better detectives than I do, because I was very wrong!

So, why the average rating you ask? I know that I will be in the minority here, and it really pains me to admit that I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as I had hoped I would. Despite Swanson’s writing style, which is so perfect for a psychological thriller, and the red herrings that come at you from all angles, I just could not warm to any of the characters. I normally appreciate Swanson’s penchant for exploring the darkest corners of the human psyche, but there were some weird dynamics at play here, with twisted incestuous sexual relationships between characters which I found disturbing and which tarnished the story for me. Perhaps motherhood has made me too prudish for this type of tale, but these details took a lot of enjoyment out of reading a book that may otherwise have been a clever and riveting psychological thriller. 


If you are a fan of Peter Swanson’s writing, I still encourage you to give this one a go, as it has all the hallmarks of his previous novels – deeply flawed sociopathic protagonists, creeping tension, twists galore and an unexpected ending. Whilst I found that some of the characters’ strange sexual tendencies were disturbing and marred my reading pleasure, I will certainly not be put off enough to eagerly snatch up future books by this author.

Thank you to Edelweiss and William Morrow for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Book Review: BEST FRIENDS FOREVER by Margot Hunt

Author: Margot Hunt
Harlequin (Australia)
January 18
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2

Book Description:

Kat Grant and Alice Campbell have a friendship forged in shared confidences and long lunches lubricated by expensive wine. Though they’re very different women—the artsy socialite and the struggling suburbanite—they’re each other’s rocks. But even rocks crumble under pressure. Like when Kat’s financier husband, Howard, plunges to his death from the second-floor balcony of their South Florida mansion.

Howard was a jerk, a drunk, a bully and, police say, a murder victim. The questions begin piling up. Like why Kat has suddenly gone dark: no calls, no texts and no chance her wealthy family will let Alice see her. Why investigators are looking so hard in Alice’s direction. Who stands to get hurt next. And who is the cool liar—the masterful manipulator behind it all.

My musings:

Twisted female friendships usually make the perfect basis for a thriller, so I was instantly drawn to the premise of Best Friends Forever. Kat and Alice are polar opposites: Kat, the impulsive and slightly spoiled socialite from a rich family background, living in a big mansion with her successful financier husband; and Alice, the introverted brainiac who approaches life’s problems much like she would solve one of her logic puzzles. As they say, opposites attract, and somehow the two women’s different personality traits complement each other, making the friendship work – until one day it doesn’t, and Alice is left out in the cold, without a word of explanation from her former best friend.

In her novel, Hunt introduced the concept of “ghosting” to me, the practice of ending a personal relationship without explanation by suddenly withdrawing from all communication and freezing them out, despite the other person’s attempts to reach out or communicate. Strange that I have never heard that term before (I mentioned in a previous post that I do live under a rock sometimes), but it is the perfect word for this terrible way to end a friendship. I felt for Alice as she is initially pondering why her friend won’t answer her calls, which soon turns into panic as she finds that not only has Kat frozen her out, but has also implicated her as a potential suspect in a murder case.  Since the reader only has Alice’s narration to go by, I too was puzzled as to why Kat would leave her friend in this situation, coming up with all kinds of scenarios that would explain her behaviour. Some of these proved to be correct. However, as is the gift of a clever thriller writer, the author managed to throw in an extra twist at the end I absolutely did not see coming!

There was one point in the book where I thought the author had created the perfect opportunity to create some extra tension and intrigue to what had been a slow-burning story of friendship so far, which would justify its label as “psychological thriller”. Unfortunately this did not fully materialise, which was perhaps my biggest quibble with the book and left me feeling slightly let down at the time, as it did not mess with my mind as much as I had hoped. However, if you are a fan of chick-lit inspired slow-burning mysteries with that extra twist that leaves you slightly open mouthed with a WTF!?!?! expression stamped on your face, then this one might be just the book for you. I admit I had to flick back and re-read an earlier chapter to see what I had missed!


Whilst I have to admit that Best Friends Forever was a bit slow for me at times, and didn’t mess with my mind enough to stand out from other very similar books I have read in the past, it provided a quick, entertaining read with a surprise twist at the end faintly reminiscent of The Kind Worth Killing. It was the perfect beach read for a lazy summer afternoon, and I look forward to reading more from this author to see what she will come up with next. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

If you enjoy mysteries based on female friendships, you may also enjoy:

The Lying Game The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware  
The Perfect Stranger The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda
Don't You Cry Don't You Cry, by Mary Kubica
Big Little Lies Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty
Watching Edie Watching Edie, by Camilla Way
Friend Request Friend Request, by Laura Marshall
Blame Blame, by Nicole Trope

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Book Review: THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Atria Books
January 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2

Sometimes reality comes crashing down on you. Other times reality simply waits, patiently, for you to run out of the energy it takes to deny it.

Book Description:

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My musings:

I am not the sort of person who follows tabloids to keep up with all the latest gossip from Hollywood, and half of the time don’t know one celebrity from another, so when The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo started to pop up on my Goodreads feed I didn’t think it would be a book I would enjoy. However, the book kept appearing all over social media, with raving reviews everywhere I looked, and a divinely beautiful cover that was very alluring. In the end curiosity won me over and I couldn’t resist!

Evelyn certainly is an intriguing character – even living-under-a-rock little me could see the resemblance to several Hollywood legends. A rags-to-riches background; a blonde, curvaceous and sensual bombshell; a 1950’s glamour girl; a shrewd career woman who acquires and discards husbands quicker than cars; a woman hiding a secret that could destroy her career. I’m sure a few famous names instantly pop into your head reading this (if I can name a few, anyone can). Then there are the seven husbands, and we all know of someone like that as well, don’t we? I was thoroughly intrigued by getting a glimpse behind the scenes of old Hollywood through Evelyn’s eyes, warts and all. Of course, the glamour and the cheesy smiles for the camera hide the more disturbing truths of making it big in Hollywood, as Evelyn will soon find out. Even though she seems like quite a force to be reckoned with, there is a part of Evelyn she cannot show the world, and this makes her vulnerable. And here is where I felt Evelyn’s character let me down a bit, because this vulnerability, which should have endeared her to me, didn’t always come through for me. I sometimes felt like there was a strong political agenda to Evelyn’s story, and whilst some of its elements were interesting and eye-opening, I felt that it always kept me at arm’s length from peering into the very heart of Evelyn’s character. Even the agony of being separated from her “true love” sometimes felt a bit – shall I say contrived? Is that too harsh? I much preferred the Evelyn who shrewdly plans her next husband like someone shopping for an accessory, as this was so much more believable for the formidable character she represented. Here is a women who knows what she wants, and isn’t afraid to use her assets to go and get it!

As for Monique – unfortunately she features only very peripherally, providing the media through which Evelyn’s story is being told, and the big plot twist binding the two women together was quite obvious to me. Personally, I think she lacked oomph, and despite pointing out several times that she was “biracial”, this fact added nothing to her character, again making me feel that there was a bit of an agenda here that didn’t fully reach its potential. 


Overall, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was a well-written, light and entertaining read that took me out of my usual genre. I really enjoyed the Hollywood setting, which provided an interesting backdrop to this intriguing character, even though other parts of the book fell a little bit flat for me. 

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Book Review: UNSPEAKABLE THINGS by Sophie Kersey

Author: Sophie Kersey
Read: January 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2

Congratulations to Sophie Kersey on the publication of her debut novel Unspeakable Things this month!

Book Description:

You’re pregnant.

You find out there’s madness in the family.

What are you going to do now?

Sarah Mercer wants to find out about her mother, Mary, who died when she was four. She and her husband, Jim, move into her abandoned childhood home, hoping to connect with what’s left of her family. Her Uncle John runs the Woodlands Clinic nearby, and she is thrilled when he talks to her about Mary.

But it turns out that Mary tried to kill her and died a mental patient at Woodlands. And her mother went mad before her, soon after her children were born. Only Uncle John will discuss the past, but can Sarah really trust him? Her desperate search for what really happened to her mother rocks her marriage, her career and her dearest friendships.

At Woodlands, the patients are sedated and neglected, and caring nurse Kim is asking too many questions, especially about the patient locked up in the tower. Both Sarah and Kim’s lives are in danger as the horrors of the past resurface.

Can Sarah discover the family’s bitter secret before her baby is born? Or will she go mad trying?
Unspeakable Things is a suspenseful mystery about motherhood and madness.

My musings:

Everyone who has lost a parent will be able to relate to the ongoing pain and grief as we pass milestones without having this person by our side  to guide us or to share the highs and the lows of life with. When Sarah finds out she is pregnant, she desperately longs to find out more about her mother, who died when Sarah was four. Worse still, Sarah’s father has always been reluctant to talk about his wife, and now that he is dead, there is no one left to ask. When she manages to connect with her uncle John, her mother’s twin, Sarah is convinced that she will finally find some answers. She is shocked to hear that that her mother had been an inmate in a mental institution before her death, accused of trying to smother her baby daughter with a pillow. But John also proves to be tight-lipped when it comes to the events that led to her mother’s incarceration, and as the baby is growing inside her, Sarah is becoming more and more concerned. Is insanity hereditary?  Should she be worried that a similar fate will befall her? Becoming more and more obsessed with finding out the truth, Sarah discovers some things that just don’t make any sense, but no one is taking her seriously. Some even wonder if she, too, is going crazy ...

I really enjoyed the setting of this novel, the old gothic building that houses a hospital for the mentally insane – I could picture it vividly! Every suspense novel relies on atmosphere to set the scene, and this was the perfect location. It even has a tower! Who doesn’t love a spooky old building, especially with a history like this?

Having lost my mother as a child, I could fully relate to Sarah’s longing to find out the truth, embarking on a similar quest when I had my babies (although my family history was a lot less dramatic than hers). By titling some chapters with the number of weeks in Sarah’s pregnancy, Kersey adds an added element of suspense – like a ticking clock – counting down to the inevitable finale. I have never seen this done quite the same way before, and it was very clever and effective. Knowing that something was about to happen before the baby would make its arrival, and that it would likely not be anything good, really revved up the sense of danger and suspense that lurked in the background of Sarah’s story.

Whilst Sarah’s story is the main focus of the novel, there is also a cast of secondary characters who offer the reader glimpses into their lives. I especially liked Nurse Kim’s story, and wished I could have found out more about her fate. It was also interesting to see how differently David, Sarah’s brother, deals with the mystery of their mother’s death, and how it frustrates Sarah that he doesn’t feel the same way about her quest as she does. Some of David’s actions made him somewhat suspicious to me – but you will have to read it yourself to find out if I was right or wrong!

Warning – there are a few themes in this novel that are not for the faint-hearted and may be disturbing to some readers. Once the skeletons start coming out of the family closet, there are truths that Sarah was definitely not prepared for. Dark and disturbing, this is an intriguing tale about the dark secrets families keep, and one woman’s quest for the truth. I am glad that my own quest unearthed much less shocking details! If you are a lover of mysteries with dysfunctional family dynamics and dark gothic undertones, than this may be the perfect read for you.

Thank you to the author for gifting me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!

To purchase a copy of this novel, click this LINK
For the book trailer, please click here

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Book Review: ROSEMARY'S BABY by Ira Levin

Author: Ira Levin
Read: January 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

Rosemary Woodhouse and her struggling actor-husband Guy move into the Bramford, an old New York City apartment building with an onimous reputation and only elderly residents. Neighbours Roman and Minnie Castavet soon come nosing around to welcome them and, despite Rosemary's reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises she keeps hearing, her husband starts spending time with them. Shortly after Guy lands a plum Broadway role, Rosemary becomes pregnant and the Castavets start taking a special interest in her welfare.

As the sickened Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated, she begins to suspect that the Castavet's circle is not what it seems.

My musings:

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to read this horror classic! And what a journey it was – Levin truly is a master of suspense, slowly introducing small, sinister details into the storyline until you are not only terrified of what could be going on, but are also constantly questioning each and every character’s truthfulness and motives.

Every good horror story relies on an atmospheric location, and the “Bram” provided the perfect backdrop for this tale. A big old Victorian apartment building in New York, its facade festooned with sinister gargoyles, it also hides a dark history of strange events having happened behind its walls – including a pair of elderly sisters (the Trench sisters) who ate children, a dead infant found in the laundry room and a Satanist! Despite this history, the building is a highly sought after residence with a long waiting list, so when Rosemary and Guy find out that a vacancy has become available, they are ecstatic. Nothing can mar their excitement of living in one of the most coveted locations in the city, not even their friend Hutch’s warning that the house may be dangerous. In fact, Guy makes fun of this, joking to his young wife one evening that he can hear “the Trench sisters chewing”.

It is Rosemary who is the first to notice that something is not right – from the sinister laundry room to her vivid nightmares, and the apparent suicide of the girl next door, who she had recently befriended. Things escalate at the time she finds out that she is pregnant, and from here on there is a constant undertone of menace to the story that dialled my heart rate up a few notches. I love the skill of being able to slowly introduce fear into a narrative, so subtly that you don’t notice until the inevitable downhill slide has begun. Soon Rosemary has her back against the wall with no one to turn to, and this is when things get really scary.

Whilst the ending may not appeal to everyone, it is totally fitting for the era of the 1960’s and its political climate. Some details were almost like time travel, which I enjoyed nearly as much as the goosebumps. Rosemary’s Baby is a slim book, which makes for a quick but powerful read. If you are like me and have procrastinated because horror is not really your genre, so yourself a favour and give this one a go – it’s totally worth it! I must make sure to look up the author’s other books.

Monday, 15 January 2018


One of the best things about reading is the armchair travel to wild and wonderful places I could never hope to visit in my lifetime. To keep track of my "travels", I charted all books read in 2017 on my "armchair travel map" - and found that I wasn't as adventurous in my forays as I had planned, with 34% of books set in the UK! 22% were set in the USA, and only 8% in Australia. Africa, Russia and Greenland didn't feature in my reading at all, despite their huge land masses and my determination to visit them in books.

For those as smitten with graphs as I am, here is a breakdown of my armchair travel in 2017: 

My reading goal for 2018 is to expand the map to include more exotic locations and expand my cultural horizon by reading books set in environments very different from my own. I would also like to read more Australian books this year.

Some titles I am aiming to read to expand my armchair travel map are:

To The Bright Edge of the W... To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey (Alaska)
The Silence of the Sea (Þór... The Silence of the Sea, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Iceland)
Night Train to Lisbon Night train to Lisbon, by Pascal Mercier (Portugal)
City of Thieves City of Thieves, by David Benioff (Russia)
Chasing the Light Chasing the Light, by Jesse Blackadder (Antarctica)

What is the best armchair travel book you have read? I would love some recommendations!

Friday, 12 January 2018

Audiobook Review: THE LAST HOURS by Minette Walters

Author: Minette Walters
Helen Keeley
January 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟1/2

Book Description (Goodreads):

June, 1348: the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in the county of Dorsetshire. Unprepared for the virulence of the disease, and the speed with which it spreads, the people of the county start to die in their thousands.

In the estate of Develish, Lady Anne takes control of her people's future - including the lives of two hundred bonded serfs. Strong, compassionate and resourceful, Lady Anne chooses a bastard slave, Thaddeus Thurkell, to act as her steward. Together, they decide to quarantine Develish by bringing the serfs inside the walls. With this sudden overturning of the accepted social order, where serfs exist only to serve their lords, conflicts soon arise. Ignorant of what is happening in the world outside, they wrestle with themselves, with God and with the terrible uncertainty of their futures.

Lady Anne's people fear starvation but they fear the pestilence more. Who amongst them has the courage to leave the security of the walls? And how safe is anyone in Develish when a dreadful event threatens the uneasy status quo..?

My musings:

What could be more intriguing than a historical novel set in the time of the pestilence in medieval Britain, written by the “queen of the psychological thriller” whose chilling crime novels you’ve been enjoying for decades? Ever since reading Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, I have been drawn to historical fiction set in that the era. As a health professional, the thought of a terrible pandemic that wiped out a third of the human population is utterly terrifying – as is the manner of death in which these people perished. But Walters does not dwell on the gory details, focusing instead on a small village that defied all odds by protecting themselves by isolation from the outside world.

In an interview regarding her book, the author states that she first became interested in the era of the “black death” when she found out about the discovery of  a plague pit near her home in Dorset, close to where the plague was first brought into England. Inspired by accounts of great medieval women, who defied the female stereotype of the time, she created her main character, Lady Anne of Develish, who is a true pioneer of primary prevention strategies that save her people from the terrible fate that befell the region. Despite the general belief at the time that the plague was a punishment sent by God, Lady Anne, a  wise if unconventional leader, suspects very early that the disease is carried in some way or another by sufferers and bad hygiene practices. With her boorish and ignorant husband having fallen victim to the disease, she manages to persuade all villagers to barricade themselves in the grounds of the large manor house to sit out the pandemic.

Walters expertise and skill shows through in the creation of her enigmatic characters, who literally leap from the pages of the book like real life people. With insight and subtle humour she describes the dynamics that not only drive society at the time, but also a small community confined in a small area and cut off from their surroundings in their efforts to survive. I was glad to see that she hasn’t totally abandoned crime fiction, introducing a murder mystery into her tale!

There is so much to love about this novel – from the interesting snippets of politics at the time, to the colourful group of characters, who each quickly wormed their way into my heart. A good novel also needs a villain, and there were a few on offer, eliciting the required sense of anger and injustice to make me emotionally involved. I think Walters must have had great fun creating Lady Eleanor – what a horrible little madam! I couldn’t help wondering who the character was inspired by (never upset a writer!). Her insights into medieval society were fascinating, especially the descriptions of the class system that governed society at the time, with serfs being bound to their liege lords with no freedom and few basic human rights of their own. It is one thing to learn these facts through textbooks, and another to see them incorporated into an engaging story that highlights the true impact of such a system on people’s lives. Interesting also was the place of religion in society and the power of the church by blaming all misfortune on people’s sins and God’s will, with salvation only to be found in abiding to the rules imposed by the church and the upper classes.

A couple of chapters from the end I knew two things: a) I didn’t want the book to finish; and b) I wouldn’t get the conclusion I so craved, as there weren’t enough pages left! And yes, the book did leave space for a sequel, which makes my heart sing in joy! I became so utterly absorbed in the medieval setting that it left me with a huge book hangover, and I really hope that Walters writes fast, because I want to keep reading!


If you are planning on reading just one book of historical fiction this year, you cannot go wrong with this one. From the intriguing topic to the well-rounded characters, Walters re-creates the era with such skill that it captures the very essence of life in the 14th century. A wonderful tale of resilience and courage in the face of adversity – I can’t wait for the next installment.  

Monday, 8 January 2018

Book Review: THE GIRL IN KELLERS WAY by Megan Goldin

Author: Megan Goldin
Michael Joseph
January 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description (Goodreads):

When a body is found buried near the desolate forest road of Kellers Way, Detective Melanie Carter must identify the victim if she is to have any chance of finding the killer. That's no easy task with fragmentary evidence from a crime committed years earlier and a conspiracy of silence from anyone who might have information.

The one person who may be able to help is Julie West. In a troubled marriage, Julie often jogs along Kellers Way to clear her mind and escape the confines of her suffocating suburban life. Until one day, something happens there that shakes Julie to the core, making her question everything she ever believed about her life, her marriage and even her sanity . . .

My musings:

Whaaaat??!!?? No way! *frantically flicking pages* That can’t be right!

Don’t you love it when a book totally blindsides you? I had so many theories reading this one that I was convinced that one of them had to be right, and yet the author still managed to surprise me.  As an added plus, it contains one of my favourite ingredients of any psychological thriller – an untrustworthy and unreliable narrator. It soon becomes obvious that Julie, one of the main voices narrating parts of the book, is a troubled soul. But how troubled exactly? Is her husband a controlling, cheating despot who drugs her with psychotropic medications every night, or a caring partner concerned about her mental health? Did she see a body in a wrecked car whilst out running in Kellers Lane, or was it just a hallucination? Coming from the wrong side of the tracks, she has never quite managed to live up to the standards of her husband’s first wife, who was tragically killed three years earlier. The harder she tries, the more convinced she becomes of her failings, and her mental health seems to get shakier by the minute. Goldin does a great job in portraying the unstable woman’s inner thoughts in a way that played out like a jumble of nightmarish images, just as they must have appeared in Julie’s medicated brain.

Our other POV is that of Mel Carter, a detective and young widowed mother of two adolescent boys, who is trying to solve the murder case of a body found in Kellers Way – the very street where Julie goes running every morning. But how are the two connected? I loved Mel’s character, who tries so hard to balance family life with her career. This was one of those rare books where that particular struggle is not overdone, and whilst Mel’s boys do feature in the novel, they never get threatened, abducted or embroiled in the investigation in a way that distracts from the main story-line. Mel’s voice is a no-nonsense one, who logically lays out the facts for the reader, and provides a refreshing contrast to the paranoid Julie. I would love to see her character come back in future novels!

Goldin writes very well, using the two unique voices to highlight the differences between the two women and creating an ever-present shadow of doubt in the readers’ mind. I quickly got sucked into the story and was loathe to put the book down. Seeing how this is Goldin’s debut novel, I will be looking out for other great things to come from this talented writer! 

Friday, 5 January 2018

Book Review: THIS IS HOW IT ENDS by Eva Dolan

Author: Eva Dolan
Bloomsbury Publishing
January 2018
Expected publication: 25 January 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2

Book Description (Goodreads):

Ella Riordan is a community activist who became famous when she was beaten by police during a social protest. Now Ella is a squatter in a building where the owners are evicting tenants so they can convert it into luxury condos, and she’s determined to stay and defend the few holdout tenants, despite death threats.

One night after a rooftop party with her fellow holdouts, Ella finds a horrible scene awaiting her in her apartment. In a panic, she calls her neighbor Molly, who convinces her that the police won’t believe she’s innocent. Together the two women concoct a gruesome plan to hide the body down the building’s elevator shaft.

But the secret won’t stay buried for long. As truth hangs in the balance, a neighbor tells Molly he had heard Ella arguing with a man in the hallway and mistrust grows between Ella and Molly, as repercussions of that night threaten to change both women’s lives forever. 

My musings:

Eva Dolan is a great writer who usually tackles interesting subjects in her police procedurals, so I was very interested to read her latest stand-alone novel This is How it Ends. And Dolan has proven once again that it is possible to include current affairs topics into an engaging thriller without bogging the story down. Both of her two main protagonists, activists Ella and Molly, are intriguing and make a nice difference from your average mystery cast. These are women who are defying societal rules, who swim against the stream, who are in trouble with police and live according to their own moral code. Whilst I didn’t love either of them, I found myself drawn irrevocably into their world, trying to work out what makes them tick. It is a very skilled writer indeed who can create such vivid imagery in readers’ minds whilst making them question the very topics that move the story along – and there is plenty of fodder there that could have come out of your evening news broadcast.

The story is being told in two POVs, with Molly narrating the present, and Ella featuring in the backstory that leads up to the trouble the women find themselves in. The relationship between the two women is as intriguing and multi-layered as the events described, adding a depth to the story lacking in many other mysteries. Whilst Molly is a seasoned activist who lives life according to the principles she fights for and is not easily cowed, Ella is the archetypal young and passionate keyboard warrior who is still finding her feet in her defiance of authority. Ella’s background of growing up with a father high up in the police force makes her character all the more complex. With Molly acting as both a mother figure as well as a role model for young Ella, it is easy to see what binds the two women together – until the events that threaten that bond.

I admit that I struggled a bit with the format though, especially Ella’s chapters, which are not always told in chronological order, and made me flick back and forth through the pages to see if I had missed anything. Of course Dolan is too clever a writer not to have a plan, and it all came together beautifully in the end, when the unusual narration style suddenly made perfect sense. This was one of those rare books that totally blindsided me with a twist I did not see coming at all. A very clever, dark and multi-layered mystery that will appeal to lovers of the genre that are looking for something a bit deeper than your run-of-the-mill story. I very much look forward to reading more from this author in future. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Book favoritism: Looking back on 2017

I love the ticking over of a new year as a chance to reflect and plan. Looking back on 2017, I have had a great reading journey. This is reflected in my high average rating of books: 3.9 according to Goodreads! Not bad at all! I revisited some of my favourite authors (Sharon Bolton, Jane Casey, Ruth Ware, Michael Robotham, Mary Kubica and Jane Harper to name a few) and discovered quite a lot of new ones I will keep looking out for.

Some of my all-time favourites last year were discovered through the supportive bookish communities on Goodreads and Instagram – thank you to all who pointed me in the direction of some fantastic reads! I love interacting with other readers on social media, and spend way too much time online browsing. Despite this, I still managed to surpass my 2017 reading challenge by 23 books, with 123 read in total.

It is never easy to choose favourites, but there were a few books that stood out from the rest, and I cannot help myself but sing their praise here. And perhaps you will find your next favourite read amongst the list!

The Scandal Favourite book (male author): The Scandal (or “Beartown”) by Fredrik Backman
You Be Mother Favourite book (female author): You Be Mother by Meg Mason
Force of Nature (Aaron Falk, #2) Favourite book in a series: Force of Nature by Jane Harper
99 Red Balloons Favourite debut novel: 99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter
Bird Box Favourite dystopian novel: Bird Box by Josh Malerman
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Favourite historical novel: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Laneby Lisa See
The Woman in the Window Favourite psychological thriller: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Dark Pines Watching You Favourite Scandinavian noir: Dark Pines by Will Dean; and Watching You by Arne Dahl
Little Fires Everywhere Favourite family drama: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
The Child Finder Favourite first book in a new series (can’t wait to read the next one): The Child Finder by Rene’s Denfeld
All the Light We Cannot See Best bookclub book: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Most interesting / unusual protagonist general fiction: EleanorOliphant is completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eyes Like Mine Most interesting / unusual protagonist mystery / suspense: Eyes Like Mine by Sheena Kamal
Our Endless Numbered Days Best audiobook (and one I still can’t get out of my head): OurEndless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
Dead Woman Walking Most anticipated read that lived up to all expectations: Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton
The Weight of Lies Most creative narration / format: The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter (which contained a book within a book)
The Kind Worth Killing Favourite from my older TBR pile: The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

I also established my bookstagram account early in 2017, and have been having great fun with my bookish photos, featuring nature at its best in the beautiful Great Southern region. I hate to admit this, but at times the idea for a bookstagram image was a great motivator to get me out hiking in winter. So I also have to include my personal favourite bookstagram photo in this post – which contains my favourite book cover of 2017 – doesn’t that eye look so creepy!

Reflecting on my reading goals for 2018 – to be honest, I don’t have much of a plan, preferring to be taken on a surprise journey. Some of my all-time favourite books have come out of left field, surprising me by appearing just as I needed them most. The only thing I want to try is to expand my armchair travel map by a few more countries – but I will explain this in another post. For now, I am loving the clean slate 2018 is presenting. Inviting new and wonderful books into my life, and welcoming suggestions.

Thank you for being part of my reading journey!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Book Review: THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A.J. Finn

Author: A.J. Finn
HarperCollins Publishers Australia
December 2017
Expected publication: 25 January 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

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?

My musings:

There are three things I expect from a good psychological thriller: 1) it needs to mess with my mind; 2) it needs to mess with my mind; and 3) it needs to MESS WITH MY MIND! The Woman in the Window delivered that in spades, constantly making me question what was going on. Anna really is the perfect protagonist for a psychological thriller. Afflicted with a mental illness that makes her confined to her house, she is also taking a cocktail of heavy psychotropic drugs she washes down with copious amounts of alcohol. How could she possibly be a reliable narrator? I love nothing more than a protagonist I can sympathise with but one whose perception of reality I need to question constantly. Has Anna really witnessed a crime, or is she simply hallucinating? Truth or lie, reality or fabrication - the images swirled together in a crazy caleidoscope of unanswered questions that made me feel like I had indulged in a few of Anna's medications myself! At times the story drove me crazy with wanting to know if my hunches were right, and made me read until the early morning hours until I finally got my answers. Just a word of advice: pick up this book with plenty of time to spare, or you will suffer sleep deprivation!

Apart from an exquisitely unreliable narrator, there is the writing – oh, how I loved the writing! It is no accident that Anna is a lover of black and white Hitchcockian movies, because the story followed very much along those lines. Here we have a claustrophobic setting, a disturbed main protagonist and several suspects who might or might not pose a danger to Anna. The whole setting features a mere block of houses, and stars only a small cast of characters, but this story packs a punch! Have I mentioned that it messed with my mind? A few die-hard psychological thriller fans may guess some elements of the plot (as I did), but don't despair, there are plenty of other surprises in store. Also be aware that the book starts of slowly, cleverly setting the scene, which is essential for the plot to work. Soon you will be caught up like a spider in its web, suspecting each and every character, even Anna herself!

I am happy to end 2017 with a book that was one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in a long time. To say I loved it is an understatement. It was EXACTLY what I look for in a psychological thriller, containing all the right elements and presenting them in a way that was simply irresistible. Sometimes you know after a mere few pages that the book is going to work for you – the writing style, the voice, the characters. I am very happy I stumbled across this gem on Netgalley – what a fitting finale to my 2017 reading journey. 


I very much recommend The Woman in the Window to all lovers of the genre – let its black-and-white kaleidoscope of secrets seduce and confuse you. 

Image result for 5 stars
Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

If you liked this book, you may also like:

Her Every Fear Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

The Girl on the Train The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Before I Go to Sleep Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson