Friday 26 October 2018

Audiobook Review: THE ESCAPE ROOM by Megan Goldin

Author: Megan Goldin
Narrator: Anthea Greco
Read: October 2018
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!!!!

Book Description:

‘Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.’

In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they'll do anything to get ahead.

When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator the dark secrets of their team are laid bare. They are made to answer for profiting from a workplace where deception, intimidation and sexual harassment thrive.

Tempers fray and the escape room’s clues turn more and more ominous, leaving the four of them dangling on the precipice of disaster. If they want to survive, they’ll have to solve one final puzzle: which one of them is a killer?

My musings:

Wow – every now and then a book comes along that totally blows you out of the water. Megan Goldin’s latest thriller, The Escape Room, was that book for me. It is easiest one of the best psychological thrillers I have read all year, which takes the term “locked room mystery” to a new level – featuring the claustrophobic confines of an elevator!

Goldin hooked me immediately with her opening chapter, foreshadowing the disaster to follow. She then takes us back to where it all began, as four corporate bankers enter an elevator to get to an unscheduled meeting in an out-of-the-way office building late one Friday afternoon. Each of them is resenting the intrusion into their weekend but afraid to miss it, in case it will go against them in the next round of retrenchments. From here on, the story is being told in a “now” and “then” format, switching between the “now” scenes of the four people trapped in the elevator to the “then” chapters narrated from the POV of Sarah Hall, a former (and now deceased) colleague of theirs. What unfolds from here was both the best thrill ride I have been on for a long time, and one of the most eye-opening accounts of what goes on behind the scenes of the finance industry.

Personally, I loved everything about this book. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the dark elevator created a constant undercurrent of threat and intrigue as colleagues Sylvie, Vincent, Sam and Jules slowly begin to unravel. Despite their wealth and success, each one of them is flawed, hiding personal secrets that may just be the reason for finding themselves in the situation they are in. The clash of personalities was so cleverly portrayed that I was on tenterhooks the whole time! I may also have sat there stupidly with my mouth open a few times, so it was just as well that I listened to this story on my solitary commute with no one to witness my reaction. Have you ever even heard of an escape room? The whole concept was so fascinating – and terrifying.

But by far my favourite character was Sarah, whose account of her beginnings in the firm painted the picture of the type of resourceful, intelligent and plucky young female I love to see driving a story. The glimpses Sarah gave into the corporate world were fascinating and shocking at the same time, and very educational. Perhaps I have been living under a rock (or in a small rural WA town – same, same) all these years, but I had no idea about some of the things she was describing! My heart broke for Sarah as things started to go wrong for her, and I became very very angry on her behalf as her colleagues were mercilessly bullying her to breaking point.

As the tension built to an almost unbearable level, I had to muster all my self-control not to rush ahead but instead allow myself to savour this book in all its glory. Seeing that the scenes in the elevator are very character-driven, I relished every little revelation about the four colleagues, the glimpses into the darker corners of their psyche. Goldin’s skill here lay in the slow unmasking of each of the characters, like carefully stripping layer after layer to reveal the rotten core. There were A LOT of surprises in store, and I soon realised that I couldn’t trust anyone, including my own assumptions, which made this the best kind of read for me – one that messed with my mind!


To sum it up in a few words, The Escape Room was a well-plotted, intelligent and multi-faceted psychological thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time and messed with my mind until I didn’t have the slightest clue how this one would play out. With a claustrophobic setting and a backdrop of the corporate finance world, this thriller offered up something quite unique not found in any books I had read previously. The Escape Room was one of the best thrillers I have read all year, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Image result for 5 stars

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Audiobook Review: WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens

Author: Delia Owens
Read: October 2018
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She's barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world--until the unthinkable happens.

My musings:

I often stay away from overly hyped up books, as I tend to be the one solitary voice in the mist that mutters “this didn’t work for me”. But after reading so many glowing reviews about Crawdads, and seeing this book being compared to Kingsolver’s writing (which I adore), I finally took the plunge. I am so glad I did, because I really enjoyed this atmospheric coming of age story that transported me smack-bang into the middle of the marshland, marvelling at plants and creatures I have never laid eyes on in real life.

A warning to those readers who are, like me, afflicted with a terrible lack of ability to suspend disbelief – you will have to put your little demon voices to rest for this one. Until I managed to do so, my internal dialogue sounded a bit like this:

Little voice #1: “A child abandoned at six years of age who not only manages to survive on her own but teaches herself to read scientific textbooks? Ridiculous!” 
Little voice #2: “Well, certainly improbable but not IMPOSSIBLE. She may be one of those child geniuses you hear about.” 
Little voice #1: Hmmmph! *intelligible sound of derision* 
Little voice #2: “You know, someone on the spectrum who has an IQ of 150 and thrives in an environment with minimal human interaction. If she had a photographic memory she MIGHT be able to learn to read from just a few session.” 
Little voice #1: *snorts* “Very unlikely!” 
Little voice #2: “Unlikely – yes. But not IMPOSSIBLE.” 
Little voice #3: “Can you two just shut up and stop bickering? I am enjoying the WRITING here! Those wonderful lyrical descriptions of nature! Can’t you let yourself be swept away by the story just once?” 
Little voice #4: “Exactly – the author is a WILDLIFE scientist, not a child development expert. Do you always have to spoil it for the rest of us?” 
Little voice #5: “All of you – HELLO! This is FICTION! So shut up and just enjoy the ride!”

At this stage I not only seriously questioned my sanity, but decided to go with it. And to be honest, I really did love the author’s writing and her keen observations of nature in the marsh. As a keen hiker and nature lover, I instantly felt transported into another world, and often envied Kya her connection to the natural environment that we have lost in our modern day and age. It turned out to be armchair travel of the best kind as Owens shared her intimate knowledge of plants and animals Kya encountered in the marsh. I, for one, loved Owens’ descriptive writing and her use of poetry to draw parallels to the human existence. Some little details, like the deadly mating dance of the fireflies, were so fascinating that I had to read up on them later (and “delight” my family at the dinner table with snippets of information gleaned).

All in all, I came to really enjoy the journey, and it turned out to be one of my favourite audiobooks so far this year. I also loved the way the narrator brought the Southern dialect to life for me (even though I have never been there and cannot comment on how true to real life it really was), and the descriptive writing was perfect to lose myself completely in Kya’s world on my long solitary stints in the car. I was briefly worried that the book would get lost in romance at one stage, and happy to see the author managed to steer away just at the right time and give me a mystery and courtroom drama to sink my teeth into. For me, the ending was just right to bring this to a fitting conclusion, and kudos to the author for the courage to stay true to the story and give us something to ponder long after the last page has been turned.


All in all, Where the Crawdads Sing is a wonderfully descriptive, atmospheric and emotive coming-of-age tale which has several elements that will appeal to a wide audience: a strong and courageous female protagonist, hints of romance, an intriguing murder-mystery, a slight seasoning of poetry and one of the best atmospheric settings I have come across this year. Highly recommended to readers looking for armchair travel of the best kind – a journey to a wild and remote place. 

Monday 22 October 2018

Book Review: THE WINTERS by Lisa Gabrielle

Title: The Winters
Author: Lisa Gabriele
Publisher: Random House UK, Vintage Publishing
Read: October 2018
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded mansion of her new fiancΓ© Max Winter - a wealthy senator and recent widower - and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell.

As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets - the kind of secrets that could kill her, too.

My musings:

If I could sum up The Winters in just two words, I would say: “great entertainment!” For me, this was just such a fun thriller to read – as far as “fun” and “thriller” go together in one sentence. To be totally honest, the book started off very slow, and I imagined a run-of-the mill story that has been done a hundred times before. Young woman meets older rich man, gets married, finds that life as a trophy wife is not as glamorous as expected. I have read a few of those in my time, and most barely held my interest. To my surprise though I found that I soon came to like the young “new” Mrs Winters – who, I discovered, is never mentioned by her first name in the entire book! Slowly but steadily, Gabriele managed to draw me into her tale, until I was thoroughly hooked!

True, the general premise is one that has been done many times in the past, and the book has been touted as the modern day “Rebecca”. However, I felt Gabriele did really well to steer away from stereotypes, giving the new Mrs Winter the personality of a free spirit who somehow manages to stay true to herself for the entirety of the book. Even Dani, the rebellious stepchild, is portrayed in a way where I could see the young vulnerable girl grieving for her mother underneath her facade. I loved the way the ghost of the deceased Rebekah and old family secrets overshadowed the story, giving it a sinister feel. And just as the story was gently meandering along, sweeping me with it into the opulence of the Long Island mansion – BAM! – the rug was pulled from under my feet. I love it when a book surprises me. Which is why I will say not more about the story here, as it is best delved into blindly.

If I had to be picky, I would say that I thought the ominous presence of the house could have been used even more for a more sinister undertone – it nearly got there for me, but not quite! Especially some of the outbuildings never lived up to their full spook-potential (I mean, what is more creepier than an old boat shed?).

If you haven’t read Rebecca, don’t despair, as this psychological thriller holds its own. Sometimes I wonder if comparisons to old classics do a book any favours, as one is tempted to compare them and not take each on its own merit. For me, The Winters perhaps lacked the eerie brooding atmosphere of Du Maurier’s classic tale, but made up for it in its many little plot twists I absolutely did not see coming. 


This was a fun, fast-paced read for me, which I devoured on a sunny weekend off. It made for good entertainment and the perfect undemanding beach read!

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing, for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Book Review: THE DARKEST PLACE by Jo Spain

Author: Jo Spain
Publisher: Quercus Books
Read: October 2018
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

Book Description:

'Island of the Lost was the isle's name long before the hospital was built. In winter, they say the fog falls so heavy there that you can't see your hand in front of your face. Storms rage so forcefully you can be blown from the cliffs. Once St. Christina's was built, the name took on a new meaning. Very few who went into that place ever left.'

Christmas day, and DCI Tom Reynolds receives an alarming call. A mass grave has been discovered on OileΓ‘n na Caillte, the island which housed the controversial psychiatric institution St. Christina's. The hospital has been closed for decades and onsite graves were tragically common. Reynolds thinks his adversarial boss is handing him a cold case to sideline him.

But then it transpires another body has been discovered amongst the dead - one of the doctors who went missing from the hospital in mysterious circumstances forty years ago. He appears to have been brutally murdered.

As events take a sudden turn, nothing can prepare Reynolds and his team for what they are about to discover once they arrive on the island . . .

My musings:

Everyone knows that I am a sucker for spooky atmospheric settings, so what would better fit that description than an abandoned old asylum on a remote island? It cries out “spooky”! And even though this is the fourth book in the Tom Reynolds series, and I knew I may be missing some background, I absolutely had to read it.

I really liked DCI Tom Reynolds and I could see that I probably would have benefited from reading the earlier books in the series, as there seemed to be some very interesting history concerning his relationship with his boss, as well as some love triangles happening in the investigative team. That said, Spain provides enough detail that this was no obstacle to enjoying and following the story, but I think that I would have forged a better connection to the main characters had I started the series from the beginning. But I guess it’s not too late to do so!

As the title suggests, this is a very dark and sinister story, and not for the faint of heart – and I’m not just referring to the setting. In fact, the setting was perhaps the least frightening element of the novel, and I felt that it could have been utilised more to give the story a spooky undertone (which I had been looking for), perhaps in the vein of Simone St James’ The Broken Girls. However, seeing how the events the investigation uncovers are based on real historical facts, it made for truly chilling reading!

In The Darkest Place, Tom and his team investigate the disappearance of one of St Christina’s leading psychiatrists, whose remains have recently been discovered in a mass grave containing countless deceased patients who had been incarcerated in the asylum. Seeing that the man disappeared without a trace forty years ago, abandoning his wife and kids without warning, foul play is suspected. As the investigative team descend on the mist-shrouded island, they soon discover that some of the locals are very tight-lipped about the asylum and events surrounding it. A diary, found by the wife of the missing doctor amongst his personal effects, suggests that patients were mistreated, and subjected to cruel treatment regimens, some of which were common practice in the earlier years of the asylum. Trigger warning – some of the treatments described were truly hair-raising, and it was only due to the fact that the characters of the patients are only ever referred to through the POVs of the diary entries and witness accounts– and therefore stay somewhat remote – that the details of the “treatments” did not follow me into my worst nightmares!

Jo Spain paints a bleak and cruel picture of the treatment of the mentally ill and other undesirables in Ireland’s past. As shocking are the attempts by people to hide the truth about the atrocities committed, even in our times, when we have moved on to more humane and effective treatment methods. Incorporated into a present-day murder mystery, the events describe remain somewhat shrouded in mystery, which allows the reader to stay disconnected from the more horrible happenings. Personally, even though I can see how it all ties into the main mystery element, this disconnection took a bit of the emotional impact away for. I would have loved to get a perspective from one of the patients, in whichever form this may have taken – even from a survivor recounting their experiences.


All in all, a solid police procedural investigating a cold case anchored in one of Ireland’s dark chapters in history. Whilst it did not give me the same creepy vibes as other books with similar themes, such as the aforementioned book The Broken Girls, I found it to be an engaging read that kept me interested (and somewhat horrified) to the end.

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

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Tuesday 16 October 2018

Book Review (holiday reads #7): THE HOURS BEFORE DAWN by Celia Fremlin

Author: Celia Fremlin
Publisher: Faber Faber
Read: September 2018

If you went on neglecting your own tastes like this, did you, in the end, cease to have any tastes? Cease, in fact, to be a person at all, and become merely a labour-saving gadget around the house?

Book Description:

Winner of the 1960 Edgar Award for best mystery novel

Louise would give anything - anything - for a good night's sleep. Forget the girls running errant in the garden and bothering the neighbours. Forget her husband who seems oblivious to it all. If the baby would just stop crying, everything would be fine.

Or would it? What if Louise's growing fears about the family's new lodger, who seems to share all of her husband's interests, are real? What could she do, and would anyone even believe her? Maybe, if she could get just get some rest, she'd be able to think straight.

In a new edition of this lost classic, The Hours Before Dawn proves - scarily - as relevant to readers today as it was when Celia Fremlin first wrote it in the 1950s.

My musings:

Domestic noir, when done well, is one of my favourite genres, one that has the potential to cut especially deep when the dangers lurking are those surrounding us in our daily lives. Whilst this genre seems to have become increasingly popular over the last decade, it is by no means a new concept  – as this book proves. Written in the 1950’s, it made for a truly refreshing read that took me on a special kind of time travel. Celia Fremlin, I learned, worked for the Mass Observation Movement during WWII, skills which stood her in good stead when she took to writing novels about ordinary women of her time caught up in frightening situations. Her writing style, full of small, telling details and characters that seem to leap from the page, is both vivid and engaging and full of tongue-in-cheek humour that mocks the gender division so “normal” at the time.

Here we have Louise, a young mother of two small children and a new baby, who struggles through her days in a fog of sleep deprivation from having to tend to her son several times per night. Her husband, who returns from work expecting a cooked dinner, a clean house and well behaved children, also demands that he – the man of the house – get a good night sleep, which sees Louise feed her baby downstairs in the kitchen or laundry for fear of waking him. Of course he cannot be expected to help out with menial tasks such as lending a hand with any form of housework, or looking after the children, so Louise gradually becomes more and more exhausted. When the family take in a lodger to help with finances, strange things are starting to happen in the house, but it seems that Louise is the only one who notices that something is amiss. Soon she is convinced that there is something fishy going on with their tenant – but is it all in her mind?

I simply loved the glimpses Fremlin offers into the daily lives of women of her era, so vividly portrayed here. Everyone seems genuine and relatable, from the busybody neighbour next door who regularly complains about the children’s noise, to the friend who imposes on Louise to do her favours (which she never returns), and lots of the other side characters who lend a dimension to the story that showcases Fremlin’s skill as a writer. I loved the way she not only manages to build tension by airing Louise’s growing suspicions, but also sow doubt in the reader’s mind how reliable the sleep deprived Louise is as a narrator. Thus combining all the elements that usually make for a clever psychological thriller, Fremlin creates a timeless story that is still relevant in our times today. I, for one, loved the opportunity to get an insight into Fremlin’s era and be truly chilled to the core at the same time. A lot of modern mysteries could take a leaf out of Fremlin’s book on how to create a timeless story of suspense. I was instantly drawn in and devoured it greedily to the end. Highly recommended to lovers of the genre!

Monday 15 October 2018

Audiobook Review (holiday reads #6): A NOISE DOWNSTAIRS by Linwood Barclay

Author: Linwood Barclay
Narrator: Jared Zeus
Read: September 2018
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

Book Description:

College professor Paul Davis is a normal guy with a normal life. Until, driving along a deserted road late one night, he surprises a murderer disposing of a couple of bodies. That’s when Paul’s "normal" existence is turned upside down. After nearly losing his own life in that encounter, he finds himself battling PTSD, depression, and severe problems at work. His wife, Charlotte, desperate to cheer him up, brings home a vintage typewriter—complete with ink ribbons and heavy round keys—to encourage him to get started on that novel he’s always intended to write.

However, the typewriter itself is a problem. Paul swears it’s possessed and types by itself at night. But only Paul can hear the noise coming from downstairs; Charlotte doesn’t hear a thing. And she worries he’s going off the rails.

Paul believes the typewriter is somehow connected to the murderer he discovered nearly a year ago. The killer had made his victims type apologies to him before ending their lives. Has another sick twist of fate entwined his life with the killer—could this be the same machine? Increasingly tormented but determined to discover the truth and confront his nightmare, Paul begins investigating the deaths himself.

But that may not be the best thing to do. Maybe Paul should just take the typewriter back to where his wife found it. Maybe he should stop asking questions and simply walk away while he can. . . .

My musings:

A haunted typewriter that starts writing sinister messages in the middle of the night should make the perfect premise for a spooky read – right? That’s what I thought when I came across the premise of A Noise Downstairs – especially since I remember playing with my grandfather’s old typewriter, which made exactly the same chit-chit-chit-ding sound as the one featuring in the story. I had goosebumps in anticipation of reading this story!

Perhaps it was due to my inflated expectations that I didn’t find the story anywhere near as spine-tingling and creepy as I had hoped, even though it started off very promising. Paul Davis, a college professor and average guy-next-door type, narrowly escapes being murdered himself when he stumbles across one of his colleagues who is in the process of burying the bodies of two women. Suffering a severe head injury after a blow to the head with a shovel, it is no wonder that Paul has a hard time recovering from the trauma. Not only must he bear the psychological scars, but his memory has never been the same since. When he begins hearing strange typing sounds in the night coming from the old typewriter his wife bought him to cheer him up, he initially thinks it’s all in his head. Until someone suggests that he put a piece of paper in the machine to see what the typewriter has to tell him ...

If you think this sounds creepy – yes, it was, to a point. Unfortunately the typewriter mystery is resolved about ¾ into the book, after which I felt the story lagging for me. Despite some clever twists at the end, I could see the main one coming from a long way off, which also diluted the scare factor for me. I am trying not to give anything away, so will have to leave it at that. However, I admit that I was a lot more intrigued by one of the supporting characters, Gavin, a sociopath who attends the same psychologist that is treating Paul. Oh boy, that man is seriously disturbed and a lot more interesting than Paul himself – I could read a book based on his character alone, and it would probably make for a significantly creepier read.

Seeing the high ratings this book received on Goodreads, it may have been a case of “it’s-not-you-it’s-me” scenario. No matter how desperately I wanted to be chilled and thrilled, it just didn’t happen for me. Seeing how I have one of these rusty old typewriters sitting in my office, I may change my tune if it suddenly starts sending me sinister messages in the dead of the night. Which may make me change my mind. Until then, only three stars from me, for an ok read that made for easy listening on a long train journey. 

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Book Review (holiday reads #5): THE ANCHORESS by Robyn Cadwallader


"I hadn’t thought suffering would be like this, so ordinary, so dull, and so endless."

Author: Robyn Cadwallader
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Read: September 2018
Expected publication: out now

Book Description:

Set in the twelfth century, The Anchoress tells the story of Sarah, only seventeen when she chooses to become an anchoress, a holy woman shut away in a small cell, measuring seven paces by nine, at the side of the village church. Fleeing the grief of losing a much-loved sister in childbirth and the pressure to marry, she decides to renounce the world, with all its dangers, desires and temptations, and to commit herself to a life of prayer and service to God. But as she slowly begins to understand, even the thick, unforgiving walls of her cell cannot keep the outside world away, and it is soon clear that Sarah's body and soul are still in great danger...

Sometimes freedom means locking yourself away ... 

My musings:

After Robyn Cadwallader impressed me so much with her Book of Colours, I absolutely had to read one of her other novels. I admit I knew very little about anchorites when I started this book, but the author’s rich descriptions soon swept me up like a time machine and deposited me smack-bang into the Middle Ages. The premise of the story is truly fascinating and – to someone who struggles with being indoors for too long – also slightly frightening. Sarah, a young woman from a wealthy family, decides against marriage and instead chooses the path of an anchoress, not only giving her life to God as a nun but also allowing herself to be “buried alive” in a small cell attached to the village’s church for the rest of her life. This “living death” presented the ultimate sacrifice to God, vowing to lead a lonely existence devoted to prayer and worship. Why would anyone choose such a terrible fate of their own free will? We soon learn that Sarah’s sister had tragically died in childbirth shortly before Sarah’s decision to become a nun, her only way to escape being forced into marriage and suffer a similar fate.

With her extensive knowledge of the era and her flair of reconstructing the past by skillfully weaving together fact and fiction, Cadwallader again tells a fascinating and moving tale that had me totally enthralled. Finding it difficult to imagine being confined to a small dark cell for a day, let alone the rest of my life, I had no trouble imagining Sarah’s descend into a kind of madness as darkness closed in and hallucinations fuelled by fasting and lack of human contact became part of her daily life. As a health professional, I also pondered how long it would take until inactivity and lack of sunlight would have serious health implications for Sarah – which the author duly  addresses in her story through one of her other characters, who is a local midwife and a healer and comes to Sarah's aid. As Sarah moves through various stages of reflecting on past, present and future, we get to know her background and some of the motivations behind her decision to forsake her life in order to become a living saint. I applaud the author for being able to spin a rich tale out of such a difficult situation – a single woman confined to a cell doesn’t exactly make for heart-pounding action, but Cadwallader enriches it with stories from the lives of the villagers who come to tend to Sarah or seek the holy woman’s advice, spinning an irresistible tale.

This was such a rich, fascinating story that entertained as much as it educated, and I devoured it in one sitting on my flight from Venice to Perth. Highly recommended to lovers of historical fiction, especially anyone interested in the Middle Ages.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Book Review (holiday reads #4): NINE PERFECT STRANGERS by Liane Moriarty


Author: Liane Moriarty
Publisher: Macmillan Australia
Read: September 2018
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

"She had always wondered how she would feel if her life was in mortal danger. What would she do if her plane began to plummet towards earth? If a crazed gunman put the barrel to her head? If she was ever truly tested? Now she knew: she wouldn’t believe it. She would keep thinking right until the last word that her story would never stop, because there could be no story without her."

Book Description:

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out...

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question. 

My musings:

I have had this book on my wishlist ever since I found out that Moriarty was releasing a new novel this year, so I was overjoyed that the publishing date coincided with my holidays! The thing I have always loved best about Moriarty's writing is her ability to mix poignant tales of human nature with a sprinkling of tongue- in-cheek Australian humour, a combination that will see you crying one minute and laughing out loud the next. It didn't take long for me to get sucked into the emotional rollercoaster of Nine Perfect Strangers and I was soon wiping away tears – mostly of laughter, as Moriarty has an uncanny ability to reveal her characters' most innermost thoughts in such a relatable and funny manner that it was impossible not to root for each and every one of her characters.

So here we follow the lives of nine strangers who have signed up for a ten-day health retreat run by an ex-corporate power woman who promises total transformation and healing. From the time the guests first arrive, we get to know some of the reasons that brought them here. As with her previous books, Moriarty is not afraid to tackle serious issues such as depression & suicide, marital discord, body image issues, aging, cultural differences etc., but she does so in such a sensitive manner that this story remains uplifting and hopeful despite the challenges and adversity our characters face. Halfway into the book, the story forays into the realm of psychological suspense as the nine strangers must face an unexpected turn of events. I love stories of random strangers thrown together and having to come to terms not only with a scary and threatening event or situations, but also the tension caused by different personalities. Moriarty, with her uncanny ability to bring out her characters’ deepest darkest secrets and her keen observation skills, tackles this aspect of the story particularly well.

Whilst I mentioned before that each character was relatable in their own unique way (which is a skill not often achieved), I most identified with Frances, who provided one of the main POVs in the story. Her refreshing and funny insights into life’s challenges made me laugh out loud many times, punching the air and hollering: Yes! Exactly! Whilst most of Frances' issues related to her age when she is reflecting on her life and career choices, a lot of topics referred to modern womanhood and its challenges. I loved the honest warts-and-all approach of being privy to all of Frances' thoughts, one of the things the author does so well.

I have heard that the movie rights to this book have already been sold, and -unpopular opinion alert – may be the only one not overly excited by this, as I have found in the past that a lot of Moriary’s unique Aussie humour gets lost in translation. So do yourself a favour and read the book before the movie, because it is just so damn funny!

I devoured this hefty book in a couple of sessions – and loved every minute of it.

Thursday 4 October 2018

Book Review (holiday reads #3): YOU LET ME IN by Lucy Clarke


Title: You Let Me In
Author: Lucy Clarke
Publisher: HarperCollins
Read: September 2018
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

"I am no trespasser, I remind myself. You let me in."

Book Description:

Nothing has felt right since Elle rented out her house . . .


There’s a new coldness. A shift in the atmosphere. The prickling feeling that someone is watching her every move from the shadows.


Maybe it’s all in Elle’s mind? She’s a writer – her imagination, after all, is her strength. And yet every threat seems personal. As if someone has discovered the secrets that keep her awake at night.


As fear and paranoia close in, Elle’s own home becomes a prison. Someone is unlocking her past – and she’s given them the key…

My musings:

I love psychological thrillers that feature “haunted” houses – not necessarily of the ghostly kind, but where the house serves almost like an extra character in the story. So when I stumbled across the premise of Clarke's latest thriller, I was instantly intrigued.

Have you ever thought about renting out your house on Airbnb? I don't really like the thought of strangers living in my house, but after this story I will definitely think twice about it! What if your houseguests had some ulterior motive? And your house suddenly feels no longer safe? This is famous author Elle Field's reality after she returns to her luxurious seafront house on the wild Cornish coast after renting it to a family whilst she was overseas. Come to think of it, no one has actually ever laid eyes on the tenants, but they have certainly left behind a presence – things appear in the wrong places, Elle feels watched constantly and suddenly everything seems to go wrong for her. The worst thing is that the changes are so subtle that Elle’s fears sound ridiculous even to her own ears. Is there something sinister going on, or is it all in her mind?

I admit that whilst I enjoyed the story, I had a bit of trouble connecting with Elle, and I found her stand-offish and irritating at times, which made me somewhat intolerant of her frequent complaining. Not only had she managed to totally peeve off her neighbours by building a huge mansion that blocked their ocean view, but she also has some demons she is keeping from her nearest and dearest. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed the role the house played in the story, and thought it could have been exploited even more to make the story creepier. Whilst the final reveal was not as mind-blowing as I had hoped, it held a few unexpected surprises.


All in all, whilst it didn’t blow me away, You Let Me In is an enjoyable mystery in the vein of Simon Lelic's The House, or The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney.