Archive for the ‘4.5 stars’ Category

Review: A Tap on the Window – Linwood Barclay

A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay

Title: A Tap on the Window
Author: Linwood Barclay
Publication date: 10 October 2013
Publisher: Orion
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781409115052
Length: 512 pages
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

It’s been two months since private investigator Cal Weaver’s teenage son Scott died in a tragic accident. Ever since, he and his wife have drifted apart, fracturing a once normal life. Cal is mired in grief, a grief he can’t move past. And maybe his grief has clouded his judgement. Because driving home one night, he makes his first big mistake.

A girl drenched in rain taps on his car window and asks for a ride as he sits at a stop light. Even though he knows a forty-something man picking up a teenage hitch-hiker is a fool, he lets her in. She’s the same age as Scott, and maybe she can help Cal find the dealer who sold his son the drugs that killed him. After a brief stop at a roadside diner, Cal senses that something’s not right with the girl or the situation. But it’s too late. He’s already involved.

Now Cal is drawn into a nightmare of pain and suspicion. Something is horribly wrong in the small town of Griffon in upstate New York. There are too many secrets there, too many lies and cover-ups. And Cal has decided to expose those secrets one by one.

That’s his second big mistake.

My thoughts

I fell in love with Linwood Barclay’s writing about a year ago, so seeing A Tap on the Window among bookshops’ ‘soon to be released’ titles was almost like an early Christmas present. Although I’ve yet to read the majority of his previous books, I simply cannot recommend him enough.

Having read No Time for Goodbye earlier I already knew I was in for one hell of a ride but the author’s ability to grab you within the first few pages of the book still managed to take me by surprise. If you think you can read this before going to bed, one chapter a day, think again. Barclay’s books are as addictive as chocolate – once you start reading them it’s literally impossible to stop. I’ve always considered myself a slow reader but I probably read the first half in one sitting.

Initially I was a bit worried about the plot because, as it turns out, the girl who goes missing and who seems to be at the centre of things is the local mayor’s daughter and politics in crime fiction has never been my thing. At all. Luckily, I shouldn’t have worried – the book doesn’t really feature any power struggles or political scandals, after all. Phew.

One of the things I love about Barclay’s books and the way he builds up his stories the most is that they’re like puzzles. You end up reading four hundred pages desperately looking for clues and answers, not having the faintest idea what’s going on and getting more clueless by the second. And then a small piece of the puzzle clicks into place and you go…

Oh my God. No way. NO WAY.

Which is also the time when things start to get interesting. Secrets are revealed, guns are drawn and a mad race against the clock begins. Brilliant set-up and such a strong ending. I absolutely loved it.

Rating:
4.5 star review
*Many thanks to Orion Books for sending me a copy for review*

Review: The Never List – Koethi Zan

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: The Never List
Author: Koethi Zan
Publication date: 1 August 2013
Publisher: Vintage Digital (Random House)
Format: E-book
ISBN: 9781448129744
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: NetGalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism. Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unravelling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

My thoughts

Wow, wow, and wow. It’s been a few weeks since I finished this book and to tell you the truth, I’m still speechless. Based on what people were saying about it when the first proof copies came out and how many times I saw it being mentioned on social media, I knew it would be a memorable story, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as powerful and mind-blowing as it was. Saying that it was perfect wouldn’t completely be true because there were a few minor details I wasn’t particularly keen on but I found it unputdownable all the same and it’s definitely one of my favourite books this year.

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Audiobook Review: Sleeping Murder – Agatha Christie

Sleeping Murder Audiobook by Agatha Christie

Title: Sleeping Murder
Author: Agatha Christie
Narrator: BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatisation
Publication date: 9 January 2006
Publisher: AudioGO
ISBN: 9781408482001
Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: AudioGO

Synopsis

A BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation starring June Whitfield as Miss Marple, the sharp-witted spinster sleuth.

Gwenda Reed arrives from New Zealand, travelling ahead of her husband with the task of finding the perfect place to make their base. In the quiet village of Dilmouth, she finds a house with immediate appeal. A few renovations will convert it into her ideal home.

Then things get very strange indeed. Wanting porch stairs, Gwenda hires a builder to put them in – only to find some old steps, covered up by bushes. She decides on a connecting doorway between the drawing-room and the dining-room, but discovers one already there, now plastered over. When she opens the painted-over doors of an old cupboard to find wallpaper exactly the same as she had imagined, she begins to wonder if she is going mad.

It takes Miss Marple to realise that an unsolved murder is behind Gwenda’s apparent intuition – but even she does not suspect the murderer will strike again…

My thoughts

Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder was the very first radio drama I’ve ever listened to but it definitely won’t be the last. I’m still quite new to audiobooks and even though I see why they’re so practical and why so many people love them, I’m still not entirely sure I could ever get used to them or listen to them on a daily basis. Radio dramas, however, are right up my street.

If you’ve ever tried audiobooks or at least listened to an audiobook sample before then you’ll understand my problem. Namely that regular, unabridged audiobooks can be… well, they can be a bit dull, can’t they? A good narrator makes them a lot enjoyable but still, one person reading the lines of a dozen different characters gets a little monotone after a while. Well, this was not the case here.

A few minutes after starting the tape I realized something. Do you know what radio dramas remind me of? Going to the theatre or the cinema without all the fuss of actually getting there or having to worry about not being late or finding your seat. It lets you listen to a complete performance with at least half a dozen different characters from the comfort of your own home. And if that wasn’t good enough, I love the fact that it’s not just a bunch of actors reading out their lines either. There’s music and all sorts of sound effects which make it easier for you to imagine what the setting’s like or what the characters are doing at that particular time. It’s almost like watching a film without actually seeing it, if that makes any sense. For example, when Gwenda and Miss Marple bump into each other in town during a heavy rainstorm, you can actually hear the rain pouring down and how they must have been in a hurry to find a shelter from the rain. When Gwenda and her fiancé arrive at someone’s house and are about to get out of the car, you can hear the brakes and the car keys turning. When someone’s walking down the stairs, you can literally hear their steps and the stairs creaking. It’s just brilliant. And it’s very, very far from being dull.

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Review: The Wish List – Jane Costello

 The Wish List by Jane Costello

Title: The Wish List
Author: Jane Costello
Publication date: 11 April 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-85720-556-8
Length: 481 pages
Genre: Chick lit
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository

Synopsis

There are six months left of Emma Reiss’s twenties. . . and she has some unfinished business.

Her career is all wrong, her love life is a desert and that penthouse apartment she pictured herself in simply never materialised. Moreover, she’s never jumped out of a plane, hasn’t met the man she’s going to marry, has never slept under the stars, or snogged anyone famous – just some of the aspirations on a list she and her friends compiled fifteen years ago.

So, as Emma hurtles towards her thirtieth birthday, she sets about addressing these issues. But, as she discovers with hilarious consequences, some of them are trickier to achieve than she’d thought…

My thoughts

The first thing that came to my mind when I read the first few chapters is why on earth have I not read any of Jane Costello’s books before? After several cringe-worthily predictable and dull chick lit books I read in the past few months, I was starting to wonder whether I’d ever find one which is genuinely entertaining and impossible to put down. Well, considering the fact that it’s been four days since I finished reading the book and some of the jokes (Mr Matt Itchypants Taylor, to name my favourite one) still make me laugh, and the fact that it was so gripping that I just had to stay up until half past one in the morning two nights in a row, I guess we can say The Wish List ticks both these boxes.

Possibly the main reasons why I loved this book so much is the main character’s personality. I just loved Emma. If I had to describe her, I would say she’s a bit like Bridget Jones or Becky Bloomwood from Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, two characters I absolutely adore, by the way. She’s just as clumsy as Bridget and just as sarcastic and funny as Becky, the combination of which makes for a brilliant and entertaining story. Another thing that makes it as good as it is is the fact that Emma’s friends are so relatable and well-written. They’re not shallow or two-dimensional at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s not just about Emma either. They all have their own little sub-plots within the story and you actually do feel for them and want them to succeed and be happy. Or at least that’s how I felt, especially about Asha.

And if being hilarious and making me laugh out loud God knows how many times throughout the story wasn’t enough, I should also add what both Hannah and myself found great about the book: short chapters. Oh, how I love them. I’m quite a slow reader so long chapters always make me feel as if I’m not making any progress. Short ones, however, result in me not being able to put the book down and staying up until the crack of dawn with a stupid grin on my face, congratulating myself for reading so much. Big thumbs up for short chapters!

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Review: Tangled Lives – Hilary Boyd

Cover of Tangled Lives by Hilary Boyd

Title: Tangled Lives
Author: Hilary Boyd
Publication date: February 28, 2013
Publisher: Quercus
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780857385192
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Annie Delancey is happily married with three grown children. But she guards a secret. Aged eighteen she had a baby boy, and gave him up for adoption.

Out of the blue, she receives an official-looking letter from Social Services. Her son wants to make contact.

As the son she has never known comes back into her life, his presence begins to expose the cracks in the family that Annie now has to try, desperately, to hold together.

My thoughts

Tangled Lives was a pleasant surprise in every sense of the word. While I wasn’t familiar with Hilary Boyd’s work before I started reading this book, I’ll certainly pick up whatever she comes up with next.

The book tells the story of Annie – a middle-aged mother of three living in London – whose life suddenly turns upside down when her son she had given up for adoption at the age of 18 turns up out of the blue and wants to get in touch with her. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, however, it turns out that Annie’s children don’t know about her adopted son Daniel. And chances that they are going to take it badly are quite high. When she finally plucks up the courage to tell them a small family drama ensues, with her son storming out of the house and her two daughters staring at her in utter disbelief. While her husband and her younger daughter Lucy are quite supportive, her son and elder daughter can’t seem to forgive her and, if you ask me, act in a slightly childish and selfish way. Throw in an ex-boyfriend who not only happens to be Daniel’s father but who has absolutely no idea about his son, a pinch of emotion and a great deal of jealousy and you get an unputdownable tale of love, family, past secrets and forgiveness.

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Review: The Last Time I Saw You – Eleanor Moran

Cover of The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran

Title: The Last Time I Saw You
Author: Eleanor Moran
Publication date: February 7, 2013
Publisher: Quercus
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781780876320
Length: 504 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

When Olivia Berrington gets the call to tell her that her best friend from university has been killed in a car crash in New York, her life is turned upside down. Her relationship with Sally was an exhilarating roller coaster, until a shocking betrayal drove them apart. But if Sally really had turned her back, why is her little girl named after Olivia?

As questions mount about the fatal accident, Olivia is forced to go back and unravel their tangled history. But as Sally’s secrets start to spill out, Olivia’s left asking herself if the past is best kept buried.

My thoughts

Even though I’ve heard great things about the author’s previous books and I even got as far as downloading her Christmas short story onto my Kindle, I haven’t managed to read any of these books yet, so I didn’t really know what to expect from The Last Time I Saw You. I have to say, though – I’m very impressed. It was definitely a pleasant surprise and I fell in love with the writing right away.

Apart from the fact that Moran’s writing style is just spot on and it got me hooked within a few pages, the other thing that made me even more intrigued by the two girls’ story is that I’ve had a friend just like Sally. While I was reading Olivia’s version of events I knew from personal experience exactly what they had gone through because I’ve been that friend and I could relate to literally everything she said. Even though Sally was quite a powerful character – a lively girl who always wanted to be the centre of attention and someone who was used to getting what she wanted – and her behaviour towards Olivia really started to irritate me at times, I couldn’t help wondering: what went wrong? They seemingly had such a great relationship… so what happened? What made their friendship end in such a dramatic way? And whose fault was it? And more importantly, how and why did Sally die so young when she’s always been the bright and energetic one? And this is exactly what Olivia herself is trying to figure out in The Last Time I Saw You – while she tells her and Sally’s story through an episode of flashbacks and tries to come to terms with Sally’s death, she herself is looking for answers.

The only thing I wasn’t really keen on is the last few chapters but especially the very last one. It seemed to have ended so suddenly and even though I loved the story and I don’t mind happy endings at all, it just seemed so out of character and so unlike the first 450 pages. It might have something to do with the fact that I didn’t like William (I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who haven’t read it so that’s all I’m saying) or his relationship with Olivia, I don’t know. Love triangles usually don’t work for me because I always prefer the ‘other guy’ but apart from this aspect and the fact that the ending was a bit of a let-down, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it to anyone.

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