Archive for the ‘5 stars’ Category

Review: The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Publication date: 15 January 2015
Publisher: Doubleday
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780857522313
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 5 Stars

You don’t know her. But she knows you.

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

With its intriguing premise and Transworld’s reputation for publishing some of the best thrillers I’ve ever read, The Girl on the Train was one of my most anticipated novels of 2015 – and it completely blew me away. Hawkins’s debut took the blogosphere by storm and it has every right to be at the top of the charts. It’s so brilliantly written, so unpredictable and so full of twists and turns that I read the second half in one sitting and would willingly give it 6 stars if I could.

One of the (many) reasons why it stood out for me is its narration. Rachel, our main character and narrator, is alcoholic. She’s had drinking problems for quite a while and she even lost her job because of it. And why it’s interesting, as far as the story is concerned, is because she’s unreliable. She often drinks herself to a state where she completely blacks out and has no memory of what she’s done when she wakes up the next morning. Add this to a story where she is the only witness and you’ll have no idea what to believe.

All the characters are brilliantly – and very cleverly – written, in a way that makes it impossible for you to know who to trust or who to believe. Not just Rachel, but everyone has their own version of events and they are all acting suspiciously in one way or another. I love books with unreliable narrators and The Girl on the Train was no exception.

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Review: Hyperbole and a Half – Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Publication date: 23 April 2013
Publisher: Square Peg
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780224095372
Length: 369 pages
Genre: Humour
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 5 Stars

Hyperbole and A Half is a blog written by a 20-something American girl called Allie Brosh. She tells fantastically funny, wise stories about the mishaps of her everyday life, with titles like ‘Why Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving’ and ‘The God of Cake’. She accompanies these with naive drawings using Paint on her PC. Brosh’s website receives millions of visitors a month and hundreds of thousands of per day.

Now her full-colour debut book chronicles the many “learning experiences” Brosh has endured as a result of her own character flaws. It includes stories about her rambunctious childhood; the highs and mostly lows of owning a mentally challenged dog; and a moving and darkly comic account of her struggles with depression. Poignant and uproarious – think Cyanide and Happiness but with story-lines, cake and dogs.

Hyperbole and a Half has been on my wish list ever since I saw it on Ellie’s blog this time last year. Although I wasn’t familiar with the Hyperbole and a Half blog at the time, I love all types of humour, from books to TV comedies and everything in between, so I knew it would be right up my street. But for some reason, I never got around to buying a copy.

However, I went to Foyles a couple of weeks ago and saw the book near the counter. I picked it up and started reading the back cover. And I literally laughed out loud. Three sentences in, I knew I’d love it.

And I did.

It was just as funny as I expected it to be and it had me laughing all the way through the end. I don’t know what’s funnier, Brosh’s illustrations (drawn in Paint – which, for me, makes them even more hilarious) or her memoirs that accompany the images. The whole thing is just brilliant as it is.

Although I’m not a dog person (I’ve never been), her dog stories were definitely my favourite. This one in particular had me choking with laughter for days and it still makes me giggle if I look at it. It was a story about Helper Dog, a slightly neurotic German shepherd, who was nearly impossible to train. People suggested giving her a treat every time she does something they like or simply when she stops doing bad things. However, as Allie says, “the only thing they managed to accomplish was to teach the Helper Dog that if she starts doing something they hate, and then stops that thing very briefly, she can get a treat”. And then she went back to doing the thing again.

The Simple Dog - Hyperbole and a Half

Do you know that feeling when you’re literally crying with laughter and when, after ten minutes, you manage to stop and go ‘it’s not even that funny’ – and then it starts all over again? That’s pretty much what happened.

But Hyperbole and a Half is not just about dogs, cake and the author’s mischievous childhood. Her stories about depression and what she’s been through are just as brilliant as the funny bits, but in a completely different way. She describes the illness perfectly and without making it too depressing. She adds a bit of humour to the more serious topics as well, so they blend in with the rest of the book perfectly.

Whether you or your loved ones have been suffering from depression or you’re simply looking for an entertaining read, I simply cannot recommend this enough. Although it’s a relatively quick read due to all the drawings, I know it will stay with me for a long time and I will re-read it from time to time. It’s absolutely brilliant. 

Review: An Evil Mind – Chris Carter

An Evil Mind by Chris Carter

An Evil Mind by Chris Carter
Publication date: 31 July 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781471132193
Length: 496 pages
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 4.5 Stars

A freak accident in rural Wyoming leads the Sheriff’s Department to arrest a man for a possible double homicide, but further investigations suggest a much more horrifying discovery – a serial killer who has been kidnapping, torturing and mutilating victims all over the United States for at least twenty-five years. The suspect claims he is a pawn in a huge labyrinth of lies and deception – can he be believed?

The case is immediately handed over to the FBI, but this time they’re forced to ask for outside help. Ex-criminal behaviour psychologist and lead Detective with the Ultra Violent Crime Unit of the LAPD, Robert Hunter, is asked to run a series of interviews with the apprehended man. These interviews begin to reveal terrifying secrets that no one could’ve foreseen, including the real identity of a killer so elusive that no one, not even the FBI, had any idea he existed … until now.

Having read most of his books in literally one sitting, I think it’s safe to say that whatever Chris Carter writes I fall in love with within seconds. An Evil Mind wasn’t any different. Although it’s very different from anything he’s written before, it’s just as tense and captivating as his other novels – but in a completely different way.

In case you’re not familiar with his writing, his previous books were famous for being of the nail-shredder, race-against-time variety and being on the gorier side. I enjoyed every second of every story but they were not for the faint-hearted. All his books featured various serial killers on the loose and Detective Robert Hunter trying to chase them down. So how is this book different, then? In An Evil Mind, the killer is already in FBI custody. We already know who he is and the fact that he’s guilty. What we don’t know is how many people he killed, who they are, and why he did it. All we know is that he knows Robert and refuses to talk to anyone else. So, once again, it’s up to Hunter to put the pieces together and figure out if Lucien is telling the truth and whether he has any other tricks up his sleeve.

Other than the fact that Carter’s writing is brilliant, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this book. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where you know who the killer is right from the start (solving the mystery alongside the detective is part of the fun, right?) so I was intrigued by the premise of Carter’s novel. It was definitely a pleasant surprise.

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Review: Victims – Jonathan Kellerman

Victims by Jonathan Kellerman

Victims by Jonathan Kellerman
Publication date: 11 October 2012
Publisher: Headline
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780755374526
Length: 374 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 5 Stars

Not since Jack the Ripper has there been such a gruesome crime scene. One look at the victim’s apartment turned charnel house is enough for Milo Sturgis to summon The Crime Reader. But even Alex Delaware’s skills may be stymied when more slayings occur in the same ghastly fashion…with no apparent connection between them. The only clue left behind – a blank page bearing a question mark – seems to be both a menacing taunt and a cry for help from a killer baffled by his own lethal urges. This one will haunt The Crime Reader’s waking life, and his darkest dreams, long after its end.

Jonathan Kellerman is one of those authors whose work I keep seeing every time I go into a bookshop and whose books I’ve wanted to pick up for a very long time. Being an avid reader of crime fiction – and fast paced thrillers in particular – I felt they would be something I’d enjoy but somehow I never got around to actually picking them up. When Victims landed on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to get started.

There are currently 29 books in the series featuring The Crime Reader, that is, forensic psychologist Alex Delaware, out of which Victims is the 27th. As much as I was looking forward to reading the book, a small part of me was worried whether I’d miss anything by not being familiar with the previous 26 books. With long series like this, authors often cut to the chase and don’t go into details about their characters, their past, their personalities, leaving you to figure out the relationships between them and everything else yourself. Which is understandable. If you’ve read 26 books with the same couple of characters, you probably know all about them. But, being a newbie to Alex’s world, I was a tiny bit worried.

Well, I shouldn’t have been. I didn’t for one second feel as if I was missing something. A few chapters in I felt as if I’ve known Alex and his friend and work partner, Milo Sturgis, for a long time. In fact, their dialogues and  their chemistry is one of the things I think makes this book as good as it is. But characters alone don’t make an excellent book – you need a killer plot and compelling writing as well. Kellerman’s Victims ticks all these boxes. His writing draws you in at the very beginning and you won’t be able to put the book down or stop guessing right until the very end.

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Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Author: Matthew Quick
Publication date: 16 January 2014
Publisher: Headline
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781472208200
Length: 273 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

Leonard Peacock is turning 18. And he wants to say goodbye.

Not to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing something tragic and horrific. Nor to his mum who’s moved out and left him to fend for himself. But to his four friends.

A Humprey Bogart-obsessed neighbour
A teenage violin virtuoso
A pastor’s daughter
A teacher

Most of the time Leonard believes he’s weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he’s not.

He wants to thank them and, and bid them farewell.

My thoughts

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock has been recommended to me by an increasing number of people in the past few months and after hearing so many great things about it, my expectations were very high. Since it left such a lasting impression on the book blogger community and all those people whose taste I absolutely trust, and since I generally like books dealing with suicide or mental illness, I decided to give it a go. Now, after reading the book, I can’t thank all these people enough for their constant nagging – because it was simply amazing.

I loved this book for so many different reasons, I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps the best place to start is the narration and our main character, Leonard. On the surface, Leonard is your average eighteen-year-old secondary school student with an average life. Okay, maybe the fact that his mother abandoned him and, as it turns out later on, doesn’t have the faintest idea about what he’s going through and how tough his childhood has been isn’t so average. On the contrary. But other than that, he seems like any other guy his age. Until he starts talking. Through Leonard’s story we learn that, in fact, he couldn’t be any more different from everyone else. I loved his unique voice and his way of storytelling. And while he’s just a young guy trying to get through his school years, his attitude and his way of thinking, his thoughts about adulthood couldn’t be more mature. His anger and his thoughts about not wanting to grow up – because adults just don’t seem to remember how to be happy – reminded me of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye (one of my favourite classics of all time) and I loved Leonard just as much as I loved him.

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Review: Don’t Stand So Close – Luana Lewis – Plus a Giveaway!

Don't Stand So Close by Luana Lewis

Title: Don’t Stand So Close
Author: Luana Lewis
Publication date: 13 February 2014
Publisher: Bantam Press (Transworld)
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780593072301
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Psychological thriller / Suspense
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

What would you do if a young girl knocked on your door and asked for your help? If it was snowing and she was freezing cold, but you were afraid and alone? What would you do if you let her in, but couldn’t make her leave?

What if she told you terrible lies about someone you love, but the truth was even worse?

Stella has been cocooned in her home for three years. Severely agoraphobic, she knows she is safe in the stark, isolated house she shares with her husband, Max. The traumatic memories of her final case as a psychologist are that much easier to keep at a distance, too.

But the night that Blue arrives on her doorstep with her frightened eyes and sad stories, Stella’s carefully controlled world begins to unravel around her…

My thoughts

I have a soft spot for psychological thrillers so I fell in love with Luana Lewis’s story the minute I read the synopsis. I had very high hopes for Don’t Stand So Close and luckily, it didn’t let me down. I loved it from start to finish and I’m not exaggerating when I say I read the first hundred pages in one sitting.

One of the reasons why it’s so difficult to put it down is that you have no idea who’s lying, who’s manipulating who and who the (real) victims are. Blue turns up at Stella’s house with an innocent enough story but once she’s inside, it turns out things are more complicated than they seem. Both of them are acting strange. Stella has been cocooned inside her home with symptoms of agoraphobia and anxiety, and been on heavy medication for years so she’s clearly not the most reliable character you’ll ever find. Blue says she knows Stella’s husband but she keeps changing her story all the time. You have no idea what’s going on and you want to find out who’s telling the truth so desperately that by the time you manage to put the book down for a few minutes, it’s midnight and you realize you forgot to have dinner. And lunch. It’s very addictive!

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Review: Mother, Mother – Koren Zailckas

Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

Title: Mother, Mother
Author: Koren Zailckas
Publication date: 16 January 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780007547388
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Psychological thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

All is not well with the Hurst family.

There is gentle teenage daughter Violet, whose experiments with fasting and drugs land her in a psychiatric ward; eight-year-old Will who is smart, funny and caring but has already been labelled autistic and is being home-schooled; and mother Josephine, whose subtly controlling and seemingly innocent manoeuvres may just be the source of everyone else’s despair.

And then there’s Rose, the sister who got away. Tired of Josephine’s interferences, Rose ran away from home years earlier and hasn’t been heard from since. But as her mother’s intentions become more terrifyingly clear, Violet begins to wonder whether something far, far worse happened to her older sister…

My thoughts

Mother, Mother is typically one of those books which left such a great impression on me that I have no idea where to even begin. I’ve always been a big fan of psychological thrillers and suspense – both in terms of films and books – so even though I went into this book not knowing what to expect, I was secretly hoping it would render me speechless. And render me speechless it did. I finished reading it in late December and, without exaggeration, it’s been on my mind ever since.

There’s something very disturbing about the story, something which makes it impossible for you to put it down. You get a sense that there’s something very, very wrong with Josephine. You don’t know what she’s capable of, why she’s acting the way she does and this sense of unease, uncertainty is one of the reasons why it’s such a compelling story and why it has such an impact. Zailckas manages to keep you in constant suspense and make you feel a deep sense of unease until the very end. You keep wondering how far it could go, how far Josephine (who really is the master of manipulation) could take things before the unthinkable happens and whether anyone realises how powerful she is before it’s too late.

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