REVIEW – The Glass House

I’ve seen this book floating around Bookstagram for quite a while now, so when I received my copy in my Richard and Judy Book Club Winter Collection, I couldn’t wait to read it and even bumped it up a few spaces on my TBR. Shameful behaviour, I know haha!

The book follows a wealthy family from London that have moved into a Manor House in a forest for the summer after a miscarriage and scandal had been stamped on the family name. The mother, her two children and the nanny all move to this manor house and whilst they are there, stumble across an abandoned baby that they take in and look after. Yet their family secrets and scandals are ruining this ‘perfect’ family, and is continuing to do so to other families years later.

What I loved about this book was not only how the author, Eve Chase, created suspense and how excellently she created the sense of scandal and secrecy, but how she questioned the sense of belonging through the use of different characters and narratives. We have three women in this book who do not know where they belong and through each of these women’s narratives, we hear and feel their insecurities and worries. We see through Hera, Rita and Sylvie, all the ways that someone can feel lost and unloved which was heartbreaking and emotional to read. Not just your average thriller that’s for sure.

Another thing this book did was make me impossibly broody. Now I’m not sure whether it was the timing of reading this book which made me yearn for a baby as I was just about t have my time of the month, or whether it was the gorgeous descriptions of babies gurgling and giggling. Either way, it made me very broody.

Overall I thought it was a fantastic book and I couldn’t find much wrong with it other than the pace of the book becoming VERY quick at the end. Yet the storytelling and character development was excellent and I’m excited for what else Eve Chase has in store…

The Glass House

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Publisher: Penguin
Published: 2020
No. Pages: 387
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Trigger Warnings: Child loss, post-natal depression, cheating, adoption, abandonment, murder, teenage pregnancy
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

Richard and Judy Book Club: Winter Collection

So I’m coming at you again with the latest Richard and Judy Book Club picks. These books are for the Winter 2021 collection and I’m not kidding when I say I want to read every single one of these! They all look like they are the perfect thrillers to sink your teeth into and will definitely keep you busy this season.

Don’t forget that the Richard and Judy podcast explores each individual book and includes author Q&As, so if you decide to read any of these, be sure to check out the episode where Richard and Judy discuss them!

The Other Passenger – Louise Candlish

A gripping thriller full of twists and breathtaking suspense.  Jamie and Clare own a beautiful house in a prosperous London street.  Their much younger friends Kit and Melia can only dream of ever buying a house of their own.  The envy, avarice and sexual tension between them lead to murder.  But which one is the killer?  A brilliantly atmospheric read.

Rules for Perfect Murders – Peter Swanson

Seemingly disconnected murders that can’t be solved. Until the penny drops. They all weirdly echo killings described in world-famous mystery novels, authored by the likes of Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith, and Donna Tartt. So, are they in fact connected? Peter Swanson has written a hugely enjoyable, spine-chilling romp of a murder-mystery.

The Glass House – Eve Chase

This is a beautifully-written story. Eve Chase has something of the poet in her: her descriptions of a remote manor house nestling in an ancient forest are worth reading for themselves. But the plot of The Glass House is utterly absorbing in its own right – a foundling baby girl left out there in the woods; then a dead body discovered in the grounds… a wonderful, romantic, compelling mystery.

The Memory Wood – Sam Lloyd

An unforgettably chilling psychological thriller.  12 year-old Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember.  He has no friends.  So, when he finds 13 year-old Elissa abducted and imprisoned in his creepy but beloved Wood, he’s so lonely that he wants to keep her there.  Disturbing, unsettling, and compulsive.

Haven’t They Grown – Sophie Hannah

A great, quirky and addictive read.  What would you think if you bumped into an old friend and her children were 5 and 3, the same age they were when you last saw them 12 years ago?  Beth decides to find out, and the result is this complex and intriguing psychological thriller, full of astonishing twists.  A terrific, intelligent and classy story.

Just My Luck – Adele Parks

Play the lottery. Pay your stakes. But spread the cost and shorten the odds – bet with a group of friends. That means sharing any winnings – which is at the heart of Adele Parks’s cracking story. What if when the big numbers actually come up, only one couple in a syndicate of three believes they should keep all the money (eighteen million pounds of it)? A rich tale of greed and revenge.  

See I wasn’t lying when I said these all look INCREDIBLE. Most of them have been added to my TBR…do any interest you?

Richard and Judy Book Club: Christmas

As you know I’m a HUGE fan of the Richard and Judy Book Club at WH Smith and they always seem to pick some of the best/popular books before they become popular.

I managed to get my hands on the Christmas collection and it features some very intriguing books. What I love most about Richard and Judy books is that they feature lots of added goodies at the back such as book club discussion questions and author Q&As. Their podcast often features author interviews too which, once you’ve read the book, is a great listen.

Here were the books featured in the Christmas collection:

Mum & Dad – Joanne Trollope

It’s been twenty-five years since Gus and Monica left England to start a new life in Spain, building a vineyard and wine business from the ground up. However, when Gus suffers a stroke and their idyllic Mediterranean life is thrown into upheaval, it’s left to their three grown-up children in London to step in…

Sebastian is busy running his company with his wife, Anna, who’s never quite seen eye-to-eye with her mother-in-law.

Katie, a successful solicitor in the City, is distracted by the problems with her long-term partner, Nic, and the secretive lives of their three daughters.

And Jake, ever the easy-going optimist, is determined to convince his new wife, Bella, that moving to Spain with their eighteen-month-old would be a good idea.

As the children descend on the vineyard, it becomes clear that each has their own idea of how best to handle their mum and dad, as well as the family business. But as long-simmering resentments rise to the surface and tensions reach breaking point, can the family ties prove strong enough to keep them together?

A Conspiracy of Bones – Kathy Reichs

It’s sweltering in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Temperance Brennan, still recovering from neurosurgery following an aneurysm, is battling nightmares, migraines, and what she thinks might be hallucinations when she receives a series of mysterious text messages, each containing a new picture of a corpse that is missing its face and hands. Immediately, she’s anxious to know who the dead man is, and why the images were sent to her.

An identified corpse soon turns up, only partly answering her questions.

To win answers to the others, including the man’s identity, she must go rogue, working mostly outside the system. That’s because Tempe’s new boss holds a fierce grudge against her and is determined to keep her out of the case. Tempe bulls forward anyway, even as she begins questioning her instincts. But the clues she discovers are disturbing and confusing. Was the faceless man a spy? A trafficker? A target for assassination by the government? And why was he carrying the name of a child missing for almost a decade?

With help from a number of law enforcement associates including her Montreal beau Andrew Ryan and the always-ready-with-a-smart-quip, ex-homicide investigator Skinny Slidell, and utilising new cutting-edge forensic methods, Tempe draws closer to the astonishing truth.But the more she uncovers, the darker and more twisted the picture becomes…

Away With the Penguins – Hazel Prior

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

Shadowplay – Joseph O’Connor

1878- The Lyceum Theatre, London. Three extraordinary people begin their life together, a life that will be full of drama, transformation, passionate and painful devotion to art and to one another. Henry Irving, the Chief, is the volcanic leading man and impresario; Ellen Terry is the most lauded and desired actress of her generation, outspoken and generous of heart; and ever following along behind them in the shadows is the unremarkable theatre manager, Bram Stoker.

Fresh from life in Dublin as a clerk, Bram may seem the least colourful of the trio but he is wrestling with dark demons in a new city, in a new marriage, and with his own literary aspirations. As he walks the London streets at night, streets haunted by the Ripper and the gossip which swirls around his friend Oscar Wilde, he finds new inspiration.

But the Chief is determined that nothing will get in the way of his manager’s devotion to the Lyceum and to himself. And both men are enchanted by the beauty and boldness of the elusive Ellen. This exceptional novel explores the complexities of love that stands dangerously outside social convention, the restlessness of creativity, and the experiences that led to Dracula, the most iconic supernatural tale of all time.

The Split – Sharon Bolton

Two years ago Felicity Lloyd desperately signed up for an extended research trip working on the remote island of South Georgia.

It was her only way to escape. And now he’s coming for her.

Freddie Lloyd has just got out of prison for murder and is on his way to where Felicity is hiding.

And this time, he won’t stop until he finds her. Because no matter how far you run, some secrets will always catch up with you…

Silver Sparrow – Tayari Jones

Set in a middle-class neighbourhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s families– the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich and flawed characters, she also reveals the joy, and the destruction, they brought to each other’s lives.

At the heart of it all are the two girls whose lives are at stake, and like the best writers, Jones portrays the fragility of her characers with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women.

Richard and Judy’s Book Club Christmas Collection 2020

REVIEW: All About Us

“I guess none of us turned out how we thought we would at nineteen. We all made mistakes and concessions and wrong turnings.”

Why Did I Read This Book? 

My lovely friend, Lucy @ Drafted Dreams, sent me this book after reading it herself earlier in December. She really enjoyed it and loved how it is kind of like a play on the traditional A Christmas Carol’ story which we were reading with the ‘Let’s Get Classical’ Book Club. 

What Did I Think? 

I read this during a time where I was moving out of my parents’ home and into my first ever home with my boyfriend. So what should have been a quick and easy read, took me several days to finish. However, I found myself not wanting to put the book down and when I wasn’t reading it, the story was often floating around in my head. 

If you don’t know All About Us follows a man named Ben who has been married to his wife Daphne for over 10 years but the magic/love is fading and whilst reminiscing and considering what his life would be like if he had gone for a different woman, he accidentally meets a mysterious time-travelling man/ghost who shows him glimpses of Ben’s past, future and present. 

I loved how the author focused on the ‘what if’ question because let’s be honest we have all considered what our lives would look like now if we hadn’t chosen the paths we have. So it was really interesting to relive Ben’s earlier life and see how those events shaped who he was today, and even more interestingly, Ben reacting differently to past events having lived them once before. 

I also loved the deeper exploration into grief and how it affects the human brain and relationships. Ben is clearly grieving when we meet him in the present day and has allowed his mental health to decline massively as a result, with his relationships with his wife and friends suffering too. 

I really enjoyed the book and the pace and I would love to see it be made into a film. I especially thought the author’s focus on men’s mental health was refreshing because personally, I don’t think male mental health is talked about enough. The depiction of male friendship made me giggle because in my experience, men never really seem to talk about their real feelings with their mates and just brush things off before it gets too deep. So it was funny (and I guess important) to see this explored in the book too. 

A real Christmassy treat! 

All About Us

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: HQ
Published: 2020
No. Pages: 400
Genre: Romance, holiday
Trigger Warnings: Cheating, death, family death, grief, depression, mental health, anxiety
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells 

REVIEW: The Christmas Killer

“The sky remained heavy and grey, and the air felt raw. James wondered if this was the calm before the storm.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This was chosen as my local book club read and as someone who hasn’t really ever read any Christmassy books, I was excited to experience my first one.

What Did I Think?

However, this book was not for me and I eventually made the hard decision to DNF the book after about 100 pages. I was recently listening to a new podcast called Off the Shelf by Phoebe at Pause Books where she interviewed a friend and she had this great commitment to giving a book 100 pages to impress you and if it doesn’t and you’re not enjoying it, then to just DNF.

I’m a strong advocate for DNF-ing books that just aren’t doing it for you and sadly The Christmas Killer was that for me. But I cannot stress enough that although I really didn’t enjoy this book, that is my opinion, and you may find that you love it so please still give it a try if it’s one you’re considering reading.

The reason I chose to DNF the book was that it was just too incredibly cheesy for me and included a lot of one-dimensional and ‘simple’ characters that I just found difficult to imagine. One thing I disliked most about it was the relationship between our protagonist and his wife. I thought to myself that marriages are surely NOT this easy and plain-sailing, especially when there is a mass murderer on the loose. The wife just seemed to ‘keep herself busy’ and when she couldn’t, she would sit at home endlessly pining for her husband. I’m sorry but have we gone back to the 19th Century?

There were other reasons why this book didn’t do it for me but instead of droning on about all the reasons I didn’t like it, I’ll stop here.

Not for me but I’ll definitely still try to read the other Christmas books I have planned for this month to see if they are any better.

The Christmas Killer

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Published: 2020
Publisher: Avon
# of Pages: 400
Genre: Thriller
Trigger Warnings: Violence, blood, death, murder, stereotypes, abuse, knife crime 
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: The Switch

“That’s the way with old friends. You understand each other, even when there’s not enough words out there for everything that should be said.”  

Why Did I Read This Book?

After finishing 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, I was on the hunt for a light, easy read. The Switch has been on my TBR since finishing The Flatshare earlier this year. In a previous blog post (Authors I’ve Found in 2020 That I Now Love) I mentioned that Beth O’leary has easily become one of my favourite authors I’ve found this year, so of course I had to give her a second book a read.

What Did I Think?

The Switch was everything I hoped for and more. A heart-warming read that interestingly showed the importance and variance of happiness. What makes you happy, might not make another person happy and that’s OK.

The Switch follows our two protagonists and grandmother/granddaughter: Leena and Eileen Cotton. Both ladies are fed up with their lives and need something that can switch things up. Leena lives in London and has an incredibly busy and stressful life which has led to her developing unprovoked anxiety attacks and a two-month forced sabbatical. Eileen’s husband has run off with a yoga teacher and has left her lost in a world where she feels she no longer belongs.

The two decide to swap lives, with Eileen going to live in London with Leena’s young flatmates in a mission to get her love life back into action and Leena moves to a small town in the countryside and is thrown into festival planning with the local unruly pensioners.

The things I love about Beth O’Leary’s books is her comedy and ability to sum feelings and experiences up in a way that makes you question how you feel and how you react to certain events. For example, Leena is obviously punishing herself and hiding her grief after the loss of her sister to cancer by keeping herself unbelievably busy and distant.

“You were healing. You’re still healing. You’ll maybe always be healing. And that’s OK. It’ll just be part of what makes you you.”

Although I have never experienced grief myself, I could relate to the way Leena behaves when I try and escape my problems by keeping busy and aloof. There was certainly a lightbulb moment whilst reading this book where I could relate to how Leena was behaving and why.

I would definitely say though that I enjoyed Eileen’s story more because it was great to see her adapt to modern dating and the laughs she had along the way. Especially some of her horrific Tinder experiences…

The story reminded me of a non-Christmas version of The Holiday and similar to a book I read earlier this year called The Lido in the depiction of young/old relationships. It was certainly one I enjoyed and one I definitely needed to read.

The Switch

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published: 2020
Publisher:
# of Pages:
Genre: Comedy
Trigger Warnings: Cancer, death, work-related stress, anxiety, loneliness, divorce, family feuds
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: Corrupt

“Things done in the dark hours of the night, behind closed doors, or in the heat of the moment looked a lot different in the morning, out in the open, and with a clear head.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This is far from the usual genres I read but my local book club picked it as the book for this month and I was up for giving it a go. I think the best thing about book clubs is that you can easily challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

What Did I Think?

Personally, I would say that I am a little crude when it comes to the vocabulary used to describe sex scenes and some of the language in this book definitely made me cringe. But by the end of this book, it’s safe to say I’ve got used to the language.

Just to warn you, if you erotica or dark romance isn’t normally your thing, I wouldn’t start with this book. I had no idea that this book was classed as a dark romance until I got about five chapters in and it was evidently clear. There are some pretty horrific scenes in this book and I would like to urge anyone thinking about delving into this genre, to be careful about which books you pick. For me, I’ve read some pretty dark and disturbing stories over the years, but even for me, this book was eye-opening.

Corrupt follows a rich young woman named Erika who, whilst she was at school, got mixed up with the wrong sort of boys and ended up causing a lot of trouble. Since then, years have passed but the group of four men haven’t forgotten the pain she’s caused them and set out to get their revenge. What makes this difficult is that the leader of the group, Michael Crist, and Erika are both irresistible to each other, blurring the lines between love and hate.

I would say that for my first-ever erotica novel, this one was quite a rollercoaster and one that I didn’t feel comfortable reading in a room full of people. However, the ending for me became too dramatic and over-the-top and began to ruin all the drama, suspense and tension that the author had created prior. Safe to say, I can’t wait to discuss this one with book club!

Corrupt

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Penelope Douglas LLC
Published: 2015
# of Pages: 461
Genre: Erotica, Dark Romance
Trigger Warnings: Violence, abuse, bondage, rough-sex, crime, abusive relationships
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, <a href="http://"www.blackwells.co.uk"/” data-type=”URL” data-id=”"www.blackwells.co.uk"/“>Blackwells

REVIEW: In Five Years

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This was the October pick for Beth’s Book Club and this is one that I have wanted to read for such a long time. When I first joined Bookstagram, this book was just being released so it was everywhere I looked when I was scrolling through my feed.

“This is a love story but not the love story you’re expecting.”

What Did I Think?

I’m glad that Beth picked an easy book to finish October off. The book itself is just over 200 pages, with short chapters and an easy-to-follow storyline and it was everything I needed when I decided to pick this one up. 

The book is about Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan, who has the perfect life; a good career, a gorgeous fiance and the dream flat in New York. But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and next to a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

There was fantastic character development in this book and I had really started to bond closely with the protagonist Dannie by the end. I really liked the idea that she saw what was going to happen in five years and the story led us to that very moment with twists and turns along the way. 

I expected a light-hearted love story/rom-com but I got something very different so I would just pre-warn you if you are thinking about reading this book that isn’t your usual romance novel. I still thoroughly enjoyed it and I devoured the book in one day.

In Five Years

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Quercus
Published: 2020 (UK)
# of Pages: 251
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Trigger Warnings: Death, cancer, relationship, breakdown, heartbreak, grief
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: After The End

“When you stand at the crossroads you cannot see each destination, only the beginnings of the paths that will lead you there. All you can do is hope that someone will walk with you.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This was a Beth’s Book Club pick for September/October and I’m ashamed to say, this has been the only time I haven’t finished the book in time for the book club discussion…shame on me, I know. 

But I started it on the Friday before the discussion on Sunday and I was determined to finish it. I guess that’s one of the best things about virtual book club discussions, especially Beth’s, I can easily catch up on what was discussed if I couldn’t make the discussion.

What Did I Think?

So I picked this book up after getting some pretty bad news and I did think to myself whether I’d be able to concentrate on the book whilst my head had fallen off. I took a weekend off social media (something I do every weekend now) and dedicated it to doing some feel-good stuff. 

Yet this book is far from feel-good so it probably wasn’t the best pick. If you don’t know After The End is about a couple who have a terminally ill son who need to make a BIG decision regarding his care. The book is slightly unusual in the fact that we follow the two main characters, Max and Pip, in the future and see how the court decision impacted their relationship. The concept was really strange and it took me a while to understand what was happening but, I think Clare Mackintosh did a wonderful job of exploring how parents’ lives are changed/affected when you have a disabled/seriously ill child. 

“No one knows what’s going to happen in the future. The only thing we can do is make our choices on the way we feel right now.”

However…I don’t think I was ever really hooked on the story and that could have been because I was reading it at the wrong time. I would definitely say that After The End wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read but I enjoyed the narrative and I had never really read a story like this before. I also think it was incredibly brave of Clare to write this book based on her personal experience. It must have been hard for her during that time, and to relive that experience whilst writing this book must have been even harder, yet also a kind of healing process for her?

After The End

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Sphere
Published: 2019
# of Pages: 370
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Disability, terminal illness, ICU, intensive care, court cases, life vs death, divorce, grief
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

REVIEW: Fifty Fifty

“Most killers I’d come across I could make a stab at some kind of explanation for their behaviour. I was always able to rationalise it. This time, there was no easy explanation.
No key. This one I couldn’t rationalise.
There was something dark at the heart of this case.
Something evil.
Watching.
Waiting.”

Why Did I Read This?

This was my local book club pick for October and I have to say this book won all but one vote! Everyone was desperate to read this thriller…and I can see why.

What Did I Think?

OK, guys…it’s been a while since I’ve read a thriller and this book reminded me EXACTLY why I love this genre. 

If this is the first time hearing about this book, Fifty Fifty is about two sisters who are BOTH on trial for the murder of their father. Each thinks each other has killed him. But one is a LIAR.

This was my first time reading a Steve Cavanagh novel, but I had heard extremely great things about his other novel, ‘Th1rte3n’. This book had everything a good thriller needs. Intertwining stories. Different narratives. Twists. Turns. Suspense.

One thing I loved about this book was we get a narrative from the killer herself but Steve Cavanagh does an incredible job of keeping her identity under wraps right until the VERY end. That’s what I love so much about a good thriller, you’re kept guessing right until the final pages and this was certainly the case with Fifty Fifty.

Cavanagh also did a great job of giving us a perspective from a female lawyer within the industry. Kate’s perspective and the experience was one of my favourites throughout the novel because all the odds were against her. She starts the book by being controlled by a horrible, sexist, and pervy boss. Cavanagh was clever and brave to address the sexual abuse and biased behavior within the legal system.

I loved both the lawyers (even though they were fighting on different sides) because they each had their quirks but worked extremely well together. 

There wasn’t anything I didn’t particularly not enjoy about this book because like I said before, I thought it included everything a good thriller should, but when my boyfriend asked me if it was a 5-star, I had to think about it. And for me, if I have to question whether a book deserved 5 stars, then it probably didn’t. However, my opinion might change once we discuss it with the book club because those discussions either go one of two ways; I either end up loving it more or loving it less! 

Safe to say though, I have added a few of Steve Cavanagh’s other books to my TBR!

Fifty Fifty

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Publisher: Orion
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 349
Genre: Thriller
Trigger Warnings: Violence, blood, murder, abuse, graphic scenes, self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, inappropriate behaviour at work
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells