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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Paula Hawkins – The Girl on the Train

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I can’t believe I’m so far behind the trend on this book. I heard everyone raving about it when it first came out, and I was in the middle of other books so I didn’t read it. Then the film came out, and I still didn’t read it. And by the time I finally got around to reading it, the only covers they had left for the book were the movie-tie-in covers, which I always hate to buy!

But cover snobbery aside, I LOVED this book. It took me quite a while to read as I was only reading it on my commute, and the whole time I was scared someone was going to give me a spoiler since it’s so old now!

I think this is the first book in absolutely ages where I have been completely unable to guess the ‘whodunnit’. I was wavering rapidly back and forth between two of the characters, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!

When the mystery started to come together, my heart was racing and I turned the pages greedily, desperate to reach the conclusion. And wow, I definitely didn’t expect the conclusion to be as bloody as it was!

But skipping back to the start of the book, I couldn’t help but feel an instant connection to Rachel. She’s an alcoholic, but she knows that she’s an alcoholic and she’s desperately trying (and repeatedly failing) to change. For this reason, you can’t help but feel sorry for her. And as the story starts to unfold, you begin to understand what brought her to her current sad situation. The other women are equally pitiable and it’s quite hard to start with to decide which side you should be on!

I won’t say much more as I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t yet read it either, but I would really recommend this book, and would love to know if you were as unable to guess the culprit as I was!

Review: Nick Russell – Big Lake

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Nick Russell - Big LakeThe first few pages of this book did absolutely nothing to entice me into reading it. I like a book to pull me in and have me hooked from the very beginning, but the start of this book just felt boring to me. But I persevered and I’m now very glad that I did.

The book centres around a town called Big Lake in Arizona, and although this is a real town, Nick Russell is very keen to point out that the book is completely fictional. And after reading the book, I would agree that it must be, since it’s completely bonkers!

At the start of the book, two men are driving an armored money deliver vehicle down to Big Lake, when the spot a young woman at the side of the road. It’s against protocol to pull over, but they do anyway. Then one of the men pulls the gun on the other and shoots him dead, in a plot to get away with the money with his lovely lady friend. But after dragging the body of his friend into the back of the van, the woman turns the gun on him and both men are dead, leaving the woman to drive away with the money. But who was this mysterious woman?

Obviously when the police turn up, the woman is long gone and they have no idea she was there, and so starts a long investigation to find out what went wrong. Chief investigator is the town Sheriff, Jim Weber – brother in law to one of the murdered men. An FBI agent is sent to help out, and they soon become good friends. Which is good, because he’s taking the news of his brother in law’s death almost as badly as his sister, the murdered man’s wife. And it turns out that the other murdered man, Johnson, was a well known womanizer with plenty of people who would be more than willing to go after him with a gun.

I won’t go too much more into the plot, but as you can probably tell, there are a lot of twists and turns and dead ends before we find out who the real culprit is. And let me tell you; whoever you thought it was, you will almost definitely be wrong. When it was revealed, I absolutely couldn’t believe it! The book also left itself open nicely for a sequel, which I will definitely be checking out! I loved the main character of Jim Weber, and I’d love to see where the plot develops next!

4/5

Review: John L. Betcher – The 19th Element

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John L. Betcher - The 19th ElementWhen I added this book to Goodreads and read the description before I started reading, I convinced myself that it wasn’t my kind of book and that I wasn’t going to like it. A book with terrorists in? Not my cup of tea. But as usual, I was wrong, and I found the book plenty thrilling.

The book centers around a terrorist plot to blow up a nuclear power plant in Minnesota. The one thing that I never managed to figure out was how the main character got so involved, although I think like most books of this ilk, it was just through nosiness, curiosity and a sureness that he’s better than law enforcement. Although in the last respect, it was true.

He somehow managed to connect the murder of a university scientist, the disappearance of his most recent invention – a machine which can create elemental potassium and the disappearance of the scientist’s lab assistant to the terrorist plan. Through investigation and sheer bravery, he figures out what the plan is. Now all he has to do is to stop it.

He works together with his friend Bull and his connections with the local police force (and connections from further afield who will become very important later on) to try and stop the terrorists before they can go through with their plan and wipe out half of Minnesota.

But the terrorists are not working alone. Helping them with their plans is a man called John. His entire family was killed by radiation poisoning when he was younger, and the delayed effects have now given him terminal cancer. But he’s determined to seek revenge for his family before he dies. And since he’s dying anyway, what does he have to lose? He’s not a dumb guy, and comes in very useful to Farris, the main proponent of the local Al Qaeda terrorist cell. But can he outsmart Beck to go ahead with his dastardly plans?

Despite my initial misgivings about the storyline, I found myself glued to this book from start to finish. It was another of the 9 killer thrillers set which I bought from Amazon for 74p, which has proved to be extremely good value so far!

4/5

Review: Melissa Foster – Traces of Kara

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Melissa Foster - Traces of KaraFor about three quarters of this book, I really wasn’t feeling it at all. I hate giving up on books before the end because even if a book is terrible, I need to know how it all ends. Plus, sometimes a book can start off pretty shaky and turn into something amazing. And whereas I wouldn’t say this turned into something amazing, it did grow on me slightly by the end.

I think the main reason I didn’t like it was because it was creepy. It’s not a reflection on the quality of the book or the author’s ability, it’s just that the subject creeped me about a bit too much to enjoy it. It revolves around a deranged man called Roland, determined to be reunited with the twin sister he was separated from as a child. The twin sister who no longer knows he exists, and who is just trying to save up as much money as she can to move out of her small town away from her overbearing mother. There are no limits to the lengths that Roland will go to in order to be with his sister, and he has decided that the best way to be with her forever is for them to both die together on their birthday.

As more and more people get dragged into the story, Roland starts to become desperate, and you can probably tell what happens then. It was at around this point that I started to enjoy the book a bit more. Partly because we focus less on Roland’s mentally deranged mind and more on the rescue attempts and the other characters, and partly because the pace of the book seemed to pick up a bit too.

So as I said earlier, it’s not a reflection on the book or the author, but I think I can only give this book a 2/5, just because the subject matter wasn’t my cup of tea.

2/5

Review: Michael Wallace – The Devil’s Deep

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Michael Wallace - The Devil's DeepThis was book 3 in my ‘9 killer thrillers’ set from Amazon, and it was just as enjoyable as the rest, although unlike anything I’ve read before.

The plot was very different to the others in the set, not really having anything to do with the police, and having a very strange set of crimes taking place, none of which seem to fit together until very late in the book. It seemed for a long time that there were two different stories running in parallel, but they seamlessly flowed into one towards the end and everything made perfect sense.

So much happened in the book that I don’t really know how to go about even starting to write about the plot, so I’m not going to try. I think if I did, I’d end up revealing more than I intended to and spoiling the book for any of you that decide you want to read it.

My one little niggle with the book was the end. So much had happened that it was obvious that the author needed to tie up all the loose ends. But the epilogue felt a bit too ‘perfect’, like it was necessary for everyone in the book to live happily ever after. And while I can agree that it’s probably what most people wanted from the book, it just felt like everything was wrapped up in a nice bow, when things would most likely not be quite so perfect in reality.

I was very impressed with the author, and when I’ve caught up on some of my to-read list, I’ll probably have a look at his other books.

4/5

Review: M. J. Rose – The Halo Effect

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The Halo Effect - M J RoseMorgan Snow is a sex therapist. Cleo is a prostitute, catering for high end clients with a lot of money. Cleo has been seeing Morgan for some time, to try and discuss the problems with the relationship with her fiance, and Morgan has broken the first rule of being a therapist: don’t get personally involved with your clients.

When Cleo gives Morgan a copy of her tell-all book manuscript, but then doesn’t turn up for her appointment, or her next appointment, Morgan can’t help but call the emergency contact number in Cleo’s file to make sure she is alright. But Gil (her business partner and supposed boyfriend) doesn’t know where she is. And when Morgan finds out that Cleo has another boyfriend, Elias, the one that she talks about in therapy, and that he has reported her missing to the police, Elias begs Morgan to help him find Cleo, since the police don’t seem to care, and even seemed to suggest that he may be suspect number one. Elias is distraught, and Morgan agrees to help.

But Morgan also has other things to worry about. A 12 year old daughter determined to go against her mother and pursue a career on Broadway. And Morgan has underlying issues brought about in part by her divorce and in part from all the things she hears in her day job; it has left her unable to switch off at night when she gets home, and unable to move on with another relationship.

And there’s a reason that the police aren’t pulling out all the stops trying to find Cleo. Firstly, she could just as well have decided that she needed a break and taken herself on holiday. But most importantly, the police are tied up trying to find a sadistic serial killer who is killing prostitutes around the city, leaving them in hotels rooms dressed in a nun’s habit with various terrible things happened to them. In fact, that’s how the book opened, with the first victim being discovered by a poor hotel maid.

Morgan desperately needs to find out if Cleo’s disappearance and the brutal murders are connected, before Cleo becomes the next victim. With the police not really investigating the disappearance, Morgan decides to take matters into her own hands and see if she can figure out if one of the men that Cleo talks about in her book could be involved. Which leads her to Gil’s bar, talking to Cleo’s usual clients and trying to get any information that she can.

But is she looking in the right place? Could the answer be right under her nose? Morgan is sure that there’s something that she’s missing, she just needs to fit the pieces together. But can she do it in time?

I had mixed feelings on and off throughout this book. At times, I felt swept away by the intrigue and mystery, and just as desperate as Morgan to find out the truth. But at other times, I thought the graphic descriptions were just too much for me and I couldn’t enjoy what I was reading. But as soon as I got past that part, I was back and sucked in again, turning page after page.

The book was part of a set of 9 thrillers that I bought on Amazon for 74p, so I didn’t expect the world from the book. I didn’t get the world, but I did find the book enjoyable. I just hope that the next in the set of 9 isn’t quite as graphic as this one!

3/5

Review: Samantha Hayes – Until You’re Mine

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20140304-212240.jpgHeavily pregnant and with twin four year old boys to look after, the last thing Claudia needs is a navy husband about to be deployed on a covert mission. So the couple decide to hire a nanny, in the form of Zoe. She impresses them at her interview and she seems to be great with the boys, but Claudia keeps noticing weird little things and is suspicious about Zoe’s real purpose for being in the house.

And so the book begins from there, we switch back and forth between the narrative of three characters; Claudia, Zoe and a police detective called Lorraine who is currently heading up an investigation into the murders of pregnant women. Weirdly, (but not so weirdly later), when we switch between the characters, there’s never any announcement of which character we are on now, we just figure it out from what is happening. At first, I couldn’t see the purpose of Lorraine, but this was all revealed pretty quickly, bringing a chilling, creeping kind of horror to what I was reading.

You would probably come to the same conclusion as me, that because we are following the investigation of these pregnant women who have been murdered, and because we are also following the slightly creepy arrival of the new nanny into a house with a heavily pregnant woman, that the two are going to link together nicely and you know exactly what is going to happen. But whatever you think, you will be wrong. I’ve read many books with a plot twist, but none as shocking as this one.

The book itself was absolutely thrilling, I was gripped throughout. And even though I was convinced I knew what was going to happen, I had to keep turning the pages to find out. And then BAM, plot twist comes along and everything I thought I knew was turned completely on it’s head. But then I thought back on everything I’d read and it made perfect sense. Bravo to the author, I couldn’t have thought of a more thrilling end to a superb book!

5/5

Review: Sophie Hannah – Little Face

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Sophie Hannah - Little FaceThe description on the back of this book was pretty intriguing:

Her husband David was supposed to be looking after their two week old daughter. But when Alice Fancourt walks into the nursery, her terrifying ordeal begins, for Alice insists the baby in the cot is a stranger she’s never seen before. With an increasingly hostile and menacing David swearing she must either be mad or lying, how can Alice make the police believe her before it’s too late?

Thrillers like this are not usually my cup of tea, but this was delightfully sinister and outstandingly gripping. When the book starts, Alice gets under your skin and you are unwaveringly convinced that what she says is true, and that David must be guilty of swapping their baby.

But why would he do this, when their life seemed so perfect before the book started? And what of David’s mother, Alice’s step mother? She’s extremely controlling in every aspect of their lives, she even convinced David to move into her house with his new wife, so she could ‘help out’. Throughout the book, my opinion shifted from David to Vivienne as the guilty party. The things she did, like taking Alice’s handbag and mobile phone to stop her from leaving the house made her seem guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But David is not exactly behaving rationally to say his new wife is so completely convinced that the baby is not hers. Even if she was wrong, he’s not at all sympathetic. Assuming Alice was wrong, she’d clearly have had to have some sort of mental breakdown, but David doesn’t care. He goes so far as to try and make Alice seem even more insane, locking away her clothes and making her eat her food off the floor. By this point in the book, I was convinced that either David or Vivienne were behind this entire scheme.

Running parallel to Alice’s story is the perspective of the detective tasked with investigating the baby-switch, and Alice’s subsequent disappearance a week later with the other baby. He’s convinced that she must have been kidnapped, but he also thinks that there’s more to the story. In the week that he was investigating the baby-switch before the disappearance, he formed an attachment to Alice and he is determined to find out what has happened to her, which also brings him to re-investigate the murder of David’s first wife, for which a man has already been found guilty and sent to prison.

The end of the book reaches a very surprising conclusion, one that I won’t write about here because if I did, there’d be no point you reading the book (which I highly suggest that you do). I did not expect the book to end the way it did, but it all made perfect sense. I couldn’t imagine a better way for it to end.

Definite 5 star book, and I will be looking up more of Sophie Hannah’s books when I lift my self-imposed book buying ban.

 

5/5

Review: S.J. Watson – Before I Go To Sleep

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sj-watson-before-i-go-to-sleepWell this book was described as ‘The best debut thriller for years’ and it totally lived up to that description, building up and up until a gripping finale that had me completely oblivious to everything happening around me.

In the first chapter, you wake up with Christine in an unfamiliar house, and are taken through her whole range of emotions as her husband Ben explains to her who she is and what has happened to cause her to lose all her memories. After he has gone to work, she receives a phone call from a doctor who claims to have been working with her without Ben’s knowledge. She doesn’t believe him at first, but she looks in her diary and can see their appointments. He then tells her about a journal she has been writing to remind herself of her life and the things she has been remembering, she’s kept it hidden in a shoebox in her wardrobe so Ben can’t see it. She opens up the diary and on the front page in capital letters are three words:

“DON’T TRUST BEN”

She sits down to read her journal and we are then reading it along with her. We are taken through every discovery she makes about her life, every memory that comes back to her, and the confusion that she has every time she wakes up. But she is making progress and starting to recall things from her past, flashbacks and little snippets of conversations. The story keeps you gripped as you wonder who to trust, just the same as Christine is trying to make the same decision. My mind was flickering back and forth and back and forth between Ben and Dr Nash, and as we got further through the journal every revelation changed my mind again.

That is until the end of the book when we switch back to the present day. Christine has read to the end of her diary, but notices that there is a week missing where she has no idea what has happened. This all leads to a fast paced and nail biting finale with the guy that she has realised she can’t trust. As I mentioned before, I couldn’t put the book down for the last 60 pages, and I was so involved in the story that I became completely unaware of everything around me. The way that the book is written means you feel like you are Christine, you’ve discovered every other part of herself at the same time as she has, so you feel just as terrified as she does.

I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but it was just as thrilling as the reviews led me to believe. I would highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of suspense, but don’t try and guess what will happen because it won’t be what you expected…

5-5

Now Reading: S.J. Watson – Before I Go To Sleep

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sj-watson-before-i-go-to-sleepThis book seems quite intriguing – I was stood in front of my bookshelf pulling random books off the shelf to decide which one to read next and this one jumped right out at me. From the back of the book:

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight.

Sounds fairly average so far right? Then the last two sentences:

And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.

Sounds thrilling – I can’t wait!