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BOOK REVIEW – The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the WindowChild Psychologist, Dr Anna Fox hasn’t left her apartment in 10 months. She manages surprisingly well without setting foot into the outside world. She stays connected through her online chat groups, where she’s able to help other ‘Agoraphobes’. She can order all her groceries online and they get delivered. She can also order all her cases of wine, and all her prescription medication and it conveniently arrives on her doorstep. She can communicate with her therapist via Skype or cellphone, and similarly, her absent husband and daughter are just on the other end of the line, aren’t they? So really, why on earth would she ever need to leave her safe cocoon? Even the simple act of opening the front door fills her with dread. And if an emergency does arise, her downstairs tenant Daniel is there to help out.

So Anna passes her time learning French online, watching old movies (very cleverly woven into the narrative), popping pills, drinking wine while she watches all the goings on in her neighbourhood (quite closely) through her camera and telescope and has a pretty good idea of who’s doing what, and with whom! That’s how she first sees the Russells, who move in across the way from her. Their son comes over with a gift and they immediately get along. Soon after, his mom shows up and Anna is surprised at how much she enjoys her company – it’s been a while since she’s allowed herself to befriend newcomers. But then, not long after that, his father pays her a visit and the feeling she gets is one of distinct discomfort. Things escalate fast from there and shortly after that, while watching from her window, Anna witnesses a horrific incident … or does she?

This is a disturbing, dark look at how one can quickly lose clarity when you’re being manipulated without even realising it’s happening. I was left wondering: “Could it happen to anyone? Could it happen to me?” It’s psychological noir at its best. The description of what it feels like to be stuck in the terrifying grip of agoraphobia is so graphic that it might make you fear walking out of your front door yourself! On the other hand, it also allows one a look at how possible it actually is to live without having to leave the confines of one’s home.  I couldn’t help but be fascinated by this!

It took me a couple of chapters to get into this book, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. Anna intrigued me. While it’s obvious that she’s a protagonist who would invite sympathy, or at least empathy from readers, I never found myself feeling sorry for her. At times I felt slightly angry with her, and I’m not sure she’s particularly likeable, but she is engaging and Finn has crafted Anna’s story (because this is very much Anna’s story, despite the other characters and their necessary roles) in such a way that I was reading into the early hours of the morning.

Highly recommended for those who love good, twisty psychological suspense!


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BOOK REVIEW – The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

The Art of HidingIt was extremely fitting that I read The Art of Hiding while on a flight to join a women’s tour-group for a week that was to be a life-changing experience. It was trip that was all about sisterhood, finding strength from the power within us and discovering that we are each unique, beautiful souls with our own talents to nurture and share. And that’s exactly what this book is about!!
Nina seems to be leading a charmed life with her successful husband Finn – the gorgeous house, 2 sons at a top private school, whirlwind social life, complete with enviable holiday destinations. Until Finn dies suddenly and it seems that it was all a facade.
Reality comes calling in the cruelest possible way as Nina and her sons’ comfortable world is ripped out from under them. It would be easier to curl up under the blankets and never have to face the world again, but that’s not a possibility, and Nina’s about to discover that resilience appears when you least expect it, and your champions present themselves as the most unlikely candidates.
This is a wonderful story (and don’t kid yourself, stuff like this happens more often than you think) of inner strength and the fabulous support systems that women create for themselves when push comes to shove.
Amanda Prowse has the incredible ability to create characters so real that you want to pluck them from the pages and invite them into your kitchen for a cup of coffee and a heart-to-heart chat. They’re warm, loveable, remarkable people that you want to keep in your life, and you are left feeling quite bereft when you reach the final pages of her books.
The Art of Hiding is no different, and it gets 5 stars from me!
Thank you so much to Amanda and Simeon for sending me an ARC of this book, and for including me in your trusted circle of early recipients. It is such an honour!

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BOOK REVIEW – The Hoarder’s Widow by Allie Cresswell

The Hoarder's WidowThis is the poignant story of Maisie who is suddenly left widowed after the death of her husband Clifford, in what can only be described as a freak accident.

Throughout their marriage Maisie and her children have been surrounded by Clifford’s hoarding obsession, and I must admit I started to see this as a type of abuse. In fact, right from the start where we first meet the young couple, and he’s bought this run-down, out-of-the-way house without even telling her or getting her opinion, I didn’t like him!

Cresswell writes beautifully though, and has a way of engaging her reader and almost ‘talking you round’ your dislike of a character. Through her eventual revelations as to why Clifford was the way he was, I grudgingly admitted a certain compassion towards him. I would have thought that upon his death, one of the first things Maisie would have done would have been to open those boxes that were strictly off limits for her entire marriage. I still think that the fact that it took her so long to do so was borne out of a certain measure of fear.

I loved Maisie’s practical pragmatism. Although she’s initially overwhelmed by the curveball that life has thrown at her, realising that she literally has a mammoth task to confront, she soon settles to breaking it down into small, bite-size chunks, clearing out manageable sections of the house at a time. She also teaches herself to navigate the outside world on her own, one step at a time, something that she’s not used to, as Clifford wasn’t partial to socialising (again, I interpreted this as a type of abuse and manipulation, although I may be being a bit extreme due to my initial dislike of his character).

One of my biggest shocks, quite early on, was to discover that Maisie was not the elderly widow that I had imagined her to be! I was picturing her as this sweet, rather feeble lady, possibly in her late sixties or seventies and she’s only 48 – that’s a year younger than me!!

This is a charming book that takes a sensitive look into the relationships that exist in a marriage, between both husband and wife and parents and children; between families, extended families and their social interactions. It examines what we’re willing to tolerate for our partners and what we’re able to overlook for the sake of keeping the peace in our homes.

Many thanks to the author and TBC Reviewer Request Group (on Facebook) for my copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.

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BOOK REVIEW – Duplicity by Sibel Hodge

duplicityOh my very goodness!!! I don’t remember the last time I flew through a book like this! This one ticks all the boxes for a psychological thriller that you just can’t put down. Fast-paced, tons of ‘OMG’ moments, and with enough twists and turns to ensure you’ll need a good physiotherapist to see you right when you’re done!

Max and Alissa Burbeck are the perfect couple: wealthy and gorgeous, they’re the newly-weds who have the world at their feet … until one night an intruder murders Max, inexplicably leaving Alissa to escape unscathed. Who would have wanted him dead? And why didn’t they kill her too?

These are questions that are left for DS Warren Carter (although I must say it took a few chapters for his first name to be mentioned and I wasn’t sure if he was male or female!) to find answers to. Carter has his own demons to deal with – he’s still trying to overcome the loss of his wife to cancer roughly a year ago, and he’s bitter about being passed over for promotion due to a previous case where palms were greased, stopping the true criminals from being brought to book.

And along the way he needs to deal with a preening superior, an obsessive ex-boyfriend (not his own, Alissa’s!), a depressed colleague, and a distraught widow and a band of friends determined to protect her. Throw in an ecological cover-up, hidden jealousy and a mysterious childhood of horrific abuse, which could only lead to the victim becoming a sociopath of epic proportions … but who could it be?

Hodge keeps the action going at a cracking pace. You might have to suspend belief a teensy bit, but hey, it’s fiction, so just go with it! She doesn’t leave anything to chance, and ties it all up very neatly with no loose ends at all. Her characters are well-rounded and she cleverly shows you exactly what she wants you to see of each of their personalities – you’ll only catch on to that afterwards though!

If you’re looking for something that you just can’t put down, then this one’s for you! 5 big shiny stars from me!

Many thanks to THE Book Club (reviewers group) and the author for my copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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I was tagged by the wonderful Pamela Power (thanks for the homework Pamela!). You can see her book confessions on her Vlog – Between the Sheets with Pamela, here:

1. Have you ever damaged a book?

Not that I can recall. I would feel absolutely awful if I did! Books are precious – no really! And in South Africa especially, where literacy is something we take for granted. Even more so if we buy books by international authors – have you seen the exchange rate!!! Those books should be wrapped in bubble wrap, we pay so much for them. They’re worth every cent though.

  1. Have you ever damaged a borrowed book?

No!! We used to have such issues with this at one of the book clubs I used to be a member of. I’m quite horrified at how casual people are with items that don’t belong to them. Other members had absolutely no qualms about returning books with coffee mug stains all over them, and various other stains that I wouldn’t want to get into discussions about!

  1. How long does it take you to read a book?

It all depends. I do have quite a fondness for psychological thrillers and those that are well written can grip you from the first paragraph. Books like that can take just hours to complete! Others can take a day or two. And some can take a bit longer, depending on how much life gets in the way.

  1. Books you haven’t finished?

Too many to mention or name. Life’s too short to waste on books that aren’t the right fit for you. That doesn’t mean they’re not good books, or that they’re badly written; just that they’re not suited to you. Not every reader is a good match to every book, and I’ve learnt that’s okay.

  1. Hyped/Popular books you didn’t like?

The 50 Shades books. I plodded through the first one feeling like I was being forced to read a setwork. I finished it, started the second one, read a couple of chapters and then told myself I didn’t need to do this

  1. Is there a book you wouldn’t tell anyone you were reading?

I can’t actually think of one! And if there was one, I’d still tell people, just to see their reactio

  1. How many books do you own?

A LOT!! And does my Kindle also count?! Oh my goodness – I have a very, very long TBR list!!


Shopping for a new bookshelf!

  1. Are you a fast/slow reader?

I’m a fast reader, and I generally hate ‘skimming’ over pages. I like to read every single word!

  1. Do you like to buddy read?

Not really, although I do love discussing books with other people, especially books that we’ve both enjoyed. There’s nothing worse than absolutely loving a book, and discovering that the other person thought it was just ‘meh

  1. Do you read better in your head/out loud?

Definitely in my head! Although when I was much younger, and planning to be a great actress, I did love acting out and performing all the ‘roles’!  *blushes*

  1. If you were only allowed to own one book, what would it be and why?

That’s like asking me which one is my favourite child!!! I think, possibly The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin. It has a little bit of everything in it – empathy, compassion, such incredible humour and depth … and it’s Irish! I love all things Irish.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes

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BOOK REVIEW – The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

the-devils-workSophie Greenwood has decided that the time is right to return to work after taking time off to be a full-time mom to 4-year old Daisy. She’s found her dream job at Jackdaw Publishing (I even found the name a bit sinister), but on day one, she has an unnerving experience. If she thinks that it’s just an isolated incident, she’s sorely mistaken, and so begins a well-constructed meandering tale in which Sophie (and the reader) is led further and further into a frightening and confusing maze of deceit that trails back further than she could have imagined.

Set in the offices of a publishing company (which in itself will intrigue any avid reader), the insular workplace environment will be familiar to anyone who’s ever worked closely with a team of colleagues. The back-biting, the wrong-footing, the gossiping … it’s all there, magnified to the maximum levels! And when you’re the ‘new girl’ you feel like everyone’s out to get you, except this time, maybe someone really is!

As the book alternates between Sophie’s, increasingly fragmenting current life, and her very obviously complex past, we realise that something is most definitely off-balance in Sophie’s world. How is she going to reconcile with her past so that she has any chance of having any type of future, let alone a happy one?

I’m sure Mark Edwards must have whiplash from the razor-sharp twists and turns he incorporates into every single one of his acclaimed psychological thrillers. This one certainly doesn’t miss the mark. There’s a reason why he has a loyal following, which I’m sure is about to increase in numbers with this new addition.

If you’re a lover of plot-twists a-plenty, surprises galore, and a good game of guessing whodunit then you’ve come to the right place. This book delivers all of these, and then some! I can highly recommend it, but maybe not at night, or when you’re home alone!

Many thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for my advance copy.

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BOOK REVIEW – See How They Run by Tom Bale

See How They RunThanks so much to NetGalley and Bookouture for my copy of this book, received in return for an honest review.

Right from the very first line, Tom Bale wastes absolutely no time in alerting his readers to the fact that this is going to be an edge-of-your seat roller-coaster ride of a book!

Harry and Alice are exhausted new parents, sleeping fitfully at the best of times with 8-week old Evie in their room, when Harry suddenly realises that a noise has woken him; something other than the baby.  He’s instantly on high alert, but it’s too late – there are masked men right inside his bedoom! And so begins a nightmare from which they keep wishing they’d wake up. This is not a random burglary, and this is no mistake.

In the aftermath of this devastating home invasion, and the subsequent events. both Harry and Alice are understandably quite shattered and at odds with how to handle what’s happened. At first they naively think that if they carry on with their ordinary lives, it will all just go away. They very quickly comprehend that this is quite impossible, as they immediately find themselves embroiled in an intricate web of deception and crime, none of their own making, but out of which they now need to extricate themselves.

But how exactly do you do this, when you’re dealing with people who have chosen lives of criminality and transgression, as opposed to yourselves, who lead very conventional, everyday lives?

As we join Harry and Alice in their race against the clock to win back everything they hold dear we meet a band of rather unsavoury characters. There’s Renshaw (or is he Grainger?), where all their problems began – without them even knowing; Ruth, who I alternated between liking and wanting to bash over the head with a brick; Nerys and her son Michael – well you’ll have to meet them to understand them, I wouldn’t even want to begin to explain; and then there’s the nasty little gang behind a rather long-running crime-syndicate: Nathan Laird, Mark and Sian Vickery and their various henchmen.

Tom Bales has skilfully create a tightly bound, fast-paced thriller that ensures you won’t know where the next twist is coming from – and there are plenty of twists. His characters are well rounded and believable. He’s created a ‘what-if’ situation where a very ordinary couple are placed into a life-threatening situation and have to do their best to overcome it, and he succeeds in sustaining the credibility of both his plot and characters throughout.

4.5 stars from me.

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BOOK REVIEW – Somewhere Inside of Happy by Anna McPartlin

Somewhere inside of happyThank you to NetGalley and Random House UK for my advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Anna McPartlin has a unique way of taking an absolutely devastating topic, and writing about it with such unique warmth and vitality that her readers just cannot help smiling through the bittersweet tears that are undoubtedly pouring down their cheeks  as she gently coaxes them through the heartfelt pages of her stories.

Maisie Bean Brennan is about to speak in front of an audience on the twentieth anniversary of the death of her beautiful son Jeremy … and so opens a story so unexpected that it will lead you to a place you never expected to go. I will admit that when I saw that this book was about someone who’d lost a child I was, at first, reluctant to read it. But then I remembered that I had also been reluctant to read about Rabbit Hayes, a young mother dying of cancer, who became one of my all-time favourite characters!

Despite working two jobs, Maisie has created a warm, loving home for her children Jeremy and Valerie, despite having been abused by their now absent father, Danny. And now she also looks after her mother Bridie who suffers from Dementia. It’s not easy, money’s tight, times are tough, but there’s an abundance of love and warmth to be found in their home and they all take care of one another. Jeremy especially goes out of his way to make up for the fact that there’s no adult male role model around and is kind and caring, while trying to deal with a best friend from a family even more dysfunctional than his own.

But then Maisie’s tentative security crumbles when Jeremy goes missing. Her precious boy … gone! She knows he’d never leave his family – the mother he loves, the grandmother he has such a special bond with, and the little sister he’s so fond of. But where is he?

Immerse yourself in another of Anna McPartlin’s remarkable Irish extended families. Where they take care of their own, against all odds and where strength and support come from the most unlikely places when they’re needed most.

5 stars from me.

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BOOK REVIEW – In Too Deep by Samantha Hayes

In Too DeepMany thanks to THE Book Club (specifically Tracy Fenton) and NetGalley for my advance copy in return for an honest review.

Forget everything you’re expecting when you pick up this book – it’s just completely unexpected from every aspect! It’s about Gina’s lovely husband Rick, who goes out one afternoon to get a newspaper and never comes back. After the death of their young son Jacob, Gina can’t believe her husband would deliberately disappear. After four months with no sign of him, however, the police have let the case go cold despite Gina’s desperation.

Then she receives a call from Susan, owner of a beautiful country hotel, saying that Rick had booked and paid for an anniversary surprise for them at the hotel. She decides that she’ll take their teenage daughter Hannah, home from university, with her as the break might be just what they need. But Hannah has brought home her own demons and is struggling to maintain an outward show of normality as she realises that her secrets could destroy both her and her mother.

Told from the alternate perspectives of Gina and Hannah, and moving seamlessly between the present and the recent past, this is an extremely fast-paced, very cleverly constructed, multi-faceted story. Is it about bad things happening to good people? Is it about good people making bad choices? I’ll leave that up to you to decide … I think that might be what the author intended. It’s psychological suspense at its best, as you teeter on a knife’s edge, not knowing who to trust.

Try and read this slowly so that you take it all in. You probably won’t be able to. Just remember, as you’re racing through the pages, to breathe!

4.5 stars from me.

[This book is due for publication on 5 May 2016.]

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BOOK REVIEW – The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell

The Silent TwinMany thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for an advance copy of this book (due for release on 14 April 2016) in exchange for my honest review.

This is an enjoyable read – well as enjoyable as a book about a missing child can be, so no, that’s not the right word really. What I mean is that it captures you and holds you so that you want to know what happens, but I did find that I was racing to get to the end, more to just find out how it would all turn out, rather than because it was so well written that I was gripped by the writing. Also – I had guessed who the perpetrator was, and wanted to see if I was right (yay! I was!) The supernatural aspect wasn’t as apparent as I would have liked – it was more alluded to than blatantly obvious. I felt that it could have been used with a lot more strength, as this is where Caroline Mitchell really excels, and I felt that she held back here. But where she held back with the supernatural, she did come to the fore with the psychological element and she used this to her advantage quite brilliantly.

Feisty 9-year-old Abigail, has disappeared. Her more subdued twin sister Olivia hasn’t spoken since the incident, and with time running out, DC Jennifer Knight needs to wade her way through the heavy atmosphere at the family farm. While she tries to decipher the mixed messages she gets from the twins’ mother Joanna’s odd behaviour, and their distraught cop father, Nick, she also needs to try and block the dark energy that seems to pervade the house and anyone who enters it.

I struggled to get to grips with what DC Knight’s superior’s wanted from her. They’d sent her to be the family liaison officer on this case, which required her spending as much time as possible with the family, but then got annoyed with her for missing briefings. I’m not a police procedure expert, but I don’t know how they expected her to be in 2 places at once and I found that quite frustrating. [This is my own personal issue though – definitely not an issue with the writing or the story.]

But, having said that, the tension builds well and maintains a steady pace throughout the book, making it a breath-taking thriller. Interspersed with extracts from a diary, telling a heartbreaking story of abuse, bullying and self-harm, we are  led through the heart-wrenching clock-watching tension as Abigail is missing for six hours, seven hours, one day, three days, five days … and Caroline Mitchell ensures we’re there for every suspense-filled second!



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