#BookReview – The Woman In The Window by A.J Finn (@Fictionpubteam)

the woman in the windowWhat did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself? 

Published 25th January 2018 by HarperCollins (UK)  

The Woman In The Window was put firmly my on my most anticipated reads list of 2018 list months ago, drawn in by both the synopsis and that atmospheric cover. And boy, when I picked it up last weekend I was not disappointed – right from the start I was gripped by this intensely addictive read, struggling to put it down and staying up way later than I should to finish it.

Agoraphobia sufferer Anna Fox hasn’t been out of her house for almost a year. Alone and reclusive, she fills her days with online activities, watching old thrillers and spying on her neighbours with only occasional and brief conversations with her husband and daughter who are no longer around.  But when new neighbours, the Russell’s, move into the house across from Anna, things begin to change. After Ethan and Jane Russell both call on Anna, she becomes convinced there’s something dark and dangerous going on within the family, lapping up hints of a controlling husband and domineering father. Then when she see’s something shocking through her window, she tries to help. But with no evidence of a crime, Anna has a fight on her hands to make herself believed, eventually even to convince her own fragile mind that she knows what she saw.

Immediately, Anna is a fascinating character – a former child psychologist now struggling with her own mental health, she is shrouded in mystery and doubt. What happened to make her this way? Why aren’t her husband and Daughter around anymore? How reliable is she? Or is everything just a figment of her disturbed imagination? I thought the author conveyed Anna’s fragility very, very well meaning I could feel her panic and sense the suffocating loneliness and despair she felt. I was torn between doubt at Anna’s reliability about what she saw – she drinks too much and double doses on the many pills she takes to control her crippling anxiety, and frustration and pity that no-one believed her and dismissed her as crazy.

The pacing of the book is perfect, with a tense and atmospheric prose drip feeding information about Anna’s past and creating an increasingly desperate need in me to know the truth. Even when I realised before one of the reveals what was going on, it didn’t matter, it still sent chills down my spine and had me turning pages at lightening speed.  And with plenty of other twists and turns, it managed to keep me guessing right until the end, continuing to surprise and shock me along the way.

The Woman In The Window is exactly the type of psychological thriller I love to read – twisty, intense, shocking, conflicting and utterly gripping, leaving me unable to look away.  A fantastic debut from A.J Finn – I’ll be sure to watch out for more from this author in the future – and a great start to this years thrillers. I’ve got a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more about this book.

( I read an advance proof courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program)

 

#BookReview – Final Girls by Riley Sager

final girlsTen years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
 
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past. 
 
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished. 

Published July 2017 (HB), 25th January (PB) by Ebury (UK)  

Well, as far as psychological thrillers go, this one certainly has an original plot! We’ve all seen those teen horror movies, where from a group of friends, only one survives a horrific massacre. Riley Sager’s Final Girls takes this concept and adds a new twist, by revisiting Quincy, survivor of an horrific holiday cottage massacre years after her ordeal. She’s doing her best to put the past behind her – she’s avoided the media, has a successful career and a fantastic fiance. To all intents and purposes, she got it together and isn’t letting the past hold her back. But inside, she’s still struggling to come to terms with that awful night, and the guilt of being one of three “Final Girls” – a small group sharing a similar traumatic experience. But when fellow final girl, Lisa, is found dead in an apparent suicide and Sam, mysterious and enigmatic third sole survivor turns up apparently seeking support from Quincy, it would seem her ordeal isn’t quite over just yet.

I loved the concept of this book, and thought it started really well. Quincy is clearly just about holding it together and with most of that terrible night a blank, I was intrigued to know what had happened. When Lisa is killed and Sam shows up, the tension builds and it’s clear Sam isn’t exactly who she seems. There’s a creepy, unsettling feeling about her, and my hackles where raised where she was concerned right from the start.

I did feel the book dipped in pace and lost some tension a little after the first fifty pages, although the interspersing of flashbacks to Pine Cottage kept me interested enough to carry on and find out just what had happened all those years ago and how it was connected to the death of one of the other Final Girls. Then around the half way mark, boy did it pick up again! As I raced towards the dramatic climax, I was surprised by some twists I hadn’t seen coming, and even though I knew something was amiss, I hadn’t expected it to turn out as unexpectedly as it did.

I mostly thought the character of Quincy was very well written, and the turmoil, guilt and need to not be a victim came across convincingly. However, I didn’t connect with her as much as I felt I should have, possibly because the author lead the reader to question Quincy’s reliability as a character too, which unfortunately left me feeling slightly detached.

Overall, I thought this was a good read. A unique and fascinating plot, some unexpected twists and turns and enough tension and intrigue to keep me reading. Although I found the pace a little slow going at times, I was glad I kept reading and felt the second half of the book redeemed it, with me reading it in one breathless chunk. If you’re looking for a new twist on your psychological thrillers with a hint of horror, then this may be the book for you.

(I read an advance ecopy courtesy of the publishers and Netgalley)

#BookReview – A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis (@MulhollandUK) #MapOfTheDark

A girl, missinga map of the dark
A woman, searching
A killer, planning…

A thrilling new FBI series for fans of Tess Gerritsen and Karin Slaughter.

FBI Agent Elsa Myers finds missing people.
She knows how it feels to be lost…

Though her father lies dying in a hospital north of New York City, Elsa cannot refuse a call for help. A teenage girl has gone missing from Forest Hills, Queens, and during the critical first hours of the case, a series of false leads hides the fact that she did not go willingly.

With each passing hour, as the hunt for Ruby deepens into a search for a man who may have been killing for years, the case starts to get underneath Elsa’s skin. Everything she has buried – her fraught relationship with her sister and niece, her self-destructive past, her mother’s death – threatens to resurface, with devastating consequences.

In order to save the missing girl, she may have to lose herself…and return to the darkness she’s been hiding from for years.  

Published by Hodder & Stoughton (UK) January 11th 2017) 

I’m not a huge reader of crime/detective books – it’s not that I dislike them (from the ones I’ve read I’d say I really enjoyed them) – but possibly the fact that there’s just so many of them, it’s difficult to know where to start. But when A Map Of The Dark dropped through my letter box unexpectedly a few weeks a go, I put it to the top of my New Year TBR pile, keen to give it a go.

The book follows FBI agent Elsa Myers, a revered expert in missing children cases as she is torn between time with her dying father and a new case she has been specifically requested for. It’s clear very early on though that Elsa’s own background is as dark as that of the victims she fights so passionately to save, and through a series of flashback chapters, the reader comes to understand what drives Elsa, and what holds her back.

First of all, A Map of the Dark is very easy to get involved in right from the beginning. With an intriguing main character and a race against time to solve the mystery of  a missing girl I was hooked very early on and read this is huge, addictive chunks.

The mystery of Ruby’s disappearance is gripping as it is and I was desperate to know what had happened to the seemingly innocent, studious “girl next door”. As secrets are revealed, it appears that Ruby’s life was more complex than originally thought – but will knowing this lead Elsa to her before it’s too late? It was Elsa’s story however that really gripped my attention, providing almost a mystery within a mystery. There’s a darkness and deep vulnerability that surrounds this seemingly tough lady, and as her own shocking past is revealed, I felt genuine concern and empathy for her.

A Map of the Dark was certainly a gripping read, however as the book reached its climax I felt it was a little rushed. With some important and integral details of the  case being skimmed over, it lacked some impact. While I appreciated the characterisation of Elsa and the depth given to her own backstory, I wonder if this was at a cost to the investigation into the missing girls. This doesn’t stop the book been a thoroughly good read though –  dark, edgy and gripping it was a fantastic start to my New Year reading.

I read an advance review copy courtesy of the publisher.

 

 

 

New Year #BookTag – Hello 2018!

2018

I saw this tag over at both Katherine @ BibliomaniacUK  and CleopatraLovesBooks and thought it was a great 1st January post to share my reading hopes and goals this year. I did plan to post it earlier, but taxi-ing kids to and from their social activities and dinner and a couple of drinks with the parents took longer than I thought! So, late but here it is…

How many books are you planning to read in 2018? 

I’ve joined the Goodreads Reading Challenge again. Last year I started at 50, upped it to 100 after getting to target in early June and then ended the year on a disappointing 88! I was 10 books ahead in September, but some crappy stuff meant reading went out the window.

So of course, this year I’ve set my challenge at 104 – I WILL do it! You can follow my progress here if you fancy.

Name five books you didn’t get to read this year but want to make a priority in 2018? 

Oh god! So many! But the top five I’m definitely planning on catching up with soon are:  

The Summer Of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

Final Girls by Riley Sager 

Together by Julie Cohen 

The Break by Marian Keyes 

The Trophy Child by Paula Daly 

Name a genre you want to read more of? 

I try and read a varied selection of books already, but I’d like to read more historical – a genre that I love but haven’t read so much recently. I’ve also decided to overcome my fear of becoming committed to series. I’ve avoided them for years, probably due to sickening myself with never ending YA vampire books (yes House of Night and Morganville, I’m looking at you!) I’ve bought the first books in Angela Marsons’ DI Kim Stone series and Robert Bryndza Detective Erika Foster series as bloggers really rate both.

Three non book related goals for 2018? 

Be more healthy, Be more positive, Be more brave

What’s a book you’ve had forever that you still need to read? 

Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours. I could not wait for this to be published in 2010 and pre-ordered it way in advance … then never read it! My good pal Daisychain Books had the same issue…wonder of you ever got around to it!?! (hangs head in shame)

the distant hours

One word that you’re hoping 2018 will be? 

Calm

Tag a friend….. 

Anyone fancy it?