Book Review: The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

The perseverance paid off on this one… three attempts though.

The plot

Anna hasn’t been outside her flat for the last 10 months; she’s too terrified to. She has neglected life, she’s been forgotten by society, and her window is the only view of the world.

The world she knows gains some excitement – in the form of neighbours moving in opposite to her. The Russells – husband, wife and teenager – a picture perfect family.

One evening, a scream pierces through the silent night. Anna goes to her peephole to the world, to her neighbours. And as she looks out, she witnesses something horrific.

She needs to go get help. But she can’t go out. Even if she calls the Police, will they believe her?

My review

I have to be honest, this took me three attempts before I was enveloped into Dr Anna Fox’s world. This was my first, and my biggest, criticism of this novel. It’s also why I struggled to rate this novel come the end.

By the end I was like, “well written, decent story, nice twist (even if I did predict it on this occasion)“. But reflecting on my experience overall, it shouldn’t take three attempts to get into a novel. It was the amazing reviews this book had received which urged me to continue.

With a theme of film noir throughout the book, the plot itself screams Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ (which I believe Finn does on purpose), which is a cracking film. But equally, it feels as though this plot has been done many times before – Rear Window, Disturbia (the film, which was also inspired by Rear Window I believe), and now The Woman in the Window.

I would say that once the book FINALLY gets to the scream that’s when Finn’s writing really comes to life. You can sense a shift. I found myself reading faster and faster, trying not to jump ahead to find out what’s going on.

My next issue is around some clumsy writing and the repetition of a… let’s call it a phrase. Due to the repetition, it actually gave the twist away for me before it happened. I read the phrase once, then again, and again, and again AND AGAIN. It was at this point I turned to my wife and said, “I think I’ve guessed this book already.” It turns out I had. Actually, I didn’t even guess, I just picked up on the repetition of the ‘phrase’.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐

Ok, so this was a tough one. Originally I wanted to rate it 3.5-4. The beginning however let it down massively, which makes me think 2. I had settled on 3.5 (rounded up to 4 on Amazon), but I don’t think I can justify that rating unfortunately – not when other books much stronger I’ve rated 3.

So, in the end…

A bittersweet rating of 3 – I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this one!

⭐⭐⭐
3/5

Book review: “Seven Days” by Alex Lake

A great start to my isolation reading!

This is my first read in COVID-19 lockdown – what a start!

I was thrown into a dark, miserable and disturbing world. By reading the blurb, you can see this darkness.

Seven Days by Alex Lake - Book Review

The plot

It’s a simple enough premise yet extremely disturbing – Maggie (who is being held somewhere against her will) has seven days to save her son, Max. Otherwise, on his third birthday, just like her other children, he’ll be separated from Maggie. But why? Where will he go? Who will take him? We, just like Maggie, have NO IDEA.

What to expect

An instant, gripping hook. Mystery, questions, grit, anger, sadness, darkness.

There are so many questions. I had so many theories, but none of them were right.

The story will not disappoint. We may be locked up with Maggie, but we get to see what is going on outside of the basement. The segments in the basement are engaging. It’s a heartbreaking and difficult read at times, seeing the effect Maggie’s disappearance has on her family. Desperation, despair, sadness. I imagine it to be quite a realistic view and experience if you were to lose a loved one in such a way. Never knowing what happened to them, always wondering if they’re still alive. It’s enticing and addictive. You just pray the struggles are worth it when there’s a happy ending… you hope it’s happy.

There’s a shift in the story at one point. Without saying too much, the hunger to finish changes for a different reason. At this point I think some people will think, “well why should I bother carrying on”, but keep at it, it’s worth continuing.

This is a great read. When I wasn’t reading Seven Days it was on my mind. And when I was reading it, I was reading fast, yet not wanting it to end!

I imagine this was a tough story to write, knowing exactly how to tell the story, particularly when working towards the ending and the big reveal. But I think Alex Lake did a good job.

A 4.5 star, rounded up to 5.

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Coronavirus – Stay Safe and Read

We’re in unprecedented times, every single one of us.

Here in the UK there have been rumours of a lockdown in the coming days; some of you may already be in self-isolation. Across the world we’ve already seen the devastation caused, but let’s not forget – many people and nations HAVE recovered and are getting through this. An official lockdown is unlikely and isn’t something to fear. Just try to stay calm and be reassured that lockdown doesn’t mean, ‘you will be stopped from leaving your house at all,’ it actually alludes to the precaution of leaving your home unless it’s essential.

It’s important to remember that to get through this we need to stick together and push on. Respect the advice we’re being given and respect each other.

Being on lockdown isn’t a punishment, it’s an opportunity to slow the spread of the disease and protect vulnerable people. You don’t need to panic. Try to stay calm.

Stay safe, be careful and respect each other.

How will you pass the time in self-isolation?

Reading?

We’re all in the same boat here. There’s TV and films we can watch, but for how long before filming is suspended or there’s no one to operate the schedule.

But one thing that will last, books!

Here’s a retweet of mine recently that got me thinking:

Books are a great way to pass the time. They’re also a nice way to detach yourself from your surroundings. That’s the key to this – ensure you aren’t stressing about the after effect of the Coronavirus (our economy and way of life), and to entertain yourself whilst keeping yourself and those around you safe.

By reading, you will have thousands, if not millions, of books available to you.

Money is tight for all of us I’m sure in light of Covid-19. But books are affordable, particularly eBooks.

I want to help

You may know or not, but I’ve written some books. you can see those books here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/T-J-Blake/e/B00C2TFFJ8/

This isn’t a sales pitch, but if you enjoy psychological thrillers then do take a look at my novels. I will be trying to make them available for free – to give you guys something to do whilst in isolation.

Also, I have been trawling back through previous book reviews. You can see some of my 3+* star reviews of books I’ve read previously – my recommendations for you below:

Top rated books I’ve read recently

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides = 5* 

Sweetpea by C. J. Skuse = 4*

Believe Me by JP Delaney = 4*

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor = 4.8*

I am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll by = 3.7*

Have you got a book recommendation?

Then please do comment on this blog below. Hopefully we can put together a great list of books for us all to read.

Book Review: “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides

A classic British psychological thriller

Is it odd to call “The Silent Patient” a British psychological thriller? Well it seemed very British to me, it screamed psychological thriller, and it’s a novel that I think we’ll all be reading for many years to come.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The plot

Based on Alicia Berenson, a famous painter who is married to fashion photographer, Gabriel, she has it all. That is, until, one evening, she shoots her husband five times in the face. Since the crime, Alicia decides to earn her name as The Silent Patient – she refuses to talk, completely.

Many psychologists attempt to get her talking, but with no such luck.

Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist, has always wanted the opportunity to work with Alicia and get her talking. The opportunity to work with Alicia presents itself to him, and that is the start of a journey for Theo.

But the question remains, will Theo manage to get Alicia to reveal why she did what she did?

Meticulous, smart, unputdownable, suspenseful

I’ll try not to ruin this one for you.

It’s hard because all I want to do is admire the clever writing, which I can’t do without revealing something about this book… but I mustn’t.

So, what can I say about this one without ruining it?

It’s easy to read. I found it really simple to get through. You’re able spectate the story and let it unfold. You can really focus on what is going on and analyse each character as they’re introduced and as they develop.

It’s worth mentioning you will be very paranoid reading this, suspecting everyone and everything.

The plot is intriguing. As you can see above, the plot is different.

Straight away there’s doubts about a seemingly perfect relationship. But then what if it was a happy relationship, then what? How does an innocent man get killed? Worst of all, why did his wife kill him? It’s all too much.

There’s layers to this book. The main plot line is great, but there’s layers to this one. Great layers, like a Victoria Sponge!

You will feel on edge at time. Sometimes you can feel a chill down the spine reading this one. It’s intense at points.

For someone who can’t talk, Alicia as a character is fascinating. There’s so much to her, she’s an enthralling character who you can’t help but admire and be terrified of.

It’ll leave you gobsmacked. Well, I was on the bus when I was left reeling at one particular moment… and that’s all I can say on that.

A great read, my first 5 star novel in some time!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Review: Holiday Readings

Whilst in Santorini for the week, I read three thriller books. Here are my reviews of them below.

Sweetpea by C. J. Skuse

Sweetpea C. J. Skuse

Dark, outrageous, humorous

My wife unintentionally recommended this book to me. She told me about the premise of it to illustrate her dislike of the story and the main character. Her description though caught my attention.

I made a start on the book and quickly thought it was quirky and original. It was a refreshing change to have a foul mouthed, dirty minded female lead in Rhiannon. The best way to describe her is that she has shades of Fleabag and Killing Eve’s Villanelle.
I will say, I believe C. J. is testing the reader early on as the tone of Rhiannon is far more crude in the opening stages of the book. If it’s not for you, just persevere. This risk though didn’t pay off in terms of keeping my wife hooked into the book – she immediately disliked Rhiannon. I, on the other hand, enjoyed it and really took to Rhiannon’s personality and tone of voice.

The story itself is a fresh take on serial killers. We’ve seen it many times before with the likes of Hannibal and the TV series Dexter, but Sweetpea is another extension of that. Similar to Villanelle in Killing Eve.

It’s a book that follows Rhiannon and her devilish ways. I don’t want to say too much more but it is a thrill that keeps you hooked.

Rating: **** (4 stars)

 

Believe Me by JP Delaney

Believe Me JP Delaney

Brilliant start, but lost its way.

Ok so some of the reviews I think are quite harsh. However, the start of this novel is brilliant. If it kept to that tempo throughout the book it would have been one of my favourite reads. Ever.

I finished this book in one day.

The start of it is intoxicating. A really unique premise – the main character, also an actress, Claire, works for a firm of divorce lawyers. A great combination this, actress posing as an easy pick-up in hotel bars to entrap straying husbands to win a case.

We see her in action quickly, fooling a man and getting the job done expertly. But not all is as it seems, because Claire is quickly pulled into a murder investigation, where the man’s wife has been murdered.

I think JP Delaney really portrays a female lead very well. I don’t think she was particularly likeable, but that also made the read interesting because you don’t know who you can trust in the story. Midway through the book, it does lose traction unfortunately and I did find myself reading for the conclusion rather than out of enjoyment.

Rating: **** (4 stars)

 

The Friend by Teresa Driscoll

The Friend Teresa Driscoll

Disappointingly predictable, but I did still want to finish!

It seems that a lot of other readers enjoyed this one. However, I thought it was disappointingly predictable.

If you read the synopsis then the story doesn’t stretch much further than that. I was compelled to read the book as there was more to solve than what the synopsis was letting on. Some nice enough writing and moments in the book, I liked the use of time.

I read this after enjoying ‘I Am Watching You’.

Rating: *** (2.5 stars)

Book Review: “A Stranger in the House” by Shari Lapena (Sorry Shari)

I don’t like giving these reviews… but here’s my truth.

A Stranger in the House Shari Lapena

The less said about this novel the better really. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, but it was lacking in so many departments.

The plot was… ok. It wasn’t all that enticing, but it obviously had enough to make me want to know more and read to the end. Part of me thought there was going to be something more underlying here.

My amazon review sums it all up well:

“Cliché after cliché, the characters were dry and ‘the twist’ wasn’t a surprise at all. Disappointing.”

I guessed what was going on very early on. But I read on, hoping that there was going to be a shocking twist.

There wasn’t.

Unfortunately, we’ve all already read and watched these kind of stories before.

** (2 stars)

This was Lapena’s last chance to convince me…

I’m always willing to give books and authors a chance. This was Lapena’s last chance to convince me.

I wasn’t at all fussed with “The Couple Next Door”, but “A Stranger in the House” was the chance to convince me to read more of her work.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been converted. So this will be my last read.

If you thought differently of this novel, then please let me know. I’m interested to know what you like about it.

Book Review: “Watchers” by Dean Koontz

Some great moments of suspense. Ultimately let down by the ridiculousness of the story.

I enjoyed stretches of the book. However, I couldn’t help but realise how ridiculous the story actually was – a talking dog who learnt to read and spell.

I read the remainder of the book to solve the mystery of the dog and the Outsider but, I was left disappointed.

** (2 stars)

Dean Koontz Watchers

Have you read this novel? What did you think? Am I being harsh?

Book Reviews – Holiday Edition: The Taking of Annie Thorne, I am Watching You, The Twisted Tree

I’m now back from my honeymoon in The Maldives, which was amazing!

I wanted to read more, but I was busy snorkelling and exploring the island of Kuredu. A beautiful place. A quick review of that: dreamy. Highly recommend!

However, three books were consumed and I’m most of the way through a fourth novel (a classic apparently) by Dean Koontz!

Three books and a five star rating below.

TOP READ: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

Highly recommend. Well written. Dark. Gritty. Mysterious. Addictive.

Joe, a witty yet troubled man, returns to his hometown. It hasn’t changed much. In fact, much of what Joe went through back then seems to be happening again.

I found this book super easy to read. That’s what I liked about it most. The writing was brilliant and because it was so easy to read, it made me read it really quick. Shame really because I wanted more. The story flowed and the characters vivid.

C. J. knows how to build tension. She knows how to create mystery. She most definitely knows how to create a dark atmosphere. That’s what I felt in this book. Arnhill (the hometown) is a dreary place. It was the perfect setting though for this book. The balance between the present and the past offered a great deal of suspense and mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed unveiling the story of Joe’s past and what was to come. And I most definitely did not see the ending coming. Some really nice touches to conclude the book.

Another point, there were some really though provoking quotes in this book which make you just stop and think about your own life. A nice touch also.

I’ve seen some negative reviews for this one, which I am surprised about!

It was a brilliant read, highly recommend.

4.8/5

I am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

Chilling from the start. A great premise which didn’t disappoint.

Two teenagers being teenagers whilst on their way to London. A normal day, a typical trip for teenagers wanting to feel like adults. But it all turns dark. Very dark.

The differing lives we follow all offer an interesting perspective. Plenty of secrets and there are many suspects in the build up to the horrifying conclusion. It was an addictive read and an extremely fast paced story.

Although the many perspectives were at times confusing (a couple being told in first person the others in third) they offered some difference in progressing the story.

3.7/5

More about this book.

The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

Screen Shot 2019-06-04 at 19.04.53

A chilling, dark and gothic short story.

For a 180 page book, it goes into a lot of detail about the characteristics of the locations and characters. Although detailed, it didn’t detract from the narrative, it only aided it.

It’s dark, gothic and chilling. An enjoyable short story.

3.3/5


I’m also reading Dean Koontz’s ‘Watchers’. Review will be coming soon!

Book Review: “A Watched Pot” by Mr Blue

A darkly humorous thriller.

A Watched Pot was a devilishly dark and humours read, which made me chuckle and really drew me in.

The most rewarding reads are those ones that slowly drip feed all the key information into the story beyond your realisation that it’s going to be significant later in the story. A Watched Pot did exactly that. It was a clever narrative and really easy to read. It may have only been short but I really got involved in it. The twist at the end was great. I won’t say too much more on this!

The only way it could have been better is if the writing was stronger in places. I noticed a couple of errors, but it didn’t take away from the read itself, which is why this is still a 4 star review.

I reviewed A Watched Pot after the author provided me with a free ecopy.

**** (4 stars)

A Watched Pot

Book Review: “Kill Someone” by Luke Smitherd

This isn’t a bad 2.5 star review, it just wasn’t for me.

I finished reading this book today. I started reading it a while ago and unfortunately I wasn’t entirely compelled to read it all that often, which is why it took me so long to finish.

The premise is great, I was drawn in quickly. What a bizarre circumstance to find yourself in. A sick game that you can’t escape. Well, you can, but at a cost. The plot and set up of the story was very similar to the Saw movie franchise.

I didn’t connect with the main character at all. I wasn’t concerned for him or really care about him. I was more interested in the reason behind this mad scenario. I could however really imagine, see and even hear both The Man in White and Klaus.

The writing had flicks of greatness, but I thought a lot of it was repetitive. When I reached around 40% of the book I did find myself skim reading, but I was too far in to stop now.

The ending was quite disappointing too.

I hope the author reads this review and takes it constructively. It wasn’t a poor book, it just wasn’t for me. I’m confident that many other readers will enjoy this thriller.

*** (rounded up from 2.5 stars)

Kill Someone Luke Smitherd