Review | Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

A well-constructed thriller/mystery with a relevant message. 3/5 stars.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker book cover

Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group, Sphere and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita have worked in the same legal office for years. The sudden death of the firm’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge.

But the world has changed, and the women are watching this latest promotion for Ames differently.

This time, they’ve decided enough is enough.

Sloane and her colleagues’ decision to take a stand set in motion something catastrophic and unstoppable: lies will be uncovered, secrets will be exposed and not everyone will survive. All their lives – as women, colleagues, mothers, adversaries – will be changed for ever.

My take:

Whisper Network is a well-constructed mystery/thriller which feels very ‘now’ in that the plot revolves around issues of sexual harrassment in the workplace most recently brought to greater public attention by the #metoo and #timesup movements.

In this vein I thought the profession of the characters was a particularly canny choice: you’d think that if anyone would know how to deal with workplace harrassment it would be a group of highly-qualified lawyers. That these women face much the same barriers and ‘crap’ (conscious decision to use a fairly polite word there) upon entering and then once established in their profession makes you realise just how much the system is rigged against women no matter how high they manage to climb within it.

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Review | The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods by Emily Barr

The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods by Emily Barr book cover

Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Arty has always lived in the Clearing, a small settlement in the forests of south India.

But their happy life, hidden from the rest of the world, is shattered by a terrible accident. For the first time in her sixteen years, Arty must leave the only place she’s ever known, into the outside world she’s been taught to fear.

Her only goal is to get help from a woman called Tania, who used to live in the forest, and the Uncle she knows is out there, somewhere. As she embarks on the terrifying journey, pursued by an enemy she can’t fathom, Arty soon realises that not everyone is to be trusted.

She’s looking for answers, but what she’ll learn from Tania and Uncle Matthew is a shocking truth about her past.

Everything is changing too fast for this girl who came out of the woods, and is she running into a trap…?

My take:

Following The One Memory of Flora Banks and The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, Emily Barr is back with The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods and another tale about a girl on the cusp of womanhood who finds herself out on her own in an extraordionary situation.

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Review | The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

One for anyone in need of an uplifting story. 4/5 stars.

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

Thank you to Quercus Books and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly-imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window.

My take:

This book serves up everything you’d expect from the blurb and cover, and sometimes it’s great to get exactly what you were hoping for.

Bibliotherapy is actually a thing, and this is the sort of story I would prescribe to anyone who needed cheering up. The Flatshare is a fabulous happy hug of a book in which dragons are slain and everything gets wrapped up nicely. If that sounds like the sort of uplifting read you need right now, I wouldn’t hesitate in seeking this book out.

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Review | Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

A deftly-handled tale about stories and storytellers. 4/5 stars.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can it be explained by science?

My take:

As the title gives away, Once Upon a River is a story about stories. I think the main reason it’s so successful as a good yarn is the effort that has gone into creating atmosphere. The author is particularly successful in conjouring up the damp, sometimes murky conditions of the riverside, which makes an evocative setting for scurrilous and possibly supernatural events. The use of the third person narrator also works very well as it’s in keeping with an oral narrative tradition which includes fairytales and myths.

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Review | The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve

A solid series opener. 3/5 stars.

the house on half moon street by alex reeve

Thank you to Bloomsbury, Raven Books and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: The start of an enticing new historical series set in Victorian London; introducing Leo Stanhope: a transgender coroner’s assistant who must uncover a killer without risking his own future

Leo Stanhope. Avid chess player; assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret.

For Leo was born Charlotte, the daughter of a respectable reverend. But knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – and unable to cope with living a lie any longer, he fled his family home at just fifteen and has been living as Leo: his secret known to only a few trusted people. But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.

My take:

I’m partial to stories set in the Victorian period, a mystery and original characters, and The House on Half Moon Street promised all three.

The descriptions of Victorian London are very successful. The details are excellent, and the passages which conjour up the dingier, fogbound parts of the city were particularly evocative.

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Review | The Last by Hanna Jameson

A gripping story let down by its final act. 4/5 stars.

The Last by Hanna Jameson

Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead

Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?

My take:

This is certainly an attention-grabbing scenario! You may read the blurb and think, “yeah, but how real will the story seem?” The answer? Scarily so. Maybe it’s because the narrator is a historian and attempting to record everything as factually as possible that makes the narrative feels very realistic. The reactions of all the characters to the end-of-the-world scenario are believable and as varied as they are. The hotel guests are an interesting mix of nationalities and personalities which makes for some dramatic clashes. Also, obviously, being cut off from the world with winter setting in and food supplies dwindling puts pressure on everyone that has to boil over in places.

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Review | Side by Side by Anita Kushwaha

A tough, moving story about learning to live with loss. 4/5 stars.

Side by Side by Anita Kushwaha_cover

Thank you to the author and Inanna Publications for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Kavita Gupta is a woman in transition. When her troubled older brother, Sunil, disappears, she does everything in her power to find him, convinced that she can save him. Ten days later, the police arrive at her door to inform her that Sunil’s body has been found. Her world is devastated. She finds herself in crisis mode, trying to keep the pieces of her life from falling apart even more. As she tries to cope with her loss, the support system around her begins to unravel.

In the wake of tragedy, if a fresh start is possible for Kavita? Will she escape her problems and start over? Or will she face the challenges of rebuilding the life she already has? Side by Side is a story about loss, growth and the search for meaning in the wake of tragedy,

My take:

From reading the blurb, you’ll appreciate this isn’t an easy read. Side by Side is an unflinching look at loss and, more specifically, survivor’s guilt and the maelstrom of emotions experienced when losing a loved-one to suicide.

However, this is not a depressing book. The story is structured in three acts entitled Fall, Crawl and Rise. As this makes clear, while you’ll reach a point where things look rather bleak for the main character they do eventually start to get better. And although the story is tough, it is definitely worth sticking with, as it’s wonderful to see how Kavita grows through her darkest moments of grief and emerges stronger and wiser.

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Review | The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

An ambitious murder mystery. 3/5 stars.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

My take:

I was excited to read this as it looked like an interesting combination of some classic murder mystery tropes with darker thriller elements. Perhaps I went in with inflated expectations because sadly I was left disappointed.

I appreciate that the author is trying to take a different approach to a classic murder mystery problem. Like many “closed suspect pool” mysteries, the story starts with the discovery of a body, leaving the characters and us to work out who the murderer is. The Hunting Party runs another mystery in parallel to the “whodunnit” by also keeping back who the victim is until confirming the identity of the deceased at about the 80% mark. Continue reading…

Review | The Other Wife by Juliet Bell

The Other Wife by Juliet Bell

Thank you to HQ Digital and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Outback Australia, 1981

After a terrible childhood, Jane comes to Thornfield as nanny to the adorable Adele, watched over by the handsome and enigmatic Edward. Plain and inexperienced, Jane would never dream of being more than his hired help. But swept up in the dramatic beauty of the Outback, she finds herself dawn to Edward. And, to her surprise, he seems to return her feelings.

But Jane is not the first woman Edward has pledged to make mistress of Thornfield.

As a child, Betty was taken from her English home and sent for adoption in Australia. At first, no-one wanted her, deeming her hair too curly, and her skin too dark. Until the scheming Mr Mason sees a chance to use Betty to cement a relationship with the rich and powerful Rochester dynasty…

When Jane discovers Betty’s fate, will she still want to be the next Mrs Rochester?

My take:

Earlier this year I read and reviewed Juliet Bell’s first novel, The Heights, an excellent retelling of Wuthering Heights. I enjoyed seeing how the story worked when moved to the twentieth century, so was pleased to hear Juliet Bell’s next novel would be a reimagining of Jane Eyre, one of my all-time favourites. I was particularly intrigued when the blurb made it clear this was a radical shift from the original, moving the story over a hundred years closer to the present and thousands of miles away from its English setting.

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Review | Snowday by B. R. Maycock

 As the temperature drops outside, curl up with heart-warming novella. 4/5 stars.

Snowday by B. R Maycock cover

The blurb: Sometimes hot cocoa just isn’t enough to keep you warm in the snow…

Eloise is too busy juggling the chaos of three kids, an ever present ex-husband and a demanding boss to even remember the last time dating crossed her mind.

But as soft snow falls silently all around, romance twinkles with the flakes.

After being single for so long, Eloise suddenly has a lot of choices. Too many choices. Will anyone be worthy of melting the guard around her heart to let love in?

My take:

Whether you’re a fan of the festive season or dreading its approach, you have to admit that November is zipping past and December 25th will be here in a blink. So if you fancy reading something wintry to get you into the holiday mood or escape from the crush of Christmas advertising, B. R. Maycock’s new novella, Snowday, is for you.

This is a fun, heart-warming romance with a sympathetic main character. If you’ve ever had too much on your plate or struggled to juggle everything in your life, you’re sure to empathise with Eloise’s many dilemmas. I mean, who hasn’t resorted to making the kids/themselves dinner from a box from the freezer more often than they think they should?!

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