It has been a fantastic year of reading for us, piles and piles of books have been devoured… And a couple of book stacks are waiting to be reviewed before the year ends. This pile of books from Penguin Random House South Africa, has been on my desk for the last month or so… read and read… I can definitely the year of thrillers. Crime, for sure… but loads of thrillers.
The Party Crasher
I love Sophie Kinsella’s novels, they are the ultimate holiday read… whatever the weather, summer or winter… her books are the break we all need from reality. The complications of family life, the striving to get ahead amongst sibling… I really enjoyed this fun and feisty read. This is the story of the Talbots, mom, dad and three Talbot kids: two sisters, Effie and Bean and their brother Gus. The kids were raised in a loving home, they have grown and moved on, more or less… but Effie is having some “failure to launch” difficulties since her parents divorce, and the arrival of her father’s new girlfriend, Krista. Krista is your typical gold digger, turning one against the other and back again… she is the wicked stepmother and the thorn in every side.
Krista decides that she is going to have a house-cooling party… as she sells off all the family treasures and hopes to steal their dad away to Portugal. Effie is devastated and decides that under no circumstances will she be attending. And then she remembers her favourite childhood toy, the Russian Dolls, and she decides to retrieve them from their safe hiding place in the chimney… on the night of the party. She sneaks into the house with the unexpected help of her teenage crush… and as the fly on the wall… or rather lurking under the dinner table, Effie discovers a whole lot of home truths, some of which she would rather not have heard. This book is a fantastic read, several little twists and turns, it is funny, it is light and true-to-life, with a heartwarming finish… as you would expect from a Sophie Kinsella. If you are looking for a gentle and entertaining read, then pick this one.
The Man Who Died Twice
This is the second in the Thursday Murder Club series, and if you enjoy light crime and very entertaining reading then this series is for you. In a lovely picturesque and peaceful retirement village in England, sits the Thursday Murder Club, a group of four pensioners who entertain themselves by solving cold case murders in the puzzle room on Thursday afternoons. Elizabeth is the kingpin and has a mysterious past packed with extremely useful skills, possibly espionage, and her fellow players are Joyce, who is just delightful and always trying to please, Ibrahim, who sees the good in everyone is a retired psychiatrist, and Ron, who may have a somewhat shady past is very good at dealing with troublesome characters. You might wonder where they find their cold cases… look no further than the local police officer Donna and her staid boss, Chris, who were called in to teach these pensioners a little self-defence. The police officers had no idea that they were entering into a den of crime busters. And the more you get to know the characters, the more you like them and the more invested you become in them.
I listened to the audible version of The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice, they were thoroughly entertaining and the narrator, Lesley Manville, superb. In the first book, a murder occurs and the club is thrown from their rather dull life as pensioner crime puzzlers into the heart of true crime. In the second book the quirky characters from the first, pick up where they left off… this time Ibrahim, who is still looking for the good in everyone has an incident with a hit-and-run gangster, Elizabeth is called to help a long lost friend who is having trouble with the mafia… and all in all, one thing leads to another and another and another. As more of each character’s personality is revealed so they become more entertaining. You don’t need to have read the first one to thoroughly enjoy the second one, that being said I really enjoyed them both… excellent, excellent entertainment. And if you are looking for easy listening entertainment on audible… this is the way to go!!!
Get Untamed The Journal
This is a one of a kind journal, a stunning and colouful hardback book, full of beautifully decorated pages, with blank spaces for you to fill in and respond to leading questions to encourage you to think a little deeper about life, love and everything else. This book encourages you to think about the ties that society binds us with. This book will make you think about and question your boundaries… think about how you define yourself… reassess those days when you feel totally invisible. Full of quotable quotes, and food for thought. To be honest, I don’t think of my religious beliefs as a prison, but I certainly think a lot of our cultural beliefs are. And I do think it is a very interesting and necessary practice to think about why we believe what we believe.
From my personal experience as a mother of many teens, when I have fallen into the trap of being the world’s greatest martyr for them… things don’t go well. When I stride out with joy and excitement and try new things, not necessarily with my children beside me, we all win… I grow, my kids grow. It is a mistaken belief that the mother that loses herself in daily chores making sure that the her whole family has a clean toilet, clean socks and clean dinner plates is either the woman we all dream of being, or the one that our families really want to live with. However, when I go out and try new things, as I am proud of my kids when they do that, they are proud of me… when I leave the dishes and head out for a swim in the ocean… and give them a few hours peace, everyone is happier for it. This book is a guide to stepping out, going against the grain and being brave enough to stand up and be heard. It’s good in that it will make you stop and think… you might not agree with every leading question, on one or two pages… but there are close to three hundred pages at least, all packed with loads and loads of food for thought and as a “Growth Journal” it is great, not to mention… extremely giftable.
If nothing else, then this has been the year of the thriller. The Whistling is a lovely gothic, eerie tale set on an island off the coast of Scotland, in the late 1800s, an era long before you could phone a friend or message the mainland for help. Elspeth Swansome has loved and tragically lost, she is all alone in the world and heads for the island of Skelthsea, for a governess position, and a fresh start in the world. She is hoping to heal from all the pain and grief inside her and a remote island appears to be the perfect destination.
Her charge Emma, however, is even more traumatised than she is, having survived the mysterious and terrifying events leading up to her twin brother, William’s death. Emma hasn’t spoken a word since the event and in the entire rambling mansion there is no trace or mention of William… he has been erased. Elspeth and Emma are destined for each other, tragedy has brought them together and fear won’t let them part. Mysterious happenings on the island, footsteps in the corridors, dolls that appear to be playing out a scene and nobody in the village talking about any of the happenings at all. There is one voice of reason, a mysterious and elderly lady on the island, but to get to her you have to thread your way past cliffs, through deep dark forests and suspense, loads of suspense. The setting is Gothic with a capital G, the atmosphere Thrilling with a capital T… and suspense is spelt R.E.V.E.N.G.E. Excellent read!!!
A Slow Fire Burning
Paula Hawkins third novel and after Girl on the Train and Into the Water… you can absolutely expect another psychological thriller. Into the Water Remains my favourite, but that is possibly because I love anything with water. Back to the book in hand, Slow Fire Burning, this book is exactly that… loads of complicated characters and the more you read the more you want them to get out of the situation they are in. The book opens with a brutal murder on a canal boat… and it turns out that there are a handful of suspects: Laura, his one night stand with a violent temper, as a result of a severe head injury as a child… she is not entirely responsible for any of her actions; Miriam, his overly inquisitive neighbour, with revenge on her mind; Carla, his Aunt, who is covering a deep dark history that nobody wants to go into; And Angela, his mother who he recently moved away from because of irreconcilable differences.
This is a twisty mystery of the murder variety. You will wish the characters were better, better to each other and better to themselves. Its gritty, their lives are messy and as you read further… really messy. The book took me a while to get into, as I learned who was who in the tangle of characters, and then I could not put it down… had to, had to know the outcome and there is a final twist in the tail that no one could have seen coming. Totally worth reading to the end of it, just for the twist!!!
Such a Quiet Place
This book gets a “WOAH” if you like a good, tight thriller, then this one is for you. From the first page you know there is a deep dark problem and you can’t help yourself from reading on… and on. Imagine a quiet and peaceful cul-de-sac, in a quiet and peaceful community that is shattered by a strange and disquieting murder of one of the happy couples living there. One thing leads to another, one neighbour tells on another, one camera reveals a bit more of the story and before you know it a local student, Ruby is charged with the double murder. Ruby is our main character throughout the book, but she is the housemate of Harper. Harper takes Ruby in, to help cover costs her mortgage payments when her fiancé leaves her high and dry. The thing is, while Harper is recovering from the shock of the crime in the neighbourhood and the fact that she was living with a criminal under her roof… there is a mis-trial, and Ruby returns home. Can you imagine… from that moment onwards you are literally holding your breath as you turn the pages. Local residents turn on each other as gossip builds upon the fear of the residents. Harper is beside herself and realises that there are a lot of things that just don’t add up. More than a lot of things that don’t add up.
Ruby is back for revenge and everyone knows it, and as time goes on, Harper begins to realise that she may have a point, not to mention that she might be the target of the revenge. In fact, could Harper be held responsible for Ruby’s arrest. Turns out that people in the neighbourhood were not exactly truthful on the night of the murder and the locals have much more to hide than you could ever imagine. The golden neighbourhood, overlooking the lake, at Hollow’s Wood, is not such a golden neighbourhood after all. The truth will eventually emerge, it has to… or will it? Harper finds herself on edge, and you the reader, are on edge with her. This is good and gripping read.
Never Saw Me Coming
What happens when you let a handful of psychopaths roam around a college campus? Their fees are paid and all they have to do is show up for class and behave as they usually do. This is all under the guise of a psychological experiment? You don’t have to guess… the bodies will start adding up fast and furiously. The cleverness of this read is how much empathy the author stirs up in us, for cold blooded murderers. In fact, this is cold blooded, calculated murder on a grand scale and the question is, “Who exactly is responsible?” The book is narrated by loads of characters, but it is Chloe and her “not so hidden” agenda, that is going to completely undo the psychological study… anything you ever worried about psychopaths and a whole lot more will be revealed in this book, not to mention what a predator can achieve with extremely careful planning and dare I say, years of patience. This is a multilayered crime read, and it is touted as a psychological thriller for a reason… it is one scary read, and will keep you up and turning pages long past bedtime.
Triflers Need Not Apply
This is possibly the scariest book I have ever, ever read… and possibly because it is based on truth. The book is based on the true story of Belle Gunness a serial murderer in Chicago in the early 1900s… Our main character is Bell Sorenson, named after Queen Isabella, Norwegian born and raised, she suffers under the brutal hand of her father and rejection of her family… she is not your typical beautiful heroine at all… in fact she is the most dark and difficult anti-hero you may ever encounter. It is long, very long… 15 and a half hours of listening on audible, and it took me ages to listen to because it is definitely not child appropriate.
So Bella, is crossed by her father, and bottles the rage… until in the midst of teen drama, she has a relationship with the local heir only to discover that he doesn’t want to marry her and he beats her up and leave her and her unborn child for dead. But Bella survives and her middle name should have been “quiet revenge”… and so begins the spiral, as she crosses the ocean to leave her past behind and start afresh in the new colonies, so Bella carries her cloak of revenge for any man that ever crosses her. She knows what she wants and she will find a way at any cost…
She presents a wonderfully godly woman to the world, taking in orphans and looking for a husband to submit too. That being said, husbands fall like flies, poison and bludgeoning are nothing to her. She will protect her worldly ambitions and her adopted children at any cost. This book kept me listening and listening, yes it is dark and gets more and more macabre, but I was intrigued with how Bella’s sister, Nellie, was coping with all of this. She had raised her sister in Norway and was the one to shelter her damaged sister when she arrived in the United States. Nellie starts to suspect that all is not well with Bella, and as we get deeper and deeper into the book Nellie is well aware of what is going on in Bella’s world. It is very much a case of she didn’t speak soon enough, but now she has left it way too late. This is definitely not light reading, but hard and brutal crime, right from the start.
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These books (except the audible books) were given to us for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.