GIRL ON A TRAIN BY A. J. WAINES

GENRE: SUSPENSE | PAGES: 435

My rating: ★★★★

Usually, if I say I bought a book by mistake, it’s because I’m telling my husband the not-so-believable tale of how my card liberated itself from my purse and threw itself at the mercy of the checkout at Waterstones. In this case, with Girl on a Train, it’s not a fib. I really did buy it by mistake. I’m THAT stupid. I thought it was the OTHER book about—get this—another girl on another train. Damn public transport.

My own stupidity aside, I wasn’t disappointed.

The story is great; full of suspense and mystery, with intriguing characters in the form of Anna and Elly, and a whodunit that masked itself until the very end. Yet, it is the imagery in this book which stands out by a mile. I’m not usually the biggest fan of description, but it was done so well here. It tackled perfectly the tricky matter of relaying painstakingly precise detail with as few words as possible, and the result is a vivid, image-ridden experience, plonking me directly into the growing obsession and heartache of the main character, Anna, and her connection to Elly.

My only gripe is that the pacing was the tiniest fraction too slow for my liking, with perhaps one or two metaphors too many, a distraction from the otherwise engaging story. Then again, that might just be my own impatience.

Overall, a great read, and a happy ‘mistake’.
 

 girl on a train book cover

Everything points to suicide – but I saw her face… Headstrong Journalist, Anna Rothman, knows what suicide looks like – her own husband killed himself five years earlier. When Elly Swift, an agitated passenger beside her on a train, leaves a locket in Anna’s bag before jumping onto the tracks, Anna starts asking awkward questions. But everything points to suicide and the police close the case.

Anna, however, believes Elly’s fears for Toby, her young nephew, missing since being snatched from St Stephen’s church six months ago, fail to explain the true reason behind Elly’s distress. Through a series of hidden messages Elly left behind, Anna embarks on a dangerous crusade to track down Toby and find Elly’s killer.

But nothing is as it seems and Anna opens a can of worms that throws into question even her own husband’s suicide – before the threads of the mystery converge in an astonishing conclusion.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

GENRE: FANTASY, PARANORMAL, SUSPENSE | PAGES: 

My rating: ★★★★

Dystopian thriller. Zombie apocalypse. Sounds familiar? Yes, I suppose it does. It’s been done, over and over, and I’ve usually steered happily and carefully in the other direction. The Girl with All the Gifts, however, is not one of those books. It is a dystopian thriller, and there are hungry flesh-eating, zonked-out crazies, but then, there’s also Melanie.

Melanie has a unique take on the world in which she lives – her daily life consists of being forcibly strapped to a wheelchair, and manoeuvred between a bare cell and a classroom filled with kids ‘like her’, where she learns Maths and English, and hears of the stories of the past, including Britain’s past: the world as we know it. The country has broken down, fallen into ruin, and Melanie believes that she is one of the lucky few being kept safe inside her ‘home’; safe from the ‘hungries’ outside the base fences.

MILD SPOILER AHEAD…

What she doesn’t know is just how similar she is to the very creatures the fences keep out. She is Test Subject Number One in a desperate last-resorts research program to save the human race, and the world Melanie dreams of beyond those fences are so much farther from her reach than she realises. Despite intentions of those around her, Melanie breaks free and learns, little by little, who and what she is, eventually surpassing the expectations of all who would have her condemned. Her Pandora-like unleashing of ‘gifts’ onto the world is, at its least, a brave and carefully-calculated move to prolong life, and at most, poetic justice for the innocent.

This fresh, new angle on zombies is wonderfully written. Not only does this book open up a closed door into the other side of zombie fiction, but it explores the concepts of a developing child and her bond with those around her. The type of restraint Melanie displays in the face of her most basic, animalistic instinct is usually only ever depicted in tales of true love of the romantic kind; here, the nurturing and unconditional bond shared between Melanie and her teacher, Helen, is akin to that of a mother and child, and it is refreshingly original in this sense.

Overall, if you want to dip your toes into zombie-infested waters, don’t hesitate to try this one: it is thrilling and horrifying, and emotionally heart-wrenching all at once, and best of all, it shouldn’t give you too many nightmares. 

 

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 The Girl with All the Gifts

 

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin, and Neil Gaiman.

LOST GIRLS BY CELINA GRACE

GENRE: ROMANCE, SUSPENSE | PAGES: 294

My rating: ★★★

Lost Girls is a slow, but intriguing read, with excellent psychological detail as the story follows Maudie into the depths of her own mind, and the secrets of the past buried there. The plot-twist is double-edged and refreshingly unexpected, and Maudie’s self-development is strong and endearing all at once.

  Lost Girls

 

Twenty three years ago, Maudie Sampson’s childhood friend Jessica disappeared on a family holiday in Cornwall. She was never seen again.

In the present day, Maudie is struggling to come to terms with the death of her wealthy father, her increasingly fragile mental health and a marriage that’s under strain. Slowly, she becomes aware that there is someone following her: a blonde woman in a long black coat with an intense gaze. As the woman begins to infiltrate her life, Maudie realises no one else appears to be able to see her.

Is Maudie losing her mind? Is the woman a figment of her imagination or does she actually exist? Have the sins of the past caught up with Maudie’s present… or is there something even more sinister going on?

Lost Girls is the new novel from the author of The House on Fever Street: a dark and convoluted tale which proves that nothing can be taken for granted and no-one is as they seem.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

GENRE: Humour, Romance, Suspense | PAGES: 290

My rating: ★★★

Stephanie Plum is a brilliantly ‘real’ woman. The scrapes she gets herself into however are something else entirely. It makes for an action packed, fun-filled read. The mystery element is contemporary and intriguing, well thought out, and written even better. Each character in the story is a life force of its own – realistically flawed, sufficiently developed – and after this exciting start to the series, I’ll definitely be checking out the others, and not just for Morelli.

  One for the Money

 

Stephanie Plum is down on her luck. She’s lost her job, her car’s on the brink of repossession, and her apartment is fast becoming furniture-free. Enter Cousin Vinnie, a low-life who runs a bail-bond company. If Stephanie can bring in vice cop turned outlaw Joe Morelli, she stands to pick up $10,000. But tracking down a cop wanted for murder isn’t easy… And when Benito Ramirez, a prize-fighter with more menace than mentality, wants to be her friend Stephanie soon knows what it’s like to be pursued. Unfortunately the best person to protect her just happens to be on the run…

I Take This Woman by S.K. Quinn

GENRE: Suspense | PAGES: 360

My rating: ★★★

I Take This Woman is an excellent book in that it casts a very real and disturbing glimpse into the world of Thai sex-trafficking and trading.

The different perspectives each really adds depth and insight–from that of the well-intended journalist and the misunderstood male partner, to the two step-sisters on opposite ends of the Thai-bride spectrum.

The story was hard-hitting and well-told without being overly graphic, and it ends with hope, which in this case, is sorely needed.

  I Take This Woman

 

Three mail-order brides killed on their first wedding anniversary. A fourth missing bride approaches one year of marriage. One week to find her. Three mail-order brides have turned up dead – exactly one year after their wedding day. All the brides met their husbands at the same place, a marriage agency that offers a catalogue of women for men to buy. Documentary maker, Ruby Philips, is desperate to uncover the truth before another girl is killed. But with only days before the next bride reaches her one-year shelf life, can Ruby find her in time?

Who is Sarah Lawson by K. J. Rabane

GENRE: Suspense | PAGES: 420

My rating: ★★★

Who is Sarah Lawson is enjoyable and intriguing beginning with a woman stepping into her home to find it already occupied by a family who claims she is someone she isn’t. The premise is outrageous but it is handled well enough to suspend disbelief.

The story was well thought out and the characters well developed. The ending, however, felt rushed and anticlimactic, and the grammar errors throughout were frustrating and could have been avoided. That aside, the book could easily have been a four-star read.

 

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  Who is Sarah Lawson

 

How would you feel coming home to find a family living in your house who call you Sarah, tell you your brother’s name is Andy and insist that you should be ashamed of calling the police for help? My name is Rowena Shaw and I’ve never seen any of them before. They are total strangers. It’s Thursday and it’s just the beginning.

Never Tell by Alafair Burke

GENRE: Suspense | PAGES: 368

My rating: ★★★

Never Tell is edgy and well paced. Not the best of the thriller/mystery books I’ve read so far this year but certainly a good read that kept me hooked. An eighth of the way through I was convinced that I’d cracked the case and yet I was wrong. That gave the ending a refreshing twist.

 

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  Never Tell

 

Detective Ellie Hatcher will be forced to uncover the truth behind the apparent suicide of a teenaged girl with intriguing connections to both New York’s wealthiest—and its most dispossessed. This addictive thriller from acclaimed suspense writer Alafair Burke draws its details from the author’s own experiences as a criminal law professor and deputy district attorney, creating an exhilarating, true-to-life tale of crime and its consequences that is perfect for fans of Laura Lippman, Harlan Coben, and Burke’s breakout standalone thriller Long Gone.

Here She Lies by Katia Lief

GENRE: Suspense | PAGES: 256

My rating: ★★

2/5 or maybe a 2.5/5. Here She Lies was okay. Average. The last half of the book certainly went at a better pace than the first half and the twist in the ending was pleasantly unexpected since everything else up to that point was more predictable than the ending of Romeo and Juliet.

The slow build-up in the beginning was off-putting, and the main character wasn’t always believable. She over-reacted to small, more neutral things yet seemed often unfazed by the more horrifying events… Her personality was a bit lacking in places. The fact that she identified with her twin so much that she viewed them as one and the same person was odd (even for a twin thing) – I just couldn’t jump on board with the idea of this grown woman having no urge to exert a sense of self. I found myself skim reading a lot of her inner thought and twin-related blurbs because it was just too ridiculous.

The story itself was ok, the writing was fair and it kept me entertained in the two days it took to read it. I have another one by this author on my kindle so here’s hoping for a slightly more gutsy protagonist.

As for this one, I’d recommend it for passing the time, if you fancy a ‘softcore’ version of a crime thriller.

 

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  Here She Lies

 

WHEN ANNIE’S IDENTITY IS STOLEN…SHE RUNS BUT CANNOT HIDE. After discovering an email revealing her husband’s infidelity, Annie Milliken is shattered. Dismissing his pleas of innocence, Annie takes their baby daughter and goes to the one person she has always trusted: her twin sister, Julie. Annie and Julie soon become as close as they were growing up, spending their days together, dressing the same, sharing the baby. But when Annie applies for a job, everything comes undone. Her credit cards are stolen just as she’s arrested for grand larceny. The police realize she is the victim of identity theft, but she has yet to understand the true scale of the crime. And when Annie turns to Julie for help, she finds that her twin sister has disappeared…along with her baby. Now with her daughter–and her own life–on the line, Annie is going to fight for what is hers.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

GENRE: Dark, Suspense, YA | PAGES: 110

My rating: ★★★★

Brilliantly disturbing book. Impossible to put this down once you’ve begun. It is a sad story told in such blunt and vivid detail it will make you want to look away and retch a little. Yet you’ll keep reading. It’s like a car crash. My only gripe is that it’s just a hundred and ten pages long… saying that, whilst I devoured this in 48 hours, any more than that of this horrific tale would have been biting off way more than I could chew. The author clearly knew what she was doing.

 

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  Living Dead Girl

 

Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared. Once upon a time, my name was not Alice. Once upon a time, I didn’t know how lucky I was. When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends — her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over. Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her. This is Alice’s story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.

The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

GENRE: Contemporary, Suspense | PAGES: 313

My rating: ★★★★

The story of The Murderer’s Daughters begins with Lulu. At ten years old she is the eldest daughter. At ten years old she witnesses the death of her mother and the near-death of her five-year-old sister Merry – both her father’s doing.

What struck me (aside from the obvious) is the author’s clever way of writing, so that the sisters are seen to be ageing. It was as real as knowing them personally; snapshots into their lives as they were thrown into upheaval, their childhood and their family snatched from them in a single afternoon.

I couldn’t help but swallow this book whole – it wasn’t a pretty story and it isn’t a pretty subject given that this happens in the real world. Yet there was such strength in these girls’ characters (in opposing ways) that made me want to journey with them. I read this every chance I got and it lingered long after I put it down. The Murderer’s Daughters is the type of thought-provoking book that makes you wonder what you truly believe and what you perceive as ‘the right thing’. It is another of many amazing books that demonstrates how vast the grey area between right and wrong is – and a book that can open your eyes just a little wider is one which, to me, is worth every word.

 

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Lulu and Merry’s childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu’s tenth birthday their father drives them into a nightmare. He’s always hungered for the love of the girl’s self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly. Lulu’s mother warned her to never let him in, but when he shows up, he’s impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past ten-year-old Lulu, who obeys her father’s instructions to open the door, then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help and discovers upon her return that he’s murdered her mother, stabbed her sister, and tried to kill himself. For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a specter in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make. Though one spends her life pretending he’s dead, while the other feels compelled to help him, both fear that someday their imprisoned father’s attempts to win parole may meet success.

Where Are You Now by Mary Higgins Clark

GENRE: Suspense | PAGES: 289

My rating: ★★★★

I know it’s a bit cliche to say this after reading a crime novel but honestly, I never suspected the actual killer once throughout reading Where Are You Now. I’d suspected nearly every other character in the book by the time I’d reached the last few chapters yet had completely overlooked the person it turned out to be.

My sleuthing skills need serious dusting–or maybe Mary Higgins Clark is just that good.

Where Are You Now was fast paced from the beginning and I couldn’t fault the plot. Great read!

 

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  where are you now

 

From America’s Queen of Suspense comes a gripping tale of a young woman trying to unravel the mystery of a family tragedy — a quest with terrifying repercussions.

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson

GENRE: Suspense | PAGES: 366

My rating: ★★★★★

This page turner of a book blew me away with its originality. Before I Go To Sleep captured and drew me in from the start–an intriguing meeting between a woman who woke not knowing herself and a man who offered an explanation.

Christine awakens to the same confusion every day until a Dr Nash returns a journal to her–a journal that bears her name, a journal that warns her not to trust the man who says he is her husband. Reading page after page in what she assumes is her own handwriting is like witnessing someone else’s life but the truths that unfold and the danger she is in is very much her own.

Each journal entry is, on its own, an event that captivates you; together, it builds and builds to a peak rather than an ending, and it doesn’t disappoint. The mystery behind Christine’s condition is solved and her future is left satisfyingly open for the reader to choose.

Even if a psychological thriller isn’t your usual, I’d urge you to read this anyway–it may well be just the story that changes your mind.

 

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Before I Go To Sleep

 

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.

Hidden by Paul Jaskunas

GENRE: Suspense | PAGES: 240

My rating: ★★★

The author’s debut novel is well written and incredibly believable as he writes in a female voice.

The female in question, Maggie, is a shard of her former self; a troubled and tainted soul, tormented by the memories of a violent attack from her past.

As she comes to terms with that night, and the things that led her there, she is forced to peer into the recesses of her mind, and what she finds makes her question the testimony that locked her husband away for the brutal act.

Maggie is relatable as a character and all three male characters (Manny, Nate and Carson) have distinct personalities. The detail is vivid – presented in a way that isn’t long-winded and I was particularly impressed with Maggie’s internal monologue of her struggle. Her psychological state is so accurately captured that her confusion became mine. The doubt, the fear, the seizures – utterly believable.

The only disappointment for me was the ending. It felt right for Maggie to make peace with herself and her demons but somehow I was left wanting in some way.

On the whole, however, if you’re into psychological drama, this was a rather gripping read. (3.5 stars)

 

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  hidden

 

As unnerving as it is mesmerizing, “Hidden” is an evocative, emotionally charged domestic drama — a willful and traumatized woman’s painful search for the truth about the man who assaulted her one summer night. Six years after the attack, Maggie Wilson receives a call from the prosecutor who helped put her husband in jail after Maggie identified him as the man who nearly killed her. Told that another inmate has confessed to the crime and that her ex-husband will be freed, the shock plunges Maggie into memories of her stormy marriage to Nate Duke, the ambitious heir to a real estate company. Secluded in an old farmhouse that was her marital home, Maggie relives her marriage to Nate and his abusive treatment of her. But in her present, a very different man is haunting her — the born-again convict who has confessed to the crime. As his story competes with hers, Maggie pores through trial transcripts, old journals, and photo albums, trying fruitlessly to remember exactly what happened. Written in spare, elegant prose, Paul Jaskunas’s novel reads like a waking dream as Maggie is torn by the question — was it Nate? Or was it this stranger who seems to know intimate details? And what will it cost her to discover the truth? A work of searing suspense written in the heroine’s brave voice, “Hidden” is ultimately about a woman confronting the betrayal of her body and the ambiguity of her mind.