The Maid by Nita Prose, Harper Collins, hardback, 352 pages, £14.99, Waterstones
Ever wanted to be a fly on the wall to the rich and famous? How about a fly on the wall to a murder in your workplace? Then let me introduce you to Molly Maid, the maid at The Regency Grand.
At the beginning of the novel we learn that there is a murder at the hotel in which Molly works. Throughout the novel, Molly becomes tangled within the mess and must find out who killed Mr.Black, in order to clear her name.
The narrative of The Maid is smothered in Molly’s character, as we learn that Molly struggles with understanding jokes and facial expressions. Although Molly comes across as a naive character, she also appears an unreliable one.
Due to the unreliable narrator, I often found the novel difficult to read. Although I trusted Molly, I did not trust her judgement. Furthermore reading more about Molly’s past appeared to slow the pace of Prose’s novel and ultimately made it a difficult read.
As soon as the narrative became reliable through Mr.Preston and his daughter Charlotte, did the pace quicken until the end. It cannot be denied that there is strong characterisation within The Maid. It is however, unfortunate that I did not have an emotional connection with Molly, due to her unreliableness.
Interestingly, The Maid reminds me much of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. The naivety and unreliableness of the main characters is what I think makes both of these novels strikingly similar. If Mark Had don’s book was a good read for you, then I strongly recommend The Maid as your next read.
you can find the blurb of the book or purchase a copy here.
Tripwire by Lee Child, Paperback, Transworld Publishers, 544 pages, £8.99, Waterstones.
The book begins in a sunny Key West, when a man called Costello is looking for Reacher. After retracing Costello’s movements, Reacher finds himself returning to his army roots, in search for a missing soldier. Tripwire focuses mostly on Jack Reacher’s army life and what his possible future may look like. A drifter can’t drift forever, can they?
Tripwire follows Reacher in the hopes of finding a missing soldier whilst the reader is simultaneously observing Chester Stone’s lifestyle and failing business. The book alternates between Reacher and Chester’s situation, in order to set the scene for the reader that will eventually overlap these narratives together. The pace of both narrative scenes quicken at the same time until reader is found racing to the finish line with Reacher on the lookout.
This is the first book in the Reacher series I’ve read and it definitely won’t be my last. As a writer myself, I find his use of structure intriguing; how he creates tension and suspense with no nonsense language is mesmerizing.
One of the most impressive elements of this book, is Lee Child’s attention to detail. Child’s knowledge of guns and, in particular, Fighter planes, are so accurate that you would almost expect him to have flown a Fighter jet or have used a few of the guns he describes so well. The specificality of his writing appears to be exactly what the reader needs to allow themselves to be immersed in Reacher’s world.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action and adventure in novels. Tripwire is a great read for someone who wishes to get into reading without the flowery language that can often cloud a great narrative. Lee Child’s writing is raw and extremely well written.
Although not many writers can compare to his writing style, I would recommend John Grisham’s Camino Island, as this also begins in the Florida state. Both writers create legal thrillers and have a similar pacing style.
Another writer that could be compared to Lee Child, would be James Patterson. The crimes within Patterson’s books mirrors some of Lee Child’s books, if a dark theme is your theme of choice.
You can buy Tripwire by Lee Child by clicking here
With influencers rapidly increasing their net worth, it begs the question – What’s happening to all the bloggers?
It was only recently that I started to discover that some bloggers – not all may I add – began to describe themselves in this way when their main source of traffic was via Instagram.
With #bookbloggers as one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, it’s made me wonder… Are bloggers leaving their blogs for grid-style Insta?
I flicked straight to my WordPress account and began to scroll through all of the blogs I could find in relation to either writing or reading.
It was eye-opening.
I was showered with blogposts that showcased creative writing (short stories, prose, poetry, flash fiction…).
Although great to see, I wanted to find something that resembled the online article structure that I tried to use within my own blog.
I kept scrolling and came across bloggers who posted regularly. The catch?
The posts were really short.
After a good twenty minutes of searching the web, I managed to find some book blogs that resembled a larger showcase of their Instagram pages. They were filled with their monthly book goals, brief reviews and their views on plot, theme and narrative.
I’d found the book blogger that I used to love.
I clicked a like and follow on their blog straight away and felt instantly assured.
Looking through the blogosphere really reinforced why I love blogging so much. The blogs were clearly the writer’s own space within the digital world to ponder their thoughts.
It was refreshing to see; they reminded me of a digital diary that gave me an insight into the writer’s thoughts and beliefs.
I always used to think that a blog had to be long and focused around a key idea or theme.
Now I’m noticing that it’s great to add multiple visuals, whether that’s images or videos, and that size doesn’t really matter when it comes to word count.
In fact, they can come in all shapes and sizes and they’re all a joy to read.
And yes, that includes the short posts too!
But don’t take my word for it, have a look yourself.
Go to WordPress.com, Medium or Tumblr and search a topic you want to read about. I’m almost certain you’ll find a something of interest.
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley, Hardback, 416 pages, Harper Collins, £12.99, Waterstones.
As soon as Jess turns up to Ben’s new apartment in Paris, Ben goes missing. With his neighbours reluctant to help, Jess must uncover the truth about his disappearance by herself. In order to find out the truth about Ben, Jess must first uncover the truth about his neighbours.
Foley’s novel follows six POV: Ben – if only briefly, Jess, Nick, Sophie, Mimi and the Concierge. Each character is pivotal to the movement of the plot and helps the reader build an overall viewpoint of Ben. Foley’s characterisation really comes into its own through the characters’ voice. Each voice is so distinctive, different and yet still seems relatable to the reader, despite the scenario the characters find themselves in.
One element which works very well in this book, is the subtle notes to Paris. The french phrases don’t seem shoehorned in and the location is described in a way that, someone who has spent along time there, may describe it. Lucy Foley really allow her readers to spend a few days in Paris along with Jess whilst she investigates her brother’s disappearance.
The Paris Apartment takes the murder mystery/locked room scenario and replaces it with a locked Paris mansion via the Moulin Rouge. If the reader has read Lucy Foley’s other novels then you might have a gut feeling on who to trust and who not to trust.
On a personal note: I much preferred this to The Guest List, as I enjoyed learning more about the relationship between Jess and her brother, despite their upbringings being different and I found there to be much more closure at the end of this book too!
My advice when reading The Paris Apartment?
Expect many twists and enjoy the ride!
You can find The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley, here.
If you would like more bookish content, then head over to my insta page @cbarkerwriting
The Last House on Needless Street, Catriona Ward, Hardback, 400 pages, Profile Books Ltd, Waterstones, £7.49
The Last House on Needless Street takes place in an ordinary house on an ordinary street. However what happens in this street is anything but ordinary.
The plot focuses on the disappearance of Lulu, also known as Little Girl with Popsicle, eleven years ago at a lake near Ted Bannerman’s house. Ted Bannerman was always a prime suspect in the case but was never arrested. Eleven years later and Ted is still perceived to be the prime suspect in the case.
The narrative follows four POV, Ted, Lauren, Olivia and Dee, through the form of chapters. Each POV is pivotal to the mystery of the missing girl by the lake. Not only do these narratives help us uncover what has happened to Little Girl with Popsicle, but their distinct voices and attitudes highlight Catriona Ward’s talent for characterisation.
Before reading The Last House on Needless Street, you must banish all predictions and assumptions of the novel you’re expecting to read and focus on the book in the present. This novel has many twists with many secrets unfolding like a spring flower ready to bloom.
Throughout the novel we learn of Ted’s loneliness and the depths he’s willing to go for companionship. In some areas Ward’s novel echoes the loneliness of the creature in Shelley’s Frankenstein, who seeks affection but is afraid of the outcome.
The Last House on Needless Street may leave you with challenging views and conflicting opinions. Regardless of a like or dislike for this book, it cannot be ignored that Catriona Ward’s writing is gripping and well-considered on a topic so delicate. Due to some complexities, the novel has been considered to fit the horror genre, however if you like psychological thrillers, I would urge you to consider a jump into this book, as it provides areas accomodating both genres.
If you would like to read the book, you can find it here.
For more reviews head over to my instagram page @cbarkerwriting for daily updates.
Survive the Night by Riley Sager, paperback, 336 pages, Hodder & Stoughton, £8.99, Waterstones.
This is the first book I’ve read from Riley Sager and this definitely won’t be the last.
Survive the Night follows a student called Charlie Jordan, making her way home from university. But what seems like a smooth ride, isn’t as smooth sailing as you may think. Charlie leaves behind her boyfriend in exchange for a ride home from another student. However with the campus killer still on the loose, Charlie can’t seem to grasp that she could be driving home with him. She can’t be the next victim after all… can she?
Sager begins his novel by introducing a handful of characters into Charlie’s life. We discover early in the novel about Charlie’s loss of her best friend Maddy and her boyfriend Robbie. However from the first chapter, the main focus in Survive the Night is around Charlie and Josh’s journey to her hometown. Not only does this keep the scenes intense but it also allows the readers to grow an attachment to the characters on a deeper level. Car journeys are brilliant for getting to know more about someone and as we follow their journey, the readers are well and truly along for the ride. Throughout the journey, Charlie begins to question who the driver is to reassure herself and to find out what his intentions of leaving so soon are.
Throughout Survive the Night, the tension is kept incredibly tight. So tight that suspicions are constantly among the characters and you can’t help but question character’s motives. Some characters you might like at the beginning but by the end, you might have a whole different take on them. If your views on the characters wasn’t change enough, then fasten your seatbelts because this ride is going to be bumpier than you think! If this novel could be summed up in three words they would be:
Don’t trust anyone.
I feel that Sager has built the tension up perfectly and has included more action in his scenes that I strongly favour over previous thriller authors.
When I first read the blurb of this book, I was so intrigued. I knew it would seem very minimal with most of it taking place in a car but if anything, it showed a rawness to characters that I hadn’t seen before.
For anyone who is a fan of Ruth Ware, Lucy Foley and Allie Reynolds, I would strongly recommend Riley Sager. I was previously torn between reading Ware or Sager for my holidays and thought I’d picked well with Ware. Little did I know both choices would be so amazing.
Riley Sager’s Survive the Night is officially out in paperback in the UK and I strongly recommend anyone with a love of psychological thrillers and plot twists, to give this book a go. Oh, and brace yourselves!
Holly Jackson, A Good Girl’s Guide to murder, Paperback, 448 pages, Waterstones, £6.49
Holly Jackson’s debut novel is stirring things up in YA Fiction. Holly’s debut is about Pippa Fitz-Amobi, a grade-A student, who is trying to prove a previous student’s innocence in a murder trial, as her independent project for university. Soon Pippa begins learning more about the truths that lie just at her doorstep.
The format of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is very playful for the reader as they are shown snippets of Pippa’s investigation. This itself allows the reader to feel like they are solving the case with Pippa.
The structure of the novel is split into three parts, however, the pace appears to become much more steady as a result. Part 1 seemed initially set up to introduce the characters, however if this was it’s primary focus, it could be questioned as to whether the pace needs to be a touch faster.
When conflict occurs, the readers gain an insight into the characters’ strength and flaws. This act in itself makes them more realistic and relatable to the reader. It is this particular element that seemed to be missing at the beginning of the novel.
Jackson’s characters overall however, are striking and very easy to picture in your mind. Furthermore when her characters are faced with conflict, in parts two and three, they become as believable as your best friend.
Although I was not entirely gripped from the beginning, I would still recommend her books to teens looking for excitement and adventure. As a teenager, I know I would’ve loved this book. Holly’s writing is well thought-out, clear, funny and imaginative – everything sixteen year old me would have devoured in a book.
Last week I was so pleased to see a smart stripy parcel slip through my letter box. The packaging itself looks as good as the designs for your stationery. As I began to open the parcel I could feel the enjoyment and anticipation of seeing my personalised design. The little note from Papier is also a nice touch and gives your parcel a more personal appeal.
Although there was no paperback option for my diary, I absolutely love my hardback diary. The matt finish allows the design to speak for itself. The perfect bound makes for a crisp book and allows for a ribbon bookmark to be placed in the diary.
As a writer who primarily uses lined paper, I was anxious at first to write on plain paper. However after really looking at the space given and the type of notes I wish to include within my diary, I don’t think that the blank pages will be a problem.
Each month begins with your goals for the month, a to-do list, important dates and a wish list. This is really handy if you need to see quickly whether it is going to be a hard or busy month. This check up page is also great to spur on your motivation for finishing projects or training for a sport event.
At the beginning of the diary, there is a month to view, for the full year. This makes it incredibly easy to see birthdays, big events and deadlines, without flicking through each page.
At the very end of the diary there are also some lined pages for you to use as you wish.
Although Papier’s diaries have a lot to offer, it has to be personalisation and their designs that I love the most about Papier. I know so many people who have either a name that is spelt slightly different or that have a different cultural name (either from Europe or further afield) that find it difficult to find personalised items. Papier however removes this worry and allows personalisation to anyone who wishes to acquire it.
I also love the design of my diary and I mean love! I am so pleased that Papier give credit to the artists as it allows you to look further into the artist who created your design. My design is by Rachael Cocker and is called Blooms of Joy. After surviving two national lockdowns in the midst of a pandemic, a Bloom of Joy is exactly what I need.
Since the beginning of lockdown I have began writing letters to friends and close relatives to help combat loneliness during this challenging time. Lets hope that they like Papier as much as I do! To have a look at all of their designs visit: www.papier.com and find your own personalised diary for the new year!
If this pandemic has taught us anything this year, its that we all love reading. This could be a psychological thriller, a goofy romance or even a self-help book. Whatever style or genre you are wanting to read, you will always find something. However as there are so many books to choose from, I have whittled my favourites down to a top 5 to help you find the perfect gift for someone this year. There is something so exciting about receiving a book. We all know the shape, yet with so many titles on our ‘to be read’ pile, we still don’t really know what we will get. Here are my top 5 to unwrap this year.
Thriller – One by One by Ruth Ware
What could be better than a psychological thriller located in a snowy setting at Christmas? Ruth Ware has brought a murder mystery concept into the 21st century by the use of realistic – and at times, relatable – settings with current motives. One by One takes place in a lodge that is extremely secluded. It could be perceived as tranquil. However with only a cable car to leave or escape the lodge, the characters begin to think it is anything but peaceful. As killings become more and more frequent, the serenity of the lodge begins to feel like a prison. Who will survive as the characters disappear one by one?
Romance – The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
If crime and murder isn’t your thing, then have a fling with The Flatshare. The Flatshare is about two young professionals that share a flat but never really see each other due to work commitments. This book was my favourite read in lockdown as it made me laugh and smile when times were hard. Please note that is not the type of book that I would normally read and yet, I am now anticipating the release of her latest novel, The Road Trip, out in 2021. A perfect book to lift your mood and to laugh when times are challenging.
How many times have you heard – but have you read the book?- when a film comes out? Yes, very often and why does this get asked? The book is better. Admittedly, the latest adaptation of Rebecca on Netflix is good but at times I found the film slow and it missed a few scenes that the book had solidified in my mind. Yes, readers, I wanted to see the garden at Manderley! The book on the other hand is not slow in the slightest. The novel is an exciting read and is filled with tension and suspense between the main characters, right up to the very end. If you are looking for a classic this Christmas, I would definitely recommend this novel. Who knew a young woman living in Cornwall could have such a dark mind that could write with such suspense! A much welcomed break from Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen.
Non-fiction – The Little book of Clarity by Jamie Smart
This is hands down, one of my favourite books that not only made me realise how people perceive the world, but how non-fiction can be engaging and impactful. Jamie explores clarity in this book in relation to all aspects of an individual’s life. The outward-in method that he discusses really makes you think about your own choices and your own happiness. This book is, as you may have guessed, short, clear and concise. A short but memorable read.
Self-help – Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight
I too wish I was Sarah Knight, living in the Caribbean and writing books as my profession. Who knows, after reading this book, maybe I will. Get Your Sh*t Together, provides its readers with a little tough love, followed by fantastic strategies that can be applied to all aspects of your life – be it relationships, health or work. Sarah Knight has tried to make the subject comical as it does touch on some serious and quite scary topics. However after reflecting on this book and attempting to actually get your sh*t together, you will begin to realise that this book does exactly what it sets out do. A great gift and motivator to making your dreams become a reality.
Although I have so many other great books I wish I could include, the books above have to be my top 5. Feel free to read any additional reviews I have written on these books to help you make your mind up with which to put on your own ‘to be read’ list. If however you are still wanting some book inspiration, I have provided you with a few more noteworthy reads. Who knows, you may even want to gift one to yourself.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware, Vintage, paperback, 340 pages, £6.99, Waterstones
Their dream house will become her worst nightmare…
The Turn of the Key is Ruth Ware’s latest novel set in the Scottish Highlands. Ruth Ware’s most recent novel is instantly familiar to her other novels as its presence and ending continues to pack a punch.
The Turn of the Key begins it’s journey similar to Ware’s previous novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, as it begins with the main character explaining how she ended up in her current predicament. The novel begins with a job advert about a current nannying role and the main character jumps at the chance. However has the nanny potentially bit off more than she can chew?
The structure of this novel is very important to point out as it’s not the standard structure you would expect a novel to take. The Turn of the Key begins with the main character writing a letter to a barrister about her recent experiences at Heatherbrae House. The reader can instantly acknowledge that something has happened that they are not aware of, however it is clearly evident that the main character will explain everything in the letters to come. This already gives the reader a sense of intrigue as the reader begins to question whether they can be convinced of the main character’s situation. As the novel progresses the main character makes several points referring back to the prison and demonstrates an interesting narrative style. This in turn reminds the reader to be on edge and to trust no one.
The pace of this novel is very interesting as there are many subtle elements to be aware of. Since the narrative keeps referring back to the main characters’s situation, the subtle elements become even more questioning and as a result keep the reader engaged and intrigued. I must warn the readers however to brace yourself in the last hundred pages as it can feel as if you are in a tornado. As the pace and tension begins to build, so does the plot twists. So much so that it feels as if poison ivy is twisting around each scene, making the reader feel glued to the page.
Each character in this novel seems carefully considered. This novel has three children and one teenager in the heart of the story and how each child reacts and adapts to the new nanny and scenarios they are put in is really realistic. All of the characters are relatable to some extent and the Scottish characters, Jean and Jack, have been written brilliantly. Ruth has not only created characters that are relatable but has also managed to get their dialects right too. I have relatives that currently reside in Edinburgh and when I listen to Jean and Jack talk, even when in Carn bridge, they all sound authentically Scottish. Nothing is thrown in to make the characters seem obviously Scottish but the subtle differences within their language and word choice, highlights exactly where they are in the UK.
I cannot ignore that there appears to be a potential influence from Alnwick Garden, which again can be seen through the potential location and some of the ‘facilities’ that Alnwick Garden has to offer. Once you begin to read this novel you will begin to see the connection emerge.
Interestingly The Turn of the Key, reminds me of two of Ware’s previous novels, In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Death of Mrs.Westaway. The narrative structure in Ware’s current novel is similar to In a Dark, Dark Wood whereas the ghostly and haunting aspect of a manor house in The Death of Mrs. Westaway, mirrors the more contemporary isolated house of The Turn of the Key. Interestingly when considering the technology that is seen within this novel, I cannot help to compare the house setting of a similar feel to The Girl Beforeby JP Delaney. Both of these novels make the reader have to get to grips with technology fast, whilst self-policing in the process. Another book that identifies technology as a great driving force is George Orwell’s 1984, as the quote ‘Who controls the past controls the future,’ fits perfectly with Ruth Ware’s most recent novel.
If you find psychological thrillers gripping and enticing then this book is for you. I personally find self-policing an interesting topic and was unaware that this was considered in the book before reading. I personally love how Ruth Ware’s endings always seem satisfying and as soon as I picked the book up, I knew I would enjoy it. I throughly hope that The Turn of the Key has the same effect on you.
You can buy Ruth Ware’s latest novel The Turn of the Key here.