Hello Everyone, I know I’ve been particularly quiet on here recently but trust me, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes!
Over the last few months, I’ve been plugging away at my current work in progress – a thriller set in a secluded landscape in the UK – and I’m so pleased to have finally finished the first draft of my adult thriller!
I was initially writing the first three chapters, as a writing exercise, when a trusted reader really wanted to know what had happened to one of my main characters. Hopefully, I’ll do them justice when the final draft is complete.
Alongside this, I’ve been editing my first book Burn at the Rootsand looking at various cover designs that would best suit the genre. It’s so exciting to finally start looking at what my book will look like!
Whenever I’m writing, I tend to take a break from reading in case any ideas overlap into my writing. I love to read but it’s something I really struggle with when I’m working on a project.
If you would like to see additional pieces of my writing on here, feel free to drop me a comment.
I also use Ko-Fi, where some smaller snippets of my daily writing can be found. If you want to support my writing journey, you can also do that on there too by buying me a coffee! My writing is mainly fuelled by coffee so any donations are always really appreciated.
I just wanted to end this post with a big thank you to all those who currently support me.
I may have been a little quiet on here but I’ve been extremely busy behind the scenes writing new content that I think you’re going to be excited about.
Final Girls by Riley Sager, Paperback, 339 pages, Ebury Press, £12.99, Waterstones
Quincy Carpenter is a Final Girl. Quincy shares this title with two other girls, Lisa and Samantha. When Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances, Quincy can’t quite shift that something doesn’t feel right. With Sam showing up unexpected and angry at Lisa’s death, Quincy must quickly figure out whether to trust her gut reactions once again, to find out what happened to Lisa.
Riley’s characterisation in Final Girls is distinctive and really adds to the reader’s experience. Each character shows different qualities and varies in depth, regardless how much they are in the novel. Craig, Quincy’s love interest before the Pine Cottage incident, changes throughout Quincy’s memories, making him feel realistic and in some areas, relatable.
Reflecting on Quincy and Sam, their emotions have been shown in such detail that it makes the reader understand how their previous escapes have caused them to react differently to life. One element that Sager has mastered in Final Girls is that every character’s actions and emotions have all been created with intent. It is this understanding that makes this book intense from the very beginning. There’s a reason Quincy has memory issues. There’s a reason why Same is so angry. There’s a reason why Pine Cottage has not been forgotten.
The narrative of Final Girls is written in two perspectives. The majority of the novel is written in first person through the eyes of Quincy Carpenter. However Quincy’s memories relating to Pine Cottage are in third person, closed perspective. Using various viewpoints works well here as it helps the reader differentiate between what is memory and what is reality. Furthermore with Quincy suffering from memory loss due to trauma, the narrative itself is pivotal for Quincy’s understanding of what happened at Pine Cottage and what has happened to Lisa.
Final Girls is a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, trying to crack the case between Lisa’s death and Pine Cottage. Sager’s novel springs into action and doesn’t skip a beat until the very end.
Prepare yourself for twists and turns and then prepare some more.
I really enjoyed this book and was pleased to say that my instincts with this book were correct. Final Girls is a psychological thriller that you need to take with you on your next holiday. Final Girls is light enough to read with ease and suspenseful enough to keep you hooked.
This novel was compared to Gone Girl by Stephen King when I originally bought this book. However, I find The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins to be a much closer comparison – but don’t take my word for it. Grab yourself a copy and see for yourself!
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
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!
The Heights by Louise Candlish, Hardback, 448 Pages, £12.99, Waterstones
The very first book I’ve read by Louise Candlish but definitely not the last.
The blurb itself made me wanting answers before I’d even received the ARC. Imagine bumping into someone you thought to be dead? Especially when you are the one who tried to make it happen. This concept alone sent shivers down my spine – such an intriguing predicament.
Because of this gripping blurb, I began reading, not knowing who I should be sympathising with and as the novel progressed, it appeared that everyone had that little bit of dirt under their nails.
Throughout this novel there were so many twists, gradually increasing the intensity until the very last page. Admittedly, I’d have liked one less twist, although I guess that could depend on the reader’s morals.
The underlying issues of grieving for you child’s accidental death, was written in a way that felt sensitive, yet understanding, as the reader watches Lucas’ death affect many relatives differently.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes psychological thrillers.
This was the first novel I’ve read by Louise Candlish but definitely not my last.
They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.
Allie Reynolds’ debut novel Shiver has kicked up a storm that readers didn’t even knew they wanted – until now. Failed ex-athlete Milla Anderson attends a ten year reunion, in the hopes that she can rekindle some of her friendships she longed for, off the slopes. However with Saskia still missing, presumed dead, and an ice breaker to set the tone, Milla soon realises that this isn’t the type of reunion that she’d hoped for.
Shiver is the type of novel that runs away with its characters. Each character, whether likeable or not, has a distinct way of acting and speaking. The reader can also relate to each character, which can be tricky to do. At the beginning of the novel Reynolds pulls her readers straight into Milla’s thoughts and allows the reader to become emotionally attached to the circle of friends, up on the mountain. This connection only gets stronger, the more you find out about them. The characters in this novel have been so well thought out, that it hurts that they’re not real in the first place. Wanting the characters to be real, just goes to show how developed these characters actually are. I cannot imagine the time and effort that has gone into the characterisation, in order to get them to this standard.
Although the characters could be anywhere, the thought of isolating a circle of friends in such stark conditions reminds me of the sublime. Whilst the mountains are mesmerising and the snowfall magical, there’s also the risk of an avalanche, hidden cliff drops and sharp ice that could do some damage. Now, stop the cable cars, remove their phones and disconnect the electricity. What are you left with? Survival instincts.
Before reading Shiver, the most I knew about snowboarding was from the game SSX Tricky. Thankfully I didn’t need to know much about snowboarding as Allie Reynolds guided me through the snowboarding jargon. Reynolds was previously ranked in the top ten for UK Snowboarding. Not only did her knowledge help me understand the tricks of snowboarding, it also highlighted the difficulty in the tricks – yes, I’m looking at you, Crippler. This is the first novel that I’ve been able to read, knowing that the author has experience in subject that would normally just be research. This really made a difference as it allows the reader to be immersed in Milla’s experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed Shiver. It was the characterisation and the setting that kept me turning the pages. It could be argued that this novel may peak the interest of Ruth Ware readers, however this novel itself has more grit within. I was initially apprehensive about reading this as I’d just finished reading a novel in a similar setting. How wrong I was. They were completely different in plot and perspective. In all honesty, I preferred Shiver out of the two and the other was written by an author I read constantly. It looks like I may have found a new author to watch out for.
After all, what’s life without a little competition?
One by One by Ruth Ware, Hardback (signed), 352 pages, Waterstones, £12.99
One by One is a cosy novel, perfect for those winter nights. The novel begins by following two characters and their journeys that bring them to the luxury cabin, in St. Antoine. After an avalanche cuts the guests off from the village below, it’s not soon after when guests keep disappearing one by one.
Interestingly Ruth Ware uses several perspectives in One by One. Readers follow the perspective of Erin, the chalet host and Liz, a shareholder in a tech company. Having two perspectives is a new structure for Ware’s novels. However, these perspectives are vital to the plot and the development of her characters. Both perspectives are needed to demonstrate a staff’s point of view, as well as a guest in the lodge. As the novel unfolds and clues are given to the reader, he dual perspectives are used at times to compliment the plot twists. This is certainly a new technique that Ware has explored well within her writing of One by One.
Although Ware writes crime novels, I cannot help but acknowledge that my favourite characters hers are humorous. My favourite character in this novel was Danny. His passion and personality are clearly shown through his actions and dialogue. Danny adds a humorous touch to even the darkest of scenes. At times he can be relatable and sometimes acts like he is projecting the readers thoughts onto the page. Perhaps this is why his character is so amusing…
Location and Setting
A significant detail that continues to be shown in all of Ware’s novels, is her use of setting. Whether it’s Northumbrian forests, a stately home or the French Alps, Ware always uses her setting carefully and strategically. The Earth’s elements always seem to provide good ground for a crime novel and what better setting for One by One than the French Alps? Furthermore with the use of skiing jargon and a little bit of French sprinkled in, emphasises the research that has been taken to deliver such mesmerising landscapes and scenes.
As winter still settles amongst us and many of us are working from home, what could feel better than reading a novel with people stranded in one cabin that are beginning to get a little cabin fever.
Whether you find this read as escapism or as relatable is entirely up to you…
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.