Talking About ‘The Woman In The Window’ with Bibliobeth!

The Woman in the Window

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it!

Synopsis:

What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

CHRISSI: What was your initial impression of Anna? Did it change as the book went on?

BETH: I’m not sure what I thought of her to be honest. It’s perfectly obvious she was an unreliable narrator as I’ll get to in the next question but as a reader, I’m always prepared to give a character a chance and get to know more about them before I make a judgement. I felt terribly sorry for her because it was obvious she had severe mental health problems with her agoraphobia and because I knew this was a psychological thriller I knew that nothing she would witness from her window was going to be good!

BETH: Why did you think Anna was so obsessed with observing her neighbours? How did it make her feel more connected to the outside world?

CHRISSI: I truly think Anna was bored with her life. Observing her neighbours felt like she had something to do, what with being stuck in the house all day and night. I think observing her neighbours made her feel connected to the world because she almost ‘lived’ through them. She got to experience their every day routine and that became her routine too. Observing her neighbours gave her a sense of normality.

CHRISSI: There have a been a number of thrillers/suspense stories with an unreliable narrator suffering from a drinking problem. Why do you think the authors make that choice? How does drinking impact the story they’re telling?

BETH: Initially, this book very much reminded me of Girl On The Train i.e. mature female protagonist with a drinking problem witnesses something horrific. In this way, I think that it’s a narrative I’ve read about before so the author has to do something special to make it a bit different. Obviously, drinking can impair your judgement especially if you’re drinking to the extent that our female lead is AND mixing it with strong medication so things you see can be mis-interpreted. In this novel, we’re not even sure if what Anna sees actually happened as the drugs she is taking do have the potential to cause hallucinations….did it happen or didn’t it?

BETH: If this book were to become a film how do you think it would translate? Would you watch it?

CHRISSI: Hmm…I think it could potentially be a good film especially if an extremely talented actress was cast as Anna. I think the agoraphobia gives it an edge that many thrillers don’t have and it would be interesting to see them tackle mental health. I’m not sure if I’d watch it though. For me, it was a little repetitive in points, but they could take some of the repetitiveness out. I haven’t watched The Girl On The Train which is a similar book. I think for me to watch an adaptation, I have to totally believe in the cast.

CHRISSI: Do you think this book has enough about it to stand out in its genre?

BETH: Personally, I think it does. As I mentioned, this trope has been done before so you have to do something different and I think with the addition of the agoraphobia, it made things slightly twistier as you knew whatever Anna did see would be more difficult for her to deal with as she wasn’t able to leave the house and raise the alarm. It was a fascinating read and I think the author did a good job in describing how debilitating and frightening this condition can be for its sufferers.

BETH: What did you think of the ending? Were you satisfied or did you want more?

CHRISSI: I was interested in the story throughout but I found it to be a little bit predictable in points. Personally, I think it was a very cinematic ending. I wasn’t overly sold by the ending, but it certainly was full of drama. It is here that I could see the book being turned into a movie. They could do a lot with it.

CHRISSI: Did the story grip you throughout or did you feel your interest go at any point?

BETH: Generally, I did find it a compelling read and one that I would recommend however, I did kind of guess what was going on towards the end which was slightly disappointing. There was a moment where I was surprised (but I won’t ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet!) but as for what Anna saw out of her window – I saw it coming. I’ve done this a lot recently with thrillers I’ve read so perhaps I’m just getting better at predicting things or I’ve read too many thrillers recently?! Who can say? It didn’t affect my enjoyment though, I still thought it was a great read.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely read more from this author. I thought it was a very accomplished debut and I liked the fact that the author tackled mental health.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

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Friend Request

Friend Request

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston is dead. Isn’t she?

1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything the girls Louise hangs out with aren’t. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there’s more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what’s known to Maria–or whoever’s pretending to be her–is known to all. 

Thoughts:

I had heard really good things about this book, so was looking forward to checking it out. I put it on my Winter TBR and made it my mission to get to it. I really enjoyed this thriller and thought it was a great debut. I would definitely put this author on my radar to read more from in the future.

Friend Request centres around Louise who is a divorced mother. She lives with her son and has her own business. Everything seems to be going okay in her life until she gets a friend request from an old school friend Maria. The only trouble is…Maria has been dead for many years. The story flips between the past and the present. It becomes quite the mystery when the friend request comes at the same time as a school reunion. Louise is ashamed of her past, of when she used to do things to fit in with the popular kids and keep her friendship with Queen Bee Sophie. Those things included the bullying of Maria.

I really enjoy books that incorporate social media. It’s so current and so now. It also can be incredibly toxic and fascinating to read about. I’m just pleased Facebook and Twitter weren’t overly popularly when I was at school. It’s scary how much I have to teach about the dangers of social media in primary school now, because children are getting onto social media earlier than they should be. Terrifying.

I loved this plot because it’s something that so many people can relate to. I’m pretty sure many of us have done things that we regret when we were school age. Even if it’s not as intense as Louise and her friends. There are many interesting relationships to delve into. The pace of this story is quite fast. There are some plot twists along the way that definitely keep you interested. I didn’t really enjoy the ending which was a shame and that’s the reason I haven’t rated this book 4 stars.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A gripping read and a very promising debut novel from Laura Marshall!

Talking About ‘The Cactus’ with Bibliobeth!

The Cactus

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green—a prickly independent woman, who has everything just the way she wants it and who certainly has no need for messy emotional relationships.

Family and colleagues find her standoffish and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs.

At forty-five, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward—a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control.

When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places.

CHRISSI: Initially, you didn’t think this book would be a book for you. Did your opinion change?

BETH: Kind of! I hadn’t heard much about this novel or author prior to seeing it on the Richard and Judy book club list and I know it’s bad and I shouldn’t do it but I totally judged it by its cover. I really should know better by now and NOT do that as occasionally it has no reflection on the story within but I can’t help myself, I still do it! Generally, I found The Cactus to be an enjoyable read with a fascinating female lead that I was intrigued to know more about and the narrative was interesting enough to make me want to carry on reading.

BETH: What did you make of the relationship between Susan and her brother Edward?

CHRISSI: Ooh, I think it was a rather broken relationship. I think there was a lot of sibling rivalry between the two. I don’t feel like it was a very loving relationship at all. I think Susan was too different. I feel like Susan felt her brother wasn’t as organised as her and she looked down on him for the way he was. Susan felt superior to her brother and couldn’t possibly understand why he would be left the house in their mother’s will.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character in this book? If so, who and why?

BETH: I think Susan herself was a very well drawn character and as I mentioned above, I was curious enough about her story to become invested in the novel as a whole. She has quite a prickly disposition when you first meet her (one of the reasons for the name of the book?) and she appears to be quite a difficult individual but she does grow on you and when you understand more about her past, you can understand why she has such an impenetrable wall built around her.

BETH: How would you classify this novel? i.e. which genre does it fall into?

CHRISSI: Tricky question. I think I would probably put it in contemporary fiction, that’s if you don’t let me just call it adult fiction. Is that cheating? Oh well. Contemporary it is in my opinion! I think it’s a book that can be enjoyed by both sexes. It actually reminded me a little bit of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. That’s a book that I feel appeals to both male and female readers too.

CHRISSI: Share a favourite quote from this book. Why was it your favourite?

BETH: “But these days fairy-tale endings come in all shapes and sizes. It’s okay for the princess to end up with the prince, it’s okay for her to end up with the footman, and it’s also okay for her to end up on her own. It’s okay for her to end up with another princess, or with six cats, or to decide she wants to be a prince. None of these make her any more or less a feminist. It’s about finding out who you are and what you want, and then being true to it.”

I actually resonated with this quote so much that I shared it to my personal Facebook page! I love that it refers to fairy-tales, I love that the author is saying that it’s okay to be who you are and do what you do as an individual, as a feminist and as a woman. She hits the nail on the head and I just adore it.

BETH: Susan has a unique way of interacting with other people. Did you sympathise with her at all?

CHRISSI: I did! I can see that Susan would irritate a lot of people and put people’s backs up with her ways of interacting. To me, Susan was a character that would be diagnosed with autism. Her way of dealing with the world reminded me of a few children that I teach that are on the autistic spectrum. As you get to know Susan, I feel like you begin to understand why she is the way she is. The past can define us and I think it does define Susan.

CHRISSI: Can you compare this book to another or is it quite unique?

BETH: I have to admit, when I first started this book I thought it was going to be quite similar to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. In a way, it kind of is – with a tricky, somewhat isolated main female lead but in other ways The Cactus is very different. This was such as a relief as even though Eleanor Oliphant was one of my favourite books of 2018, I didn’t want another book so similar to it. Luckily this novel stands on its own perfectly.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely give it a go! 🙂 I thought it was a decent read.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Yes! 3.5 stars

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

Talking About ‘Only Child’ with Bibliobeth!

Only Child

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

We all went to school that Tuesday like normal. Not all of us came home.

When the unthinkable happens, six-year-old Zach is at school. Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, he is too young to understand that life will never be the same again.

Afterwards, the once close-knit community is left reeling. Zach’s dad retreats. His mum sets out to seek revenge. Zach, scared, lost and confused, disappears into his super-secret hideout to try to make sense of things. Nothing feels right – until he listens to his heart . . .

But can he remind the grown-ups how to love again?

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: Wow. As soon as I read the initial few chapters I have to admit, I found it a struggle to put it down. It begins with Zach and his teacher in a closet desperately hiding from a gunman in their school with numerous other children and it was so powerful and moving I had trouble catching my breath at points. I have such strong opinions on gun violence myself and to read a book about a school shooting was poignant and troubling. It certainly left its impression on me.

BETH: As a teacher yourself, how was the reading experience of Only Child for you?

CHRISSI: Absolutely terrifying. Absolutely. It is my worst fear. I can’t even begin to imagine something this awful happening in my classroom which I try to create as a home away from home. Like many other educators, our classroom is our home and a place for the children to feel safe. A teacher likes to control their classroom and rightly so. Something this horrific makes you lose control and that is terrifying. I hope I am never in the position where I have to save my children’s lives. I’m not sure I could go back to the classroom if that happened to me. I’m in awe of educators that do return to the classroom. I can’t even begin to imagine how much strength that takes. Gun crime is horrific and I feel blessed that I work in a country where this kind of crime is incredibly rare. It doesn’t mean that dangerous things wouldn’t happen in the classroom. We’ve even had to develop a lock down policy, just in case, which is a terrifying idea. It really would be my worst nightmare.

Excuse my little rant. Aside from the fear it gave me, this book was utterly compelling to read. I was really impressed with Zach’s narration. How clever to tell the story from his point of view. It’s horrifying what children go through when this happens in their safe place. 😦

CHRISSI: Many books have been written about gun crime, but rarely from the point of view of a child as young as Zach. What did you make of Zach’s narration?

BETH: That’s true! I never realised that before. I think writing it from the point of view of a child was an incredibly clever thing for the author to do. In a way, it made it more horrific as you were seeing it directly through a child’s eyes and although in some instances, Zach came across a little older than his years, I think these parts were necessary so we could feel the full impact of what he has been through, how he continues to suffer and how he manages to pull himself and his family through the other side.

BETH: How do you think Zach, his mother and his father differed in their experiences of grief?

CHRISSI: Zach, his mother and his father definitely differed in their experiences of grief. Grief affects us in all in different ways. Zach has nightmares, bed-wetting and feels guilt because initially he feels his life will be better without his brother. Zach’s father retreats into work. He tries to be there for Zach as much as he can. Zach’s mother is initially very shocked and then her shock turns to seeking revenge and justice for her son.

CHRISSI: Do you think this book should have been longer?

BETH: For me, I felt it was the perfect length. I don’t think there was anything else the author could have done or said – I think she got her point across and it ended on a rather hopeful note for the future which was pleasant to read amidst all the darkness and despair.

BETH: Reading the Magic Tree House books aloud “to Andy” helps Zach cope with his grief. Which books have helped you through difficult times in your life?

CHRISSI: One of the most powerful books I’ve read that have helped me is Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive. I was absolutely amazed and how Matt Haig just ‘got’ me. I believe I have suffered from anxiety since I was younger. Matt’s words were the only words that I’ve really connected with. I felt like he understood what was going on in my head which is a very powerful thing.

CHRISSI: Should Zach have returned to school earlier?

BETH: Absolutely not. He had obvious PTSD about the terrifying incident that he had to go through and was amazingly resilient considering how he suffered. I know if it was me, I’d have trouble going back into that situation, especially if I was still having nightmares so a child as young as Zach was certainly shouldn’t have been forced into going back before he was ready. Yes, it’s important to move on and realise that it was a rare occurrence that was unlikely to happen again but the extent of the trauma that people go through in these situations is not realised enough, in my opinion.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely. I was really impressed with this book.

Would WE recommend it?

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Mine

Mine

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

This is not your baby.

You wake up alone after an emergency caesarean, dying to see your child.

But when you are shown the infant, you just know . . .

This baby is not yours.

No one believes you.

They say you’re delusional, confused, dangerous.

But you’re a doctor . . .

Do you trust yourself?

Because you know only one thing – You must find your baby.

Thoughts:

I had heard many good things about Mine so I was super excited to check it out. I’m trying to get through books on my kindle as I just keep buying them and not getting around to reading them. #bookwormstruggles I thought that Mine was an incredibly easy to read book. I was eager to find out what was going to happen right from the start. Goodness knows that cover gives an amazing tag line!

The story centres around Sasha who wakes up in hospital after a caesarean. Sasha doesn’t remember much about the birth but she knows she is desperate to see her baby. Sasha and her husband were so desperate to have a baby so she wants to savour every minute with her newborn. However, when she gets to the hospital nursery, she is convinced that the baby she is shown is not hers. No-one listens to Sasha- even her husband is sure that she’s wrong. Sasha is determined to convince them that a mistake has been made…but how will she get everyone to believe her?

Mine really did have me gripped from the start. It has an interesting pace that is somewhat ramped up at the start and at the end, with the middle moving much more slowly. It’s a highly emotional story which some might find hard to read if you’ve suffered from mental health or fertility issues. I really didn’t know who to believe. I went through stages of thinking that Sasha was a really unreliable narrator and then I changed my mind again. It really was a rollercoaster that made you question whether Sasha was mentally stable or not.

I really enjoyed the time frame of this story. It goes over a week and flips between the past and the present. I don’t always enjoy that narrative, but Susi Fox certainly wrote the narrative well. It was interesting to find out that Susi Fox is a medical professional, I felt like the medical scenes were very realistic. It was clear that Susi was well informed.

The characters in Mine are fantastic. I really felt for Sasha. I immediately wanted everything to be sorted out for her- whether she was right or not. I found Sasha’s husband, Mark, to be a little frustrating. I wanted him to be there more for his wife. However, I did feel some sympathy for him when I read about this past as the reader does find out about some of his family history.

I was really impressed with this debut novel and the only thing that prevented me from giving it four stars, was that I particularly enjoy a consistently paced plot and I didn’t feel like this was. It’s a tiny complaint though. Overall, I thought it was a very promising, well informed, well written debut novel.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A solid debut from Susi Fox. I think that this book would be a great book club read!

Missing Pieces

Missing Pieces

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

What if the one thing that kept you together was breaking you apart?

All Linda wants to do is sleep. She won’t look at her husband. She can’t stand her daughter. And she doesn’t want to have this baby. Having this baby means moving on, and she just wants to go back to before. Before their family was torn apart, before the blame was placed.

Alienated by their own guilt and struggling to cope, the Sadler family unravels. They grow up, grow apart, never talking about their terrible secret.

That is until Linda’s daughter finds out she’s pregnant. Before she brings another Sadler into the world, Bea needs to know what happened twenty-five years ago. What did they keep from her? What happened that couldn’t be fixed?

Thoughts:

I had heard fabulous things Missing Pieces so I was super excited to read it in-between my commitments with my blogger sister, Bibliobeth this month. It’s a short book at under 300 pages, but each moment was jam packed, yet it never felt too much. I am so impressed that this book is Laura Pearson’s debut, I think she is a very promising writer!

Missing Pieces is a story about a family that used to be super happy, until the loss of their youngest child. It only took a short time for the tragedy to occur. An elderly neighbour needed help, so the two children were left alone for a short time. In that time, the youngest child died and Sadler’s families lives turned absolutely upside down.

Understandably, the guilt and the grief affects everyone in different ways. Linda blames her daughter for not looking after her sister properly. Linda’s youngest daughter Phoebe, was clearly her favourite. She can’t look at her husband as he should have been home. With the discovery that Linda is pregnant, she really doesn’t want another child. She wants Phoebe back. Terrible events occur which I don’t want to spoil. It’s one you really don’t want to know about before reading the book, but trust me it is highly emotional.

The second part of the story is centred around when the new baby is grown up. She’s named Bea and is pregnant herself. Bea wants to know exactly what happened to the sister she never knew. What is being kept from her?

I really did think this was an incredible story. It was emotional, but wonderful at the same time. It centres around how it can take a long time for you to forgive yourself and for some they never can. It’s about love, forgiveness, family and learning to move on despite events in the past.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I thought this was a fantastic debut novel. I look forward to what Laura Pearson writes next!

The Hidden Memory Of Objects

The Hidden Memory of Objects

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Megan Brown’s brother, Tyler, is dead, but the cops are killing him all over again. They say he died of a drug overdose, potentially suicide—something Megan cannot accept. Determined to figure out what happened in the months before Tyler’s death, Megan turns to the things he left behind. After all, she understands the stories objects can tell—at fifteen, she is a gifted collage artist with a flair for creating found-object pieces. However, she now realizes that her artistic talent has developed into something more: she can see memories attached to some of Tyler’s belongings—and those memories reveal a brother she never knew.

Enlisting the help of an artifact detective who shares her ability and specializes in murderabilia—objects tainted by violence or the deaths of their owners—Megan finds herself drawn into a world of painful personal and national memories. Along with a trusted classmate and her brother’s charming friend, she chases down the troubling truth about Tyler across Washington, DC, while reclaiming her own stifled identity with a vengeance.

Thoughts:

I am working my way through some debut novels that I meant to read in 2017.  My most recent read was The Hidden Memory Of Objects. Now this was a book that I didn’t know much about before reading it and I’m glad I didn’t. I went into it not knowing what to expect and I do like that!

The Hidden Memory Of Objects centres around Megan who is dealing with her brother’s death. It is said that her brother took a drug overdose. Megan hasn’t really accepted what the police have told her as it was so far from the brother that she knew. Whilst going through her brother’s belongings, she discovers an ability to see memories attached to objects. Megan realises that she can investigate the circumstances of his death. This was such a unique spin on a grief plot which I really did appreciate.

Megan is a great character. I loved that she was so close to her brother. The supporting characters are also wonderful. It was great to see that Megan’s parents were in the story. They were both dealing with the loss of their son and trying to protect Megan from what the police were telling her.

The story has plenty going on to get stuck into. There’s a wonderful friendship between Megan and Eric and also a slow burn romance. I do prefer a slow burn as I think it’s totally more realistic. I literally roll my eyes when I come across insta-love. Something else quite unique in this story was the historical element of the story. It included the assassination of Lincoln. There were artefacts linked to the night of the assassination that also had memories attached to it that Megan could see. It’s surprising how well this works with the rest of the plot!

This a fantastic debut novel. Danielle Mages Amato has a very compelling writing style and has created such a unique story.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

I had a very odd reading experience with this one. It was a compelling read but strange at the same time!