Book review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides


Title: The Silent Patient

Author: Alex Michaelides

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Orion

Publication date: 7th February 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Summary:

“Only she knows what happened.
Only I can make her speak.

I love him so totally, completely, sometimes it threatens to overwhelm me.
Sometimes I think-
No. I won’t write about that.

ALICIA
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

My review:

“You become increasingly comfortable with madness – and not just the madness of others, but your own. We’re all crazy, I believe, just in different ways.”

I have been waiting for a psychological thriller to blow me away for years. Endings almost never shock me and I can see twists coming from miles away. Throw in a few unlikable characters and a shaky plot and it’s no surprise that my disappointment grows with every psychological thriller I finish. Although there have been a few pleasant surprises over the years, nothing can quite compare to The Silent Patient.

The writing in The Silent Patient is articulate and succinct. The author develops Alicia’s voice, or lack thereof, in a compelling way through the use of her diary, and the jump from the first-person journal narrative leading up to the murder to Theo’s current point of view is incredibly effective. Although Alicia chooses not to speak, she still remains a vocal character through the use of her body language and attitude which I found to be one of the most powerful and impressive aspects in the beginning of the book.

When it comes to characters in psychological thrillers I am always intrigued by mysterious characters who seem to be hiding something and both Theo and Alicia fit perfectly in this category. It was clear from the start that Alicia had been through a traumatic event but it was frustrating that so little information was shared to explain why she refused to speak. This concept puzzled me the entire time and I was both mindful of the possibility that she is the enemy and concerned that she could be a tormented victim not yet ready to speak the truth. Theo was just as complex and the simplicity of his backstory had me question his intentions and interest in Alicia. Ultimately it was the intensity of the interactions between these two characters which impressed me and had me swiftly flipping the pages.

Without a doubt my favourite part of The Silent Patient was the ending. With each chapter I was sure that I was closer to finding out the truth about the murder of Alicia’s husband and a few chapters before the end I was almost certain that I had figured it out. I have never been so stunned by an ending before. I had to read it back several times and still couldn’t believe it. It stayed with me for a long time afterwards and with time I recalled several hints which were revealed but which I didn’t pick up on. The ease with which Alex Michaelides reveals these signs is astonishing and he deserves all the praise for this skill.

The Silent Patient consists of all the necessary ingredients for a gripping psychological thriller: a cast of complex characters, a plot thick with tension and a compelling mystery begging to be solved. It held my attention until the very end and left me with the conclusive feeling that this is one of the best books in its genre. Readers who relish unforeseen twists and unexpected endings will find a lot to love here.

“Perhaps some of us are simply born evil, and despite our best efforts we remain that way.”

Book review: The Italian Villa by Daniela Sacerdoti

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Title: The Italian Villa

Author: Daniela Sacerdoti

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: 17th February 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

Inspired by true events, and for fans of The Beekeeper’s Promise and The Tuscan Child, comes a passionate, heartbreaking and absolutely unputdownable story of two remarkable women, separated by history, finding the courage to look for light in the darkest places.

As she staggers through the woods towards the smoky remains of her village, she sees the wounded, all those familiar faces covered in blood and ashes, and remembers she isn’t just a woman; she is a doctor, and she is needed…

1938 – A young Italian couple cling to each other in the shadow of the Montevino mountains, Mussolini’s call to war ringing in their ears. They vow to stay together, no matter what, and hatch a plan to wed in secret before fleeing to the woods to join the resistance.

Present Day – Callie Di Giacomo, a waitress from Texas, is still reeling from the discovery that she is adopted when she arrives in Montevino in search of answers – the keys to the stunning hillside villa she just inherited clutched tightly in her hand. In her birth mother’s wardrobe grief-stricken Callie finds a diary belonging to a woman named Elisa Stella, one of Italy’s first ever female students of medicine, wrapped in pale blue ribbon.

Page by page, Callie unravels the story of a passionate young doctor who risked everything to marry her sweetheart, who was betrayed by her own people, and forced into hiding as Montevino was invaded. Elisa knew she must survive against all odds to see her loved ones again. But history had other plans…

As the diary ends, a startling revelation about who Elisa was offers a chance for Callie to heal past wounds and spark a new future. But is she brave enough to take it?

This unforgettable story of love, loss and resilience by the author of million-copy Amazon No 1. bestseller, Watch Over Me, is perfect for anyone who loved The Letter, The Tattooist of Auschwitz or The Dressmaker’s Gift.”

My review:

On her twenty-first birthday Callie discovers that she is adopted and has inherited a villa in a remote Italian village from her birth mother. The news both overwhelm and excite her as we soon find out that her adoptive parents died in a tragic accident when she was a child. Inspired by the prospect that she may still have living relations, she embarks on an adventure that will take her to her new home and reveal the family she never knew she had. When she discovers a stack of old handwritten letters from someone called Elisa, she is certain that she is even closer to finding out the truth about her birth parents.

My favourite aspect of this book was most definitely the setting. The gorgeous Montevino is portrayed as a blissful and cozy Italian village with a strong sense of community and a slower pace of life. The author develops this idea beautifully and the eloquent and poetic writing perfectly match the setting. I was also impressed by her ability to explore complex family relationships, in particular when addressing Elisa and her family which mirrors Callie’s in many ways.

There were several minor characters in this book which stood out for different reasons: Flora for her stubbornness and Elisa for her determination. I could not warm to the male characters and found Callie’s love interest uninteresting but I think that this is ultimately a personal feeling as I don’t always appreciate romance enough in Historical Fiction. However, this minor touch wasn’t enough to sway my original feelings of the book.

The Italian Villa is a literary gem which transports the reader on an adventure and interprets hard hitting topics such as loneliness and family relationships with ease. I devoured it in just two sittings and was left with a feeling of warmth and serenity which stayed with me for a long time. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to escape to another place and time and join a charming main character on an exciting adventure.

The Italian Villa is out to buy next Monday!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Blog tour: The Friday Edition by Betta Ferrendelli

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Title: The Friday Edition

Author: Betta Ferrendelli

Genre: Mystery

Publication date: 6th July 2012

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

“Christmas is coming to Denver, Colorado, but it isn’t only snow that’s falling.

A beautiful young woman, who also happens to be a Truman County Assistant DA, tumbles from her apartment balcony to her death on Christmas Eve.

The incident is ruled a suicide, but the DA’s sister, newspaper reporter Samantha Church, isn’t buying it.

Feverishly Samantha throws herself into finding out what really happened to her sister. She pursues her sister’s killers, maneuvering through a minefield of intrigue deliberately set out to divert her from the truth. She invariably stumbles when confronted by the inescapable specter of a greater enemy: the alcohol dependency that has already cost her the respect of her peers, and, worse, custody of her daughter.

Samantha must summon the courage to face not only a cartel of criminals, but also her own demons. Physically threatened and betrayed, she nearly defeats herself through her own insecurities and fears. She not only must summon the courage to get beyond her own shortcomings, but she must work quickly to beat her nemesis – a reporter at the major metropolitan daily newspaper, who is also in close pursuit of the developing story.

Can Samantha ultimately prevail, write the biggest story of her career, and finally begin to change her life before it is too late?

My review:

The Friday Edition starts daringly as we discover that a woman has died after falling from her apartment’s balcony. The authorities are quick to label the incident as a suicide however Samantha Church, who we later discover is the woman’s sister, is not convinced. This strong beginning had me immediately hooked and I was eager to learn more.

The author successfully manages to develop Samantha as a protagonist, ambitious and hungry for the truth while fighting her own battles. Although I didn’t like her character and found her frustrating at times, it is clear as the story line develops that her close bond with her sister is the main reason behind her drive and is a character trait that I found admirable. My aversion to her personality largely stems from her lack of initiative to reconcile her family life and focus on her health. Throughout the book her relationship with her husband and daughter deteriorated and her alcoholism worsened and at no point did she decide to take action to improve these aspects of her life which I found irritating. The remaining minor characters were not unlikable however did not manage to impress as they often felt insignificant to the plot.

In terms of the story line, the author had some solid ideas and the pace at which these were developed felt right however there were times where the main mystery seemed to go off track. I was keen to follow Samantha to try and expose the murderer however a lot of the story line focused on Samantha’s history which, although makes sense considering this is the first book in the series, I was ultimately not interested in. Some parts felt moving, such as learning about Samantha’s childhood and how it shaped her life, however others I found unnecessary.

I was left with mixed feelings after finishing The Friday Edition. Although the beginning felt engaging the story line wavered and sometimes felt detached. A lack of interest in the characters also didn’t help but I also understand that the author was building the groundwork for this series. The Friday Edition would be a good read for fans of the genre who are hoping to read an uncomplicated murder mystery.

Many thanks to Dave at TheWriteReads for providing an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Friday Edition is out to buy now!

Book review: The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths


Title: The Stranger Diaries

Author: Elly Griffiths

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Quercus

Publication date: 1st November 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

My review:

A modern thriller with a gothic feel, The Stranger Diaries boasts a unique blend of antique tales and modern day family life. Its main character, Clare Cassidy, bridges this gap well as she is both portrayed as a normal mother and a teacher passionate about fascinating old tales, particularly those of RM Holland who has a close connection to the school she teaches at.

I truly enjoyed the gothic elements and reminders as they set a different tone to the story line. When one of Clare’s colleagues and closest friend is killed, the note found by her body is a line from RM Holland’s novel and from here on, all confrontations and events that follow are closely linked to RM Holland. These connections become even more eerie as Clare discovers that the suspect may be closer to home than she originally thought.

Unfortunately I could not warm to any of the characters and this ultimately left me feeling disinterested in their fate. When Clare suspects that her family may be in danger it didn’t encourage me to read on as by that point I was already feeling frustrated with some of the poor decisions she had taken and the lack of action to keep her family safe. She did not seem like a trustworthy narrator and I was questioning her decision making skills several times throughout the book. Her daughter, Georgie, also appeared unreliable and indifferent to the situation in her school which seemed odd.

An aspect which worked well but ultimately irritated me was the setting. Almost the entire book is set at the school Clare works at and Georgie attends, which is understandable as it was also the school connected to RM Holland. However, it almost seemed like there was not enough substance to transport these characters elsewhere therefore confining them to the same location which ultimately narrowed the possible murderers to very few. The school setting worked well with the gothic theme and there were many parts which left me astonished however I would have liked to see these characters in other settings too.

The Stranger Diaries is a well written thriller with many literary elements that lovers of gothic novels will admire. The supernatural elements are delivered in just the right doses without appearing too overwhelming. Unfortunately I couldn’t connect with the characters and was not taken aback by the ending either which leaves this thriller as solid however perhaps not a memorable one which I will recall months from now.

Book review: The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech


Title: The Lion Tamer Who Lost

Author: Louise Beech

Genre: Fiction/Romance

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 15th July 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ 

Summary:

Be careful what you wish for…
Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…

Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…

Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it? What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart…

My review:

Some books leave their mark for such a long time that I keep coming back even though months go by. I read this book in November but I have only just now been able to gather my thoughts and write this review.

The story begins as Ben is starting a new project as a lion tamer in Zimbabwe. He is young, nervous, yet hungry for life and adventure. His relationship with his father is strained and he has left a complicated relationship with Andrew back home. Several chapters later we learn who Andrew is and how he and Ben met, how their friendship developed into something more and how a set of unexpected circumstances led them to grow apart to such an extent that Ben decided on a fresh start abroad in an exciting environment. The story so far focuses more on Ben’s time at the lion resort and this part of the book was so interesting and eye opening. It was clear that the author had done a lot of research into the topic yet she presented her findings in a tender and beautiful manner with just enough technical details. I had no idea about the difficulties lion tamers faced and was left with my heart in my mouth at some of the tense moments.

The second part of the book focuses more on Ben and Andrew’s relationship prior to his trip as well as after his return. This part of the story line was emotionally draining and heartbreaking. I had to leave and return to the book several times as at times it felt too much. As with previous books, Louise Beech tells their story beautifully with a lot of emotion and care. However, I couldn’t get past the sequence of events which followed Ben’s return from Zimbabwe and Andrew’s fate. It almost felt like their story was destined to be over before it had even started and I would have preferred to see them make amends earlier rather than the devastating turn of events which followed.

Fortunately there are also moments of happiness as Ben’s relationship with his father develops in unexpected ways after he comes back. We learn more about his father’s prejudice, which is a sensitive topic handled extremely well by the author. The minor characters were also wonderfully woven into these last few chapters and a few extracts from Andrew’s book at the end don’t fail to move the reader in inexplicable ways and were a beautiful finish to a brilliant book.

With its superb storytelling and fantastic set of characters, The Lion who Lost is a gem not to be missed. Fans of Louise Beech will enjoy the unique traits present in her books and those who have not yet read her writing must do so in order to not miss out on the beauty in this book.

 

Book review: Law and Addiction by Mike Papantonio


Title: Law and Addiction

Author: Mike Papantonio

Genre: Thriller

Publisher: Waterside Productions

Publication date: 7th May 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

One week before his law school graduation, Jake Rutledge is shattered. His fraternal twin, Blake, has died of a drug overdose. When Jake returns to his hometown of Oakley, West Virginia, he discovers that his brother was not the only person hooked on opioid painkillers. The entire region has been ravaged by an epidemic insidiously planned and carried out by one of America’s most powerful pharmaceutical companies.

Still wet behind the ears, Jake is determined to seek justice for all the victims of Big Pharma’s greed. He soon learns that the drug companies’ tentacles reach far and deep. His only hope is to get Nicholas “Deke” Deketomis to help. A partner at one of the country’s most powerful law firms, Deke’s “as tough as a two-dollar steak” and well-known for his winning tactics against corporate wrongdoers. With just enough persistence, Jake coaxes Deke to see Oakley’s devastation firsthand. Overwhelmed, Deke agrees to join forces with Jake.

And that’s when the real heat begins. Death threats, bribes, unlawful property seizure schemes – all are connected to the massive distribution of both legal and illegal drugs. Everyone is impacted, from the highest levels of corporate America to corrupt local officials to their lackeys and hapless victims. The complexity of the schemes is overwhelming.

Working tirelessly, the lawyers begin to uncover the truth. Along the way, Jake falls in love with Anna Fowler, a former homecoming queen who has succumbed to the power of opioids. With his support, she weans herself off the drugs. Hope begins to bloom — when suddenly, Jake disappears. As Deke undertakes a desperate search to find him, questions swirl. Has Jake abandoned Anna and his crusade? Can the case against the evildoers move forward without him? Will Oakley and its residents survive? Law and Addiction is real-life drama at its finest — a book that clears away the darkness page by page, spotlighting a profound truth about our society through expert storytelling. “

My review:

Law and Addiction is a stellar thriller which successfully manages to shed light on a central topic affecting thousands in USA while also introducing a set of interesting and unique characters. Jake Rutledge, recently graduated from law school, is devastated to find out that his twin brother died of a drug overdose and that many others in his hometown are suffering just as badly. He decides to take measures and enlists the help of one of the most successful partners in another law firm, Nicholas Deketomis, in order to unearth the unjust horrors surrounding the opioid crisis and big pharma industry.

I must admit that I did not know just how serious the opioid epidemic in USA was. A quick Google search while I was still in the first few chapters of the book made me realise how dangerous yet unaddressed it was which made me even more eager to read on to understand the topic further. The main character, Jake, is bold and assertive and I was pleasantly surprised at his willingness to expose big pharma’s scheme. His personal experience also meant that this was clearly a topic close to home as he greatly missed his brother which evidently encouraged him to succeed even more despite the many setbacks.

The writing is articulate and succinct and it became clear to me from a very early point that the author has a lot of experience in the legal industry. The prose was clear and easy to follow however I found the speech too wordy and stilted. At times, particularly in the courtroom, it almost felt like I was reading a movie script. This did not hinder the quality of the writing although it was enough to discontinue the flow.

One of my favourite aspects in the book, apart from the tough yet well researched subject matter, was the change in pace. I usually enjoy fast-paced thrillers with lots of action however I particularly enjoyed the slower parts in the book and the contrast with the fast-paced ending. The final chapters were intense and full of energy as the courtroom action drew to a close. A close and personal encounter with a powerful group meant that Jake ultimately understood the effects of opioids firsthand and this personal touch, although unfortunate and distressing, allowed for an even more compassionate approach.

Mike Papantonio has paved the way for success with Law and Addiction as well as emphasising the importance of tackling the opioid crisis with force through an exciting and action-filled thriller. I encourage those with little knowledge on the subject to read the book, as well as lovers of courtroom drama and legal procedurals.

Many thanks to Michelle at FSB Associates for providing an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Law and Addiction is out to buy now!

My reading and blogging goals for 2020 and a reflection of 2019

Studious Saturday

As tradition calls, I have decided to look back on my achievements from last year and prioritise my goals for this year. 2019 was a difficult year in many ways but it was also very rewarding as I managed to read many wonderful books and grow my blog in a way I never thought was possible.

These were my goals from last year:

Read 55 books – achieved!

I finished my 55th book on New Year’s Eve! I don’t know how this always happens but in 2017 and 2018 I found myself flipping through the pages of a tense thriller which made reaching my Goodreads challenge so much easier. The same happened on New Year’s Eve 2019 when I was halfway through The Whisper Man and just couldn’t wait to see what happens.

Branch out to other genres – achieved!

This was probably the goal that I was most focused on last year and I am happy to say that I managed to achieve it. I read several Science Fiction and Dystopia novels as well as a Poetry book and a few Non-Fiction books for book club. This has made my reading experience much more valuable and I find myself reflecting on the books I have read a lot more as I am no longer reading just thrillers and contemporary literature.

Discover Spanish Contemporary Literature – failed miserably!

I feel ashamed to say that, despite living in Spain and being surrounded by books in Spanish, I didn’t read even one Spanish book last year. I already have 2 Spanish novels at home waiting for me in my bookcase but I kept putting off reading them until the end of the year when it was already too late. I hope to rectify this in 2020 as I am sure that reading in Spanish will benefit my knowledge and use of the language a lot.

Schedule my posts in advance – achieved!

Although I didn’t always schedule my posts in advance, I usually had a clear idea of the blog posts I want to write and book for the next month. Most of my book reviews were usually written and scheduled at least one day before publication which made organising my blog so much easier than before.

Design a new look for my blog – sort of achieved?

I redesigned my blog in April last year in time for my one year blogiversary however I am still not too pleased with the new design. I hope to do some more research this year to understand how I can use WordPress custom designs to my advantage and will hopefully redesign my blog layout again.

Summary: I reached most of my goals for 2019 and I am especially pleased to have read a much more diverse range of literature. I didn’t focus much on my blog design and layout after the redesign at the beginning of the year but I managed to organise my blogging to fit my schedule by planning and writing posts in advance.

My goals for 2020

Read 55 books from a variety of genres

I have decided to keep the same Goodreads challenge as 2019 and also keep my goal of reading books from many different genres. I hope to branch out into Young Adult and Fantasy this year and maybe try a few Romance books again.

Discover Spanish Contemporary Literature

I will try to reach this goal this year after completely discarding it at the end of last year. As I already have some books in Spanish at home I hope that it won’t be too difficult to achieve as long as I put time aside to focus on them rather than my most recent ARCs or my kindle.

Don’t overload myself with ARCs

I went overboard with ARCs last year and at one point found myself too overwhelmed with deadlines and had to force myself to write  reviews. I don’t enjoy this part of blogging and have decided that for this year I will only read one ARC per month to spread them out across the year. I also want to keep my Netgalley average above 80% so hopefully this goal will help me meet that target.

Redesign my blog

There is still a long way to go until I feel completely happy with my blog design. I am not very knowledgeable in this area so I know that I will have to do some research beforehand so it is quite possible that this goal might be postponed until the end of the year. However, I know that design is very important for first impressions so I want to ensure that I focus on this area as well.

Get more involved in the book blogging community

I am so pleased to have found many wonderful book bloggers who I have formed connections with through this community but lately I feel like I am less inclined to blog hop and find new bloggers. I hope to correct this in 2020 as this is a fundamental part of book blogging and also a great way to get to know others, find new books and share new ideas. I have set a preliminary target of blog hopping at least twice per week although I know that this might be hard to reach over the next three months when I know that I will have other career and travel related goals planned.

Those are my goals for 2020. Most of all, I hope to read many more interesting books across different genres and also try to read more in Spanish. I enjoy blogging but I hope to focus more on design and also find time to discover new bloggers in the community.

Question time

What are your reading and blogging goals for 2020?