Book review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker


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Title: The Night Before

Author: Wendy Walker

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Publisher: St Martin’s Press

Publication date: 14th May 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.
Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date.
When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him…
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My review:

Many readers may not have heard of Wendy Walker but with her upcoming publication, The Night Before, I am sure that she will soon become a name to remember in the Psychological Thriller category. This book had all the right ingredients of an alluring and nail-biting thriller and I was lost in Laura’s world of confusion, distress and desperation. I was a little disappointed to find out that the author had decided to follow one of the latest trends in the industry with an unreliable female narrator but quickly warmed to Laura and her personality. The first few chapters flew by as I was immersed in her world and was keen to discover how her first date after the big break up would transpire.

I read the rest of this book in only one other sitting, eager to find out what had happened to Laura after she disappeared. Blaming her date seemed obvious but the rest of the characters involved appeared to be so distressed about her disappearance that it really left the field wide open for all other surprises. The author really delivered here as we were taken on a roller coaster of twists, riddles and mind games where all characters were involved.

Although I enjoyed the premise of this book, I was slightly disappointed with how it ended and in particular the way in which Laura’s disappearance was handled. At first the events seemed a little far-fetched, especially considering how the characters were originally portrayed, but it slowly started to make sense and all came together in the final few chapters. I would have preferred a different ending but looking back at all the hints the author left, I can understand why and how she chose to develop the plot the way she did. Tense, suspenseful and captivating, The Night Walker is a must read for all Psychological Thriller fans.

The Night Before will be out to buy on 14th May!

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

Studious Saturday: Top books in my immediate TBR list

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As some of you have probably realised by now, I tend to be a mood reader and decide which book to read next depending on how I feel and recent recommendations. However, as my TBR list has increased to over 100 books, I decided to prioritise and pick my top immediate reads. In no particular order, these are the books that I hope to read next…


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I have heard so many wonderful things about All The Light We Cannot See and I bought it during my recent bookshop hopping adventure in Glasgow. Since then it has been sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to pick it up and I really hope to start reading it soon.


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I hadn’t heard of Matt Wesolowski before all the reviews of Changeling took over my WordPress Reader feed. I haven’t seen one negative review so far and this, together with my interest in cold cases, means that this book has jumped right to the top of my list.


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The premise of Vox is so fascinating but I was hesitant to read this book after all the mixed reviews. However, I have decided to try it as it has been a long time since I last read a good Dystopian novel.


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Every time I read a Markus Zusak novel I feel a great need to disconnect from the world and reflect on what I have just read. His books are like no other and his writing is so powerful that I find it extremely difficult to start a new book afterwards because I just know that it would pale in comparison. That is probably the main reason that I have been putting off starting Bridge of Clay for the past few months. However, my lovely hardback signed copy is waiting for me patiently in my bookshelf and I don’t think that I’ll be able to resist much longer!


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There is so much hype surrounding Louise Beech’s books and I am eager to find out what exactly about her writing makes her books so special. I have heard that all her books are very different and decided to start with her newest release, Call Me Star Girl. From the reviews I have read it seems that her writing is very addictive so I may be on the way to hopefully discovering a new favourite author!


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It has been a long time since I last read a heartwarming and emotional book and Fredrik Backman has been on my list of new authors to discover for so long therefore A Man Called Ove seemed like the perfect fit. I am a firm believer of reading the book before watching the movie but I have wanted to watch this movie for such a long time so I have some real motivation to finally read this book!


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I am late to the party it seems because The Silent Patient is everywhere. Every time I walk into a bookstore this book is staring back at me. It is set to be this year’s bestseller in the Psychological Thriller category and I am keen to understand why. I have been reading a lot of Thrillers and Crime fiction lately so may wait until I read some of the books in other genres in this list before starting The Silent Patient but I hope to read this book over the summer break.


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The new (or now not so new) sequel to the Cormoran Strike series has been on my radar ever since its publication date but every time I consider buying it I am put off by how long it is. Some recent reviews also confirm my suspicion that the writing tends to be long-winded which is one of my pet peeves of a Thriller. However, this series is one of my favourites and I really need to find out how it continues after the abrupt ending that we were left on in its predecessor.


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Kristin Hannah blew me away with The Nightingale and I must admit that the premise of The Great Alone sounds even better. I suspect that it is bound to be another emotionally draining read so I am waiting for the right mindset before starting it. However, from looking at the high Goodreads rating and recent reviews, I am sure that it will not disappoint.


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I am in two minds about The Woman in the Window. After reading the full story surrounding A. J. Finn (or Daniel Mallory, the real writer behind the pseudonym) I immediately discarded this book from my list. However, I keep adding it back to my TBR list after reading the never ending list of reviews in the book blogging community. The hype has even reached Spain and I have seen so many people reading this book lately. The generic trend of unreliable female narrators that is the main focus of these Thrillers don’t hold much hope for me but I hope to be pleasantly surprised and not disappointed like I was with The Girl on the Train.

What are some of your top picks on your immediate TBR list? I would love to hear your suggestions and recommendations!

Studious Saturday: a reflection on my recent break from reading

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Sometimes we are all faced with surprises and unexpected complications that mean that we have to put aside our work, hobbies and daily routine. For me, reading has always been one of the most essential parts of my day and I had become used to reading on my commute to work and at home every evening. Unfortunately a recent series of events in my life rattled my routine and I found myself thrown into a completely different world where I no longer found joy in reading so decided to take a short break from one of my biggest passions.

During this period, I discovered several things about myself as a reader and the necessity to stop, reflect and take a break that I wanted to share with you. My first thought was that, strangely enough, although reading used to be a key part of my day beforehand, I no longer missed it. My mind was occupied with everything else going on around me and I didn’t feel the need to pick up my kindle even though it was always inside my bag next to me.

Another revelation that soon came to me as my mind started to clear up with all the unease was that I started reflecting on some of the books that I had recently read. Thoughts of the setting, characters along with how I plan to structure my reviews made me realise that I would hopefully soon return to my previous self and desire to pick up a book again.

Finally, I found the urge to start a new book when I was discussing No Way Out, the new book in Cara Hunter’s DI Fawley series, with my mum who was raving about how brilliant it is. I had already downloaded the book a few weeks ago but didn’t feel like reading it up until this point. It was almost like a eureka moment and that evening I devoured half the book in one sitting and finished the rest of it over the next day. (To those that haven’t yet read No Way Out, I highly recommend it!)

During this experience I realised that there are times in life where we are forced to put aside our pastimes or even times where we no longer find pleasure in the things we used to enjoy, and that is perfectly fine. I also now understand that the smallest nudge in the right direction like sharing views with a loved one on a favourite author is sufficient. Sometimes we need a break in order to focus on other more important situations or just to look at things from another perspective. I soon found my desire to read again and have decided to view this experience as a learning curve rather than a fallback.

Have you ever taken a break from reading and if so, how did you find it?

Studious Saturday: exploring bookshops in Edinburgh

studious saturdays

Happy Saturday! It’s been a while since I posted my last bookshop hopping experience in Glasgow and decided that it is time to follow up with some of the bookshops we visited during our day trip to Edinburgh.

Blackwell’s

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Our first stop was Blackwell’s, conveniently located on a main road in the city center. Books are neatly arranged with the bestsellers on one side upon entering and the rest by genre, to the right of the entrance. We spent a long time looking through the contemporary fiction section, recommending books to each other and picking out new ones that looked interesting. The non-fiction area was busy with people hoping to buy some of the more famous books but we still managed to look through these shelves.

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Perhaps the best part of this bookshop was the little Cafe Nero that was set up at the very end, complete with a fun sign that was almost too tempting. However, we decided to carry on with our tour through Edinburgh and move on to the next bookshop.

Lighthouse Bookshop

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Our next stop was Lighthouse Bookshop, a short walk away from Blackwell’s and close to the University of Edinburgh. This was such a delight to visit and by far our favourite bookshop during our visit in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The staff are attentive and the range of books on display are carefully chosen to match their political values and passion for justice and equality around the world. We spent a very long time here, looking through all the shelves and even choosing some rarer books from the Politics section to take home.

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The shop is equipped with comfortable chairs and a variety of eccentric and quirky phrases written out on the notice boards. Lighthouse arranges several events each month, including their own Book Fringe alongside the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Radical Book Fair.

Our experience didn’t end here as we continued our walk up to Armchair Books. Unfortunately, the various staircases and hills led to us feeling very tired as we approached the end of our day in Edinburgh and we decided to only quickly browse through the shelves and head back towards the train station. Nevertheless, it was another fun and worthwhile experience and I greatly enjoyed discussing books and authors with family in this beautiful city.

Have you been to these bookshops in Edinburgh? I would love to hear what you thought of them!

If you are enjoying this series of exploring bookshops in different cities, watch out for my next post in a few weeks’ time which will be based in Madrid!

Book review: Watching You by Lisa Jewell


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Title: Watching You

Author: Lisa Jewell

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Cornerstone Digital

Publication date: 12th July 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.
As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all—including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenage son Freddie—a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5—excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father.
One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother—whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years—is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her.
Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…

My review:

Watching You starts with one of the most enticing first chapters I’ve recently read in a thriller; a dead body is found in the kitchen of what appears to be the ideal family, viciously stabbed several times. We first hear from one of the protagonists, Joey, who is being interviewed by the police and Lisa Jewell’s fluid writing style really starts to show here. I was immediately compelled to read the next few chapters but was disappointed to find out that we are instead introduced to several other characters in this community in Bristol and the connections between these characters doesn’t start to become clear until around the halfway point of the book, by which point I was already starting to lose interest.

The main drawback for me was the lack of context behind the spying aspect. At one point it seemed that everyone was watching each other but the reason behind it was vague so I was frustrated that it assumed such a large chunk of the plot. Snippets of the crime scene and day of the death are slowly revealed through the police interviews, a clever backdrop to use, and by discarding characters one by one it is not too difficult to guess who the culprit is behind the murder, which made for a slightly disappointing and predictable conclusion.

Nevertheless, as with many other novels by this author, the best is left until last and her true talent shines in the last chapter. The ending is enough to put into perspective everything that we have learnt so far about these characters, especially one particularly deceitful and malicious character. Few authors are able to deliver such a strong ending despite the predictable murderer and the implications from the final words are enough to justify reading through the slow beginning. I would recommend Watching You to anyone who enjoys a slow burn thriller with a shocking ending, although I encourage others to try Lisa Jewell’s other novels first as the pacing is much stronger and the characters more refined.

Book review: And Then You Were Gone by R.J. Jacobs


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Title: And Then You Were Gone

Author: R. J. Jacobs

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Publication date: 12th March 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Summary:

“After years of learning how to manage her bipolar disorder, Emily Firestone finally has it under control. Even better, her life is coming together: she’s got a great job, her own place, and a boyfriend, Paolo, who adores her. So when Paolo suggests a weekend sailing trip, Emily agrees—wine, water, and the man she loves? What could be better? But when Emily wakes the morning after they set sail, the boat is still adrift…and Paolo is gone.

A strong swimmer, there’s no way Paolo drowned, but Emily is at a loss for any other explanation. Where else could he have gone? And why? As the hours and days pass by, each moment marking Paolo’s disappearance, Emily’s hard-won stability begins to slip.

But when Emily uncovers evidence suggesting Paolo was murdered, the investigation throws her mania into overdrive, even as she becomes a person of interest in her own personal tragedy. To clear her name, Emily must find the truth—but can she hold onto her own sanity in the process?”

My review:

An unreliable narrator and hazy circumstances surrounding a disappearance seem to be a great recipe for success so I naturally had high hopes for this book. The first few chapters with Emily and Paolo at the cabin felt natural, the writing was concise and the plot promising. I was impressed with the great level of care and attention the writer put into Emily’s bipolar disorder as it is not an easy topic to discuss, yet it was still handled with a lot of sensitivity and thought. I rushed through the first few chapters as I was impatient to understand what had happened to Paolo and if he was still alive.

Unfortunately, the story line and plot were just to weak for me. I quickly started losing interest as more characters were introduced and the attention shifted to Paolo’s co-workers and research the main motive behind his disappearance. It was also around this point where Emily’s character traits started to emerge and I could not connect with her hastiness or impulsiveness to take dangerous measures so she could uncover what she believed to be a conspiracy. I understand that her interpretation of the events of the night Paolo disappeared were distorted due to her mental illness and praise the author on the way this idea was developed but I think this side of the story line could have approached in a different way while still engaging the reader.

The ending where the secrets were revealed was somewhat of an anticlimax because the author gave many hints throughout the book of the suspect so it was not difficult to assume who it was. Despite the strong beginning, this book had too many flaws for me to fully invest my time in reading it in several sittings. Instead I found myself stopping and starting over the course of a few weeks which happens rarely when I read thrillers. I would recommend it only to those looking for a slower paced thriller and would advise not to trust Emily’s reasoning throughout the book.

And Then You Were Gone is out to buy now!

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

Studious Saturday: exploring bookshops in Glasgow

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You may have noticed that exploring bookshops in different cities has become a certain trend on Facing the Story. After posting about my experience in Bath and London, I decided to follow suit with the next city on the list: Glasgow.

Caledonia Books

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Caledonia Books is not only appealing from the outside but also enhances the reading experience with its splendid interior. Books are arranged by genre, with many of the foreign language and non-fiction titles hidden away at the ground floor. I was very impressed with the wide range of second-hand books and spent a long time browsing the fiction section.

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I was even more excited to discover some rare copies of antique books, a feature not so common in the usual high-street book store. Complete with a continuously expanding list of rare finds, this bookshop was definitely an exciting start to our afternoon.

Thistle Books

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Hidden away at the end of a side street, Thistle Books is a real treasure. Although it may appear plain from the outside, the inside is a complete contrast and pleasure to explore. Upon entering we were immediately intrigued by the various shelves of sheet music and array of music related books. There was a noticeboard for musicians to advertise their services and the soft tunes playing in the background created a calming and enjoyable browsing experience.

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Just as in Caledonia Books, I spent a very long time looking through the books out on display in the fiction area. All shelves were very well arranged and it was easy to find books that were high up on my reading list. After much thought and inner discussion of how I would fit yet another item in my suitcase, I settled on All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which I cannot wait to start reading. I highly recommend Thistle Books for any bookworms passing through Glasgow.

Hyndland Bookshop

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Our lost stop was an independent bookseller which not only offers the latest bestsellers in children and adult fiction but also a wonderful selection of beautifully handcrafted cards. Hyndland Bookshop provides the perfect setting for an afternoon spent picking out the next book. I recognised a lot of the bestsellers on the shelves but was also pleasantly surprised to discover books written by local authors and several thrillers set in Glasgow also caught my eye.

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Perhaps my favourite feature of this store was the dog-friendly environment and I was thrilled when a customer with an energetic labrador retriever walked in and delighted to see the treats that the owner offered. Despite our short visit we were pleased with our fun-filled afternoon and happy to have ended our day in this bright and welcoming bookshop.

Have you visited these bookshops or would you like to? Stay tuned to read about my next bookshop hopping adventure in Edinburgh!