Monday, 19 February 2018

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn
Published by Harper Collins
January 2018

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?

This book reminded me of the film The Bedroom Window, the one where Steve Guttenburg's girlfriend sees a woman getting murdered but no one else believes them.  Here we start with an unreliable narrator, Anna, an agoraphobic who also drinks, a lot. She spends a lot of time looking out of her apartment windows and photographing her neighbours in their houses opposite.  She befriends the wife and son of her new neighbours, the Russells and one evening she hears a scream and thinks she sees the demise of Mrs Russell before her very eyes.  However when she reports the incident, it appears that Mrs Russell is in fact, very much alive and well, and not the woman that Anna met only days before.  

Anna is convinced that what she saw really happened but vast amounts of alcohol plus a strong combination of medication means that her story is doubted by everyone around her, apart from her estranged husband and daughter whom she talks to on the telephone.  As Anna's story as to why she is house-bound is revealed, we soon begin to question whether she did see a woman in the window or not.  And if she did, is Anna truly safe in her own home?

This book has lots of twists and turns and a whole host of characters with dubious qualities - anyone of them could be a potential killer.  This book is a little like that of the recent bestseller  The Girl on a Train but in many ways I preferred this tale.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Everything I know about Love

Everything I know about Love by Dolly Alderton
Published by Fig Tree
1st February 2018

When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown up, journalist and former Sunday Timesdating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you've ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out. It's a book about bad dates, good friends and - above all else - about recognising that you and you alone are enough.
Glittering with wit and insight, heart and humour, Dolly Alderton's powerful d├ębut weaves together personal stories, satirical observations, a series of lists, recipes, and other vignettes that will strike a chord of recognition with women of every age - while making you laugh until you fall over. Everything I know About Love is about the struggles of early adulthood in all its grubby, hopeful uncertainty.

The hype surrounding this book on social media, particularly on Instagram has been huge; it would appear that everyone everywhere has either read or is reading the debut book by Dolly Alderton and having read it myself, with good reason.  Dolly takes us on a journey of her life, of her doomed love affairs with a variety of men and boys and of her relationships with her friends.  She is brutally honest and this makes the book enjoyable in that it doesn't seem like she is trying to hard to make you like her, you just do.  There are recipes inside to help when you might be in need of them, tips on how to conduct the best hen night ever (no actually that's a joke, don't do it like that please!) and lots of things not to do in your twenties - like riding around in taxi cabs solo for hundreds of miles!

I feel like I know Dolly now and am having to stop myself messaging her over on Instagram in a casual 'hi' manner when in reality she hasn't a clue who I am, and I feel like stalking Farly and asking her to be my bestie too.  This book sucks you in because at the end of the day, love is all you need.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 5 February 2018

The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Published by Penguin
February 2018

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice's life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice's grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate - the Hazel Wood - Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away - by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.
To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began . . .

The debut novel by Melissa Albert has been quoted by some as being like a modern day Alice in Wonderland and having read it, I can see why some reviewers have made that comparison.  Our central character is Alice, a teenager who has spent her whole life moving from one bed to another with her mother across America.  She has a famous grandmother, Althea Proserpine, who wrote one  fairy-tale novel that blew the minds of those who read it, then disappeared from the face of the earth. She has never known a steady homelife, until now with her mother's husband and her step-sister.  One day coming home from school Alice discovers that her mother has been kidnapped and her step father literally forces her out of his house at gun-point; she knows that she has no one else to turn to other than Ellery Finch, a boy at her school who is kind-of obsessed by her grandmother's book Tales from the Hinterland.  He knows the short stories inside out and is the only one who can unravel the clues to help rescue Alice's mother from the Hazel Wood, the estate where her grandmother lived and died.

The book takes us on a journey with Alice and Finch where no one is really whom they seem and no one can be trusted.  Think  dark fairy tale here (like Alice Carter) and you will have some idea of what sort of world is being conjured up.  This is Melissa Albert going back to the dark fairy tale days of the Grimm brothers, not sugar coating them like Disney does.  I wouldn't say this is necessarily a book for younger teen readers as there are some quite dark and violent moments in the story but if you like a twisted fairy tale then this will definitely keep you turning the pages long into the night.  My only gripe is that the American cover is so much prettier than the UK version!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 22 January 2018

Three Things about Elsie

Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Published by The Borough Press
January 2018

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.
84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

This is Joanna Cannon's follow-up to the outstanding debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep which I loved when I read it this time in 2016.  I was slightly worried if she would manage to pull out another wonderful book or whether this would be the dodgy second novel that you sometimes see authors produce.  Having finished the book this weekend I am thrilled to report that this is not the case at all.  This is a very different novel to the first but equally as wonderful.

Our central characters are all octogenarians who live at the Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly - we spend our time with Elsie, Florence and Jack, the managers of the home Miss Bissell  and Miss Ambrose  and the caretaker Handy Simon.  It soon becomes apparent that Florence is suffering from dementia and is threatened with a move to another care home Greenbank if her 'performance' doesn't improve in a month.  Elsie, her best friend, is her helping hand, always telling her to remember three things from the past so that she doesn't forget the present.  Their daily lives are quite mundane until a new resident moves in, a Mr Gabriel Price who seems polite, capable and a friend to everyone.  However, for Florence this sparks a memory of the past, of a man she knew as Ronnie Butler who drowned sixty years earlier.  The trouble is, who is going to believe anything a woman with memory problems says?

Joanna Cannon takes us on a journey with Florence from the present day back through her memories of growing up with Elsie and of the infamous Ronnie Butler.  Who is he and why does Florence think he has now returned from the dead?  There are some wonderful moments of humour throughout, some characters you will both love and detest and some emotional scenes too.  Three Things about Elsie has them all in spades and I predict this will become another huge bestseller.  Grab a cuppa, a slice of battenburg cake and devour the book that everyone will be talking about this year before I run out of superlatives to describe it!!!!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 8 January 2018

The Alice Network

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Published by William Morrow
July 2017

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the matter where it leads.

I loved the real-life element of The Alice Network as the central characters are based around the network of female spies that did indeed help the war effort abroad during the first world war.  The book takes the view point of two very different characters - Eve, a seemingly battered older woman who it turns out was a spy in World War One, and Charlie, an American socialite looking for her missing cousin..For these two people's paths to cross seems unlikely but Charlie is given Eve's name as a last resort to help with finding the missing Rose.  The two, it turns out, need each other, and they journey across France in what is seemingly only in a hunt for Rose, but for Eve is also to close something that has plagued her daily life for many years.  

We live through the first world war as we see what Eve faces during her time as part of the amazing 'Alice Network', seeing what daily challenges she, and the other women around her, face and of the enormous strength and courage that they undertake to help their country.  I loved this part of the story the most, particularly as I have real passion for the women who worked undercover during both wars; of their grit and determination.  The second part of the story shows the destruction and change of Europe after the second world war and of how it affected so many.  Rose and Eve return to a France that has not recovered and this is a very visual novel in that respect.  

It is gritty and violent in parts but also full of passion and drama and I can see why it was chosen as one of the books for Reese Witherspoon's book group last year.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 11 December 2017


Ragdoll by Daniel Cole
Published by Trapeze Books
October 2017

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together, nicknamed by the press as the 'Ragdoll'. Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William 'Wolf' Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.
The 'Ragdoll Killer' taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them. With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

I saw this on a shelf in a bookshop and decided that it sounded right up my reading street, and I was right!  Ragdoll is a great crime thriller and I'm avidly looking forward to the next book which is due out next year.  Anyway I digress, back to this book....!
A body is discovered hanging in the window of a high rise apartment block in the middle of London.  On investigation it appears that the body has been constructed out of a number of body parts all from different victims - 6 in fact, but who are they?  More chillingly one of the hands has a finger that is pointing toward an apartment in the opposite tower; that flat belongs to Detective William Fawkes - is this a message from the killer aimed directly at Fawkes?
Alongside identifying the victims, the killer also has a list of other people he is going to kill and when he plans to do this.  Fawkes has this information, as too does his newsreporter ex-wife Andrea and now thanks to her, so do the public.  It is up to Fawkes and his team to find these individuals before the killer gets to them first.
This was a real page-turner and I thoroughly enjoyed it, right up to its dramatic climax.  What's more, at the time of publishing this, Amazon have it for sale on their kindle books for a mere 99p so what are you waiting for?!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The House

The House by Simon Lelic
Published by Penguin
November 2017

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.
So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.
Because someone has just been murdered outside their back door.

This is the first novel I've read by author Simon Lelic but as it was recommended by the Radio 2 Book Club and was super cheap for the kindle edition (99p at the time of typing this) I decided what harm could it do to download it and add it to my never ending tbr pile!  As it should so happen, it didn't stay on the pile for very long, and I read it in just two sittings.  For me it seemed to be a book of two halves, I felt the first half of the book was tense and quite spooky but not some much the second half.  This might be deliberate or just the way that I read it but as I put the book down on the Saturday evening I felt a little creeped out, but not at all on Sunday morning when I began to re-read it.
We have two main human characters, boyfriend and girlfriend Jack and Sydney who, as luck may have it, have just managed to purchase a house in the middle of London!  Now you may be a bit judgemental at this point and when you learn about their background think 'now how is this even possible?' but stay with it because all will be revealed at a later point in the tale.
The house - for this is a character in it's own right, is quite frankly spooky from the offset and I certainly wouldn't have been putting an offer in on it if I'm honest with you, however I am neither Jack nor Syd who decided to put in a cheeky bid only to find that it has been accepted by the overseas owner so now they have to move into the building complete with all of the contents that have been left behind.
And so things continue.... Jack makes a creepy discovery in the attic (but it kind of gets brushed aside), things go bump in the night and Syd meets the girl from opposite who has a dead mother and an abusive father in her life.  They both get involved with young Elsie and this is where the story takes a turn for the worst because her father is soon discovered murdered in the alleyway at the end of their garden and Jack's driving licence has been found nearby, but was he responsible?
The book is written in the first person, with each chapter being written by either Jack or Syd which doesn't exactly make them reliable authors.  I like the way the book ended though, I like a good twist to my thrillers.  Whilst this might have some flaws within it, if I'm being picky, it's not a bad thriller to spend your time or money on.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x