The Widow: A Review

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The Widow by Fiona Barton – reading whilst at the dentist

Right, so I finished reading ‘The Widow’ by Fiona Barton a while back (last year in fact) but it has taken me ages to get around to writing this review because I’ve been so busy with work, training for my run and my marketing course (which I have now completed thank god!).

This book was on Richard and Judy’s Autumn 2016 Book Club list, and Penguin Random House were kind enough to send me a copy to review. If you know me, then you know that I am always more than happy to read anything Richard and Judy recommend. This book was also marketed as filling the void for those who had read ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins – and since I absolutely hated ‘The Girl on the Train’ (never read such utter rubbish in my life), I wasn’t sure what to expect with ‘The Widow’ really. Anyhoo, I was intrigued enough with the premise to want to read it and I’m happy to say it was no where near as awful as ‘The Girl on the Train’ (I think I am even more angry with the latter because I fell for its marketing and actually forked out and paid the full price for the book – AND I NEVER DO THIS, EVERRR. All my books are either second hand, gifts or free from publishers (love y’allll)).

The first thing that took me by surprise is that the setting for ‘The Widow’ is actually based in my hometown Southampton/Hampshire! This is always a pleasant surprise, and always improves my enjoyment of a novel I find, as I know all the locations mentioned in the book! This was certainly the case with another thriller I read quite a while back, in which the setting was also based in Southampton, and which I thoroughly enjoyed – ‘Eeny Meeny’ by M. J. Arlidge – I guess Southampton’s the place for novels about paedos and serial killers ehhh.

‘The Widow’ is based on the story of the wife who’s husband was accused of abducting (and potentially abusing and murdering) a child in Southampton, after he is killed by being hit by a bus. After his death, Jean Taylor – the widow – comes out of the woodworks and is ready to tell her side of the story to the newspapers, as she was largely silenced while her accused husband was alive.

The blurb hooked me quite quickly (I’ve nicked this from Amazon.co.uk – thanks Amazon XD ):

We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

The book is told from multiple perspectives including the wife/widow, the police inspector (is it terrible that I always imagine police officers round and tubby and eating donuts – pretty sure this was the description in this book too lolz), and the journalist. I admit the characters did have rather generic traits about them/standard trope-like descriptions – but I’m not sure how many people this would bother apart from myself really. The widow is a rather lackluster female lead, with a somewhat boring and monotone voice – but I am guessing this was used to invoke her situation of being rather depressed, confused and not the brightest bee in the world.

You start off with sympathising with her but as the story goes on, you realise that she’s kind of weird and creepy and is certainly hiding something. There aren’t major twists and turns, but there is a pace about the novel and key unfolding of events that keeps you turning the page, as you just don’t know who the culprit of the crime is, even though the assumption and the main thread of the novel is that it is the husband (* spoiler * it is him, but the novel is constructed in a way that makes you question the validity of this as it alludes to the possibility of several suspects).

What I enjoyed about this story is that it is a psychological thriller and the fact that I had no idea how the novel was going to end. The ending however – I won’t ruin it for ya – was a bit anti-climactic and a bit… meh?? I dunno, I just expect a bit more from my thrillers I guess. It is certainly a decent autumn/winter read and I would recommend it if you are looking for something easily digestible which doesn’t require too much investment. I do believe the reviews of the book are somewhat over-hyped, which may have increased my expectations of the novel and thus left me less than dissatisfied. I am going to give this book an honest rating of 2.5 stars out of 5.

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Rage Against the Dying: A Review

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Reading through my lunch break oh yeh

So going to get straight to the point here – I absolutely loved this book! One of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in a while. I couldn’t read it fast enough – it’s another Richard & Judy Book Club recommendation  ❤ that I am uber pleased that I’ve read – not that I’ve ever not been happy with a book that they’ve recommended.

Honestly, what’s not to like? It’s about a sassy 50-something ex- FBI agent/cop, Brigid Quinn, trying to settle down with life in retirement with her quirky professor of a husband, when a case she was obsessed with in her final years as an agent comes back to bite her in the ass. This last case, that still haunts her many years later, centers on a serial murderer known as the Route 66 killer. Every summer, the murderer would abduct a woman, slit her tendons so she couldn’t run, rape and then kill her – ditching her mutilated body in a different location each year for the police to find. Quinn becomes consumed with finding the killer; but as she was too old to pose as a vulnerable woman on the Route 66 road at the time – hence the Route 66 killer – she trains a younger, 22 year old agent, Jessica, to lure the killer. She convinced herself that Jessica was ready to go out in the field, even though deep down she knew that it was too soon. But the plan works – it works all too well. The killer not only takes the bait, but kills the bait too. Quinn and her team spend years trying to find Jessica’s body, but they never do.

Quinn is still trying to move on from Jessica’s death on her conscious several years later, when she gets a knock on the door saying that the killer has been found and can take the police to Jessica’s body. But as Quinn gets sucked back into the case, and looks deeper into the details of the killer’s confession, she is convinced that he is a fraud. Which means the real killer is still out there, and might potentially strike again.

This book is written and edited so fantastically – I honestly cannot praise it enough. The details are forensic and chilling, and deal with some rather unsettling stuff, from gruesome murder and mummification to necrophilia. But at the same time, it is an easy and entertaining read. It’s a thriller (the stuff I am thoroughly enjoying at the moment!), but I found myself laughing out loud at times, and then at other moments like HOLY CRAP THIS IS SCARY (this mostly happened when I was huddled in my bed at 3am reading with the faint glow of my lamp in the corner of my room lol). The balance between being entertaining yet simultaneously thrilling is a hard one to achieve, and I think Masterman has skillfully done this through the confident and compelling protagonist that is Quinn – a no-nonsense, attractive, intelligent and totally fearless female lead. The tone of voice and pace throughout the novel is absolutely brilliant – it’s simultaneously outlandish yet incredibly personable and utterly believable. If you’re looking for an easy autumn read which appeases your CSI sensibilities – this novel is perfect for you! For the pure enjoyment of reading it I cannot recommend it enough.

I also decided to stalk the author a bit half way through reading it because I was enjoying it so much, and was delighted to find that it’s part of a series of books, and this is the first one! So next on my ever-growing reading list: Brigid Quinn #2: Fear the Darkness!

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ out of 5 (coz 5 stars are reserved for those books that have moved my soul to the edges of my soul, so 4 stars is pretty much top notch really) – would highly recommend  😀

The Book of You: A Review

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My copy, against my unfinished canvas.

So I just finished reading this and as usual, you can’t go wrong with a Richard and Judy Book Club recommendation! This isn’t really a ‘summer read’ – more of an autumn/winter type thriller but I’m trying to catch up on all of their recommendations at the moment and am very very behind.

The Book of You is a really gripping read about extreme stalking behaviour and the psychological and physical implications of this. It is based on true events that occur in the UK every year and is actually a topic that does not receive nearly enough attention or seriousness by the media or the police. It is only very recently – 2012 – when stalking was made a criminal offence. Stalking is not an experience that is alien to me, having had close family have to deal with such encounters and issue restraining orders on multiple occasions.

I actually bought this book to read whilst I was on jury service, because the main female character in the book is also on jury service, but I never got around to reading it then due to having to work on my painful CIM essay at the time ERGH. Anyhow, at least I have managed to get around to it now!

This is a very well-written book, and the narration interchanges between 3rd person and 1st person- which is quite hard to pull off but this was done with a fine balance by Kendal. 1st person narrative was used for the voice of the victim / central female character – which for me really bought out the intense feeling of claustrophobia induced by her stalker, trepidation and the escalation of her fears. What I liked a lot was that I learnt a great deal from reading this book- I didn’t realise as the victim of such unwarranted attention the onus is upon you – the victim – to collect evidence against your stalker, and how such evidence can be so easily twisted in court (although frankly after my time on jury service, this no longer surprises me at all). I also really had no idea how the ending was going to pan out which spurred me to keep reading- I hate it when I guess the ending within the first few pages! I admit the climax and ending surprised me quite a bit, and did nothing to quell my trust issues with men lol.

I am currently getting back into thriller books with psychotic characters- what can I say- I like my crazy ppl. I am really enjoying my current reading sprint. All I want to do is huddle under my duvet with coffee at arms reach and a gripping read – no better time for it than in the lead up to autumn and winter in the UK! Watch this space for my review of Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman – another Richard and Judy recommendation which I have not been able to put down so far!

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ out of 5 – really great read but didn’t move my mountains.

 

Only Ever Yours: A Review

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Published by Quercus, 2014

Just finished reading this and it’s been a while since I’ve managed to consume a book in a day! This was recommended to me by my friend Isha a while back when I still worked in publishing in London. I bought the book last year and have been meaning to get around to reading it for a while – as with all my other books, its been gathering dust on my over-crammed bookshelf. I have needed some hermit time for a while now so have cut myself off from social activities and Facebook (hate it so much!!) to re-focus and re-energise and so have finally got around to enjoying my favourite pastime.

The plot takes place in a futuristic society where women – referred to as ‘eves’ – are built purely to fulfill the desires and satisfaction of men – at the age of 16 men decide whether they will become their companion (i.e. wife and bear them plenty of sons), concubine (join their harem) or become a chastity (a chaste woman whose duty is to raise the girls at the school where the story takes place).

The thing that was unique for me about this book is that the main character of this book is brown-skinned (O’Neill has said that she is of Indian descent), although this isn’t apparent at first due to her desire to have paler skin, as she is always comparing herself to the other girls in the school, and believes that this will also make her more attractive to men. I say this is unique as someone who has read a large chunk of the library and rarely comes across a main character who is non-white. Although this never really bothered me growing up (coz I would just imagine myself as the main character anyway) and probably never gave it much thought, now that I’m older, the lack of representation or stereotypical representation of different ethnicities in books sticks out to me like a sore thumb and actually find bothers me a lot. So yes, I was pleasantly surprised that the main girl was brown-skinned but I also understand the author’s reasoning behind doing so – it helps to showcase the expectations and beauty standards around her in more of a vivid contrast.

Although the world building in the book is pretty limited and confined to the school in which the story takes place, and there is a lot of repetitive behaviour, dialogue and thoughts (which can be laborious to read over and over again but I appreciate the effect O’Neill is trying to create – that these girls have had these thoughts and rules grounded into them from such a young age they can’t think beyond them) and the characters are all quite two-dimensional, I enjoyed reading it. It is an exposition and commentary on patriarchy and societal beauty norms and pressures, and it is all frightening real – the story takes place in the future but the experiences of the girls are very much that of today.

For me it was also an interesting insight into the obsession around insane female beauty standards and the pressure to be thin, as this is again not something that I had given much thought to the past always having been more focused on my academia, as opposed to what I wore and how I looked. However, I related to it throughout as it touched upon many things I encountered/felt growing up – being brown and not identifying with the images of beauty that surrounded me, going to an all girls school during my critical teenage years and witnessing the obsession with makeup and boys and thinness, being overweight for a large majority of my life, thinking I’d be overweight for the rest of my life, and then actually having lost the weight etc. and being thin, seen the competitiveness and sometimes rivalry, it has inspired in the women around me.

The book deals with profound issues – from mental health, weight, addiction, eating disorders, paranoia to hopelessness, friendship, the need to be accepted, sexuality, homophobia and more. Overall, I just love a bit of dystopian fiction – it really helps to bring out the the emo in me lol. The downside for me was that the book doesn’t actually endeavour to tackle the issues it foregrounds. Which is a shame really because I feel YA fiction lends itself to very effective components to do so and with a very engaged audience too.

Also, a side note – Quercus there are so many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in this book I don’t know how it was even allowed to be published in this condition – sort your shit out.

Gonna give it a rating of 3.5 stars. Feeling arbitrary. But also because I don’t think the book was as ‘deep’ as it could have been.

Happy Sunday people and keep reading! X

2015 Book Challenge

2015 book challenge

A friend of mine forwarded me the 26 Books to read in 2015 challenge that she came across on Pinterest. I thought I would try it out this year to motivate me to get through the slowly mounting library that is my bedroom. I own most of the books I read and read most of the books I own, so there first one pretty much will overlap with the rest of the challenges, but I still plan on writing an individual book review for each challenge. I have started on number 6, reading a book by an author I’ve never read before. Watch this space for exciting reviews 🙂

  1. A book you own but haven’t read
  2. A book that was made into a movie
  3. A book you pick solely because of the cover
  4. A book your friend loves
  5. A book published this year
  6. A book by an author you’ve never read before
  7. A book by an author you love
  8. A book at the bottom of your ‘to be read’ pile
  9. A book with a colour in the title
  10. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit
  11. A book you started but never finished
  12. A book with a lion. A witch. Or a wardrobe
  13. A book with a female heroine
  14. A book set in the summer
  15. A book of poems
  16. A book you learned about because of this challenge
  17. A book that will make your smarter
  18. A book with a blue cover
  19. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t
  20. A book “everyone” but you has read
  21. A book with a great first line
  22. A book with pictures
  23. A book from the library
  24. A book you love… read it again!
  25. A book that is more than 10 years old
  26. A book based on a true story

Just a fragment of my library.