For friends Riley, Sam, Mia and Scarlett, their trip to Whisper Island, Alaska, was meant to be a once in a lifetime adventure – just four young women, with everything to live for…
But as soon as they arrive things start to go wrong. First there is the unexpected arrival of Sammy’s drug addict brother and his girlfriend Opal – why are they here?
And then the deaths begin.
As the dream trip quickly turns into a nightmare, suspicion is high. Are they really alone on the island? Or is there a killer hiding in the shadows?
And as each of the girls reveals a dark secret of their own, perhaps the truth is the killer is closer than they think…just a whisper away…
This has such a great premise and I had really high hopes. It sounded right up my street. I love horror films, particularly the old-fashioned ‘there’s a killer loose, but we don’t know who or where’ variety, and those ones where a group of people rent a cabin, or an old house, or, indeed, an island, and then start dying. So I was looking forward to this.
Unfortunately, while there was a really sound idea here, the execution ((excuse the pun) didn’t live up to the quality of the idea. The beginning dragged, and the first exciting thing didn’t happen until about half way through. The writing felt in need of a really good edit, and I easily guessed ‘whodunit’ very early on.
This is a very well-written book, gripping and intelligent, and, unfortunately, all too believable.
Delilah is portrayed very authentically, and, while it is quite frustrating to read the novel at times because of her reactions and inaction, it is very clear why she behaves as she does, and why she feels so trapped and powerless.
Chase is very accurate, the way he manipulates Delilah so terrifying to read, and the influence he has on the couple’s son one of the most disturbing aspects of the narrative. The way he has ‘chosen’ Delilah to be his wife is so telling, and the reasons she has for believing his lies, and becoming so cut off from everyone and so reliant are easy to believe. It is unsettling and upsetting to feel her fear and trepidation when she is simply doing things we take for granted and wouldn’t think about twice. That the author has done this in a way that makes you want to read on, wanting to know what happens to Delilah, rooting for her all the while, is a testament to the skill of the writing.
For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises that its pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’.
Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher and new head of department. Rose is overwhelmed by the institution: its arcane traditions, unrivalled prestige, and terrifyingly cool, vindictive students. Her classroom becomes her haven, where the stories of fearless women from ancient Greek and Roman history ignite the curiosity of the girls she teaches and, unknowingly, the suspicions of the powers that be.
But as Rose uncovers the darkness that beats at the very heart of Caldonbrae, the lines between myth and reality grow ever more blurred. It will be up to Rose – and the fierce young women she has come to love – to find a way to escape the fate the school has in store for them, before it is too late.
I’m going to go against the general consensus on this one judging by the reviews – I loved this book.
Things do get off to a bit of a slow start, and at first I was a little frustrated, but once lovely protagonist Rose was at the school, things became really intriguing, and very, very strange.
Caldonbrae is a very odd place, and the girls are very odd too, overly-confident, arrogant, secretive. But Rose perseveres with them, growing to care so much about them, and increasingly worried about what exactly the school is preparing these intelligent, vibrant and promising girls for.
What made the book extra special for me was the intertwining of Greek and Roman myths, and the fearless, wonderful women (mortal and immortal) from those stories. I read these stories years ago, fascinated by Medea, who killed her own children, brave Antigone, terrifying Medusa, and poor old Daphne who couldn’t escape Apollo, especially when she was turned into a tree! Add to that the creeping sense of menace, palpable on almost every page, and this became a real page turner.
Germany, 1934. Rigmor, a young Jewish woman is a patient at Sonnenstein, a premier psychiatric institution known for their curative treatments. But with the tide of eugenics and the Nazis’ rise to power, Rigmor is swept up in a campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill. USA, 1984. Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression commits herself to McLean Hospital, but in doing so she has unwittingly agreed to give up her baby. Linking these two generations of women is Inga, who did everything in her power to help her sister, Rigmor. Now with her granddaughter, Sabine, Inga is given a second chance to free someone she loves from oppressive forces, both within and without. This is a story about hope and redemption, about what we pass on, both genetically and culturally. It is about the high price of repression, and how one woman, who lost nearly everything, must be willing to reveal the failures of the past in order to save future generations. With chilling echoes of our time, Where Madness Lies is based on a true story of the author’s own family.
The treatment of those with mental health issues in Nazi Germany is something that isn’t written about as often as many of the other targeted groups, and it wasn’t something that I knew very much about, so I was intrigued by the premise of this book.
The dreadful treatment and murder of the mentally ill in Germany is told through the story of Rigmor, who is sent to Sorrenstein mental hospital by her family who hope to ease her struggles. What they don’t realise is that they are putting her in harm’s way.
We also meet Sabine, who, in the early 1980s, is suffering from depression after the birth of her baby, and who is helped by her grandmother, Inga, Rigmor’s sister.
The story begins quite slowly, and I wasn’t gripped at first, but then the pace picked up and what was happening became clearer, and from about a third of the way through, I couldn’t put the book down.
It is so well written, so heartfelt, and so brutally honest that at times you want to look away, but it is so important that these stories are remembered and told, and given the respect they deserve, even more so in this current climate when we seem to be blind to our past and slipping back into the prejudices and hatreds that were the root cause of the rise of fascism in the thirties. It is scary to think that we are following those same horrible paths, and books like these are so important in reminding us of exactly what we have to lose.
Paris 1944 A young woman’s future is torn away in a heartbeat. Herded on to a train bound for Auschwitz, in an act of desperation she entrusts her most precious possession to a stranger. All she has left now is hope.
Santa Cruz 1953 Jean-Luc thought he had left it all behind. The scar on his face a small price to pay for surviving the horrors of Nazi Occupation. Now, he has a new life in California, a family. He never expected the past to come knocking on his door.
On a darkened platform, two destinies become entangled. Their choice will change the future in ways neither could have imagined…
This started really well, with Jean-Luc’s intriguing arrest, and then with the events in Paris in 1944. The fear and desperation that Sarah and David feel is palpable, and Sarah’s selfless decision is heartbreaking. And Jean-Luc and Charlotte’s decision to save a stranger’s baby, despite the danger it will put them in, paves the way for what sound be an emotional, heart-in-the-mouth read.
But I didn’t quite feel the terror during Jean-Luc and Charlotte’s journey – everything felt a little too easy. And then the events after the war, from 1953 onwards, just felt very unrealistic. I hate to be negative, because I think there is a really heartfelt story here and one that has a huge amount of potential, but would Jean-Luc really have been arrested? Would he have been punished the way he is? Would he and Charlotte have kept their secret and not tried to get in touch with Sarah and David? Would Sarah and David be so resentful? It just didn’t add up – from all the characters being selfless and putting Sam first, they all seemed to become horribly selfish in the second part of the book.
This was definitely a missed opportunity, in my opinion.
To keep her children safe, she must put their lives at risk …
In suburban Australia, Mim and her two children live as quietly as they can. Around them, a near-future world is descending into chaos: government officials have taken absolute control, but not everybody wants to obey the rules.
When Mim’s husband Ben mysteriously disappears, Mim realises that she and her children are in great danger. Together, they must set off on the journey of a lifetime to find Ben. The government are trying to track them down, but Mim will do anything to keep her family safe – even if it means risking all their lives.
Can the world ever return to normality, and their family to what it was?
This was a bit hit and miss. There are some aspects of the story that are brilliant, and scary, and very, very human. Mim is a great main character and her fear for her children and her need to keep them safe are really relatable.
The future world in which she lives feels, unfortunately, very real, and it isn’t hard to imagine things going the way they have in her life – with the government taking over everything, tracking every move, and those who don’t fit being sent off to ‘BestLife’ facilities. It’s all very eerily believable.
The novel moves at a pace to begin with and is very dramatic and exciting. but once Mim is at sea, it all slows down a great deal and the details about the technicalities of sailing drag the story down, unfortunately.
When Mim is back to tracking her husband, the pace picks up again, and the ending is really good, very exciting and fast-paced.
While there was, in my opinion, too much detail of the intricacies of sailing, there were other aspects of the story that I felt didn’t get the depth they needed. There were hints that Mim was frustrated and unhappy at home, that things in her marriage weren’t all they appeared, and I felt this could have been explored a little more, as could the relationship she had with her brothers. I do thin this would have helped me to care more about Mim, and what happened to her.
So definitely worth a read, but not quite as gripping as I’d hoped – but I’d certainly read more by this author.
She looked like she’d drifted off to sleep, curled up in her white dress, blonde hair floating in the breeze. They called it the Angel Murder.
Eighteen-year-old Angelica Brock is found dead at a local beauty spot, dressed in a pure white nightgown, her white-blonde hair arranged around her. For years her death is a mystery, her killer the one who got away for a whole generation of police.
For DS Gaby Darin, it’s not just any cold case – the victim is intimately linked to someone close to her, and emotions are high. But just as the team finds a breakthrough clue on Angelica’s nightdress, another case crashes into the station. Could they be linked? After all this time, can Gaby finally discover what really happened to Angelica?
There was a lot that I really enjoyed about this novel – the setting was great, the main character was believable and interesting, the plot was intriguing and well-constructed.
The idea of a cold case, where the victim is personally connected to the team working on the murder, works very well, and adds a depth to the narrative. The pace is good, too, after a bit of a slow start, and everything moves along at a steady rate, keeping the reader interested and engaged.
That said, there were some aspects of the story that I didn’t enjoy quite so much. The pace was slow to begin with (although things did get better). This is the third book in the series, and while it can be read as a standalone, I feel I would have got more out of it if I had read the first two and had been more familiar with the characters’ backgrounds. And I was quite irritated by Bates’ wife Kate’s attitude to the investigation and the hours he puts in – in the circumstances, it seemed quite out of order and that did spoil things for me a bit.
So, overall, this was okay and there were definitely aspects of the story I enjoyed. But it did just miss the mark a bit for me.
For the last seven years, Mary O’Connor has waited for her first love. Every evening she arrives at Ealing Broadway station and stands with a sign which simply says: ‘Come Home Jim’.
Commuters might pass her by without a second thought, but Mary isn’t going anywhere. Until an unexpected call turns her world on its head.
It will take the help of a young journalist called Alice, and a journey across the country for Mary to face what happened all those years ago, and to finally answer the question: where on earth is Jim?
This is a very unusual novel, well-written and thoughtful, and it handles mental health issues with compassion and understanding, and without judgement.
I did find Mary a bit frustrating at times, but she has made her own choices and has her own reasons, and she is firm in that, which gives her agency in a life that often feels pointless. Her work at the helpline gives her another dimension, and her burgeoning friendships there give us hope that there is more for her.
Alice is lovely, and her back and forth with Kit is a highlight of the novel, providing some needed lightness and humour. I felt too that Jim was drawn with sensitivity and care, and that his character was an interesting portrayal of the difference between what people might want and what they need.
An intelligent book, the author’s love for her characters is clear. I really enjoyed it.
Born at the stroke of midnight at the exact moment of India’s independence, Saleem Sinai is a special child. However, this coincidence of birth has consequences he is not prepared for: telepathic powers connect him with 1,000 other ‘midnight’s children’ all of whom are endowed with unusual gifts. Inextricably linked to his nation, Saleem’s story is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirrors the course of modern India at its most impossible and glorious.
It feels a bit ridiculous that I’ve got to the ripe of age of fifty-three without having read any books by Salman Rushdie. I have had this one in my bookcase for about five years! And I decided that 2023 would be the year I would finally read it.
Well, it certainly got the year off to an excellent start. This is one of those books that, when you read reviews on Amazon, you wonder what the people who have given it less than five stars are reading. I know everyone is entitled to an opinion, and that reading can be subjective, but the moment I opened this book I was completely and utterly captivated.
The writing is breathtaking, absolutely on another level to almost everything I’ve read before. That this won the Booker of Bookers is no surprise. Every page, indeed, every paragraph, contains something that makes you stop in your tracks (at least if you are a nerdy, book obsessed person like me).
Saleem, with his huge, dripping ‘cucumber’ nose and amazing sense of smell is such an unusual narrator – if you want a masterclass in how to write an unreliable narrator, then this is the place to find it. Do these things really happen to him? Is he telepathic? Is he linked to the other ‘midnight’s children’? Or is he weaving a tale to make his life seem more interesting, as he recounts these events to Padma, delighting in surprising and shocking her as he does.
The parallels of his life to the changes in India after independence and through partition are beautifully woven throughout. I learned more about the history of India than I ever did at school. If you want to get the most from this book, you will need to not mind looking up things as you go – but it is really well worth it.
The writing is unconventional, and breaks all the rules – but this is a writer who knows how to break those rules, and certainly doesn’t do so for the sake of it. The narrative is carefully and beautifully constructed, metaphors, similes, imagery, vocabulary all working seamlessly together to create a wonderful story.
The people that populate this extraordinary novel are gorgeously drawn – like ayah Mary Pereira, who infuses her pickles with all her bitterness, hurt and love; Parvati-the-witch, who loves Saleem; Naseem, who really begins it all; and gorgeous Aunty Pia; Picture Singh the world’s most charming man; Uncle Hanif, film director; Shiva, Saleem’s huge-kneed rival, the novel is bursting with life and all the human emotions you can think of – love, hate, jealousy, empathy, cowardice, fear, sadness, joy, the list goes on and on.
I was genuinely sorry to get to the end – and very sorry I had taken so long to read it. I’m also very glad that I have a whole back catalogue of Rushdie to enjoy.
In the days before Homeira Qaderi gave birth to her son, Siawash, the road to the hospital in Kabul would often be barricaded because of the frequent suicide explosions. With the city and the military on edge, it was not uncommon for an armed soldier to point his gun at the pregnant woman’s bulging stomach, terrified that she was hiding a bomb. Propelled by the love she held for her soon-to-be-born child, Homeira walked through blood and wreckage to reach the hospital doors. But the joy of her beautiful son’s birth was soon overshadowed by other dangers that would threaten her life.
No ordinary Afghan woman, Homeira refused to cower under the strictures of a misogynistic social order. Defying the law, at the age of thirteen, she risked her freedom to teach children reading and writing and fought for women’s rights in her theocratic and patriarchal society.
Devastating in its power, Dancing in the Mosque is a mother’s searing letter to the son she was forced to leave behind. In telling her story – and that of Afghan women – Homeira challenges us to reconsider the meaning of motherhood, sacrifice, and survival.
This is a beautiful book. It is not simply a memoir of misery and gloom, although there is sadness and grief and loss and anger here. This is much more. This is a real story, about a real woman, who had to make an incredibly difficult decision.
Because it is real, and because life is so much more complicated than simple ‘good’ and ‘bad’, there is humour here too, and laughter, and love and friendship. There are wonderful family relationships, and insights into a world that feels very different but that, in some ways, shows how similar people actually are.
The writing is absolutely beautiful in places, and this is a story that carries you along, caring so deeply about the writer and what happens to her.
I find it difficult to review books like this because it is all to easy to point out the faults in another country when we don’t acknowledge the slow erosion of rights in our own country – particularly those of women and the LGBTQ+ community (especially when situations in other countries are often partly or wholly caused by the actions of this country). I prefer to let the women of these countries speak for themselves. Books like this are so important because they allow women a voice.
Highly recommended – a very important and beautiful book.