eBook Review: The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the WindowThe Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My son and his fiance gave me an iTunes gift card for Christmas. They know I love reading and thought I’d be able to purchase books for myself, rather than try to decide what I might want to read. So far I’ve purchased two ebooks. The first one was The Last Hours by Minette Walters and the second was this one. Both have been five star reads, so I’m doing well (so far) with my selections.

Blurb: 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?

My Review: The Woman in the Window was purchased on a whim. Something about the blurb intrigued me. I’d also read some reviews that made it look promising.

In all honesty, this book didn’t grab me from the first page. In fact, it felt difficult to read at first. First person. Fragmented sentences. I was confused about what was happening and put it aside before the end of the first chapter. A few days later I picked it up and tried again and this time, the storyline grabbed me. By the end of the second chapter I was hooked.

The writing style needs to be gotten used to, in my opinion. But once accepted, the flow becomes easy and the characters draw you in. It felt a little like I was reading someone else’s diary, when I knew I shouldn’t be. And the reading gave me an insight into things I shouldn’t know.

There were two sections of this book that affected me immensely. Without giving anything away, one made me want to know more, made me want to keep reading, devouring every word. I couldn’t get enough of the book. I thought about it when I put it down. I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

The other section stopped me in my tracks. It was like I’d been punched in the face. I had no choice but to put the book down at that moment and let the words swim around in my mind and settle down. I was so affected that I found myself looking for some one to tell the story to, just so I could talk about it. Then, after that, I raced back to the book to discover what the outcome would be.

I haven’t read a book that affected me like this for a very, very long time. I was sad when it finished. I actually put the book down twenty pages from the end, just so I could return to it the next day — simply because I didn’t want to reach the end that day. It sounds stupid when I type that, but it’s the truth.

The Woman in the Window is excellent. It teaches you things you didn’t know, it warns you of other things you should know and remember, and it feeds the curiosity (very slowly) which keeps you coming back for more.

I really enjoyed the storyline. I believed in the characters. And I would whole heartedly recommend this book to anyone. Highly recommended.


eBook Review: Summer of the Woods

Summer of the Woods (The Virginia Mysteries #1)Summer of the Woods by Steven K. Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I saw this on Bookbub for free. The cover grabbed my attention, the blurb sealed the deal. This is the first book in a series called The Virginia Mysteries.

The blurb: When ten-year-old Derek and eight-year-old Sam move with their family to Virginia, they have no idea what adventures the summer will bring. As the brothers explore their creaky old house and the deep surrounding woods, they uncover a sixty-year-old mystery of a valuable coin collection stolen from the local museum. Join the boys as they spend their summer running from danger and searching the woods, secret caves, rushing waters, and hidden passageways for treasure and the rare 1877 Indian Head cent coin!

My review: As you can tell by the blurb, this is a story about children, written for children. I’m not a child but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Derek and Sam are likeable kids who have moved to a new area and go exploring and find themselves having an adventure. It’s a light, quick read. I felt the circumstances around the mystery came across as valid and the boys acted as most boys would.

I liked that they knew when they had done the wrong thing, and why. And the consequences of their actions were acknowledged by all and suitably dealt with. Young boys (and girls) will enjoy the adventure, will learn a bit about Virginian history and learn some lessons in life too (without even knowing they have been taught these lessons).

Recommended for young readers, or parents of young readers. Or, if you’re like me, older readers who just want a change of pace and a reminder of our younger days.

eBook Review: The Last Hours

The Last HoursThe Last Hours by Minette Walters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I believe the author usually writes crime fiction or thrillers and this book is a step in another direction for her. To be truthful, I do have one of her crime fiction books on my shelf that I have not read (yet). But crime fiction isn’t really my thing. Books involving the plague are right up my alley. The Last Hours is one of these books.

The Blurb: June, 1348: the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in the county of Dorsetshire. Unprepared for the virulence of the disease, and the speed with which it spreads, the people of the county start to die in their thousands.

In the estate of Develish, Lady Anne takes control of her people’s future – including the lives of two hundred bonded serfs. Strong, compassionate and resourceful, Lady Anne chooses a bastard slave, Thaddeus Thurkell, to act as her steward. Together, they decide to quarantine Develish by bringing the serfs inside the walls. With this sudden overturning of the accepted social order, where serfs exist only to serve their lords, conflicts soon arise. Ignorant of what is happening in the world outside, they wrestle with themselves, with God and with the terrible uncertainty of their futures.

Lady Anne’s people fear starvation but they fear the pestilence more. Who amongst them has the courage to leave the security of the walls?

And how safe is anyone in Develish when a dreadful event threatens the uneasy status quo..?

My Review: I gave this book an easy five out of five stars. The Black Death or Plague has always been of great interest to me. I read Doomsday Book by Connie Willis some years ago and loved it. And when I saw The Last Hours and realised what the theme was I instantly purchased the ebook. I have no regrets.

The history, the period, and the characters were excellent. I had no issues believing the facts as recorded in the book and I cared about the characters and their plights. Then add the blood and gore, in appropriate measures to the plot, and you end up with a story that keeps you rivetted. It did me anyway. The story pulled me in from the first page and held me to the last. Not many books do that. They usually waver in the middle somewhere for a short time, but not this one. The pace was constant, the secrets compelling, and the action surprising and heart breaking at times. You’ll have to read the book to find out why I say that.

In all honesty, there is only one thing about this book that irritated me. The ending. I was shocked to turn the page to find the book ended but the story didn’t. We have to wait for the sequel to be published later in the year (October 2018) to read more and find out what happens. This one thing almost made me give four stars, but I quickly pushed that notion away as being spiteful. The book is brilliant and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys following the lives of believable characters in a world that once existed, but thankfully does not any more. Now, we have other issues to contend with, but as they say, that’s another story.

eBook Review: Gregory and the Grimbockle

MagykGregory and the Grimbockle by Melanie Schubert is a middle grade book. What am I doing reading middle grade books, you may ask. Well, I write for middle graders so I should read books for middle graders. It’s that simple. Plus, I enjoy them.

This book was offered for free through Bookbub, which is a place where they email you great deals each day. I’ve got some great books through them, so it’s worth an email per day. (No, this is not an affiliate link.)

It was a classic case of judging a book by its cover. I saw it, liked it, downloaded it. Yes, it was free, but I don’t download every free ebook offered to me. If it doesn’t appeal to me, I just keep going straight passed it. In this case, I downloaded it and a few days later when I finished the book I was reading at the time, I decided to read this one.

I am so glad I did. Because this book was excellent. I had no idea what to really expect. Or what it was about. The first chapter was well written and pulled me in. And then the grimbockle arrived and I was hooked.

It’s a story about how our lives intertwine with other people’s. And shows what we do in our life and the decisions we make can affect others. It was brilliantly put together and a fun lesson for middle graders to learn. However, I suspect they wouldn’t even know they were being taught something valuable. The characters are rounded and believable. The plot is plausible, as far as I’m concerned. The writing style was excellent. Truly, if you have a youngster in your life who loves to read, get this book for them. If you haven’t got a youngster around who’d enjoy it, get it for yourself.

Highly recommended.

Book Review: The Clan of the Cave Bear

Originally posted elsewhere on 4 March 2015.

The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children, #1)The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The blurb: This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love. Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind. To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly–she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. Iza and Creb, the old Mog-ur, grow to love her, and as Ayla learns the ways of the Clan and Iza’s way of healing, most come to accept her. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge.

My review: I started reading this book in August 2013, but didn’t finish it until February 2015. That’s right, it took 18 months. In fairness, I did have a lot happening in my life which was a contribution; but, having said that, I read numerous other books during this time.

When I started the book, I was drawn in and held. I enjoyed the character of Ayla. I was fascinated by her situation and interaction with the Clan. However, half way through the book I got bored. I was tired of the never ending descriptions and the long lessons on how plants and roots were used. Honestly, I didn’t care to know these things and found myself skimming whole paragraphs and then whole pages until something appeared to be happening in regards to the actual storyline again.

I put the book down one day and didn’t pick it up again for twelve months.

Then in February I decided that as I had read half the book, I really should finish it. I didn’t hate the storyline, I just didn’t enjoy the author’s ramblings. So once again I visited the world of Ayla. And, yes, I did skim the rambling parts and only concentrated on the storyline itself. When I did this, I was fine with the book and was happy to read it. Sadly, I was even happier to finish it.

Although I do own the second book in the series, I have no desire to read it.

The Clan of the Cave Bear is not awful, but it is not for me. I cannot recommend this book.

Book Review: Still Alice

Originally posted elsewhere on 2 March 2015.

Still AliceStill Alice by Lisa Genova

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life—and her relationship with her family and the world—forever.

At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People.

My review: My mother has early dementia. Eight months ago I moved into the family home to become her primary carer. I would be lying through my teeth if I said it was easy, because it’s not. Sometimes I feel as if I cannot continue. Sometimes I feel as if I will let my father down (before he passed away I promised him that I would look after her). Often I feel I will let my Mum and myself down too.

Then, I was given Still Alice. What can I say? I needed to read this book, at this time. It helped me see things from Mum’s point of view. It showed me the confusion she must be experiencing, the total loss of control over her life, the sadness and grief she is going through. Yes, I include grief, because she is grieving her old self, just as I am grieving for that same person.

This book helped me to accept what was happening, and to find a new level of patience.

If you have a family member suffering from dementia then you should read this book too. But even if you don’t know anything with the disease you should still read the book because it is quite simply brilliant.

Alice is the top of her friend, in the prime of her life and then she starts forgetting things and getting confused. She thinks she’s working too hard, or perhaps she has started menopause, but she doesn’t think for a section she actually has something like early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. For heaven’s sake, she’s only 50.

But she does have the disease and once it takes hold, it progresses quickly. Before she knows it, she is forgetting how to get to the lecture room, let alone what she is meant to be lecturing. She is disorientated in places she has been visiting for decades. And the faces of people she should know are not recognisable.

Confused? Of course she is. Scared? Yes.

The story shows the effects of the disease as it slowly eats away her life. It shows how it affects the relationships she has with the people closest to her (family, friends and work colleagues).

It left me feeling sad for those affected and sad for the carers. But it helped me to understand and accept my own family’s situation.

Honestly, the book is brilliant and I couldn’t put it down. A must read.

Book Review: The Hunger Games Series

Originally published elsewhere on 20 February 2015.

Sitting on the train beside a complete stranger, I was not surprised by the fact that the young girl was totally absorbed in her reading. I usually sat reading too, but my stop was approaching and I was readying myself to leave the train.

The girl closed the book with a huge sigh and we suddenly had eye contact.

“Good book?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “But I’ve just finished it and feel…” She searched for the right word. “…I don’t know, I want it to continue.”

“What’s the book called?” I ask.

“It was last book of The Hunger Games,” she replied, holding up the book for me to see. “If you haven’t read the series, you should. It’s brilliant!”

Strangely, I had been given a copy of the first book, The Hunger Games, some weeks before this recommendation. I had watched the movie several years beforehand. I could remember, vaguely, the plot, and knew I had enjoyed the movie, but the book (in most circumstances) is always better.

This short conversation on a train with a stranger inspired me to pick that book up and start reading it. Yesterday, I sat in my back yard and put the third book down with a big sigh, knowing how that young girl on the train felt, because I felt the same way.


The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

My review: The book kept my interest. I enjoy reading about possible futures of our world. The concept of The Hunger Games wasn’t new, but quite captivating. Couple this with characters such as Katniss and Peeta, as well as a number of others, and it makes for an excellent read.

Some might find Katniss a little annoying, but my take on this is that we never truly know how we would react to any given situation, until we are thrust into it. Because of this, I was willing to accept Katniss’ behaviour for what it was and just enjoy the story.

I found the story to be well plotted, emotional and full of twists and turns. And it made me want to grab book two and continue reading, and that is exactly what I did.


Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

My review: The story picks up shortly after the first book ends. I felt a little disconnected to begin with, but soon got back into the storyline, and characters. To win the games and then have to go through what they went through would leave me feeling confused and untrusting too.

I don’t want to give too much away. But the Games in this book was a lot shorter and in some ways I felt it was a little rushed. However, I guess the author didn’t want the book to be too repetitive or a copy of book one. Again, I accepted that decision.

The characters continued to speak to me. I enjoyed their stories, their interaction. I felt as if I knew them extremely well.

This book ended with a cliff hanger, which I am not a fan of. However, I already had the third book so kept reading, but feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t have the book ready to go.


Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: “My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I should be dead.”

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Though she’s long been a part of the revolution, Katniss hasn’t known it. Now it seems that everyone has had a hand in the carefully laid plans but her.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay – no matter what the cost.

My review: I have mixed feelings about this book. The plot unfolded nicely and the characters blossomed, so to speak. Yet, the tone of the story was different, darker. The story was more gruesome.

Where the story goes is not surprising. When I sit down and think about it, the author had given plenty of clues along the way. There was no need to be shocked, but it left me feeling incredibly sad for the two main characters (Katniss and Peeta). In fact, I actually shed a tear I felt so sorry for them.

After I read the final words of the book and put it down, I thought about what had happened and where the characters ended up for a very long time. And then, later, I realised I miss reading about them and that, dear readers, told me everything.

The books left an impression and I enjoyed them immensely.

I recommend you read them all to get the full effect. You will not be disappointed.

Ebook Sale, only 2 days to go

Only two days remain to buy ebooks from my website or from Kayelle Press for $1.00 each. This offer WILL expire at midnight on 31 December 2014, Australian EST.

Head to either of the two websites, a larger selection is available from Kayelle Press, and grab some reading material (fantasy, science fiction and horror) right now before you miss out.

Don’t forget to tell your friends and family, especially those who received an ereader for Christmas.

Audio Book Review: Secrets of the Dead

The Secrets of the DeadThe Secrets of the Dead by Tom Harper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Description:

In a villa on the coast of Montenegro, Abby Cormac witnesses the brutal murder of her lover, diplomat Michael Lascaris. The last thing she remembers is a gun pointed directly at her. She wakes to find herself at the centre of a diplomatic nightmare. Everyone wants an answer but no one wants to listen. Even her employers at the Foreign Office believe she’s hiding something. She is completely alone. As Abby tries to piece together the last few months of Michael’s life in order to get at the truth, she soon realises that he wasn’t quite what he seemed. What exactly was his relationship with one of the most ruthless men in the Balkans – a war criminal who has never been brought to justice? And what links Michael’s gift to her of a gold necklace with its Christian monogram, a 4th century manuscript left in the shadow of Emperor Constantine’s palace at Trier and an inscription on a tomb in Rome? When Abby investigates further, it becomes clear that someone wants to suppress a secret, one that has been kept hidden for centuries. And they will stop at nothing to do so…

My Review:

During a visit to the local library, I was waiting for someone else to make their selection (I had quickly picked up a couple of books that interested me; although my reading list is already quite long and I don’t need more books to add to the pile), and I wandered over to the audio book section. Secrets of the Dead sort of jumped out and screamed, “pick me, pick me”. So I did.

I’ve listened to a couple of podcast books in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever listened to an audio book. To be honest, it was a pleasant experience. I discovered that I could do more than one thing at once, such as play Candy Crush or scanning the old family photos while reading. It was a win-win situation.

Secrets of the Dead is NOT the type of book, by that I mean paperback or ebook, that I would normally read. It’s too big worded for me, and there are too many foreign words. I’d stumble over the pages and quickly loose interest. However, listening to someone read the book was totally different. The narrator, Francis Greenslade, was excellent. He is easy to listen to and he made those difficult words blend in to the story and brought a complicated plot to life. I was impressed … and I learned the pronunciation of numerous words from him!

The book itself is actually two stories running parallel to each other — one historical and one present day. I felt the historical content was well researched and totally convincing. I ‘believed’ in the characters and the events. The only drawback was the flashbacks. After a while I found them a little annoying (even if the content of the flashbacks did move the story forward). The present day storyline was also convincing, although it took me longer to settle into this side of the book. It wasn’t the characters that troubled me (those I accepted straight away), it was the events taking place. Some things seemed too convenient. Anyway, I remember thinking I’d hate to get caught up in anything similar to what was happening to Abby Cormac. I’d be terrified. Both stories were a type of murder mystery and had certain factors that tied them together.

Overall, I’d be more than willing to ‘read’ another audio book. It’s the perfect way of discovering new authors and new genres. I’m glad I gave Secrets of the Dead a chance, and while I know I would never read an actual printed book by the author, I certainly would listen to another audio book written by him.

eBook Review: The Godslayers’ Legacy

The Godslayers' LegacyThe Godslayers’ Legacy by Lee Carlon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Description:

The gods cleansed Newterra, killing all but a few survivors. Dune d’Turintar, the daughter of a god’s chosen and member of Avril’s scattered cadre, has taken up the fallen Godslayers’ cause and will take the fight to the man who bound her at birth, Lord Obdurin, to make him answer for his god’s crimes.

For Avril Ethanson, Dune represents much more than his first challenge as Lord Obdurin’s newest first-sworn, she will force him to decide if he stands with the chosen or against him.

The Godslayers’ Legacy is the second book in The Bastard Cadre series and returns to post-apocalyptic Newterra to pick up the story where A God-Blasted Land finished.

My Review:

A little over two years ago I read the first book, The God-Blasted Land. You can read my review here. It’s difficult to pick up a story two years later and fall back into the plot and the characters. Although this was a bit of a concern for me when I picked up the second book, The Godslayers’ Legacy, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I became absorbed in it.

Of course, the author’s writing has a lot to do with that. The story is fast-paced. Something is always happening, which is my type of story. I enjoyed the characters I recognised from the first book, and was happy to discover new characters who complimented them quite nicely. Put them all together and you have strong characters, with strong personalities, and they are as stubborn as anything. It makes me smile to think how this lot are going to come together and work together in future books. Now that’s something to look forward to.

I consider the books to be science fiction fantasy. By this, I mean there’s dragons and magic, as well as futuristic technology. I remember liking the way the author combined the two in the first book and I wasn’t disappointed in this regard in the second book either. It’s somewhat refreshing to read.

And although Newterra is an imaginary world, I can relate it to our world. And because I have a liking for imagining how I would cope in our world if everything was turned upside down tomorrow, I enjoy reading post-apocalyptic stories. It’s intriguing to see new ways of life blossom from the dead. And by ‘dead’, I’m not talking about people. I’m talking about technology, ways of life, beliefs, the strength to survive and carry on.

This series has it all – great characters, a fast-paced plot, post-apocalyptic storylines … and it’s well written. All this makes for a pleasant, absorbing, entertaining read time. I’ve already purchased book three, The Dead God’s Shadow.

Highly recommended.