Book Review: The Babysitter by Phoebe Morgan

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Babysitter is Phoebe Morgan’s newest thriller.

My Photo [The Babysitter]

‘On the hottest day of the year, Caroline Harvey is found dead in Suffolk. Her body is found draped over a cot – but the baby she was looking after is missing.  Hundreds of miles away, Siobhan Dillon is on a luxurious family holiday in France when her husband, Callum, is arrested by French police on suspicion of murder. As Siobhan’s perfect family is torn apart by the media in the nation’s frantic search for the missing baby, she desperately tries to piece together how Callum knew Caroline. What happened that night? Was Caroline as innocent as she seemed – or was she hiding a secret of her own?‘ (Amazon)

I enjoyed Morgan’s previous novel, The Doll House, so I was pleased to be approved for this NetGalley request.

The Babysitter wasn’t as dark as I was expecting it to be, but it certainly was interesting. The more I read, the more involved I became with the plot and the characters.

The characters all felt really authentic, and I particularly enjoyed reading Caroline’s flashbacks – and the police interviews.

I was able to predict some twists in the book – others, however, I did not, which was good.

As I said, it’s not a particularly dark or creepy, but it may be a fun “summer thriller” to read on the beach. Are “summer thrillers” a thing?

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and HQ.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith

Reading 7 Books in 7 Days

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

I challenged myself to read 7 books in 7 days. Why?

Well, first of all, it’s something to do! I am not working currently and, because of the UK “lockdown” situation, all my usual activities and commitments are currently cancelled anyway. Secondly, after weeks of feeling unmotivated and being stuck in a little bit of a “reading slump”, it gives me a goal to work towards. At the same time, it tackles the books on my bookshelves and my Goodreads ‘to be read’ list, and gives me blog content to produce!

Some people may look at this challenge and think it’s incredibly easy, incredibly difficult, or incredibly pointless. All opinions are valid.

Personally, this challenge shouldn’t be too difficult for me – I’m generally a quick reader, and, due to my time at university, I’m used to reading lots of books in a short space of time anyway. That being said, I still want to be able to enjoy all the books I read. I’m certainly not just doing this challenge for the sake of it – and I wouldn’t recommend others trying it for the sake of it either. If I fail, I fail. There are no consequences and it doesn’t matter.

So, how did I do?


Day 1

I read the first half of The Surrogate by Louise Jensen, a thriller about Kat and Nick, a married couple who long to become parents. When Lisa, an old childhood friend of Kat’s, offers to be their surrogate, they barely think twice before accepting – not realising Lisa has approached them for a reason, and is keeping secrets from them. I bought The Surrogate in Whitby in a charity shop a few months ago, and I have been meaning to read it ever since.

Day 2

I read the other half of The Surrogate. It was a quick first read, and I generally liked it.

I also started my next book, Truth or Die, by Katerina Diamond. It’s the fourth in her crime / thriller series following DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles as the pair investigate a string of grisly murders. I reviewed the first book in this series, The Teacher, a while ago on my blog.

Day 3

I read the other half of Truth or Die. I enjoyed it; it was fun and quick-paced, although there were parts that frustrated me (in a sort of love / hate way), as certain characters often blur the lines between their own sense of morality and the law!

Then, I started Wonder by R.J. Palacio, a children’s novel about a boy named August with a facial disfigurement and how he adapts to a new school. This wasn’t on my official ‘to be read’ list but I’ve heard passing recommendations every now and again, and I noticed it was available to read from my library via Libby as both an audiobook and an e-book; I read it as an e-book. I thought it was quite remarkable, but also quite upsetting, to read.

Day 4

I read the other half of Wonder, and then began Woman in the Water by Katerina Diamond, the newest crime / thriller in her series. I bought this when it first came out from my local supermarket. If I’m honest, despite the things that “frustrate” me, they’re probably still my favourite crime series to read; the characters are really familiar and the murder mysteries are … entertaining, if that’s the right word to use. Diamond’s imagination is incredibly disturbing though – I’m still freaked out by certain scenes…

Funnily enough, although I’m reading more regularly than I would usually, I still don’t spend my whole day glued to a book! I suppose being a naturally quicker reader probably helps with this. At the moment, I’m reading like I normally would: a little in the mornings, but mostly in the evenings. So far, the only difference in my reading habits I’ve noticed is that, after finishing one book, I immediately reach for the next, whereas normally, I would have a bit of a rest before choosing a new book to read.

Day 5

On Day 5, I spent the bulk of the day reading. I finished Woman in the Water. Then, I read the first half of The Hunger by Alma Katsu, a historical fiction / horror novel about American pioneers travelling West. The travellers begin to sense danger around them, and  suspect they are being followed – or hunted – by someone, or something, which infects them with an all-consuming hunger. I think I was given The Hunger for Christmas and, again, I’d been meaning to get around to reading it!

I also read the first half of Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar, an upcoming thriller I obtained via NetGalley. I’ll be posting my review soon.

I am starting to feel my resolve fading, though, and I’m growing tiring of reading. My brain is also aware I need to think of other things to read after I’ve finished these books, and it’s struggling. I’m a big “mood reader”, so it can be hard to think of new things to read on the spot.

Day 6

I finished the other half of The Hunger, and I loved it. I actually read Katsu’s second novel, The Deep, earlier this year. I liked The Deep, but I much preferred The Hunger. It was a brilliant combination of interesting historical events and supernatural horror (which draws on vampirism, cannibalism, zombies, and the Wendigo legends), and I really enjoyed reading it.

Day 7

By this point in the challenge, I wasn’t really in the mood to read anything long or heavy, so I chose to read Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce. It’s a children’s fantasy / adventure story about a boy who discovers a secret garden that appears outside his flat when the clock in the hall strikes midnight. This was an easy, light-hearted, and enjoyable read. It was a nice book to end the challenge with.


Final Thoughts

I did it – I read 7 books in 7 days!

It started out fun, but it did gradually wear me down. I don’t think I’ll be attempting this again for a long time!


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Would you ever attempt to read 7 books in 7 days? Have you read any of the books I chose? 

– Judith

Book Review: My Perfect Sister by Penny Batchelor

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

This is part of a blog tour with Red Door Press, formally Red Door Publishing.

My Perfect Sister is the debut mystery / thriller novel by Penny Batchelor.

Annie is five years old when her older sister Gemma leaves for school one day and never returns. The family is plunged into mourning; Annie’s mother hits rock bottom, and Annie feels as though she has been forgotten altogether. Growing up, she feels like she is living in the shadow of her perfect sister.

Years later, Annie reluctantly returns to her home town to care for her mother, who has been diagnosed with cancer. She finds Gemma’s bedroom perfectly preserved, as if waiting for her return any day. Annie’s anger and envy of her sister increases, and Annie realises she must find out what truly happened to Gemma, so the family can finally move on.

There were several things I enjoyed about My Perfect Sister.

Annie’s mother was an interesting character; I wanted to learn more about her personality, especially as we see hints of her obsession over her daughter Gemma, contrasted with her seemingly total neglect of Annie.

I also liked following the mystery itself, although I must admit – I am skeptical that a few adults doing a quick search on Facebook and ringing round their old school friends will gather more evidence than a police investigation!

My Perfect Sister was a shorted read than I was expecting. On the one hand, this was a little disappointing because I was just delving into some interesting character and story moments, when the book began to wrap up! On the other hand, however, the length of the book, coupled with the mystery / thriller plot, might make it a good starting point for someone who is looking to read more of this genre.

Whilst I did predict the twists, I still enjoyed seeing them unfold.

My main piece of feedback and constructive criticism would be that the description and exposition was clunky. What do I mean? Well, there were lots of long sentences with unnecessary details – details that didn’t actually contribute to character or plot – and which could have been removed without affecting the story. Reading through these sections of description felt much slower and I was aware of being “bogged down” in details that didn’t matter. In addition, the author uses unusual word choices to describe Annie throughout the book (which sounds like a thesaurus was close at hand) and makes some of Annie’s narration sound unnatural. An example that particularly sticks in my mind is when Annie describes herself as ‘discombobulated’. This sounds unrealistic – who says discombobulated as part of their regular vocabulary? Confused would have been more than sufficient description, in my opinion.

Despite this criticism, the writing didn’t negatively impact my enjoyment of the story overall, and I still think this is a very commendable debut novel.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith

Book Review: His and Hers by Alice Feeney

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

His and Hers is the new thriller novel by Alice Feeney.

‘If there are two sides to every story, someone is always lying.

When a woman is murdered in Blackdown village, newsreader Anna Andrews is reluctant to cover the case. Anna’s ex-husband, DCI Jack Harper, is suspicious of her involvement, until he becomes a suspect in his own murder investigation.

Someone is lying, and some secrets are worth killing to keep.’ (Amazon)

My Photo [His and Hers].png

I like the idea behind this book: a story told from two, constantly switching narrative voices. I also liked the story itself, and some of the characters. I enjoyed the character of Anna, for example.

However, my experience reading His & Hers can be described in one word: frustrating.

There was nothing to divide or separate any of the narrative perspectives. This meant each paragraph could have been from a different character’s view, for all I knew. I couldn’t tell any of the narrators apart and, as a consequence, this writing style looked like a mistake, rather than a deliberate and well-executed decision. However, this could just have been my experience because I read the e-book version. Perhaps, in a paperback copy, there are obvious page divisions to make the narrative switches clearer.

In any case, this severe flaw meant that I got more and more frustrated while reading His & Hers. I didn’t understand what was going on – at one point, in the first half of the book, I thought a character openly admitted to being the murderer, only for this to be proved impossible a few chapters later!

There were too many twists and red herrings, too, due to the problems with the narration. It was impossible to work out anything or trust anything the characters said or thought. This frustrated me again, because I really liked the ideas behind the story – and some of the characters. I wanted to be hooked, and I wanted to enjoy figuring out the mystery. I felt like I was unable to do any of this because of the writing and narration, which is really disappointing.

Star Rating: 2/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and HQ.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

– Judith

Advice About Reading Slumps

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

‘Jo read till her eyes gave out, and she was sick of books’

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

A reading slump is defined by the Urban Dictionary as ‘not being able to pick up a book and read’. That is, not lacking the ability to read, but the desire or motivation to read it – despite being a complete bookworm, usually. I’ve seen lots of advice in the blogging community about how to get out of reading slumps – some of this advice is helpful, and some of it isn’t.*

* This is all subjective, however.


3 Ways To Get Out of A Reading Slump That Don’t Work (For Me)

1. Ignore the internet, the TV, and your mobile phone 

No.

On the one hand, I understand these things could become a distraction that prevent you from reading. However, I also don’t see these things as “bad”. If reading a book doesn’t feel like a good idea, don’t read a book. Try something else – watch a film, or some videos you enjoy on YouTube. If you want to make these activities more book-themed, you could watch a film adaptation of a novel you really like, or some “booktube” content. I don’t think you should place any pressure on yourself to read, though. You are allowed other hobbies, after all!

2. Create a reading routine or schedule 

No.

If anything is going to make me want to read less, it’s a timetable of what to read and when to read it!

Admittedly, not adhering to a schedule might be a little more difficult if you are a blogger and reviewer and “need” to read certain books for your blog posts. However, as a blogger and reviewer myself, I really try to make sure I only read when I feel like it and avoid “forcing” myself to read. Balancing my workload is key for this, so I am not in a position where I have committed to too many books and reviews in too short a space of time.

3. Get out of your comfort zone 

No.

In my opinion, the comfort zone in reading is there for a reason. I like what I like, and reading something outside of this comfort zone makes the act of reading even less appealing to me. Just because I’m not in the mood for the latest mystery / thriller / horror novel does not mean I need to try reading a romance novel.


While I don’t really like these tips, they may work perfectly for you. If you think that might be the case, I welcome you to give them a try! I’ll now move on to some advice I actually do like!

3 Ways To Get Out of A Reading Slump That Do Work (For Me)

1. Re-read a book you love 

Yes! This is a tip I see everywhere. Clearly, book bloggers and readers know what they’re talking about!

This is a particularly helpful piece of advice for me, as I tend to reserve re-reading for books I completely loved and gave 5 stars. That way, I know if I need to re-read something, I will absolutely enjoy the experience. Some of my favourite books to re-read include:

  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • The Hunter by L.J. Smith
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman

2. Forget about blog posts, Goodreads goals, and ‘TBRs’, and just read for pleasure 

Yes! This is another great piece of advice; I don’t force myself to read something if I really can’t manage it. I’m always certain that, once the reading slump has passed, I’ll be able to read and review it properly. However, in the midst of the slump, if I’m not re-reading old favourites, I focus my attention on books I want to read for the sheer pleasure of it.

3. Ignore the reading slump and do something else entirely

Yes! I mentioned this briefly at the beginning of this blog post. I think it’s important not to place reading on a pedestal, and embrace other hobbies or interests you might have. Just because you’re a #blogger or a #bookworm doesn’t mean you have to read 24/7 and do nothing else with your time. Your books will still be there, ready for you to read, once you feel like it again.


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more content like this, as well as plenty of book reviews.

Do you agree with my opinions? How would you get yourself out of a reading slump? 

– Judith

Book Review: The House Share by Kate Helm

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The House Share is Kate Helm’s new thriller novel.

Imogen (known as Immi) has found what she thinks is her dream home: The Factory, a shared warehouse with luxury rooms and facilities, and surprisingly low rent. The Factory encourages “co-living”, which means potential housemates must apply and be interviewed and, should they be accepted, conform to the rules of The Factory. Immi begins to suspect all is not right, however, and wonders how safe she really is  in a house share full of strangers.

My Photo [The House Share].png

The House Share focuses on the narrative of two characters: Immi and Dexter, the newest additions to The Factory. Personally, I didn’t really find Dexter’s character that interesting, but I really enjoyed Immi’s narrative perspective.

I liked the juxtaposition between the seemingly perfect house and the manipulative, creepy behaviour of the other housemates.

I also thought Helm’s decision to include messages from The Factory app within the narrative was a good one; the app informs the housemates about The Factory, the behaviour that is expected, and the rules they must follow – all in a passive aggressive, unsettling way. These sections of the book almost made me feel like was part of this house share too – something I would not be keen on!

However, my main criticism is this: I can’t see why anyone would choose to live this life, when they are so aware that something is not right! Immi questions time and time again whether she has joined a cult, if she is in danger, or if her housemates are trustworthy. Yet, she chooses to stay regardless!

Immi chooses to stay at The Factory when everything else – her friends, her natural instincts, the evidence she uncovers – tells her to get out as quickly as she can.  Whilst she may have felt she had “no other choice” because of her circumstances (which are explained later in the book), I simply don’t accept this. I don’t believe Immi was forced into this situation and I don’t believe she was forced to stay. Consequently, this made so many of Immi’s decisions completely frustrating to read. It also made it harder to feel sympathetic towards her when she faced real danger.

Overall, The House Share was fine, but it disappointed me in a few places.


Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and Zaffre, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK,.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

– Judith

Having ‘A Blind Date With A Book’ & Reviewing Everything You Told Me by Lucy Dawson

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

This blog post was written before libraries shut as part of “lockdown”  in the UK.

In my local library, I noticed a few books had been placed on a shelf, wrapped up, and advertised as ‘blind dates’. The idea behind this, I presume, was to encourage people to borrow these “mystery books” based on the brief, bullet-point descriptions provided and, hopefully, introduce people to books they might not have picked up themselves. I thought this would be an interesting experiment, so I gave it a go.


My ‘Blind Date’ Experience 

My goal was to find a book that was most like something I would be interested in.

There was only a small selection to choose from, though, and quite an eclectic mix of different genres and styles, judging from their bullet-point summaries. Nevertheless, I found one that I thought would match my preferences and interests well, as it was described with the words: ‘thriller’, ‘mystery’, ‘gripping’, and ‘memory loss’. I checked the book out, and unwrapped it at home. It felt just like getting a gift! After unwrapping my “mystery book”, I discovered I had checked out Everything You Told Me by Lucy Dawson. I’ve never heard of this book, or indeed the author, so I would say the ‘blind date’ experiment worked well, and gave me a new book to read that I may not have discovered otherwise.

My Photo [Blind Date]


Book Review: Everything You Told Me

Everything You Told Me is a thriller which opens with a woman, Sally, stood on the edge of a cliff-top. She is lost and confused, and has no idea how she got there. What Sally does know is that she doesn’t want to commit suicide. However, after being “saved” from jumping, her family members and friends seek to help her “recover” from her deep, depressive thoughts. Sally knows somebody must be lying to her, though, and determines to find out what really happened to her.

Everything You Told Me ticks all the right boxes for me; I love mysteries, paranoia, and manipulation in thrillers, and I was invested in the story.

However, I didn’t like the character of Sally very much, which made it hard to support her. At the start of the novel, it is clear Sally has pre-existing vendettas against certain characters. This meant that, later on in the novel, in her determination to find out the truth about her “suicide attempt”, Sally casts nasty accusations against these characters and starts many arguments. This behaviour didn’t feel sympathetic, though; I didn’t feel sorry for Sally, believing she was paranoid or “losing her mind” or scared – it just looked like she was searching for more reasons to continue hating these characters.

There are a few twists and turns in the book – some of these surprised me, some of them didn’t. Overall, I thought the plot was a little predictable, and I figured out the culprit long before Sally.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars 


Final Thoughts: Would I have a ‘blind date with a book’ again?

I’m not sure.

Admittedly, it was fun to read something I’d not come across before, and it was fun to unwrap a book. At the moment, however, I’m trying to read things on my ‘to be read’ list and not acquire too many extra books to read at the same time.


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you had ever had a ‘blind date’ with a book? What do you think about the idea?

– Judith