Book Review: Strangers by C.L. Taylor

Strangers is the newest thriller novel by C.L. Taylor.

As the title may suggest, the book is about strangers, whose lives are drawn together: Ursula, who holds herself responsible for the death of her boyfriend, Gareth, who is receiving postcards claiming to be from his dead father, and Alice, who is being stalked. These three strangers are brought together through unexpected circumstances and find themselves placed in danger. They must stick together in order to survive.

My Photo [Strangers]

I’ve enjoyed plenty of C.L. Taylor’s other books, so I was delighted to be accepted to read and review Strangers on NetGalley.

I really liked the structure of the book. The chapters alternate, introducing the reader to each character one by one. I most enjoyed Ursula’s character; I liked her personality and was most interested when reading about her life and circumstances – especially when she decides to lodge with the creepiest housemate, who is also her landlord.

Strangers is very different to Taylor’s other books, I think. There are hints of mystery and a crime to be solved, but this is very much in the background of the plot and, overall, it is a slower burn.

As a consequence, I don’t know if I could describe this book as genuinely “thrilling”. There are twists and unexpected moments scattered throughout the narrative, but I don’t know if I was ever truly “hooked”.

I would have given Strangers 4 stars but, personally, the climax and ending of the book were disappointing. There were some dramatic moments I enjoyed but, without trying to spoil the book for future readers, I was not convinced by a certain character’s motivations for stalking, violence, and so on. There wasn’t very much to suggest they had “gone crazy”, and I do not think a rational person would have drawn the same conclusions as the character and resorted to that behaviour.

To conclude, Strangers was still good, but I think I’ve read better from C.L. Taylor.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

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I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and Avon Books UK.

If you would like to support my blog further, you can click my affiliate link to purchase a copy of Strangers. This means I receive a small commission if you purchase using my link.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

– Judith

Book Review: Knock Knock by Chris Merritt

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

Knock Knock is the new crime thriller by Chris Merritt. It’s also his first book in a police procedural series which focuses on Detective Lockhart and the psychologist Dr Green. Natasha Mayston is found murdered in her home; her body is restrained by cable-ties and she has been choked to death. However, Natasha is not the first victim, and she will be not be the last. Detective Lockhart and Dr Green must work together quickly to understand the mind of a psychopathic serial killer before more women are murdered.

My Photo [Knock Knock].png

I thought Knock Knock was reasonably entertaining, though it did take a while for the story to pique my interest.

This book covers uncomfortable topics, which is worth bearing in mind. I am thinking particularly here of passages of narration from the point of view of a serial killer who defends and justifies violence, murder, and sexual abuse. These parts didn’t put me off, but I did find them quite … difficult to read at times. You’ve been warned.

Something I especially liked about Knock Knock was the way Merritt set up a variety of characters as possible, plausible culprits for the murders. This kept me guessing and I struggled to work out what the truth was and what the red herrings were.

Something I did not like about Knock Knock was Merritt’s characterisation. Every character, upon entering the room, was introduced to the reader with their age,  appearance, personality traits, and background story. This was an information overload and, quite frankly, it was dull. I am never going to remember the details about every character of a book if I’m given them all at once. Consequently, I forgot most of these details almost instantaneously and so they could have just been omitted, in my opinion.

However, I enjoyed the actual narrative of Knock Knock; it was interesting and exciting, whilst gruesome!  

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 Bookouture.

If you would like to support my blog further, you can click my affiliate link to purchase a copy of Knock Knock. This means I receive a small commission if you purchase using my link.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

– Judith

Book Review: Keeper by Jessica Moor

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

Keeper is the new murder mystery / thriller novel by Jessica Moor.

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide. But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.‘ (Amazon)

I was immediately hooked by the opening of Keeper, and I had to keep reading.

The narrative structure was particularly good; Moor’s use of alternating narrative perspectives and flashbacks helped the story to flow well, and helped me to work out the  pieces of the puzzle – and what really happened to Katie Straw.

The book focuses heavily on themes of domestic abuse and violence against women. This is an important topic to write about, and I thought the different stories shared by characters at the women’s refuge centre were incredibly powerful, and Keeper highlights that violence and abuse can come in many forms.

Warning: If violence and domestic abuse are issues that may distress you, you may want to reconsider reading this book.

I was deeply invested in Katie’s story – more than I was invested in the police investigation. To me, the police procedural elements didn’t feel as strong. Katie’s story, however, felt raw and real and terrifying in places, and I couldn’t help feeling scared myself. The fact Katie is already dead at the start of the book made it even more tragic; we know how her story ends.

Despite this, I was still shocked by the ending. Wow.

Star Rating: 4/5 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 Penguin Books UK.

If you would like to support my blog further, you can click my affiliate link to purchase a copy of Keeper. This means I receive a small commission if you purchase using my link.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

– Judith

Book Review: The Deep by Alma Katsu

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

The Deep by Alma Katsu is her newest novel, set aboard the Titanic. There is a growing sense of unease, and passengers become convinced that the ship is haunted – that someone, or something, is waiting for them, lurking in the sea. Then, they hit an iceberg. Years later, Annie Hebbley, a survivor of the Titanic, finds work aboard the Britannic, the Titanic’s sister ship. She cannot forget the fateful night when the Titanic sank, and the memories haunt her daily. Annie is convinced something sinister happened that night, and finds herself asking the question: what really sank the Titanic?

The Deep is an enjoyable mystery / ghost story with some unexpected twists, set against an interesting historical backdrop. It reminded me in style to The Lost Ones by Anita Frank.

I thought Katsu’s idea to suggest ghosts and spirits were onboard the Titanic was creative, though at times the explanations offered for these surreal supernatural occurrences were confusing to understand.

The book follows a number of different characters – some factual, some fictional. I must admit, this was lost on me as I don’t know very much about the Titanic’s passenger and crew anyway. Nevertheless, Katsu’s decision to follow a number of different characters from different social classes was a good one, as it provided fascinating, personalised perspectives of what happened in the build-up to the tragedy, and I particularly liked the characters of Annie Hebbley and Madeleine Astor.

Unfortunately, for me, The Deep was lacking in tension; the Titanic doesn’t sink until 3/4 of the way through the book and, whilst these scenes were very exciting to read, nothing particularly horrifying happens until then. If, however, you enjoy slower-paced books, this might not bother you.

Something else that “bothered” me was that, occasionally, the language or plot seemed anachronistic for the time (1912) and so characters sometimes spoke or behaved as if they were in a modern soap-opera, which made it feel less realistic.*

*Yes, I am complaining about realism in a book about ghosts onboard the Titanic. 

In summary, I thought The Deep was a good book and, even though I have made some critical comments here, I still enjoyed it.

Star Rating: 4/5 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.

If you are interested in reading this for yourself, and would like to support my blog further, you can click my affiliate link to purchase a copy of The Deep. This means I receive a small commission if you purchase using my link.

I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, of Penguin Books.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith

Book Review: The Silent House by Nell Pattison

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

The Silent House is a compelling new crime thriller novel by Nell Pattison. It is about the Hunter family, whose baby daughter is brutally murdered in the middle of the night. However, the family members are all deaf. No one heard a thing. The police call Paige Northwood, a BSL interpreter, to assist with their investigation by interpreting for the witnesses. The local community is in shock, but Paige has her suspicions about what really happened.

I greatly enjoyed the plot and narrative style of The Silent House. The narrative alternates between the murder investigation taking place in the present day and a series of flashbacks, counting down to the time of the murder. Each flashback bolstered my understanding of the present-day investigation and revealed little details and secrets along the way, allowing me to piece together the mystery myself.

An aspect of The Silent House I found particularly interesting was the information given about BSL and the deaf community, via the narrative voice of Paige Northwood, an interpreter. This was not a topic I knew anything about previously, and so I enjoyed reading about, and learning about, sign language.

I was also struck by the difficulty of Paige’s situation; as the interpreter, she could understand the thoughts and feelings of the suspects in a way that the police officers never could, making it increasingly difficult for her to remain unbiased and professional. This then seeps into the narrative voice; Paige’s sympathies and suspicions become blurred as she gets to know those whom she is interpreting for, making her a changeable and unreliable narrator. I’m not used to this in a crime novel (usually, crime novels cast a police officer or a detective inspector as the protagonist), but I liked the unreliability of Paige’s narration.

However, the downside of casting an interpreter as the protagonist, instead of a police officer, meant that, because The Silent House is still a crime novel, Paige was constantly trying to investigate the murder herself, meddling and nosying for secret information and leads. In my opinion, this was highly inappropriate – Paige is not an investigator, and she knows a great number of the suspects personally – and the police officers expressed this repeatedly, and, every time, Paige refused to listen. Because of this, I struggled to see her as a sympathetic, or even a likeable, character.

I don’t know what a solution to this is would be, though. Would it have been better if Paige had been characterised as a police officer who also knows BSL? Or is that “too convenient” for the plot? I’m not sure.

Anyway, on the whole, I enjoyed The Silent House and would recommend if you are seeking a new, interesting crime novel this year.

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 Avon, a division of HarperCollins.

If you are interested in reading this for yourself, and would like to support my blog further, you can click my affiliate link to purchase a copy of The Silent House. This means I receive a small commission if you purchase using my link.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

– Judith

Becoming A ‘Secret Reader’ & Reviewing Framed by S.L. McInnis

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

Towards the end of last year, Hodder Books announced on social media that, provided anyone over the age of 18 based in the UK had the opportunity to become a ‘Secret Reader’, allowing participants early access to e-books from a range of genres. It works as follows: A small number of books from a particular genre are made available for 7 days. The ‘Secret Reader’ can then choose 1 book to read online, or via the Secret Readers App. Once the reader has made their selection and has read more than 10% of it, they have 2 months to finish the book. I decided to sign up.

In the first week, the available books were from the genre of Women’s Fiction. This isn’t a genre I’m particularly interested in (at all), so I let the 7 day period elapse without choosing anything to read.

In the second week, however, the available books were categorised as Crime, Thrillers & Mystery, which caught my attention, and, out of the 6 books available, I chose to read Framed by S.L. McInnis.


My ‘Secret Reader’ Experience 

I should probably start with the positives:

  • In becoming a ‘Secret Reader’, I was granted early access to a new book which I may not have come across otherwise
  • Unlike NetGalley, my access to the book was immediate, and I didn’t have to wait for approval

Unfortunately, those were the only positives I could think of.

There doesn’t seem to be much publicity around being a ‘Secret Reader’ – so much so that it makes you wonder whether it’s even “legit”. I have to admit, I really can’t see much of a need when NetGalley is already so widely popular, well-known, and well used.

However, my biggest problem with being a ‘Secret Reader’ was the functionality of their e-reader app and website. As you cannot download your chosen e-book as a PDF or Kindle file, you are reliant on using their app or website in order to read, which I was disappointed by.

On the Secret Reader App, some of the icons were unclear as to what they were supposed to represent. This is a new, unfamiliar app to me, and for example, I had no idea which button meant “start reading” and which button meant “delete download” – especially as both were represented by images of books / pages. Consequently, I was frustrated to discover I’d accidentally deleting my new book, just as I was getting ready to read it! I also had difficulty adjusting the font size and using the progress bar at the bottom of the page; if I lost my place, it would either drag me too far backwards, too far forwards, or crash entirely. In the end, I gave up on the app and read the book via the Secret Reader website, on my computer, which was not ideal.

My Photo [Secret Readers 2]My Photo [Secret Readers 1]

On the one hand, these technical issues may have just been my experience – my phone or the app could have been playing up on the day I tried to use it, for instance – and I may be making a big fuss over nothing.

On the other hand, I don’t particularly want to risk repeating the experience, and the prospect of reading another full-length novel on a computer screen doesn’t thrill me. With this in mind, whilst I was glad to be able to read Framed, I’m not sure I would be a ‘Secret Reader’ again.


Book Review: Framed 

Framed is a crime thriller / suspense novel which focuses on two women: Beth and Cassy. They were roommates at university, but they both grew apart and moved away. Beth has made a life for herself; she has married and embarked upon a career teaching music. Cassy, on the other hand, is on the run. The LAPD are searching for a culprit in connection with  a quadruple homicide and a botched drug deal. Then, Cassy turns up on Beth’s doorstep, desperate for help.

My Photo [Framed]

On the whole, I enjoyed Framed.

It was easy to read, largely due to the short and simple sentences used throughout. On the one hand, this writing style increased the tension and quickened the pace of the novel in certain scenes but, on the other hand, it risks making the book look a little too simplistically written.

I liked reading the different character perspectives – Beth, her husband Jay, and Cassy – and gradually learning more about their personalities, pasts, and the nature of their relationships with one another. I was less interested in following the police procedural part of the narrative, unfortunately.

I’d say Framed is a slow burner; I was halfway through the book and found myself still waiting for more excitement and more plot development to happen. Nevertheless, I was interested and invested in the story throughout.

The final quarter of Framed is where things get most interesting, and the book is packed full of plot twists. Everything changes – even the narrators aren’t being honest with themselves, or the reader, and this was fun to experience. It did mean, however, that  unravelling the lies and piecing together what actually happened was somewhat confusing.

On the whole though, I thought Framed was an entertaining new crime thriller and I would recommend if you are searching for new books in this genre to read.

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 had any experience as a ‘Secret Reader’? Would you consider becoming one? 

– Judith

Book Review: A Window Breaks by C.M. Ewan

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

A Window Breaks is the newest thriller novel by C.M. Ewan. Tom and Rachel Sullivan are a married couple struggling to stay together, after a traumatic event threatened to rip their family apart.. A friend suggests they take a family holiday to recuperate, and so they travel to a Scottish lodge with their daughter Holly to rest, relax, and heal. However, they are awoken when they hear sounds in the night – glass smashing, a window breaking. They are under attack.

A Window Breaks was an up-and-down read. It fluctuates between really good bits and really… underwhelming bits.

It takes a small while for the Sullivan family to arrive at the Scottish lodge. Consequently, I wasn’t interested in the events leading up to this because, due to the blurb, I knew the thrills would only begin once the family were at the lodge.

However, once the break-in happens at the lodge, the book is fantastic – for a while. The Sullivan family become involved in a tense game of “cat and mouse” as they attempt to run or hide from the intruders, who wield a deadly array of weapons. They’ve come to kill. Every scene was full of tension, fear, and drama – I felt scared and excited at the same time, and I was glued to my Kindle app.

Then, the pacing slows. Sometimes, this slow pacing is used to give characters a respite, which I completely understand. At other times, in my opinion, it simply adds “filler” – time for the characters to chat or have something explained to them, in order for the vague, secondary mystery plot (which is running through the book in addition to the horror / thriller narrative) to be developed. For me, these sections dragged and spoiled the immersion of the tense, chase sequences.

A Window Breaks continues in this way, fluctuating between fast-paced thriller action and slow-paced exposition until the climax, when all secrets are revealed and mysteries are explained. It was at this point that I realised the plot wasn’t going in the direction I thought it was going. On the one hand, this meant the novel is successfully unpredictable but, on the other hand, it meant I lost interest once I realised the book wasn’t what I expected.

I’ll try not to give too much away for future readers but, in a nutshell, the ending of A Window Breaks was rather disappointing. I had been expecting a thrilling and terrifying home invasion novel – especially given the blurb, tagline, cover, and marketing. A Window Breaks was like a home invasion novel at the beginning and during the middle but, by the ending, it wasn’t much like one at all – it was a convoluted and confusing mystery thriller. I didn’t understand much of the explanations  or “plot twists” and ultimately, it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.*

* I would have given this a 4 star rating, were it not for the mystery plot and ending. 

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 Pan Macmillan.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith