Book Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

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

I was so excited to be approved on NetGalley to read The Guest List after I read and loved her previous novel, The Hunting Party.

Well, The Guest List is even better than The Hunting Party.

The Guest List is a thrilling closed-circle murder mystery novel. On an island just off the Irish coast, guests gather for the celebrity wedding of the year. The wedding seems to go smoothly – until someone is found dead. A a furious storm approaches, leaving the guests trapped on the island – trapped with a murderer.

The Guest List was, quite simply, excellent.

The introductory chapters and characterisation were very good; I clearly knew each character’s personalities, motivations, andI was intrigued to learn what secrets they were keeping from one another. The descriptions were so vivid and immersive that I could imagine everything inside my head perfectly.

In addition, the pacing was just right throughout, and I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience. I couldn’t put the book down, but I also didn’t want it to end!

The Guest List is full of excellent twists and turns and, due to the well-crafted chronological structure of the book, I was kept guessing until the very final chapters.

I can’t wait to buy a physical copy of The Guest List, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Star Rating: 5/5 Stars

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I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and Harper Collins UK.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith

Book Review: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

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

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding is part psychological thriller, part magic realism, and part Gothic fairytale.

Lauren Tranter gives birth to twins: Morgan and Riley. Whilst recovering in hospital, Lauren swears she sees a woman dressed in filthy rags, who tries to steal her babies and replace them with her own. Her husband doesn’t believe her. The police find no evidence. The doctors are concerned for Lauren’s mental wellbeing. Then, a month later, something happens to Lauren’s babies. To everybody else, they still look like Morgan and Riley – but not to Lauren. They are not her babies, and the only way to prove it is to risk the unthinkable.

I loved this book. I picked Little Darlings up by chance whilst at my local library, browsing for interesting-looking thrillers. The cover and tagline caught my eye, so I added it to my pile. I was not disappointed.

I absolutely loved the combination of a traditional thriller with Gothic and folklore conventions; it made the story incredibly dark and gripping. This might sound like a complete juxtaposition to what I said last week about Behind Her Eyes, as I specifically criticised it for mixing the supernatural and thriller genres together. In Little Darlings, however, it just works.

I was fascinated by the threat of a baby-stealing witch and the terror Lauren experiences wherever she goes, and the confusion we experience was readers. Is it postpartum depression? Is it psychosis? Is it truly supernatural? Is it all 3? The lines are blurred fantastically by Golding, and I was drawn to keep reading.

My only real criticism* would be that DS Joanna Harper, the police investigator researching Lauren’s claims, was a much weaker character. In general, actually, the police scenes were less interesting. Really, Little Darlings isn’t a crime novel. It is a novel about a mother’s fear of losing or endangering her children. Therefore, whether Lauren’s fears are revealed to be a malevolent spirit, a psychotic hallucination, or the symptoms of postpartum depression, in one sense, it doesn’t really matter. The fear and panic Lauren feels – and we feel too, as readers – is strikingly real and terrifying, regardless of its cause.

* As a minor point of additional criticism, I know Little Darlings is set in Sheffield but not everybody in Yorkshire ends every sentence with ‘love’, ‘luv’, ‘flower’, or some other term of endearment. Reading dialogue written in this way got a bit frustrating after a while!

I really, really enjoyed Little Darlings and would strongly recommend to anyone looking for a book that blends the format of a traditional thriller with the Gothic and the fantastical.

Star Rating: 5/5 Stars

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Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin

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

A Kiss Before Dying is crime thriller novel by Ira Levin, published in 1953, about a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – not even murder.

By now, after reading The Stepford Wives, Rosemary’s Baby, and Son of Rosemary, I have realised that I just love Ira Levin’s writing.

This review will be a little on the short side, as it’s very hard to say anything about this book without giving way huge spoilers.

In a nutshell, A Kiss Before Dying was excellent. It was incredibly tense, and full of unexpected moments – there were plenty of moments where I wish I had been paying more attention to the details. It was so good! The characters felt realistic and the plot was enthralling.

A Kiss Before Dying is a fantastically sinister crime novel that I would definitely read again, and you should read too.

Star Rating: 5/5 Stars

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Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

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

Rosemary’s Baby is a horror novel by Ira Levin, which was first published in 1967.

Rosemary’s Baby is about Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, a married couple who move to an old apartment building in New York City, which allegedly has a troubled history with witchcraft and murder. They are warmly welcomed by their neighbours, an elderly couple named Minnie and Roman Castevet, who quickly befriend Guy. When Rosemary discovers she is pregnant, not only is Guy thrilled, but the Castevets too – as well as the other tenants in the apartment building. Everyone is incredibly excited – a little too excited, perhaps, and Rosemary begins to suspect something is wrong.

Whilst I enjoyed The Stepford Wives, Rosemary’s Baby was much creepier and much more thrilling.

Levin expertly and subtly increases the amount of unsettling things which happen in the apartment complex, from hearing suspicious noises next door to mysterious disappearances to overhearing supernatural chants and rituals.

It soon becomes hinted that there are… evil forces at work in Rosemary’s life – and her pregnancy too.

Throughout the book, I felt sorry for Rosemary because, distanced from her siblings, she longs for the perfect family of her own. However, Guy is often controlling, dominant, and doesn’t seem to care much for her – even when she is pregnant. Rosemary’s Baby is set in the 1960s, and so it was sad to see how some men used to treat their wives with little respect and care.

I thought the book was terrifying and tense – I barely put it down. I think Rosemary’s Baby is probably one of the best horror novels I’ve read.

After reading both The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby, I’ve really been enjoying Ira Levin’s style of writing. As a result, when I learnt there was a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, I bought it almost immediately!

For fans of horror, the supernatural and the occult, I strongly recommend Rosemary’s Baby.

Star Rating: 5/5 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


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Halloween Book Review: The Collector by John Fowles

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

The Collector is the debut novel by John Fowles, published in 1963. It is about a lonely young man called Frederick Clegg, who works as a clerk and collects butterflies in his spare time. Frederick becomes enamoured with Miranda Grey, a middle-class art student. He admires her and almost loves her, yet knows he can never speak to her because of their class differences and his undeveloped social skills. Subsequently, Frederick decides he will “collect” Miranda, hoping that if he keeps her captive long enough, she will grow to love him.

How dark a plot is that?

I loved The Collector – I’d certainly read again.

Frederick is a sympathetic character, though his mental instabilities also make him serious and dangerous. In Stephen King’s Misery, which shares similarities with The Collector, Paul learns to befriend his captor, Annie Wilkes, and treat her with sensitivity and care to ensure he is as well-treated as possible (though the success of this strategy is arguable).

In The Collector, Miranda is outraged, harsh, and mocking towards Frederick. Whilst this is a completely understandable reaction from the victim of an abduction, it’s difficult, due to Frederick’s narration, not to see this as quite sad; it confirms to Frederick his fear that Miranda would never even give him the time of day if he plucked up the courage to say hello in public. Having said that, I was not hoping for a Miranda / Frederick love story!

Miranda is clearly a victim. She is frightened, lonely, and tries to escape multiple times. However, I found it harder to sympathise with her as her narrative perspective was only introduced halfway through the book. This split narrative perspective is something Misery lacks. We only ever hear Paul’s side of the story so, naturally, Annie is represented as crazy and dangerous and is never presented as anything other than that. By switching between Frederick and Miranda’s perspectives, it  becomes harder to like or dislike either character, and neither characters’ motivations and actions are clearly established as good or bad.

The parallel between Frederick’s butterfly collection and his “collection” of Miranda is fantastic; Frederick wants to collect things for their beauty, so he can love and appreciate them in his own way. Yet, the very act of collecting a butterfly causes them harm, damages their body and beauty, and ultimately causes their death. This is why I found the book so dark, but utterly and enjoyably enthralling.

I thought it was interesting that the novel was tinged with sadness and tragedy throughout, unlike than blatant fear and horror conveyed constantly in Misery.

I’d recommend both books as gripping and thrilling reads!

Star Rating: 5/5 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


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is fantastic.

It’s a novel consisting of a collection of fictional first-person perspectives about black domestic servants working in white households, in 1960s Mississippi.

However, The Help is not written like a textbook or documentary. Whilst a work of fiction, The Help was undoubtedly inspired by real events and real people. It’s personal, raw, emotional and shocking.

Stockett’s writing perfectly reflects the different characters’ personalities. There are three main narrative perspectives; Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson are both maids in white households, subject to constant racial prejudice. Eugenia Phelan is a white woman who realises the shocking racism in her town and seeks to expose it.

My favourite character was Aibileen, who works for Elizabeth Leefolt . She’s incredibly loving towards the child in her care, humble, respectful. The strength she demonstrates in working dutifully in the face of the many racist comments made about her by her employer – is remarkable.

Given the subject matter, The Help is obviously quite dark and serious in places. Yet, there are some light and funny moments as friendships grow between different characters.

I also found it interesting to read about Minny’s perspective, who works for Celia Foote.

Miss Celia, as Minny calls her, lacks the ‘Stepford Wife’ personality to fit in to society. She doesn’t even know how to cook and is scorned by the other women; she’s never invited for afternoon tea or card games and seems to be truly alone. and she feels truly alone. However, Minny and Miss Celia seem to bond somewhat, in their shared experiences of feeling like an outcast.

Whilst The Help is clearly designed to highlight and condemn racial discrimination, it also draws attention to the varying social prejudices that existed (and still do exist) in communities as well.

I strongly recommend this book; The Help is a gripping read and I didn’t realise quite how much I’d enjoy it.

Star Rating: 5/5 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


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

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

Jurassic Park is a science fiction novel by Michael Crichton. It was adapted into a film by Steven Spielberg, which was released in 1993.

Jurassic Park, as most already know, is about an amusement park and zoo founded by John Hammond. The park is filled with real dinosaurs, recreated in laboratories using DNA recovered in dinosaur fossils and preserved insects. The paleontologist Alana Grant, the botanist Ellie Sattler, the mathematician Ian Malcolm, and Hammond’s two grandchildren, Timmy and Lex, are invited to view the park before it officially opens. Whilst all seems fun and interesting initially, the park begins to malfunction, and so the dinosaurs escape, wreaking inconceivable havoc.

I loved this book more than I even thought I would.

It was instantly entertaining and instantly scary, as there are dinosaur attacks in the book omitted from the film, so the characters are never far away from a predatory encounter.

Arguably, the most memorable scenes from Jurassic Park (1993) are when the Tyrannosaurus Rex escapes and when Timmy and Lex are hunted by Velociraptors in the kitchen. These scenes are expertly written in the book and genuinely frightening – more so than in Spielberg’s film because your imagination can truly go crazy. Every time characters have to run or hide, it’s so exciting and tense.

In addition to the intense events within Jurassic Park, there was also lots of interesting scientific information about the various dinosaurs. This made them more complex than just ‘scary monsters’, explaining Grant and Sattler’s fascination with them, and highlighting Hammond’s exploitation of them.

Crichton really paints Hammond as the villain of the piece, which doesn’t come across as strongly in Spielberg’s film. Hammond is a man eager to get rich and create popular entertainment quickly by exploiting living creatures for gain, whilst neglecting to fund proper care and research into what individual species require and the dangers they pose. Ian Malcolm criticises Hammond and the industry of modern science, predicting the park will devolve into chaos immediately, due to the park’s focus on commercial gain rather than safety and careful study. No doubt this analogy can be applied to modern zoos today.

Jurassic Park was a highly entertaining book, and I’d happily re-read it. I ordered Crichton’s sequel, The Lost World, the same day I finished Jurassic Park.

I strongly recommend if you love the film franchise but haven’t yet read the book on which it’s based!

Star Rating: 5/5 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


This post was last updated in January 2020.