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.

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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

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

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

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 Harper Collins UK.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith

Book Review: Tell Me Why by Ruth O’Neill

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

This book was sent to me from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tell Me Why is a new novel by Ruth O’Neill. It follows Laura, who is longing for love. She meets Max, a seemingly charming man, and falls head over heels in love with him. However, Laura soon discovers Max is not the man she thinks he is, and Laura’s life is placed in danger.

I liked the ideas behind Tell Me Why: revenge, imprisonment, and manipulation. I’ve read other thrillers with similar themes such as The Collector by John Fowles, Underneath by Anne Goodwin, and Find Her by Lisa Gardner, and I would strongly recommend all three of these books to any interested in these types of thriller.

I also liked the tense and exciting scenes in the climax of Tell Me Why, as Laura attempts to escape from Max’s clutches.

However, there were a few things in Tell Me Why which, for me, missed the mark. For example, I thought the writing was too simplistic. In addition, the plot moves very quickly. If you fancy a short and fast thriller to read, Tell Me Why may suit you perfectly. Personally, the pacing was too fast and, as a consequence, the plot felt rushed. I would have preferred more time to get to know the characters better, and a longer, more drawn-out thriller.

Speaking of characters, I think they could have been developed further, in order for them to feel realistic and lifelike. Despite being the antagonist, for example, Max didn’t seem particularly evil or fearsome. Furthermore, Lauren, though a victim, wasn’t particularly sympathetic or likeable, as I knew little about her. As a result, I didn’t care very much about what happened to either Lauren or Max.

Overall, I think Tell Me Why is a commendable attempt at a psychological thriller, though there are areas in which I think it needs improvement.

Star Rating: 2/5 Stars

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Have you read this book? What did you think? 

Tell Me Why is currently available to download for free on Amazon until the 15th of February.

– Judith

Book Review: She by H.C. Warner

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

She is the thriller novel I have been waiting for.

Ben can’t believe his luck when Bella walks into his life, just when he needs her most. Sexy, impulsive and intelligent, Bella is everything he ever wanted. And Bella wants him. All to herself.

In fact, Bella decides that everything is better when it is just the two of them, making it harder for Ben’s friends and family to stay in touch. And then a sudden tragedy triggers a chain of events which throws Ben headlong into a nightmare.‘ (Amazon)

A Quick Aside: Unfortunately, when She was first released on NetGalley, there was a mix-up with the uploaded manuscript, which meant readers were only able to read the first quarter or so of the book. This resulted in a few negative early reviews which were based on a formatting issue rather than the writing and plot. I was gutted to see this; I had really enjoyed what I’d read so far and was so excited to finish it! Thankfully, after I brought this to the attention of HQ and HC Warner, the issue was resolved quickly and I could get stuck back in.

As I said, She is the story I have been waiting for.

I love the trope of manipulative women – or manipulative men, for that matter – in thriller novels. Other books I’ve read with this  trope include The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin, The Sister by Louise Jensen, Through The Wall by Caroline Corcoran, and Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. I don’t know why I like manipulative characters so much; I promise I’m not a psychopath and I certainly don’t approve of this in real life! I just love books about characters who deliberately lie, twist words, and manipulate others for their own gain and I find these kinds of books fascinating, shocking and entertaining. She certainly qualifies as one of these books.

The book begins from Ben’s perspective, and then switches to Bella’s perspective about a third of the way in. I found Bella’s narrative voice much more interesting than Ben’s because she was calculating, cold, and callous whereas Ben, as an innocent and ignorant victim, was just sort of… there. His only purpose is to be Bella’s victim. In a way, though, this reflects how much Bella is truly in control; she dominates the narrative whereas Ben barely has a voice, drawing attention to the themes of emotional and physical abuse in the novel.

Bella’s parts of the book were so enraging and interesting at the same time – we see “behind the scenes”, as it were, and witness the shocking lengths Bella is prepared to go in order to control every aspect of Ben’s life. On the one hand, it could be argued that some of these scenes were somewhat repetitive and therefore a little dull because we first read the scene from Ben’s perspective and then, later, read the exact same scene from Bella’s perspective too. On the other hand, Bella’s narrative does also contain new, shocking scenes full of plot twists and secrets Ben that has no idea about, and I liked being “let in on” this information.

My only real criticism of Bella’s narrative voice is that she sounded too confessional. By this, I mean that Bella is aware of her cruel, controlling behaviour, and she knows it is wrong. I would have preferred Bella to be an even darker character. Perhaps she could have insisted to herself, those around her, and the reader that her actions are completely normal – she hasn’t done anything wrong, and it is everyone else who is deluded, not her. There are glimpses of this throughout, but I would have liked Warner to take this aspect of Bella’s character further.

Speaking of characters, all the characters were likeable (except Bella, obviously) and realistic. I particularly liked Matt and Freya, a married couple who have been lifelong friends with Ben. They were not only warm, genuinely friendly people – warning Ben against Bella’s meddling influences, for example – but they themselves juxtaposed against Ben and Bella’s relationship, and demonstrated to Ben what a happy and loving marriage should look like.

The only other aspect of She that I thought was a little disappointing was the ending. I’m not one for many happy endings in thrillers, and I wished it had been darker and longer, in order to include more conflict and tension.

Nonetheless, I loved reading through this book and finished it in just over a day. I definitely recommend She.

Star Rating: 4.5/5 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.

I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and HQ, which is an imprint of Harper Collins UK.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.