I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Psychological thrillers have been really popular lately, and with books like I See You it’s easy to understand why so many people are reading them. They’re full of twists and turns, lots of drama, but also contain complex heroes and villains.

The story of I See You begins with Zoe Walker, who on her regular commute from work spots her picture in the classified ads, amongst a range of adverts for chat lines and escort agencies. It contains no information: only a phone number and a website, neither of which are accessible when she tries them. Zoe’s family convince her it can’t possibly be her, and the next day it’s another woman’s face, then another’s. Her worries escalate when one of the women advertised is murdered, and another is a victim of theft, and Zoe becomes determined to discover the truth behind the mysterious adverts.

This is a very tense thriller, dramatic but also highly creepy. The characters are well developed and you really find yourself drawn into the plot of this novel. There are lots of twists and turns, and the reader is kept on their toes from beginning to end. One to read in a couple of sittings, the only problem is that once you start reading, you won’t want to stop!

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The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

Some books from your childhood really stick with you, and for a long time now I’ve been meaning to re-read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase as its a book that stayed in my memory for a long time. I’m not sure whether it was the adventurous plot, the ever-threatening wolves or the cruel villains that most strongly impressed themselves on me when I first read the book many years ago.

The story follows Bonnie, a wealthy, spoiled young girl, whose poor, but more gentle, cousin Sylvia comes to live with her under care of a new governess whilst Bonnie’s parents take an extended sea journey. Willoughby Chase is in the north of England, in an alternative Victorian era where a channel tunnel to Europe has allowed ferocious packs of wolves into the country and their menacing presence is felt throughout the story. However, it is the villainous governess Miss Slighcarp and her accomplices who are the real ‘wolves’ of the story, and whom Bonnie and Sylvia must fight against if they wish to escape a life of cruelty and suffering.

As always with books read in childhood, I was worried that this story may not be as good as I remembered it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was fast paced, with interesting protagonists and plenty of drama. Definitely a book I will be sharing with my own children one day.

The Witchfinder’s Sister

I love a good historical novel, especially ones based on real events and people, so The Witchfinder’s Sister seemed an ideal choice.

It is based on real-life 17th Century witchfinder Matthew Hopkins, who was responsible for a mass number of executions of women who were believed (and ‘proven’ by him) to be witches. The story follows his fictional sister Alice, and her reaction to his persecution of any woman seen to be ‘different’.

The most fascinating part of this story is definitely in the truth that lies behind it. You cannot read it without feeling absolute sympathy for the hundreds of women wrongly put to death at the hands of witch-hunters and the legal system at the time. The ending to the story is interesting and not one I expected (but I won’t say any more, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone). It also departs from complete realism at times; there are hints that in fact maybe there is more than can be explained going on, but there is no question in this story as to where the true evil lies: within the hearts and minds of those who take it on themselves to accuse and punish those who are innocent.

Definitely one that I would recommend for fans of historical fiction.

Wuthering Heights

Every so often, I like to either read a classic I haven’t previously read, or to re-read one that I’ve read and enjoyed in the past. It has been several years since I last read Wuthering Heights and as I received a beautiful hard back copy for mother’s day, it seemed like the perfect time to re-visit this classic novel.

The story begins with the Earnshaw family, whose father brings home a starving young orphan from Liverpool with only one name: Heathcliff. Heathcliff and Catherine grow close during their childhoods, until she develops a friendship with the Linton family, and finds herself drawn to their son Edgar, and distances herself from Heathcliff. Wuthering Heights is a dark, tragic story, spanning two generations, with themes of revenge, hatred and identity: Heathcliff and Catherine both express feelings of being tied together so closely that they are like one person.

One of the things that makes Wuthering Heights such an unsettling story to read is how unlikeable each of the main characters is. Between them they demonstrate some pretty awful character traits; it’s hard to identify a single likeable character within the story. And yet, it makes compelling reading. As a reader we feel sympathy for each character in turn, each a victim of highly unusual and tragic circumstances.

My favourite elements of the story are definitely the hauntings at the beginning and end of the story. The terrifying night that Mr Lockwood spends at Wuthering Heights sets up the atmosphere for this bleak story wonderfully.

Re-reading the book this time, I found I enjoyed it more than ever. A truly brilliant classic.

My not so perfect life

I’ve read all of Sophie Kinsella’s standalone novels, always finding them to be fun, enjoyable easy-reads. And My Not So Perfect Life is no different.

Katie has wanted to live in London her whole life, and now her dream has come true. She has her own flat (so what if it’s so tiny she has to keep her clothes in a hammock above the bed?), a job in branding (even though her boss can’t remember her name), and an instagram account filled with perfect pictures (although maybe that beautiful picture she shared doesn’t quite reflect the reality of her seemingly endless commute). However, Katie’s dreams come crashing down when she loses her job and she ends up returning home to help her dad run his glamping business. Then, one day, her old boss turns up on holiday, with her apparently perfect family in tow. This is the perfect chance for Katie to get her revenge on the woman who destroyed her dreams, isn’t it?

I really enjoyed the story; it contained some lovely messages about life and appearance vs reality. There was an interesting romance but also a lot about female friendships in there too. And, as always with Sophie Kinsella’s books, it was genuinely funny and completely up-to-date (almond milk and organic rivers both raised a smile!).

Well worth a read, this is a perfect book for escaping into for a few hours.

The Girl of Ink and Stars

The Girl of Ink and Stars was an interesting children’s story, but for me it didn’t really ‘grab’ me as much as I expected it to.

I was first drawn to this story because of its beautiful cover and the blurb on the back. I was also aware that it had been shortlisted for childrens’ book awards and had received a lot of praise.

It tells the story of Isabella, a cartographers daughter. When her best friend Lupe goes missing after one of their school friends is discovered murdered, Isabella knows Lupe is searching for the killer. Isabella sets off on a dangerous adventure, looking to save Lupe before she becomes the next victim.

Some elements of this story were great: the strong female protagonists, the scary Tibicienas, the unusual conclusion. However my problem is that at times it felt like we were missing some of the story and almost a little rushed and this left me feeling a little disappointed.

It was a fine story, but not the best childrens’ adventure book I’ve ever read.