Reviews

The Turn of the Key

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.


If you know me, you know that I really enjoy Ruth Ware. I’ve read all of her books but one (The Woman in Cabin 10) and have enjoyed all of them; some of them I’ve enjoyed a LOT. So I was highly anticipating this Summer release date for The Turn of the Key. After finally getting my hands on this one, I can happily report that I’m not disappointed.

The Turn of the Key is pretty much everything I wanted from Ware. It is atmospheric, thrilling, creepy, and completely sucked me in from the first chapter.

One aspect I really enjoyed in this novel was the constant wondering WHAT the threat in this book actually was: Supernatural? Mundane? Psychological? I loved bouncing back and forth between theories for the majority of this book and, though the ending still left me with a lot of questions, I genuinely had a lot of fun throughout the roller coaster that was this story.

My favorite thing about this book was how hard it was to listen to in the dark. I don’t get creeped out easily but just imagining that “creeeeeak” that she writes so well coming from the floor above her bed, I began to hear and think about it when I was laying in bed myself. This book was eerie and continually compelling because of that fact. Turn of the Key manages to keep the urgency of a thriller while still creating the slow, deeper dread that a horror novel usually produces.

One thing I’ve always appreciated about Ware’s characters is that they are not detectives or police or even “crime-solving citizens” they’re just women. Women who respond to these mysterious and scary moments with relatable fear, confusion, and just trying their damndest to figure out what they’ve gotten themselves into. I relate to that, especially in the types of mysteries that Ware tells, tangled in the further complicating factors of love and family and work. Aside from a few twists and revelations, this book was no different. Though I wanted to throw Rowan across the room for many of her choices, Ware is great at wrapping the fog of “what is right and true” tightly around her story and her character’s actions, forcing us to also ask the same of ourselves.

I also enjoyed the format and style of this book; I love a good first person narrative. Turn of the Key begins with a letter from Rowan to an unnamed attorney, and the anticipatory dread this created added to the urgency throughout the book. It reminded me a little of the book Alias Grace, where you’re left to decide so much for yourself about what’s actually happened in the story.

The only thing I might have changed is the ending. While it was a shocking and interesting twist, I still have so many burning questions now that the book is over! I feel like there were certain threads throughout the story that got lost in the final pages. I still didn’t see that twist coming, so I consider this a semi-win. I’d love to hear your opinions on this ending if you’ve read it yourself!

Overall, Turn of the Key was a creepy, pulse-pounding thriller that I sped through in a day and I would do it all again. I just had fun reading this book and continuing to find out what happened at every turn. Despite its small plot holes, I still enjoyed this new addition to Ware’s body of work. I hope that you do too!

Find this book on Amazon, here!

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Book Tour, Reviews

The Tenth Girl

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.

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I changed my mind about The Tenth Girl about six times while I read it, but overall I enjoyed this wild YA thriller.

This might be the hardest review I’ve had to write also, because so many of the things that I loved about the theme, message, and complexity of this book have to do with the big, spoiler-y twist at the end. So, instead, I’m going to give you a list of the things I loved about The Tenth Girl, and leave you to discover as much as I can.

One. The atmosphere in this book was insanely effective. The school is almost another character in the book itself, like many great horror classics, and Faring’s descriptions were graphic, detailed, and tangible. I felt like the creaking doors and moving hallways might be happening in my own house down the hall, instead of inside the book in my hands. This novel was eerie, unsettling, but most of all engaging; I had to finish once I’d been sucked into the story.

Two. I never knew what I thought was going on. Mostly in a good way. While there were definitely confusing or redundant moments for me, most of the time I felt a pleasant, ambiguous confusion that made me more curious instead of less. Every answer in the story led to more questions and I never had a solid theory for what was going on until the reveal. Which brings me to the next things I loved more than anything:

Three. The Twist was completely unexpected. And, while some may not, I loved it in particular. As soon as the reveal came so many things clicked right into place. Without saying too much, I have a little experience with the topics and contexts that she explores in this wild 180 and that made the story all the more rich, understandable, and insane. I thought this twist was just over-the-top enough and it really added another interesting layer of complexity to the story. Very interesting.

Four. I love how this book holds up a mirror and asks us to discover truths about ourselves. Now, this is the part that I’m going to struggle to describe without spoiling anyone. The Tenth Girl posed questions about humanity and our choices, about the consequences and environments of those choices and what they say about us. Faring does not shy away from questions of morality and modern social responsibility and I whole-heartedly enjoyed this turn into the philosophical.

The Tenth Girl may be a somewhat divisive novel, it may be confusing at times and a little meandering, but damn if it isn’t a great story anyway. I wholeheartedly enjoyed my read and I hope you do too.

Born in Los Angeles, Sara Faring is a multi-lingual Argentine-American fascinated by literary puzzles. After working in investment banking at J.P. Morgan, she worked at Penguin Random House. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in International Studies and from the Wharton School in Business. She currently resides in New York City. 

Her first novel, The Tenth Girl, will be released by Macmillan/Imprint on September 24, 2019. Sara is represented by Sarah Bedingfield at Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency. 

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Book Tour, Reviews

The Killing Gene

One of my favorite things as a reader, and a reviewer, is picking up a book that I’m skeptical about…and then being totally wrong. It’s the best.

That’s what happened for me with The Killing Gene, by E.M. Davey.

I was sent a request to review this by Duckworth publishing and am very excited to be participating in their #SummerReads tour for this book!

For more information on the tour, and to follow along, I’ll post a schedule at the end of this post that you can use.

And in the meantime, please enjoy my review of The Killing Gene by E.M. Davey.

When a young archaeologist goes missing in the Congo basin, Professor Randolph Harkness and troubled tearaway Ross McCartney go in search of her only to stumble upon a conspiracy to conceal ancient horrors lost to the passage of time.

Evading spies and trained killers, can they expose this cover-up in time or will they be buried with it? An unputdownable thriller The Killing Gene reveals the story of our species, the paradox of the modern mind and our innate predilection for murder…

I stumbled upon this book without knowing anything about it. And I enjoyed it a lot. The Killing Gene is a thrilling, fast-paced, well-researched piece of adventure fiction and it was a lot of fun to read.

The best thing about this book is hands-down the pace at which it carries itself. The writing is detailed, polished, and easy to read, carrying the plot with just the right amount of support. I kept reading almost compulsively. Because the chapters are short, every time I would finish one I would think to myself “It won’t take long to just read one more.” And then it was over somehow! That’s how they get you!

Moreover, this book was so well researched. I really felt that the author understood his subject matter the best that he could and that he translated that understanding to the audience well. Somewhat reminiscent of the feeling I get when reading Dan Brown’s books, The Killing Gene is rife with complex and fascinating theories that dip into history, culture, and science, among others. I feel like I learned some things while reading and I love getting that feeling from a book.

The plot was fun and unpredictable, and just “over the top” enough, in my opinion. I think that it uses the formula well, applying traditional choices when it made sense but then turning things on their heads at the next turn. This kind of writing kept the book interesting. I struggled with the Old Testament references, finding them a little heavy-handed, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the heart-stopping twists and turns on this adventure.

Finally, I enjoyed the characters in this book. Sometimes, with books like these in Historical Adventure, there is a tendency to place all knowledge, competency, and merit on the MC and not on the surrounding characters, or even cultures, that the book also talks about. I didn’t find this problem so much with The Killing Gene and it was a genuine breath of fresh air. Davey’s characters felt likable and relatable. I especially enjoyed McCartney and the complexity of writing a character with a life-changing diagnosis. He continually walked that line of endearing and reckless and I found that to be every entertaining, aware storytelling.

This book was so out of my normal reading comfort zone. I love adventure and thrillers and I used to read books like this ALL the time, but started getting away from the formula as I got older. This was one reason that I accepted the opportunity to review this book, I was excited to dive back into a known/unknown area of reading for a while! And guys, I wasn’t disappointed in the least. If you love the sound of adventure and running through the jungle and danger around every turn, this might be the book for you.


E.M. DAVEY is a journalist at Global Witness specializing in undercover investigative journalism into international corruption and environmental crime, which gives him the opportunity to travel to far-flung and unusual places. His novels incorporate real-world experiences and meticulous research, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. He has taught creative writing with the Wilbur & Niso Smith foundation and is the author of three novels: Foretold by Thunder (Duckworth 2015), The Napoleon Complex (Duckworth 2016) and The Killing Gene (Duckworth 2019). He grew up in Bristol and now lives in Kent. 

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What do you think? Sound interesting? Leave a comment letting me know what you think!

Thanks for stopping by! See you tomorrow! x — A

Reviews

Baby Teeth

“It was hard to pour endless love into someone who wouldn’t love you back. No one could do it forever...”

Seven years ago, Alex and Suzette had a beautiful baby girl, who they called Hanna. Now they aren’t sure who their daughter is or what she needs. For one thing, she still doesn’t talk, and they have no idea why.

Hanna has other things on her mind like being Daddy’s ‘sweet-but-silent’ little angel, not going to school, and getting exactly what she wants. Only now she’s decided that she only wants one thing: her own happy ending. But there’s someone in the family who isn’t included in that picture anymore…

Wow, what do I say first?? Baby Teeth was insane, it was emotional, it was disturbing, and it was so riveting. I haven’t read anything else like it.

The thing this book does best is to weedle its way into your mind and set up shop. The author knows exactly which beats to hit along the way to send a shiver down your spine or make you stare at the book in appalled disbelief. More than once, I found myself up at night just thinking about this book. It is a perfectly unsettling adventure through this family’s life, and I would bet it’d be even more powerful if you’re a parent yourself. I read this book for my mark-up book exchange so I made notes in the book while reading, and there were so many times that I stopped, searching for the right words, only to end up writing just “…wow.” Sometimes the bite of this book left me speechless.

The subjects alone are enough to disturb any self-respecting person, but that’s not what makes it special. What makes this story so special is that it takes these distressing, confusing, sinister elements, a lot of them classic tropes, and then weaves them into her characters lives with an incredible amount of heart. I didn’t expect my heart to be so conflicted or broken open by a thriller! So much happens in this book and there are times when it’s almost impossible to tell who you’re supposed to feel the most for: the parents? The child? Everyone involved? (Which is where I landed, dang.) But the beauty of it is that every reader has to decide that for themselves. Her ability to shift such intense and full empathy onto every character, especially juxtaposed with the subject matter, is one of the most compelling things I’ve read in a long time.

A third aspect of this book that I loved was the authentic and relatable way that the author wrote a character living with a chronic illness. Suzette, the mother of this family, has Crohn’s Disease and it plays a huge part in her ability to care for family, to make decisions, even to live and work and feel like she has enough energy to be a whole person. I wasn’t expecting this in a suspense novel, but I needed it so badly. As someone else living with a chronic condition, it was obvious to me that Stage was writing from firsthand experience. So many subtle moments of Suzette’s suffering made me go “me too!” and to see and acknowledge that as a valid, human part of this story was a brilliant decision on the author’s part. Very well done.

From the very first chapter I felt a driving force pulling me further and further into the book. Every time I set it down I would end up glancing back over at it a few minutes later and, before I knew it, I’d be nose deep in it again. I had to finish, I had to know what happened. And one of the brilliant, most aggravating things about this book is…I still want to know more. That ending– gah! I wish to death that this book had a sequel, I would read it in a heartbeat. Something about the way that Zoje Stage chose to write this story has made me infinitely hungry for more: the choices in how its told, the style she wrote it in, the empathy and fear that she employs so skillfully.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fiction that doesn’t flinch. Stage has written something so addictive and hypnotic that I finished it in two days while on a busy trip to Cleveland, which is saying something! This book is visceral, intense, and never looks away from the disquieting story it has to tell you. Enter at your own risk, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did once you’re on the other side.

Now write me a sequel, Zoje!

“Sweetness can be deceptive.”