The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware Review

To be released August 6th, 2019.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware starts out in a letter written from a Scotland jail by Rowan Caine, a former nanny, to Mr. Wrexham, an attorney. She’s pleading for him to represent her in court as she’s been accused of murdering a child, her former charge.

Rowan then goes on to tell the story of how she got her nanny job with the Elincourts at their supposedly haunted estate, Heatherbrae House. There are several references to the Victorian, which I can’t help but think is a nod to similarly styled books that came before this one such as Jane Eyre or Turn of the Screw.

Nanny position? Check. High salary? Check. Creepy, secluded location? Check. Possibly haunted? Check.

The characterization is spot-on and the suspense, especially at the chapter breaks is skillful. What puts a modern twist on this seemingly Gothic, Victorian inspired novel is the technology Rowan has to deal with at Heatherbrae House. The father of the house is a technology buff and has installed a very Big Brother-esque system called Happy that basically runs the place. There are cameras everywhere to track Rowan’s every move as well as thumbprint locks and other devices.

I read Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood and it wasn’t my favorite book. With The Turn of the Key, she has really come into her own as a true master writer of suspense and thrillers. There are certain scenes that are so gripping and terrifying that I could not stop reading. I just have to add that I never thought footsteps could be so scary.

Just when I thought the book couldn’t get any better, it did. At the eleventh hour, we get a big twist that is so salacious, it’s almost cathartic. Love her or hate her, you have to be curious about what will end up happening to Rowan, which is really the whole drive of the plot.

There are so many twists and turns, even right up until the end, that truly keep the suspense going. I felt like the ending might not be as satisfying as it was. The whole book is written in an epistolary/frame story style and I loved every bit of it. In true Gothic novel form, the reader is both satiated but still left with a little bit of mystery about nearly every one of the characters. This is a must read for sure.

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The Woman in Black Review

Cover artThe Woman in Black, published in 1983, by Susan Hill is a story about Arthur Kipps. It’s written in a typical Gothic novel style and has literary techniques reminiscent of the Victorian era from its predecessors such as Sherlock Holmes, Wuthering Heights, and even The Haunting of Hill House.

One very strong scary element in The Woman in Black is integrated into the Netflix series of The Haunting of Hill House. When I watched it, I wondered where that came from since it wasn’t in the original Shirley Jackson book, but now I know. The Netflix series seems to be a mixture of both of these iconic novels.

The book starts in true ghost story style, very similar to The Turn of the Screw, where the characters are huddled around a fire telling ghost stories. Kipps grows uncomfortable and does not want to partake, which we soon find out is due to his terrifying experience in his younger years. He says he wrote down the story for no one else’s eyes but his own, which makes the reader feel as if they are getting in on some big secret.

In his younger years, Kipps was a solicitor sent to Eel Marsh House to take care of Mrs. Drablow’s affairs after her death. She has no known relatives or friends and lived alone. The house is hard to get to and therefore hard to escape when the tide covers the only road in and out.

It quickly becomes apparent during his first visit there that his only company is supernatural. I’ve read quite a few Gothic/horror books and was skeptical at first that this one would frighten me. I was proved wrong about halfway through the book when a certain event in the house when Kipp is alone was so terrifying that I didn’t know if I wanted to keep reading or put the book aside.

Luckily, I did keep reading to thoroughly enjoy this little treasure of a book. This is definitely in the top ten of my favorite classics and I think I will find myself going back to reread it over and over again as I do when I watch a favorite movie to find things I might have missed the first time.

 

Currently Reading and My Next Read

 So up next on my list of reading is Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key. I’m super excited about this one because I enjoyed her novel In a Dark, Dark Wood. This one will be released on August 6, 2019 and promises to be one of her finest.

I think I’ve decided that I love thrillers. Sure, I enjoy a good women’s fiction and of course classic and literary fiction book, but thrillers excite me. In my teaching life, I tend to lean towards Gothic fiction with Dracula, Frankenstein, and Wuthering Heights. I’m also partial to Sherlock Holmes. I would have to say that one of my all time favorite books is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It’s a hit every time I teach it. Rebecca is a classic romantic suspense novel with Gothic elements. If you haven’t read it, you should!

I’m currently reading The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.  It’s not new, but was published in 1983. It’s a true ghost story filled with Gothic locations and eerie characters. So far, I love that it is more contemporary, but written with a very old time, classic feel. My full review will be up in a few days. She also wrote an unofficial sequel to Rebecca called Mrs. De Winter, which is on my “to read” list.

What are some of your favorite thrillers? What’s on your “to read” list?

 

 

 

The Night Before by Wendy Walker Review

To be released May 14th.

The Night Before by Wendy Walker is a story about a woman named Laura. There’s something about her that makes you realize she has a dark, secretive past. Walker’s writing is suspenseful right from the start. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down! We get a dual view point of view from single girl Laura and from her happily married sister Rosie. It goes back in time from the night before to the present day, alternating between the two sisters’ point of view.

The night before, Laura goes on a date with Jonathan Fields from an online dating website called findlove.com. At first, he seems suspicious until I got the sinking feeling that he should be more worried about Laura than she should be about him. I totally love this role reversal and wanted to keep reading to see what she does and says next.

What really makes this book is the character Laura. She is this unreliable narrator you’re kind of afraid of but are kind of rooting for at the same time. When we get glimpses of her date with Jonathan Fields from the night before, you can’t help but love her. Yet even though she is very likeable, you know that there’s something “off” about her. We soon learn that there’s something very off about Jonathan Fields as well. This really makes it suspenseful because you don’t know whether to worry about Jonathan doing something to Laura or Laura doing something to Jonathan. It’s totally a mystery, as is their respective pasts.

I find the characters to be very fresh and original and the writing is very bold. It is a totally refreshing and super fast paced read. About halfway through the book, there is a twist that make things super exciting. I did not want to stop reading to find out what was going to happen next. Walker definitely knows how to build the suspense and keep it going.

Walker’s writing is both sexy and suspenseful, a dangerously addictive mix. With twists and turns at every chapter’s end, the constant cliffhangers make it hard to stop reading. I kept finding myself saying just one more chapter and then reading another.

Just when you think this book can’t get any better, it does. Usually when I’m getting to the end of a book, especially a thriller, I can start to figure out what’s going to happen, but not with this one. No one is who you think they are. No one does what you think they will do. Quite an exciting read!

If you are contemplating buying this book, just do it! You won’t regret it. It’s definitely a must read.

Beach in March

“Beach in March” by Jennifer Novotney

We step into the hotel room
out of the crisp spring air
peel off our coats and scarves
slip out of our socks and shoes
cool tile floor beneath our feet
it is as if I am in
the beachy heat of summer
tropical coconut sunscreen
damp bathing suits
big colorful towels hanging to dry
the trees have just begun
to sprout leaves
stores on the boulevard
opening like spring flowers
some not in bloom until mid-April
ice cream no longer relegated
to a dessert
cones grasped in hot hands
as early as eleven in the morning
fresh french fries hot
salty and crisp
like the ocean itself.

© 2019 Jennifer Novotney

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager Review

To be released July 2, 2019

Lock Every Door is about a 20-something woman, Jules, who finds herself in a difficult spot with no job, no family to speak of, and no place to live. She finds an ad on Craigslist looking for an apartment sitter for the Bartholomew, one of the most luxurious apartment buildings in New York City. She goes on the interview and gets the job. One can’t help but think it is because of her circumstances and her single status that gets her this job.

It is written in the first-person from a female point of view, which is interesting because it is a male writer. When introduced to Jules, I couldn’t help but think there was something very unfeminine about her and it could be due to the male writer. In fact, the woman showing her the apartment building didn’t seem especially convincing either. There wasn’t much in the way of characterization in the first few chapters and the language seems sort of stilted with lots of fragments. The descriptions and exposition went a little overboard, especially when describing the apartment building. I found myself wanting to know more about Jules and less about the Bartholomew.

The book starts in the present day and then goes back in time 6 days before the car accident that Jules wakes up from when she is in the hospital. Jumping from the present to flashbacks definitely adds to the suspense of the story.

Although Jules is kind of a generic character, it is written not only in the first person, but also in the present tense, which gives it a sort of every man or every woman feel to it. You really see things from her perspective, which makes certain scenes terrifying.

Things get creepier and creepier the more we learn about Jules and the Bartholomew. She meets a fellow apartment sitter named Ingrid who happens to be staying in the unit directly below her. They quickly become friends due to the no visitors allowed rule, but Jules learns that the Ingrid situation is not all it appears to be. Ingrid goes suddenly missing just like Jules’ sister.

Jules’ obsession with finding Ingrid borders on unrealistic as she only knew her for a very short amount of time and becomes infatuated with finding her. The author explains this by connecting it with how Jules’ sister Jane disappeared and was never found. I get the motivation, but it’s a stretch. Similarly, the rules of the Bartholomew seem unrealistic as well since she can’t have any visitors, can’t talk to the other residents, and can’t leave overnight.

When we finally do find out something about Jules’ past, it seems a little too tragic and too convenient.

While the premise may not be totally original or believable, the read is definitely exciting especially towards the last quarter of the book. However, I found myself skimming toward the end, just wanting to get the book done. Sorry to say I can’t say that I’d recommend this one as it is lacking in several areas.

Big Little Lies Review

The first thing I noticed about Big Little Lies, which was evident right from the start, was the humorous tone of Moriarty’s writing. This book made me laugh out loud quite a few times. The characters’ witty banter and wry thoughts are worth the read alone. Some of the humor comes from self-deprecation and other times the writing just make me identify with the characters as they poke fun at their stage in life or situations in which they find themselves.

The book opens with a scene at Pirriwee Public. It’s trivia night and someone has been murdered. Then it goes back in time to retrace exactly how the crime happened.

I especially enjoy the police report statements interspersed throughout the narrative, which adds mystery and suspense. It almost gives the feel of a side by side narrative, yet I know that the two stories are not only related but depend on one another for the plot to unfold.

Of course, what shines most are the female main characters and their relationships. The story is told in third person limited and we get a glimpse into the lives of Madeline, the happily married “Glitter Girl”, Jane, the single mom with a mysterious past, and Celeste, the mom of twins in an unhappy, abusive relationship. Although leading different lives, these three women come together because their children are all starting kindergarten at Pirriwee Public, a seemingly idyllic school by the beach. Being a teacher myself, I especially like the quite accurate school politics that unfold.

The big conflict in the book lies with Jane and her son Ziggy, who has been accused of bullying another student. Jane, being a single, 24 year old, working mom, already sticks out, so this just pushes her farther away from the wealthy families and “Blond Bobs”, as Moriarty calls the PTA moms.

What strikes me about the plot is the even balance of seriousness and lightheartedness. Just when I think I’ve had enough of the heavier issues, Moriarty comes in with that trademark humor that I suspect is why the book is such a success.

It is lengthy at almost 500 pages and the character threads do go on and on, but I think that’s what gives the book its appeal. You just want to keep reading and reading because you know there’s more to discover. Plus, the big twist on trivia night towards the end is well worth the read.