Treading Water in the House Across the Lake

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review***

house across the lakeThis was not the book for me. Obviously, the title should’ve raised some warning flags, BUT I consider the author an autobuy and I had high hopes for Sager doing something unique with the trope of a woman spying on her neighbours. WELL, he certainly did something unique- I’m just not convinced I liked it.

Opening on a moody lake scene, Sager dredges up an intriguing premise and wades out into uncanny territory. Evocative and intriguing, the atmospheric writing instantly lends itself to a sense of mystery and character. I certainly felt fully immersed from the start.

Quickly, however, the story falls into a seemingly generic plot of an unreliable (drunk) narrator watching her neighbours. Unfortunately, this trope is becoming a little tired and I could barely stifle a yawn as she stays up late watching a random couple’s marital antics. At this point, the only thing I had to worry about was being bored.

… Annnnd then the book went right off the deep end. I guess the good news is it’s nothing like all those books where the woman watches a murder. Bad news: it’s a very weird book.

Of course, there were the typical twists and turns you can expect in a book like this, some of which I rather liked, yet then it went a little too far and I felt like I was drowning in the unknown (where all the ghosts and ghoulies dwell 😉). I can’t be too harsh, because as I’ve hinted at already, there was a promise of something supernatural- I can only blame myself for not taking those hints seriously enough.

Without spoilers, I can say that this starts as a psychological thriller- then abandons reality somewhere in the murky middle. So, if you like supernatural genre benders, like Behind Her Eyes, then this could very well be the book for you… Otherwise, this was a well written book of utter nonsense.

Rating: 2½5 bananas 

Okay, so have you read this book? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Lights, Camera, Action: Survive the Night Rolls into Twisty Territory!

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review- but the excitement featured is all me***

*Fade in*

Let’s set the scene: it’s the 1990s, it’s night and our main character is in a car with a man who may very well be a serial killer. It doesn’t help that she has a history of “seeing movies in her head” aka she’s not sure of what’s really playing out before her eyes. And if that sounds tense to you, you’d better climb in cos it’s gonna be one crazy ride.

Told uniquely in a movie-script style, I found it hard to be certain what was really playing out. With such an unreliable narrator, it’s easy to feel lost in the dark. I will admit that the style was somewhat distancing, making it hard to connect to the characters. Yet nonetheless I was gripped, as the story swerved in maddening directions and drove towards a bonkers conclusion.

As if through headlights, I could see some of the dangers coming, but Sager still pulled some curveballs. And WHAM-BAM-THANK-YOU-MA’AM those twists sent me into a tailspin! Skidding off into something of a melodramatic end, it may not have pleased every reader, but I have to say I was satisfied.

So, expect something a little bit larger than life, because this homage to movies does not hold back.

*Fade out*

*End credits*

4/5 bananas

Have you read this? Do you plan to? Are you a fan of Riley Sager novels? Let me know in the comments!

My Most Anticipated Releases in 2021

YE GODS THERE ARE SO MANY RELEASES THIS YEAR!!! If you’ve been around a while, you’ll know I’m not in the habit of making these kinds of posts (I do occasionally try to keep my expectations in check 😉). But WOW I can’t help getting hyped up for *so many* of the releases this year! (and these are just the ones I/we know about!!)

Klara and the Sun– I mean, a release from one of the best authors on the planet?! Yes please!!

Any Way the Wind Blows- yasss!! Sorry, I’ll try to keep the screaming to a minimum, but YAAASSSS!! All I can do is squeal at the prospect of a new Baz/Simon adventure! Love the title as well- they’re just so on point for this series.

My Contrary Mary– another one I’ve been looking out for ever since it was announced years ago! As you may know, I’m just a teensy bit of a MASSIVE fan of My Lady Jane. Funny alternate history is just my jam and I need more of it in my life.

The Ivies– oh god I’m excited for this one. You may or may not know, I’ve been following Alexa Donne on Youtube for years. And I’ve been following along for the whole journey of this book- from idea to finished product! I’ve just been enthralled by the concept from day one- deadly competitive college admissions- sign me up! (Also, this is an author who knows her YA and her thrillers- so I have high hopes!)

Survive the Night– virtually every Riley Sager book is a winner for me. Absolute auto-buy. (Also happens to be one of the authors I discovered through Alexa Donne’s channel).

Heart Principle– loved the first two in this rom com series– how can I say no to more?!? I’ll be reading this on the principle that my heart needs another dose 😉

The Project– ever since Sadie, I’ve needed to read more Courtney Summers. I’ll just have to make sure my heart is ready.

Rule of Wolves– because, I mean, of course. Love Leigh Bardugo and the first one in this duology. Gonna need a hardback too.

Iron Raven– Julie Kagawa has another book coming out?? And it’s a continuation of the Iron Fey world? From Puck’s perspective? Well thank you universe!

The Chosen and the Beautiful– okay, yes, this is the only author on here that I haven’t read (reason being that as intrigued as I am by *so many* of those, I can’t truly say I have the same expectations for something I’ve no idea if I’ll like) HOWEVER I have never read a Gatsby retelling, I have never realised I needed a Gatsby retelling… I now know my life won’t be complete until I have read this. Also, adore the cover.

Tales From the Hinterland– okay this one’s technically already out- but I just know I’m going to have to read this book, since Hazel Wood is one of my favourite fantasy books.

And that’s all for now- I do have high hopes that a Red Rising book or a Sanderson sequel (or maybe some other exciting release) will be on the cards too… but we’ll have to wait and see!

For now, what’s your most anticipated release of 2021? Let me know in the comments!

Settling in for Home Before Dark was… Unsettling!

***Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but I’m the one trembling with excitement about this book!***

home before darkWelcome, welcome! Today I have a treat for you if you like something a little tricksy- let me show you around. Here we enter into a story that has all the hallmarks of a spinechilling thriller: a haunted house vibe, a tensely told plot and even hints of creepy children in the flashbacks.

Step over the threshold and this is a multi-storied narrative. It contains a story within a story in a unique way. For this is a story that takes place over two timelines- a mystery that unfolded twenty-five years earlier and led to a family fleeing in the middle of the night… and the present day where the daughter tries to uncover what the hell happened. Problem is, the main clue she has her (now deceased) father’s bestselling, “true” account… which she’s a little sceptical about.

And it’s this motivation that makes it such a compelling read. Not only is she clearly haunted by what happened in this house, she’s also troubled by her father’s runaway success story. Thrusting her into the spotlight, it made me think of the troubling trend of child stars. Her foundational motivation for getting involved in this case is unshakeable. Even better, her character is intrinsically built around resolving her childhood trauma. It really strengthens the story.

Of course, it’s not a cut and dry situation. Unlocking what happened uncovers revelation after revelation. The key is elusive. I kept feeling like I had all the pieces to the puzzle… yet couldn’t quite put it together. To complicate the matter even further, Sager proves that memory is not always to be trusted. The narrative becomes lost in the labyrinthine passages of Baneberry Hall. Then- suddenly- the answer pounces on you and throws you into a frenzy of “aha”s. This is, after all, the kind of thriller that makes perfect sense when you think about it.

So, needless to say my visit was an experience… one I won’t forget in a hurry! 😉 I hope you enjoyed that quick open house and got a taste for what’s inside! Do come back and visit any time! Please take some bananas for the road…

Rating: 5/5 bananas


And let me know: do you plan on coming to stay?

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – October

monthly mini reviews version 2

Phew- I’ve gotta admit my thoughts about this month were a bit like this for me…

wake me up when september ends.gif

Thank goodness it’s October, the month of spookiness, pumpkins and maybe even a little controversy 😉 But, more on my blogging plans later! For now, let’s talk about the *ridiculous* amount of reading I did to get me through last month. As you’ll notice, I was not only on a MASSIVE thriller kick, but I also felt the need to talk about most books I read last month. So, strap in, it’s gonna be a long one!

death of mrs westaway

The Death of Mrs Westaway– such a strong thriller to start on! Let’s break it down:

One, the sorrowful opening had me intrigued, flying into that old magpie nursery rhyme many of us have ingrained since childhood, nesting layers of mystery.

Two, the gothic vibes and overt links to Rebecca really worked for me, especially as we journeyed into Cornwall. Yet, don’t be fooled! It’s far from a straightforward retelling…

Three, the girl is the magician figure at the heart of the story- a tarot reader upturning the perfectly ordered world of the Westaways, reading more than she should in the cards.

Four, the boys on which the clues converge caught my eye.

Five, the silvery writing kept me engaged throughout.

Six, the golden promise of the premise, leading me down one path, only to about turn down another. I suspected the outcome early on, but Ware’s nicely played sleight of hand fooled me so that I couldn’t properly foresee the outcome.

Seven, all the secrets that unfold. Each one is more satisfying to uncover than the last. The one thing holding me back from rewarding this with all the bananas is that the perp is the *usual suspect*. Still, I’d highly recommend this:

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana

the woman in cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10– so the pitch for this thriller is pretty straightforward: Rear Window- on a boat! It’s a fun idea and kept me absorbed throughout, but I couldn’t say it made a big splash overall. Perhaps it was cos I was drowning in thrillers this month, yet a lot of this felt like it was treading water trying to be different and still felt samey. I wasn’t hugely taken with the mc and the twists didn’t really wash. Still, I do like how Ware weaves in inspiration from other sources and will keeping a keen eye out for more of her books:

Rating: 3/5 bananas


last time I lied

Last Time I Lied– to tell the truth, this was my favourite thriller of the month. Reading this was pretty much a no brainer after Lock Every Door– and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Beginning with a powerful use of second person pov, I was instantly gripped by the descriptive prose and tragic backstory. As is the case in many thrillers, I wasn’t quite able to connect with the characters, but the plot more than made up for that. Last Time I Lied was compelling, unpredictable and led down slippery paths. Though I knew something bad would happen, I could never count on the whens, whys, hows. I was as lost as the protagonist. My attention dipped momentarily… only for the BIG TURN to pick up the pace again. The *freaky* turn of events grabbed my attention. I was practically shouting at the reveals. I had been led to believe I was in for a straightforward ending… but I was completely deceived. *WOW*- it blew my expectations right out of the water. All in all, this was a super summery thriller. Sager has now made a habit of keeping me up at night. I can’t lie: I want to read more from this author.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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final girls

Final Girls– with a cool horror-movie-themed concept and a gripping opening, I thought I was guaranteed another rollercoaster ride. Unfortunately, I found the flashback scenes far more interesting than the present-day narrative. I’ve mentioned before I have difficulty making sense of thriller-characters- and the protagonist’s boyfriend and mum were the best example of this- what the eff was up with their attitudes?! I mean, they spent the entire book thinking the mc ought to be completely normal after her ordeal, even though it was completely understandable that she wasn’t! I did like the unreliable side to the protagonist, especially since it blended well with her cookie-cutter façade. Still, I did enjoy the vast majority of the plot and where a lot of the breadcrumbs led. The problem is, I just wasn’t crazy about that final twist. Once again, I thought I could guess the twist… but I got it all wrong. Yet this time it was because the lead was buried too deep. After the more intriguing premise, highlight for spoilers, I felt the *here’s another random sociopath again* disappointing. It was just another guy without a proper motive. So, the bait and switch with the baddies felt unnecessary. I did like this book, but it wasn’t the best:

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana

wife between us

The Wife Between Us– I’m divided on my feelings for this book. It was particularly well written, had a strong premise and a great midpoint turn, alas- it just wasn’t the mind-blowing book I was hoping for. It was a typical thriller focusing on domestic violence. Nothing about it truly shook me to my core or shocked me. I could see a lot of the story beats a mile off. This was by no means bad, but I can’t see why the hype train was so wedded to this book 😉

Rating: 3/5 bananas


witches of east end

Witches of East End- an atmospheric opening, a cool concept, a story I already liked from the show- what could go wrong? Well, sadly, a few things. Even though the show is a vague memory at this point, I did remember that some aspects were done better and I just preferred the TV take. I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I had when I watched the show. Fortunately, the plot did keep me on my toes. Since it was so long since I’d seen the show, I enjoyed the twists and turns throughout. And the ending definitely had a strong hook to make the reader want to pick up more… if only I had been more in love with the rest of it!

Rating: 3/5 bananas



Beastly- well this is another one where I’d seen the adaptation first, buuut I ended up preferring the book to the film! Success! Given that this is a retelling, I don’t suppose it mattered much that I already knew the story. Besides, I thought this was a spunky, modern take on the classic. While I’m not usually keen on text-speak, I did like how it was used here to spark a bit of humour. The story also felt deeper than the movie- yes, the message of inner beauty being more valuable was repetitious- but at least it made more sense than in the Hollywood version where everyone was conventionally attractive throughout. I particularly preferred the book’s ending- it had some nice, unexpected turns and was more dramatic. All in all, I didn’t go in expecting anything fresh, so was pleasantly surprised to find this blossomed into a sweet romantic YA.

Rating: 4/5 bananas



Beowulf– this was *hands down* the best book I read all month. This exquisite translation by Seamus Heaney gave me a newfound respect for his work and I owe thanks to the fantastic Joelendil for recommending it to me. I absolutely adored the way the alliterative language leapt off the page and painted a vivid picture of the past. While I don’t personally know Old English, I found it fascinating to have a bilingual edition, because I could easily compare individual words and phrases. The story itself was a lot more entertaining than I thought. Every part worked in tandem to create thrilling tension and awe-inspiring drama. This took me to grim depths and dragon-soaring highs. I cannot recommend it enough!

Rating: 5/5 bananas


eugene onegin

Eugene Onegin– there was a lot to like about this: the story, the character and Pushkin’s conversational tone all shined through in Roger Clarke’s translation. Sadly though, something does feel lost in this rather literal translation. Something of old Russia is evoked, but not as much as I’d have liked. I felt like I was only getting half the wonder, a glimpse of the beauty, a fraction of the emotion. Ah well, not every translation can all be as good as Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf. It was still worth the read.

Rating: 4/5 bananas 


So, have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Or do you plan to pick any of them up? Let me know in the comments!

Monthly Monkey Mini Reviews – September

monthly mini reviews version 2

Well, August was both very quiet and ridiculously busy for me. The highlight was that for my mum’s birthday- where not only did we make plenty of cake, but we all got to fulfil a lifelong dream by going to see the Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake. It was *magical* (I swear, if you’re ever within 100 miles of this, you should drop everything and go see!!)

monkey baby and orangutan at the opera0003

Funnily enough, it was a month of ballet, since my sister the Monkey Baby kindly wangled me a few free classes. Me and my two left feet weren’t any good, but I had fun (also I have turned it into an excuse to make another cartoon 😉)

ballet monkeys

(I can safely say this is an accurate portrayal of how dainty I am IRL)

Anyhoo, I did read quite a lot buuuut I don’t feel passionate enough to review a number of them. So, *shrugs apish shoulders* only gonna just talk about a handful…

summer that melted everything

Summer that Melted Everything- I suppose this isn’t much of a hot take, but this book has the most beautiful writing. Somehow it comes across as natural, whilst also creating extraordinary imagery and transporting the reader beyond the bounds of this world. We are taken to another time and place, situated in a surreal landscape where anything is possible, and forced to reconcile ourselves with very real issues. I don’t know if this is a spoiler, but it’s not about the devil at all, it’s an exploration of the Aids crisis. And with that come some very interesting thoughts about the human psyche. Admittedly, there’s not much in the way of plot and an awful lot of this is designed to deliver the author’s opinion… and yet I was okay with that. It reminded me of Steinbeck. Sure, the author is opinionated, but when you can write like this, who cares? Now, I won’t suggest that all the opinions in the book are the author’s (obviously) but some of the views can’t be substantiated- it took the concept of sympathy for the devil too far for me when defending the indefensible- I just don’t see “have you ever lost control” as much of an argument. I do think, however, that it’s important to look into the heart of evil, if only so we know what not to do. And this was certainly a fascinating vehicle to take us on that journey. The story simmers from beginning to end, finally releasing in a cool torrent that takes the edge off. I’d say there are not many writers of this calibre in this generation, but really there aren’t many in any generation.

Rating: 4/5 bananas


astonishing colour of after

Astonishing Colour of After- whether you like this book will come down to how purple you can take your purple prose. Cos I shouldn’t even say “purple prose” for this- it’s more like a lilac-lavender-infusion of imagery. For me, not all the images worked, but when they did it was most definitely *astonishing*. When the language landed, it was exquisite. It allowed the story to soar above expectations. It nested in a family tree woven with lovely moments and messages. They were stitched together in a complex tapestry, a true work of art, which superseded nature in its beauty. I particularly loved the idea of being “changed by a ghost”, how the theme of memory was handled and the way this tied into culture. Having said that, there were times when it was a little overwhelming and clouded the simpler intentions of the narrative. And some of the plot wavered with superfluous narrative constructs- for my part, I’m beginning to tire of the “patriarchal/oppressive figure doesn’t want me doing art” trope- it’s a little tiresome and overdone (though I don’t doubt such ignorant people exist, I just wish protagonists would swiftly put forward a coherent argument against the view that *you can only succeed in the sciences*, rather than having a book-long unnecessary conflict with their otherwise reasonable parents). Personal opinions on that aside, this was a layered contemporary that deals with grief in a unique way and is well worth the read!

Rating: 4/5 bananas


lock every door

Lock Every Door– this book unlocked a primordial fear of powerful creeps. I loved the story within the story aspect (I nearly always do 😉); I appreciated the unique (to me) setting. I raced through this rather gothic book as if I was genuinely trapped inside the Bartholomew. Now, I will say that I guessed the twist in chapter 1. In fact, I figured out the second twist midway and got every plot beat down before I got to it in the narrative. I can’t tell you why, for fear of ruining the entire plot, but it’s signposted and if you’ve read other books with a similar twist, you’ll get it too. Also, highlight for minor spoilers ahead, the main character is not the sharpest knife in the drawer- she was trusting to the point of absurdity, she let the obviously dodgy guy know she was suspicious and didn’t RUN when the alarm bells in her brain were already going off. Although I have the benefit of having read more than one book in my life- presumably if she was into modern thrillers to know that it’s always the privileged white dude these days 😉 If she’d had that knowledge, there’d have been no plot. Having said all that, I can’t fault the execution and have to congratulate Sager on successfully stealing a night’s sleep from me 😉

Rating: 4/5 bananas



Milkman– oh the mixed feelings! I appreciated much of the themes and subject matter. The setting was particularly well done: the judgemental, closed community had a suffocating edge to it, the backdrop for the gossip gave the story a true feel of danger lurking, and the town’s inhabitants felt real. It definitely made me feel like I was in the thick of the Troubles. I was glad to have read this after having made my trip “over the water this year”. In spite of this strong sense of time and place, however, I can only give it credit for reminding me of a history worth caring about, rather than inspiring me to care in its own right. I was initially also taken by the writing style- I liked that it wasn’t quite literal and the ambiguity of using identifiers instead of names gave it a clever (and somewhat unsettling) lilt. Yet, as much as the writing style was distinctive, it also bogged down a lot of the telling. Much of the narrative came across as too convoluted and dense. Ultimately, it didn’t blow me away, but it’s not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination and it’s certainly pushing boundaries with the way it was told.

Rating: 3/5 bananas


gentleman's guide to vice and virtue

Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue– well this is a bananas books- in some good ways and some not so good ways! Unpopular opinion time: this contemporary take on the Grand Tour is both fun and incredibly silly. While the romance is sensational, the rest is pretty much shocking. Granted all of this was given away in the marketing, but this book is scandalous by 18th century standards… in that I couldn’t buy that this was supposed to actually be the 18th century?! Kudos to the author for doing her research and creating an elaborate backdrop for her story, but this pantomime impression divided the stage into villainous representations of history, versus some 21st century ideals in fancy dress. And, as much as the writing occasionally made me chuckle, too often it had me laughing for the wrong reasons (apparently certain biological functions cure women of squeamishness guys 😉). Then there were the (*ahem* these guys totally didn’t step out of the 21st century) heroes. Monty is simultaneously foppishly adorable and entirely unlikeable. Felicity is so acerbic that there’s no chance of me reading the sequel in which she stars. And Percy was thankfully more than his laundry list of identifiers- although perhaps too idealised to feel real. There’s an ongoing joke about the boys being clueless and seriously THEY’RE FRICKIN CLUELESS (I envisaged them as modern-day trust fund babies… which didn’t help me make sense of the fact they’re still breathing by the end of the book). I also didn’t feel like they got proper character growth- rather we were dealt far-too-frequent “teachable moments” instead because *18th CENTURY IDEAS ARE BAD* (who’d have thunk it)- alas this isn’t a substitute since I was just as irked by their personalities at the end as the beginning (le sigh). Regardless, the plot did plod along reasonably well and that romance was ridiculously good:

Rating: 3/5 bananas


Oof that last review got a little longer than I intended… Anyhoo, have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Or do you plan to pick any of them up? Let me know in the comments!