4 star, adult

Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Image result for the turn of the keyWhen Rowan Caine stumbles across an ad for a live-in nanny post with a staggeringly generous salary, it seems like too good an opportunity to miss. And when she 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 the picture-perfect family who lives there.

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 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 her up with booming music in the middle of the night and 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 model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no other adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She’s not innocent, by any means. But she’s not guilty – at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.


4 Drink Me Potions


The Turn of the Key begins from the perspective of our protagonist, Rowan Caine, from a jail cell struggling to write to her lawyer about the events that transpired at the Heatherbrae House. Immediately we are thrown into a gloomy and suspenseful environment where the ending is all but certain. Even though we already know that our protagonist ends up behind bars, the whole suspense in this thriller novel is still kept up until the very end. Knowing how the story will end somehow makes the dread all the more suspenseful as we follow her through Heatherbrae House, fully aware that all is not as it seems, and behind every corner lurks yet another family secret.

This mystery follows the life of Rowan Caine (in the past), who takes up a new nannying job at Heatherbrae House, way out in Scotland. She sees the ad for a very generous salary, and quickly takes the interview for a chance at a new life. There, she meets the Elincourt family, living in their modern day fairytale dream of paramount technology, mixed in seamlessly with their ancient house and land. Though she receives some warning signs, she quickly brushes them off, confident that she can outlast the previous nannies and enjoy a comfortable life.

However, very quickly many things seem to go wrong. The house is mostly controlled by an app called Happy, which allows wireless and also voice control of many of the house’s appliances and amenities. While this is initially a delightful experience, Rowan quickly discovers that someone else seems to have more control than her over the house, even though she is the only adult there. Seemingly many “malfunctions” and mysterious events start happening, which Rowan is determined to stick through for the money, despite her growing anxiety.

Ware carefully builds each character in a way that makes them each simultaneously friendly yet also suspicious. Even the less likeable characters have their redeeming qualities, making it ever so difficult to guess who is really friend or foe. This builds up Rowan’s (and in turn ours) anxiety as the number of people she can trust dwindles, and the number of shady characters increases. So many inexplicable things happen to her while she is at Heatherbrae House, and it truly becomes her unending nightmare.

The whole novel has a very suspenseful feel to it, and even with some of the ending given away at the beginning, it is still impossible to tell for sure who is responsible during her journey there. Ware has even hidden one last crucial secret to be revealed at the climax of the story, which really brings all the carefully placed icicles of mystery come crashing down around Rowan. Once again, Ware has created an incredibly thrilling story with elements that will truly chill you to the bone.

Overall Recommendation:
If you are into the heavy psychological thriller type of story (like I am), you will definitely enjoy this novel. Ware has quickly become one of my favourite modern authors of such mysteries, as each story is so well written and really keeps me in suspense no matter how much I get used to her plots. Although the ending is not necessarily the ending I wanted to see, the whole journey was definitely a delightful(ly scary) experience, and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys all the twists and turns of a psychological thriller!

4 star, adult

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Image result for the death of mrs. westaway Harriet Westaway – better known as Hal – makes ends meet as a tarot reader, but she doesn’t believe in the power of her trade. If she did, what would the cards say about the choice that lies ahead of her?

When Hal receives a mysterious and unexpected letter bequeather her a substantial inheritance, she knows that it wasn’t meant for her because Mrs. Westaway is not her grandmother. Struggling with crippling debt, Hal is presented with a difficult choice: ignore the letter, or use her cold-reading skills to potentially claim the money and change her life.

After a loan sharks pays Hal a threatening visit, she decides to attend Mrs. Westaway’s funeral. she meets the family at Trepassen House, the Westaways’ country estate. Once there, Hal discovers more secrets than she could have ever imagined. There is something very, very wrong with this family, and somehow Hal and the inheritance are at the centre of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Death of Mrs. Westaway is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.


4 Drink Me Potions


Never believe your own lies.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway begins as an almost innocent backdrop of a story. Classic rich grandmother leaving behind a massive fortune in a dramatic reading of her final will. However, the story (and mystery) is so much more than what can be seen on the surface. Behind layers of lies and deceit lies the story of a girl who has never known family, struggling to find her place in a world which seemingly has no place for her.

This mystery follows the life of our protagonist, Harriet (aka Hal), who was born into a poor life and tries to make ends meet providing tarot-reading services on a pier. This is important, as the tarot cards become the crux upon which the story moves along. It is completely fascinating and enthralling, as the whole mystery is almost like a lengthy tarot card reading on its own. As the suspense unfolds, each path is laid forward by the explanation of a different card, and this really gave the whole story a mystical element. Even if you don’t believe in such things, Ware really gives it life in this number.

One for sorrow, Two for joy.

Hal was raised by a single mother, who tragically passed away in an accident when she was eighteen, leaving her an orphan. Forced to take up her mother’s role in tarot reading with no family to turn to, her life takes a surprising turn when she receives a letter indicating she is a beneficiary in Mrs. Westaway’s will. As her crippling debt comes catching up to her, she is forced to go to Trepassen to find out what is in store for her in the Westaway family.

Preparing herself to attend her “grandmother’s” funeral, she does not realize what she steps into when she arrives. Behind every member of the family seems to be another door, with secrets of their past hidden. While every mystery may be like this, instead of a murder mystery, this story revolves more around the secret of Hal’s past – just how is she linked to the Westaway family? And will she be caught in her own lies as she tries to take a piece of the Westaway fortune with her to repay her debts?

The whole novel has a very ethereal quality and an air of mystique. It is impossible not to follow along the signs the cards give, and the omens given in the magpies as we follow Hal down the dark alley of her past. The overarching theme of mysticism and cold-reading are beautifully woven into the story, and spellbinding really is the word to describe this page-turner of a suspense. Definitely an enjoyable read – full of mystery even without revolving around a murder.

Overall Recommendation:
If you are into mysteries at all, and the suspenseful writing of a whodunnit novel, this book is definitely for you. This story features a young adult fighting her way through thick and thin, with only her tarot cards and cold-reading skills to guide her through. While understandably the whole art of tarot may be met with skepticism (admittedly for me as well), this book definitely paints it in a different light. Additionally, it really was well woven into story and really was the propelling force of the whole suspense. I definitely recommend this one!

3.5 star, adult

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic #1

A Darker Shade final for IreneKell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


The world sits in balance, humanity in one hand, magic in the other. The two exist in every living thing, and in a perfect world, they maintain a kind of harmony, neither exceeding the other.

With all the hype that surrounds this series, I was a bit intimidated picking up V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. But everything they say about this book is absolutely true.

Be prepared for a world – or should I say worlds – of creativity as you enter even the very first page. While it was a bit confusing at first, readers soon get the gist of how this society is run. 3 parallel worlds exist and only those with very special magical abilities can traverse between the worlds. Kell, our protagonist, is one of the only two that still exist.

[Kell] was, after all, Antari.

Magic is described similarly to how we see it in many other novels. Elemental magic exists, with control of the elements like water, air, fire, rock, etc. But there’s a difference with Kell and the kind of magic he possessed. To be short, blood magic. And who can’t say they’re slightly thrilled when hearing just those words put together? It could spell trouble, or it could just mean there’s great power and potential.

And Antari could speak to blood. To life. To magic itself. The first and final element, the one that lived in all and was of none.

Aside from the magic system, the parallel worlds is a fun addition. And aptly, Kell has named each of the worlds he can visit by a colour that represent the society.

I don’t normally explain a fantasy world so in-depth in a review but I can’t help but marvel at the uniqueness and enthralling way this world building has touched me. 3 worlds. 3 colours.

Whitea world falling apart and dying as its ruthless citizens fight for control and hold back any dangers magic may have once presented. It has somehow lost some vitality – hence colour – to it

Greya world without much magic, and its citizens have almost forgotten about its existence. It is dreary and kind of boring without the essence of magic filling up the place – probably the closest world to what you can imagine as our Earthly version of London

Reda world brilliantly flourishing with different elemental magic among its citizens, and a fairly content way of ruling and continuing as it is. Maybe that is why it’s associated with the scent of flowers and red as it reminds us of life and growth

Yet, there is more. There was once a fourth world. One that has been sealed off from the rest. But something has come into Kell’s possession from that lost world and it opened up a world of trouble right into his lap.

If that world building description and the main plot arc of the book/series didn’t get you excited, then I don’t know what will. This is imaginative fantasy making at its best, with the brilliant Victoria Schwab standing at the helm.

Even the prose is beautiful in its elegant yet simple descriptions. Not just of the world around the characters, but the individuals themselves. There were a number of names and characters to sort through – let alone which worlds they hail from – but no one else aside from Kell was as important as Lila Bard. For all her thorny masks and thievery, she was someone I came to admire. ‘Cause isn’t inside every hardened shell some experiences that made them that way? Something deep and vulnerable that doesn’t want to be seen by the light of day?

And for the first time, Kell saw Lila. Not as she wanted to be, but as she was. A frightened, albeit clever, girl trying desperately to stay alive. One who had likely frozen and starved and fought – and almost certainly killed – to hold onto some semblance of a life, guarding it like a candle in a harsh wind.

With the book broken down into several parts and short chapters in each, it was fairly easy to breeze through, especially for those who are daunted by long and complicated fantasy novels. While I have many praises to extol on this first book, I will admit that it started off quite slow. Some of it may be due to the natural progression of acclimatizing us readers to the world Schwab has built without overwhelming us with pages and pages of information dump. I certainly never felt that as I am still very much in awe of the story, even days after I’ve finished it. But the excitement and the main storyline took its time in coming and developing.

However, I have very high hopes for the rest of the series. As first books go, A Darker Shade of Magic is more than an excellent start to an exciting series. It excels at making itself stand out in a sea of such similar fantasy tropes.

The danger may seem to have been dealt with, but I get the feeling something is still stirring and there’ll be more for Kell and Lila to deal with soon.

“Aren’t you afraid of dying?” Kell asked Lila now.

She looked at him as if it were a strange question. And then she shook her head. “Death comes for everyone,” she said simply.

Overall Recommendation:

Excellent prose, brilliant plot and a world beyond your imagining, A Darker Shade of Magic is everything that people have been shouting about these past years. In a land where parallel worlds exist and only certain magical people can travel between them, danger lies when things that don’t belong in some worlds show up and remind everyone of the dangers imbalanced magic can bring. Protagonists Kell and Lila embark on a crazy quest to save all their worlds as trouble comes to them, all the while fighting something dark that may fester inside each of them. Even if you aren’t normally a fantasy lover, this book explains its world building well and will guarantee to satisfy fans of action, adventure and a tease of romance. While it can be slow-going at first, trust me, you’ll want to get through this, and feast your senses on a world with Antari.