The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

Recently my niece sent me The Woman in the Window by A J Finn. I haven’t read any of his books before but I was reassured that I would love this one. 

The Book

What did she see?

It’s been ten months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months
 during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house,
 lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits
 watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is
 instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family, they are an echo
the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a scream rips across the silence, and Anna
 witnesses something horrifying. Now she must uncover the truth
 about what really happened. But if she does, will anyone believe her? 
And can she even trust herself?

My Thoughts

Talk about gripping! 

I would not want to be in Anna’s shoes. It is hard enough that nobody believes her but then she starts doubting herself. Is she going mad? Is it the meds? Is it the drink? There is only one way to find out the truth and that requires her to step out of her comfort zone literally. Can she do it? 

Anna’s character really kept me turning those pages. I had no idea that one person could go through so much. A.J. Finn really puts you there in the house, in the neighbourhood. 

The best kind of books are those that make you react whether with a sudden intake of breath, a gasp of NO, tears and or anger without you even realising it. This is one of those books!

Every chapter, and there are 100 of them, has something in it which keeps you wondering what on earth can happen next. 

If you haven’t guessed I really enjoyed The Woman in the Window and will be looking out for more of A.J.Finn. 

I recommend this to anyone who loves a good thriller with a twist.

The Author

A. J. FINN lived in England for many years before returning to his native New York. His debut novel, The Woman in the Window, has been published in more than forty languages and sold millions of copies worldwide.

Have you ever felt loneliness

Have you ever felt loneliness which tears you apart
Making your heart sink and break
Holding on to that frog in your throat
Desperately trying not to cry

Have you ever felt loneliness which takes you back in time
You curl up like a baby
Rocking back and forth
You feel like a child yet you are not

Have you ever felt loneliness you can’t escape
It follows you everywhere
It doesn’t care where you are in life
It’s there and you just can’t shift it

Have you ever felt loneliness that drives you mad
You don’t know if you want to cry
You don’t know if you want to scream
All you want is for the feeling to stop

Have you ever felt loneliness where you have had enough
Today it is just too much
Today could be the decider
Today could be the last day

Have you ever felt loneliness and think nobody cares
You want to contact someone but you don’t want to be a burden
You want to tell someone but not sure you will be heard
You want to tell someone about the thoughts in your head

I have felt loneliness deep inside
I have felt loneliness that drives me mad
I have felt loneliness that could kill
I feel loneliness more than I will ever admit

My Human Body

For as long as I can remember I have had problems accepting my body. It didn’t matter whether I had lost weight or put weight on I didn’t truly accept my body or feel comfortable in it. 

Recently a friend of mine, Judith Staff, recommended a group on Facebook called Body Positivity for People with Bodies by Kate Huffman. When I first joined the group I saw that I had missed an online Facebook challenge so I asked if there would be another. Lo and behold another Live Facebook challenge called Love Your Body – Kick More Booty was set to start.

I signed up immediately. If Judith thinks it is great then that is all the recommendation I need. Judith knows about my history. She knows some of what I have been through and how difficult it is to accept a body that has been violated for your entire life. 

Kate advertised the Love Your Body – Kick More Booty Live Facebook challenge which was three days of 1 hour training with a challenge at the end of each one. 

The first session had me hooked. This isn’t another weight loss programme. This is a way of accepting your body how it is and going through a taster of how we can work on becoming someone that loves our bodies no matter what shape or size. 

Kate Huffman isn’t just delivering this training, she has lived it! Having fought anorexia and being knocked back by a diagnosis of Lymes disease Kate accepts her body knowing that it is human.

With everything I have been through in my life it is a given that I have signed up for Kate’s 8 week Body Positivity course. It is worth every penny.

The course started on 12 August. Watch this space! I will be blogging about my progress so far very soon.

Feel free to read my blogs under Body Positive and sign up to my site to get further updates. You can also see how the free three day challenge went. 

I’m so excited about this!

A letter to my body

Dear Body of Mine, 

We have been together now for nearly 44 years. We have been through ups and downs but we are still going. 

Despite what I have put you through you still hold me up every day and keep me going even when I don’t want to, even when I have had enough.

We have been sexually assaulted, raped and beaten throughout our life yet you do not give up on me. You heal, get back up and help me take another step forward each day. 

We are meant to be here and we are made for each other. I know I have not been good to you over the last few years and I have given up keeping you fit and well but that is about to change. 

I have started a journey of body positivity and I intend to finish that journey. I will accept you for what you are but at the same time get you fit and healthy. 

My goal is no longer to help you lose weight. My goal is now to make you the best you can be to keep us both going. We have so much to do, so many people to meet. We can do this together and show the world when we are knocked down we will always get back up again. Ready to fight another day! 

We are stronger when we work together. Let’s do this!

We’ve got this!

Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds

Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds

Thank you Anne Cater for the invite to read and review Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds. Due to personal reasons I was unable to participate at the time of the blog tour but I will always review. 

Karen Sullivan has found another cracker in Rod Reynolds. As always thank you to Karen for finding another awesome author. My wishlist of books increases every time I read something published by Orenda Books. 

Rod what can I say, Blood Red City kept me on the edge of my seat. To say it was gripping feels like an understatement! Thank you.

The Book

When crusading journalist Lydia Wright is sent a video of an 
apparent murder on a London train, she thinks she’s found the story to revive her career. But she can’t find a victim, much 
less the killers, and the only witness has disappeared. Wary 
she’s fallen for fake news, she begins to doubt her instincts 
– until a sinister call suggests that she’s not the only one interested in the crime.

Michael Stringer deals in information – and doesn’t care which 
side of the law he finds himself on. But the murder on the 
train has left him exposed, and now he’ll stop at nothing to 
discover what Lydia knows. 

When their paths collide, Lydia finds the story leads through 
a nightmare world, where money, power and politics intersect
…. and information is the only thing more dangerous than a 
bullet…

My Thoughts

Rod Reynolds has hit the nail on the head with his characters. The story starting with Lydia Wright and her investigation of a possible murder is written so well and draws you not only into the excitement of a big breakthrough story for her but also the dangerous situations that she gets into. Lydia is a determined journalist in a relationship which puts her under pressure at work but is she going to listen? 

I love that Lydia keeps going no matter what. Her job, her life and her sanity may be on the line but she keeps on going until the end. This isn’t just about the story for her, it’s about so much more. 

I wasn’t sure what to make of Michael Stringer initially. Is he going to be a good guy or a bad guy? Whilst carrying out his own work he finds himself drawn to Lydia. She has what he needs and he needs to get it soon. Michael is sometimes the guy you want around but he can also be someone so dangerous.

I can see this book made into a film or short TV series. It has everything that is needed. The plot, it commands your attention and has the back stories which draw at your emotions. 

Blood Red City is a must read for any crime thriller reader and for those wanting to try something new. This is definitely a book I will be recommending.

The Author

Rod Reynolds is the author of four novels, including the Charlie Yates series. His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling (2016) and Cold Desert Sky (2018); The Guardian have called the books ‘Pitch-perfect American noir.’ A lifelong Londoner, in 2020 Orenda Books have published his first novel set in his hometown, Blood Red City. Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in novel writing from City University London. Rod lives with his wife and family and spends most of his time trying to keep up with his two young daughters.

Blood Red City was published in ebook on 11 April 2020 and paperback on 23 July 2020 by Orenda Books. Find out where you can buy your copy, go to Orenda Books or any good book shop. 

Fitness over fatness!

The guest speaker at yesterday’s session, Judith Staff (O’Toole), said “This is not rocket science.” and she is right. Most of us know the things that Kate Huffman is helping us with but we need to believe in it and stop judging ourselves. It’s not easy and I do this a lot but I am willing to work on it and break free of my ‘monster buddy’ or retrain her to be kind.

What is fatness? 

I Googled it and found this….

When I read this every part of me screamed out “NO!”. Who writes this stuff? Why do they have the right to say that fatness is similar to any of the words below it. Who thought they had the right to say that fatness = large amount of flesh.

I have never read such rubbish! This makes me so angry! What is “excess flesh”? Who makes that decision and why? Why do we have these systems in place that make us judge ourselves? Instead why don’t we replace them with fitness. I would rather know how fit I am over how fat I am. 

What is fitness? 

Yes you guessed it, I Googled that too.

Whilst I don’t agree with all of the words below ‘fitness’ I do agree with the definition. 

Fitness – the condition of being physically fit and healthy “disease and lack of fitness are closely related.”

Success!!! No mention of a relationship between fitness and weight!!!!

BMI (Body Mass Index)

Kate said yesterday “In 1998 overnight because of the insurance company lobbyists a law was passed in the United States to lower the markers of what was “overweight” and what was “obese”. So overnight people who did not change anything who were “normal” woke up the next day and suddenly they were legally “overweight” and people who were “overweight” before were legally “obese”. No medical backing for this change.” 

If this is what our governments can do with or without medical backing then using BMI as an indicator of whether or not someone is overweight or obese is an absolute shambles. Instead why don’t they focus on fitness? 

Somebody could be at what medical professionals or the government consider to be an “ideal” weight but still have serious health problems because of being unfit. Equally somebody could be in the “overweight” or “obese” category and have no serious health problems because they are fit.

We heard a lot about that yesterday and it has made me think. It has also made me angry! I admit I didn’t even consider whether there was a link between BMI and fitness. I have just been thinking of them as one. 

Today I am going to change that! I have a Fitbit which I use for various things, tracking my weight has been one of them. So today I am going to remove that function on the app. My weight doesn’t matter, my fitness and health does!

I have removed the weight and food tracker sections of the app now and left myself with fitness aspects for encouragement.

During lockdown I have kicked myself numerous times for binge eating again and again. I still want to get out of that cycle but I also want to work on my fitness to help with my mental health, my current health issues and to reduce the risk of further health issues. 

My weight is irrelevant! My fitness is key!

Sod the BMI scale and weighing scales (getting rid of mine today). I need to get active. I have spent most of lockdown in my one bed house barely moving and it has led to a reduction in my fitness. The thing holding me back is my ‘monster buddy’, the one which talks me out of doing things, giving me excuses…. It’s raining, it’s too cold, it’s too hot, I’m tired, i’ve just eaten. I even Googled how long I should leave between eating and exercising. This gave me the best excuse ever!!!! If only I could take technology away from my ‘monster buddy’.

So yes, today I feel angry at the government and the way the world has raised us. I know what I need and want to do. All I need now is to talk my ‘monster buddy’ round. She WILL get it and she WILL help me. We WILL get there together!

What gives me the right!

I woke up this morning and found myself looking at the parts of my body that I hate. My legs, hips, bum, belly and face. My ‘monster buddy’ was saying how fat and ugly they are. Then something changed. I started to correct myself and say I’m human. These are my human parts and they are unique to me. Who am I to decide what is ugly and fat in this world. 

Who decides what is ugly?

Deciding whether something is ugly or beautiful is a personal choice. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? So next time you look at yourself and your monster buddy tells you that you are fat, ugly or some other mean thought remember you are human but you are a unique human. 

Kate Huffman took us through a video yesterday which shows women’s body standards over the years. It was enlightening and at the same time surprising. The surprise for me was seeing some ‘normal’ “plus size” shaped bodies. So many of us have this ideal in our minds that we believe has been everybodies ideal throughout time but this is not the case.

Today I went for a walk and took some photos of trees to highlight in a different way that no two of us are the same. We all have our differences just like these trees we are allowed to be different shapes and sizes. This makes us the people we are today. How we look is only a small part of us. Our human bodies store our true selves, our personality, our beliefs, our experiences good and bad. Everything that has happened to us in life has led us to this day. Our human bodies deserve to just be. If we work on our monster buddies we will soon accept our bodies for what they are and feel the freedom to live our lives without judgement. 

No tree is the same, neither are we!

The Body Story Tree

I started to think about Kate’s course from yesterday and the body story tree/flower. Like Kate I have a thing for trees. Ever since I started my journey to find my voice I have become attached to the tree of life and what it means to me. 

The Body Story Tree made me really think. Every part of me is unique! 

I have an identical twin sister. Although we were born as identical twins (developed from the same fertilised egg) we do not look identical any more. My sister has always been thinner than me and has always looked more feminine. This is because we are individuals who have different tastes and live our lives in different ways. 

For so long I have compared myself to my sister because I have seen her body shape and appearance as better than my own. The pressure has been there to look the same because we are twins. People forget that we are individuals.

We have our own shape and size which is unique. We also have our own struggles with our body shapes and sizes. 

Somebody’s size and shape does not mean that they are not struggling with how they look. Our demons are inside us, as Kate says these are our ‘Monster Buddies’.

I’m not going to say that I am fixed now after two sessions but I have learnt a lot. I can now work with that and I know I will pick up more from the next session. 

Here is my body story tree

Finding my Beautiful Destination

That moment when I realised I have been going about things the wrong way. Trying to fix binge eating and my need to drink alcohol to numb feelings instead of focusing on the cause – mental health problems.

This is a moment when I can start to turn my life around!

In the words of Martine McCutcheon “This is my moment.”

Apologies to anyone who now has that song stuck in their heads 😂. 

The last week or so have been tough. Going from feeling low to not wanting to be here anymore. So much so I wrote ‘Will anybody notice or care‘. I am very lucky to have friends that contacted me, around the time that I published that blog, to see how I was and then guided me through making me feel valued, wanted and most of all loved. Sometimes people can save lives and not even know it. A few words make such a difference.

Recently I was listening to Madeleine Black’s memoir Unbroken and everything changed.  

The therapies that Madeleine had tried and how they affected her really got me thinking. I have only tried therapy with Rape Crisis and a therapist through work. 

Rape Crisis were fantastic and I hope to start therapy with them again once I have moved house.

But there are so many other things I can do to help myself. 

I have tried to stop binge eating and drinking alcohol so that I would feel better about myself. But I was tackling this and my mental health in the wrong way. 

Madeleine said “It was time to turn and face that which I’d been running from for so long.”

When I heard this it made me realise I need to start facing the childhood sexual assaults, rapes, coercive control and sexual assaults in relationships which have cause my mental health problems. Only then will I be able to truly find myself and be free from my demons. 

So today is the first day of my true journey taking on the horrors of my past. Do I expect there to be hurdles along the way – yes, do I think this will happen overnight – no, could this take a long time potentially years – yes.

I do not expect this to be easy BUT 

I WILL beat this,

I WILL find myself and my beautiful destination, 

I WILL live again!

Will anybody notice or care

Have you ever felt like the world would be better off without you and that people would barely notice if you were gone. That’s how I feel today.

I woke up this morning feeling like what’s the point. Then the inevitable thoughts of who would notice me gone or miss me. Obviously family but why – because they love me yeah I guess so, because I would be no longer here to fetch and carry for them hmm or because I am no longer here to be their scapegoat.

Other than family I have a lot of people I know but I just don’t feel like I am worth missing, being noticed as gone or even a worthy friend. 

My life hasn’t been my own, it has been controlled by other people. Now even when I want to do the biggest thing I have ever done for myself by moving home a few hours away from where I live now, I cannot do it but this time I totally understand. Although the government has relaxed their rules and I would be able to move house unfortunately I need to wait because others are self isolating. All I want to do is get away from this place. To start my new life. But is it going to be any different? Am I moving to basically be the same controlled person in a different city.

Do I even care anymore!?! What’s the point???

Today I feel like giving up. Today I am wondering if I will ever find myself and be able to have my life to myself and be able to live it. Would I ever be able to see if someone is controlling me and be able to get away from it. Will my mind, body and soul ever be mine.

Too many people have fucked with my mine, body and soul. I don’t know who I am or if I am even worth being on this or any other planet.

My mind is basically shit and not worth having, my body has been violated by too many people and I am not even sure I have a soul.

Today I am thinking and feeling FUCK IT! What is the actual point? 

I think about taking my own life at times and today is one of those days. I have considered hanging myself. I even know how and what with, I have considered this numerous times. I consider driving as fast as I can into a lamp post. This one has been on my mind since I was 18 years old. 

So this is where I am today. I doubt if this will even be read but I guess I am not even sure if I care.

Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald

Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald

Thank you Anne Cater for inviting me to join the blog tour for Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald. Another chance for me to explore a new author to me.  

My thanks also go out to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books who published this thought provoking novel.

Last but by no means least, many thanks to Helen Fitzgerald who has written this stunning, heart stopping thriller. 

The Book

Fran hates her hometown, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.

She returns home to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.

As past friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…

Simultaneously a warm, darkly funny portrait of small-town life – and a woman and a land in crisis – and a shocking and truly distressing account of a catastrophic event that changes things forever, Ash Mountain is a heart-breaking slice of domestic noir, and a disturbing disaster thriller that you will never forget…

My Thoughts

Ash Mountain was not only gripping by taking you to memories which have come back to haunt Fran and others but also had me laughing out loud with the quips between Fran and The Captain.

The heartbreak of caring for a parent who doesn’t want to go anywhere or talk to anyone outside of their normal daily life is written so well. Although it draws at the heartstrings it is also frustrating not being able to help.

I feel Helen Fitzgerald has grasped the small town vibe and hit the nail on the head. Bubbling romances, bogans (chavs), gossip and scandal to say a few. Ash Mountain will have you going through so many emotions. 

I love the way that Helen Fitzgerald writes. Being from Australia herself I expected to read a few things that were oh so Australian. Having family in Australia myself I was pleased to see things like Op Shop and Thongs mentioned and knowing what they were. Op shop – Charity Shop and Thongs being flip flops. Oh how I giggled at thongs. I will never grow up!

By the end of Ash Mountain I felt stunned and lost for words. Tears brought to my eyes with the deep sadness of loss, a satisfaction of justice served and the relief of being reunited.

The detail Helen goes into can be described as shocking but so realistic. Bushfires in Australia happen all too often. Although not a true story, Ash Mountain gives you an insight to what it can be like. 

I absolutely recommend it.

The Author

Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.

Ash Mountain will be published on 14th May 2020 by Orenda Books. Find out where you can buy a copy, go to Orenda Books or any good book shop.

Look out for other reviews on the #BlogTour on Twitter.