Book Review / Books

2023 in Book Reviews: The Housemaid & Before the Coffee Gets Cold Tales From the Cafe

Today’s review is a double – I’ll be reviewing Freida McFadden’s The Housemaid and Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Café, which were both super fun reads that kept me entertained during the very early mornings and dark evenings.


Every day she cleans the Winchesters’ beautiful house top to bottom. She collects their daughter from school. And cooks a delicious meal for the whole family before heading up to eat alone in her tiny room on the top floor.

She tries to ignore how Nina makes a mess just to watch her clean it up. How she tells strange lies about her own daughter. And how her husband Andrew seems more broken every day. But as she looks into Andrew’s handsome brown eyes, so full of pain, it’s hard not to imagine what it would be like to live Nina’s life. The walk-in closet, the fancy car, the perfect husband. She only tries on one of Nina’s pristine white dresses once. Just to see what it’s like. But Nina soon finds out… and by the time she realizes her attic bedroom door only locks from the outside, it’s far too late.

But she reassures herself: the Winchesters don’t know who she really is. They don’t know what she’s capable of…

Was this cliché as hell? Yes. Did that stop me from consuming it in about 24 hours? Absolutely not.

Apart from the obvious plot twist that any reader will see coming a mile off and the occasional bit of cringe, The Housemaid is the best kind of unhinged. Crazy is as crazy does.

McFadden’s writing style is exceptionally addictive. Even though I was shaking my head at some of the ridiculous illogical and melodramatic moments, I still couldn’t tear myself away. Obviously, it has a storyline akin to every housemaid thriller that has ever come before it. However, there are moments that are so bonkers that I audibly gasped. Out loud.

Look, it’s no gritty thriller and it doesn’t pretend to be. Sure, it’s dark and twisted at times, but most of the enjoyment comes from being a fly on the wall in the Winchesters’ home as Millie begins to unravel all the juicy secrets. McFadden’s quick pacing, snappy chapters and mostly well fleshed out characters elevate it from what would be a bit of silly thriller to something extraordinarly fun. I can’t wait to reunite with Millie and dive into the second book!


From the author of Before the Coffee Gets Cold comes a story of four new customers each of whom is hoping to take advantage of Cafe Funiculi Funicula’s time-travelling offer.Among some faces that will be familiar to readers of Kawaguchi’s previous novel, we will be introduced to: the man who goes back to see his best friend who died 22 years ago, the son who was unable to attend his own mother’s funeral, the man who travelled to see the girl who he could not marry and the old detective who never gave his wife that gift…

This beautiful, simple tale tells the story of people who must face up to their past, in order to move on with their lives. Kawaguchi once again invites the reader to ask themselves: what would you change if you could travel back in time?.

I reviewed Kawaguchi’s first book, Before the Coffee Gets Cold, last summer and was over the moon when I discovered that there was a sequel! Although, I was slightly anxious going into Tales of the Cafe. What if I didn’t love as much as the first? What if it wasn’t as emotionally strong? Worst of all, what if it was repetitive – a valid concern giving that this second novel very much rehases the same premise at the first.

However, fear not, reader! It is every bit as wonderful as its predecessor. I don’t think I could ever get bored of returning to the café and its delightful cast of characters. Yes, it’s essentially the same initial storyline as last time – following the different journeys of the patrons who come to this café with the hope of going back, or forward, in time despite knowing that their trip will not alter anything. That being said, the way in which Kawaguchi explores multiple themes, including suicidal tendencies, terminal illness, the loss of a family member as well as miscarriage, is still as delicately and beautifully handled as before. Nothing feels stale because each story is unique. I also loved finding out more about the staff at the café as well as getting some clarity about the ghost!

The characterisation continues to be the beating heart of this series. Each character’s pain is so relatable and they all feel so incredibly human. Kawaguchi’s writing is as evocative as ever and I actually felt the translation in Tales from the Cafe was smoother than Before the Coffee Gets Cold.

I look forward to returning to the café in the third installment. For now, I seriously recommend everyone pick up this series – especially if you’re overdue a much-needed ugly cry!

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