ARC REVIEW: The Summer Children – by Dot Hutchison @DotHutchison @amazonpub

Title: The Summer Children
(The Collector #3)
Author: Dot Hutchison
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 22nd 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: April 14th 2018
Pages: 302

“Scars mean we survived something, even when the wounds still hurt.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I have been following this series ever since I read the first book back in 2016. The Butterfly Garden blew me away with one of the most disturbing and twisted serial killer cases I’ve encountered to this date. And somehow, I think The Summer Children is my new favorite of the series. Because while I remember having some doubts about the pace in the middle of the first book, it was literally hook, line and sinker with The Summer Children. I practically devoured this third book of The Collector series and couldn’t let go until the final page. Dot Hutchison has created another intense, disturbing and painful case, and this time things are getting really personal for Mercedes Ramirez. The Summer Children is intense until the very last page and despite the heavy subject I loved every single minute of the ride. Why? First of all, the writing style is just as strong as ever, engaging, gritty and with a perfect mix of suspense, shocking moments and a healthy dose of bantering and a dash of humor. I also loved the mix of normal chapters with the thoughts in cursive! The characters are both well developed and very easy to like and I just love the dynamics between Mercedes and the rest of her team. And no, I’m not just biased by the fact she consistantly uses Spanish phrases and words in her dialogue (don’t worry, non-Spanish speakers will still be able to understand the dialogue perfectly!) The characters in general feel very realistic and all have their flaws and history, making them that much more human and very easy to warm up to. The serial killer in this case has an underlying message that will make you think… A trigger warning is in place for graphic scenes and child abuse for those who can’t stomach these elements in stories. But not without a note that these elements are very well incorporated into the story and not abused in any way. There are also lots of twists and turns included as they try to figure out who is behind it all. The Summer Children was strong from start to finish and this is the main reason this third book is now my new favorite of the series. And I just can’t wait to find out what the next book has in store for us next year.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

FBI agent Mercedes Ramirez has no idea what she has just gotten into when she finds an abused little boy on her porch, both covered in blood and clutching a teddy bear. He tells her an angel killed his parents and then brought him to Mercedes’ house so she can keep him safe. But it wasn’t just murder, it was a complete bloodbath; and the poor boy was forced to watch as the crime was committed. They have never seen something like this before… And things become even worse when more children start arriving on her doorstep.

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I thought it was going to be hard to outshine The Butterfly Garden, since it’s one of the best/most disturbed serial killer characterizations I’ve come across. But somehow, I think The Summer Children is the best book yet. From a consistant and superfast pace to likeable and realistic characters, a well developed plot and another intriguing and disturbing case… This third book just ticked all the boxes for me. Add the joy of revisiting old favorite characters and their bantering, and you have a new favorite The Collector book. Can you guess already I can recommend this one if you can stomach the graphic scenes and child abuse triggers?


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WWW Wednesdays #172 – April 18th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m currently reading Blood Runs Cold by Dylan Young and literally flying through it. It’s proving to be a worthy sequel so far. I’m about to start A Secondhand Lie by Pamela Crane (kindle freebie!) afterwards, which is a companion novella to A Secondhand Life I read last week  and I want to read it before I forget all the details about the story.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. A Secondhand Life by Pamela Crane (4/5 stars) REVIEW
If you like your thrillers fast, well written, suspenseful and with an unique touch, A Secondhand Life is the one for you. I personally loved the incorporation of ‘organ memory’ in the plot and how this element played such an important role in the investigation. I admit I didn’t really warm up to the main character, but her development is well done and my feelings for her didn’t influence my general feelings for the story. I was just too intrigued by the plot and twists to pay attention to minor details and possible flaws. A highly entertaining and addictive serial killer thriller with a twist, and without doubt worth reading.

2. The Air Raid Killer by Frank Goldammer (4/5 stars) REVIEW
Historical fiction is mixed with a classic detective thriller, as a serial killer and air raid bombs fight for the title of ‘most feared’ by the inhabitants of the city of Dresden. The writing style and initial plot make it really easy to get a proper feel for the story, and the first half of the story is without doubt the strongest part of the book. I would have preferred a continued focus on the detective thriller side of the story, which felt a bit rushed in the second half. But I also understand the switch and need for a focus on what happened in Dresden during those final days and after. While not perfect, The Air Raid Killer is without doubt a great read for anyone who wants to read a WWII story with a slightly different focus and angle.

3. The Summer Children by Dot Hutchison (4,5 stars) REVIEW 19/04
I thought it was going to be hard to outshine The Butterfly Garden, since it’s one of the best/most disturbed serial killer characterizations I’ve come across. But somehow, I think The Summer Children is the best book yet. From a consistant and superfast pace to likeable and realistic characters, a well developed plot and another intriguing and disturbing case… This third book just ticked all the boxed for me. Add the joy of revisiting old favorite characters and their bantering, and you have a new favorite The Collector book. Can you guess already I can recommend this one if you can stomach the graphic scenes and child abuse triggers?

4. The Chosen Ones by Carol Wyer (4,5 stars) REVIEW 20/04
DI Robyn Carter is one of my favorite detective thriller series and I always find myself looking forward to a new installment. Not only have the books a consistently strong writing, plot and plot twist development and interesting cases to lose yourself in, but there is also the mystery around Robyn Carter’s past that won’t let you go. The Chosen Ones has another shocking case and the final reveals will leave you wanting for more… And I think this fifth book might just be my new favorite. Recommended!

5. The Poison Plot by Elaine Forman Crane (DNF 31%; 0 stars) REVIEW 22/04
I really wanted to like this one because the promise of a murder plot, an 18th century setting and the blurb in general sounded fantastic. Sadly I had to end up DNFing it. Why? More in my review, but it had to do with both the writing style, general guesswork in a supposedly NON fiction read, overload of unrelevant and unimportant details unrelated to the key characters and the fact there is no proof whatsoever Mary ever poisoned her husband or that he was poisoned at all. Kind of destroys the purpose of this book, doesn’t it?

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I have one pending May NG ARC left: Find You In The Dark by Nathan Ripley, and I’m hoping to get to it before I leave next week. Fingers crossed! I’ve decided to only read non ARCs during our trip, and will be doing shorties reviews when I’m back. Yay for getting to read backlist titles! I’m probably picking up The Book Of Lost Things by John Connolly first depending on the mood I’m in. I want to finally start with The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater; maybe bingereading the final three books depending on how I like book two. And I’m finally going to pick up my latest TBR jar pick Summer Of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider as well.


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ARC REVIEW: The Air Raid Killer – by Frank Goldammer

Title: The Air Raid Killer
(Max Heller, Dresden Detective #1)
Author: Frank Goldammer
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 23rd 2016
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: April 12th 2018
Pages: 292
(Originally written in German: ‘Der Angstmann’)

“How does anyone really know what someone’s capable of?”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and AmazonCrossing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I stumbled upon this title during my hunt for more international authors/translations and I was immediately intrigued both by the cover and the blurb. I admit I had forgotten about the exact content of the story when I started reading it and went in blind thinking it was going to be a historical fiction read. And while there is no doubt that The Air Raid Killer is a proper historical fiction read set in Dresden, Germany during the final part of WWII, I was pleasantly surprised to find out especially the first part reads more like a historical detective thriller. Two of my favorite genres combined? Definitely a bonus! The Air Raid Killer starts out strong and will be able to draw you in straight away. Historical descriptions are mixed with a most brutal murder scene that will definitely chill you to the bone. The main character of this German detective series Max Heller has the almost impossible task to try and find out what happened when nobody seems to care about one more body in a war with so many casualties. But detective Max Heller is determined to find out even when he meets resistance everywhere. Both the actual murders and the general situation in Dresden are not suited for the weak-hearted; combined they form a very explosive and sometimes shocking plot. The serial killer on the loose is without doubt brutal, and combined with the air raid attacks and the chaos during the end of the war you have a recipe for a very disturbing read. While the first part focuses on the thriller aspect of the plot, the second half of the story is more historical fiction focused. I think I would have preferred to have it just one way or the other and not both, although I do understand why the author made the choice to swap and include more historical details in the second half. The final reveals of the murder case do feel a bit rushed though, and I’m also wondering up to what point the methods of investigation used were actually available in that time period. Still, The Air Raid Killer was without doubt a very good historical thriller set during the end of WWII, and both detective thriller and historical fiction fans will be able to enjoy this one.

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In the final months of WWII, the inhabitants of the city of Dresden not only have to fear the air raid bombs that might destroy the city at any time. There are also rumors about the Fright Man, a twisted killer who uses the nighttime air raid siren to hunt the streets unseen and kill… Only to disappear into thin air afterwards. Detective Max Heller begins to investigate, but is is harder to ever to start a proper investigation. And soon after the Fright Man kills again… Will Max Heller be able to find any clues with his resources non-existent and a new boss who doesn’t want him to investigate further?

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Historical fiction is mixed with a classic detective thriller, as a serial killer and air raid bombs fight for the title of ‘most feared’ by the inhabitants of the city of Dresden. The writing style and initial plot make it really easy to get a proper feel for the story, and the first half of the story is without doubt the strongest part of the book. I would have preferred a continued focus on the detective thriller side of the story, which felt a bit rushed in the second half. But I also understand the switch and need for a focus on what happened in Dresden during those final days and after. While not perfect, The Air Raid Killer is without doubt a great read for anyone who wants to read a WWII story with a slightly different focus and angle.


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Teaser Tuesdays #173 – April 17th: Blood Runs Cold

TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly book meme hosted at The Purple Booker. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

Technically I haven’t started officially reading this one yet, but I will do so today. Blood Runs Cold by Dylan Young is the sequel of a new detective series I’ve had my eyes on. The first book was great, so I’m definitely looking forward to read this one! It’s one of the final books I need to get through before next week (I just need to finish one more after this one), and fingers crossed it will be a good one.

My teaser (14%):

“It soon became too hot to sit out, and after twenty minutes Anna could feel her skin tingling. It matched the frustration she felt for the need to get on with things.”

What are you reading right now?


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ARC REVIEW: A Secondhand Life – by Pamela Crane

Title: A Secondhand Life
(Killer Thriller #1)
Author: Pamela Crane
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Tabella House
Finished reading: April 11th 2018
Pages: 314

“How could anyone determine one person”s value over another based on where they lived and how much money they had?”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Tabella House in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I like the way Pamela Crane writes, and I admit I was sold as soon as I hit that blurb. A serial killer AND the promise of ‘organ memory’ as one of the key elements in solving the case? How can I say no to that?! I had high hopes for A Secondhand Life and I found myself hooked as soon as I started reading. Honestly, I would have finished this killer thriller in one sitting if I would have had more time… It is without doubt a suspenseful and intriguing pageturner. The plot itself is an interesting one and both past and present play a role in putting together the story. I’m not sure I actually liked the main character Mia, but her development is interestingly done. And then I’m not even talking about the ‘organ memory’… I loved how this element was incorporated into the story and it was also interesting to find out how the author first came across this topic. This phenomenon of changes in personality and having memories of the donors after an organ transplant is simply fascinating. These memories and dreams are key in the plot of A Secondhand Life and definitely give this thriller an unique touch. The crime/investigation part is mix of cold case with new murders and has some graphic details, but nothing too gory. There are quite a few twists and turns as well, although I did had a hunch quite early on that turned out to be right. I didn’t guess the full truth though and the final reveals were definitely a surprise. I had a great time reading this one and I will be looking forward to read the companion novella A Secondhand Lie soon.

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When she was twelve, Mia Germaine lost her father and almost her own life as well in a car accident. She survived, but only after a heart transplant from a young murder victim… Or so she found out after twenty years, when suddenly Mia started having horrifying nightmares about an unsolved murder, triggered by the recent death of a teenager. She discovers that the dreams she is having are actually memories… Due to a scientific phenomenon called ‘organ memory’, she somehow has the memories of the girl that was killed on the night of Mia’s accident, the girl that saved her life by donating her heart. Mia is determined to find out the identity of both the girl and her murderer… But by doing that she might be putting herself on the radar of the serial killer that is currently on the loose.

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If you like your thrillers fast, well written, suspenseful and with an unique touch, A Secondhand Life is the one for you. I personally loved the incorporation of ‘organ memory’ in the plot and how this element played such an important role in the investigation. I admit I didn’t really warm up to the main character, but her development is well done and my feelings for her didn’t influence my general feelings for the story. I was just too intrigued by the plot and twists to pay attention to minor details and possible flaws. A highly entertaining and addictive serial killer thriller with a twist, and without doubt worth reading.


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ARC REVIEW: The Letter For The King – by Tonke Dragt

Title: The Letter For The King
(The Letter For The King #1)
Author: Tonke Dragt
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical, Fantasy
First published: 1962
Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books
Finished reading: April 9th 2018
Pages: 508
(Originally written in Dutch: ‘De Brief Voor De Koning´)

“It’s only when something’s threatened that you realize just how much you love it.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Pushkin Children’s Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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The Letter For The King was my very first MG read of the year and a translation of an older (1962) Dutch publication that is scheduled to be published later this year. And just look at that gorgeous cover! I thought I had read it in Dutch before when I was a kid, but apparently I was wrong because I didn’t recognize the story. That said, I think I probably would have enjoyed it a lot better back then. It’s not the fact that this is a middle grade read and ment for a younger public, because I have enjoyed books belonging to the age group before… And I can’t really put my finger on the why, but the fact is that I just couldn’t get used to the writing style and tone. I’m not saying the writing is bad at all, just that I was never able to get a proper feel for it. And unfortunately it took me ages to finally finish it. I felt the story itself was rather slow and dragged at points… The Letter For The King is over 500 pages long and I think it would have worked better with a faster pace and 200 pages less. The story itself is interesting as well as the quest the main character finds himself on; I liked the worldbuilding too. There was just something about the different kingdoms, the long ago setting with knights and quests that is truly enchanting. But overall it was just too slow for me. The right age-group will enjoy this story a lot better though, as long as they don’t have a short attention span.

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Sixteen-year-old Tiuri is about to become a knight when he is forced to abandon his vigil after a desperate call for help. He feels it is his duty to do as the old man says, but his task is becoming a lot more complicated than I initially thought. Suddenly, he finds himself on a mission both important and dangerous, where enemies will try to stop him from completing that mission. The future of an entire kingdom depends on him and his mission…

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There were things I really liked about The Letter For The King, including the long ago setting and worldbuilding full of knights, interesting kingdoms and quests. The rating above is my personal rating, but I do believe the right target group will enjoy this story a lot better. The main element I personally struggled with is a combination of a slow pace and a writing style I couldn’t become used to. I believe The Letter For The King would have worked better with a faster pace and less dialogue; with over 500 pages, I felt the story was a bit overlong. The adventure, intrigue and suspense are there, but it was kind of burried under a big pile of not that important dialogue… Still, especially younger boys will like following Tiuri on his mission.


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Stacking The Shelves #41 – April 14th

Stacking The Shelves is hosted at Tynga’s Reviews and is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

I wasn’t expecting to be getting new titles this close to my trip and hiatus, but I just couldn’t resist these three… The first is a sequel of a new detective series I just couldn’t say no to; the second is the third book of a series I found in the ‘Read Now’ section of NG and my finger hit the button before I even realized it haha. Number three has an element I can’t resist: a book about books. Plus it had a late June deadline and I really need to have some contemporaries ready for when I’m in the mood for one. I’m not sure if I will be able to get to the the first two before I go, but I’m definitely excited to be reading all of them soon!

EDIT: Of course there is no way I could resist DI Robyn Carter’s newest adventure, so book number five The Chosen Ones is of course waiting on my kindle as well (actually about to start it right now). I just didn’t have time yesterday to update my scheduled post before publishing. 😉

# NETGALLEY ARC #

Click on the summaries below to go to the Goodreads page… 

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