ARC REVIEW: The Liar’s Daughter – by Claire Allan

Title: The Liar’s Daughter
Author: Claire Allan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 23rd 2020
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: January 6th 2020 
Pages: 400

“There’s a time in a person’s life, if they are truly, truly wicked, when they move beyond the point of redemption.”

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

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I loved my first experience with Claire Allan‘s psychological thrillers last year and I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work ever since… I was going to read her thriller debut Her Name Was Rose next, but of course I couldn’t say no to reading her newest story The Liar’s Daughter first when the opportunity arose. I admit I was sold as soon as I read the blurb and guessed there would probably be something dark and ominous about this psychological thriller.

The Liar’s Daughter is by no means an easy read and incorporates difficult topics including child abuse, manipulation, cancer and mental health. Especially the first is trigger warning worthy, as it plays a big role in the story and can be hard to stomach in points… That said, I think that Claire Allan did an excellent job both describing and shining a light on the effects and consequences on the victims even years later. Shame, fear and manipulation often force victims to stay silent about their suffering and this story shows just how much it can destroy a life as well as affect those close to the persons involved. I do have to say that I wasn’t a fan of any of the characters though and that includes Ciara and Heidi, who should be easy to feel sympathy for. Joe McKee is of course the true villian despite him being on his deathbed, and he definitely will not win your sympathy (quite the contrary!). Ciara’s partner Stella is probably the most easy to like, although she doesn’t really play a big role in the story as a whole.

Unlikeable characters aside, there is no doubt that The Liar’s Daughter is a super engaging, quick and intriguing read. I literally started and finished it in less than a day! The prose is easy to read and you will find yourself flying through the pages as you want to discover if your guesses turn out to be right. I have to admit that I found the plot to be quite predictable and I guessed a lot of the plot twists really early on. It might just be that I’ve read too many thrillers in recent years, but it did put a minor damper on things… As a whole it was still a very entertaining read though.

The Liar’s Daughter is one of those psychological thrillers you will find yourself reading in record speed despite a somewhat predictable plot. Some parts are quite uncomfortable, especially those related to child abuse and Joe’s character in general, but the situation is well described and used to help shine a light on the problem instead of just looking for a way to ‘spice up’ the plot. If you are looking for a quick and engaging psychological thriller and don’t mind some troubling moments and heavy elements, The Liar’s Daughter is an excellent choice.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Six Wicked Reasons – by Jo Spain #blogtour #SixWickedReasons @QuercusBooks @SpainJoanne

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Six Wicked Reasons blog tour! A huge thanks to Milly Reid and Quercus for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. After enjoying Jo Spain’s work in the past I just couldn’t say no to the chance to read her newest early… And it was without doubt another winner! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Six Wicked Reasons
Author: Jo Spain
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 16th 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Finished reading: December 31st 2019
Pages: 432

“If the detective scratched hard enough, he’d surely find a motive for each of them to have killed Frazer.”

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

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** Happy publication day!! **

One family. One night. Ten years of lies. And six wicked reasons to kill someone. Talk about an enticing blurb! I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Six Wicked Reasons and I have been looking forward to dive into Jo Spain‘s newest ever since I first heard about it. I had that feeling of premonition that it was going to be a scorcher and one heck of a ride, and guess what?! My intuition turned out to be absolutely right!

The blurb talks about a clever and gripping thriller, and I can definitely agree with that. The power of Six Wicked Reasons is in its slow building up of tension and suspense, only to blow you completely away once you reach the mayor plot twists near the ending. Trust me, you might guess part of it, but you will never guess the full truth of this brilliantly executed and clever plot twist bomb! What a way to mess with the minds of us readers… It doesn’t happen all that often anymore, but I always love it when thrillers manage to surprise me the way Six Wicked Reasons managed to do.

Six Wicked Reasons is told with the help of multiple POVs, giving us insight in both the perspective of the different members of the Lattimer family and those investigating the death of Frazer. I do confess it was a bit of a struggle having to juggle so many different characters and perspectives in the beginning, slowing down the pace considerably and making it harder to keep track of everyone. Especially since each character seemed to be hiding something and is most definitely treated as a suspect, making you want to remember all the details while you search for clues, and this can become a little daunting. BUT. Once you get used to the big cast of characters and start differentiating both their personality traits, little quirks and hints at secrets, things are getting a whole lot more entertaining.

The main focus in Six Wicked Reasons is on two important events: the disappearance (and reappearance after ten years) of one of Frazer Lattimer’s sons, Adam, and the death of Frazer himself. Switching back and forth between past and present, we slowly learn more about the different members of the Lattimer family and what secrets they are hiding. Especially relating to Frazer’s death: everyone seems to be having a plausible motive and reason to want the old man dead, but which of them is guilty? Or was it all an accident? And what happened to Adam all those years ago? There are a lot of questions involved and while some get answered along the way, you will mostly find yourself with more questions than answers during most of the ride. This slow building of suspense definitely makes the bang of the plot twist bomb ending feel all the bigger!

As for the characters… I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t really a fan of most of them. That feeling aside, it definitely shows it wasn’t easy for the Lattimer siblings to grow up with Frazer as a father, and it was truly intriguing to see their flawed characters being developed in a realistic way. They weren’t exactly likeable, but they made for a very interesting cast of characters and I had fun trying to figure them out. The whole question of who was behind Frazer’s death was a great start for some serious sleuthing and you will come to suspect every single one of the persons on that boat. The perfect locked-room mystery and with an outcome I definitely didn’t see coming!

I think I mentioned more than one wicked reason why you should read this thriller in my rambles above… But in short: if you are looking for a well constructed, slow building and cleverly executed thriller with an ending that will blow your mind, make sure to get your copy of Six Wicked Reasons ASAP!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jo Spain is the author of the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Her first book, top ten bestseller With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller. The Confession her first standalone thriller, was a number one bestseller and translated all over the world.

Jo is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, a former political advisor in the Irish parliament and former vice-chair of InterTrade Ireland business body.
She now writes novels and screenplays full-time. Her first co-written TV show TAKEN DOWN was broadcast in Ireland in 2018 and bought by international distributors Fremantle.

Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and four young children. In her spare time (she has four children, there is no spare time really) she likes to read. Her favourite authors include Pierre Lemaitre, Jo Nesbo, Liane Moriarty, Fred Vargas and Louise Penny. She also watches TV detective series and was slightly obsessed with The Bridge, Trapped and The Missing.

Jo thinks up her plots on long runs in the woods. Her husband sleeps with one eye open and all her friends have looked at her strangely since she won her publishing deal.


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DNF ARC REVIEW: Dark Mother Earth – by Kristian Novak

Title: Dark Mother Earth
Author: Kristian Novak
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: 2013
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Finished reading: January 6th 2020
Pages: 304
DNF at 31% (95 pages)
(Originally written in Croatian: ‘Črna mati zemla’)

“At a time when no one but Matija Dolenčec cared about this, he was prepared to do almost anything to write one more good story.”

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

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WARNING: unpopular opinion ahead!!

I always love discovering new international authors and translations enable us to discover books that otherwise wouldn’t have been available to us. I don’t think I’ve read a book by a Croatian author before, and after reading the blurb of Dark Mother Earth and seeing the extremely high rating on Goodreads, I was convinced I had found the perfect title to remedy that. I really thought that I was going to enjoy this one, especially with such a fantastic blurb, but I guess it just wasn’t ment to be… I really hate having a DNF this early in the year already, but I just couldn’t get myself to keep reading in the end. I’ll try to explain below why.

I’ll keep this short, but there were quite a few factors that played a role in my decision to DNF. Not only did I find that the story is too chaotic, superslow and nothing really makes sense, but I also felt that nothing much seems to be happening even almost a third into the book. I wasn’t a fan of the writing style at all… It feels like random words and thoughts have been put on paper without a proper meaning or order, and it sounded more like random ramblings rather than a cohesive story. The characters are absolutely despicable and their ramblings and character development hardly make any sense. Or at least the minimum development I could see in the first third of the book… Also, there is way too much sex talk involved, and in a disrespectful way too. Confusing, tedious, dull, frustrating and quite frankly simply exasperating; trust me, I really tried and gave this book multiple second chances, but in the end I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading to see if things would improve. I guess this book most definitely wasn’t for me… I seem to be in the minority though, so if you think this could be your cup of tea you might want to try it anyway. I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again!


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More 2019 Favorites #2019favorites

Two days ago I shared my list of TOP 15 Favorite Books/Authors Of 2019, where I mentioned there were actually a lot more favorites I was dying to mention. In fact, over 40 further authors had one or more books with a 4,5 star rating last year, which is basically a normal 5 star rating as I use my 5 stars as an A++. Yes, that is over 40 authors, and somehow I had to bring that back to 20, with a whole lot of sweat and tears involved. Honestly, I really wanted to mention every single one, but this post is too long as it is… So a special mention to the honorable mentions of the honorable mentions: just because you weren’t named here doesn’t mean I didn’t love reading your story last year! ❤

On to the honorable mentions who made the cut… Ready for 20 more favorite books/authors I was lucky enough to read during 2019? Once again in alphabetical order, because I’m not picking favorites between these. 😉

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ARC REVIEW: Big Lies In A Small Town – by Diane Chamberlain

Title: Big Lies In A Small Town
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: January 14th 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 5th 2020
Pages: 400

“I stared at the signature a while longer, wondering how a life that had started with so much promise could now be shrouded in such mystery.”

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

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I’ve heard so many great things about Diane Chamberlain‘s stories over the years and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick up one of her titles. I must have more than one title waiting on my kindle, but somehow other books always got in the way… That’s why I thought having an ARC of her newest title, and therefore a deadline, would be the perfect little push I needed to finally remedy this. The fact that the blurb of Big Lies In A Small Town sounds absolutely fascinating definitely helped that decision… Now that I’ve had the chance to finally try her work, I will definitely come back for more soon!

What made Big Lies In A Small Town so successful for me? There were quite a few factors, but let’s start with the basics of the plot. The story is told with the help of a dual timeline and two POVs, something that can go either way for me as it is very hard to get the balance between past and present just right. I think Diane Chamberlain hit the nail on the head with this story though. I felt both Morgan in the present and Anna in the past were equally important, equally well developed and equally crucial to the plot. The dual timeline structure turned this story into a complex, rich and very much satisfying historical fiction read… The POV switches only adding to the suspense and the mystery around Anna and the mural instead of distracting you.

There are a lot of different elements in play in both past and present POVs. We have Morgan with elements including DUI, prison, alcoholism, feelings of guilt, art restoration work, family and even romance. Then we have Anna with elements including racism and the South, gender discrimination, abuse, rape, family, mental health, crime and art of course. That seems to be a lot to have on just one plate, but Diane Chamberlain somehow makes it work and the result is an abundant and lavish story that also has more than one hidden deeper meaning.

It was fascinating to learn that Big Lies In A Small Town was actually based on real events and that the small town Edenton, North Carolina, does actually exist… And so did Anna Dale. It shows that a lot of research went into making this story feel authentic, and the details and descriptions really took the story to the next level. Racism and related problems in the 1940 South play a very important role in this story, and I thought it was described realistically. Likewise, we have Morgan in the present with a different set of problems, which are likewise realistically described. This story proves just how important is to get the research right before starting a story based on true events!

As for the characters… While Morgan and Anna weren’t my favorite characters of their corresponding POVs, I can’t deny that their development in general is very well done and they both intrigued me. Favorites would probably be Oliver and Jesse, but each character put his or her own stamp on the story and they all played a role in representing the many different elements of Big Lies In A Small Town. The pace of this story might be a tad slow, as there are a lot of descriptions and their is a lot of focus on the characters as a whole. But there is also plenty of suspense, and the mystery around Anna and the strange elements on the mural will keep you on your toes as you try to discover the truth.

Big Lies In A Small Town is a historical fiction read that isn’t afraid to go big and throw a complex and wide-ranging plot with a deeper meaning at you; well researched and well developed, the result is an abundant story following two flawed but absolutely fascinating characters. Fans of the genre who don’t mind a slower pace will most likely devour this one!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #141 – On The Bright Side & Blood For Blood

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time I’m catching up with series… I’ve been wanting to read On The Bright Side ever since my first meeting with Hendrik Groen, and while I do prefer the first book, it was an excellent second meeting. And I wanted to read the first two books of the Ziba MacKenzie series after loving the third book last month, and while I do prefer that one Blood For Blood was still a very entertaining read.


Title: On The Bright Side
(Hendrik Groen #2)
Author: Hendrik Groen

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: January 27th 2016
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: December 27th 2019
Pages: 437
(Originally written in Dutch: ”Zolang er leven is)

“The most salient hallmark of life in an old-age home may well be the lack of duties or responsabilities. Everything is taen care of for you. There is no need for reflection. Life goes down as easily as custard without any lumps.”


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I loved my first meeting with Hendrik Groen, his character and personality reminding me of all time favorite Ove, and I have been waiting impatiently to meet up with him again in the sequel On The Bright Side. This series is written in diary form where we follow the daily life and adventures of an elderly Dutch man at his care home in Amsterdam. The Old-But-Not-Dead Club once again makes its appearance, along with the already known and treasured members of course. This is definitely a case where you should read the first book before starting the sequel, because you won’t understand or keep apart the characters otherwise! While it’s true that I thought that the sequel was a tiny bit slower and I enjoyed the first book a tiny bit better, I still loved spending time with Hendrik and the others. The diary entries are not only used to discuss daily life in a care home, but also talks about national and international happenings and politics. We also get to know the other main characters even better, albeit always through Hendrik’s eyes. On The Bright Side gives us humor and lighter moments as well as more heavy topics and there are definitely some sad moments before you reach the final page. If you loved A Man Called Ove you should definitely put meeting Hendrik on your list! His grumpy and slightly cheeky character is a true delight for anyone who can appreciate a truly unique character.


Title: Blood For Blood
(Ziba MacKenzie #1)
Author: Victoria Selman

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: February 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 30th 2019
Pages: 319

“I’ve been studying signature murderers for years. I know what drives them. I know what makes them tick. And I know that, like me, they’re also profilers.”


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I always try reading series in order, but sometimes mistakes are made and I didn’t realize Snakes And Ladders was the third book of a series when I got a copy on Netgalley. After loving that book and my first meeting with Ziba MacKenzie, I made a vow to myself to pick up the first two books ASAP while memories were still fresh… With the bonus that I would have one less series to catch up with in 2020 afterwards. Blood For Blood started with a bang and while this first book shows just how much this series has grown over time, I still had a great time reading it. It’s a quick, fast and entertaining read and I managed to read it in no time at all! While it’s true that I thought that Ziba was a bit too full-on, bitchy, arrogant and too eager to prove to everyone just how tough she is in Blood For Blood, I still liked her profiler angle and it was interesting to see where her character started and how she evolved over time. I also had some doubts about the credibility of certain aspects and plot twists, including the treasurehunt and certain actions of Ziba, but if you like your thrillers entertaining, fast and full of action you will find it quite easy to overlook those. I definitely didn’t realize hours had passed while I was flying through Blood For Blood!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: A Dark Matter – by Doug Johnstone #RandomThingsTours #blogtour @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the A Dark Matter Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. Last year my first experience with Doug Johnstone‘s books, Breakers, completely blew me away and made me an instant fan of his work. I’ve been looking forward to read his newest ever since I first heard about it and it was without doubt another fantastic experience. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: A Dark Matter
Author: Doug Johnstone
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: November 23rd 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: December 29th 2019
Pages: 300

“Everyone is the main character in their own story, has their own life to lead, full of sorrow and joy, boredom and excitement, life and death.”

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

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It’s been over a week and I’m still struggling to get a somewhat coherent sentence, let alone a coherent review on paper. It’s not the first time I say this, and I’ll say it again, but such is the power of Orenda Books titles! They should add a new word to the dictionary, something along the lines of ‘Orenda hangover‘, as this definitely seems to become the norm every time I finish another Orenda title… I’m not complaining of course, as it is only a sign of just how fantastic each story is, but it does make it hard for us poor book bloggers to actually get those reviews somewhat up to standard (or am I the only one?). Nothing wrong with just trying though and let’s see how far I can get putting down my thoughts on A Dark Matter

I had the chance to read my first Doug Johnstone book, Breakers, last year and it blew me away, so it’s easy to say that my expectations for his newest title A Dark Matter were high. Now that I’ve had the chance to read it, I can confirm that those expectations were more than met! A Dark Matter can be seen as a mix of a family drama and crime thriller read set in Edinburgh. The description and development of the setting is simply sublime, and made me feel as if I were right there in Scotland along with the characters. Another thing stands out is the focus on the funeral home both as a setting and part of the plot. It definitely set the right atmosphere for the story as well! Both death itself, the private investigator subplot and the things that happen in the funeral home in general play a key role in the plot, which turns the funeral home into an integral part of the story. And of course the funeral side of things was both well described and absolutely fascinating to read more about.

The story evolves around three generations of women: Dorothy, her daughter Jenny and her granddaughter Hannah. A Dark Matter is told with the help of three different POVs, alternating between them as we slowly learn more about the different storylines in play. This gives the plot a multidimentional and complex feel and really took the story to the next level for me. It’s hard to get the introduction of multiple POVs right in a story, but in this case I think Doug Johnstone hit the nail on the head. Each POV complemented the other two, both adding to their own storyline as well as adding to the overall story, and together they helped build an extraordinary read.

A Dark Matter not only has three different POVs but, like I hinted at before, also has a lot of different elements and separate storylines in play. Among other things, we have the funeral home and everything it entails, the death of Dorothy’s husband Jim and his secrets, the PI angle and active investigations, the disappearance of Hannah’s friend, family secrets in general, grief… This sounds like a lot to juggle in just one story, but every element is incorporated so splendidly into the plot that it simply works like a charm. The writing as well as the suspense and plot twists are also sublime, and really added to the overall quality of A Dark Matter. There are a lot of secrets, twists and turns involved relating to the various storylines in play, and they will definitely keep you on your toes. You will find there are so many secrets for you to uncover! And that ending will most definitely be a shocker.

Oh yes, this story both started and ended with a bang, and I loved every single minute and page along the way. Both Breakers and now A Dark Matter have shown the excellence and versitility of Doug Johnstone‘s work and I’m 200% a fan. A Dark Matter is actually the first book of a series around the Skelfs family and I already can’t wait to find out what will happen next. Any fan of a well written and multidimentional crime thriller should add this one to their wishlist!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Johnstone is the author of ten novels, most recently Breakers (2018),
which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime
Novel of the Year. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award
winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid,
Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer
in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home – and
has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and
musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for
the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also playermanager
of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.


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