ARC REVIEW: The Neighbours – by Nicola Gill

Title: The Neighbours
Author: Nicola Gill
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 23rd 2020
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: October 21st 2019 
Pages: 400

“‘I was just trying to be the new Ginny.’ Cassie sighs. ‘Pity, because I think he really liked the old one.'”

*** 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 know this isn’t my usual genre, but there was just something about this title that spoke to me and I couldn’t resist requesting a copy. My instincts turned out to be right, because I ended up really enjoying my time with this story. If you are looking for a poignant and entertaining romcom with that Bridget Jones vibe, The Neighbours should definitely be on your 2020 wishlist.

It’s a superfast read and has both funny and more serious moments incorporated into the plot. Oh yes, it’s not all roses and sunshine in The Neighbours as more heavy themes as depression, suicide and cheating are incorporated into the plot. It was interesting to see how the author used these elements in her story and then balanced them with lighter moments and a dose of humor here and there. The plot itself might involve some cliches, but there is no doubt that it makes for an engaging read and fans of the genre will be more than pleased. The writing definitely makes you turn those pages fast enough, and I literally finished The Neighbours in one sitting. Whether you are looking for your next beach read or something to make you forget about the cold winter weather, this story will do the trick.

That said, I did have mixed thoughts about the main characters. It’s true that Ginny and Cassie make a very unlikely pair, and I did have a great time following their story and see their relationship grow. Cassie’s character is fascinating, with her being an older actress who is no longer as famous as she used to be… I liked her sass and ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude and it was interesting to see other aspects of her personality developed as well. Ginny is an interesting character as well, although I did have issues with some of her character traits and decisions. Especially those relationship related and how she handles things in general… The whole love triangle vibe I could have done without as well, but those are only minor complaints for what is otherwise a very entertaining read.

In short, if you are looking for a fast, engaging, funny and sometimes poignant and heartbreaking romcom, this story is without doubt a great choice! I’m having the feeling fans of the genre will love this book.


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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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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Are You Watching? – by Ralph Vincent #RandomThingsTours #blogtour #AreYouWatchingMagpieMan @PenguinUKBooks @VincentRalph1 @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Are You Watching? Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I admit I was intrigued as soon as I saw that cover and read the blurb. I don’t read nearly enough YA thrillers and I loved the sound of the social media angle, so deciding whether to read Are You Watching? was truly a no-brainer. And my instincts were definitely right about this story! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Are You Watching?
Author: Vincent Ralph
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: January 6th 2020
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: December 22nd 2019
Pages: 371

“It was Dad who gave the murderer his name. He said he Magpie Man liked shiny things and Mum was the shiniest of all.”

*** 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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We are living in a time where social media seems to be taking over our lives and it has been playing an increasingly important role in the everyday life of most people in recent years. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube… While it’s true that they are clever tools to connect and share your views with the rest of the world, most don’t seem to be realizing what the underlying dangers are of plastering your whole life all over the internet. What if someone up to no good tries to access and use all that information against you? Without doubt a terrifying thought…

Are You Watching? addresses a slightly different angle: instead of the villain, it is the main character Jessica who uses social media to try and catch the serial killer who took the life of her mom and a dozen others. Talk about an original premise! This premise alone was enough for me to add this debut to my must-read list and now I’ve had the chance to read it, I can confirm that this story is without doubt a lightingfast and thrilling pageturner. What a ride! You will definitely want to clear your schedule for this one, because once you start the first chapter you will find it impossible to stop reading. I was actually reading a different story when I started Are You Watching? (some situations ask for my kindle instead of a physical copy) and I literally had to put my other current read on hold even though I was enjoying it as well. Such is the power of Jessica’s story!

The success of Are You Watching? is in the combination of a serial killer thriller and the social media angle, which gives the story its unique touch and shows us the power of social media and how it could be used to catch a killer who up to that moment didn’t leave any clues behind at the different murder scenes. This social media element is without doubt the true star of this story and plays a key role in the plot as well. The idea of the live Youtube shows and Jessica using her day to make people remember her mother’s death again and hopefully catch the Magpie Man killer is both original and highly entertaining… The twists involving the developing Youtube show and the response of the viewers on social media without doubt added a healthy dose of suspense to the plot.

Other elements play a role as well, including grief, family and friendship. Jessica’s relationship with her family and friends give the story a personal touch while also giving this story its distinctive YA feel. And guess what? There is almost no romance involved in Are You Watching?, which was definitely a huge bonus for me personally. Instead, the main focus is on friendship and the live Youtube show Jessica participates in. It was fascinating to see how Jessica uses the show to try and put the spotlight on the murder cases again and tries to find new witnesses and evidence to finally catch the killer.

The plot itself is well developed, exciting and definitely has quite a few twists and turns in store to keep you guessing; they were definitely successful in misleading me at least. Action and suspense are mixed with lighter moments to release some of the tension, but Are You Watching? will definitely keep you on your toes… You will find yourself turning those pages like there is no tomorrow just to find out if Jessica is able to achieve her goal. Things are definitely heating up in the second half, but the story in general is without doubt a real rollercoaster ride. The characters are solid and it was interesting to see them develop over time. Even the Magpie Man, while not that present or developed beyond the typical serial killer boogeyman image during most of the story, was an intriguing character to follow due to the mystery around his identity and motive behind his murders. The whole angle with the family of the murder victims (including Jessica and her father) was probably the most interesting though.

Basically, there is a lot to love in Are You Watching? and it is without doubt a true pageturner. If you enjoy a well written and fast-paced YA thriller with an omnipresent social media angle and an unique touch, Are You Watching? should definitely be on your wishlist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vincent Ralph has been writing in one form or another since his teens and
always dreamed of being a novelist. He owes his love of books to his mother,
who encouraged his imagination from an early age and made sure there were
new stories to read.

Vincent has lived in London, Cornwall and Chester but he now lives in his home
county of Kent with his wife, son and two cats.


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ARC REVIEW: The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright – by Beth Miller

Title: The Missing Letters Of Mrs Bright
Author: Beth Miller
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 9th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: December 4th 2019
Pages: 327

“I wanted to try whatever life I had left without that net. Close my eyes and take a leap of faith.”

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

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I know I don’t read contemporary romance all that often, but I like mixing up my genres every once in a while and there was just something about The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright that made me want to read it instantly. I think it was a combination of the blurb itself and the comparison to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and A Man Called Ove; two of my favorite books with characters I absolutely adored. And the blurb definitely sounded like main character Kay was going to have the same vibe, so I was superexcited to finally meet her. I might have set my expectations a tad too high, because somehow I didn’t end up enjoying this story as much as I thought I would… I’ll try to explain why.

First of all I have to stress that The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright is by no means a bad read, and the rating reflects my personal reaction to this story and its characters rather than the quality of the story. There is a lot to love in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright, and depending on how you react to the main characters your reading experience might just be completely different from my own… First of all, we have the bookish elements. Not only does main character Kay’s husband own multiple bookshops, but we see other references as well throughout the story. I always love those little references in my books, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Another element I loved was travel related; not only that Kay wants to spread her wings and start seeing the world, but also those descriptions and chapters set in Australia and especially those in Venice. This Italian city really came alive for me in the descriptions and was one of the highlights of this book for me.

I also loved the idea behind the letters, and some actually being incorporated into the plot between chapters. This most definitely added an original touch! The plot itself is intriguing enough and uses multipe POVs to help us understand how different people react to Kay’s decision to leave her husband of twentynine years and start doing things she has always wanted to but never has. There is the underlying worry and mystery around Bear of course as well, and it was interesting to see things develop and secrets slowly coming to light. The writing was easy on the eye and superfast to read, and in many ways this is the perfect contemporary romance read.

What went wrong for me then? I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of the reason is pretty clear: the main characters. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the characters as I thought I would. I had issues with various decisions and personality traits of more than one character, and this really put a damper on things… I won’t go too much into details to avoid spoilers, but I wasn’t a fan of Kay and her selfishness after her decision. I fully get she has the right to a life of her own, but she truly only thinks of herself and doesn’t seem to care too much of what her children and friends are going through… And that was not the only thing that annoyed me about her. I wasn’t able to warm up to Stella, Edward or Richard either, although I did like Newland, Rose and even Piet. What I absolutely detested was the whole cheating angle, but that is just a personal reaction as I never respond well to this element in a story…

I did love the food element in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though. The descriptions of the food really made me crave those dishes and I actually prepared my curry recipe as a result afterwards. There were a lot of other things I enjoyed as well, like mentioned above, but as a whole something just didn’t click for me and I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. Fans of the contemporary romance genre might just have a fantastic time with The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though! Definitely give this story a chance if you think it might be your cup of tea, because it seems like I’m in the minority with this one.


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ARC REVIEW: The Perfect Mother – by Caroline Mitchell @amazonpub @caroline_writes

Title: The Perfect Mother
Author: Caroline Mitchell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 14th 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 26th 2019
Pages: 368

“People thought they knew her. They hadn’t got a clue.”

*** 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’m a big fan of Caroline Mitchell‘s books and I always look forward to a new one… I was sold soon as I first read the blurb for The Perfect Mother and I have been looking forward to read it ever since. And now I’ve had the chance to read it, I think I might just have found a new favorite title! From start to finish, this story is everything I look for and more in a psychological thriller. I was hooked from the very first page, unable to put down my kindle until I reached that final page, and I literally finished it in less than a day. This might sound like one of those review cliches or oneliners, but it is 200% true when it comes to The Perfect Mother!

There is a lot to love in The Perfect Mother, and I’m struggling a bit to decide where to start. The beginning maybe? The premise of the story is without doubt fascinating. We start with a young and broke Irish woman with an impossible dilemma as to how to solve her current situation. Some of her options might not be orthodox, but there are underlying secrets in play as well that will influence her decision. Conflicting opinions about her decision aside, it without doubt makes for one heck of a story. I’m not sure if I would have trusted the offer as it simply sounded too good to be true, but I guess being desperate makes you overlook the details… Once the story starts taking place in New York, things are getting truly interesting and I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I started discovering what was really going on at the celebrity couple’s house and what secrets they were hiding.

The story is told with the help of multiple POVs and two different settings (Ireland and New York). Focusing mainly on Roz and Sheridan, we slowly learn more about both their past and how the current situation came to be… Multiple plot twists and secrets are hidden along the way to keep you on your toes, and the plot will definitely have some surprises for you in store. The different POVs and settings also give this story a multidimentional feel and definitely enhanced both the plot and the suspense. The Irish setting was well described and really came alive for me; both through the characters and descriptions themselves. The New York setting mostly focuses on the celebrity couple’s house, but those chapters are by no means dull and will definitely satisfy your need for suspense and shocking plot twists.

As for the characters… Even if you don’t agree with what Roz decided to do, she is still quite easy to like and connect to. Her best friend is likewise easy to like and it was interesting to discover what role she played in the story as a whole. I wasn’t a big fan of the celebrity couple, but I guess they are ment to be that way for the story to work and they are intriguing characters to try and decipher. Other New York characters were easier to like, including George, but the most important thing is that each character added a little something extra to the plot and played the role he/she had to play to turn The Perfect Mother into the little masterpiece it is. This book is definitely right at the top of favorite 2020 releases so far, and it is a story that will stay with me for quite some time… If you enjoy a well written, suspenseful and twisty psychological thriller, you should definitely add The Perfect Mother to your wishlist!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #140 – Palm Beach Finland & Black Summer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I’ve been really excited to read; both for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge. The first is Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen, which not only has a gorgeous cover but also is a fascinating mix of dark humor and nordic noir. Then we have sequel Black Summer by M.W. Craven, which has proven to me Tilly and Poe deserve their spot as one of my favorite character duos. What a read!


Title: Palm Beach Finland
Author: Antti Tuomainen

Genre: Nordic Noir, Humor
First published: September 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: December 23rd 2019
Pages: 300
(Originally written in Finnish with the same title)

“The older you are when you wake up to your dreams, she thought, the more vigorous you pursue them. The more desperately. Because with every passing day there’s simply less to lose.”


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I admit that when I bought my copy of Palm Beach Finland I was both lured in by that stunning cover and the promise of a combination of black comedy and a page-turning thriller. I was planning to make this story my first encounter with this Finnish mastermind of black humor and Nordic noir, but fate had other plans in store and I ended up reading Little Siberia first a while back. This first encounter was without doubt a success and I have been looking forward to pick up my pink and fabulous copy of Palm Beach Finland ever since. Now I’ve had the chance to read it, I can confirm it’s another excellent read. It’s the combination of the dark humor and the Nordic noir elements that makes this story so unique… While it might not be for everyone, if you are able connect to the humor and writing you will find yourself to be very entertained by what is going on in the coldest beach resort on earth! Palm Beach Finland has an colorful cast of characters to say the least, each flawed and adding its own problems, views and intentions to the plot. Multiple POVs are used to give us a multidimentional view of what is going on in the small beach town, black humor spicing up the plot in between the other elements. If you are looking for a little something different and don’t mind the plot heating up as well as having unconventional characters, Palm Beach Finland will without doubt peak your interest! A round of applause to the translator David Hackston for enabling us to enjoy this unique and quirky mix of genres. Blacker than black humor and Nordic noir without doubt make for a tasty thriller cocktail!


Title: Black Summer
(Washington Poe #2)
Author: M.W. Craven

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 20th 2019
Publisher: Constable
Finished reading: December 25th 2019
Pages: 352

“Poe, we have a problem.”


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I finally had the chance to meet Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw a few months back when I picked up my copy of The Puppet Show, and they are hands down one of my new favorite character duos. I’ve been waiting impatiently to meet up with them again in Black Summer after the first book completely blew me away… And I ended up turning it into a little Christmas gift to myself by freeing my schedule to spend all day with Tilly and Poe. Best decision ever! The gloomy Christmas Day weather seemed to set the perfect atmosphere for this sequel set in Cumbria, and I was of course hooked from the very first chapter. While I do think I loved the first book a tiny bit more (please don’t hit me!), Black Summer was without doubt a brilliant sequel and as soon as Tilly made her entrance there was no way on earth I was putting down my copy. Thankfully I was able to spend most of Christmas Day in the company of my kindle, lots of tea, a sleeping cat closeby and a pile of leftover chocolate, so my wish came true and I was able to reach that final page almost in one sitting. And what a read! The plot, the characters, the twists, the writing, the setting… There is just so much to love in Black Summer and I’m more than addicted to Tilly and Poe’s adventures. This sequel only made me love their characters even more and they definitely deserve their spot on my favorites list. I literally can’t wait to find out what The Curator has in store next, and I can highly recommend this series to any thriller fan. Trust me, you are missing out if you haven’t met Tilly and Poe yet!!


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