ARC REVIEW: All Cats Are Introverts – by Francesco Marciuliano @AndrewsMcMeel

Title: All Cats Are Introverts
Author: Francesco Marciuliano
Genre: Poetry, Humor, Cats
First published: October 15th 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: September 13th 2019
Pages: 112

“I can lose myself

In a novel

I can be absorbed

In a short story

I can be immersed whole

In adventure

In history

In romance

And mystery

I can see now

That I’m stuck behind your bookcase”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I really enjoyed reading Claw The System last year, so I knew I had to read All Cats Are Introverts as soon as I first saw it. I know I don’t read a lot of poetry, but give me cat photos, give me humor and give me a relatable topic and I’m sold. As a true introvert and a cat owner, it was extremely easy to relate to the poems included in this bundle. I literally laughed out loud multiple times, my own cat Delilah Bard frowning at me as apparently I was making too much noise to her liking. The dry, sometimes slightly sarcastic humor is right up my alley and some poems definitely have a mean pun. The cat photos in this bundle are of a high quality and it shows that they have been chosen carefully as they suit each poem extremely well. The poems themselves are simple, but with an original twist as they are all written from the point of view of a cat. Cat owners, cat lovers and introverts alike will be able to relate to the contents of All Cats Are Introverts and this poetry bundle will make an excellent gift.


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ARC REVIEW: Cradle To Grave – by Rachel Amplett #KayHunter @RachelAmphlett

Title: Cradle To Grave
(Detective Kay Hunter #8)

Author: Rachel Amphlett
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 6th 2019
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Finished reading: September 24th 2019
Pages: 370

“Muted sunlight shone through the curtains at the windows, creating a gloom that hung in the air, malevolent and foreboding.”

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


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I’m starting to feel lost for words when it comes to reviewing this series… Why? Detective Kay Hunter has quickly grown into one of my favorite detective series and characters, and it’s getting hard expressing that love without sounding repetitive. This is one of those series that just keeps delivering, and every single book so far has been well written with intriguing plots, interesting and easy to like characters and just the right amount of suspense and plot twists. Kay Hunter is hands down one of my favorite detective characters and spending time catching up with her feels like wearing your favorite sweater or meeting up with an old friend. Cradle To Grave is already book number eight and by no means an exception to this rule. If you are a detective thriller fan and haven’t tried this series yet, you are most definitely missing out!

Crade To Grave is one of those books you will want to clear your schedule for, because you will most likely end up wanting to read it in one sitting. I was hooked as soon as I started reading, cancelled all plans and just kept reading until I reached that final page… Loving every single minute of the ride. While this story might work as a stand-alone quite easily as well, I personally suggest reading them in order so you can properly meet and get to know Kay and the rest. I really enjoy seeing them develop over time… Also, the little animal visitors Adam brings home always manage to make me laugh and bring some lightness to balance the darker themes. In Cradle To Grave we have a new case that, while initially seemingly simple, soon turns out to be another challenge for Kay and her team. A murder, a missing child and a whole web of secrets and lies just waiting to be uncovered… On top of that, a possible connection in a whole different country, oh la la! The plot in book number eight will definitely keep you on your toes and it will be really hard to guess the final reveals before they happen.

Twists and turns are used to keep the level of suspense steady as well as slowly building that tension towards the grand final… Combine this with excellent writing and main characters you will find yourself once again rooting for, and you won’t realize hours have passed until you read those final words. Cradle To Grave is of that same high quality I’ve become used to when it comes to this series, and I loved spending more time with my favorite team. If you are looking for a detective thriller series that keeps delivering, a plot that will keep you guessing until the very end or simply a very engaging and absorbing read, you will find all those things are covered in every single Detective Kay Hunter book. So go meet her if you haven’t already! Trust me, you won’t regret it…


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ARC REVIEW: The Dinner Party – by Richard Parker

Title: The Dinner Party
Author: R.J. Parker
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 18th 2019
Publisher: Harper Impulse and Killer Reads
Finished reading: October 7th 2019
Pages: 400 

“Ted felt as if everything was slowing down. He was on the verge of sliding back into unconsciousness.”

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


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I’ve read and enjoyed quite a few of Richard Parker‘s books in the past, so as soon as I saw The Dinner Party I knew I had to add it to my shelves. I admit there was a moment of confusion when I added the title to my Goodreads shelves, as it is shelved under a different author with the same name, but I can now confirm it’s the same Richard Jay Parker that has multiple previous titles published by a different publisher (Bookouture) including favorites Hide And Seek and Keep Her Safe. I had quite high expectations for this story, but somehow I didn’t end up having the reaction I expected to have to this story…

If you are looking for a twisty, explosive and shocking thriller, The Dinner Party fits all those points and more. The story starts with a bang: you are dropped right in the middle of a life or death fight and what is basically a superintense and bloody scene. No introductions, no explanations… Just that scene to leave your jaw hanging on the floor and wondering how that situation came to be. This intense introduction chapter is contrasted by the following ‘mild’ chapters talking about a dinner party involving four couples. Do they have anything to do with that first chapter? Which of them could be involved? The tone of this story is definitely set with that brilliantly played first chapter.

The tension is build up slowly but steadily in the rest of the story, mixing secrets and twists with moments of action and suspense. I initially had a very good feeling about this story, but as the storyline continued and evolved, I started wondering about the credibility of it all. Sure, there is no doubt that if you are looking for adrenaline and action you will be in for a treat with the second half of The Dinner Party. But I myself found everything that happened to the four couples simply to be a tad too farfetched. I could accept the first thing that happened, the second too if I’m generous… But afterwards things really went out of control and my eyebrows started raising themselves more and more and more. On top of that, I didn’t really find the final reveal or explanation behind it all credible at all… Making the ending a bit of a disappointment for me. I did like how we came a full circle and saw the first chapter described again in its proper place in the story though.

As for the characters… Sadly, I can’t really say I liked them. Apart from the fact that I would have liked to see more development, as some fell flat for me and were a bit of a cliche, I didn’t find them likeable at all. I get the secrets and I get that they are hiding things to help generate those plot twists and reveals later on, but somehow they didn’t manage to grab my attention at all. Which is a shame, because between the credibility and characters I definitely ended up having a different reaction than I thought I would. If you like your thrillers fast, thrilling and shocking and don’t mind some lack of credibility and an ‘over the top’ plot, you will probably have a better time reading this story. The fascinating premise and promise of a great story is definitely there!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Little Siberia – by Antti Tuomainen #RandomThingsTours #blogtour #Orentober @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Little Siberia Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been meaning to pick up Antti Tuomainen‘s books for quite some time now, and after reading the blurb of Little Siberia I just couldn’t resist posponing Palm Beach Finland slightly and read this newest story first. I definitely understand the love for his books now! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Little Siberia
Author: Antti Tuomainen
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 17th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 9th 2019
Pages: 300
(Originally written in Finnish: ‘Pikku Siperia’)

“It seems that the turning points in our lives are always associated with a strange combination of the banal and the extraordinary, like watching a spaceship land in a perfectly everyday landscape.”

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

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The first thing that people seem to mention when it comes to Antti Tuomainen‘s recent books is the way he is able to introduce dark comedy more than successfully into an already solid crime thriller. Nordic noir with a healthy dose of blacker-than-black humor? You can definitely count me in for that! I’ve been looking forward to finally discover his work for some time now, and while I thought it was going to be my pink and fabulous copy of Palm Beach Finland, I’m more than happy my first introduction has been Little Siberia in the end. I definitely understand all that buzz around this Finnish dark comedy magician now!

So, dark comedy. Humor is basically a tricky element to introduce in any story, as it is extremely hard to get the tone and type of humor just right. Not everyone likes the same kind of humor, and black humor can go wrong real fast and even become offensive to some readers in a blink of an eye… I’m personally all for dark comedy and sarcasm when done right, and there is one thing for sure: Antti Tuomainen knows how to handle his humor. Sharp, hilarious and blacker than those seemingly endless Finnish nights… Oh yes, Antti Tuomainen‘s humor is definitely right up my alley. He is not only able to make me chuckle with his wittily wicked comments, but somehow he is also able to combine it flawlessly with one of my favorite genres. Humor and crime are not exactly natural partners, no matter how dark that humor might be, but Little Siberia makes you realize just how well both work together when someone who knows what he’s doing takes the reins.

That’s not the only thing that stands out in Little Siberia though. The remote and small town Hurmevaara up in Northern Finland is without doubt the perfect setting for this story. The descriptions of the setting are thorough, plentiful and really make the story come alive for me. The remoteness, the cold, the closeness to the Russian border… It all plays a carefully crafted role in the plot and Hurmevaara isn’t just an ordinary setting that could be swapped with a different town. Instead, Hurmevaara almost feels like yet another character of this story and its existence is basically essential to the plot. That same plot is both highly original, addictive and basically an emotional rollercoaster ride. The basics of this story are actually quite simple, but you soon realize that the finale of Little Siberia is constantly being dangled in front of you like a carrot, while at the same time little plot twist bones are being thrown your way to keep you hungry for more. Less in more in this case, although it is true that we still have quite a cast of characters to juggle.

What I love of this story is that the main character Joel is actually a priest. Quite unexpected and without doubt the driving force behind the successful introduction of humor into the plot… Joel has a fascinating history and his development is undeniably key to the story. Through his character, we are introduced both to the crime element and the more poignant story of his home life. After recent events, Joel is forced to fight for what he thinks is right, and decides to play both security guard and amateur detective to do so. This leads to all kinds of witty, awkward and even dangerous situations, and Little Siberia consequently has a healthy dose of action, suspense and violence in store for you. Things WILL escalate and you will find yourself biting your nails long before the end is in sight… Always having that wicked humor thrown in to ease the tension just when you think you are about to explode. Little Siberia has a very eclectic and well developed mix of characters to enjoy as well, each adding a little something to the plot and the story is all the more interesting because of them. On top of that, Little Siberia most definitely ends with a bang!

Before I stop today’s rambles, a big thank you is in place to David Hackston for enabling us to enjoy this fantastic story through his flawless translation. We are so lucky to have fantastic translators out there who make it possible for us to enjoy our dose of Nordic Noir to the fullest! And there is no doubt that Little Siberia is a little gem. If you like your humor dark and your Nordic Noir lighting fast, bloodchilling and touching at the same time, Little Siberia is simply a must-read. It’s like a big black bowl of delicious and hilarious crime magic!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his
literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel,
The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’
and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish
press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart
was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the
first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark
and hilarious The Man Who Died (2017) became an international bestseller,
shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finland (2018)
was an immense success, with The Times calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer
in Europe’.


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ARC REVIEW: I Will Make You Pay – by Teresa Driscoll

Title: I Will Make You Pay
Author: Teresa Driscoll
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 10th 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: September 21st 2019
Pages: 317

“We hope that no one is hurt, we wish no ill. And yet? We secretly want a story all the same.”

*** 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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!! Happy publication day !!

I’ve been meaning to try Teresa Driscoll‘s books for quite some time now, so when I saw I Will Make You Pay and read the blurb I just couldn’t resist. There is just something about the premise of this story and the stalker plot that made me want to read it straight away. And while I did ended up having some minor issues with it, overall it was without doubt a solid psychological thriller read.

I Will Make You Pay starts out as most regular psychological thrillers, but your attention is soon captured when the main character Alice receives the threatening phone call at the newspaper where she works as a journalist. This phone call marks the start of the so-called stalker plot and definitely takes the story to the next level. The story switches between past and present and gives us different POVs as well. On top of that, one of the storylines mentions a little boy and his grandmother without revealing how it all connects to the present situation, making you wonder how everything fits in. There are different layers as well as plot twists and secrets involved, all trying to throw you off the scent of the truth while they try to mislead you. I admit I guessed the ending quite early on though, but that might just be me reading too many books of the genre.

As for the main characters… Despite the fact that it should be easy to warm up to Alice and feel bad about what is happening to her, somehow I never really connected to her. I’m not sure exactly why, but there was just something about her actions and behavior that really irked me… Likewise, most of the other characters failed to charm me, with the exception of private investigator Matthew. I liked both his character and the different angle he provided to the story… Having a private investigator working on the stalking case while also working informally with the police definitely made the story more interesting. The whole journalist angle made for an interesting element as well, especially relating to the dangers behind sharing too much of your personal life and always being on the hunt for a good story seemingly no matter what the cost. The flashback chapters were intruiging enough, although they didn’t seem to be too relevant to the story at first… I’m still not sure what to feel about the ending though, as it felt a bit like an anticlimax. That said, psychological thriller fans will most likely have a good time reading I Will Make You Pay.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Birthday House – by Jill Treseder #RandomThingsTours #blogtour

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Birthday House Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about the blurb of this novella that spoke to me and while I did end up having mixed thoughts, there is no doubt that the premise of this story is fascinating. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Birthday House
Author: Jill Treseder
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 24th 2019
Publisher: SilverWood Books
Finished reading: September 14th 2019
Pages: 149

“Gossip is not interested in innocence. It will curdle innocence in the blink of a curious eye.”

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

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When I received the blog tour invitation a while back, there was just something about the blurb that caught my attention straight away. The psychological aspect as well as the past mixing with the present in the form of memories sounded fascinating, and I was also curious about the murder, its effects on Susan and the why and how behind it all. While I did end up having mixed thoughts about The Birthday House, I have to stress that this doesn’t mean it’s a bad read, and the 3 star rating reflects my personal experience with this story. I’ll tell you all about what worked and what didn’t for me below.

First of all I have to say I still feel the premise of The Birthday House is engrossing and it’s without doubt one of the strongest aspects of this novella. While initially the murder is only hinted at, it is the psychological effects of Josephine’s death and the events leading up to that dreaded day in 1955 that have the main focus. Flashbacks to the past play a very important role throughout this novella, as we try to decipher what went on in the Kennedy house and why things happened that way. It was intriguing to discover that the author based this story on an event that happened to her in the past and now uses this story almost as a form of therapy… She stresses that the events in The Birthday House do not reflect what really happened in the case that affected her personally, but it’s only a possible explanation of what could have gone wrong in a similar situation. I applaude the author for being brave enough to face past demons and put it all out in the open…  I can imagine it can’t have been easy digging all those memories up again and her personal experience does give this novella an authentic touch.

That said, there were also certain aspects of The Birthday House I ended up struggling with… I personally wasn’t convinced with the novella having so many different POVs. It felt a bit chaotic and disorganized having to jump between so many characters as well as the past and present, especially for such a short story. I felt I didn’t get to know each character well enough this way, although I do get why the author opted for multiple POVs as I imagine she was trying to show the mental state of and psychological effects on the different characters involved. Still, the story lacked cohesion for me and I personally would have liked to see less POVs (for example by leaving Mrs. Harrison, the housekeeper, out of the mix to name one). I also wasn’t a fan of the tone and writing; it didn’t feel natural and some of the dialogue and thoughts sometimes even felt a bit forced… Susan’s 1955 POV felt a tad too childish as well, and I also felt part of the plot and reasons behind the murder were simply too cliche. This is my personal reaction to this story though and if you are able to connect to the writing and don’t mind a few cliches and a lot of POV switches, The Birthday House does have a captivating premise.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I started writing in a red shiny exercise book when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’ activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt able to call myself ‘writer’.

But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of the above.

Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved, but left because I could no longer cope with the system.

This led to a freelance career as an independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.

All these experiences feed into the process of writing fiction, while my non-fiction book The Wise Woman Within resulted indirectly from the consultancy work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the University of Bath.

I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in my writing.

Writers’ groups and workshops are a further invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can. I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus and discipline achieved among others in a group.

I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing course to explore this genre in more depth.

I live with my husband in South Devon and enjoy being involved in a lively local community.


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ARC REVIEW: Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again – by Jeremy Greenberg

Title: Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again
Author: Jeremy Greenberg
Genre: Fiction, Humor, Cats
First published: October 8th 2019
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: September 9th 2019
Pages: 64

“Unfortunately we can’t go to the vet at the moment because I’ve unexpectedly died. Yes, it’s very sad. But not that sad, considering I’ve got nine lives and spending one on getting out of going to the vet is a worthy sacrifice.”

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

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I stumbled across this title just when I was looking for a little something different to read… Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again really spoke to me, both because I love cats in general and it sounded like a fun read. I just couldn’t resist the combination of funny letters and cat photos, and I definitely agree with the blurb that this little book would make a perfect gift for cat lovers. Each page spread (or at least it seems that way in the ARC version) has alternately a cat photo and its corresponding letter; the cat ‘writing’ to its owner about something that can be related to the photo. Some of the letters were definitely very funny indeed and cat owners will definitely be able to relate to the different situations and cat behavior described in the letters. It’s a short but sweet read and a perfect way to escape a dreary day and have a laugh. I do hope the photos will be less dark in the printed version, because they appeared very dark in the protected-PDF version (the text pages looked fine so I assume it is a problem with the photos itself). Some details were lost that way and that is truly a shame, considering that the photos are part of the charm of Sorry I Barfed On Your Bed Again in the first place. That said, any cat lover will have a great time reading this collection of relatable letters.


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