ARC REVIEW: Unclean Spirits – by Chuck Wendig

Title: Unclean Spirits
(Gods & Monsters #1)
Author: Chuck Wendig
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Horror, Mythology
First published: May 5th 2013
Publisher: Rebellion Publishing
Finished reading: January 30th 2018
Pages: 320

“Hope, a mirage in the desert, a curtain of vapor forming for us an image of that which we most sincerly desire. Hope is not an oasis but rather, a trap.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

This is one of those cases where I should have investigated better before requesting a copy, because I am so NOT the target group for this one. And this had a big influence on the lowish rating. Unclean Spirits definitely feels written for the more ‘macho’ male readers who like a lot of action, graphic scenes, violence, swearing and adult content in general. AKA 200% not my cup of tea… And it showed. While I did like the short and direct writing style Chuck Wendig uses to bulldozer through this story, I wasn’t a fan at all of the constant swearing and existence of graphic/adult scenes. This has more to do with me not being the target group than the story itself being a bad one, but trigger warnings are definitely in place here. Due to the general tone and wrong target group, I had a really hard time connecting to the characters as well, but I guess this is understandable being in my situation and all. I do have to say I loved the whole mythology angle and this was what saved Unclean Spirits for me. The urban fantasy genre shows and the mix of real world and supernatural is quite balanced. Mythology played a role throughout the story and I liked how many different gods and religions were incorporated. The plot itself had a lot of potential as well. So if you think you are the right target group for Unclean Spirits, you will probably have a heck of a ride waiting for you.

This publication also includes a short story by Pat Kelleher called Drag Hunt which is related to Unclean Spirits. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring myself to read past the first chapter and therefore cannot give a proper opinion of it… There was simply zero connection between the writing style and me and I couldn’t bear to keep reading. (Since the writing style in Unclean Spirits was one of the few things that made me keep going and not DNF it.)

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Cason Cole had his whole life turned upside down five years ago when he not only lost his wife and son, but was forced to work for a man who holds nothing dear and respects no law. Five years later, somehow his boss ends up dying at his feet, and Cason thinks he is finally free… But this doesn’t turn out to be true. He gets the shock of his life as he is told that gods and goddesses are real and they are not exactly playing nice. Will he find a way to free himself and be with his wife and son again? Things are not going to be easy…

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Completely wrong target group or not, I do have to agree the whole mythology angle is quite fascinating. It’s one of the reasons I actually made it to the end of Unclean Spirits… Because it painfully showed just how much this story just wasn’t for me. The graphic scenes, the adult content, the swearing, the excessive violence… It was all just too much and distracted from a plot with quite some potential. Don’t get me wrong though, because I have the feeling the right target group will probably have a way more positive experience.


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ARC REVIEW: Black Heart – by Anna-Lou Weatherley @bookouture

Title: Black Heart
(Detective Dan Riley #1)
Author: Anna-Lou Weatherley
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 31st 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: February 6th 2018
Pages: 307

“They say you dig two graves when you seek revenge and for the most part of my life I have agreed with this statement.”

*** 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 couldn’t resist requesting a copy of Black Heart after certain bloggers (hint hint) kept going on about how great this detective thriller was… And I definitely agree for the most part. It’s refreshing to follow a male detective again for a change, even though he has the ‘usual’ complicated past baggage with him… And I do have a weak spot for a serial killer thriller. The writing draws you right in and it was without doubt a lightning-speed fast thriller ride… Just the way I like them. The plot was a bit predictable though and it was quite clear early on who the killer really was. There just weren’t all that many plot twists and surprises? There is more focus on the development of the serial killer and her background as well as some fleshing out of our new star detective… The ending didn’t came as such a big surprise either, although if you somehow manage to not see the clues you will be in for a good twist. Black Heart was without doubt a very entertaining read and has a healthy dose of creepy and disturbing serial killer. The writing is great and I’ll be looking forward to find out what will happen next… Detective Dan Riley’s personal life surely raised some questions. And while Black Heart wasn’t that intense and didn’t have the expected plot twists and suspense of a typical serial killer, it shows that the characters were the main focus of this story and fans of more character-driven thrillers will have a blast reading this one.

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When the body of a wealthy banker is found in an expensive London hotel room, it appears to be a suicide. His wrists are slashed and there is a note, but detective Dan Riley suspects there is more to the case than just a ‘simple’ suicide. His instincts are right as the pathology report confirms the victim was first poisoned… And the crime scene evidence didn’t add up either. Dan Riley and his team has to deal with a murder case that is getting more complex as they find new clues… And things will escalate when the body of a woman is found in a similar way.

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Black Heart is fast-paced and reads like a train. The plot and case are interesting, although I do feel it lacked the tension and suspense serial killer thrillers tend to have. It shows the focus was more on the characters rather than on the plot twists and the creating of false clues and a highly suspenseful read… But there is no doubt Anna-Lou Weatherley was able to great a creepy and intriguing serial killer in this first detective thriller of a new series. I will be looking forward to see more of Detective Dan Riley in the future!


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ARC REVIEW: A Castle In Romagna – by Igor Stiks

Title: A Castle In Romagna
Author: Igor Stiks
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 2000
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: February 2nd 2018
Pages: 128
(Originally written in Croatian: ‘Dvorac u Romagni’)

“He was overcome by the immobility one feels upon meeting something long sought after, that silent tension of the body that, before we take the object into our hands, forces us to pause for a moment, as if every passing second increases its value.”

*** 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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One of my goals this year is to read more international authors and translation, and I’ve been meaning to read more historical fiction that is not set during WWII as well. A Castle In Romagna manages to tick both boxes, and the blurb itself had me more than intrigued. Sadly, my reading experience wasn’t what I hoped it would be… Here’s why. First of all, I REALLY struggled with the writing style. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fact it is a translation and some of the magic is lost, but I do know it was really hard to stay focused and keep reading. The prose doesn’t flow and more often than not ‘formal’ or less natural phrases are thrown in. This slows down the pace considerably and kept distracting me from trying to follow the plot. Another thing that didn’t work for me was the dual storyline. I felt neither story had enough dept because of it, especially since this novel is not that long to start with. Both plot, background and characters in both storylines lacked fleshing out and honestly I think I would have rather seen two completely separate stories. Also, I think the connection of the two storylines through the 1995 setting and friar telling both stories was actually quite weak, as apart from the fact that both storylines are about doomed love they do not have all that much in common. I do have to say both the 16th century setting and the one in 1948 have a lot of potential, and I truly wish each would have been more developed. As it is, I failed to connect to any of the characters and I’m afraid to say I wasn’t able to enjoy my time with A Castle In Romagna.

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A young refugee of the Bosnian conflict decides to visit the old Mardi castle in the north of Italy in 1995. But instead of wandering around exploring the fortress, he will meet a guide who will tell him all about the past: both his own and how he ended up as a refugee himself in Italy in 1948 and the tragic fate of the poet Enzo Strecci back in the 16th century.

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I had such high hopes for this story, especially since the blurb sounded really promising, but unfortunately the story fell completely flat for me. Between the writing style, lack of dept and development in both the plot and characters and the failed dual storyline, I had a hard time reading A Castle In Romagna. Although I keep wondering if some of its charm has been lost in translation.


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ARC REVIEW: The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One – by Amanda Lovelace @AndrewsMcMeel @ladybookmad

Title: The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One
(Women Are Some Kind Of Magic #2)
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Genre: Poetry, Non Fiction, Feminism
First published: March 6th 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: January 24th 2018
Pages: 208

“to be a

woman

is to be

warbound,

k n o w i n g

all the odds

are stacked

against you.

 

– & never giving up in spite of it.”

*** 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 know I don’t read poetry all that often, but I do enjoy reading poetry bundles every once in a while, especially if the topic speaks to me. I’ve heard lots and lots of wonderful things about Amanda Lovelace‘s powerful and feminist poems, and after a few teasers of her work, I was determined to find out what my own reaction to her work would be. And just like the bold red letters on an otherwise simple cover, The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One without doubt makes a statement. Not only did I instantly connect with her style of poetry and the way she expresses herself, but I could also relate to some of the topics she discusses in her poems. Powerful, enchanting, inspiring and so well represented in both the words and format of her work! There a trigger warnings involved for a wide selection of sensitive themes, but all used in a way that will hopefully encourage women to finally stand up for themselves and say ‘no more’. The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One simply blew me away and I can highly recommend it to fans of strong, empowering and feminist poetry. I can’t wait to read more of her work now!


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ARC REVIEW: The Camera Lies – by AB Morgan @Bloodhoundbook

Title: The Camera Lies
Author: AB Morgan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: February 3rd 2018
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Finished reading: January 26th 2018
Pages: 301

“Whoever said ‘the camera never lies’  was wrong.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I was immediately drawn to this psychological thriller and not just because of the cover. The whole TV angle sounded fascinated and made me want to add it to my wishlist straight away… And I have been looking forward to The Camera Lies ever since. There is no doubt that this thriller delivers. The fact that the main character is a TV presenter making documentaries investigating miscarriages of justice is refreshing and definitely makes The Camera Lies stand out from your typical psychological thrillers. This story goes full speed and never slows down… There is a lot of action involved in the plot and it will have some surprises in store for you. BUT. And here comes the reason I had to take away a star from what is otherwise a booming thriller: I was able to see a huge plot twist/revelation coming REALLY early on… And this kind of put a damper on the whole reading experience. I kept hoping I was wrong, and it might just be I read too many psychological thrillers in the first place, but I like being surprised and I was disappointed when I realized that my suspicions were right. Still, there were other elements that did manage to surprise me and the whole case is without doubt both intriguing, twisted and disturbing. Trigger warnings for adult content and graphic scenes! All in all I can definitely recommend The Camera Lies to those who like their psychological thrillers fast, action-packed and twisted.

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Konrad Neale is a TV presenter who is trying to have his comeback a series of documentaries that investigate miscarriages of justice. He and his team are currently working on the case of Matthew Hawley, a man who has been convicted of the brutal murder of his wife Helena. He remembers nothing of that evening and keeps insisting he would never have killed her willingly… Is he lying or is something more complicated at hand? And what about the threatening texts Konrad receives as they are investigating the case?

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There is no doubt that both the TV documentary angle and the murder case itself make The Camera Lies a very refreshing, intense and action-packed read. Even though I did see a mayor plot twist coming, there were other things I never would have guessed. There are some disturbing things going on for sure! The story reads superfast and you will be wondering what will happen next and how things will end until the very last page. Entertaining and thrilling for sure!


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ARC REVIEW: Best Friends – by Carys Jones @Aria_Fiction

Title: Best Friends
Author: Carys Jones

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: February 1st 2018
Publisher: Aria Fiction
Finished reading: January 24th 2018
Pages: 330

“Sometimes the reality doesn’t live up to the dream.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

Sometimes a book just speaks to you, and that was exactly the case when I first saw Best Friends mentioned. I was immediately intrigued by the blurb and decided to give this psychological thriller a go. Four friends, a big secret and only one week to find their way out of trouble? Sounds like a perfect recipe for an entertaining and suspenseful ride to me. Best Friends starts out fast-paced and strong and has without doubt a very interesting premise. The main characters and four friends all have their own personalities and the dynamics between them works quite well. Both the situation they suddenly find themselves in and the mystery around Grace’s past adds a whole lot of suspense to the mix… Although the main focus is on the ‘problem’ they will have to deal with. While there is quite some action involved, there is a lot of focus on the characters as well, so fans of character-driven psychological thrillers will enjoy this element of Best Friends. As far as the plot goes… To be honest, I’m not sure everything is all that believable. Especially as things start to escalate, I started wondering about the credibility of it all; both the situation they are in and the ‘solutions’ they are trying to find. I also felt the ending wrapped things up a little too nicely… But all in all this is without doubt still a fast-paced and entertaining psychological thriller read.

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Grace and her three best friends Jasper, Franklin and Aaron are flatmates living in London, trying desperately to make a living while also following their dreams. Things are not going as planned and they are quickly running out of money and hope… But then one night they find a suitcase in a skip with some very interesting content inside. They think their prayers have been answered, but things soon turned sour when someone ends up on their doorstep, claiming back what is, according to him, his. They have one week, or else they will have to pay with their lives…

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If you are looking for a fast-paced and entertaining psychological thriller that focuses on both the characters and the action, you have found a good balance in Best Friends. This thriller has an interesting premise and a lot of action, but the story isn’t solely about the ‘problem’ they have to deal with. The story also focuses on their friendship and how the complicated situation they are in might affect this relationship. Especially in the second half of the story might not be all that believable, but it is still a solid read if you don’t focus that much on the credibility of it all.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #14: Hide And Seek (ARC) & The New Hunger


Oh yes, it’s time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! And I’m happy to say that with today’s edition I will be finishing my last pending 2017 review; Hide And Seek by M.J. Arlidge is the (un)lucky book to win that title. No more backlog, woohoo!! It was an interesting enough thriller that can be read as a stand-alone as well. The New Hunger by Isaac Marion I finished earlier this month, a zombie novella that will hopefully make me get a copy of book number two some time this year (although I saw there is going to be a third book, so I might wait until there is more news about that one).


Title: Hide And Seek
(Helen Grace #6)
Author: M.J. Arlidge

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 8th 2016
Publisher: Berkley Books
Finished reading: October 14th 2017
Pages: 416

“In prison it is the hope that kills you, not despair.”

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


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I kind of messed up when I requested a copy of this one, because I totally didn’t realise Hide And Seek was actually book number six of a series. Oops? Thankfully (at least for me), Hide And Seek can also be read as a stand-alone without missing too much of the background information. What I liked in this thriller is the fact that the main character is actually a cop trapped inside a prison… Call that original! Helen Grace is framed for a murder she didn’t commit and now has to survive in a prison full of enemies; more than one inside thanks to her and they are not happy. This setting and plot makes for some very interesting reading and the writing only makes it easier to emerge yourself fully in the problems Helen Grace has to face while trying to survive. And it’s not just the daily life that is challenging, because on top of that there is a killer on the loose on the inside. Hide And Seek definitely ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to a thrilling read.


Title: The New Hunger
(Warm Bodies #1.5)
Author: Isaac Marion

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Horror
First published: January 28th 2013
Publisher: Atria
Finished reading: January 17th 2018 
Pages: 170

“Nothing is permanent. Not even the end of the world.”


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I read the first book Warm Bodies ages ago (read: 2015) and wasn’t aware a sequel came out last year until recently… So I thought it was about time I picked up the novella while I wait until there is more news on book three so I can read both sequels together. The New Hunger is a prequel novella and I think I actually enjoyed it better than the first book. It might have been because of the lack of romance in this one, but The New Hunger turned out to be quite an interesting read despite the fact I’m not really into zombie stories. The writing and pace make it into a superfast read and I enjoyed reading about the background of the Warm Bodies characters and how it is to survive in this dystopian world in the first place. Get ready for a bunch of zombie attacks, dystopian scenes and characters in survival-mode when you pick up this one! Short, but sweet with a healthy dose of fresh brains.


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