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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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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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: Come Tumbling Down – by Seanan McGuire @torbooks

Title: Come Tumbling Down
(Wayward Children #5)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: January 7th 2020
Publisher: Tor
Finished reading: January 2nd 2020 
Pages: 160

“For people like her students – people like Eleanor herself – belief was the rarest gift of all.”

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

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I’ve been a Wayward Children fan ever since I read the first book back in 2018, and each sequel so far has only reconfirmed my love for this series. I’ve been waiting impatiently for book number five ever since I finished In An Absent Dream last year, so of course I was over the moon when my request for Come Tumbling Down was actually approved and I was offered the chance to read this sequel a few days early. I literally dropped everything I was doing and devoured this little gem in a matter of hours after it appeared on my kindle… And guess what? I have just found a new favorite Wayward Children installment!

Oh yes, I already loved my previous meetings with Eleanor West’s students, but there was just something about Come Tumbling Down that made me love this newest adventure even more. From the very first pages to the last, I was completely under the spell of both the writing, plot and characters. First of all a disclaimer: this is definitely a series you need to read in order, because you will both be missing out on crucial information about characters and their worlds as well as finding yourself spoilers for the previous adventures otherwise. Trust me: you won’t regret reading them, as every single one has been fantastic so far in the first place… That said, in Come Tumbling Down we return to the horror world of Jack and Jill, a world we first learned about in the second book Down Among The Sticks And Bones. A selection of other students make their appearance as well as they join Jack on a new quest when she returns to ask for help. You will find multiple references to the previous books along the way, both regarding the characters and the things that happened… I personally loved those little reminders and it definitely made me want to binge reread all books together to see if I remembered everything right.

I have loved the worldbuilding behind this series since the beginning, with the students finding doors to different worlds and afterwards being trapped in the real world again. Regular fiction is mixed with fantasy and it has been fascinating to learn more about the different worlds the students once belonged to and now want to return to. Each world is unique in its own way, and the Moors Jack and Jill traveled to is without doubt one of the most brutal ones. Like the second book, Come Tumbling Down is essentially a very dark read with quite a few horror elements; those including the vampire and mad scientist references. It was absolutely fascinating to learn more about how the Moors exactly work, with its electricity and the delicate balance between the different powers at play.

As for the characters… Most characters we already know, and meeting up with them again felt like meeting up with old friends. The main characters in general are easy to like and being able to see them evolve over time has been a true pleasure. We have some new characters as well, including Alexis and Gideon, and I liked what they added to the plot. The plot itself is quite complex for a story this short, but well rounded and with an ending that is without doubt satisfying. I loved every single minute with Come Tumbling Down and I already know it will appear on my list of 2020 favorites even this early on in the year. Oh yes, it’s THAT good! Simply electrifying.


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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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