ARC REVIEW: Fierce Kingdom – by Gin Phillips @VikingBooks

Title: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 25th 2017
Publisher: Viking
Finished reading: August 20th 2017 
Pages: 288

“Templates are dangerous. Templates teach you not to think. History doesn’t repeat itself, Rob. Every second is a new thing.”

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

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I have been eyeing this story for a while now, so when I found out it was in the Read Now section on Netgalley I couldn’t resist hitting that button. There was just something about that cover and blurb that kept calling to me… And I’m definitely glad I took the time to read Fierce Kingdom. Despite the fact I didn’t give it the highest rating on the planet, Fierce Kingdom is without doubt a very suspenseful, refreshing and entertaining psychological thriller that reads like a train. I found myself literally flying through the pages and finished it in less than a day! The writing has a way of drawing you in and I loved the setting in a zoo. Very refreshing and original! The story follows Joan, her son and a bunch of other characters trying to find a way to keep safe in a very chaotic and dangerous situation. There are quite a few twists involved and danger is never far away, but Fierce Kingdom isn’t just about the suspense. It is also about the bond between Joan and her son and how far she will go to protect him. And there is were the part comes in that made me lower the rating: the credibility. I’m not sure if the whole situation is actually credible and I wasn’t sure about the decisions Joan made either or how things developed. Some of it just felt pretty chaotic and all over the place… BUT. Somehow I still managed to enjoy reading this story anyway. This has a lot to do with the writing, the refreshing and original plot and the constant presence of danger and suspense as you keep reading to find out what will happen to them. So while I ended up giving Fierce Kingdom ‘only’ three stars, it is a very good three stars for me. And I’m sure this book will be a right fit for those who are not affected by the credibility and are looking for a refreshing psychological thriller with a healthy dose of suspense and a touch of drama.

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Joan and her four-year-old son spend a lot of time in the zoo and today is not different. The zoo is already nearly empty as they pack up their things and start heading back to the entrance… It has been a perfect day so far and the two are happy, but suddenly the mood changes. At first there are strange sounds, and then Joan sees something when they are approaching the exit gate that chills her to the bone. She sprints right back into the zoo with her son in her arms… And for the next three hours she will have to do everything to keep them both safe.

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I’ve kept the summary short to avoid spoilers, but trust me, you will want to know what is happening in the zoo and how things develop. While I had problems with the credibility of it all, I did very much enjoy reading Fierce Kingdom and I could really appreciate the refreshing plot and the fact that it isn’t just another psychological thriller. The focus on the bond between Joan and her son was interesting and added a whole different level to this story. Definitely one to keep in mind.


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ARC REVIEW: Girl In Snow – by Danya Kukafka

Title: Girl In Snow
Author: Danya Kukafka

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 1st 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: August 16th 2017
Pages: 368

“Emotions shouldn’t have names. I don’t know why we bother talking about them, because emotions are never what they’re supposed to be.”

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

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I was actually invited to read this title a while back, and I was intrigued by both the cover and blurb. I was really looking forward to Girl In Snow, but unfortunately I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as I initially thought I would. This was actually the second time I picked up my copy, because somehow the first time I never made it past the first few pages. Because there is just something about the writing style that makes it quite hard to connect to it if you aren’t in the right mood, making it hard to stay focused on the story itself. I do have to say things went a lot better the second time around and after getting used to the writing style Girl In Snow turned out to be quite a fast read. That said, I can’t deny there was something about the way the story was written that didn’t manage to convince me completely. Because I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who felt slightly confused by the what, who and how in the beginning. Things did get better when more information is given, although I do wish Girl In Snow would have been more focused on the actual plot and less on the different characters. Unfortunately I was never able to connect to the three main characters or their POVs used to tell the story and the victim Lucinda for me lacks developments to properly care about her. That said, I did appreciate the descriptions of Jade and Cameron and their issues; they seem quite realistic. I wasn’t sure about the credibility in general though or the way everything was connected… But Girl In Snow is a fast read and has quite a few twists you probably won’t see coming. The memory loss of Cameron was an interesting touch as well.

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The teenage Lucinda Hayes is found murdered one winter morning in 2005 and it seems the whole town is affected by her death. Cameron, Jade and Russ are each somehow connected to her life or the aftermath of Lucinda’s death and will have to confront their secrets to find out the truth about what happened to Lucinda… Because things are not what they seem and if they don’t try to face their problems, the truth may never come out.

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I really wanted to enjoy this story, but unfortunately I did stumble upon a few problems that made it harder for me to actually enjoy the reading experience. I’m not saying the writing is bad at all, but I do think it is something that either works for you or it doesn’t. Once I got used to it, Girl In Snow did turn out to be quite a fast read and there were some aspects and themes I really liked. Cameron is quite an interesting character both because of his memory loss and mental health issues. I can’t say I actually liked the characters and I wasn’t sure if some aspects of the plot and connections were completely credible, but the right person will probably love this story.


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ARC REVIEW: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore – by Matthew Sullivan @arrowpublishing

Title: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore
Author: Matthew Sullivan

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: August 24th 2017
Publisher: Cornerstone
Finished reading: August 15th 2017
Pages: 336

“I’ve begun to think of it as more graveyard than library. End of the line, you know. Where book-of-the-month club comes to die.”

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

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I always have a weak spot for any book with bookish references or a story that is at least partially set in a bookstore. So as you can imagine, basically Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore had me at the title. This book has been on my list of most anticipated releases ever since I first heard about for it and I’ve been looking forward to read it for ages now. And I can tell you one thing: this novel by Matthew Sullivan doesn’t disappoint. Or more accurately, I enjoyed every single page of this ‘contemporary puzzle and murder mystery in one’. Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore isn’t just another bookish book and actually presents two different mysteries to solve. The first is related to the suicide of one of the bookshop patrons and the other to what happened to one of the clerks twenty years ago. The plot is intriguing and well developed; the plot twists and revelations well balanced and I enjoyed solving the puzzles along with the characters. This book definitely has some surprises in store! The writing style had me hooked from the very first page and was both highly enjoyable, engaging and made it very hard to stop reading before reaching the final page. The bookish references are a true delight for any booklover and I love the role books play in this story in general. The mystery is also well done and there were definitely things I didn’t see coming. You might start wondering about coincidences and some things seem pretty ‘convenient’, but I personally didn’t care. Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore will go straight to my list of favorites!

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Lydia Smith works as a clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore and tries to live a quiet life among her books and the BookFrogs; the regulars who spend their days in the bookstore browsing its shelves. But then one of the BookFrogs, Joey Molina, kills himself in the bookstore. Lydia was Joey’s favorite bookseller and she inherited his meager possessions… And when Lydia flips through his books, she discovers he has destroyed them in a way that is both intriguing and disturbing. Why did Joey do this and what does it mean? Did he want to leave her a message?

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I have been looking forward to this title for a while now and it was without doubt just as good or even better than hoped. I had such a great time reading Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore and the two mysteries/puzzles that are included are both fascinating and well executed. The bookish elements are a true delight and I had a great time discovering more about Joey and Lydia, their past and their development. The writing is wonderful as well and made me fly through the pages… All in all I can highly recommend this title.


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ARC REVIEW: Reincarnation Blues – by Michael Poore

Title: Reincarnation Blues
Author: Michael Poore

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
First published: August 22nd 2017
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Finished reading: August 12th 2017
Pages: 384

“Death was a door. You went through it over and over, but it still terrified people.”

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

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This book isn’t exactly what I would normally pick up, but there was just something about the cover and blurb of Reincarnation Blues that caught my attention and made me want to read it. Reading books out of my comfort zone can go either way, but all in all this novel by Michael Poore turned out to be a little gem. The first thing that stood out when I started reading Reincarnation Blues was the writing style. I fell in love almost immediately with the way this story was told and I found myself completely absorbed into this piece of speculative fiction with a sci-fi twist. This story is about a man called Milo who is reincarnated through many many lifetimes set both in the past, present and future. He is now about to start life number 9.996… Just when he finds out he only has five more lives to get it right and reach Perfection. The chapters are a mix of what happens during these lives, what happens in between and how he fell in love with Death herself.  Some lives are told in more detail while others seem less important, but they all help develop his character in a very fascinating way. Basically you can say Reincarnation Blues is a collection of connecting short stories about the different lives Milo lives and how his actions influence his next life. The romance is subtle, very well done and didn’t bother me at all; the wordbuilding of the different world in between fascinating. I personally didn’t enjoy some of the chapters set in the future (for example chapter 14, which is set in a prison in space) as much as the rest of the story, but that could have been just me not being into full-blown science fiction in the first place. The wonderful writing and rest of the story in general mostly made up for those feelings though. Reincarnation Blues isn’t for everyone, but it is a truly fascinating read that I can definitely recommend if you think this sounds like your cup of tea!

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Milo has been reincarnated nearly 10.000 times when he finds out he only has five more lives to get it right and reach Perfection so he can become part of the Oversoul. He is not sure he truly wants this though because it might affect his relationship withhis one true love: Death herself. They only see each other in between lives and he can’t imagine having to continue without her… But Milo doesn’t seem to have any other option than to try his best, because if he doesn’t get it right before the deadline, his soul will vanish forever. His lives take him from ancient India to outer space to Renaissance Italy to the present day in the hope of finally living that perfect life. Will he be able to reach that goal in time?

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Reincarnation Blues isn’t the type of book I normally pick up, but sometimes browsing outside your comfort zone can bring some very pleasant surprises. This book turned out to be a hidden gem and I really enjoyed following Milo’s story as he lives his lives through time and space. Some chapters were a bit too futuristic for me, but that is probably mostly me since sci-fi isn’t really my genre in the first place. The writing was wonderful though as well as the rest of the story.


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ARC REVIEW: Dead To Me – by Stephen Edger @bookouture

Title: Dead To Me
(Detective Kate Matthews #1)
Author: Stephen Edger

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 17th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: August 10th 2017
Pages: 352

“A rush of adrenaline swept over her. Nothing ever quite compared to the buzz of a new crime scene, an untouched puzzle fresh out of the box.”

*** 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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!! Happy publication day !!

I think just about everybody already knows by now just how hard I find it to resist a Bookouture thriller… Dead To Me by Stephen Edger was no exception to that rule. This book had me at the cover and the mention of a serial killer and I was initially very excited about this title. But then mixed reviews started popping up, and my excitement turned into worry. What if I didn’t like the story either? I posponed picking it up for longer than I would have liked, but finally did read it last week. And I was pleasantly surprised by what I initially found when I started Dead To Me. There is no doubt that Stephen Edger‘s writing style is very engaging and draws you right in. The plot itself is well developed and intruiging with a lot of plot twists that will keep you guessing for a long time. And that serial killer! Very twisted indeed and there were things I didn’t see coming at all. This all sounds very positive, so why the lowish rating? One word: Kate. Basically, the main character Kate ruined what could have been a great and intense thriller for me. I absolutely despised her! The way she treats her daughter, doesn’t care about her safety and even forgets she’s there at times… Not caring about police protocol, doing whatever she wants without considering the consequences, endangering others, undermining active murder investigations… And I can go on with that list if I want to. Ugh! It’s a shame one character can influence my opinion about a story that much…  But I personally found it really hard to keep tolerating Kate AND enjoying Dead To Me at the same time, especially since she plays such a big role in the story and the developments in the plot. As I said before, the writing is GOOD, the plot intense and twisty and this first book of a new detective series has a lot of potential. Unfortunately my dislike for the main character will stop me from continuing this series… I have seen others not being all that bothered by Kate though, so give this book a chance if the things about Kate I mentioned above don’t curl your toes.

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Detective Kate Matthews is called in to investigate the brutal murder of a woman, who was found in an abandoned bar near the Southampton docks. Kate still hasn’t recovered from her role in the death of a close colleague, and is told she must solve the case to prove she is still up for a leading role. Her team keeps hitting dead ends, until Kate discovers something that will blow not one but various cases wide open… But nobody seems to believe her findings or theory, and that leaves her with a very difficult decision.

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There is a lot to love in Dead To Me and I would probably have given it a lot higher rating if it wouldn’t have been for the main character Kate. Sadly I couldn’t ignore the fact that she is the most important character of this new series and the whole story is told around her… And it’s really hard to properly enjoy a story when you absolutely despise the main character, no matter how good the writing and plot are. The writing, plot, twists and intense feel were more than promising and I do hope there will be a ‘Kate-less’ thriller by his hand in the future.


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ARC REVIEW: The Other Girl – by Erica Spindler @StMartinsPress

Title: The Other Girl
Author: Erica Spindler

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 22nd 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: August 8th 2017
Pages: 352

“She’d left everyone from those days behind – everyone except that girl she had been. All these years,carrying her around like an invisible anchor.

The girl she had been.”

*** 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 was personally invited to read this title a while back and since I’ve read and enjoyed Erica Spindler‘s work in the past the answer was an easy one. I’ve been looking forward to pick up The Other Girl ever since and I can say now the actual story is just as good as the cover. This new stand-alone thriller starts out strong and stays that way until the very end. The storyline switches between flashbacks of what happened to the main character and now officer Miranda about fourteen years ago and you slowly learn how these events are or aren’t connected to the present. I personally wasn’t a fan of Miranda, but her character development is interesting and it was intriguing how she was trying to put the past behind her and change her life. The writing style draws you right in and had me hooked almost instantly. A little warning for the more sensitive readers, because some of the scenes can be called pretty disturbing and graphic. Because boy, they have one heck of a case on their hands! There are a lot of twists and intrigue included in The Other Girl, although I did start to suspect the who and why quite early on. This put only a tiny damper on my reading experience though, since this thriller is so well written and action-packed that the journey alone makes it a worthy read. If you like a good crime thriller with a twist, The Other Girl is a great choice!

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Officer Miranda Rader has a dodgy past, but she has worked hard for years to leave the girl she used to be behind and earn respect as an officer of the Hammond PD in Louisiana. But when Miranda and her partner are made part of the investigation of the murder of one of the most beloved college professors of the town, her past might just be back to haunt her. Because the murder isn’t just gruesome, but seems to be connected to her personally when she finds a faded newspaper clipping at the scene. What is happening and who is behind the murder? Things are about to become very complicated…

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I had high expectations for The Other Girl and there is no doubt this story has met these expectations. The strong start had me hooked right from the beginning and I liked the balance between the flashbacks to the past and the present. Miranda isn’t exactly likeable, but her character development is well done and there is no doubt she is an interesting one. I did see the ending coming quite early, but still had an excellent time reading The Other Girl.


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ARC REVIEW: Hide And Seek – by Richard Parker @Bookwalter @bookouture

Title: Hide And Seek
Author: Richard Parker

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 31st 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: August 4th 2017
Pages: 393 

“Right Where You’re Standing – RWYS – was her indispensable app. It was dubbed the ‘Wikipedia of Death’.”

*** 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 was going to stay away from Netgalley for a while, but sometimes a new title pops up that is just too hard to resist (I’m looking at you, Bookouture!). After highly enjoying Richard Parker‘s previous book, I just HAD to request Hide And Seek as soon as I saw it. In fact, I picked it up the very same day my request was approved! As I already expected (and hoped for), I found myself hooked right from the very first page. Richard Parker has a way of crime thriller writing that draws you right in and doesn’t let you go once he has your attention. Hide And Seek starts with a bang and stays that way until the very end, and was just the fast-paced, entertaining, somewhat dark and disturbing thriller I was looking for. The plot is both interesting, slightly twisted and quite intense… The use of the Right Where You’re Standing (RWYS) app as part of the plot and plot twists is an interesting and original touch; cybercrime is something we are becoming more and more aware of these days and I liked how this element was incorporated into the story. The many plot twists kept you on the edge of your seat wondering about the who, what and why… And the journey itself was something to look forward to. The only thing that slightly bothered me were the characters. Lana seems a bit hysterical and paranoid (even though I admit she isn’t in an easy situation to begin with) and I didn’t always agree with Todd’s actions and the way everyone handled the situation in general. Sometimes I wondered about the credibility of the parents really being this involved in an active investigation? This doesn’t take away the fact that I was still able to thoroughly enjoy this serial killer/kidnapping rollercoaster ride and fans of the genre will be in for a treat.

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Lana and Todd’s little family has never been the same after an attempted kidnapping of their four-year-old son Cooper a few months ago… But when they win a free trip to the Blue Crest Adventure Park, they grab the chance to escape thier home with both hands. Cooper couldn’t have been more excited about this vacation and the three seem to be having a good time even though Lana is worried. It turns out she was right… Because somehow their happy vacation turns into a nightmare. Lana has to take a phonecall and is distracted for just a little while, and when she goes to meet them both Todd and Cooper are gone. Todd is quickly found, although injured, but there is no trace of Cooper… Until they watch the security cameras. Who took Cooper and what do they want? And what does it have to do with the Right Where You’re Standing app?

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If you enjoy reading fast-paced, intense and slightly twisted thrillers, you will definitely be in a treat reading Hide And Seek. This story will have you in its claws right from the very first page and trust me, it will be very hard to stop reading before you reach the final page. Hide And Seek is a kidnapping story with a twist and a LOT of action and suspense. The only thing I wasn’t sure about involved the characters, but that was only minor compared to the rest of the story. Recommended!


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