ARC REVIEW: The Killing Game – by J.S. Carol

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Title: The Killing Game
Author: J.S. Carol

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 11th 2016
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: February 22nd 2017
Pages: 380
Rating 4,5qqq

“It didn’t matter how sparkling the future was, the past always had a way of sneaking up on you when you least expected it.”

*** 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 actually feel REALLY bad I didn’t manage to read this title by J.S. Carol sooner, because I was supposed to pick it up over FOUR months ago… I guess book alone was enough punishment for that fact already, because this was one hell of an intense ride! The Killing Game is not just another fast-paced, action packed and intriguing thriller full of surprises. Sure, it has all those elements and more, but what is more important than that is the originality of the plot. After one too many crime thriller (don’t get me wrong; I love the genre), The Killing Game is like taking a refreshing dive in the sea on a hot summer day. Because instead of your typical thriller plot, this story is centered around a very messy and dangerous hostage situation. To make things even more interesting, you learn more about the POV of both the bad guy, the victims and the press as the situation evolves. This multifaceted aspect of The Killing Game made the story just that much more intense to read, and then I’m not even talking about the explosion of plot twists and excellent writing! I wasn’t sure about the Hollywood setting before I started reading this story, but I was easily convinced by the more than twisted start. I guess money really can’t buy you everything… If you are looking for an excellent and refreshing thriller you won’t be able to put down, this one is a great option.

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JJ Johnson is a very talented publicist and can make any problem just about disappear… But even her skills have a limit. When she is having lunch in a famous restaurant along with a few of Hollywood’s hottest stars, a masked and armed man walks in and takes them all hostage. The man is more than dangerous and carries a bomb; word soon spreads of the hostage situation and both the victims and the police will have to bargain for the lives of those inside the restaurant. Killing him is no option, because if his heart rate changes too much the bomb will go off… How will they be able to save everyone before it’s too late? The clock is ticking…

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I have to be honest and say I wasn’t sure about the Hollywood element at first, but it fit in brilliantly with the rest of the story. The famous characters work in perfect harmony with the whole hostage situation, press chaos and backstory in general, and I can garantuee you the ending will be a surprise. Well written, fast-paced, full of twists and impossible to put down; The Killing Game is without doubt an excellent thriller read!


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ARC REVIEW: Traitor To The Throne – by Alwyn Hamilton

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Title: Traitor To The Throne
(Rebel Of The Sands #2)
Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: January 31st 2017
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Finished reading: February 18th 2017
Pages: 528
Rating 4,5qqq

“But then, this was what the desert did to us. It made us dreamers with weapons.”

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

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I had heard a lot of great things about the first Rebel Of The Sands book, so when I saw a copy of the sequel at Netgalley I decided to go ahead and request it. When (to my surprise) the request was approved, I hurried to read the first book. And it was love at first chapter. Both the writing style, plot and characters managed to convince me right from the beginning, and I had an excellent time reading the first book. I was more than excited about Traitor To The Throne after that, and Alwyn Hamilton didn’t disappoint. This has without doubt become one of my new favorite fantasy series! Traitor To The Throne by no means suffers from the so-called ‘weak-second-book’ syndrome and was possibly even better than the first book. The writing, the worldbuilding, the plot, the characters, the magic… Everything just works. The sequel has a lot less desert and is mostly set inside the palace, but I personally liked the change of scenery. And despite the fact that the story doesn’t end in that big of a cliffhanger, it is going to be a long wait for the third book… Because I sure will be missing the main characters and their world in the mean time. If you like the genre, I can definitely recommend this series!

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Nearly a year has passed since that memorable day in Fahali… Amani has had time to get used to her powers during the months that passed, and both her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit and the Rebel Prince’s message have spread across the desert. Things are getting out of control, and Amani will soon find herself in a very complicated situation. One day, she finds herself stripped of her powers and identity, and Amani will have to rely on her desert instincts again to survive… Because the Sultan’s palace is a dangerous place. What will happen to Amani and the other rebels?

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When I start reading a new fantasy series, I’m always looking for a few key elements before I decide to continue with the sequel. The most important ones are: well written prose, excellent worldbuilding, interesting/likeable characters with a believable development and a little something extra that makes the story stand out from the rest. Rebel Of The Sands basically has it all, and the sequel is just as good as the first book. Amani is partly your typical strong female heroine, but I’ve grown to love her character and I like that she isn’t just a strong desert girl with great weapon skills, but also has her ‘special’ powers. I will definitely be looking forward to the third book next year!


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ARC REVIEW: Little Girl Lost – by Carol Wyer

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Title: Little Girl Lost
(DI Robyn Carter #1)
Author: Carol Wyer

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: January 19th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: February 10th 2017
Pages: 412
Rating 4qqq

“It’s a gift of the truth. Lies harm. Lies hurt. The truth liberates. You should try it sometime. In fact, you should try it now before it’s too late.”

*** 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 always have a weak spot for a good psychological thriller, so even though I shouldn’t have, I requested a copy of Little Girl Lost anyway after hearing a lot of great things about it. This book by Carol Wyer is the first book of a new detective series and I’m glad I listened to the positive reviews. It’s without doubt a worthy psychological thriller! The writing style is really enjoyable to read and there were lots and lots of plot twists to enjoy. The new main character of this series surely stumbles across some very disturbed and twisted characters during her first appearance! Robyn Carter is your typical DI main character with cliche messed up past and impressive detective skills, but I’ve grown to like her during the story. It wasn’t love at first sight, but I will be looking forward to find out what happens to her in the future. Some of the other characters were on the border of annoying, but I guess some of them are supposed to be unlikeable/unreliable in the first place. The plot itself was a mix of messed up, intriguing, shocking with a healthy dose of paranoia. I’m sure most of the twists and revelations will surprise you, even though (part of) the ending was a little predictable. If you are looking for an entertaining, well written and twisted psychological thriller, Little Girl Lost is without doubt a great choice.

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A teacher goes missing under suspicious circumstances and a millionaire is murdered during a run, but there doesn’t seem to be an obvious link between the men. Detective Robyn Carter has just returned to the force and told to work on the cases. When she starts her investigation, things don’t exactly add up. Her investigations lead her to Abigail, a woman with a seemingly perfect life and a beautiful little daughter Izzy. Robyn has the feeling the woman is hiding something though… What is Abigails connection to the victims? And why is someone threatening Abigail?

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Little Girl Lost doesn’t only belong to one of my favorite genres, it also involves a serial killer. It might sound weird, but serial killer thrillers truly fascinate me… And the killer in this one definitely is a ‘beauty’. Twisted, disturbed, messed up childhood and a touch of humanity, all put together in a huge bowl of REVENGE: that is basically the description of the perp in Little Girl Lost. The true identity is hidden for a long time, although it’s quite easy to guess who it is before you reach the ending. A lot of the other twists will definitely shock/surprise you and if you are looking for a gripping psychological thriller I can definitely recommend this one.


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ARC REVIEW: The Impossible Fortress – by Jason Rekulak

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Title: The Impossible Fortress
Author: Jason Rekulak

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: February 7th 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: February 3rd 2017
Pages: 304
Rating 4,5qqq

“So we stood up there for a long while, watching the sunset and discussing how it was one of those things you could never truly capture in 8-bit, not with the simplistic definition of violet (CHR$(156)), orange (CHR$(129)), and yellow (CHR$(158)). There were too many other colors, thousands of colors. The hardware could never do justice to it.”

*** 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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The Impossible Fortress caught my attention the very first time I laid my eyes on it, and not just because of the colorful cover. I love feel-good stories and this debut by Jason Rekulak promised to be chock full of 80s nostalgia and flashbacks. I’m a 90s child myself, but I guess I was born close enough to the the year the story was set in (I was only minus one!) to be able to connect to the story instantly. It’s simply such a brilliant read! I completely fell in love with the writing style, plot and characters and it’s just such a great feel-good story… I loved the computer/nerd talk and it definitely brought back memories of my childhood where I taped radio songs, had to use floppy disks and didn’t have internet access to write quick messages. I loved all characters, although Billy and Mary have just a little extra magic about them… And the plot of The Impossible Fortress is almost endearing as the three boys mess up again and again during their ‘mission’ to get a copy of the Playboy. I had so much fun reading this coming of age story and I can recommend it to any contemporary fan! A huge bonus: you can actually play the game that is created by the main characters at jasonrekulak.com!

shortsummary1reviewqqqIt’s 1987 and the Playboy has just published photos of Vanna White, popular for her role in the TV game show Wheel Of Fortune. The three teenage friends Billy, Alf and Clark don’t know a thing about women and the Playboy is almost like a Holy Grail for them: they are desperate to get their hands on a copy of the Vanna White photos and decide to create a plan to steal a copy of that month’s Playboy. But stealing a copy isn’t all that easy and the boys fail and fail again… Then they think up a new masterplan: swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience story by seducing the owner’s daughter Mary. It’s up to Billy to become close to the girl and get the information they need, but Billy might need Mary for other skills instead. She loves computers and is actually a way better coder than Billy is… Mary might be able to save the game Billy is creating, but he is soon faced with the tough choice to either deceive Mary or break a promis to his best friends.

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If you are looking for a well written coming of age story that will bury you under a crate full of nostalgic feelings and 80s flashbacks, you have found your next read. The Impossible Fortress is basically a time machine in book form and will make you feel as if you went thirty years back in time… I was hooked right from the first page and both the writing style and main characters were simply lovely. I had so much fun reading this story!


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ARC REVIEW: Missing – by Monty Marsden

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Title: Missing
Author: Monty Marsden

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Aria
Finished reading: February 1st 2017
Pages: 266
Rating 2,5qqq

“Patience is like a tree – the roots are bitter, but the fruits are most sweet.”

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

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This story was actually published over two months ago, but somehow it got mixed up with other ARCs and I didn’t read it on time. Oops? I always have a weak spot for a good thriller and I have an (unhealthy?) obsession for stories about serial killers. Add an Italian setting and I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Missing. The author Monty Marsden is actually Italian; something I didn’t realize immediately, but it shows in the detailed descriptions and this book is in fact actually a translation. I was completely ready to dive into this serial killer mystery, but I ended up taking a very long time to finish it. I’m not sure if part of the essence of this story is lost in translation, but it all just felt way too chaotic and it took a long time before things started to make sense for me. The many POV switches distracted from the main plot and had me confused which characters were actually important in the story. That said, the introduction of Claps, suffering from aphasia (the struggle to comprehend and use words and verbal expressions) added a whole different level to the plot. He is a truly fascinating character and I enjoyed following his development. All in all Missing is not the best mystery I’ve read, although part might have been lost in translation and it did have its charm.

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Ami lives with her family in a little village in Lombardy, a seemingly safe and dusty place. But that is until one day Ami steps out of her house to go to school and never comes back nor did she ever make it to school. Her father raises the alarm and they start an immediate search for the little girl. Police Commisioner Sensi leads the investigation, and they seem to have found a trail straight away. But three months later, they still haven’t found Ami and they don’t have a solid lead as to what happened to her. Sensi decides to talk to his old friend Dr. Claps, a renowned criminologist who had to retire after suffering from aphasia. Because Ami doesn’t seem to be the only little girl who went missing, and Sensi needs all the help he can get to solve the mystery…

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I was really looking forward to Missing, especially after I found out about its Italian setting and the involvement of a serial killer. It’s not that the case itself isn’t intriguing and I really enjoyed the setting, but I somehow I had a really hard time reading this story. It just all felt chaotic with too many different characters/POVs being introduced without a proper connection… And I had a hard time understanding the relevance of some of the chapters. Things started to make sense later on in the story, but for me it was too little too late. Missing is a story with a lot of potential and interesting characters, and I kind of wish my Italian would be good enough to read the original version just to see if it was just the translation that let me down…


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ARC REVIEW: Making Faces – by Amy Harmon

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Title: Making Faces
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 12th 2013
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Finished reading: January 28th 2017
Pages: 405
Rating 5qqq

“I don’t think we get answers to every question. We don’t get all the whys. But I think when we look back to the end of our lives, if we do the best we can, and we will see that the things we begged God to take from us, the things we cursed him for, the things that made us turn our backs on him, are the things that were the biggest blessings, the biggest opportunities for growth.”

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

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It’s been over two weeks since I finished reading Making Faces and I still find it difficult to put my thoughts properly on paper. It doesn’t happen all that often, but Amy Harmon was able to give me another book hang over with this little masterpiece. I’m ashamed to admit I have only recently discovered her work, but I’ve already become addicted to her lovely prose and diverse plots. Making Faces is no exception. I had already heard great things about this book and I basically broke down the request button as soon as I saw it was available at Netgalley. All the raving reviews were absolutely right: this story is simply brilliant. I fell in love with both the characters, writing style and plot and this story will definitely stay with me for quite some time. Sure, some of it might be a little cheesy if you think about it critically. But if you have characters like Fern, Bailey and Ambrose, it is really easy to put those thoughts aside. I loved the war veteran elements as well; it’s such an important topic and definitely deserves more attention, especially as they are often misunderstood by society. As you might have guessed already, I simply adored Making Faces and I can definitely recommend it to any contemporary fan. I promise you that you will fall in love with the characters and their story! This new edition published by Spencer Hill Press later this month has some nifty bonus content as well.

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Ambrose Young’s looks and talent have made him really popular during his high school years. He isn’t just tall, muscular and good at sports, he also seems to have walked right off the cover of one of those romance novels. Fern Taylor should know, because she has been reading them since she was thirteen. Fern has had a crush on him for years, but she isn’t exactly the ‘prettiest’ girl in town and she doesn’t think Ambrose would ever look at her that way. But life isn’t just about physical attraction and works in funny ways. After the 9/11 attacks, Ambrose and his four friends decide to join the cause and were sent off to war. Only one comes back… And the whole town struggles to deal with the loss; each in their own way.

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I kind of feel I’m not doing the story justice with this summary, but I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot… This line in the blurb describes the general idea behind Making Faces beautifully though: “a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us“. It’s contemporary romance with a healthy dose of realistic fiction, a cup of tears and mixed with lovely characters and a very important topic. I basically loved everything about it and this story has confirmed Amy Harmon is one of my new favorite authors.


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ARC REVIEW: Blink – by K.L. Slater

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Title: Blink
Author: K.L. Slater

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: February 16th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: January 26th 2017
Pages: 295
Rating 4,5qqq

“You don’t always know how you’re going to react to a sudden tragedy breaking your life into little pieces.”

*** 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 have been looking forward to read another K.L. Slater book ever since I finished Safe With Me last year, and this second book simply blew me away. Her debut psychological thriller was already good, but Blink was just BRILLIANT. Basically I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time trying to figure out what was going on, and I ended up being SO wrong about everything. This title is without doubt psychological thriller at its best! Excellent prose, excellent plot and plot twists, excellent use of suspense, excellent character development… Blink has all the right ingredients for a great story. The main characters are maybe not all that likeable, but I personally didn’t care. The fact that the main character seems to be paralyzed and in coma but is actually awake is truly fascinating and adds another excellent plot twist to the story. I loved every single minute of Blink and it doesn’t happen often that a plot is able to mislead me that much. More than recommended if you like the genre!

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Three years ago, Toni’s five-year-old daughter Evie disappeared after school. The police were never able to find a trace of the little girl; there were no witnesses or evidence to give them a solid lead. But Toni belives her daughter is still alive. And as she begins to piece together her memories of the events around her daughter’s disappearance, the full story of her past begins to reveal itself… Will Toni find a way to make herself heard and find her daughter before it’s too late?

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This title will definitely appear on my list of favorite psychological thrillers. Blink basically has everything I look for in a good thriller and I enjoyed every single minute of it. The ‘paralyzed’ chapters and the flashbacks are without doubt intriguing and add an extra original touch… The plot twists are excellent and had me guessing until the very end. Some of them are so shocking you would have never seen them coming!


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