ARC REVIEW: The Lying Game – by Ruth Ware @vintagebooks

Title: The Lying Game
Author: Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 15th 2017
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Finished reading: August 1st 2017
Pages: 352

“I hate lying. It used to be fun – until I didn’t have a choice.”

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

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The truth is I have been wanting to read one of Ruth Ware‘s books for ages and I was actually going to read one of her other titles first, but decided to tackle The Lying Game instead due to mixed reviews. I guess I didn’t want the other books to possibly spoil my reading experience for this one… I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying The Lying Game despite a few things I wasn’t happy about. What became clear very early on is that I was going to love the writing style. I was hooked right from the first chapter and even though the story itself isn’t as fast-paced as I would have liked, it was the writing style that still made me thoroughly enjoy The Lying Game. I liked the mystery around what happened all those years ago and what the friends are hiding. I had my suspicions on the lies and secrets of the group, but I wasn’t able to guess the full truth until the very end. What did bother me considerably were the characters. I wasn’t able to connect to any of them and this made this more character driven story a lot more difficult to love. One of the characters stood out painfully for me: Isa. I actually despise her for how she treats both her baby daughter and husband and was starting to feel more and more frustrated as things went further. And it’s clear that these feelings have influenced my experience negatively. I wasn’t sure what to think of the ending either… But like I said before, what probably saved this story for me was the writing style. This alone has made me look forward to her other stories now!

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When a human bone is found in the seemingly idyllic coastal village of Salten, it causes a unexpected and uncomfortable reunion for four childhood friends. They hadn’t seen each other for years, but one message from Kate and they all come back, knowing perfectly well what she is so worried about. The four have been hiding secrets and covering everything in lies for years, but things are slowly starting to unravel… Will they be able to stop the truth from coming out? What would happen if it does?

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Now I’ve read The Lying Game I can see why it has been receiving mixed reviews. I haven’t read her other books yet, so I can’t compare, but if the writing style is anything close as good as in The Lying Game I can see why the plot and characters could be a disappointment. The characters were highly unlikeable and to be honest the whole unreliable narrator theme is getting old. Unreliable or not, my main issue was with Isa and the despicable way she treats her baby, her husband and people in general. Not liking the characters made it a lot harder to enjoy this more character driven and rather slow paced thriller… I still quite enjoyed the ride though, mostly because the writing style had me seriously hooked.


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BOOK REVIEW: Now You See Me – by Sharon Bolton

Title: Now You See Me
(Lacy Flint #1)
Author: Sharon Bolton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 7th 2011
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Finished reading: July 22nd 2017
Pages: 400

“But I learned something that night. When everything else is slipping away, pride is one thing you cling on to.”

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I know, I know, I’m exceptionally late when it comes to the whole Sharon Bolton party, especially since her books belong to one of my favorite genres. It took me long enough, but I can now finally say I’ve read at least one of her books. At least, because I will definitely be picking up more of her work even though I expected to be giving Now You See Me a higher rating than I did. Because before I continue with my review, I have to make clear that this first book of the Lacey Flint series has probably suffered from the fact that I’m currently in some sort of a slump and can’t seem to love any book right now. Should I have posponed my first experience with her work? Maybe. But Now You See Me has still given me a very good idea of the sheer quality of her work and there is definitely a lot to love in this first book of a series I will continue (hopefully) some time soon. This book had me at serial killer and once I saw Jack The Ripper mentioned I started jumping up and down out of excitement. I just love how this old case plays such a big role in the story! And it surely shows just how well Sharon Bolton has investigated the original crimes and many theories about the identity of the killer. Now You See Me is a well written crime thriller in general with a lot of twists that will keep you guessing… Although I do have to say I was never able to warm up to Lacey and the whole bantering between Joesbury and her started to get annoying. Also, the whole mystery around Lacey’s character and the twists and misformation in the final part of the story sort of had the opposite effect on me and I mostly felt confused and frustrated instead of on the edge of my seat. Does something like a ‘plot twist overkill’ exist? Part of the problem was most likely me though and I’m definitely planning on reading the sequel some time soon.

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As young detective Lacey Flint is exiting the apartment complex after interviewing a reluctant witness, she stumbles onto a women who has just been brutally stabbed moments before on the parking lot. Lacey suddenly finds herself involved in a murder case, and her role as witness will soon turn into something a whole lot more complicated… Because not even twenty-four hours later, a reporter receives an anonymous letter pointing out the similarities between the case and Jack The Ripper’s first murder… And the letter mentions Lacey by name. Why is her name mentioned? Is she a suspect? And is there really a new Jack The Ripper out there determined to recreate the original murders?

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Like I said before, I’m probably partly to blame for the slightly lower rating than expected. But there is no doubt that Now You See Me is the start of what is promising to be a very interesting crime thriller series and I will be looking forward to pick up the next book even though I haven’t been able to warm up to Lacey yet. Sharon Bolton‘s writing style makes it very enjoyable to read her story and I can’t wait to pick up more of her books.


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ARC REVIEW: Each Little Lie – by Tom Bale @t0mbale @bookouture

Title: Each Little Lie
Author: Tom Bale

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 29th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 25th 2017
Pages: 417

“How do I prove my innocence, when all this evidence says I’m guilty?”

*** 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’ve been looking forward to read another Tom Bale thriller ever since I finished reading All Fall Down last year, so I was stoked when I heard a new thriller was going to be published. What stands out as soon as you start reading the first page is the writing style and how easily Each Little Lie is able to grab your full attention. And not only that, but Tom Bale is a master of plot twists and is able to leave you absolutely clueless about the what and why of the things that are happening to the main character Jen. And that is a feeling I absolutely love when it comes to my psychological thrillers! I do have to say that after All Fall Down I was expecting this story to be a whole lot more intense, dark and twisted… Don’t get me wrong, Each Little Lie is without doubt a great thriller, but the pace is a bit slower and overall the story just didn’t make the same impact on me. Especially the first half of the story, while intriguing and very well executed, felt a bit slow and left me waiting for a little more action. The second half mostly made up for that feeling and the final stretch of Each Little Lie was without doubt intense. There is also no doubt that the whole intrigue around what is happening behind the scenes is real and the plot twists and revelations are very well executed. I had a few theories about who was behind it all, but I didn’t guess the full truth about what was going on until the very end. As for the characters: they might not be exactly likeable, but their development is very realistic and it was especially interesting to see how Jen reacted AND acted to the things happening to her. All in all still a very good psychological thriller even though it wasn’t as intense or twisted as I was expecting.

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Jen Cornish is currently going through a nasty divorce and trying to make the best of the situation for the sake of her seven-year-old son Charlie. Then one day an impulsive good deed to help someone has turned into a disaster… Setting off a chain of events that will quickly go out of control. Jen is arrested for a crime she didn’t commit, but all the evidence seems to be confirming her guilt instead. Is someone setting her up, or is she losing her mind? If she wants to keep Charlie, she will have to find a way to clear her name… But that might be even more dangerous than she initially guessed.

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There is no doubt I really enjoyed reading Each Little Lie even though it wasn’t as dark and intense as I would have liked. The writing style is very enjoyable to read and manages to draw you in straight away; the plot and plot twists well executed to the point that you really have no idea who is behind it all for a very long time. And while I guessed some things right, there were also a lot of things I didn’t see coming at all.


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ARC REVIEW: The Merchant’s Pearl – by Amie O’Brien @merchantspearl

Title: The Merchant’s Pearl
(The Merchant’s Pearl Saga #1)
Author: Amie O’Brien

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: July 24th 2016
Publisher: BookBaby
Finished reading: June 23rd 2017
Pages: 466

“I just wish I understood what it all means sometimes—why one person rises while the other falls? Why one set of feet must be kissed while the other’s gets stepped upon?”

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

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I confess it took me longer than expected to finally pick up my copy of The Merchant’s Pearl. I had been saying I was going to pick it up for ages, but somehow I was afraid this historical fiction story was going to be way too heavy on the romance for me after rereading the blurb a while ago. Thankfully this was actually one of the few exceptions were I was wrong. There is no doubt that I ended up enjoying way better than I ever could have hoped for… I enjoy reading historical fiction in general and the Ottoman empire setting is without doubt well executed in The Merchant’s Pearl. The many descriptions of the palace, its surroundings and the things that happened there helped create a very vivid and rich image of how it would have been like living there as a concubine. I’m not sure if it all actually felt late 19th century, but I personally didn’t mind as those descriptions were more than enough to set the right atmosphere. I do have to say it took me a lot longer than expected to actually finish The Merchant’s Pearl. Part of it might have been me, part of it might have been the somewhat slower pace, but at 466 pages the story might possibly have felt a bit overlong… There is no doubt that I still very much enjoyed reading this story though. Especially the first half or so stood out for me, not only due to the lack of romance but also because of the dynamics between Leila and Emre. The second half had considerably more romance scenes, drama, jealousy and a few other cliches that made me enjoy the overall story slightly less than I expected after the first few chapters. Especially anything related to the drama between the concubines was a bit too much for me, although I guess this probably did happen all the time in a harem. I did like both Leila and Emre more in the first half though, as they started to get on my nerves sometimes later on in the story. Like I said, the second half had too much drama in it to my taste, but I still liked it and the descriptions stayed strong until the very end. All in all The Merchant’s Pearl is a very interesting historical fiction read that romance fans will appreciate even better than I did.

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Sarai grew up as a missionary’s daughter and lived a happy life up until the day her parents are murdered when she’s eleven. The people that took her in initially sold her to the palace, where she was to be a concubine-in-waiting for the Ottoman Sultan Aziz. Now called Leila, she tries to be invisible, but one of his sons, Prince Emre, has set her eyes on her and claims her for his own. Leila never wanted this life in the first place, but now she has to compete against the other girls in his harem… And one of them seems to be determined to make her life miserable. Will Leila ever adapt to her new life?

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My favorite part of The Merchant’s Pearl is hands down the existence of many detailed descriptions of the inner workings of the Ottoman palace and empire of that time. It was really interesting to see how things worked back then and how life was for a concubine… The pace was a bit slow, but the writing style was beautiful. I liked most of the characters as well, although some of their actions started to annoy me during the second half of the story. But that might just have been me and my aversion to anything too overly romance/drama in the first place. If you like historical fiction and romance, you will enjoy reading this one!


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ARC REVIEW: Molly Bell And The Wishing Well – by Bridget Geraghty @ReadingAlley

Title: Molly Bell And The Wishing Well
Author: Bridget Geraghty

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 28th 2016
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Finished reading: June 1st 2017
Pages: 101

“Thoughts are the same as wishes. They lead us to where we are going.”

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

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I recently realized I had yet to pick up a Middle Grade read this year, and that’s when I stumbled upon this story. I was intrigued by the cover and initially wrongly assumed it was going to be a fantasy read, but Molly Bell And The Wishing Well is actually a contemporary fiction read about (among other things) loss, grief and the moving on. It’s quite a short story, but I think it manages to portray those topics quite realistically while still being understanding and appealing to the age group (roughly 8-12 years). I did have slight doubts about some of Molly’s behavior and the credibility of some of her actions; not everything seemed to be all that realistic and I was surprised by how easily both Molly and Henry seemed to accept everything at their grandparents’ farm. The development of Molly didn’t always seem natural, but it does have a nice message of accepting changes and learning to move on after a traumatic event. I’m sure it will appeal to the age group as the writing style is very easy to read as well and simply flows. I might have had some doubts while reading Molly Bell And The Wishing Well, but it was still a very interesting read with some endearing moments.

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Molly Bell hasn’t been feeling like herself ever since her mother passed away two years ago, and hasn’t even played her favorite sport anymore since. Now her father is getting remarried and she is not sure what to think of her new stepmother… To make things worse, this deal also included a new six-year-old stepbrother named Henry. The two don’t really get along, but will have to find a way to do so as they will be spending time together on Molly’s grandparents’ farm while their parents go on their honeymoon. Molly learns of the wishing well on the property, and after her Aunt Joan tells her every wish she made there came true, Molly is determined to make some wishes of her own… But does she truly know what she wants to wish for?

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Molly Bell And The Wishing Well is without doubt a quick read with a writing style that flows and will appear to the age group. I had some doubts about certain actions of the main characters and its credibility, but in general I really liked how this story portrayed how to deal with loss, grief and moving on after a traumatic event. The wishing well is used as part of this journey and the descriptions of the daily life on the farm will appeal to the younger readers as well.


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ARC REVIEW: The Serial Killer’s Daughter – by Lesley Welsh @bookouture

Title: The Serial Killer’s Daughter
Author: Lesley Welsh

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 14th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: May 29th 2017
Pages: 335

“She remembered her mother telling her that discerning the truth in Don’s lies was like unravelling knotted string.”

*** 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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Call me weird, but mention a serial killer and I instantly want to read your thriller. So mention one in the title and I’m sold as soon as I first hear about it… And that is exactly what happened when I saw The Serial Killer’s Daughter mentioned. One of my absolute all time favorites (hint: Jasper Dent) features the son of a serial killer, so having another story focus on the child of a ‘monster’ had me hooked instantly. Now I’ve read The Serial Killer’s Daughter, I do have to say that it’s the first time that the title is actually a spoiler for me. Why? As much as it was what first peaked my interest, I would have liked not knowing the dad was a serial killer beforehand and it takes away some of the suspense around Don’s character. The character development in this psychological thriller is sublime though and this is without doubt one of the most twisted serial killers I’ve encountered with. I liked that it’s not just about the killer and both the daughter and other characters play an important role in the story. There are some very dark and gruesome details in certain parts of the story, so beware if you are sensitive to those. They fit remarkably well in the story though and it only adds to the description and characterization of an extremely violent, arrogant sociopath and manipulator. The pace is a tad slow and there is less action that I would have expected, but the focus in The Serial Killer’s Daughter is on the characters instead and the plot is without doubt very twisty.

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Suzanne has never been close to her father Don and hasn’t been in contact for years… But still her life changes forever the day she receives a visit from Rose Anderson, the woman who has been living with him. She tells Suzanne that her father died she wants Suzanne to have his possessions; including a series of notebooks and a mysterious collection of photographs of various women. One of the women is actually her friend Sophie, who died ten years ago in a mysterious fire, and she wonders why her father would have a photo of her. Suzanne’s mother warns her to stay away, but Suzanne cannot let the past rest and decided to read the journals to find out more about her father’s life. But she might end up finding a lot more than she had signed up for…

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Although the title The Serial Killer’s Daughter is actually sort of a spoiler of what is to come, there is no doubt that this story is a well written character-driven psychological thriller with a sublime character development. The pace is a bit slow and there might not be as much action as you would suspect there to be in a serial killer thriller, but the story is full of twists and the characters more than make up for it. You will be able to meet one for the most twisted and creepy serial killers I’ve encountered with to this date and get to know him (almost too) intimately; definitely the stuff nightmares are made from.


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ARC REVIEW: The Last Valentine – by Felix Alexander @ReadingAlley

Title: The Last Valentine
Author: Felix Alexander

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
First published: February 13th 2017
Publisher: ForeverPoetic
Finished reading: May 24th 2017
Pages: 241

“In their infinite wisdom they fail to realize that love keeps us young after youth has passed and is the only memory worth remembering when the shadows of forgetfulness linger on the horizon of old age.”

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

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I love stories with a different setting so the fact that The Last Valentine is set in Puerto Rico was a big selling point for me. Add the promise of the combination of a historical fiction and mystery read, and I just knew I had to read this story…And it has definitely turned out to be an enjoyable read. Both the 1930s setting in Puerto Rico and the whole mystery around the labyrinth of love letters stood out for me. The descriptions are well done and I found myself looking forward to discover more about both the characters and what would happen to them. The writing style is enjoyable and also very quotable. I loved the inclusion of various Spanish words in the prose; it made the story feel that much more authentic without slowing down the pace for those who don’t understand the language. The main plot of trying to unravel the mysteries around the labyrinth is intertwined with various love stories, secrets and conspiracies that will keep you interested until the very end. I did feel the dose of forbidden love, love triangles and romance in general was a bit too high for me and some of the characters started to annoy me because of it, but that might just have been me not liking those elements in general in the first place. It’s not just the romance between the characters though, because The Last Valentine also talks a lot about romance itself with the help of for example love letters, romance quotes etc. If you enjoy a well written romance novel with a dose of mystery and historical facts will probably enjoy it even better than I did!

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Olivia Villalobos is the daughter of a drunkard police investigator and never knew the truth behind the disappearance of her mother. One day she finds a bloodstained love letter in the hidden compartment of her father’s coat… she is convinced it belonged to the man recently found dead, and is determined to find the Labyrinth of Love Letters to deliver it before someone else takes it away. The labyrinth is believed to be an urban legend, but is that all there is to the mysterious place? Olivia starts her search with the help of her best friend Isaac Quintero and soon they realize they might find more than they were looking for…

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The Last Valentine isn’t just another historical romance novel. The 1930s setting in Puerto Rico is without doubt well executed and helped set the right atmosphere, but it is the whole mystery around the Labyrinth of Love Letters and other secrets and conspiracies that will keep you intrigued until the very end. The dose of (sappy) romance cliches was a bit too high for me, but I did appreciate the many quotable references to romance in general. Romance fans will most likely love this story!


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