BOOK REVIEW: The Waiting Rooms – by Eve Smith #Orentober @Orendabooks

In the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month, I will be sharing my thoughts on The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith: a compelling and terrifying thriller set in a dystopian world that feels a little too realistic to be comfortable… The current COVID-19 situation gives this story an even bigger impact.

Title: The Waiting Rooms
Author: Eve Smith
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 9th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 16th 2020
Pages: 379

“That’s the trouble with hope. Just when you think you’ve weaned yourself off it, its devilish little head rears up and sucks you back in.”

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I actually won an e-copy of The Waiting Rooms in a Twitter giveaway back in March, but with the whole COVID-19 situation I haven’t been in the mood to read it until now… I’m glad I waited, because this story might just have been too much for me back then. Why? The Waiting Rooms is a compelling and terrifying thriller set in a dystopian world that feels a little too realistic to be comfortable… The current state of the world gives this story an even bigger impact and makes the dystopian world seem like a logical possible next step. Most terrifying indeed! If your nerves can stomach it, this story is absolutely brilliant though.

It’s hard to put The Waiting Rooms into a neat little genre box… Part dystopia, part medical thriller, part mystery and part domestic/family focused, we get a wonderful mix of different elements that together form a recipe for a terrifyingly perfect cocktail. This story has multiple POVs, multiple settings as well as different timeframes. We switch back between past and present (or pre-Crisis in this dystopian world), but we also switch between South Africa and the UK as well as the different characters in play… This gives the story a rich and multi-layered feel, and the different parts are combined splendidly.

The chapters in South Africa really stood out to me, but this has a lot to do with the fantastic descriptions of the setting and fauna. The descriptions made the setting really come alive for me, and I loved how the research looked into using plants and knowledge of the locals to try and create new medicins. The whole cheating angle was a bit of a letdown for me, but then again it’s one of my mayor pet peeves to that was just a personal reaction. That said, this feeling was just a blip on the radar as the rest of the story is simply fantastic.

The medical element as well as the dystopian world are truly terrifying. The current COVID-19 situation gives this story an even bigger impact, as you wonder just how much worse things can get. Imagine a world where antibiotics no longer work and people can die of a scratch… The dystopian world as described in The Waiting Rooms sounds bloodcurdlingly realistic and all too possible considering the recent situation: a true nightmare situation that will have you biting your nails and will chill you to the bone.

Thankfully the pre-Crisis chapters as well as the time Kate spends looking for her birth mother distract a little from the dystopian present, and the different elements were brilliantly balanced. The Waiting Rooms turned out to be an absolutely fascinating, captivating as well as alarming read. It’s one of those stories you have to be in the mood for, but if you think you can stomach it, The Waiting Rooms will blow you away.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #181 – The Boy On The Bridge & The Bear And The Nightingale

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition… The Boy On The Bridge is a dystopian prequel of an all time favorite The Girl With All The Gifts, and it was entertaining but not as good as the other story. And I still can’t believe it took me this long to pick up The Bear And The Nightingale, but I definitely understand the love for this series now!


Title: The Boy On The Bridge
(The Girl With All The Gifts #2)
Author: M.R. Carey

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: May 2nd 2017
Publisher: Orbit
Finished reading: October 3rd 2020 
Pages: 456

“He had already learned to read, but now he learned the pleasure of stories which is like no other pleasure—the experience of slipping sideways into another world and living there for as long as you want to.”


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I LOVED The Girl With All The Gifts back when I read it four years ago, and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick up this sequel set in the same world… The bright orange cover called my name once again the other day, and I finally gave in. And even though I didn’t love The Boy On The Bridge as much as the first book, it most definitely satisfied my dystopian cravings! This story can be easily read as a stand-alone, as I have to be honest here and say I had forgotten about the details of the first book beyond Melanie and I didn’t encounter any issues along the way. The Boy On The Bridge is more focused on the science and quite a bit slower, but the dystopian world makes for an interesting setting and Stephen is without doubt the star of the show. It was really easy to warm up and love his character, and I loved the dynamics between him and Rina too. They are definitely the main reason I enjoyed this story, together with Stephen’s observations and discoveries along the way. If you enjoy a good dystopian story and don’t mind a sometimes slowish pace and a lot of science talk, The Boy On The Bridge is probably a good match.


Title: The Bear And The Nightingale
(Winternight Trilogy #1)
Author: Katherine Arden

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: January 7th 2017
Publisher: Del Rey
Finished reading: October 8th 2020
Pages: 336

“I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed to me.”


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I still can’t believe it took me this long to finally pick up this trilogy… I’ve been meaning to ever since it was first published since I kept seeing raving reviews, and I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long now. I can understand the love for this trilogy after reading The Bear And The Nightingale, because I ended up having a fantastic time with this story. The historical setting in Russia, the Russian folklore, the magic, the characters, the writing, the plot… There is so much to love in this first book of what I already know will be a favorite trilogy, and it was everything I could have hoped for and more. Especially the Russian folklore references were fantastic, and I loved how they were incorporated into the story. Vasilisa makes for a brilliant main character, and I loved learning more about both her and the rest of her family. The magical elements were very well incorporated as well, and I loved how the historical and fantasical were balanced. On to book number two it is as soon as I have time!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #180 – Dead Wrong & A Heart So Fierce And Broken

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two sequels, albeit two completely different genres. Dead Wrong turned out to be just the dose of crime thriller I was craving and A Heart So Fierce And Broken made me realize I really need to dive into the high fantasy genre more often again.


Title: Dead Wrong
(DC Maggie Jamieson #2)
Author: Noelle Holten

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 14th 2020
Publisher: One More Chapter
Finished reading: September 27th 2020
Pages: 432

“She was always in awe of the landscape around some prisons and secure units. Beautiful on the outside, but housing evil behind the walls.”


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I really enjoyed my time with the first book Dead Inside last year, and I have been looking forward to continue the series ever since… I’m not sure why it took me this long to actually do so, but I guess that in a way I’m kind of glad I did now because that cliffhanger ending is nuclear!! Oh yes, Dead Wrong has the most shocking ending and I will definitely be diving into book three ASAP to find out what happened there. The ending isn’t the only exciting thing happening in this sequel though. While Dead Wrong has a slightly different feel than the first book due to the focus on the murder investigation this time around, both the psychology angle with criminal psychologist Kate and the probation angle with probation officer Lucy will make its appearance along the way. Both women give this crime thriller series a refreshing touch and I really liked the balance with the rest of the murder investigation team. We get to know main character Maggie a little better this time around too, and she is a great character to follow while you are trying to uncover the truth about it all. Dead Wrong will definitely have some twists and surprises for you in store! The writing reads like a train too, and if you are looking for a well written and suspenseful crime thriller, this series in general is an excellent choice.


Title: A Heart So Fierce And Broken
(Cursebreakers #2)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: January 7th 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Finished reading: September 29th 2020
Pages: 464

“Choices are never easy. There are good and bad options, but the most dangerous is to not make any choice at all.”


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I really enjoyed A Curse So Dark And Lonely when I read it last year, so I have been looking forward to read the sequel ever since… It took me longer than expected to finally do so, but I ended up really enjoying my time with A Heart So Fierce And Broken too despite the slower pace in points. There is a shift in focus on the main characters in this sequel, but I actually liked spending more time with Grey instead of Rhen. While I did miss Harper, most of the other interesting characters of the first book take the spotlight along with Grey and a couple of new characters; some might be disappointed by this, but I personally didn’t mind. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I love Grey’s character, and I really liked new character Lia Mara and what she added to the plot. A bonus: no clear love triangle and instead a slowburn romance between two interesting and easy to like characters. I call that a win! On top of this, we have more magic, a fascinating creature (scraver) and a whole new complicated situation in Emberfall… And that ending!! I definitely can’t wait for book three now to see how things will develop next.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: A Song Of Isolation – by Michael J. Malone #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the A Song Of Isolation Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been wanting to try Michael J. Malone‘s stories for a long time now as I keep hearing fantastic things about his books. I even have a couple of his backlist titles waiting on my kindle, so I’m still not sure why I didn’t follow through with my intentions until now… But what I do know is that I mean to return to his writing ASAP after a fantastic first experience with his work. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: A Song Of Isolation
Author: Michael J. Malone
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 17th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: September 18th 2020
Pages: 300

“Please. Live well. Be my revenge, Amelie.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to try Michael J. Malone’s psychological thrillers for quite some time now, and especially since as far as I can remember I’ve only seen positive reviews so far. I figured that joining the blog tour for his newest title A Song Of Isolation would be both the perfect way to ensure I finally tried his work and also the little push I needed to pick up the backlist titles I have waiting on my kindle as well… And now that I have finally sampled his writing, I am most definitely hungry for more. Atmospheric, compelling, powerful, moving, brutal, emotional… A Song Of Isolation will claw its way into your head and heart and it is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

The story is told with the help of a multiple POV structure that follows three different characters over time: Amelie, Dave and Damaris. On top of this, the story is divided into three different years… First we have the flashbacks Amelie experiences from her time in London back in 2010 that will help explain why she moved to Scotland. Then we have the part of the story set in 2015, where all three characters feature and most of the time is spent. This part includes some fascinating perspectives on Dave’s side including the day when Dave is first arrested, the trial and the chapters set in prison. Then we have Damaris and the effect the events have on her during and after the trial… And last but not least Amelie struggling to support Dave and her time in France afterwards. The last part of the story is set in 2019, and this is were everything comes together and the story will have more than one surprise for you in store.

Nothing is as it seems in A Song Of Isolation and you are constantly wondering about what is true and what ended up being a fabrication. As the truth about the whole situation is key in interpreting the story, it feels as if you are walking on a knife’s edge the whole time, and this suspense never went away. The story includes multiple difficult themes, including child abuse, the possibility of false imprisonment, dealing with the aftermath of negative press, stalking, mental health issues and grief. Each element is incorporated realistically and fitted very well in the story as a whole, rather than just being a little something extra designed to shock alone. I was especially intrigued by the questions this story raises about child abuse and possible false imprisonment. I’m all for believing the child and its accusations first to protect the child, but what if the accusations are wrong? This could utterly destroy the life of an innocent man, but on the other hand you don’t want a guilty predator to get away with what he did… This dilemma really messed with my head and it’s one of the reasons this story ended up having such an impact on me.

The psychological aspect in general and the development of the different characters in play is simply sublime. Each felt realistic, flawed and really added something special to the story; while not all were exactly likeable, I couldn’t help but feeling that urge to discover how they would evolve and what would happen to them. Especially those chapters set in prison were fascinating, and I love the chapters set in France too as the descriptions really made Bordeaux come alive for me… But A Song Of Isolation as a whole is designed to mesmerize. The writing itself is a true pleasure to the eye and mind. In fact, the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is because I started it too late in the day and couldn’t afford an all-nighter… Because trust me, it was extremely hard to tear my eyes off those pages and stop reading.

A Song Of Isolation was my first experience with his books, but I will rectify that mistake soon. I have multiple of his backlist titles all ready and waiting for me on my kindle and I have no doubt that they will bring more hours filled with a fantastic reading experience. Fans of darker psychological thrillers NEED to read this one!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines, After He Died and In the Absence of Miracles soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber &
Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Seven Doors – by Agnes Ravatn #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Seven Doors Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve rediscovered my love for the nordic noir genre in recent years and I’ve been wanting to try this author for a while now… And I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long now! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Seven Doors
Author: Agnes Ravatn
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Nordic Noir
First published: September 13th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: September 8th 2020
Pages: 276
(Originally published in Norwegian: ‘Dei sju dørene’)

“We often stumble in the dark, unaware of the full scope of our actions.”

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

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I’m always immediately tempted when I see a new nordic noir title popping up on my radar, and this happened once again as soon as I first heard about The Seven Doors. I’ve been meaning to try Agnes Ravatn‘s work ever since I started hearing fantastic things about her previous title The Bird Tribunal, and while that one somehow slipped between the cracks of my TBR mountain (something I plan to remedy soon), joining the tour for the translation of her newest title sounded like the perfect guarantee to not make the same mistake with this title. I’m most definitely glad I did, because I now have another name to add to my list of favorite nordic noir authors!

So… The Seven Doors. I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I mean, how can I say no to the promise of a nordic setting AND an university professor investigating the mysterious disappearance of her tenant?! I’m glad I didn’t, because this story turned out to be a true gem. The Norway setting really shines through as soon as you start reading, and I felt transported to this nordic country along with the main characters straight away. The descriptions really made the different settings within Norway come alive for me, and I liked how certain places were not only incorporated into the plot naturally but were also quite fundamental for certain developments in that same plot.

It’s hard to put The Seven Doors inside just one neat genre box… This story can be seen as an amateur PI thriller turned psychological thriller turned domestic drama, all doused with that delicious nordic noir sauce to spice things up. On top of this, the story shows a focus on psychology as well as literature and incorporates many theories and background information along the way. You will find psychology related terms and theories, but also folklore stories and fairytales as well as literature theory related elements… And even the title refers to a folklore story with a key role in the plot, which I personally thought was a brilliant touch. Both elements really gave this nordic noir an unique angle that made this story stand out for me.

The story is told through the eyes of main character and university professor Nina. Both the investigation, her background and the final truth around the disappearance might seem a bit colored that way, but this sole POV is used perfectly to add suspense and keep the air of mystery around it all. It was interesting to see Nina develop over time and react to the things happening in the plot; especially once she started investigating Mari’s disappearance and kept going stubbornly despite the police not taking her seriously. The focus isn’t just on the investigation though, as we also learn about the changes in her personal life, her struggles with her family home that is about to be demolished as well as other secrets and events happening to those close to her. Both the investigation and the more personal angle are well balanced and I liked how they complemented each other.

The writing itself is fluid and descriptive and really made both the nordic setting and the main characters of this story come alive. I have to point out the flawless translation by Rosie Hedger too, as without her time and effort I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this story in the first place… The Seven Doors has a more leisurely pace than my usual reads, but this slower pace is used to properly dive into the different characters and elements in play and makes you fully savour both. The story works steadily towards more than one highly explosive final reveal that will most likely end up hitting you with a sledgehammer. Why? Two words: THAT ENDING! What a way to leave us with our jaws hanging on the floor… BOOM.

This was my first experience with Agnes Ravatn‘s work, but I have a copy of The Bird Tribunal hanging out on my kindle which I will pick up very soon (read: Orentober month)The Seven Doors is most definitely another nordic noir gem!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is a Norwegian author and columnist. She made her literary début with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular Reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self-discipline (Operasjon sjøldisiplin), 2014. In these works, Ravatn revealed a unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribuanlet), was an international bestseller translated into fifteen languages, winning an English PEN Award, shortlisting for the Dublin Literary Award, a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick and a BBC Book at Bedtime. It was also made into a successful play, which premiered in Oslo in 2015. Agnes lives with her family in the Norwegian countryside.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #177 – The Day We Meet Again & The 24-Hour Café

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a double dose of contemporaries  with two books that have been recommended to me more than once: The Day We Meet Again by Miranda Dickinson and The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page. Both turned out to be excellent reads too!


Title: The Day We Meet Again
Author: Miranda Dickinson

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: September 5th 2019
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: August 23rd 2020 
Pages: 384

“Maybe in the end we are all just stories waiting to be shared.”


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I know that contemporary romance isn’t my typical genre, but after I read Meggy’s review earlier this year I simply had no other option but to add it to my wishlist straight away. And guess what? It turned out to be yet another fantastic recommendation! I absolutely adored my time with Sam and Phoebe and I probably would have finished The Day We Meet Again in one sitting if it wouldn’t have been for all the redecorating going on just as I was starting this gem. Oh yes, I’m definitely adding Miranda Dickinson to my list of authors who can actually make me fall in love with the contemporary romance genre!

The Day We Meet Again uses a dual POV to tell the story, alternating between the two main characters Sam and Phoebe. I was able to connect to both characters very easily and I loved reading about both their adventures during their year apart. Their chapters are part love story, part self-discovery, part travel diary and part that je ne sais quoi vibe that really gives the story that spark. As someone who loves to travel, the travel elements were a huge bonus and the author did a brilliant job describing the different settings. Both characters are well developed and I liked most of the rest of the cast as well. The plot itself might be partly predictable, but I personally didn’t mind as I was too busy enjoying my time with Sam and Phoebe. The Day We Meet Again is a book that will both bring a smile to your face and might make you shed a tear or two… It’s a brilliant story full of love, self-discovery and wonderful characters you cannot help but fall for. Highly recommended!


Title: The 24-Hour Café
Author: Libby Page

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 23rd 2020
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: September 3rd 2020
Pages: 416

“Happiness has a miraculous way of rubbing out the unsavoury parts.”


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I’ve had The 24-Hour Café recommended to me more than once since it was published, and I’ve been looking forward to meet up with main characters Hannah and Mona ever since I read the blurb and reviews. I have to say that I really enjoyed my time with this story! Especially the way it is centered around the Stella’s Café and its customers as well as the two main characters… Because The 24-Hour Café not only gives us the POVs of the two main characters Hannah and Mona, but also multiple POVs focusing on the customers in the cafe at the time as well as more than one colleague. This really gives the story a multidimentional feel and it’s almost as if you are people watching the customers along with the two waitresses. The plot structure itself was interesting as well: a story divided by hour as the time passes by in the cafe, sometimes switching between POVS within that hour and at times even including flashbacks as Hannah and Mona remember things from the past. While I do have to say that the flashbacks sometimes slowed down the pace a bit, overall they were really helpful to understand both their past and what is happening in the present. I loved how the focus of the story is on music and their friendship as well as little snippets of other people’s lives… And the Stella’s Café sounds like a place I would love to visit myself too. If you enjoy an interesting friendship-focused contemporary with lots of dept as well as different emotions, The 24-Hour Café is a great pick.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Fifty Fifty – by Steve Cavanagh #blogtour @orionbooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Fifty Fifty blog tour! A huge thanks to Alex Layt for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I know I already shared my thoughts back in June as I could not resist shouting my love for Eddie Flynn from the rooftops… But when you love a series, you cannot help but wanting to share that love all over again. And again. So this is me resharing my original review to celebrate the paperback publication day!! Want to know why I loved Fifty Fifty that much? Please join me while I share my thoughts…


Title: Fifty Fifty
(Eddie Flynn #5)

Author: Steve Cavanagh
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 9th 2020
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: May 20th 2020 
Pages: 368

“No one is infallible. Everyone can be conned. Even me.”

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

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I first met Eddie Flynn last year reading Thirteen, which made me an instant fan of the former con artist and clever lawyer. I decided to do a series binge-read of the first four books of the series in May, and I just couldn’t help myself reading the ARC of Fifty Fifty straight after even though it’s not due for quite some time… Because one thing is true: these books are seriously addicting. You’ve been warned!

Fifty Fifty is no different than the previous books, and reads almost like an action movie. Book number five gives us another mindblowing case to lose ourselves in… Although this book does have a different feel than the previous books. Instead of focusing on Eddie Flynn as the main POV, Fifty Fifty opts for a multiple POV structure where both Eddie, new character and lawyer Kate and the murderer (named ‘She’) share the spotlight. On top of that, we have other POVs popping up as needed, both to add suspense and give us clues of what is going to happen next… But the main focus is always on both Eddie, Kate and the killer. This new POV structure by no means made me enjoy the story less though, and it made for a very interesting change in tone of this series.

I liked that the Fifty Fifty title made reference to more than one aspect of the plot. How? Well, not only do we have two sisters and a 50% probability of guessing right which sister is guilty, but we also have Eddie now having to share the attention fifty fifty with new character and lawyer Kate. While in a way I was a bit sad to see less of Eddie, I did like the introduction of Kate and her friend and investigator Bloch. Both are strong female characters that added their little something to the plot, and I hope to see more of them in the future!

Talking about the characters… Apart from being introduced to new characters, old favorites like Harry, Eddie and Harper make their appearance again too. Every time I start a new Eddie Flynn book it feels like meeting up with old friends, and these characters are definitely part of the reason this series is one of my favorites. The characters are realistically developed and feel rounded, especially since they have flaws as well as strength. Fifty Fifty does have a twist involving one on the characters that completely shocked me and left me feeling sad even after I finished the story… I don’t want to give away too much to avoid spoilers, but those who have already read Fifty Fifty will know what I’m talking about.

The writing itself draws you right in and the different POVs allow different angles to be brought to attention while also making you doubt what is true and which sister is guilty. Fifty Fifty is no ordinary legal thriller, and while part of the focus is on the court case, you will also get plenty of action, violence, a serial killer and a conspiracy plot to frame their sister. Basically, the story has a lot going on at once, will keep you on your toes and the danger grows as it becomes clear that those who know too much about the case tend to lose their lives… The building up of the suspense is simply spot on and that vibe of foreboding and danger is omnipresent.

There is a lot to love in Fifty Fifty and while I do think Thirteen is my absolute favorite of the series so far, Fifty Fifty comes a close second. This is without doubt one of the most exhilarating legal thriller series I’ve read to this date and I definitely can’t wait to find out what Steve Cavanagh has in store for Eddie Flynn next.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Cavanagh was born and raised in Belfast before leaving for Dublin at the age of eighteen to study Law. He currently practices civil rights law and has been involved in several high profile cases. Selected for the Amazon Rising Stars programme 2015. ACES award winner 2015 from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The Defence is his debut novel.

Follow on twitter @SSCav


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: When I Was You – by Amber Garza #blogtour @HarlequinBooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the When I Was You blog tour! A huge thanks to Justine Sha for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. The premise of this story sounded absolutely fascinating, and I simply knew I HAD to read it as soon as I first read the description. And it most definitely lived up to expectations! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: When I Was You
Author: Amber Garza
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 25th 2020
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: August 25th 2020
Pages: 368

“My mom used to say that we all had our own kryptonite. A weakness. An obsession. Something that had the potential to destroy us.”

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

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There was just something about the blurb of When I Was You that made me want to read it instantly. A lonely empty-nester as the main character, her growing obsession with a young mother with the same name… It sounded like the perfect premise to build a story around. I’ve been looking forward to dive into this psychological thriller, and I can promise you that When I Was You most definitely lived up to expectations and more. Fans of the genre will be in for a treat with this one!

There are a lot of things I loved about When I Was You, but let’s start with the plot itself. The plot of this psychological thriller is designed and executed brilliantly to completely mislead you along the way. The tension and suspicion is slowly build up until it reaches its climax, the plot interlaced with turns, secrets and plot twists to keep you guessing. The fact that we have two main characters sharing the exact same name is used to drop certain hints while also sending you off on the wrong track… Twisty, suspenseful and unexpected; When I Was You has more than one surprise for you in store before you reach that final page. And while I did guess some of the twists, there were also other turns I never saw coming. And I call that a success!

Now that we are talking about the characters, let’s properly focus on them. The main focus of the story is on the older Kelly Medina at first: an empty-nester who has been feeling extremely lonely after her son Aaron left for college last year. Initially, as a reader you are being kept in the dark about certain events in the past; a strategy fully designed to give the plot twists an even bigger impact. Kelly isn’t all that likeable if you look critically, but her development is more than solid and there is just something about her that makes you want to know more. Once the young Kelly comes in the picture, things are getting even more interesting. Who is this new mother sharing the exact same name with our main character? Why did she suddenly show up in the same town as our main character? Coincidence or is there something else at play? The mystery around young Kelly’s past and motive definitely turned up the level of suspense.

The author did a brilliant job disguising certain facts and witholding others, creating an air of suspicion and that ominous feel that something is about to spin out of control. We have older Kelly and her growing obsession, we have the questions about younger Kelly’s past and her motive, we have secrets, twists and turns to uncover… When I Was You is designed to keep you on your toes the whole way and trust me, you will be having a hard time stopping before you reach that final page. Especially once things are starting to REALLY escalate and certain plot twist bombs are being revealed… And that ending! Holy guacamole, what a way to go out with a bang!

If you enjoy a well written, misleading and suspenseful psychological thriller with an explosive ending, When I Was You should most definitely be on your wishlist. The two Kelly’s will keep you more than entertained!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they’re real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California, which is—no joke—home to another Amber Garza.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Author Website // Twitter //Facebook// Instagram // Goodreads

BUY LINKS

Harlequin // Indiebound // Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Books-A-Million // Target // Walmart // Google // iBooks // Kobo


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Night Swim – by Megan Goldin #blogtour @StMartinsPress

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Night Swim blog tour! A huge thanks to John Karle for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I had a brilliant time with The Escape Room last year, so of course I couldn’t say no to joining the blog tour for Megan Goldin’s newest… And I think this story might just be even better! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Night Swim
Author: Megan Goldin
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 4th 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: July 26th 2020
Pages: 352

“To tell you the truth, I don’t get how we can almost unanimously agree that murder is wrong, yet when it comes to rape some people still see shades of gray.”

*** 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 had a brilliant time with The Escape Room last year, and I have been looking forward to read more of Megan Goldin‘s writing ever since. I couldn’t resist joining the blog tour for The Night Swim, as I had a feeling I was going to enjoy my time with this story… And my instincts turned out to be right, as I had a brilliant time the second time around as well. In fact, I might have enjoyed this one even better, although both stories are very different and it’s probably not fair to compare the two. Dark, harrowing as well as powerful: The Night Swim talks about the very difficult topic of rape and helps show just how hard it is for victims to find justice and peace of mind.

First of all, I have to say that I loved the podcast element in The Night Swim. While the whole podcast element has been done before, I really liked how this element was incorporated into the plot here. Our main character Rachel is the crime podcast host and for her third season she decided to cover a rape trial in a small town live. The plot includes transcripts of those podcast episodes called Guilty or Not Guilty, in which Rachel talks about what happens during the trial and gives background about the participants, always trying to be objective of course. This story includes controversial and strong opinions and is used to talk about rape and show just how much a victim struggles and how they are often judged unfairly. On top of that, this story also shows that as a consequence victims often prefer not going to trial to avoid having to relive their trauma over and over again. Especially since it is very hard to get a conviction in the first place as it is the classic ‘he said/she said’ scenario. Even today, there is a lot of stigma around rape and victim blaming; I thought The Night Swim did a great job showing the different issues in play.

The story uses a dual POV structure in between the different podcast episodes. We switch between podcast host and journalist Rachel and Hannah, who is less present but basically key to the cold case investigation part of the plot. Because The Night Swim isn’t just about the upcoming rape trial which will be covered in the third podcast season, but it’s also about what happened to Hannah’s sister 25 years ago. Back then her death was ruled an accidental drowning, but Hannah claims that her sister was actually murdered and Rachel cannot help but feel intrigued. She is determined to try her best to find out more, especially after Hannah’s unusual way of contacting her. This cold case part of the plot is used both to take a break from the harrowing rape case as well as to add suspense and mystery to the plot. It was intriguing to slowly discover more about the past and the story definitely had some surprises in store along the way.

While the pace is slower in points, it didn’t bother me as much as I liked the balance between the present, the podcast episodes and the investigation into the past. The mystery around Hannah and her not wanting to meet Rachel in person to discuss her sister’s death had me fully intrigued. Why not come forward sooner? Was it a cover up, was it really a drowning, what happened exactly and who was involved? What does Hannah know? There were a lot of questions to keep me busy, and I always like it when a plot keeps me on my toes. The characters weren’t all that likeable, but their development was solid and felt realistic. It’s an interesting cast to shoulder both the past and present storyline, and they fit their different roles very well.

The Night Swim is a well written, dark and harrowing read that divides its attention between an upcoming rape trial and a death that happened 25 years ago. Both storylines are equally fascinating, and I ended up having a brilliant time with this story. The rape element can be hard to stomach, but I thought it was well done and the story definitely helps to shine a light on the issues rape victims still encounter while trying to find justice. Without doubt a powerful read!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MEGAN GOLDIN worked as a correspondent for Reuters and other media outlets where she covered war, peace, international terrorism and financial meltdowns in the Middle East and Asia. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia where she raises three sons and is a foster mum to Labrador puppies learning to be guide dogs. The Escape Room was her debut novel.

SOCIAL LINKS

Author website // Twitter // Facebook // Author Blog // GoodReads

BUY LINKS

Macmillan // Books-A-Million // Barnes & Noble // Amazon


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YVO’S SHORTIES #175 – Fruit Of The Drunken Tree & The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill #20BooksOfSummer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two books I’ve had really high expectations for… Sadly, Fruit Of The Drunken Tree didn’t live up to those expectations at all, but The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill turned out to be a delightful read.


Title: Fruit Of The Drunken Tree
Author: Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 31st 2018
Publisher: Doubleday
Finished reading: July 21st 2020
Pages: 304

“War always seemed distant from Bogotá, like niebla descending on the hills and forest of the countryside and jungles. The way it approached us was like fog as well, without us realizing, until it sat embroiling everything around us.”

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Okay… I’m still not sure what happened here, as I really expected to find a new favorite in this story instead. I’ve always had a special interest in stories set in Latin America, and even more so if they are related to the drugs world and/or war on drugs… I thought this story with its 1990s Colombian setting would be a perfect fit for me, and the blurb of Fruit Of The Drunken Tree sounded fantastic as well, but somehow in the end it wasn’t ment to be. Even though I still believe the premise is both powerful, shocking and heartbreaking, the story itself failed to blow me away. I think the main reason I had such a strong negative reaction to Fruit Of The Drunken Tree despite my fascination for the topic had probably to do with the fact that I felt a strong aversion towards the writing style. I didn’t feel it flowed properly and I never connected to the writing, making it very hard to convince myself to keep reading as a result. I have to confess that I skimread at least half of the story; wanting to DNF, but not being able to let the story go completely until I knew what happened. This mostly had to do with the plot and the historical details rather than the main characters themselves, who in turn I never managed to warm up to either. I think this might have been due to the way they were described as well as the way they acted, or maybe even due to the fact that the writing style itself rubbed me the wrong way to such extreme. Either way, sadly Fruit Of The Drunken Tree ended up mosty definitely not being my cup of tea.


Title: The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill
Author: Abbi Waxman
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: July 9th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: July 23rd 2020
Pages: 351

“She enjoyed people – she really did – she just needed to take them in homeopathic doses; a little of the poison was the cure.”

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I have been craving a good contemporary, and I admit that I have been eyeing The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill for a while now. I love bookish elements in my stories, and this book sounded like a perfect fit… And I definitely ended up having a brilliant time with this story. As I already expected, Nina was easy to like and relate to, and I loved getting to know her better. The characters in general are easy to connect to and I enjoyed spending time with them. Of course I love just how big of a role both books and pop culture play in Nina’s life and the story itself; with references to multiple books, the Harry Potter fandom, Game Of Thrones, The Simpsons, Friends… And we have the bookstore itself in the spotlight too of course. The plot might be a bit cheesy and predictable in points, but personally I was having too much fun to be bothered by it. The romance is quite cheesy as well, but as I liked both characters I really didn’t mind all that much either. I loved seeing Nina connect to the newly found family, and the trivia element was brilliant. The writing itself is super engaging and I literally flew through this story. Fans of the genre will most likely enjoy The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill as much as I did!


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