ARC REVIEW: The Dare – by Carol Wyer

Title: The Dare
(Detective Natalie Ward #3)

Author: Carol Wyer
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 25th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: April 5th 2019
Pages: 348

“Tiredness mingled with the damp made Natalie shiver and she shoved her hands deep into her jacket pockets to warm them.”

*** 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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Carol Wyer has done it again! She has proven me once again you can’t go wrong with her books and she is one of my go-to authors whenever I’m in the mood for an entertaining and fast-paced detective thriller. The Dare is already book number three of the Detective Natalie Ward series… And her team has another complicated case on their hands. While Natalie has never managed to grow on me completely (I can’t put my finger on the why though), what I love is the dynamics between the different members of her team. They all have their own unique personalities and add a little something to the investigation; sometimes the story switches to one of their POVs as well. In The Dare the story alternates between the police and the killer. We slowly learn more about the killer’s past, the meaning behind the title, the significance of the snake and why he does what he does. It shows the danger of the internet and its influence on teenagers… Especially since the younger generation seems to be getting more tech savy than their parents every second. There are a lot of twists and turns involved in The Dare, adding to the overall suspense and keeping you invested until the final reveals. Things will also get quite personal and a lot will be at stake for Natalie this time around. If you are a fan of fast-paced, well written and entertaining detective thrillers, you should definitely try meeting Natalie Ward.

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

When Jane arrives home a little later than usual, she realizes that her thirteen-year-old daugher Savannah never came home. She immediately starts searching and soon after raises the alarm. Detective Natalie Ward and her team don’t have a lot of clues, and the race against the clock is one they won’t be able to win… Not even 24 hours later Savannah’s body is found close to her home. There isn’t a lot of evidence available, making it hard for the team to find solid clues and a suspects. And things are getting even more acute as another teenager goes missing the same day. Will they be able to catch whoever is behind it all on time?

If you are looking for a well written, suspenseful and entertaining detective thriller that reads like a train, you know you can always turn to Carol Wyer. Both this series and her detective thrillers in general have been consistently solid so far and The Dare is no exception to that rule. I found myself flying through those pages to discover more about the killer and how things would unfold… It’s true I never grew to like Natalie as a character, but her team’s chemistry mostly makes up for that. And I’ll definitely be looking forward to discover whatever will be thrown at them next.


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ARC REVIEW: Little Darlings – by Melanie Golding

Title: Little Darlings
Author: Melanie Golding
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 30th 2019
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: April 16th 2019
Pages: 304

“Look at someone every day for long enough and you stop seeing what everyone else sees. You start to see what no one else sees, what is kept hidden from most people.”

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

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There has been a lot of buzz around Little Darlings lately, and not without cause. This soon-to-be-published debut of Melanie Golding is without doubt something special! Little Darlings is not your ordinary psychological thriller and instead offers a fascinating mix with folklore and fairy tale elements. A hint of the surreal is mixed with suspense and a mental health angle in such a fluid way that really makes the folklore stories come alive… It’s without doubt an intriguing mix of genres and different elements that will keep you wondering until the very end. Little Darlings is basically three different storylines in one: one one side we have detective Harper, her history and the investigation, on another side we have Lauren Tranter, her newborn twins and her home situations and as a third element we have the supernatural mixed with a mental health angle. This might sound like a bit much, but the plot is constructed and developed in such a a way that makes everything connect seamlessly. My favorite part of Little Darlings are the folklore elements, which give the story an unique touch as well as adding a healthy amount of suspense to the story. Is it all real? Or is it part of the postpartum depression Lauren seems to be suffering from? These questions will keep going round and round in your head and will keep you wondering ever after you reached the final page. Oh yes, Little Darlings has an ambiguous ending you can interpret both ways… And this time around, this technique really worked for me and added an extra mysterious vibe to the overall story.  As for the characters… I’m not sure I actually liked most of them (although I did like Harper and her stubborn insistence to investigate the case), but they do fit the story in general. I confess I had a strong dislike of Patrick though, and the final reveals involving his character and actions were not really satisfying. But that was only a minor blip compared to my general feelings for this wonderful mix of folklore and reality.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #94 – Release & How To Walk Away

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a title I ended up having mixed thoughts about (Release by Patrick Ness) and another I picked up based on recommendations and ended up really enjoying (How To Walk Away by Katherine Center).


Title: Release
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: May 7th 2017
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: April 4th 2019
Pages: 287

“Blame is a human concept, one of its blackest and most selfish and self-binding.”


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I had been meaning to pick up another Patrick Ness title for a while now, and thought the Magical Readathon was the perfect excuse to do so. I’ve been seeing mixed things about Release ever since it was… errr… released, so I decided to keep expectations low. I’m glad I did, because I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story as well. In fact, something similar happened with The Rest Of Us Just Live Here (the chapter introductions vs. the rest of the chapters) so I’m guessing this particular writing style and me just don’t really get along. What do I mean? Well, while I mostly enjoyed Adam’s chapters, I wasn’t so sure about the other more fantastical one (Katie). Both were so extremely different in tone and even genre that they mostly just clashed for me (like what happened in The Rest Of Us Just Live Here). I know magical realism can go both ways for me and this time around it definitely wasn’t a positive reaction… I had a hard time making sense of Katie’s POV and it mostly just distracted me considerably from what was happening to Adam. The way both POVs finally ‘met’ wasn’t really satisfactory for me either, but that might just be me reacting to the magical realism. I did enjoy the writing in Adam’s POV and I really loved that while the story is basically taking place in just one day, there is a lot going on and you won’t find yourself bored. Adam sure is having a pretty bad day! Religion is involved since it plays such a vital role in Adam’s family (and part of his misery), but nothing too preachy so I didn’t mind. The story wasn’t too heavy on the romance as a whole (something I could really appreciate), and the lgbt elements were well developed. If Release would have been just Adam’s POV and nothing more, I would probably have ended up rating it higher… But Katie’s more unique magical realism chapters kind of put a damper on things for me. Depending on how you react to those chapters you will either absolutely love it or end up having mixed thoughts like me.


Title: How To Walk Away
Author: Katherine Center

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 15th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: April 13th 2019
Pages: 320

“There are all kinds of happy endings.”


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There has been so much hype around How To Walk Away ever since it came out last year that I’ve been a bit afraid to pick it up myself. But after seeing so many raving reviews, I was also curious to find out what I would make of this story myself. I think I’ve become an instant fan of Katherine Center‘s writing, and she is a new addition to my short list of contemporary romance writers that are able to make me enjoy the genre. It took a few chapters to warm me up completely to the characters and the situation, but once I did I was hooked. The writing is excellent and one of the things that really stood out for me. Following the main character as she has to learn to live with the consequences of the accident was both heartbreaking and intriguing, as her struggles and fears are realistically and well described. Chip made me want to hit something, but I guess that fits the purpose of his character… I liked seeing Margaret’s character develop and grow over time though. How To Walk Away isn’t just about recovering after an accident, having to learn to live with a disability and Margaret seeing her life changed forever though. It is also about family and the estranged relationship with her sister. All characters in general are well developed, feel realistic and add there little something to the plot. I could really appreciate this was more of a slowburner romance and instead there is a lot more focus on Margaret’s situation and personal development. The chapters set in Belgium brought back memories of Bruges and made me crave chocolate! The ending of How To Walk Away was without doubt satisfying and I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys the genre.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #93 – Daisy Jones And The Six & The Blue

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title that both turned out to be excellent reads. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid has only reconfirmed my love for this author and The Blue by Lucy Clarke introduced me to a new author I will be wanting to read more of in the future.


Title: Daisy Jones & The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Historical Fiction, Music
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: March 30th 2019
Pages: 336

“I think you have to have faith in people before they earn it. Otherwise it’s not faith, right?”


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I became an instant fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid‘s writing after reading The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo last year, and I’ve been waiting eagerly for the publication of her newest creation ever since. With this new story she has once again proven to me she belongs on my list of favorite authors. What a read! The first thing that stands out for me is the uniqueness of the format of Daisy Jones & The Six. The story is told through a series of interviews with the different members of the band and a few others close to them. This is done in a way that you start wondering if your memory failed you and there really was a band called Daisy Jones & The Six in the seventies… The different characters really came alive for me and it felt like a real biography of a rock band with a very colorful history. The format is one of the things that made this story into a success for me; the different characters remembering things in a different way and showing us that historical events are never objective. With this format, I’m sure an audiobook version would be absolutely fantastic! As for the characters… They are not exactly all that likeable and there are quite a few rock band cliches involved, but somehow this didn’t bother me at all as I was fascinated by how things would evolve. The dynamics between the different members are interesting and I liked how it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. More the other way around actually and darker themes such as alcoholism, drug addiction and sex are just as present as the music itself. Daisy and Billy are clearly the true stars of both the band and this book. The story mostly focuses on them and both their personal and professional development, although we see a little of especially Camila, Karen and Graham as well. The format does mean the character development isn’t as thorough as it could have been and some of the other band members are not all that fleshed out. Personally I found it easy to forgive that in exchange for a truly unique rock ‘n roll story that is ready to rock your socks off. The lyrics at the end of the story are a wonderful addition!


Title: The Blue
Author: Lucy Clarke

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 7th 2015
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: April 1st 2019
Pages: 391

“It was like staring into the sea for hours on end, searching: some moments you see things that aren’t there – and other times you miss the very thing that is right in front of you.”


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This one was an impulse buy for me and I was definitely surprised when my copy arrived with a neon orange spine and details… It’s growing on me though. More importantly, The Blue turns out to have been an excellent choice. As someone who has been lucky enough to travel quite a bit in the past, I love reading travel related stories. Add a destination I haven’t been able to visit myself and that is another bonus… And if you combine it with one of my favorite genres (suspense), the book and me most likely are going to get along. This is exactly what happened with The Blue. Best friends Lana and Kitty travel to the Philippines, randomly meeting the crew of a yacht called The Blue. When they are invited on board we get a glimpse of what it would be like to be aboard and travel that way… (I was so close to doing something similar in Panama a few years back, but things weren’t ment to be). It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows though, as more than one of them seems to be hiding something. The point of view switches back between past and present, where we soon find out Lana is no longer on board of The Blue and something terrible has happened to the rest of the crew… And we slowly learn how everyone ended up in that situation. The writing is engaging and really flows; it shows the author is a travel fan herself and has investigated thoroughly; her descriptions of the setting make it as if you were right there with the characters on the yacht and discovering those wonderful places. The suspense and plot twists are well handled and will definitely keep you guessing. I could have done without the romance, but overall it wasn’t too much of a distraction… In overall, this was a very entertaining and suspenseful read where you will find yourself sailing through those pages.


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ARC REVIEW: Wolfhunter River – by Rachel Caine

Title: Wolfhunter River
(Stillhouse Lake #3)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 23rd 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: March 30th 2019
Pages: 330

“My past is a wrecking ball. I’ve always known it was out there, rushing toward me. I just never imagined how much it would hurt when it finally hit.”

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

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I’m a huge fan of the first two Stilhouse Lake books (both were 5 star reads for me, and I don’t hand those ratings out easily), so it’s easy to say I might have screamed when I saw that an ARC of Wolfhunter River was up for grabs on Netgalley. I have been highly anticipating this third installment of one of my all time favorite serial killer thriller series… And this might just have been the problem, because while I still highly enjoyed my time with Wolfhunter River, I don’t think the story actually lives up to the first two books. I’ll try to explain why without giving away any spoilers. The first thing I wasn’t 100% convinced about was the plot. I’m not saying it’s a bad plot and there are definitely fireworks and a lot of action and violence involved, but the first part of the story went on too long about previous events and the Wolfhunter part was a little too much for me to consider it completely believable. Plot twists, flying bullets, conspiracy theories, a kidnapped little girl, a shady town… There is a lot going on and having all of this linked with Gwen Proctor and her family can get a little too much. The whole Lost Angels and secret past element is something that can go both ways for you, because if you think about it it can come over as a bit cliche. The writing is mostly on fire though and once I was past the first few chapters and the focus turned to Wolfhunter, I dropped everything I was doing and kept turning those pages to see how things would end. While I did started to doubt the credibility of it all and some things were just a little too farfetched to be believable (and the ending was just too convenient of a wrap up), Wolfhunter River was still a very entertaining ride with a lot of promise for the next book.

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…

Gwen Proctor might be wanting to move on after being acquitted of helping her serial killer husband and then having to escape him all over again, but there are others who don’t believe in her innocence and want to make her pay no matter what. Gwen no longer wants to hide as she’s trying to build a normal life for her kids, but that is easier said than done as she still has a lot of enemies set out to destroy her. When a woman from Wolfhunter calls Gwen asking for help, she initially doesn’t take notice but soon sees it as a way to escape life in Stillhouse Lake for a little while… But things turn out to be way more dangerous and shady in Wolfhunter than she could ever imagine.

While I don’t feel Wolfhunter River was as good as the previous two books, I can’t deny I still highly enjoyed my time with this serial killer thriller. Suspenseful, twisted, explosive and lightning fast: once you get past the first few chapters and the setting changes to Wolfhunter, it will be really hard to stop reading before you reach that final page. I had some doubts about the credibility of the plot and the way things wrapped up was a bit too convenient to my taste, but the story has a lot of promise for what it yet to come and I’ll definitely be looking forward to the next book.


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ARC REVIEW: We Are Of Dust – by Clare Coombes

Title: We Are Of Dust 
Author: Clare Coombes
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: December 3rd 2018
Publisher: The Liverpool Editing Company
Finished reading: March 25th 2019
Pages: 300

“And each one of us has a chance to defy all those who have harmed us, by living.”

*** 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 guess you might know by now I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction… So it’s easy to understand why, as soon as I read the blurb of We Are Of Dust, I knew I HAD to accept this request and read the story. It turned out to be a solid and heartbreaking little gem. The first thing that stands out in We Are Of Dust is that the story is based on true events. It shows that the author has investigated the details painstakingly and I could really appreciate how we are able to see multiple sides of the war with the help of the different characters. We have the Hitler Youth, we have resistance members, we have (half)Jewish characters hiding and running for their lives… This gives the story a multifaceted aspect and gives the plot more dept. We Are Of Dust switches back and forth between different points of view and we slowly start to discover how everything fits together in the plot. The story focuses on the events around the so-called Kristallnacht in November 1938 and what happens to the different characters both during and after that horrible night. I personally could really appreciate the focus on that event as many see the Kristallnacht as the beginning of the Holocaust and stories don’t tend to stand still and help remember that fact. While things can come over as chaotic in the beginning with the different storylines and characters, things soon improve as you get a better idea about how everything fits together. What I didn’t know was that We Are Of Dust is actually the first book of a series, and the story ends with a cliffhanger that will leave you wanting for more… Especially if you expect to get all the answers by the final page. I suppose me wanting to know more is a good sign though. If you enjoy WWII historical fiction, you should definitely give this story a try.

Alice Sommer is the half-Jewish daughter of an important German physicist, forced to hide with her litlte sister as things get more dangerous. Kurt Hertz is a member of the Hitler Youth, but is forced to run after he attacks his superior to defend his friend… The two meet while they are on the run, hiding their true identities from each other and making each other believe they are not in fact the exact thing they can’t stand. Somehow Alice and Kurt end up on the same ship that is supposed to bring them to freedom… But is that really true? And how long can they hide their true identities?

If you enjoy a good WWII historical fiction story based on true events, We Are Of Dust is a worthy title to add to your wishlist. It’s a solid start of a new series with a focus on the events on the Kristallnacht and the story of the German ocean liner MS St. Louis. With the help of multiple POVs, the story shows us different sides of the war and how visions about what is right and wrong can change over time. It’s an excellent representation of that period of time and I will be looking forward to find out what will happen to Alice and Kurt.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Wicked Saints – by Emily A. Duncan @WednesdayBooks

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Wicked Saints blog tour! A huge thanks to Meghan Harrington for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I fell in love with the cover and blurb as soon as I first heard about this book, so of course I had no other choice but to accept joining the tour. And I can say it was a good decision… Want to know why? Join me while I share my thoughts on Wicked Saints!

Title: Wicked Saints 
(Something Dark And Holy #1)
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: April 2nd 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Finished reading: March 17th 2019
Pages: 400

“We are all monsters, Nadya. Some of us just hide it better than others.”

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

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Every once in a while you come across a book with a cover and blurb that will blow you away completely. A book that will have you looking at your calendar longingly until the day arrives when it’s finally published. You might also luck out, and be invited to read it early and join the blog tour to help spread the love… This is exactly what happened when I was approached to read Wicked Saints. A dark, bloody and gothic fantasy story with superpowers, mysterious saints and an assassination plot to kill a king… What more to wish for in a story? This debut without doubt met my expectations and I already can’t wait to find out what the sequel will have in store for us.

So what made this story work for me? The first thing that stands out is just how delightfully dark and gothic Wicked Saints is. This story isn’t for those with a weak stomach and blood, violence and monsters are a constant presence in the plot. This dark and disturbing atmosphere sets the right tone for this wicked beginning of a new fantasy series… The setting itself adds to the overall atmosphere. The two main countries at play, Kalyazin and Tranavia, are clearly inspired by Poland and Russia and I liked the little references to names and culture. Would I have liked to see the worldbuilding more developed with more descriptions to make it truly come alive? Most definitely. It would have given Wicked Saints that little something extra that would have made it in an instant favorite… But I was still more than happy with what I got.

I also really liked how Emily A. Duncan incorporated religion into the story, with a clear difference between the Kalyazi culture and their magic by praying to different gods on one side and the Tranavians using blood magic and being called heretics on the other. It was interesting to see this theme evolve during the story, especially in Nadya’s perception of the world as she no longer find herself in the sheltered monastery and learns to put things in perspective. I liked the idea of ‘light and dark’ magic and how it was developed. The blood magic and the vultures are basically the perfect villains of the story, but like in the real world, definitions are messy and there is not just one villain and side to the story.

Wicked Saints has a dual POV, where the story alternates between Nadya and Serefin. They initially represent the cliche good and evil in the world, but as we get to know the characters better we learn that conclusions are not that easy to draw and things are not black and white but rather grey. I’m personally a big fan of the characters and their development. Not only Nadya and Serefin, but especially Malachiasz as well all turned out to be a fascinating characters. I admit there were some cliches involved and I can’t do anything else but agree there are certain similarities between Wicked Saints and the popular Grishaverse, but personally I wasn’t all that bothered by that. The dynamics between the different characters are great and the secondary characters are mostly well fleshed out as well.

As for the romance… Do I wish the story didn’t go down that road? Probably. Wicked Saints is pretty mild on the romance though and we are spared a love triangle (or at least for now), so that is most definitely a bonus. This is by no means a sappy fantasy story and most of the plot is black and gothic to the core. It’s my kind of fantasy, where the wicked and powerful get a leading role and are ready to kick ass. I loved the duality of this story; between the different countries, cultures and light and dark magic. It is a story with a fascinating premise and a lot of promise for what is yet to come, and without doubt recommended to those who enjoy darker YA fantasy stories with strong main characters.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: https://eaduncan.com/
Twitter: @glitzandshadows
Instagram: @glitzandshadows
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

BUY LINK:

https://static.macmillan.com/static/smp/wicked-saints/


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