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: Manipulated Lives – by H.A. Leuschel

Title: Manipulated Lives
Author: H.A. Leuschel

Genre: Short Stories, Realistic Fiction, Psychology
First published: June 8th 2016
Finished reading: May 14th 2017
Pages: 274

“Can there be only one truth? What if we are all creating our own truth, as we often need to, on a daily basis?”

*** 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 have a weak spot for realistic fiction stories with a psychology angle, so I was immediately intrigued when I first read about Manipulated Lives. This is actually a collection of five short stories about five different characters who have had to deal with manipulators at different stages of their lives and the damage this experience has done to them. I enjoy reading short stories every once in a while and it definitely takes a whole different set of skills to write them properly. Manipulated Lives is without doubt an example of excellent short story writing. The stories were both intriguing and did an excellent job of describing the complex emotions and reactions to the manipulations. Without doubt a great read if you like the genre!

I will be doing this review slightly different than usual and both give a quick summary and my thoughts on each of the five short stories below instead of having a separate summary section.

The Narcissist
This collection starts strong with a story about a manipulator with Alzheimer not longer remembering why he is incarcelated or what he was doing to his family and others during all those years. This memory angle made the story into a truly fascinating read and it was interesting how the main character reacted to certain things and learn more about what he did in the past in the first place. Not my favorite of the bundle, but without doubt one of the better ones.

Tess And Tattoos
The second story was one of my favorites and a really accurate, intriguing and heartbreaking description of how manipulators can truly ruin someone for life… Tess is an interesting character and an older woman who now lives a lonely life and never has anyone visiting her. Her friendship with Sandra is touching and I love the symbolism of the tattoo. Interesting ending as well!

The Spell
The third story is probably one of the most detailed ones and one of my favorites. It’s impressive how many twists and how much character development is included in this short story.  It’s about Sophie meeting a little boy Leo and later his father; she is charmed by Leo right away and that connection makes her blind for the strange vibes his father David gives off. It’s true Sophie is a bit naive, but I guess manipulators always look for ‘weak/easy’ victims and it’s truly interesting how David is able to worm his way into her life that fast.

Runaway Girl
The fourth story is about a younger manipulation victim; the teenage Holly. This one is probably my least favorite of the bunch even though it is an accurate description of a situation that happens all too often at high schools (unfortunately). What I found less credible is that the main character Holly was first described as an independent and smart teenager and then seemed to be completely blind around Luke even though he’s basically a classic manipulator. But it’s definitely another eye-opener when it comes to how one manipulator can damage a lot of victims when not stopped on time…

My Perfect Child
The last story is about a woman thinking her child is perfect and overprotecting him ever since he was born; indulging him in everything and turning him in a skilled manipulator. She didn’t want to see her child as anything less than perfect and ignored all the signs for so long that it was already too late to change direction… Not one of my favorites, but without doubt a great example how love imakes someone blind and can change perception of both daily situations and their consequences.

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I have been wanting to pick up this collection of short stories about different characters dealing with the consequences of manipulators for a long time now, especially since I’ve seen various glowing reviews in the past. And I’m definitely glad I finally picked it up, because I really enjoyed reading them. Every story deals with a different angle and they are truly fascinating. My favorite story would be between the second and the third story; my least favorite probably either number four or five, but this doesn’t mean they weren’t still good. If psychology fascinates you or you enjoy realistic fiction in general, Manipulated Lives is definitely a great read.


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BOOK REVIEW: Room – by Emma Donoghue

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: September 13th 2010
Publisher: Picador
Finished reading: May 9th 2017
Pages: 321

“Just because you’ve never met them doesn’t mean they’re not real. There’s more things on earth than you ever dreamed about.”

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I know for a fact it’s not true, but I feel like I’m about the last person on earth to read this book. I have been hearing so many great things about it over the years, and I still don’t know why I haven’t picked it up before… I’m definitely kicking myself for not doing so now though, because Room is without doubt one of the most powerful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking stories I’ve read this year. The first thing that stands out is the fact that it’s told from the POV of a 5-year-old boy, which makes the story that much more powerful and unique. Jack’s voice made a huge impact on me and it’s a story that will stay with me for a long time. It actually made me think of The Boy With The Striped Pajamas (another of my all time favorites), which uses a similar technique to narrate a rather shocking story and is just as powerful. Another thing that stood out for me in Room is the excellent execution of Jack’s reactions, emotions and feelings in general to Room and the Outside. In fact, the writing style in general is wonderful; I literally flew through the pages and finished it in less than a day. The character development is also excellent and it’s very intriguing to see how everything that happens to both Jack and his mother affects them. If you haven’t read this little masterpiece yet, I suggest you do! If you like the genre, you won’t be disappointed.

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Jack has been living with his Ma in Room for as long as he can remember, and he is excited about his fifth birthday. Room has a locked door and a skylight, and measures exactly eleven feet by eleven feet. It’s also the whole world for Jack; the rest of it being Outside and nothing what he sees on the TV is truly real. In fact, only him, Ma and the things in Room are… Until the day Ma admits that there is actually a world outside.

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I still can’t believe it took me years to finally pick up my copy of Room, but it is without doubt one of my new all time favorites. The story itself is already both dark, shocking and powerful, but what makes Room even more special is that it’s told from the POV of a 5-year-old boy. Jack is a truly fascinating and unique character and having the opportunity to follow both him and Ma is a true blessing. This story will definitely stay with me for a long time! As you might have guessed, I can highly recommend this story.


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ARC REVIEW: Ginny Moon – by Benjamin Ludwig

Title: Ginny Moon
Author: Benjamin Ludwig

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: May 2nd 2017
Publisher: Park Row Books
Finished reading: April 22nd 2017
Pages: 368

“No one can hear what I say inside my head because that’s where my brain is. It helps me do things when no one is looking.”

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

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I’ve seen so many raving reviews about this book around the blogosphere that I just HAD to request a copy so I wouldn’t have to wait until the publish date to read it. It’s easy to say I was really looking forward to (The Original) Ginny Moon… And I kind of feel bad that I ended up having mixed feelings about the story instead. I can’t deny it’s a well written, unique story with one of the most intriguing main characters I’ve encountered this year. The author did a more than excellent job of describing and portraying the autistic Ginny and it has been truly fascinating to be able to have a glimpse inside her head. It really shows that Benjamin Ludwig has personal experience with autism and both the character development and behavior feel authentic. That said, it took me longer than expected to get used to the voice of the autistic Ginny and I found myself a bit confused in the beginning. Like I said before, the author did an excellent job of describing autism and what it is like to live and interact with someone autistic, but I did understand why her ‘Forever’ parent got so frustrated with her at times. I felt the same frustation as well and it made me enjoy the story slightly less than I thought I would, although this has nothing to do with the story itself and I want to stress that the author did a brilliant job of putting autism in the spotlight it deserves. And there is no doubt Ginny Moon will leave her mark and will stay with you for a long time…

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Ginny Moon has been in foster care for years, and she is currently living with her fourth forever family. Everybody keeps saying she sound feel happy that she has finally found parents who will love her… But Ginny has never forgotten what happened all that time ago, something she feels she will have to put right no matter what. But it is kind of hard to explain things to the rest of the world when you can’t find the right words to express yourself… Or people don’t seem to understand what she has been trying to tell them all this time.

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First of all, I want to stress that my slightly lower rating has nothing to do with the excellence of this book, but more with my feelings of frustration as I was reading it. Ginny’s character will provoke strong emotions, and while mine weren’t completely positive, there is no doubt she will still stay with me for a long time. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story with an autistic main character before (even though it’s such an important topic), and the author did a brilliant job of accurately describing what it’s like living with autism. Ginny Moon: A very important and truly unique story and character!


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ARC REVIEW: The Red Hunter – by Lisa Unger @lisaunger @TouchstoneBooks

Title: The Red Hunter
Author: Lisa Unger

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: April 25th 2017
Publisher: Touchstone
Finished reading: April 18th 2017
Pages: 368

“It was getting to me. I was vibrating, giving off the energy of the thing I tried to hide and harness. I had given it a name. A thing that lived inside of me. The Red Hunter. Rage.”

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

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Lisa Unger has been one of the (many) authors on my need-to-read-soon list for a long time, so it wasn’t just the breathtakingly beautiful cover that made me want to read The Red Hunter. It’s always great to get to know the work of authors who belong to one of my favorite genres, and now I’ve had a sample I’m definitely planning to pick up more of Lisa Unger‘s novels. The start of The Red Hunter was a bit slow and it took me some time to connect the different storylines, but as soon as the pace picked up: BAM! Instant pageturner. Each storyline adds something different to the story, and there is no doubt it’s a fascinating one. Trigger warnings for rape and violence, but nothing ‘too’ graphic. The Red Hunter basically focuses on the lives of two different completely different women. Confession: I wasn’t a big fan of Claudia Bishop, although it was interesting to see how she tried to deal with her rape trauma and I liked the whole house renovation subplot. Her daughter Raven is without doubt a very interesting character as well… But I found Zoey Drake’s chapters to be the most intriguing ones. She had without doubt a very traumatic childhood experience that scarred her for life, and her messed up character was fascinating. And once the pace picks up, the many many MANY plot twists will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page. I had my suspicions about certain things, but I didn’t guess the complete truth until the very end. And trust me, after reading so many psychological thrillers, that doesn’t happen often. Recommended for fans of the genre!

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Both Claudia and Zoe are traumatized by a horrific event in their past and scarred for life, although they each try to find a way to continue with their lives. Claudia Bishop had what she thought the perfect life until she was brutally assaulted and raped in her own home… Her marriage hasn’t survived, and she still doesn’t know who is the real father of the daughter that was born nine months after the attack. She is looking for a fresh start renovating an old house which she inherited from her father, blogging about her experience along the way.

Zoey Drake on the other hand has never recovered from the horrific home invasion when she was a teenager, an event that resulted in the murder of her parents and she almost died as well that night. None of the guys that were involved were ever caught, and years later Zoey is still looking for justice and/or revenge. She is no longer weak, having been trained in martial arts, but is she truly ready to face the demons of the past? And does Claudia realize what is the true history of the house she is trying to restore to its former glory?

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The Red Hunter is without doubt a fascinating read and even though it started out a bit slow, I ended up really enjoying it. Not every character is all that likeable, but they are all well developed and add something to the story. It’s also intriguing how the different characters try to deal with the traumas of their past, and all in all it is without doubt an worthy psychological thriller.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Color Purple – by Alice Walker

Title: The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker

Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction, Contemporary
First published: 1982
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: April 5th 2017
Pages: 304

“Oh Celie, unbelief is a terrible thing. And so is the hurt we cause others unknowingly.”

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Warning: possible unpopular opinion ahead.

Part of the promise I made myself this year is that I would try to read more classics this year as well as try to finally read some of the TBR backlist titles. The Color Purple by Alice Walker fits right into both categories: it’s a modern classic I’ve somehow never picked up before and I decided to change that this month. I’ve seen a lot of raving reviews about this classic and a lot of high ratings, so I found myself rather looking forward to it. And I have to say I was surprised when I found myself struggling to continue reading this story instead… Because it took me a LONG time to get used to the writing style. I get that the author is trying to make Celie’s voice feel more authentic, but it also makes her chapters a lot more difficult to read with all the broken sentences, words and bad grammar. Celie is an uneducated child wife living in the South and I’m sure very accurately described, but that doesn’t take away my feelings of frustration while I read her chapters. Luckily I found the second half of The Color Purple to be a lot better (mainly thanks to Nettie), or else I don’t think I would have finished it… To make things clear: my feelings have nothing to do with the fact that this book is right in your face when it comes to unpleasant themes as child abuse, rape and violence. Alice Walker doesn’t try to sugarcoat the situation and action of the main characters and while unpleasant, it does also give a very strong message. It’s without doubt a colorful read and I understand why it’s called a modern classic… I guess it just wasn’t for me.

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The Color Purple tells the story of two sisters who ended up living separate lives. While Celie is not able to escape her destiny and becomes yet another uneducated child wife living in the South, she managed to avoid her sister Nettie having to face the same fate. It does mean they will have to live far away from each other… As Nettie ends up living as a missionary in Africa. The story follows the two sisters over time and even though they are not able to keep contact, they remain loyal to each other and both have faith that some day they will see each other again. What will happen to the two sisters? Will they survive the challenges life will throw at them?

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I really wanted to like this modern classic, but I never recovered from my initial struggle with the writing style and voice of one of the main characters (Celie). The story itself is without doubt both shocking, intimidating, intriguing and heartbreaking; raw, but very realistic descriptions and feelings. I do have to say I enjoying the second part a lot better, but I’m having the feeling this book and me just aren’t a good fit. Most people seem to have a lot of love for The Color Purple, so don’t let my review discourage you! A little warning for those who are sensitive to graphic scenes including abuse and rape though.


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ARC REVIEW: Little Girl Lost – by Carol Wyer

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

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: January 19th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: February 10th 2017
Pages: 412
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“It’s a gift of the truth. Lies harm. Lies hurt. The truth liberates. You should try it sometime. In fact, you should try it now before it’s too late.”

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

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

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

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


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