ARC REVIEW: The Secret – by K.L. Slater @bookouture

Title: The Secret
Author: K.L. Slater
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 27th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: July 4th 2018 
Pages: 

“Sometimes you know what’s good for you but you go and do just the opposite anyway.”

*** 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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The fact is that I’m a huge fan of K.L. Slater‘s psychological thrillers, so any time I see a new title popping up, my heart skips a beat. The Secret is without doubt another great title to welcome to the family. While not my absolute favorite of the bunch, there is no doubt that this newest psychological thriller is a very strong read with an ending that will leave you gaping at the last page and unable to utter something coherently. Oh yes, you might think you have this story all figured out early on (I’m including myself here), but this is all a smokescreen. The Secret has a couple of masterly incorporated plot twist bombs included that will shake you to the core and will dishevel you. Did I have a very STRONG dislike for Louise? Yes. Did I think Alice was a mayor pushover? Yes. Did those things sometimes frustrate me? Most definitely. But despite the unlikeable characters that made you want to hit something or someone and talk sense into them, you will find yourself completely hooked as you try to figure out what is really going on. And if you like surprises, you will be in for a real treat with the final reveals. Make sure to add The Secret to your wishlist if you are a psychological thriller fan, because this story is one of those rollercoaster rides that starts out slow but will have you breathless by the final page!

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The sisters Alice and Louise used to be close, but their different personalities made them drift apart. But as Louise is struggling to juggle her new promotion at work with her eight-year-old son Archie, she has been starting to drop him off at her sister Alice’s flat. As Alice starts spending more time with Archie, she is starting to suspect something is off… And she has the feeling Archie might be hiding a secret or two. He isn’t the only one hiding something though…

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Let me tell you a secret: the secrets and twists in The Secret will have you flabbergasted by the time you reach the last page. Oh yes, you will be in for one hell of a surprise and shocking ending with this one… Make sure to brace yourself. It is true that the strong dislike for one of the main characters did get a little frustrating, but the story would not have been the same otherwise and the suspense and general plot made up for it. What a read!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #30 – When The Moon Was Ours & Bad Romance

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads I’ve been meaning to read for a while. While the prose in When The Moon Was Ours was absolutely gorgeous, I struggled with the magical realism elements. Bad Romance is such an emotionally difficult read! The love triangle was a let down and things can get frustrating, but there is no doubt Heather Demetrios described a toxic relationship perfectly.


Title: When The Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magical Realism
First published: October 4th 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Finished reading: June 26th 2018
Pages: 288

“He was a comet burning through the night sky, and Samira was the trail of dust and ice streaking after him.”


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Dear magical realism, it’s not you, it’s me. See, somehow we just can’t seem to get along… I’ve tried, really tried, but I think we should take a break from each other for now. Oh yes, it’s unpopular opinion time again. When I first started reading When The Moon Was Ours, I was blown away by the gorgeous prose and I was sure I was going to absolutely love the story. And there are definitely a lot of things to love in the story. Where did it go wrong for me then? Like I said, the problem is me, not When The Moon Was Ours. This simply is another case of the magical realism and me not being able to connect rather than a story not well written. The writing style is beautiful, lyrical and something to fall in love with on its own. The main characters are both so unique, mysterious and fascinating that you cannot help but feel for them. I LOVED the Spanish elements included (alfajores!!) as well as the queer references and Sam and his ‘bacha posh’ life. This book is an ode to unique and quirky characters and diversity in general. Sam and Miel are both wonderful characters and I loved the dynamics between them. But. Like I said before, I really struggled with the magical realism and it made it harder to fully appreciate the story. Otherwise When The Moon Was Ours is an absolutely stunning read, so if you don’t mind magical realism in your stories, this one is an absolute must-read.


Title: Bad Romance
Author: Heather Demetrios

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt And Co.
Finished reading: June 30th 2018
Pages: 368

“When I feel trapped, afraid, lonely, I only have to look up at the sky and think: this is what people in Morocco look at when they see the sky. And India, Thailand, South Africa. Korea and Chile and Italy. The world, I remind myself, is mine, if only I have the courage to grasp it when the opportunity is given to me.”


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I’ve had lots of people warning me to brace myself before picking up Bad Romance, because it would be an emotionally draining read. I can definitely understand that warning now. Bad Romance will make you feel uncomfortable, frustrated, outraged and basically an emotional wreck. Oh yes, this is not an easy read and painfully accurate in describing how a toxic relationship can destroy a person. Coming from someone who had the back luck of being in a toxic relationship once, I can fully relate to the main character Grace. Did I want to scream at her to get the hell out? Yes. Was I frustrated by how blind she was to what Gavin was doing to her? Yes. Did I shake my head as she let him take away her freedom piece by piece? Yes. But this is exactly what a toxic relationship will do to the victim and while painfully frustrating at times, Heather Demetrios deserves a round of applause for getting these words on paper no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. I could have done without the love triangle, which put kind of a damper on things for me, but overall Bad Romance is a very strong read that will stay with me for a long time. Emotionally draining, but o so satisfying in the end.


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ARC REVIEW: The Perfect Friend – by Barbara Copperthwaite @bookouture @BCopperthwait

Title: The Perfect Friend
Author: Barbara Copperthwaite
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 5th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 23rd 2018
Pages: 295

“I am a Russian doll of secrets, so many cradled one inside the other, all looking like me but diminishing until what is left is so tiny I fear I’m disappearing.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I have consistantly enjoyed Barbara Copperthwaite‘s psychological thrillers in the past, so of course I couldn’t resist trying out her newest title The Perfect Friend. And now I’ve finished it, and I can’t believe what I’ve just read. Oh yes, don’t let the bright and cheery yellow cover deceive you… This one will mess with your mind. When I think of Barbara Copperthwaite‘s books, I think of well written, intricately developed plots full of twists, secrets and lies to fool us readers. The Perfect Friend is no exception to this rule. I’m normally not a big fan of unreliable characters in psychological thrillers, but somehow this technique works really well in this story. Nothing is as it seems and between the intricate web of lies and secrets and the mystery around the past and background of both characters you will be drawn right in as you try to figure out what is really going on. What is a lie, what is the truth and how does it all fit together? Your brain will have a field day with this one, and I’m promising you the final reveals will leave you flabbergasted. Oh yes, The Perfect Friend has quite a few shocking surprises for us in store, as nothing is as it seems and it’s impossible to guess the full truth. The main characters are actually quite easy to like for unreliable characters, making it easier to connect to the story from the start. I did start wondering about the credibility of it all, but I was too distracted by all the plot twist reveals to be really bothered by that. Definitely read The Perfect Friend if you enjoy reading well written psychological thrillers full of surprises!

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Alex her life has fallen apart ever since her husband had left her and her children won’t speak to her. She has been struggling with an eating disorder ever since, anorexia almost meaning her death sentence. But somehow Alex managed to come back from that experience, and has been trying to recover ever since. Her life changes when she meets Carrie during a group meeting, and despite the age difference the two become fast friends. And when Alex discovers Carrie’s cancer is back and this time it’s terminal, she decides she would do anything to help her friend. But is Alex truly the only one hiding secrets connected to her past?

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If you are looking for a well written, engaging, twisty and surprising psychological thriller, The Perfect Friend is just the book for you. Trigger warnings are in place for abuse, (mental) illness, eating disorder and some sensitive scenes, but overall nothing too shocking to handle. This is not the easiest read and there is no doubt you will find yourself tangled in a web of lies and secrets along with the main character. I always love it when a story manages to mislead me! I also really liked the relationship between Alex and Carrie and how the story unfolded. All in all a very solid read.


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ARC REVIEW: Saigon Dark – by Elka Ray @crimewavepress

Title: Saigon Dark
Author: Elka Ray
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 5th 2016
Publisher: Crime Wave Press
Finished reading: June 28th 2018
Pages: 231

“Closure? When I hear people use this word, I dismiss them as idiots, or worse. Just the idea is a travesty, like you could close a door on your love, lock it up tight, and paint over it. Real love is a part of you, like your heart or your liver. You might survive massive trauma but you won’t ever be the same.”

*** 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 always enjoy reading books with a foreign setting, especially when I haven’t been there myself as it feels like a mini-vacation just being able to read about it. Between the promise of a setting in Vietnam and an intriguing premise, I knew I had to give this story a go. Saigon Dark is a mix of a domestic drama and a psychological thriller set in a timespan of roughly ten years. The story jumps forward a lot between chapters, but if you keep track of the dates mentioned the story isn’t that difficult to follow. I liked the writing style, which flowed naturally and easy on the eye. The plot is an interesting one with just the right amount of secrets and twists. Did I understand the reasoning behind the things the main characters? Not always. Do I think she should have said something when it happened all those years ago instead of doing what she did? Yes. But I guess there wouldn’t have been a story otherwise. I did feel there were some holes in the plot, or at least bits I would have liked to see more developed. And I kind of struggled with the ending, which felt rather abrupt. I was left wanting to know more and learn how things continued since a lot was left unsaid. Saigon Dark has a few pretty decent twists, although I did guess part of the final reveals early on. But in general I can’t deny Saign Dark was a very interesting read with a foreign setting I was able to explore thanks to the story. Trigger warnings are in place for abuse and violence though.

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Lily is a successful plastic surgeon and the single mom of two small kids. Then one day her life changes forever as she finds her little daughter has drowned in the backyard. She is unconsolable and stricken by grief, and that might explain the split-second decision to take in her neighbor’s neglected and abused daughter and whisk her away from her home. Lily spends the next decade living a lie, telling everyone the girl she practically kidnapped is her own dead daughter. Just as she remarries and starts to feel safe, she receives a threatening note… Will she able to keep her past a secret?

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Saigon Dark is without doubt an interesting read. The main character Lily’s situation is a very complicated one and while I don’t agree with her actions, I can see how grief can make people do things they normally wouldn’t. There is no doubt she saved the girl from more abuse and neglect in the years that followed, but denying her the truth about her past isn’t exactly ethical either. It was interesting to see how things slowly started to unfold though, although I still would have wished a less abrupt ending. I’m having a feeling especially fans of domestic thrillers will enjoy this one.


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ARC REVIEW: Bring Me Back – by B.A. Paris

Title: Bring Me Back
Author: B.A. Paris
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 1st 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: June 12th 2018
Pages: 336

“But there is only silence, and the dust of hopes never fulfilled, taunting me with what could have been, if only I’d acted differently.”

*** 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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!! Happy publication day !!

Bring Me Back has to be one of the most hyped psychological thriller releases this year. While I was stoked to be able to receive a copy early, I was also worried about the possible consequences of such a popular title. Because let’s face it: popular books and me don’t exactly have an optimal relationship. And as the mixed reviews for Bring Me Back started coming in, I was getting more worried about my own reaction. Hence the reason I’ve been posponing my own experience with this title until there was hardly time left before the publish date. It might have been that I went in with lower expectations, it might have been because of different reasons, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. The first thing that stands out for me is the writing style, which shows a certain quality you only see in the better psychological thrillers and was just as good as my previous experience with her work in The Breakdown. B.A. Paris knows how to create suspense and how to start a story with a bang. There is no doubt that the first couple of chapters will have you completely hooked! And while the pace was a little slower than I would have liked, I found Bring Me Back a very entertaining read. BUT. And here come a few elements I wasn’t too sure about and I know others struggled with as well. First of all, I was able to guess quite a few plot twists long before they happened and the plot was quite predictable in general. Or at least the mayority of the story… The final part was actually the complete opposite, but sadly not in a completely positive way. Let’s just say, without giving away spoilers, that the ending is so absurd and over the top that there was no way I could think of it as a believable plot twist. It was surprising for sure and I don’t think anyone would have guessed it… But I personally would have preferred a more predictable but at least credible ending instead. The change of past and present and different POVs did add a little something extra to the story, and I liked learning more about how the main characters first met and finding out what happened (even though it was easy to guess quite a lot of that information early on). As for the characters: I can’t say I particularly liked them, and this made it a bit more difficult to connect to the story. But the main issue for me was both the predictability of the majority of the plot and the highly implausible and over the top ending. Going in with lower expectations probably saved Bring Me Back for me though, and I was able to enjoy it better than I thought I would.

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Finn and Layla travel to France during a holiday, only for Finn to return home alone. During a stop on the way back, Layla disappears from the car and nobody ever sees her again. Finn is initially accused of being involved, but later freed from blame although there is no trace of Layla anywhere. Years later, Finn has found happiness again and he’s engaged to be married… To Layla’s sister Ellen. Then one day a tiny Russian doll shows up on their doorstep, and their lives are about to change forever.

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I’m aware of the fact that Bring Me Back has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews, and I can understand why. If you read a lot of psychological thrillers and go in with high expectations, you will probably be disappointed by the rather predictable plot and completely implausible ending and final twist. But if you instead take it slow and don’t focus too much on those points, you will be able to enjoy the solid writing and an otherwise slower paced but enjoyable story. And trust me, you won’t be looking at Russian dolls in the same way after finishing Bring Me Back.


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ARC REVIEW: The Lost For Words Bookshop – by Stephanie Butland

Title: The Lost For Words Bookshop 
Author: Stephanie Butland
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 20th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: June 9th 2018
Pages: 368

“Our pasts are as unfixed as our futures, if you think about it. And I like the freedom I have to tell a different story.”

*** 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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Here we go again: unpopular opinion time. Trust me, I was fully expecting to love this story, especially since I have a weak spot for books about books… But I guess it turns out it wasn’t ment to be. On its own The Lost For Words Bookshop has all the right elements to turn the story into a success. And that is probably one of the reasons I’ve seen only glowing reviews so far. I’m asking myself now: why didn’t enjoy this story better then? Well, first of all it’s probably me that is part of the problem. Because let’s face it, introduce a love triangle and I start sneezing. But surprisingly it wasn’t exactly the romance in this story that bothered me. The main problem I had was with the main characters, who somehow I just wasn’t able to get a proper feel for. Which is strange, because each of them is well developed, feels real and adds a little something to the story. But it is what it is, and I can’t change my feelings. Another thing that I wasn’t so sure about were the flashback chapters, going back to Loveday’s childhood. Instead of adding dept and intrigue to the plot, I mostly felt it interrupted the flow of the present storyline, especially since both seemed to have a quite different writing style. The switches were actually one of the reasons it took me longer than expected to finish this read. That said, I did love the incorporation of poems, many many bookish references and of course Loveday’s tattoos and their meaning. A true bliss for any booklover to find. Likewise, the descriptions of the bookstore make me wish I could visit the place myself. But somehow, The Lost For Words Bookshop just didn’t hit home for me. Being able to see some of the plot twists coming from a mile away didn’t help either… But like I said, I’m in the minority here and fans of contemporary romance with a darker twists will probably enjoy this one a lot better than I did. Because there is no doubt that Loveday’s past is no joke.

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Loveday Cardew has been working in Archie’s bookshop ever since she was fifteen, and to be honest she prefers books over people. Books have always played a role in her life, and she even has the first lines of the novels that mean the most to her tattooed on her skin. Loveday doesn’t want to get close to a lot of people for a reason though, as she is trying to hide her past… Something she will never want to talk about. But after certain books arrived at the bookshop, she is starting to wonder if someone knows about her mysterious past after all…

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On its own, The Lost For Words Bookshop seems to be having all the right elements. It has a lot of bookish references to fall in love with, complicated and well developed characters, suspense and a mysterious past, drama, a healthy dose of romance for the romance fans… I was expecting to love this one, but somehow I wasn’t completely convinced. Between the lack of connection to the characters, love triangle and past-present storyline switches that didn’t feel natural to me, I ended up taking a lot longer than I thought I would to finish this one. There were elements I loved of course, including the bookish elements and Archie’s character. And I’m positive most of you will enjoy this story a lot more than I did.


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ARC REVIEW: What Happened That Night – by Sandra Block @sourcebooks

Title: What Happened That Night
Author: Sandra Block
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 5th 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Finished reading: June 5th 2018
Pages: 352

“I read until my eyes go blurry. Then I flick off the light and slide my hand under the pillow to cradle my Beretta. My own little teddy bear.”

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

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As soon as I saw the cover, I just knew I had to read this thriller. And it turns out my coverlove instinct was absolutely right. Dark, gritty, painful and strong… What Happened That Night is without doubt a story that will crawl under your skin, unsettle you and leave you with an uncomfortable but satisfied feeling after you finish it. Why? Let’s just say that there are a lot of trigger warnings in place for the more sensitive readers, including for rape, violence, suicide and graphic scenes in general. If you can stomach those elements, you will find yourself a very interesting thriller in What Happened That Night. The writing style is engaging and I liked the diversity of the main characters and their development. Dahlia is a very strong character with a lot of problems, but I like her style. James is also a favorite, and I appreciate that his Asperger’s syndrome plays a role throughout the story. The dynamics between Dahlia and James are interesting as well and is part of the reason this book works. That said, I did have my doubts about the credibility of it all, especially involving the revenge plan  Dahlia and James have developed. I seriously doubt they would be able to get away with all that… And I saw credibility holes in the plot as well. More importantly, I was also able to guess one or two mayor plot twists early on even though I kept hoping I was wrong. That might just be me reading a lot of thrillers in the first place though. Because there is no doubt What Happened That Night is a superfast, dark and twisted thriller that will chill you to the bone.

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Dahlia used to be a successful Harvard student on her way to becoming a lawyer, but that all changed one horrible night. She wakes up after a party after having been brutally assaulted. The worst part: she doesn’t seem to remember anything from that night, just that her life will never be the same. Years later, she still suffers from PTSD and hasn’t properly been able to deal with that night… Until one day, a video turns up online and Dahlia sees for the first night what really happened during the attack. And now she knows who to blame, she is out for her revenge…

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What Happened That Night isn’t any easy read and trigger warnings are in place, but if you like your thrillers dark and gritty you will be in for a treat. This story has an original ring to it, both because of the selection of characters and the plot itself. True, I had my doubts about the credibility and I was able to guess one or two key plot twists, but that doesn’t take away this is still a pretty darn good and twisted thriller.


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