ARC REVIEW: The Liar’s Daughter – by Claire Allan

Title: The Liar’s Daughter
Author: Claire Allan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 23rd 2020
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: January 6th 2020 
Pages: 400

“There’s a time in a person’s life, if they are truly, truly wicked, when they move beyond the point of redemption.”

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

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I loved my first experience with Claire Allan‘s psychological thrillers last year and I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work ever since… I was going to read her thriller debut Her Name Was Rose next, but of course I couldn’t say no to reading her newest story The Liar’s Daughter first when the opportunity arose. I admit I was sold as soon as I read the blurb and guessed there would probably be something dark and ominous about this psychological thriller.

The Liar’s Daughter is by no means an easy read and incorporates difficult topics including child abuse, manipulation, cancer and mental health. Especially the first is trigger warning worthy, as it plays a big role in the story and can be hard to stomach in points… That said, I think that Claire Allan did an excellent job both describing and shining a light on the effects and consequences on the victims even years later. Shame, fear and manipulation often force victims to stay silent about their suffering and this story shows just how much it can destroy a life as well as affect those close to the persons involved. I do have to say that I wasn’t a fan of any of the characters though and that includes Ciara and Heidi, who should be easy to feel sympathy for. Joe McKee is of course the true villian despite him being on his deathbed, and he definitely will not win your sympathy (quite the contrary!). Ciara’s partner Stella is probably the most easy to like, although she doesn’t really play a big role in the story as a whole.

Unlikeable characters aside, there is no doubt that The Liar’s Daughter is a super engaging, quick and intriguing read. I literally started and finished it in less than a day! The prose is easy to read and you will find yourself flying through the pages as you want to discover if your guesses turn out to be right. I have to admit that I found the plot to be quite predictable and I guessed a lot of the plot twists really early on. It might just be that I’ve read too many thrillers in recent years, but it did put a minor damper on things… As a whole it was still a very entertaining read though.

The Liar’s Daughter is one of those psychological thrillers you will find yourself reading in record speed despite a somewhat predictable plot. Some parts are quite uncomfortable, especially those related to child abuse and Joe’s character in general, but the situation is well described and used to help shine a light on the problem instead of just looking for a way to ‘spice up’ the plot. If you are looking for a quick and engaging psychological thriller and don’t mind some troubling moments and heavy elements, The Liar’s Daughter is an excellent choice.


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ARC REVIEW: Big Lies In A Small Town – by Diane Chamberlain

Title: Big Lies In A Small Town
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: January 14th 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 5th 2020
Pages: 400

“I stared at the signature a while longer, wondering how a life that had started with so much promise could now be shrouded in such mystery.”

*** 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’ve heard so many great things about Diane Chamberlain‘s stories over the years and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick up one of her titles. I must have more than one title waiting on my kindle, but somehow other books always got in the way… That’s why I thought having an ARC of her newest title, and therefore a deadline, would be the perfect little push I needed to finally remedy this. The fact that the blurb of Big Lies In A Small Town sounds absolutely fascinating definitely helped that decision… Now that I’ve had the chance to finally try her work, I will definitely come back for more soon!

What made Big Lies In A Small Town so successful for me? There were quite a few factors, but let’s start with the basics of the plot. The story is told with the help of a dual timeline and two POVs, something that can go either way for me as it is very hard to get the balance between past and present just right. I think Diane Chamberlain hit the nail on the head with this story though. I felt both Morgan in the present and Anna in the past were equally important, equally well developed and equally crucial to the plot. The dual timeline structure turned this story into a complex, rich and very much satisfying historical fiction read… The POV switches only adding to the suspense and the mystery around Anna and the mural instead of distracting you.

There are a lot of different elements in play in both past and present POVs. We have Morgan with elements including DUI, prison, alcoholism, feelings of guilt, art restoration work, family and even romance. Then we have Anna with elements including racism and the South, gender discrimination, abuse, rape, family, mental health, crime and art of course. That seems to be a lot to have on just one plate, but Diane Chamberlain somehow makes it work and the result is an abundant and lavish story that also has more than one hidden deeper meaning.

It was fascinating to learn that Big Lies In A Small Town was actually based on real events and that the small town Edenton, North Carolina, does actually exist… And so did Anna Dale. It shows that a lot of research went into making this story feel authentic, and the details and descriptions really took the story to the next level. Racism and related problems in the 1940 South play a very important role in this story, and I thought it was described realistically. Likewise, we have Morgan in the present with a different set of problems, which are likewise realistically described. This story proves just how important is to get the research right before starting a story based on true events!

As for the characters… While Morgan and Anna weren’t my favorite characters of their corresponding POVs, I can’t deny that their development in general is very well done and they both intrigued me. Favorites would probably be Oliver and Jesse, but each character put his or her own stamp on the story and they all played a role in representing the many different elements of Big Lies In A Small Town. The pace of this story might be a tad slow, as there are a lot of descriptions and their is a lot of focus on the characters as a whole. But there is also plenty of suspense, and the mystery around Anna and the strange elements on the mural will keep you on your toes as you try to discover the truth.

Big Lies In A Small Town is a historical fiction read that isn’t afraid to go big and throw a complex and wide-ranging plot with a deeper meaning at you; well researched and well developed, the result is an abundant story following two flawed but absolutely fascinating characters. Fans of the genre who don’t mind a slower pace will most likely devour this one!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #138 – The Family & A Curse So Dark And Lonely

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two 2019 releases belonging to two completely different genres… But both turned out to be winners. I already knew I was going to enjoy The Family, as I love everything Louise Jensen writes, and my instincts were absolutely right! And I had some doubts about A Curse So Dark And Lonely, but I ended up enjoying it a lot better than I hoped I would.


Title: The Family
Author: Louise Jensen

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 3rd 2019 
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: November 30th 2019
Pages: 383

“Family should stick together. Protect each other. Instead, I chose to come here.

This is all my fault.”


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It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of anything Louise Jensen writes, so I guess you can imagine how sad I was when I discovered I couldn’t request an ARC this time around… I preordered a finished copy instead, and I’ve been waiting impatiently to read it ever since my copy arrived. I can now guarantee you: Louise Jensen has done it again. I started reading The Family late on a Friday night and after only a couple of pages I decided to stop before I couldn’t stop anymore… Because I already knew I was going to want to keep reading. And that is what I did the next day: I cleared my schedule, sat down and kept turning those pages until I reached the end. The Family is definitely one of those psychological thrillers you will want to read in one sitting! And between the plot, writing, character development, secrets and twists, you will find it a very easy job to do just so. The story is told using different POVs, sometimes staying with the same character during various chapters and sometimes switching rapidly between chapters and characters. These everchanging dynamics add to the overall suspense of the story and definitely gives The Family a little something extra. The plot itself is fascinating as well. The cult like feel of the Oak Leaf Farm and its inhabitants, the vulnerability of Laura and her daughter, the secrets and twists that keep you guessing… And on top of that, the plot development is simply spot on and truly enhanced the reading experience for me. The main characters themselves are without doubt interesting as well. Flawed, well developed and realistic, they form the bricks this story stands on and they help turning The Family into the psychological thriller masterpiece it is. Fans of the genre are missing out if they haven’t read The Family or her other titles yet!


Title: A Curse So Dark And Lonely
(Cursebreakers #1)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: January 29th 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Finished reading: December 1st 2019
Pages: 496

“We are all dealt a hand at birth. A good hand can ultimately lose – just as a poor hand can win – but we must all play the cards the fate deals. The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.”


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There has been quite some hype around A Curse So Dark And Lonely this year, and you all know how hyped books and me tend to get along… I’ve been avoiding this first book of a new series by Brigid Kemmerer to be honest, but I just couldn’t resist any longer when I was in the mood for a little something different. I haven’t read nearly enough YA high fantasy this year, and it turns out I was long overdue for a dose of the genre. I ended up enjoying A Curse So Dark And Lonely so much more than I hoped I would! While it’s true that I’m not a big fan of Rhen, I LOVED Grey’s character and Harper was a solid lead as well. The details involving Emberfall and its curse are without doubt intriguing and well developed too. It was interesting to see fantasy and the real world collide and there was quite a some action involved as well. I also appreciated that the romance wasn’t omni-present in this first book. Instead, it’s mostly slowburn romance with only a hint at a possible love triangle… And I just loved the romance between Jack and Noah! A Curse So Dark And Lonely definitely ends with a cliffhanger though, so I’m happy the wait for the sequel won’t be too long. I do hope we’ll see more of Grey in the second book, or else I would probably end up quite disappointed…


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BOOK REVIEW: Changeling – by Matt Wesolowski @Orendabooks

Title: Changeling
(Six Stories #3)

Author: Matt Wesolowski
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 15th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: November 8th 2019
Pages: 194

“It’s like an urban myth, a legend that has refused to die; this case has resurfaced again and again in my life. This case has an inexorable pull. Whether I like it or not.”


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I know I’m late when it comes to the Six Stories party, having only discovered the series this year, but I’ve become a fast and irrevocable fan. While my first experience with this series was already brilliant, the second book blew me away completely and I wasn’t sure how any sequel would manage to live up to it. I shouldn’t have doubted the writing powers of Matt Wesolowski though, because he has truly outdone himself with Changeling. It’s been weeks since I finished reading this absolutely brilliant read, and I’m still struggling to get a word on paper… My ability to review completely destroyed by this story. Oh yes, such is the power of Changeling!

I think that part of the reason that makes this series in general so unique is its format. Told in a podcast form with six different episodes and a number of guests interviewed by an impartial podcast host, each book enables us to dive into the different cold cases from the very beginning. In the case of Changeling, we are trying to find out more about the 1988 disappearance of a child as they were driving through the Wentshire Forest. The seven-year-old Alfie Marsden disappeared without a trace when his father stopped after hearing a strange sound coming from inside his car… And no trace of the boy nor his body is ever found. What happened to Alfie that night? To this date nobody seems to know for sure, but after receiving a letter our already famous Scott King decides to give in and try to discover the truth.

As with the previous two books, the suspense is build up slowly but surely. Changeling  once again toes the line with the horror genre after the introduction of the supernatural angle and hints of the myths around the Wentshire Forest. This story isn’t just another thriller and investigation into a cold case; the strange things happening in this forest definitely give this story an eerie and ominous feel. As the episodes continue, we slowly get to know more about both the case, Alfie and those close to him. Nothing is as it seems and this story definitely has some surprises for you in store… But nothing is as big as that final reveal. I almost dropped my copy of the Changeling on the floor along with my jaw when I reached that part of the story… Those who have had the chance to read book three already will know what I’m talking about. Oh yes, Changeling most definitely ended with a bang and left me both speechless and wanting to analyze everything I just read all over again to see if I should have seen the signs… And it is without doubt a story that will stay with me for a long time.

Along with the format, plot and writing, the characters themselves also play a key role in the success of Changeling. Scott King we of course already know, and it was interesting to see him interact with and react to yet another intriguing case. The other characters that play a role in this story are all realistically and meticulously developed, making both them and Alfie’s case truly come alive for me. I had a fantastic time slowly discovering the truth about Alfie and those around him, and while not every character is all that likeable and has its flaws, I found it didn’t matter at all as it only made Changeling feel more realistic. If you are looking for a well written and spine-chilling thriller with an unique podcast format and an explosive ending, Changeling (and the rest of this series for that matter) should go straight to the top of your wishlist!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #133 – SHOUT & With The Fire On High

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! …


Title: SHOUT
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Poetry
First published: March 12th 2019
Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: November 7th 2019
Pages: 304

“untreated pain

is a cancer of the soul

that can kill you”


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While it’s true that I’m not exactly a big fan of poetry, I do like to try it every once in a while if the subject matter speaks to me. SHOUT has been recommended to me a couple of times, and when I saw it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards I decided to give in and finally read it. First of all I have to say that I truly admire Laurie Halse Anderson for not only speaking up about what happened to her, but also inspiring others to open up and talk about their own experiences. I confess I’ve yet to read Speak, but it’s on my TBR and I’m definitely hoping to get to it some time soon. SHOUT is 100% free verse, so don’t expect clear poetry structure and elements, but I guess the structure works as it helps the author talking about a wide variety of subjects including her childhood experiences, her time in Denmark and more recent events including author related experiences. Trigger warnings are definitely in place for difficult elements as (child) abuse, rape, violence, mental illness, alcoholism and drugs. They are the main reason behind this poetic memoir though: SHOUT is all about the author wanting to give victims the right to shout what happened to them from the rooftops as well as telling about her own experiences. I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t always able to connect to the writing style all that easily, and some ‘chapters’ worked better for me than others. This is purely talking about the form, not the content, which is both powerful, heartbreaking and harrowing. This memoir might not be for everyone, but there is no denying its power.

Title: With The Fire On High
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: November 10th 2019
Pages: 400

“And I know the past isn’t a mirror image of the future, but it’s a reflection of what can be; and when your first love breaks your heart, the shards of that can still draw blood for a long, long time.”


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Elizabeth Acevedo’s books have been on my radar for quite some time now, and as I’m a huge foodie I just couldn’t resist picking up her newest book With The Fire On High first. My expectations were high after reading various glowing reviews, and I have to say that expectations were more than met. Because from that gorgeous cover to the very last page this story simply delivers. The driving force behind With The Fire On High is the main character Emoni. Strong, driven, talented and determined to do whatever is best for her family despite difficulties life keeps throwing at her… The fact that she is a teenage mom, but not afraid to fight the prejudices, show the world what she is worth and fight for the ones she loves is truly inspiring. The development of both Emoni and the other characters is thorough, spot on and really made them come alive for me. As a girl with Puerto Rican/black heritage, Emoni’s character is able to teach us more about prejudices, race related struggles as well as community and culture. I loved the introduction of not only Spanish words and sentences, but also Latin flavors, spices and food in With The Fire On High. I also loved just how big of a role food plays in the story in general, and all those mouthwatering descriptions and recipes definitely made me crave food. And as someone who has lived in Spain and visited Sevilla herself, those chapters brought back great memories. The writing itself is beautiful and something to savour on its own, but With The Fire On High turned out to be the perfect YA realistic fiction recipe with a dash of slowburn romance to sweeten it all. Recommended!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #132 – The Flatshare & Rayne And Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time a dose of 2019 contemporary releases… The Flatshare was the winning title on Twitter last month as the first 2019 contemporary romance title I should pick up; it was an excellent choice and I really enjoyed it! And I’ve been meaning to pick up Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee ever since it was released, because I LOVED his previous books.


Title: The Flatshare
Author: Beth O’Leary

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 10th 2019
Publisher: Quercus
Finished reading: November 3rd 2019
Pages: 336

“There is no saving of people–people can only save themselves. The best you can do is help when they’re ready.”


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I’ve been hearing great things about The Flatshare even before I was released back in April… While the contemporary romance genre and me don’t always get along, there are exceptions and sometimes I’m just in the mood for a good romcom. I asked romance readers to help me with my next read, and The Flatshare turned out to be a clear winner on Twitter (I’m reading the Goodreads winner soon as well). And I’m definitely happy with the choice of the Twitter voters, as I had an excellent time reading this story. If you are looking for a fast-paced and entertaining romcom that isn’t afraid to go heavy as well, The Flatshare is an excellent choice. Because this isn’t just a romance story. So many different elements are in play… We have the book editor angle, as one of the main characters Tiffy works editing crafts books and is currently working on a crochet book. I loved the little insights in the industry as well as the crochet mentions! We also have the pallative care angle, involving the other star character Leon. I really liked how this element was developed and how certain patients ended up playing quite an important role. We then have the psychological abuse and abusive ex-boyfriend element, which definitely gives the story a heavier note and is the cause of frustration when it comes to how Tiffy handles the whole Justin situation. BUT. As someone who has suffered from a toxic relationship herself in the past, I do think the author did a good job showing us just how difficult it is to escape and recover from such relationship. And this is not all that the story has in store for us. We also have Leon’s brother Ricky, who has been charged for a crime he didn’t commit, and is fighting to prove his innocence. On top of that, we have Leon’s hunt to find someone before it’s too late… It might seem like a lot going on, but all these different elements helped enrich the plot and make the whole ‘flat and bed sharing’ basics of the plot a whole lot more interesting. I really liked the characters too despite the fact that I was SO frustrated with some of Tiffy’s actions… But characters were portrayed realistically and the flaws only made them come alive. In short, if you are a fan of the genre and haven’t read The Flatshare yet, you should definitely add it to your wishlist straight away.


Title: Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee
Author: Jeff Zentner

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: February 26th 2019
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Finished reading: November 6th 2019
Pages: 400

“For a long time I shined my light for someone other than me. But not anymore. Now I shine bright for me. You can create light even when everyone’s left you behind because that’s what you do. It’s what I do.”


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I absolutely adored Jeff Zentner’s previous books, so it’s easy to understand that Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee was on my list of most anticipated 2019 releases. I’m still not sure why it took me this long to actually pick it up, but I’m definitely glad I did. I do have to say that this book felt quite different from his other two books… Unique and quirky once again, but somehow a lot more upbeat and a different tone? Not necessarily a bad thing, but I did feel the spark of the previous books was missing somehow. I’m not say I didn’t enjoy reading Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee and I definitely loved the idea behind the old horror movies TV show and everything it entailed. The humor was right up my alley as well, and there were quite a few funny moments included to lighten up the story after more heavy moments. Still, somehow the story never managed to blow me away completely… And yes, that is even with easy to like main characters and prose that is extremely easy on the eye. Were my expectations too high? Maybe. Would I still recommend it to fans of the genre? Most definitely. Because while it’s not my favorite Jeff Zentner, it still makes for a very quirky, goofy and sometimes even heartbreaking read.


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ARC REVIEW: Down The Darkest Road – by Kylie Brant

Title: Down The Darkest Road
(Cady Maddix Mystery #2)

Author: Kylie Brant
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: December 10th 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 2nd 2019
Pages: 396

“All of a sudden, the best night of his life seemed like a distant memory.”

*** 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 really enjoyed my first meeting with Cady Maddix last year, so of course I couldn’t resist adding the sequel to my list as soon as I saw it was available on Netgalley. I’ve been looking forward to meeting up with her again, and I can now say that Down The Darkest Road is definitely a solid sequel and a very entertaining and thrilling ride. While I do think I enjoyed the first book a tiny bit more, there is no doubt that this sequel is a superfast thriller with a lot of action and suspense to keep you on edge.

Technically you could read Down The Darkest Road as a standalone, but as you would be missing background information on the main characters I wouldn’t recommend doing so. Without this information, you won’t be able to appreciate the complexity of Cady Maddix’s character fully… Because she is definitely one of the reasons why this thriller is so successful. With a traumatizing past that has marked her and haunts her to this date, her loyal dog Hero and her determination and fierceness while doing her job, Cady Maddix makes for a very intriguing deputy US marshal to follow. The main characters in general are easy to connect to despite their flaws, making them only feel more realistic in the process.

The plot itself is complex and filled to the brim with action scenes, suspense and a bulk load of plot twists and secrets. It has a very high entertainment level while also having quite a few shocking surprises for you in store… I do have to say that I’m not sure about the credibility of certain aspects of the plot and certain details did become a bit to fantastical, but there is no denying that Down The Darkest Road is a lighting fast and thrilling ride. The new case Cady Maddix becomes involved in definitely ticks a lot of killer thriller boxes. Bruce Forrester is the perfect villian for this story and it was fascinating to learn more about his character, his crimes and how he is able to escape justice for so long along the way. Dylan’s story was interesting as well; the witness turned victim as he has been moving around hiding and running from Bruce during the last five years… It shows just how little authorities can do to protect witnesses and what it is like to live in fear for so long. This aspect of the story was without doubt well developed.

In short, while I had some minor issues with the credibility of certain aspects of the plot, there is no doubt that I had a great time reading this sequel and I’m definitely looking forward to see how Cady Maddix’s character will develop in the future. If you like your thrillers suspenseful, dark and lightning fast, this series is an excellent choice!


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