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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YVO’S SHORTIES #131 – The Last & The Chain

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two 2019 crime releases that have created a lot of buzz and that I’ve been looking forward to finally pick up… I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Last, but I literally finished The Chain in one sitting despite a few minor issues.


Title: The Last
Author: Hanna Jameson

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Dystopia
First published: January 31st 2019
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: November 1st
Pages: 352

“History is only the sum of its people.”


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Oh boy, do I feel conflicted about this title! I’ve seen mixed things about The Last ever since it came out, but there was just something about the blurb and the ‘locked-room mystery‘ feel I couldn’t resist. I have to be honest and say I was a bit wary to pick it up myself though, but in the end I couldn’t resist the temptation and decided to see for myself what I would make of The Last. I still stand by the fact that the premise of this story is both fascinating and simply brilliant, and I absolutely loved the dystopian feel. It definitely gave this story an unique twist and it was simply fascinating to see the different characters react to the nuclear attacks and the aftermath. There were a few things that irked me though. First of all, I was a bit disappointed to find out that the whole investigation to find who is behind the death of the little girl is mostly pushed into the background. After reading the blurb, I thought that it would be given a more prominent place in the plot, but instead The Last focuses more on the surviving after a nuclear disaster part and should be considered more dystopian than mystery/thriller. Think The Walking Dead or The Road, but without the zombies and more people involved… Not a bad thing necessarily, but not exactly what I was expecting. I also struggled with the writing style and more specifically Jon’s voice. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but there was just something about the way he narrates what happens that really annoyed me. I wasn’t really a fan of the abuse, rape and hints at cannibalism incorporated into the plot either, mostly because of the sometimes crude way these elements were incorporated into the plot. Cutting things short, there were things I loved and things that didn’t work for me in The Last, and I ended up having mixed feelings about this story myself. I can definitely see why this story can work either way for you depending on how you react to the different elements.


Title: The Chain
Author: Adrian McKinty

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 9th 2019
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: November 13th 2019
Pages: 369

Civilization is just a thin, fragile veneer over the law of the jungle: Better you than me. Better your kid than my kid.”


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There has been quite some buzz around this title ever since the first reviews started popping up… Hyped books and me have a bit of a strained relationship, but there was just no way on earth I was going to resist that blurb. Now I’ve finally had the chance to read The Chain, I’m definitely a fan. After a slower read, I was really craving for a dose of something fast, exhilarating and properly twisted. The Chain came to the rescue! I literally finished this story in one sitting, unable to put my kindle down and impatient to discover how it all would end. Mind you, I did have some minor issues with the story, but overall I had a brilliant time reading this story. Lightning fast, properly wicked and one hell of a premise: there is a lot to love in this story if you can forget about a few minor blips along the way. It’s true that I really started to doubt about the credibility of it all as things started to escalate further and further. It’s true that I guessed at least one mayor plot twists really early on. It’s also true that I’m still not sure if the ending was all that satisfying for me. And it’s definitely true that I had mixed thoughts about the main characters. BUT. It is also true that The Chain grabbed me from the very first chapter and it was hook, line and sinker as I keeped turning those pages and neglecting pending chores in the process. And it is most definitely a fact that the premise of this story is simply brilliant. If you are looking for a fast-paced, disturbing and engaging thriller ride, I can suggest joining The Chain and see for yourself what the hype is all about.


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ARC REVIEW: Cold Heart Creek – by Lisa Regan @bookouture

Title: Cold Heart Creek
(Detective Josie Quinn #7)

Author: Lisa Regan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: December 2nd 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: November 19th 2019
Pages: 377

“But her mind went there anyway because the moment you told your brain not to think of something, that was precisely what it conjured.”

*** 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’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Detective Josie Quinn series is one of my favorite detective series and every time I discover a new installment is coming out I get that feeling of Christmas having arrived early. I’ve been a fan of this series ever since I read the first book almost two years ago… It’s been a long and intense ride for Josie Quinn, and it seems like trouble keeps showing up around the small town where she works. Not that I’m complaining, as each new appearance of trouble means a new Josie Quinn book and a promise of another formidable and addicting ride. Cold Heart Creek is no exception, and already the seventh book that manages to hit the detective thriller nail right on the head. Want to know why?

The first thing you have to know is just how compelling each book is. I know it might come over as a bit of a book reviewer cliche, but you will want to clear your schedule before you pick up one of these books… Because once you read the first chapter, you will forget about your pending tasks and keep turning those pages until you suddenly reach that final page, look up at the clock and realize hours have past. With a superfast pace, lots of action and suspense and a compelling plot, time will fly as you will become fully addicted to whatever shocking case Josie Quinn and her team encounter next… And I literally finished Cold Heart Creek in one sitting.

There is also no denying the power of being able to meet up with favorite characters again. I have been rooting for Josie, Noah, Gretchen and the others since the beginning and I’ve really enjoyed seeing them grow over time… And getting to meet up with them again is always a fantastic feeling. Technically, you could read Cold Heart Creek as a stand-alone, but you will be missing out on the background of the different characters and you might not understand some comments about events that happened in previous books. That said, the main storyline and two cases Josie Quinn and her team investigate in book seven shouldn’t be a problem to follow without that previous knowledge… Although if you are a fan of thrilling and intense detective stories, there really is no excuse to just read them all and enjoy the ride before diving into the newest Detective Josie Quinn.

There isn’t too much focus on the personal development of the main characters this time around. Instead, Cold Heart Creek mostly focuses on not one, but two cases that might or might not be connected… The story will grab you from the very first chapter, as Lisa Regan manages to lure you in with the promise of another disturbing and thrilling story. I’ve mentioned in the past that if you look critically, things can be said about the credibility of the plot and things being slightly over the top, but I personally don’t mind as the story reads lightning fast and is 200% entertaining and addictive. I really enjoyed the cult element in Cold Heart Creek and just how big of a role it played in the plot in general; the scenes in the woods were particularly well described and really made the setting come alive for me. The plot itself has many twists and turns and events that will definitely manage to catch you unawares… If you are a fan of fast and intense detective thrillers with a very high entertainment value and pack a punch, I can highly recommend both Cold Heart Creek and the Detective Josie Quinn series in general.


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ARC REVIEW: Cold Fear – by Mads Peder Nordbo

Title: Cold Fear
(Greenland #2)

Author: Mads Peder Nordbo
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 17th 2018
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: October 23rd 2019
Pages: 357
(Originally published in Danish: ‘Kold Angst’)

“Sorry is the most useless word ever invented.”

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

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I really enjoyed the first book The Girl Without Skin despite its brutalness last year, so as soon as I saw there was going to be a sequel I knew I had to add it to my wishlist. Main characters Matthew and Tupaarnaq are without doubt fascinating to follow, and I’ve been looking forward to discover what would happen to them next… Before I discuss my thoughts on Cold Fear, I first have to stress that this is one of those series you have to read in order, because this sequel wouldn’t make much sense if you try to read it as a standalone. Trust me, you wouldn’t do yourself a favor if you pick up Cold Fear before reading the first book!

That said, let’s continue with my thoughts on Cold Fear. After enjoying the first book, I was totally expecting to have a good reading experience with the sequel as well… But it turns out I ended up having mixed thoughts about it. First of all I have to say that the Greenland setting really complements the plot in many ways. Instead of being just a random setting for the story to take place, the harsh, brutal and almost ominous Greenland setting is almost omnipresent and almost feels like yet another character taking part in this story. Between the many descriptions and the role of the Greenland setting in the plot, it really made the different places mentioned in Cold Fear come alive for me… And it turns this series into a fantastic example of the powers of the unforgivable Nordic setting that makes reading nordic noir so special.

One of the things that stands out in Cold Fear is the sheer brutality of the plot. Almost excessive violence, murder, canibalism, abuse, rape, child abuse, rape, drug abuse… All of this and more is included into a plot filled with graphic scenes and this story is definitely not for those with a weak stomach. I myself don’t mind things getting bloody and violent, but I did start to wonder if this story went a little too extreme and took it one step too far… Some scenes just seemed excessive, especially those set in the bunker and everything related to the (child)abuse and rape. Trigger warning are definitely in place! Related to this, I also felt the plot itself was a bit too over the top, farfetched and the story itself lacked cohesion for me. Even with the knowledge of the first book, I had a hard time following the story at times and I guess the 1990s flashbacks didn’t really help either. Things can get a little confusing and I personally wasn’t all that satisfied by certain explanations nor how the story ended. I would have liked to see less seemingly useless violent graphic scenes and more background and plot building… As it was, the story just jumped all over the place for me, without giving a satisfying direction or justifying said violence and deaths.

As for the characters… Matthew and Tupaarnaq are without doubt fascinating characters, but I felt their development lacked more fleshing out in the sequel. Especially when it comes to Tupaarnaq, who didn’t seem to present and mostly reverted to cliches when she did appear in the plot. Likewise, Tom and the other more important characters also lacked fleshing out for me. I felt that the focus point of Cold Fear was basically on the extreme violence and making this story as brutal and shocking as possible, and as a consequence I don’t think the sequel reached its full potential nor lived up to expectations for me. Others did react better to Cold Fear though, so take my rambles with a grain of salt and don’t hesitate to try it if you think you can stomach the graphic scenes…


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