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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ARC REVIEW: Like Follow Kill – by Carissa Ann Lynch

Title: Like Follow Kill
Author: Carissa Ann Lynch
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 25th 2019
Publisher: One More Chapter
Finished reading: October 13th 2019
Pages: 280

“I’m like a ship that is full of holes, sinking faster by the minute. And it’s not like I don’t know how to swim, how to get my head above water… it’s just that I don’t want to.”

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

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There is no denying that the cover is eyecatching, and there was just something about the blurb as well that made me want to read Like Follow Kill instantly. Between the whole social media angle and that stalker vibe, it really sounded like we would be in for a treat… I appreciate the fact that the blurb only gives you minimum facts about the story, leaving lots of surprises and plot twists for you in store to discover along the way. I will keep my review short for the same reasons, as I don’t want to spoil the fun, but what I can say is that it would probably be wise not to trust any of the characters and prepare yourself for some very shocking twists. This story takes unreliable narrator to the next level!

This story basically revolves about two characters: Camilla and Valerie. They were once in school together, but were never actually friends and went their own ways afterwards… Camilla is a fascinating character. It shows she has been having issues long before the accident that killed her husband and left her scarred for life… She is the perfect unreliable narrator, her grief, alcoholism and mental health problems in general blurring facts and fiction as you follow her in this story. Her development is thorough and her character is thoroughly flawed as well, and even though she is not exactly likeable she somehow manages to grow on you anyway. Stalker vibe and questionable actions or not, you can’t help but feel at least a tiny bit sorry for her as well as admire her for following through with her search. As for Valerie… She is less present, as we mostly see her through Camilla’s eyes, but she is without doubt essential to the plot. I never really liked her, but then again we mainly see the polished online version of her… Her character works really well to show the consequences and possible dangers of such a public and online life though, something all too topical nowadays where a lot of people seem to be living through their social media accounts.

The writing is solid and makes it really easy to fly through those pages. The plot is also well constructed and handled perfectly to keep building up that suspense as well as managing to mislead you successfully. Things can be said about the credibility of certain aspects of the plot, but there is no denying that Like Follow Kill was a very entertaining ride with an ending that I never saw coming and left me flabbergasted. Those final chapters are on fire!! If you enjoy reading psychological thrillers with an unreliable narrator and an explosive twist, Like Follow Kill should definitely be on your wishlist.


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ARC REVIEW: The Liar’s Sister – by Sarah A. Denzil

Title: The Liar’s Sister
Author: Sarah A. Denzil
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 25th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: September 4th 2019
Pages: 290

“Maybe none of it is real until we reach adulthood, and everything that happened before is just the breeze drifting through the curtains at night.”

*** 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 have been wanting to read Sarah A. Denzil‘s books for quite some time now… While it’s true that I tried The Broken Ones not long ago and wasn’t too impressed, with so many people loving her books and recommending them (Yes, I have Silent Child on my TBR still), I just couldn’t resist trying her newest title. Especially after reading the blurb… I’m glad I decided to do so, because I definitely understand the power of her books now.

The Liar’s Sister starts out as what seems like a regular psychological thriller with a focus on family, secrets, lies and both illness and grief. The story is told mostly through a dual POV, set both in present and ten years ago. The main stars of this story are the two sisters Rosie and Heather, and as the story alternates between their point of views we slowly learn more about the past and the present. Because this is not just about strained relationship between them or about grief and trying to deal with the death of their mother. Rosie coming back to Buckthorpe is a cataclysm for a whole lot of dirt and secrets about to come to light…

The plot starts out simple and slowly gets more tangled as we learn more about what happened ten years ago and how this affects the present. The story will have you guessing for a long time, wondering what Rosie is hiding and what really happened all those years ago. I do believe the final reveals are a bit farfetched, but there is no doubt that this story ends with a bang and definitely crossed the line to action/crime thriller before you reach the final page. The Liar’s Sister is a psychological thriller filled to the brim with secrets and lies and without doubt packs a mean punch. Both focused on family relationships, grief and something possibly sinister happening in past and present, this story will appeal to both fans of more domestic thrillers and those who enjoy a healthy dose of suspense and action.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Escape Room – by Megan Goldin #blogtour #TheEscapeRoom @stmartinspress

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Escape Room blog tour! A huge thanks to Kelly Klein (St. Martin’s Press) for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about this story that caught my eye immediately and as soon as I saw the positive reviews popping up I knew I had made the right decision to read this title.  And it was without doubt a thrilling ride… Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Escape Room
Author: Megan Goldin
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 30th 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: July 20th 2019
Pages: 352

“If we all knew the truth, it would bring out our worst, most primitive instincts. We’d turn into feral animals. We’d consume one another.”

*** 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 admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I mean, we are dealing with a Wall Street angle combined with a potentially lethal escape room setting here; how am I supposed to resist that?! You guessed right, I didn’t, and it turned out to be a very interesting ride. There are a lot of good things I can mention about The Escape Room, and also a few minor issues, but overall it is without doubt a story I can recommend to fans of the genre.

The first thing that stands out in The Escape Room is of course the setting in the financial world. This story mostly takes place in New York, with a focus on Wall Street and just how brutal the financial sector is. Ambition is an understatement and people will crush their competitors and crawl over their dead bodies if that means they could add more money to their already generous paycheck that way. Addiction comes in many forms, and this story shows us that there is definitely such thing as money (and power) addiction. This insight in the Wall Street lifestyle of the elite is without doubt one of the most fascinating aspects of this story. The work that goes behind the multi million deals, the possible consequences for those involved, the competition, the discrimination and sexism still involved in the financial world, the physical and emotional toll the sheer pressure of the job has on those involved… All these elements and more are incorporated into the plot of The Escape Room.

We mainly learn more about the financial world through the chapters told from Sarah Hall’s POV. While we are not sure in the beginning exactly what role this character plays in the whole escape room situation, Sarah’s POV is essential to understand more about the background and events leading up to the escape room. Sarah’s chapters are altered with those set inside the elevator where the escape room is situated. These chapters have a more acute feel as there seems to be an underlying feeling of danger present at all times… And since you already know some basic facts about how things will end, because it’s right there in the very beginning of The Escape Room, you will find yourself wondering how things could have escalated to that point. I personally didn’t mind already knowing the ending before the story had even started, because it was intriguing to slowly try to discover why those specific characters ended up in the elevator and how Sarah’s character fitted in. The actual suspense is more subtle that way, in the sense that we don’t have a pile of crazy plot twists to recover from, but I could personally really appreciate how the plot itself was constructed.

Next up one of my issues with The Escape Room, and it has all to do with the main characters. I’ve never met a bunch of main characters that were each and every single one completely and utterly unlikeable and frustratingly irritating. Ok, I’m lying, I did mostly like Lucy as a character, but she wasn’t as present as the other five (Sarah, Vincent, Sylvie, Jules and Sam) so technically she doesn’t count right? There is a lot of complaining going on by all five characters before you reach the final page. Complaining about money: wanting more money, not having enough money, wanting to make more than their colleagues…Complaining about their situation in the elevator: they have better things to do than being stuck in an elevator, why them?, it’s not fair! etc. etc… Complaining about the job: the pressure, not receiving the recognition they deserve, blaming the job for their addictions… And I could go on and on. Each of the five of what I call the principal characters have a whole lot of negative personality traits and negative behavior we are forced to deal with and it makes it a lot harder to make yourself care about both what is happening in the elevator and about Sarah’s story as a whole.

I also had some issues with the credibility of it all, as some aspects of the plot are extremely farfetched and will make your eyebrows work overtime if you are looking for a credible and realistic thriller. On the other hand, if you are looking for an fast and crazy pageturner that will keep you entertained all the way, you will find yourself more than satisfied by what you find. It’s true that I would have liked to have more focus on the escape room itself, with less bitching and complaining of course and more secrets and clues to solve (some of the existing ones were really easy to guess), but there is just something about The Escape Room that made me enjoy the ride anyway despite the fact I saw the end coming quite early.

In short, if you don’t mind your stories on the insane side and think you can stomach the unlikeable characters, you will find yourself having a great time reading about what you can call a conspiracy plot mixed with an intense escape room situation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Megan Goldin worked as a correspondent for Reuters and other media outlets where she covered war, peace, international terrorism and financial meltdowns in the Middle East and Asia. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia where she raises three sons and is a foster mum to Labrador puppies learning to be guide dogs. The Escape Room is her debut novel.

CLICK HERE TO BUY


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ARC REVIEW: Dead Inside – by Noelle Holten @nholten40 @HarperImpulse

Title: Dead Inside
(DC Maggie Jamieson #1)
Author: Noelle Holten
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 31st 2019
Publisher: Killer Reads
Finished reading: May 17th 2019
Pages: 352

“He turned her from a confident, carefree, intelligent woman, into a shell. She felt like nothing. Like she was in someone else’s body, skin, mindset.”

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

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Holy bat in hell, what a read! Now excuse me while I go pick my jaw off the floor… I already had a feeling I was going to enjoy this crime thriller by fellow book blogger and now debut author Noelle Holten, and my expectations were more than met. I literally cancelled all plans, settled down in my favorite reading chair and flew through Dead Inside in one sitting. It was simply brilliant! I loved that we not only have the typical detective (Maggie) to follow, but that we also have a probation officer (Lucy) in the spotlight. It definitely shows in the little details that Noelle worked as a senior probation officer herself for eighteen years, and it was fascinating to see a lesser explored angle being used in a crime thriller. The same goes for criminal psychologist Kate, who brings another refreshing angle to the investigation and it’s these three women together that makes this story work so well. It’s true we don’t get to see all that much of Maggie yet, but I’m having a feeling we will be getting plenty of her in the sequel.

Dead Inside is all about domestic abuse and what effects it has on the victimis and those around them. Signs of abuse are often not easy to see and the victims often feel that the situation they are in is impossible to escape. Psychological abuse is still abuse and harder to discover for outsiders… As someone who has been in a toxic relationship in the past, I know how hard it can be to let go. Trigger warnings are in place for the mentioned abuse, rape, violence and alcoholism. Dead Inside shines a light on domestic abuse from the point of view of both victims and (in a less direct way) abusers. At the same time, we also have an active murder investigation going on with ‘victims’ who don’t exactly arise sympathy. This angle alone is a very intriguing as it makes you wonder about right and wrong and if certain people just had it coming and karma came looking for them, or if even those dirtbags have rights… This story is lightning fast and isn’t afraid to go dark and messy. There are various twists and turns involved in Dead Inside, and while I did see part of it coming, I definitely didn’t guess the final reveal. And what a way to end the story! The whole Bill Raven case sounds fascinatingly disturbing… I already can’t wait to read the sequel and Dead Inside hasn’t even officially been published yet. Crime thriller fans, you have found a new title for your wishlist! Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this outstanding crime thriller debut.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Breakers – by Dough Johnstone #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @annecater @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Breakers Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. As soon as I read the blurb of this story, I knew I HAD to read it… And the story most definitely blew me away. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on Breakers! Also, make sure to check out my blog tour buddy Eva’s fab review here while you’re at it. ❤

Title: Breakers
Author: Doug Johnstone
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 16th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: May 18th 2019
Pages: 300

“Everything with her was a performance, layered in irony, wrapped up in too much self-awareness. It was sweet but fucked up, tiring to go along with, like he was supposed to dig around for the real her.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Anne Cater and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I knew I had to read Breakers as soon as I first read the blurb. The Edinburgh setting, the devastating home situation of the main character, the mention of a crime lord involved… Oh yes, there were a lot of signs this was going to be an explosive and emotionally harrowing read. My instincts were right, because it turned out to be an absolute scorcher! In fact, the second thriller in a row to make me forget about everything else and finish the whole book in one sitting.

There is a lot to love in Breakers. The first thing that stands out is the writing style: the story is well written, engaging and the descriptions are done exceptionally well. The real power behind Breakers are the main characters though. Both flawed and realistic, Tyler, Flick and little Bean will win over your heart and you will ache for them as things are spinning out of control. Tyler has a very difficult life at home with his drug-addict mother and his violent older brother, but somehow he still manages to grow up pretty decent and protect his little sister Bean. His story is heartbreaking and Tyler’s relationship with his little sister earned a lot of brownie points! It’s obvious he doesn’t have an easy life, and it’s interesting to see his situation being contrasted to Flick’s life. It shows that having money doesn’t necessarily mean a happy life, but it does make things easier… It also shows that in the end they are not as different as Tyler thinks. Barry is a real pain and very easy to dislike, but his character is ment this way and helps show a contrast with his younger brother and that a difficult home situation doesn’t mean all kids turn out the same.

Another thing I could really appreciate was the crime lord element; it definitely spiced up the plot! At first we get a dose of minor crime as Barry, Kelly and Tyler rob houses, but then things take a turn for the worse as Barry knifes the wife of local crime lord Deke Holt. Things spin out of control quickly then and it shows in Barry’s character as well as he becomes even more unstable and violent. The situation of Tyler’s mother is tragic and shows us the effects of drug and alcohol addiction; children left fending for themselves as parents are no longer able to take care of them. Little Bean brings something sweet and innocent to the plot though. Her relationship with Tyler and innocent look on life are used as another contrast between ‘good and bad’.

Both character description and development are simply sublime in Breakers. It was fascinating to see how the different characters reacted to the situations that arised! This story was brutal and emotionally draining, but highly satisfying as a whole. Trigger warnings are in place for violence, abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction… Each of these elements is well incorporated into the plot and used to realistically display how tragic the home situation of Tyler and his little sister basically is. It is all a vicious circle almost impossible to escape… As you might have guessed already, Breakers is an absolutely fantastic and brutal story that fans of the genre will most likely devour in one sitting. I know I did!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had nine novels published, most recently Fault Lines. His previous novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his other novels have been award winners and bestsellers, and he’s had short stories published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. His work has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned for film and television. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors. He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, and is drummer, vocalist and occasional guitarist for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He also reviews books for The Big Issue magazine, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.


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