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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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The East End – by Jason Allen #blogtour

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The East End blog tour! A huge thanks to Justine Sha for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. There was just something about the blurb of this story that caught my attention right away and I had no other option but to read it… And it was without doubt a great decision. Please join me while I share my thoughts on The East End!

Title: The East End
Author: Jason Allen
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: May 7th 2019
Publisher: Park Row Books
Finished reading: May 6th 2019
Pages: 304

“It’s much better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t done. Remember that.”

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

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Like I said in the introduction, there was just something about the blurb of The East End that caught my attention right away, and it turns out my instincts were right about this story. What an intriguing and thought provoking read! It really shows that the author grew up in the Hamptons, as the descriptions of the area feel realistic and really transport you to the setting. The contrast of the working-class inhabitants of the Hamptons and the rich estate owners vacationing only for the season is fascinating.  The fact that they are only temporarily there, but not only have such a huge impact on life in town but also treat the locals in a certain way definitely leaves a lot to think about. Corey is a fascinating character, and I’m guessing here that part of his experiences and thoughts are inspired by the author himself back when he worked for wealthy estate owners himself when he was younger. Knowing this adds a whole different level to The East End and makes you wonder if little details were based on true events or if everything is indeed fiction. The fact remains that you will find a lot of flawed characters, secrets and lies in this mostly character-driven story. With a rich and elaborate prose, the author describes both setting and characters with a flourish and those characters without doubt provide for a lot of drama and suspense. I can’t say they were exactly likeable, but their flawed personalities were well developed and felt real. Trigger warnings are in place for abuse, addiction and alcoholism as well as violence and suicide… Oh yes, The East End has a lot of heavy topics for you in store. The main focus is on what happens that night in the mansion and the aftermath for the different characters though. The suspense and family drama is sprinkled with a little hint of romance, but this story mostly about secrets that might be revealed, a dead body on the property and an eternal struggle to find a way out. Fans of more character-driven suspenseful stories will have a great time with The East End.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A MEDITATION ON FIRE. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University, and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing. THE EAST END is his first novel.

SOCIAL LINKS

Author Website
Twitter: @EathanJason
Facebook: @jasonallenauthor
Goodreads

BUY LINKS

Harlequin // Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Books-A-Million // Powell’s


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YVO’S SHORTIES #93 – Daisy Jones And The Six & The Blue

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title that both turned out to be excellent reads. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid has only reconfirmed my love for this author and The Blue by Lucy Clarke introduced me to a new author I will be wanting to read more of in the future.


Title: Daisy Jones & The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Historical Fiction, Music
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: March 30th 2019
Pages: 336

“I think you have to have faith in people before they earn it. Otherwise it’s not faith, right?”


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I became an instant fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid‘s writing after reading The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo last year, and I’ve been waiting eagerly for the publication of her newest creation ever since. With this new story she has once again proven to me she belongs on my list of favorite authors. What a read! The first thing that stands out for me is the uniqueness of the format of Daisy Jones & The Six. The story is told through a series of interviews with the different members of the band and a few others close to them. This is done in a way that you start wondering if your memory failed you and there really was a band called Daisy Jones & The Six in the seventies… The different characters really came alive for me and it felt like a real biography of a rock band with a very colorful history. The format is one of the things that made this story into a success for me; the different characters remembering things in a different way and showing us that historical events are never objective. With this format, I’m sure an audiobook version would be absolutely fantastic! As for the characters… They are not exactly all that likeable and there are quite a few rock band cliches involved, but somehow this didn’t bother me at all as I was fascinated by how things would evolve. The dynamics between the different members are interesting and I liked how it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. More the other way around actually and darker themes such as alcoholism, drug addiction and sex are just as present as the music itself. Daisy and Billy are clearly the true stars of both the band and this book. The story mostly focuses on them and both their personal and professional development, although we see a little of especially Camila, Karen and Graham as well. The format does mean the character development isn’t as thorough as it could have been and some of the other band members are not all that fleshed out. Personally I found it easy to forgive that in exchange for a truly unique rock ‘n roll story that is ready to rock your socks off. The lyrics at the end of the story are a wonderful addition!


Title: The Blue
Author: Lucy Clarke

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 7th 2015
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: April 1st 2019
Pages: 391

“It was like staring into the sea for hours on end, searching: some moments you see things that aren’t there – and other times you miss the very thing that is right in front of you.”


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This one was an impulse buy for me and I was definitely surprised when my copy arrived with a neon orange spine and details… It’s growing on me though. More importantly, The Blue turns out to have been an excellent choice. As someone who has been lucky enough to travel quite a bit in the past, I love reading travel related stories. Add a destination I haven’t been able to visit myself and that is another bonus… And if you combine it with one of my favorite genres (suspense), the book and me most likely are going to get along. This is exactly what happened with The Blue. Best friends Lana and Kitty travel to the Philippines, randomly meeting the crew of a yacht called The Blue. When they are invited on board we get a glimpse of what it would be like to be aboard and travel that way… (I was so close to doing something similar in Panama a few years back, but things weren’t ment to be). It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows though, as more than one of them seems to be hiding something. The point of view switches back between past and present, where we soon find out Lana is no longer on board of The Blue and something terrible has happened to the rest of the crew… And we slowly learn how everyone ended up in that situation. The writing is engaging and really flows; it shows the author is a travel fan herself and has investigated thoroughly; her descriptions of the setting make it as if you were right there with the characters on the yacht and discovering those wonderful places. The suspense and plot twists are well handled and will definitely keep you guessing. I could have done without the romance, but overall it wasn’t too much of a distraction… In overall, this was a very entertaining and suspenseful read where you will find yourself sailing through those pages.


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ARC REVIEW: The Winter Sister – by Megan Collins

Title: The Winter Sister
Author: Megan Collins
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: February 5th 2019
Publisher: Touchstone
Finished reading: January 17th 2019
Pages: 336

“Love is love. You can’t just kick it to the curb, even if sometimes you wished like hell you could.”

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

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There has been a lot of buzz around The Winter Sister, and with a just cause. I simply couldn’t resist this title when I was sent a personal invitation to read it and I saw one of my favorite thriller writers Megan Miranda recommended it… My intuition didn’t fail me, because this story was without doubt a very solid read. Part family drama, part cold case murder, part psychological thriller, The Winter Sister has a little bit of everything and combined in such a way that makes for a perfect mystery cocktail everyone will love. The writing style is engaging and solid and will manage to draw you in from the very first page. I really liked the structure of this story, switching between 16 years ago and the present and done in such a way that keeps building up the suspense and intrigue without things becoming confusing. This story is about what happened to Persephone, but also the effects it had and still has on those close to her. The character development is very well done and feels realistic. It is interesting to see the different characters interact and change over time while you learn more about the past and how everyone fits on the board. While I did see part of the final twists coming, there were also things I hadn’t guessed and that’s always a great feeling. The family drama is well balanced out with the cold case investigation and other secrets and plot twists, making The Winter Sister an intriguing and satisfying read. Fans of the genre will have a great time with this one!

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It has been sixteen years since Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. She had been missing for three days before her body was found, and the crime has remained unsolved. Sylvie has tried to move on, but is faced with painful memories as she has to return come to care for her estranged mother. Being back home brings back all the questions and her theories on who was behind the death of her sister. She is determined to finally discover the truth no matter what it takes…

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My instincts told me I was in for a treat with this one and it turns out they were right. The Winter Sister offers us a well balanced mix of a family drama, cold case murder and psychological thriller with a focus on the complicated relationships between mother and daughters alike. The writing is solid and the plot well crafted and interestingly developed. The switches between past and present added to the intrigue and suspense around Persephone’s death and the truth what really happened to her… There are a lot of secrets and twists to discover, and while I did see some of them coming, others managed to surprise me. All in all The Winter Sister was a very satisfying read fans of the genre will love.


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