ARC REVIEW: Small Spaces – by Katherine Arden

Title: Small Spaces
(Small Spaces #1)

Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: MG, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: July 16th 2019
Pages: 224

“Even bad things can lead to good.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been meaning to try Katherine Arden‘s work for a long time now… It’s true that I was planning to read the Winternight trilogy first, but I simply couldn’t resist the sound of this middle grade paranormal horror story when I saw it on Twitter. The grey and cold weather we are facing down here was the perfect backdrop for Small Spaces, a story that it set close to Halloween and gives off that creepy and dark October vibe. Although it shows that Small Spaces written for younger middle graders, it’s probably still a fun read for the older half of the target group as well. The key is in the story giving off the right horror vibe with the help of the descriptions… Although I wish there would have more dept and development in both the worldbuilding and characters, I really liked the idea behind Small Spaces. Ollie is without doubt an interesting character, and it’s understandable why she has the leading role in this first book of the series. It’s true I would have loved to see her character more developed, but she did grow over time and I enjoyed learning more about her relationship with her parents. The writing is engaging and makes you fly through the pages… I did find some of the dialogue to be too childish and not all that natural, but overall Small Spaces was still an interesting read. The story in the book Ollie snatched from the mysterous lady, the mist, the disappearances, the situation Ollie, Coco and Brian find themselves in afterwards… They all give off that paranormal horror and ghost vibe that is both properly creepy while still being appropriate for the target group. Small Spaces is without doubt a story that would be perfect addition for your Halloween month TBR.


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ARC REVIEW: Trance – by Adam Southward

Title: Trance
Author: Adam Southward
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: July 4th 2019
Pages: 332

“We understand so much, yet so little. Delving into people’s minds is an immature science, even for those of us who have studied it for years.”

*** 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 admit it was hook, line and sinker when I saw the cover of Trance and read the blurb. The promise of a dangerous character with the ability to control minds sounded absolutely fantastic, and there was no way I was going to be able to resist reading it. It might have been that I had set my expectations too high, because unfortunately I can’t say I was convinced by the story itself and I ended up having mixed thoughts. I still think the premise of this story is absolutely engrossing and probably the strongest aspect of this book. The suspect of this story, Victor Lazar, is a fascinatingly disturbing character; his mental ability makes this story step on the border of science fiction and paranormal activity and without doubt gives Trance a unique touch. As a result, it is hard to place Trance into a single genre and box, and instead we have an interesting mix of elements and storylines. It was especially fascinating to read more about Victor’s past and everything that happened in Romania. It might not be all that credible, but if you keep your mind open and don’t mind a sci-fi feel, you will find it to be an intriguing angle.

Now we arrive at one of the problems I had with Trance: the main character Alex Madison. On its own, I could really appreciate the psychology angle of this story. Instead of focusing on the crime and detective elements, Trance is more about trying to understand Victor Lazam and using psychology to analyze what goes on in his mind. The thing is… Alex basically is a spineless and despicable person; a pathetic whiner who is addicted to Xanax and an adulterer at that. I found the characters in general to be unlikeable, but my aversion to Alex made it very hard to keep invested in the story or care about what happened to them. Victor, disturbing as he was, at least made for an interesting character… Alex not so much. I also found part of the plot and character development to be rather unbelievable and this lack of credibility kind of put a damper on things. Things were too conveniently connected and the transition between different scenes and chapters wasn’t always all that fluid. I also struggled with the abrupt ending, and found the final scenes to be rather lacking. I still think the premise of Trance is simply captivating and the genre fluidity gave the story an unique touch, but sadly I ended up having mixed thoughts about the execution.


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ARC REVIEW: The Victim – by Max Manning

Title: The Victim
Author: Max Manning
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 6th 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Finished reading: June 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“Life is a game of lies, and death is the only truth. Time to play.”

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

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There was just something about the cover and its contrast that caught my eye when I first saw it, and as soon as I read the blurb I was sold. There is no doubt that the premise of The Victim is simply fascinating; a story where we follow two alternative storylines based on the decision of the main character Gem to fight or surrender during an attack in the first chapters. This is without doubt an unique concept and one that will also make you wonder what you would do yourself in a similar situation… And you will soon realize that there is a reason you won’t find solid advice on the matter, as there seems to be no clear correct answer as to what you should do as every perp and situation is unique. It was very interesting to see the consequences of both choices for Gem, not only the direct consequences but also how her life was changed afterwards.

Like I said, this concept of having two alternative storylines, one where Gem surrendered and one where Gem decided to fight, definitely makes for an unique read. I do have to say that things can get quite confusing as we not only have to keep apart two different versions of Gem’s story, but also what happens to other characters after her decision to fight or surrender. While at all times it is specified which storyline you are currently reading, it is kind of hard to keep track of which event belongs to what storyline and all that information might be a little too much to juggle at one time. I myself definitely wish I would have thought to take notes when I started reading, because it would have been easier to keep both versions apart that way. As you can imagine, this confusion and difficulty to separate and follow both alternative storylines did take away some of the reading pleasure for me. I can’t say I wasn’t a fan of the main characters either, and Gem started to frustrate me after a while… I did think that the suspect was an interesting character and I enjoyed finding out more about his past and motive. Did I think certain aspects of the plot and especially the ending were not all that credible? Yes. Did I end up having mixed thoughts about The Victim? Also yes. But I can’t deny it’s a very original concept and fans of the thriller genre will most likely find themselves intrigued.


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ARC REVIEW: Thirteen – by Steve Cavanagh @Flatironbooks

Title: Thirteen
(Eddie Flynn #4)

Author: Steve Cavanagh
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 25th 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Finished reading: June 21st 2019
Pages: 336

“In a criminal trial, forensic evidence is God. But I’m a defense attorney. I’ve got the devil on my side. And he doesn’t play fair.”

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


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I’ve had Steve Cavanagh‘s books on my radar for quite some time now, so I was stoked when I discovered that my request for an ARC of Thirteen was approved a while back. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the Eddie Flynn series in general, and even though this is already book four in the series, it has been promised to me and I can now confirm that the story works really well as a stand-alone as well. Although I can garantuee you that you will want to add the other three books to your wishlist straight away, as there is just something about the main character that makes you want to have more and more and more. Oh yes, this book was without doubt highly addictive, delightfully twisted and one hell of a ride!

This story had me at the cover. I mean, the whole the serial killer isn’t on trial, he’s on the jury alone instantly makes the heart of any thriller fan skip a beat, or am I wrong? Reading that kind of phrase on the cover gives you a lot of expectations, and those expectations were without doubt met in Thirteen. What a ride! This fourth book can be seen as a mix of a legal and serial killer thriller where we get the best of both worlds and a LOT of action and disturbing twists at that. It’s clear from the beginning that the main character Eddie Flynn isn’t exactly the type of guy to follow the rules, his past as a con artist confirming that, and he is without doubt a much more interesting character because of this. The story is told with a dual POV, switching between Eddie Flynn and Joshua Kane, and giving us an insight in both sides of the law. Joshua Kane is without doubt one of the most fascinating and disturbing serial killers I’ve read about in a while, and even though the cover gives away part of the twist, his undercover identity won’t be revealed until later and trust me, it will be hard to see that twist coming.

The plot is complex, cleverly constructed and hides the right key elements and information to keep you on your toes as you try to figure out if Bobby is really innocent and if so, how on earth the real killer was able to set him up so thoroughly. And what about the significance of the dollar bill? And the “accidents” that keep happening around those involved in the case? I loved seeing this story slowly unravel and show its secrets, and I bow to Steve Cavanagh for creating such a fascinating serial killer as well as giving us a healthy dose of legal thriller, plain old investigation work and action. There are lots of different elements involved, all mixed together to create the perfect and addictive thriller cocktail you will be wanting to drink in one sitting. Thirteen is a fast, disturbing an shocking legal thriller with a serial killer twist… Oh yes, I’m definitely a Steve Cavanagh fan now.


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ARC REVIEW: The Friend Who Lied – by Rachel Amphlett @RachelAmphlett

Title: The Friend Who Lied
Author: Rachel Amphlett
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 9th 2019
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Finished reading: June 11th 2019
Pages: 362

“Not one of them thought to ask if what was printed was the truth. They never do.”

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

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I think most will know by now that I’m a huge fan of the Kay Hunter series… I’ve been so ever since I finally read Scared To Death and first met the character last year. So it’s easy to understand that saying I’ve been excited to see if my love for her first step into the psychological thriller genre would be just as great would be an understatement. Guess what? I discovered Rachel Amphlett definitely has more than one genre under her belt! Be ready for another bout of raving rambles, because I’m not sure if I can write an unbiased review for The Friend Who Lied.

My brain had to cool off a few days before I was able to start writing a somewhat coherent review… What a read! My love for the psychological thriller genre is great and I tend to read a lot of them during the year, but I can already feel that The Friend Who Lied is a serious contender for my 2019 favorites list. What made this story stand out from the rest? It’s a combination of different elements actually, but let’s see if I can unravel my feelings for this review. The first thing that made this story so successful for me was the writing style. Sharp, well executed and engaging, The Friend Who Lied will manage to grab you from the very first page and doesn’t let go until you reach the last. You will forget about your surroundings, you will forget about the time passing, instead concentrating on Lisa’s story and what really happened that day in the escape room. And there we have another element that leaded to success: the well known amnesia or memory loss angle. While it’s true that this element has been used a lot in psychological thrillers in recent years, when done right it can add a healthy dose of suspense and intrigue to the plot. And guess what? I definitely loved how this element was incorporated into The Friend Who Lied. Having the main character Lisa waking up from surgery not remembering how she got there or what happened before she ended up at the hospital is simply fascinating… And the amnesia is not just an easy way out to adding more suspense either, as it is explained later why Lisa doesn’t remember anything in the first place and the reason is key to the overall plot.

Talking about the plot… We have the past and the present and a couple of different POVs to play with. While the main focus of the story is on Lisa, we will hear from her other friends as well as needed, and they will help slowly unravel secrets of both the past and present. The main question is of course what happened in the escape room that day, but trust me, that won’t be the only secret at play in this story. Oh no, The Friend Who Lied will uncover a whole web of secrets and lies before you reach that final chapter. The characters are each both well developed and feel realistic. The fact that Lisa just had to go through a kidney transplant is fascinating and plays an important role in the plot as well… It was intriguing reading about how she is trying to cope with the surgery as well as the memory loss and questions about the circumstances around Simon’s death. Not all characters are all that likeable, but each has its role to play in the plot and together they take the story to the next level. And that final reveal! I definitely didn’t see the full truth train coming before it hit me at full speed. If you are wondering what your next psychological thriller should be, you have just found your recommendation. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed when you pick up The Friend Who Lied!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Wolves At The Door – by Gunnar Staalesen #blogtour #RandomThingsTours #WolvesAtTheDoor #VargVeum #NordicNoir @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Wolves At The Door Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been meaning to plan a meeting with Varg Veum for a long time now, and when I was invited to the blog tour I saw it as a sign I should no longer pospone it. I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long to meet him now! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on Wolves At The Door.

Title: Wolves At The Door
(Varg Veum #21)
Author: Gunnar Staalesen
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 13th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: June 10th 2019
Pages: 276
(Originally published in Norwegian:’Utenfor er hundene’)

“Someone was lying to me, and one thing was sure: in such cases as this I seldom gave up until I found out who it was. And why.”

*** 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 think one problem all of us book bloggers have to face is the fact that there are so many fantastic sounding series and books out there and hardly enough time to even make a dent into the pile of unread priority titles. Meeting Varg Veum has been on my to-do list for a long long time now, but somehow other books always got in the way… I think the first time this Nordic Noir series appeared on my radar was with the publication of book number eighteen, Where Roses Never Die, back in 2017. While I prefer reading a series in order, with each publication fellow book bloggers kept promising the books can be read quite satisfactory as a standalone as well. So when I was invited for the blog tour for Wolves At The Door, I decided to jump in the deep end and finally meet Varg Veum without further excuses. (And let’s face it, there was no way I would be able to find time to read the first twenty books and catch up in the first place.)

Wolves At The Door is already the twenty first installment of the Varg Veum series, but as I was promised with the previous books, the story works really well as a standalone as well. The only thing that is bound to happen is that you, like myself, will be left wanting to spend more time with a new favorite character and end up reading the previous books anyway as soon as you can find time for them… Because such is the power of Varg Veum. I can understand why this series has been going on for as long as it has, because Varg Veum is a force to reckon with. He is one of those characters that I connected to immediately and profoundly. As soon as you read the first chapter, he feels familiar and it’s as if you have known him for ages already. His description, his way of seeing the world, his attitude, the way he speaks, reacts and deducts information from what he learns along the way, his humor… Meeting Varg Veum was like seeing an old friend again after a long time apart, knowing you won’t let him slip this easily from your life again now he’s back in the picture. I don’t often feel a connection this strong to a character after such a short time, but consider me officially on #TeamVargVeum from now on.

Varg Veum is not the only thing that makes Wolves At The Door into such a success for me. A lot of it had to do with both the writing style itself and the many detailed descriptions making the cold Nordic setting truly come alive. I haven’t had the chance to visit Norway yet, but I feel like I really got to know Bergen and its surroundings while reading Wolves At The Door. The detailed descriptions of not only the setting, but also the characters added a lot of dept to what was already an intriguing plot and gave the story a ominous and sinister atmosphere. The writing itself is excellent; we have the wonderful translation by Don Bartlett to thank for that, because we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this Nordic Noir gem otherwise. While the pace is slower in especially the first half of the story, it never really slowed me down as I saw it as an opportunity to get to know Varg Veum and other key characters better. The writing style and humor was spot on for me and I’ve become an instant fan of Gunnar Staalesen‘s work. As things are getting more heated for Varg Veum, the pace as well as the suspense pick up… Making you move towards the edge of your seat while you keep your fingers crossed everything will work out in the end.

Wolves At The Door deals with a very difficult topic, one that is trigger warning worthy: child abuse. An emotionally harrowing topic and very hard to write or read about, but I feel that Gunnar Staalesen has tackled the subject in an honorable and realistic way. It doesn’t make it easier to read about both the past case (I imagine has been discussed in the previous book I can’t wait to read now) and the new discoveries our main character Varg Veum makes as he follows his intuition… But it justifies going down that road and explore such a sensitive theme. The story will probably provoke strong emotions though, and you will definitely feel anger towards certain characters and events before you reach the final page. Of course, it’s always a good sign a story is able to make you feel such strong emotions in the first place… And there is no doubt whatsoever that Wolves At The Door is a brilliant piece of Nordic Noir and a harrowing story that will touch even those with the coldest heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Gunnar Staalesen was born in
Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with
Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg
Veum series. He is the author of over twenty-three titles, which have been
published in twenty-six countries and sold over five million copies. Twelve film
adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring
the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim, and a further series is
currently being filmed. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including
the Prize of Honour) and the Petrona Award, and been shortlisted for the CWA
Dagger, lives in Bergen with his wife.


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ARC REVIEW: The Marriage Betrayal – by Shalini Boland @bookouture

Title: The Marriage Betrayal
Author: Shalini Boland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 8th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 8th 2019
Pages: 273

“Anyone looking would see two young families having a relaxed evening out. They wouldn’t see the discomfort, the anxiety, the resentment. They might even be envious.”

*** 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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It’s true I’m a bit biased when it comes to Shalini Boland‘s work, as I’ve been a fan ever since I had the chance to read The Girl From The Sea back in 2016. Every time I hear a new psychological thriller is about to come out, I immediately add it to my wishlist even before reading the blurb… Shalini Boland‘s psychological thrillers have yet to fail me, and The Marriage Betrayal once again confirmed my love for her writing. Why was this another winner for me?

Well, first of all it’s the writing that draws you right in, sets the tone and won’t let you go until the very end. Every time I pick up a Shalini Boland story, I know I have to clear out my schedule beforehand and make sure nothing will disturb me while I read… Because it’s a garantuee I won’t be wanting to stop reading before I reach the final page if it can be helped. The Marriage Betrayal turned out to be another one of those reads. While it’s true the pace is a tad slow in the beginning, with the first quarter of the story being what seems like a mosty ordinary family vacation in Swanage. There is always a hint of unrest and suspense lying just beneath the surface though; the run down gothic house they rented for the week setting the tone for the atmosphere. Tension is slowly building up as we start getting glimpses of Jake and his sister Lainy’s past, with things escalating as Faye realizes that her husband Jake and their son Dylan are missing. Did something happen to them? Is there something more menacing at play? Secrets and lies are hinted at, but not revealed for a long long time; leaving you guessing what happened with Jake and Lainy in the past and what it has to do with the present. And what other secrets are they all hiding?

Like I said before, the building up is a bit slow and fans of faster psychological thrillers might struggle a bit with the first part of The Marriage Betrayal as there is more focus on the characters and mundane daily activities. I can promise you things WILL escalate and this story has quite a few shocking surprises for you lined up. The Marriage Betrayal will try to mislead you multiple times and try to make you look in the wrong direction… And even though I did start to guess some details of what was coming, there is no way to brace yourself for the end that Shalini Boland has for us in store. WHAT A TWIST!! It’s not often a psychological thriller manages to surprise me, but this twist left me with my mouth hanging wide open and consequently saying ‘NO WAY!’ over and over again. And while I thought that The Marriage Betrayal was a solid 4 star read during most of the story, it deserves an extra half start for the explosive ending alone. Fans of the genre will without doubt have a great time reading this story.


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