BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Beast – by Matt Wesolowski #RandomThingsTours #blogtour @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Beast Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. The first three Six Stories books simply blew me away last year and it’s easy to say Beast was right at the top of most-anticipated releases. And even with sky high expectations, book number four still turned out to be everything I could have hoped for and more! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Beast
(Six Stories #4)
Author: Matt Wesolowski
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 20th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 21st 2020
Pages: 320

“All anyone has to say is that they wonder why they did it, those three. That’s how it is these days. The killers become the story. The criminals are more exciting than the victims.”

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

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Holy bat in hell, what a read! I’ve been a Six Stories fan ever since I read the first book last year and all three books simply blew me away. In fact, both sequels ended up on my list of absolute top favorites of 2019! I’ve been waiting impatiently and eagerly for book four, and I literally dropped everything as soon as a copy of Beast arrived in my inbox. Such is the power of this series and Matt Wesolowski‘s writing! And of course once again I had a book hangover, and once again I found myself lost for words as I was trying to describe my experience with Beast afterwards. I don’t know how he keeps coming up with this stories and I honestly don’t care as long as they will keep appearing! Oh yes, this whole series has most definitely a worthy spot on my all time favorites list.

So, what makes Beast (and this series in general for that matter) so special? There are so many elements I loved in this story, but I think the first thing that stands out is the format. The whole series has an unique podcast format with a narrator, Scott King, who tries to be removed from the case he investigates. Scott King doesn’t judge, doesn’t solve the (cold) cases he talks about, but instead just puts six podcast episodes out there that might help those who follow his podcast uncover the truth. It is this unique and absolutely brilliant format that really takes the story to the next level, and it is also one of the few stories that actually makes me want to give audiobooks another chance, as I can imagine it would make for a fantastic listen.

Talking about Beast in particular, I thought the plot itself was spot on. It is a more recent case this time around, which means memories of those involved might be fresher and evidence might be easier to find. This is not just another murder case though and the small town of Ergarth has a lot to hide… Three men were convicted for the brutal murder of twenty-four-year-old vlogger Elizabeth, and while there was talk about cult related activities, a real motive for the crime has never been confirmed. Instead, there has been talk about a vampire legend which is part of Ergarth’s history. Is there really something supernatural going on? And what about the Dead In Six Days challenge? And the victim? Oh yes, there is definitely a lot more going on that you can see on the surface…

There are a lot of elements in play in Beast, all contributing to a plot that is both rich, complex and utterly fulfilling. We have the horror element with the vampire legend, which definitely adds the right dose of suspense and creepiness to the story. We have the social media angle, which is absolutely fascinating and definitely on point. In Elizabeth we see just how far the need for likes, comments and statistics can go and both her character and those surrounding her help show how social media really can take over and potentially destroy lives… We also have the bullying, abuse and manipulation, which is of course partially related to the whole social media element in the first place. And this story also talks about other elements including animal cruelty, mental illness and piromancy. This seems like a lot to juggle in just one story, but each element is incorporated flawlessly into what is an absolutely brilliant read.

What more to say about Beast? The writing is sublime of course. And both the plot development and building up of suspense and tension is simply spot on. Instead of a constant intensity, the suspense is build up slowly but surely, and this story will most definitely creep you out before you reach that final page. You will find yourself unable to stop reading as you start picking at those threads to find the truth… And as always, the sixth and final episode brings a plot twist bomb and it is without doubt a shocker. And that ending! Most definitely a perfect way to reenforce the point made with the whole social media angle.

I bow to the podcast thriller master and I will  be counting the days until we find out what case Scott King will decide to investigate next… In the mean time, I will just fill my time pestering everyone who hasn’t read this series yet. And yes, that includes YOU if you haven’t! Because the sheer brilliance of each experience with this series is something that nobody should miss out on.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care.

Wesolowski started his writing career in horror and was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at ‘Bloody Scotland’; Crime Writing Festival 2015. His subsequent debut crime novel ‘Six Stories’ was published by Orenda Books in the spring of 2016 with follow-up ‘Hydra’ published in the winter of 2017 and ‘Changeling’ in 2018.

‘Six Stories’ has been optioned by a major Hollywood studio and the third book in the series, ‘Changeling’ was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Award for Best Thriller and Best Independent Voice.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Death Deserved – by Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger #RandomThingsTours #blogtour @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Death Deserved Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve become a huge Nordic Noir fan over the years and I always love a good serial killer thriller, so of course I just couldn’t say no to this first book of a new series. And I’m definitely glad I decided to read this story now! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Death Deserved
(Alexander Blix & Emma Ramm #1)

Authors: Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Nordic Noir
First published: July 2nd 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: February 6th 2020
Pages: 276
(Originally written in Norwegian: ‘Nullpunkt’)

“That brief second of absolute, total silence. It was impossible to describe, because it was so replete with emotions. Adrenaline. Questions. A dread that still held him in its grip.”

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

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I’ve become huge fan of the nordic noir genre over the years, and I’m always looking out for new authors and books to discover. Both Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger have been on my radar for a while now, and although Death Deserved is my first encounter with their work, it has completely convinced me I have to read more of both authors soon. It is no exaggeration when I say that I was hooked from the very first page until those hilarious final acknowledgements. Death Deserved is one of those lightning-fast, exhilarating and simply thrilling serial killer reads that won’t let you go until you reach the very end… A true rollercoaster ride that keeps you on your toes the whole time.

This first book of a new nordic noir series blew me away from the very first chapter. The plot, the writing, the characters, the plot twists… There is a lot to love in Death Deserved and it’s the perfect nordic noir cocktail for anyone who loves a thrilling and action-packed ride. Let’s start with the beginning and talk about plot. The prologue itself is a true teaser as you wonder how it fits in with the rest of the story… What a way to start a story with a bang! Afterwards, at first glimpse we have a typical serial killer thriller or at least a hint at a crime thriller with the disappearance of famous Sonja Nordstrøm. Sonja gives us an immediate link between our two new main characters, which makes it easier to have both present from the very beginning… The plot itself is filled with action, violence and suspense as the serial killer manages to kill and taunt without leaving a trace. Plot twists will trap you, send you on the wrong track and have you doubt your suspicions and everything you already read. And I just love it when story manages to do that! The plot is simply excellently developed, the descriptions of the setting really make that Nordic feel come alive and the plot twists are definitely spot on.

Next up are the characters. Both Alexander Blix and Emma Ramm make for intriguing main characters. Blix might be a bit of a cliche with the past haunting him, but I liked him almost instantly and his new partner Kovic too. It was interesting to see his past slowly revealed and I liked the way he works his investigations. Emma Ramm is without doubt an intriguing character as well, and the connection with Blix once revealed is simply fascinating. I like how she is celebrity blogger/journalist who is suddenly being thrown into crime journalist game. Her personal life quite interesting too, and her actions are slowly explained as more about her past is revealed. Both characters together were able to help take this story to the next level and it was interesting to see them work together despite fact that Blix isn’t really allowed to share information with Emma in the first place. It’s without doubt an unorthodox team, but it makes for some very interesting reading!

I didn’t talk about serial killer as a character before, and that’s mostly because his identity is hidden until the very end. This only helps keeping up that level of suspense, as you think you have it all figured out only to have your theories crushed by some new detail. Trust me, I totally thought I did guess it all quite early on, only to be completely wrong in the end! The serial killer element is very well developed and the main focus is actually on the murders themselves and how they may connect. This was definitely one of the elements that made this story such a success for me, as there wasn’t one fixed killer signature except for all victims being famous for something. I also loved how the true motive finally became clear and how everything was explained in the end!

The murder investigation and journalism angle are not only elements in play though. We also have a spotlight on fame and celebrities; not only in the form of the murder victims, but also in the form of Blix’ daughter who participates in reality show with a high cash prize for the winner. I really liked how this element was developed and it definitely added a little something extra to the plot. There were also other minor elements involved including family and acceptance of a medical condition. All together the different elements form an explosive story that will have you running to keep up and fully breathless by the time you reach that final page… And you will most definitely find your jaw dropping right on the floor after you discover the full truth.

Death Deserved is an absolutely fantastic start of a new nordic noir and crime thriller series and highly recommended to any fan of the genre. This author duo is one to look out for! And yes, I totally wish I could understand Norwegian just so I could read the second book which hasn’t been translated yet… But that is just me being greedy. 😉 A big round of applause for translator Anne Bruce for giving us the opportunity to meet Alexander Blix and Emma Ramm in the first place!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger are the internationally bestselling Norwegian authors of the William Wisting and Henning Juul series respectively. Jørn Lier Horst first rose to literary fame with his No. 1 internationally bestselling William Wisting series. A former investigator in the Norwegian police, Horst imbues all his works with an unparalleled realism and suspense. Thomas Enger is the journalist-turned-author behind the internationally acclaimed and bestselling Henning Juul series. Enger’s trademark has become a darkly gritty voice paired with key social messages and tight plotting. Besides writing fiction for both adults and young adults, Enger also works as a music composer. Death Deserved is Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger’s first co-written thriller.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep – by H.G. Parry #blogtour @Tr4cyF3nt0n @OrbitBooks @hg_parry

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep blog tour! A huge thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I admit I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I love my bookish books and I think any booklover would love to have the power to bring their favorite characters into the real world… I just couldn’t wait to read this debut, and it turned out be a serious contender for favorite book of 2020 even this early in the year. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep
Author: H.G. Parry
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Books About Books
First published: July 23rd 2019
Publisher: Orbit
Finished reading: January 26th 2020 
Pages: 496

“Nothing stays hidden. Secrets are always found out, and the world is unforgiving.”

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

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First of all I have to say that my mind is blown by the fact that this is in fact a debut, and that I will most definitely be eagerly anticipating anything that H.G. Parry writes in the future. The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep literally had me as soon as I first read the blurb. I love my bookish books and I don’t think that there exists a booklover who wouldn’t want to have the power to bring their favorite literary characters into the world… Let alone reading a story about a main character who can do just that. My instincts told me I was going to enjoy this story, but what I didn’t expect was to find a story that blew me away so completely that it is already a serious contender for book of the year even this early into 2020. High praise, but 200% deserved!

So, what makes this book so special? Well, there are actually many aspects that contributed and together turned The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep into a true masterpiece. Let’s start with the beginning, and let’s talk about the worldbuilding behind this story. The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep is set in Wellington, New Zealand, but it is a setting in a real world with a twist. You can call it urban fantasy, you can call it magical realism, but the fact is that fiction and reality collide and this story has more than a magical touch. I personally adored this mix of fantasy and fiction and I thought the balance was just right. The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep has a firm foot in both ‘worlds’ and it shows in the fact that our main character Charley can in fact travel and exist in both.

This brings us immediately to the literary references and elements in this debut, which are irrevocably related to both the worldbuilding and the plot. Why? It is the many literary characters and the mysterious appearance of the Street invisible to the real world that really makes this story stand out and they are without doubt the keystones this story is built on. From classic characters like Sherlock Holmes, Uriah Heep, Dorian Gray and Mr. Darcy to more modern representations such as Matilda and The White WitchThe Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep provides us with a rich and diverse literary selection to treasure as the different characters appear and contribute to this new story. Anyone who loves bookish elements and literary references in their stories will be absolutely delighted by not only just how many you can discover while reading The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep, but also by how they are incorporated into the story itself. And I have to be honest here and say that these elements alone already turned this story into a new favorite for me.

There is more to love in The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep though. Next up is the plot itself and its many twists as things slowly evolve towards that inevitable final confrontation. Like I said before, I loved the mix of fiction and fantasy and that same balance is used to construct the plot. We have two brothers, Rob firmly planted in the real world and Charley always with his nose in books and with a very peculiar power. His ability to bring literary characters into the real world is fascinating and it was intriguing to learn more about his powers and everything it entails as the plot evolves. The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep has that hint of danger and adventure as the main characters discover a street that nobody can see… And soon their world as they know it is turned upside down forever. The plot is filled with twists and turns and you will find yourself cheering on the characters along the way… Worrying for them as they encounter danger, and keeping your fingers crossed everything will be alright in the end. Engaging, well constructed and highly highly entertaining too!

The characters themselves are absolutely fascinating as well. There are the many literary characters of course, which were a pleasure to meet and I loved how they were incorporated into the story. They each seem to maintain their original personality traits as well as adding something extra to the plot… And it definitely made me pick up a couple pending classics as well as reread old favorites! The real star of this book is Charley of course, as he is the one with the power to bring literary characters into the real world, or as they call him ‘the summoner’. He is simply an ode to bookish characters and extremely easy to connect to… Even though he doesn’t always make the best decisions. His brother is the completely opposite and in that way helps balance the story as well as keeping the story from straying into the fantasy genre completely. I also loved the mystery around the villian of this story and how this unknown identity is used to add suspense and a hint of urgency and danger to the plot.

The writing was also simply sublime, and those final plot twist reveals as well as the ending itself utterly satisfying. I loved my time with The Unlikely Escape Of Uriah Heep from the very first page until the very last and I can already see myself rereading this story in the future. It’s an absolutely brilliant debut I cannot recommend enough if you enjoy masterly crafted bookish stories with a magical touch and a hint of fantasy. And like I said before, a serious and worthy contender for Best Book Of 2020!!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

H.G. Parry lives in a book-infested flat in Wellington, New Zealand, which she shares with her sister and two overactive rabbits. She holds a PhD in English Literature from Victoria University of Wellington, and teaches English, Film, and Media Studies. Her short fiction has appeared in Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, and small press anthologies. The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is her debut novel.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Home – by Sarah Stovell #RandomThingsTours #blogtour @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Home Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I was blown away by Sarah Stovell‘s first book Exquisite last year and I have been looking forward to a new story ever since… And there is no doubt that The Home has only reconfirmed my love for her writing. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Home
Author: Sarah Stovell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 28th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 14th 2020
Pages: 276

“We were fragile, too. But we weren’t fragile like flowers. We were fragile like bombs.”

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

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Exquisite was simply exquisite last year, so I’ve been looking forward to her newest story ever since. It’s easy to say that my expectations were extremely high, and I was honestly a bit afraid it wouldn’t actually live up to expectations… But I shouldn’t have worried. My mind was left reeling and my heart was smashed into a million pieces and left in a broken heap of mess on the floor… Heartrending, raw, emotional and dark: this is a story that will get under your skin and will make your soul ache for those two poor girls! Oh yes, make sure to prepare yourself for a few hours of very intense reading. So, why did the story work so well for me?

As you might have gathered from my first thoughts, this story did excellent job provoking some very strong emotions; key in this were both the characters, plot development and the writing of course. Let’s take a further look at the plot and its structure first… The story is divided into five parts and uses multiple POVs to tell us the tragic story of two troubled young girls: Hope and Annie. We learn about their terrible and shocking past, the residence where they first met and lived together as well as the events that happened after that dreadful night that ended the life of one of the girls… Not in chronological order, but rather a mix of past and present which slowly gives us more insight in the lives of girls. The full picture is being slowly build up brick by brick, until the full horrifying dimension and consequences of their difficult lives are ultimately revealed.

There are a lot of dark and shocking elements included in The Home, and this story is definitely not for the weak hearted. Oh no, this is not a happy story and reading about the details of the lives of both girls has been horrific to say the least. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but heavy topics such as (child) abuse, child prostitution, teen pregnancy, addiction, rape, murder and mental illness play an all important role in the plot… Once again, it is simply dreadful to think just how tough of a start on life these girls had, and it truly shows their resilience that they even got this far. The darker elements also mean trigger warnings are in place, but each element is developed expertly and respectfully and helps shine light on just how hard and essentially hopeless it can be for kids to fight the terrible hand in life they have been given.

Let’s talk about the characters… The main focus in The Home is on Annie and Hope of course, and to say both girls who have had a very rough life so far is an understatement. It’s hard to discuss the characters in detail without giving away spoilers, but let’s just say that their past and secrets will have some very shocking surprises in store and even though they might not be exactly likeable, your heart will ache for them anyway as you see just how much they suffered and still suffer. Other characters, including Lara, Helen and Ace are less present, but each plays its own role and it has been interesting to discover where each character fits in the story. Especially Ace and both mothers made my blood boil, but a story like this needs its villians for it to be realistic… And that was most definitely achieved here.

The writing is once again simply exquisite. The different POVs, the layout of the plot, the thoughts of what is basically a ‘ghost’, a separate ‘story’ about Annie’s past… Different techniques are used to put together a complex and uniquely crafted story that will mostly definitely blow your socks off. Along with an emotional rollercoaster, and with lighter moments (including the relationship between the two girls) balancing all the dark and disturbing elements of this story, you will also find yourself on a journey looking for the truth behind the death of a young girl. Twists and turns will set you on the wrong track, and feelings of doubt, rage and deep deep sympathy for the girls will make it feel as if there were an emotional tornado inside your heart. Only in the best possible way of course!

There is so much to love in The Home and it is a story that will stay with me for a long time. It’s not an easy read, but it’s beautifully rendered and simply absolutely spot on when it comes to execution. If you are looking for an unique thriller that isn’t afraid to go dark and ugly, you have just found yourself a new read!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home
Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth
hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in
Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in
Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller,
Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer’ by Sunday Times.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Six Wicked Reasons – by Jo Spain #blogtour #SixWickedReasons @QuercusBooks @SpainJoanne

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Six Wicked Reasons blog tour! A huge thanks to Milly Reid and Quercus for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. After enjoying Jo Spain’s work in the past I just couldn’t say no to the chance to read her newest early… And it was without doubt another winner! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Six Wicked Reasons
Author: Jo Spain
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 16th 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Finished reading: December 31st 2019
Pages: 432

“If the detective scratched hard enough, he’d surely find a motive for each of them to have killed Frazer.”

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

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** Happy publication day!! **

One family. One night. Ten years of lies. And six wicked reasons to kill someone. Talk about an enticing blurb! I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Six Wicked Reasons and I have been looking forward to dive into Jo Spain‘s newest ever since I first heard about it. I had that feeling of premonition that it was going to be a scorcher and one heck of a ride, and guess what?! My intuition turned out to be absolutely right!

The blurb talks about a clever and gripping thriller, and I can definitely agree with that. The power of Six Wicked Reasons is in its slow building up of tension and suspense, only to blow you completely away once you reach the mayor plot twists near the ending. Trust me, you might guess part of it, but you will never guess the full truth of this brilliantly executed and clever plot twist bomb! What a way to mess with the minds of us readers… It doesn’t happen all that often anymore, but I always love it when thrillers manage to surprise me the way Six Wicked Reasons managed to do.

Six Wicked Reasons is told with the help of multiple POVs, giving us insight in both the perspective of the different members of the Lattimer family and those investigating the death of Frazer. I do confess it was a bit of a struggle having to juggle so many different characters and perspectives in the beginning, slowing down the pace considerably and making it harder to keep track of everyone. Especially since each character seemed to be hiding something and is most definitely treated as a suspect, making you want to remember all the details while you search for clues, and this can become a little daunting. BUT. Once you get used to the big cast of characters and start differentiating both their personality traits, little quirks and hints at secrets, things are getting a whole lot more entertaining.

The main focus in Six Wicked Reasons is on two important events: the disappearance (and reappearance after ten years) of one of Frazer Lattimer’s sons, Adam, and the death of Frazer himself. Switching back and forth between past and present, we slowly learn more about the different members of the Lattimer family and what secrets they are hiding. Especially relating to Frazer’s death: everyone seems to be having a plausible motive and reason to want the old man dead, but which of them is guilty? Or was it all an accident? And what happened to Adam all those years ago? There are a lot of questions involved and while some get answered along the way, you will mostly find yourself with more questions than answers during most of the ride. This slow building of suspense definitely makes the bang of the plot twist bomb ending feel all the bigger!

As for the characters… I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t really a fan of most of them. That feeling aside, it definitely shows it wasn’t easy for the Lattimer siblings to grow up with Frazer as a father, and it was truly intriguing to see their flawed characters being developed in a realistic way. They weren’t exactly likeable, but they made for a very interesting cast of characters and I had fun trying to figure them out. The whole question of who was behind Frazer’s death was a great start for some serious sleuthing and you will come to suspect every single one of the persons on that boat. The perfect locked-room mystery and with an outcome I definitely didn’t see coming!

I think I mentioned more than one wicked reason why you should read this thriller in my rambles above… But in short: if you are looking for a well constructed, slow building and cleverly executed thriller with an ending that will blow your mind, make sure to get your copy of Six Wicked Reasons ASAP!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jo Spain is the author of the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Her first book, top ten bestseller With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller. The Confession her first standalone thriller, was a number one bestseller and translated all over the world.

Jo is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, a former political advisor in the Irish parliament and former vice-chair of InterTrade Ireland business body.
She now writes novels and screenplays full-time. Her first co-written TV show TAKEN DOWN was broadcast in Ireland in 2018 and bought by international distributors Fremantle.

Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and four young children. In her spare time (she has four children, there is no spare time really) she likes to read. Her favourite authors include Pierre Lemaitre, Jo Nesbo, Liane Moriarty, Fred Vargas and Louise Penny. She also watches TV detective series and was slightly obsessed with The Bridge, Trapped and The Missing.

Jo thinks up her plots on long runs in the woods. Her husband sleeps with one eye open and all her friends have looked at her strangely since she won her publishing deal.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: A Dark Matter – by Doug Johnstone #RandomThingsTours #blogtour @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the A Dark Matter Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. Last year my first experience with Doug Johnstone‘s books, Breakers, completely blew me away and made me an instant fan of his work. I’ve been looking forward to read his newest ever since I first heard about it and it was without doubt another fantastic experience. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: A Dark Matter
Author: Doug Johnstone
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: November 23rd 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: December 29th 2019
Pages: 300

“Everyone is the main character in their own story, has their own life to lead, full of sorrow and joy, boredom and excitement, life and death.”

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

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It’s been over a week and I’m still struggling to get a somewhat coherent sentence, let alone a coherent review on paper. It’s not the first time I say this, and I’ll say it again, but such is the power of Orenda Books titles! They should add a new word to the dictionary, something along the lines of ‘Orenda hangover‘, as this definitely seems to become the norm every time I finish another Orenda title… I’m not complaining of course, as it is only a sign of just how fantastic each story is, but it does make it hard for us poor book bloggers to actually get those reviews somewhat up to standard (or am I the only one?). Nothing wrong with just trying though and let’s see how far I can get putting down my thoughts on A Dark Matter

I had the chance to read my first Doug Johnstone book, Breakers, last year and it blew me away, so it’s easy to say that my expectations for his newest title A Dark Matter were high. Now that I’ve had the chance to read it, I can confirm that those expectations were more than met! A Dark Matter can be seen as a mix of a family drama and crime thriller read set in Edinburgh. The description and development of the setting is simply sublime, and made me feel as if I were right there in Scotland along with the characters. Another thing stands out is the focus on the funeral home both as a setting and part of the plot. It definitely set the right atmosphere for the story as well! Both death itself, the private investigator subplot and the things that happen in the funeral home in general play a key role in the plot, which turns the funeral home into an integral part of the story. And of course the funeral side of things was both well described and absolutely fascinating to read more about.

The story evolves around three generations of women: Dorothy, her daughter Jenny and her granddaughter Hannah. A Dark Matter is told with the help of three different POVs, alternating between them as we slowly learn more about the different storylines in play. This gives the plot a multidimentional and complex feel and really took the story to the next level for me. It’s hard to get the introduction of multiple POVs right in a story, but in this case I think Doug Johnstone hit the nail on the head. Each POV complemented the other two, both adding to their own storyline as well as adding to the overall story, and together they helped build an extraordinary read.

A Dark Matter not only has three different POVs but, like I hinted at before, also has a lot of different elements and separate storylines in play. Among other things, we have the funeral home and everything it entails, the death of Dorothy’s husband Jim and his secrets, the PI angle and active investigations, the disappearance of Hannah’s friend, family secrets in general, grief… This sounds like a lot to juggle in just one story, but every element is incorporated so splendidly into the plot that it simply works like a charm. The writing as well as the suspense and plot twists are also sublime, and really added to the overall quality of A Dark Matter. There are a lot of secrets, twists and turns involved relating to the various storylines in play, and they will definitely keep you on your toes. You will find there are so many secrets for you to uncover! And that ending will most definitely be a shocker.

Oh yes, this story both started and ended with a bang, and I loved every single minute and page along the way. Both Breakers and now A Dark Matter have shown the excellence and versitility of Doug Johnstone‘s work and I’m 200% a fan. A Dark Matter is actually the first book of a series around the Skelfs family and I already can’t wait to find out what will happen next. Any fan of a well written and multidimentional crime thriller should add this one to their wishlist!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Johnstone is the author of ten novels, most recently Breakers (2018),
which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime
Novel of the Year. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award
winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid,
Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer
in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home – and
has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and
musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for
the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also playermanager
of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Are You Watching? – by Ralph Vincent #RandomThingsTours #blogtour #AreYouWatchingMagpieMan @PenguinUKBooks @VincentRalph1 @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Are You Watching? Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I admit I was intrigued as soon as I saw that cover and read the blurb. I don’t read nearly enough YA thrillers and I loved the sound of the social media angle, so deciding whether to read Are You Watching? was truly a no-brainer. And my instincts were definitely right about this story! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Are You Watching?
Author: Vincent Ralph
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: January 6th 2020
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: December 22nd 2019
Pages: 371

“It was Dad who gave the murderer his name. He said he Magpie Man liked shiny things and Mum was the shiniest of all.”

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

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We are living in a time where social media seems to be taking over our lives and it has been playing an increasingly important role in the everyday life of most people in recent years. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube… While it’s true that they are clever tools to connect and share your views with the rest of the world, most don’t seem to be realizing what the underlying dangers are of plastering your whole life all over the internet. What if someone up to no good tries to access and use all that information against you? Without doubt a terrifying thought…

Are You Watching? addresses a slightly different angle: instead of the villain, it is the main character Jessica who uses social media to try and catch the serial killer who took the life of her mom and a dozen others. Talk about an original premise! This premise alone was enough for me to add this debut to my must-read list and now I’ve had the chance to read it, I can confirm that this story is without doubt a lightingfast and thrilling pageturner. What a ride! You will definitely want to clear your schedule for this one, because once you start the first chapter you will find it impossible to stop reading. I was actually reading a different story when I started Are You Watching? (some situations ask for my kindle instead of a physical copy) and I literally had to put my other current read on hold even though I was enjoying it as well. Such is the power of Jessica’s story!

The success of Are You Watching? is in the combination of a serial killer thriller and the social media angle, which gives the story its unique touch and shows us the power of social media and how it could be used to catch a killer who up to that moment didn’t leave any clues behind at the different murder scenes. This social media element is without doubt the true star of this story and plays a key role in the plot as well. The idea of the live Youtube shows and Jessica using her day to make people remember her mother’s death again and hopefully catch the Magpie Man killer is both original and highly entertaining… The twists involving the developing Youtube show and the response of the viewers on social media without doubt added a healthy dose of suspense to the plot.

Other elements play a role as well, including grief, family and friendship. Jessica’s relationship with her family and friends give the story a personal touch while also giving this story its distinctive YA feel. And guess what? There is almost no romance involved in Are You Watching?, which was definitely a huge bonus for me personally. Instead, the main focus is on friendship and the live Youtube show Jessica participates in. It was fascinating to see how Jessica uses the show to try and put the spotlight on the murder cases again and tries to find new witnesses and evidence to finally catch the killer.

The plot itself is well developed, exciting and definitely has quite a few twists and turns in store to keep you guessing; they were definitely successful in misleading me at least. Action and suspense are mixed with lighter moments to release some of the tension, but Are You Watching? will definitely keep you on your toes… You will find yourself turning those pages like there is no tomorrow just to find out if Jessica is able to achieve her goal. Things are definitely heating up in the second half, but the story in general is without doubt a real rollercoaster ride. The characters are solid and it was interesting to see them develop over time. Even the Magpie Man, while not that present or developed beyond the typical serial killer boogeyman image during most of the story, was an intriguing character to follow due to the mystery around his identity and motive behind his murders. The whole angle with the family of the murder victims (including Jessica and her father) was probably the most interesting though.

Basically, there is a lot to love in Are You Watching? and it is without doubt a true pageturner. If you enjoy a well written and fast-paced YA thriller with an omnipresent social media angle and an unique touch, Are You Watching? should definitely be on your wishlist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vincent Ralph has been writing in one form or another since his teens and
always dreamed of being a novelist. He owes his love of books to his mother,
who encouraged his imagination from an early age and made sure there were
new stories to read.

Vincent has lived in London, Cornwall and Chester but he now lives in his home
county of Kent with his wife, son and two cats.


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