ARC REVIEW: Saving Ruby King – by Catherine Adel West

Title: Saving Ruby King
Author: Catherine Adel West
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
First published: June 16th 2020
Publisher: Park Row
Finished reading: June 8th 2020
Pages: 352

“The world takes so much, sometimes words are all one can possess.”

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

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I was invited to read Saving Ruby King last month, and I found myself to be immediately intrigued by the blurb of this title. Especially considering recent events in the world… Because we can’t have enough own voices stories out there to help educate us more. That said, I have to say that I’m having a really hard time rating this book, and I ended up having mixed thoughts about the story as a whole. I’ll try to explain below what worked and didn’t work for me.

On one hand, Saving Ruby King is undeniably a very important and powerful read: an own voices debut set in both present and past Chicago that helps give us some insight in the race problematics and issues black people have to face even to this day. This element was the driving force behind this story and the main reason I kept reading. BUT. On the other hand, a big part of the story also focuses on religion. There is nothing wrong with that, but I personally have a huge aversion to stories that focus on religion, and even more if they start sounding preachy. This has nothing to do with the quality of this story, but instead is rather a personal reaction to an element I wasn’t expecting to be so present… But the fact remains that I struggled to keep reading every time religion came in focus, which was a lot.

Apart from my obvious issues with the focus on religion, Saving Ruby King is a fantastic debut. The writing, the complexity of the plot, the multiple POV structure, the character development, the mystery around and secrets of multiple characters, the race problematics, the story of abuse, the violence and also a note of hope… This story has so many elements and it makes for a multi-faceted and rich story. The plot follows multiple characters both in past and present, and it can be a bit of a juggle in the beginning to keep track of how they all fit together, but Saving Ruby King provides us with helpful family trees to make things easier. I also particularly liked the perspective of the church, which was both unique and gave us a more neutral insight in past events.

This is not an easy story to read, and will most likely make you feel uncomfortable. I applaude Catherine Adel West for the realistic development of the plot and characters, and for not being afraid to show the ugly truth and for the characters and elements to go dark and unsettling. This is a story about race problematics as well as a story of domestic violence, child abuse, self harm, murder as well as a spark of hope… Beautifully rendered, and if you are not bothered by the strong presence of religion in the story, you will be blown away by this story. Trust me, this book is worth reading for the black voices and focus on race problematics alone. I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes that stood out to me…

“We’re a minute blip on someone’s television. Sixty seconds and my friend is ruined, or ruined even more than she already was.”

“They know they won’t be held accountable for their actions. America doesn’t need ropes and trees anymore to kill us. They have cops.”

“It’s a melting pot jigsaw puzzle with very distinctive boundaries. And those invisible lines still carve up the city, separating black, brown and yellow from white, opportunity and a void of such things.”

“I’m black. That’s what matters. Cops cover for cops. Blue covers blue. Blue doesn’t cover black.”


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YVO’S SHORTIES #166 – You Are Not Alone & The Child

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Today a thriller round: new release You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen, which sadly failed to blow me away, and a German crime thriller The Child by Sebastian Fitzek, which definitely turned out to be a dark, disturbing but very much entertaining read.


Title: You Are Not Alone
Author: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 3rd 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: May 27th 2020
Pages: 344

“Some people contend there are two primal fears. The first and most basic is the end of our existence. The second is isolation; we all have a deep need to belong to something greater than ourselves.”


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I know, I know, I should have known to stay away from yet another hyped book… Especially since my first experience with this author duo, The Wife Between Us, failed to hit the mark back when I read it in 2018. But I just couldn’t resist taking a peek anyway, and I think I have just confirmed to myself the writing of Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen might just not be for me. I’m not saying that You Are Not Alone is a bad read; I think the writing itself is solid and I’m impressed by the fact how well the story flows with two different authors wielding the pen. That said, I can’t say I was blown away by this story either. On it’s own it’s quite an interesting plot with lots of plot twists and secrets waiting to be unraveled. There is suspense, there is tension, and I can’t deny there were even a few minor surprises. BUT. Overall I was a bit disappointed by how predictable the story felt as a whole, and I saw the whole situation coming from a mile away… Which is always a shame. I did like the structure of the plot in different parts and with multiple POVs and flashbacks (although the two main POVs would be Shay and Cassandra & Jane). The characters each have their development, although some fell a bit flat for me and most were not that easy to like. Shay is probably the most approachable, although you will find yourself feeling frustrated more and more by her actions as you keep reading… Overall, I felt like You Are Not Alone was trying to hard, and turned out to be a tad to slow and predictable for me. That said, it looks like the unpopular opinion curse has struck once again, so don’t give up on this book on my account.


Title: The Child
Author: Sebastian Fitzek

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: 2007
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: May 29th 2020
Pages: 384
(Originally written in German: ‘Das Kind’)

“But he wasn’t afraid of burglars, only of observers: of people who might see through his carefully constructed façade of expensive suits, shiny cars and smart offices with a view of the Brandenburg Gate. If they did, they would discern the empty husk that was Robert Stern’s soul.”


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I bought a copy of this book on a whim last year, as I was fully hooked after reading the first line of the blurb. I mean, having a ten-year-old main character who claims to be a serial killer… How could I say no to that?! I’m definitely glad I got a copy of The Child now, because it turned out to be a shocking, very much disturbing but also intriguing ride. This story is definitely not for those with a weak stomach, and not even for the murder elements, but mostly because of the focus on child abuse. The Child focuses mainly on two characters: lawyer Robert Stern and the ten-year-old Simon with a severe illness. The reason the two characters meet is simply fascinating and I admit that I was hooked as soon as I started reading. The serial killer element, the regression and strange memories of Simon, the blackmailing, the danger, the mystery around the death of Robert’s son, the trafficking angle… There is a lot going on in The Child, and you definitely have to prepare yourself for a very intense, dangerous and action-packed ride. While I’m not sure some scenes are exactly credible, I somehow didn’t really mind as I was too busy racing through those pages. The Child is definitely a great read for those who enjoy dark and disturbing crime thrillers with a twist.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: This Is How I Lied – by Heather Gudenkauf @parkrowbooks #blogtour

Hello and welcome to my stop of the This Is How I Lied blog tour! A huge thanks to Lia Ferrone for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been meaning to try Heather Gudenkauf‘s books for a while now and just couldn’t resist the blurb of This Is How I Lied… And it turned out to be an excellent first impression of her writing! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: This Is How I Lied
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 12th 2020
Publisher: Park Row Books
Finished reading: May 11th 2020
Pages: 352

“Dark places made it so much easier to be cruel, to exact revenge.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to try Heather Gudenkauf‘s books for a while now and just couldn’t resist the blurb of This Is How I Lied when I received the blog tour invitation… I’ve been looking forward to read this story ever since, and I wasn’t disappointed by what I found. It turned out to be an excellent first impression of her writing, and I will definitely be wanting to read more of her work in the future! This Is How I Lied is a suspenseful and addicting story that will speak to detective and psychological thriller fans alike.

So, what made This Is How I Lied so successful for me? The first thing that stood out for me was the writing, which is both engaging, flows naturally and manages to draw you right in. While I do feel that this is a slower read than expected and mostly focuses on the characters, the story did have a healthy dose of suspense and action in store for you as well. I guess this dual approach has something to do with the fact that This Is How I Lied can be seen as a mix of a cold case detective thriller and a dark psychological thriller, and you basically get the best of both worlds offered as you read.

This Is How I Lied is not afraid to go dark and has more than one difficult topic incorporated into the plot, including abuse, grooming, mental illness, hoarding, dementia, violence and what some may consider a form of animal cruelty. This might seem as a lot, but each topic is woven into the plot with care and contributes to the background of certain characters… Together they turn this story into a considerably complex and multi-faceted read.

This complexity also has to do with the structure of the plot: the story is told with the help of multiple POVs as well as flashbacks to 1995-1996 (when Eve was killed and the original investigation took place). The story switches between Maggie and Nola in the present and adds Eve’s POV in the past… This structure is used to hold back certain details while slowly revealing other facts as well as secrets, and it definitely added to the whole building up of suspense. Eve’s murder has in fact multiple viable suspects and more than one is quite unlikeable too… The interesting part is that the twist is revealed quite early on to help build tension between certain characters, which was both kind of a letdown as well as an intriguing technique at the same time. Why? Well, you didn’t get the full truth either and you were kept wondering how the character would deal with having the secret threatened to come out after so long… It’s definitely a different take on the typical ‘whodunnit‘ stories.

I have to be honest here and say that the ending did end up being a letdown for me. Especially when the story shows you a certain truth at first and sticks with it, but you are also kept uncertain about who really killed her (there are at least four viable suspects at all times), only to have the DNA bomb dropped at the last possible moment to confirm who actually did it. This honestly felt like a huge anti-climax after such an intense read and especially after the scenes before the final reveal… And I can’t say I found it a satisfying ending after all that happened. That said, I do think this was my only main issue with this book.

A quick note about the characters… While they are not exactly likeable, I did find them to be well developed and with their flaws and issues they felt realistic. It was easy to worry about both Maggie and Eve (although you already know it will end badly for Eve), which made it easy to stay invested in the story itself. Furthermore, we have a long string of suspects and basically unlikeable characters, including Nick, Cam Harper and Nola herself. Abuse, grooming, maiming and dissecting animals, violence, mental health issues… Oh yes, those characters are no picnic indeed. Maggie’s father and former chief is another interesting character with his dementia, as you wonder why he never sold Eve’s murder case and if he knew more back then… Especially now those memories are seemingly lost forever.

In short, This Is How I Lied is a multi-dementional and suspenseful mix of a cold case detective thriller and a dark psychological thriller that isn’t afraid to drop some heavy topics on you as you try to discover what happened in Grotto all those years ago. Recommended for fans of the genre!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.

BUY LINKS

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

SOCIAL LINKS

Author Website // Twitter: @hgudenkauf // Instagram: @heathergudenkauf // Facebook: @HeatherGudenkaufAuthor // Goodreads


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Ash Mountain – by Helen Fitzgerald #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Ash Mountain Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I keep hearing fantastic things about Helen Fitzgerald‘s work and the blurb of Ash Mountain was simply irresistible… It turned out to be an excellent first experience with her writing. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: Ash Mountain
Author: Helen Fitzgerald
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 14th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: May 7th 2020
Pages: 210

“This town is no more shit than any other place. It’s just that when you live in a small town, you know everyone, you know their tragedies, and you feel their pain.”

*** 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 keep hearing excellent things about Helen Fitzgerald‘s writing, and I just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to join the blog tour for her most recent title as the blurb of Ash Mountain simply sounded irresistible. The Australian setting, the bushfire, the combination of domestic noir and disaster thriller… Oh yes, bring it on! I was mesmerized as soon as I started reading and this feeling didn’t go away at any point. Brazen, sharp and a dose of humor mixed with an emotional rollercoaster as well as a topping of danger… Without doubt a mind-boggling thriller sundae with a truly unique flavor, and something you shouldn’t miss out on!

The first thing that stood out for me was the writing. It’s my first experience with her style, and I must say that I’m a fan. The sharp and sometimes even snarky and self-deprecating humor added an interesting tone to this story that is part domestic noir and part disaster thriller. You get the best of both worlds as you learn more about the town and its inhabitants, while also knowing that danger is just around the corner… The bushfire really gave the story that sense of foreboding as you got to know the characters and wonder where they would be on the day of the fire and if they would survive… It also gave the story a sense of urgency and stressed the vulnerability of those characters.

I loved the structure of the plot. Not only do we have multiple POVs of different people in Ash Mountain, but we also have a lot of timehops and flashbacks to deal with. As the bushfire is basically the main event that affects everyone in town, each timeframe is compared to the day of the fire, going back days and sometimes years in the past. The story starts with a proper bang as Fran experiences the bushfire… I mean, the story is basically on fire from the very start! Afterwards, we get to see the events both days before the fire and 30 years in the past back when Fran was 16. Time and character hops keep you on your toes without being confusing, and it is truly fascinating to learn more about the people in town while only YOU know the threat that hangs above them. The sense of foreboding definitely added a healthy dose of suspense; the building up to the day of the bushfire was brilliantly done and it’s easy to say that the story both started and finished with a bang.

The setting in the Australian outback is brilliantly described. The descriptions really made the small Ash Mountain town come alive for me and I loved the use of Australian words to make the story feel more authentic. The same goes for the thorough descriptions of the bushfire and its aftermath. I’ve heard of bushfires before of course, but I would never have pictured it this well without the brilliant descriptions of Helen Fitzgerald. The wall of fire, the smoke, the seemingly random path of destruction… An image of fear, helplessness and danger and very current after the terrible fires in 2019. I particularly loved the story behind the cover too, as it was an actual photo taken during those fires.

Ash Mountain also had a very interesting cast of characters and I had a great time getting to know them. Fran is the main focus of the story, and we can see her features both in the flashbacks as well as the present. That said, the story also shares multiple POVS to help you to get to know the people in town as well as learn more about several events in the past and present. The story furthermore includes difficult themes as child abuse, teen pregnancy, sickness and death, although the bushfire is the actual star of the show and its danger is omnipresent. The story does show that even a small town has secrets you can’t run away from…

This book turned out to be a real firecracker! Unique, sharp and with that ominous feel, Ash Mountain is the perfect balance between domestic noir and disaster thriller set in a small Australian town. Highly recommended!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Creak On The Stairs – by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Creak On The Stairs Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I have a weak spot for nordic noir and as soon as I read the blurb of The Creak On The Stairs I knew I just had to read it. Especially since two fellow trusted bloggers had already raved about it too… And now I’ve had the chance to read this first book of a new series, I can say that they were absolutely right to do so. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Creak On The Stairs
(Forbidden Iceland #1)
Author: Eva Björg Ægisdóttir
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 24th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: April 25th 2020
Pages: 315
(Originally written in Icelandic: ‘Marrið í stiganum’)

“She had to remind herself that she wasn’t a little girl anymore.

That the real evil wasn’t to be found lurking in dark corners but in the human soul.”

*** 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 no secret that I love my nordic noir and I’m always looking for new authors to discover. I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of The Creak On The Stairs, and the raving reviews of two fellow trusted bloggers (yes, Eva and Kelly, YOU!) only confirmed to me that I made the right decision to join the blog tour. I have been looking forward to read The Creak On The Stairs ever since I read those reviews and I now completely agree this is a fantastic start of a new nordic noir series.

There is a lot to love in The Creak On The Stairs… The first thing that stands out is the Icelandic setting. I love foreign settings as it makes me feel like I’m travelling from the comfort of my own reading chair… And the atmospheric and extensive descriptions did just that and really made Iceland come alive for me. Thanks to the thorough descriptions, it is very easy to visualize the different Icelandic settings and it makes it feel as if you were right next to the main characters seeing the world through their eyes. The Icelandic setting was the perfect backdrop for this story and gave the plot that cold and daunting feel any nordic noir fan will be delighted with.

I also loved both the plot and the writing. And that means the writing in general, and not just the previously mentioned descriptions… The writing is enticing, well paced and very successful at drawing you in from the very first chapter. The plot itself is intriguing and I really liked the structure of the story in general. You are thrown in without knowing much of the main characters and have different POVs and flashbacks to juggle, but it only added to the suspense and intrigue instead of slowing you down. The complex structure of the plot allows the story to hide things from you, with the result that you have more than one secret to unravel. The woman showing up dead, who is behind it, the secrets of her past, the secrets of our new lead character Elma… There are a lot of puzzles to solve and isn’t that the best thing while reading a detective thriller?

As for the characters… It looks like we have another lead character detective with a complicated past on our hands, although we are not exactly told what happened in her past and this definitely added to the intrigue around Elma. We actually don’t get to know her all that much in the first Forbidden Iceland book, but the bites we get offered were more than promising and leave you wanting for more. I liked the dynamics of the detective team in Akranes in general too. The other characters in play were all well developed and felt realistic, and even though most were not all that easy to like, I wasn’t too bothered by that as they all played their roles flawlessly. Especially Beta turned out to be an absolutely fascinating character study.

The Creak On The Stairs also isn’t afraid to go dark and this includes difficult topics such as (child) abuse and alcoholism. Especially the first plays quite a big role and might be a turn off for some… But the element was developed realistically and played an important role in both the plot and the character development. The plot twists and reveals of the different secrets are well balanced out in the plot, and the ending definitely left me wanting for the next book of the series. Because while the case in the first book was solved, I’m more than ready to see more of Elma and her team!

Dark, ominous and atmospheric, this first book of the Forbidden Iceland series shows us an image of Iceland any nordic noir fan would love to discover. It’s an excellent start of a new series that is more than worth being on your radar if you enjoy the genre!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.

Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.


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ARC REVIEW: What Lies Between Us – by John Marrs @amazonpub

Title: What Lies Between Us
Author: John Marrs
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: May 15th 2020
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK
Finished reading: April 21st 2020
Pages: 371

“We remain like two scorpions, each circling one another, poisonous tails aloft and waiting for the other to strike first.”

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

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Holy guacamole, what did I just read?! So dark, so twisted, and oh so glorious! I guess it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of John Marrs‘s writing and I have been looking forward to read What Lies Between Us ever since I first heard about it… And this story turned out to be exactly the dark psychological thriller dose I was craving right now! Oh yes, his newest title definitely didn’t disappoint, and I found myself to be absolutely speechless as well as shell-shocked by the time I reached that final page. Make sure to brace yourself for a dark, intense and twisted ride!

Let’s leave the superlatives for a little, and talk about why What Lies Between Us turned out to be yet another winner for me. The first thing that stands out when you read one of John Marrs‘ books is the quality of the writing and the plot development. From the very first chapter, both the writing and the plot are able to draw you right in, entice you and keep you hooked until the very end. In fact, I knew this was going to be another favorite even before I finished the first chapter; such is the power of his writing. As for the plot… Even though I do admit that I saw some of the plot twists coming very early on, strangely enough I wasn’t too bothered by that. The mystery and suspense around the past events and the complicated relationship between mother and daughter were enough to distract me from my suspicions and ultimately right guesses, and I was honestly too busy devouring this story to really care about the lack of surprises and 100% effective plot twist bombs.

The story is told with the help of a dual POV, switching between Nina and her mother Maggie as well as between the past and present. This way, we are presented with snippets of the past as well as the present, never discovering the full picture of the truth until after those final reveals. The POV switches and flashbacks are used to successfully build up the suspense until you find yourself biting your nails and continuously shocked about the events that took place both in the past and present. Trust me when I say that What Lies Between Us will go darker than the blackest night and this story isn’t for those with a weak stomach! The development and structure of the plot is excellently handled though, and really took the story to the next level for me.

Key in this pitch black psychological thriller are also the two main characters who star the show. The development of both Nina and Maggie is thorough and realistical; both women are extremely flawed and have mental issues as well as a bulk load of secrets waiting to be uncovered. Nina is an extremely troubled character and it was interesting to see her development and learn more about her past as well as discovering more how she became the woman she is today. Maggie is likewise intriguing, with her decisions in the past playing a key role in her present situations… I’d be lying if I said that I liked either character, but they definitely both make for a fascinating character study.

As you might have guessed, I had a fantastic time reading this dark dark and oh so disturbing psychological thriller. I can recommend What Lies Between Us to anyone who is a fan of the genre and doesn’t mind things getting pitch black and seriously twisted before you reach that final page.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #150 – Lori Anderson Edition (Book 1-3) #TeamLori @Orendabooks

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a very special series edition featuring the first three books of the Lori Anderson series written by Steph Broadribb: Deep Down DeadDeep Blue Trouble and Deep Dirty Truth. I actually first read and loved the second book two years ago, and I have been looking forward to meet up with main character Lori again… I’m not sure why it took me this long to do so, but I definitely had a blast spending more time with my favorite bounty hunter! #TeamLori


Title: Deep Down Dead
(Lori Anderson #1)
Author: Steph Broadribb

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 15th 2016
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: February 15th 2020
Pages: 350

“I didn’t want to think about promises. A promise is just a disappointment bought on credit.”


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Ever since I first met Lori Anderson back in 2018, I have been wanting to go back to the beginning and find out how it all started. And damn, I sure wish I would have done so sooner! Deep Down Dead is thrilling, exhilarating and simply explosive from the very beginning until that final page. It was fascinating to learn more about where Lori came from and how she turned out to be the kickass bounty hunter she is today… What a powerful and shocking transformation! Your heart will beat miles a minute as you keep turning those pages, both learning more about the past as well trying to keep up with the action-packed and highly flammable present. It will feel as if you are running a marathon with a bunch of blood-crazy and armed gangsters right behind you! There is a constant note of danger, a lighting-fast pace to keep you running as you try to keep up with past and present events… Lori, Dakota and JT will win over your heart from the very beginning and you will find yourself biting your nails as you keep rooting for them and keep fingers and toes crossed hoping that everything will turn out to be ok for them in the end. The character development is done realistically and both Lori and JT are definitely one of the reasons this story works so well. The whole bounty hunter angle, the plot twists and secrets of the past, everything that happens after Lori is sent to catch her old mentor and lover JT after he skipped bail… There is so much going on in the plot, but everything works brilliantly together and the result is some serious dynamite, ready for an atomic bomb level explosion. If you like your thrillers fast, explosive, action-packed and love a story that has both an unique twist and will get your heart racing, you should not pospone your meeting with Lori Anderson any longer. Trust me, you won’t regret it!


Title: Deep Blue Trouble
(Lori Anderson #2)
Author: Steph Broadribb

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 5th 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: February 16th 2020 (reread)
Pages: 320

“All of us have the potential to kill. We just don’t know if we’ll do it until we find ourselves in that situation.”


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This was actually a reread as I first read Deep Blue Trouble back in January 2018… You can find my full review I wrote back then here, as I still stand by everything I said then. It was just as thrilling the second time around! A little snippet of my 2018 review:

“If you like refreshing, fast-paced, suspenseful and action-packed thrillers with a strong female lead, you are in for a real treat with Deep Blue Trouble. Bounty hunter Lori Anderson seriously kicks ass and isn’t afraid to step on a few toes to get the results she is after. The writing is strong, filled with plot twists and will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page… Trust me, you will want to know what happens to Lori and you will enjoy every single step along the way. Thriller fans will love this one!”


Title: Deep Dirty Truth
(Lori Anderson #3)
Author: Steph Broadribb

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 5th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: February 18th 2020
Pages: 320

“He smiles at me, and in that moment I know for sure that I’m a dead woman walking.”

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Oh boy, binge-reading the first three Lori Anderson books has sure left me breathless! My heart is still beating like a maniac and I definitely need a dose of sugar to come to my senses again… What an explosive, action-packed and absolutely thrilling ride! Deep Dirty Truth is already the third book of this series and of the same high quality and entertainment level as the first two books. While technically you could read this one as a stand-alone, you will miss out on background information and previous events referred to in this third book… And as the first two books are absolutely brilliant too, you would definitely be missing out by not reading these beauties in order. That said, Deep Dirty Truth picks up where the second book has left off as the same threat has been there for a while. I love how the characters have evolved over time and it definitely makes me happy to see Lori, JT and Dakota being together… In Deep Dirty Truth we have another bounty hunter angle with a twist, another mob angle, a whole lot of danger, a pace that is way over the speed limit and a plot that won’t stand still even to take a little breather. It is action thriller at its finest, with a solid cast of characters, danger around every corner and impossible situations Lori and the others involved will somehow have to find themselves a way out of… It’s simply unputdownable and you will find your heart racing and yourself gasping for air as you turn another page and discover yet another obstacle to overcome. Without doubt a new favorite! #TeamLori


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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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YVO’S SHORTIES #142 – The Unhoneymooners & Nothing To Lose

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books I ended up enjoying a lot and I literally flew through them. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren has once again proven to me I can really enjoy the romance genre if it’s done right and I’m in the right mood for me. Nothing To Lose by Victoria Selman is an entertaining sequel, although book three is still my favorite of the series so far…


Title: The Unhoneymooners
Author: Christina Lauren

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 14th 2019
Publisher: Gallery Books
Finished reading: January 2nd 2020
Pages: 416

“Warily, I leave this deceptively upbeat version of Satan in the living room to go get my suit on and pack a bag.”


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Huh, a romance title on It’s All About Books? I know, I know, it’s not exactly a genre I tend to read a lot, especially if there are sexy scenes involved, but there was just something about The Unhoneymooners that made me want to read it. And guess what? This book came exactly at the right time for me and I ended up having so much fun reading it! Nothing better than a proper and funny contemporary romance to help taking a little break from all those thriller reads… This was definitely a winner for me. The Unhoneymooners gave off pretty strong The Hating Game vibes, with the ‘enemy to lover’ trope and just the right amount of snarkiness and humor… And as I loved that story last year, I was more than happy with this comparison! From the setting in Maui to the writing, plot, characters and humor; everything worked perfectly together and I had a great time following Olive and Ethan during and after their time in Maui. While a certain character was absolutely despicable (you know who if you have read the story already), it was really easy to like both Olive and Ethan and their snarkiness and awkward moments made for a very entertaining read. And yes, I didn’t even mind the sexy scenes, which is a miracle on its own haha. I can understand why fans of the genre would absolutely adore The Unhoneymooners and I definitely want to read more of this author duo now. Yay for having more romance authors to turn to for when I’m in need of a change of genre!


Title: Nothing To Lose
(Ziba MacKenzie #2)
Author: Victoria Selman

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 26th 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: January 3rd 2020
Pages: 356

“Serial murderers always make the headlines. It’s the rubbernecker phenomenon: evil fascinates us. But when it’s on our doorstep all that changes.”


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I decided to pick up the Ziba Mackenzie sequel almost immediately after finishing the first book so I’d have one less series to catch up with in 2020. While I thought the first book wasn’t nearly as strong as the third, I was really curious to see how book two would connect the two and how certain character developments and events were explained. And I have to admit that while book three is still my favorite of the series, I had a great time reading Nothing To Lose and managed to finish it in less than a day. If you like your thrillers fast, action-packed and filled with suspenseful moments, this series is definitely for you! That said, Ziba did once again bother me considerably in this sequel. Her arrogance and constant need to prove and repeat just how tough and badass she is really started to get on my nerves. It made her character a lot harder to like and also distracted from the plot… Although I’m happy that I at least didn’t have the same feeling when I read the third book last month. The plot of Nothing To Lose is without doubt an exciting one, and even evolves around two completely different cases: the active murder investigation of a new serial killer Ziba is assigned to and the mystery around the death of her husband Duncan two years ago. It might have been a bit much to handle, but there is also no doubt that as a consequence you won’t find a boring minute in Nothing To Lose and the suspense is high. This is definitely one of those series that keeps improving its quality with each book! I was surprised not to find any mention of one of the prominent characters (Dr Vernon Sange) of book three in this sequel though…


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ARC REVIEW: The Liar’s Daughter – by Claire Allan

Title: The Liar’s Daughter
Author: Claire Allan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 23rd 2020
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: January 6th 2020 
Pages: 400

“There’s a time in a person’s life, if they are truly, truly wicked, when they move beyond the point of redemption.”

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

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I loved my first experience with Claire Allan‘s psychological thrillers last year and I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work ever since… I was going to read her thriller debut Her Name Was Rose next, but of course I couldn’t say no to reading her newest story The Liar’s Daughter first when the opportunity arose. I admit I was sold as soon as I read the blurb and guessed there would probably be something dark and ominous about this psychological thriller.

The Liar’s Daughter is by no means an easy read and incorporates difficult topics including child abuse, manipulation, cancer and mental health. Especially the first is trigger warning worthy, as it plays a big role in the story and can be hard to stomach in points… That said, I think that Claire Allan did an excellent job both describing and shining a light on the effects and consequences on the victims even years later. Shame, fear and manipulation often force victims to stay silent about their suffering and this story shows just how much it can destroy a life as well as affect those close to the persons involved. I do have to say that I wasn’t a fan of any of the characters though and that includes Ciara and Heidi, who should be easy to feel sympathy for. Joe McKee is of course the true villian despite him being on his deathbed, and he definitely will not win your sympathy (quite the contrary!). Ciara’s partner Stella is probably the most easy to like, although she doesn’t really play a big role in the story as a whole.

Unlikeable characters aside, there is no doubt that The Liar’s Daughter is a super engaging, quick and intriguing read. I literally started and finished it in less than a day! The prose is easy to read and you will find yourself flying through the pages as you want to discover if your guesses turn out to be right. I have to admit that I found the plot to be quite predictable and I guessed a lot of the plot twists really early on. It might just be that I’ve read too many thrillers in recent years, but it did put a minor damper on things… As a whole it was still a very entertaining read though.

The Liar’s Daughter is one of those psychological thrillers you will find yourself reading in record speed despite a somewhat predictable plot. Some parts are quite uncomfortable, especially those related to child abuse and Joe’s character in general, but the situation is well described and used to help shine a light on the problem instead of just looking for a way to ‘spice up’ the plot. If you are looking for a quick and engaging psychological thriller and don’t mind some troubling moments and heavy elements, The Liar’s Daughter is an excellent choice.


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