ARC REVIEW: Hell To Pay – by Rachel Amphlett @RachelAmphlett

Title: Hell To Pay
(Detective Kay Hunter #4)
Author: Rachel Amphlett
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: November 16th 2017
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Finished reading: July 10th 2018
Pages: 324

“In all my years working on this team, I’ve never seen anything as bad as what’s down here.”

*** 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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The fact this that I’ve become a huge fan of Kay Hunter in the short time I’ve gotten to know her. I have absolutely loved my time with this detective so far and book number four is no exception. This might just be my new favorite! Although it’s hard to pick favorites when all the books are good… So what about Hell To Pay? As always, the writing is sublime, the plot well developed and the story definitely has some shocking surprises in store. Oh yes, if you thought the previous books were intense, you are in for one hell of a ride with Hell To Pay. As always, although the books could be read as a stand-alone, I advice reading them in order to fully understand the character background. Plus, they are all so good you won’t regret spending more time with them in the first place. Hell To Pay offers both a new crime investigation as well as new developments to an existing subplot that has been keeping readers intrigued since book one. There is a LOT of development on that part so if you were desperate to find out more, book number four will more than deliver. And make sure to prepare yourself for an explosive ending! Oh yes, I had a blast with Hell To Pay and I think the title is spot on. Now bring it on, book number five!

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first three books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

What seems like a road traffic accident as first, turns out to be something a whole lot darker and disturbing as Detective Kay Hunter and her team start investigating and expose a serial killer exploiting vulnerable young women. The investigation doesn’t come without danger though, especially since there might be connections to those who wanted to silence her all those months ago… But Kay Hunter is determined to keep going until the full truth comes out.

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The Detective Kay Hunter series is without doubt one of my favorite discoveries of 2018 and the books just keep delivering that same high quality of writing, plot and character development. I like my main characters strong and with their own personality, and Kay Hunter is one that will be able to win over your heart in record time. Hell To Pay might just be the best book yet, or at least the story with the most intensity of the bunch. Be ready for some very explosive plot twists and scenes! This one will leave you staring at the last page with your heart beating like a maniac. SO good!


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ARC REVIEW: Her Mother’s Grave – by Lisa Regan @bookouture @Lisalregan

Title: Her Mother’s Grave
(Detective Josie Quinn #3)
Author: Lisa Regan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 19th 2018
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 25th 2018
Pages: 346

“She is spiteful, jealous, and vengeful, and most of all, she’s unpredictable. And very, very dangerous.”

*** 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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!! Happy publication day !!

I can’t seem to resist a good detective thriller and this series is no exception. After the rollercoaster rides with book number one and two, deciding whether to read book number three was an easy one. And I have to say Her Mother’s Grave is the strongest book yet of this series, and it’s without doubt my new favorite. Lightning speed pace, excellent writing, dark, twisted, disturbing, suspenseful… Oh yes, this story will keep you in its claws and there is a lot to love here. Her Mother’s Grave reads like a train and will mess with your mind. The personal life of Josie Quinn plays a huge role in this book, the story showering us with shocking details about her past. You will need an extra hand to keep your jaw from dropping to the floor as you discover more and more facts about her life. Trigger warnings for abuse, violence, neglect and graphic scenes in general, but if you think you can stomach that, you are in for one hell of a ride. Josie Quinn will have to face the impossible and we are right beside her as she tries to keep her life together. Imagine a war zone with plot twists bombs dropping on you, danger around every corner and no clue how to reach the ending safely… Trust me, Her Mother’s Grave is a story you won’t soon forget.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Two young boys are playing in the woods behind a trailer park when they find human bones buried beneath a tree. Detective Josie Quinn and her team are called in to investigate, and Josie has a very uncomfortable feeling about the case. She knows the spot where they found the remains, since she used to play in those same woods as a child, trying to escape for a few hours from her abusive mother. When a rare dental condition confirms the bones belong to a teenager murdered thirty years ago, a girl with the same name as her mother, Josie realizes she has no other choice but to try and track down her mother… Even if she wants nothing more than just leave the past buried.

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If you like your thrillers fast, suspenseful and filled with plot twists and shocking surprises, you will be in for a treat with this one. The first two books of the series were already great reads, but Her Mother’s Grave is without doubt my new favorite. Things get close and personal and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time trying to figure out both what happened all those years ago and what was happening in the present. Oh yes, I had a blast reading this book and I’m already looking forward to the next one!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #29: The Upside Of Unrequited & The Border

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA reads… The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli I was sure I was going to love, but somehow ended up being another unpopular opinion review. The Border by Steve Schafer on the other hand was absolutely brilliant.


Title: The Upside Of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 11th 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Finished reading: June 21st 2018
Pages: 352

“We like who we like. Who cares if someone else doesn’t get it?”


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Oh hello unpopular opinion review! I guess we meet once again… I truly wish we wouldn’t have crossed paths this time around though. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda has to be one of my all time favorite YA books, so of course I was fully expecting to love this story as well. I’m still kind of shocked I ended up having this reaction, but I guess it is what it is. Fact: the problem isn’t the writing, which is without doubt excellent and made The Upside Of Unrequited into a really fast and entertaining read. I like the idea of having twins as main characters and the lgbt elements made this story into the perfect read for Pride Month. The twins moms are the cutest! The artsy/pinterest vibe was also a great touch. But. And here comes the main problem: I really struggled with Molly’s character. Not only did her choices annoy me and she helped introduce a love triangle to the plot that really bothered me… But I also found her whole attitude and negativity towards her own body quite frustrating. Having struggled with my weight just about my whole life, I know how it feels having to deal with rejection and negativity of others, but I don’t think Molly’s character gives the right message to those who struggle with the same problem. And we don’t have a lot of ‘bigger’ main characters to look up to in stories in the first place… So Molly was quite a let down for me. I also felt like The Upside Of Unrequited was almost trying to be too diverse and squeeze in too many diverse characters into one story. But yeah, that is mostly just me since everybody including my neighbor’s cat seems to love this story, so do take my rambles with a grain of salt.


Title: The Border
Author: Steve Schafer

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 5th 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Finished reading: June 24th 2018
Pages: 364

“We are right on the border. The border. Of story, of legend, of dreams. ut we might as well be on the moon. So famous, yet so desolate.”


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Weird fact: I have a strange fascination for any story related to the war on drugs, cartels and the consequences of both. After a course or two during Uni, a thesis and quite a few related books, TV shows and movies, my thirst for this theme still hasn’t lessened. So honestly I should have known this book would hit the right spot even before I started it. The Border is more about the cartels and the consequences of antagonizing them than the actual war on drugs, but the theme is without doubt fascinating. The narcos killing the families of the main characters is sadly enough not all that uncommon, and neither is the hunt that starts afterwards. I really liked how Steve Schafer isn’t afraid to state the hard, painful and shocking facts, describing to us in a realistic way how the teens have to run for their lives. The incorporation of Spanish into the writing was spot on and added more authenticity to the story; the descriptions of both characters and setting detailed and realistic. The writing style managed to put me under its spell and I couldn’t let this story go until the very end. Ever feel like putting everything on hold until you reach the final page? That is what happened while I was reading The Border. This is not a happy story and the characters truly struggle; some parts are truly heartbreaking and make sure you have some tissues at hand just in case. But this realistic rendering of the four Mexican teens trying to cross the desert to reach the safety of US territory is simply sublime. I can highly recommend reading this one if you are interested in the theme, or if you enjoy reading realistically described (YA) thrillers.


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ARC REVIEW: One To Watch – by Rachel Amphlett @RachelAmphlett

Title: One To Watch
(Detective Kay Hunter #3)
Author: Rachel Amphlett
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 3rd 2017
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Finished reading: June 30th 2018
Pages: 378

“The plot thickens. And nothing in this case is straightforward.”

*** 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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This is already the third book of the Detective Kay Hunter series and I just can’t help myself picking up another one whenever I’m in the mood for a good detective thriller. Because the fact is: this series has a consistantly good quality and never disappoints. Excellent writing, interesting plots, a kick ass main character that you will find yourself rooting for, a healthy dose of suspense, plot twists… Oh, yes, this series follows the perfect recipe for a successful detective thriller and adds a little something extra to keep you fully hooked. One To Watch is no different and I literally finished book number three in one sitting. Fast, engaging, intriguing, suspenseful, twisty… One To Watch was simply unputdownable. I had my suspicions about the who and why, but the ending definitely came as a surprise. I’m so curious about the facts around Kay’s Professional Standards investigation! I definitely can’t wait to discover more about that angle in the future books. As for the plot in One To Watch, I liked how something seemingly simple turned out to have quite a few disguised layers, secrets and twists. If you like detective thrillers, you will have a blast reading both One To Watch and the rest of the series. Just make sure to reserve enough free time, because this story is highly addictive!

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Just hours after sharing a secret with her best friend Eva, the teenager Sophie Whittaker ends up dead. She was murdered at her own private party in the Kentish countryside, and Detective Kay Hunter and her team are called in to investigate. What initially seemed to be an easy case, soon turns out to be a lot more complicated as more and more secrets and lies are exposed… Who wanted Sophie dead and why?

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Detective Kay Hunter is without doubt one of my new favorite characters and I just love spending more time with her. My experience with book number three One To Watch was no different and I literally devoured this story in one sitting. Highly addictive, well written and a plot and plot twists that will keep you hooked until the very end! Oh yes, if you are a fan of the genre, you are missing out if you don’t read this series. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed by Kay Hunter and her investigations.


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ARC REVIEW: Saigon Dark – by Elka Ray @crimewavepress

Title: Saigon Dark
Author: Elka Ray
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 5th 2016
Publisher: Crime Wave Press
Finished reading: June 28th 2018
Pages: 231

“Closure? When I hear people use this word, I dismiss them as idiots, or worse. Just the idea is a travesty, like you could close a door on your love, lock it up tight, and paint over it. Real love is a part of you, like your heart or your liver. You might survive massive trauma but you won’t ever be the same.”

*** 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 always enjoy reading books with a foreign setting, especially when I haven’t been there myself as it feels like a mini-vacation just being able to read about it. Between the promise of a setting in Vietnam and an intriguing premise, I knew I had to give this story a go. Saigon Dark is a mix of a domestic drama and a psychological thriller set in a timespan of roughly ten years. The story jumps forward a lot between chapters, but if you keep track of the dates mentioned the story isn’t that difficult to follow. I liked the writing style, which flowed naturally and easy on the eye. The plot is an interesting one with just the right amount of secrets and twists. Did I understand the reasoning behind the things the main characters? Not always. Do I think she should have said something when it happened all those years ago instead of doing what she did? Yes. But I guess there wouldn’t have been a story otherwise. I did feel there were some holes in the plot, or at least bits I would have liked to see more developed. And I kind of struggled with the ending, which felt rather abrupt. I was left wanting to know more and learn how things continued since a lot was left unsaid. Saigon Dark has a few pretty decent twists, although I did guess part of the final reveals early on. But in general I can’t deny Saign Dark was a very interesting read with a foreign setting I was able to explore thanks to the story. Trigger warnings are in place for abuse and violence though.

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Lily is a successful plastic surgeon and the single mom of two small kids. Then one day her life changes forever as she finds her little daughter has drowned in the backyard. She is unconsolable and stricken by grief, and that might explain the split-second decision to take in her neighbor’s neglected and abused daughter and whisk her away from her home. Lily spends the next decade living a lie, telling everyone the girl she practically kidnapped is her own dead daughter. Just as she remarries and starts to feel safe, she receives a threatening note… Will she able to keep her past a secret?

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Saigon Dark is without doubt an interesting read. The main character Lily’s situation is a very complicated one and while I don’t agree with her actions, I can see how grief can make people do things they normally wouldn’t. There is no doubt she saved the girl from more abuse and neglect in the years that followed, but denying her the truth about her past isn’t exactly ethical either. It was interesting to see how things slowly started to unfold though, although I still would have wished a less abrupt ending. I’m having a feeling especially fans of domestic thrillers will enjoy this one.


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ARC REVIEW: The Year Of The Snake – by M.J. Trow #buddyread

Title: The Year Of The Snake
Author: M.J. Trow & Maryanne Coleman
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
First published: July 1st 2018
Publisher: Endeavour Media
Finished reading: June 24th 2018
Pages: 313

“There comes a time when even the luckiest of charms runs out.”

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

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!! Happy Publication Day !!

This was actually a buddy read with the wonderful Nicki @ Secret Library Book Blog… I’m so happy she asked me to read this title together, because I’m not sure how I would have made it to the end otherwise. Oh yes, let’s just say my encounter with this story wasn’t an entirely positive one. I was initially drawn to both the cover of The Year Of The Snake and the promise of a story set in ancient Rome. I was already familiar with the general details around Emperor Nero and his reputation, and I had high hopes for this story connected to him. Sadly, The Year Of The Snake turned out to be quite a disappointment for me, and I found especially the first half of the story to be quite weak. The promise of a good story is there, with a murder mystery, a cult and the ruthless Emperor, but the execution for me was lacking. Why? The first thing that stood out for me were the formatting problems, which made it harder to read the story. I can forgive those since it’s an ARC and not a final version, but still. I wasn’t a fan of the writing style and tone in general (including crude language) and the many many POV switches every other page made it a lot harder to keep track of the story and the different characters. In fact, I found the plot itself quite weak and chaotic and would have preferred a more ordered storyline with a lot less switches and more time to get used to each character. This would have made the story and plot a lot stronger for me. It also would have helped connecting to the characters in a more solid way, which as it is I wasn’t really able to do. To be honest, I found most characters to be rather flat and lacking a more detailed description… But. I do have to say things improved considerably in the second half of the story, after the investigation of Nerva’s death intensifies and we see just what Nero and his mother are actually made of. This higher level of suspense and intrigue being incorporated into the plot saved the story for me, and the final twist was quite a good one as well. All in all, whiile the story behind The Year Of The Snake sounds really promising, the execution needs a lot of editing for me to really work.

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When Senator Gaius Lucius Nerva dies a few days after he had taken ill at a dinner party, the recently freed slave Calidus is the only one to suspect it wasn’t a natural death. And as he organizes the funeral ceremonies, he becomes more and more convinced that his former master was murdered. Calidus starts an investigation, which is harder than it seems with his status as a freedman. And he sure is stepping on a lot of important toes to get to the truth…

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I was really looking forward to this one since I can’t seem to find that much historical fiction reads with an ancient Rome setting, but sadly this one didn’t hit the mark for me. While the general idea behind The Year Of The Snake sounds promising and has a lot of potential, I ended up struggling considerably with the story itself. Thanks again Nicki for making this ride more bearable! The story wasn’t all bad and has it’s positive points, especially in the second half when things become more intense. But between the chaotic feel, lack of proper plot, too many POV switches, crude language and lack of connection to both the writing style AND characters, it definitely wasn’t an easy read for me.


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ARC REVIEW: The Fifth To Die – by J.D. Barker @HMHBooks

Title: The Fifth To Die
(4MK Thriller #2)
Author: J.D. Barker
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 10th 2018
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Finished reading: June 16th 2018
Pages: 416

“Sometimes it’s good to remember the bad, it makes other things seem not so terrible.”

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

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In a way I’m glad I’ve only recently found the time to pick up the first 4MK thriller. Why? Well, let’s just say that book one and two both start and end with a bang and leave you wanting for more. Oh yes, if you think the cliffhanger of The Fourth Monkey was a bad one, you will be in for a painful ride with The Fifth To Die. What a way to mess with your mind! I was in the mood for a twisted, disturbing and complicated serial killer and there is no doubt this story delivered all that and more. Hooked from the first page? Check. More twistedness and new disturbing and horrifying killings? Check. A healthy dose of plot twist bombs that will leave you absolutely flabbergasted? Check. New insights in the backgrounds of the main characters? Check. Fleshing out of the previous plot while adding a LOT of new suspense and a very strong and promising base for an excellent third book? Check. Oh yes, as you might have already guessed, I had a great time with detective Porter and the so-called 4MK killer. Warning: this is one of those series you HAVE to read in order, because you won’t be understanding the many references to the case and characters otherwise. (Since it’s basically the same open investigation we are talking about, with a new angle and subplot added of course.) The Fifth To Die is just as strong as the first book and this series is quickly becoming a new favorite of mine. Then again, I love a well written, dark, disturbing and gritty serial killer thriller. Is it too early to ask when the next book is coming out? Because I NEED to know what happens next after that humongous cliffhanger ending.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Detective Porter isn’t ready to let go of the 4MK killer, especially since he is still on the loose somewhere. But he has something else to worry about as well, since a new serial killer seems to be operating in Chicago. He isn’t supposed to concentrate on the 4MK killer anymore in the first place after the feds took over the case… But it seems he cannot stay away. He secretly continues his hunt, and when this is discovered, he finds himself suspended and his team left without a leader during their hunt for the new killer. Detective Porter isn’t one to let things go easily though… Even if this will have terrible consequences for his future.

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I’m a sucker for a good serial killer thriller and this series is quickly turning into one of my new favorites. If you like your thrillers dark, gritty, disturbing and don’t mind graphic scenes, you will be in for a treat with this series. Trust me, reading these two thrillers in order will be worth your time! You will find yourself staring at the last pages wanting for more though, because the cliffhanger ending is pretty brutal. What a way to reveal something like that and leave us staring open mouthed knowing we won’t find out more until the next book comes out! It’s been a while since an ending hit me that hard.


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