BOOK REVIEW: Call Me Star Girl – by Louise Beech @Orendabooks

Title: Call Me Star Girl
Author: Louise Beech
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 18th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: May 23rd 2019
Pages: 300

“I shiver, look to my left and then my right. No one there.

It’s just me.

Me and all my terrible gut feelings.”


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After hearing so many fantastic things about the writing of Louise Beech, I thought it was about time I finally tried one of her books myself. I was so excited when my pre-order finally arrived earlier this month! I know I have been warned about the effect of her stories, but I still wasn’t fully prepared for what I encountered. Call Me Star Girl left me absolutely speechless staring at that final page, wondering how long it would be before my heart would be whole again. How do I even begin reviewing this title? Please bear with me as I try to write a somewhat coherent review and explain why I Call Me Star Girl is my officially my fifth 5 star read of the year.

It doesn’t happen often that a book is able to provoke reactions this strong, but Stella’s story is one of them. The writing style is absolutely wonderful of course, but it is the characters who steal the show in Call Me Star GirlLouise Beech should receive an award for being able to create such fascinating characters that are both flawed, strong and essentially unlikeable, but are able to win over your heart anyway. This story was so so so cleverly written! I slowed down my reading pace deliberately, wanting to fully savour ever single minute with this story, as I didn’t want it to end either… And this is always a good sign. We start Call Me Star Girl with slowly getting to know more about Stella and her past, her mother sometimes taking her turn to tell her part of their history together. Sometimes we see more about the present life of Stella with Tom as well, but the main focus seems to be on Stella and her mother. All these little bites of information will make you even hungrier to find out how everything fits together and what connection everything could have with the death of the poor girl found in the alley.

Subtle twists and turns are incorporated in such a way that builds the tension and suspense without even realizing it; throwing new shocking information at you before you are getting comfortable with what you already know. Louise Beech creates her characters to have a dark side and she isn’t afraid to make them show it; it makes the characters all the more realistic and beautiful as a result. It was fascinating to see how Stella dealt with her mother abandoning her when she was twelve and how she grew up to be the woman she now is. Elizabeth’s story was intriguing as well, although I did connect with Stella more than with her mother’s POV. Call Me Star Girl will go dark and emotional and will stamp on your heart and rip it out in a million pieces. There are so many little details cleverly incorporated into the plot and the ending will both shock you and make you feel satisfied albeit heartbroken. It is a true emotional rollercoaster, an absolutely fantastic read and a worthy new all time favorite to add to my shelf. Oh yes, I will definitely be reading more Louise Beech stories in the future!


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ARC REVIEW: Your Life Is Mine – by Nathan Ripley

Title: Your Life Is Mine
Author: Nathan Ripley
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 4th 2019
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: May 20th 2019
Pages: 336

“Before a shooter is a shooter, he’s just a man in a room.”

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

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I really enjoyed my time with Find You In The Dark last year so when I saw a new title by Nathan Ripley I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to read it. I’ve been looking forward to pick it up ever since, especially with such an intriguing premise. I mean, the idea of having a cult in the spotlight and the main character being the daughter of the cult leader and mass shooter sounds both disturbing, twisted and absolutely fascinating! Now I’ve read it, I still think there is a lot to love in Your Life Is Mine, but in the end the story failed to convince me completely. A big part of this feeling had to do with the very slow pace during most of the story. The slow pace came as a surprise especially considering just how twisted things get at points… Especially in the second half you will find a lot of action as things are spinning out of control, but somehow the overall plot still feels slow? It sounds contradicting, but sadly it was how I felt about the story as a whole. The main characters of Your Life Is Mine are not easy to like, but I do admit they are all very intriguing. It was interesting to see Blanche react to such a messed up childhood and learn more about Chuck, Crissy and their cult ideas. The cult plays a role throughout the story even though we only see Chuck actively in the beginning, as followers keep his memory alive after the mass shooting in 1996. It’s scary to think that the ideas of a man long dead can still have such an influence… There are quite a few twists and turns involved in Your Life Is Mine, but most are very easy to guess for those who regularly read (psychological) thrillers. And this fact kind of took the thrill out of the story for me. The end was also a bit too abrupt for me and I remember thinking: ‘is this all?’. It wasn’t particularly a satisfying ending for me, although I do get why the author decided to go down that road. Your Life Is Mine is by no means a bad read and it has some very interesting and twisted elements, but sadly it failed to stand out above other recent thrillers I’ve read. If you like the genre and don’t mind a slow pace and easy to guess plot twists, you will probably enjoy your time with Your Life Is Mine.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #102 – The Sleep Tight Motel & The Last Of August

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a thriller novella and a YA contemporary read… The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger turned out to be short, but very entertaining, while The Last Of August by Brittany Cavallaro ended up being mostly a disappointment. Find out more about the why below.


Title: The Sleep Tight Motel
(Dark Corners Collection #2)
Author: Lisa Unger

Genre: Short Stories, Thriller, Horror
First published: September 27th 2018
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Finished reading: May 18th 2019
Pages: 48

“Why do we celebrate the monsters, the destroyers, the killers among us? Me, I prefer to run away. As fast and as far as I can get.”


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I know I don’t read a lot of short stories, but I’ve enjoyed Lisa Unger‘s writing in the past and The Sleep Tight Motel fitted a couple of challenge prompts… Making it easy to make an exception and give it a go. Between the cover and blurb I knew I was in for a creepy read, and I can say this short story would have been a perfect fit for the Halloween month. What starts out as a simple crime thriller with the main character on the run and hiding from someone, turns out to be so much more by the time you reach the final page… I won’t say anything else to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say you won’t see the final twists coming at all. The Sleep Tight Motel is well written and has a lot of different elements included successfully for such a short story. If you enjoy creepy reads with an eery setting and a surprising twist, The Sleep Tight Motel reads like a nice little snack in between other books.


Title: The Last Of August
(Charlotte Holmes #2)
Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: February 14th 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Finished reading: May 21st 2019
Pages: 326

“I’ve always wanted to be invisible, and because I want to be, it’s impossible.”


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I admit it’s been a long time since I read the first book (almost three years; oops?), but I still remember I really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to spend time with this Sherlock Holmes retelling sequel. What I definitely didn’t expect is that I almost ended up DNFing The Last Of August. Oh yes, sadly this Charlotte Holmes sequel turned out to be a huge disappointment for me. Why? Well, the first mayor obstacle is that about 90% of the story is filled with a frustrating love triangle, a whole lot of ‘does he/she love me?’ and ‘I don’t know what to do with my feelings’ and basically an overdose of teen angst in general. This is a huge turn off for me any day, but even more so when you expect an entertaining Sherlock Holmes retelling filled with the well known bantering between Holmes and Watson. Instead of this, the whole investigation angle of the story has been mostly pushed in to the background, the story then focusing on the petty feelings of Holmes, Watson and August. Definitely not what I signed up for! The only thing that stopped me from just DNFing The Last Of August  was the promise of Berlin and Prague descriptions, cities I was lucky enough to visit myself last year and was hoping to revisit with the help of this story. Sadly, even those descriptions were not as present as I hoped… All in all I can’t exactly say I enjoyed my second meeting with Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, and I think I’m going to just give up on this series for now.


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ARC REVIEW: Dead Inside – by Noelle Holten @nholten40 @HarperImpulse

Title: Dead Inside
(DC Maggie Jamieson #1)
Author: Noelle Holten
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 31st 2019
Publisher: Killer Reads
Finished reading: May 17th 2019
Pages: 352

“He turned her from a confident, carefree, intelligent woman, into a shell. She felt like nothing. Like she was in someone else’s body, skin, mindset.”

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

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Holy bat in hell, what a read! Now excuse me while I go pick my jaw off the floor… I already had a feeling I was going to enjoy this crime thriller by fellow book blogger and now debut author Noelle Holten, and my expectations were more than met. I literally cancelled all plans, settled down in my favorite reading chair and flew through Dead Inside in one sitting. It was simply brilliant! I loved that we not only have the typical detective (Maggie) to follow, but that we also have a probation officer (Lucy) in the spotlight. It definitely shows in the little details that Noelle worked as a senior probation officer herself for eighteen years, and it was fascinating to see a lesser explored angle being used in a crime thriller. The same goes for criminal psychologist Kate, who brings another refreshing angle to the investigation and it’s these three women together that makes this story work so well. It’s true we don’t get to see all that much of Maggie yet, but I’m having a feeling we will be getting plenty of her in the sequel.

Dead Inside is all about domestic abuse and what effects it has on the victimis and those around them. Signs of abuse are often not easy to see and the victims often feel that the situation they are in is impossible to escape. Psychological abuse is still abuse and harder to discover for outsiders… As someone who has been in a toxic relationship in the past, I know how hard it can be to let go. Trigger warnings are in place for the mentioned abuse, rape, violence and alcoholism. Dead Inside shines a light on domestic abuse from the point of view of both victims and (in a less direct way) abusers. At the same time, we also have an active murder investigation going on with ‘victims’ who don’t exactly arise sympathy. This angle alone is a very intriguing as it makes you wonder about right and wrong and if certain people just had it coming and karma came looking for them, or if even those dirtbags have rights… This story is lightning fast and isn’t afraid to go dark and messy. There are various twists and turns involved in Dead Inside, and while I did see part of it coming, I definitely didn’t guess the final reveal. And what a way to end the story! The whole Bill Raven case sounds fascinatingly disturbing… I already can’t wait to read the sequel and Dead Inside hasn’t even officially been published yet. Crime thriller fans, you have found a new title for your wishlist! Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this outstanding crime thriller debut.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Breakers – by Dough Johnstone #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @annecater @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Breakers Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. As soon as I read the blurb of this story, I knew I HAD to read it… And the story most definitely blew me away. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on Breakers! Also, make sure to check out my blog tour buddy Eva’s fab review here while you’re at it. ❤

Title: Breakers
Author: Doug Johnstone
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 16th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: May 18th 2019
Pages: 300

“Everything with her was a performance, layered in irony, wrapped up in too much self-awareness. It was sweet but fucked up, tiring to go along with, like he was supposed to dig around for the real her.”

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

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I knew I had to read Breakers as soon as I first read the blurb. The Edinburgh setting, the devastating home situation of the main character, the mention of a crime lord involved… Oh yes, there were a lot of signs this was going to be an explosive and emotionally harrowing read. My instincts were right, because it turned out to be an absolute scorcher! In fact, the second thriller in a row to make me forget about everything else and finish the whole book in one sitting.

There is a lot to love in Breakers. The first thing that stands out is the writing style: the story is well written, engaging and the descriptions are done exceptionally well. The real power behind Breakers are the main characters though. Both flawed and realistic, Tyler, Flick and little Bean will win over your heart and you will ache for them as things are spinning out of control. Tyler has a very difficult life at home with his drug-addict mother and his violent older brother, but somehow he still manages to grow up pretty decent and protect his little sister Bean. His story is heartbreaking and Tyler’s relationship with his little sister earned a lot of brownie points! It’s obvious he doesn’t have an easy life, and it’s interesting to see his situation being contrasted to Flick’s life. It shows that having money doesn’t necessarily mean a happy life, but it does make things easier… It also shows that in the end they are not as different as Tyler thinks. Barry is a real pain and very easy to dislike, but his character is ment this way and helps show a contrast with his younger brother and that a difficult home situation doesn’t mean all kids turn out the same.

Another thing I could really appreciate was the crime lord element; it definitely spiced up the plot! At first we get a dose of minor crime as Barry, Kelly and Tyler rob houses, but then things take a turn for the worse as Barry knifes the wife of local crime lord Deke Holt. Things spin out of control quickly then and it shows in Barry’s character as well as he becomes even more unstable and violent. The situation of Tyler’s mother is tragic and shows us the effects of drug and alcohol addiction; children left fending for themselves as parents are no longer able to take care of them. Little Bean brings something sweet and innocent to the plot though. Her relationship with Tyler and innocent look on life are used as another contrast between ‘good and bad’.

Both character description and development are simply sublime in Breakers. It was fascinating to see how the different characters reacted to the situations that arised! This story was brutal and emotionally draining, but highly satisfying as a whole. Trigger warnings are in place for violence, abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction… Each of these elements is well incorporated into the plot and used to realistically display how tragic the home situation of Tyler and his little sister basically is. It is all a vicious circle almost impossible to escape… As you might have guessed already, Breakers is an absolutely fantastic and brutal story that fans of the genre will most likely devour in one sitting. I know I did!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had nine novels published, most recently Fault Lines. His previous novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his other novels have been award winners and bestsellers, and he’s had short stories published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. His work has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned for film and television. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors. He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, and is drummer, vocalist and occasional guitarist for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He also reviews books for The Big Issue magazine, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #100 – The Death Of Mrs. Westaway & Circe

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Already shorties post number one hundred! and what better way to celebrate than with two fantastic backlist titles I both loved. The Death Of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware is probably my new favorite by the author and I absolutely loved my time with Circe by Madeline Miller. I love mythology stories in general and this one was brilliant.


Title: The Death Of Mrs Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: May 29th 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: May 7th 2019
Pages: 384

“You can’t influence fate, or change what’s out of your control. But you can choose what you yourself do with the cards you’re dealt.”


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I’ve been meaning to read another Ruth Ware book for a while now… While I was tempted to finally pick up The Woman In Cabin 10, I decided to stick to my 2019 priority title list and read The Death Of Mrs. Westaway instead. I can’t say I’m complaining, because after a few disappointing reads I finally found something that managed to blow me away again. This might just be my new favorite Ruth Ware title… What a creepy and suspenseful read! The house in Cornwall is such an excellent setting for this story filled with secrets and lies, and gives The Death Of Mrs. Westaway that gothic atmosphere. It definitely sets the right tone for this story! The story starts out in Brighton where we get to know the main character of this story and her desperate situation. I was intrigued by Hal’s situation from the start and while she is without doubt a flawed character and sometimes difficult to like, you will find yourself rooting for her soon enough. The writing is engaging and beautifully crafted and the descriptions gave off that creepy and eerie vibe. There are a lot of secrets and lies involved in the Westaway family and its past, and while I admit I saw part of them coming, I never guessed the full truth. In short, The Death Of Mrs. Westaway was a delightfully twisty and eerie psychological thriller packed with secrets and a dangerous side. If you are a fan of the genre, you will most likely have a great time with this one.


Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology
First published: April 10th 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Finished reading: May 9th 2019
Pages: 336

“I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.”


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I admit it was a pretty safe bet I was going to enjoy reading Circe, considering my love for Greek mythology stories in general and the fact that I loved her previous book The Song Of Achilles. My instincts turned out to be right, because I loved this story just as much as the gorgeous and shiny cover! If you enjoy (Greek) mythology retellings, Circe definitely is a must-read. Madeline Miller uses Circe’s immortal character to weave in a variety of different myths and stories about Gods and famous mortals alike. This is done exceptionally well and in a way that makes the story flow naturally. It’s true that time passes slower or more quickly at times and sometimes decades or centuries pass in a blink of the eye. But for me it only demonstrated the immortality of Circe and the way passes differently for her. The pace is slower at times, but I personally didn’t mind as it gave me more time to truly savour this little gem. I loved reading about Circe’s time living in the house of her father Helios and all the events that followed. You will find references to for example Daedalus, the Minotaur and the famous labyrinth, Icarus and his wings, Achilles and the Troyan war… The main secondary role is left for Odysseus though, as both him and his sons play a role during a big part of the story. We learn more about his adventures, his past and the influence he has had on Circe’s life. Witchcraft also plays a big role throughout the story, and I really enjoyed learning more about Circe’s gift. I can see why Circe wouldn’t be for everyone, but if you enjoy Greek mythology retellings and don’t mind a slower pace at times, you will most likely enjoy it as much as I did.


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ARC REVIEW: The Vanishing Season – by Dot Hutchison @amazonpub

Title: The Vanishing Season
(The Collector #4)

Author: Dot Hutchison
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 21st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: May 11th 2019
Pages: 320

“Sometimes we only recognize our limits once we’ve passed them.”

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

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I’ve been a big fan of The Collector series ever since I read the first book back in 2016, and I have been waiting impatiently for the final installment ever since I read book three last year. There is no doubt that The Vanishing Season delivers. Each book of the series actually follows a different member of the FBI team, and this last book is all about Eliza and Brandon. I personally really appreciate this little detail, as it gives us the opportunity to learn more about certain characters while also still having the bantering between the members of the team. It’s definitely a series best read in order, or else you will be missing important background information about both characters and past cases… But they will be well worth your time. The Vanishing Season has definitely succeeded in making this series go out with a bang. Things are going to get very personal and cold cases are going to get mixed with a current kidnapping case in a way you won’t be able to guess easily. There are twists and turns involved to mislead you and while you may get some details right, it will be impossible to imagine the full truth about the who, how and why until the very end. And you won’t be able to keep it dry by the time you reach the final page either… A part of this reaction has to do with the characters and how easy it is to connect to and basically adopt them. I personally love all members of the FBI team, flaws and all, and their bantering and dry humor is right up my alley. I even have a namesake in this series; something that doesn’t happen often! I have seen some people complaining about the use of Spanish, but I personally love those little details as they add an authentic touch to the characters without complicating those readers who don’t understand Spanish. Each character is thoroughly developed during the series and feels realistic; it’s interesting seeing them evolve over time and I loved finding out how everything ended. The second half of The Vanishing Season is basically an emotional rollercoaster and there will most likely be tears involved if you were able to connect to the characters previously. I found myself flying through the pages as I was dying to discover how it all ended; I literally couldn’t put down my kindle until I got there. I liked how everything wrapped up nicely and I was more than satisfied with this final book of the series. The Vanishing Season and The Summer Children are now tied for series favorite! If you enjoyed the previous books, you will most likely have an excellent time with this story as well.


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