BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Big Chill – by Doug Johnstone #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Big Chill Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I became an instant fan of Doug Johnstone‘s writing after reading Breakers last year, and my second experience with A Dark Matter only reconfirmed these feelings. I’ve been looking forward to meet up with the Skelf women ever since, and The Big Chill turned out to be yet another excellent read. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Big Chill
(The Skelfs #2)
Author: Doug Johnstone
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 20th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: July 2nd 2020
Pages: 300

“Words have meaning, of course, but they’re so inadequate, and we each have a lifetime of hang-ups and quirks that feed into how we speak.”

*** 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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My first experience with Doug Johnstone‘s writing with Breakers last year simply blew me away, and after a repeat experience with A Dark Matter I’ve been waiting impatiently to meet up with the Skelf women again. It’s easy to say that my expectations were high, but I shouldn’t have worried as The Big Chill turned out to be another excellent read. A little warning: while technically you could read this sequel as a stand-alone, you would be missing out on the character background as well as important life changing events in the first book. I would recommend reading them in order! Trust me, both books will be well worth your time.

This series can be seen as a mix of a family drama and a crime thriller with a PI angle and is set in Edinburgh. The description and development of this Scottish setting is simply sublime, and really made Scotland come alive for me. I also love the focus on the funeral home both as a setting and part of the plot itself. It’s without doubt an unique angle and really set the right atmosphere for this story! Both death itself, the private investigator element and the things that happen in the funeral home in general play a key role in the plot, turning the funeral home into an integral part of the story.

The Big Chill once again evolves around three generations of Skelf women: Dorothy, her daughter Jenny and her granddaughter Hannah. Once again, these three different POVs are used to tell us the story, alternating between them as we slowly learn about the different storylines and characters in play. This gives the plot a multidimentional and complex feel and really took the story to the next level for me. It might seem like a lot to juggle initially, but once you get in the groove, you will find yourself fully under the spell of this story. Especially since each POV complemented the other two, adding to their own storyline as well as adding to the suspense and overall story…

This sequel has once again a lot of different elements and storylines in play. Among other things, we have the funeral home and everything it entails, the PI angle and active investigations, more follow-up on Craig after what happened in book one, an unexplained suicide, a body without identity, dealing with life changing and threatening events… This sounds like a lot to juggle in just one story, but somehow it simply works like a charm as each element is incorporated flawlessly. I do have to stay I found the pace to be a bit slower in The Big Chill, and I did wonder about the credibility of some of the plot twists introduced, but overall the rest of the story more than made up for it. Especially since both the writing as well as the suspense and plot twists are once again brilliant, and delivered the same high quality I’ve become used to with Doug Johnstone‘s books. This is a story that will keep you on your toes and there will be more than one shocking surprise before you reach that final page… And that ending will leave you breathless and wanting for more.

The Big Chill is already the second book of this series around the Skelf family, and without doubt another excellent read. While the pace is initially slower than expected, this same pace will pick up as things start spinning out of control and both suspense and plot twists are build up brilliantly. This story definitely ends with a big bang! If you like books that won’t fit into a neat genre box and enjoy a well written and multidimentional crime thriller as well as a family drama element, this series is most likely a great fit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.


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WWW Wednesdays #276 – July 8th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I was in the mood for a cute contemporary so I decided to finally pick up my TBR jar pick Broken Hearts, Fences And Other Things To Mend by Katie Finn. I’ll also be starting the third Detective Jane Phillips book Deadly Vengeance by OMJ Ryan for the upcoming blog tour…

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone (4/5 stars) REVIEW 27/07
Look out for my full review during my stop of the blog tour!!

2. Opium And Absinthe by Lydia Kang (3/5 stars) REVIEW 12/07
I admit that it was cover love at first sight when I saw Opium And Absinthe, but I was completely sold as soon as I read the blurb. I’ve enjoyed Lydia Kang‘s books, including The Impossible Girl, in the past, and another historical setting with a medical twist sounded simply fantastic. I liked the historical setting, the Dracula element and the investigation into Lucy’s death as well as the medical details… But the slow pace, the repetitive and sometimes dull plot and constant focus on the substance abuse instead of a proper focus on character and plot development ended up being mostly a letdown for me.

3. Dear Martin by Nic Stone (5/5 stars) REVIEW 19/07
I already knew Dear Martin was probably have an impact on me after all those raving reviews, but I was blown away by just how much it hit the mark and left me reeling. This is such an important, powerful and absolutely heartbreaking debut and helps educate us just how real the American race problematics are even to this date. In the light of recent events, Dear Martin is even more of an eye opener and I cannot thank the author enough for getting Justyce’s story out in the world.

4. Entre Senderos De Lavanda by Mariela Gimenez (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 25/07
I read this book as part of the Masa Critica Argentina program through Babelio, and I had an excellent time with this story! It’s a contemporary romance read set in France with a wonderful cast of characters. I really enjoyed the building up of the different relationships despite the appearance of the love triangle, and I think this has to do with the fact that a lot of the focus is on familiar relationships as well as self discovery too. I wasn’t going to post a full review on my blog at first, but as I prefer writing my reviews in English first anyway before I translate them to Spanish, I decided to put it on my blog too in case someone is interested in a Spanish read.

5. The Cry Of The Lake by Charlie Tyler (2/5 stars) REVIEW 21/07
I admit that it was cover love at first sight for me, but I liked the sound of the blurb too… Sadly, I wasn’t too convinced by the story itself. The three different POVs didn’t complement each other but distracted instead, the plot itself felt too chaotic and unrealistic and I couldn’t warm to the writing either. The lack of information was confusing instead of adding the intended dose of suspense, and the characters themselves didn’t feel realistic and were hard to like. All in all not the experience I was hoping for.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I need to make my way through my August ARCs ASAP as we have started a huge home improvement/DIY project and once the painting/cleaning phase of the project arrives I probably won’t be having any free time/energy left to read. xD First up are two thrillers: Save Her Soul by Lisa Regan and Echoes Of Guilt by Rob Sinclair. I’ll probably take a break from ARCs in between with Fruit Of The Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras as I’ve been dying to read it… And I have a new TBR jar pick! Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf. I can’t say I’ve had this one on my radar lately, and I’m not sure how long it will take to actually read it as I have a pile of other books I want to read first, but we’ll see how things go I guess.


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WWW Wednesdays #275 – July 1st

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m finally reading my second Spanish read of the year and pending Masa Crítica Argentina title: Entre Senderos De Lavanda by Mariela Giménez. It sounds like an interesting mix of mystery and romance and I hope it will be as good as the stunning cover! I’ve also started my upcoming blog tour read The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone, as I always like keeping a title on hand on my kindle whenever I’m not feeling like reading in Spanish and/or handling a physical copy.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver (4/5 stars) REVIEW 14/07
Look out for my full review during my stop of the blog tour!!

2. The Love Story Of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey (4/5 stars) REVIEW 06/07
I admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the comparison to A Man Called Ove and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. I adored both books and its characters, and I just knew I HAD to meet Missy Carmichael to see if she could win me over too. The Love Story Of Missy Carmichael turned out to be both charming and heartbreaking at the same time. While I confess that it took me some time to warm up to Missy, once I did I found myself to be completely under her spell. I loved seeing Missy develop and blossom over time, and if you are craving a heartfelt contemporary with well developed characters and don’t mind shedding a tear or two, this debut is an excellent choice.

3. Good Girl Bad Girl by Michael Robotham (4/5 stars) REVIEW 11/07
I’ve been meaning to try this author for quite some time now, and being approved for an ARC of the Cyrus Haven sequel was the perfect excuse to finally do so. Good Girl Bad Girl is without doubt an engaging as well as twisted start of this series. Recommended if you like a good crime thriller with a psychology angle and don’t mind things getting pretty dark and twisted in points.

4. When She Was Good by Michael Robotham (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 16/07
The first book kind of left me wanting to know how things would continue with Cyrus and Evie, and this sequel will without doubt explore more of Evie’s past. I have to be honest here and say I felt that the plot and plot twists ended up crossing the boundary of credibility for me and some of the twists were just too over the top to be believable. Sure, if you like plenty of action and a whole lot of dark twists and shocking details you will be in for a treat, but I don’t think this sequel was as good as my first meeting with Cyrus and Evie.

5. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 11/07
I’ve heard nothing but great things about this title and it turned out to be just as good as I hoped it would be! The perfect mix of paranormal mystery and crime thriller that had me racing through the pages. I loved the dual POV, with its clever use of twists to keep you in the dark and only slowly reveal what Viv discovered in the past as well as what Carly finds out in the present. Creepy, ominous and oh so engaging!

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m probably picking up another 20 Books Of Summer title next: Fruit Of The Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. I’ve been wanting to read it for ages now! I also want to read The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel ASAP. Then it’s back to ARCs with an August blog tour read: Lies Lies Lies by Adele Parks. My latest TBR jar pick is still Broken Hearts, Fences And Other Things To Mend by Katie Finn, which I’m planning on reading some time this month.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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


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WWW Wednesdays #249 – January 1st

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

Happy new decade! A new year means new reads, and I’m still working through my mountain of ARCs… Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain is up first; a title I’ve been looking forward to. I’m also starting the sequel Nothing To Lose by Victoria Selman so I have one less series to catch up with in 2020. Especially since the sequels seem to be coming out in record speed!

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. Black Summer by M.W. Craven (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 
While I do think I loved the first book a tiny bit more (please don’t hit me!), Black Summer was without doubt a brilliant sequel and as soon as Tilly made her entrance there was no way on earth I was putting down my copy. Thankfully I was able to spend most of Christmas Day in the company of my kindle, lots of tea, a sleeping cat closeby and a pile of leftover chocolate, so my wish came true and I was able to reach that final page almost in one sitting. And what a read!

2. The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell (5/5 stars) REVIEW 04/01
I’m a big fan of her books, and I always look forward to a new one… The Perfect Mother is without doubt a fantastic read that had me absorbed from the very first page and I literally finished it in less than a day. Definitely right at the top of favorite 2020 releases so far!

3. On The Bright Side by Hendrik Groen (4/5 stars) REVIEW 10/01
I loved my first meeting with main character Hendrik Groen a few months back, his character reminding me of all time favorite Ove. I’ve been looking forward to meet up with him again in the sequel, and while I thought On The Bright Side was a tiny bit slower and I think I liked the first book a tiny bit better, I still had a great time reading this book.

4. A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone (4,5/5 stars) BLOG TOUR REVIEW 09/01
Look out for my full review during my stop of the blog tour…

5. Blood For Blood by Victoria Selman (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 10/01
I loved the third book of the series when I read it recently, and I decided to read the first two books of the series ASAP so I have one less series to catch up with in 2020. The first book is without doubt an entertaining ride, and while I think the third book shows just how much this series has grown over time I did love learning more about Ziba. And what a way to start the story with a bang!

6. Six Wicked Reasons by Jo Spain (?/5 stars) BLOG TOUR REVIEW 16/01
Look out for my full review during my stop of the blog tour…

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m probably reading the rest of my pending January ARCs first, so I can focus on reading mostly my own books during the rest of the month… The last three pending ARCs are Dark Mother Earth by Kristian Novak, The Home by Sarah Stovell and The Liar’s Daughter by Claire Allan. I also plan to finally read my latest TBR jar pick Like This For Ever by Sharon Bolton!


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WWW Wednesdays #248 – December 25th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I hope everyone who celebrates is having a wonderful Christmas so far! I gave myself an early Christmas gift and finally started reading Black Summer by M.W. Craven, a title I’ve been eagerly anticipating after being blown away by the first book earlier this year. I might just have finished it by the time this post goes live depending on how much free time I could sneak in to read in between Christmas preparations yesterday. I’m also reading On The Bright Side by Hendrik Groen as a second Christmas gift. Who says I can’t spoil myself? 😉 I loved the first book and I’m enjoying the same snarky tone in the sequel as well. Hendrik reminds me so much of Ove!

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton (5/5 stars) REVIEW 27/12
There are so many characters I loved in this story, and they all play their role in teaching us more about Cuba as well. The plot itself is complex, multilayered and shows a thorough research into Cuban history as well as a wonderful romance story to counter the darker elements in Next Year In Havana. This story is an absolute must-read for historical fiction fans!

2. The Rules Of Murder by Rob Sinclair (4/5 stars) REVIEW 30/12
The Rules Of Murder is by no means a meek story and it will have plenty of action, suspense and properly twisted and graphic scenes for you in store. If you like your detective/serial killer thrillers fast and dangerous, you should definitely try this series!

3. Are You Watching? by Vincent Ralph (4,5/5 stars) BLOG TOUR STOP 08/01/2020
Look out for my full review during my stop of the blog tour… A little spoiler: it’s a true pageturner!

4. Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 31/12
I really enjoyed my first encounter with this Finnish mastermind of black humor and nordic noir, so I’ve been excited to pick up Palm Beach Finland. It’s without doubt another excellent read and the combination of the dark humor and the nordic noir elements is what makes this story so unique. It might not be for everyone, but I myself was very entertained by what was going on in the coldest beach resort on earth!

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m hoping to get through a few more January ARCs and blog tours to take the pressure off next month… First up is A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone, which I’m really excited about as I loved his other title Breakers earlier this year. Then it’s pending blog tour number two (probably): Six Wicked Reasons by Jo Spain. I’m also planning on reading Caroline Mitchell‘s newest The Perfect Mother soon. My latest TBR jar pick is still Like This For Ever by Sharon Bolton, which I probably won’t be able to get to this year even though I’m looking forward to it.


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WWW Wednesdays #247 – December 18th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m finally reading Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton for one of last week’s prompts for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge… And I’m also starting The Rules Of Murder by Rob Sinclair. I really enjoyed the first book a few months back, so I’m looking forward to meet up with main character Dani Stephens again! Also, you might remember I was starting Good Omens last week… I read the first few pages and couldn’t get into it, so I’ve decided to put it on hold for now and picked a different title for the readathon instead.

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Secret Messenger by Mandy Robotham (3/5 stars) REVIEW 20/12
Tthere were things I loved in The Secret Messenger, including the WWII setting in Venice, its history and the story of the resistance and Stella’s story as a whole. There were also things that didn’t work for me, incluiding the slow pace during most of the story, the dual timeline and main character Luisa’s POV in general. As a result, I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Secret Messenger despite the fact that this story should have been a perfect fit, but fans of the genre should definitely give it a go as most people seem to react a lot better to the elements that didn’t work for me personally. I guess it was unpopular opinion time once again?

2. Snakes And Ladders by Victoria Selman (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW
As soon as I read the first line of the blurb on Netgalley I was sold. I mean: Psycho meets The Silence Of The Lambs… How on earth would I be able to resist that?! Add the promise of a serial killer and profiler angle, and I just HAD to add it to my shelves. I confess I wasn’t aware that Snakes And Ladders was actually the third book of a series when I requested a copy, but thankfully it turns out that this story works really well as a stand-alone as well. Fans of darker, complex and twisted serial killer thrillers who love a profiler and psychological angle will have a great time with this one!

3. The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson (2,5/5 stars) REVIEW 27/12
Even though I wasn’t as impressed by the sequel when I finally read it a few months back, when I discovered I had to read an urban fantasy for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge my thoughts went to this series almost immediately. I decided to give Rory another shot, and see if the third book would make me fall in love with the series again… Sadly, it wasn’t ment to be and The Shadow Cabinet turned out to be the weakest link of this series yet.

4. Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine (4/5 stars) REVIEW 20/01/2020
The first two books of this series are on my all time favorites list, and I still think this series is brilliant, but I’m starting to think that maybe it’s just better to leave things as it is? Don’t get me wrong, the writing is still brilliant and it is without doubt an intense, twisted and thrilling ride, but you can only have that much stuff happening to the main characters before it starts becoming REALLY unbelievable. Book four, like book three, misses some of that spark of the first two books… I still devoured every single page, but I also started looking a bit more critical at certain aspects of the plot and that is never a good sign. This story will have your heart racing though!

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I don’t want to fall behind with the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge, so I’m probably reading Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen next. When I saw the third chapter prompt mention a book with pink or purple cover, I KNEW I had to pick up my pink and fabulous copy of this one! Then it’s back to ARCs and I’m planning on reading two early January blog tour books: Are You Watching? by Vincent Ralph and A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone. I can’t wait to read both! My latest TBR jar pick is still Like This For Ever by Sharon Bolton, which I probably won’t be able to get to this year even though I’m looking forward to it…


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#ThrowbackThursday – Breakers by Doug Johnson #Orentober #TBT @Orendabooks

Today is Thursday, and in the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month I will be joining #ThrowbackThursday again and share a previously published review of a Orenda favorite. Deciding which book to choose out of all the fantastic books I’ve had the chance to read so far has been tricky… I’ve decided to stick to to titles I reviewed at least two months ago, and the honor this week goes to an absolute scorcher: Breakers by Doug Johnstone. I was part of the blog tour for this title, and it has made me an instant fan of his writing. What an absolute fantastic and brutal read! In case you are curious, I’m resharing my rambles first posted back in May…

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!


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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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WWW Wednesdays #223 – May 22nd

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m finally reading Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech! I’ve heard so many fantastic things about it and I’m so excited to be finally getting to know her work… I have my tissues ready just in case. 😉 I’m also starting another blog tour read which is due early next month: The Disappeared by Amy Lord. I’m really curious about this title as the blurb sounds intriguing.

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan (3/5 stars) REVIEW 
The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes is by no means a bad read (quite the contrary in fact) and the three star rating reflects my personal experience with the story rather than the quality itself. Every book has its target group and while the story sadly wasn’t a right fit for me, I could also really appreciate it for what it was. The power behind this read is Ruth Hogan‘s ability to create quirky, flawed and unique characters that will most likely stay with you for quite some time. A lot of time is invested in the description and development of the different characters. While I could really appreciate that and I do love my quirky and unique characters, for me personally it slowed down the pace too much and I struggled to connect and stay invested in the story.

2. Dead Inside by Noelle Holten (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 24/05
I literally cancelled all plans, settled down in my favorite reading chair and flew through Dead Inside in one sitting. It was simply brilliant! 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 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! 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.

3. The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger (4/5 stars) REVIEW 27/05
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…

4. Breakers by Doug Johnstone (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 23/05
Look out for my thoughts on Breakers during my blog tour stop tomorrow!

5. Your Life Is Mine by Nathan Ripley (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 28/05
I 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. 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.

6. The Last Of August by Brittany Cavallaro (2/5 stars) REVIEW 27/05
I wasn’t expecting to be having this reaction, especially as I really enjoyed the first book of the series, but The Last Of August turned out to be a mayor disappointment. 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. The whole Sherlock Holmes investigation was mostly pushed into the background and the only thing that stopped me from DNFing was the promise of Berlin and Prague descriptions (and even those were not as present as I hoped). I’m definitely giving up on this series for now.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m going to try and squeeze in more of my own books before continuing with my ARCs… Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield are up next. Then it’s ARCs again and I’m probably going to pick up The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora if I’m in the mood for it. My latest TBR jar pick is still The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout.


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