ARC REVIEW: Harrow Lake – by Kat Ellis

Title: Harrow Lake
Author: Kat Ellis
Genre: YA, Thriller, Horror
First published: July 9th 2020
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: November 2nd 2020
Pages: 320

“But when you’re alone in the dark, impossible things grow bones and flesh.”

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

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I’ve been curious about Harrow Lake ever since I first read the blurb. The horror movie element, the small town where strange things happen… It sounded like the perfect premise for a creepy read, and also a perfect story to read close to Halloween. And while I did end up having mixed thoughts, I can’t deny that Harrow Lake nailed that creepy and eerie vibe.

There is no doubt that the star of the show is the town, Harrow Lake, itself. Between the many descriptions, background as well as what is happening in the present, this town gives us the perfect backdrop for the story. Creepy, eerie and with a hint of the supernatural… It gives us that perfect ominous feel and a hint of foreboding; you just feel in your bones things are going to get out of hand fast. The history behind Harrow Lake was intriguing, and I loved how seamlessly the story switched between the supernatural and the ‘real’ world. I could also really appreciate the important role the horror movie Nightjar played throughout the story. As Lola revisits the many places that were part of the movie her father filmed there, you will learn more about the town itself as well as her missing mother… The upcoming movie festival also adds that little something extra to the plot.

That said, I can’t say that I was charmed by the main characters at all. Especially Lola started to get really annoying, and I swear that if she says ‘Optimal‘ one more time I’m going to smack her in the head. I found her personality itself to be rather bland too… And I didn’t really get a proper feel off the rest of the characters either. Like I said before, the town itself is the true star of the show and I almost felt like it had more personality than the characters itself… I can’t say that I was a fan of the ending either, and I saw some of the twists coming quite early on. The writing did make it quite easy to keep reading though.

All in all it wasn’t a bad read and I most definitely loved the horror movie element as well as that eerie Harrow Lake setting, but there were also elements that didn’t work that well for me. If you like creepy reads with a hint of the supernatural and a thoroughly developed eerie small town setting, Harrow Lake might just be for you.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #183 – The Bird Tribunal & Mexican Gothic

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around It’s All About Books has turned to the dark side with an eerie nordic noir story (The Bird Tribunal) and a piece of historical gothic horror set in Mexico (Mexican Gothic).


Title: The Bird Tribunal
Author: Agnes Ravatn

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 1st 2013
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 11th 2020
Pages: 192
(Originally published in Norwegian: ‘Fugletribunalet’)

“But here was the thing: it required willpower to build willpower.”


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I’ve had The Bird Tribunal on my radar for a while now, and after a fantastic experience with her newest title The Seven Doors I decided to simply give in and finally read it. I’m honestly a bit lost for words as this turned out to be such an odd and intriguing story! Basically there isn’t all that much happening plot wise; the focus is instead on the main characters and what is an absolutely fantastic description of the Norwegian setting. Oh yes, both the setting and the brilliant creation of that eerie and ominous vibe steal the show and are definitely the strongest asset of this piece of nordic noir together with the beautiful writing. Where the characters were a tad too unlikeable for me and I found the ending to be too predictable, it was the writing and the stunning descriptions of the Norwegian setting that swept me off my feet… And we even get a dose of Norse mythology along the way as well. Like I said, I wasn’t really a fan of the characters though, which did cause some inconvenience as this is mostly a slower-paced and essentially character-driven story. Somehow I was never able to warm up to Allis nor Sigurd… But that might just have been me. You will want to read The Bird Tribunal for the stunning writing and descriptions alone though if you are a fan of the nordic noir genre.


Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror
First published: June 30th 2020
Publisher: Del Rey
Finished reading: October 20th 2020
Pages: 304

“The serpent does not devour its tail, it devours everything around it, voracious, its appetite never quenched.”


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I confess that I was going to try Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s other story Gods Of Jade And Shadow first, but there has been so much hype around Mexican Gothic that I simply couldn’t resist trying it myself. Now that I’ve finally gotten the chance to read it, I can understand the love for it. This story is dark, this story is eerie, this story is gothic horror at its best… It’s simply glorious! I loved the 1950s Mexico setting and the ominous and gloomy atmosphere of the High Place mansion is simply spot on. Historical elements are mixed with horror and even the supernatural and the writing itself is simply exquisite. I can’t deny the pace is considerably slow in points though… And this can definitely be a turn off for those who prefer a story with a faster pace. The glorious writing mostly made up for this feeling of slowness for me, and I liked how the secrets of High Place are only slowly revealed as the main character Noemí discovers them herself. She might seem like a flighty character, but I liked how she reacted to the situation in High Place as well as her determination in doing what is best for her cousin. The plot itself is once again quite slow-paced, but does work towards a final escalation and the story definitely ends with a bang. If you enjoy the gothic horror genre, don’t mind a slow pace or a touch of the supernatural and appreciate dark and atmospheric reads, Mexican Gothic might just be the perfect match.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #182 – Kiss My Cupcake & Tender Is The Flesh

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Today two books that couldn’t have been more different… But both ended up being a success. Kiss My Cupcake was exactly the fun contemporary I was craving, while I still can’t wrap my head around just how twisted Tender Is The Flesh was. Definitely perfect for Halloween that one!


Title: Kiss My Cupcake
Author: Helena Hunting

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 11th 2020
Publisher: Forever
Finished reading: October 9th 2020
Pages: 368

“I’d rather struggle to make ends meet for a while than give up my own dreams.”


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I was in the mood for a good contemporary and I always love a food element in my stories, so I figured that Kiss My Cupcake would probably be a good choice. And it ended up exactly the type of story I was craving! Sure, there are quite a few cliches involved… For example: why does the male lead always have to be dropdead gorgeous?! Sure, there are quite a few sexy scenes involved and we all know how allergic I am to those. BUT. Somehow I didn’t really care too much as I was too busy having fun seeing Ronan and Blaire pitched against each other. The whole ‘enemy to lover’ vibe isn’t as strong as I thought it would be initially, but I loved how they are not two competing bakers, but instead competing business owners and neighbors. Both have their own background and dreams, and I had a great time getting to know them better and see their relationship evolve. It definitely made me want to bake my own batch of cupcakes though, as those descriptions of Blaire’s creations sounded heavenly. Another bonus: no love triangle to ruin the day, which I was particularly happy about myself. Fans of the romcom genre who like their stories sweet as well as sexy will have a great time with this one.


Title: Tender Is The Flesh
Author: Agustina Bazterrica

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Horror
First published: November 29th 2017
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Finished reading: October 13th 2020
Pages: 224
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘Cadáver Exquisito’)

“Today I’m the butcher, tomorrow I might be the cattle.”

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Holy cow, this was one dark, brutal and twisted story! I’m kind of lost for words when it comes to Tender Is The Flesh… I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while now, and while I intended to read the original, I ended up picking up the translation instead (call me lazy). And boy, this is a story I won’t forget any time soon… Think dystopia. Think a world where cannibalism is legal and humans are breeded like cattle only to be slaughtered for their meat. This will give you some idea of where this story might go… A word of advice: definitely don’t read Tender Is The Flesh if you have a weak stomach, and definitely don’t read it just before dinner. It’s been a while since I read a story this brutal, this shocking, but somehow it is powerful as well and the writing is without doubt enchanting. Marcos makes for a very interesting main character and I liked seeing him evolve over time. If you are looking for a dark, gory and shocking horror read and aren’t put off by cannibalism being the star of the show, Tender Is The Flesh would without doubt make for the perfect Halloween read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #181 – The Boy On The Bridge & The Bear And The Nightingale

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA edition… The Boy On The Bridge is a dystopian prequel of an all time favorite The Girl With All The Gifts, and it was entertaining but not as good as the other story. And I still can’t believe it took me this long to pick up The Bear And The Nightingale, but I definitely understand the love for this series now!


Title: The Boy On The Bridge
(The Girl With All The Gifts #2)
Author: M.R. Carey

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: May 2nd 2017
Publisher: Orbit
Finished reading: October 3rd 2020 
Pages: 456

“He had already learned to read, but now he learned the pleasure of stories which is like no other pleasure—the experience of slipping sideways into another world and living there for as long as you want to.”


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I LOVED The Girl With All The Gifts back when I read it four years ago, and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick up this sequel set in the same world… The bright orange cover called my name once again the other day, and I finally gave in. And even though I didn’t love The Boy On The Bridge as much as the first book, it most definitely satisfied my dystopian cravings! This story can be easily read as a stand-alone, as I have to be honest here and say I had forgotten about the details of the first book beyond Melanie and I didn’t encounter any issues along the way. The Boy On The Bridge is more focused on the science and quite a bit slower, but the dystopian world makes for an interesting setting and Stephen is without doubt the star of the show. It was really easy to warm up and love his character, and I loved the dynamics between him and Rina too. They are definitely the main reason I enjoyed this story, together with Stephen’s observations and discoveries along the way. If you enjoy a good dystopian story and don’t mind a sometimes slowish pace and a lot of science talk, The Boy On The Bridge is probably a good match.


Title: The Bear And The Nightingale
(Winternight Trilogy #1)
Author: Katherine Arden

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: January 7th 2017
Publisher: Del Rey
Finished reading: October 8th 2020
Pages: 336

“I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed to me.”


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I still can’t believe it took me this long to finally pick up this trilogy… I’ve been meaning to ever since it was first published since I kept seeing raving reviews, and I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long now. I can understand the love for this trilogy after reading The Bear And The Nightingale, because I ended up having a fantastic time with this story. The historical setting in Russia, the Russian folklore, the magic, the characters, the writing, the plot… There is so much to love in this first book of what I already know will be a favorite trilogy, and it was everything I could have hoped for and more. Especially the Russian folklore references were fantastic, and I loved how they were incorporated into the story. Vasilisa makes for a brilliant main character, and I loved learning more about both her and the rest of her family. The magical elements were very well incorporated as well, and I loved how the historical and fantasical were balanced. On to book number two it is as soon as I have time!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Nesting – by C.J. Cooke #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Nesting Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I admit it was cover love at first sight when I first heard about this book, but it was the promise of a gothic thriller set in Norway that sealed the deal for me. And it definitely turned out to be a winner for me! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Nesting
Author: C.J. Cooke
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 29th 2020
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: October 6th 2020
Pages: 416

“What they don’t realize is that nature has been around much longer than humans. We don’t understand it, not really.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I admit that it was cover love at first sight when I first spotted The Nesting, but the blurb itself had me fully intrigued as well. The promise of a gothic thriller set in Norway was simply irresistible… And I’m happy to say that the story most definitely ended up living up to that gorgeous cover for me. Eerie, atmospheric with a hint of the paranormal and a healthy dose of Nordic folklore… There is simply a lot to love in this modern gothic thriller.

The Norwegian setting is beautifully described as well as incorporated into the plot, and it made for the perfect backdrop for this story. You will find that eerie, dark and ominous vibe around the Nordic setting and the house itself, which sets the tone for the rest of the story and really complemented the plot. You will find yourself instantly on edge as soon as you arrive in Norway along with the main character, wondering what happened in the past and how this might relate to the present. I especially loved the incorporation of the Nordic folklore and how this element was used to add that eerie vibe as well as the hint at the supernatural. Likewise, I loved how big of a role nature itself played in it all.

The Nesting uses a multiple POV structure, which includes flashbacks with Aurelia’s POV, the past and present with Tom and the present with Lexi. While I do confess that the initial chapters with Lexi didn’t impress me too much, as soon as the story takes you to Norway I found myself to be hooked and the unique vibe of the story started to shine through. While I never did warm up to Lexi or Tom, they did make for fascinating characters to follow and the same goes for the rest of the cast. The mystery around Aurelia’s death and the flashbacks to the past were perfect to inject that supernatural vibe and it definitely gave the story that gothic and creepy feel. It was interesting to see especially Lexi develop over time and I also enjoyed seeing those secrets and lies slowly being revealed as the story evolves.

The Nesting is part supernatural with Nordic folklore elements as well as a ghost story, part domestic drama and part thriller, all dipped in a delicious horror sauce with ecological sprinkles. It’s without doubt a rich and captivating story with lots of different elements that add dept and intrigue to the story. I did have some minor issues with the plot and lack of connection to the characters, but the beautiful writing mostly makes up for that and the eerie atmosphere so present in most nordic noir stories is brilliantly developed as well. If you enjoy gothic thrillers and don’t mind dealing with unlikeable characters or stepping into the supernatural, The Nesting is an excellent addition for your wishlist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

C.J. Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Born in Belfast, she has a PhD in Literature from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. She also founded the Stay-At-Home Festival.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill – by Hester Fox #blogtour @HarlequinBooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill blog tour! A huge thanks to Justine Sha for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I love a good gothic vibe in a story and I’ve been wanting to try the work of Hester Fox for a while now… So of course I couldn’t resist joining the tour for The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill as the blurb of her newest story sounded fantastic. And I will definitely be coming back for more after an excellent first impression of her writing! Want to know more? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill
Author: Hester Fox
Genre: Historical Fiction, Paranormal
First published: September 15th 2020
Publisher: Graydon House
Finished reading: September 9th 2020
Pages: 384

“Tabby knew that her greatest fault was that, once won, her trust was too freely given.”

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

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I’ve been wanting to try this author for a while now, and I confess that I was immediately intrigued by the blurb of The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill as well as the atmospheric cover. I love a good gothic story and this book most definitely delivered the perfect spooky gothic atmosphere. The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill is set in mid 19th century Boston, and this historical setting is what sets the tone for a suspenseful and creepy read that packs a mean paranormal punch. The perfect marriage of gothic and paranormal with plenty of historical details to savour!

There were quite a few things I enjoyed of this story, but let’s start with the historical setting first. As far as a historical and gothic setting goes, I couldn’t have wished for something more atmospheric with the mid 19th century Boston setting and its focus on the cemetery. The descriptions and details are used to create the perfect creepy vibe and really gave the story that extra touch. Later on, we even get a bonus with the London and Edinburgh settings, which fitted right in the same gothic vibe. The setting and historical details were definitely one of the strongest assets of this story!

Another thing I loved was the paranormal angle. I confess this element isn’t always my cup of tea, but it worked really well in The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill and complemented the plot. The same goes for the whole mystery around the body snatching and grave robbing element… While it’s not the first time I see it incorporated into a story, it is an element that always intrigues me and it definitely added an air of creepiness as well as suspense to the plot. It was interesting to see both elements develop over time and I had fun figuring out how much both influence the direction of the plot.

The story is mainly told with the help fo a dual POV, with an added extra POV later on. I personally loved Tabby as the main character; both her gift itself and her character development in general stood out for me. I especially loved her relationship with Eli, but her development and reactions to the things happening in the plot were a delight to follow as well. She might seem like your typical strong female character, but she will win you over quickly with her charm and strength as well as her quirkiness. That said, I do have to say that I wasn’t too big of a fan of other main character Caleb though. I felt he was a bit too cliche and I just didn’t get a good vibe off him… This might just be because of the whole mention of the cheating and love triangle though, which is a personal pet peeve I never react well to. We didn’t see much of Tabby’s sister Alice, which is for obvious reasons of course, but I did like what I saw. Tabby is clearly the true star of the show though.

The writing itself is solid, and especially the gothic vibe and historical descriptions are spot on. While the pace was a bit haltered in points, and I could have done without the romance, overall I had a great time with this story. If you are looking for something creepy and enjoy a historical setting as well as a paranormal angle, The Orphan Of Cemetery Hill is a great option. It’s also perfect for the upcoming Halloween month!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hester Fox is a full-time writer and mother, with a background in museum work and historical archaeology. Most weekends you can find Hester exploring one of the many historic cemeteries in the area, browsing bookshops, or enjoying a seasonal latte while writing at a café. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and their son.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Author Website // Twitter // Instagram // Goodreads

BUY LINKS

Harlequin // Indiebound // Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Books-A-Million // Walmart // Google // iBooks // Kobo


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AUDIO ARC REVIEW: Bad Parts – by Brandon McNulty #netgalleyaudio

Title: Bad Parts
(Dark Parts #1)

Author: Brandon McNulty
Genre: Thriller, Horror, Fantasy
First published: June 23rd 2020
Publisher: Midnight Point Press
Finished reading: August 4th 2020
Pages: 434

Duration audiobook 10 hours 10 minutes
Narrated by Ellie Gossage

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

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I basically decided to try this audiobook on a whim as I was browsing the ‘Listen Now’ catalog on Netgalley for something to listen to while painting. I know that I don’t often read supernatural thrillers, but I can really enjoy the genre if I know what I signed up for from the beginning (I only dislike the supernatural element when it comes as a surprise)… The blurb of Bad Parts also sounded particularly enticing with the music element and the creek demon. I was hoping for something entertaining to distract me from the daunting painting task, and I can now say that this audiobook definitely delivered just that.

As you might already know, I’m still pretty new with the whole audiobook experience… But I’m quickly becoming a fan. This audiobook is narrated by Ellie Gossage, and I think she did an excellent job giving both main character Ash Hudson and the other characters in play a voice. The fact that she changed her voice slightly whenever other characters are speaking made it a lot easier to keep them apart. The pace and flow of the story seemed solid, and I had no struggles keeping track of the story and plot developments. All in all the audio version makes for an enjoyable way to experience Bad Parts.

As for the story itself… There is no doubt that the premise of Bad Parts is fascinating, and if you like supernatural thrillers you will be in for a treat with the creek demon Snare. I liked how this element was developed into the story, with the ‘bad part’ trading and developments in the plot. The title doesn’t just reference to the trading though, as main character Ash Hudson is in a band with the same name. Music definitely plays a role in this story, and I liked the music references and overall vibe.

I do have to say that I found this story to be a tad too dragged out. I felt that the story could have been told in less pages and as a result the pace did slow down. I had that feeling about halfway down the audiobook that the story was about to finish, and I found myself to be quite surprised there was so much more story left… Overall it was still entertaining, but I think I would have liked less ‘clutter’ and more focus on the plot developments and supernatural vibe. I also wasn’t able to connect all that well to the cast of characters; they are not exactly likeable and I found some of their actions and decisions to be rather unbelievable. I’m not sure what to make of that ending either…

In short, if you are looking for an entertaining supernatural thriller and don’t mind unlikeable characters, a tad overlong plot and certain aspects not being credible, Bad Parts could be a great match.


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AUDIO ARC REVIEW: The Shadows – by Alex North @MacmillanAudio #netgalleyaudio

Title: The Shadows
Author: Alex North
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: July 7th 2020
Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Finished reading: July 16th 2020
Pages: 336

Duration audiobook 9 hours 5 minutes
Narrated by Hannah Arterton & John Heffernan

“And as I listened to the ominous thud of silence in the house behind me, the foreboding I’d had all day moved closer to the dread I remembered feeling twenty-five years ago.

Something awful was going to happen.”

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

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After having an excellent reading experience with The Whisper Man last year, my expectations for his newest story The Shadows were high. The blurb sounded both thrilling and creepy, and I’ve been looking forward to read this story ever since I first heard about it… And I can say that my expectations were more than met. What a delightfully creepy and engaging read! Fans of well written thrillers with that psychological horror vibe will be in for a treat.

While I have to say that I’m an audiobook newbie, I think I picked the right book to give them another chance. This dark and atmospheric story managed to grab me from the start, and that sense of foreboding and danger kept me interested the whole time. The story is narrated by Hannah Arterton and John Heffernan; each tackling one of the two POVs of The Shadows. One of my main issues with audiobooks in the past was that I was never able to connect to the narrator’s voices, but I had no such issue here. I felt that both narrators did an excellent job giving a voice to main characters Amanda and Paul, and they really made the characters come alive for me. I think their voices fitted the characters very well, and I liked the pace and flow of the story throughout. The only bit of the audio that bothered me a bit was the chapter where Amanda was reading about the forum as it didn’t flow as naturally, but that might just have been me…

I do have to say I had some issues with the Netgalley Shelf App; it seemed to skip certain chapters while listening and it didn’t remember the place where I stopped correctly each time I took a break. This of course has nothing to do with the audiobook itself and I didn’t take it in account when rating and reviewing The Shadows, but it could get confusing and sometimes even frustrating trying to hunt down those missing chapters. I’m not sure if it was my phone or the app, but I do hope my next audiobook won’t do the same thing!

As for The Shadows itself: I absolutely loved the idea behind the premise as well as the execution and the building up of suspense. The hint at the supernatural, the psychological horror vibe, the idea behind the dream diaries… The mystery around what happened 25 years ago as well as what happens in the present really gave the story that edge. The story is told with the help of a dual POV, where we switch between detective Amanda Beck and Paul. On top of this, Paul’s POV divided between flashbacks to 25 years ago and the present… The flashbacks both helping to clear up questions about the past as well as adding suspense and that sense of foreboding in the present. I enjoyed each storyline equally, as they all completemented each other and slowly merged into one. There were some well executed plot twists along the way as well, and I definitely liked the direction the story took.

The characters in play are without doubt intriguing; they are well developed, flawed and very interesting to read about. Sure, they might not all be exactly likeable, but their background and stories will keep you invested and I personally couldn’t wait to discover the truth about it all. The psychological horror element is very well done, and I loved how everything was explained in the end. I had a brilliant time listening to The Shadows and I’m really tempted to revisit the story on my kindle in the future.


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ARC REVIEW: Opium And Absinthe – by Lydia Kang

Title: Opium And Absinthe
Author: Lydia Kang
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy
First published: July 1st 2020
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: July 3rd 2020
Pages: 379

“A vampire was shackled, it seemed, to the lusts and needs of his body. Tillie, too, felt her world as a closed casket, always around her, always constricting her.”

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

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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. On top of that, Opium And Absinthe promises to present us with a fantasy/horror retelling element involving Bram Stoker‘s Dracula, which had me even more excited. I know I’m basically allergic to vampire stories, but I did actually enjoy the original Dracula classic and I have to say that I really liked how Lydia Kang decided to incorporate this element into her story. It definitely ended up being one of the things that stood out for me!

That said, despite having high expectations for this story, somehow it didn’t work as well as I thought it would for me. I’m struggling to point out exactly why, but I’ll try to explain below. Part of the reason probably has to do with the slow pace as well as a bit of a repetitive plot with surprisingly dull moments. The slower pace made it harder to stay focused, and the lack of surprises and dull moments didn’t help either of course. I know that the book is set in 1899 and things were different back then (I actually enjoyed those historical descriptions), but the plot was just too repetitive and dull for me and it didn’t manage to engage me as I thought it would.

I also struggled with the constant repetition of the opium, morphine and even heroin use as well as the focus on just how dependent the main character Tilly becomes on it as it starts taking over her life and actions. While in a way realistically portrayed, I felt like it was turned into too much of a cliche and I didn’t feel like I was able to get to know the character too well due to this focus on Tillie’s spiralling addiction and the other characters both reacting to and fomenting said addiction. The characters themselves are not likeable at all (with the exception of Ian maybe) and as a result I struggled to connect to them. The main focus is on Tillie, and I found her to be too frustrating to really care for her and once again I found the focus on her substance abuse to be too much of a cliche and it took away the focus from more interesting elements such as the investigation into Lucy’s death, the medical details and the vampire element.

I confess that I saw most of the plot twists coming from a mile away, although I did manage to stumble upon one or two surprises. This wasn’t enough to make up for the things that didn’t work for me though. 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.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #173 – Good Girl Bad Girl & The Sun Down Motel #20BooksOfSummer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a double thriller dose with Good Girl Bad Girl by Michael Robotham and The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. Both turned out to be excellent reads!


Title: Good Girl Bad Girl
(Cyrus Haven #1)
Author: Michael Robotham
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 23rd 2019
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: June 28th 2020
Pages: 416

“Evil is not a state, it is a ‘property’, and when a person is in possession of enough ‘property’, it sometimes begins to define them.”

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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. The story uses a dual POV, where we switch between new lead character and psychologist Cyrus Haven and Evie (a.k.a. Angel Face). Both have a disturbing background and it was fascinating to see the two matched and develop over time. The main focus of the story is on the new case Cyrus is called in to assist (Jodie’s murder), but both Evie’s past and her present situation play a big role too. The two different storylines mix as well as collide, and it was intriguing to see the different plot twists change the course of the story. I have to say that I was able to guess most of the twists early on, but one or two did hit the mark… The ending was quite open though and I definitely can’t wait to read the sequel to discover how things will continue. Recommended if you like a good crime thriller with a psychology angle and don’t mind things getting pretty dark and twisted in points.


Title: The Sun Down Motel
Author: Simone St. James
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: February 18th 2020
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: June 30th 2020
Pages: 336

“The person who could be truly alone, in the company of no one but oneself and one’s thoughts – that person was stronger than anyone else. More ready. More prepared.”

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I’ve heard nothing but great things about this title, and now I’ve had the chance to read The Sun Down Motel myself I can definitely understand the love for this story. This book is most definitely worth the hype, and it turned out to be just as good as I hoped it would be! It’s the perfect mix of paranormal mystery and crime thriller that had me literally racing through the pages. The Sun Down Motel uses a dual POV structure, where we switch back and forth between Vivian in 1982 and Vivian’s niece Carly in 2017. Both the POV switches and plot twists are brilliantly placed; they will keep you in the dark and only slowly reveal what Viv discovered in the past as well as what Carly unravels in the present. I loved both storylines equally, as both characters were easy to connect to and their stories managed to draw me right in. The paranormal aspect is again brilliantly handled; giving the story that creepy vibe as well as an ominous feel. On top of this, the story has the possible serial killer angle and the whole mystery around Viv’s disappearance in 1982… This story has more layers than an onion and you will love peeling away each one to discover the full picture. The Sun Down Motel turned out to be a fantastic reading experience and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who loves a little dose of paranormal with their crime thriller. Creepy, ominous and oh so engaging!


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