ARC REVIEW: Blink – by K.L. Slater

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Title: Blink
Author: K.L. Slater

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: February 16th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: January 26th 2017
Pages: 295
Rating 4,5qqq

“You don’t always know how you’re going to react to a sudden tragedy breaking your life into little pieces.”

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

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I have been looking forward to read another K.L. Slater book ever since I finished Safe With Me last year, and this second book simply blew me away. Her debut psychological thriller was already good, but Blink was just BRILLIANT. Basically I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time trying to figure out what was going on, and I ended up being SO wrong about everything. This title is without doubt psychological thriller at its best! Excellent prose, excellent plot and plot twists, excellent use of suspense, excellent character development… Blink has all the right ingredients for a great story. The main characters are maybe not all that likeable, but I personally didn’t care. The fact that the main character seems to be paralyzed and in coma but is actually awake is truly fascinating and adds another excellent plot twist to the story. I loved every single minute of Blink and it doesn’t happen often that a plot is able to mislead me that much. More than recommended if you like the genre!

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Three years ago, Toni’s five-year-old daughter Evie disappeared after school. The police were never able to find a trace of the little girl; there were no witnesses or evidence to give them a solid lead. But Toni belives her daughter is still alive. And as she begins to piece together her memories of the events around her daughter’s disappearance, the full story of her past begins to reveal itself… Will Toni find a way to make herself heard and find her daughter before it’s too late?

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This title will definitely appear on my list of favorite psychological thrillers. Blink basically has everything I look for in a good thriller and I enjoyed every single minute of it. The ‘paralyzed’ chapters and the flashbacks are without doubt intriguing and add an extra original touch… The plot twists are excellent and had me guessing until the very end. Some of them are so shocking you would have never seen them coming!


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ARC REVIEW: Those Who Lie – by Diane Jeffrey

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Title: Those Who Lie
Author: Diane Jeffrey

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: January 27th 2017
Publisher: HarperCollinsUK
Finished reading: January 17th 2017
Pages: ?
Rating 3,5qqq

“Everything looks the same, but everything has changed, she realises with a jolt. She has the strange impression that she has just stepped into someone else’s life.”

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

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Is it just me or has the whole amnesia angle been quite a popular angle in psychological thrillers lately? I personally don’t mind that much because I find it fascinating to read about, but it does get less original… Luckily in Those Who Lie, amnesia doesn’t actually play as big as a role as I thought initially. Sure, the main character Emily Klein suffers from mild amnesia after the accident and doesn’t remember the details around her husband’s death, but that is only minor compared to her very messed up past and her history with mental illness and eating disorders. Those elements turn her into what is basically the perfect unreliable narrator and an easy victim to anyone who wants to play with her mind. The writing was very enjoyable and the story itself quite intriguing, although I do have to say I kind of already guessed the ending about 60% into the story and it was kind of predictable. The lack of surprise put a minor damper on things, but I still found it enjoyable to find out all the details on both what exactly happened to Emily to made her into the person she is today and what really happened to her husband. If you are looking for an entertaining and fast-paced psychological thriller, Those Who Lie is definitely a great choice.

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When Emily Klein wakes up in the hospital, she doesn’t remember what happened to her or how she ended up in the hospital in the first place. Even worse, she doesn’t even know her husband has died until the day of his funeral… Apparently, the two were in their car and it crashed, but was it really a tragic accident or is there more at play? Emily is trying to piece together the events before his death and get her memory back. But does she really want to remember what is going on? Or are some things better left alone?

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Even though the ending wasn’t exactly a surprise, there were still quite a few plot twists that did manage to do so. And more importantly, the writing style was very enjoyable to read and I was able to finish Those Who Lie in record time due to its fast pace. The main character might not be all that likeable, but she is without doubt intriguing and I liked both her development and learning more about her past. All in all a worthy psychological thriller!


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ARC REVIEW: It’s All Absolutely Fine – by Ruby Elliot

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Title: It’s All Absolutely Fine
Author: Ruby Elliot

Genre: Graphic Novel, Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: January 31st 2017
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: January 15th 2017
Pages: 256
Rating 4qqq

“That’s what you need sometimes, whether it’s a dog or a cat or a jazzy lizard or something else entirely that provides you with some emotional respite when it’s all too messy – a tiny yet significant port in an almighty storm.”

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

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I confess I don’t have a lot of experience reading graphic novels, but when I saw It’s All Absolutely Fine at Netgalley I was immediately intrigued by the promise of a combination of simple drawings and a down-to-earth description of the daily struggles of life with mental illness. It is a topic that has always interested me for various reasons… And It’s All Absolutely Fine is without doubt another title to add to my list of favorites talking about mental illness. Why? First of all, I found it really easy to connect to the little stories. Ruby Elliot shows life as it is without trying to hide the ugly parts, and I can really appreciate the sincerity of it all. This bundle switches between short essays and illustrations that show the reader Ruby’s experiences living with social anxiety and the daily struggles of life with mental illness. Simple drawings of sometimes ‘simple’ situations, but with a huge dose of sharp humor for maximum effect.

I think this illustration above gives just the right idea of what I’m talking about… Ruby Elliot‘s drawings are sometimes brutally honest, but they always feel 100% real. It’s both an entertaining and eye-opening read that will appeal both to anyone interested in the topic and fans of memoirs such as Furiously Happy.

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It’s All Absolutely Fine is both an honest and unapologetic account of Ruby’s daily struggle living with mental illness. She uses simple drawings and a few short essays to talk about themes like mood disorders, anxiety and issues with body image; all sprinkled with the right dose of humor. Each chapter talks about a different set of struggles, and every aspect is talked about openly without hiding the ugly parts.

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It’s All Absolutely Fine is a graphic novel and memoir that tries to both show what it is to live with mental illness and tell other people that it is okay to not feel okay. The drawings might be simple, but are brutally honest and have a dose of sharp humor for maximum effect. I really enjoyed reading this story and I think anyone interested in the topic would enjoy reading It’s All Absolutely Fine as well. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: The One Memory Of Flora Banks – by Emily Barr

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Title: The One Memory Of Flora Banks
Author: Emily Barr

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction
First published: January 12th 2017
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: January 14th 2017
Pages: 303
Rating 5qqq

“I am really here. Yet I know I am not. I am inside something that must be buried in my head. I am layers deep in my own brain.”

*** 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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After I read Claire‘s review at Art and Soul, I basically had no other choice but rush to Netgalley and request a copy of this new novel by Emily Barr as well. I literally did a happy dance when my request was approved soon after, because I had heard nothing but wonderful things about The One Memory Of Flora Banks (and not just because of the gorgeous cover). I picked up my copy straight after receiving it, and I completely agree with all the other raving reviews out there. This book is brilliant! I loved LOVED the main character and the fact that amnesia plays such a big role in the story. Sure, there is a hint of a love triangle and she doesn’t seem to care much about hurting her best friend’s feelings when she kisses the boyfriend. Sure, if you think about the plot critically it’s not exactly all that credible. But to be honest, I didn’t really care. Flora managed to win over my heart from the very first page and I loved both the writing and how Flora managed to do so many things suffering with anterograde amnesia like she does. And that ending! I’m already having a feeling this one will appear on my list of 2017 favorites.

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Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks suffers from anterograde amnesia ever since a tumor was removed from her brain at the age of ten. She has no short-term memory and is unable to make new memories; her mind has been resetting itself several times a day ever since the operation. But that is until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the day before he leaves town. Somehow Flora is still able to remember every detail about their conversation and kiss the next day, and the memory sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is the key to restoring her memory and making her whole again… So when an encouraging mail from Drake suggests to meet him far far away, Flora finally listens to the two words on her hand: ‘be brave’. Will Flora be able to find him?

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If you look critically, The One Memory Of Flora Banks actually has a plot that isn’t all that credible and even has a hint of a love triangle. I’m normally not a big fan of either, but in this case it was all completely forgotten thanks to the lovely writing and more importantly: Flora Banks. Flora is basically what makes this story and is without doubt one of my new favorite characters! I love how she is able to overcome her anterograde amnesia and do all the things she does. The One Memory Of Flora Banks is definitely a story that is worth the hype and more than recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: Kill The Next One – by Federico Axat

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Title: Kill The Next One
Author: Federico Axat

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: November 28th 2016
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: December 7th 2016
Pages: 414
Rating 3,5qqq

“The mind is a magic box. Full of tricks. It always figures out a way to warn you.”

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

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I decided to request a copy of this book mostly because the blurb sounded both intriguing and quite original. Instead of just another ‘simple’ psychological thriller, Kill The Next One adds mental illness/ brain tumor as one of the main themes. It definitely added a little extra to the original plot, and the memory loss enabled the use of a whole bunch of additional plot twists. This novel by the Argentinian Federico Axat started out strong with a fast pace and and intriguing plot. I started to have high hopes for Kill The Next One, but then about 20% into the story things got a bit weird. I can’t go into details because I don’t want to spoil the plot twists, but let’s just say it took me a little while to fully understand what was really going on, and that took away a little of the reading pleasure. The main character is an unreliable character, but I liked his development and the final story behind his character. Sure, part of the book is a bit confusing and will make you wonder what is going on, but both the beginning and ending of Kill The Next One are without doubt strong. It’s definitely an interesting and original read…

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Ted seems to be having the perfect life with a beautiful wife, two daughters and a high-paying job. But after he is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, his life is turned upside down. He feels like he has no other way out than take his own life, and as he puts a gun to his temple, the doorbell rings. A stranger makes him a proposition: if Ted is willing to kill two men, one a criminal and the other terminally ill like him, Ted will become a target himself in a kind of suicidal daisy chain. And won’t it be easier for his family if he is a murder victim instead of someone who committed suicide?

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Kill The Next One is without doubt a story that will mess with your mind, both because of the many many plot twists and the memory loss angle. The novel started out strong and reads fast in general, although the middle part can become quite confusing. Like the blurb said: nothing is like it seems… And it might be a bit too much weirdness to my taste. There is no doubt this story is highly creative and quite original though.

ARC REVIEW: Before You Leap – by Keith Houghton

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Title: Before You Leap
Author: Keith Houghton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: November 1st 2016
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: November 9th 2016
Pages: 302
Rating 3qqq

“Well-wishers will tell you that wounds heal over time. Don’t believe them. The only thing time heals is other people’s memories.”

*** 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 have to admit I couldn’t believe my eyes when I received a message from Netgalley that they granted my wish and sent me a copy of Before You Leap. I’ve wanted to read this title ever since I first heard about it, so I’m glad I was given the chance to do so. Unfortunately, I did end up having mixed thoughts about this novel by Keith Houghton. It is without doubt a very interesting psychological thriller and I liked the general plot, but it wasn’t all good.  First of all, the prologue is a quite confusing and it took a long time before it started to make sense. I feel the start of Before You Leap would have been a lot stronger without the prologue, because it kind of feels more like a ‘filler’ than something that adds a little extra to the story. I liked the prose and creative descriptions, but the plot twists were all over the place. Some of the twists definitely add the right amount of suspense to the story, but others were a bit farfetched. The ending was quite predictable, maybe even disappointing, and Greg’s character development wasn’t that strong either. That said, I still managed to enjoy most of the story, and fans of the genre will most likely do so as well.

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Greg Cole hasn’t been the same since the murder of his twin sister, Scarlett. He escapes his old town and tries to start a new life in Florida. For years he seems to have succeeded, but old wounds are reopened when Scarlett’s killer is released early from prison with a cast-iron alibi. Greg realized his past is about to come back to haunt him. As a talk therapist, Greg knows all about dark secrets and he is not sure up to what point he can actually trust his own memories. His life is starting to come apart and he is starting to loose his grip on reality… Will Greg discover the truth before it’s too late?

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While Before You Leap without doubt has a lot of potential, I did have a few problems with it. The prose and general plot are without doubt intriguing and I liked the psychological twist as well, but unfortunately the prologue and beginning were quite confusing and it took me a while to properly understand what was going on. The plot twists in especially the second half were a bit weak and the ending wasn’t as strong as I thought it would be. It’s still an entertaining read though for those who enjoy the genre.

ARC REVIEW: Safe With Me – by K.L. Slater

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Title: Safe With Me
Author: K.L. Slater

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
First published: November 3rd 2016
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: October 3rd 2016
Pages: 324
Rating 3qqq

“Sometimes my memories get a bit blurred, good and bad ones together, until it is virtually impossible to separate them. But after all, what are memories but pictures in your mind?”

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

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As soon as I saw Safe With Me mentioned at Netgalley, I knew immediately I had to request it. I’m a big fan of the mystery/thriller genre and this psychological thriller with a twist sounded too good to be true. And it might just be that I set my expectations too high, especially since I’ve only seen positive reviews so far, but I ended up having mixed thoughts about this thriller by K.L. Slater. When I first started reading it, I was sure I was going to give it the highest possible rating like most other reviewers that have finished it so far. But as the plot twists and unlikeable characters evolved, I started having second thoughts. Everything is almost too absurd (especially during the final part of the book) and the plot just didn’t seem to be believable at all in the end. It didn’t help that I couldn’t connect to the main character Anna either; in fact, I found her rather annoying. I liked the whole amnesia angle though, and I guess Anna does make for a perfect unreliable narrator. So if you enjoy reading the genre and don’t mind an unlikeable character or two, make sure to keep Safe With Me in mind.

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Anna has never been the same after what happened thirteen years ago. She now lives a solitary existence, using order and routine to keep control over her life and her emotions. She doesn’t like to let people getting to close, knowing how much damage they can do… And her only friend is the lonely old lady next door. Then her routine is suddenly disturbed as she witnesses a devastating road accident and recognises the driver as the woman who ruined her life all those years ago. It’s Anna’s chance to set things straight and finally get her revenge, but first she has to get to know the main who was injured in the accident, trying to convince him to press charges. Anna is starting to get more and more obsessed and her own secrets are starting to unravel…

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Most people seem to love this psychological thriller so the problem might just have been me, but I wasn’t fully convinced by the credibility of the plot and I couldn’t connect to the main character at all. Anna is supposed to be an unreliable narrator and I don’t mind that, but she really started to annoy me as the story developed. The amnesia angle was well done though. One final detail: the ending was supposed to be a mayor plot twist, but I actually already saw part of it coming. It was a little disappointing, but I would still recommend reading Safe With Me if you like reading psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators.