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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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Sight Unseen – by Sandra Ireland @22_ireland @BirlinnBooks @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Sight Unseen Love Books Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Kelly Lacey for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I admit I was fully intrigued by this book as soon as I read the blurb, and I most definitely enjoyed my time with this story. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Sight Unseen
(A Sarah Sutherland Thriller #1)
Author: Sandra Ireland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 6th 2020
Publisher: Polygon
Finished reading: July 27th 2020
Pages: 256

“Stories are like puzzles, charity shop jigsaws with half the pieces missing. It’s up to you to fill in the blanks, let your mind form a version of the true picture.”

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

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I admit that I was fully intrigued as soon as I read the blurb of Sight Unseen. The promise of the 1648 flashbacks and a world of witches, scorcery and folklore to contrast the contemporary sounded absolutely fantastic and frankly simply irresistible. I had a feeling that I would enjoy my time with this first book of a new series, and my instincts most definitely turned out to be right. My first meeting with Sarah Sutherland was without doubt a success!

The first thing that stands out is the setting. Sight Unseen takes place in the fictional Kilgour, a small Scottish town with a fascinating history. The many descriptions really made the setting come alive for me and kind of made me wish the town was real so I could visit it someday… The flavor of Scotland is well represented and turns the setting into a real treat. We got to learn more about both the surroundings and the history of Kilgour through the tourist walk the main character Sarah hosts, and it was without doubt an unique way of getting to know the Scottish town.

I loved everything related to the 1648 flashbacks to Alie Gowdie and Rev. William Wilkie’s time. Alie is known as the Kilgour witch and has an intriguing history, and I loved her connection with Sarah as she is currently living in the same house as Alie once inhabited. Sarah has investigated Alie’s life for a long time, and it has been interesting to see more of the true story around Alie slowly come to light. The 1648 scenes without doubt took the story to the next level, and added more dept to the plot as well. The way the new information is comporated into the plot in different ways is a nice touch, and Sarah basically plays historical detective as she tries to unravel the truth of 300 years ago.

I also loved the hint of the paranormal and supernatural in Sight Unseen. We have the story of the witches and the witch hunt of the 17th century, the talk of the devil, the folklore elements, the sightings by Sarah’s father John… All these elements definitely have the story a hint of the haunted and they were a nice contrast with the daily life and other elements in play in the plot. Oh yes, the contemporary storyline is also packed with ‘ordinary’ elements: Sarah’s background, her relationship with her backpacking daughter, Sarah caring for her father, her work in the supermarket, her second job storytelling… All doused with a dose of mystery, romance and a hint of action to spice things up. It was especially fascinating to read more about the so-called Charles Bonnet Syndrome as part of the explanation, as I hadn’t heard of it before and I liked how this element was developed in the story.

It is true that this story could have done without the romance, as it felt forced and not naturally developed. I didn’t think the romance added anything substantial to the plot either, and only distracted from the whole situation with John as well as Alie’s story. Sight Unseen uses a dual POV structure by switching between Rachel and her father John. On top of this, we get 1648 diary fragments written by Rev. William Wilkie as well as different POV fragments which identity is revealed later. The writing is easy on the eye and engaging, and while the pace is slow in points overall Sight Unseen is without doubt a solid and very entertaining read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sandra Ireland was awarded a Carnegie-Cameron scholarship to study for an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study at the University of Dundee, graduating with a distinction in 2014. Her work has appeared in various publications and women’s magazines. She is the author of Beneath the Skin (2016), Bone Deep (2018) and The Unmaking of Ellie Rook (2019). She lives in Carnoustie, Scotland.

BUY LINK


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YVO’S SHORTIES #176 – The Glass Hotel & Dark Pines #20BooksOfSummer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I’ve been looking forward to pick up for a while now. Sadly, The Glass Hotel somehow didn’t work for me at all, but I had a great time with the first Tuva Moodyson book.


Title: The Glass Hotel
Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 24th 2020
Publisher: Knopf
Finished reading: July 29th 2020 
Pages: 302

“Memories are always bent retrospectively to fit individual narratives.”


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So… I’m still not sure what happened here, but I guess it is unpopular opinion time again? I loved Station Eleven back when I read it in 2018, and I fully expected to have a repeat experience in The Glass Hotel. It was one of my most anticipated releases this year, and I still can’t wrap my head around my negative reaction to the writing and story itself. It might just be that I’m not in the right mindset for this story right now, but the fact is… I REALLY didn’t enjoy my time with The Glass Hotel. I wasn’t able to connect to the writing at all, the plot and POV switches felt all over the place and I struggled to keep everyone apart as well as to try and keep track of what part of the plot puzzle fitted where. I loved her writing in Station Eleven, so I’m a bit shocked to be honest to feel this way about her newest story, but it is what it is I guess. The fact that I started skimreading about a third into the story and had almost no motivation whatsoever to continue is a huge warning sign on its own… I’m so sad and disappointed I feel this way about such a highly anticipated story; especially since I seem to be the only one with such a negative reaction so far. Definitely don’t give up on this story on my account, as you probably won’t have that pesky unpopular opinion curse sticking to your back like I do… I might give The Glass Hotel a second chance in the future though to see if it just wasn’t the right time for this story at the moment, or if the story simply isn’t for me.


Title: Dark Pines
(Tuva Moodyson Mystery #1)
Author: Will Dean 

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 7th 2017
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Finished reading: August 2nd 2020
Pages: 323

“Details are important, they can have consequences.”


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I’ve rediscovered my love for the Nordic noir genre in recent years, and I’ve been meaning to meet up with Tuva Moodyson for quite some time now. I had a feeling that I was going to enjoy my time with this series, and my instincts hit the nail on the head. Dark Pines turned out to be an excellent start of a series I will be continuing very soon! I’ve followed the author on Twitter for a while now, and I love how he uses his experience living in Sweden to give us a thorough and realistic description of the Swedish setting. It really made the small town of Gavrik come alive for me, and set the right atmosphere for this Nordic noir gem. The writing drew me right in, and Tuva makes for a fascinating main character. The fact that she is deaf (although she can hear with hearing aids) is something you don’t see every day, and I really liked the journalism angle of the story. Dark Pines is part cold case and part active murder investigation set in the middle of the Swedish forrest. Through Tuva, we get to know the different characters and possible suspects in play, and it is without doubt an interesting cast. The plot has its twists and turns, and while there was some repetition and I saw some twists coming, overall Dark Pines was a solid start of a series I can’t wait to continue.


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ARC REVIEW: I Am The Night – by Ethan Cross

Title: I Am The Night
(Shepherd #1)

Author: Ethan Cross
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 14th 2011
Publisher: Head Of Zeus
Finished reading: July 31st 2020
Pages: 340
(Originally published as ‘The Shepherd’)

“The thought of some evil creature lurking in the shadows didn’t make the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. It was the fact that he knew there were real monsters in the world.”

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

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I have a weak spot for serial killer thrillers, so as soon as I read the blurb of I Am The Night I knew I HAD to read it. I’ve been looking forward to read it ever since, and I fully expected to have a brilliant time with this first book of a series that is being republished… Sadly, things weren’t ment to be. I’m going to keep things short as I honestly don’t have much to say about this book, but I’ll try to explain briefly why this book ended up being such a disappointment for me.

Before I start, I have to say that my issues weren’t with the fact that this is basically one of the most twisted serial killers I’ve met to this date. Trust me, this part I could highly appreciate and Ackerman’s character and his background was actually the sole reason I kept reading. Why? Let’s just say that I Am The Night is so ridiculously over the top and farfetched that your eyebrows will suffer a burnout long before you reach that final page. I don’t mind a little lack of credibility if the entertainment factor makes up for it, but saying that I Am The Night took it one step too far would be the understatement of the century. The conspiracy plot, the constant deaths, the convenient ‘romance’ so the ‘hero’ has someone to save, the plot twists (if you can call them that), the constant POV switches, the ridiculous sequence of actions of basically every character in play… Oh yes, I had serious issues with just about every aspect of this story.

Is there more? Sadly, there is. I wasn’t convinced by the writing at all, and the many POV switches made it harder to connect to the story and keep track of everybody. Especially since so much of the plot is extremely over the top and not credible at all, and it reads more like a poorly written Hollywood action movie that lacks imagination and tries to make up for it with plenty of violence and a ridiculous conspiracy plot. I confess that I started skimreading long before the final page, and sadly my time with I Am The Night turned out to be as fun as a trip to the dentist despite my love for serial killer thrillers. Oh well, at least I know for sure now.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Lies Lies Lies – by Adele Parks #blogtour @HarlequinBooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Lies Lies Lies 2020 Summer Reads blog tour! A huge thanks to Justine Sha for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I was intrigued by Lies Lies Lies as soon as I read the blurb, and this story definitely lived up to expectations. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Lies Lies Lies
Author: Adele Parks
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 4th 2020
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: July 22nd 2020
Pages: 384

“The thing about people is that it takes years, and years, and years to know them. Really know them. Because we hide things, all of us, all the time. We’re ashamed, cautious or secretive.”

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

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I’ve had Adele Parks on my list of authors to try for a while now, and after being intrigued by the blurb of her newest I just couldn’t resist signing up for the blog tour. I’m glad I did, because my first experience with her writing was most definitely successful. Lies Lies Lies is more domestic drama than thriller, but it packs a mean punch and it will definitely have you in its grip the whole time. Fans of the genre will be delighted!

Like I said, Lies Lies Lies felt mostly like a domestic drama and if you are looking for a superfast and action-packed thriller this book will most likely not be your cup of tea. If on the other hand you enjoy domestic thrillers with a focus on the character development, the psychological aspect as well as a healthy dose of shocking secrets and lies, you will be in for a treat.  Lies Lies Lies will deliver all of this and more! Using a dual POV and storyline, we get to hear the story from both Daisy and Simon’s side. We learn about their past, what happened in 2016 that changed their lives forever and what their life is like in 2019 for both after the life changing event. This dual POV is used to explore both characters as well as to build up the suspense and give the multiple secrets they are hiding more impact. Both the plot and plot twists are more than solid and the two POVs complemented each other very well.

As for the characters themselves… In this kind of psychological thriller and domestic drama, the character development is key. While neither Daisy nor Simon are all that likeable, their development is more than thorough, flawed and realistic and it was interesting to see them develop and grow over time. The rest of the cast likewise each had their role to play and they complemented the main characters well. There are a lot of secrets and lies involved in this story, and Lies Lies Lies will have more than a couple surprises in store for you. I especially found Simon’s 2019 chapters to be fascinating for obvious reasons, although I won’t be going into details to avoid spoilers.

Lies Lies Lies deals with a lot of difficult topics, including addiction, alcoholism, dementia, dealing with a life changing injury, infertility, abuse, rape and violence. Again, I won’t be going into details to avoid possible spoilers, but especially the addiction and alcoholism element plays a very important role in the plot and I thought this element and its consequences were represented well. Lies Lies Lies definitely is no picnic and if you are looking for an uplifting read this book is probably not a good choice. But if you are looking for a well written, character driven domestic thriller that isn’t afraid to go dark and packs a mean punch, Lies Lies Lies could be the perfect book for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adele Parks was born in Teesside, North-East England. Her first novel, Playing Away, was published in 2000 and since then she’s had seventeen international bestsellers, translated into twenty-six languages, including I Invited Her In. She’s been an Ambassador for The Reading Agency and a judge for the Costa. She’s lived in Italy, Botswana and London, and is now settled in Guildford, Surrey, with her husband, teenage son and cat.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Author Website // Twitter // Instagram // Facebook // Goodreads

BUY LINKS

Harlequin // Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Books-A-Million // Powell’s


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ARC REVIEW: Save Her Soul – by Lisa Regan

Title: Save Her Soul
(Detective Josie Quinn #9)

Author: Lisa Regan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: August 12th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: July 11th 2020
Pages: 284

“You can only push trauma down for so long before it starts coming out in weird ways and at weird times.”

*** 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 know that I’ve said this before, but there is no denying that the Detective Josie Quinn series is one of my favorite detective thriller series and I’m always looking forward to a new installment. I’ve been an instant fan ever since I read the first book back in 2018… It’s been an intense ride so far for Josie Quinn, and it tooks like trouble keeps finding her in the small town of Denton where she lives and works. Not that I’m complaining, as it means more Josie Quinn adventures to read about! Save Her Soul is already book number nine of the series, and without doubt another excellent ride. This series just doesn’t stop delivering!

One thing that keeps standing out for me with the books of this series is just how addictive each book is. I have learned my lesson and always clear my schedule beforehand, because once I start reading the first chapter I just know I won’t be able to stop reading until I reach that final page. A lightning fast pace and an abundance of action and plot twists will keep you on the edge of your seat and time will fly as you keep turning those pages. Save Her Soul is no exception, and while slightly less exhilarating than some of the previous books, it is still a highly engaging ride. Josie seems to be getting a little breather in this book, although there will be personal developments affecting her and hints at the future will leave you wanting for the next book.

Technically you can read Save Her Soul as a stand-alone, as a little background information is provided to refresh memories, but you will be missing out on the dynamics between the characters if you don’t read the previous books. And if you enjoy thrilling and intense detective stories, you will be missing out on hours of entertainment in the first place! In book number nine we get to meet up with our favorite main characters again, and I have loved seeing them develop over time. It was interesting to see them react to the disaster (flood) situation in Denton and later try to unravel the secrets and history around the new case they have to investigate.

I have to admit that Save Her Soul might not have been my absolute favorite of the series, but it was still a more than solid read. This story felt slightly less intense and of course the case affects Josie in a less personal way than some of the previous ones… But there is still plenty of action, danger and suspense to devour. The case is another intriguing one, and the whole flood situation gave the plot that ominous feel. The story ends with a bang as well, and I will most definitely be looking forward to whatever Josie Quinn and the others will encounter next. Save Her Soul is yet another excellent sequel with a high entertainment value that will be perfect for anyone who likes a fast and intense detective thriller read.


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AUDIO ARC REVIEW: His & Hers – by Alice Feeney @MacmillanAudio #netgalleyaudio

Title: His & Hers
Author: Alice Feeney
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 28th 2020
Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Finished reading: July 19th 2020
Pages: 336

Duration audiobook 10 hours 40 minutes
Narrated by Richard Armitage & Stephanie Racine

“Sometimes I think I am the unreliable narrator of my own life. Sometimes I think we all are.”

*** 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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I’ve been meaning to try one of Alice Feeney‘s books for a while now, and I thought that listening to the audiobook with the new Netgalley Shelf App feature would be the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone. The fact that the blurb of His & Hers intrigued me immediately and I’ve seen positive reviews popping up everywhere only made this decision easier to make… And I’m definitely glad I did choose the audiobook option, because I ended up having a fantastic time with this story and I think the audio only enhanced the experience for me. What a read!

It’s true that I’m basically an audiobook newbie, but my experience with this story has convinced me I need to keep this option in mind for whenever the circumstances are right… Because I think the audio version only enhanced my experience with His & Hers. This book is narrated by Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine, and both do a fantastic job making the story come alive for me. Each tackles one of the POVs of the two main characters in play: “Him” with DCI Jack Harper and “Her” with News Correspondent Anna Andrews. On top of these two point of views, we also have the mystery voice and POV to contend with. I think especially this POV made the audiobook stand out for me and the voice alteration gave the story that mysterious vibe. I think that both their voices fitted the characters very well, and the pace and flow of the story throughout was spot on for me. They also changed their voices slightly whenever different characters say something the dialogues, which made it a lot easier to keep them apart. I can highly recommend the audiobook experience to anyone who is interested in reading this story!

As for His & Hers itself: I’m definitely an instant fan of Alice Feeney now. I was fully intrigued as soon as I started listening to this story, and the two different POVs complement each other perfectly. I particularly liked the mystery voice and POV in between the “Him” and “Her” chapters, as it will make you wonder who is lying and who might be behind the murders… Both the building up of suspense and the development and placement of the plot twists is simply spot on, and this story most definitely managed to mislead me until the very end. Intense, suspenseful, shocking, intriguing and very well written indeed.

His & Hers will give you a psychological thriller and serial killer thriller in one, and the story deals with psychological elements as well as with plenty of gruesome scenes and heavy topics. Trigger warnings are in place for topics such as grooming, abuse, rape, mental health, addiction and violence… This story will go dark, twisted and dangerous, but the ride is absolutely fantastic and I loved how everything is explained in the end. Trust me, His & Hers will have more than one shocking surprise for you in store, and you will think you have it all figured out so many times that your mind is left reeling by the time you reach the final page and finally discover the truth. The plot is very cleverly written and I always love it when a story is able to mislead me this much, as it doesn’t happen all that often anymore… But His & Hers did the job, and how!

I’m still not sure if I actually like the main characters, but I loved learning more about them and slowly figuring out how they all fit together as well as what secrets they are hiding. The story warns you in the beginning that at least one of them is lying, and you will be on your edge the whole time as you keep being suspicious about everything you read. Who is behind it all? Why are they doing it? What does it have to do with the past? Or the present for that matter? Who is lying and who is telling the truth? Or are they all hinding something? There are so many questions, and trust me, you will be having a fantastic time trying to find answers for them all. If you enjoy a suspenseful, intense and well written thriller, His & Hers is without doubt an excellent choice.


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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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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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ARC REVIEW: Playing Nice – by J.P. Delaney

Title: Playing Nice
Author: J.P. Delaney
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 28th 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Finished reading: July 24th 2020
Pages: 432

“Psychopaths are like tone-deaf people at a concert, mocking those who cry at the beauty of the music as fools.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to try JP Delaney‘s writing for a long time now, and even bought a physical copy of The Girl Before last year so I would finally do so… But somehow his titles have always slipped through the cracks so far. I was delighted when my request for his newest title Playing Nice was approved, because it ment that I now had the guarantee I would finally do so as I’m a sucker for sticking to deadlines… And I most definitely enjoyed my first experience with his writing. Well written, suspenseful, intense, shocking… Playing Nice is a more than solid psychological thriller.

The premise of this book is absolutely fascinating and without doubt the ultimate horror situation for new parents. Imagine not only having your child being born early and facing such difficulties, but then discovering two years later it isn’t actually your child you’ve been caring for all this time? Babies switched at birth sounds like a Hollywood script, but sadly it still does happen in real life and it sounds terrifying. Especially if you have to deal with a person like Miles afterwards… It was fascinating to see both Pete and Maddie to react to the shocking news that Theo wasn’t really their child, and seeing the resulting situation develop definitely had a lot of nail biting involved.

Playing Nice is psychological thriller at its best, where the suspense is build up slowly but steadily and the situation starts spinning out of control. That ominous feel is always present, and you keep wondering just how far things will go… Miles is the perfect villain and his character is very well developed. He is despicable of course, but his development and role in the plot really make this story. The story is told alternating between Pete and Maddie’s POV, and we get to see the situation through both their eyes. Pete and Maddie’s characters are both well developed too; they have their flaws, secrets and their development in general felt realistic. I wasn’t sure if I actually liked them, or at least I wasn’t really a fan of Maddie, but their situation is fascinating enough to keep you on your toes even if you are not able to connect to them fully.

What seems like an ordinary psychological thriller at first, soon turns into something a whole lot more intense after you realize the extent of the problems Pete and Maddie now face. Your inner alarm will sound straight away, and this will keep you on your toes as you keep reading and try to read the signs. When the situation starts spinning out of control, the level of intensity and suspense cranks up and there are quite a few plot twists bombs placed in convenient places. Playing Nice will go out with a bang as well, and if you enjoy the genre you will most likely enjoy your time with this one.


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