ARC REVIEW: The Weight Of Lies – by Emily Carpenter @EmilyDCarpenter @AmazonPub

Title: The Weight Of Lies
Author: Emily Carpenter

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 6th 2017
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: June 19th 2017
Pages: 382

“Sometimes, in our lives, we do what other people want us to. Simply because we can’t muster the strength to go another, braver way.”

*** 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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Around the publish date a few weeks back glowing after glowing review started popping up everywhere, so I just had no other choice but add The Weight Of Lies to my wishlist instantly. And I’m definitely glad I listened to those reviews now, because boy this was GOOD. I was hooked as soon as I started reading The Weight Of Lies and it managed to hold my attention until the very end. The story POV switches between the so-called ‘Kitten’ chapter bites out of the book the main character’s mother Frances wrote 40 years ago and the actual story. Those little chapters definitely added a little something extra to the story: a unique feel, a healthy dose of suspense and intrigue about what is still to come… But this doesn’t mean that the actual plot isn’t anything less than brilliant. Besides the fact that I fell in love with the writing style almost instantly, The Weight Of Lies is also packed with plot twists, secrets, lies and unreliable characters that will keep you wondering about both what really happened all those years ago and what is happening right now. I found myself eagerly turning the pages (or in this case, finger-stabbing my kindle) to try and find out what everybody was hiding and what secrets the island will reveal. Another bonus: this story managed to surprise me more than once, which trust me doesn’t happen all that often anymore. I also liked the plot itself and the fact that both writing and books themselves play such a big role in the story. I admit I wasn’t a fan of every character, but the relationship between Meg and her writing mother is well developed and brilliantly executed. Then again, the descriptions in general were very well done and really set the right atmosphere for this story. If you enjoy reading psychological thrillers, you will be in for a treat with this one!

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Meg Ashley doesn’t exactly have a good relationship with her mother Frances, who is a very successful writer. Frances wrote her first bestselling horror novel almost forty years ago, a story inspired by a murder on the island she stayed at that time. And while Meg has had a privileged life because of her mother’s work, the two have never had a good relationship and her childhood wasn’t exactly a happy one. Then one day Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir and reveal all the dirty secrets and truth about her childhood. Not only that, she will also investigate the murder her mother used to create her first bestseller. But this might be even more dangerous than she initially had guessed… Because some secrets are best left alone.

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Like psychological thrillers? Like a well developed plot packed with plot twists and suspense? Like reading a story within a story? Like being surprised? Like conspiracy theories and book-obsessed fans? Like a writing style that will tempt you from the very first page? Then definitely give The Weight Of Lies a go. This story managed to grab my full attention from the very first page and I couldn’t stop reading until I reached the last page. Without doubt worth the read if you like the genre!


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ARC REVIEW: Can’t Buy Forever – by Susan Laffoon

Title: Can’t Buy Forever
Author: Susan Laffoon

Genre: YA, Romance, Mystery
First published: June 1st 2015
Publisher: Page Publishing
Finished reading: June 16th 2017
Pages: 218

“Coincidences don’t add up, choices do. We build our life one choice at a time for better or for worse.”

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

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I’ve had Can’t Buy Forever on my TBR for longer than intended, but the cover and promise of a 1950s setting kept calling to me and I finally picked it up a few days ago. I found myself looking forward to it despite the low rating, especially since I’ve been in the mood for historical fiction lately… But I ended up being far from impressed. Honestly, I don’t think I would have made it to the end if this wouldn’t have been an ARC; unfortunately it was a tough battle just making it to the last page. Part of the problem might have been me and others might enjoy this story better, but I will explain below why I ended up having to give Can’t Buy Forever such a low rating.

1. The supposedly 1950s setting is almost non existent except for a few mentions of a date or important event here and there. As a historical fiction fan I felt a bit disappointed by this, especially since the setting is especifically mentioned in the blurb. If you leave out those few time references, this story could have easily been set in the present as well… Such a shame, because a well developed historical setting would have added credibility and dept to the story.

2. I had a lot of problems with the main characters in general. I wasn’t able to connect to them and this made following the story a lot harder. Furthermore, Odessa acts a lot younger than the 18-year-old she is supposed to be… She cries all the time and her feelings for Nicholas are cheesy, not credible and it almost feels as if I were watching a ten-year-old having her first crush on a senior quarterback.

3. The crying. Seriously, how many times do Odessa and the other characters cry during this story?! Once it started to annoy me I just kept seeing those crocodile tears mentioned, and it really started to get on my nerves. It also made their feelings less credible and more cartoonish.

4. It has a love triangle. Or in fact various love triangles if I am more specific. And you all know now much I despise those… I can tolerate them if they are done right, but these examples were quite cringeworthy and the feelings just felt unnatural.

5. I don’t feel there really is a plot and the events themselves don’t really seem credible or make sense. I mean, Roark is supposed to get away with all he does?? And Odessa just accepts all what happens? And we as a reader just have to accept everything that happens as well without a proper explanation? The lack of plot or at least a proper idea of what is going on also made it a lot harder to follow; it just didn’t feel like a coherent story at all and almost like a delusional ramble of one of the main characters on their deathbed.

6. I wasn’t able to connect to the writing style at all. I don’t see the lack of grammar and mistakes mentiones in many reviews I saw on Goodreads, but the sentences don’t flow and it was really hard to keep track of the story and read more than a few pages at a time. The writing style was one of the reasons I considered a DNF various times during this story… And I’m still wondering if that would have been a better choice.

Enough of the negative… There were some interesting aspects about this story, especifically Nicholas’ history and the gypsy references. I can’t go into details without revealing too much, but a focus on those and further development of those elements would probably have improved the story considerably. Without a proper explanation, the credibility of it all was simply lost. I really wanted to like this story, but as you might have guessed of this rather lenghty (for me) list, unfortunately I just couldn’t.

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Odessa Drake decides to change her destiny and moves in with her widowed great aunt Flo in Mineville, New York. Her aunt owns a boarding house and Dessa spends her days helping her out, working to keep the house running when she isn’t at school. Then Nicholas shows up and he is given the attic for lack of other space; four years later, he is one of the few boarders still in the house. They have grown fond of each other despite the fact that Dessa really doesn’t know a lot about Nicholas… But Nicholas has a reason to keep the past buried, and things might become dangerous when he gets too close. What secrets does he keep and how do they affect Dessa?

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I was actually looking forward to Can’t Buy Forever as the blurb sounded quite interesting, but unfortunately I ended up having a completely different experience instead. I won’t repeat all the details I’ve mentioned above since I’ve already talked about each point extensively, but it does become clear it was far too easy to find things that didn’t work for me in the story. Was it just me or is the book to blame as well? I won’t be the judge to read the sentence, but at least I’ve put in my two cents.


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ARC REVIEW: Guilty – by Laura Elliot @bookouture

Title: Guilty
Author: Laura Elliot

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 22nd 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 10th 2017
Pages: 348

“Does she not realise the past never goes away? It can swing a fist and knock us out with one blow.”

*** 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 admit I was sold as soon as I saw the cover and read the blurb. What was the terrible mistake mentioned and how could this destroy a family? Guilty had all the signs of being an eventful and intriguing psychological thriller and I was really looking forward to finally pick it up. Unfortunately I ended up having mixed thoughts about it. There is no doubt Guilty has a plot that is both complex and filled with twists that will make things spin out of control. The story is separated in different parts, dividing the plot as the story evolves and the time passes. It shows a lot of time has gone into developing the plot and different events and consequences of those actions, and it was without doubt interesting to see how those mistakes and actions in general can have a huge impact on the future. That said, I did feel there was almost too much squeezed into the plot and the different events sometimes felt a bit rushed and lost part of their importance. Especially in the beginning it’s a little difficult to understand what is really important in the story and Constance’s case feels a bit rushed in general. I understand that the focus is rather on the past-present-consequence relation and what effect the past has on the rest of the story, but it did make it hard to get a proper feel for the story straight away. Furthermore, the pace is quite slow and it took me a lot longer than expected to finish Guilty. It was interesting to see the characters evolve over time, but I do have to say that I didn’t like the main characters at all. It definitely made it a lot harder to care for what happened when I just couldn’t feel a connection to the characters… And there were also various parts of the story that felt either forced, unnatural or rushed to me. It might just have been that I expected something a little more fast-paced though and in a way I did appreciate the complexity of the plot in Guilty. Like I said, I had mixed feelings so I guess this story can go either way for you… If you like slower paced psychological thrillers that follow characters over a bigger span of time and show how some actions can have huge consequences for the future, Guilty will probably be a right fit for you.

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One morning, the thirteen-year-old Constance Lawson is reported missing. She had a row with her parents the night before and wasn’t in bed when her mother checked on her. Nobody has seen her since, but there are a lot of rumors starting to go around. Then journalist Amanda Bowe starts a media frenzy implying that Constance’s uncle Karl Lawson is the prime suspect… In such a way that six years later, Karl’s life is in ruins. Amanda is thriving though and seems to have everything she can wish for: a successful career, husband and a healthy son. Her life seems to be complete, but one day everything changes with just one phone call…

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Guilty has without doubt a lot of potential and the plot itself is both complex and intriguing. The pace was a bit slow though and I had a hard time connecting to the main characters. They are not exactly likeable and this made connecting to the story a lot more difficult. The development of the characters over time is interesting, although I’m not sure up to what point some actions are actually credible. In short I ended up having mixed thoughts, but I can definitely understand why the right person would love this psychological thriller. And a last random note: the plinks just sound lovely!


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ARC REVIEW: Two Sisters – by Kerry Wilkinson @kerrywk @bookouture

Title: Two Sisters
Author: Kerry Wilkinson

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 23rd 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 6th 2017
Pages: 350

“A magician is only as smart as the audience is stupid – and when someone is as good at not eating as I am, everyone becomes very stupid indeed.”

*** 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 always have a weak spot for a good psychological thriller and I was drawn to Two Sisters as soon as I saw the cover and blurb. My first impression wasn’t wrong: this story without doubt delivered. Two Sisters isn’t just another well written suspense story with an intriguing plot and a mystery to unravel though. Why? One of the main characters (the older sister, Megan) has an eating disorder and her struggle is present throughout the story. Besides the fact that it was really interesting to see how she deals with this on a daily basis while also being exposed to very stressful situations, her situation was very well described and added a whole different level to this story. I’m not sure I actually liked her character (or most of the others), but the development of the characters in general is very realistic and they feel genuine. The writing style is very engaging and makes it really easy to enjoy this story, and the many many plot twists will keep you guessing about what is really going on until the very end. Trust me, you won’t see the final revelations coming! In short, Two Sisters is a well written psychological thriller with a healthy dose of mystery and suspense that also manages to incorporate a very important topic (eating disorder) realistically while adding an original touch to the story at the same time. There are lots and lots of plot twists as well to keep you busy and all in all it’s a great read!

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Megan was ten and Chloe only six when their older brother Zac went missing in the small seaside town of Whitecliff. The family owns a cottage there and they tend to spend the summer there, although not always together. The summer Zac went missing, he had been spending most of his time there alone, so they didn’t miss him until it had been nearly two days. It was told he probably drowned, but his body was never found… And Megan is not so sure if that was what really happened. When a car crash takes the lives of both their parents, Megan and Chloe return to Whitecliff to get their parents’ affairs in order there. But is that all there is to it? Or is Megan hiding something? And what do the locals really know about what happened to Zac that summer?

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Two Sisters is without doubt a well executed psychological thriller that is both entertaining to read, filled with plot twists and has a little original touch with the incorporation of the ‘eating disorder’ theme. I like how this element plays a role throughout the story and the importance it is given; it not only turns Megan into a very interesting character but also helps spread the word about the topic in the first place. And while the characters weren’t exactly likeable, this story is still very much appealing anyway. You will want to unravel Whitecliff’s secrets for yourself!


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ARC REVIEW: The Mayfly – by James Hazel @JamesHazelBooks @BonnierZaffre

Title: The Mayfly
(Charlie Priest #1)
Author: Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Genre: James Hazel
First published: June 15th 2017
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Finished reading: June 3rd 2017
Pages: 432

“I don’t know what history will remember me as. A murderer? A scientist? A revolutionalist? I suppose it depends who writes the textbook you’re reading. But history will remember me.”

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

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The cover is what first caught my attention, but it was the blurb that sealed the deal. I mean, a psychological thriller AND a connection to WWII? That’s basically combining two of my favorite genres and simply irresistible. This story mosty definitely didn’t disappoint. I actually didn’t know that The Mayfly is the first book of a new series, but now now I’ve finished this story I will be looking forward to see more of Charlie Priest in the future. The Mayfly reads almost like a private detective story, but Charlie Priest is actually a lawyer instead (and ex-cop). Charlie has a lot of flaws and a messed up personal life, but his character didn’t feel like a cliche at all. In fact, with a serial killer for a brother and his dissociative disorder Priest scores top marks for being an intriguing character. The plot itself is fascinating and I loved the chapters that went back to events set just after WWII. The references to the Holocaust add a whole different level to this story and really made The Mayfly stand out for me. There were quite a lot of twists and while I expected some things to happen, I didn’t guess the full truth until the very end. I could have done without the love triangle and romance scenes in general though, although it’s just the love triangle itself that didn’t add anything substantial to the plot. Also, some of the things that happen can make you doubt the credibility of it all… For example: how did they manage to go on for years without being catched? But those are only minor complaints about what is still essentially a highly entertaining rollercoaster ride.

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Charlie Priest used to be a DI, but is now a successful lawyer despite his flaws and has quite a few important clients. One day he is hired by the influential entrepeneur Kenneth Ellinder to investigate the murder of his son. Priest doesn’t want to take the case at first, but circumstances leave him no other option than to find out what is happening. People seem determined to keep Priest from discovering the truth though, and he might be in more danger than he thinks he is… And more importantly, he isn’t sure who he can trust in the first place.

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There is no doubt that The Mayfly is a fascinating story that will definitely appeal to psychological thriller fans. The flashbacks and connections to the Second World War added a whole different level to what was already an intriguing plot and definitely made me appreciate this story even more. I had a few minor doubts, but those are just that: minor. The writing style and pace turned The Mayfly into a superfast read and I will be looking forward to see more of Charlie Priest in the future!


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ARC REVIEW: The Gypsy Moth Summer – by Julia Fierro

Title: The Gypsy Moth Summer
Author: Julia Fierro

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 6th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: June 2nd 2017
Pages: 400

“What good are the rules,” Jules asked, “the laws, moral this and that, when you can’t follow them and protect your family at the same time?”

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

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Ever since I first heard about The Gypsy Moth Summer I’ve been intrigued by this story. I’ve heard lots of interesting things about it since I first added it to my list, but somehow it has taken me months to actually pick it up. One of the reasons is probably that I tend to have mixed reactions when it comes to literary fiction… And unfortunately The Gypsy Moth Summer ended up being one of those books where the genre just didn’t work for me. I really wanted to like this story and the plot is without doubt both intriguing and well developed. I liked the idea behind the island of Avalon, its history and all events leading up to its ‘climax’ during the summer of 1992. Why wasn’t my reading experience better then, would you wonder? First of all, during the whole length of this story I found myself unable to connect to the characters OR get used to the writing style, which put a mayor damper on things. I’m not saying this story isn’t well written, but it’s what you call an acquired taste or at least doesn’t appeal to everyone. It just all felt a bit too chaotic to my taste and I personally struggled with this story. I understand the gypsy moth information bits are used to bind the plot together and these insects play a both a literal and symbolic role in the story, but unfortunately they mostly ended up distracting from the plot. And as for the characters: like I said before I found it impossible to warm up to them and I couldn’t really appreciate the liberal use of sex, drugs and alcohol in the story without consequences either. It might be that those elements are used to symbolize the chaos unfolding on the island, but it mostly made me dislike the characters even more. All in all The Gypsy Moth Summer definitely wasn’t for me… But if you enjoy reading literally fiction and like the sound of this story, don’t let my review discourage you.

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It’s the summer of 1992 on Avalon, a small islett off the coast of Long Island. The normally quiet island is being invaded by gypsy moths, the caterpillars eating everything that they can find and becoming a true plague. The insects are becoming one of the main topics of conversation on the island, but that is not the only thing the islanders talk about. Leslie Day Marshall, the daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family, returns to the island with her husband and children. Nothing special would you say, but the fact is that Leslie’s husband Jules is African-American and the island is packed with predominantly white conservatives quick to form their opinions about the family… And than there is the topic of the factory and the graffiti.

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I really wanted to enjoy this story and I still think the plot itself is both rich, provoking and fascinating, but unfortunately The Gypsy Moth Summer ended up being one of those titles that just isn’t for me. Literary fiction can go either way with me in general, so that might just have been the problem here; if you enjoy the genre I would suggest still giving this story a go. That said, I couldn’t ignore the chaotic feel of the storytelling, my lack of connection to the characters, certain elements that bothered me or the fact I couldn’t warm up to the writing style.


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ARC REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil – by Tim Symonds @ReadingAlley

Title: Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil
Author: Tim Symonds

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
First published: November 6th 2016
Publisher: MX Publishing
Finished reading: May 31st 2017
Pages: 233

“Chinese dragons don’t have wings but they can fly into the sky. They don’t breathe fire but can summon rain. And like the tiger, if they so wish they embody the spirit and drive to achieve and make progress.”

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

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I was in desperate need of a break from the books I was currently reading and needed something quite different, and that is when I stumbled across this story. I can always appreciate a good historical fiction story, especially when it’s set in a foreign culture… Add a healthy dose of mystery and murder plot and I was sold. Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil is, as you might have guessed from the title, a Sherlock Holmes retelling and a very well executed one as well. I’m sure most people are at least vaguely aware of the original characters and I for myself always enjoy a good retelling around these characters if it’s done right. Tim Symonds without doubt did an excellent job both in keeping true to the essence of the original characters; they felt authentic and I felt as if I were taken back straight to that era. The bantering between Holmes and Watson is perfectly portrayed! Furthermore, the descriptions of China, its customs, characters and other facts is very detailed and it shows that the author has researched the topic thoroughly. The plot is intriguing with quite a lot of twists, although I personally could guess who was behind it all quite early on. This didn’t take away from the reading pleasure though as I enjoyed following Holmes and Watson during their journey. Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon is a very well written historical fiction mystery and the Chinese setting is brilliantly executed. Perfect for fans of the genre!

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It’s the year 1906 and Sherlock Holmes’ skills might be needed once again… Although this time in the faraway Peking. There are rumors a deadly plot is hatching and it’s up to Holmes to discover whether such a plot exists and if so stop it before it’s too late. But who exactly is the intented target in the first place: the young and progressive Ch’ing Emperor or his aunt, the fearsome Empress Dowager Cixi? Either death could lead to a catastrophe and it’s up to Holmes and Watson to try to find and if so unravel everything in time.

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I can always enjoy a good Sherlock Holmes retelling when well executed and that is without doubt the case with Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil. Both the setting and the descriptions are very well done and made me feel as if I were in the room along with the main characters. The outcoming might not have been all that surprising, but the plot twists are still well executed and feel very much like ‘Holmes’. All in all without doubt a very satisfying read.


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