BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Night Swim – by Megan Goldin #blogtour @StMartinsPress

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Night Swim blog tour! A huge thanks to John Karle for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I had a brilliant time with The Escape Room last year, so of course I couldn’t say no to joining the blog tour for Megan Goldin’s newest… And I think this story might just be even better! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Night Swim
Author: Megan Goldin
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 4th 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: July 26th 2020
Pages: 352

“To tell you the truth, I don’t get how we can almost unanimously agree that murder is wrong, yet when it comes to rape some people still see shades of gray.”

*** 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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I had a brilliant time with The Escape Room last year, and I have been looking forward to read more of Megan Goldin‘s writing ever since. I couldn’t resist joining the blog tour for The Night Swim, as I had a feeling I was going to enjoy my time with this story… And my instincts turned out to be right, as I had a brilliant time the second time around as well. In fact, I might have enjoyed this one even better, although both stories are very different and it’s probably not fair to compare the two. Dark, harrowing as well as powerful: The Night Swim talks about the very difficult topic of rape and helps show just how hard it is for victims to find justice and peace of mind.

First of all, I have to say that I loved the podcast element in The Night Swim. While the whole podcast element has been done before, I really liked how this element was incorporated into the plot here. Our main character Rachel is the crime podcast host and for her third season she decided to cover a rape trial in a small town live. The plot includes transcripts of those podcast episodes called Guilty or Not Guilty, in which Rachel talks about what happens during the trial and gives background about the participants, always trying to be objective of course. This story includes controversial and strong opinions and is used to talk about rape and show just how much a victim struggles and how they are often judged unfairly. On top of that, this story also shows that as a consequence victims often prefer not going to trial to avoid having to relive their trauma over and over again. Especially since it is very hard to get a conviction in the first place as it is the classic ‘he said/she said’ scenario. Even today, there is a lot of stigma around rape and victim blaming; I thought The Night Swim did a great job showing the different issues in play.

The story uses a dual POV structure in between the different podcast episodes. We switch between podcast host and journalist Rachel and Hannah, who is less present but basically key to the cold case investigation part of the plot. Because The Night Swim isn’t just about the upcoming rape trial which will be covered in the third podcast season, but it’s also about what happened to Hannah’s sister 25 years ago. Back then her death was ruled an accidental drowning, but Hannah claims that her sister was actually murdered and Rachel cannot help but feel intrigued. She is determined to try her best to find out more, especially after Hannah’s unusual way of contacting her. This cold case part of the plot is used both to take a break from the harrowing rape case as well as to add suspense and mystery to the plot. It was intriguing to slowly discover more about the past and the story definitely had some surprises in store along the way.

While the pace is slower in points, it didn’t bother me as much as I liked the balance between the present, the podcast episodes and the investigation into the past. The mystery around Hannah and her not wanting to meet Rachel in person to discuss her sister’s death had me fully intrigued. Why not come forward sooner? Was it a cover up, was it really a drowning, what happened exactly and who was involved? What does Hannah know? There were a lot of questions to keep me busy, and I always like it when a plot keeps me on my toes. The characters weren’t all that likeable, but their development was solid and felt realistic. It’s an interesting cast to shoulder both the past and present storyline, and they fit their different roles very well.

The Night Swim is a well written, dark and harrowing read that divides its attention between an upcoming rape trial and a death that happened 25 years ago. Both storylines are equally fascinating, and I ended up having a brilliant time with this story. The rape element can be hard to stomach, but I thought it was well done and the story definitely helps to shine a light on the issues rape victims still encounter while trying to find justice. Without doubt a powerful read!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MEGAN GOLDIN worked as a correspondent for Reuters and other media outlets where she covered war, peace, international terrorism and financial meltdowns in the Middle East and Asia. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia where she raises three sons and is a foster mum to Labrador puppies learning to be guide dogs. The Escape Room was her debut novel.

SOCIAL LINKS

Author website // Twitter // Facebook // Author Blog // GoodReads

BUY LINKS

Macmillan // Books-A-Million // Barnes & Noble // Amazon


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Beast – by Matt Wesolowski #RandomThingsTours #blogtour @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Beast Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. The first three Six Stories books simply blew me away last year and it’s easy to say Beast was right at the top of most-anticipated releases. And even with sky high expectations, book number four still turned out to be everything I could have hoped for and more! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Beast
(Six Stories #4)
Author: Matt Wesolowski
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 20th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 21st 2020
Pages: 320

“All anyone has to say is that they wonder why they did it, those three. That’s how it is these days. The killers become the story. The criminals are more exciting than the victims.”

*** 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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Holy bat in hell, what a read! I’ve been a Six Stories fan ever since I read the first book last year and all three books simply blew me away. In fact, both sequels ended up on my list of absolute top favorites of 2019! I’ve been waiting impatiently and eagerly for book four, and I literally dropped everything as soon as a copy of Beast arrived in my inbox. Such is the power of this series and Matt Wesolowski‘s writing! And of course once again I had a book hangover, and once again I found myself lost for words as I was trying to describe my experience with Beast afterwards. I don’t know how he keeps coming up with this stories and I honestly don’t care as long as they will keep appearing! Oh yes, this whole series has most definitely a worthy spot on my all time favorites list.

So, what makes Beast (and this series in general for that matter) so special? There are so many elements I loved in this story, but I think the first thing that stands out is the format. The whole series has an unique podcast format with a narrator, Scott King, who tries to be removed from the case he investigates. Scott King doesn’t judge, doesn’t solve the (cold) cases he talks about, but instead just puts six podcast episodes out there that might help those who follow his podcast uncover the truth. It is this unique and absolutely brilliant format that really takes the story to the next level, and it is also one of the few stories that actually makes me want to give audiobooks another chance, as I can imagine it would make for a fantastic listen.

Talking about Beast in particular, I thought the plot itself was spot on. It is a more recent case this time around, which means memories of those involved might be fresher and evidence might be easier to find. This is not just another murder case though and the small town of Ergarth has a lot to hide… Three men were convicted for the brutal murder of twenty-four-year-old vlogger Elizabeth, and while there was talk about cult related activities, a real motive for the crime has never been confirmed. Instead, there has been talk about a vampire legend which is part of Ergarth’s history. Is there really something supernatural going on? And what about the Dead In Six Days challenge? And the victim? Oh yes, there is definitely a lot more going on that you can see on the surface…

There are a lot of elements in play in Beast, all contributing to a plot that is both rich, complex and utterly fulfilling. We have the horror element with the vampire legend, which definitely adds the right dose of suspense and creepiness to the story. We have the social media angle, which is absolutely fascinating and definitely on point. In Elizabeth we see just how far the need for likes, comments and statistics can go and both her character and those surrounding her help show how social media really can take over and potentially destroy lives… We also have the bullying, abuse and manipulation, which is of course partially related to the whole social media element in the first place. And this story also talks about other elements including animal cruelty, mental illness and piromancy. This seems like a lot to juggle in just one story, but each element is incorporated flawlessly into what is an absolutely brilliant read.

What more to say about Beast? The writing is sublime of course. And both the plot development and building up of suspense and tension is simply spot on. Instead of a constant intensity, the suspense is build up slowly but surely, and this story will most definitely creep you out before you reach that final page. You will find yourself unable to stop reading as you start picking at those threads to find the truth… And as always, the sixth and final episode brings a plot twist bomb and it is without doubt a shocker. And that ending! Most definitely a perfect way to reenforce the point made with the whole social media angle.

I bow to the podcast thriller master and I will  be counting the days until we find out what case Scott King will decide to investigate next… In the mean time, I will just fill my time pestering everyone who hasn’t read this series yet. And yes, that includes YOU if you haven’t! Because the sheer brilliance of each experience with this series is something that nobody should miss out on.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care.

Wesolowski started his writing career in horror and was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at ‘Bloody Scotland’; Crime Writing Festival 2015. His subsequent debut crime novel ‘Six Stories’ was published by Orenda Books in the spring of 2016 with follow-up ‘Hydra’ published in the winter of 2017 and ‘Changeling’ in 2018.

‘Six Stories’ has been optioned by a major Hollywood studio and the third book in the series, ‘Changeling’ was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Award for Best Thriller and Best Independent Voice.


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BOOK REVIEW: Changeling – by Matt Wesolowski @Orendabooks

Title: Changeling
(Six Stories #3)

Author: Matt Wesolowski
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 15th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: November 8th 2019
Pages: 194

“It’s like an urban myth, a legend that has refused to die; this case has resurfaced again and again in my life. This case has an inexorable pull. Whether I like it or not.”


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I know I’m late when it comes to the Six Stories party, having only discovered the series this year, but I’ve become a fast and irrevocable fan. While my first experience with this series was already brilliant, the second book blew me away completely and I wasn’t sure how any sequel would manage to live up to it. I shouldn’t have doubted the writing powers of Matt Wesolowski though, because he has truly outdone himself with Changeling. It’s been weeks since I finished reading this absolutely brilliant read, and I’m still struggling to get a word on paper… My ability to review completely destroyed by this story. Oh yes, such is the power of Changeling!

I think that part of the reason that makes this series in general so unique is its format. Told in a podcast form with six different episodes and a number of guests interviewed by an impartial podcast host, each book enables us to dive into the different cold cases from the very beginning. In the case of Changeling, we are trying to find out more about the 1988 disappearance of a child as they were driving through the Wentshire Forest. The seven-year-old Alfie Marsden disappeared without a trace when his father stopped after hearing a strange sound coming from inside his car… And no trace of the boy nor his body is ever found. What happened to Alfie that night? To this date nobody seems to know for sure, but after receiving a letter our already famous Scott King decides to give in and try to discover the truth.

As with the previous two books, the suspense is build up slowly but surely. Changeling  once again toes the line with the horror genre after the introduction of the supernatural angle and hints of the myths around the Wentshire Forest. This story isn’t just another thriller and investigation into a cold case; the strange things happening in this forest definitely give this story an eerie and ominous feel. As the episodes continue, we slowly get to know more about both the case, Alfie and those close to him. Nothing is as it seems and this story definitely has some surprises for you in store… But nothing is as big as that final reveal. I almost dropped my copy of the Changeling on the floor along with my jaw when I reached that part of the story… Those who have had the chance to read book three already will know what I’m talking about. Oh yes, Changeling most definitely ended with a bang and left me both speechless and wanting to analyze everything I just read all over again to see if I should have seen the signs… And it is without doubt a story that will stay with me for a long time.

Along with the format, plot and writing, the characters themselves also play a key role in the success of Changeling. Scott King we of course already know, and it was interesting to see him interact with and react to yet another intriguing case. The other characters that play a role in this story are all realistically and meticulously developed, making both them and Alfie’s case truly come alive for me. I had a fantastic time slowly discovering the truth about Alfie and those around him, and while not every character is all that likeable and has its flaws, I found it didn’t matter at all as it only made Changeling feel more realistic. If you are looking for a well written and spine-chilling thriller with an unique podcast format and an explosive ending, Changeling (and the rest of this series for that matter) should go straight to the top of your wishlist!


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#WesolowskiWednesdays – Hydra edition #Orentober #bookreview @Orendabooks

Today is Wednesday, which means it’s time for another dose of #WesolowskiWednesdays !! This time around it’s time for the second book of the Six Stories series, written by the talented Matt Wesolowski, to take the spotlight. All in the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month! I admit I have been struggling a LOT to write reviews for this series. YES, the books are just THAT good! You can find my attempt at writing a somewhat coherent review about Hydra below…

Title: Hydra
(Six Stories #2)
Author: Matt Wesolowski
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: December 24th 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 12th 2019
Pages: 320

“It’s like a hydra, Scott; every head you cut off, two more grow in their places. And we’re everywhere – hiding, waiting. You’ll never ever stop us.”


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Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Orenda Books titles, but they make me feel so SO incompetent as a blogger… Why? Let’s just say that each time I finish an Orenda title, I’m left a blubbering mess and completely lost for words. These feelings were no different when I finished Hydra, a story that blew my mind and left me lacking the skills to find those words to properly describe my thoughts. How on earth am I supposed to be able to review such a cracker of a book?! Should I just throw in the ‘just read the damn book‘ one liner and leave it at that? Or link to the glowing reviews of more competent fellow bloggers and let them convince you this series in general is an absolute must-read? Trust me, I’ve been seriously tempted to do both, but in the end I’ve decided to just throw in my two cents about what I already know will be a 2019 favorite.

So, Hydra. It’s been over a week since I finished this title and my mind is still blown and unable to string those sentences together. I already had a brilliant experience reading Six Stories earlier this year, but somehow Hydra did the unthinkable and managed to outshine that first experience. Lost for words and utterly flabbergasted… Oh yes, this book made a big impact. The podcast format, the premise, the characters, the paranormal and horror elements, the writing, the suspense and plot twists… I don’t even know where to start my review as everything was just pure magic. So please bear with me as I try to explain why you should read this series ASAP.

First of all, can we just admire that gorgeous cover for a moment? So dark, ominous and simply glorious and it definitely sets the right mood for the story. Because Hydra isn’t just a crime story where Scott King investigates an infamous murder case. Instead, it also flirts with the horror genre with the introduction of paranormal elements that will definitely give you goosebumps and chill you to the bone. The so-called black-eyed children are oh so creepy and definitely give Hydra an unique touch! The lines between facts and fiction are blurred and give this story almost a surreal sensation… If you are easily frightened, you should brace yourself before you start reading this story!

Another key element that makes this masterpiece unique is without doubt the format, which really makes the series stand out. Scott King is a very interesting character, because as the investigative journalist hosting the podcast he is both omnipresent while also mostly detached from the actual story. Like he says himself: the podcasts are not about him, but about the case he investigates. This provides for a very unique point of view! Hydra is once again told in six different podcast episodes with each episode featuring a different key character who might shed some light on what really happened during that brutal night known as the ‘Macleod Massacre’. We also get snippets of multiple audio files from Arla Macleod, recorded while she is a patient of Elmtree Manor Hosiptal, which give a little more insight as to what is going on in her head. I bet Hydra would make a fantastic audiobook as well, as both the podcast format and the audio files would really come alive that way.

The writing is flawless and I completely lost track of time while reading Hydra. The Macleod Massacre is an absolutely brutal case and I was hooked as soon as Scott King started dropping the first facts about that night in 2014. Arla’s motive might seem simple at first glance, but as the hints of the paranormal start popping up things are starting to get dark and tantalizing. Are the black-eyed children just the imagination of a mentally disturbed young woman? Or is something more sinister at play? This ominous feel will raise the hairs on the back of your neck and gives Hydra that spine-chilling vibe. The suspense is again build up slowly, but I do feel that this sequel is a lot more sinister than the first book. The paranormal elements definitely play a big role in this, which are expertly incorporated into what is already an excellent plot. Hydra will also have some excellent plot twists for you in store, and once again the final episode will punch you right in the gut and leave you dumbfounded. The cast of characters definitely made for a interesting bunch as well, and especially Arla was a fascinating character to learn more about. If you like your thrillers dark, unique and glorious, Hydra will be a perfect match!


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BOOK REVIEW: Six Stories – by Matt Wesolowski @Orendabooks

Title: Six Stories
(Six Stories #1)
Author: Matt Wesolowski
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: December 20th 2016
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: June 3rd 2019
Pages: 225

“There is definitely evil in this world of ours. We carve monuments to our fallen, engrave them with the names of those whose lives were snuffed out when trying to stop evil.

We don’t forget.”


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I’ve been meaning to read Six Stories for a long time now, basically ever since I kept seeing those fantastic reviews when it was first published… I’ve known it was a pretty safe bet I was going to enjoy Six Stories, and that definitely turned out to be the truth. A special thanks to the wonderful Meggy at Chocolate’n’Waffles for being one of the first introducing me to Orenda Books!! And while I admit it took me longer than expected to finally jump on board, Orenda title number three has now officially confirmed me I have found another favorite publisher. ❤

Back to Six Stories… I’ve been letting my thoughts marinate for the last couple of days and even now I’m still struggling to find the words that do this little masterpiece justice. Let’s see how far I get, shall we? First of all, the cover alone pretty ominous. One body. Six Stories. Which one is true? This is the premise and promise of what sounds to be a very intriguing ride. It is also a reference to the key element of what makes this gem unique: the format. Because there is no doubt that the podcast format is what makes this story truly stand out from the rest. The story is told in six different podcast episodes where each episode features a different key character and their memories of what happened twenty years ago. I bet Six Stories would be fantastic as an audiobook as well! Especially as the format basically reads like a real podcast series, with only the short chapters told from Harry Saint Clement-Ramsay’s POV breaking up that structure.

The writing drew me straight in and made it easy to fully focus on the mystery around Tom’s disappearance and death. I was hooked as soon as I started the first podcast episode, wanting to know more about what happened in 1996. Was it really a misadventure that ended Tom’s life? Or is someone hiding something? Oh yes, I was fully under the podcast’s spell from the start. I do admit I liked Harry’s chapters less than the actual podcast episodes, but they did add a little extra intrigue and weight to the final reveals. The suspense in Six Stories is subtle rather than constant, fed with a little folklore here and a monster story there, only to punch you in the gut just before you start thinking things are being wrapped up rather blandly. And trust me, I definitely didn’t see that suckerpunch of a final podcast episode coming! Even after days, I’m still recovering, so definitely be ready to brace yourself when you decide to pick up your copy of Six Stories.

The characters in Six Stories are what you call flawed and are realistically described and developed. Although each podcast has its own star character, it is through their memories and stories about what happened that we get to form a better idea of what each character was like in our minds. Ideas and opinions about the different characters will change as you learn more about them, showing that not everything is as it seems and there is always more to the eye if you look at the details closely. Like I said before, the suspense is build up subtly, instead focusing on slowly letting you get to know the characters better and thus revealing their true selves and what they were up to in 1996. I understand this might be a turn off for those who don’t like slower paces in their thrillers, but trust me, Six Stories is by no means uneventful and the slower pace only enhances the effect of the plot twist bomb that will be dropped on you before you reach the final page. I had a fantastic time reading Six Stories and I will already be looking forward to read the other books in the series.


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