YVO’S SHORTIES #188 – He Started It & Only Mostly Devastated

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two Goodreads Choice Awards nominees belonging to different genress. He Started It sadly didn’t live up to expectations for me; something I’m still surprised about… Only Mostly Devastated turned out to be a great read though.


Title: He Started It
Author: Samantha Downing

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 30th 2020
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: November 10th 2020
Pages: 400

“I wonder how many bad things have been explained by such a simple phrase, a simple idea. Because I could. Because no one stopped me. Because it was easy.”


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Well, well, well, what do we have here? I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again… So many people have praised He Started It and after loving her previous book My Lovely Wife I was fully expecting to have a repeat experience with this one. Especially since I always enjoy road trip stories in the first place… I’m not sure if it’s because psychological thrillers don’t seem to work as well for me right now, but the fact is: I was bored. A LOT. Up to the point that I kept wondering when the cursed road trip was finally going to end so I could get this story over with. The pace was just way too slow for me, which is strange as the characters are basically in constant movement… But there was just something static about the whole story. Top this with highly unlikeable characters and I had a really hard time to stay invested. True, there were some surprises including the ending, but overall sadly I can’t say I enjoyed my time with this one.


Title: Only Mostly Devastated
Author: Sophie Gonzales

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 3rd 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Finished reading: November 13th 2020
Pages: 272

“We had no way of knowing what the future held. People changed their minds, people passed away, people moved unexpectedly. The only thing we could ever really do was play it by ear.”


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I admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the Grease mention… I must have watched that movie a million times as a kid, so I simply HAD to read Only Mostly Devastated for nostalgic reasons alone. I must say that I was expecting more of a fluffy romcom after the cover and blurb, which I can confirm that this story is not. In fact, Only Mostly Devastated is quite heavy on the more serious topics and has a healthy dose of drama as well as heartbreaking moments. And no, they are not just relating to the relationship between the main characters as the blurb might make you think… There is a big focus on Ollie and his parents trying to help his aunt and her family as she is fighting cancer, which might be triggering for some readers. That said, I did think this topic was quite well handled. Thankfully we will see lighter moments too, and I especially loved seeing Ollie interact with his new friends as well as his niece and nephew. Both Will and Ollie could get a little frustrating at times, but overall I did have a great time reading this story. Would I have loved to see more Grease elements? Most definitely. But I liked this spin off very much and it has a great cast of characters that will most likely appeal to those who enjoy the genre. Just make sure to brace yourself for quite a few heartbreaking moments thrown in instead of just your regular dose of fluff… Chocolates and tissues are probably mandatory.


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DNF ARC REVIEW: The Silent Daughter – by Kirsty Ferguson

Title: The Silent Daughter
Author: Kirsty Ferguson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 10th 2020
Publisher: Boldwood Books
Finished reading: October 21st 2020
Pages: 336
DNF at 23% (77 pages)

“That was how she felt. Alone, adrift in a sea of people who looked like her, but she could never seem to find a way in with them.”

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

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I confess that this was what I now call an ‘oops’ request… I’ve learned my lesson not to browse Netgalley while still half asleep the hard way, that’s for sure! Somehow psychological/domestic thrillers haven’t really worked for me lately, and my negative reaction to The Silent Daughter might have had something to do with that… But there is no denying that I REALLY struggled with this story, up until the point I had to make the difficult decision to make this title my fourth DNF of the year. Since I threw in the towel at 23%, I don’t have much to say about the story to be honest… But I’ll explain briefly below why I made the decision to not finish reading this one.

First of all I do have to say that I find the premise of The Silent Daughter to be pretty interesting. The house fire, the secrets, someone maybe wanting the main character dead… It sounded pretty promising, but somehow the execution just didn’t do it for me at all. My first turn off has to do with the constant abuse and bullying taking over the rest of the plot. It’s a trigger worthy topic and I don’t mind it in my stories as long as it is well incorporated into the plot, but it was just way too much in The Silent Daughter. Instead of developing the storylines and adding more dept, we only got to see more and more scenes with abuse and bullying, and it seriously made me feel too uncomfortable and left me with a bad taste in my mouth. On top of this, there is the adult content. I’m never a fan of sexy scenes, but I can tolerate them when they are done right and that wasn’t the case here. Another huge turn off for me!

On top of this, I found the characters to be considerably unlikeable. Not liking the characters made it really hard to feel sympathy for them, and the over the top abuse/bullying scenes didn’t help either. The worst part was probably the plot itself though. Sadly, I found the plot to be an uncoherent mess (or at least in the part I did read). The story jumped between past and present and different moments in time without warning and this was not only irritating but made it really hard to follow the story itself. I wasn’t a fan of the tone or writing either… All in all unfortunately The Silent Daughter definitely wasn’t a match for me. I always hate having to make the decision to DNF, but sadly I saw no other way out here.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: A Song Of Isolation – by Michael J. Malone #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the A Song Of Isolation Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been wanting to try Michael J. Malone‘s stories for a long time now as I keep hearing fantastic things about his books. I even have a couple of his backlist titles waiting on my kindle, so I’m still not sure why I didn’t follow through with my intentions until now… But what I do know is that I mean to return to his writing ASAP after a fantastic first experience with his work. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: A Song Of Isolation
Author: Michael J. Malone
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 17th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: September 18th 2020
Pages: 300

“Please. Live well. Be my revenge, Amelie.”

*** 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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I’ve been meaning to try Michael J. Malone’s psychological thrillers for quite some time now, and especially since as far as I can remember I’ve only seen positive reviews so far. I figured that joining the blog tour for his newest title A Song Of Isolation would be both the perfect way to ensure I finally tried his work and also the little push I needed to pick up the backlist titles I have waiting on my kindle as well… And now that I have finally sampled his writing, I am most definitely hungry for more. Atmospheric, compelling, powerful, moving, brutal, emotional… A Song Of Isolation will claw its way into your head and heart and it is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

The story is told with the help of a multiple POV structure that follows three different characters over time: Amelie, Dave and Damaris. On top of this, the story is divided into three different years… First we have the flashbacks Amelie experiences from her time in London back in 2010 that will help explain why she moved to Scotland. Then we have the part of the story set in 2015, where all three characters feature and most of the time is spent. This part includes some fascinating perspectives on Dave’s side including the day when Dave is first arrested, the trial and the chapters set in prison. Then we have Damaris and the effect the events have on her during and after the trial… And last but not least Amelie struggling to support Dave and her time in France afterwards. The last part of the story is set in 2019, and this is were everything comes together and the story will have more than one surprise for you in store.

Nothing is as it seems in A Song Of Isolation and you are constantly wondering about what is true and what ended up being a fabrication. As the truth about the whole situation is key in interpreting the story, it feels as if you are walking on a knife’s edge the whole time, and this suspense never went away. The story includes multiple difficult themes, including child abuse, the possibility of false imprisonment, dealing with the aftermath of negative press, stalking, mental health issues and grief. Each element is incorporated realistically and fitted very well in the story as a whole, rather than just being a little something extra designed to shock alone. I was especially intrigued by the questions this story raises about child abuse and possible false imprisonment. I’m all for believing the child and its accusations first to protect the child, but what if the accusations are wrong? This could utterly destroy the life of an innocent man, but on the other hand you don’t want a guilty predator to get away with what he did… This dilemma really messed with my head and it’s one of the reasons this story ended up having such an impact on me.

The psychological aspect in general and the development of the different characters in play is simply sublime. Each felt realistic, flawed and really added something special to the story; while not all were exactly likeable, I couldn’t help but feeling that urge to discover how they would evolve and what would happen to them. Especially those chapters set in prison were fascinating, and I love the chapters set in France too as the descriptions really made Bordeaux come alive for me… But A Song Of Isolation as a whole is designed to mesmerize. The writing itself is a true pleasure to the eye and mind. In fact, the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is because I started it too late in the day and couldn’t afford an all-nighter… Because trust me, it was extremely hard to tear my eyes off those pages and stop reading.

A Song Of Isolation was my first experience with his books, but I will rectify that mistake soon. I have multiple of his backlist titles all ready and waiting for me on my kindle and I have no doubt that they will bring more hours filled with a fantastic reading experience. Fans of darker psychological thrillers NEED to read this one!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines, After He Died and In the Absence of Miracles soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber &
Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Seven Doors – by Agnes Ravatn #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Seven Doors Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve rediscovered my love for the nordic noir genre in recent years and I’ve been wanting to try this author for a while now… And I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long now! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Seven Doors
Author: Agnes Ravatn
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Nordic Noir
First published: September 13th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: September 8th 2020
Pages: 276
(Originally published in Norwegian: ‘Dei sju dørene’)

“We often stumble in the dark, unaware of the full scope of our actions.”

*** 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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I’m always immediately tempted when I see a new nordic noir title popping up on my radar, and this happened once again as soon as I first heard about The Seven Doors. I’ve been meaning to try Agnes Ravatn‘s work ever since I started hearing fantastic things about her previous title The Bird Tribunal, and while that one somehow slipped between the cracks of my TBR mountain (something I plan to remedy soon), joining the tour for the translation of her newest title sounded like the perfect guarantee to not make the same mistake with this title. I’m most definitely glad I did, because I now have another name to add to my list of favorite nordic noir authors!

So… The Seven Doors. I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I mean, how can I say no to the promise of a nordic setting AND an university professor investigating the mysterious disappearance of her tenant?! I’m glad I didn’t, because this story turned out to be a true gem. The Norway setting really shines through as soon as you start reading, and I felt transported to this nordic country along with the main characters straight away. The descriptions really made the different settings within Norway come alive for me, and I liked how certain places were not only incorporated into the plot naturally but were also quite fundamental for certain developments in that same plot.

It’s hard to put The Seven Doors inside just one neat genre box… This story can be seen as an amateur PI thriller turned psychological thriller turned domestic drama, all doused with that delicious nordic noir sauce to spice things up. On top of this, the story shows a focus on psychology as well as literature and incorporates many theories and background information along the way. You will find psychology related terms and theories, but also folklore stories and fairytales as well as literature theory related elements… And even the title refers to a folklore story with a key role in the plot, which I personally thought was a brilliant touch. Both elements really gave this nordic noir an unique angle that made this story stand out for me.

The story is told through the eyes of main character and university professor Nina. Both the investigation, her background and the final truth around the disappearance might seem a bit colored that way, but this sole POV is used perfectly to add suspense and keep the air of mystery around it all. It was interesting to see Nina develop over time and react to the things happening in the plot; especially once she started investigating Mari’s disappearance and kept going stubbornly despite the police not taking her seriously. The focus isn’t just on the investigation though, as we also learn about the changes in her personal life, her struggles with her family home that is about to be demolished as well as other secrets and events happening to those close to her. Both the investigation and the more personal angle are well balanced and I liked how they complemented each other.

The writing itself is fluid and descriptive and really made both the nordic setting and the main characters of this story come alive. I have to point out the flawless translation by Rosie Hedger too, as without her time and effort I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this story in the first place… The Seven Doors has a more leisurely pace than my usual reads, but this slower pace is used to properly dive into the different characters and elements in play and makes you fully savour both. The story works steadily towards more than one highly explosive final reveal that will most likely end up hitting you with a sledgehammer. Why? Two words: THAT ENDING! What a way to leave us with our jaws hanging on the floor… BOOM.

This was my first experience with Agnes Ravatn‘s work, but I have a copy of The Bird Tribunal hanging out on my kindle which I will pick up very soon (read: Orentober month)The Seven Doors is most definitely another nordic noir gem!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is a Norwegian author and columnist. She made her literary début with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular Reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self-discipline (Operasjon sjøldisiplin), 2014. In these works, Ravatn revealed a unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribuanlet), was an international bestseller translated into fifteen languages, winning an English PEN Award, shortlisting for the Dublin Literary Award, a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick and a BBC Book at Bedtime. It was also made into a successful play, which premiered in Oslo in 2015. Agnes lives with her family in the Norwegian countryside.


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ARC REVIEW: The Wife – by Shalini Boland

Title: The Wife
Author: Shalini Boland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 9th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: September 4th 2020
Pages: 292

“But it all feels like an act. As if I’m going through the motions. What on earth is wrong with me?”

*** 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’ve been a fan of Shalini Boland‘s psychological thrillers ever since I read her first title back in 2016, and every single book I’ve read since has been a success so far. The Wife is already my tenth psychological thriller by this author (I somehow missed one earlier this year, but I plan to remedy that as soon as I have more time), and without doubt another excellent example of a well written story with a shocking ending. Don’t let that rather generic title mislead you, as this story will definitely add some serious punch to what might seem like a typical set up in the beginning. Fans of the genre will have a blast reading The Wife!

The plot starts out pretty simple: we have our main character Zoe who is planning her ten-year anniversary party to celebrate this milestone with her husband. BUT. On her wedding day ten years ago, she somehow fainted before the ceremony and woke up with a gap in her memories and no recollection what happened in that missing time. Talk about introducing the amnesia element using a whole different angle! There is so much mystery around that fainting spell as well, as Zoe has a bad feeling about that missing time, but no concrete evidence that something bad actually happened… This definitely added a healthy dose of suspense as well as question marks to the plot.

There are in fact multiple elements that add to the suspense of this story. Not only do we have the missing time on Zoe’s wedding day, but we also have the disappearance of her estranged sister Dina ten years ago, the questions around what happened between Zoe and her then friend Cassie in the past and the strange things happening to Zoe in the present to contend with. This leads to a multi-dimentional plot where you will have plenty of different angles to explore and multiple possible answers to both the present and past will be revealed along the way. And while I do have to say that I found the first part of the story to be a tad slow, those super explosive final reveals definitely made up for it. Oh yes, The Wife will have more than one surprise for you in store, and I definitely didn’t see most of them coming! Without doubt another successful drop of those shocking plot twist bombs I’ve come to expect.

I confess that I wasn’t really that big of a fan of the main characters or how they behaved as a whole, but I do think that their development felt realistic and it was interesting to slowly learn more about them. Zoe is the perfect character to star this psychological thriller and both her past and the things happening to her in the present will have you under its spell. The Wife is another more than solid psychological thriller that shows that you can’t go wrong when it comes to Shalini Boland‘s books.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Memories We Bury – by H.A. Leuschel #blogtour #damppebblesblogtours @HALeuschel @damppebbles

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Memories We Bury blog tour! A huge thanks to Emma Welton for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve enjoyed Helene Leuschel’s writing in the past, so I have been looking forward to try her newest story… And it turned out to be yet another excellent example of a well written psychological thriller. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!


Title: The Memories We Bury
Author: H.A. Leuschel
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 17th 2020
Publisher: EKT Selection Ltd
Finished reading: August 27th 2020
Pages: 314

“Trust is a fragile bird perched on a branch that is so dry it will break at the first unexpected breeze.”

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

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I was positively impressed by Helene Leuschel‘s short story collection Manipulated Lives as well as her stand-alone novella My Sweet Friend a few years back, so of course I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to join the blog tour for her first ‘full novel’ psychological thriller. She has a way of describing the psychological aspects and effects of manipulation that is both realistic and extremely thorough, and after reading the blurb of The Memories We Bury I could just feel it in my bones that I was in for another absolute treat. And that is exactly what this story turned out to be! If you enjoy a well written, realistic and utterly addicting psychological thriller, this title should definitely be on your wishlist.

Let’s look at the basics first. The Memories We Bury is told with the help of a dual POV structure, alternating between pregnant and later on new mother Lizzie and her lonely widow neighbor Morag. On top of this dual POV structure, the story also incorporates time jumps; The Memories We Bury starts out in 2016 after the main events have occured, only to jump back to 2013 and later 2014 to see the actual story slowly unfold. These first chapters set 2016 will tickle your curiosity and make you wonder what happened in the past for the two women to be the way they are right now… And they are a great teaser of what is yet to come. This structure is used to its best advantage and definitely helped keeping me invested during what might be a slightly slower beginning, as the promise of some sort of escalation was always there.

The Memories We Bury is a mostly character-driven psychological thriller, and the focus of especially the first half of this story is mainly on the development of the two main characters Lizzie and Morag. We slowly learn more about their past and their motivations, and it was fascinating to see both develop over time as the events took place. Once again we see the element of manipulation as well as obsession mastered perfectly, and especially the blurred line between victim and manipulator added a healthy level of suspense to the story. Who is manipulating who? What is really going on and who is the real victim? Although I did make a right guess quite early on, there were so many little details and twists that did surprise me along the way that I wasn’t too bothered by it in the end.

As for the characters… First of all, I have to say that I love the Scottish setting and I was stoked to see that the characters really complement that setting. Especially Morag stood out with the inclusion of Scottish dialect in her dialogue and this really made the setting feel a lot more authentic. Her background and development are realistic and thorough too, and it was interesting to slowly uncover her secrets and quirks. Lizzie made for a very interesting character as well, although her behavior and actions could get pretty frustrating in points. That said, it was a very realistic portrayal and she fitted her role in the story perfectly, so the fact that she wasn’t completely likeable could be forgiven. Her husband Markus did deserve a punch or two and he will most definitely get under your skin… But sadly I can’t deny it’s realistic portrayal of the typical absent husband and father, and he fitted his role well.

In short, The Memories We Bury is a well written, painstakingly realistic and compelling psychological thriller where the lines between manipulator and victim will blur. I can highly recommend this title if you enjoy the genre!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a Master in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specializing in the study of the mind. Helene has a particular interest in emotional, psychological and social well-being and this led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives, a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists. She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter // Facebook // Website // Instagram  

BUY LINKS

Amazon UK // Amazon US 


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: When I Was You – by Amber Garza #blogtour @HarlequinBooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the When I Was You blog tour! A huge thanks to Justine Sha for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. The premise of this story sounded absolutely fascinating, and I simply knew I HAD to read it as soon as I first read the description. And it most definitely lived up to expectations! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: When I Was You
Author: Amber Garza
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 25th 2020
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: August 25th 2020
Pages: 368

“My mom used to say that we all had our own kryptonite. A weakness. An obsession. Something that had the potential to destroy us.”

*** 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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There was just something about the blurb of When I Was You that made me want to read it instantly. A lonely empty-nester as the main character, her growing obsession with a young mother with the same name… It sounded like the perfect premise to build a story around. I’ve been looking forward to dive into this psychological thriller, and I can promise you that When I Was You most definitely lived up to expectations and more. Fans of the genre will be in for a treat with this one!

There are a lot of things I loved about When I Was You, but let’s start with the plot itself. The plot of this psychological thriller is designed and executed brilliantly to completely mislead you along the way. The tension and suspicion is slowly build up until it reaches its climax, the plot interlaced with turns, secrets and plot twists to keep you guessing. The fact that we have two main characters sharing the exact same name is used to drop certain hints while also sending you off on the wrong track… Twisty, suspenseful and unexpected; When I Was You has more than one surprise for you in store before you reach that final page. And while I did guess some of the twists, there were also other turns I never saw coming. And I call that a success!

Now that we are talking about the characters, let’s properly focus on them. The main focus of the story is on the older Kelly Medina at first: an empty-nester who has been feeling extremely lonely after her son Aaron left for college last year. Initially, as a reader you are being kept in the dark about certain events in the past; a strategy fully designed to give the plot twists an even bigger impact. Kelly isn’t all that likeable if you look critically, but her development is more than solid and there is just something about her that makes you want to know more. Once the young Kelly comes in the picture, things are getting even more interesting. Who is this new mother sharing the exact same name with our main character? Why did she suddenly show up in the same town as our main character? Coincidence or is there something else at play? The mystery around young Kelly’s past and motive definitely turned up the level of suspense.

The author did a brilliant job disguising certain facts and witholding others, creating an air of suspicion and that ominous feel that something is about to spin out of control. We have older Kelly and her growing obsession, we have the questions about younger Kelly’s past and her motive, we have secrets, twists and turns to uncover… When I Was You is designed to keep you on your toes the whole way and trust me, you will be having a hard time stopping before you reach that final page. Especially once things are starting to REALLY escalate and certain plot twist bombs are being revealed… And that ending! Holy guacamole, what a way to go out with a bang!

If you enjoy a well written, misleading and suspenseful psychological thriller with an explosive ending, When I Was You should most definitely be on your wishlist. The two Kelly’s will keep you more than entertained!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they’re real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California, which is—no joke—home to another Amber Garza.

SOCIAL MEDIA

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

BUY LINKS

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


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Last To Know – by Jo Furniss #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Last To Know Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been meaning to try Jo Furniss‘ books for a while now, and my first experience without doubt turned out to be successful… Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Last To Know
Author: Jo Furniss
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 11th 2020
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: August 9th 2020
Pages: 318

“The truth depends on who’s telling the story.”

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

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I knew I HAD to read The Last To Know as soon as read Meggy’s brilliant review, and I simply couldn’t pass up on opportunity to join the blog tour when the invitation hit my inbox soon after. It’s a fact that I’ve been wanting to try one of Jo Furniss‘ books for quite some time now, and this sounded like the perfect opportunity to finally do so. I’m glad I did, as my first impression with her writing turned out to be more than solid!

The Last To Know is what you call a slowburner, and I admit it took me a while while to get in the groove. Once I did though, I was fully under the spell of this story, and I had a brilliant time trying to guess how things would evolve. I think that a lot of the power of this story lies with the setting. The Last To Know takes place in the small market town of Hurtwood, Shropshire, and this setting helps set the right ominous and somewhat gothic atmosphere the story is then build on. Especially the Hurtwood House itself with its hint at the supernatural and its creepy vibe set the tone for this story, and I think it’s the setting especially that makes this book. The descriptions made both the Hurtwood House and the town itself come alive for me.

The story told with help of a dual POV, switching between local police sergeant Ellie Trevelyan and American journalist Rose Kynaston. This contrast between local and foreigner gives us two fascinating views of both the town itself, its inhabitants and history, and gave the story an extra level of dept. Rose has an interesting background with her growing up as a military brat and moving around a lot; now suddenly having to face a tight-knit community where fitting in won’t be so easy with everybody being so prejudiced about her husband and his family. On the other hand we have Ellie, who is a local and has her own problems to face with her father suffering from Alzheimer’s. Both women help us slowly unravel the past and the present as the story evolves, with plenty of secrets and lies to uncover along the way.

The Last To Know is mostly focused on the characters and their secrets as well as the town itself. This might be part of the reason why this story felt more slower paced, and it did turn out to be a slowburner for me where I even guessed some of the final reveals quite early on… But: overall the journey itself was still more than fullfilling for me. Like I said before, the power of this story is in its Hurtwood setting and the slightly gothic vibe as well as the hint at the supernatural. The stunning cover represents the setting very well, and it was exactly how I imagined Hurtwood House in my mind… The dark grey clouds hinting at that ominous feel that is so present all the time.

I haven’t talked much about the plot itself, and it is for a reason. I think The Last To Know is one of those stories where you benefit from going in blind, and you will enjoy the nuances of the plot developments and reveals all the better because of it. Fans of slower and character driven psychological thrillers with a touch of the gothic vibe will most likely have a great time with this story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After spending a decade as a broadcast journalist for the BBC, Jo Furniss gave up the glamour of night shifts to become a freelance writer and serial expatriate. Originally from the United Kingdom, she spent seven years in Singapore and also lived in Switzerland and Cameroon.

As a journalist, Jo worked for numerous online outlets and magazines, including Monocle and the Economist. She has edited books for a Nobel laureate and the palace of the Sultan of Brunei. She has a Distinction in MA Professional Writing from Falmouth University.

Jo’s debut novel, All the Little Children, was an Amazon Charts bestseller.

Connect with her via Facebook (/JoFurnissAuthor) and Twitter (@Jo_Furniss) or through her website: http://www.jofurniss.com/

AMAZON UK


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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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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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