BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Home – by Sarah Stovell #RandomThingsTours #blogtour @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Home Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I was blown away by Sarah Stovell‘s first book Exquisite last year and I have been looking forward to a new story ever since… And there is no doubt that The Home has only reconfirmed my love for her writing. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: The Home
Author: Sarah Stovell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 28th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 14th 2020
Pages: 276

“We were fragile, too. But we weren’t fragile like flowers. We were fragile like bombs.”

*** 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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Exquisite was simply exquisite last year, so I’ve been looking forward to her newest story ever since. It’s easy to say that my expectations were extremely high, and I was honestly a bit afraid it wouldn’t actually live up to expectations… But I shouldn’t have worried. My mind was left reeling and my heart was smashed into a million pieces and left in a broken heap of mess on the floor… Heartrending, raw, emotional and dark: this is a story that will get under your skin and will make your soul ache for those two poor girls! Oh yes, make sure to prepare yourself for a few hours of very intense reading. So, why did the story work so well for me?

As you might have gathered from my first thoughts, this story did excellent job provoking some very strong emotions; key in this were both the characters, plot development and the writing of course. Let’s take a further look at the plot and its structure first… The story is divided into five parts and uses multiple POVs to tell us the tragic story of two troubled young girls: Hope and Annie. We learn about their terrible and shocking past, the residence where they first met and lived together as well as the events that happened after that dreadful night that ended the life of one of the girls… Not in chronological order, but rather a mix of past and present which slowly gives us more insight in the lives of girls. The full picture is being slowly build up brick by brick, until the full horrifying dimension and consequences of their difficult lives are ultimately revealed.

There are a lot of dark and shocking elements included in The Home, and this story is definitely not for the weak hearted. Oh no, this is not a happy story and reading about the details of the lives of both girls has been horrific to say the least. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but heavy topics such as (child) abuse, child prostitution, teen pregnancy, addiction, rape, murder and mental illness play an all important role in the plot… Once again, it is simply dreadful to think just how tough of a start on life these girls had, and it truly shows their resilience that they even got this far. The darker elements also mean trigger warnings are in place, but each element is developed expertly and respectfully and helps shine light on just how hard and essentially hopeless it can be for kids to fight the terrible hand in life they have been given.

Let’s talk about the characters… The main focus in The Home is on Annie and Hope of course, and to say both girls who have had a very rough life so far is an understatement. It’s hard to discuss the characters in detail without giving away spoilers, but let’s just say that their past and secrets will have some very shocking surprises in store and even though they might not be exactly likeable, your heart will ache for them anyway as you see just how much they suffered and still suffer. Other characters, including Lara, Helen and Ace are less present, but each plays its own role and it has been interesting to discover where each character fits in the story. Especially Ace and both mothers made my blood boil, but a story like this needs its villians for it to be realistic… And that was most definitely achieved here.

The writing is once again simply exquisite. The different POVs, the layout of the plot, the thoughts of what is basically a ‘ghost’, a separate ‘story’ about Annie’s past… Different techniques are used to put together a complex and uniquely crafted story that will mostly definitely blow your socks off. Along with an emotional rollercoaster, and with lighter moments (including the relationship between the two girls) balancing all the dark and disturbing elements of this story, you will also find yourself on a journey looking for the truth behind the death of a young girl. Twists and turns will set you on the wrong track, and feelings of doubt, rage and deep deep sympathy for the girls will make it feel as if there were an emotional tornado inside your heart. Only in the best possible way of course!

There is so much to love in The Home and it is a story that will stay with me for a long time. It’s not an easy read, but it’s beautifully rendered and simply absolutely spot on when it comes to execution. If you are looking for an unique thriller that isn’t afraid to go dark and ugly, you have just found yourself a new read!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home
Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth
hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in
Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in
Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller,
Exquisite, was called ‘the book of the summer’ by Sunday Times.


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ARC REVIEW: The Liar’s Daughter – by Claire Allan

Title: The Liar’s Daughter
Author: Claire Allan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 23rd 2020
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: January 6th 2020 
Pages: 400

“There’s a time in a person’s life, if they are truly, truly wicked, when they move beyond the point of redemption.”

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

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I loved my first experience with Claire Allan‘s psychological thrillers last year and I’ve been looking forward to read more of her work ever since… I was going to read her thriller debut Her Name Was Rose next, but of course I couldn’t say no to reading her newest story The Liar’s Daughter first when the opportunity arose. I admit I was sold as soon as I read the blurb and guessed there would probably be something dark and ominous about this psychological thriller.

The Liar’s Daughter is by no means an easy read and incorporates difficult topics including child abuse, manipulation, cancer and mental health. Especially the first is trigger warning worthy, as it plays a big role in the story and can be hard to stomach in points… That said, I think that Claire Allan did an excellent job both describing and shining a light on the effects and consequences on the victims even years later. Shame, fear and manipulation often force victims to stay silent about their suffering and this story shows just how much it can destroy a life as well as affect those close to the persons involved. I do have to say that I wasn’t a fan of any of the characters though and that includes Ciara and Heidi, who should be easy to feel sympathy for. Joe McKee is of course the true villian despite him being on his deathbed, and he definitely will not win your sympathy (quite the contrary!). Ciara’s partner Stella is probably the most easy to like, although she doesn’t really play a big role in the story as a whole.

Unlikeable characters aside, there is no doubt that The Liar’s Daughter is a super engaging, quick and intriguing read. I literally started and finished it in less than a day! The prose is easy to read and you will find yourself flying through the pages as you want to discover if your guesses turn out to be right. I have to admit that I found the plot to be quite predictable and I guessed a lot of the plot twists really early on. It might just be that I’ve read too many thrillers in recent years, but it did put a minor damper on things… As a whole it was still a very entertaining read though.

The Liar’s Daughter is one of those psychological thrillers you will find yourself reading in record speed despite a somewhat predictable plot. Some parts are quite uncomfortable, especially those related to child abuse and Joe’s character in general, but the situation is well described and used to help shine a light on the problem instead of just looking for a way to ‘spice up’ the plot. If you are looking for a quick and engaging psychological thriller and don’t mind some troubling moments and heavy elements, The Liar’s Daughter is an excellent choice.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Six Wicked Reasons – by Jo Spain #blogtour #SixWickedReasons @QuercusBooks @SpainJoanne

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Six Wicked Reasons blog tour! A huge thanks to Milly Reid and Quercus for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. After enjoying Jo Spain’s work in the past I just couldn’t say no to the chance to read her newest early… And it was without doubt another winner! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Six Wicked Reasons
Author: Jo Spain
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 16th 2020
Publisher: Quercus
Finished reading: December 31st 2019
Pages: 432

“If the detective scratched hard enough, he’d surely find a motive for each of them to have killed Frazer.”

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

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** Happy publication day!! **

One family. One night. Ten years of lies. And six wicked reasons to kill someone. Talk about an enticing blurb! I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of Six Wicked Reasons and I have been looking forward to dive into Jo Spain‘s newest ever since I first heard about it. I had that feeling of premonition that it was going to be a scorcher and one heck of a ride, and guess what?! My intuition turned out to be absolutely right!

The blurb talks about a clever and gripping thriller, and I can definitely agree with that. The power of Six Wicked Reasons is in its slow building up of tension and suspense, only to blow you completely away once you reach the mayor plot twists near the ending. Trust me, you might guess part of it, but you will never guess the full truth of this brilliantly executed and clever plot twist bomb! What a way to mess with the minds of us readers… It doesn’t happen all that often anymore, but I always love it when thrillers manage to surprise me the way Six Wicked Reasons managed to do.

Six Wicked Reasons is told with the help of multiple POVs, giving us insight in both the perspective of the different members of the Lattimer family and those investigating the death of Frazer. I do confess it was a bit of a struggle having to juggle so many different characters and perspectives in the beginning, slowing down the pace considerably and making it harder to keep track of everyone. Especially since each character seemed to be hiding something and is most definitely treated as a suspect, making you want to remember all the details while you search for clues, and this can become a little daunting. BUT. Once you get used to the big cast of characters and start differentiating both their personality traits, little quirks and hints at secrets, things are getting a whole lot more entertaining.

The main focus in Six Wicked Reasons is on two important events: the disappearance (and reappearance after ten years) of one of Frazer Lattimer’s sons, Adam, and the death of Frazer himself. Switching back and forth between past and present, we slowly learn more about the different members of the Lattimer family and what secrets they are hiding. Especially relating to Frazer’s death: everyone seems to be having a plausible motive and reason to want the old man dead, but which of them is guilty? Or was it all an accident? And what happened to Adam all those years ago? There are a lot of questions involved and while some get answered along the way, you will mostly find yourself with more questions than answers during most of the ride. This slow building of suspense definitely makes the bang of the plot twist bomb ending feel all the bigger!

As for the characters… I have to be honest here and say I wasn’t really a fan of most of them. That feeling aside, it definitely shows it wasn’t easy for the Lattimer siblings to grow up with Frazer as a father, and it was truly intriguing to see their flawed characters being developed in a realistic way. They weren’t exactly likeable, but they made for a very interesting cast of characters and I had fun trying to figure them out. The whole question of who was behind Frazer’s death was a great start for some serious sleuthing and you will come to suspect every single one of the persons on that boat. The perfect locked-room mystery and with an outcome I definitely didn’t see coming!

I think I mentioned more than one wicked reason why you should read this thriller in my rambles above… But in short: if you are looking for a well constructed, slow building and cleverly executed thriller with an ending that will blow your mind, make sure to get your copy of Six Wicked Reasons ASAP!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jo Spain is the author of the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Her first book, top ten bestseller With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller. The Confession her first standalone thriller, was a number one bestseller and translated all over the world.

Jo is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, a former political advisor in the Irish parliament and former vice-chair of InterTrade Ireland business body.
She now writes novels and screenplays full-time. Her first co-written TV show TAKEN DOWN was broadcast in Ireland in 2018 and bought by international distributors Fremantle.

Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and four young children. In her spare time (she has four children, there is no spare time really) she likes to read. Her favourite authors include Pierre Lemaitre, Jo Nesbo, Liane Moriarty, Fred Vargas and Louise Penny. She also watches TV detective series and was slightly obsessed with The Bridge, Trapped and The Missing.

Jo thinks up her plots on long runs in the woods. Her husband sleeps with one eye open and all her friends have looked at her strangely since she won her publishing deal.


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ARC REVIEW: The Perfect Mother – by Caroline Mitchell @amazonpub @caroline_writes

Title: The Perfect Mother
Author: Caroline Mitchell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 14th 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 26th 2019
Pages: 368

“People thought they knew her. They hadn’t got a clue.”

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

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I’m a big fan of Caroline Mitchell‘s books and I always look forward to a new one… I was sold soon as I first read the blurb for The Perfect Mother and I have been looking forward to read it ever since. And now I’ve had the chance to read it, I think I might just have found a new favorite title! From start to finish, this story is everything I look for and more in a psychological thriller. I was hooked from the very first page, unable to put down my kindle until I reached that final page, and I literally finished it in less than a day. This might sound like one of those review cliches or oneliners, but it is 200% true when it comes to The Perfect Mother!

There is a lot to love in The Perfect Mother, and I’m struggling a bit to decide where to start. The beginning maybe? The premise of the story is without doubt fascinating. We start with a young and broke Irish woman with an impossible dilemma as to how to solve her current situation. Some of her options might not be orthodox, but there are underlying secrets in play as well that will influence her decision. Conflicting opinions about her decision aside, it without doubt makes for one heck of a story. I’m not sure if I would have trusted the offer as it simply sounded too good to be true, but I guess being desperate makes you overlook the details… Once the story starts taking place in New York, things are getting truly interesting and I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I started discovering what was really going on at the celebrity couple’s house and what secrets they were hiding.

The story is told with the help of multiple POVs and two different settings (Ireland and New York). Focusing mainly on Roz and Sheridan, we slowly learn more about both their past and how the current situation came to be… Multiple plot twists and secrets are hidden along the way to keep you on your toes, and the plot will definitely have some surprises for you in store. The different POVs and settings also give this story a multidimentional feel and definitely enhanced both the plot and the suspense. The Irish setting was well described and really came alive for me; both through the characters and descriptions themselves. The New York setting mostly focuses on the celebrity couple’s house, but those chapters are by no means dull and will definitely satisfy your need for suspense and shocking plot twists.

As for the characters… Even if you don’t agree with what Roz decided to do, she is still quite easy to like and connect to. Her best friend is likewise easy to like and it was interesting to discover what role she played in the story as a whole. I wasn’t a big fan of the celebrity couple, but I guess they are ment to be that way for the story to work and they are intriguing characters to try and decipher. Other New York characters were easier to like, including George, but the most important thing is that each character added a little something extra to the plot and played the role he/she had to play to turn The Perfect Mother into the little masterpiece it is. This book is definitely right at the top of favorite 2020 releases so far, and it is a story that will stay with me for quite some time… If you enjoy a well written, suspenseful and twisty psychological thriller, you should definitely add The Perfect Mother to your wishlist!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #138 – The Family & A Curse So Dark And Lonely

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two 2019 releases belonging to two completely different genres… But both turned out to be winners. I already knew I was going to enjoy The Family, as I love everything Louise Jensen writes, and my instincts were absolutely right! And I had some doubts about A Curse So Dark And Lonely, but I ended up enjoying it a lot better than I hoped I would.


Title: The Family
Author: Louise Jensen

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 3rd 2019 
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: November 30th 2019
Pages: 383

“Family should stick together. Protect each other. Instead, I chose to come here.

This is all my fault.”


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It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of anything Louise Jensen writes, so I guess you can imagine how sad I was when I discovered I couldn’t request an ARC this time around… I preordered a finished copy instead, and I’ve been waiting impatiently to read it ever since my copy arrived. I can now guarantee you: Louise Jensen has done it again. I started reading The Family late on a Friday night and after only a couple of pages I decided to stop before I couldn’t stop anymore… Because I already knew I was going to want to keep reading. And that is what I did the next day: I cleared my schedule, sat down and kept turning those pages until I reached the end. The Family is definitely one of those psychological thrillers you will want to read in one sitting! And between the plot, writing, character development, secrets and twists, you will find it a very easy job to do just so. The story is told using different POVs, sometimes staying with the same character during various chapters and sometimes switching rapidly between chapters and characters. These everchanging dynamics add to the overall suspense of the story and definitely gives The Family a little something extra. The plot itself is fascinating as well. The cult like feel of the Oak Leaf Farm and its inhabitants, the vulnerability of Laura and her daughter, the secrets and twists that keep you guessing… And on top of that, the plot development is simply spot on and truly enhanced the reading experience for me. The main characters themselves are without doubt interesting as well. Flawed, well developed and realistic, they form the bricks this story stands on and they help turning The Family into the psychological thriller masterpiece it is. Fans of the genre are missing out if they haven’t read The Family or her other titles yet!


Title: A Curse So Dark And Lonely
(Cursebreakers #1)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: January 29th 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Finished reading: December 1st 2019
Pages: 496

“We are all dealt a hand at birth. A good hand can ultimately lose – just as a poor hand can win – but we must all play the cards the fate deals. The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.”


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There has been quite some hype around A Curse So Dark And Lonely this year, and you all know how hyped books and me tend to get along… I’ve been avoiding this first book of a new series by Brigid Kemmerer to be honest, but I just couldn’t resist any longer when I was in the mood for a little something different. I haven’t read nearly enough YA high fantasy this year, and it turns out I was long overdue for a dose of the genre. I ended up enjoying A Curse So Dark And Lonely so much more than I hoped I would! While it’s true that I’m not a big fan of Rhen, I LOVED Grey’s character and Harper was a solid lead as well. The details involving Emberfall and its curse are without doubt intriguing and well developed too. It was interesting to see fantasy and the real world collide and there was quite a some action involved as well. I also appreciated that the romance wasn’t omni-present in this first book. Instead, it’s mostly slowburn romance with only a hint at a possible love triangle… And I just loved the romance between Jack and Noah! A Curse So Dark And Lonely definitely ends with a cliffhanger though, so I’m happy the wait for the sequel won’t be too long. I do hope we’ll see more of Grey in the second book, or else I would probably end up quite disappointed…


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YVO’S SHORTIES #135 – The Overdue Life Of Amy Byler & The Turn Of The Key

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! And another round of Goodreads Choice Awards finalists I wanted to read before my final vote last month… The Overdue Life Of Amy Byler sadly wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, but The Turn Of The Key without doubt blew me away.


Title: The Overdue Life Of Amy Byler
Author: Kelly Harms

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 1st 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: November 22nd 2019
Pages: 328

“Sometimes a book about other people’s problems is way better than your own.”


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I was in the mood for a romcom and I always love bookish elements in my stories, so I really thought I was going to love The Overdue Life Of Amy Byler… But although I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, somehow I didn’t end up enjoying myself as much as I thought I would. The premise of this story sounds like perfect (albeit cliche) romcom material. Amy’s adventure in New York should have been super fun to read about with that whole ‘spring break for moms’ vibe and lots of bookish references to keep any bookworm happy. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED the bookish elements in The Overdue Life Of Amy Byler and it’s probably the main reason I kept reading. Because somehow I felt that the spark of the main story was missing. It was all just a bit too cliche for me and I felt that the main characters lacked development or were at least too much built on stereotypes. I wasn’t happy with the whole cheating angle and Amy’s behavior in the present either… And I wasn’t able to connect to the main characters as I thought despite the bookish elements. Sadly this story just fell flat for me, but I know I’m in the minority so definitely give this book a chance if you think it’s your cup of tea. It looks like I’m in the unpopular opinion corner again!


Title: The Turn Of The Key
Author: Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: August 6th 2019
Publisher: Gallery
Finished reading: November 23rd 2019
Pages: 352

“I am telling you the truth. The unvarnished, ugly truth. And it is all that. It is unpolished and unpleasant, and I don’t pretend I acted like an angel. But I didn’t kill anyone. I just fucking didn’t.”


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The Death Of Mrs. Westaway blew me away when I read it six months ago… When I started hearing people mention her newest story The Turn Of The Key was even better, I knew I had to read it myself ASAP to see if I would have the same reaction. And blow me away it did! Holy guacamole, what an ending!! That ending definitely left me flabbergasted and staring at that final page, wondering if I should have seen it coming… But the fact is that I didn’t, so mission accomplished. The Turn Of The Key gave off serious Mama (the horror movie) vibes and the Heatherbrae House and its surroundings and history are the perfect creepy background for this psychological thriller. Like the house itself, this story is a mix of gothic and modern technology, combined harmoniously to create a perfectly balanced and oh so creepy plot. There was an omnious feel to everything that happens to Rowan and the family she starts working for… The hint at the paranormal is subtle but effective. I really liked the structure of the plot as well, with Rowan writing a letter from prison explaining exactly what happened. The pace might not be the fastest in the beginning, but I personally didn’t mind as it gave more time to fully absorb what was going on and soak up that omnious feeling that something was going to go wrong sooner than later… Towards the end, plot twist bombs are suddenly being thrown at you, giving you a string of shocking reveals to deal with as you finally start to discover the truth about Heatherbrae House, the main characters and their past and secrets. Oh yes, The Turn Of The Key is without doubt a brilliant psychological thriller read!


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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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