ARC REVIEW: Among Friends – by Heather Murray

Title: Among Friends (Travels In Cuba)
Author: Heather Murray

Genre: Non Fiction, Travel, Memoir
First published: October 6th 2016
Finished reading: April 20th 2017
Pages: 298

“Ephemeral things are tragic because they are never repeated, but they are wonderful because they may be kept in memories in our brain, and they may be recollected as many times as we wish.”

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

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I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a lot during my early twenties and exploring different cultures/countries is still something I’m really passionate about. When I was contacted about Among Friends: Travels In Cuba I immediately knew I wanted to read this memoir, especially since one of my best friends actually went to Cuba for a month in January and I wanted to compare experiences. I admit my knowledge of Cuban history and culture is pretty basic, since my University courses mainly focused on South America… So I was looking forward to learn more about this country. One of the first things that stands out in this travel memoir written by Heather Murray is the lack of political talk, something I’m rather grateful for to be honest. Instead, the author focuses on her own experiences while visiting Cuba various times during the span of eight years; the last time being in 2015. I agree it’s really hard (maybe even impossible) to get a proper feel of a country as an outsider/foreigner, but I enjoyed reading her experiences while visiting Havana and various other destinations in Cuba. Her friendship with Julian and other Cubans definitely help to shed some light on how life really was lived by the Cubans during those years… And I liked how detailed the descriptions of the various places she visited were. The prose was easy to read and all in all it was an enjoyable travel memoir. Low on social-cultural and political details, but highly entertaining for those who enjoy the genre!

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Spread over a period of eight years, Heather Murray travels to Cuba various times to visit her friend Julian. What started out as two collegues writing letters grew into a friendship when she traveled to Cuba for the first time for a conference… The country and its people made a big impact and various visits followed afterwards. Both Havana and other provinced to the west and east are explored with the help of Julian and other Cubans; and the country definitely shows some changes over the years. This memoir is packed with personal experiences and many detailed descriptions of the various destinations in Cuba.

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If you are looking for a well written, entertaining and ‘light’ travel memoir that focuses on the travel and daily life of the locals rather than the more serious topics, Among Friends is without doubt an excellent choice. The descriptions of the various destinations and excursions are very well done and I could almost imagine being there myself as well. As stated in this memoir, it shows that Cuba has been through some changes in the last ten years and it shows… At least that is what my friend told as well. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: Life Sentence – by Lily Luchesi

Title: Life Sentence
(Paranormal Detectives #3)
Author: Lily Luchesi

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
First published: July 31st 2017
Publisher: Vamptasy Publishing
Finished reading: April 15th 2017
Pages: ?

“Not all monsters are murderers. However, all hunters are. Your kind do not understand our ways. You have murdered my friends. You have murdered employees of mine. You have murdered werewolves who fight for king and country in the wars. All because you fear what you cannot understand.”

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

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I read the first book of this series back in January and the sequel earlier this month. Life Sentence is the third book in the Paranormal Detectives series and it will also be the last vampire book I will read. Why? I’m simply not a fan of vampires and I seem to be enjoying any story with the mention of these fanged creatures a lot less than others who don’t mind or even like them. It just doesn’t seem fair to the authors to keep reading a genre that doesn’t seem to be a good fit in the first place… So consider this review as my goodbye party to vampire stories. Only the ‘fake’ blood is missing!

Even though I seem to be allergic to vampires, I’v enjoyed this series a lot better than I thought I would. Like I’ve mentioned before, in Paranormal Detectives it’s not just about vampires: werewolves, witches and even demons make their appearance. This third book is an improvement of the second book as well, mostly because the annoying love triangle in book two is no longer in the picture. Once again the many flashbacks to the past were my favorite parts of this story and Danny’s psychic abilities are an interesting twist as well. There is a lot of action and the pace is fast; if you are looking for an entertaining supernatural read you will most likely enjoy this series!

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

After all what happened during their confrontation with Miranda, Angelica and Danny will have to adjust to the many changes in their lives… Both their personal life and at the Paranormal Investigative Division. The previous threat is still hanging above them and they will have to gather all their strength to be able to finally get rid of her forever. But will they adapt to the new reality of their lives? And can this kind of evil be beaten in the first place?

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What I like of this series is that it isn’t just another vampire story. There are a bunch of different supernatural creatures involved and they are actually dangerous like they are supposed to be. Another bonus is that there isn’t a lot of romance involved; the main focus is on the action and history of the main characters. If you like this kind of stories, you are definitely in for a treat!


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ARC REVIEW: Miranda’s Rights – by Lily Luchesi

Title: Miranda’s Rights
(Paranormal Detectives #2)
Author: Lily Luchesi

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
First published: January 8th 2016
Publisher: Vamptasy Publishing
Finished reading: April 8th 2017
Pages: 128

“Angelica commented that they looked like the most fucked up family in the world. A full vamp, a vamplet and a human, sitting in a bar. They were the start of a bad joke.”

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

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I read the first Paranormal Detectives book back in January and finally found time to continue the series this month. I have to be honest and say I’m not a fan of vampire stories, and that is probably one of the reasons I’m enjoying this series a lot less than other readers. In fact, I’ve decided this series will be the last time I read a story involving these fanged creatures, because it just doesn’t seem fair to the authors reading a genre that doesn’t seem a good fit in the first place.

That said, what probably saved the Paranormal Detectives series and this sequel for me is the fact that it’s not just about vampires; there are a lot of other supernatural creatures involved as well. Werewolves, witches and even demons make their appearance, although the main focus is on vampires as one of the main characters is a vamplet. For a paranormal romance story, there isn’t all that much romance involved (although this sequel does have a love triangle, more romance scenes and it can get a bit sappy). The main focus is on the action, revenge and fights though, and I can really appreciate that. The flashbacks to the different points in history are interesting as well; they are probably my favorite part of the story and explain more about the characters as well. Miranda’s Rights is also a fast read and fans of the genre will probably enjoy it a lot better than I did.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first  book yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Danny Mancini has never truly come to terms with the fact that paranormal creatures actually exist, and what he would like most is just forget about the last few months of his life. But that wish doesn’t seem to come true as cursed werewolves show up at his doorstep and try to kill him. He is forced to go back to the Paranormal Investigative Division as his life is at risk… And they need all the help they can get against a powerful old enemy.

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As I said before, my experience with Miranda’s Rights and this series has probably more to do with the fact that I hate vampire stories than the actual story. The story itself is easy to read and has a lot of action; the flashback moments are an interesting way of learning more about the characters. There was a considerable increase in the amount of romance scenes though, and I’m not a fan of the love triangle. Maybe because Miranda felt a bit flat as a character? I’m still curious about what happens next and like I said, if you like the genre definitely give this series a try.


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ARC REVIEW: Blood Moon – by John David Bethel

Title: Blood Moon
Author: John David Bethel

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 4th 2016
Publisher: Tell-Tale Publishing Group
Finished reading: April 2nd 2017
Pages: 355

“When your life is on the line, you can do a lot of things you never thought possible.”

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

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April is going to be all about the ARC readathon, so what better way than to start the month with an ARC?! I’ve had Blood Moon pending for a while now. I remember reading the blurb back when I was offered a copy and being intrigued by the brutality of the case and the note that part of the story was actually based on a true event. This fact alone adds a whole different level to Blood Moon, because the main character goes through a LOT: it’s basically a miracle he was able to survive. I think it was a wise choice to include the introduction and explain more about the original case; some readers might have ended up questioning the credibility of the plot otherwise. Blood Moon is an interesting read with a lot of action and violent/graphic scenes (little warning in case you don’t like those!). The prose reads easily and the pace is fast, as you might already expect for these kind of stories. I also liked the use of Spanish by some of the characters as it added without doubt authenticity to the story. And while initially I had my doubts about the obvious grammar mistakes in the Spanish dialogues, they turned out to be an accurate imitation of how Spanish is actually spoken on the streets of Miami (as was clarified by the author). In short, if you enjoy reading fast-paced thrillers and don’t mind a healthy dose of violence and graphic scenes, definitely give Blood Moon a go. The whole story is intriguing!

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Just as the Cuban-American businessman Recidio Suarez is about to leave his business, he is brutally beaten and abducted. He finds himself handcuffed, shackles and blindfolded in an unknown building, and he has no clue as to why he has been targeted in the first place. The kidnappers accuse him of stealing, but Recidio doesn’t remember ever having stolen something. And then he recognizes a voice, and knows he is in big trouble. Recidio is tortured and threatened; forced to hand over his multi-million dollar holdings to his captors. Somehow he manages to survive, but his story doesn’t end there… As nobody seems to believe Recidio’s story except for his lawyer and family.

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The plot of Blood Moon is a story almost too incredible to be true, and I guess that if I hadn’t read the introduction first I would have thought it to be not that plausible. But it is all too real what the main character Recidio has to go through… And the whole ordeal definitely makes for an excellent as well as horrific thriller story. Fast-paced and easy to read, action-packed and gritty; if you like the genre, you will enjoy this one.


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ARC REVIEW: Silence Under Screams – by Collin Henderson

Title: Silence Under Screams
Author: Collin Henderson

Genre: Short Stories, Horror, Thriller
First published: October 19th 2016
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Finished reading: March 30th 2017
Pages: 108

“I could hear the sound of my own breathing over the humming in the room. It filled my ears, quickened my heart, took control of me and didn’t let me go.”

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

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I’m a bit ashamed it took me this long to pick up this collection of short horror stories, but I’m glad I finally gave Silence Under Screams a go. I was in the mood for a proper horror read to inaugurate the upcoming Autumn months, and this was just what I was looking for. This collection by Collin Henderson is a real treat: you get to have FOUR different horror subgenres/styles all in one bundle!

I will be doing this review slightly different than usual and both give a summary and my thoughts on each of the four short stories below instead of having different sections.

 Silence Under Scream starts out strong with a short story called Old Strings… Basically a tribute to every B horror movie out there and delightfully creepy! It’s about a crazy Hollywood director coming back as a puppet and has all the classic B horror movie moments. A lone cabin in the woods… Check. Creepy creature attack moment… Check. Lots of graphic scenes… Check. Classic surprise moment… Check. Do you need more? A little warning for swearing and graphic descriptions, but Old Strings was one of my personal favorites.

The second story is called Deus Ex Corpus, and is without doubt something completely different. It belongs to a genre called bizzaro and partly inspired by an author called Jeremy Robert Johnson. I have to admit it might have been a bit too much for me to handle… This story is about a strange sect worshipping a strange god and an undercover journalist trying to get her next article, and it was without doubt nothing like I have ever read before. It’s a bit too weird to my taste and is packed with heavily graphic scenes… Don’t read it if you are grossed out easily or don’t tolerate for example the mention of body fluids. It does seem to be a good example of the genre though.

The third story is probably the most ‘light’ horror read and is mostly phsychological. It’s called Stranger and sort of a coming of age story where a trauma/scary childhood moment keeps haunting the main characters as they grow up. I liked the fact that the ‘monster’ appeared in their nightmares and how things evolved. It’s not too scary, but without doubt still an interesting read (and maybe a welcome little break from the graphic scenes as well.)

The final story is called Fake Man Watches and is without doubt fascinating. It shows that the author is trying to give the story a ‘Stephen King‘ feel, because I had exactly that impression while I was reading it. It’s probably my favorite of the bunch and it is also the longest story of the collection. As in most of King‘s stories, Fake Man Watches talks about a very realistic situation and adds a surreal element to it with just the right dose of creepy… The abusive situation at home both Stephanie and Justin have to endure is something all too real unfortunately, and is very well described. I also liked the ‘fantasy’ element and the whole final scene in the cabin in the woods. Lots of twists for such a short story as well!

As you might have guessed already, I really enjoyed reading this collection of horror stories. My favorite would be between Fake Man Watches and Old Strings for completely different reasons; the first for the mix of different elements and just the right dose of suspense and terror, the second for the entertaintment factor and tribute to B horror movies in general. My least favorite would be Deus Ex Corpus, but that’s more due to the fact that the genre and me simply aren’t a good fit. In short, if you are looking for a proper horror read, enjoy reading short stories and appreciate a variety of different horror (sub)genres represented in the same bundle, Silence Under Screams is an excellent choice. Just be warned that especially the first two stories can get really graphic!


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ARC REVIEW: The Last Gods Of Indochine – by Samuel Ferrer

Title: The Last Gods Of Indochine
Author: Samuel Ferrer

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Signal 8 Press
Finished reading: March 13th 2017
Pages: 422

“I told Jean-Luc I feared entering a world where everyone is a stranger; the truth is, I am escaping from a world where everyone knew me too well.”

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

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I confess I’m terribly behind with my ARCs and this historical fiction story was long overdue. The Last Gods Of Indochine belongs to one of my favorite genres and both the Cambodian setting, era and reference to local mythology had me intrigued immediately. This novel by Samuel Ferrer surely didn’t disappoint. The Last Gods Of Indochine is mostly set in Cambodia and has two main storylines: one set in the 1920s and one set in the 13th century. I was instantly charmed by the story of Paaku the Lotus-Born all those centuries ago, and the mythology and ideas of his world are intriguing. His chapters are without doubt my favorite part of this novel, and I enjoyed learning more about both his world and his character. I wasn’t instantly convinced by Jacquie on the other hand, and it took me some time to connect to her. It was very interesting to read about her journey to Cambodia though and the circumstances under which both her grandfather before her and Jacquie herself had to travel in those days. I also particularly enjoyed their travels within Cambodia and it was nice to see both storylines slowly connect. In short, The Last Gods Of Indochine is a well written historical fiction story with an intriguing plot and a fascinating read in general for fans of the genre.

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In medieval Cambodia, Paaku the Lotus-Born is an orphan raised by a Vishu priest. One day something incredible happens and the community starts to believe Paaku might be the incarnation of a god… Something that might turn out to be dangerous for him and he is not sure if he wants that title in the first place. Meanwhile, in 1921, Jacquie follows the footsteps of her grandfather and travels to Indochina. Her grandfather was a famous explorer who died during his travels, and Jacquie wants to learn more about the country he explored. Soon she starts learning about the tragedy of Paaku’s history and the storylines slowly intertwine…

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If you enjoy reading well written historical fiction stories with an interesting setting and a touch of (Asian) mythology, The Last Gods Of Indochine is an excellent choice. Two stories set in two completely different centuries slowly start to intertwine… And the ‘modern’ world clashes with the medieval story. I had a great time reading this novel and especially Paaku’s POV stood out from me. Such a fascinating story!


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ARC REVIEW: I Found You – by Lisa Jewell

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Title: I Found You
Author: Lisa Jewell

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
First published: June 30th 2016
Publisher: Arrow
Finished reading: March 2nd 2017
Pages: 448

“The world is full of stories. But the one story he really needs to know is buried somewhere so deep inside him he’s scared he’ll never get to it.”

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

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Basically this book has been on my radar ever since I first found out about it, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when my Netgalley request was actually approved. Let’s face it, the whole amnesia angle has been used a lot lately in psychological thrillers and this element on its own isn’t all that original anymore. However, something about the blurb of I Found You instantly caught my attention and had me wonder about the story behind the main characters. And my instincts were right, because this psychological thriller by Lisa Jewell has literally blown me away. Such fascinating main characters and character development! The writing style and the plot managed to draw me in right from the start and the different storylines only help adding to the initial suspense. The plot twists are executed brilliantly and kept you guessing about the true identities and what really happened right until the end. Twisted, suspenseful, well written, intriguing plot… I Found You definitely has it all. The fact that one of the main characters (‘Frank’) has amnesia might not be original, but the plot itself is without doubt fascinating. If you like the genre, you will definitely enjoy this little gem. This version is due to be published in two days!

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In East Yorkshire, single mum Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. The man doesn’t seem to remember anything and doesn’t have anything on him to identify him either… And when his memory doesn’t come back, Alice decides to invite him into her home against better judgement. He could be anyone after all… But Alice is determined to help the stranger, now called ‘Frank’ by the family just so he has a name. Memories are slowly coming back to him, but it is hard for Frank to make sense of them… And what about the husband of Lily Monrose, who disapeared one evening and left her all alone in a foreign country? Are the two cases related? Or simply a coincidence?

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If you enjoy reading suspenseful psychological thrillers with interesting characters and surprising plot twists, you will probably enjoy I Found You as much as I did. I was hooked right from the start and had a great time finding out more about the main characters, what really happened in the past and what happened to Lily’s husband as well. The writing style is a really treat and I can definitely recommend this book.


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