YVO’S SHORTIES #153 – I’ll Be Gone In The Dark & If I Stay

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two backlist titles with a completely different target group and genre, but both I’ve been meaning to read for a while and both were stories I ended up enjoying. The true crime title I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara and If I Stay by Gayle Forman.


Title: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark
Author: Michelle McNamara

Genre: Non Fiction, True Crime
First published: February 27th 2018
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: February 25th 2020
Pages: 340

“If you commit murder and then vanish, what you leave behind isn’t just pain but absence, a supreme blankness that triumphs over everything else.”


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True crime has always intrigued me, so I’m not sure why I don’t pick it up more often… I’ve been meaning to read I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara ever since it was first published two years ago, but somehow I just never got to it. I’m happy I finally did pick it up though. I confess I hadn’t heard of the Golden State Killer before, so this book was a true goldmine filled to the brim with information about his crimes and the investigation as it evolved both back in the 1970s and 1980s when they were first investigated as well as the cold case investigation in the 21st century with the help of DNA tests. True crime journalist Michelle McNamara played a big role in the investigation around the identity behind the Golden State Killer and it is sad that her untimely death ment she wasn’t able to see the guy finally get caught in 2018… Still, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark shows just how talented and determined the author was in her investigation and I can imagine just how big of a help she was in uncovering the truth after all that time. The details of the Golden State Killer crimes, both the rapes, home invasions and the murders, are pretty brutal and it’s hard to believe that with so many victims and attacks he was still able to escape justice for this long… I’ll Be Gone In The Dark doesn’t sugarcoat the graphic and gruesome facts, and definitely makes you glad you weren’t living in the areas mentioned back then… Or at least rethink about how terrifying the knowledge that someone dangerous is prowling close to where you live is, and how difficult it would be to defend yourself if he suddenly shows up in your bedroom that way. Definitely not a read for those with a weak stomach, but more than recommended if you are a true crime fan!


Title: If I Stay
(If I Stay #1)
Author: Gayle Forman

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 2nd 2009
Publisher: Speak
Finished reading: March 3rd 2020
Pages: 196

“He got it before I did. If I stay. If I live. It’s up to me.”


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I’m probably the last person on the planet to read this one! I’ve been meaning to try If I Stay for years now, but to be honest I wasn’t so sure if this story would be for me… I was afraid it was going to be too sappy and cliche for me, and that the hype around it simply wasn’t worth it. I confess I kept my expectations low, and the unexpected happened: I ended up being so much more invested in this story about Mia and Adam than I thought I would be! While I do feel part of the plot is a bit cliche, and especially the flashbacks can be a bit slow, there were also other elements I really loved. The most important of them being just how important music is throughout the story. Both the classical cello and the rock guitar come together beautifully and also represent the different characters in play in If I Stay… Somehow I ended up rooting for Mia and Adam despite the cliches, and I loved the fact that we saw the present story progress from the point of view of Mia’s unconscious self. Definitely an unique angle! The story introduces questions about life and death and it was intriguing to see Mia struggle to decide whether to stay or let go after this tragedy… Cliches and sometimes slow pace aside, I had a great time reading If I Stay and I might even have almost shed a tear or two at some point.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #148 – Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet & What We Saw

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two backlist titles I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and both turned out to be excellent reads. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford was both hardbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, and while What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler is without doubt a darker read, the heavy elements including rape and victim shaming are excellently and realistically portrayed.


Title: Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: January 27th 2009
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Finished reading: February 3rd 2020
Pages: 396

“The hardest choices in life aren’t between what’s right and what’s wrong but between what’s right and what’s best.”


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I confess I have been meaning to read Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet for years now, and last year I thought getting a physical copy would help making me finally read it. It still took me way longer than expected, but I finally did! I think it’s probably known by now that I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction and this story is able to give us an original angle. Set in Seattle during the war, the focus is on the Chinese and Japanese community and the threats the Japanese community receives as a direct consequence of Japan’s role in WWII. Main characters Henry and Keiko are able to describe this inner conflict, the racism and the consequences for the Japanese community perfectly. Switching between 1942-1945 and 1986 and between young and old Henry, we slowly learn more about the events that started and blossomed the friendship between Henry and Keiko as well as the more serious events involving the Japanese community as a whole. On top of that we have a wonderful extra element in the form of jazz music and Sheldon, who was such a lovely character and he definitely added a little something extra to the story as well as both him and his music providing a red thread to weave the past and present together. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet is a beautifully written, poignant and sometimes heartbreaking read, but not without a note of hope… And it is able to describe the race problematics and injustice for all those innocent Japanese families perfectly. I’m positive any historical fiction fan will have an excellent time reading this wonderful story about Henry and Keiko!


Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Finished reading: February 4th 2020
Pages: 336

“I wonder which is worse: the fear of the unknown? Or knowing for sure that something terrible is true?”


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I’ve been wanting to read What We Saw for a while now, and I’m definitely glad my TBR jar thought it was time to finally pick it up. I already knew this wasn’t going to be an easy read with the rape and victim blaming topic, and it is without doubt trigger warning worthy… That said, I thought the author did an excellent job portraying the whole situation as well as shining an all important light on the topic. Sadly the events as described What We Saw are all too real and sadly rape victims like Stacey become victims all over again when nobody believes their story and people simply say ‘she had it coming’ or ‘she asked for it with the way she dressed and by being wasted’ without knowing the facts… It was interesting to see the whole story from Kate’s POV as she wasn’t directly involved or too close to the victim. Instead, we see the whole situation as an ‘outsider’ wanting to uncover the truth and not accept what everybody wants or finds it easy to believe as the truth… And showing in the process how hard it can be to go against the popular kids and just how far victim blaming can go. What We Saw is definitely a darker read, but the heavy elements including rape and victime blaming/shaming are excellently and realistically portrayed. If you can stomach it, it makes for a very interesting read!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #142 – The Unhoneymooners & Nothing To Lose

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books I ended up enjoying a lot and I literally flew through them. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren has once again proven to me I can really enjoy the romance genre if it’s done right and I’m in the right mood for me. Nothing To Lose by Victoria Selman is an entertaining sequel, although book three is still my favorite of the series so far…


Title: The Unhoneymooners
Author: Christina Lauren

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 14th 2019
Publisher: Gallery Books
Finished reading: January 2nd 2020
Pages: 416

“Warily, I leave this deceptively upbeat version of Satan in the living room to go get my suit on and pack a bag.”


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Huh, a romance title on It’s All About Books? I know, I know, it’s not exactly a genre I tend to read a lot, especially if there are sexy scenes involved, but there was just something about The Unhoneymooners that made me want to read it. And guess what? This book came exactly at the right time for me and I ended up having so much fun reading it! Nothing better than a proper and funny contemporary romance to help taking a little break from all those thriller reads… This was definitely a winner for me. The Unhoneymooners gave off pretty strong The Hating Game vibes, with the ‘enemy to lover’ trope and just the right amount of snarkiness and humor… And as I loved that story last year, I was more than happy with this comparison! From the setting in Maui to the writing, plot, characters and humor; everything worked perfectly together and I had a great time following Olive and Ethan during and after their time in Maui. While a certain character was absolutely despicable (you know who if you have read the story already), it was really easy to like both Olive and Ethan and their snarkiness and awkward moments made for a very entertaining read. And yes, I didn’t even mind the sexy scenes, which is a miracle on its own haha. I can understand why fans of the genre would absolutely adore The Unhoneymooners and I definitely want to read more of this author duo now. Yay for having more romance authors to turn to for when I’m in need of a change of genre!


Title: Nothing To Lose
(Ziba MacKenzie #2)
Author: Victoria Selman

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 26th 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: January 3rd 2020
Pages: 356

“Serial murderers always make the headlines. It’s the rubbernecker phenomenon: evil fascinates us. But when it’s on our doorstep all that changes.”


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I decided to pick up the Ziba Mackenzie sequel almost immediately after finishing the first book so I’d have one less series to catch up with in 2020. While I thought the first book wasn’t nearly as strong as the third, I was really curious to see how book two would connect the two and how certain character developments and events were explained. And I have to admit that while book three is still my favorite of the series, I had a great time reading Nothing To Lose and managed to finish it in less than a day. If you like your thrillers fast, action-packed and filled with suspenseful moments, this series is definitely for you! That said, Ziba did once again bother me considerably in this sequel. Her arrogance and constant need to prove and repeat just how tough and badass she is really started to get on my nerves. It made her character a lot harder to like and also distracted from the plot… Although I’m happy that I at least didn’t have the same feeling when I read the third book last month. The plot of Nothing To Lose is without doubt an exciting one, and even evolves around two completely different cases: the active murder investigation of a new serial killer Ziba is assigned to and the mystery around the death of her husband Duncan two years ago. It might have been a bit much to handle, but there is also no doubt that as a consequence you won’t find a boring minute in Nothing To Lose and the suspense is high. This is definitely one of those series that keeps improving its quality with each book! I was surprised not to find any mention of one of the prominent characters (Dr Vernon Sange) of book three in this sequel though…


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YVO’S SHORTIES #141 – On The Bright Side & Blood For Blood

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time I’m catching up with series… I’ve been wanting to read On The Bright Side ever since my first meeting with Hendrik Groen, and while I do prefer the first book, it was an excellent second meeting. And I wanted to read the first two books of the Ziba MacKenzie series after loving the third book last month, and while I do prefer that one Blood For Blood was still a very entertaining read.


Title: On The Bright Side
(Hendrik Groen #2)
Author: Hendrik Groen

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: January 27th 2016
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: December 27th 2019
Pages: 437
(Originally written in Dutch: ”Zolang er leven is)

“The most salient hallmark of life in an old-age home may well be the lack of duties or responsabilities. Everything is taen care of for you. There is no need for reflection. Life goes down as easily as custard without any lumps.”


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I loved my first meeting with Hendrik Groen, his character and personality reminding me of all time favorite Ove, and I have been waiting impatiently to meet up with him again in the sequel On The Bright Side. This series is written in diary form where we follow the daily life and adventures of an elderly Dutch man at his care home in Amsterdam. The Old-But-Not-Dead Club once again makes its appearance, along with the already known and treasured members of course. This is definitely a case where you should read the first book before starting the sequel, because you won’t understand or keep apart the characters otherwise! While it’s true that I thought that the sequel was a tiny bit slower and I enjoyed the first book a tiny bit better, I still loved spending time with Hendrik and the others. The diary entries are not only used to discuss daily life in a care home, but also talks about national and international happenings and politics. We also get to know the other main characters even better, albeit always through Hendrik’s eyes. On The Bright Side gives us humor and lighter moments as well as more heavy topics and there are definitely some sad moments before you reach the final page. If you loved A Man Called Ove you should definitely put meeting Hendrik on your list! His grumpy and slightly cheeky character is a true delight for anyone who can appreciate a truly unique character.


Title: Blood For Blood
(Ziba MacKenzie #1)
Author: Victoria Selman

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: February 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 30th 2019
Pages: 319

“I’ve been studying signature murderers for years. I know what drives them. I know what makes them tick. And I know that, like me, they’re also profilers.”


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I always try reading series in order, but sometimes mistakes are made and I didn’t realize Snakes And Ladders was the third book of a series when I got a copy on Netgalley. After loving that book and my first meeting with Ziba MacKenzie, I made a vow to myself to pick up the first two books ASAP while memories were still fresh… With the bonus that I would have one less series to catch up with in 2020 afterwards. Blood For Blood started with a bang and while this first book shows just how much this series has grown over time, I still had a great time reading it. It’s a quick, fast and entertaining read and I managed to read it in no time at all! While it’s true that I thought that Ziba was a bit too full-on, bitchy, arrogant and too eager to prove to everyone just how tough she is in Blood For Blood, I still liked her profiler angle and it was interesting to see where her character started and how she evolved over time. I also had some doubts about the credibility of certain aspects and plot twists, including the treasurehunt and certain actions of Ziba, but if you like your thrillers entertaining, fast and full of action you will find it quite easy to overlook those. I definitely didn’t realize hours had passed while I was flying through Blood For Blood!


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ARC REVIEW: The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright – by Beth Miller

Title: The Missing Letters Of Mrs Bright
Author: Beth Miller
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 9th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: December 4th 2019
Pages: 327

“I wanted to try whatever life I had left without that net. Close my eyes and take a leap of faith.”

*** 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 know I don’t read contemporary romance all that often, but I like mixing up my genres every once in a while and there was just something about The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright that made me want to read it instantly. I think it was a combination of the blurb itself and the comparison to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and A Man Called Ove; two of my favorite books with characters I absolutely adored. And the blurb definitely sounded like main character Kay was going to have the same vibe, so I was superexcited to finally meet her. I might have set my expectations a tad too high, because somehow I didn’t end up enjoying this story as much as I thought I would… I’ll try to explain why.

First of all I have to stress that The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright is by no means a bad read, and the rating reflects my personal reaction to this story and its characters rather than the quality of the story. There is a lot to love in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright, and depending on how you react to the main characters your reading experience might just be completely different from my own… First of all, we have the bookish elements. Not only does main character Kay’s husband own multiple bookshops, but we see other references as well throughout the story. I always love those little references in my books, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Another element I loved was travel related; not only that Kay wants to spread her wings and start seeing the world, but also those descriptions and chapters set in Australia and especially those in Venice. This Italian city really came alive for me in the descriptions and was one of the highlights of this book for me.

I also loved the idea behind the letters, and some actually being incorporated into the plot between chapters. This most definitely added an original touch! The plot itself is intriguing enough and uses multipe POVs to help us understand how different people react to Kay’s decision to leave her husband of twentynine years and start doing things she has always wanted to but never has. There is the underlying worry and mystery around Bear of course as well, and it was interesting to see things develop and secrets slowly coming to light. The writing was easy on the eye and superfast to read, and in many ways this is the perfect contemporary romance read.

What went wrong for me then? I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of the reason is pretty clear: the main characters. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the characters as I thought I would. I had issues with various decisions and personality traits of more than one character, and this really put a damper on things… I won’t go too much into details to avoid spoilers, but I wasn’t a fan of Kay and her selfishness after her decision. I fully get she has the right to a life of her own, but she truly only thinks of herself and doesn’t seem to care too much of what her children and friends are going through… And that was not the only thing that annoyed me about her. I wasn’t able to warm up to Stella, Edward or Richard either, although I did like Newland, Rose and even Piet. What I absolutely detested was the whole cheating angle, but that is just a personal reaction as I never respond well to this element in a story…

I did love the food element in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though. The descriptions of the food really made me crave those dishes and I actually prepared my curry recipe as a result afterwards. There were a lot of other things I enjoyed as well, like mentioned above, but as a whole something just didn’t click for me and I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. Fans of the contemporary romance genre might just have a fantastic time with The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though! Definitely give this story a chance if you think it might be your cup of tea, because it seems like I’m in the minority with this one.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #136: The Fountains Of Silence & Recursion

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two Goodreads Choice Awards finalists both written by authors I’ve loved books of in the past… And this time around they turned out to be winners as well. The Fountains Of Silence is hands down my new favorite Ruta Sepetys and one of my top reads this year as well. Recursion by Blake Crouch also turned out to be a fascinating read.


Title: The Fountains Of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: October 1st 2019
Publisher: Philomel Books
Finished reading: November 27th 2019
Pages: 512

“What is the cost of silence? If she remains quiet about her suspicions, is she granting acceptance of what is happening?”


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I’ve been a fan of Ruta Sepetys‘ work ever since my first experience with her books, so I knew I HAD to read The Fountains Of Silence even before I discovered it was actually set in Spain during General Franco’s dictatorship. I’ve always had a special interest in Spain and its history, and the fact that this story is mostly set in a city I’ve had the pleasure to live in and love during my Erasmus student exchange made my expectations grow to a record hight. Even so, The Fountains Of Silence managed to completely blow me away and I was left without words to describe my feelings about this story as well as with a new all time favorite to add to my list. It shows that so much research has gone into this story and I bow to the author for her detailed descriptions and thorough information about what happened in that difficult time period in Spain. It’s true that there are quite a few different characters and POVs to deal with, but I personally didn’t mind as it only added to the richness to the plot. Each different character helps giving us some insight in different parts of life in Madrid under Franco’s dictatorship. These same characters will win over your heart almost instantly and your heart will go out for them as their story slowly evolves over time. Daniel and Ana are the stars of this story of course, but there are so many other characters I found myself rooting for and there were without doubt a quite a few heartbreaking moments. Make sure to keep your tissues closeby just to be safe! I loved The Fountains Of Silence from the very first page until the very last… If you are a historical fiction fan who appreciates a complex and rich plot with fantastic descriptions and brilliant character development, you are missing out if you haven’t tried this story yet.


Title: Recursion
Author: Blake Crouch

Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel
First published: June 11th 2019
Publisher: Crown
Finished reading: November 29th 2019
Pages: 336

“We think we’re perceiving the world directly and immediately, but everything we experience is this carefully edited, tape-delayed reconstruction.”


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Dark Matter is on my list of all time favorites, so I’ve been curious about Recursion  ever since I first heard about it. The premise of this story sounds absolutely compelling, and now I’ve had the chance to read this story I can say that it definitely lived up to expectations. It’s true that I don’t read a lot of sci-fi as it’s not really my thing, but I can now officially say that I’m making an exception for Blake Crouch. The idea of time, memories, the memory chair and time travel in Recursion is absolutely fascinating. Using a dual POV, switching between main characters Barry and Helena, we slowly learn more about  Helena’s invention and how her work will change the world forever… I’m keeping this short as I want to avoid any spoilers, but I really liked how the plot was constructed and how the idea of memories and time being fluid plays such a key role in the story. Recursion introduces some fascinating concepts that will definitely make an impact on you. And even if you are not really a sci-fi fan, I can still recommend trying Recursion if you enjoy complex, thrilling and captivating stories.


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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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