ARC REVIEW: Dead Inside – by Noelle Holten @nholten40 @HarperImpulse

Title: Dead Inside
(DC Maggie Jamieson #1)
Author: Noelle Holten
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 31st 2019
Publisher: Killer Reads
Finished reading: May 17th 2019
Pages: 352

“He turned her from a confident, carefree, intelligent woman, into a shell. She felt like nothing. Like she was in someone else’s body, skin, mindset.”

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

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Holy bat in hell, what a read! Now excuse me while I go pick my jaw off the floor… I already had a feeling I was going to enjoy this crime thriller by fellow book blogger and now debut author Noelle Holten, and my expectations were more than met. I literally cancelled all plans, settled down in my favorite reading chair and flew through Dead Inside in one sitting. It was simply brilliant! I loved that we not only have the typical detective (Maggie) to follow, but that we also have a probation officer (Lucy) in the spotlight. It definitely shows in the little details that Noelle worked as a senior probation officer herself for eighteen years, and it was fascinating to see a lesser explored angle being used in a crime thriller. The same goes for criminal psychologist Kate, who brings another refreshing angle to the investigation and it’s these three women together that makes this story work so well. It’s true we don’t get to see all that much of Maggie yet, but I’m having a feeling we will be getting plenty of her in the sequel.

Dead Inside is all about domestic abuse and what effects it has on the victimis and those around them. Signs of abuse are often not easy to see and the victims often feel that the situation they are in is impossible to escape. Psychological abuse is still abuse and harder to discover for outsiders… As someone who has been in a toxic relationship in the past, I know how hard it can be to let go. Trigger warnings are in place for the mentioned abuse, rape, violence and alcoholism. Dead Inside shines a light on domestic abuse from the point of view of both victims and (in a less direct way) abusers. At the same time, we also have an active murder investigation going on with ‘victims’ who don’t exactly arise sympathy. This angle alone is a very intriguing as it makes you wonder about right and wrong and if certain people just had it coming and karma came looking for them, or if even those dirtbags have rights… This story is lightning fast and isn’t afraid to go dark and messy. There are various twists and turns involved in Dead Inside, and while I did see part of it coming, I definitely didn’t guess the final reveal. And what a way to end the story! The whole Bill Raven case sounds fascinatingly disturbing… I already can’t wait to read the sequel and Dead Inside hasn’t even officially been published yet. Crime thriller fans, you have found a new title for your wishlist! Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this outstanding crime thriller debut.


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ARC REVIEW: The Vanishing Season – by Dot Hutchison @amazonpub

Title: The Vanishing Season
(The Collector #4)

Author: Dot Hutchison
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 21st 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: May 11th 2019
Pages: 320

“Sometimes we only recognize our limits once we’ve passed them.”

*** 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’ve been a big fan of The Collector series ever since I read the first book back in 2016, and I have been waiting impatiently for the final installment ever since I read book three last year. There is no doubt that The Vanishing Season delivers. Each book of the series actually follows a different member of the FBI team, and this last book is all about Eliza and Brandon. I personally really appreciate this little detail, as it gives us the opportunity to learn more about certain characters while also still having the bantering between the members of the team. It’s definitely a series best read in order, or else you will be missing important background information about both characters and past cases… But they will be well worth your time. The Vanishing Season has definitely succeeded in making this series go out with a bang. Things are going to get very personal and cold cases are going to get mixed with a current kidnapping case in a way you won’t be able to guess easily. There are twists and turns involved to mislead you and while you may get some details right, it will be impossible to imagine the full truth about the who, how and why until the very end. And you won’t be able to keep it dry by the time you reach the final page either… A part of this reaction has to do with the characters and how easy it is to connect to and basically adopt them. I personally love all members of the FBI team, flaws and all, and their bantering and dry humor is right up my alley. I even have a namesake in this series; something that doesn’t happen often! I have seen some people complaining about the use of Spanish, but I personally love those little details as they add an authentic touch to the characters without complicating those readers who don’t understand Spanish. Each character is thoroughly developed during the series and feels realistic; it’s interesting seeing them evolve over time and I loved finding out how everything ended. The second half of The Vanishing Season is basically an emotional rollercoaster and there will most likely be tears involved if you were able to connect to the characters previously. I found myself flying through the pages as I was dying to discover how it all ended; I literally couldn’t put down my kindle until I got there. I liked how everything wrapped up nicely and I was more than satisfied with this final book of the series. The Vanishing Season and The Summer Children are now tied for series favorite! If you enjoyed the previous books, you will most likely have an excellent time with this story as well.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #99 – Sweetheart & Alice In Zombieland

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres and two completely different reading experiences… While I loved my second meeting with Archie and Gretchen in Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain, I couldn’t say the same for Alice In Zombieland by Gena Showalter. That one is without doubt a series I won’t be continuing any time soon (more likely never).


Title: Sweetheart
(Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #2)
Author: Chelsea Cain

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 1st 2008
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Finished reading: May 2nd 2019
Pages: 328

“It broke his heart. Not because she was worried that he was in danger, but because she thought she had a chance of saving him.”


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WARNING: possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first book yet. 

I can’t believe it took me three years and a TBR jar to finally continue this series. I remember loving the first book way back: the serial killler up close and personal, the broken characters, the suspense, the sheer twistedness of it all. This series is exactly my cup of tea, but somehow it got lost between the other books on my TBR mountain. I’m definitely going to remedy that though, because Sweetheart has definitely reconfirmed my love for this series. What a delightfully disturbing and twisted read! I always love it when we get to see a serial killer up close and Gretchen Lowell is without doubt one to reckon with. I advice reading this series in order, because you will be missing out on details behind Archie’s state of mind and his unique relationship with Gretchen otherwise… Personally, details came back soon after I started reading Sweetheart and I found myself forgetting about prior engagements, hiding in a corner and just turning those pages instead. Both Gretchen and Archie play a key role in this series and having both a detective and serial killer that present definitely takes Sweetheart to a different level. It was fascinating to see how past events have affected Archie up to a point even his family and friends don’t seem to recognize him… This story has twists, turns and a healthy dose of action and suspense as well as an insight in the psychological aspects. You’ll be having a hard time putting this one down before you find out what happens, and the cliffhanger will most definitely leave you wanting for more. Guess who isn’t going to wait that long this time around to pick up book number three?


Title: Alice In Zombieland
(White Rabbit Chronicles #1)
Author: Gena Showalter

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 25th 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Finished reading: May 5th 2019
Pages: 408

“Truly living required risk.”


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I admit I was a bit wary to pick up this title, but I decided to pick it up anyway since I already had a copy on my kindle and needed it for a prompt of the BTB Bingo challenge. Unlike what you might guess from the pun in Alice In Zombieland, this first book of a series actually has very little to do with the original story. Wait, this isn’t a retelling? Nope, I would never consider calling it that. Why? Well, apart from the main character being called Alice and a white rabbit cloud appearing repeatedly, there are no references to or similarities between the classic and this concoction. I was surprised and a little disappointed after such a clear reference to it with the title and cover art. Instead, we have a story about zombies where we encounter a different kind of unread this time around; they are basically spirits and a lot more difficult to fight than your regular brain eaters. This could have been a premise for a very bloody and disturbing read, but sadly the fighting scenes and horror have been taken over almost completely by an overdose of cheesy and sappy romance scenes, a very frustrating love triangle and a whole lot of high school drama. The romance alone was so unbelievably cringeworthy I almost stopped reading there and then… Especially since some of those scenes were definitely too steamy to be appropriate for YA. The love triangle itself is so cliche it could have been an example in a dictionary… And all the high school drama, catfights and popularity contests in general were another huge turn off. Like I said, the idea behind the zombies is interesting and I would have loved to learn more about them and have more background on the slayers. The fighting scenes were pretty dark and did get bloody and almost horror worthy, but it’s almost like those scenes were put in as an afterthought. Alice In Zombieland and me definitely didn’t get along and it will be no surprise I won’t be picking up the next book any time soon (more likely never). If you don’t mind a huge amount of cheesy romance, cliches and high school drama and on top of that don’t object to a few dark and disturbing zombie fighting scenes either, you might have a better time with this story.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #97 – Before She Knew Him & These Broken Stars

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a new release and a backlist title; a winner and a story that wasn’t for me. I’ve been wanting to read more of Peter Swanson ever since I finished The Kind Worth Killing, and I’m glad I finally did. I absolutely loved Before She Knew Him! On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if These Broken Stars would be for me as I feared it would be too heavy on the romance, and I definitely should have listened to my instincts.


Title: Before She Knew Him
Author: Peter Swanson

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: April 26th 2019
Pages: 320

“I’m on a small boat in the middle of a huge storm. I need to ride the waves and wait for it all to blow over.”


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I’ve been meaning to read more Peter Swanson ever since I read The Kind Worth Killing back in 2017. When I saw the @criminallygoodbookclub on Instagram had chosen his newest story Before She Knew Him as their April read, I knew I had to join them and finally follow up on my intentions. I’m glad I did, because the story definitely lived up to expectations… What a read! After a string of reads that failed to blow me away completely, I finally found myself fully absorbed in a story again and posponed all plans until I had reached the final page. Before She Knew Him is well written, suspenseful and has an enormous plot twist bomb towards the end that will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open. With the help of different POVs we get an insight in the lives of Hen and her neighbor Matthew. Both are flawed and fascinating characters and the driving forces behind the story. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but between the mental health angle and the unsolved murders, you will have a lot of suspense and intrigue waiting for you. The fact that Hen knows things early on, but nobody believes her because of her past with mental health (bipolar) problems, is both a very interesting and almost hardbreaking situation as people tend to judge without getting the full picture first. Not every character is all that likeable, but they feel real and their flaws are what makes Before She Knew Him so fascinating. This story also packs a HUGE surprise you won’t see coming at all… And I love it when a story is able to mislead me so well I actually yelled ‘WHAT?!?!’ when I stumbled across the reveal. If you enjoy the genre, Before She Knew Him is definitely a story not to miss.


Title: These Broken Stars
(Starbound #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Romance
First published: December 10th 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Finished reading: April 27th 2019
Pages: 384

“Funny how I was old enough by sixteen to drink, fight, and vote, but eve two years later, I’m too young to respect.”


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I’ve had this series on my TBR for a long time, never actually picking it up as I wasn’t sure the story would be for me. Let’s face it: the cover is a strong indicator that These Broken Stars would be very heavy on the romance… But after Across The Universe pleasantly surprised me earlier this month, I decided to risk it. Unfortunately, my instincts turned out to be right this time around. Because there is one thing that is certain, and that is that These Broken Stars is oozing with sappy romance scenes. What I hoped would be an interesting science fiction story set in space, soon turned into a survival story on a foreign planet after only a few chapters… The main characters more busy with ‘ignoring’ their feelings and the whole forbidden love vibe than actually exploring or having interesting things happening to them. The survival angle could have been interesting enough once you get over the fact you won’t be getting more space actions or a true explanation behind the crash, but to be honest I was rather bored instead most of the time. For such an interesting setting, nothing much was actually happening. The story instead focuses almost completely on Lilac and Tarver and their complicated relationship. The rich heiress and the poor soldier stranded on an unknown planet after a crash; a forbidden love bout to happen. Can it get any more cliche than that? The only reason I decided to stick it through until the end is that the writing itself is engaging and made it easier to keep turning those pages even though nothing interesting was happening most of the time. Overall These Broken Stars had some very interesting ideas and a promising setting, but sadly those elements weren’t developed or taken advantage of. Romance fans who enjoy a forbidden romance story with a space setting will probably appreciate this first book of the Starbound series a lot more though.


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ARC REVIEW: The Dare – by Carol Wyer

Title: The Dare
(Detective Natalie Ward #3)

Author: Carol Wyer
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 25th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: April 5th 2019
Pages: 348

“Tiredness mingled with the damp made Natalie shiver and she shoved her hands deep into her jacket pockets to warm them.”

*** 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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Carol Wyer has done it again! She has proven me once again you can’t go wrong with her books and she is one of my go-to authors whenever I’m in the mood for an entertaining and fast-paced detective thriller. The Dare is already book number three of the Detective Natalie Ward series… And her team has another complicated case on their hands. While Natalie has never managed to grow on me completely (I can’t put my finger on the why though), what I love is the dynamics between the different members of her team. They all have their own unique personalities and add a little something to the investigation; sometimes the story switches to one of their POVs as well. In The Dare the story alternates between the police and the killer. We slowly learn more about the killer’s past, the meaning behind the title, the significance of the snake and why he does what he does. It shows the danger of the internet and its influence on teenagers… Especially since the younger generation seems to be getting more tech savy than their parents every second. There are a lot of twists and turns involved in The Dare, adding to the overall suspense and keeping you invested until the final reveals. Things will also get quite personal and a lot will be at stake for Natalie this time around. If you are a fan of fast-paced, well written and entertaining detective thrillers, you should definitely try meeting Natalie Ward.

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

When Jane arrives home a little later than usual, she realizes that her thirteen-year-old daugher Savannah never came home. She immediately starts searching and soon after raises the alarm. Detective Natalie Ward and her team don’t have a lot of clues, and the race against the clock is one they won’t be able to win… Not even 24 hours later Savannah’s body is found close to her home. There isn’t a lot of evidence available, making it hard for the team to find solid clues and a suspects. And things are getting even more acute as another teenager goes missing the same day. Will they be able to catch whoever is behind it all on time?

If you are looking for a well written, suspenseful and entertaining detective thriller that reads like a train, you know you can always turn to Carol Wyer. Both this series and her detective thrillers in general have been consistently solid so far and The Dare is no exception to that rule. I found myself flying through those pages to discover more about the killer and how things would unfold… It’s true I never grew to like Natalie as a character, but her team’s chemistry mostly makes up for that. And I’ll definitely be looking forward to discover whatever will be thrown at them next.


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ARC REVIEW: Final Betrayal – by Patricia Gibney

Title: Final Betrayal
(Detective Lottie Parker #6)

Author: Patricia Gibney
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 18th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: April 11th 2019
Pages: 484

“Her subconscious was telling her she had made a mistake all those years ago. Her conscious self told her she hadn’t. Which was correct?”

*** 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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Most of you are probably already aware of the fact I have been a detective Lottie Parker fan ever since the first book came out and I’ve been closely following the series ever since… The thing is, I’m starting to wonder whether this is turning out to be one of those series that has been going on for too long. Don’t get me wrong, but while I absolutely loved the first four installments, I struggled to warm up to number five and sadly my reaction to book six wasn’t what I was expecting either. I’m not saying Final Betrayal is a bad read at all (I want to make that clear before I continue), but once again I felt that somehow the spark of the first four books was missing. Detective Lottie Parker is known for her complex and shocking detective adventures, and it’s true that this new installment mostly delivers that. But… I felt like Final Betrayal was almost trying to take too much on its plate at the same time. There are so many different POVs, characters and different angles that it’s hard to keep track of it all and instead of adding more tension and suspense, I mostly ended up being frustrated by having to deal with yet another POV jump within the same chapter. There is so much going on at the same time that it feels like you are juggling ten balls at the same time and only have time to look at your hands and not at what really is going on. I had my doubts about the credibility as well, and like in book five, the negative attitude and swearing of some characters started to get on my nerves. As for the plot twists and surprises… I guessed part of the final reveal early on, and I’m not sure I find the final explanations completely satisfying. Sure, there is a lot of action and tension involved in the plot and things will get very personal on multiple levels for Lottie Parker. But unfortunately Final Betrayal failed to hit the mark completely for me this time around. Did I mention it was unpopular opinion time again?

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

Amy Whyte and Penny Brogan both disappear after leaving a local nightclub early Sunday morning, but it isn’t until Monday that someone realizes they are gone. Amy’s father reports her missing, and it’s up to detective Lottie Parker to try and discover what happened that night. What originally was a search for one woman soon turns out to be two as Penny cannot be found either. When their bodies are found days later, they are desperate to close the case fast as Amy’s father has a lot of influence. Then things turn even more desperate as two more girls are found… And danger seems to be around every corner.

I was really hoping to fall in love with this series again, but once again the story failed to hit the mark completely for me… It’s not a bad read, the writing still reads lightning-fast and there are a lot of twists and turns involved, but for me sadly the spark of the first four books was missing. I felt there was almost too much going on in Final Betrayal, with multiple characters and POV switches even within the same character. Instead of adding the characteristic dept and complexity to the plot, I rather found it confusing and almost irritating this time around, especially since you never seem to get to settle down with one character for a little while. I had my doubts about the credibility and wasn’t convinced by the final reveals either… It has convinced me Lottie Parker and me are overdue for a little break and I have decided to step away from the series and leave it for those who still feel the same love for Lottie Parker.


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ARC REVIEW: Wolfhunter River – by Rachel Caine

Title: Wolfhunter River
(Stillhouse Lake #3)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 23rd 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: March 30th 2019
Pages: 330

“My past is a wrecking ball. I’ve always known it was out there, rushing toward me. I just never imagined how much it would hurt when it finally hit.”

*** 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 huge fan of the first two Stilhouse Lake books (both were 5 star reads for me, and I don’t hand those ratings out easily), so it’s easy to say I might have screamed when I saw that an ARC of Wolfhunter River was up for grabs on Netgalley. I have been highly anticipating this third installment of one of my all time favorite serial killer thriller series… And this might just have been the problem, because while I still highly enjoyed my time with Wolfhunter River, I don’t think the story actually lives up to the first two books. I’ll try to explain why without giving away any spoilers. The first thing I wasn’t 100% convinced about was the plot. I’m not saying it’s a bad plot and there are definitely fireworks and a lot of action and violence involved, but the first part of the story went on too long about previous events and the Wolfhunter part was a little too much for me to consider it completely believable. Plot twists, flying bullets, conspiracy theories, a kidnapped little girl, a shady town… There is a lot going on and having all of this linked with Gwen Proctor and her family can get a little too much. The whole Lost Angels and secret past element is something that can go both ways for you, because if you think about it it can come over as a bit cliche. The writing is mostly on fire though and once I was past the first few chapters and the focus turned to Wolfhunter, I dropped everything I was doing and kept turning those pages to see how things would end. While I did started to doubt the credibility of it all and some things were just a little too farfetched to be believable (and the ending was just too convenient of a wrap up), Wolfhunter River was still a very entertaining ride with a lot of promise for the next book.

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

Gwen Proctor might be wanting to move on after being acquitted of helping her serial killer husband and then having to escape him all over again, but there are others who don’t believe in her innocence and want to make her pay no matter what. Gwen no longer wants to hide as she’s trying to build a normal life for her kids, but that is easier said than done as she still has a lot of enemies set out to destroy her. When a woman from Wolfhunter calls Gwen asking for help, she initially doesn’t take notice but soon sees it as a way to escape life in Stillhouse Lake for a little while… But things turn out to be way more dangerous and shady in Wolfhunter than she could ever imagine.

While I don’t feel Wolfhunter River was as good as the previous two books, I can’t deny I still highly enjoyed my time with this serial killer thriller. Suspenseful, twisted, explosive and lightning fast: once you get past the first few chapters and the setting changes to Wolfhunter, it will be really hard to stop reading before you reach that final page. I had some doubts about the credibility of the plot and the way things wrapped up was a bit too convenient to my taste, but the story has a lot of promise for what it yet to come and I’ll definitely be looking forward to the next book.


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