YVO’S SHORTIES #143 – Like This For Ever & Things You Save In A Fire

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books I really enjoyed. The third Lacey Flint book Like This For Ever was slightly different than the previous books as Lacey is not that present, but it is without doubt one that ends with a bang. And I loved my time with Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center! She’s definitely on my short list of authors that can make me actually enjoy romance.


Title: Like This For Ever
(Lacey Flint #3)
Author: Sharon Bolton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 11th 2013
Publisher: Bantam Press
Finished reading: January 7th 2020
Pages: 400

“The mask that was Lacey Flint, the mask that her true self hid behind, the mask that could never be allowed to slip again. “


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It took me longer than expected, but I finally came around reading my latest TBR jar pick… It has been interesting to meet up with Lacey Flint again and to see how past events affected her. The story is told through multiple POVs, including Lacey, Dana and Barney. Lacey isn’t as active in this book as she is not currently on duty after everything that happened previously, but somehow she ends up being involved anyway… And Barney’s POV is particularly interesting as we not often have a kid as one of the leading characters. Dana represents the detective team that includes well known Mark Joesbury, currently working on the case where young boys go missing only to turn up dead days later with their throats slashed. Who is behind these killings and why are the murders so atypical? I fully thought I had the whole plot figured out, and I was even starting to feel disappointed, only for the plot twist granades to be thrown at me from an angle I definitely didn’t see coming… Those final developments left me mostly flabbergasted and with a fully reinstated positive opinion about this book. I love it when a story manages to mislead me! This is also one of those books you will finish in record time, and I literally finished it in less than a day. Lacey comes over as more than a bit unhinged in this sequel, but it has definitely made me curious about what will happen with her in the final book. I’m hoping to read it soon! Trigger warnings are in place for self harm and suicide among other things.


Title: Things You Save In A Fire
Author: Katherine Center

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 13th 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 8th 2020
Pages: 320

“That’s how life is. Things happen. Lives get broken. Some people never can put themselves back together.”


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I really enjoyed How To Walk Away last year and I have been meaning to read this one ever since…I’m definitely kicking myself for not doing so sooner, because I loved Things You Save In A Fire even more. I know I’m not really one of the biggest romance fans around, but I do love a change of genre every once in a while and there are a select few romance authors that can make me actually enjoy the genre. I have now confirmed Katherine Center is one of them. Heartwarming, poignant, honest, brutal and sometimes even shocking: Things You Save In A Fire will take you on a rollercoaster ride filled with emotions. Heavy topics including rape, cancer, death, gender discrimination and addiction are balanced with lighter moments and just the right dose of banter and romance. You will find yourself rooting for both Cassie and Owen (aka Rookie) before you know it, and I loved that this story gave us more insight of what is really going on inside a fire station. Firefighters are the heart and soul of this story and I really appreciated how the author not only described the inner workings of everything involving firefighters but also made it fundamental to the plot. The deeper meaning of the need for forgiveness ran throughout the whole story and will apply on multiple levels… It was fascinating to see the different characters evolve and grow over time, and I can see why this book has received so much love. I’m definitely part of this group now! Fans of the genre should consider Things You Save In A Fire a powerful and heartwarming as well as heartbreaking must-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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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Are You Watching? – by Ralph Vincent #RandomThingsTours #blogtour #AreYouWatchingMagpieMan @PenguinUKBooks @VincentRalph1 @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Are You Watching? Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I admit I was intrigued as soon as I saw that cover and read the blurb. I don’t read nearly enough YA thrillers and I loved the sound of the social media angle, so deciding whether to read Are You Watching? was truly a no-brainer. And my instincts were definitely right about this story! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Are You Watching?
Author: Vincent Ralph
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: January 6th 2020
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: December 22nd 2019
Pages: 371

“It was Dad who gave the murderer his name. He said he Magpie Man liked shiny things and Mum was the shiniest of all.”

*** 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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We are living in a time where social media seems to be taking over our lives and it has been playing an increasingly important role in the everyday life of most people in recent years. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Youtube… While it’s true that they are clever tools to connect and share your views with the rest of the world, most don’t seem to be realizing what the underlying dangers are of plastering your whole life all over the internet. What if someone up to no good tries to access and use all that information against you? Without doubt a terrifying thought…

Are You Watching? addresses a slightly different angle: instead of the villain, it is the main character Jessica who uses social media to try and catch the serial killer who took the life of her mom and a dozen others. Talk about an original premise! This premise alone was enough for me to add this debut to my must-read list and now I’ve had the chance to read it, I can confirm that this story is without doubt a lightingfast and thrilling pageturner. What a ride! You will definitely want to clear your schedule for this one, because once you start the first chapter you will find it impossible to stop reading. I was actually reading a different story when I started Are You Watching? (some situations ask for my kindle instead of a physical copy) and I literally had to put my other current read on hold even though I was enjoying it as well. Such is the power of Jessica’s story!

The success of Are You Watching? is in the combination of a serial killer thriller and the social media angle, which gives the story its unique touch and shows us the power of social media and how it could be used to catch a killer who up to that moment didn’t leave any clues behind at the different murder scenes. This social media element is without doubt the true star of this story and plays a key role in the plot as well. The idea of the live Youtube shows and Jessica using her day to make people remember her mother’s death again and hopefully catch the Magpie Man killer is both original and highly entertaining… The twists involving the developing Youtube show and the response of the viewers on social media without doubt added a healthy dose of suspense to the plot.

Other elements play a role as well, including grief, family and friendship. Jessica’s relationship with her family and friends give the story a personal touch while also giving this story its distinctive YA feel. And guess what? There is almost no romance involved in Are You Watching?, which was definitely a huge bonus for me personally. Instead, the main focus is on friendship and the live Youtube show Jessica participates in. It was fascinating to see how Jessica uses the show to try and put the spotlight on the murder cases again and tries to find new witnesses and evidence to finally catch the killer.

The plot itself is well developed, exciting and definitely has quite a few twists and turns in store to keep you guessing; they were definitely successful in misleading me at least. Action and suspense are mixed with lighter moments to release some of the tension, but Are You Watching? will definitely keep you on your toes… You will find yourself turning those pages like there is no tomorrow just to find out if Jessica is able to achieve her goal. Things are definitely heating up in the second half, but the story in general is without doubt a real rollercoaster ride. The characters are solid and it was interesting to see them develop over time. Even the Magpie Man, while not that present or developed beyond the typical serial killer boogeyman image during most of the story, was an intriguing character to follow due to the mystery around his identity and motive behind his murders. The whole angle with the family of the murder victims (including Jessica and her father) was probably the most interesting though.

Basically, there is a lot to love in Are You Watching? and it is without doubt a true pageturner. If you enjoy a well written and fast-paced YA thriller with an omnipresent social media angle and an unique touch, Are You Watching? should definitely be on your wishlist.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vincent Ralph has been writing in one form or another since his teens and
always dreamed of being a novelist. He owes his love of books to his mother,
who encouraged his imagination from an early age and made sure there were
new stories to read.

Vincent has lived in London, Cornwall and Chester but he now lives in his home
county of Kent with his wife, son and two cats.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #140 – Palm Beach Finland & Black Summer

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I’ve been really excited to read; both for the Magical Readathon Winter 2019 challenge. The first is Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen, which not only has a gorgeous cover but also is a fascinating mix of dark humor and nordic noir. Then we have sequel Black Summer by M.W. Craven, which has proven to me Tilly and Poe deserve their spot as one of my favorite character duos. What a read!


Title: Palm Beach Finland
Author: Antti Tuomainen

Genre: Nordic Noir, Humor
First published: September 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: December 23rd 2019
Pages: 300
(Originally written in Finnish with the same title)

“The older you are when you wake up to your dreams, she thought, the more vigorous you pursue them. The more desperately. Because with every passing day there’s simply less to lose.”


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I admit that when I bought my copy of Palm Beach Finland I was both lured in by that stunning cover and the promise of a combination of black comedy and a page-turning thriller. I was planning to make this story my first encounter with this Finnish mastermind of black humor and Nordic noir, but fate had other plans in store and I ended up reading Little Siberia first a while back. This first encounter was without doubt a success and I have been looking forward to pick up my pink and fabulous copy of Palm Beach Finland ever since. Now I’ve had the chance to read it, I can confirm it’s another excellent read. It’s the combination of the dark humor and the Nordic noir elements that makes this story so unique… While it might not be for everyone, if you are able connect to the humor and writing you will find yourself to be very entertained by what is going on in the coldest beach resort on earth! Palm Beach Finland has an colorful cast of characters to say the least, each flawed and adding its own problems, views and intentions to the plot. Multiple POVs are used to give us a multidimentional view of what is going on in the small beach town, black humor spicing up the plot in between the other elements. If you are looking for a little something different and don’t mind the plot heating up as well as having unconventional characters, Palm Beach Finland will without doubt peak your interest! A round of applause to the translator David Hackston for enabling us to enjoy this unique and quirky mix of genres. Blacker than black humor and Nordic noir without doubt make for a tasty thriller cocktail!


Title: Black Summer
(Washington Poe #2)
Author: M.W. Craven

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 20th 2019
Publisher: Constable
Finished reading: December 25th 2019
Pages: 352

“Poe, we have a problem.”


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I finally had the chance to meet Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw a few months back when I picked up my copy of The Puppet Show, and they are hands down one of my new favorite character duos. I’ve been waiting impatiently to meet up with them again in Black Summer after the first book completely blew me away… And I ended up turning it into a little Christmas gift to myself by freeing my schedule to spend all day with Tilly and Poe. Best decision ever! The gloomy Christmas Day weather seemed to set the perfect atmosphere for this sequel set in Cumbria, and I was of course hooked from the very first chapter. While I do think I loved the first book a tiny bit more (please don’t hit me!), Black Summer was without doubt a brilliant sequel and as soon as Tilly made her entrance there was no way on earth I was putting down my copy. Thankfully I was able to spend most of Christmas Day in the company of my kindle, lots of tea, a sleeping cat closeby and a pile of leftover chocolate, so my wish came true and I was able to reach that final page almost in one sitting. And what a read! The plot, the characters, the twists, the writing, the setting… There is just so much to love in Black Summer and I’m more than addicted to Tilly and Poe’s adventures. This sequel only made me love their characters even more and they definitely deserve their spot on my favorites list. I literally can’t wait to find out what The Curator has in store next, and I can highly recommend this series to any thriller fan. Trust me, you are missing out if you haven’t met Tilly and Poe yet!!


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ARC REVIEW: The Rules Of Murder – by Rob Sinclair

Title: The Rules Of Murder
(DI Dani Stephens #2)
Author: Rob Sinclair
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 9th 2020
Publisher: Canelo Hera
Finished reading: December 20th 2019
Pages: 318

“What did it say about her that she was still fighting away, still determined to prove to everyone that she could be a good copper, even after all that she’d suffered?”

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

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I was part of the blog tour for The Essence Of Evil back in September, and I really enjoyed my first meeting with DI Dani Stephens. I have been curious about what would happen next to her character ever since, so of course when I was invited to read the sequel I had to say yes immediately. I’m definitely not regretting that decision, because there is no doubt that The Rules Of Murder is another solid and pretty brutal serial killer thriller! Oh yes, fans of heart racing and suspenseful thrillers will definitely be in for a treat.

The first thing that stands out in this series is its main character Dani Stephens. While in a way you can see her as the typical damaged detective lead, her character has so much more dept than that. Not only is she a detective with a serial killer twin who actually tried to kill her, but she also suffered brain damage as a result of that attack and is still struggling with the consequences. It is fascinating to follow her on this journey and while the real progress regarding the brain damage matter was developed in book one, it is still a pretty important element in the sequel. The psychological aspect of the story in general plays a big role throughout the story, although the focus is mostly shifted towards the killer in this case.

Dani’s murdering twin brother Ben once again plays a role in The Rules Of Murder. He is a truly fascinating character and definitely provides for a very interesting angle in this sequel. What does he know about this killer? Or is he simply lying about having any knowledge? It definitely added a whole different layer of mystery and intrigue to the plot. And talking about the plot: if you are looking for a fast, shocking and disturbing plot with brutal murders that simply chill you to the bone, you will be more than satisfied with The Rules Of Murder. The murder scenes are definitely not for those with a weak stomach! The plot itself is quite complex and definitely has quite a few twists and turns, although I do have to say that I saw some of the plot twists coming pretty early on… The action and suspense mostly made up for that though.

The story is told through two different POVs: Dani and the killer. We mostly stick with our detective lead, with intermittent chapters that give us a glimpse inside the disturbed mind of our serial killer. And boy, those chapters are pretty twisted! The writing reflects the state of mind of the killer brilliantly and I felt these chapters added a little something extra to the story as well. The story ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving you wanting to know more and how certain plot developments will continue in the future… The Rules Of Murder is by no means a meek story and it will have plenty of action, suspense and properly twisted and graphic scenes for you in store. If you like your detective/serial killer thrillers fast and dangerous, you should definitely try this series!


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ARC REVIEW: Bitter Falls – by Rachel Caine

Title: Bitter Falls
(Stillhouse Lake #4)

Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: January 21st 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: December 16th 2019
Pages: 336

“Women are always, somehow, to blame for the acts of men; that’s more true now than it ever has been.”

*** 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 fan of this series ever since the first book came out, and the first two books are on my list of all time favorites. Book number three, while solid, didn’t have that same wow factor for me and I was hoping that missing spark would be present again in book number four… But unfortunately I’m starting to think that maybe this series has been going on for too long, and maybe it’s just better to leave things as it is? Don’t get me wrong, I still think this series as a whole is brilliant and Bitter Falls is without doubt another solid read. BUT. I guess you can only have that many bad things happening to the main characters before it starts becoming REALLY unbelievable.

Like I said, I still think the writing itself is brilliant and Bitter Falls is without doubt an intense, twisted and thrilling ride. I still devoured every single page and the story once again had that unputdownable vibe, but I also started looking a bit more critical at certain aspects of the plot and that is never a good sign. Basically book four, like book three, misses some of that spark that turned the first two books into all time favorites for me. With everything that has happened already to Gwen, Sam and her kids, it is extremely hard to put together another believable plot and create a new life threatening situation they have to get themselves out of. The plot of Bitter Falls and its cult element is without doubt intriguing and definitely has that disturbing and twisted feel. It links back to things that happened in the previous book and gives us another backdrop for a story that will have your heart racing the whole ride. BUT. Like I also said, I started wondering about the credibility of it all and especially the ending felt a bit over the top. I’m still on the fence as to what to think of the second half of Bitter Falls… It was without doubt highly entertaining, filled with action, suspense and a lot of disturbing scenes, but unfortunately once again that wow factor I was hoping for wasn’t present for me.

In short: I had a great time reading Bitter Falls and it is without doubt a solid and simply thrilling crime thriller, but sadly didn’t live up to the sheer brilliance of the first two books. If you are a fan of Gwen Proctor and the other main characters and keep those expectations in check, you will find yourself having a great time though! A little note: this is one of those series that has to be read in order, because you will be missing out on too much background information and character development otherwise… And trust me, you definitely don’t want to miss out by not reading the first two books especially!


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