ARC REVIEW: Will To Live – by Rachel Amphlett @RachelAmphlett

Title: Will To Live
(Detective Kay Hunter #2)
Author: Rachel Amphlett
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 1st 2017
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Finished reading: June 20th 2018
Pages: 324

“He understood grief, all right. It was savage; all-consuming. Every waking moment was spent wondering what it would be like now if she were still alive.”

*** 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 know I’m kind of late when it comes to the whole Detective Kay Hunter party, but I’m definitely glad I’m finally catching up. Why? Let’s just say my second experience with Kay Hunter was another excellent one, and this series is quickly turning into another favorite of mine. There is just something about the main character that makes it really easy to like her, and of course the whole mystery around what happened will have you intrigued. I’m rooting for Kay here! Book number two, Will To Live, is just as good as the first and will give you another glimpse into Kay’s private life as well as a new chilling murder investigation to follow. The detective has a great team behind her, and their characters are both well fleshed out and likeable on their own. It makes it easy to imagine yourself among them as one of the team, and you will find yourself completely drawn into the story the whole time. The case they had to investigate in Will To Live is without doubt interesting and touches the sensitive topic of railway suicides. The development of the plot is subtle with well placed twists and new insights; the descriptions adding the right atmosphere of suspense to the story. I did guess a few of the twists early on, but I was too busy turning pages and enjoying myself to really let that bother me. I had a blast spending more time with Kay Hunter and I can’t wait to read the next book now.

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

What seems to be another suicide on a stretch of train track locally known as ‘suicide mile’, ends up being something even more sinister. Detective Kay Hunter and her team are called in after a packed commuter train runs over a body under suspicous circumstances. Suspicious, because they have a witness stating that the man was asking for help just before the train arrived. They soon find evidence to confirm they are truly dealing with murder. And things escalate even further when another call comes in… Are they dealing with a new serial killer? Or are the two deaths just a coincidence?

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I’m still kicking myself for not starting this series sooner, but at least I’m reading it now. Book number two was just as good as my first experience and I’m really looking forward to spend even more time with Kay Hunter. It’s really easy to connect to her character and she is part of the reason this series works so well. The mystery around her background story will keep you on edge! Will To Live has an intriguing, although somewhat subtle plot with just enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. I did predict a few things early on, but somehow this didn’t make Will To Live any less entertaining to read and the ending is satisfying. Now bring it on, One To Watch!


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ARC REVIEW: What Happened That Night – by Sandra Block @sourcebooks

Title: What Happened That Night
Author: Sandra Block
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 5th 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Finished reading: June 5th 2018
Pages: 352

“I read until my eyes go blurry. Then I flick off the light and slide my hand under the pillow to cradle my Beretta. My own little teddy bear.”

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

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As soon as I saw the cover, I just knew I had to read this thriller. And it turns out my coverlove instinct was absolutely right. Dark, gritty, painful and strong… What Happened That Night is without doubt a story that will crawl under your skin, unsettle you and leave you with an uncomfortable but satisfied feeling after you finish it. Why? Let’s just say that there are a lot of trigger warnings in place for the more sensitive readers, including for rape, violence, suicide and graphic scenes in general. If you can stomach those elements, you will find yourself a very interesting thriller in What Happened That Night. The writing style is engaging and I liked the diversity of the main characters and their development. Dahlia is a very strong character with a lot of problems, but I like her style. James is also a favorite, and I appreciate that his Asperger’s syndrome plays a role throughout the story. The dynamics between Dahlia and James are interesting as well and is part of the reason this book works. That said, I did have my doubts about the credibility of it all, especially involving the revenge plan  Dahlia and James have developed. I seriously doubt they would be able to get away with all that… And I saw credibility holes in the plot as well. More importantly, I was also able to guess one or two mayor plot twists early on even though I kept hoping I was wrong. That might just be me reading a lot of thrillers in the first place though. Because there is no doubt What Happened That Night is a superfast, dark and twisted thriller that will chill you to the bone.

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Dahlia used to be a successful Harvard student on her way to becoming a lawyer, but that all changed one horrible night. She wakes up after a party after having been brutally assaulted. The worst part: she doesn’t seem to remember anything from that night, just that her life will never be the same. Years later, she still suffers from PTSD and hasn’t properly been able to deal with that night… Until one day, a video turns up online and Dahlia sees for the first night what really happened during the attack. And now she knows who to blame, she is out for her revenge…

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What Happened That Night isn’t any easy read and trigger warnings are in place, but if you like your thrillers dark and gritty you will be in for a treat. This story has an original ring to it, both because of the selection of characters and the plot itself. True, I had my doubts about the credibility and I was able to guess one or two key plot twists, but that doesn’t take away this is still a pretty darn good and twisted thriller.


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ARC REVIEW: The Art Of Fear – by Pamela Crane

Title: The Art Of Fear
(The Little Things That Kill #1)
Author: Pamela Crane
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 18th 2017
Publisher: Tabella House
Finished reading: March 8th 2018
Pages: 306

Everybody avoided the words the day your sister died, as if saying them aloud brought the curse upon themselves. Those words were the Lord Voldemort of my life.

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

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I had added this title to my wishlist when it was originally published last year, so when I saw it pop up on Netgalley scheduled to be published last month, I couldn’t resist requesting it. I know there have been mixed thoughts about The Art Of Fear, and honestly that cover makes me very uncomfortable. Am I the only one who thinks that expression on her face should be x-rated? Anyway, despite the doubts I was still looking forward to start this one. And I was literally blown away with the intense start of The Art Of Fear. What a way to start a story! It was hook, line, sinker and I quickly cleared out my schedule to be able to read this one without distractions… Sadly, this enthusiasm for the story didn’t stay. After such an intense, dark and thrilling start, I was actually a bit disappointed by the fact that The Art Of Fear didn’t turn out to be as fast-paced as I would have liked. Sure, there will be some very messed up twists and details thrown at you, but in general somehow the plot and pace just didn’t manage to convince me. The multiple POVs and flashbacks probably had a lot to do with the slower pace and lack of connection to the story. And honestly, I was surprised to find myself not invested at all in who would be behind it all. Also, trigger warnings are in place for rape, abuse, suicide and violence in general! The writing style did make it quite easy to read, and I really liked the inclusion of the Mexican bits. But as for the characters… I felt there were too much of them, making it harder to connect to them and I honestly I don’t think I ever did. Most of the characters are broken and have a lot of potential; there is no doubt they are intriguing, but not being able to connect to them made me feel less invested in the story. I could have done without the romance as well; it went so well during a lot of time I was already getting my hopes up I would be spared this time, but no luck. I’m not sure what to think of the ending either… Although I guess it shows potential for the sequel. The Art Of Fear is by no means a bad read, but unfortunately it didn’t manage to convince me either.

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Ari Wilburn’s life ended the day she watched her little sister die in a tragic accident and she was blamed for it by her parents and sent away. She has been struggling with life ever since, not really living, but as she joins a suicide support group and meets Tina, she starts to doubt her memories. Tina had been sold as a sex-slave when she was only six years old, but was able to escape and ended up where she ended up. When Tina finds her father dead, she suspects foul play and not suicide, and asks her new friend Ari to help her find evidence. But this might just be more complicated and dangerous than they would have thought…

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I had really high hopes for The Art Of Fear, especially after such an explosive and dark beginning. But sadly I was never able to warm up to the characters, and the multiple POVs and flashbacks slowed down the pace considerably and didn’t help keeping the tension. Like I said before, The Art Of Fear is by no means a bad read, but I don’t think it lived up to expectations either. There is a lot of potential though, and I did like the writing style.


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ARC REVIEW: The Missing Girls – by Carol Wyer @carolewyer @bookouture

Title: The Missing Girls
(DI Robyn Carter #3)
Author: Carol Wyer

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 14th 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: August 24th 2017
Pages: 408

“Words can hurt. They can injure as deeply as a knife can, or be as deadly as a gunshot.”

*** 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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The Missing Girls is the third book of a relatively new detective series I’ve become addicted to ever since I read the first book back in February. I admit it wasn’t love at first sight when I first met the main character Robyn Carter, but she has definitely grown on me since that first encounter and I’ve become a fan. The Missing Girls is just as good as the first two books and offers the same quality writing, suspense and another serial killer on the loose. Because there is no doubt about it: these books read like a train. The writing style is very engaging and the pace is fast; combined with the many plot twists you’ll definitely be on your edge of your seat to find out what will happen next. I did guess a few things about the ending early on, but fortunately this didn’t make the journey less enjoyable for me. The social media and cyber bullying theme and the dangers involved were an interesting touch as well. The main characters are well developed and it is great to see Robyn Carter evolve over time as she is trying to recover from her loss. I’m also really liking Ross both as a character and subplot, and the way his storyline also adds a little something to the main plot. And that ending! I’ll definitely be waiting impatiently for book number four to come out… If you enjoy reading fast-paced crime thrillers, definitely give the DI Robyn Carter series a go.

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A body of a teenage girl is found inside the trunk at a Midlands storage unit, and detective Robyn Carter is called in to lead the case. The body has been there for a while and it is too decomposed to find proper clues… But Robyn is determined to catch the one that harmed the girl. The leads seem to go nowhere, but then another body is discovered… And this time the clues are a lot easier to follow and Robyn starts to suspect they might have a serial killer on the loose. Will she be able to find the killer on time? Someone close to her might be in danger…

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The Missing Girls is a true detective thriller winner for quite a few reasons. Fast-paced, well written, a healthy dose of suspense, one creepy serial killer, plot twists, an interesting character… This third book of the DI Robyn Carter series has all that and more. I really liked the way the social media and cyber bullying theme is incorporated into the story and how it shows the dangers of using those apps. The story definitely ends with a bang though and I will be waiting impatiently to find out what will happen next. Recommended!


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ARC REVIEW: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore – by Matthew Sullivan @arrowpublishing

Title: Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore
Author: Matthew Sullivan

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: August 24th 2017
Publisher: Cornerstone
Finished reading: August 15th 2017
Pages: 336

“I’ve begun to think of it as more graveyard than library. End of the line, you know. Where book-of-the-month club comes to die.”

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

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I always have a weak spot for any book with bookish references or a story that is at least partially set in a bookstore. So as you can imagine, basically Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore had me at the title. This book has been on my list of most anticipated releases ever since I first heard about for it and I’ve been looking forward to read it for ages now. And I can tell you one thing: this novel by Matthew Sullivan doesn’t disappoint. Or more accurately, I enjoyed every single page of this ‘contemporary puzzle and murder mystery in one’. Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore isn’t just another bookish book and actually presents two different mysteries to solve. The first is related to the suicide of one of the bookshop patrons and the other to what happened to one of the clerks twenty years ago. The plot is intriguing and well developed; the plot twists and revelations well balanced and I enjoyed solving the puzzles along with the characters. This book definitely has some surprises in store! The writing style had me hooked from the very first page and was both highly enjoyable, engaging and made it very hard to stop reading before reaching the final page. The bookish references are a true delight for any booklover and I love the role books play in this story in general. The mystery is also well done and there were definitely things I didn’t see coming. You might start wondering about coincidences and some things seem pretty ‘convenient’, but I personally didn’t care. Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore will go straight to my list of favorites!

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Lydia Smith works as a clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore and tries to live a quiet life among her books and the BookFrogs; the regulars who spend their days in the bookstore browsing its shelves. But then one of the BookFrogs, Joey Molina, kills himself in the bookstore. Lydia was Joey’s favorite bookseller and she inherited his meager possessions… And when Lydia flips through his books, she discovers he has destroyed them in a way that is both intriguing and disturbing. Why did Joey do this and what does it mean? Did he want to leave her a message?

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I have been looking forward to this title for a while now and it was without doubt just as good or even better than hoped. I had such a great time reading Midnight At The Bright Ideas Bookstore and the two mysteries/puzzles that are included are both fascinating and well executed. The bookish elements are a true delight and I had a great time discovering more about Joey and Lydia, their past and their development. The writing is wonderful as well and made me fly through the pages… All in all I can highly recommend this title.


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BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Broken Things – by Sara Barnard

Title: Beautiful Broken Things
Author: Sara Barnard

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: February 11th 2016
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Finished reading: August 2nd 2017
Pages: 322

“Everyone says apologizing works, but it never really does. Not quickly enough anyway.”

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I’ve been meaning to pick up Beautiful Broken Things for quite some time now, so I was quite happy when my TBR jar decided for me it was time to read my copy. I always have mixed experiences with YA contemporaries, but I was drawn to this cover and blurb like a bee to honey. And to be honest, I initially really enjoyed reading it. The first thing that stands out is the writing style, which is very engaging and makes it very easy to read this story. I found myself literally flying through the pages at first. Even though the plot itself isn’t all that special and nothing I haven’t seen before in the genre, I had a great time reading it. There are quite a few high school cliches involved though which I could have done without as well as the jealousy and the whole new friend/third wheel theme. I had mixed feelings about the characters and as the story continued especially Caddy really started to bother me. Both her attitude and her idea that having bad things happen to you make you more interesting is not only frustrating but almost offensive. It’s one of the reasons I started to enjoy Beautiful Broken Things less and less and ended up having to give a lot lower rating than I initially suspected. Sure, Suzanne’s character is quite interesting and opens the way to talk about important themes as abuse and its consequences and mental health, but her reactions are also almost cliche at points and I’m not sure I’m happy with the final developments and the ending. All in all it wasn’t the reading experience I was hoping for… Beautiful Broken Things had a quite strong start because of the enjoyable writing style, but didn’t manage to convince me in the end. Part of the problem might have been me, so if you love the genre and don’t mind cliches it’s still worth giving a go.

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Caddy and Rosie have been best friends for years and even though they go to different high schools, they are inseparable. Caddy has always been the quiet one though and when she turns sixteen she wants to make some changes in her life. And then Rosie meets Suzanne, a new girl at her school and they become friends. Suzanne is everything Caddy wants to be and she is jealous of their friendship. Things are becoming a whole lot more complicated… Especially when Caddy starts to get knowing Suzanne better. What will happen to the three girls?

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Initially I thought I was really going to enjoy this story and the writing style is without doubt enjoyable at first. I can’t point out the exact moment I started to enjoy Beautiful Broken Things less, but there is no doubt that the final part of this story didn’t live up to the promising start. There were certain things that started to bother me: the cliches, some of the characters and the way they act and think, the way important (darker) themes are handled… All in all not what I expected.


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BOOK REVIEW: Love May Fail – by Matthew Quick

Title: Love May Fail
Author: Matthew Quick

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Romance
First published: June 4th 2015
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: July 31st 2017
Pages: 419

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”

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I liked Matthew Quick‘s unconventional writing style and characters in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, so when I was desperately looking for something different I turned to his work again. I found a copy of Love May Fail on my shelves and decided to pick it up; and I definitely got what I was looking for. This book is by no means conventional! I’m still not sure what to make of this book even days after finishing it. There were things/elements I liked or appreciated and there were others I wasn’t so sure about, but what is true that Love May Fail is different. Both the writing style and tone are very unconventional, blunt, brutally honest but also refreshing. That said, there was also a lot of swearing and negativity involved… So this unique feel can go both ways. The same thing goes for the characters. Most of them earn points for brutal honesty, uniqueness and having that ‘spark’, but I don’t think I actually liked them. Portia had all those elements (she definitely has balls), but somehow I never actually warmed up to her. It is true though that at least she was able to provoke strong emotions, even if those were mostly negative. I couldn’t stand Mr. Vernon though. What is true though is that important themes as mental illness, depression, suicide, midlife crisis and hoarding play an important role in the story and seems to be portrayed quite realistically. Matthew Quick isn’t afraid to step on a few toes and says things as they are in a blunt and brutally honest way. And I don’t think I have ever read about a hoarder before! In short I can applaude the diversity. I also liked the novel writing bits and insight in the publishing world. Still, I can’t say I actually loved reading Love May Fail. It won’t make it to my favorites list, but there is no doubt there is something about this story.

A little warning: don’t read Love May Fail if you are sensitive to darker themes, adult content and swearing.

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After Portia Kane finds her pornographer husband cheating on her with a girl half her age, she decides she has had enough. She is having a meltdown; escapes her fabulous life in Florida and then returns to her mother’s house in South Jersey. There she realizes things in her hometown haven’t changed all that much and she will have to face the memories of her unhappy childhood. Her mother is still a hoarder and Portia doesn’t know how to help her get better… So when she finds out what happened to her favorite English teacher, she decides to do something to help him instead. But how to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped in the first place?

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If you are looking for something different, there is no doubt that Love May Fail will deliver. There is nothing conventional about this story and I guess it is kind of refreshing. Love May Fail won’t be for everyone since it has a lot of trigger warnings for darker themes, adult content and swearing, but I’m sure the right person will appreciate the brutal honesty and blunt, raw and ‘out there’ feel of it all. I personally ended up having mixed thoughts about this one, but I do believe this book can go either way.


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