BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Breakers – by Dough Johnstone #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @annecater @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Breakers Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. As soon as I read the blurb of this story, I knew I HAD to read it… And the story most definitely blew me away. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on Breakers! Also, make sure to check out my blog tour buddy Eva’s fab review here while you’re at it. ❤

Title: Breakers
Author: Doug Johnstone
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 16th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: May 18th 2019
Pages: 300

“Everything with her was a performance, layered in irony, wrapped up in too much self-awareness. It was sweet but fucked up, tiring to go along with, like he was supposed to dig around for the real her.”

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

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I knew I had to read Breakers as soon as I first read the blurb. The Edinburgh setting, the devastating home situation of the main character, the mention of a crime lord involved… Oh yes, there were a lot of signs this was going to be an explosive and emotionally harrowing read. My instincts were right, because it turned out to be an absolute scorcher! In fact, the second thriller in a row to make me forget about everything else and finish the whole book in one sitting.

There is a lot to love in Breakers. The first thing that stands out is the writing style: the story is well written, engaging and the descriptions are done exceptionally well. The real power behind Breakers are the main characters though. Both flawed and realistic, Tyler, Flick and little Bean will win over your heart and you will ache for them as things are spinning out of control. Tyler has a very difficult life at home with his drug-addict mother and his violent older brother, but somehow he still manages to grow up pretty decent and protect his little sister Bean. His story is heartbreaking and Tyler’s relationship with his little sister earned a lot of brownie points! It’s obvious he doesn’t have an easy life, and it’s interesting to see his situation being contrasted to Flick’s life. It shows that having money doesn’t necessarily mean a happy life, but it does make things easier… It also shows that in the end they are not as different as Tyler thinks. Barry is a real pain and very easy to dislike, but his character is ment this way and helps show a contrast with his younger brother and that a difficult home situation doesn’t mean all kids turn out the same.

Another thing I could really appreciate was the crime lord element; it definitely spiced up the plot! At first we get a dose of minor crime as Barry, Kelly and Tyler rob houses, but then things take a turn for the worse as Barry knifes the wife of local crime lord Deke Holt. Things spin out of control quickly then and it shows in Barry’s character as well as he becomes even more unstable and violent. The situation of Tyler’s mother is tragic and shows us the effects of drug and alcohol addiction; children left fending for themselves as parents are no longer able to take care of them. Little Bean brings something sweet and innocent to the plot though. Her relationship with Tyler and innocent look on life are used as another contrast between ‘good and bad’.

Both character description and development are simply sublime in Breakers. It was fascinating to see how the different characters reacted to the situations that arised! This story was brutal and emotionally draining, but highly satisfying as a whole. Trigger warnings are in place for violence, abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction… Each of these elements is well incorporated into the plot and used to realistically display how tragic the home situation of Tyler and his little sister basically is. It is all a vicious circle almost impossible to escape… As you might have guessed already, Breakers is an absolutely fantastic and brutal story that fans of the genre will most likely devour in one sitting. I know I did!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had nine novels published, most recently Fault Lines. His previous novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his other novels have been award winners and bestsellers, and he’s had short stories published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. His work has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned for film and television. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors. He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, and is drummer, vocalist and occasional guitarist for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He also reviews books for The Big Issue magazine, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #77 – A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful & Ghost Boys

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a title I picked up on a whim and another I needed for the #ownvoices prompt of the Beat The Backlist EPIC Bingo challenge. A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom turned out to be a slowburner, but the rest of the story made up for the slow start. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes blew me away. Definitely a must-read.


Title: A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful
Author: Eric Lindstrom

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 29th 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Finished reading: January 15th 2019
Pages: 353

“I can’t bear the thought of how they’d look at me, and treat me, if they knew how many pills I take every morning just to act more or less like everybody else.”


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This is one of those titles I picked up on a whim without a proper reason of doing so. I do remember enjoying his debut in the past, so that might have had to do with my decision to pick up A Tragic Kind Of Wonderful… Although it might have been the cover itself as well. I have to say that this story was a slowburner for me. It took me a while to get into the story and get a proper feel for the plot and characters. The warming up was slow, but once I did my feelings soared. There is just something about Eric Lindstrom‘s writing and character development that will manage to win you over even if you think it won’t happen. I can really appreciate how bipolar disorder is put in the spotlight with the help of this story, and it was interesting to see how it was portrayed in both Mel’s character and those around her. The chapter introductions were a nice touch, and I just loved how romance only played a tiny part in the story (and mostly innocent at that), leaving room for the important things to be properly developed and discussed. I could really appreciate that! It was interesting to see how things ended and while there are a few high school cliches involved, somehow they didn’t bother me that much. Slow, but sweet and definitely worth the read! Mel will be able to turn around your feelings, David is adorable and the bipolar disorder seems to have been very well handled!


Title: Ghost Boys
Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes

Genre: MG, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 17th 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: January 16th 2019
Pages: 224

“Only the living can make change.”


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I first heard about this book when it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards last year, and to be honest I’m surprised this little gem hasn’t received more attention and love. Ghost Boys is such a powerful read! With race problematics and discrimination sadly being all too real even today, this is such an important book for middle graders and adults alike to read… The topic itself is brilliantly handled, well developed without things becoming too political or dull. The power behind Ghost Boys is the twelve-year-old Jerome, who gives the fatal consequence of racism a face and will make your heart break. The division between the dead and alive chapters was very cleverly done and gives the story an original twist as well as a paranormal touch. I really liked the idea of the other ghost boys, the inclusion of different ideas about life after dead and the incorporation of historical information was very well done. The writing will draw you in right away, your heart will ache for Jerome and those close to him and you will feel the powerful message behind the story long before you reach the final page. This is a story of what sadly is still happening around the world and something ‘only the living can change‘. A true eye-opener and a very important read anyone should read.


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ARC REVIEW: Small Time Crimes – by Paul D. Brazill

Title: Small Time Crimes
Author: Paul D. Brazill
Genre: Short Stories, Thriller, Horror
First published: July 31st 2018
Finished reading: October 29th 2018
Pages: 197

“He’d known that if you pulled on that particular thread hard enough your whole life would unravel, but pull he did.”

*** 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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I was looking forward to this short story bundle, as it sounded like the perfect way to get myself in the Halloween mood. Sadly, it wasn’t ment to be. Part of me thinks I’m the wrong target group for Small Time Crimes, although I normally love my dark humor and I don’t mind violence and graphic scenes. But this was just too much for me. I didn’t like the writing style, most of the stories completely lacked plots or stopped in the middle of a story, some were simply disgusting and unfortunately my overall experience wasn’t a good one. Below lightning speed thoughts (read: rant) and ratings on each short story. Continue reading

ARC REVIEW: Bring Me Back – by B.A. Paris

Title: Bring Me Back
Author: B.A. Paris
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 1st 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: June 12th 2018
Pages: 336

“But there is only silence, and the dust of hopes never fulfilled, taunting me with what could have been, if only I’d acted differently.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

Bring Me Back has to be one of the most hyped psychological thriller releases this year. While I was stoked to be able to receive a copy early, I was also worried about the possible consequences of such a popular title. Because let’s face it: popular books and me don’t exactly have an optimal relationship. And as the mixed reviews for Bring Me Back started coming in, I was getting more worried about my own reaction. Hence the reason I’ve been posponing my own experience with this title until there was hardly time left before the publish date. It might have been that I went in with lower expectations, it might have been because of different reasons, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. The first thing that stands out for me is the writing style, which shows a certain quality you only see in the better psychological thrillers and was just as good as my previous experience with her work in The Breakdown. B.A. Paris knows how to create suspense and how to start a story with a bang. There is no doubt that the first couple of chapters will have you completely hooked! And while the pace was a little slower than I would have liked, I found Bring Me Back a very entertaining read. BUT. And here come a few elements I wasn’t too sure about and I know others struggled with as well. First of all, I was able to guess quite a few plot twists long before they happened and the plot was quite predictable in general. Or at least the mayority of the story… The final part was actually the complete opposite, but sadly not in a completely positive way. Let’s just say, without giving away spoilers, that the ending is so absurd and over the top that there was no way I could think of it as a believable plot twist. It was surprising for sure and I don’t think anyone would have guessed it… But I personally would have preferred a more predictable but at least credible ending instead. The change of past and present and different POVs did add a little something extra to the story, and I liked learning more about how the main characters first met and finding out what happened (even though it was easy to guess quite a lot of that information early on). As for the characters: I can’t say I particularly liked them, and this made it a bit more difficult to connect to the story. But the main issue for me was both the predictability of the majority of the plot and the highly implausible and over the top ending. Going in with lower expectations probably saved Bring Me Back for me though, and I was able to enjoy it better than I thought I would.

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Finn and Layla travel to France during a holiday, only for Finn to return home alone. During a stop on the way back, Layla disappears from the car and nobody ever sees her again. Finn is initially accused of being involved, but later freed from blame although there is no trace of Layla anywhere. Years later, Finn has found happiness again and he’s engaged to be married… To Layla’s sister Ellen. Then one day a tiny Russian doll shows up on their doorstep, and their lives are about to change forever.

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I’m aware of the fact that Bring Me Back has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews, and I can understand why. If you read a lot of psychological thrillers and go in with high expectations, you will probably be disappointed by the rather predictable plot and completely implausible ending and final twist. But if you instead take it slow and don’t focus too much on those points, you will be able to enjoy the solid writing and an otherwise slower paced but enjoyable story. And trust me, you won’t be looking at Russian dolls in the same way after finishing Bring Me Back.


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ARC REVIEW: Barbed Wire Heart – by Tess Sharpe @GrandCentralPub

Title: Barbed Wire Heart
Author: Tess Sharpe
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 6th 2018
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Finished reading: February 26th 2018
Pages: 416

“Sometimes you’ve got to save people from themselves. Even if they don’t want it or know it.”

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

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As much as I love the mystery/thriller genre, plots can start sounding similar after reading one too many of them. This is probably part of the reason why I ended up enjoying Barbed Wire Heart that much; this thriller is like a fresh breath of air or an oasis in the middle of a desert. And by this I don’t mean this story is a softie and has a low adrenaline level. On the contrary: Barbed Wire Heart is a mean trigger-happy powerhouse that isn’t for the weakhearted. Why mention an oasis then? Because this story is pretty darn original and simply different from most popular thrillers out there today. Barbed Wire Heart isn’t about the good against the bad; the lines are more blurry than that. The main character Harley McKenna is the daughter of what is basically a druglord and she is one heck of a badass female lead. Her daddy has been teaching her the tricks of the trade ever since she was little, which was necessary because of their rivalry with the Springfields. This book doesn’t dance around the dirty details of their war and problems and trigger warnings are in place for violence, abuse, rape, guns and drugs among other things. Barbed Wire Heart isn’t afraid to go ugly and for me it was one of the stronger assets of this story. Because it makes Harley and her history feel real; the messiness and sometimes shocking details making you root for her and hope she will be able to achieve her goals… Both her character and the other important ones are very well developed and fleshed out, and it was great seeing the dynamics between them. The story itself switches between present and seemingly random bits of her past, always told from her POV, and this mix help show how she became the woman she is today and why she is doing what she does. The writing style is excellent and the direct and bold way of describing the situations added to the authentic feel of it all. Another element I could really appreciate was just how much it showed the power of women and especially the Rubies (abused women Harley helps protect) having enough and not taking abuse any longer. There are some heavy scenes included in the plot, but the overall (feminist) message is clear: stop underestimating women, because they will fight back. Barbed Wire Heart isn’t just a drug inspired criminal story where two different families are taking it up against each other. It’s so much more. And it’s without doubt one hell of a ride.

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Harley McKenna is the only child of North County’s biggest criminal. Everyone fears Duke McKenna, and with a reason since he has killed more men and cooked more meth than anyone around. But The Springfields are always right around the corner, waiting for their chance to strike and take over… Years ago, they killed Harley’s mother, and Duke wasn’t able to get his revenge because the cops got the one responsible first. Now he’s out of jail and coming for Duke’s one weak spot: his daughter. But they don’t realize that Duke has been training Harley for years, showing her how a true McKenna has to act. But Harley realizes something will have to change if she wants to survive and protect the people she loves… And she has a plan.

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Boy, this book was GOOD. It’s not the easiest story to read and there are a lot of trigger warnings involved for those who are sensitive to violence, abuse etc, but if you can stomach them, you will find Barbed Wire Heart is one hell of a ride. It’s a trigger-happy crime story with a high dose of girl power, adrenaline, action, a splash of family drama and plot twists that you won’t see coming. From the writing style to the underlying feminist message, the originality of the plot and the excellent character development… This story simply blew me away.


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ARC REVIEW: Americosis Vol. 4 – by Haydn Wilks

Title: Americosis Vol. 4
Author: Haydn Wilks

Genre: Short Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: December 2nd 2016
Finished reading: July 25th 2017
Pages: 56

“It’s all madness.”

*** 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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First of all a little note: since the cover is basically a swearword, I’ve decided not to display it on my blog for personal reasons. It’s bad enough it already shows up on my Goodreads timeline as it is. xD

The quote above describes these Americosis volumes perfectly: absolute madness. I’ve read the first three volumes in the past, so I did know exactly what I signed up for… There is nothing ordinary about the world created in Americosis, the plot or the characters. And it has been one heck of a crazy and absurd ride so far! Volume four continues where the last part ended; there is almost no recap so it’s important to read/remember the previous volumes to make sense of it all. Although ‘making sense’ maybe isn’t the right phrase to look for, because I don’t think Americosis is ment to make sense in the first place. Volume four had a few very interesting elements I liked; predominantly the parts set in the future (4046). The idea of every person having a different vision of what happened since the moment in history they were snatched away is intriguing and would be a great topic for a standalone novella or novel. Just imagine the endless possibilities of famous personalities of the past getting together and share their version of the ‘future’! This new storyline added a whole new interesting level to the story and made me curious about the finale… But I do have to say there were some things that started to bother me. I don’t think Americosis Vol. 4 has changed much in tone, but somehow the EXCESSIVE and CONSTANT swearing started to get to me. I don’t mind a swearword or two as long as its use is constructive, but I felt it really crossed the line in this volume. I basically have a quote where a variation of the word ‘f*ck‘ is used no less than eleven!! times in one sentence; overkill much? Apart from the swearing, the story is also very graphic and violent in general and stuffed with adult and sex-related comments and scenes. In short there is no doubt this short story isn’t for everyone… Only a select few will be able to truly savour it and I can see why the target group would be predominantly adult (white) male. If you like crazy, graphic, messy, chaotic, dystopian, violent and all over the place stories, Americosis will probably be for you. There’s one thing for sure: you won’t be bored with this one!

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

Things have slowly started to get out of control… The race against the clock for the Savior is real and he will have to fight hard to be able to reach his goal before it’s too late. Because America is being destroyed from the inside, and it’s winning. In the mean time, the Presidential race is going strong… And the two candidates will do whatever it takes to win.

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It might just have been I wasn’t in the right mood when I read Volume 4 and that’s why I rated it slightly lower than the previous three… But I did feel the excessive swearing and graphic scenes started to get out of control. It does read like a train and is basically an explosion of action and absurdness right in the middle of a dystopian America. The right person will probably love Americosis, but it is without doubt an acquired taste. The storyline set in the future was fascinating though!


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ARC REVIEW: Blood Moon – by John David Bethel

Title: Blood Moon
Author: John David Bethel

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

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

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

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

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

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


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